Tag Archives: Canadian tourists

Toronto man ‘scarred for life’ in robbery at Cuban resort

torontomanrobbed

Toronto Sun
A violent robbery at a Cuban resort ended Paul Sampalean’s dream vacation before it even started.

The 33-year-old construction worker also had to pay a $3,000 hospital bill before he could return to Toronto with a nasty gash on his head.

“He’s scarred for life,” Antonia Sampalean told the Toronto Sun on Friday — hours before her brother was expected to arrive back in the city.

She said the Toronto resident enjoyed his first visit to Cuba last year and decided to return to the popular vacation destination for Canadians.

“Obviously he won’t be going back there — ever again,” Antonia said.

Paul Sampalean landed in the communist country on Sept. 2 to learn his luggage was lost.

“Air Transit told him to go wait in the lobby of his hotel and his luggage would be dropped off,” Antonia said, recalling her brother’s version of events.

She said Paul remembers chatting with locals in the lobby of Sol Sirenas Coral, a four-star all-inclusive resort in Veradero.

“The locals tried to grab his wallet,” Antonia said. “There were three of them and he was alone, but he fought back.

“I wish he would have given them his wallet, but he’s not like that,” she said, adding her brother is about 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds.

Paul was knocked unconscious, but witnesses later helped him piece together some of the ordeal.

“Hotel security staff intervened,” Antonia said, adding the crooks took off with the $100 or so Paul had in his wallet.

She said her brother thinks he may have fallen and hit his head. His forehead was split open.

He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where medical personnel used a mere four stitches to close his 13-centimetre cut. Antonia said her brother is unsure what other tests were conducted during his two-day stay.

“But the hospital issued him a $3,000 dollar bill and threatened he’d be sent to jail if he refused to pay,” she alleged.Another

Her brother also told her that the initial police report allegedly stated he was “found wandering in the streets of Varadero.”

But Paul alleges that report mysteriously disappeared after four witnesses provided statements noting “the ambulance was called directly to the hotel,” she said.

After the attack, Antonia said her brother was uncomfortable having a large amount of cash on him, so she sought help from Global Affairs Canada.

Antonia sent used her credit card to send the government agency $3,100, which included a $75 special consular fee. The money was forwarded to consular officials in Cuba who then paid the hospital bill.

Paul’s luggage finally arrived at the resort four days after the robbery.

Air Transat, Global Affairs Canada and the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto never responded to the Sun’s request for comment.

They’ll never learn: Another Cuba vacation turns into a nightmare

CanadianConsulate

NewsWindsor

A Windsor man says his dream vacation turned into a nightmare at a hotel in Cuba.

He booked the vacation for him and his brother through a Strathroy-based travel agent using Sunwing.ca, but he says the “three star all-inclusive resort” was anything but.

“It’s rated as a three-star resort from Sunwing,” says Foster. “It’s rated as a four-star resort in Cuba.”

But when Foster arrived at Havana’s Club Acuario on Feb. 12, he says he wasn’t happy with what he saw.

“I’ve been to Mexico, Dominican Republic, but this was the worst,” says Foster. “I wouldn’t even give it a half-star rating. It’s a place to stay away from.”

Foster went to Cuba from Feb. 12-19. He says from the moment he arrived, he was appalled with the conditions.

“There was water running through the ceiling from the light fixtures down the wall,” says Foster. The main corridor, the women’s bathroom was backed-up. There was feces floating out of the bathroom.”

He says the swimming pool was filthy. Raw and cooked food were handled with the same utensils and at times there was no running hot-water or air conditioning.

Foster says other amenities listed on the site, like deep sea fishing, were not offered.

“It was one of the worst trips I’ve ever been on,” says Foster. “It was false advertising.”

Sunwing’s website states: “Sunwing makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained herein and cannot be held responsible for changes, errors or omissions.”

Foster says he and 22 other people at the resort were so upset and concerned for their health they called the local Sunwing rep to get moved to another hotel.

Foster claims the Sunwing rep tried to charge a moving fee.

That’s when he called the Canadian consulate.

“When I called the consulate, right away, they ordered Sunwing to move us and they deemed it unsafe for Canadians to be there,” he says.

The consulate confirms Foster’s claim, saying “at least one Canadian citizen was removed from a resort in Cuba due to health concerns. Consular assistance has been provided to this individual. Due to the privacy act, further details on this case cannot be released.”

CTV News also reached out to Sunwing, who confirmed they received a complaint from Foster.

In a written statement, Sunwing said “We have immediately launched a full investigation, requesting that the hotel provide a full and detailed report that addresses all the issues that he has raised. The safety, comfort and well-being of our customers remain our primary concern and if appropriate, we will be swift to press for compensation on our customer’s behalf.”

CTV News attempted to reach management of the hotel, but was unsuccessful.

Foster says he wants to be reimbursed for his trip and the week of vacation pay he’s out.

He also wants an apology from Sunwing and wants the resort removed as a destination.

CTV News also spoke with Foster’s travel agent, who couldn’t say much for confidentiality reasons, but she says she won’t send clients there ever again.

Another Canadian family has a Cuban vacation nightmare

Kelly Morrison (left) and her daughter while on vacation in Cuba. (Photo by Kelly Morrison)
Kelly Morrison (left) and her daughter while on vacation in Cuba. (Photo by Kelly Morrison)

Regina family’s dream vacation in Cuba turns to ‘nightmare’

CBC News

The Morrison family says money, jewelry taken from the safe in their hotel room

Members of a Regina family say their dream vacation in Cuba “turned into a nightmare”.

“Everything was great for the first few days,” Kelly Morrison said in a news release. “That all changed, however, last Saturday.”

On the morning of Jan. 30, Morrison opened their hotel room safe and found her wedding rings and money was nowhere to be found. She said about $170 Cdn. and 130 Cuban pesos (approximately $7 Cdn.) was missing.

When Morrison reported it as a theft to the hotel staff, they were told to fill out an report. That’s when Morrison said she was interviewed by the resort’s staff.

“Rather than an interview, it became an interrogation,” she said. “It was clear they didn’t believe our story. They thought we made up the whole thing.”

Morrison said security staff at the resort then went to their hotel room to search the family’s belongings. The missing items were not found.

According to Morrison, they were then told by the resort staff to leave everything in their rooms, including their passports. The family was moved to another part of the resort.​

After a few hours of waiting, Morrison said the resort told the family they could move back to their room and get their belongings, but only if they withdrew their statement alleging a theft from their safe.

“Obviously, they were only interested in keeping this incident quiet, rather than helping us,” Morrison said. “They refused to believe anyone else was in our room. They even threatened to kick us out of the hotel if we ‘made a scene’ and told other guests about what happened.”

When Morrison reached the Canadian embassy in Varadero, Cuba, they were told it would be best to retract their statement.

After the less-than-relaxing winter getaway, Morrison said it’s not the missing money that bothers her the most.

“I’m more upset about the loss of my three rings, including my wedding and engagement bands,” she said. “But worst of all, by far, is the way we were treated. Obviously, I would advise everyone to stay as far away as possible from Memories Santa Maria. I guarantee we’ll be choosing another destination for our next family vacation.”

On their next family vacation, Morrison said the family will also be leaving their valuable belongings at home.

CBC contacted the resort for comment, and the company said it will be issuing a statement later today.

Another vacation from hell: Overbooked resorts, bad food, no toilet seat, rats in the ceiling, delayed flight

vacationfromhell

Winnipeg Free Press

Exhausted, relieved and frustrated, a group of bedraggled Manitoban tourists on a Cuban holiday touched down in Winnipeg Saturday evening, 36 hours after they’d seen a bed, a toothbrush or a decent meal.

Passengers stopped outside the international arrivals gate at Richardson International Airport to describe a charter that couldn’t get a plane to them or even explain to them what had gone wrong.

Some said they’d surfed the Internet waiting in a small Cuban airport overnight before an airline agent arrived at dawn to tell them what they’d already found out on their own: Sunwing Flight 261 from Winnipeg to Holguin had taken off, only to turn back over North Dakota, causing the plane to be 13 hours late picking up passengers in Cuba for the return trip.

The charter was part of an all-inclusive weeklong resort holiday near Holguin, a city in the eastern part of Cuba most known for being the place Christopher Columbus landed in 1492.

The passengers had booked with the charter carrier, Sunwing, which merged with Signature Vacations in 2011.

In total, the flight carried 146 passengers and crew. Most were on holiday from Brandon and small towns in western Manitoba.

They included a wedding party of 17, elderly couples, parents with young families as well as one passenger suffering through a bout of food poisoning picked up on the island and a man who had to do without medication that was checked into his luggage.

“It was a rough trip with these guys,” said Fred Copeland, the man who needed his medication. “With three kids,” he added.

The Copelands live in Cowan, a small town 440 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, and planned to stay with family in Winnipeg overnight, deciding against the long drive home.

“It’s just not right. It shouldn’t have happened to us, and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else,” fumed a Killarney nurse the moment she cleared customs.

Carolyn Tallack said a series of delays in the return Sunwing flight from Holguin, plus a bizarre set of glitches in communications, left passengers frustrated. Saturday morning, she was on her phone to her son in Brandon, who called the Free Press.

“We’ve been awake 36 hours. What are they doing to people? Everybody understands that things happen.

“The thing is, they didn’t keep us informed. People want to know they’re treated with some dignity,” Tallack said.

Things started to go wrong as soon as the air carrier touched down in Cuba a week ago, at the beginning of the weeklong holiday. Resorts scheduled to take the tourists were overbooked, and Tallack said she spent two nights in another resort where the food was poor, her room had no toilet seat and no safe for belongings. Worse, she was convinced there were rodents scuttling in the ceiling above her.

The final straw was the flight home, she said.
Continue reading Another vacation from hell: Overbooked resorts, bad food, no toilet seat, rats in the ceiling, delayed flight

Another sick Canadian returning from Cuba: “This was probably the worst food we we have ever had”

salmonella

Global News

En Español Noticias Martí

B.C. residents like Ashlee Hanefeld are speaking out after falling ill on trips booked with Sunwing Vacations. Hanefeld and her husband spent over $5,000 and booked a family holiday to Cuba. They stayed at the Grand Memories Varadero between December 26 and January 3 of this year.

It’s rated as a four-and-a-half star resort, but 48 hours into the vacation, Hanefeld says her six-year-old daughter became ill and then her entire family. Her husband later tested positive for salmonella, a bacteria that lives in the intestine often caused by eating contaminated food.

“This was probably the worst food we we have ever had. We knew going to Cuba that the food was going to be bland, but we did still expect to get cooked food. The chicken was routinely undercooked,” Hanefeld said.

Hanefeld also says the public washrooms and hotel rooms were well below standard.

“There was mold in the bathroom and on the wall just under the air conditioner vent, and they tried to paint it over.”

It was a similar nightmare for Vancouver Island resident Kris Schill, who fell ill at another Cuban hot spot, the Memories Varadero Beach resort. Schill also booked her January vacation through Sunwing and says the trip went downhill the moment she arrived.

“I went to the buffet and within five to six hours after that, I was throwing up and I had pains in my stomach. The next day there was a time when I was on the floor and I was wishing I was back home,” Schill said.

A growing number of Canadian Sunwing Vacations customers are sharing similar stories after travelling recently to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Memories resorts in Cuba are managed by Blue Diamond Resorts, a company affiliated with the Sunwing Travel Group.

Sunwing Vacations would only provide a statement to Global BC that said, “We cannot comment on individual cases, as each situation is different, however we can confirm that should an issue be identified, we are swift to take corrective action. We also negotiate appropriate compensation on behalf of our customers.”

When it comes to compensation, however, it may be an uphill battle. Travel expert Claire Newell says travellers need to make sure they have proper documentation to support their case.

“If you have the ammunition to show in pictures — what your room looked like or what the food looked like —  it’s going to go a lot further than a he said/she said.”

Newell also says you can limit your risk of having a bad vacation by reading reviews.

“Read a lot of reviews. If you consistently see a destination or specific resort where people are getting sick…red flag. You don’t want to be there.”

So far, Hanefeld has not received any compensation from Sunwing Vacations and she worries about others planning a similar holiday.

“Clearly Sunwing is aware what is happening because they obviously watch these reports. For them to keep sending people back, it’s not good customer service,” she said…

Vacations on the toilet: Canadian travelers report illnesses at Cuban resorts

Gastroen

Global News

En Español Martí Noticias

Unsanitary washrooms, unsafe food handling practices, unrelenting stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea: these are some of the complaints being reported about popular Canadian vacations destinations in Cuba promoted and operated by Sunwing Vacations of Toronto.

“It’s very severe, and I am struggling a week later,” said Amanda Klein of Medicine Hat, Alta., who recently returned from Cuba and says she is still experiencing stomach problems.

Klein, 26, spent a week with her boyfriend and two other Canadian couples at the Memories Paraiso Azul Beach Hotel in Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba between Jan. 5 and 12.

But within days of the Canadians’ arrival, Klein says five of the six guests were violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea.

Klein says the group stopped eating at the all-inclusive resort–which they booked through Sunwing Vacations–after witnessing troubling food-handling practices.

“Numerous staff put their hands in food, licked their hands and put their hands in the food we were supposed to eat,” she said.

She said her group became alarmed when they watched staff members clearing tables in the buffet restaurant.

“They would collect the dirty dishes from the tables, and if it looked like they weren’t used, then left them on the table,” Klein told Global News, adding many of the dishes were dirty.

Continue reading Vacations on the toilet: Canadian travelers report illnesses at Cuban resorts

Warning to tourists: Don’t get sick in Cuba

Barb Johnston, 54, from Oak Lake, Man., died on Dec. 29, 2015
Barb Johnston, 54, from Oak Lake, Man., died on Dec. 29, 2015

En Español Martí Noticias

Manitoba woman dies of mystery illness after trip to Cuba

CBC News

Family of Barb Johnston, 54, warns Canadian travelers to have emergency plan.
The family of a Manitoba woman who got sick in Cuba and died a day after getting back to Canada is warning travelers to be prepared for every emergency.

Barb Johnston, 54, of Oak Lake, Man., died on Dec. 29 at the Brandon Regional Health Centre, following a month-long illness that started in Cuba, where she and her husband, John, had travelled for one of their regular sun vacations.

Barb developed flu-like symptoms on Nov. 26 while staying on Cayo Santa Maria, said her husband, John. She took a turn for the worse and they headed to a medical clinic on Nov. 27, he said.

“The resorts are absolutely gorgeous where the tourists are, the facilities are beautiful, the beaches are amazing,” John said. “But once we got to the medical centre, it was a horrendous shock.

“It was very dirty, everything had rust on it, there was no doors on anything, everyone seemed to be in their street clothes.”

Staff at the clinic had her transferred later that morning to a hospital more than two hours away on mainland Cuba. She was admitted to the intensive care unit, put on a ventilator and treated for septic shock.

The hospital didn’t have food, water or public toilets that worked, the family said. Sinks were also few and far between. At one point, hospital staff asked the family to go and bring back orange juice and push it though Barb’s feeding tube, the said.

Continue reading Warning to tourists: Don’t get sick in Cuba

Another Canadian comes forward with story of being detained in Cuba

Canadiense1A

GlobalNews

Taylan Evrenler had been to Cuba twice before but his visit last week, that included a trip to Havana, is easily the most memorable. He was detained and questioned by police over a two-day period and was only allowed to leave when he agreed to make a payment.

“You have to pay 4,250 pesos or else you are not going on your flight,” Evrenler said he was told by police on the second day of questioning, adding that he was warned he would not get the documentation necessary to return home to Toronto otherwise.

Evrenler was staying at a licensed Cuban guest home called a Casa Particular in Havana last week because he wanted to visit an international trade expo.

When he went to check out of the home, he said he was met by two non-uniformed Cuban police officers who accompanied him to a police station.

Inside, Evrenler said he was ordered to surrender his passport and cellular phone. He said he waited most of the first day and was told to return the following day.

“They gave me back my phone and was told to come back at eight in the morning and everything’s finished,” said the 28-year-old high risk analyst.

But after returning the next day and waiting about three hours, he said he was interrogated in Spanish, and limited English, and told he owed money for “damages” caused at another guest home on a previous trip.

“It was absolutely false,” Evrener told Global News, who said he had not damaged anything on the previous visit.

Faced with what he said was no option except to pay up, Evrener said he travelled “pretty much all over Havana” on Sunday when the city’s banks were closed.

Eventually, he found a financial institution that would provide a cash advance on his MasterCard.

Evrener’s account follows a series of Global News stories about a Vancouver couple who were detained at a Cayo Coco hotel because they didn’t pay approximately $400 in damages demanded by the resort.

Katharine Foran, 26 and Adam Babuik, 30, say they were not allowed to leave their hotel and could not pay for a broken lamp bulb and broken wall because their credit cards did not function at the hotel. Eventually, they were permitted to return to Canada.

Legal experts say travellers to Cuba aren’t guaranteed the same treatment as they could expect in many other countries.

“There’s a lot of evidence in the case of Cuba that it is not a legal system where the normal rules we expect would apply,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman.

The Cuba tourist office in Toronto said it has no authority to investigate incidents involving guest homes, a spokesperson said.

The office director said he was too busy to sit down for an on-camera interview to discuss questions about tourist safety in Cuba.

Calls to the Cuba Embassy in Ottawa and Cuba Consulate in Toronto were not answered.

Evrener eventually paid police even though he said he did nothing wrong.

“It was very scary,” he said.

“Someone accuses me of something I didn’t do and unless you pay you’re pretty much trapped.”

But despite the experience with police, Evrener said he would like to return to Cuba in the future.

“I fell in love with the country,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”

Cuba admits Canadians were held against their will at Cayo Coco resort

canadienses

Global News

Cuba’s tourist office in Canada and a Cayo Coco hotel acknowledge two Canadians were detained at the seaside resort last week against their will.

Canada’s foreign affairs department confirmed to Global News on Friday that “two Canadian citizens … were detained in Cuba” but would not discuss specifics of the case.

She was referring to the case of Katharine Foran, 26, and Adam Babuik, 30, who spent two extra days at the Hotel Playa Coco where they were guests of the all-inclusive, three-and-a-half star resort.

Global News reported last week that the couple described being virtually held “hostage” at the hotel under constant security watch after they attempted to check out.

The couple admits they were intoxicated during their all-inclusive vacation and as a result, broke part of a light fixture in their room and damaged a wall in another.

A Canadian tourist staying at the hotel at the same time, who asked not to be identified, said she saw Foran dump a drink on Babuik’s head in the main bar.

Cuba’s tourist office in Canada and a Cayo Coco hotel acknowledge two Canadians were detained at the seaside resort last week against their will.

Canada’s foreign affairs department confirmed to Global News on Friday that “two Canadian citizens … were detained in Cuba” but would not discuss specifics of the case.

“In Cuba, when you break, you have to pay, that is the law,” said Karen Puebla, with the Cuba Tourist Board based in Toronto.

She was referring to the case of Katharine Foran, 26, and Adam Babuik, 30, who spent two extra days at the Hotel Playa Coco where they were guests of the all-inclusive, three-and-a-half star resort.

Global News reported last week that the couple described being virtually held “hostage” at the hotel under constant security watch after they attempted to check out.

The couple admits they were intoxicated during their all-inclusive vacation and as a result, broke part of a light fixture in their room and damaged a wall in another.

A Canadian tourist staying at the hotel at the same time, who asked not to be identified, said she saw Foran dump a drink on Babuik’s head in the main bar.

“This was unacceptable…and downright disrespectful to the staff and facilities,” the woman wrote in an email to Global News, saying any detainment was the couple’s own fault.

Foran said she and Babuik offered to pay the $400 demanded by the hotel but said her Vancity Visa credit card would not function, although they say they had sufficient credit to cover the damage charges. However, when the couple could not pay, they were not allowed to leave the hotel.

“When you travel to any country where the rule of law isn’t respected, you are always taking a chance,” said Toronto immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman, who has represented clients imprisoned in Cuba for a variety of reasons.

“Fortunately, it was only two days; I’m aware of a lot of other instances where people have been confronted with a lot more serious problems,” Waldman said.

In an email in Spanish from the hotel’s general manager to the tourist board, Otoniel Riverond Portela said the Canadians also stole alcohol from the beer garden and that at various times, the Canadians’ behavior was aggressive.

Riverond Portela acknowledged the the couple had agreed to pay for damages.

Reached in Vancouver Monday, Foran focused on the trauma associated with being prevented from contacting her family or the Canadian Embassy in Havana during the two-day detention.

“That’s a violation of international law under the Geneva Convention,” said Waldman. “You are supposed to be able to call your embassy and get counsel or assistance.”

Foran said family members were still upset at their temporary disappearance. Her mother filed a missing person’s report with the Vancouver Police Department.

Foran and Babuik are considering pursuing a complaint with the Department of Foreign Affairs of their treatment at the hotel in Cuba.

Another vacation from HELL in Castroland

All American tourists planning a vacation in Castro’s Cuba, should read this:

From an article in today’s Daily Mail:

A British couple say they were sprayed with SEWAGE during holiday from hell at Cuban resort – and were told ‘it is good for the flowers’ when they begged staff to turn the sprinklers off

  • Nadia and Dave Lonsdale paid £3,300 for all-inclusive stay in Cuba hotel
  • They claim holiday was ruined by ‘smelly’ water from a sprinkler system
  • Pictures show building work, rubble at the poolside and litter on beaches
  • Travel agent Thomas Cook says hotel staff did ‘everything possible’ to address the couple’s concerns

A British couple say they were sprayed with sewage during a holiday from hell at a Cuban resort – and were told ‘it is good for the flowers’ when they begged staff to turn the sprinklers off.
Nadia Lonsdale and her husband Dave, from Brighton, East Sussex, had paid £3,300 for the two week, all inclusive stay at the Paradisus Rio De Oro in Guardalavaca, Cuba.
But after emerging from their ground floor room they say they were hit with an ‘horrendous stench’ from liquid being spread around the lawns.

Staff said the spray was ‘good for the flowers’ and refused to switch it off – despite guests having to brave a ‘mist’ of fine water drops as they headed out for breakfast.
The holiday booked through travel agent, Thomas Cook, was supposed to be the perfect getaway to celebrate Mrs Lonsdale’s 31st birthday and the couple’s fifth wedding anniversary.
But the hotel’s official photos of the grounds seemed at odds with Mrs Lonsdale’s holiday snaps which showed brown patches of grass, building work, broken pathways, rubble at the poolside and litter on the beaches.

Guardalavaca

guardalavaca1

Mrs Lonsdale said: ‘The place may be described as a Paradise but it was more like a hell hole. We would open the patio doors of our apartment and be virtually knocked off our feet by the smell. The spray was like a mist that would hit you as you passed.
‘We asked them to turn it off and put it on at night instead but they refused and said it was better for the flowers.
‘The stench was horrendous and it was everywhere, all the way through the main building. They have sprinklers all over and one was right outside our room.
‘You woke up, opened the balcony and there was a raw smell straight away. Their attitude was to tell us they were having a drought. Everything looked really dry and I appreciate that but you can spray it at night. It should be on the ground too, not like a sprinkle system.
‘There was no pool and rubbish everywhere. There were all these working cables around, it was absolutely filthy, just crazy.’

Dave Lonsdale, a 57-year-old school teacher, was bitten nearly 300 times by sand-flies after going to the beach.

SandFlies
‘We discovered later there was a serious problem with sand flies but we didn’t know that. If we knew we would not have gone on the beach and stayed by the pool with the building work going on. I will definitely never go to Cuba again. It was just horrendous.’

Read the whole thing here: Daily Mail