15 JAN 2014: In August I booked our two week Christmas holiday at the Marea del Portillo and like all of your clients daydreamed about how great it was going to be. I bought 'Change Your Mind Insurance' just in case. Accidents happen.

Day two: We wandered all the way down the beach to the sister hotel the 120-room Fallion de Caribe, occasionally splashing through the shallow water. And I got my first ever jelly fish stings. There was lots of advice from peeing on it, to rubbing sand on it, vinegar was suggested, as was vodka. I couldn’t quite figure out how to pee on it, so tried everything else then had two scotches. The scotch worked well.

Day four: I wore my prescription glasses in the ocean so I could see the jellyfish. Glasses came off with a big wave.

Day ten: This time I wore my prescription sunglass in the ocean, and promptly lost them too. How stupid is that?

Day eleven: Without glasses or a Seeing Eye dog I fell into a small pot hole and broke my left elbow and right ankle.

And what happened in the next three days will keep me coming back over and over again.

Before my husband even noticed I’d fallen, an employee driving a golf cart rushed over picked me up and helped me into the cart. He drove as close as he could get to our cabana and helped me limp in. Then he rushed for medical help.

“I think you should go to hospital”, said the nurse.

“I don’t think it’s broken," said my husband.

She then wrapped it, brought over a wheelchair, used mercurochrome on the scrapes, and told me to stay off that leg. Then the entire resort stopped by to see how they could help.

Early the next morning saw the arrival of Dr. Barbara, who unwrapped it, took a look and said, “You need to go to hospital.”

“I don’t think it’s broken” said my husband.

Dr. Barbara has a medical degree, my husband does not, so off I took her advice and went to the hospital 7 km away. There didn’t seem to be room for Tom in the cab, once Dr. Barbara and I were in. Could they have wondered if he was going to start practicing medicine?

As the little cab drove off the property, the public relations director who calls herself Relations Public came running up with a bottle of water and a roll of toilet paper. “ You may need this.” Doctor Barbara had called ahead. They were waiting for us.

I had x-rays, and a cast put on, and was back at the resort in two hours.

Doctors were kind, gentle, and very knowledgeable. One insisted I was not to walk on that leg, and should immediately go to hospital when I got home.

When we got back to the resort, one of the senior staff said,“ would a glory cake make you feel better?” It arrived hot two hours later. And yes, this cinnamon, nut, and dried fruit bread did make me feel better.

The resort was totally wheelchair assessable except for my bathroom, where I needed a bit of help as it was too small for a wheelchair. Everywhere I wheeled someone guest or staff was quick to offer to help.

Elena de Moya, the incredible Sunwing rep as usual bent over backwards to make sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable.

This would be our third trip to the 3-star Marea del Portillo a unpretentious little place, 859 km and a world away from Havana and Varadero. It comes with views that soothe our soul.

Ever wonder why some of your clients keep going back and back to the same place when there is a big world out there? I can tell you… it is because the staff greets you with hugs, and truly treats you like family. Our maid once again was Yoli, and she remembered to put everything the way I left it. Afreido, the world’s best bar tender, kept a glass in the cooler for me, he remembered I hate plastic.

One reason the resort works so well is the GM Diomedes Lara, and his wife Barbara the food and beverage manager, never stop working, they pick up dirty dishes, set tables, nothing seems to be beneath them. The staff loves them and so do the guests.

Guests come to this area, because they do mingle with the locals, 49 percent are repeaters.

Every morning, you’ll see half the guests heading off to visit “ their” families who live in the three close by villages. They often ride their bikes, which they bring down, ride, and then give to someone.

I knew from the friends of the Marea facebook page that they have done a lot of upgrades, and couldn’t wait to see them. New curtains in the dining room, a new a-la-carte restaurant, big paint job, new beach chairs, new steam table, faster internet, and flat screen TV’s. Indeed the place sparkles. I was also anxious to see their new Viva Cuba programme, with 10 value-added features. This is one of three Cuba managed properties that offers it.

Jenny Cressman, (Jennicacuba.com) a TPI agent from Huntsville has been bringing groups down twice a year. This year’s All-Girl-Yoga-Posse Trip included 40 women and a few men) and so far 29 have signed up for the February 26 baseball, and art gallery trip.

I had to be carried up the steps to the plane, not fun. The minute I was seated the flight director Kate came over and said “I’m sorry it ruined your holiday, when I’m having a bad day I pour myself a scotch, what would you like?” Of course I loved her.

Back in Canada, the Doctors did another x-ray, and said “ They did a good job, we’d have done just the same. “

I’m thinking of heading back in April. I didn’t have a chance to ride one of Ch Chi’s horses this trip.

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Sam Ion

The expert on All Inclusives, Sam delivers up-to-date info on alternate Wednesdays in her column Not Just All Inclusives.

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