San Cristobal UK Blog

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Carlos Acosta, from the Royal Ballet to Havana

Carlos Acosta, from the Royal Ballet to Havana

Born in Havana in June 1973, Carlos Acosta has performed in some of the world’s greatest companies including England's Royal Ballet, Paris Opera and the Bolshoi. Known as one of the best male dancers of his generation; according to the British critics, Carlos has received as much applause as anyone could dream at the Royal Albert Hall. From a humble home, this young boy had a big dream, fought for it and make it come true. Today he’s after a new goal: opening his own ballet academy in Cuba.

Carlos Acosta at The Royal Albert Hall

Internationally known for his grace and athleticism as a dancer, after many years of brilliant performances he’s currently one of the main choreographers of the Royal Ballet and still sharing his magnificence with the audience. Carlos has danced almost every classical role from Macmillan to Balanchine right through to his more recent contemporary roles and never fails to bring a unique quality and magnetism to every movement. Acosta has also written his very honest and genuine autobiography: 'No Way Home', which was a UK bestseller and it’s been published in several other countries including North America, Australia and Germany.

After announced his retirement from the European scenes, he still performing and also stages several masterpieces; “Carmen”, the latest one, has been a resounding success, and will be shown on BBC 4 national television in Christmas Day. But now Carlos has new goals in mind; he’s looking to the future with a series of ambitious new projects in Cuba. He wants to create a revolutionary ballet company under his management; bringing to life undiscovered dancers and choreographers in the island while working with international figures.

Carlos Acosta ballet dancer

Auditions already started; Carlos seems to be looking for young talented dancers wanting to work with him, developing new skills and contemporary techniques. Initially Acosta aims to establish a small company of sixteen dancers: eight boys and also eight girls, plus choreographers. Those artists willing to join the company must complete the auditions to go through: a classic technique and a contemporary dance lesson.

According to Carlos, the strength in both techniques will be crucial for those foreign choreographers cooperating with the company, so they can be limitless and feel free to try and discover a new dimension with native Cuban dancers. So, Acosta will fill his classes with his chosen artists with elements of every dance modality, including folklore and contact dance (this last a very modern technique barely taught in Cuba).

New era in the Cuban ballet

Carlos Acosta

The biggest dream of the star of The Royal Ballet is to make this academy the basic platform to launch Cuban talent to international stages making a conscious bridge between Cuban ballet schools and the world’s biggest dance companies, something that until today, no one has achieved in Cuba. He’s trying to start a new era in the Cuban ballet, making a direct link with current tendencies and also collaborations with talented worldwide recognise dancers. Carlos Acosta’s academy will be for sure one to talk about in future, his talent is more than proven. We are already looking forward to the first performance, one that you won’t want to miss if you are in Cuba; nor me at San Cristobal UK in Havana & London…

Havana’s Yellow Submarine

Havana’s Yellow Submarine

Once I heard from a lovely British lady that Havana hides some secrets underneath. At first, it could sound a bit poetic, but if you take your time and think about it, she might be right. As tourists in a Caribbean country, you should expect go out in the night and dive into some mojitos while enjoying live salsa music and gorgeous “mulatas” dancing with an exorbitant rhythm that mesmerizes any audience. If that’s what you’re looking for, then certainly you are at the right place. However, if you want to go deeper and discover more than the typical tourist guide’s options, I can recommend a very unexpected and addictive place which is known as “The Beatles’ place in Havana”.

Yellow Subamarine in Havana

Many Cubans born during 1960s’ and the1970’s grew up in the most “extreme communist period” of Cuba’s Revolution; at that time listening to English music was forbidden by the government, it was regarded as disrespectful and against “socialist rules”. As a consequence, that generation learnt how to (secretly) listen foreign music, mainly British and American artists. Vinyl records of the glorious band born in Liverpool, singing such beautiful songs as “Hey Jude” or “Strawberry Fields” were one of the favourites to hide under the mattress of many…many young people in Cuba. My parents, my uncles, my parent’s friends, all of them did it, proudly and consciously that they were keeping a valuable asset.

But all of this changed in the next few decades, as it should be done from the very beginning, The Beatles occupied an important place in radio stations and John, Paul, Ringo and George were easily found singing in any Havana bar.
Today, at the 21st century, there is one place that won’t let them go: The Yellow Submarine! As the result the undeniable influence of the iconic British band in the Cuban musical memory, this enchanted bar honours them. Located in Vedado, the “most artistic zone” in the city, on 17th Avenue, is in front of John Lennon’s Park where a sculpture design by the Cuban artist Villa Soberon honours the author of “Imagine”.

John Lennon's sculpture

John Lennon statue

Situated in a basement, the beautiful design and decoration of The Yellow Submarine was led by Elizabeth Rojas Monzon; the idea was to fuse artistic pop concepts with modern styles. Decorated with chromatic and sparkling touches from the 60’s, the walls are covered with Beatles pictures and their lyrics all over the place, making it a friendly and unique environment to enjoy companionship with good quality music. It reminds me the magnificent “The Cavern” in Liverpool; not because the design but the atmosphere, the songs…the Beatles’ spirit.

This is a place where you can find young people, mostly university students, morphed with their previous generations. Is not touristic, but traditionally Cuban I must say. Good friends hanging out to share new histories or to recall those from the past or just young people looking for new experiences, something different from the salsa or “reggaeton”, easily found in the city, and go a step further. You can expect to hear songs like Penny Lane interpreted by mid-age Cuban bands or something much “stronger” like rock songs from The Rolling Stones or Deep Purple. I love going there. It’s a compulsory night out with friends from university every month. In fact, we got a couple of friends who play live music there; they are called Luz Verde (Green Light), who perform in this peculiar and original place a couple of months ago. 

Yellow Submarine

Yellow Submarine Bar

Beatles legacy

It is just a reminder of Beatles’ legacy within the Cuban culture; more than 50 years since they started playing unforgettable lyrics in England and young Cuban people still getting inspired by them…this is a little suggestion from San Cristobal UK if you are a Beatle lover travelling to Havana.

Royalton Plaza in Old Havana

Royalton Plaza in Old Havana

The classic Hotel Plaza, one of the oldest hotels in Cuba, is struggling with restoration and maintenance issues. Officially inaugurated in 1909, the latest renovation of this gorgeous building was in the beginnings of 1990’s. Blue Diamonds Resorts has claimed interest in this hotel; they are already discussing refurbishment projects and expect them to be completed in three years’ time.


Blue Diamonds Resorts, a Canadian hotel management established in 2011 has become the Caribbean’s fastest growing resort chain, with a 22 property portfolio now exceeding 10,000 rooms in 6 countries. Nowadays they manage 14 hotels in Cuba; but don’t want to miss the incredible opportunity to run a classic gem in Old Havana.

The hotel company has three main brands operating in Cuba: Starfish, Memories and Royalton; each one with its own characteristics, but all bringing an unforgettable experience to their guests. Royalton is the luxurious one of Blue Diamonds and it has two hotels running in the Cuban island: Royalton Cayo Santa Maria and Royalton Hicacos (this last one located in Varadero). The Royalton Cayo Santa Maria was honoured as the No. 1 All-Inclusive Resort in the World in 2014 TripAdvisor Travellers' Choice Awards and it is also considered one of the best All-Inclusive hotels in the world by many specialists as well.

Hotel Plaza

Hotel Plaza in Old Havana

During the World Travel Market in London this last November, Blue Diamonds’ executives announced their next big project: the full restoration of Hotel Plaza, currently under Gran Caribe management. It is located in the west side of Old Havana: next to Parque Central Hotel, 3 minutes walk from the Capitol and just one block from El Paseo del Prado.

Hotel Plaza was designed over 100 years ago; it has a peculiar conical triangle shape, adding to its allure. Early 20th century elements are still reflected in details such as the original floor in the lobby and the towering windows, sandblasted with the Hotel Plaza’s emblem.

Plaza bar

The lobby and nearby bar are lively and abuzz: the bubbling fountain, the chirping (caged) birds and live traditional Cuban music make it almost heavenly in the middle of a crowded Havana. Stained glass domes in the ceiling (with beautiful Art Nouveau images) filter the sunlight, and the first impression when you go into the reception is like being in a golden dome that has survived during the years. Great names of the world history can be linked to this hotel: Albert Einstein and Babe Ruth stayed here during their visit to the capital city.

Situated at No. 267 Ignacio Agramonte Street, Old Havana, the prime location and the history of this hotel cannot be obviated; plus adding 188 rooms to a fully booked Havana makes it a real deal. Even when the hotel doesn’t have very good reviews today, after a proper restoration process it will be certainly one of the finest in Cuba.

Old Havana seems to be reborn

The future Royalton Plaza will make Old Havana a more stylish town. It’ll be situated in front of the currently under-construction Manzana Hotel and the Bacardi building in the back of the hotel, next to Parque Central Hotel and barely 50 metres from one of the best bars in Cuban history: Sloppy Joe’s Bar. In the rooftop of the future luxurious Royalton Plaza, you will definitely enjoy a breath-taking view; one that I hardly doubt you could ever forget.

Bacardi building's view

View form Hotel Plaza


New hotel in Old Havana above the legendary Sloppy Joe’s Bar

New hotel in Old Havana above the legendary Sloppy Joe’s Bar

As part of the new refurbishment projects headed in Old Havana by Habaguanex, a new boutique hotel will be opening soon in one of the most mythical places in Havana. The first and second floor of the building where the historic and unique Sloppy Joe’s Bar is located will be revitalized and turned into a wonderful place to stay in the city.

Sloppy Joe's Bar Havana

During the World Travel Market 2015 in London early of November, new projects in Old Havana were exhibited. As a response to the increasing tourist arrivals in the island, new hotels (most of them in small and highly stylish locations) are currently under reconstruction. One of the most intriguing places for sure is going to be the one just over Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Habaguanex company, specializes in luxurious boutique hotels around Old Havana, being one of the most prestigious hotel brands in Cuba, is performing this adventure.

Sloppy Joe's was a Havana bar in the 1930’s owned by Jose Garcia who arrived in Cuba in 1904 from Spain, he worked as a barman during his early years there. He opened his own business and bought a grocery store along with a warehouse located in the corner of Zulueta and Animas Streets, just couple of minutes walk from the Capitol of Havana. One of the theories of the name is that during the first months after the opening, when the place was a total mess, there was a sandwich served made of ropa vieja (ripped beef) known as a Sloppy Joe, and later Mr Garcia created the name as a trademark which has a long legacy.

Sloppy Joe's Bar

Sloppy Joe's old picture

The bar was one of the most popular places in Havana. It wasn’t only fine cocktails and spirits what made it so trendy, it was the attractive environment and the perfect atmosphere to meet with friends or having an important business meetings, while enjoying the longest mahogany bar in Cuba (even some historians says it was the longest bar in the entire world with more than 18 meters of length). One of the regular clients of Jose Garcia was Ernest Hemingway, who use to visited the bar along with his friend Joe Russel who also owned a bar in Florida, USA which Hemingway suggested to Mr. Russel be named “Sloppy Joe’s”, in honour of Jose Garcia.

It was one of the most fashion bars in Havana which had a magnificent splendour during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Many Hollywood celebrities, musicians, writers and all kind of bohemian characters visited Sloppy Joe’s Bar. It was a must go place in those decades; relevant figures as John Wayne, Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", Jose Antonio Mendez "The King", Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Ignacio Jacinto Villa y Fernandez "Bola de Nieves" and many other personalities of the time enjoyed cocktails there.

Sloopy Joe's

After the triumph of Fidel Castro’s Revolution in 1959, the iconic Sloopy Joe’s Bar was closed. The building and its history were completely abandoned until April 12, 2013 when it was reopened after fifty years of obscurity. Eusebio Leal, Historian of Havana and head of Habaguanex said: “What interests me is to work to restore to my city, our city, a whole series of things that are part of its memory. To restore Sloppy Joe’s is to return to Havana the place where artists, baseball players, tourists all met. The final goal is not commercial, is not to exploit a name; it brings the opportunity to recover an important memory of Havana”.

Fame and history in a new boutique hotel

Restored Sloppy Joe's

Today the bar is one of the best in Cuba; full of fame and history, is now welcoming new clients to let them enjoy an unequal experience. Not only tourists but local people enjoy the pleasure of being seated behind such a magnificent bar and have great drinks in Havana’s heart. As announced by Habaguanex the upper floors will become soon a unique place to stay, adding nearly 20 rooms to an increasingly crowded Havana. A new hotel that we will keep an eye on…!

Restoration of the Capitol building in Old Havana, the future seat of Cuban government

Restoration of the Capitol building in Old Havana, the future seat of Cuban government

In recent years many historical buildings in Old Havana have experienced refurbishment orchestrated by Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, the city historian. The “Capitol’s facelift” is one of the biggest regeneration projects in Old Havana.

Cuban Capitol

“Cuba still ageing…” is a common phrase in blogs and social websites nowadays; however they usually don’t mention the refurbishments projects taking place in Havana. Even when these works are far from taking back the “youth of the city”, visitors’ perception of Havana could be slightly changing.


A skilled and hardworking team of restorers, architects and engineers under Eusebio Leal’s management have been renovating some of the oldest structures and buildings of Old Havana in the past few years. Their largest project so far is the renewal of “El Capitolio”, once the seat of the former Congress.

"El Capitolio"

Havana's Capitol

It was originally constructed between 1926 and 1929 and designed by Cuban architects Raul Otero and Eugenio Rayneri Piedra. Sources published in Cuba credit design influences for the dome to the Pantheon in Paris and to Rome’s St. Peter’s for size and form. Although the building’s appearance is similar, but slightly smaller, than the U.S. Capitol, the top of the Cuban dome is a bit higher with a size of 681 by 300 feet. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950s and houses the world's third largest indoor statue.

Sixty different types of marble for flooring, walls and steps were sourced from Italy and Germany, plus some Cuban marble. The Capitol houses three large bronze statues by Italian sculptor Angelo Zanelli of Brescia. The entry is safeguard by the statues “Work” and “Guardian Virtue.” The “Statue of the Republic”, inside the building, was shipped from Italy in three pieces; it is covered with 22 carat gold leaf and weighs 49 tons. The “Republic”, a stylized figure inspired by the legend of Athena, was realized with the help of Cuban model Lily Valty. It was the second largest indoor statue in the world at the time after the Great Buddha in Nara, Japan; today it’s the third largest. 

The “Statue of the Republic”

Statue of The Republic

The building was abandoned as a symbol of authority after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. While the government offices have been located at Revolution Plaza across town since 1960, the Capitol remained open to tourists and also lodges a science library. Renovation should be completed by 2017, when the building will be again the seat of government.

Future seat of Cuban government

The Capitol is one of the distinguished symbols of the city, a sacred place for local people and an essential visit if you want to learn a bit more about Cuban history; plus will be soon the seat of Cuban government, another reason for not to miss this majestic place!!!

Iberostar Playa Pilar: New Premium Gold Hotel in Cuba

Iberostar Playa Pilar: New Premium Gold Hotel in Cuba

During the International Tourism Trade Fair in Argentina (FIT) in September 2015, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts announced details about their hotels in Cuba. The opening of the luxurious Iberostar Playa Pilar in Cayo Guillermo this November was one of the most revealing news of the event.


FIT is the most long awaited business meeting by operators of worldwide tourism in Latin America. This year Buenos Aires opened its doors to more than 1600 exhibitors from 35 countries in the final days of September. All the staff and the exhibitors were pursuing a single goal: the unstoppable expansion of the tourism industry throughout the world.


Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, one of the leading hotel chains in Spain and America wouldn’t miss this important event. As part of their latest news, the hotel brand announced the opening this year of their new hotel Iberostar Playa Pilar: a 5 star hotel of their Premium Gold category. Located on the gorgeous sands of Playa Pilar, this brand new haven promises to be one of the most luxurious hotels in Cayo Guillermo, a cay on the northern coast of Cuba, part of Ciego de Avila central province approximately 300 miles from Havana.

Iberostar Playa Pilar

Iberostar Playa Pilar Entrance

The beachfront Iberostar Playa Pilar, with 482 rooms, will operate on an All Inclusive basis and will open in early November. Guests, of all ages, will enjoy every first-class facility and amenity, from a children’s miniclub to a selection of theme restaurants, i.e. Mediterranean, Japanese and Creolian; a buffet restaurant and a grill restaurant on the beach, bars (including a Cigar Bar), three free-form swimming pool, a water park, a night club, theatre, marina, sports club, spa, a wedding gazebo and much more.

Iberostar Playa Pilar

Iberostar Playa Pilar wasn’t the only new of the day related to the Caribbean island hotels. Sources within the organization report some news related to upgrading works in the Cuban hotels. The luxurious hotel brand is revitalising Spa amenities in Iberostar Varadero and Iberostar Playa Alameda. As part the improvement projects currently, the main pool of Iberostar Laguna Azul (also located in Varadero peninsula), is being renovated.

Iberostar Hotels & Resorts is a hotel chain based in Spain, specializing in 4 and 5 star hotels. It is owned by Grupo Iberostar, which also owns Iberostate Golf, Villas & Condos and Iberoservice. The company’s trademark is “first line” hotels (meaning directly on the beach), surrounded by gardens.They are one of the major hotel brands operating in Cuba, and under their management are included many of the top hotels in the island: Parque Central (in Old Havana), Iberostar Ensenachos (located in Cayo Ensenachos), Grand Hotel Trinidad (the best hotel in this beautiful city of Central Cuba) and of course many of the greatest resorts in Varadero such as Iberostar Varadero or Iberostar Tainos. San Cristobal UK has contracts with every Iberostar’s hotel in Cuba, for more information please go to the main page of our website and look closer to any of these hotels and resorts. 

Unique opportunity

I believe the new Iberostar Playa Pilar hotel it's a paradise for those willing for a relaxing break on a luxurious place, plus a unique opportunity to breath Cuban most refine sea breeze while enjoying spectacular views.

Fashion Week 2016 in Havana

Fashion Week 2016 in Havana

Fashion is rapidly arriving in Cuba. A couple of weeks ago Karl Lagerfield announced Chanel will be presenting its Cruise 2017 collection in Havana, just a few days after the French House decided to make this their first presentation in Latin America, sources inside the island started giving details related to a Fashion Week in mid-May.

“Cuba is getting trendy”, this is no longer a dream for local people

Cuba is getting trendy

Havana is welcoming more and more curious visitors every day; hotels are fully booked, even availability in private houses is difficult to manage. From Beyoncé, Rihanna or Mick Jagger, everyone seems to wish being around the island and enjoy Cuban people. Exclusive fashion houses won’t miss this opportunity either.

Since 2000 Mr. Lagerfeld has selected exotic places to present the Chanel Cruise collections i.e. Dubai, Seoul and Singapore. This year, the headmaster of the Coco’s house announced that Havana is the chosen city, the next location for its presentation on May 3, 2016 and also the main inspiration of the new collection, making Cuba the first Latin-American country receiving Chanel in the catwalk. Havana has been expecting this moment since forever. Young ladies on the streets, local models and designers can’t stop talking about it. Plus Chanel just made the perfect excuse for fashion lovers all around the world to travel to the tropics and get into the deeper Cuba to "live it up".

Havana is not only hosting Chanel’s presentation. May is a special month in Cuba when lots of events are running in celebration of Mother’s Day and the next year will also bring a full week of fashion. Habaguanex, the exclusively hotel brand of Old Havana, is currently arranging this event. The Fashion Week 2016 in Havana will be the first of its kind in Cuba. Even when it’s just becoming a real event and preparations barely starts, a full schedule can be already assured.

The venue for the opening event will be “Cerveceria del Puerto de la Habana”, a recently opened establishment by Habaguanex

Cerveceria del Puerto de la Habana

It has a unique location, just next to Havana Bay, where you can smell the sea and hear seagulls during your stay. It’s the ideal place to have an ice cold homemade beer and an attractive option in the centre of Port Avenue. It can host more than 450 people and with a young and modern atmosphere is part of the refurbishment projects lead by Eusebio Leal, the Historian of the city. The famous Cuban song writer Kelvis Ochoa and the local band Interactivo will be giving a unique presentation at the opening event in recognition of a special week. 

The general concept is to show local fashion tendencies, but not only on clothes or high heels, the main purpose is to “melt” artistic movement with fashion designers in the heart of Havana. It’ll be the perfect occasion to show latest works of young Cuban designers while the hosting company will prepare an exclusive fashion parade mixed with artistic lines. The main goal is to feel the fashion’s spirit throughout the whole week.

Cathedral of Havana

Havana Cathedral

The closing ceremony will take place at the Cathedral...a mystic place for such an unforgettable event.

New Habaguanex Hotels in Old Havana

New Habaguanex Hotels in Old Havana: Marques de Cardenas y Monte Hermoso, Cueto, Real Aduana and Catedral

Habaguanex, one of the main hotel brands in Havana, has four new hotels under construction: Marques de Cardenas y Monte Hermoso, Cueto, Real Aduana and Catedral. All of them promise to be marvellous places to rest during a visit to the city, adding 140 rooms in Old Havana.

New Habaguanex Hotels in Old Havana: Marques de Cardenas y Monte Hermoso, Cueto, Real Aduana and Catedral

Havana, as a whole, has been facing several changes since the beginning of the year. Not only more U.S. citizens are having cocktails in every colonial square of Old Havana, tourist visitors had increased  18% during the year compared with 2014. The city must get ready to bring accommodation for more oncoming guests.

Habaguanex, specializes in boutique colonial hotels, is certainly aware and won't drop behind. They are currently working on the opening of new luxurious hotels in Old Havana, a unique place not only in the capital city, but in the whole country. It reminds us the old times of the Spanish colony, and can take you to the past in just a few minutes of conscious walking through some of oldest streets of the Americas.

As usual, at Habaguanex hotels, they'll bring top accommodation in unparalleled rooms, where history and comfort are mixed as one. Bars and refined restaurants will certainly satisfy even the more demanding palate, and accompanied with a special Mojito, would make it almost impossible not to enjoy this unique experience.

Even when the hotel brand hasn't published much information about these new hotels, San Cristobal UK is more than pleased to share the projected images with our clients.

Hotel Marques de Cardenas y Monte Hermoso

Hotel Marques de Cardenas y Monte Hermoso

Marques de Cardenas y Monte Hermoso, a luxurious 5 star plus hotel will be situated at Oficios 110 (close to San Cristobal UK's offices) next to San Francisco Square, one of the main squares of the Old Havana. The location is just spectacular; you will be just 5 minutes' walk from the sea and the cruise terminal, with an incredible view to Havana Bay and El Morro fortress.

In the preliminary design it has 21 rooms, including a Colonial Suite plus a Presidential Room, a Lobby Bar, an interior courtyard and art galleries.

Hotel Cueto

Hotel Cueto

Hotel Cueto, originally constructed in 1906, is probably the best example of Art Nouveau in Havana. This hotel may be reminiscent buildings designed by Gaudi in Barcelona. It is located in the southeast corner of Plaza Vieja (Old Square), a privileged place in Old Havana, at the junction of Muralla and Inquisidor Streets, Plaza Vieja.

Hotel Real Aduana

Hotel Real Aduana

The third hotel is Real Aduana, which will be, without discussion, one of the best places to stay in the city. Located at Oficios Street, between Amargura and Teniente Rey Streets, it is near San Francisco Square and the Rum Museum. It promises a luxurious experience nearby the Bay and a few yards from the main squares in the city.

Hotel Catedral

Hotel Catedral

Hotel Catedral, the latest of the new top accommodation hotels being built by Habaguanex, looks like a "must go" place in the town, situated at Empedrado Street in the Cathedral Square. These images reveal a golden gem just in the heart of Old Havana. Stylish rooms, unique location and incredible views will certainly make it one of the most refined places in Havana.

Exciting new hotels coming to Havana

I'm excited to know that Habaguanex Hotels is planning on opening these really well located hotels soon in Havana.....