Any time a country or region imposes any sort of visa stipulation - even if it’s a waiver - the travel industry sighs a collective groan, knowing the obstacles and headaches to come.
HAVANA — Like just about everything in Havana, the brand new Iberostar Grand Packard and its 100-plus year old building come with a backstory.
Originally opened in 1911 as the Hotel Biscuit, in 1912 the hotel’s ground floor became a showroom for Detroit’s Packard Motor Car Company, showing off the latest in luxury cars from the U.S.
Fast forward to 1931 and the building got another refresh, and reopened again as the Hotel Packard.
In the 1990s it evolved into a hostel and was on the decline until the turn of the century when the last residents left and demolition work began.
All that remained of the building was its two main façades, which Iberostar used when it completely reconstructed the hotel.
Travelweek recently got a first-hand look at the new five-star Iberostar Grand Packard, open since Sept. 10, 2018 – two months earlier than expected.
The Iberostar Grand Packard has 327 luxury rooms, ideal for three adults, or for two adults and two children. The rooms are comfortable with great city views.
Spending excessive time in the room would be a disservice to any guest though, as the highlight of the property is truly the outdoor sun terrace and swimming pool on the sixth floor.
Guests can get the exact level of relaxation or socializing they’re seeking on the terrace and in the L-shaped pool overlooking the Bay and Morro Castle, with spectacular views in all directions. Certain areas of the terrace are in the shade during the daytime, which is ideal for guests seeking a break from the sun.
The hotel is not all-inclusive, so guests can venture out and sample some local cuisines at meal time, however there are five restaurants and four bars at the hotel for clients who prefer to stay close to their home base.
The best of the restaurants is the Spanish tapas restaurant, offering delicious (and share-able) dishes such as spinach croquettas and fried prawns. The service property-wide is still rounding into form, but should improve as the days pass.
Those really looking to unwind can book a treatment – how about the chocolate treatment? – at SPA Sensations, which has a beauty salon, heated pool, massages and sauna and hydro massage area. Those looking to stay in shape can do so at the fitness centre, with scheduled activities. Or guests can just chill out at Los Caprichos Cigar Bar or catch some tunes at Piano Bar Salón Goya.
For business travellers the Iberostar Grand Packard has five meeting rooms. The smallest room hosts up to 20 people, while the largest can have up to 150 depending on the format. Also, multiple rooms can be combined to create a space for up to 400 people.
The Iberostar Grand Packard also boasts a great location. Upon exiting the main entrance and crossing one street, travellers will find themselves on the Paseo del Prado, a long promenade that is the dividing line between Old Havana and Central Havana. From this promenade, it’s easy to discover Havana by foot. El Capitolio, the National Capital Building, is just a 10 minute walk from the hotel.
The hotel is best suited to upscale travellers looking for a base for their Havana explorations. While permitted, not many if any children were spotted on the property, making it a mature and sophisticated setting for some quiet relaxation in a luxurious setting.
This year is an especially good one to visit Havana. On Nov. 16 Havana will celebrate 500 years since the third formation of the city. The city, in fact, had two previous locations prior to being established in its current spot.
More details about the hotel are at IberostarGrandPackard.com.