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  1. Default Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    I’ve long dreamed of a fly fishing trip to Cuba, and this March, I finally did it. To be kind, I’ll describe myself as a “well-seasoned” angler who has taken many guided fishing trips with many outfitters in many places, but I’ve never had a worse experience than I just endured fishing for Avalon Fishing Centers.

    Regrettably, Avalon has an exclusive for fly fishing Cuba. You can book trips through agents, but they work for Avalon on a commission basis. Who knows what deal Avalon struck with the Cuban government, but the end result is a greedy monopoly.

    If you live in the USA, traveling to Cuba is complicated. All options for getting there require extra time, documentation and expense, and you should do it far in advance.

    My passion is tarpon, so I picked the Hotel Rancho destination on the Isla de la Juventud, which was within my meager budget and supposed be excellent for early-season, resident tarpon. I had talked to several other anglers who’d been there and had good success.

    So I reserved a trip with Avalon, paid all the money, and made the complicated travel arrangements. Then, five days from departure, I receive an email from Avalon saying they moved our guides from Hotel Rancho to the Georgiana, also in Isla de la Juventud, but quite a different trip--a new “luxury yacht” for “exclusive groups” going for $7,800 per person per week. Our trip went for $2,350 per person. You do the math. I’m sure Avalon did.

    Basically, Avalon reneged on its agreement with me, canceled my trip, and “graciously” offered to refund my money, but not for all the pre-paid travel expenses (about $1,400, i.e. airline tickets, hotels, shuttles and insurance.) So a refund wasn’t a viable option. Instead, Avalon offered to send me to another location, an option I reluctantly accepted.

    I ended up at Cayo Cruz, a very nice place and in some ways better that Isla de la Juventud. But it’s primarily a bonefish/permit destination, not the reason I decided to go to Cuba. But apparently, the Monopoly decides where I go, not me.

    I liken this to buying a plane ticket to fly to Hawaii, but after the plane takes off, the pilot announces that the airline can make more money flying me to Omaha instead, so that’s where I’m going.

    Interestingly, in Cuba, I ran into other anglers. I explained, much to my chagrin, I was headed for Cayo Cruz, even though I booked a trip to Isla de la Juventud. Shocked, they replied that they’d booked a trip to Cayo Cruz, but Avalon canceled their trip five days in advance and sent them somewhere else. Humm….is this a pattern?

    I did, incidentally, before writing this, politely ask for an explanation from Avalon, but no reply.

    So, here’s the punch line. If you decide to book with Avalon, I suggest doing the following:

    1. Plan on Avalon switching you to a different location the week before you leave.
    2. Buy a refundable plane ticket, so you have the option of getting a refund.
    3. Before paying Avalon any money, ask a copy of the contract you’ll be forced to sign after you’ve paid all the money and arrived at your destination. If you don’t sign it, you’ll sit in the hotel all week. The contract basically says, no amount of negligence or misconduct or poor service opens Avalon to any legal liability. This is really nasty business practices, sort of life having open heart surgery, and after the surgeon opens you up, he forces you sign a contract before he finishes the operation.
    4. Ask Avalon precisely how long it takes to get from the lodge or yacht to the actual fishing destination. In my case, Avalon conveniently neglected to mention that I’d be spending three hours per day crammed in a bus on a bumpy road driving to the boat dock, followed by a long boat ride before wetting a line, leaving seven hours maximum fishing time if you skipped lunch.
    5. Expect very bad communications between Avalon and the staff on the ground in Cuba. Incidentally, that “staff” is excellent and friendly, but works for the Cuba government, not Avalon. Business tip: Free labor is nice if you can get it.
    6. Don’t be surprised by an “up-sale.” Cuba travel restrictions are gradually coming down, but in 2015, they were still partially in effect. So, Avalon tried hard to intimidate me into paying for a $500 (and later, $250) for a “license” I didn’t need. They also insisted Cuba would stamp my passport, and I’d have trouble re-entering the USA. Well, Cuba customs didn’t stamp my passport, and I had no trouble with US Customs.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    I just got back from JDR. We were booked for the Isle of Youth on the Georgiana and they switched us to JDR on the Avalon I 4 days before we left on the trip. Strange thing was when we got to the port at Jucaro, the Georgiana was there taking a group to JDR.

    I was pleased with the change but the reasons that were given changed every time we were told. A lot of the people on the transfer bus also had their plans changed at the last minute. I had an awesome time, but I will not be back.
    Lets go huntin, fishin, drinkin or sumthin!!

  3. Likes GrtLksMarlin, hatidua liked this post
  4. #3

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    Um...uh....I've been to some fairly large islands in the Caribbean that involved transiting Cancun in route. Suffice it to say, nothing in the original post surprises me. Sadly.

    Or, more to the point: you too, huh?!

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Meridian, Texas

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    I know that I am a stubborn, unreformed old cold warrior, but I would take a fishing trip to my bathtub than to have any dealings, fishing or not, with a oppressive, communist dictatorship such as Cuba.

  6. Likes lanyard, fredaevans, jr spey liked this post
  7. #5

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    Knowing a few people who have gone to Cuba, no one had much of good time. The hype brought them in and the actuality was one and done. As I work for a military contractor, I can't go or take a chance on my clearance but it sounded like a gulag with palm trees from the stories I heard-no electricity, transportation not good, food is questionable unless you like rice bean and chicken. Some guys I worked with are in Gitmo on the Navy base and they said the areas over fished by the local Cuban who, due to their circumstances, will take anything and everything the catch. The Leeward Island are much better and your credit cards work well. Keep in mind that when ever your out in the Caribbean Basin, everyone's trying to scam you. Research your trip and talk to others who have been there.

  8. Likes mcnerney liked this post
  9. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    White City (tad north of Medford) Oar-E-Gone

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    Reading above reminds me of: "When you have them by the balls the heart and mind will follow." Any of you remember who said that?
    When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. - Billy Graham"

  10. Likes mcnerney liked this post
  11. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2016
    Brazoria County, SE Texas
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    Makes one appreciate places and organizations that value and uphold the sanctity of contracts.

    Yes, based on the information shared, no way would I agree to fish with Avalon Or travel to Cuba. Thanks for the caveat emptor.
    Wherever you go, there you are.

  12. Likes mcnerney liked this post
  13. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Byron Bay...easternmost point of Australia

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    Forums are (and should be) places where you tell it like it is,so good on you mate for doing that.Perhaps an email asking if they could now kiss you....being that they already....well you know the rest.

  14. Likes k_e_v, mcnerney liked this post
  15. #9

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    As a flats angler who fishes primarily in the Bahamas but Mexico, Belize and Florida too, I asked a couple that co-host flats trips including Cuba their opinion. They claim I would enjoy Cuba if I went with them as they have it sussed out but that the $/quality ratio is far better in my other locations. For big bucks I would select the Indian Ocean atolls.

  16. Likes mcnerney liked this post
  17. #10
    Join Date
    May 2014
    New England

    Default Re: Going to Cuba? Read This First.

    Quote Originally Posted by fredaevans View Post
    Reading above reminds me of: "When you have them by the balls the heart and mind will follow." Any of you remember who said that?
    I always associated it with Nixon but doing a little searching for verification I was surprised to learn it came from elsewhere. It's even attributed to John Wayne!

  18. Likes mcnerney liked this post
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