Family goes to Cuba, only to find a very different hotel from magical brochure

We have all imagined ourselves out on a vacation where we leave everything that makes our lives hard, get in a plane and find ourselves on the edge of a beach at some tropical paradise somewhere far. Everyone wants to get away from the things that worry them and the cold winters. We all want to sit at some Caribbean beach with a cold drink in hand and the sand in between our toes. The Evans family saved up money to go to a dream vacation site that they had seen online in Cuba. They imagined that it was going to be one of those trips of a lifetime moments. They spent weeks picturing how they would lie back and enjoy the trip and all it would bring. The four-star hotel was going to be a moment that they vowed to fully enjoy. They had no idea what kind of nightmare experience they were going to have. When they arrived at the dream vacation destination, they were ready to unwind and let every bit of stress leave their body like a spirit. They wanted to check into the sea facing rooms and enjoy the view. They soon realized that they had come to a place that looked nothing like the brochure.

A Family Trip

It was Gayle Evans’ 50th birthday and all she wanted to get was some quality time with the family. Gayle thought that there was no better way to spend time with the family than to go on vacation with all of them. She finally chose the Four-Star Brisas del Caribe resort that is in the tropical Varadero area of Cuba.

It is known for pristine beaches and excellent services. After they had booked themselves in, they waited for the day to come. They could not pace themselves as they anxiously waited for school and work to come to an end so they could all escape to Cuba and enjoy themselves.


Gayle later explained it this way, “We spent weeks dreaming about it, of lying on the gorgeous beach and paddling in the sea, splashing in the pools, sipping cocktails in the piano bar – we thought it was going to be wonderful.” A trip like the one they were planning was not going to be cheap.

They would end up spending $13000 for this dream. They knew that it was going to take a big bite out of their account but they knew that they had to do it because it would be so memorable. They wanted it to be unforgettable and it was but not for the reasons that they had imagined it would be unforgettable for.

We Are in Cuba

Gayle and husband Steve with their children; Gabby, Ayla, Jaz and Jaz’s girlfriend Laura arrived at Varadero after a very long and tiring flight. They were excited that they had gotten to the destination safely and in their minds, they wanted to sit by the pool and relax. They had seen photos and the fantasy created in their minds was the thing that kept them in cloud nine.

The crash that would come after their euphoric wait was hard. They were absolutely terrified by what they saw. To say that their dream was shattered would be an understatement. It was decimated completely when they saw what the reality was like.

Stuff of Nightmares

As the Evans family got closer to the resort, they were not sure whether to feel confusion or disgust so they went with both. Gayle’s description of the resort was that it was “in a state of decay.” She said that “it looked like it was not really open. It was high season but there was nothing to say things would be closed.”

Like any optimists, they hoped that there had been a misunderstanding of some sort and that the real hotel was elsewhere. If that was the case, we would not have this story to tell. Gayle said that it looked like “the stuff of nightmares.” As it turned out, the hotel they were at, was the one that they had booked.

The Room

The outside was complete trash and they hoped that when they got into the hotel, they would find that it was modern and clean like they had seen in the brochure. When they opened the door, they were horrified by what they saw.

Gayle says, “In our room, there were exposed electrics; one of the ‘clean’ towels had a dirty brown mark across it.” She was stumped and opted to burst into tears. Then they went to check the pool.

Not What Was Promised

The tropical blue pool they had dreamed about from seeing the brochure is not what they got. It was grimy and unlike what they had been promised by the hotel. Gayle explained that “There was litter everywhere.

The pools had green scum on the surface and there were broken furniture and beach beds.” At this point, they knew that they had to do something about the state of affairs in the hotel.

Lodging a Complaint

They decided to call the company through which they had booked the resort. It is called The Holiday Place. They emailed a list of their complaints to the company rep and requested placement in another hotel.

They were told there was nothing the company could do and no hotels were available. They gave each of the family $130 coupons for future trips reserved through them. This was astonishing because of the callousness shown.

Less Than Poor Standards

The company had the audacity to refer them to the terms and conditions they had listed on their website. It explains that tourists should not expect Star Ratings to be the same as from where they come from.

They should expect what is ‘the relative norm for the area.’ But Gayle had given out $13000 for this trip and she expected something decent; “Even allowing for different standards in poorer countries, this was not what we paid for.”

No Amenities

So, the family had to make the best of what they were given. The adults in the group went to check and see what amenities were available in the hotel. They found that they were fairly limited as far as amenities went.

Gayle said, “None of the bars served cocktails, and the piano bar and other parts of the complex were closed the whole time we were there.” There was none of the entertainment that they had been promised.


Even worse than the lack of amenities was the fact that everything in the hotel seemed to be broken. The furniture was outdated and could not be used. Even the elevators were shut down presumably from repairs.

The stone pathways had cracked and crumbled. The poolside bathrooms looked like they had never been cleaned before. This was like nothing they had expected. The place just kept getting worse and worse as they explored.


Gayle was the most disappointed. This was not the quality time that they had been looking for. “We wanted a really special time away together,” Gayle explained. “My children are growing up and I knew it was probably the last chance to be away as a family.”

It got worse a few days later when they all had stomachaches. Presumably, it was the food and the youngest daughter was very ill on their flight home.

Waiting for the End

They just started counting the days till they went home. They wanted the nightmare to end because it was a complete disaster. “My husband Steve felt he’d let me down and felt really guilty – it really affected all of us,” Gayle later explained.

There were literally no redeeming qualities for that trip. It had started off with a fantasy that ended in a nightmare. There was no way that this was going to be okay at any point.

A Redeeming Quality

They enjoyed one part of the experience though. The beaches at Varadero were perfection and they were just a few steps away from the hotel. The weather also happened to be perfect. They had even got the chance to spend some time in Havana before they got to the resort.

Gayle said, “I’m not knocking Cuba at all – we loved spending a couple of days in Havana before going to this hotel, and the beach was everything we wanted.”

Mixed Reviews Online

The Brisas del Caribe resort has a rating average of 3.5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor. Some say it is a great place and has accommodating staff but many have shared their negative that sound very familiar because they are exactly the same as what the Evans experienced.

They called it disgusting, smelly and others begged future tourists to look for another place to stay. If they had just taken time to look it up…

Insult to Injury

They spent $13000 but it all went down the drain. It was supposed to be a getaway that they would remember and it was but for the wrong reasons.

The Holiday Place, through which they had booked the hotel took no responsibility and when the media reached out to them, they declined to comment. The $130 coupons were just insulting. This was an insincere show of ‘good will.’ As far as they knew, it wasn’t their fault.

Is That A Joke?

The claim by the travel agency seems to be some sort of sick twisted joke. When they pulled out standards being different as their claim for what the Evans got, that was cruel.

It is true that this is a real thing but it is not that different. It is slightly different. Not nightmarish. It would be wise to adjust the kind of expectations you have before you travel to other countries.

What To Do?

The other depressing thing about it is that the Evans family will have a hard time getting any help with the problems that they have with the agency that booked the trip for them.

There are some bodies that can arbitrate this issue to resolve the matter but they need you to spend time and more money to get any of the help that you need. This is one of those moments that you just live and learn.

Stings and Stomachaches

This, however, does not mean that if you ever had a bad experience you will not get recompense for it. A British travel agency was forced to give out more than $130,000 to compensate guests who had stayed in a five-star Turkish resort and had a bad experience.

They suffered food poisoning and wasp infestation. It may not have taken back the disappointment but it was something when you compare it to the Evans Family.

Trips Are Not Bad Ideas

Even though the Evans Family has a bad experience, it does not mean that if you go for this kind of trip, you will experience the same horrible things that they had to endure. This kind of vacation is best taken when you have an all-inclusive plan.

They will have all the things that you ever need. These plans are usually so good that you will never have to leave the premises the entire time that you will be there.

Avoid Mixed Bags

The Trip Advisor reviews could tell anyone that the mixed reviews were a red flag. It makes you wonder just how much research they did. You will need to do a lot of research and make sure that you read the fine print.

This is a concept called ‘Caveat Emptor’ in Latin. It means Buyer Beware or doing due diligence. It has been around since only the 1500s so, make sure that there is nothing you miss.

The Tech Age

The fact that the Evans could have gone on Trip Advisor and seen what the reviews were like instead of just going there based on a brochure is something only people in this age can enjoy. It has only been a little more than two decades.

Word of mouth on the internet is also very important. People read about everything online first these days before they buy or pay for it. Probably a few more checks on the internet could have saved them all this trouble.