I was part of a group of six (five matured ladies) on our annual ‘Gals get-away’. As usual we booked a ‘last minute sell off’ and so were quite happy with what we got. However, most of us being ‘repeat visitors’ to Cuba, in retrospect were glad we did not pay full price for the ‘Cameleon Gold Package’offered by Nolitours; While it was a great package to have we found it was only really worth the $605.00 we paid at ‘sell off’ (some people paid even less). Trip down to Cuba:
We were booked to travel down late in the afternoon of May 29th by Canjet however due to mechanical problems with the original carrier, after about an hour and a half wait, we ended up traveling by Air Transat; the flight was fine as it was a larger plane (so we actually had leg-room), however the sandwiches they served were terrible (stale), but we were offered a complementary drink of ‘Champaign’ (so that we wouldn’t complain about the delay or food).
Your Arrival: Arrival in Cuba: This again was a delight as we were greeted by one of the ‘service people’ who have worked at the airport for years (yes, they will remember you if you have treated them well). Going through Immigration was a breeze even for the one traveling companion who was not traveling on a Canadian Passport, she was required to answer a few more questions than those of us with Canadian passports, but everything went well. WE WERE NOT ASKED FOR ANY PROOF OF HEALTH INSURANCE even though we all carried proof of the new mandatory health insurance. We did our ‘money exchange’ at the airport; this is a good idea as you will then have the correct currency to ‘tip’ your service people at the airport. PLEASE DO NOT TIP IN CANADIAN COIN (loonies or toonies). No International Banks (including Cuba) accepts coin from any other country, so foreign coin is useless to a local. If you are really serious about tipping…..then do it in the currency of the country.
Rooms: The rooms and amenities (clean linens, bath robe, slippers, beach towels, stocked bar)were all as presented in the brochure…. the rooms were all updated, clean, and attractive; lots of hot water and complementary bath products; every day we had ‘house keeping’ who replenished our linens and re-stocked our mini bars. In our package we received our beach towels on the first day in our rooms (no deposit required), it was then up to us to do the ‘towel exchange’ every day; however on the last day we simply had to leave them in our rooms (not take them back to towel exchange which is what is generally done). The first room I was assigned faced the ‘lagoon’ which I didn’t like as I could ‘smell it’ (it was very humid the night we arrived). I requested a change of room, and the next day I was re-assigned to an ocean view room. This may have been easy for them to do because this is the ‘off season’ and there may have been a surplus of rooms available. UPON ARRIVAL, IF YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH YOUR ACCOMMODATION PLEASE SPEAK WITH YOUR ‘TOUR REP’, THE FRONT DESK PEOPLE ARE SIMPLY ACTING ON THEIR INSTRUCTIONS, do not take out your frustration on them, to do that would be like screaming at the kid on ‘cash’ at McDonalds if you get a bad burger.
Restaurants and Bars: This was my seventh visit to Cuba, fifth to Cayo Coco and first to the Blau. I can honestly say, this is the best food I have had in Cuba, both in the buffet and in the a la carts; because I do not generally go to Cuba for the food, I was pleasantly surprised. Other than what is offered on the menus in the a la cart you can also request special orders like we did in the Sea Food Restaurant where we were able to get a delicious lobster (much larger than anything we can get in Canada) for only $15.00. A heads up here, for those of you who love exotic flavored ‘pasta’ stir fried dishes’ do like we did, take along a bottle or two of your favorite ‘sauces’ (we took a ginger teriyaki and a lobster sauce), the chef in the buffet will be only too happy to add it to your ‘custom made’ pasta dish; in addition you will have a very grateful chef when you tell him that he can take the rest of the sauce home to create the same dish for his family. The bars were stocked with ‘the usual’ in both foreign and local drinks. The bar in the main building in particular had a nice ‘slush’ machine, wish they had them at all the other bars.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach in Cayo Coco was as usual…..superb, the best in Cuba I think. The Life Guards on ‘beach duty’ also double as ‘beach assistants’ and are quite happy to assist you with setting up beach lounges (which are very heavy) once you choose a palapa (beach shade); again please ‘tip’ these people when you can as they do go out of their way to ensure that you enjoy your stay with them. The Blau now has a nice connection of salt water pools which run the entire length of that part of the resort now being accommodated (part of the resort is still being renovated). There is the usual ‘swim up bar’, pool and beach grills and washroom facilities, so food, drink and anything else needed is always not more than a few steps away.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
WE did go in the ‘Off Season’ and so were not expecting to see many activities going, however, again we were surprised …. There were the usual ‘pool games’ most days (as long as people will participate, they will do them). We arrived on a Saturday night and both that night and Sunday night there was very little going on, however from Monday on there was a live show every night at the Disco (with audience participation some of the time), then dancing for anyone who cared to stick around. In addition our package entitled us to attend the ‘Nolitours’ cocktail hour every day at the ‘Pink Tower’…this was just a ‘mix and mingle’ with entertainment for the gusest of Nolitours. Trips off resort were available through both the ‘Tour Reps’ and by ‘private employees’ who also ran tours on their ‘day off’. Whenever possible we booked with the private employees HOWEVER, their prices are not always the best…. so check both sorces.
Other Comments: All in all this was not a bad hotel to be at; they did deliver everything they said they would. I would recommend this resort, if you are an adult looking for a nice quiet get-away; in this off season it was not particularly inviting to families with young children as there was no ‘kids club’, this area was still ‘under construction’; if you are planning to take younger children, I would check to see if those facilities are now up and running. In addition, unlike their neighbors at the Tryp Cayo Coco, I found the staff to be not very warming or friendly, not too many of them smiled at you or greeted you, you had to make the first move, you had to really reach out to them before they ‘warmed up’ to you, however once you ‘made the connection’, then they were fine. CAUTION: This entire resort is designed to look like a Spanish Village; every exterior surface through the resort is paved in ‘cobble stones’ of various sizes, shapes, textures and designs. These surfaces are not suitable for anyone who may be physically challenged or require the use of a mobility device to get around i.e. a cane or walker; it is even very hard on luggage with wheels; as such I opted to have the Bell Boy carry my luggage on a dolly rather than ruin the wheels on the cobble stones by dragging it along.