With the opening of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, Havana got its first 5 star hotel. It is located prominently on Parque Central which is a lively square with a small park and plenty of old vintage limousines available to do a sightseeing tour of old and new Havana.
The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski offers 3 restaurants, a roof-top swimming pool and a state-of-the-art spa as well as gym on the top floor which offers a great view. The spa is very beautiful and offers a lot of space and many options which is fantastic. The infinity swimming pool is a perfect place to relax on a hot afternoon while enjoying a magnificent view over the rooftops of Havana.
The rooms are generous in size with an oversized shower and a separate toilet. The decor is very modern and timeless. Espresso-maker and other 5*star hotel amenities were also available. The famous Kempinski “lady-in-red” concierge service is available around-the-clock and is always helpful.
The reception lobby of the hotel is small, but there is a huge bar/lounge on the first floor. The Bar is open 24 hours and features live music including singers and a fantastic harp player which made the waiting time to go to the airport a very pleasant one. A cigar smoking lounge is also located on the first floor as well as another bar called Constante.
Breakfast was served in the Confluencias restaurant and offered a huge variety of breads, fresh fruit, cheese, cereals and muesli. Hot egg dishes such as eggs benedict were served at the table. I loved the breakfast very much as there were also smoothies and healthy juice options available. Good value for money here.
The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski is a beautiful new hotel with a solid service for a 5-star hotel but it was missing a “wow” effect such as a little treat for Discovery Members or a staff or management member who was available for chatting with guests or inquiring about their well-being.
HAVANA – ZURICH
I flew on an Edelweiss Airbus 330 with a configuration of 27 Business Class and 298 Economy Class seats.
There was a long check-in queue line for Economy Class passengers at Havana Airport but the Business Class counter was free and check-in was a breeze (There were only 11 Pax booked in C-class)
The Edelweiss Airbus 330 features the same Business Class seats as offered by SWISS/Austrian with a full flat sleeping option and the same layout as well.
I found the Edelweiss in-flight service very pleasant. There was a pre-dinner drink service followed by a first course, a main course and cheese and dessert. All return flight food items were catered in Zurich so the quality and taste was very good. After a good sleep a nice breakfast was served and the famous swiss Biberli (Biber cake) were handed out before landing.
I enjoyed the service from the Edelweiss crew a lot. They were attentive and charming and, of course, the flight being half empty made it a very comfortable experience.
FRANKFURT – HAVANA
Condor is a German airline with a long history. The airline used to be part of the Lufthansa Group but is now owned by Thomas Cook International. While the Condor aircraft tails carry the Thomas Cook heart on them, the airplanes show the Condor name on them and many things reminded me of the Lufthansa times. The crew uniforms are still LH-style, the menu cards and the service still show the signature of Lufthansa. Condor is also part of the Miles-and-More program. This makes it easy for collecting and spending miles and getting good connecting flights as well as a check-through bag arrangement.
My flight to Havana boarded from a bus gate at Terminal B in Frankfurt and when boarding the airplane through the aircraft steps a true holiday feeling came up because many passengers were taking pictures and everything was very relaxed.
The aircraft was a 21-year old Boeing 767-300. The Business Class seating was 18 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. The seats were angle-flat but reclinable to 170 degrees. Economy seating was: 237 in 2-3-2 configuration.
After a welcome drink, menu cards and immigration forms were handed out. The purser took the menu choice and after take-off they served the first course right away. After the first course, the entire tray was cleared and the hot dish, cheese and dessert were served separately. Then duty free sales was done, followed by ice-cream and a rest period before another meal was served. The landing in Havana was on-time and after walking from the aircraft to the terminal building immigration was done in a matter of minutes.
I enjoyed my flight with Condor very much despite the lack of wifi and the rather “vintage” seating. The crew was very pleasant and I felt well being taken care of. Condor offers a solid product at very competitive fares.