Reviewers returning from the Grand Memories Santa Maria report that they suffered the symptoms of a gastric illness during their stay, with several reviews highlighting potential problems with hygiene at the Cuban resort.

The Grand Memories Santa Maria in Cuba

The Grand Memories Santa Maria is advertised by TUI-owned tour operator Thomson and First Choice on an all-inclusive basis. Situated in the popular Cayo Santa Maria region of Cuba, this resort has a range of appealing facilities, including a separate adults-only section; this Cuban hotel should be an appealing option for British families and couples alike.

Reports of possible hygiene issues

Reviews for the Grand Memories Santa Maria on TripAdvisor are quite mixed, with some reviewers praising the resort but others commenting on potential hygiene problems that may be resulting in guests suffering an illness abroad.


Pontypool holidaymaker ‘rossanthonymahoney’ wrote a review of their stay in June “Avoid this hotel at all costs“, in which they say that they are concerned “that no one is first aid trained in the hotel“, as on “more than one occasion [there was] someone [in their party who was] needing medical attention“.

They continue to say that “the food is terrible“, and there are “flies everywhere and on everything“. They say that “the buffet room is dirty” and “you had to go through the plates to [choose] a clean one“, adding that a “lot of [the food] is cold and doesn’t even look like it could be eaten“.

‘rossanthonymahoney’ goes on to comment that “due to mostly everyone in [their] party falling ill, [they were] left to eat nothing but chips” to avoid suffering “from vomiting or having [diarrhoea] again and losing days [of their] holiday [due to] being ill“. To put this into perspective, they say that there was a total of “37 [people in their party who] went to the hotel and 34 […] fell ill during [the holiday] and on [their] return home from [the] Grand Memories“.


‘looma69’ from Chester also stayed at the Grand Memories Santa Maria in June, and in her review titled “terrible hotel” she says that the “food is absolutely disgusting, food hygiene leaves a lot to be desired” and “all four members of [her] party ending up ill for over four days“.

She goes on to say that the “buffet restaurant had cockroaches on [the] food” and there were “flies everywhere“, commenting that “even after [the buffet had] been closed for five days […], on reopening [they] still spotted flies and cockroaches“.


Worcestershire holidaymaker ‘Jo B’ stayed at the Grand Memories Santa Maria in May, and in her review titled “Grand Memories’ lol – 9/5/17-24/5/17” she says that “the buffet food was usually cold”, and she recommends that “you eat the freshly cooked food”.

She continues to say that “some of the crockery/glasses were chipped, dirty, wet or stained“, and “the local cattery attended the restaurant entrances during meal times“. She comments that there was a “picture [that] shows a meal of ‘ribs’ that [they] ordered in the Emporium restaurant“, but “the meal was totally inedible and was served at” what they describe as “fridge” temperature.

She says that they “also saw cooked meat being handled with the same tongs [that were] being used for raw chicken at the BBQ“, and when they “told the chef and he apologised“, he “promptly plonked the cooked meet on [to her] husband’s plate“.

‘Jo B’ also says that “the BBQ area was also swarming with flies” and they “had no hot water for 5 days” and “no flushing toilet for 2-3 days“.


Food temperature and the risk of disease

One of the most basic steps that any hotel kitchen that adheres to hygiene processes such as HACCP should be aware of food temperature danger zones. While there’s more to it, to put it simply; hot food needs to be kept hot and cold food should be kept cold.

There are a lot of things that hotels can do to ensure this, from providing heated and chilled buffet stations, to performing regular temperature checks. If a hotel kitchen doesn’t take care and meals are allowed to reach hazardous temperatures, harmful bacteria could begin to breed, which in turn could make guests unwell.

Cats, flies and cockroaches

Wildlife should be kept away from serving areas as best as possible, including stray cats, regardless of how domesticated they may have become, as they can be known to carry disease.

Cats, flies, cockroaches and holiday disease

It’s equally important to keep flies and cockroaches away from buffet food. Flies and cockroaches can walk through some pretty undesirable environments, and if faecal matter is present in these environments, particles can get stuck to their legs. These faeces particles can then be transferred to your food if they can access it.

Cross-contamination and food poisoning

Cross-contamination is another area of food hygiene to be wary of when eating at an all-inclusive hotel. While thoroughly cooking high-risk produce such as meat will usually be enough to eradicate any bacteria or parasites that could cause you to come to harm, if the same utensils that are used to serve you a cooked piece of meat are used to handle raw produce, any pathogens present on the uncooked meat could be transferred to your plate.

How to claim holiday illness compensation

If you’ve suffered the symptoms of a gastric illness while on an all-inclusive package holiday where you believe that hygiene standards were poor, then under The Package Travel Regulations 1992 you could be entitled to claim compensation from your tour operator.

Our travel law specialists can advise you within minutes if we can help you to make a ‘no win no feeholiday illness claim, as well as providing you with advice on what you can do if you’re still sick abroad.

Claire Rabbetts – Holiday Accident and Illness Claims Specialist

Get in touch

If you want to find out more about claiming for illness at the Grand Memories Santa Maria in Cuba; contact Claire Rabbetts by completing our enquiry form, call us on 0808 145 1353 or visit our On Holiday Claims website.