I didn't take this photo.  It's a nice shot and a pretty unusual angle for a panoramic!

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Scorpions and Electrocution

A review of Sol Pelicano resort in Cayo Largo Cuba

Just look at those luxurious chairs at Sol Pelicano in Cuba...
Just look at those luxurious chairs...

My girlfriend and I were there January 24th to January 31st, 2014 in rooms 4313, then 4427. If those of you who were there during that time can't tell who we are by the room numbers alone, keep reading. You'll definitely recall us by the end of this review.

Rooms - Ours was 4313. Shabby and run-down with positively the cheapest possible furnishings. Two twin beds pushed together. The patio chairs were of the dollar store variety. The rooms were indeed spotless though. I've always said that clean matters most of all, and it does - but SOME quality in the contents of the room would've been nice. Later on, we were upgraded to a suite (4427) which was again very clean, with an actual king bed, and this time had a second TV and fridge in the now separate living-room. But though the furnishings and appointments in this suite were improved over room 4313, I still would class it well below the most basic room at the 4.5 star Riu Playa Turquesa, which I had visited just months before in August 2013. I was expecting a hard bed and true to form, the one in this suite was pretty hard. But in the cheaper room 4313, it was positively rock solid and positively unsleepable. (Yes, that's a word I just made up.)

Room location - It's a small resort and we don't mind a walk, so as far as I'm concerned there's isn't a bad room location on the entire property. Of course, it's nice to have a window facing the sea to get that nice sound of the waves at night.

Grounds - At the 4.5 star Riu Playa Turquesa, there were always gardeners around working on keeping the property and the pools "just so." One afternoon, we walked over and checked out Sol Cayo Largo and saw the same thing - well kept buildings, gardens, and walkways. At Pelicano however, the property is something you endure on your way to dinner or the beach. My girlfriend said it best: while on the beach people watching one day, we spotted a very attractive younger woman walking the beach with an older gentleman. I speculated that perhaps he was very wealthy as an explanation for the age difference, to which she replied: "If he was wealthy, he wouldn't have taken her to Sol Pelicano." (and right then and there I decided to take my girlfriend to a 1-star in Havana next January.)

Food - We ate primarily at the buffet, we did a couple of a la cartes at the Ranchon (good) and one a La Yana (a little better) I don't need to go into much detail here. The food was not really tasty or varied or well-prepared, which was no surprise - we were expecting that. What we did not expect was that it is impossible to get a decent cup of coffee anywhere on Cayo Largo. After being upgraded to the suite, there was a coffee maker with one precious coffee packet, with which we made exactly one small pot of passable coffee (using bottled water) but that was the only coffee packet we could get for the week and no amount of requesting or tipping or gifting could change that. And yes, we taught Guillermo how to make a cafe Americano at the lobby bar - they were still terrible. Plus I found Guillermo and Erick usually too busy sucking up to Argentinians to have time to serve me anyway. When I saw them working, I sent my girlfriend up instead - she's much easier on the eyes than I am :-)

Drinks - This was important to me. I'm kind of doing the low-sugar and low-carb thing these days so my choices were definitely limited to more or less liquor straight-up or wine. So I drank lots and lots of wine that quite frankly I would've returned had I got a glass at a Toronto restaurant or a bottle at the LCBO. But it was just passable and there was no trouble getting lots and lots of it. So I'm going to give the drinks a "thumbs partially up."

Beaches - We spent the majority of every day at one of the beaches. Sol Pelicano beach, Sirenis beach, or Paraiso beach - take your pick. Beautiful beaches for sun worship, great water for swimming. On Sol Pelicano, try a teepee for a day. I loved it. Beaches were 10 out of 10. Rent a scooter and use it on the washboard road to Sirenis/Paraiso for an experience you will never forget!

Pool - We both stuck a toe in for about 5 seconds and so can't really comment on it. Why would we spend time at the pool when there are three of the most amazing beaches on this island that I've ever seen?!

Service/People - The service was terrific from virtually everyone of the restaurant, housekeeping, and security staff we came across. And it's been said in the reviews before, but I get the sense that the good service is the result of individual effort rather than from the guidance of management. Management is virtually invisible at this hotel. Again, putting friendly Cubans together with friendly Canadians is a potent combination. There were a few generally crabby guys but I don't know their whole story so it was no trouble being nice to them as well as the 50 or other various workers we encountered all over the island who were amazingly friendly, kind, and helpful. And since that kind of behaviour is contagious, we also met many friendly, helpful, and pleasant Canadians and Italian guests as well.

Oh, and there were Argentinian guests there too.

And now, here come the two stories that will make you recognize us if you were there when we were. (Because we told virtually everybody at the resort about these two events) I did labour over whether I should even mention these things, and in the end decided to simply report them as they happened. Take from it what you wish and don't necessarily base your opinion of the resort on what's below:

Story #1: On the first morning after arriving, after my shower I went to throw my towel over the shower rod; my fingers brushed up against the ceiling and I got an electric shock! Not quite believing it was possible (the ceiling looked like vinyl panels) I touched this certain spot on the ceiling again and definitely got a good shock again. (As one who has been shocked before and as something of a connoisseur of electricity, I sensed that it was about 110v with just a touch of 220v for extra flavour, and just the right number of amps to make my heart jump.) I debated whether to even report this to the front desk, but for the sake of future guests and the fact that my girlfriend was now very nervous about even taking a shower, I decided to report it. The guy at the front desk (don't know his name so I will call him "Young with stylish glasses") was at first skeptical, then treated it as if it was something that happens every day. But eventually he agreed to get a maintenance guy to our room. We were instructed to go back to our room to wait. Presently three maintenance guys came by and we all went through the ritual of fondling the bathroom ceiling to absolutely no effect, with the guys (none of which could speak English) beginning to make spinning-fingers-like-this-guy-is-loco gestures...when one of them had the good idea to turn on the air conditioning, upon which the lead guy got a good shock! Ha!! I was vindicated!!! In short order, they had the ceiling removed and we could all see a rather poorly insulated wire had fallen from the A/C unit onto the ceiling thus making it live. So it was fixed in short order. We hoped we'd be upgraded for our troubles but no effort was made so we let it go. I went to the front desk later on and asked for a coffee maker for our room. Young with stylish glasses said he would try but our basic room didn't really deserve a coffee maker (they're only for ocean view rooms) Yet hours later a coffee maker appeared! Yay! But there was no coffee with it. Boo.

Story #2: On the morning of day 2, while brushing my teeth, I was running the water in the sink (just a little - very responsibly and very aware of my carbon footprint) when a very large and menacing scorpion, with human blood all over its claws, clambered right up out of the sink drain while growling deeply and threateningly!!

Now you may read the above and be skeptical. You may believe that scorpions don't growl. Well, in response I ask that all of you who have ever had a scorpion come out of your bathroom sink drain before, could you please now raise your hand? Oh? I'm the only one with my hand up? I thought so. I shall now continue...

So this massive, growling Scorpion comes out of the sink and my only thought was to protect my girlfriend, so I immediately and calmly sprang into action by emitting a high, defensive, keening wail, not unlike the way my daughter used to when she was 5. Once that was done, I ran the water faster until the scorpion disappeared back down the drain. At this point, my girlfriend came into the bathroom to investigate what she thought was the sound of a small child crying? I told her about the giant scorpion and in retrospect, I'm not surprised that she was a bit skeptical. She supportively said things like: "It was probably just a housefly." and "You're crazy." We waited...but the scorpion did not reappear. Just when my girlfriend was sure I was playing a joke on her - with me insisting the whole time that "YES, it WAS DEFINITELY an actual SCORPION", I ran the water into the sink once again and the scorpion again clambered out of the drain. I can't deny that at that point I found my girlfriend's ear-piercing scream and subsequent levitation pretty satisfying.

It looked like the scorpion was about to jump (can they even jump?) so heroically, I grabbed my girlfriend by the shoulders, swung her out in front of me like a human shield, and then hauled my behind out of there, straight to the front desk where Young with stylish glasses said: "A scorpion? They are harmless. Bring it to me; I will eat it and prove it to you." Dejected, I walked back to the room and figured, "If it's no big deal then my neighbours won't mind it either, will they?" So I grabbed it (my girlfriend had killed it when I ran screaming out of the room.) and deposited in front of the door of my next door neighbour. 10 minutes after that, the housekeeper and housekeeping manager appeared and kindly upgraded us to suite 4427, which was a pretty nice gesture since a scorpion coming out of the drain is something kind of hard to prevent, right? In essence, I was happy because Sol Pelicano did their best to make that situation right. But think about this when you visit this place: room 4313 is on the SECOND floor. How does a scorpion crawl up the drain pipe from below ground level, straight up more than 14 feet and past the P-trap to emerge from the bathroom sink? That fact as much as any kept us both pretty jumpy for the rest of the week. After the scorpion, I just had to brush my fingers across my girlfriend's calf to get her jumping to the roof *evil laugh*.

Lastly, I thought I had uncovered some kind of gem when reading the reviews of Sol Pelicano prior to booking our trip there. After all, how else can you explain the glowing reviews for a lowly 3.5 star from other visitors returning for their 6th, 12th, or even 15th time? Well, after visiting the place and actually speaking to some of the hard core repeat visitors, I can tell you - it's the nude beach. I guess there is no other place on earth where you can find an all-inclusive for $700 with a nude beach included. And yes, I did spend an afternoon at the nude beach (in order to check it off my bucket list.) It was exactly the same beach as the non-nude beach a hundred meters away, except it had the added bonus of me having to see some stuff I am not going to be able to 'un-see' for a long, long, time.

In summary Sol Pelicano is no gem. It *may* be a 3.5 star, but if so, it's just barely.

Room Tip: Anything has got to be better than the standard garden view room.

Read it all on: TripAdvisor.com

Scorpions and Electrocution

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Maybe read No Big Deal, a story I consider to be the very best thing I ever wrote.