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“Hotel Raquel, Havana”
Review of Hotel Raquel

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Hotel Raquel
Ranked #20 of 81 Hotels in Havana
Reviewed 9 July 2012

Nice, old school small hotel, right where you want to be (honest). Limited breakfast choices, but the building compensates! Nice roof terrace, if you have the time to use it. Sweet price break, but could do with a good clean. Do not dismiss, its a nice place just off plaza de mojito !!!!

Room Tip: £65 a night and you have a deal Vs overall quality. Ask for a window room, some without.
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  • Stayed: June 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank MauiBuilt2011
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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303 - 309 of 738 reviews

Reviewed 8 July 2012

This hotel is beautiful inside and out and in a great location - old Havana. Lots of nice features such as marble staircases, old metal lifts, a very nice roof terrace, huge stained glass roof - however the rooms all feed off the atrium which means 1) no windows in the rooms!! and 2) you hear them setting up breakfast early in the morning as the crockery clanking sounds echo all the way up each marble floor. So sleeping isn't great, but it's good to be close to the Havana Viejo action! A good base, so i would still recommend.

Breakfast was ok, weird mix of what looked like the previous night's leftovers (Jewish fare, I don't think I would hurry to eat an Israeli breakfast) mixed with fruit, yoghurt, pastries etc. There was enough to get by on.

The reception staff were not very helpful or friendly and the taxi was not able to get right up to the door. All-in-all, a good looking hotel but not one I would rave about.

TIP: Go to Palador Nao, towards the docks/seafront (go to square with booksellers and go straight up towards water, Palador is on the right). This was newly opened when we arrived and the tapas and main meals were absolutely divine - we ended up going twice we liked it so much. Great staff, good selection of food and very reasonable value.

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank williamsr32
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 July 2012

A mirror on what Havana must have been like in its heyday. Grand rooms, high ceilings, adequate plumbing, if a little faded. Had room 208 which is large. Aircon noisy (they are everywhere it seems) but effective, no great views but suffice it to say we asked for this room again on our return to Havana after travelling. Good buffet breakfast in fabulous surroundings of the large ground floor restaurant/bar/reception/lounge area. Rooftop terrace is a little added bonus as it's a quiet haven from the bustle of the city.

Room Tip: Corner rooms, eg 208, looked bigger
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  • Stayed: June 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank Bristo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 June 2012

We flew in on the afternoon Virgin Atlantic flight From Gatwick and arrived at The Raquel late afternoon. Friendly staff and a helpful porter greeted us. A real character Hotel in a superb location. We were on the rooftop floor and there was a great lookout and real atmosphere! Sure the coffee machine at breakfast was a little disfunctional but stay in a sanitised resort in Florida of you cannot cope with a few minor problems. People must judge hotels on the country they are in and have regard to the general living standards of the population around them. A great hotel in a vibrant city. Recommended.

  • Stayed: March 2012
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Thank MaxBaz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 June 2012

The Hotel Raquel is what Havana is all about. We found the Raquel in 2010 while wandering the Plaza Viejo area. Impressed with the beauty of the building we said next time in Havana lets stay there. And so we did this May, 4 nights in a grande suite. Upgraded to suite 204 on the second floor with 2 balconies over looking the Viejo neighbourhood, what a treat. More space than we could use with 2 double beds. The Hotel entry is what attracts you first, massive doors open to a double marble staircase going up to the lobby.
The roof is an incredible stained glass dome that brings sunlight all the way down to the lobby 4 floors below. The roof top is accessable with nice private sitting/lounge area's, even a private dining room for four at the edge of the roof. As "everything" in Cuba is old and eclectic the Raquel fits in perfectly. The neighbourhood is going thru major restoration (as is the rest of the city) so it can be a bit noisy during the day. But at night it is quiet. The location is excellent for exploring all of Havana. Breakfast was plentiful and not to bad. The staff was very good and obliging to all our requests. Wanted to see the 'Buena Vista Social Club" show a couple blocks away and found it to be sold out. Spoke to the doorman, told him what we wanted to do. Half an hour later saw him in the Plaza Viejo walking to the club, he was able to get us seats for that nights show and actually bought us our tickets.
Now that's service............If you are not staying at the Raquel, drop by and have one of the door men tour you around. they will take you to the roof top and show you the differnet floors. Looking forward to staying there again on our next trip.

Room Tip: We stayed for four nights which gave us an upgrade to a large suite.
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  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank OgreYVR
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 June 2012

I find it very difficult to review hotels in Cuba as there are so many outside factors that have to be taken into consideration for elements of the hotel that, if outside Cuba, would bring down my opinion of the hotel. However, Cuba is indeed Cuba.

We have been travelling for an extended period and our arrival into Cuba was entertaining and naïeve on reflection. We tend to only plan or book our accommodation a few days before our arrival in the country/city. We knew Cuba was different but the way it panned out meant that as no one responded to our email requests for availability we arrived with no where confirmed. We took a chance and had sent a few emails to Hotel Nacional(with no response) so rocked up at 7pm hoping for a room. It was at capacity. The travel agents in the hotel tried to find us a room on the phones but as it was past business hours no one was picking up. I fretted. After an hour of this carry on we picked up our list of hotels and decided to drive around in a taxi until we arrived at a hotel with a vacancy.

Our first stop was Hotel Raquel and luckily for us they had a room. Huge sighs of relief. The hotel foyer is absolutely stunning with many tours stopping to view it and it's easy to see why. An old gate lift is very pretty and adds to the old school glamour of the hotel. Staff were very friendly and helpful.

The room was pretty. By no means luxurious, it was a basic room that benefited from high ceilings, beautiful tiling and elegant old furniture. The beds were fine, nothing to write home about but comfortable. Bathroom again was functional and gave hints at a glamour of a previous time.

During the night there was a leak in the roof over one of the beds. We moved the bed aside for the night and reported the issue the next morning. We were moved to a suite straight away and they tended to the problem. Again, I'd probably be more upset about this in another country but you do find yourself making allowances all the time in Cuba.

The terrace upstairs is very beautiful and provides stunning views over the city.
We went to the gym which is very basic and warm but does the job.

Internet is very slow and as we were trying to plan our next stop was very frustrating. Again, this has more to do with Cuba than the hotel and we should have had such plans made before arriving in Cuba.

We ate in the restaurant on our first night as we arrived quite late. Cuba strongest point isn't the food however we visited many of the paladars which were superb and a great experience.

  • Stayed: April 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank LadyAndrea
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 May 2012

This review reflects on the trekking holiday offered by Captivating Cuba, of which one of our accommodation highlights was The Raquel.

TRAVEL COMPANIES
Our focus was a trekking holiday framed by stays in Havana before and after. Captivating Cuba's (CC) offer included the 10 day Paso e Paso trek, 8 days walking with a day in Havana at each end.

CC were helpful with our request to extend this to two days either side and give us our choice of hotels. Their representative was knowledgeable and recommended The Raquel for our final hotel when our first choice was unavailable. We chose the Seville (The Seville-Biltmore in Graham Greene's 'Our Man in Havana').

The flights offered were with Virgin Atlantic (VA) and we noted that CC had better deals with VA than were available to us if we'd booked them independently, rivaling Cubana Airways in price and far more comfortable.

There was no need for alarm that CC were a subsidiary of a parent company, Travelzest. That seems only to serve to give you the usual ATOL, ABTA etc. protection and you can access the CC specialist team quite easily on the phone. Nor any further alarm that the trek is sub-contracted to yet another company, Sprachcaffe; Hamburg-based specialising in walking, language courses and international school trips. Their representative in Cuba was local and outstanding and we learned that the Cuban government select certain operators to provide certain services so CC have few options other than to subcontract - it would have been professional suicide for our guide to have operated independently.

My only criticism of the services we were offered overall are minor ones - our CC representative's customer relations style was a little peremptory and their team didn't always communicate efficiently with each other so some actions were duplicated. They were, however, knowledgeable and their Cuban representative in Havana efficiently booked us into a leading, hard to get into, restaurant, the Guarida, when we requested it by text whilst away in the National Park.

A more serious criticism lies with the translated itinerary that you receive from Sprachcaffe. It's pretty accurate in terms of the locations and accommodation but omits crucial information about the terrain, climate and transport arrangements which we could have easily prepared better for. It is suprisingly cool in the Sierra D'Escambray and there is a need for heavier footwear than is indicated - proper trekking shoes are essential, don't bother with sandals or trainers though you can get away without a full boot, and take warm layers as we were down to 5C at night and in early mornings. It was also left open to interpretation as to whether we needed to carry all of our belongings on the treks - in fact only a day bag was required and we had to repack after carrying far too much on the first day. Everything else is carried for you on old Russian 4x4 trucks, still being manufactured in and imported from China and an adventure in themselves as they also pick you up and take you to and from start and end points in the walk on occasions.

Sprachcaffe’s local guides though were exemplary. Our lead guide, Emilio, had that essential leadership qualities of a passion and knowledge of the political and social history of his country, emotional intelligence, sense of humour, local connections - one of our highlights was meeting a music group as charismatic and as elderly as those iconic Buena Vista Social Club musicians at the Casa de Trove in Trinidad, rarely on any tourist itinerary – and finally his ability to navigate bureacracy and identify solutions. He was also able to recruit colleagues with a lifetime's knowledge of the landscape in which we were walking.

The only times we were derailed and had to find our own way were issues created by the government tourist agency Cubana Tourist, who are obliged to handle the airport transfers and hotel paperwork on behalf of the other parties. On arrival, they transfered us to the wrong hotel. The Park Central kindly bought us a taxi to enable us to complete our journey to the Seviile, though it was only a couple of blocks. Our two nights at The Seville then only turned into one as they had overbooked it, though offered us an immediate upgrade to The Nacional the next day and free transfer with a sincere apology.

Overall, everyone tried to do their best for us and the inconveniences seemed to us to be part of the Cuban experiences where a planned and depressed economy militates against perfect service and resliience is expected.

ITINERARY
After Havana our tour/trek took us to the following: Santa Clara and Lago Hanabanilla - site visits; Sierra D'Escambray - trekking; Finca Codina - trekking; Sierra D'Escambray - trekking; Parque Cubana - trekking; Cayo Iguana - Catamaran Carribbean boat trip; Trinidad - site visits; Valle de Los Ingenicos and Sancti Spritus - site visits.

Whilst we would have liked more walking, the site visits are must-see locations and really develop your sense of the country. As first time visitors it would have been counter-intuitive to ignore the political history and Santa Clara provided an important historical backdrop for the walking in the Sierra where Che and the revolutionaries prepared the final assault. Trinidad is a cultural treasure trove and an important site in the emancipation of Cuba from the Spanish genocide with its sanctuary established by De Las Casas (now a family run textile emporium with little more than a washed out plaque on the side wall to identify it - we would recommend that you buy your table cloths and fashions from here, although ubiquitous, they are genuinely good quality and better value than in Havana).

The walks themselves were shorter in distance than indicated and moderate to easy with one exception, an exhausting half-day plunge into a deep gorge and steep, half-day lengthy climb back out, though walkers will recognise that it is precisely these days that stand out as memorable months afterwards. I think we would have liked to have been alerted in advance as one can look forward to the challenge rather than feeling a little caught out. The end of trek accommodation was in spacious three-man tents (per couple), already set up in spectacular locations. The complementary, obligatory rum cocktail was not the most obvious way to mark the end of a walk but the well organised state-run haciendas have fully-stocked bars with alternatives and bottled water and the food is often better than in the state-run hotels being closer to home-cooking than professional catering. Although at times grateful for this infrastructure, as walkers used to wilderness we would however have been glad to have had to fend for ourselves a little more from time to time, but realised this is tricky to set up in Cuba until you make local connections who are willing to operate under the radar.

The trek covered a wide range of sub-tropical environments including coffee and sugar-cane plantations and a wide-range of temperatures and was as visually stunning as you would expect.

The single disappointment was the use of a state-run all-inclusive, Hotel Costa Sur on the Playa Ancon preceding the Catamaran visit to the Cayo Iguano and opportunity to experience a day on the Caribbean; to be honest, you could do without this though realise it is tempting, as it was for us, if it is your first time in the country. We handled it by seeing it for what it was, a piece of communist social history: created in the 1980s to try and attract the European tourist market and hard currency whilst ensuring that they never leave the compound it was an like-for-like interpretation of Butlins in the 1960s right down to the English names. There are no movement restrictions now, but having to wear a compulsory tag and endure the Hi-de-hi entertainment was an insensitive intrusion following several days just spent in a natural environment. Ask to stay somewhere else for this night if you are considering taking the same tour and avoid this hotel at all costs. The food was rubbish too.

SEVILLE & RAQUEL
Terrific, atmospheric hotels which most other reviewers have accurately described: spectacular lobbies and simpler, but comfortable rooms. For us, always a better choice than the internationally ubiquitous Park Central type of hotel. The dacquiris at The Raquel bar were the best we had anywhere.

NACIONAL
Relocated here, we enjoyed it's significance in twentieth century Cuban history; a must visit even if you are not staying just to have a mental picture of it whenever you read those iconic novels and political memoirs, complete with its legacy of government bouncers who appear to memorise every one of the thousand or so daily visitors and whether or not they have paid their bills. It is, however a tourist treadmill and lacks the charm of The Seville and Raquel.

FOOD
If you enjoy gourmet cooking you are going to feel as desperate as we did. Even the private restaurants that are springing up are a struggle. Food is supplied to the hotels and state restaurants as a formula and whilst their idea of ensuring a common standard whether you are staying in a 2 Star or 4 Star accommodation, is charmingly naïve, the execution varies enormously. Actually, food is still a political issue in Cuba after the near starvation of many in the early 1990s and one remains grateful to be reasonably well fed, even poor cuts of meat are expensive locally and it is considered insensitively decadent to have gourmet expectations. Nevertheless, as we finally started to discover in the 1970s, there really is no need to cremate food and ladel vast quantities of salt and sugar into everything. Go for the bean soups, which were consistently good and queue for the freshly made omelettes in the morning but have them plain.

RECOMMENDATIONS
We would recommend all of those parties who 'introduced' us to Cuba with the exception of the Hotel Costa Sur with highlights in Havana, Trinidad and the Vega Grande pathway in the Sierra D'Escambray National Park with a special mention for the marvellous, independently cooked breakfast at the Hacienda La Gallega.

Paul Ackerley & Karen Howard

Room Tip: We enjoyed the higher floor and balcony of The Raquel
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  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Koprivshtitsa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Hotel Raquel

Address: Calle Amargura 103 esquina a San Ignacio, Havana, Cuba
Region: Caribbean > Cuba > Ciudad de la Habana Province > Havana
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
#3 Best Value Hotel in Havana
#14 Luxury Hotel in Havana
Price Range: £53 - £77 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Hotel Raquel 4*
Number of rooms: 25
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
I would emphasize that the services offered are FREE gym and sauna for guests staying at our hotel It is also good to note that hotel guests are entitled to free parking ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Raquel Hotel Havana

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