When a Regina family reported jewelry and cash stolen from a hotel safe in Cuba, anger escalated to panic when hotel managers and security blocked access to their passports.
Kelly Morrison was vacationing with her husband Steve and their two children at the Memories Resort at Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba. She says they had been to the resort the year before and that’s why they chose it. They arrived on Jan. 26 and the first few days were full of fun. Until Saturday, when she returned to the room to find that some cash and rings were missing from the locked safe. Electronics and other personal items were left in the safe, but cash was missing from two wallets and the rings were gone.
“We reported it immediately. The head of security was called. It turned into a very severe interrogation,” Morrison recalled.
She says they were walked back to the room and supervised while they searched every item. When they didn’t find the cash or rings, they were told to leave the room and wait for police. When they came back a few hours later, the situation escalated and they were told they couldn’t stay in their room that night.
“We were then walked to our room and we were told we had a couple minutes to grab just what we needed. We were not allowed to take any purses, we were not allowed to take our passports or anything like that,” Morrison explained.
She says as Canadians, they assumed they could trust people in authority. When she asked to get their belongings and travel documents back, she was told they would be returned if she took back her statement reporting the theft.
“Then the panic set in, when I talked to the emergency Canadian line and they said get your passports back at all costs and don’t cause a scene, get out of the country,” she said, noting that made her more worried.
“There’s only one plane out of there a week and you’re stuck there, they have control of everything and you have no control at all.”
Morrison said she decided to take back the statement because she was worried about being stuck in a foreign country with no passports, money or belongings.
The next day she was told the police had arrived and was escorted back up to the room. She never saw a police badge, but watched as the officers ransacked the room. They proceeded to question her further about how much change she had in her wallet and then took her phone to look for proof she had actually brought the rings with her.
At one point, Morrison asked to see the police report and took a video when they refused.
During the ordeal, she said the representative from Sunwing Vacations was trying to be helpful, but she realized he had no control either, because he was Cuban.
“His comments a lot of the time were ‘I’m trying,’ or you know, ‘they make the rules here,’ comments like that. It made me realize that I think he was just as scared of them as we were,” Morrison explained. “A lot of the time he said ‘you’ve got to calm down, because if you don’t it will get worse for you.’”
By the end of the trip, the family was able to return to their original rooms and get their passports back.
Morrison says she still doesn’t consider Cuba to be a bad place to visit, but this experience made her remember that the laws are not the same and it can be dangerous. She wants to share her story to remind other travelers not to assume the justice system works the same way in other countries as it does in Canada.