Ultra-luxury lodging arrives in Cuba’s Old Havana neighborhood

A view of Old Havana at evening from the rooftop pool deck of the Gran Hotel Manzana La Habana Kempinski.
A view of Old Havana at evening from the rooftop pool deck of the Gran Hotel Manzana La Habana Kempinski. Courtesy Kempinski Hotels

Afternoon tea, luxury shopping and cocktails at the rooftop pool with views of Old Havana?

They’re all available at the Gran Hotel Manzana La Habana Kempinski in Havana. It opened this week, giving Cuba its first true five-star hotel.

“Our property will not only be the first of its kind in this market, but we believe it sets a new standard for the entire Caribbean. We have been very strategic about the expansion of our brand and we are convinced that this is the right time and the right market for Kempinski in the Americas,” said Xavier Destribats, general manager of the property operated by Geneva-based Kempinski Hotels.

The Swiss hotel chain is running the hotel under a management contract with Cuba’s Grupo de Turismo Gaviota, which is run by the Cuban military.

The 246-room hotel, which was carved out of the historic Manzana de Gómez building — the first European-style shopping arcade in Cuba — opened to guests a few weeks ago. But on Wednesday officials cut a red ribbon to officially launch the hotel in a city with few luxury hotels.

Prices later this month range from $470 to $1,385 per night.

The Kempinski hotel, located on San Rafael Street between Monserrate and Zulueta, features six restaurants and bars, a 10,764-square-foot European-style spa with a thermal bathing area, a rooftop infinity pool and state-of-the art gym.

“Since it was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, tourism has exploded in Havana. We believe the market is ready for a true luxury hotel,” Destribats said.

Last year Cuba received a record of more than 4 million international visitors, and this year Cuban tourism officials are predicting visitor numbers will smash the 2016 record. An increasing number of those travelers have come from the United States after former President Barack Obama removed some limits on American travel to the island.

But the Trump administration is conducting a review of all Obama-era policies on Cuba and could make changes that would affect Americans’ ability to travel. A bill that would lift all U.S. travel restrictions on Cuba travel was recently reintroduced in Congress and has the support of 55 senators.

Kempinski, Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group, manages 76 five-star hotels and residences in 31 countries. Gaviota is among the state tourism brands that falls under the umbrella of GAESA, a conglomerate run by the Cuban military.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi