Visit to a cigar factory
During a day trip to Holguin in November 2011, our taxi driver recommended a visit to a local cigar factory.
He took us to the ticket office in Parque Calixto Garcia where we handed over 5 CUC (3 GBP) each for tickets - and I have no doubt that we were overcharged and the driver took some form of commission! He then proceeded to drive us a short distance down various side streets until we reached the car park of a large factory. There were already a couple of coaches parked up and groups of tourists being escorted around the plant. At least we would be shown around on our own rather than as part of a large group.
Unfortunately, cameras and bags are not permitted inside the factory so we locked our possessions in the car and I have no photos of our visit.
Upon entering the factory we were met by our personal guide who, with translation help from our driver, would talk us around the factory and answer our questions.
The first room that we entered was full of workers sat at wooden school desks; perhaps a dozen rows with ten workers either side of the central aisle, of varying ages and maybe 80% female. Those to the right were full time workers and those to the left were apprentices. The latter would work there for a year and, if they proved successful at the task, would be offered full time jobs. Each worker was rolling tobacco leaves into cigar shapes and placing them in a mould. Various sized cigars were being produced; small thin ones right through to long fatter ones.
Behind us was a room that we were not allowed to enter. This was the room where the tobacco leaves were selected and any inferior ones were discarded. We were told that deodorant and perfume could spoil the tobacco leaves and so visitors were barred from entering that area.
The working conditions looked reasonable, even if the nature of the work must have been tedious. The factory was airy (all the windows were open) and there was music playing in the background. The workers had plenty of desk space and each had a cushion to sit on. Most of the workers seemed happy enough to be there and the impression that I got was of a happy workplace rather than a sweatshop. I asked about the working hours and was told that the work began around 8 or 9am and finished at 4:30pm, with each worker having an hour for lunch. Each worker would be expected to produce more than a hundred cigars each day (between 10 and 20 per hour).
We were allowed to examine the cigars up close, smell the tobacco leaves and even take a leaf away with us.
Next we moved into a smaller room where the cigars were being sorted by colour. One man, who we were told has a specially trained eye, was selecting cigars of a similar colour that would look ok when boxed together. While the lightest and darkest brown cigars were easily distinguishable from each other, this fellow was sorting into around ten different shades of brown, some remarkably similar to each other, and doing so at great pace. There is no doubt that he had a talent for his job.
In the same room, another worker was attaching stickers to the cigars in order to identify the brand. There were "Romeo y Julieta", "Cohiba", "Guantanamera" and "Monte Cristo" brands from memory.
It was in this room that our driver began his sales pitch. He said that if we were planning to purchase cigars, we should do so through him. He would speak to the relevant person and we could purchase at factory prices rather than shop prices. We didn't want any cigars for ourselves, but intended to take a few home as souvenirs for family and friends. The driver said that he could sort us out with a box of cigars that normally sell for 400 CUC (240 GBP) for a knock down price of 100 CUC (60 GBP). We didn't intend to spend anything like that on cigars, whether they were a bargain or not, so we politely declined his offer. He seemed a little disappointed and I'm sure the rest of the tour was a little more rushed after that point. He mentioned on a few more occasions that he could get cigars for us at factory prices, but I felt a little uncomfortable by that point and made it clear that we wouldn't be purchasing any.
The final room of the factory tour was where the boxes were produced. We watched as a lady, with no machinery, stuck labels around the edges of the boxes, carefully folding the corners and sticking down the sides. Again, she was talented at her job and the neatness of her work could not have been bettered by a machine.
It was an interesting tour that was soured a little by the persistent attempts of our driver to make a sale. We weren't particularly surprised by his attempts; we were not naive enough to expect a factory tour to be without a little hard selling. We didn't buy anything, but we enjoyed learning about the cigar making process and witnessing the workers behind one of Cuba's most successful exports.
Day and nightlife
No problem wandering around Holquin, the city is pretty laid back! the pedestrian street connects the 3 main plazas and you can catch a double decker bus at the main plaza for $1cuc and ride around the city. Drop in at the info tourist office for a few tours such as Fidel's birth place. Climb the view point steps. Friday nights are quiet but Saturdays and Sunday nights are lively. The discos are busy and the Casa de La Trova will have some traditional music. Visit quiet Gibarra where Columbus supposely landedRelated to:
- Family Travel
- Women's Travel
Rent a moped and explore the region
There was a moped rental place just outside our resort and I suspect most of the other hotels had similar opportunities. Prices ranged from 8 cuc for one hour to 26 cuc for a day. We got a map with our rental so we had an idea of where we were going. Since the moped only had about 100km worth of gas in it, and there was only one gas station nearby in Guardalavaca, we were limited to the area, but still, we checked out Guardalavaca, as well as other small villages, and simply enjoyed the views, freedom, and escape from the resort! Make sure everyone has a helmet though; don't take any chances, especially since the roads can be rough and there are few traffic signs. A trip to Holguin on moped is possible, since it's approximately 50-60km from the resort area and there is a gas station there. I recommend a map though!Related to:
Ocean Paradise Catamaran Snorkeling Tour
The Ocean Paradise catamaran snorkeling trip offered via the excursions desk at Hotel Playa Pesquero was a refreshing day out on the ocean. Our guide, Jose, was an excellent guide and dive master. He was in tune with where all the neat ocean life was, so we got to see some life that we hadn’t seen before – moray eels, and a very large puffer fish.
Probably the best part of this tour was how conscientious this company was about the marine environment. Both Jose and the staff on the catamaran were very thoughtful. I noticed everyone taking extreme caution while deciding where to drop anchor in one of the snorkeling spots. Additionally, Jose taught us a lot about Cuba’s reefs, marine life, and also mentioned some of the practices that he will not engage in. For example, I witnessed a tour guide from another company collecting ~a lot~ of white sea urchins. Jose explained that some tour guides will collect sea urchins and crack them open on the spot to draw fish for the people snorkeling to see. He said that unfortunately, Cuba’s population of white sea urchins is being depleted, affecting the balance of the reef environment.Related to:
- Diving and Snorkeling
- Sailing and Boating
I didn't go, but my friends...
I didn't go, but my friends did. They went with this old chopper to Santiago de Cuba. I will place some pictures of here later from this place. You have to go there, and if you do not like to go with the chopper you can go by bus (it will take you almost 4 hours to get there)
Make sure you have a live-ensurrance, hihi
When I consider how ?good? a hotel is, I like to compare my experience to how much I?ve paid for...more
Very nice....on the beach :) GOOD THINGS: - beach!!!!! - entertainment staff is great:) - drinks &...more
Playa Pesquero, Rafael Freyre, Cuba, Caribbean
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
Latest Holguín Hotel Reviews
- Playa Costa Verde Hotel
- 1999 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Mar 14, 2014
- Club Amigo Atlantico Guardalavaca
- 1413 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Mar 13, 2014
- Occidental Grand Playa Turquesa
- 1316 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Mar 14, 2014
- Playa Pesquero Hotel
- 3596 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Mar 13, 2014
- Casa Particular
- 5 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Nov 28, 2013
- Sol Rio De Luna Y Mares
- 2670 Reviews & Opinions
Latest: Mar 14, 2014
Explore the World
- Tagaytay Hotels
- Mecca Hotels
- Malgrat de Mar
- Novaliches Hotels
- Tagaytay City Hotels
- Palma de Mallorca