Nigel Alexander Hunt
Set aside of the Habana Vieja, El Vedado started its development at the beggenning of the 20th century.it became famous for its waterfront seawall, the Malecon, which is popular for social gathering. During the year's under Batista, Vedado began to be notorious for being a place of entertainement with Casinos and luxury hotels ruled by the US mafia.
On this picture, on the left hand side you can see the Hotel Habana Riveira. The rounded building close to it was the Palacio de los Deportes (Sports Hall) which is now the Plaza de la Juventud.
The building hasn't change since the opening. However Cuba got under some changes. The revolution is passed, Batista is gone, and now the Castros are well established at the power. El Vedado has been cleanup from its Mob, the casino had been closed and the hotels got under the ownership of the governemnt.
The picture is taken from the Plaza de la Juventud with its fountain which had been build in 1978.
Did you know?
Hotel Habana Riviera has lodged to a long list of crest figures, so much of the national and international political environment as well as of the science, art and the show. Among them stand out:
• Ginger Rogers (the ideal dancing partner of Fred Astaire)
• The great American comedians Abbot and Costello
• The world's boxing champions Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano
• The great Cuban boxer Kid Chocolate
• Salvador Allende, before he became the president of Chile
• The famous French actor Alain Delon
• The Argentinean singer Alberto Cortés
• The Spanish singer Moncho, known as "The Gypsy Who Sings Boleros"
• The Venezuelan salsa singer Oscar D'León
• Regina Duarte, the famous Brazilian TV actress
• The Spanish singers Joan Manuel Serrat, Ana Belén, Victor Manuel
• The prestigious French musician Michel Legrand
• Tania, the guerrilla fighter
• Hortensia Bussi (Salvador Allende's widow)
• The famous Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez, the author of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude'
• The prima ballerina assoluta of Cuba's National Ballet Alicia Alonso (1998)
• The famous actor of the film "Titanic" Leonardo Di Caprio
• Chucho Valdés, the internationally famous Cuban jazz player, offered several concerts
• The famous Cuban guitarist and director of Cuba's Symphonic Orchestra, Leo Brower
• Danny Glover the world famous American movie actor
December 10, 1957: The opening act at the Copa Cabaret was Ginger Rogers and her music revue (which was directed by Jack Cole).
January 1, 1959: After formally resigning his position in Cuba's government and going through what historian Hugh Thomas describes as "a charade of handing over power" to his representatives, remaining family and closest associates, Batista boarded a plane at 3 a.m. at Camp Colombia and flew to Ciudad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.
January 22, 1959: A press conference was held at the Copa Cabaret, which was attended by national journalists and some guests, and there Fidel Castro gave his response to the world in regards to the Cuban Revolution.The new Cuban president, Manuel Urrutia closed the casinos and nationalized all the casino and hotel properties including the Habana Riviera.
History & Nowadays
The Hotel Habana Riviera is a blend of sensationalist style and a commercially-oriented brand, strongly influenced by the modern American Art Deco which arrives in Cuba under the sway of the hotels built in Las Vegas and Miami during the 1950's. Work began on the 21-story hotel located on the Malecón, in December 1956 in the midst of the revolutionary upheaval. Not since the Nacional was constructed was there such resort excitement in Cuba.
Already envisioned as "The Riviera of the Caribbean", it was considered the epitome of resort-construction, and certainly was one of the more costly hotels in Cuba. It was also the first of its kind in Havana to have air-conditioned rooms. Each room had a view of the Gulf of Mexico, with the hotel itself within sight of not only busy Havana but also the quiet splendor of the residential Miramar and Country Club sections.
In selecting an architect for the Riviera, Lansky initially approached Wayne McAllister, who was the prolific Los Angeles–based designer of Las Vegas's stylish Desert Inn, Fremont, and Sands hotels—all properties controlled by Lansky's associates in the "Cleveland Gang." But Lansky's insistence that the hotel be completed in less than six months led McAllister to respectfully decline the commission. Instead, Igor Boris Polevitzky, one of the deans of Miami Modern architecture, took the job. Irving Feldman served as the project's general contractor.
Albert Parvin of the Parvin-Dohrman Company of Los Angeles, designed the hotel's decor. Lansky also hired two of Cuba's great artists, muralist Rolando Lopez Dirube and sculptor Florencio Gelabert, who designed the white marble sculptures of an intertwined mermaid and swordfish that fronts the entrance porte cochere, and "Ritmo Cubano" (Cuban Rhythm), a large lobby sculpture that depicts twirling male and female dancers rendered in bronze.
The spacious feeling of capturing the outdoors and framing it in the luxurious interiors characterized the entire hotel. The vast color-accented lobby was conceived and designed as an open promenade. From the promenade, bridges over sunken gardens lead to the L'Elegante cocktail lounge and the L'Aiglon dining room. Extensive and practical use was made of tropical trees and plants, thus enhancing the outdoor aura.
The Al Fresco dining terrace fused into the pool, cabana club, and adjacent gardens. Particularly striking was the casino's elliptical shape. Its perfect half-dome was like a great inverted golden goblet.
The casino's exterior Malecón-Blue tile roof rivaled the fair Havana sky. From an unusual suspended ceiling hung seven out-size specially designed crystal fixtures. The gold leaf walls were embellished with large-scale designs reminiscent of Mayan jewelry. Lansky initially appointed Dino Cellini from Ohio to run the casino. Cubans had never been trained for gambling operations on such a large scale, so pit bosses, dealers and stickmen were brought from the States as "technicians" and in that category were allowed to stay on two-year visas. These men, veterans of the working class of illicit U.S. gambling, eventually turned into tutors for the Cubans. The casino would make over $3 million in its first four months of operation.
The rich color accents of the entire hotel were carried into the hotel's elaborately designed nightclub, the Copa Cabaret Room. The stage, of full theatre proportions, was considered an electronic marvel equipped for any maneuver deemed necessary in the production of the spectacular and what used to be known as the "Extravaganza." Lansky arranged for the top salsa orchestras to play in its famous cabaret, formerly known as El Palacio de la Salsa, where movie stars mingled with the mob.
In the main dining room known as L'Aiglon, the murals contributed a tropical note by telling the story of the Cubans at carnival time. The main cocktail lounge, L'Elegante, was a strong center of interest because of its intimate quality. There was a dance floor which had continual Latin music and casual entertainment. Behind suits and sports attire were the "formal dress" for the Al Fresco sidewalk café terrace, which overlooked the pool and cabana club. And the Primavera coffee shop had a leisurely, yet colorful informality that is consistent with the fun-loving aspects of the entire hotel.
The Riviera also had its own elaborate bakery in which breads and pastries were prepared with a flair to delight the most discriminating palates. As for the cabana club and pool area, the seawater pool where Esther Williams once splashed, was the largest in Havana, surrounded by 75 cabanas, each of which had two dressing rooms and telephones (Lansky would reserve the largest for himself).
Outdoor dining and dancing terraces were also key features. Among a host of other conveniences for the vacationer were private dining and meeting rooms. All corner suites had wide balconies overlooking the Malecón shoreline drive. Other luxuries included a buffet restaurant, an à la carte restaurant, a grill bar, a 24 hour snack bar, room service, medical services, a money exchange, a souvenir shop, a tour desk and of course a casino.
Hotel Habana Riviera has a total of 352 light and spacious fully furnished rooms throughout its 20 floors. Of which, 309 are double rooms and 26 are triple rooms. Cots are also available on request at no extra charge. Each floor has junior suites with 16 in total, 1 being a presidential suite.
Rooms at the Riviera have views of the ocean thanks to the ingenious building's Y-shaped design. All rooms with air conditioning, phone, cable tv, safety deposit box, hair dryer, minibar, private bathroom, cold and hot water. Guests are also presented with a complimentary bottle of fresh water each day in their rooms.
For booking longer than 4 days, guests will also be offered complimentary Cuban dance classes. Guests are welcome to explore the rich cultural depth of this hotel and its surrounding areas with guided tours in three languages from 10am and 3pm, concluding with a complimentary house cocktail, a Habana Riviera Sky.
Standard Room are spacious and comfortable. Guests seeking ultra-modern comforts might find the rooms somewhat outmoded in terms of furnishings and décor, but lovers of 50s style will certainly feel at home here. The bathrooms are very large and modern.
Elite Junior suites offer spectacular views of both the sea and the hotel pool. Even more impressively each suite is home to its very own private jacuzzi. Guests can make themselves as home with comfortable 1950’s decor, complete with a 3 person sofa.
The hotel’s panoramic double rooms can be found on the 9th and 17th floors. Rooms of this type have either a king size bed, 2 large singles beds or 3 standard single beds. Ideally suited for groups of travellers of families, these rooms also have interconnected rooms to allow to easy access.
On the 18th, 19th and 20th floors are the luxurious elite double rooms. Guests in these rooms can enjoy the added comfort of exclusive services such as doorman and daily turn-down services, private check in and 10% discount on all restaurants throughout their stay.
The hotel has a fairly ample food and drinks and entertainment offer. The L'Aiglon and Primavera restaurants cater to a range of different tastes. Reportedly one of Havana's better nightclubs, the Copa Room Cabaret is the stage for a Tropicana-like show and operates as a disco into the early morning. L'Elegante Bar, offers a classic drinks menu as well as 1950's themed live music. Additionally, guests can start their day with the sounds of Cuba with the breakfast buffet offering live performances from 7am to 10am.
The lobby bar, open 24 hours, offers excellent views of the sea with live music from between 4pm and 10pm.
L'Elegante recreates the spirit of the 1950's offering an excellent choice of cocktails and live Cuban music
The hotel offers an array of wellness services. With modern amenities such as a fitness suite, complete with a full equipped gym, and a sauna, guests can stay on top of the health and wellness needs throughout their stay. Additionally, the hotel offers a range of restorative treatments such as massages to help you unwind after a long day of exploring everything that Havana has to offer. Therapists at the hotel spa use fresh and natural products, using herbs, spices and oils imported from all over the world, while adding a local caribbean touch to each enfusion.
Conveniently located by the Malecón, guests at the hotel can easily access a whole range of sights and activities that the city has to offer, either on foot or in one of the city’s iconic classic cars.
Nearby attractions include Partagás Royal Tobacco Factory, the oldest cigar factory in Cuba, where guests can take a tour to discover how one of the island most famous exports are made. The long winding Malecón, stretching from Old Havana to Vedado is a great place to stroll and watch the waves crash in from the Atlantic.
Beside the sea, all manor of nightlife can be found along this long stretch of road including plenty of music and dancing. For those in favor of something much quieter, the seafront location is also known to be a hub for courting couples or any tourist who wants to relax amongst the cool ocean air.
Elsewhere lies the Havana Capitol Building, known locally as El Capitolio, the official seat of the Cuban government prior to the revolution and now the current home of the Cuban academy of sciences. Other historical monuments include the Torreón de la Chorrera, a former colonial fortress converted into an al fresco restaurant.