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Thanks, this is all really useful! I may be back with more questions...
I think I will probably call Exodus with a few questions next week (eg room arrangements - can the 3 of share one room most places or will I need to pay extra for one twin + 1 single - I hope not as they claim to be single-parent friendly) and then book ASAP, as they have a 5% discount for booking 6 months in advance.
The lagoon island hotel in Guama is great, just make sure you pack your insect repellent. Luggage was delivered to the room by boat and the night sky there was fantastic.
Rice & beans is a staple food in Cuba and this is supplemented with roast chicken, pork and occasionally fish. The meat is often very dry and fish is sometimes limited as there's restictions on the sizes of boats than Cubans can have (which means they can't fish far out to sea). But as long as you warn Exodus in advance they should be able to arrange some more vegetarian friendly options. In the bigger hotels there's obviously more of a choice though this can sometimes be western food such as pasta & pizzas.
If you tell them you're undecided between them & Adventure Company, they'll probably give you the extra £50 in a discount. We manage to get a small discount as well as using our previous customer discount (we had travelled a lot with them pre-children).
Oh and the Occidental Allegro is where we ended up so best to avoid it if possible!
Thanks for that, OldBeanbagz. I've been having a read around on tripadvisor, and the hotel that the Adventure Company seems to use in Varadero (Occidental Allegro - same one?) sounds dire - just about the worst reviews I've ever seen, whereas the one Exodus uses now in Jibacoa gets quite good ratings. So based on that alone I am inclined to go with Exodus, as the itineraries for both companies sound very similar, and prices are within £50 or so. The fact that they respond to feedback seems like a positive too. The lagoon island hotel in Guama (?) sounds good - did you go there?
You mention the food - the more I read, the more I realise that you don't go to Cuba for the restaurants, particularly as we are vegetarian (well, the DCs eat fish, but I don't). It sounds like we're going to be having a lot of plain rice, chips and fried plantains. Oh well. The rest of it sounds good enough to make up for the food.
Thanks, OldBeanbagz. I've was looking at the Exodus tour earlier, reading the reviews etc and saw a complaint about the all-inclusive place at the end - was that you? Or if it's crap, they've probably had negative feedback from more than one person. The itinerary this years ends with a stay at a place called Jibacoa - is that the same place? The Adventure Company does a very similar trip, but ending up in Varadero. Please tell me if one of those is the nightmare one...
Fluffy1234 thanks for that, I haven't seen anything about Going Places yet, so I'll look them up.
We spent 10 days at a beach resort and then flew to Havana and spent 4 fab days exploring the city and sightseeing and going on excursions. The DC were 6 and 8 and we all really enjoyed both bits of the holiday. We booked with a company called 'Going Places'.
I went to Cuba with Exodus last year whe DCs were 10 & 7 and it was great apart for the last couple of nights where we were 'treated' to an all-inclusive resort. I complained about it and they sent us some vouchers off our next holiday.
Apart from that the content of the tour was great, good hotels (just don't expect Western standards/service) and our guide was absolutely fab with the kids. If you're travelling alone with kids, then it's a great way to travel as it will give you adult company to talk to the evenings and your DCs new friends.
I'd heard that it was hard to organise a trip independently which is why we booked with Exodus. This year however we're going back there and are organising it ourselves (with the help of a local guide out there).
Has anyone been to Cuba with children not just on a beach-type holiday, but exploring the history/culture/wildlife etc? I've been looking at a few family-adventure type packages which I think might suit us (single parent, DS14 interested in history/politics/music, DD10 interested in swimming/snorkelling/wildlife/art) but I would be very interested to hear of anyone else's experiences.
We've lived abroad and travelled a lot (Europe/Asia/Australia/N America) but have never been to that part of the world. Usually I plan and book everything independently, but it looks like that is harder to do in Cuba (specially since I don't know the place at all and don't speak Spanish), and it might be easier to go for a pre-arranged small group tour with a company like Exodus or the Family Adventure Company - has anyone tried them?