Have you ever wondered what it would be like to stay at the only US-branded hotel in the forbidden fruit city that is Havana, Cuba?
Well, stop with your fanciful curiosity! I recently experienced Starwood’s Four Points by Sheraton Havana and am bringing it all directly to a computer (or smart phone) near you!
The hotel is managed by Starwood and is bookable with cash or points on spg.com.
While I love that this hotel provides the opportunity to redeem Starpoints for award stays, I do not like the redemption rate. Since this property is a Category 6 hotel, it requires 20,000 to 25,000 Starpoints per night, which would be a complete waste of Starpoints in my opinion. I remember a post by Lucky at One Mile at A Time when this hotel was first announced where he noted that the Four Points by Sheraton Havana is “the only Four Points by Sheraton in the world to be designated a Category 6 hotel.”
I was not willing to shell out 50,000 Starpoints for the stay, so I ultimately I decided to just pay the inflated cash price of $260 per night. More than I wanted to pay, but not so bad in the end, especially since my dad would be splitting the room cost with me.
Note: Most of the fellow travelers we encountered in Havana opted for more economical Airbnb rentals. While I definitely considered this as an option, I really liked the idea of staying at an American-branded hotel, as I did not know what to expect while in Havana and wanted the chance at some recourse just in case things went poorly.
And remember, Cuba is still restricted to Americans for pure tourism purposes, so make sure you are aware of the travel requirements prior to your trip!
Ever since US domestic airlines announced service to Cuba, I knew I wanted to make the 1 hour 15 minute trip south from my home in Tampa, FL! Lucky for me, Southwest Airlines was awarded a direct route to Havana and began service on December 12. While I am nearing the end of my beloved Southwest Companion Pass (RIP SW CP – April 10, 2015 to December 31, 2016), I was able to squeeze the last bit BOGO travel with a flight to Havana for me and my dad.
The flight was quick and easy and arrived bright and early in Havana at 7:30am. Since it was early in the day, passport control and customs was a breeze and we were hailing a cab by 8:00AM no problem.
Jose Marti International Airport is a bit removed and our 30 minute taxi ride to the Four Points cost us approximately 30 CUC ($1 converts to 0.875 CUC). The Four Points is located in the Miramar District, which is a wealthier business and residential area of Havana, but far (12km/20 minutes) from many of the main attractions like Old Havana. The Four Points does operate a shuttle service that makes four daily trips to and from so we made sure to utilize this as much as possible. If you do miss the shuttle, the hotel is never more than a 15 minute/10 CUC taxi ride away.
AYP Tip – Many taxi drivers don’t recognize this as the Four Points yet, but rather the previous name Hotel Quienta Avienda, so make sure to have both hotel names ready to offer up to your taxi driver
The Hotel Entrance & Check-in Experience
First things first, this hotel is large! With 180 guest rooms and 6 suites, and a large surrounding property, the Four Points felt large and business focused, as opposed to quaint and cultural.
The first thing I noticed walking into the hotel was the large lobby and Christmas tree smack dab in the middle on top of the fountain. A bit quirky, but I appreciated the Christmas spirit!
The check-in counter had an interesting mural as the backdrop and was staffed with friendly and welcoming representatives and after handing over my passport I was provided an affidavit to sign, documenting my reason for visiting Cuba. I was traveling under the Journalism category, which is one of the twelve general licenses available for Americans traveling to Cuba. I signed and then was provided the key to my room on the fourth floor.
One thing I did note was that my Starwood loyalty or Gold Status was not acknowledged by the check-in staff. Other than the room key’s Starwood and Four Points markings, the experience did not feel Starwood-esque, but more on that later…
I traveled to Havana with my dad and therefore booked a Classic Room with 2 single beds, yet as we entered the room it became oblivious that there was just one king size bed. How observant of us, right!?
I was surprisingly impressed with the room – it was clean, spacious, and it had a sweet balcony view!
The bathroom and amenities were really nothing special… but at least it was clean!
I don’t know but I had the notion in my head that since the hotel was in Havana, Cuba, it would be rundown and sketchy and that was not the case. But to be thorough in my review, I did note that the room needed a bit of TLC to be brought up to standards… see the water damage and scratched up desk below…
Even though I never touched the water, the pool was a highlight. I mean look at it, right? I imagined that many hotel guests would take advantage of the pool offerings but the whole time during our stay I only saw 4-5 people floating around…
The Dining Experience
Breakfast was included in our stay and was served in the Olivo Restaurant from 7:00am – 10:30am. We were only able to enjoy it once since we had an early flight out our last morning but it was an acceptable spread. And I say acceptable because it was neither delicious nor unpalatable… just acceptable.
In terms of quantity though, this breakfast had it going on! There was a ton of options and even an omelet bar for custom egg creations!
The Daiquiri Lobby Bar
On the surface this is just a pretty standard hotel bar, but it is open 24 hours and carried the Sunday Night Bucs vs Cowboys game so it ended up being a splendid hotel bar! Though it could have been better if the Bucs won… What am I doing watching an NFL game in Havana, Cuba? Being a true fan, that’s what!
The Snack Bar
The hotel website describes this as a place to “Enjoy casual favorites in a fun, casual setting overlooking our tropically landscaped, free form pool.” That sounds nice, but we much preferred to use this area to drink rum and smoke some Cuban cigars!
I cannot speak to any of the other restaurants like the Don Quijote Restaurant (the primary dinner restaurant), the Havana Café or the Havana but don’t expect much… is that rude of me to assume? Eh…
The Starwood Brand
Did the hotel feel like a Starwood property?
This was my biggest question as I prepared for my stay. I was eager to find out just how well Starwood had managed to “transition” this hotel from the previous Hotel Quinta Avenida.
The name on the outside of the hotel had been updated…
I noted a lonely piece of marketing material on the “3 Brands in 1”…
And I earned Starpoints for my stay!
Other than that, there is not much that suggests that this is a Starwood property. Now I don’t claim to be an expert on the Starwood brand as it is not my primary hotel brand (big shout out to my main man Hyatt), but it just did not feel like a Starwood. The staff didn’t acknowledge the Starwood brand name, there was no recognition of my loyalty status (maybe because I am a measly Gold status), and the name-tags of the staff said nothing more than a first name…
Maybe I am being a bit nit-picky with the name tag thing, and I am not suggesting that employees need to list out their passion (I am looking at you, Westin) but some brand acknowledgement and unity is an area that could use improvement.
Not discussed but worth noting…
Cigar Bar open from 10:00am to 10:00pm – Buy cigars, smoke cigars, talk about buying and smoking cigars!
Fitness Center – I never came across this place. I love a good workout, but we were only in Havana for a short time! I would imagine that the fitness center is nothing special though…
Final Thought and Overall Impression
At the time of writing this review, the Four Points by Sheraton Havana is the only US-branded hotel operating in Havana, Cuba. This will soon change as Starwood already has plans in the works to convert both the Hotel Inglaterra and Hotel Santa Isabela and add them to the Starwood portfolio as Luxury Collection hotels.
Overall, I enjoyed my stay and would recommend the hotel to those looking to stay under the umbrella of a familiar brand and earn Starpoints in the process. If you are looking for a more authentic Cuban experience, perhaps an Airbnb would be more in line with your expectations, or it might even be worth the wait for the SPG conversion of either the Hotel Inglaterra or Hotel Santa Isabela (both pictured below), as they were located in prime position to all the main Havana attractions.
Happy Havana Travels!