Several holidaymakers have taken to TripAdvisor to complain about the hygiene standards at the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba, where some guests say that they suffered from a gastric illness, with one reviewer saying that the symptoms were comparable to dysentery, and another stating that members of their group were hospitalised.

The Starfish Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba

The Starfish Cayo Santa Maria is advertised by TUI-owned tour operator First Choice on an all-inclusive basis. The beachfront resort is located in a popular region of Cuba and features a choice of restaurants amongst other facilities.

Holidaymakers comment on hygiene concerns and gastric illness

Reviews for the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria on TripAdvisor appear to be mixed, with the resort receiving an average rating of 4 out of 5 at the time of writing. The following negative reviews highlight some of the potential hygiene issues that may be affecting guests at the Cuban hotel:


A TripAdvisor Member wrote a review of their stay in August titled “Don’t go“. In their review, they say that their “party of five […] were all ill for 12 days of the 14 [that they] were there“.

They explain that there were “flies were all over the food and the buffet restaurant was swarming [with] them“, adding that “the toilets were disgusting“.

They continue to comment that the illness they contracted resulted in symptoms that “boarded on dysentery“, commenting that “90% of the English people [staying at the hotel] were ill“, with “many [of them] seeking medical attention“.


Worcestershire holidaymaker ‘zippy7272’ wrote a review of his stay in August titled “Hotel quite good. Big let down was the poor hygiene and lack of food“. He had a few complaints about the way that the buffet was run, and also says that he saw “one of the omelette chef’s mop his sweaty brow with a napkin, before then wiping down the worktop he was using with the same napkin“.

He concludes his review by saying that “the food and hygiene were a real issue“.


In their review titled “Never before did we look forward to [aeroplane] food so much“, ‘Leandro V’ says that their family were “nauseous and sick after a few days“, commenting that there was “poor food” and parts of the hotel were “dirty“.

They imply that some of the food serving areas were “lacking [items] as basic as spoons for foods that simply require one“, and conclude their review by saying that “plane food was a blessing at the end of the week“.


‘Jennifer B’ wrote a review of her stay in July titled “Sweet Cuba” in which she says that her daughter saw “a [cockroach] in [her] room by her bed“, adding that her “kids got sick for 1-2 days“, which she thinks was due to “the food“, however, she does comment that they “forgot not to use ice“.


‘alexamb2017’ wrote a review of their stay in July titled “Un forgettable bad experience” in which they say they suffered from a “stomach ache“, explaining that the beds were “dirty“, “never changed” and had “bed […] bugs“, adding that they were given “dirty towels“.

Amongst other complaints, they go on to comment that there was a “dirty pool“.


Chester holidaymaker ‘Joe_Murf’ wrote a review of his stay in July titled “An [Unforgettable] Experience“, which he says that the food available at the buffet included “half cooked bread” with “butter which had melted and then had been frozen again“.

He goes on to say that “food [hygiene] is very poor“, commenting that food is “left uncovered in high temperatures“. He says that “approximately 10 people out of the group [he] arrived with were very ill and 5 had to go to [the] hospital“.


What is Dysentery?

Dysentery is an infection of the intestines that is considered to be very contagious. It can result in diarrhoea that can contain blood or mucus, painful stomach cramps and abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and a fever.

Dysentery comes in two different types; bacillary dysentery, also known as shigellosis, and amoebic dysentery, also known as amoebiasis. Bacillary dysentery is more common in the UK, with amoebic dysentery being commonly contracted abroad.

Holiday dysentery types

You can avoid contracting dysentery abroad by following this advice:

  • Ensure that you only drink water that you know is safe to drink (potable)
  • Decline ice in your drinks
  • Only drink from sealed bottles
  • Avoid fresh fruit and vegetables that you can’t peel yourself

If you’ve been infected, you can prevent spreading dysentery on holiday by practising good personal hygiene, such as by washing your hands before eating.

The risk of infection from refreezing dairy foods

Apart from some hard cheeses, it’s generally accepted that the risk of food poisoning increases if dairy items are allowed to thaw before being refrozen. While some dairy items can be safely refrozen after being partially defrosted, if you see this practice being carried out on produce such as yoghurts, ice creams and butter, it’s safer to avoid them.

Flies, cockroaches and the spread of disease

Flies and cockroaches are seen as being quite unhygienic and for good reason. Although flies and cockroaches may not directly make you sick, they are known for traversing unhygienic environments, from which they can transfer faecal matter that becomes attached to their legs to whatever they come into contact with next. This can include uncovered buffet food, which can result in harmful bacteria being transferred to your meal.

Good hygiene at an all-inclusive resort is vital

Cleanliness is something that many holidaymakers expect when they travel to an all-inclusive resort, but cleanliness can be vital in ensuring that guests don’t get sick. Although effective hygiene processes, such as HACCP, won’t guarantee the prevention of the spread of disease, it can limit the places that harmful strains of bacteria or parasites are able to breed.

Find out if you can make a holiday illness claim

If you’ve suffered a gastric illness while on an all-inclusive package holiday, then under The Package Travel Regulations 1992, you could be entitled to claim compensation from your tour operator. A member of our travel law team can provide you with a free no-obligation consultation, during which we can advise you of whether you’re able to make a ‘no win no fee‘ compensation claim.

Get in touch

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