Arrival: Got a great last minute deal with Air Canada Vacations. First time with ACV and I am happy to give up cheap wine and food of the rest for more leg room and seat back screens that ACV flights have. We had a mid afternoon departure from Toronto and late evening arrival at Colonial which suited us just fine.
Arriving in the dark is not the best at any Cuban hotels but I’ve never had one you had to search for the reception desk. Buildings are labelled with a name but why is there no number on the sign. Even with a map and a flashlight, it’s a bit of a challenge.
Rooms: The rooms are 3 1/2 stars for Cuba. We paid an extra $20 pp for oceanview and got a second floor room in Bldg 31 which has an awesome view of the palm trees and beach within 100′. No musty smell, a/c is quiet and worked well, lots of closet space and a free electronic room safe. The patio door is the older wood door style which is a plus as many Cuban rooms have sliding patio doors which are often broken. However,there are a few problems. There is no door into the bathroom and only a 6′ high glass shield between the toilet/tub/shower and the rest of the bathroom. It was not a biggie for us but some people would not accept the lack of privacy. There was also large gaps between the window frames. They were large enough to put in your fingers, which meant that our room (and we heard of others) had mosquitoes in the room each night. That’s not something we expected. You should not have to wear deet when you go to bed.
The bed was hard, as expected, but old so it was hard and soft at the same time. Not comfortable at all.
Restaurants and Bars: Food is Cuban 3 star, no more no less. I’ve been to 4 stars in Cuban and if I could have found a deal, I would have returned to one. The selection at the buffet is OK, better than 2 1/2 star but not nearly the selection and care in preparation we see in a 4 star. This is the first resort I have been to in Cuba where the fish was not good. We love fish but it was overdone, mushy and oily, every time we tried it, whether it was the buffet or a la carte. There was no problem running out of food but if you arrive late, expect to set your own table. They are great at clearing tables but not at resetting them. When you try to do it yourself, the servers complain. They did have shrimp skewers at one grill but they were shell-on and next to inedible. We sat with 4 others who had shrimp and all of us tried them, then left them. The a la cartes were the same as the buffet except better service. Food is not prepared fresh, it all comes out of a steam table, just like the buffet. We had chicken twice, once was OK, once was super tough.
The Colonial pizza at the Yarey Grill is outstanding. Open after 12:30 and only for lunch, it is the best pizza we have had in Cuba and even better than any we’ve had in Italy. Well worth a visit but order Colonial, not other pizza varieties.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is very nice with a long stretch for walking. The beach at Tryp is narrower for a short stretch but Tryp has a much more gradual entry which is better for kids and better for calm water if you have windy days. The big problem when we were there was that at Colonial, they raked the seaweed, then dumped it behind the palapas. That’s where the sand fleas are and I got bitten badly on the legs because I put my lounger under the palapa to avoid getting burned. Should have applied more deet. Tryp did not seem to pile up the seaweed and not have sand fleas. The beach is not as nice as Cayo Santa Maria but not far behind.
They have a salt water plus a fresh water pools. I didn’t use them but they all looked clean. I’d rate the beach and pools as 4*, just take your deet in case.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: There was a piano bar, 24 hr. bar, 2x pool bars, lobby bar, disco bar, beach bar and they all had pleasant, accommodating bartenders who knew their job and did it well. They made good drinks and were very willing to make it as you requested. Everyone seemed to enjoy the entertainment and we loved a quiet night in the piano bar with very good musicians who played any requests. One night there were 2 former former musicians visit from Tryp and that night was one of the most memorable ever. Truly amazing music. The bars are 4* both for staff and entertainment.
I’m not a disco or animation guy but everyone seemed to enjoy the show. I’ve watched really good animation performances and this is not in that class but it is good.
Other Comments: Other problems: There is no Cadeca so you are forced to change $$ at reception. When we were there, they were paying 94 CUC per 100 Cdn. Yet, people have reported that the same week, Tryp was 97. That bugs me. They also ran out of money many days at noonish and it wasn’t replenished until 3:00 pm. I went up one day after lunch to get CUCs and the reception guy was standing there with his hands full of CUC bills and said to me, ‘sorry, no money’ After protesting at customer relations, they suddenly ‘found’ CUCs for me. That bugs me too. They also ran out of internet cards. Maybe not their fault but still a PITA. I like to be able to email back home upon arrival just to let family know our room number.
What separates this from a 4 star resort: the 24 hr. grill has a very limited menu and they run out of burgers some nights. We’ve been to 4* resorts with much more extensive selection and nicer seating. As stated, 4*s have a much nicer main buffet and far superior staff in the buffet. It wouldn’t take all that much to boost this 3 1/2 star up to 4 but from what I’ve been told by regulars, it’s actually gone down since Blau management left. We saw a lot of great staff but time and again, it seemed management needed to be upgraded.