Arrival: We flew Sunwing out of Toronto. Our flight departed on time. We received a bon voyage glass of champagne. Choice of omelet or French toast served with wine (if you wanted). We were also given a snack, chocolate and complimentary drinks (juice, pop, coffee, tea) during the flight. No problems arriving in Cuba. Quick through customs, baggage and onto bus. There are Cubans selling bags of cold beer – 5 for $10 Canadian – to drink on the 90 minute bus ride to the resort.
Check-in was very slow, with a huge unorganized line up. Most rooms were ready but ours was not ready until 4 pm (check in was 3 pm).
Rooms: We had an oceanview junior suite and it was very nice. King bed in one room, three-quarter bed and a pull-out sofa. We were on the second floor with a balcony. The balcony is on the opposite side of the room from the door so actually there was a balcony on each side. I heard many complaints about the hotel rooms and several people moved over to the Brisas next door. We were in the first building (four rooms in a building) closest to the beach. The commercial centre was behind us. There is an open air bar there that played loud music in the afternoon but it shut down by 6 or 7 every night. The electronic key mechanism on many of the room doors do not work and those rooms have only one key – pretty difficult when there are four people coming and going from the room at different times. They do not offer a safe key at registration – ask for it when you check-in or you will have to go back up to the desk to get it. We had no problems with water. We had awesome maids. When they made up the sofa bed they only put on sheets and a pillow about an inch thick. The next day the pillow was replaced with a nice big fluffy one and there was also a blanket. She put towel art on each bed every day. The last two days was a different maid, no towel art, but the room was still cleaned perfectly.
Restaurants and Bars: We were pretty disappointed in the food – but, hey, it is Cuba. We had been to Brisas previously and the food there was awesome so I was expecting kind of the same from the resort next door. I was wrong. We never left hungry though. At breakfast you could get omelets or eggs at the grill. The bacon looked absolutely gross. A couple of days they had hash browns or French fries and always fruit and bread. There was cereal but what they called “milk” was as thick as yogurt and smelled sour. I have no idea what it was – could’ve been yogurt (there was white and pink) but they called it “cold milk”. They had a pasta bar at lunch and dinner and that’s pretty much what we lived off of. I’ve seen other reviews that say they had ham and roast beef but we didn’t see any of that. They did have turkey one night. We ate at the Italian and Cuba al a cartes. The Italian was gross (everyone we talked to felt the same way). The pasta sauce in the buffet was much better. We had pork chops and chicken steak in the Cuban restaurant. The pork chop tasted just like a fried pork chop but the chicken steak was really good. It was just a flattened boneless breast cooked in a sauce. Sunwing customers are allowed to go to the Brisas one night for buffet dinner. We booked that our second day there and went that night – it, as previously, was wonderful. Friends we met tried to book the Brisas but were told only 5 people per night were allowed to go so book that one early!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The resort was pretty worn and tired looking but the landscaping was beautiful and well kept. The lagoon where the fish and flamingos were contained green stagnant water. It would have been beautiful had the pump been working – there were waterfalls and water spouts throughout. The beach bar was downright dangerous! Loose and missing boards on the wooden walkway – several spots where people (I assume) had fallen through were never fixed and broken or missing stairs. The pool and lobby bars were nice. In the resort listing it says there are 5 bars but I never saw the other 2 – don’t think they exist. There was a coffee bar at the pool but you could not get drinks other than coffee there. One thing we found was that there were not enough places to sit and relax in the evening. There were 5 or 6 four-person tables at the pool bar, maybe 10 at the lobby bar and the typical sofa groupings in the lobby (3 or 4), but that was it. We sat mainly on our balcony in the evening because usually all other places were full. The pool was nice with a swim-up bar. By the end of our week, the pool water was pretty cloudy and the waterfall had quit working. There were always chairs to be found at the pool and the beach. The beach had quite a lot of washed up seaweed. During the week a tractor came along and cleaned some of it up but not on the weekends. It was very windy most days we were there so we hung out by the pool most days – it is extremely hot up there as there is no wind at all. They have kayaks and pedal boats you can use for free at any time the watersports booth is open. No one in my family got any insect bites other than on one of our excursions that went into the forest (Cangilones).
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We went on the Iguana Island catamaran tour. You go out and snorkel by the reef and then down a river for about an hour or so where sometimes they find a dolphin family that “performs”. Unfortunately they couldn’t be found on our tour, but the guys tried really hard to find them. At Iguana Island we went on an uphill trail that was pretty rough. Some of the older people stayed at the restaurant. There were also a couple people who fell and got scraped up. They don’t tell you that it is a somewhat strenuous trail and most of us had flip-flops/sandals on. The iguanas are wild – not the least bit tame but some of them come looking for food – they loved bananas – grab some from the breakfast buffet. The meal consisted of paella with pork and fish, beef for non-seafood eaters, tomatoes and bananas.
We also went on the Congilones tour. It was very interesting and we all enjoyed it. It consisted of a visit to an old sugar mill, the crocodile farm (the crocs are raised to release not to eat or kill for commercial reasons), a trip to an aboriginal descendent and her farm. From there we trekked up the mountain to a cave. Take bug spray – I’m still scratching the welts I got from mosquitoes or some blood sucking insect! We wore hard helmets with headlamps and toured through the cave. We then went to Cangilones Park and had a delicious buffet lunch consisting of a couple of pork dishes, rice, soup, vegetables and fruits. This is actually a camping/picnicking spot for the locals. There is a river (Maximo River) to swim in. Since we went on Sunday there were several local families picnicking and swimming there.
Other Comments: All in all it was a good week. What I really did not like was that it was so windy both times we were there and I wonder if it is a seasonal thing. There really isn’t much to do in the area other than the excursions, which are quite pricey in my opinion. The food was adequate –if you aren’t picky or if you like pasta, you will get by. I liked that the resort was not overcrowded and I loved our junior suite.