‘Like the Twilight Zone’: Ontario family’s stay at Cuban resort soured quickly

The Revivo family of Thornhill, Ont. was hoping to catch some much-needed R&R in the Caribbean. Instead, it was riddled with problems. Pat Taney reports.

By Pat Taney

It was January of this year, and Michele and Jessy Revivo’s kids were off from school for the holidays, itching to get away like their friends all were in warmer climates. 

“We had not taken a vacation together as a family since COVID-19, so we looked into booking something,” Michele said. 

She and Jessy immediately thought of a tropical island they’d been to. 

“As a couple, we went to Cuba around 30 years ago, and it was great; we wanted our kids to experience the same,” Jessy told us.

The couple from Thornhill, Ont., researched as much as they could online, scouring resort reviews and photos. Their family loves boats, so they landed on the Melia Marina resort in Varadero, Cuba, which has nearly a 4.5-star rating online

“In the pictures, you see these beautiful boats and the blue ocean. It looked beautiful, like an oasis.”

The hotel was “deplorable”

The Ontario couple booked through Transat vacations, which they’ve used successfully in the past. They touched down late on Jan. 2, checked in around 10 p.m. and, in their words, were shellshocked. 

“It was like the Twilight Zone,” Jessy said. “The lobby was fine, a bit dated but nice; beyond that, it was deplorable.” 

The couple says the elevators were out of service, so they took the stairs. 

“And then the hallways were dark; if they had lights, they flickered. We had to use our flashlights on our cell phones to find our room,” Michele said. “There were cigarette butts everywhere, stains on the walls. At this point, we told ourselves, let’s just get to the room, and it will be better.” 

Photos shared with CityNews by the Revivo family show stains on the wall and bed sheets. Photo: CityNews submission.

Only it didn’t.

“There were what looked to be blood stains on the sheets, the rooms were filthy, and the toilet did not work,” Michele said. 

“I couldn’t believe how bad it was,” Jessy added. “And I can stay pretty much anywhere; I’m easy to please, but this was too much.” 

The family decided to leave the room and walk around the resort, hoping the amenities would entice them to stay. 

“I spent the next half an hour walking the resort and taking pictures. One thing after another was broken ceiling tiles, dark hallways, and stains on the walls and doors—decrepit and falling apart. Just everything’s filthy,” Jessy said. “At that point, we said, you know what? We got to get out of here.” 

By this point, it was around midnight, and they began to call all other hotels and resorts in the area, willing to pay whatever it would take to stay elsewhere. Everything was booked. 

“Nobody had room. We were stuck there for the night; we had nowhere to go,” Jessy said.

“I couldn’t even sleep,” Michele added. 

Couple caught in limbo in Cuba

They spoke to the onsite manager, but she could not help. 

“The manager said we had to deal with a Transat onsite representative who would be there at 10 a.m. the next day,” Michele said. “We waited until 4 p.m., and he never showed up.” 

The family was then offered a stay at a nearby sister resort.  

Photos shared by the Revivo family show a worn-down hotel room door. Photo: CityNews submission.

“We were forced to sign off on a document that stated we could not initiate any kind of compensation request for moving us to what we thought was going to be a better hotel,” Michele said. “Obviously, at that point, we would sign anything. We just had to get out of there.” 

They moved to the hotel, which the family says was much cleaner and better organized, but it still had major issues. 

“In that hotel, there was no running water or toilet paper in the public bathroom area. We couldn’t get toilet paper,” Michele said.  

The couple began reaching out to Transat to explain their ordeal, hoping for some kind of reimbursement. 

“They eventually offered us $150.”

Couple spent nearly $7,000 to book their trip

“I said, ‘No, you took away my family’s vacation. Like literally robbed us of the vacation, we deserve more.”  

The family made the most of their remaining time, but Michele said she continued to reach out to Transat both while they were in Cuba and after their return to Toronto.  

Frustrated with their response, she reached out to Speakers Corner.

We followed up with Transat, and a spokesperson admitted the family’s one-night stay at the Melia Marina was “undoubtedly unpleasant.” But they said sufficient action was taken by placing the family in another hotel. 

“First and foremost, it is always our goal to provide a smooth and enjoyable experience for all our clients, and we regret any instance where we fall short of this expectation,” the spokesperson said.

Transat says some photos the family shared with us, which documented subpar hallways, ceiling tiles, and doors, “appear to be from closed-off areas in the hotel,” a claim the Revivos family denies.   

“If they were closed-off areas, why was our room located in those areas?”

When we followed up with Transat about that, they did not answer but said they were following up with Melia Marina to address the concerns about the hotel’s condition.  

After our contact with Transat, they said a team member would contact the Revivos family to discuss further options to make it right. 

“I think we’re looking for something reasonable,” Jessy said. “To be able to compensate for a vacation we’ve lost out on.”  

If you have an issue, story or question you’d like us to look into, reach out here.

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