23 Dec 2015

Merry Christmas & Feliz Navidad!

Have a seat! The one on the right is a Muskoka chair in our back yard; the one on the left is a chair at a lovely little Cuban beach.

I am working on plans for the next group trip to Marea del Portillo and the tentative departure date is April 20. I will send out & post the details when they are confirmed. Feliz Navidad!  ~ Jenny 

27 Nov 2015

BYOG - Pick your own dates for an "Incomparable Cuba" group road trip!


After much consideration, I have decided to postpone the bus tour of "Incomparable Cuba" that was originally scheduled for Jan. 4-15, 2016. 

However, I am now able to offer a new option for this tour: BYOG. Yup, if you guessed that stands for Bring Your Own Group, you're correct. Round up a dozen of your friends and the road trip is on! 

Please contact me 3-4 months (or more) in advance to discuss dates and confirm hotel availability and prices. I will certainly do my best to keep the rates similar to those previously advertised for the Jan. 4-15 tour; unfortunately, costs are climbing, especially in the "high season," which is November to April in Cuba.

As well, we may have to use different hotels than the original literature notes, depending on what is available for the dates your group wishes to travel. But, if I am working with a smaller group (12-ish), we may have more flexibility regarding accommodation options.

The revised "Incomparable Cuba" poster is below. For tour agenda details, please scroll down to the post entitled: "Road trip! Let's tour Cuba together..." 

I'm looking forward to another road trip in Cuba!


6 Nov 2015

Something magical seems to happen

It happened again.

Every time I lead a group to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, a lovely little resort in southern Cuba, I return home thinking that this was the best group ever. How could it be possible to have a nicer bunch of people to hang out with? Then it happens. The next trip seems to magically surpass the last. 

The most recent group was made up of an interesting mixture of people, including many repeaters, who travel with me regularly, and numerous newbies. Some folks just wanted to relax and read while others were keen for adventure but we all got along well and, I think it's safe to say, everyone had a great time.

I lead groups to my beloved Marea del Portillo twice annually and the next trip is tentatively scheduled for April 2016. Will the Marea magic continue? I think so! If you want to be part of it, you can sign up to receive email updates from me - just click on the "Subscribe" button and follow the instructions. 

Meanwhile, if you want to see some photos of the October 2015 "Posse Trip," find me or my group page, JennicaCuba, on Facebook. I've posted about 15 thematic albums, as well as a little video, which is a compilation of some general scenic photos. Here's a link to the latter:  2015 October - Marea del Portillo, Cuba

Loving the magic,

Early morning view from my cabaña at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, October 2015.

20 Aug 2015

You can still join the October posse!

The deadline for final payment has passed but it is still possible to join the 2015 posse, Oct. 28-Nov. 4. 

We have a great group of people going so far! If you're interested, just give me a call: 705-788-1791 or (cell) 647-216-1791... or send me an email: jennicacuba@gmail.com.

~ Jenny

15 Jul 2015

Marea del Portillo beats expectations - even for professional travel writers!

Here's a column that was recently published in a travel industry e-newsletter, Travel Industry Today. I very much appreciate writer Sam Ion's support for me, my JennicaCuba endeavors & Club Amigo Marea del Portillo – where she likes to go on holiday. Maybe one day I'll actually meet her instead of just chatting with her by phone…. perhaps it will be at our favorite little resort!


Charming and affordable
Sam Ion

15 JUL 2015:  “Today, December 17th the United States of America is changing its relationship with the people of Cuba” said President Obama.
 During the two-hour transfer for our fourth holiday at the 3-star Club Amigo Marea del Portillo Resort, I noticed groups of people with their children. It seemed odd for a Wednesday night at 9:30 and it crossed my mind that it might have been a holiday.
Not till way into the next day did I hear the big news. Locals were cautiously optimistic, but felt it would be a long time before it affected them. 

For your clients who are concerned about the prices, and the changing face of Cuba, this resort may be a good choice. Manzanillo de Cuba is tucked away in the southeast province, 900 kilometres from Havana, and in the warmest part. 

This year for the first time ever, we invited another couple to come with us. I sat them down and explained exactly what it is like. 

“If you want Sandals, this is not the holiday for you.” They loved it. They kept telling me it was so much better than expected, and they want to come back this year. 

Well, I brought two guests but Jenny Cressman has brought 300 guests since 2009. 

“We had so much fun on my two previous trips, that the following year, I organized and led my first large group there. This, in turn, led me set up a website (JennicaCuba.com) and to become a licensed travel agent, now affiliated with P&G Travel because they specialize in Cuba trips. 

The local landscape – a combination of soaring mountains and charming ocean bay – can’t be beat but, for me, the true hook is 3-star Club Amigo Marea Del Portillo with 130 rooms and its sister resort a leisurely short walk away the 120 room Farallon de Caribe. 

Guests can use the dining rooms and facilities in both. “ Staff are lovely; polite, courteous, anxious to help, and that included the front desk. And no, we don’t tip them until we were leaving. 

The food? Well, it is Cuba, and they do the best they can with shortages, and a low food budget compared to other destinations. Sometimes the food was delicious, sometimes it wasn’t … just like my cooking. Christmas Eve dinner was fabulous. 

There are many things about this resort that make it more than a 3-star. You could get a cappuccino 24 hours a day. There were lifeguards on the beach, and there were enough beach chairs, and shade even though the resort was full. 

Elena de Moya, the  state-of-the art Sunwing rep meets people at the airport and gets them registered right outside, making for very little lining up. She is always available to help guests, a true hostess. 

Several guests have complained about the livestock in their reviews. That astonishes me. It is one of the charms. Directly behind the resort is a farm, and the fields have oxen, cattle, goats, pigs, and 11 riding horses. 

It isn’t just the kids who were fascinated. 

The animals, according to one guest liked to escape and eat the watered ‘tourist grass.’ I do chase the goats away from the gardens though. 

Riding is a bargain, and just steps away.  Chi Chi is in charge of the riding programme and in fact owns them. He is a big part of the resort and the reason many go back over and over. Once a week, if you’re any good at it, you can race against the locals. On another afternoon you can challenge the locals in a baseball game. 

There are some interesting tours, well priced and not far away. Diomedes Lara the charming hotel manager, and his wife Barbara the food and beverage manager, are wonderful hosts, setting the tone for the staff. There isn’t an animator yelling into the mike all day. If they have enough kids, they have someone organize games and things. There is a pool, and wading pool in the Marea section, which is close to the black sand beach. Yes, there are stones in some areas, but in others just sand right out into the water. There is a large pool with a swim-up bar at the Farallon, with a longer walk to the beach.

This is a perfect property for seniors, who want quiet enjoyment, and to unpack and stay for a while. One couple has been 51 times. 

It has the highest repeat business of any property that Sunwing carries.  Positive feedback is 91 percent; unheard of in a 3-star. This is also a great place for people who want trekking, biking, and being involved with the small communities in the area. This resort is part of the Viva Cuba programme, an added bonus. 

As always there are lots of improvements. A new disco is being built with a small eatery at the water’s edge below the Farallon section.  This year we got Wi-Fi around the pool for the first time. There are lots of blogs on this property. 

“It’s like you’re part of a cult” says Lawrence Elliott, Sunwing Group VP. 

When the folks at home ask what I did on my vacation, I answer, “lay in the warm calm Caribbean and watched the Sierra Maestra Mountains change colour as the sun hit them.  I do intend to start hiking, maybe next visit.“ 

When I think about our time there I remember the smiles, the gorgeous scenery, and the great swimming.
This is one of the photos Sam included at the end of her column - Chichi showing off!
For a few more photos, including one of Sam Ion herself, click here.

13 Jul 2015

Cuba is calling! What's your answer?

Want to join me at my "second home" in Marea del Portillo, Cuba? A few more seats are still available for the Oct. 28-Nov. 4 group trip, as outlined on the poster below. The two-week option at the price listed has sold out but, if you're interested, let me know and I'll see what I can do. ~ Jenny

28 Jun 2015

Want to see Pope Francis in Cuba?

Here's a great opportunity for those interested in seeing Cuba & Pope Francis! The trip is being offered by the agency I am affiliated with, P&G Travel. Please be sure to read both pages - contact information & prices are on the second page of the flyer....

5 Jun 2015

Podcasts & October trip deadlines...

On the air and in the wind

This is just a quick note to let you know a few things….

First, I want to invite you to listen in to two podcasts of radio shows I had the privilege to be a guest on recently. Marilyn Ball is a wonderful host and we had such fun chatting, we've vowed to do so again soon – on the air or, perhaps, in Cuba!

In other news, the 2015 Posse Trip to Marea del Portillo, Cuba, is shaping up nicely but there are a few deadlines looming. The primary "Posse" group will be at the resort Oct. 28-Nov. 4 but some folks want to stay for two weeks. Most people will be going Oct. 21-Nov. 4, while others prefer Oct. 28-Nov. 11, although the price for the latter two-week period is slightly higher. Please inquire for prices and other details.

Here's a deadline summary:
JUNE 11 – booking deadline for Oct. 28-Nov. 11 (14 nights)
AUG. 7 – booking deadline for Oct. 21-Nov. 4 (14 nights) or Oct. 28-Nov. 4 (7 nights); full payment for all trips is due

It's also possible to go for the week prior to the group (Oct. 21-28) or to stay for three weeks (Oct. 21-Nov. 11). Don't hesitate to contact me if you're interested!

Hasta pronto,
Jenny ~ jennicacuba@gmail.com
647-216-1791 or 705-788-1791
"Speaking of Travel" host Marilyn Ball invited me to be a guest on her radio show in April and we had so much fun chatting, she asked to join her for a second interview in May! Her weekly show is based in Asheville, North Carolina, but is also available by podcast on the Internet. 
Here are the links:
APRIL 2015 - Travel to Cuba with Jenny Cressman
MAY 2015 - Cuban Kisses – Cuban Wishes
No passport required to listen in!

4 Jun 2015

Where else can you have yoga for $5/class right beside the ocean?!

Please welcome my friend Louise Parkinson to the 2015 Posse! 

Louise will be our yoga instructor during the group week, Oct. 28-Nov. 4, and she has a lovely, gentle approach. Those familiar with yoga will find her classes very relaxing, and it will be easy for any "newbies" to feel comfortable and get in the flow! 

Louise plans to do two sessions each day, as much as possible, depending on our other activities – that works out to about $5/class, which is an incredible deal. (FYI, 100% of the $60 fee for a week of yoga will go to Louise to offset the cost of her trip and time away from her counselling practice.) You can read more about her on the poster below.

You'll find more information about the 2015 Posse Trip to Marea del Portillo, Cuba, in my other posts and posters. Please feel free to contact me, if you have any questions:

Jenny ~ jennicacuba@gmail.com
705-788-1791 or 647-216-1791 (cell)

5 May 2015

The posse rides again! Oct. 21 or 28

Hey folks! 

Here's the updated information about the 2015 Posse Trip, heading for Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, Cuba, in late October. This time, we've made an exception to the usual "all-girl" rule and will allow nice men to travel with us. Americans are allowed to go too, but only nice ones!

Also, you can now go the week before the group ~ and the two-week rates are especially good, if I do say so myself! Please note that prices now include the 25 CUC "get-out-of-Cuba" tax, a welcome dinner and two excursions that I created exclusively for my group. And, as always, you will receive all the VIP perks this charming little resort has to offer.

5 Apr 2015

Beyond the beautiful beaches...

Cuba is a fascinating island to explore!

Hola amigos,

I've been doing some scouting and making plans for future trips to Cuba. First, let me reassure my fellow fans of Club Amigo Marea del Portillo that I will continue to lead groups there on an annual basis. In fact, 24 of us will be heading to this special place just after Easter. I hope the snow here in Muskoka will be gone by the time I return…but I'm not going to bet on it!

Once I'm back in the office at the end of April, I will begin working on two back-to-back group trips, tentatively set for late October, both going to Marea del Portillo. Highly skilled Huntsville pro photographer Jim Bartlett has agreed to lead a photography course during the first week, which will be open to anyone with a camera! For the second week, we'll have our annual women's posse, with "Yoga Fusion" classes led by the marvelous Nicole Panteleo. More details to come soonish.

Next winter, I'm planning to lead a two-week bus tour of the island – including a stay at Marea del Portillo, of course! With that project in mind, I spent some time exploring places around Havana and Trinidad de Cuba in February. 

I've created some new slideshows to show you some of the interesting sites I checked out: "2015 Around Havana" and "2015 Trinidad & Manaca Iznaga." These videos are set to music by some wonderful up-and-coming Cuban musicians who sometimes perform at venues in Varadero. I was introduced to their music when I was staying with mutual friends in the city of Matanzas.

I'll let you know when plans for this road trip through Cuba are firmer.


Hasta luego,


25 Mar 2015

"Speaking of Travel" podcast posted!

Marilyn Ball in the studio.

UPDATE: Marilyn Ball's show with yours truly as a guest is now available on podcast here! And, as she mentioned at the end, Marilyn is going to have me return as a guest, likely in late May or early June. I'll let you know, when the date is set. ~ Jenny


I had a great little interview with Marilyn Ball today, for her radio show, "Speaking of Travel." I referred to it as a "little" show because it's only half an hour long and, believe me, that amount of time passes very quickly when you're chatting with a like-minded travel enthusiast!

We didn't get through all the questions and topics we had intended to touch on but we did cover a lot of ground nonetheless. I hope you will find it both entertaining and educational. Maybe it will fire up your enthusiasm for travel too – particularly to Cuba, and perhaps with me. 

Her website says this: "Travel with Marilyn each Thursday at 3:30 p.m. on Independent Asheville Radio WZGM, V-Radio WSVM and WRGC in Sylva." The site will also give you access to podcasts of her shows. She chats about a lot of interesting topics with a wide variety of people.

I'm sure you'll find the half-hour show slips past your ears very quickly! It passed so fast for us, in fact, that she's invited me to return and continue our conversation on another show in a month or so, which will be especially fun because I will have just returned from my April group trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, where a piece of my heart will always reside.

Here's a link to a topic we touched on in the today's interview… "I chose to walk through an opened door," a post on my original blog, Cubana de Corazón, which has more personal thoughts about Cuba, short stories and poetry, among other things.

24 Mar 2015

Review of a Cuban paladar: Don QKo is worth the drive to Cárdenas!

The following is a review I wrote that has been posted on TripAdvisor (here), along with eight of my photos and reviews by others who also loved this little gem of a restaurant, near Varadero. For your reading convenience, I've copied my review below and added a few different photos than you will find on TripAdvisor….


While visiting in the Matanzas province of Cuba recently, I had the pleasure of exploring Cárdenas and dining at an excellent paladar called Don QKo. This privately owned restaurant is billed as “an Oasis in the City of Cárdenas” and the title is quite accurate.

The original Don QKo, Alexeis' grandfather. 
Owned and operated by Alexeis Padrón and his family, this culinary oasis was named for his grandfather, whose nickname was “QKo” or “cuco,” which translates to “cuckoo.” Although the inference to most English speakers is that a person with such a nickname would be a little crazy, the Spanish word is used to imply that someone is shrewd, canny or a “wily bird.” In Spanish, of course, “Don” is a title of respect.

All of the tasteful decorations and furnishings of the elegant and charming restaurant have been personally chosen or created by Alexeis and his father Jesus Padrón (also known as QKo, like his father before him). Indeed, this father-and-son team takes a very hands-on approach to all aspects of their business; I found Jesus painting the baño when I went to make a pitstop!

Their attention to detail is apparent everywhere and, according to TV reporter Patricia Karina (Alexeis’ wife), the Padrón men have done much of the work themselves – not just the painting. The main areas of the restaurant are primarily done in yellow and black, with floral arrangements, interesting artwork and touches of red and green accent colors throughout. Most of the tables and chairs are classic black wrought iron but some of the other furniture was custom made.

Approximately 100 people can be seated at one time, outside on the patio or inside in the bar/lounge area or one of the small dining rooms, if a more intimate setting is preferred. The patio encircles a little pool and is dotted with lush plants. It also has a decorative fishpond at one side and affords a view of the kitchen, Alexeis pointed out, so people can see their food being prepared.

One of the inside dining areas, elegantly decorated.
The menu options range from traditional roasted pork (a specialty of the house) to a selection of seafood, all prepared and presented with great care. As I was speaking with Alexeis, in fact, I could watch one of his chiefs at work, carefully slicing meat to be roasted on the open-air grill. In addition to their delicious food – I had a sumptuous serving of roast pork with an excellent, savory sauce – the bar offers a nice selection of drinks, including another house specialty: a mojito with a twist. It’s quite tasty but I won’t give their secret away by telling you what the extra ingredient is; you’ll have to visit Don QKo to find out!

Founded in 1828, Cárdenas is not far from Varadero and could be considered a bedroom community for that bustling beach burg. It is one of Cuba’s most affluent cities and, with a population of close to 81,000, is the 15th largest in the country but, perhaps ironically, it has very little tourist accommodation. The city of Varadero, on the other hand, has less than 30,000 year-round residents, but tourists perpetually populate its many hotels and eateries.

Dining on the patio by the pool is a great evening option.
Those who want to escape the crowds, explore new terrain and give their tastebuds a true treat should plan a visit to Don QKo in Cárdenas, which is about 30 km from Varadero. Located at Ave. Céspedes #1001, esq. Calle 21 (at the corner of 21st Street), you can take a private taxi or, if you are feeling more adventurous, a public bus. If you wish to get more specific directions, call the restaurant: (045) 52 4572.

Meals are typically served from noon until 11 p.m., and they’re closed on Tuesdays. I was there for a late-afternoon lunch and it was quite quiet but, in the evening, when the lights go on and the live music begins, the place is much busier. Therefore, if you want to be assured of a seat, especially if you have a group, I would encourage making a reservation.

I’m sure you won’t be disappointed with the service, cuisine or ambience at Don QKo. It’s a delightful dining oasis that is definitely worth the drive to Cárdenas!

A copy of this famous painting adorns a wall in the lounge.
– Jenny Cressman

16 Mar 2015

Here's our updated agenda for the April 8 trip to Marea del Portillo!

AGENDA for “Jennica 2015” April 8-15 group

All departures are from the Marea Hotel lobby, unless otherwise specified, & all activities are free (included in your trip package) unless a price is noted.


Express check-in for group upon arrival


11:30 a.m. - Private group orientation session (meet in Marea lobby) – select an entrée for our Welcome Dinner, confirm participation in Las Coloradas Tour, etc.

6 p.m. - Welcome Dinner with music by Robertico & pals; part of your package.

8:30 a.m. to noon - Three Village Tour – one of the most popular optional excursions offered by the resort; sign up & pay on your own at resort, 20 CUC.

5 p.m. - Sunset Cruise - mainly for our group but not exclusively; part of pkg.

Las Coloradas Playa & Campismo
8:30 a.m. to approx. 4:30 p.m. - Las Coloradas Tour – features Cuban history, nature hike & beach party picnic; boxed lunch & drinks provided as part of pkg.

PLUS, a brief stop in Niquero on the return trip for a photography exhibit!

Sunday &/or Monday

9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. - Cayo Blanco – your package includes 2 trips to this lovely island & 1 lobster lunch; there will be other food for lunch too, freshly prepared.


5 p.m. – Art Show & Dinner at Ferlin’s – going to a home & restaurant in the Marea village by horse carriage; sign up with & pay Jenny; 20 CUC should cover carriage ride & dinner for us & artists (as our guests) …buying art is up to you!

Kayaking with Gord

8:30-11:30 a.m. - Guided Kayak Tour (meet at Dive Shop) – going in the mangrove to look for manatee; 6 people only & weather permitting - must be a calm day.


Say good-bye & try not to cry!

NOTE: Horse riding & other fun activities will be available throughout the week.

Those staying a second week will be on their own to sign up for excursions, etc.

15 Feb 2015

More activities for April 8 group trip!

The April 8 group trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo just keeps getting better and better! In addition to what's already listed under the "Activities" tab, a few more things are in the works to round out our proposed agenda. (Keep in mind, of course, that everything is optional!)

2012 art show near the Mirador,
hosted at a private home.
It looks like we'll be able to have a private art show at a home in the Marea del Portillo village, followed by dinner at Ferlin's restaurant. (Scroll down to see my review of this restaurant below.) Details have yet to be confirmed regarding day, time and location. However, the show will be similar to one hosted in 2012, featuring work by young up-and-coming artists from the area.

As well, I've just found out that there is a photography show going on in Niquero, which we should be able to attend on our way back from our Las Coloradas Tour on Saturday. The photographer is a German man who is a friend Leicy, our guide for this excursion and a good friend of mine, and I've seen some samples of his work. This should be a very good show, and Leicy's daughter may be featured in some of the photos!

I'll post more details when I have them.