On January 28, 2011, we headed to Cayo Coco, Cuba for our family trip.  This year, Renee's father, Johnson, is turning 60 and we (the kids) decided to treat him and Renee's mom, Anita, to a trip down south.  It's our first time going to the Caribbean; so, naturally, we were really excited.

We started planning for the trip during the Christmas holidays.  After deciding that we were going to an all-inclusive resort (as opposed to a cruise), we started reading reviews on tripadvisor.com.  Renee and I are crazy about beautiful beaches with clear, turquoise water, and after reading countless reviews and looking pictures, we converged on Cayo Coco, Cuba.  Cuba seemed to give the best bang for buck, and Cayo Coco was a relatively isolated place with beautiful beaches.  We ended up picking the Sol Cayo Coco resort.  We paid around $700 per person, which includes flight, accommodations (including 3 meals), and taxes.  Since Adele was under 2 years old, we had to pay a total of $16 of taxes for her!

Day 1 - January 28, 2011


Our Canjet flight was at 5:20 pm at Terminal 3 at Pearson airport.  I took the day off, but ended up working from home in the morning.  Every time I go on an extended vacation, the week leading up to the vacation is always a nightmare at work, because I usually have to either get things done before I leave or somehow hand it off to somebody else.

The day didn't start off too well.  I dropped Renee off at the bus stop in the morning and then drove back home.  The side street leading to my street has a no-left-turn sign that came into effect in the morning, but since I only turned left there during the evening, I just made the same turn, without taking notice the sign.  The cop who's there every morning had no problem stopping me and giving me a ticket.  Unfortunately, my acting was not good enough, and he was not about to give me a second chance.  He did say that "if he were in my place", he'd ask for a "first attendance meeting" to bargain with the prosecutor to have the charged revised to a lower one.

Anyway, that day turned out to be a busy and stressful day.  We parked at Park N Fly at Pearson (which costed about $60 for 8 days).  The flight was uneventful and we arrived in Cuba at around 9:30.  However, when getting off the plane, I got too excited and left my camera on-board.  I got really worked up, thinking that it was gone forever.  The Cuban airport personnel didn't seem too concerned and told me to wait.  I was thinking, "Great...I'm going to wait and they're going to tell me they couldn't find anything."  To top it off, I left my cellphone at one of the X-ray machines at the security check.  I almost lost it when I realized that.  But to my surprise, both the cellphone and camera were returned to me in quick order.  Not bad for a first impression!

We arrived at the hotel after a quick 10-minute bus ride.  Check-in was easy, and since it was close to the 10:00 pm closing time of the buffet, the receptionist advised us to grab a bite before heading off to our rooms.  She said we could leave our luggage out in the lobby and just go.  We were reluctant at first about doing that, but she reassured us that she'd watch over them for us.  After we came back out, we found our luggage as they were, safe and sound.  Good second impression!  We were starting to realize that Cuba is a relatively safe place, at least when compared to Mexico!

Our rooms were on the first floor and was fairly nice.  The resort was rated 4 stars, but in reality, it's probably a 2.5 star if it were in North America (better than a Days Inn, but not as good as a Residence Inn).  We are not terribly picky, and so, were more than satisfied.  The hotel also prepared a crib for us without us asking.  We didn't end up using it because we thought we'd let Adele sleep with us since she was on vacation too!

Day 2 - January 29, 2011


This was our first full day in Cuba.  We woke up and had a nice breakfast.  They had eggs cooked to your liking, pancakes, pastries, etc. at the buffet.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The pancakes were quite bland, but putting syrup on it cured that problem.  Overall, the food in Cuba is not what you'd get in North America or Europe.  They have the same stuff, but the taste is blander and the quality of the ingredients are not as good.  For example, beef would be tougher and very chewy.  Renee and I aren't picky eaters and so we were always able to find something we liked.

We met with Colin, the representative of our tour operator, Hola Sun Holidays.  He explained the hotel amenities, excursions, things to do/watch for, etc. to us.  He was very thorough and gave me a pretty good impression.  We decided to go on the catamaran excursion which included a lobster lunch and 2 snorkeling sessions.  It was quite pricey at 75 pesos per person.  To make things worse, the exchange rate at the hotel was brutal.  The rate as posted on the web was something like 1 peso to $0.94 CAD, but we ended getting a 1 peso to $0.84 rate.  We heard that the bank that was on-site had similar rates, but didn't go to check.  Oh well...

The weather was very nice compared to the freezing weather in Toronto.  It was in the low 20s and sunny, and a little windy by the beach, which by the way was absolutely heavenly.  So, we decided to stick around the pool for the first day.  The water in the pool was not heated, and so, it was quite cold to swim.  Adele had no problem though.  She really loves swimming.  Whenever we picked her out of the water, she'd start crying!  I'm not a very good swimmer and it kind of sucks, so I want my kids to be able to swim well.

We had a relaxing day and a nice dinner at the buffet.  After dinner, there were some vendors selling trinkets and stuff outside.  There was one vendor who had some toys and stuff and Adele saw a little banjo which interested her.  Renee worked her magic and haggled the price down from 5 pesos to 3 pesos.  We felt victorious for a few seconds and then thought that he needed the money more than we did, but of course, we weren't going to give him money back.  So, Renee asked me to grab the nicest piece of used clothing that I had brought to give to the Cubans and gave it to him.  It was a fall blazer type jacket that I used to wear, but had gone out of style.  We gave it to the vendor and he was very grateful for it and shook my hands.  It was such a cool moment.

That night, Adele went to bed in Rachel's room, and we went to see the show that the entertainment crew put on.  The theme revolved around Disney cartoons and there was dancing and lip-syncing to Disney music.  Adele would have enjoyed it, but me, not so much.  That was the only show that Renee and I saw because for the rest of the nights, Adele slept in our room, and naturally, we had to be there.

All in all, it was a first full day in Cuba!
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