15 Traveller reviews from Holiday Watchdog
OK but living on past history
"On arrival we were told they had over booked and were putting in a different room to what had been booked, but not to worry we would be more than happy with the room. The windows were boarded up the air conditioning was on high and could not be turned down and the bathroom was so tiny one person could barley turn around. The following morning after complaining we were told we would be moved later in the morning and not to worry they would move our suitcases. When we got back to the hotel after a good day sight seeing we were TOLD you will be staying in the same room, it was only after insisting that they move us that we were moved to another room which was fine although decor was very jaded. The hotel staff were hit and miss, some were realy good others really bad. In general the whole place could do with a refurbishment. Breakfast was ok we did'nt use the other restaurants (choosing to go out into the old part of town which was gread) but staff in the Churchill bar were great. Glad it was only a 3 day stay. Certainly not worth its 5 star rating."
- Travel date: 10th June 2012
My wife had been badgering me about goin...
"My wife had been badgering me about going to Cuba for some time, I received a call at work in Feb this year saying she had got an amazing deal to Cuba; yes I gave in! Kuoni had put together (along with out travel operator in Abingdon) a package to Havana and Varadero. We flew with Virgin Atlantic to Havana (top airline and very friendly crew - top marks Sir Richard). We arrived at the Nacional Hotel the only description to describe it is WOW! very regal and one can't help but feel that you have just gone back to the 1930's, it is amazing, high ceilings, chandeliers, chesterfields in the recesses and Peacocks strutting around the rear lawns with people sat enjoying cocktails, cappuccino or whatever takes your fancy. We had a room on the fourth floor looking out over the immaculately kept lawns to the sea beyond. The double bed must have been about 8 feet wide and very comfortable. The bathroom was large, well appointed with a walk in shower, a shower over the bath, and well maintained. The room had a mini bar, satellite TV and air conditioning (initially didn't work but a very helpful maintenance man quickly sorted that out!). First night at the Hotel we had booked to see the Parisian cabaret. We had booked a table for dinner whilst we watched the cabaret - What a show! Vibrant, lively and something you really must not miss - fantastic performance. The breakfasts are excellent with so much choice, my only gripe here was people staying at the hotel with eyes bigger than their bellies wasting food; as previous reviewers have stated Cuba is a poor country and I personally found it obscene that people should waste food in this way! (Sorry that is a personal thing that really does irritate the heck out of me). The dining room at the far end of the lobby area, behind the glass doors, is absolutely superb. Reservations are necessary and a strict dress code is set down and enforced. Here you really can sit back listening to the very talented lady pianist and totally immerse yourself in the elegance and grandeur of the surroundings. The service and the food were equally enjoyable. How would I sum up the Nacional, its staff, its location, its surroundings, Havana and its people and history - truly amazing. If you haven't been to Cuba yet then please do so, it is a long flight but Virgin made it enjoyable and at the end there are the amazing sights of Havana and the warmth of the Cuban people to greet you."
- Travel date: 15th June 2007
Cuba is an amazing destination and this ...
"Cuba is an amazing destination and this was our second visit in as many years. However some people we've spoken to haven't had the best time - partly I think because of their expectations. Both times myself and my partner stayed for 7 and then 10 days, and both times we stayed at the Hotel Nacionale in Havana. If you are planning a trip to Cuba and haven't made any arrangements, try very, very hard to avoid staying at the all inclusive resorts as you really wonât get to experience Cuba. We would strongly encourage everyone to base a fair amount of time in Havana. You can do day trips out from Havana, even several days out. And there is so much to see and do from Hemingway haunts to museums and galleries to just absorbing the atmosphere and taking in the architecture of what is now a UNESCO world heritage site. As for accommodation, we stayed both times at the Hotel Nacionale. It's a 4/5 star hotel (depending which brochure / guide you read). Faded 1930's granduer that whilst it relies on its past fame, truly deserves a great reputation. It has history and atmosphere in spades, and a cocktail out on the terrace in the afternoon confirms this! You really can't get this at one of the more European style hotels. The staff are very helpful and the concierge is fantastic - especially at booking a restaurant for a special night. The rooms are adequate and comfortable but probably not approaching 5 star - plumbing in the bathrooms or the air conditioning - we're faulty the two times we stayed. Like many things in Cuba it looked like the bathroom suites hadn't been replaced for decades and spare parts were hard to come by. The food in the hotel was good - especially the 24hr cafeteria, and the breakfasts, which are renowned in Havana. We did find some better restaurants out of the hotel for evening meals. The location of the Nacionale is great. Right by the Malecon, a short walk from the Coppelia for ice cream. And a healthy walk (or cab) into the old town. Take care when booking some of the other hotels available in Havana as they can be further out, and it is definitely worth being closer to the old part of town or the Capitol, rather than say in the Mirimar district. The Nacionale is about as far out as you would want to be, otherwise you're paying for taxis all the time to get into see the sights. If you are considering going to see the Nacionale's Cabaret Parisienne and you haven't been to see the Tropicana. Don't! Spend the extra and see the Tropicana. In not sure I can even really recommend the Cabaret Parisienne even if you have seen the Tropicane show. Staying over 7 nights at the Nacionale with Thomas Cook meant we got two free tickets - otherwise I dont think I'd pay. Top tips for staying in Cuba: Explore on foot - we really felt safe all the time. Learn some Spanish - not essential, but it helps. Hunt out places to eat - the food can be hit and miss, but in general we usually found great food, even vegetarian. There had been food shortages in the 1990s and many tourists complained but you can find it - for a special occasion check out La Guarida. Try and meet locals - its not easy as the police donât want tourists to interact, but it can be done, and not everyone is out to make money. Take more money - since the dollar is no longer legal tender it is actually more expensive than you would think. Understand the Cuban situation - the situation is more dire than you think, and if you stay in Varadero or another complex and donât get out, you may never notice it, but there are police on most street corners in the high tourist areas, there are secret police around too - ostensibly to protect tourists but there is a more sinister side too. Know that Cubans still have rations for everything. Know that to buy a bottle of shampoo from a supermarket (not with rations) costs half an average monthly salary. Know all this and you'll start to understand their situation and why tourists are seen as indecently rich. Bring old clothes (or leave some behind), spare medicines, pens and sweets. Everyone would thank you for any of these. We gave clothes and medicines to friends we made from the first trip and gave sweets and pens to local schools. Above all go now - don't delay! Things will change when Castro goes - it is changing even now. It's an amazing and unique country that simply must be experienced."
- Travel date: 1st August 2006
Rooms Having read some bad reviews of th...
"Rooms Having read some bad reviews of the Nacional I was a bit wary but decided that I still wanted to stay in a hotel with so much history - I was very glad I did. Although the room we had was barely 3* and worn, it was pretty clean (my biggest worry), had adequate air conditioning and a decent shower (in bath). Hotel public areas The public areas are impressive and you can see the history (in fact they have a history tour of the hotel and lots of photos of famous people who have stayed there but we couldnât find out what time the tours were - no-one we asked seemed to know). The outside bar is great and a fantastic place to sit and watch the world go by on the Malecon - or watch the peacocks! However, donât go for any unusual cocktails (non Cuban) even though they are shown on their menu as they do not have all the ingredients (having asked for a grasshopper I only got a glass of CrÃ¨me de menthe! and my partners drink was equally bad - the Cuban cocktails were fine). There are a couple of pools (one of which took us a while to find). We didnât use either of the pools as we were too busy exploring Havana and they also looked a bit dirty and in need of refurbishment. Hotel Show ' Parisien' The show at the Hotel was great. We thought it would be a bit 'cheesy' but it was professional and well worth the money (although we thought we were supposed to get a discount/get in free as we stayed 5 nights but were told we had to pay the same as anyone else). We talked to some people who had been to the Tropicana and said they felt a bit ripped off (they hadnât gone on an organised tour) so we went to the Parisien. Food The food in the hotel was OK but nothing great - we tried food at other Hotels which worked out more expensive but not much better (food only improved when we got to our Sandals Hotel in Varedero). There was a lot of choice for breakfast but I am pretty picky and donât like processed meat or cheese but my partner was pleased. I suggest that you donât go to Cuba just for the food! Overall I would recommend this hotel to anyone. It is in a great location although not in the centre of town. It was cheap to get a taxi/coco taxi into town but we often walked along the Malecon. We were glad that it wasnât in the centre of town as we wanted a bit of quiet - if you stay in the centre of town be prepared to get some (minor) hassle as soon as you leave your hotel (want to buy cigars etc)."
- Travel date: 27th July 2006
This was a surprise honeymoon organised ...
"This was a surprise honeymoon organised by my husband, hence why I cannot remember the name of the company he booked with! The hotel reminded me of something out of the film Casablanca, very little of the ground floor interior had changed, 1930's to 1950's decor. The exterior was impressive and the gardens and pool beautiful. However the bedrooms were a little disappointing, very basic and the bath although clean needed restoration! The food was basic and sometimes not that appealing but it was edible. We didn't go hungry...vegetables for breakfast! Would I go again.mmm...yes. "
- Travel date: 19th January 2006
liked the gardens
"hotel much in need of update rooms smelt musty and stale there were also a lot of mosquitoes coming in through vents in bathroom buffet left a lot to be desired having come from the melia varadero for three nights here the change was quite dramatic no potatoes or good vegatables to speak of also food was quite cold would not stay here again."
- Travel date: 27th March 2005
"We stayed at the Nacional for 3 nights as the second part of a twin centre two week trip to Cuba in July 04. Yes, the hotel is a bit frayed at the edges. The rooms are small and basic and we experienced a 12 hour power cut which are apparently quite common, but as an overall experience it was fantastic. The fact that the hotel has hardly been touched in fifty years must surely add to it's charm. You wouldn't go to Egypt and complain that the sphinx needs a nose job would you? Don't be put off by negative reviews. True, it should no longer be rated as 5 star but i am sure as tourism to Cuba develops that before long an international chain will come along and redevelop the hotel. For me this will just sanitize the experience. The rooms will probably be the same as any other 5 star hotel but the overall ambience will be lost. Take my advice, go soon before it is too late and don't expect Hilton standards. P.s. The views of the malecon are unbeatable."
- Travel date: 20th March 2005
Grand Old Lady
"We spent 3 nights at the Nacional and would go back there again. We found the staff very helpful and friendly and the buffet meals were better than we expected. The room was clean and had a great view of the Malecon and the gardens.Pool area was exceptionally nice. Lots of great spots to sit and people watch in many different areas of the hotel. Our one disappointment was the cabaret show, lots of wonderful costumes but no great variety in the dancing pieces and we were crammed in like sardines."
- Travel date: 1st March 2005
Worth a visit despite problems
"People obviously have very different reactions to this hotel, and they're all quite understandable when you go there. On one hand, it's a magnificent building in a superb setting and position, with a great sense of grandeur and history. On the other, it's just a bit frayed at the edges, and lets itself down in the service at times. We stayed there for two nights. Our room was pleasant and quiet but not remarkable - everything was neat and clean except the carpet, which was a bit grubby. The bathroom had lots of towels and a hairdryer, and piping hot water. We were thirsty when we arrived, and resented having to pay 2.30 CUC for a small bottle of water from the minibar. There's no other water for sale in the hotel except at bars etc. Later we found a small shop attached to a garage a couple of blocks away, where a 1.5-litre bottle cost 65 cents. Bring your own water! The buffet breakfast was OK, but we had been spoilt by spending the previous week at the Paradisus Rio de Oro, Guardalavaca. In comparison, the food here was less good and much less varied, and the service sloppy. The tables weren't cleared promptly and weren't reset in time for the next people - I ended up stirring my coffee with my fork. At the peak time, the coffee ran out (you have to fill your own cup at an urn, whereas the Rio de Oro serves your coffee at the table) and although staff were told, it took quite some time before they refilled it. The staff did seem a bit world-weary and lacking in friendliness, although our chambermaid was clever enough to write us a little note in English saying she'd enjoyed looking after us - a bit of a fib, I'm sure, which we nevertheless rewarded with some toiletries and a t-shirt left on the pillow for her. The gardens overlooking the sea are a splendid place to sip a mojito, and we had an excellent meal at their "ethnic" Cuban restaurant in the garden. The buffet dinner in the main building also looks good value at 20 CUC, but we enjoyed being in the fresh air and liked the ambiance of the Cuban restaurant. This hotel was the only place on our holiday where we were occasionally troubled by cigar smoke, but as of now there are new regulations that should improve this situation. They offer a guided tour giving highlights of the hotel's history. Our guide had a lot to tell us, in very heavily accented English, including some fascinating stuff about the hotel's role in the Missile Crisis of 1962 and the secret bunker in the grounds, as well the endless list of celebrity guests. Despite its shortcomings, the Nacional is a really special place and we're glad we went there."
- Travel date: 8th February 2005
what a attitude
"what a shame such a stylish and worldwide class a hotel does not have the attitude and service which you normally expect from a 5 star. the hotel is a magnificient monument to classic cuba and on entering the establishment you really can see the classic ambiance. then you meet the rotwielers at reception. the rudeness and arrogance of superiority really gives attitude to guests even the bellboy has attitude. its poitness trying to book the cafe parisen by the net as they loose your booking. the rooms are excellent after the experience of the rest of cuba its a shame that certain staff let the hotel down. the restuarant and bars are excellent but expensive. the gym is very good but they do not tell you its 5 pesos until you get into the gym as are most of the facilities all at a cost. the buffet is 5 star the 24 hour buffet is slow but reasonable. what they do not tell you is do not wear or show any gold leave it in the hotel safe at 3 pesos a day expensive but if you have a bum bag or gold chains are liable to be ripped off. unfortunately crime in havana around the tourist are is rife but it is not made clear until youve had the experience or suffered a loss. cuba was a nice place two years ago now they no what money is a nd appreciate western life and will get it however they can."
- Travel date: 11th January 2005
Stop knocking the Nacional
"After reading some dreadful reviews on your site, we arrived at the Nacional without great expectations! However, we have just returned from a really enjoyable 5 nights stay without a single criticism! The Nacional is a really stylish, old hotel - on a par with many of the hotels on the "Register of Historic Hotels of America". We thought it was a gem! Our large, corner room on the eighth floor was light and airy with two great views. The large bathroom was newly refurbished with loads of sparkling fluffy towels. So what if the carpet was a little shabby.... The restaurant "Comedor de Aguiar" was again a stylish, old world experience, and the oft maligned breakfast buffet was a huge eclectic affair - just don't go down at 9:45 and expect to stroll up to an empty table! Lovely gardens and little hidden away bars, a real Hollywood driveway - a treasure!"
- Travel date: 1st January 2005
Please dont go here!
"This is such a bad hotel. I have travelled around the world and have stayed in many 5 star hotels and the Nacional was a shock. As we pulled up, i was convinced i had chosen well as the grounds and the exterior is beautiful. On arrival the check in clerks looked miserable (as they did the whole time we were there). On going to our room the corridor we were at the end of smelt foul. When we got to our room we found insects on the walls, tables and SHEETS! The A/C had leaked onto the floor as well, providing a nice large damp patch on walking in. The walls were also peeling and badly needed a lick of paint. On telling all this to the check in clerks they looked at us blankly, and eventually gave us another room. This room wasnât as bad as the last but the paint was still peeling and the top of the room was covered in something black(?). No doubt to say that we changed hotels to Park Centrale (not sure on the exact spelling), which was amazing, a true 5 star hotel and one that I recommend strongly. The Nacional probably was a good hotel, but it needs to be renovated urgently, and if you want a lovely hotel exterior and 2/3 star rooms than this is it. However for the price you pay you would be mad."
- Travel date: 18th December 2004
Hotel Nacional de Cuba is also called
- Nacional Hotel
- nacional de cuba hotel
- nacional de cuba havana