Club Amigo Marea del Portill, Club Amigo Mayanabo Resort Reviews – Cuba Hotels – Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews

Reviews posted on this page
Club Amigo Marea del Portillo – South Shore Reviews Posted – 4
Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Reviews Posted – 7
Club Arenal Reviews Posted – 1
Costa Morena – Santiago de Cuba Reviews Posted – 2
Farallon del Caribe Hotel – Manzanillo Reviews Posted – 3
Gran Club Santa Lucia – Santa Lucia Reviews Posted – 9
Hotel Ancon – Playa Ancon – Trinidad Reviews Posted – 2
Hotel Comodoro – Havana Reviews Posted – 1
Melia Cohiba – Havana Reviews Posted – 2

Hotel Comodoro Claire and Keiron 22 and 26 years old

May 2004

We transferred to Havana for the second part of the holiday. The hotel was had a couple of restaurants, lovely pools and a few snack bars. There was a shopping centre nearby with a supermarket and clothes shops such as lacoste, mango and miss sixty. The room was excellent with a 30 foot balcony!!! Inside there was a sitting area and two single beds, plus tv. The plug socket in the bathroom was a european one, which threw us as we had a caribbean adapter!

Reception doesn’t change up travellers cheques, so you need to get to a bank. You need to make sure you have the receipt with the serial numbers as well as your passport.

Even if you are staying in guardalavaca try and get to Havana, its something else! Our hotel had a free shuttle bus and was about half an hour from old havana. Taxis are cheap and very available the bubble taxis are quite new and fun to ride in, ours had a puncture which was scary, try to agree a price before you leave as they switch their metres off and charge what they like ( even then its still cheap). Old havana is amazing, yes the streets are messy ands buildings falling apart but its all character. We did a lot of bar crawling food and drinks are cheap with a cuba libre costing $1.50 and a lobster meal only $9. Live salsa bands are common in the bars and they sell their own cds, etc. A lot of beggars and cigar sellers roam about but they are never intimidating, just say no or give them some cigarettes. Club Tropicana is a must, about $85 for decent seats and rum, etc. thrown in free to sweeten the deal.

All in all guardalavaca and havana were both fantastic with both hotels worthy of their 4star ratings. We will go again and strongly recommend it to anyone partically like us if your on a tight budget, bareing in mind 20 ciggeretes in the uk cost $10 and in cuba $1 !!!!! Can we find fault with anything?……yes mybe a few minor details but nothing that effected our holiday experience enough to mention. Any questions will be answered….email on Bunnywhizz@aol.com or Kinkydiscotramp@aol.com cheers.

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February 2004

ust got home 2 hours ago after two weeks at this hotel. For a fairly cheap all inclusive, we did all right. The hotel is clean, the staff friendly, and most days you can eat well, with normally four entrees. The pool bar makes some of the best expresso I’ve had. We took the shuttle to Havana several times and never had a problem. But you must book the day before. The short stroll to the beach was worth it for the entertainment provided. Birds, strange vehicles and people leading to a long beach. Sand fleas are a problem, so be sure to bring some antibiotic creams.

Remember, this is a two star, but everything worked out well.

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Farallon del Caribe Hotel Kate, Jennifer & Tricia ~ Canada

February 2005

My two girls and I just came home from an extremely enjoyable vacation at the Farallon del Caribe in Marea del Portillo. (we flew to Manzanillo with Sunquest on a Skyservice flight, very early on a Thursday morning.) We booked this vacation 10 days before leaving and it was very good value for the money we paid.

A couple of negatives – then the positves!

This hotel was rated 4 star. It was full. Absolutely booked solid. The room that we stayed in was distinctly NOT a 4 star. I believe that some of the other rooms were better equipped, but don’t know for sure. I asked for a cot or another bed when we got there and the housekeeping staff was terrific about bringing it, but another family down the hall didn’t ask and were sharing a 3/4 bed with a nine year old. I had to ask for a blanket for the 3rd bed, and later in the week when I requested a 2nd blanket because I was cold at night – I was told that there were no more blankets, the hotel was too full. (we were on good terms with the housekeeper btw and I believe she would have got one for me if she possibly could have.) There was one pillow per bed, one of them was fine – but the other two were like rocks. There was no chair in the room and no chairs on the little outdoor walkout. (main floor – nice little wall around the walkout, I took a plastic chair from the entertainment area and sat outside on it. The staff had no problem with this.) If you wanted to sit quietly in your room and read, you couldn’t be comfortable because of the lack of a chair or pillows to lean against if you were on the bed.

With 2 full flights a week the Farallon and its sister hotel the Marea were overbooked. People who had booked months in advance were being sent from the Marea to the Farallon. (and since they booked in advance so they could visit with friends at the Marea – they were extremely vocal and unhappy.) Some people were staying nights at a local 1 star hotel and being driven daily down to the facilities at the Marea/Farallon. The hotels were doing the best they could, but there needs to be something better for the future or they will quickly lose their faithful repeat customers.

There were a couple of blackouts and a lack of water in the room one afternoon but I had expected that and it didn’t put me off the hotel the way the lack of furniture and bedding did.

There was often a wait for a table in the dining room for dinner. The food was fine for Cuba – in fact I was surprised at how much good beef we had. (also fish, pork, chicken and excellent turkey) I had thought that because it was a 4 star there would be a bit more selection for my children and for dessert but my expectations were not met. There was pasta one night, and always a good variety of sponge cakes (excellent ice cream too) but the hotels I had been at previously offered a pasta bar each night and occasionally had specialty desserts (fried bananas or crepes for example), this hotel had a good 3 star menu but I was somewhat disappointed because of my expectations based on the 4 star rating. The baker was excellent – the bread was awesome.

If I had booked early and paid full price I would have been unsatisfied with my holiday choice because I was expecting a Cuban 4 star hotel and didn’t get it.

The positives:
I loved the early morning flight with Skyservice. We had to be up early but the staff on the plane were terrific and I personally prefer a decent sandwich to an inadequate hot meal. Yes it was a little squishy – but the people (mostly repeats) were so friendly it didn’t matter. (and it’s only a 3 hour flight) Then we had the whole afternoon at the hotel to settle in and explore.

The wait for our baggage was a little long, but I discovered (on leaving) that it was because the baggage staff was busy loading the plane to leave. The incoming baggage waited (just outside the door) while the plane was being loaded to go home. I didn’t feel that there was too long a delay and my 3 bags with gifts mixed in got through customs no problem. (including the hammer and exacto knives I had as gifts.). "Fred" was reportedly unhappy – he was a repeat visitor with gifts for friends in town and ended up leaving one of his bags at the airport to go home again when he wouldn’t pay the "duty" demanded.

I bought Convertible Pesos at the airport. They come in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10 and 20. There were also 1 CP coins. (often referred to as US dollars btw – no-one is used to the new name although the Cubans have certainly adjusted to the concept.) The hotel charges an extra 3 percent to convert, but there was no problem changing Canadian cash to CP. Take ENOUGH Canadian cash, or use your credit card for trips because you can’t get cash advances and will need the $25 Convertible Pesos for the Airport Tax. You can exchange your extra CP at the airport before you go to the departure lounge – but then you can’t buy a drink or souvenirs so you might want to keep some.

The hotel staff were exceptional. They were friendly, polite, had good English (not perfect, but certainly adequate) and worked very long hours to make sure we were having a good time. The bartenders and the grill chef knew my kids and were preparing for them before they actually arrived to order. The animation staff did a heroic job (without music for 2 days because of stereo problems) and were friendly and cheerful. They obviously weren’t professional actors, but ran the events cheerfully and happily. (good stretching at 10:15 and aquasize at 10:30 were well run by Monica and Annis, although they always had reasons to not get into the pool. It’s not good swimming weather for Cubans.)

The weather was terrific. Sunny and clear. We had one windy night. (all the nights were a liitle cool – but as expected for January.) The ocean was warm. The black sand beach was fine, there was some leftover white coral sand. I wouldn’t recommend it for sandcastles, but there were purple and pink shells and sanddollars to be found while walking from one hotel to the other, which was fun. If you are taking kids – take inflatable rings so they can sit and be bumped and lifted by the waves. The gentleman in the Hobiecat was great and I saw people enjoying the kayaks. (swim over by the Marea, the Farallon beach was always red flagged.)

Everyone was friendly. The guests were friendly, the staff was friendly and the local villagers were friendly. It’s obviously an area where people make friends with the locals and each other and visit again and again. My 14 year old daughter liked to walk the beach at dusk for some "alone" time and I felt that she was safe doing that and didn’t worry about her.

I enjoyed having everything in the hotel close. The pool and the grill and the bar were seconds away from our room. We didn’t spend anytime walking between places. (except when we were going to the Marea by road and the golf cart had run out of battery power AGAIN!) We had no trouble with the steps down to the beach and preferred to wander over by that route anyway. I’ve only stayed at Villa style resorts before and wasn’t sure I would like this, but it was great.

We swam in both pools and definately preferred the Farallon, it’s bigger and has the volleyball and basketball nets. (and the bridge!)

I spoke to the Mom of a 3 year old who found that there weren’t quite enough activities for her child – she saw children’s activities in the brochure, but didn’t realize that there was only a Kid’s club when there were enough children to warrant it. There were 7 English kids and 2 (I think) French ones when we were there. My children are good at entertaining themselves and the other children there always seemed happy. After the first supper, I suggested that my children ate dinner at the grill before it closed at 5 pm and then had dessert while I was eating at 7:30, the other kids seemed more adventurous than mine, or their parents did the same thing as I did. (the 3 year old’s parents struggled a bit to find food she would eat at the buffet.)

I was at the Melia Cayo Santa Maria last year and although the beach and hotel were nicer than this one – this was a much better holiday. The staff were not always looking for tips and the people working here just seemed happier and more cheerful. (maybe because they could live in the local village, rather than everyone being bussed in and living in staff apartments?)

The lobby bar, is only open in the evening and is a cash bar. This is where you would get brand name drinks. It was not busy at all, people seemed happy with the cuban brands available at the all inclusive bar on the other side of the pool. It was amusing to see all the different groups of people playing cards after dinner. (us included!)

I signed out the night before leaving so there was no line up or wait (we used the balcony door for access to the room) and arranged for a wake up call. The restaurant opened 1/2 early and we had a good breakfast before waiting for the bus to take us back to the airport. (The busses kept filling up and leaving, then a smaller one would arrive so the large group that was left wondered if we would end up in a horse and buggy trying to get to the airport miles away, but we all got there in the end.)

I would definately return to the Farallon, and would try to get my (very active) husband to come along next time. The jeep expedition and the trip to Santiago de Cuba sounded like a lot of fun and I think he would enjoy heading off into the foothills for a daytrip/hike. I’d choose it over the Marea if I could, because this was overall a good experience – but I feel that either hotel would be a great choice for a last minute, fairly inexpensive holiday.

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Farallon del Caribe Hotel the Mesquita family

January 2005

I am rating this above average for a hotel rated at 3.5 stars. We got an amazing deal, very last minute, the week before Xmas . I am also indicating what extras we paid for- there is not much in the way of frills included at such a low price.

The review…

We have just returned from a week at the Farallon del Caribe and Marea del Portillo hotels. We stayed at the Farallon which is the newer of the 2 hotels. We are a family of 4 – kids 14 and 11. We’ve been to these same resorts before. At the airport,we had a very long and hot wait at Cuban customs and immigration. They have put a roof on the upper patio at the airport, and they now have currency exchange. Don’t bring portable dvd players-they are not permitted for personal use or as a gift item. Customs took one from a lady and she had to get it back when she left Cuba.

Getting to the hotel was great, a nice long scenic drive through the mountains and country side, we bought some cold drinks (beer and pop etc.)at the airport for the drive in.

Check in was pretty fast, we had a welcome cocktail while we waited.

The rooms are very clean and nice, and the beds were big and comfortable. We had 2 little pillows on each bed, they seemed to be filled with some little beanish things. We liked them. The shower is a little slippery and the water was warm to slightly hot. The rooms have a safe deposit box which you can rent ($) there is no mini fridge. There is 110 in the bathroom,220 in all other areas, no hair dryers, so bring your own. There is a wall radio in the room and a tv with some satelite stations. The veiw of the mountains and lagoon from our rooms was spectacular.

They have done some upgrades to the Marea grounds since we last stayed there. They have a new stage, poolside restaurant and improvements to the pool itself. They have a (very basic) minigolf course now! The Farallon hasn’t changed alot except a few plants, some great new animacion staff, and a after hours bar($). You can exhange your currency at either hotel. The evening shows seemed to be better at the Marea, so we cabbed it down ($) there each night-(1 peso). The new house band is really great. There is a free shuttle cart during the day between the hotels.

The weather was really nice during our week- the week before xmas- it was hot each day, and warm enough in the evening to go without a sweater. There was a breeze at night which helped to keep away some of the biting little insects that really came out when it was calm. They did run out of mint and dark rum at some bars, but there was lots of other drinks available and lots of regular rum. There is now a lobby bar at the Farallon ($) they didn’t run out of anything. They still have the disco where you can buy drinks at night on the beach ($).

We sat out on the beach on a couple of evenings and watched the stars, it was really lovely.

They still offer the trip to Pilon($)-DON’T GO! It was a mob scene-It was embarassing to see the locals asking for money and drinks. The towns girls were very pushy offering their things(!$) too, and many people on the tour were complaining. I think that going at another time, and not on the evening bus trip, might be OK.

On one morning there was a baseball game organized and the guests could go to Pilon and play against some locals-we didn’t go so I don’t know if this was included or for a fee or not.

On the road between the hotels there was the racing thing where the cowboys put a stick through a little ring while they are galloping wildly on their horses. this was alot of fun to watch, and we brought them a bottle of rum to have when they finished. They offered rides on the horses after they’d finished.

Some people went to Cayo Blanco Island ($) and said the food was really good and the water was nice and clear. We didn’t go. It’s a long day when you only have 7 to use! We went on the daytrip to Santiago($), but we left the tour immidiately upon arrival to go and visit friends, we had a great day of music and laughter.

There are alot of new young staff members this year. We really like the enthusiasm of the new animacion. They kept our kids busy and they had a very positive energy to offer these notoriously slow paced resorts.

There was always a contest, game or lesson for the kids to try, and our daughter loved the disco. We found the food at the hotels hadn’t changed much over the years, but all of the grill style lunches were held at the Marea, poolside. The Zumex orange juice machine made our son’s holiday. The food was pretty good overall, we could always find something. The alacarte lobster dinner was fantastic and very filling($). Our daughter had the shrimp dinner and really liked it too ($). We have recently travelled to Guardalavaca and Santiago de Cuba and what really impressed us about the Marea and Farallon was how clean and pretty the grounds were kept. The beach is dark sand, but it was clear of litter and ocean debris which was a nice change. The gardeners work tirelessly to keep mother nature looking pretty and fresh. We really enjoyed sitting at the Marea’s beach bar, looking out over the ocean and the beautiful Sierra Maestra mountains.

This was a very relaxing week for all of us and I would love to go again for 2 weeks at the same time next year. I’ll take warm breezes and crashing surf, over snowy skys and slush anyday! the Mesquita family

p.s . there is a SERIOUS CRACKDOWN on beach cigars(black market) at the Sierra Maestra Airport – don’t buy them-even if you are provided with a hologram and fake reciepts by your seller, you’ll lose them when you leave. We saw at least 5 people have theirs taken away by the customs officers at the Manzanillo airport. Buy real cigars at a government store, it’s not worth the risk and embarassment.

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Farallon del Caribe Hotel Elaine

January 2004

This is a 3 star hotel located on the south shore of Cuba. The drive from the airport is about 1.5 hours through beautiful mountains. The airport is very small and slow, one of the old-style Cuban airports. It took us about an hour to clear customs and immigration. On the bus we were given registration forms and our room numbers, but we had to line up at the hotel to get our keys. I don’t know why they couldn’t give them out on the bus, but I suggested it in the questionnaire they handed out at the resort.

The hotel was built in the early 90’s and is located up the hill from the beach. There are quite a few steps and even though the pathway is paved it is quite uneven and could be a problem for people who have difficulties walking. There are about 40-50 steps. There is a huge iguana who lives under the stairs. He hardly moves but it’s funny to watch people’s reaction to him or her when they see it for the first time. The beach itself is huge, perfect for a long walk. The sand is very dark, but nice. It’s actually better down towards the other hotel (Marea del Portillo), and you can use the chairs and palapas at that hotel with no problems. Services at both hotels are interchangeable (restaurants, bars, pools etc.) which is nice. You can go for a walk down to the other hotel, go in for a drink or two and then head back.

The rooms in the hotel are quite plain, but fine. We had two 3/4 beds that were pushed together and the hotel brought in a single bed for our 12 year old. There was still plenty of room to walk around. There was a huge closet with drawers inside it, a full size mirror as well as a tv with about 5 channels. There was also a nice balcony with chairs overlooking the pool and a phone. The bathroom had a huge shower, no tub. Hot water was lukewarm at best, but that’s okay when you have a sunburn! The room was very clean and there were no bugs.

The hotel has a really nice free-form swimming pool. One end you walk in like a beach and at the other end is a swim-up bar with about a half-dozen stools. There is a pretty bridge over the pool that gets really, really hot to walk on, be careful!

There is one main restaurant at the hotel. It’s open for breakfast and dinner. There is an outdoor buffet for lunch as well as a snack bar that is open in the afternoon with pizza, fries and yummy sandwiches. Meals are all buffet. Breakfast has the usual cereal, toast, a chef making omelettes and some odd things like meatballs (!), sliced hot dogs (!) and even fish sometimes. Regardless, you can always find something good to fill your plate. Dinner offered a salad bar and different items most nights. We got kind of sick of chicken and rice because they were almost always on the menu, but it’s Cuba so no worries!

Every night there was entertainment after dinner, usually a Cuban band, as well as a disco that didn’t open until 11pm. The entertainment staff at this hotel are great. Henry, Eddie and another fellow who’s name has slipped my mind were great and included everyone who wanted to "play". There were Spanish lessons, bingo, volleyball, and other activities throughout the day if you wanted something to do, or you could veg by the pool or beach.

The hotel offers a day trip to Cayo Blanco 3 times a week. It costs $4.65 USD per person and includes the boat trip there and back, about 45 minutes each way as well as lunch and watersports on the island. It’s a nice way to spend the day. There are snorkels, kayaks and a catamaran to use and a BBQ lunch. Good fun.

We also took an excursion from the hotel into the surrounding mountains. It’s called the Jeep Adventure and was USD39.00 each, half for kids. What a cool trip. We headed out in jeeps with drivers provided up into the Sierra Maestra mountains. The road is really rough and we were getting bounced about pretty hard. It was fun though. After about and hour’s drive we stopped at a farmer’s house for a visit and then back into the jeep for about another half hour. We stopped at a beautiful waterfall where we could swim and hike. The water level was low at this time of year but is apparently quite spectacular once the rainy season starts later in the spring. We were there for about an hour and then back to the farm for a home cooked lunch. It was really good food and really interesting to see how the local people live. I wouldn’t want to stay there for sure, but it was nice to visit. It was a great trip and we highly recommend it.

As I mentioned earlier, this hotel is a neighbour to Marea del Portillo hotel. Farallon tends to attract a younger crowd, I think because of the stairs to the beach. Marea on the other hand is full of senior citizens and seems to be a much quieter property. Both hotels are relatively laid back and very remote from anything. Perfect for getting away from it all.

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Costa Morena – Santiago de Cuba Marco Gilbert
January 2003

Costa Morena de Santiago de Cuba, stayed there for 2 weeks in January 2003. I would recommend this 2 stars hotel only to peoples who have a very limited budget. Sure there are some good points like the wonderful weather, the clean rooms, the beautiful landscape and the friendly staff. But there are many problems. The restaurant is terrible, the buffet is very small with very little choice. It is the same day after day after day. Moreover it is difficult to find something hot, everything is only warm. About the snack counter you can find hot-dogs and hamburgers, but only if they are not short on bread or meat which is often the case. Don’t count on having a snack after 15h00. You could try to comfort yourself at the bar but even there you could be disappointed. One day they are missing ice, the other day the don’t have juice to make drinks, another day there is no milk for the drinks and if one day you are lucky enough and they have all the ingredients, the barman can only serve beer because he has no shaker (blender) !!! If you want to change your mind by doing some activity like pedalo, kayak, windsurf or catamaran be aware that none of these is available at the resort (contrary to what you can read in the TMR 2003 brochure). There is no sand beach at the resort. There is a natural pool where you can swim but you have to wear shoes because the bottom is rough. The resort does not provide free bottle water. They say that the tap water is drinkable but they strongly suggest that you buy bottle water !!! The entertainment is average. In conclusion this hotel is very cheap, and what you get is what you pay for… I won’t go back.

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Tracy & Chris~- Quebec, Canada

April 2005

My husband and I spent our honeymoon at Gran Club Santa Lucia the week of January 15th to the 22nd.

Absolutely loved it!!! This was our first trip to Cuba and we were a little nervous about staying in a 3.5 star hotel but were very pleasantly surprised. Most definitely not your average 3.5 star hotel. After visiting other 3 & 4 star hotels in the area, we felt we had the best deal.

The Flight: I can not say enough about Go Travel and Zoom Airlines. Value, comfort and friendly service. Hassle free flight – direct, which is always a pleasure. We were greeted on arrival by the wonderful Go Travel representatives. Kate, our Go Travel rep was a true pleasure to deal with, always a friendly smile and close by to help out with any little detail.

The Resort: Beautiful! A little piece of paradise. Beautifully colored flowers all around, towering palms, humming birds, flamingos and the ever friendly peacocks.

The Room: We stayed in a suite close to the beach. Nicely decorated room with king size bed and separate sitting area with couch, chairs, mini-fridge & TV. The bathroom is a good size with a tiled shower. The great thing about the suites is the private balcony, great for quite evenings. The room was immaculately kept, and always a lovely new towel design could be found once the maid had passed. Thanks Maria, for all your help.

The Pool: Looks lovely, but we’re beach people so we never tried the pool. It is kept very clean but I hear that it was a little chilly. Guess you can always warm up with a couple of drinks at the pool bar.

The Beach: Warm, soft sand & aqua blue waters, what more could you ask for? Plenty of loungers and a great coral reef. Ahhh…I’m still dreaming of snorkeling.

The Food: This was by far my biggest worry when traveling to Cuba for the first time. We were pleasantly surprised. Great pasta bar, fresh veggies and always a few selections of meat on the grill. Beef, pork, chicken, etc. The desserts were plenty and delicious as well. Colas (not the usual name brands, no Coke or Pepsi), beer, wine to drink. The servers are terrific. Our waitress, Yamilla was a joy to be around.

We didn’t try the pizzeria, El Coral, but heard it was wonderful and the Cuban restaurant, Restaurant Guayabero was fine but we rather enjoyed the atmosphere at the buffet, La Cascina.

The Drinks: Plenty of rum. No slushy drinks but if you take the time to get to know the bar people they will go out of their way to create all kinds of interesting drinks for you.

Entertainment: WONDERFUL! These guys/girls have so much energy, it’s amazing! There truly is something for everyone. The activities during the day are fun-filled, the evening shows are great and if you love to dance the entertainment staff will definitely pull you up on the dance floor at the La Jugla Excursions: We went on the city excursion to Camaguay and enjoyed the day but will try something less busy next visit. Things to remember: Tipping is not obligatory but always very much appreciated. Don’t forget to bring travel mugs (insulated), the glasses are very small. Honestly other than that, we didn’t feel anything was lacking at Gran Club. Other reviews may list a number of things to bring; I guess it just depends on the person. All in all, WE LOVE YOU GRAN CLUB SANTA LUCIA! Can’t wait to see you again next year! Already got our vacation piggy bank in the works. We’ll be back with friends in tow. See you soon!

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Julie from Ottawa

March 2005

A friend and I visited the Gran Club Santa Lucia from March 17th to march 24th, 2005. The weather was beautiful the whole time we were there and the heat would have been insane if it hadn’t been for the wind. Yes, it is very windy there, but it is warm and quite frankly you come to appreciate it in the middle of the day. There was only one night where it was cool enough to warrant a sweater.

The flight: Flew with Zoom airlines via Go Travel Direct. The flight was good, but being a circle flight (with a stop in Varadero to let people off and pick others up), we found it a bit long. Still, breezed through immigration and was met by the highly efficient Go travel Rep.

The Room: We had the standard room, and yes, they are very basic. No alarm clock, no coffee machine, one small pillow each, plain decor. But it was clean and the maids did an excellent job keeping it that way. Our one complaint was that the air conditioning wasn’t working properly. We took out complaint to the front desk twice and though someone came by both times, the air was never very cool. Most nights we slept with the window open because the air outside was cooler.

The Beach: The beach was gorgeous. Yes, there is a lot of sea grass there, but it’s not slimy and there’s a tractor that runs up and down the beach in the mornings to clear away what’s washed in over night. Lots of loungers and shade available. There is a bathroom by the snack bar, but it’s tucked around the side of the building. Animation activities take place on the beach in the mornings. You can walk for ages in either direction. Snack bar on the beach has burgers and fries as well as little sandwiches and some fruit. We generally didn’t eat there though.

The Pool: The water was 27-28 degrees celsius and very refreshing when it was very hot. Swim up bar, activities in the afternoon,"sweet hour" in the late afternoon, salsa lessons, and not overrun with small children. The loungers all have comfortable cushions too and you can find the handicraft souvenirs here too. Ping pong, pool table… you get the idea.

The Food: There’s nothing fancy about the food. But there’s also nothing wrong with any of it. In fact, the pasta there (Italian chef) is some of the best I’ve ever had. Lots of meat to choose from – beef, pork, chicken, veal, sausages, fish, shrimp, squid. Always lots of rice or potatoes and cooked vegetables (spinach, cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, peppers). Small salad bar. Ice cream at dinner. Fruit (the pineapple is amazing). The bread was a little odd. A little dry for our tastes, but if you dig you’ll find a loaf of softer stuff. The desserts were actually rather disappointing, but that wasn’t a bad thing as it kept me away from the stuff. Had fruit and ice cream instead. Breakfast got old pretty quickly though – eggs, bacon, hot dogs, ground beef, french fries, toast, sugary cereals and pastries. I’m not a huge egg eater so I had to get a little creative. The yogurt is very good, but much thinner than we’re used to.

A-la-carte Dinning: We didn’t try the Alphonsino on the pier as it cost extra. If you’re with Go travel you can go to the pizzeria as well as the cuban restaurant as many times as you’d like for no extra charge. We liked the pizzeria so much we went back for our last night there.

The Drinks: Most of the mixed drinks are made with white rum. They have quite the selection. Beer on tap. Red and white wines available at the restaurants and the buffet. The coffee bar near the pool was a god-send. Tea, coffee, espresso, cappuccino… and it was always open. I became addicted to cuban coffee.

Excursions: As they`re all controlled by the government, there’s no shopping around for the best deal when it comes to getting out. We went on the 69$ Catamaran tour which included open bar, two snorkeling sessions, a couple of hours on Playa bonita and an amazing seafood lunch. Two words of caution though, if you’re prone to motion sickness you might want to re-thinking being on a boat all day. Also, Playa Bonita is very beautiful, but there’S a lot of garbage that washes on shore and along with that is tar. I had tar all over the bottom of my feet from walking up and down the beach. Fortunately rubbing a little sunscreen on it helped to wash it off (the oil in the sunscreen works as a remover). We also did the day trip to Camaguey for 45$. This was definitely money well spent. Our guide was wonderful, we visited a cigar and a rum factory, a local market, the old city centre, a church, got to do some shopping (but shopping in Cuba is limited at best), a great lunch and an open air concert.

Nightly entertainment: We saw three of the shows when we were there and they were all good. Lots of music, skits, dancing, acrobatics etc. The Animation staff are amazing. I don’T know where they find the energy.

The disco: If you’re with Go Travel you get in for free. Otherwise cover is 5$ and it’s open bar. The animation staff (who work all day) turn up for dancing and they make sure people get out on the floor. The music was a good mix of cuban stuff as well as popular dance tunes from home.

A word on shopping: Your best bet for souvenirs is what the vendors bring to the resorts, if you’Re looking for stuff other than rum, coffee and cigars. There wasn’t a lot in terms of t-shirts or hats. Lots of island jewelry, but nothing really fancy. If you buy art (as in a painting that is 30cmX30cm or a sculpture taller than 30Cm) make sure you get an export paper from the vendor otherwise the cubans won’t let you take it out of the country.

The crowd: My friend and I are both 26. We found the crowd tended to be 40s and older, though there were some younger people from the University set. Lots of people from Quebec, some from Ontario, quite a few Italians and Germans as well. Not a lot of children. They tended to be at the Brisas next door.

In a nutshell then, the Gran Club is a great place if you’re looking to relax and soak up the sun. I won’t go back to Santa Lucia only because I want to see other parts of the island, not because I was dissatisfied with the services or the resort itself. Don’t be put off by the ***1/2 rating. According to a long term resident of the resort, that’s only because the standard rooms are a bit of a walk (like 5 minutes) from the beach. We did walk over and look at the Brisas and thought we had the better deal. As for Cuba in general, it’s a fantastic place and I can’t wait to return next year. The beaches alone, compared to what I’ve seen in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, are worth a visit and you won’t find a more friendly people.

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Johane ~ Canada

March 2005

Windy, Windy….is the first word that comes to my mind. We arrived on February 18 and left on the 24. The weather 28-31 each day. GEORGOUS. But it’s very windy. That’s good if you want to have a great tan because you won’t feel the sun heat. The water (I didn’t swim: too much algues). I preferred other Cuba beaches (Varadero, Holguin). The sand…I have seen nicer in Varadero and Holguin.

The standard room #1105 was very standard…I could hardly wash myself in the small shower. I brought Citronelle with me and used it because few ants were running on the bathroom floor. As for the pillows, they are very tiny (I asked for 2 mores). We tried to have a suite in the 200 but they refused and said that the hotel was fully booked.

The meals was great though (Italian Chef). Always pasta, pizza, fish, etc.

We took the Catamaran Tour which is memorable (great day). We snorkled, ate huge Langouste at the Playa Bonita (which is 100 times more beautiful than the Santa Lucia Beach) and laid down on the beach for few hours. This tour worth the 69 $.

We also took the Coco Beach Trip which was great because of the people we were with. We took the train from the Gran Club and went on Coco beach. There, we were greated with a drink and artisan were selling things. Then we ate at the Grand Restaurant (Langouste) and it was very good.

Then we came back with the little train, and it’s the time I preferred…people on our train were very funny, and we laughed. We were with people staying at the Brisas Hotel and everybody said that the meals was not great. So the next day, they all came at Gran Club for dinner. Unfortunately, I missed them, I got sick (diarrhee/tourista).

Be prepared if you go there…..people at the Buffet Restaurant hardly smile, compare to Holguin. Except for our waitress, who reserved our table at each meal (either by placing banana on the table or on placing her purse on the chair). She was great.

The exchange rate was .77 (100 $ = 77 $ cuban convertible peso). The entertaining Staff was great (smiling and intentionate). The site is very clean. Pink Flamingo, paons, ducks and birds are always on the site (I feed the pink Flamingo each morning).

I had a nice vacation but will not return, and this probably because of the room we had (I am used to better – even if it’s standard).

An important thing: it’s full of mid-60 Italian people (so beware when they entered the Buffet) they ate like pigs and run for plates as soon as they enter. We met great people…but we are 40 and 45 and most of them were older than us.

I hope my comments will help and I also hope I wrote well….I am French speaking.

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Marc and France ~ Ottawa, Canada

February 2005

"Follow me, follow me, Club Santa Lucia". If you’ve been there before, you’ll recognize the lyrics… If you are going there, get used to them now, because you will hear them often once you arrive! My fiancee and I spent the week of Feb. 05 to Feb. 12 at the Gran Club. For the price we paid, we have no real complaints, and like most others who’ve commented before, were quite satisfied with what we got.

Travelled with GoTravelDirect, which turned out to be a slight misnomer of a tour company name since — on top of the 1.5 hour delay — we had to basically "taxi" 25 people to Puerto Plata, DR, before making our way to Cuba. The short end of it is that by the time we got off the ground in Monteal at 11.15 p.m., made our way to the DR, deplaned for 45 minutes or so, got back on, flew into Camaguey, cleared customs, got luggage, boarded bus and arrived at the resort, it was 9 a.m. the next day. Quite a travel day to say the least, but we had plenty of time to catch up on rest by the pool and on the beach. Will be contacting GoTravel to see if might expect any kind of restitution for our troubles.

The resort itself is not quite as pristine as some have made it out to be. The immaculately kept grounds are more along the lines of dry shrubs and burnt grass. Nonetheless, the gardners are always hard at work trying their best to make the place look nice. Give them a dollar every now and then, and you’ll see just how appreciative Cubans are when they receive a tip they really aren’t expecting.

Here’s a breakdown of what we thought of all aspects of the resort:

Room: Stayed in a Junior Suite, not too far from the pool area and buffet. If your intention is to skip the nightly entertainment and go straight to bed, would recommend that you try to get yourself a room as far away from the pool as possible, otherwise you might as well go watch the show since you hear it perfectly from the room anyway. We had a nice living room area with couch, chairs, mini fridge and tv, and separate sleeping area with 2 three-quarter beds. A little tight to sleep together, but it’s do-able nonetheless. Bathroom is quite basic, except there’s only a shower — no bath — and hot water is sporadic so our weekly routine was to get wet, stop the water and soap up, wash off and get out.

Pool: For most of the week the pool was c-c-c-cold. Very few people got in, and even less sat around the pool bar to enjoy their drinks. Nonetheless, it’s fairly big, and very clean. With warmer water, I could see the pool bar being the place to be.

Beach: Quite nice. Sand not as ‘flour-y’ as in Varadero, but still, when the alternative is to be at home shovelling the driveway, it’s not difficult to enjoy. Hardly any waves due to the massive coral reef off shore… Still, some decent snorkeling can be done right off the beach, especially around the restaurant that juts out about 100 meters into the ocean. We only really had one perfect beach day while we were there, other days were quite windy, so it got chilly when the clouds hid the sun. Water is a little frigid when you first get in, but after 3 minutes it feels quite warm. A few weeds, but nothing of concern.

Restaurants: The buffet is like most all-inclusive buffets, with your standard cafeteria food. Plenty of variety to mix it up during the week though. At times some of the food had very little taste (bland is the common Cuba refrain), but for the most part, pretty good. Breakfast salvation came about 3 days before we left when we discovered the nutella. Nice touch. Beach grill serves up hot-dogs, hamburgers and fries all afternoon, which fills the spot for lunch if you want to get away from the buffet. Did not go to the Cuban a-la-carte restaurant, so cannot comment. Went to the pizzeria twice, and both times dinner was great. We practically had the whole place to ourselves both times, so it was nice and relaxing to not have to rush through dinner. The seafood restaurant off the beach was delightful (though a little chilly at 7.30 p.m.) They jump into the water and grap your lobster from right under the restaurant then cook it up for you. Served with seafood spaghetti and followed up with a Sundae for dessert. Complimentary wine with dinner too. Beware though, this restaurant is not part of the all-inclusive package. It’s an extra $25 per person, but well worth it (especially if the missus is clamouring for a romantic dinner!)

Bars: There are only two — one at the pool, the other at the beach. Both were quick, although it’s not too tough to comply with my requests — cerveza por favor! Tough to get a smile out of some of the staff, but that’s only a minor irritant. There’s also a cappuccino bar, which for coffee drinkers is a nice place to stop into after dinner.

Excursions: Our only real, solid complaint, although by the sounds of it we just had bad luck on the day we chose for our catamaran trip. Would suggest that you confirm with the tour operator when they come to pick you up at the hotel that the weather is adequate for snorkelling and a day on the boat. We ended up having to forego the morning snorkelling session because the waves were too big, and instead got dumped on some beach for 5 hours. They call it Playa Bonita, and perhaps it is bonita at some moments, but when we were there, there was nothing bonita about it. Lots of garbage (on the shore and in the water), no toilet seats or doors on the bathroom (not much of a problem for the men, but a little disgusting for the women). Ended up complaining to our GoTravel tour rep. who arranged for us to get reimbursed $69, or the cost for one person. At least they acknowledged their mistake in bringing us out when clearly they shouldn’t have. Again though, others who went on other days said it was great, so we may have just been a little bad lucked.

Entertainment: Great. The staff is really into it, and all of them go out of their way to get people involved in the fun. Lots of dancing. Always music playing at the beach and the pool. Plenty of activities and tournaments (darts, archery, volleyball, spanish lessons, dance lessons, water polo, aqua gym, aerobics)… Always something going on. As for the nightly show, we didn’t stay too often. Take the time to go down to the stage area at about 9 p.m. though and watch the Cubans do their thing to the live music. They can really move and groove. It’s quite impressive, and infectious. Hard not to tap your foot and even jump up and jump in.

Things to remember: Tipping is not an obligation, but it is a nice way to show your appreciation. That being said, we got the distinct impression that the animation staff weren’t lacking for anything, especially when we saw some of them with sparkling watches and cell phones. Of course this is not an indictment, but rather a reminder that some of the other staff need the tips more than others. Gardners for one, cooks for another. Fiancee brought down plenty of beauty products for the maid, and I brought a few baseballs which people seemed to appreciate far more than any dollar we could give them. Sometimes there’s far more value in giving them something material instead of money. And speaking of money, you’ll need to exchange your canadian dollars at the airport or at the hotel once you arrive. There’s isn’t much difference in the exchange rate. $120 Canadian gave us about $88 convertible pesos (basically the same value as changing Canadian $$$ for american). On the way home, if you need to change your extra pesos, you’ll receive american $$ for them… something about trying to get all the greenbacks off the island. Suggest also that you bring the big insulated travel mugs. So much more convenient than the little dinky plastic cups they give you. Also, remember that you’ll need to put down a $25 deposit for the room safe as well as $15 per beach towel.

Bottom line is that if you’re looking for luxury, you might want to consider some of the more common Cuban destinations. If you want value for money, i.e., you want to travel on the cheap, but still have a good time, then this is definitely a worthwhile area to visit.

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Catherine & Fiona ~ Canada

February 2005

I went with my daughter … our shared goals for this vacation were "drink, book, beach, sun" .. we brought our own books (and left behind the ones we finished along with soap, toothpaste, shampoos, clothing)

Our week was all we hoped for and more …. I had been led to believe that the food might not be wonderful .. a little heavier (oily) and more starchy than my usual fare but I am not into gourmet dining so it was fine .. I am not "into" fish so my protein selections were a bit limited .. there is virtually no beef, the lamb was close to being mutton but the pork and chicken and turkey were all tasty

Our in-room fridge did not work well, the toilet handle broke but was fixed promptly, the standard room was perfectly adequate as we had no intention of spending a lot of time there …

The beach was perfect, enough loungers for all. The water was crystal clear and interesting snorkelling could be done from shore …. the better snorkelling was at the reef where they caution you to stay on the inside of the reef but when we went on the trip to the reef, it was not low tide and the sea was calm and I ended up on the sea side of the reef where the corals and fish are a bit more interesting but the sea can be quite rough and when it is you do NOT want to be on the sea side of the reef with the boat on the inside of the reef

all in all, very good value for the money … I thought that it looked nicer than Brisas for wandering around the grounds … I thought the room number markers (fanciful clay fish with human-like faces) were delightful ..

as soon as I got back, I started looking up when the next openings were ….

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Heather from Ajax

January 2005

We have just returned after spending one week (Jan. 21 – Jan. 28) at the Gran Club Santa Lucia in Cuba. What a wonderful time my husband and I had at this resort. Thanks to the couple of reviews posted on this web site we felt we had picked the right place for us. This resort is posted as a 3 1/2 star, and after visiting it’s neighbor "The Brisas" which is listed as a 4 star; We felt we had the better.

The Brisas in comparison: Too many people which the end result is "line ups"
We had the fortunate opportunity one afternoon while walking around Santa Lucia to meet a waiter working at the Brisas. He told us their busiest time is from the end of January through to April, and the capacity of this hotel is 800 to 600. Meaning, there are 6 hundred workers trying to please eight hundred guests. Their grounds are immaculate just as the Gran Club.

Our resort The Gran Club Santa Lucia as mentioned in the above line has extensive plantation surrounding it’s grounds. This resort is absolutely beautifully decorated with roses, hibiscus’s hedges, and colorful greenery that attracts humming birds. The grounds are well maintained by the gardeners who are up early in the morning raking and pruning everyday. For the plants that didn’t survive, they are replaced immediately. This is an oasis in a desert!

The buffet food: We have no complaints. But, for those who are a no carb intake your out of luck. The buffet is mostly vegetables with a couple of platters of chicken, pork, sometimes beef, and of course pizza. There is a chef that will make pasta for you, and another chef that will grill fresh fish, pork chops, and beef. They have a salad bar which serves several different types, or you can create your own. For breakfast my husband likes his bacon crispy, and he found it to be under cooked to his liking. So, he had the grill chef to cook it more while he was making an omelet for him. Fresh fruit at every sitting! We were in heaven! Papaya, pineapple, bananas, grapefruit, dragon fruit, and oranges. We don’t get these that taste this fresh, and Good! The deserts truly looked delicious, I can’t comment too much on them as I only tried a couple…..honest! But, what I did have were good. Now! You can’t leave without trying their ice-cream! That is to die for.

A la Carte restaurant: You need to book this included feature during breakfast time which is set up at the doors to the buffet restaurant.

Our room: We had a standard room across from the reception part of the resort. Which means we had a bit of a walk to the beach, and the pool. We didn’t mind, as we sure needed the walk after all that we ate. We had a fridge to keep our bottle water cold, and whatever else you might tuck under your shirt from the buffet…..shhh! The T.V. worked very well, and we watched CNN everyday just to remember the weather we left, and what we had to come home to. Bugs? Well, yes, I did see ants which we brought in on ourselves, the odd beetle, and those funny looking water bugs. But, what do you expect? This is the tropic’s. I did not see any cockroaches not like we had when we visited Florida. The rooms are kept immaculate. Our maid not only cleaned the rooms, she cleaned the outside including washing the walkway and windows which meant hanging out the above windows to do so! No Occupational Health and Safety program in this country.

Bars: We had no problem getting what we wanted at any time. All bars were up and running, and we got to know most of the bartenders who sometimes also work in the restaurants. We never seen them ignore the children as posted in one review.

Swimming pool: Clean, and refreshing! But, after a few drinks you won’t even notice how cool it is, and the children they adapt in any temperature of water.

Hot Tub: Yes, they have a hot tub, and it is emptied every morning and scrubbed clean.

Beach: This beach we found to be the best of all the resorts in the area including the Brisas. It is kept cleaned by hand raking, and the sand along the water edge is grated by a tractor that removes the seaweed and unwanted debris. I agree with the recent review not to sit under the coconut trees. They do tend to drop over ripe coconuts on unsuspecting persons. There are shade huts, but one has to be early to reserve these. The resort has two paddle boats, two catamarans, and two canoes for your use. For those who are sensitive to parcial nudity – find another country to visit.

Excursions: They do not take U.S. dollars, only CUC pesos which equal the U.S. dollars.
Rancho King – horse back riding that includes watching a rodeo, a ride through a village and a real Cuban meal. Cost is 31 dollars pp
Coral tour – cost is 20 dollars pp
Catamaran – includes snorkeling with open bar on board, and lunch on a deserted island. Cost is 69 dollars pp.
Flamingo Tour – A day on a boat to Iguana Island where you will see pink flamingos in the Nuevitas Bay. Lunch and drinks on board. Cost is 53 dollars pp.
Camaguey – 3rd city of Cuba, and a chance to visit a rum factory, and spend some pesos at the local market. Lunch is included. Cost is 45 dollars pp.
Deep Sea – Open bar on board, and four hours of fishing. Cost is 51 dollars pp.
Santiago Overnight – 2nd largest city in Cuba to visit and stay at the Melia, a 5 star hotel. Have a swim with the dolphins plus 4 meals are included. Cost is 169 dollars pp. They also offer an overnight in Havana.

I can not comment on these excursions, as we stayed at our resort, and explored on our own.

I found these tips helpful from other reviewers:

Bring your own mugs, as they keep cold drinks cold, and your hot drinks hot. The resort uses glass, or plastic cups. Take your own beach towels. The towels they give you comes with a charge of 10 dollars which is refundable only if you still have the towel, and the slip of paper that goes along with it. It is the same for the safety deposit key – Don’t loose the slip of paper! Exchanging Canadian Funds – This can be done at the airport which can be very frustrating waiting in line. You will need your passport to do this, and for some reason it takes them so long to complete the transaction. Or, you can wait and do this at the resort. Word to the wise; just exchange enough money that you know you’ll use because the resort will not exchange pesos back to Canadian Funds. And, at the airport they try to give you back American dollars.

Room Keys – ask for two because you need to keep one in the slot to work your hot water tank, and the air conditioner. Believe me, you will run out of hot water after one shower if you don’t!!

Weather was great! But, on this side of Cuba the breeze is strong, be prepared to keep applying sunscreen because with this breeze you will not feel the heat of the sun. And, before you know it – your cooked! During the day we had the temperature in the 80’s, but at night it gets quite cool, so make sure you take along a warm sweater. This is Cuba’s winter.

Tipping – Please do so! We tipped the bartenders, maids, restaurant workers on a daily basis. These people work 8 hours a day three weeks in a row, and make the equivalant to 10 U.S. dollars a month. So, one dollar a day for each of these workers will go a long way, and the smile on their faces will be remembered for a long time. Just think of it this way – You look after them, and you will be guaranteed to have a great time!

Some people like us brought a suitcase full of things to hand out. Like shampoo, makeup, toiletries, pens, paper, crayons, and clothing including shoes that we no longer want. These people are happy to receive this extra gifts. Although, most of the workers are doing better than others that are not working at the resorts. Some will share with their neighbors, and others might sell them on the side. It’s no different than buying things at a Goodwill store. We found out their government looks after them quite well. They have all their medical, dental paid for, and they also receive food stamps. No one goes hungry. They don’t have the luxcuries as we have, and are use to. One look at what they live in, and you will understand.

Do not be afraid to walk around outside of the resort, you will meet some of the nicest people with smiles that are brighter than the sun. They are very proud of their surroundings, and will not hesitate to invite you in to meet their family. They do not hassle you! We’ve been to Mexico, and one foot off the resort there, and you are surrounded by them trying to sell you something.

Take a horse and buggy ride for 5 dollars pp, or take the little train for 2 dollars pp around Santa Lucia. Or, do both!

Animation Team – We seen only one show, and we enjoyed it. These workers also teach the dance lessons on the beach, and will have a few games for those who want to join in.

Negative – They think us Canadians are all French speaking, so their English isn’t the best. The week we were there, I think most of Quebec was also there! We found only a few workers that spoke the English tongue.

Cigars – Watch out! If they are not government approved cigars be prepared to have them confiscated at the airport! You must have documention from the vendors. Buyer Beware!

Enjoy Cuba! We did, and are planning on a second trip next year! To this resort? Hopefully! Our luck, they will increase the stars to 5 after a few of these reviews!

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Linda ~ Toronto

January 2005

We have just returned from spending one week at the Gran Club Santa Lucia, Cuba. We were there from Friday January 14 and returned Friday January 21, 2005. We are a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children, aged 10 and 14). We booked last minute and originally were to stay at the Brisas, next door. Two days before leaving we were informed that due to overbooking we were to stay at Gran Club, next door and were upgraded to a junior suite with a partial ocean view. We were not impressed by this development, and after trying to find some reviews of the resort (which are almost non-existent) we didn’t know what to expect. It was either go or lose the money. We arrived noon on Friday and although the bus ride is long, it was comfortable and cool. We arrived at the resort and were shown directly to our room. The junior suite was very clean and spacious. One kid slept on a day bed and the other on a trundle bed that originally was underneath the day bed. They loved it because they had their own room with the T.V. My husband and I slept in the other room, so we had some privacy. The bathroom was spacious and always kept very clean. The only problem was no face cloths. But we were warned of that, so we brought our own.

The resort was always kept clean and the gardeners were always watering the plants and raking up the leaves. The resort has alot of flamingos and pheasants roaming around which were very amusing to watch. The pool was great (except the temperature was alittle cool). All of the islands do not heat their pools so we were ready for the shock of the first dip. They even have a slide which my kids had a great time with. The swim up bar was an everyday happening for them. The bartenders sometimes ignored the kids when they went by themselves for something to drink, so either my husband or I would go with them. LOTS OF BEER! The other drinks were okay, but I have had better on some of the other islands that we have visited. The food was good and plentiful. Lots of island fish and papaya. The grill was always excellent and the pasta bar was a favourite of the kids. It was always made fresh. The desserts were not the greatest, but usually by that time were we all full. We stayed with the buffet restaurant because my kids are picky eaters. The animators (the activity people) were great. They always got people to participate in many activities. We tried everything! Archery, tennis, ping-pong, pool,darts,dancing lessons, spanish lessons, games at happy hour, and beach volleyball. They have an activity that will appeal to everyone. The shows were not that great, and usually occurred at 10p.m. A little late for the kids and sometimes for mom and dad too!

The weather was sunny, but alittle cool and lots of wind. We tried snorkeling, but the ocean was too cold for the kids. We also went on the flamingo tour which was all day on a catamaran. We saw the flamingos and had lunch on Iguana Island. It was $56convertable pesos (1CP equal to 1$US) and were to do a half a day of snorkeling on the reef, but the wind was so strong and 4 foot swells that no way were my kids (who are experienced snorklers) going in. Only a few adults ventured in but they did not last more than 5 minutes. It was nice to get out of the resort for a day and see some of Cuba.

The beach was excellent, clean and white. Just watch those palm trees and try not to sit underneath them. There are quite a few ripe coconuts on them and one woman was knocked on the head by a large palm branch falling.

We took little gifts for the maid and each day I would put some on my son’s pillow and she would thank us by creating animals out of our towels and decorating them with fresh flowers. I have been to many islands, but this has to be the poorest that I have seen. We also took down some of our clothing that we have outgrown. She was certainly appreciative of our gifts. The dollar store is a great place to stock up on soap, hair barrettes, toothpaste and brushes, candy, pens, pencils, paper and kids toys. Our luggage was packed and heavy going down, but was really light coming back.

We all had a great time at this resort and are thinking of sharing it with another family next year. It was the cheapest vacation and the nicest that we have had.

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Gran Club Santa Lucia Sandy ~ Ontario, Canada

January 2005

Some tips if you are travelling to Santa Lucia – Gran Club.

Just returned from a week at the Gran Club Santa Lucia (Dec 27 to Jan 3/05) Initially we booked with Brisas which is next door, but due to overbooking (no room in the INN for 2 of us) we moved to the Gran Club so we could all be together…There are pros and cons to both hotels but I think we got the better deal by moving to the Gran…See review under Brias for more info..

I hope this review will be informative for you..as there are not many reviews on this hotel…it is lengthly as I wanted to capture everything but I have provided TIPS for each topic.

Background My husband and I (in our late 30s) and our 2 kids age 10 and 13, as well as my mom and my aunt vacationed here.

We have all travelled throughout the Carribean including Cuba, however this is the first time we have taken the kids.

Accommodations
We were lucky enough to have beachfront villas ( # 219 and 347) with an excellent view of the ocean. The Jr suite has 2 3/4 beds and a pull out sofa bed with a separate sitting area with a table and 2 chairs, TV, coffee table, make up mirror and table/chair. The room was very roomy and clean. The bathroom had a bidet, toilet and newer shower (we had problems with being out hot water ..no hot water after the 2nd shower) The room in general was very clean. Maids came daily to bring fresh towels and make up the beds. Every day there was a new animal made out of the towel.

The rooms that are not beach front are very basic and located across the small road. These are very basic and not as nice. There is a safe available for a deposit of $25.00 that you will get back when you check out.

Towels are available for a deposit of $15.00 refundable when you check out.

They have a gift shop where you can buy trinkets/rum/t-shirts however they do not have some of the basics ie tylonel, sanitary napkins so make sure you stockup on these before you leave home

TIP# 1 – bring extra role of toilet paper….they are skimpy on it
TIP# 2 – ask for extra room key so you can leave it in the slot that keeps the AC and lights running.

The Pool
The pool was very clean and well situated. The pictures in the brochure do not do it justice. There is a swim up bar. My only complaint about the pool was that it was only 24 degrees which was very cold on overcast days. The Bars – Here is where there is room for improvement. The Swim up bar was the ONLY bar open every day….There was a beach bar that was only open 2 days wwe were there due to windy beach conditions. the bar at the snack bar was only open sometimes for beer.

They really need to have more bars open, as sometimes there was line ups. They had vodka, whiskey, gin and lots of rum. They do not have diet or light pop. The drinks were OK but if you are looking for nice blender drinks, you will not find them here. They do have fancy cuban type coctails, but no blender drinks. The beer is Crysal or Buccaneer and was Ok. There is no wine at the bar and it closes at 11:00 most nights. On the second last day I noticed some real bananas at the bar and asked for a banana blender drink and after some coaxing I got a great tasting daquary. I gave him $2.00 and after that he said if I bring him bananas fromt he buffet that I could get more…

TIP # 3 – Make friends with the bartenders and you will have GREAT service..do not wait until the last day to tip!!!! $1.00 is alot of $$ to them.

Cuban Peso and tipping We converted out Can $$ to Cuban Convertible Peso (CCP) at the airport. You can also do this at the resort. 1 CCP is abut the same as an ammerican $$. This is what they are using instead of the american $$. Cubans do not use this to buy things. They need to convert it to their peco which is worth much more than the CCP.(1 CCP = 27 of the normal Cuban Peso) We did tip where we thought we got good service. We left the maid shampoo, nail polish, etc..which we left on the pillow. I tipped the bar tender for the banana drink and also another bar tender who looked after the kids and us very well

TIP # 4 – If you want to buy something at the airport ie. beer or t-shirt they only take CCP, Mastercard or American $$. They DO NOT take Canadian $$ at the airport.

Internet Services – available for $5.00 hr. There are 2 computers that are fairly slow.

The Beach – this is one of the great features. It is beautiful white sand and the water is crystal clear. There is sea grass that washes up but is cleaned up many times throughout the day. There are 2 vballnets, 2 catamarans, a couple paddle boats and even on paddle boat with a slide. there is a beachh bar and grill that is only open when the weather permits. It was only open 2 days we were there!!!There is snorkel equipment available. We snorkelled with the kids by the pier and we saw blow fish, angel fish and sword fish that were very cool!! You can book a snorkel trip but they go weather permitting. Horseback riding on the Beach This was the highlight of our trip. My daughter and I went every day with the fellow on the far side of the Brias – not the one of the far side of the Gran. His horses were well taken care of and he spoke English. Every day we went to see different sights ie the beach, the woods, the town and the flamingo islands.

My daughter and I are experienced riders and he let us canter and run as much as we wanted. My son (who does not ride ) also came with us one day and he tied the small horse to the guide so he would be safe. Most days it was just myself, my daughter and the guide. We took the horses bananas every day and they loved them. I tipped the guide becasue he was wonderful an very hard working. I trusted him to take my daughter when I did not go.

Restaurants We only ate in the buffet restaurant and the snack bar. You could book in the Cuban ala carte in the AM, but we never went there. The Pizzaria was not open when we were there. The snack bar was open for lunch but only from 12 til 4 and served frenchfries, hamburgers and hotdogs. They also had sandwiches and fruit there. The buffet restuart was excellent and always had a great variety. Breakfast – Great variety, omlet grill, my son says they had the best tasting OJ and banana smoothies ever!!! Lunch – Excellent variety including a pasta bar, fish, cheicken and every day pizza. You have to eat in here and can not take food out and you must wear shoes and cover up or shirt. Dinner – Again excellent variety and great tasting food. pizza every night , about 3 – 4 choices of meat on the grill, pasta bar, salades and desserts..something for everyone. You could get wine and beer during lunch and dinner in the buffet . You can also book the ala carte seafood restaurant that is at the end of the pier. We did not go there but heard it was excellent for lobster and seafood. TIP # 5 – Watch the hamburgs from the grill..sometimes they are under cooked TIP # 6 – Banana smoothies and freshly squeezed OJ is the best for breakfast. TIP # 7 – Take some ends of the loaves of bread and feed the flamingos, ducks , peacocks and fish at the pier.

TIP # 8 – If you go riding take some bananas to feed the horses. I also took the guide some food and a soda. He was very thankful.

Grounds
Very well kept with beautiful flowering shrubs. Gardeners are always raking and watering to keep think nice. There are peacocks, flamingos, and ducks wandering the grounds. There are also small flowing ponds that add a nice touch to the grounds.

Activities/Excursions offered 1) Kids Club – my son participatd in this some days but there really was not alot going on for the kids. One day there was an artist there and the kids drew pictures and he helped them. One day they went on the train/bus to the town for a tour and at the end of the day they play games and have a party. 2) Train/Bus that goes to Santa Lucia – 1 hr this is an hr tour into Santa Lucia…there is no guide or anyone talking so you have no idea what you are seeing etc..but it does give you an idea of what the town looks like ie. goes past the school but no one tels you this is the school. It does not stop anywhere in town and cost $2.00. 3) Carriage ride For $20.00 the 4 of us toured the town and surrounding area of Santa Lucia by horse drawn carriage. The driver spoke some English and showed us around. 4) Coco Beach – is about 15 minutes away and a beautiful secluded beach. You can go by taxi, carriage or scooter here. We did not go but heard it was lovely. 5) Bikes – we attempted to go for a bike ride and did make it into the small town, however, the bikes are not in the best shape so if you attempt this, be prepared for a very slow and painful ride!! there do not have helmets but do have bikes of all sizes. These are free 6) Scooter rental – $7.00 hr We did not do this but you could rent a scooter for $7.00. I heard of scooters breaking down and getting flats. 7) Animation team The animation team works very hard form morning to night. They start in the AM at 8:00 and work until after midnight teaching dance lessons, playing vball, organizing games and entertaining at night. Most of the young kids are very genuine, however, some have a hidden agenda….so if you have teenage daughters or are a woman travelling alone, be very careful as they tend to gravitate to the single and young women…. New Years Eve Dinner and show – was Excellent!! The dining room was transformed into a 5 star dining room with special entrees, desserts, roast pig and sculptures for the occasion. The New Years Eve show in the evening was spectacular with some of the best dancing I have ever seen in the carribean. At midnight they launched a huge fireworks show. It made the night very special. 8) Evening entertainment This was pretty much the same night after night..if you are not a dancer you will find this very repetative, however the live band is very talented and provides excellent cuban music. The animation team dances with all the young girls and single women from about 9:00 – 10:00. At 10:00 the show stars and goes until 11:00. This part is different every night and ranges from fashion show to to Mr. Santa Lucia to the best couples (if you hear these words head for the bar!!) Most shows were very funny but some were a little cheezy. The dancers are very talented and work very hard. The MCs speak 4 different languages so things tend to drag on and on…

TIP # 9 – The evenings got very cool and I did not take enough long sleeves of sweaters. There seems to be a cool breeze in the evening so be prepared to dress warm if you stay for the show.

The weather
Out of the 7 days we were there we had 2 days with no or little sun. the rest of the days were party sunny. It rained every day but not for long and evey day it was VERY windy!!! and the wind carried on until the evening.

I would say that 50% of the people vacationing at the resort were french speaking Canadians, 30% were German and the other were Spanish. The resort is Italian owned and has just switched owners which may be why it seems to be not running at capacity.

Hope this helps..pls email me at NHEckert@AOL.Com if you would like to see pictures or have any other questions.

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Mandy, Melissa, Betty & Jaymie

February 2005

we flew by kelowna air ..flight was ok..hot meals served..nice for a change. flight was changed last minute..time and a extra stop in varadero..most people were not impressed

the hotel is very old and the rooms are in need of a major overhaul…we had mold in or room and my nieces referred to the bedding as kleenex for sheets and bedspread as a tarp…the entertain ment was the same every night. the beach was good with a pier that had hammocks on it..no food served there

kids club was not the greatest….it had one thing outside of the pingpong table which was a little tike play house and that was it. my daughter who was 6 1/2 was not impressed and needless to say never went back again

food: lots of mystery meat…no signs to tell what is was…hotel food seem to cater to italians and germans mostly…..

there are no scooters to rent at all…we rented a very small compact car which cost $140.00 can for 24 hours….really not worth it to be honest.

this resort is rated as a 3 star but i have been all over cuba to many 3 star resorts and this is not at all a 3 star i would give it 1 1/2.

they offer you another beach to go to 1 peso each way by a motorized train….it would take about 1/2 hour to get there on a dirt road with lots of pot holes…..it is not worth it….very dirty beach.

if it was not for the staff at the hotel mainly michael action…this holiday would of been the ultimate worst…also no disco at this resort and the bar closes at 11:00…so any young or old travellers who like to party and dance this is not the resort.

the brisas and the caracol are much better choices….

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia The Adams Family

January 2005

We arrived home after two wonderful relaxing weeks of fun and sun on Jan 15 2005. We had stayed at Club Santa Lucia in March 2004, and then we chose Club Amigo Mayanabo, for this trip, it was great also.

The staff were outstanding, they went out of their way to make our stay enjoyable, the rooms are smaller than Club Santa Lucia, however the atmosphere was what made our holiday complete.

The only problem I had were the tiles around the whole pool and hotel, when wet are very dangerous, please keep that in mind when walking any where when it has rained or water has accumulated on the tiles.

The pool was very well maintained by the best pool man in all of Cuba, Osbany, he was fantastic, he worked from 5 am until dark every day keeping everything neat and clean, and the water was salt free, and the pool has been redone in the last few years.

The food was excellent, we have been to Cuba 11 times now and it is getting better and better all the time, if you want good healthy food, there was an abundance of food in the restaurant buffet, the Ala Carte was very good, lots of food, and the chef and staff were superb, and there was also a buffet, hamburgs fries etc right beside the pool that was open all afternoon if you felt a hunger pain.

Everything was close to the pool, area, which is great, however they do need another bartender on at some peak times, people were getting a bit frustrated, at the usual, people butting in and getting served first, but that goes on everywhere.

The beach when we have been there, both times has been very very windy, so windy it was a bit frustrating and annoying to be sitting there sometimes, but it sure beat the snow storms here in Canada so we persevered, the beach bar, was never busy, likely due to the wind factor, but it is very beautiful, and Mario was a great bartender, ask for the Mario special!

We felt very much at home here, we will go back , there was something about this resort, that made you feel very welcome, we walked to Playa Santa Lucia a few times, approx 15 minute walk, and went to the school and met the principal and had a bit of a tour of the school, which was lovely and clean, we took a horse and buggy to Coco Beach, that was also worth the $6 each.

There is a piano bar that starts at 11pm, when that is finished everyone that was young in spirit and didn’t care what the morning looked like, headed over to the disco, (approx a 5 minute walk, between the resorts), for $5 you can drink the rest of the night until morning, that was what we were told, because we are early risers, we never really experienced the late night life, but we seen a few hurting people that had.

In conclusion, if you want an inexpensive, clean, friendly, beautiful, wonderful, experience in Cuba try Club Amigo Mayanabo, it was well worth the price, it was small and intimate, and that is what we like in a resort, nothing fancy, but a very relaxing holiday.

Another great Holiday in Cuba!! Special thanks to Magaly, Annia, for making everything wonderful!

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Pauline — Canada

April 2004

We just got back last night from a wonderful week of sun and beautiful white sandy beaches. We booked through Go Travel for $599 for a week of sun and fun and we got that and more. Prior to departure we read several of the hotel reviews and quite frankly we were afraid of condition of the hotel however upon arrival we were pleasantly surprised. Definitely under rated by some of the guests who were looking for the Ritz. We arrived late at night and the hotel staff greeted us with welcome snack and drinks. The hotel itself is small and inviting. The pool is sparkling clean and the man who cares for it does so with pride and joy. The rooms are clean as a whistle. Not a bug to be seen and trust me we were on alert and well armed with cans of raid. The cleaning staff should be commended for doing such a great job.

A friend of ours stayed in one of the suites. It was huge well worth the extra $10 a night. The suite was a great location for our nightly cocktails parties. The food was fabulous. Plenty of choices with something for everyone and the ice cream is to die for. If you are on the south beach diet you won’t have a problem staying with it. In my opinion the drinks weren’t the best. I found them watered down and tasteless. The mix just isn’t good unless you have a slush machine. An investment in a good slush machine to make better drinks would be a welcome addition.

For $5 per person a horse and carriage ride around Santa Lucia is well worth it. Santa Lucia is like a small picturesque village. For $17 return you can go by carriage to Cocoa Beach and have a yummy lobster dinner at Orlando’s place. Cocoa beach is a hidden treasure. It is about a half hour away from Santa Lucia. Along the way you past the salt marsh and see flocks of flamingo’s what a sight to see. It was really nice to eat at one of the local’s homes. The meal was delicious and the house was spotless. They don’t have much but boy are they happy and proud of what they do have.

The only issue we had with the trip was the late departure from Halifax and the early departure from Cuba we felt we lost out a day. Our plane left Halifax after 6pm and we didn’t get to the hotel until after midnight. On our return we left at 7:45 in the morning and arrived home after 4pm. Most other carriers leave Halifax early in the morning so you arrive before lunch and you don’t leave to come home until late afternoon. A change in the flight time would be the only change we would want for this vacation to be more than perfect.

We would go back and plan to go back next year.

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Paul Family

April 2004

Photos

We traveled April 9th to April 17th from Ottawa with Go Travel Direct via Zoom Airlines and just dealing with these two companies made the vacation worthwhile. Lisa and Gareth were awesome and the airlines were very friendly, the plane was spacious and the food was great as well. We left Ottawa at 6am and we arrived 3.5 hours later (1/2 hour early) and going through customs was well going through customs (about 1 hour). Found our rep immediately and we were on our way to the bus. These was our (myself, my wife and daughter) first time anywhere in Cuba but have traveled to the DR a few times so we came with the proper mindset. The drive from the airport was about an hour 10 minutes and our rep Lisa gave a great Cuba intro while we were offered cold beer or water or Cola, which helped lessen the drive. Upon arrival to the resort check-in went very smoothly only took about 20 minutes and we were off to our room. We stayed in Building 1 and this was perfect, away from all the noise yet it seemed only a quick walk to the pool and beach. The room was basic but very functional nice size so the three of us never felt crowded. Being from Canada and traveling during the hockey playoffs it was nice to be able to catch a few games on the television. The remote control air conditioner was great and being on the first floor the patio was great to dry the "wet stuff", surprisingly the second floor rooms didn’t have a balcony. The resort is laid our so you never felt crowded by people but the resort felt intimate because it was small only 225 rooms. The staff was great, our hats off to and not only including Arias (our chambermaid) who took the time out of her extremely busy and long day to teach my daughter the art of towel folding, Boris (mixes a mean Rum and Lemon) Miguel, Michael and Alex how were all very steady bartenders. The wait staff at the buffet was so attentive; Fidel and his wife were fantastic as well as Felix and Mavis. Our hats off the Santa who worked behind the grill all day. Daniel at the snack bar was the best after one day he always had "the usual" ready as soon as we made it to the grill. The beach was a little different being a coral beach like I have read in other reviews water shoes are a must. Please do not think the beach is terrible because even though it was a little rough on the feet the beach was beautiful. White sand usually gets very hot by midday but the sand stayed cool and there were places especially to the right where the sand had the constancy of talcum powder. There is a nice quaint bar out over the water (only one of the other hotels had this unique feature). One nice surprise was the lack of vendors on the beach, which was a very nice change to the commercialized beaches in the DR and pretty well everywhere else. The vendors setup shop with little tables and you had to approach them to see their wares. We visited all the other resorts and found they were all very nice. All had subtle differences Like Club Caracol seemed a little more modern but had a small pool, Brias was soooo crowded and Club Mayanabo had a large pool and the less crowded beach, so there was a trade off with comparing the resorts in the area (we never went to The Gran). The food was perfect while everything on the menu didn’t suit everyone’s taste there was always something to eat and leave full. The desert area was something homemade ice cream and pastries. My family thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in Playa Santa Lucia while we never made the "bar run" Rumba, Cultural Center and then La Junga (we did make it to Rumba). We did visit the salt factory and visit a day care and do a horseback tour of the area, our snorkeling excursion was cancelled due to high winds (the only day of wind) and the shopping was excellent. In closing for the price $732.00 each and the service from the hotel staff and the travel reps I will be coming back to this resort in a heart beat. Another reason would be just for the people, they may look poor but are so rich in life.

Note: Everyone said to wait unit we got back to the airport to purchase souvenirs but don’t inflated price there especially on liquor and cigars, we found the prices anywhere between 25% to 75% higher then the local stores.

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Karen — Canada

April 2004

My husband and I returned from Club Amigo Mayanabo, Santa Lucia Beach near Camaguey last night April 22/04. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously and plan to return to this resort! One must travel to Cuba with an open mind. You can not be fussy. Things are different there, so don’t expect it to be like home! I am sure we could have found things to complain about but why bother? I was not sure what to expect and was so pleasantly pleased with Club Amigo Mayanabo. It is a perfect 3 star resort! The grounds of the resort were lovely, surrounded by palm trees. The pool was gorgeous and there was a bar by the pool. Sometimes you needed to be patient with the service but you are vacation, chill out and relax. Don’t let little things upset you. The beach was beautiful. A very basic beach bar but it was there! Water sandals are useful as it is a little rough right in front of the resort, however if you walked to the right on the beach the sand was quite smooth. The rooms were very simple, but very clean and lovely and bright. I would bring a pillow next time. We stayed in building 3 which I had heard was not as good as the other 2 buildings. Our room was just fine. Yes, not very sound proof. Bring some earplugs or we discovered just closing your bathroom door helps! The air conditioner will also drown out the sounds from the disco next door. The food was fine. We were always able to find something to eat. There is always rice, pasta, fish, bread and fruit. Loved the bananas! Didn’t really care that I couldn’t have wine with lunch, I had it with dinner. I found the staff quite warm and friendly. Some were better than others but for the most part if you smiled at them or greeted them, they greeted you! It is not a huge party place. Santa Lucia Beach is not really near anything. You can walk to the other few resorts. This is a place for relaxation and rest. The winds were very high but we were told this was not a usual thing. However it would have been very hot without the wind! We had plenty of sunshine! I felt incredibly safe the whole time we were there. We took a horse and cart on a little tour of Santa Lucia and were able to visit a school which was most interesting. We did bring plenty of little gifts; candy, pens and paper for the kids and toiletry items for the adult staff. Even a small cash tip is very much appreciated. The best tip I read via the Internet was to bring an insulated mug. This was a great idea and a must! Loved my coffee on the beach in the morning and then it kept my drinks cold and because they were bigger than the little plastic cups I didn’t have to go to the bar as often! This was my second visit to Cuba and I loved it again. It is a wonderful country!

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Sherry — Canada

April 2004

Hi There,
We just returned home yesterday and while we had a wonderful time it wasn’t due to the resort or the service! I’m confused as to who rated it a 3 to 3 1/2 , depending on where you look. It would rate a 2 in Canada and could be rented hourly…. ahhh…

Upon arrival we were taken to our room ( the first of three!!) and it was absolutely terrible…. the curtains were hanging off the wall, the bathroom was dingy and stained.. too much for me… so we requested a change. Room #2 was almost as bad. The soap had been used, the curtains were half up, half off and the toilet seat was stained and really gross. Room # 3 was better but still didn’t deserve a 3 star rating…think parking garage….concrete pillars…dark…. and the toilet wouldn’t flush… we had to fill it up from the tap.

The beach was okay..you do need beach shoes when the tide changes due to the coral reef….not as nice or as well kept as Veradaro…but they did have lawn chairs and Ricardo was wondeful to set them up and wipe them off.

The majority of the staff were not friendly or helpful….except of course the reception staff..they were great. Expect to serve yourself in the dining room…wait in line at the pool bar ( 1 or 2 bartenders on at a time ) and if you are remotely fussy about what you eat this may be a problem. The dining room recyles everything leftover . Hot dogs ( 2 types) for breakfast lunch and supper, potato chips, rice , beans, pizza and three other choices…usually a potato, peperoni , sliced ham etc. They do have a pasta bar and they make omlets and fried eggs in the morning.

The biggest difference from other resorts we have stayed at was probably the very noticeable presence of hookers….. no not lookers….HOOKERS…available for the guests ! And they were hired and squired about the resort. I found this a little tacky considering it was a family resort.

The biggest plus was of course the price…but I personally didn’t think it worth even that and will not be returning to the area.

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Club Amigo Mayanabo – Santa Lucia Francine — Canada

February 2004

My sister and I went to this all-iclusive in Santa Lucia, Cuba in February 2004. This is a budget hotel run by the Cubans and it shows… The rooms are very basic and they look like a run-down hunter’s shack but after the initial shock when first showed your room, you sort of get used to it. Some people told us that buildings 1 and 2 had better rooms and that our building (# 3) was the ghetto!! The beach is small (although one of the largest of the 4 hotels in the area) but is very nice.You should bring water shoes as the shore is broken-down coral for at least a couple of yards and hurts the feet. It is very weedy also but it is easy to find big areas of weed-free and soft-sand bottom and the water is very warm. We enjoyed the ocean and swam for long hours every day as well as taking advantage of the free water sports (catamaran, sailboats, peddle-boat, etc…) We even saw an ultralight airplane owned by cuban pilots and they seemed to be offering rides to the tourists. There is now a beach bar which you can access by a long jetty and the bar man Miguel is very efficient and nice.

The food was decent with a good choice at almost every meal. The desserts are very good and the home-made ice cream is suberb! What I found most pleasant at this hotel was the possibility of taking long walks on the main road of Santa Lucia thus getting a glimpse of how the Cubans live. I do not think this is hotel for those who are looking for luxury but for those on abudget looking for sun, warmth and a good peaceful vacation this is a good choice as long as you’re gettin a good deal! (this is at most a 2 1/2 *)

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Hotel Ancon – Playa Ancon – Trinidad Morris

April 2005

Ola my vacation reviewers. This is Morris from Montreal again (wrote about Atlantico in Guardalavaca last time.)

This time I went to Hotel Ancon on Playa Ancon in Sancti Spiritus about 1 hours drive from Cienfuegos Airport

I just got back on Thursday April 7th from 2 weeks at Hotel Ancon in Trinidad and it was absolutely wonderful.This hotel is rated 2 1/2 stars but I believe it deserves a star up on this rating .The Brisas is right next door (you can walk over to it from the beach -about 100 yards away) and is rated a star higher but the food is the same (I asked some guests at the Brisas) The architecture is a bit more modern and it is a newer hotel but you also pay a few hundred dollars more. The older section of the hotel (the main building at Ancon) the rooms are a bit small but the bathrooms,air conditioner,beds are all pretty good and they work and who spends time in their room during the day anyway.The newer rooms in the new section are a bit bigger. The weather was 32 Celsius and sunny for all the 2 weeks. The Caribbean Sea is a gorgeous blue green color and warm The Cuban people like I said in my other review are beautiful and genuinely are outgoing and friendly if you only speak them as some of them are shy with tourists but with a little smile you can strike up a warm conversation any time. The city of Trinidad (14 kilometers away and a short 5-7 peso ride) is a charming town with plenty to see and do.The outside bazaars are everywhere and you can get all kinds of handmade goods, from carvings to cotton tablecloths to clothes and of course cigars, hand rolled on the spot or in the box whatever you prefer. I was invited to share a meal at a Cuban’s house and if you accept (I strongly advise you to do this as many tourists do take advantage of some of this Cuban hospitality) and you will have a beautiful and long lasting friendship with the family that invites you to their house).I miss Cuba and it’s people already and I will go back when my next vacation is due. Wishing you all a happy and memorable holiday I will say adios until next time.

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Hotel Ancon – Playa Ancon – Trinidad Maureen

December 2003

This is an older hotel on Ancon beach near Trinidad on the south coast of Cuba. It is said to have been built by the Russians during their time on the island. The hotel is in two parts. The older center part is 6 or 7 floors. On the top floor are several suites.These are shabby but spacious with a huge veranda overlooking the ocean. They are worth asking for tho there is now probably a premium. The other rooms we saw were small and somewhat worn. The food was not very good but we were always able to find something to eat and were never sick. They made a salad from left over fries mayo and peas which was memorably awful. The beach was very good. A bit of a walk and you could have lots of beach to yourself. The guests seemed to be mainly european. The area is wonderful. Rent a little car and spend a day or two driving around. The mountains are very beautiful. The people are shy but friendly and polite. The roads are marked sparingly but there are signs. The city of Trinidad is very close and worth several visits. The hotel is also across the road from the Sunsail charter base and this is why we came here. The sailing in the islands off the south coast of Cuba is amazing. There are almost no other boats except for a few fishing and lobster boats. The navigation is simple line of sight to the next island. We will go back.

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Melia Cohiba – Havana Sharon — UK

May 2004

Here is my review of Melia Cayo Coco (Cayo Coco,) and Melia Cohiba (Havana) both in Cuba.

My party consisted of four girls including myself to which we travelled from the UK in March 2004 for two weeks in wonderful Cuba! We were taking the opportunity to use the "twin center" option, which involved 3 nights/4 days in Havana and the remainder of our holiday at Melia Cayo Coco.

We stayed in Melia Cohiba, a 5 star hotel in Havana city. We had a 1st class stay at this hotel, very clean, luxurious (we had a suite) and very attentive and helpful staff. We ate at the pool bar early evenings and also took advantage of the on-site Italian restaurant. (which is one of three restaurants available).

Havana was a wonderful place and if I returned would spend more time than 4 days to ensure I saw everything to the maximum.

Our internal flight from Havana to Cayo-Coco was a little hairy to say the least, they certainly don’t have the same standards of airline as the UK. It was a twin engine propeller plane that seated approx. 50 people. The seats were torn, the bulkhead vibrated violently and the only air hostess on the plane sat at the back of the plane and had a snooze! I couldn’t wait for the flight to end.

On arrival in beautiful Melia Cayo-Coco, we were delighted with our room. Twin beds, shower, TV everything that you would expect from a 4-5 star hotel. Our room attendant used the bedspreads to make "swans" and bows which were very impressive. The mini bar can be stocked daily, the only disadvantage is you must telephone reception to request this, it is not done automatically. The complex itself is stunning, lots of lush greenery and flowers which the gardeners tended to lovingly everyday striving to keep it all alive in the baking heat. We chatted to one of the gardeners and the next time he saw us, presented us with a bird made from palm leaves with a beautiful flower tucked inside, it was very impressive.

The swimming pool was quite shallow, but it was lovely to have a quick swim to cool down in the heat of the day. Sunbeds around the pool are plenty, and palm trees and umbrellas provide ample shade if required, although sometimes it became difficult to find a bed with shade as they were precious.

The beach was well looked after. On one day some people had small oil spots on the soles of their feet to which the staff were on hand to provide a "cleaning service" to remove it. They immediately appeared with their tractor and sand rake to collect any remaining oil debris. This only happened once in the whole 10 days we were there and suspect it is an isolated incident. Watersports are plentiful from the beach, they provide an hour’s use of a mini Hobie Catamaran (seats 4-5 people) with a sailing buddy free of charge if you book in advance. If you have sailed before, they allow you to take the Hobie out yourself. We took this opportunity to go out to the coral reef, and borrowed snorkel and masks and had a great time.

Water skiing, Mini aeroplane tours, paragliding and microlites are all available.

The food at the hotel was wonderful, they cater for all tastes and there is plenty to choose from at the buffet restaurant. Pasta, fish and chicken was cooked while you wait if required and was always top quality. The staff go out of their way to please and always greet you with a smile and "hola"

There are three other restaurants that you are required to book in advance, and Italian restaurant – good food, but small portions, a Cuban restaurant – mainly seafood (lobster) its a set menu, so if you don’t like seafood then this one isn’t for you and finally the "International" restaurant which we ate in twice because we like it so much….but my favourite always came back to the buffet restaurant.

We chose two tours from this hotel, one was a coach trip to the south coast of Cuba to swim with dolphins, originally it should have been a 1 and half hour flight, but the flights were continuously cancelled, so they changed it to a coach trip. The trip was 4 hours long, but the coach was luxury complete with on-board toilet, fully reclining seats and on board "steward" providing you with drinks. To be honest, I’m glad we took the coach trip as we got to see the real Cuba, which tourists tend to not see, After swimming with the dolphins in the dolphinarium, we were provided with a three course lunch, which was wonderful. All needs were catered for.

Our second trip, was the Jungle Tour. A 30 min coach trip to the north of the Cayo Islands to where you board in twos, your own speedboat. A quick driving lesson later and you are off, follow my leader style to the mangroves where we did snorkeling. The boats were fun, and so easy to drive. Well worth the trip.

Well, what more can i say, we had great food, great people, great weather….all in all a perfect holiday and one which I would definitely do again.

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Melia Cohiba – Havana Adrian, Elena & Fabian — Mexico City

August 2003

Before we get back to Mexico City, we spend 2 nights more in La Habana at Melia Cohiba Habana (we used to so for cigar shopping). We had reservations for Tryp Habana Libre, we changed it because the previous experience. Wrong change, this hotel was the worst. As in all Sol Melia hotels, the registration process was expeditious and clean. The personal was serviceable and friendly. The lobby is very uncomfortable because it’s temperature is almost the same of the street, so you are not going to enjoy the decoration which is very nice. Electric stairs to get first floor was broken.

We were assigned to a room which was located facing the sunset, magnificent landscape, but the temperature were so hot as outside, honest. We put climate to working at maximum capacity, but was the same. We asked for somebody to fix the problem, we treated to open the window, impossible, almost 1 hour later, the technician arrived, they did some adjusts to the machine but without any result; we asked for another room, 30 minutes later we were moved to another room, same floor, same spatial orientation, but good climate. The rooms are a little bit small, the bathroom has separately wc, bidet, sink, and tub and shower, it do not have hairdryer, amenities were scarce. All Sol Melia have 220 volts energy, they uses to put a 110 contact in the bathroom, ours did not work, we needed it to charge our digital camera batteries. After his bad experience we went to the pool, surprise! there were not towels!. We have to take the room’s towels. The day after, there were towels but fabrics were in very bad conditions, one of them were cutter at the mid, so it fitted perfectly to my son (ja-ja)

Not all things were bad. This hotel has the better cigar lounge in Habana, this mean a lot in cigar’s world capital, this is a handsome and elegant bar with a splendid selection of liquors and cigars, this is only comparable to that of the Hotel Hostal Conde de Villanueva (which has the most classical heritage in the matter). The personal there is very serviceable and the barwoman prepare the best Dry Martinis in town. In the first floor they show a great number of works of the best fine painters of the country, we enjoyed it a lot. Buffet restaurant for breakfast was very good, pretty well service and the best mango and orange juice of the island. Room service was efficient and quick, the quickest of all hotels we visited this time.

Overall, we felt this hotel is overpriced, it do not deserve 5 stars, maybe 4 will be fine. It could not be compared to the NH Parque Central, the unique real 5 stars in Habana. We paid 142.00US the night, breakfast included, the child was for free.

We spend very good days in Cuba. Varadero is a beautiful place, but we think Playa Esmeralda in Holguin, has the best beaches in town. We will back to Cuba, without any doubt.

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Marea del Portillo – South Shore Barry — Canada

December 2004

We have just returned from 2 weeks at Marea del Portillo, this being our 8th time there. Obviously we love it. If you are looking for a nice quiet and relaxing vacation at a great price, this little jewel could be for you. The crowd is more 40+ but the few younger ones seem to have a good time also. The rooms are clean but not fancy. The food is very good with lots of it but not too much variety. The beach is black sand and stretches for about 3 km. Their are numerous day trips to be had including horse-back and jeep trips into the Sierra Maestra mountains, boat trips to Cayo Blanco (a small island of white sand), diving, snorkelling, and fishing trips,and Santiago de Cuba bus tours. One of the best things about this resort is the staff. We have made many friends there and visit them in their homes. This is one of the things we really look forward to. If you are looking for endless parties and night life, this resort will not be for you. If you want 5 star meals and rooms, you should look somewhere else. If you want a nice relaxing vacation with great people to look after you and become friends with, Marea could be what you’re looking for.

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Marea del Portillo – South Shore Linda & Steve — Iqaluit, Nunavut

December 2004

Our worldly travel foursome have just returned from a 2 week vacation at the Club Amigo Marea del Portillo on the southern coast of Cuba. Flying from Toronto on Skyservice..(we should have known) the trip began with a 5 hour delay as they did not have a plane for us. With being at the airport 3 hours before our scheduled takeoff and with this delay it cost us basically our first day in Cuba. The 3 hour flight itself was uneventful. Arriving in Manzanillo we boarded our buses for the hour and one half excursion to the resort. This I found very enjoyable as it drove through the south western coastal towns of the Granma region of Cuba, steeped in history from the 1950’s Cuban revolution.

The resort area itself is made up of a 3 star hotel (Marea del Portillo) and an adjacent 4 star hotel (the Farallon del Caribe). Both hotels have their pros and cons, however we preferred the atmosphere of the Marea. (The Marea is a little older and on the beach, the Farallon was newer, a little larger, but was high on a cliff with a long walk down to the shore).

Our rating of the Marea is somewhat as follows:

Room: – clean, 60’s – 70’s style, tv, telephone, air conditioning, maid service, sliding doors to balcony with exit to the lawn and beach. Larger cabanas are available.

Grounds and pool – Grounds was generally well kept and two pools are available.

Food – The menu did not change often, with fish, pork and chicken and varieties thereof being the standard course. Lots of salad and deserts. The bread was always fresh and baked on site. You can also eat at the Farallon by reserving ahead of time. However the food is the same.

Waiters and waitresses – The people were excellent, honest, helpful. Language was always interesting..we stammered in broken Spanish, they in broken English.

Entertainment – There seemed to be something available for everyone. Bingo, dance lessons, band music, disco, scuba training, water aerobics, water polo etc.

Excursions – day trips for deep sea fishing, 4 wheeling through the Sierra Maestra mountains (near the 1950’s rebel stronghold of Fidel), excursions to Santiago de Cuba and trips down the coast for a day on a private island with a lovely coral beach called Cayo Blanco.

Hotel beach – dark volcanic sand common to southern Cuba. Interesting, the beach and resort is on the south coast of Cuba, however the bay points east, giving you beautiful sunrises.

The return home, well yes we made it in time for Christmas however we were caught in the Deceember 23rd sleet storm that grounded flights in southern Ontario. Just a little more airport delays.

There are not very many reviews of this resort. Generally it caters to the 40 to 70 year old age group. Many seniors come for long stays, others return year after year. If you are looking for a 5 star resort, this is not the place to come. If you are looking for a resort with a younger fast pace, this is not for you. However if you are looking for a nice affordable vacation, with morning sunrises from your balcony and a few steps from your room to the beach, then this may be a plesant surprise. Do not come for the food, you will be disappointed. However the beach, the people and the surrpondings seem to be a drawing card for many, and this is what appealed to us. As I said before, a pleasant surprise.

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Marea del Portillo – South Shore Joyce & Ron (Roy!), Ottawa, Ontario

April 2004

Ola to all our Cuban and Canadian friends. My husband and I visited Cuba (Marea del Portillo) for the first time from March 18 to 25th and are looking forward to returning in November. As mentioned in numerous other reviews this little resort is a jewel of the Caribbean. If you enjoy seeing the countryside you will enjoy the 1 ½ hour drive in the air-conditioned bus from the airport and be amazed that your tour guide Dennis can remember everyone’s name within the first 15 minutes of the trip. The rooms are clean and comfortable; food is plentiful, fresh and very tasty. If you are looking for a tranquil, peaceful and enriching vacation without motorised sports and wild parties, this place is ideal. My only complaint was that I was under the impression that wine was included but one could buy a bottle (or two as we did) at the hotel store (for $2.75US) and bring it into the restaurant. Some rooms (not ours) is capable of allowing you to use your own hairdryer so if this is critical to you while on vacation, request a room that has it. A warm hello to our new Canadian friends Ken, Moira, George, Mary, Sandra, Romeo, Vicky and Lyle as well as all the warm and friendly Cubans we met esp Dennis, Maya, David, Ali, just to name a few. The entertainment put on every night was worth the trip alone. I can’t get salsa out of my mind or Roy Orbison for that matter. See you in Nov, Joyce & Ron (Roy!), Ottawa, Ontario.

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Marea del Portillo – South Shore Jeff

February 2004

We spent 2 weeks at the Marea in Dec 2003 and loved it. The staff were wonderful.

It is a no frills place so don’t go with expectations of luxury, but it is clean and the food is good. Not a lot of variety in the food though. I have heard several people complain about the lack of beef but we had lots and it was very good ! Desserts were excellent. The area is wonderful for hiking and site seeing, the locals very friendly. Most of the guests are 50+ yrs Canadian so it is a fairly quiet resort, not a party place , but there is entertainment and planned things for people to do.

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Last updated: April 17, 2005

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