El Senador – Cayo Coco Resort Reviews – Page 2 Cuba – Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews

El Senador – Cayo Coco – Reviews Posted – 41

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Jen ~ Canada

March 2005

I just returned from El Senador, Cayo Coco and benefited a great deal from other reviews so I would like to add mine. The resort was fabulous. I have no idea how anyone could have anything bad to say about the resort or it’s staff. We stayed on the Laguna side. My bf and I stayed in block 16 and had little hot water at peak times. I was prepared for this, however, so I didn’t mind so much. Our friends stayed in 19 and didn’t have any problems with the hot water.

Each day we went for breakfast at the buffet where Gustavo made huge omelettes for the boys. I ate peanut butter and banana sandwiches at the suggestion of another member. Bring your own pb ‘cause they did run out while I was there! I recommend cappuccinos in the lobby bar after breakfast.

For lunch we tried the grill on the beach which was okay. Sometimes we ate at the buffet or the pool bar for pizzas and poutine! Not the same as we’d get at home, but we weren’t at home.

For dinner we ate at the buffet or the a-la-cartes. The seafood restaurant was great, as was the service. The Cuban restaurant had very slow service. The bean soup was delicious but stay away from the Pargo. I think they caught that fish in the stagnant lagoon surrounding the restaurant!! Don’t book an a-la-carte dinner for Thursday night, as this is seafood night. All-you-can-eat lobster tails!

Every night after dinner we would go to the Cigar Lounge for drinks with Ruben the bartender. Ask for a ‘Ruban Special’…. Possibly the best drink ever.

The beach was beautiful and we never had any trouble getting a lounger. There are 2 men that would bring us loungers and clean the sand off it. In return I would tip them a peso and they were very grateful. The beach out front of El Senador is the best of that stretch.

Most afternoons the boys would go off to play ball hockey. They said that this was the highlight of their trip! Go figure. We took a lot of day trips, each of them were great. On Monday we went horseback riding at sunset that included a lobster dinner on the beach. The horses didn’t look as decrepit as I had feared. If you get ‘Tornado’, look out. He’s a little spun. The atmosphere at the restaurant is fun and silly. There’s a band there to play anything you request. Please, no more Hotel California!

On Tuesday we did the half-day catamaran/snorkle tour. The snorkling was out of this world. We were so close to the reef I was afraid I would scratch myself on the coral. If you have an underwater camera I would suggest you bring it. I have never seen such a colourful array of fish.

On Wednesday we took a taxi to Playa Pilar. For 50 pesos the cabbie will drive you there and wait all day to drive you home. The beach was stunning. So secluded and the sand was like baby powder. Between the four of us, we have visited a lot of places around the world, but we all agree that this beach was the most beautiful scene we have ever experienced. There is a little restaurant there where you can have lunch. We all ate the red snappper and it was delish.

On Wednesday night we went to the disco at the cave. This was interesting to say the least. A little ‘train’ shuttles the guests and it’s a 10 peso cover charge. There was a Cuban Dance show at the beginning and then they move aside for the rest of us to dance. The cave was really neat and worth the hangover in the morning! PS- We took a cab home for 7 pesos because we were just too tired to wait for the train.

On Thursday we went on the Jungle Tour. We took mini speedboats through the mangroves, snorkled for 30 mins. and drove home. There weren’t any crocs or alligators, but we did see a Nurse Shark! This was fun and definitely worth the pesos and the staff is super friendly.

On Friday morning we found out about Jetsgo going bankrupt. We all went up to the lobby where Henry, our Sunwing Rep., told us not to worry. We can stay in our rooms for as long as it takes to find us another flight home at no extra charge. So, off we went deep-sea fishing for the afternoon. Not my favourite excursion as there was a whole lot of waiting around for 30 seconds of action. My gf and I just suntanned/napped on the front on the boat while we drank a couple of Cerveza’s. At one point dolphins were swimming beside our boat which was really neat. The boys each caught a dolphin fish much to the surprise of our tour guide.

On Saturday we found our new flight home was to be the next morning at 5 am so that meant a bonus night. We walked down the beach (west, I think) to a little hut with blue stairs. We all had the lobster dinner for 15 pesos and it was fantastic. Cerveza’s were one peso. The atmosphere was superb and the service was delightful. Waldey, our server, was very anxious to please and was very thankful when I told him I would write a review on the Internet. Please go eat there, you won’t regret it.

All in all it was a fun week. Now I need a vacation from my vacation. I think we crammed in a little too much for the week! I am not one to re-visit places I’ve already seen but I would like to return to El Senador. And I will definitely book through Sunwing as they handled the Jetsgo fiasco efficiently and painlessly. Although being stranded in Cuba was not the end of the world and we were hoping to leg it out ‘til April!

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Kristi ~ Canada

March 2005

Hi Debbie!
We’ve just returned from our second visit to El Senador. This resort has greatly improved over the last two years. From the selection of food to the service everything was superior. I’m surprised that anyone would be able to complain! The staff are very accomodating and friendly. A small tip goes a long way unlike Jamaica. I’ve travelled extensively to All Inclusive Resorts and by far this resort has the best value. The new airport is great and only a few minutes from the resort. We will return next year with our children and parents. We spoke to many who were travelling with small children and they seemed very happy with the service. The resort was in full swing last week and still didn’t seem to be crowded. I could go on and on… I do hope that when people read the negative reviews they take them with a grain of salt!

Great food, beautiful pools and beach, friendly staff, clean rooms(no bugs anywhere on the resort and believe me I looked for them), overall fantastic holiday.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Karen and Robin from Ontario

March 2005

We just got back from El Senador Resort in Cayo Coco, Cuba. We are ages 35 and 42 with no kids. We have other All Inclusive Resort trips we’ve been on to make comparisons with.

Nutshell – We’d go back there because of the beach, but not for the price we paid – only on a cheap last minute deal. Details below:

Accomodation – There are two sides to the resort – the older Laguna Azul side and the newer Emperador side. We were on the Laguna side. There are a lot of room problems on the Laguna side such as no water pressure and no hot water in the showers (we had no problem there in section 22 villas). Our toilet didn’t flush well though…The fridges weren’t very cold. The beds were too soft for us, and a little lumpy. One room was infested with ants and moths and they wouldn’t give the guests another room – maybe they were fully booked.

The only bad thing about being in a newer room on the Emperador side is the musty/mildewy smell because it’s more airtight. The older rooms aren’t as air tight and therefore get aired out more – but you hear more noises from outside then. Expect a few small red ants in your room – they are harmless. The Laguna side only rates a 3 star.

The Resort Itself – The resort is large and very nice. The Emperador side is prettier – more landscaped. There are golf cart type electrically run vehicles that can take you around, but they go very fast, so be careful if you are on one, and be carefull you don’t get run over by one coming up behind you.

We scoped out a few other resorts along the beach one day and found ours to be the nicest. El Senador has three pools – never a problem finding a lounge chair. The adult pool is the warmest.

The bathrooms in the public areas were a disgrace – they were only stocked and cleaned once a day. By late afternoon or early evening, most of them had run out of toilet paper – so have some kleenex on you at all times. Some toilets had no seats and some stall doors wouldn’t close or lock. It was disgusting. I’d rate this part a 1 star.

The resort ran out of Cuban Convertible Pesos to exchange at one point. The cigar shops didn’t have a large selection – we were promised the Monte Cristo #2’s in boxes would arrive but they never did – so we bought them at the airport on the way home.

There are wild cows/bulls on the island that made their way onto the resort. I think that’s rather dangerous and they should have been relocated away from the tourist areas.

The Disco is VERY LOUD. If you value your sleep you don’t want a room near the disco or the main pool on the Laguna side, where all the activities take place.

The evening 9:30 shows are so so in our opinion, but we were spoiled in that department by being on a cruise a few years ago, so check them out yourself and formulate your own opinion.

There are mosquitos, but they are smaller than Canadian ones, and not as numerous.

Many Canadians as guests – which is great because we are a friendly bunch. We met many people.

The Beach- Fabulous. The best beach we’ve been to so far (out of 4 trips we’ve been on). The beach alone is worth coming back for. It goes out quite far before the water is over your head. White silky sand.

There is a small coral reef right off the beach in front of the bar hut that has fish you can see and feed. Grab some breadsticks from the buffet and the fish will eat right out of your hand!

Jose, the bartender at the beach bar hut makes a great rum punch.

Get there early though to get a lounge chair under a shady cabana. No bathrooms on the beach.

The Food – The food is good for Cuba. The beef is flown in from Canada which is a bonus. The hamburgers were actually good! The steak house beef was good! There is poutine at the grill and the beach restaurant. The french fries were good.

Buffet – not a large variety of fresh fruits and veggies. If they ran out of something, it wasn’t always restocked for people coming in a little later. Fresh squeezed orange juice at breakfast. Lots of eggs – any way you want them.

4 of the 5 a-la-carte restaurants were open. We ate at all of them. The food is better there than at the buffet. There is no limit on how many times you can eat at them. On Sunday at 8am they book for Sun – Wed night. On Wed at 8am they book for Thurs – Sat night. Get there around 7:30 – 7:45 unless you want to spend half the day in line waiting to book reservations. They never had the desserts listed on the menu, so I had to wonder why they were on the menu at all! The chocoate brownie is good though.

VIP restaurant – if you are on the Laguna side, you must pay $25 per person to eat there – WELL WORTH THE MONEY. But don’t do it until your last night unless you can afford to pay it every night, because you will want not want the buffet again after eating there.

24 hour Grill – pizza is good.

Beach Restaurant – never had the nachos that are on the menu all week.

You can have as much alcohol in your drinks as you want, and don’t be afraid to ask for the better stuff

Staff – The resort is understaffed. Result – service isn’t the best, but the staff that is there work hard. Service rates a 3 star at best because of this. Tables don’t get cleared off as quickly as they should, for example.

A lady will often get quicker service from the male staff members than her husband/boyfriend. Use this info as a tip!

I was impressed with how much English the staff spoke. French too. If you don’t know any Spanish – you will be fine!

I was not impressed when I waited around for the 3pm Spanish Lesson that never happened. They didn’t know where the guy was.

The understaffing was most problematic at the bars in the lobbies. They’d have only one or two bartenders servicing the entire lobby. They should have had people taking drink orders from the tables in the lobby, and extra bartenders to fill those orders. I think this was a way for them to save some money – you don’t have as many drinks if you have to get it yourself and it takes 10 minutes.
They do seem to expect tips, even though it’s supposed to be included. But I don’t mind when I know that the average Cuban makes the equivalent of $12 – $15 U.S. per month.

Remember – you are on vacation and everything runs on Cuban time. You may think the waiter forgot your order of Cappucino, but don’t worry – it will come.

Tips – Bring a thermos to keep your drinks cold, and to get a bigger drink. They only use small plastic cups at the bars.

You can email the resort thru their website a day or two ahead of time to make special requests such as which room you want or don’t want.

Don’t get sucked into the "Bat Cave" or "Flamingo Beach" tour. There are no more flamingos, and there are no bats. The Cave is now a disco bar – which we heard was a good place to party and see a show on Wed night.

You can get better service by finding one waiter/waitress in the buffet that you like and keep going back to them. Tip them well and you can ask for special food favors. Example – on Lobster night (Thurs) we wanted shrimp too – so we arranged it through our favorite waiter.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Daniella

March 2005

i came back march 5th i stayed for 1 week its my 7th time in cuba but my 1st time in cayo coco im 14 years old …. the beach is so beautiful the animations are mostly in the 30s all i have kids nd wifes they are verry frendly all though they thought i was 20 years old.there very flirtatious.. in the day there alot of activites the shows are so funny they were so hard to make you have a good time they only get 18 dollars a month so rember to bring things u dont wear they would have a smile on their faces… my room was in the laguna in the villa its verry nice and always clean and we were about 2 minutes away from the beach.but we were about 5 minutes away from everythin but its ok theres alot of walking the hotel is for any age watever your age is you would have fun.the hotel is so huge the food at the buffet could of been better al though i had the best time ever i cant wait for next year to go bak and we all kno adrean is a sweet heart rember they all look younger then there age i love the animationss!!!!!

p.s whoever went feb 25 to march 5th u would prorbaly rember me!!! if anythin my e-mail is shinnyangel_10@hotmail.com

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Adriana ~ Canada

March 2005

My family and I had a great time at the El Senador and we plan on going again next year. We went from Mar 4 to 11, 2005. Prior to our trip I read a lot of mixed reviews regarding the resort and I was extremely worried prior to our departure. We did not experience any of the negative comments that were mentioned in previous reviews. The biggest things for us was to remind ourselves that we were not in Canada, but Cuba- so relax and be patient when waiting in line for drinks and foods. It is the way of life and as guests we need to embrace there way of living and not vice-versa (no matter how much money you paid for the trip!).

Once thing I did note in the previous reviews is that none of them mentioned children and/or advice on what to bring for the kids to this resort. Below is a list of things I found extremely helpful and I hope others will too if they bring their children to the resort.

Background: 2 boys: 4yrs old and 21 months

Supplies: a) Zippy bags- great for packing food from the buffets for afternoon and evening snack. b) Beach toys- there is not a huge selection to choose from in there stores. c) Lots of sun lotion- they did not sell any when I was there. d) Your kid’s favorite food and snack. Even though the resort has many restaurants and buffets, it is still a bit different in taste to children who can be picky to begin with. e) 2-3 sippy cups- just in case you lose one. f) Booster chair with straps- the highchairs at the resort have a long seat and as a results my 21 month old was able to move around (a lot) in the seat and even try to climb out (no straps to keep him in) – we didn’t bring it and I wished we did- next time. g) Band aids- My 4 yr old wants a band aid for everything and during the trip this behavior continued. They don’t sell band aids at the resort. h) Medical supplies- Tylenol, antibiotic cream, etc… i) The only cartoon available is the carton network and its geared towards older kids (aggressive shows) j) Baby monitor (900 MHz frequency- ideally range of 1500 feet if you can find it) this was our life savior. Fortunately we stayed at Building 14 which is behind the Kids Club and was able to have the youngest nap while my eldest played at the club- Highly recommend it!!!! k) Stroller- This is a huge complex and there will be a lot walking.

l) Water shoes- the tile around the pools are slippery

Note: the kids club was excellent. My eldest loved it and the staff did a great job in entertaining the kids. The hours of operation are 9:30-noon and 2-5pm. We usually sent my eldest in the afternoon. It was a great way for them to meet other kids and have tons of fun. Plus you will great a break! The two individuals in charge, Amaryllis and Janet were loving and great with both kids. If you need a babysitter for the evening, speak with them as soon as you get to the hotel. Tuesday night is the only night they stay on the complex late. (Remember- they have there own families too go home to so don’t assume they want to baby-sit every night)

Last, bring lots of supplies to give to your favorite staff. IE: toothpaste, band aids, toothbrushes, lipsticks, etc…. This is a socialist country and these supplies are hard to come by. Plus, remember to tip. It’s not expected, but greatly appreciated!!!!

I hope this information helps families going to the resort. Most of all, remember to embrace the Cuban culture which is very different from ours, they defiantly know the meaning of relaxing and taking it easy.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Bruce ~ Canada

March 2005

My girlfriend and I and 2 other couples just returned from El Senador Cayo Coco, we had a blast,the beach and water were amazing!! service was great,anna the chamber maid was a sweetheart!!The food was great except for a steak one night at the steakhouse,it was TOUGHER than a rubber boot!! We went on the day tour into moron and another town it was great ,,well worth the money!! Seen a lot of sights,went boating on a fresh water lake,toured a sugar factory and a cigar factory,and got to do some shopping which of course the women loved!!The Disco was a big disappointment for all of us, they played mostly crap or rap type music,and us grownups were soon outnumbered by the children we just left early,,we did however get to dance to three good tunes , but all in all it was a good time,and would recommend the resort to anyone.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Laura ~ Canada

March 2005

I went to El Senador from Feb 20-27. It was AMAZING!!!! I read numerous reviews before going on my trip, and I still can’t figure out what the negative reviews were all about! The resort met all my expectations and more.

I travelled with a friend of mine. We are both female, ages 20 and 26. Now I guess I do need to mention that this was our first all-inclusive trip of any kind.

We flew West Jest, which I highly reccomend. Both flights were great!

When we arrived at the resort, we were in no hurry to check-in. We grabbed a drink right away, and relaxed a bit. When we did check-in, it was completely hassle free, and we were given a map of the resort to find everything. We were in building #15, which is on the Laguna side. The room was lovely. We had a great view of the pool, and we were close to everything.

We did have a problem with the air-conditioning the first night. A maintenance man was there within 15 min and fixed it. We dined at the Steakhouse, Italian, and Cuban restaurants. The food was great! No stomach problems the entire week!! I ate a lot of chicken, and it was great. The pool side grill had pizzas 24 hr, and also poutine! Yummy! Be sure not to miss breakfast, the omelettes are out of this world! Make sure you take a thermos with you. Those little cups only last a few sips! My thermos was the bifggest I saw, and they had no problem filling it with rum and coke!!!

We attended the nightly entertainment every night. The staff were amazing and very talented. It was a lot of fun and very funny! Make sure you don’t miss it.

We went on 2 day trips. The first one was the Jungle Tour! You must go! Definately a highlight. We went on the half-day for $30. You get to drive your own speed-boat that seats 2. Then you get out and go snorkelling for 1/2 an hour, and then drive back. We met great people, and had a blast. There were SO many fish to see.

The next day we went to the city of Moron for $39. If your tour guide is Robert, you are very lucky, he was great! When you get there, you get into horse-drawn carriages and they take you around the city to the town square. Then you get 45 min to walk and wander. We found neat little souvenirs. It was a great experience to see how the people live. I will never forget it. Then we went to an alligator farm, on a boat trip, and to a farm that had an animal show. It was a great day!

The ocean!!!! What can I say, it took my breath away every time I saw it. The water was so clear, and the sand was white and powdery. The beach is about a 5 or 7 min walk. No big deal. Grab a drink, and go for a walk! The whole resort is huge, but you could walk anywhere within 10 minutes.

On the Laguna side, the animation team had activities going on all day. Aqua fitness, dance lessons, spanish lessons, water-polo, etc….. The staff was great and Cuban men are hot!! But, a word of advice to the ladies, DO NOT give your room number to them! The men are not shy, but very sweet and kind.

The disco was great. We went pretty much every night. Again the staff were there to dance with you and have a good time. Adrian is a sweet-heart. They played great cuban music, but also a lot of stuff recognized from home. We had a blast, and couldn’t drink enough!

Not sure what else to say, El Senador is definately a 5-star resort! I am already making plans to go back again, and have reccomended it to my parents. Great for all ages! I have fallen in love with Cuba, and Cayo Coco! I can’t say enough good things about our trip!

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Paul

February 2005

We did not choose this resort – we were moved there from the Melia at a few days notice by our travel company (Thomas Cook). So when we first got there we were on the look out for faults. However, it is very hard to fault this resort. The room was large and well furnished but the majority of rooms in the resort have no balcony so if that is what you look forward to in the evening then you must book an (expensive) lagoon room.

I have to say that I did love the look of the lagoon rooms but I think it can only be a matter of luck as to which one you get as the lagoon is very smelly in some places and that is not something I would want to be close to! However the lagoon rooms/villas are the only ones with decks/balconys.

Having said all this – we did love our time there. The place is very clean and very well tended to. The staff are very friendly and even a small tip works wonders.

As a Brit it was very overwhelming that the place seemed to be populated by large groups of Canadians but you can soon find your feet. If you are a Brit you will see that the Canadians are very generous worth their tips but I would suggest the old Brit way – one large tip at the start seals the deal and the staff will love you and another tip when you leave if you think it was worth it – I think I can guarantee you will!

The Canadians do tend to have very large insulated mugs (the smallest one is about a pint!) which they carry around at all times. The staff are used to this and have no problem with filling them up with the drink of your choice – so don’t be embarrassed and get one before you go!

The beach is wonderful but can be breezy.

All in all we had a great time. Of the the staff I would mention Felix and Yeniset who work at the lobby bar on the Emperador side (depending on shifts) – lovely lovely people.

On the whole I would give it four stars.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Dan and Susan ~ London

February 2005

This resort is just a wonderful place to go and relax around the pool and the excellent white sand beach. The animation staff was excellent. Always something to do for everyone regardless of your age. Hockey night in cuba was one highlight for my husband. Adrian is the best cuban goalie around. The cigar lounge popular place to hang out after the shows at the Oasis. The lobby bar also a busy place in the evenings. The pool grill and swim up bar at the Laguna side, the bartenders and waiters excellent severs. Too many of them to mention. The rooms on Laguna side large and clean. Bring your own face cloths as none supplied. The banana boat ride, best $5 spent, the paraglidding also a excellent trip. Excellent way to see the El Senador and the other resorts around on Cayo Cocco. The food was good at the buffet and the restuarants. Try the black bean soup at the Cuban restuarants and the mushroom soup at the steakhouse. Lots of fish dinners to be had at the grill bar at laguna. Try the hamburgers and poutines too. So if you want good food, lots of drinks, friendly people and great weather(the week we were there hot, hot, hot!) go to the El Senador.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Lisa and Sean ~ Elmira, Ontario

February 2005

My husband and I have recently returned from a wonderful week at the El Senador Resort in Cayo Coco. We were there from February 5 – 12th and wished we had been able to spend another week. We traveled with my two cousins, and their husbands, from Regina, Saskatchewan and all of us thoroughly enjoyed our time at this resort. We are all our mid to late thirties. Although the weather was not as hot as we had hoped for, we still had a super time and enjoyed all that we could at this fantastic resort.

We arrived at the resort at 12:30 pm to the dancing animation team. Check-in was very smooth and took only 15 minutes. We were greeted warmly by all staff members throughout the lobby. After a quick stop at the lobby bar for a pina coloda we caught a ride on a golf cart to our room. As we were staying in the villas on the lagoon, the driver took us directly to the VIP reception desk which is located in the same building as the Cuban restaurant. Here we found out that as we were staying in the villas, we were entitled to VIP services such as breakfast in the Cuban restaurant (only open to VIP members), dinner in the VIP restaurant and stocked mini bars. In order to have our fridges stocked (with your choice of beer/water/juice/pop) we just had to fill out a sheet and drop it into our reception before 10am. We were thrilled to find out we had this VIP service as we had no idea of this prior to arriving. This reception area is also where we were able to book our a la carte restaurant reservations and exchange our Canadian money for the convertible Cuban Pesos.

After this stop, we were driven to our villas – which were perfect! We stayed in villa 2418. The rooms were very large with a deck off the back overlooking the lagoon. We found no odors from the lagoon and enjoyed watching the jelly fish, herons and fish in the water. We also had a separate sitting room at the entrance to our villa which was perfect for games in the evenings. Our room was usually cleaned by the time we returned from breakfast and everyday there was a new decoration on our bed made out of towels or the bedspread. We had robes in our room and the towels were fresh everyday. As I had been forewarned that there are no washcloths, we took our own. As for the showers, there were times when the water was very hot but we never had any problems with water pressure or not having hot water. The key to the safety deposit box was in the safe in our closet when we arrived. In the villas, the beach towels were also supplied in our room and we did not have to claim towels at the pool.

Our first taste of the food at this resort was at the grill beside the Laguna pool – great hamburgers, fries (make sure you ask for them well done or they are undercooked) but the poutine was not something we really found to our liking – although we did try it twice just to make sure! The drinks were plentiful and delicious – we tried many different cocktails. This resort even made bloody caesars – although watch out for the lime juice they add to these – they really throw off the flavor! We corrected this problem by asking for these drinks without the lime – then they were perfect! We carried our own insulated mugs wherever we went to ensure nice frosty drinks. The one bartender at the lobby bar was a treat to watch as he juggled bottles, glasses and even ice!

We also ate at the Cuban restaurant (excellent black bean soup here!), the Italian restaurant (bruschetta bread was the hit here), the seafood buffet on the Thursday evening (which was alright, but could not compare to the lobster tails at the VIP restaurant), and the Steakhouse which was excellent. We only ate at the buffet breakfast one day as we enjoyed the service and food at the VIP breakfast restaurant. The VIP restaurant was our choice for dinner two evenings as we had enjoyed it so much the first time. At the beach side grill, we sampled the nachos – very tasty – and the buffet salads and fresh fruit. During the day, a band played either at the pool or the beach grill – very festive. Also, each of the a la cartes restaurant had live musicians which really added to the atmosphere. Our final evening we dined at the Italian restaurant, where my husband helped entertain the other guests by dancing with each of my two cousins and myself – very memorable that was!

The animation team was a lot of fun. The first few days we stuck mostly to the quieter side at the Laguna pool, but by the third day we were involved in water volleyball, dance lessons, singing contests and a beer drinking contest (which my husband proudly won!). In the evening after this day, Adrian, of the animation team, approached our table at the nightly show and asked if my cousin’s husband, Derek, would like to be a gladiator in the next evening’s show – and, being the great sport that he is, Derek agreed. Upon showing up the next evening, only Derek had showed up out of the people asked, so Adrian convinced all three of our husbands to join him on stage – where they thoroughly entertained! After that show, we had people approaching us for the next few days to let the guys know how much they enjoyed the show and what great sports they were. The nightly shows always ended with a lively action dance that was great fun to get into! Our final day was spent hamming it up with Adrian and the animation team dancing and playing games by the pool.

We briefly visited the adult pool, but it was very tame and quiet…the El Senador pool was also a quieter pool so we never visited that pool. The pools were very cold so the only time we got into the pool was to get to the pool bar on the Laguna side. As the evenings were very cool, it is easy to understand why the pools were so cold. But we thoroughly enjoyed sitting the in the comfortable lounge chairs around the pool.

The beach was beautiful! We spent time just walking the beach in the early mornings or lounging in the sun. Unfortunately, due to the high winds happening while we were there, there were a few days when the water was very rough and the beach was not the best spot for relaxing – which was no problem as we just headed back to the pool.

In both of the lobbies, there is internet services provided at a low fee of $5 per hour. Having someone at home watching our two children, this was especially appreciated as we were able to email home daily to touch base with them as phoning Canada is very costly and difficult to do from Cuba. Only occasionally did we have to wait to use the internet – and as it was located right beside the lobby bar, waiting was not an issue! We also found it nice to check the weather on the internet for our time in Cuba – we had met up with two couples from Belleville who checked with me regularly to find out the forecast – and I was usually on the money – right Pat?

We took the 1/2 day tour to Moron for $30 per person. This was an interesting bus ride along the causeway to a town where we were able to see the schools, homes and shopping areas for the Cubans. In Moron we had a ride through the town in a horse and carriage as well as a tour of a museum. On the return, we stopped at a fresh water lake where we were taken out on boats around the lake and then served fried fish from the lake which was delicious. We then returned to the resort around 2:30. We also took the 1/2 day cataraman trip which happened on the most calm day – perfect for snorkeling. This trip only cost $42 per person and was well worth it. We took a bus to the catamaran, had about an hour out on the catamaran, then we made two 45 minute stops at different coral reefs for snorkeling, a 20 minute stop at a beach and then the hour back to the dock. Beer, rum punch, water and pop were included on the catamaran and a lobster tail meal could be purchased for 10 pesos if you wanted. None of us ordered one but some people did and they were huge tails. We left our resort at 8:45 am and returned around 2:30 so it was a perfect amount of time. On both of these trips, we were glad that we did only the 1/2 day tours as the full day tours often did not return until close to 6:30pm.

I believe it was Denise Clark (the previous review) who we talked to in the lobby the day she was married…we saw her getting into her white ballooned golf cart just a few villas down from us as they whisked her away to her wedding. She was the most relaxed bride we have ever met – and she told us how much fun her wedding had been at the resort. Congratulations Denise!

Yes, this resort is large and there is a lot of walking. But this was something we all enjoyed doing…it helped wear off some of the food and drink we had been partaking in!

All in all, we really were pleased with the El Senador and we all agreed that we would return to this resort.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Denise ~ Canada

February 2005

I am from London, Ontario, Canada. My husband and I just returned from The El Senador where we were married on Tuesday, February 8/05.

It was perfect. The food, the alcohol, our room on the lagoon, the beach, the service and of course our wedding.

I would highly recommend going away to get married. There was 30 of us in total. Perfect amount of guests for a wedding. The Wedding Coordinator was amazing. He did everything and I do mean everything.

We had also included in our wedding package, a photographer and videographer and they were wonderful. We picked up our pictures, cd, dvd and vhs tape the day after we got married. Now that’s service! The wedding video was professionally done with music and graphics plus the wedding itself.

The pictures were great too. Although we got married on a site right near the lagoon, the wedding coordinator along with the photographer & videographer all got on a golf cart decorated with white balloons and took us to the beach to take pictures which was awesome.

If anyone would like to email me with questions regarding getting married there please direct them to my personal work email address.

denisearmstrong@strathroyonline.com

El Senador you rock!

Denise Clark (my new married name!)

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Hez ~ Ontario. Canada

February 2005

We have just returned from our 1 week vacation to the El Senador. Overall, we were very pleased with our resort, although there are some things that need improving.

Rooms.
We were in the Laguna side, in block 15 right near the pool. This was a great location, very near the pool, the lobby, buffet etc. The down side…. the one day I went to have an afternoon nap, I couldn’t sleep because all I heard was 1, 2, 3, right, left…… salsa lessons over the microphone. It also was a bit of a bummer when people decided a 3 a.m. drunken swim was in order. But, it was very handy to be close to the room and if you don’t mind a little noise, it’s convenient. The room was clean, never spotted one bug. Our maid Annia was super….. we left her little gifts for her and her family, and she hugged us goodbye at the end!! What a sweetie.

Water – It’s true that the water pressure is not the greatest. If you tried to have a shower just before dinner, it was sort of hit and miss. One day I ended up pouring cups of water over myself to wash the soap off – then in a matter of 10 mins, the water was working fine again for hubbies shower. So you just have to be patient. Remember, it’s not Canada!!

Food: Okay, I’m not one for Buffets – I hate people pushing in front of me, or using the wrong spoon….. so I really didn’t enjoy the buffets that much. That having been said, my hubby liked it, and so did the others in our party. The breakfast buffet had bagels, english muffins, an egg cooking station for omellettes or fried eggs, french toast, waffle cooking station etc.

Lunch was pretty standard every day……. There is one restaurant by the Laguna pool that has chicken (which is pretty good), Poutine, Hot dogs, hamburgers, fish and pizza. It’s okay. The pizza seemed under cooked but the poutine was good. There is a second lunch grill (aside from the two buffets) that had Quesadillas, Nachos, etc. on the menu. I had the nachos – they were okay, but the Chicken Tortilla is really tasty! They never had Quesadillas every time I asked so I can’t say if they are any good.

a La Carte Restaurants
We booked on Monday morning, we were only able to book until Wednesday – then Wednesday you could book for the rest of the week (odd). The line-ups were big but moved quick to book. You book just outside the buffet (for Laguna side) not sure about Emperador. All of the restaurants have live music, which is really nice, but they try to sell you their c.d.’s but a polite no gracias will do if you aren’t interested. We tipped the bands, but I’m not sure if this is standard practice as many didn’t.

Seafood

We ate here one night. I had Lobster thermidor. It was good but really rich. They only had one non-seafood item, which was chicken florentine – my husband had it – he said it was okay.

Steakhouse:

We ate here twice. It was our favourite. The steaks were really good. We had soup starters – which was kinda bland. I had the mixed grill, which is steak, chicken and sausage, everyone else had just steak.

Cuban:

The night we tried the Cuban restaurant it was Lobster night, so we didn’t actually have the standard menu. But the lobster was MIGHTY tasty. mmmm. Surf and Turf, or just lobster, or just steak…. etc. Very good.

Italian:

The italian restaurant was fairly good too. I found it a bit bland, but nothing a dollop of parmesan and some salt didn’t cure.

All of the buns on the resort are like hockey pucks….. not sure if this is a salute to hockey and if they are leftovers from last season.

Shows:
We only caught one show. It was entertaining though. Dancing, music – pretty much what you see at every resort down south.

Disco:
We only went one night – the music sounded good, but they had one of the animation staff who talked loudly over the microphone so much that you couldn’t hear the music so we left. Not sure if this happened every night but it turned us off that we didn’t go back.

The Beach was nice….. white sand. The ocean water is a lot warmer than the pool. The pool was freezing. It was good on those really hot days, but other days it was just too cold to swim in. The weather was hot, it was perfect sun tanning weather. It did get cool at night, so bring a sweater – at least if you are planning on going in the next week or so. The cigar lounge is a great place to go after dinner to relax, play some cards, smoke a stogie, or play pool. Once we discovered it, we went there all the time for our after dinner drinks. They also have a different white wine then the restaurants, although we really enjoyed the wine with dinner.

The animation team is friendly – they always seem to be by the main pool at Laguna, other pools are quieter so keep that in mind if you like to join in the games.

Glass Bottom Boat:
This was 20 pesos and we really enjoyed it. I snorkeled at the coral reef which was amazing to see, they had the most beautiful fish. At first I was freaking out because they throw bread and all the fish swarm you, but later one of the guides took my hand and led me out to other parts of the reef where the fish were quite pretty.

Negatives: I was ready to come home after the week. There is really nothing to do. I miss not being able to walk into a local town for a stroll, or having those little shopping huts on the beach. There is really not much activity on the island so if relaxing by the pool is your number one priority I would say go to Cayo Coco. But if you tend to get bored easily, like me, you’ll find the time drags. You do not get any sense of cuban life. Nobody lives on the island…. so unless you take the day trip to Moron, then you won’t get to see any.

To be honest with you, I wouldn’t even have known I was in Cuba if it wasn’t for the weather. It’s almost all Canadians at the resort which has it’s plus sides I’m sure, but I would prefer a little more variety and local colour. The staff are friendly, but honestly, I miss trying out my spanish – they speak too much english – ha ha. That may sound weird but the resort just seemed too Canadianized for my liking. Not enough culture. Our mini fridge

only had water. One day we didn’t get any. But the next day our maid left us two, so maybe she was just out. It would be nice to have pop, etc. in the fridges. No face cloths in the rooms.
The water pressure problem….. as mentioned above.

I’ll go back to Cuba, but not back to Cayo Coco.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Anna ~ Canada

February 2005

I was a little concerned with the mixed reviews, but rest assured this resort is definitely a 4.5 STAR. First off you cannot complain about the weather! This has nothing to do with the resort or the people. Days were windy, warm and sunny, and without the wind you would’ve melted. NO RAIN. Yes, the evening were cool about 17, still much better than Canada’s – 25! Folks, remember this is Cuba’s winter season.

We loved the resort. Early check in was effortless, 2 bell man carried our bags to our Junior Suite in block 47. Our room was very large, and extremely clean with lots of water and toiletries. The resort is large but doesn’t feel cramped at all and is better laid out than the Sol Club and the Melia.

The staff were outstanding!! Our Canadian servers and bartenders could take a lesson or two from the El Senador staff. We took two day trips that were wonderful, full day Catamaran and Moron. The beach was beautiful and we were impressed with the restaurants. The food was quite good. (lobster, steak, shrimp, pasta, fish, pizza) everything was imported. There is live music throughout the resort. This resort exceeded all of our expectations, and I would highly recommend it and we are planning to go back next year.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Jessica ~ Toronto

January 2005

First off, many thanks to everyone who has posted reviews on this website….the information has been quite valuable in making decisions for vacations.

I went to El Senador in January 2005. I have travelled quite a bit, and this is my fourth time in Cuba. Of the Cuban resorts I have visited, El Senador was my least favourite. I would rate it overall 6 out of 10.

El Senador is a massive resort; bigger than my university’s campus! I believe there are something like 49 residential buildings. The resort is divided into 2 sides: Laguna Azul, and Emperador. The latter is the newer section and seemed generally all around nicer than the Laguna side. The resort was heavily populated with French Canadians when we were there; I would guess that about 70% of the guests were from Montreal.

So, on to the good and the bad…..

Good:
Some of the staff were simply outstanding and deserve mention. Angel, the gentleman who drove one of the golf carts (really, the most efficient way to get around the complex) and carried my luggage for me was very polite and helpful, and he gave me a friendly wave whenever he saw me throughout the week. Henry, a waiter in the smoking section of the buffet on Laguna Azul side, was an excellent waiter. He was extremely fast and efficient. He remembered that I loved the cappuccinos, and would bring me one every time I was at the restaurant without me having to mention anything. I don’t smoke at all, but I chose to sit in his sections most mornings because the service was so great. Also, I was most impressed my his ability to switch effortlessly between fluent English, French and Spanish. Quite a few staff members shared this linguistic talent.

Eicel, the omlette maker in the buffet, provided another example of excellent service. He was very funny and had a smile for all of the customers in the morning. Bonus marks if you can order a "tortilla especiale" (special omlette)in Spanish! Gustave, the omlette maker in the non-smoking side of the buffet, was also cheerful and friendly. He made damn good waffles, too–you can even have real maple syrup on them! To round out the kudos to the food staff, the slender young man who makes pizza at the Sirena pool grill (his name starts with an S, but I can’t quite remember it) was fast and attentive. I ended up eating quite a bit of pizza (as vegetarian options were quite limited)so really appreciated his hard work. He was really busy in the evenings, but still smiled and turned out consistently good food.

Reynel from the gym/games room was very approachable and friendly (and gracious when we beat him at pool!). I looked forward to seeing him around the complex.

Michael, one of the lifeguards at the beach, was an absolute sweetheart; a genuinely nice guy. We spent some time chatting, and he made me a beautiful shell necklace. Later, I gave him my old Walkman and a few pairs of headphones that I had brought to say thank you. He was so very appreciative; it made me feel really good. He told me that he has been taking English lessons and that now he can listen to his English tapes while commuting to work (2 hours each way).

The above people made a difference to my trip. In my mind, they typify the cheerful and friendly Cubans that one often reads about and that I have been lucky enough to meet on my travels.

Another aspect of the resort that deserves mentioning is the beach. It is just stunning–powdery white sand and turquoise water. I was told that the entire beach is 10 km long. I walked on the beach for 2 hours over 2 days and still didn’t cover all of it.

Finally, be sure to take the trip to The Cave disco if you can. It is a Cuban disco about 15 minutes away from the resort. The resorts have trips there 3 times a week, where guests (and some members of the entertainment staff) ride a small novelty train to the disco. It is really cool looking–it actually is an underground cave! You descend a number of stone steps, then emerge in a large cave. A large part of it is opened up; i.e. there is a big hole in the "roof" (ground) so you can see the stars and tree roots snaking down! Not sure what they do when it rains….There is a short "show" with scantily dressed Cuban dancers and then an acrobatic/balancing act, and then the place turns into a dance club. Cubans are not allowed on the resorts outside of working hours, but they can go to this disco. There were definitely more tourists than Cubans, but it was still cool to get a local vibe. It costs 10$ for cover and drinks, and the train leaves the resort at 11 pm and returns at 2 am. Going to The Cave was a highlight of my trip. There is a similar trip to Salsateca, a disco at one of the other resorts, which I would have liked to try as well; apparently there is live music there.

Bad:
Unfortunately, there were a number of unpleasantries about this trip too…

1. For 3 out of 7 days, it was very windy and COLD. Think November in Canada. Obviously this is no reflection on the resort, but it was disappointing for someone longing to escape Canadian winter…To give an example, at night, when we watched the shows, I wore a T shirt, jeans, a fleece vest, a fleece pullover, and a windbreaker jacket and only then felt comfortable. If you go in to this area in January, be sure to bring a few pairs of pants and a few sweaters. I didn’t wear any of my dresses because of the cold. Since the area is warm for most of the year, the buildings are not built for cold, and I would say that 98% of the public areas are open, not enclosed. The wind and cold go everywhere.

2. For the first 2 days of my trip, I had no hot water. This might not sound like such a big deal. Trust me, it is. It was a HUGE deal! I was chilled to the bone due to the wind, but couldn’t warm up in my room–who wants to take an ice cold shower after being cold all day? As well, the water pressure in my shower (building 10)was pathetic. There were about 20 holes in the shower head through which water could exit; only 4 holes yielded any water. I complained to my tour rep and the front desk after the first day. I had one truly hot shower on the third day. On subsequent days, my "hot" water was lucky if it made it to the tepid stage. This situation was consistent at any time of day, whether I tried to take a shower at 6 pm or 2 am. To me, this is unacceptable in a 4.5 star resort. To make things worse, my experience was not isolated–EVERY SINGLE PERSON that I talked to in my tour group had similar problems.

Oh yeah, the resort was completely without water for 4 hours on the second day. I understand that there are sometimes droughts, but it was most annoying.

3. 5 roaches in 7 days in my bathroom, plus little sand mites on my bathroom and bedroom counters. Thank god for ziploc bags for toiletries.

4. The walkway to building 10 was inconsistently lit at night. It was about a 6-7 minute walk to the lobby from my building, and it felt dodgy to walk sections in complete darkness.

5. Many things in my room broke. The TV would not work after the first day. 2 lights burned out. The fridge stopped working on the 6th day. Each time I reported these items to the front desk, I was earnestly assured that my comments were being "written down". This assurance was smartly followed by absolutely nothing being done to rectify the situation.

6. The listing of activities was not prominently posted. I found it on the 6th day (on the left side of the lobby if the front desk is on your right, by the Hola Sun desk). Some activities were posted but did not occur. Along these lines, I did not find that the entertainment team was terribly visible. Some events were run well, but run by one person while other team members sat around (one lay down). I saw some animators smoking while they were working. If you go to the resort to be swept up in a whirlwind of activities, you will be disappointed.

7. I took a 1 hour horseback ride and would not recommend it. I was the only one signed up for a certain time slot, so it was just myself and the (non-English speaking) guide. It was a rather quiet hour as I speak only a smattering of Spanish. It was touted as a ride along paths and the beach, but we were on a paved road for a good 40 minutes, then through a delightful tiny side path strewn with garbage, then about 5 minutes on the beach. On the return trip, the guide saw someone he knew on horseback, so told me to wait where I was, then trotted away 50 m to chat for a while with his friends. He returned, but my horse seemed a little edgy in his absence. We were told at the hotel that one could do this trip without having ever ridden before, but I would not suggest it.

8. I found that customer service was lacking at times at the front desk (both Emperador and Laguna sides) and at the bars. I was ignored for a good while once at the Emperador front desk; there were 4 employees working, but they were intent on talking with each other and did not even acknowledge that I was there! I similarly got the impression at some bars that I was interrupting the bartenders’ conversation and that it was an inconvenience to serve me.

9. On my 6th day at El Senador, we were told at 10:45 am that there was no money available for exchange…anywhere on the resort. Come back in 1 hour. This situation lasted until approximately 5 pm. Come on, this is a huge resort!! How do you run out of money? After 5 pm, there was consistently a very long (20-30 people) lineup, which didn’t seem to be going anywhere (and which closed at 10 pm). I decided to wait until the next day (my last day) to change Cuban pesos for American dollars for return to Canada. When I arrived at 9 am, the opening time for the exchange desk, I was told that the hotel had again run out of money and that I should come back in 1 hour. I pointed out that I was leaving on a bus in 15 minutes to drive to the airport, and was told that there was nothing they could do for me. Luckily, I was able to exchange money at the airport, but I was not impressed by the (supposedly 4.5 star) hotel’s mismanagement and lack of foresight.

10. I found the machismo attitude of certain male staff to be much more pronounced than I’ve seen in other areas of Cuba. Be careful.

In sum, El Senador left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. To generalize, the overall attitude of staff was one of indifference. For me, there were positives about the resort, but they were overshadowed by the negatives. I do not believe that this is a 4.5 star resort. I would not return to this resort, nor would I recommend it to others.

Cuba is a beautiful and interesting country, and I would suggest trying other resorts to better experience it. I have had very, very good experiences at Paradisus Rio d’Oro in Holguin (5 star) and Breezes Jibacoa (4.5 star) and would recommend them highly above El Senador.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Jose and Caroline ~ Canada

January 2005

We just got back from a week at El Senador. Overall, of all the resorts we have been to (about 7 in total, 3 of which in Cuba), I would say this is the one we were the least impressed with. Nothing to complain about specifically, everything was alright, but just alright. Except for the beach that was absolutely incredible !

The room was clean, but not very large and not well decorated (we were on the Laguna side, which is the standard rooms). Most rooms don’t have a balcony, we were told only 18 rooms had balconies (which excludes the rooms at ground level with a terrace), and we managed to move into one on the Monday. We had hot water every day, but found out later that it depends on which building you are in. If you are going there soon, take a note: building 22 and building 20 (the quadruplex we were in anyway) have hot water, building 14 is a problem.

The resort itself is very large and very convenient with lots of bars, several pools (among which an adult-only pool), well-equiped gym, but can’t say the resort is pretty, everything is just very plain, outdoors as well as indoors.

Food was good but the selection a little limited, although we can’t speak for the buffet at dinner time as we ate to the a la carte restaurants almost every night. But for breakfast and lunch, it is pretty much the same limited selection day after day. If you are hungry any time of the day and night, you can eat pizza 24 hours a day though.

Let’s talk about the animation team. Although it is true we had not been stationed at the main pool all week, we had yet to see the animation team during the day. On our last day, we stayed a good 5 hours at the pool, so there we had a good chance to watch 6 people do absolutely nothing. The only activity that occured all afternoon was the dancing lesson at 4 (where one animator was giving the lesson while 5 others were sitting down on chairs watching). Shows at night were okay though. But event the club dance sucks… If you are not going for the activities, it is not a problem for you as it wasn’t for us, but otherwise the Senador is not for you.

If you are a hockey fan, the week we were there would have made you happy as it was the yearly Canada-Cuba tournament week. It was animated and refereed by Bruce Hood (the mike in one hand and a beer in the other !) Also present were Serge Savard, Pierre Bouchard, Pierre Pilote, Johnny Bauer and others… All willingly taking pictures with tourists and signing autographs. Hockey at 4 o’clock every day was a lot of fun, for those who played and for those who watched, particularly the Cuba-Canada game, where Canada won the cup 8-3 (even though the ref was counting points backwards for Canada at one point). We missed it, but Cuba had there revenge at baseball (where apparently Canada got creamed). Hockey was the best part of my boyfriend’s vacation.

You might find us picky, but compared to the Melia Cayo Santa Maria we have been to last year, nothing compares, from rooms to food and service.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Lynn ~ Walkerton, ON

January 2005

After reading all the mixed reviews about the El Senador, I finally went to check it out for myself and I can say without a doubt, it was one of my most enjoyable vacations ever.

Since I’ve returned, I’ve had many questions asked about the resort and our vacation….here are some answers…..

Yes, it is not perfect but then again I don’t know of any Resort that is, however, it is definitely one of the better ones.

The Resort was beautiful and huge. There are two sections. I stayed in the Laguna part. The other part is called the "El Emperador". There is lots of walking but you can take a gulf cart around for the cost of a small tip (optional).

MY ROOM: I stayed in building 22, room 2202 at the Laguna and it was just lovely. A large room, modern bathroom/vanity and private balcony. It was clean and comfortable with plenty of closet space and a safe for your valuables. My water pressure was great and I always had hot water. Although some guests in building 11 & 12 did have problems with their water, most didn’t seem to mind too much but it would have been nicer for them if they at least had hot water. The Villas on the Lagoon were very nice. I wish now I had of spent the extra money to stay in one even though I liked my room, the Villas were that much nicer again.

FOOD: There is a variety of foods presented in the 2 buffets and 5 a la cartes so there is always something for everyone no matter what your tastes are. There is also a 24 hour grill/bar that serves very good pizza and poutine. The chicken is always good, the shish-kabob at the Steak House is great and the brushetta at the Italian Restaurant was wonderful. I am a seafood lover. I found this wonderful little restaurant on the beach (not part of the resorts). It’s called "RANCHON LAS DUNAS" not to be confused with the Las Dunas restaurant on the resort. I don’t think there is a sign out front but it has royal blue steps leading up to it off the beach and it’s located in between the El Senador and the Tryp. It’s far from fancy but they serve the very best lobster tails/shrimp you’ll ever taste. The lobster tails are huge (it fills the plate – I posted pictures on Yahoo) and they grill them over open fire right there in front of you. They fish in the morning and start serving at 1:00 in the afternoon so it’s always fresh. The cost is $15 pesos but you get a lot for your money. Along with the lobster tail you get shrimp & rice, a plate of salad (cucumbers/tomatoes), a plate of bread and a plate of fresh fruit. Of course they also serve chicken & fish and you can have a beer or two while you wait for your dinner for an additional cost of 1 peso each. Louise and his son, Louisito (Louise Jr.) run the establishment and have been in business for 13 years (since the first resort was built). Believe me, it’s the best $15 you’ll ever spend on a meal. Please say hello to Louisito for me…he’s a very nice man and it would mean a lot to me. Although the seafood a la carte was a nice experience, the lobster was extremely poor compared to Louisito’s so please don’t use the a la carte as a comparison because there is none.

THE BEACH: The beach is just beautiful. It is narrow but when the tide goes out, it’s better. The sand is as white and as soft as talcum powder and it is the cleanest water I’ve ever seen. A beautiful teal/blue colour. There wasn’t a jelly fish to be seen in the ocean (there are thousands in the lagoon but you don’t dare go in there anyways). I only saw one sea serpent. They clean the beach of any seaweed, etc. each morning so all you see is beauty. They have wood structures on the beach for shade and we never had a problem getting lounge chairs.

RESORT ACTIVITIES: The best $5 pesos I ever spent went to our banana boat ride. It was hilarious and we became the clowns/entertainment of the whole beach. I also went para-gliding for the small fee of $50 pesos (for 15 minutes). I took my video/digital camera up with me and got some great shots. It was amazing! There are catamarans, a glass bottom boat, paddle boats, snorkelling gear, etc. that you can also get on the beach. There is a games room with pool tables, etc., an exercise room and a clubhouse for children.

EXCURSIONS: There are many to choose from. We took the 1/2 day trip to Moron. Went for a carriage ride in Moron, a boat ride in a fresh water lake (and then had the best battered fish I’ve ever tasted) and also went to a crocodile farm (for an additional fee of $2 pesos) where I held a 2 year old crocodile. It was a good trip for the money. We left shortly after 9 and got back around 2:00. We also took the Jungle Tour where you get to drive a speed boat and then go snorkelling with beautiful fish. It was a great experience and I would highly recommend this 1/2 day trip. I was told the trip to Trinadad was good as well but it was a full day trip and I had other plans. There is also a train that will take you to "The Bat Cave", Flamingo Beach and a buffalo farm for a cost of $12 pesos per person. I was told it was also good for the money.

DISCOS/BARS: Although there is a disco at the resort, there is also a very good one where some of the resorts staff and guests go. It’s at the Solo Resort. It’s open Tuesday and Thursday nights at 11:00 and the cover charge was $7 pesos for anyone not staying at the Solo, but well worth it. The drinks are free and the place was packed. You can take the train or pay $3 pesos for a taxi and the taxi driver will come back for you at whatever time you want him there. There is also another bar at "The Bat Cave". We didn’t get to it but I was told that you walk through a bat cave and then the bar is downstairs. Sounded really cool and I regret not getting there. There is a 24 hour bar and grill on the resort as well. The bar at the El Emperador section of the El Senador has a bartender that throws bottles up into the air while making drinks (a real Tom Cruise). The Cigar House is also nice.

POOLS: The pools are just beautiful but a bit cold until you get in. There are two swim up bars as well and separate children’s & adult pools.

SHOWS: The Animation team are very talented. Their dance shows are amazing and the costumes are nice. They have a children’s show each night as well. CHOW CHOW MICKEY MOUSE! 🙂

WEATHER: The weather was nice. There was always a breeze/wind so the days were not unbearably hot. I always had a bad hair day but really didn’t care. 🙂 The nights cool down some so bring a light poncho/sweater/jacket and or long sleeve shirt.

HIGHLIGHTS: Aside from all the activities and adventures I had (para-gliding, snorkelling, etc. all for the first time)I also got to have drinks with Serge Savard and Pierre Bouchard and I got to meet Johny Bower. Serge was a judge in a cocktail contest that I won (I made up a drink called the Cuban Orgasm and everyone had a great time with it). Every time I ran into Serge he’d say "And the best drink in Cuba is?" It was a lot of fun. They had "Hockey Night in Cuba" while we were there so there were a few of the great hockey players there and a retired announcer. The tournament went from Jan. 9th to the 22nd. We watched the hockey tournament and a rainbow at the same time! Only in Cayo Coco! It was great.

THE STAFF: I can’t say enough about the staff (Please say hello to Angel – he will help you with your bags and drives the gulf cart) Carlos, Ariel and Tamara (all staff at the Laguna Bar & Grill) were also very nice but then again, all the staff are. Tamara is due to have her baby soon and could use all the baby items she can get. Please, if you have room in your suitcase, please bring her a little something for her baby. I’m sure she would appreciate it.

GENERAL INFORMATION: Cayo Coco does not have any people living on it. There are no villages, schools, hospitals, etc., only resorts. So, if you are planning on bringing gifts for the people, you can deliver them on the trip to Moron or Trinadad, otherwise, you can give them to the staff at the resort and please don’t forget the housekeeping staff that tend to the public washrooms. They don’t get many tips. Items such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, tools, fishing supplies, toys, clothing, shoes, school supplies (especially pens and pencils/sharpeners) etc. are all appreciated.

PICTURES: I have some very nice pictures that I’ve posted on Yahoo Photos. Please go to: http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/lynn_bernard42/my_photos

CONCLUSION: All in all, this resort provides you with a great vacation. I can honestly say the whole experience was one I will never forget.

As Tim McGraw’s song goes “Live Like You Were Dying” I became a cancer survivor this past year and although I didn’t go sky diving and Rocky Mountain climbing, I certainly could have written my own song in Cayo Coco! I will cherish my adventures there for as long as I live.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed my little novel here. As you can see, I just can’t say enough about the place. My final answer – "El Senador – Cayo Coco”

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Ian ~ Sarnia, Ont.

January 2005

Hi Debbie, I just returned yesterday (Jan. 18/05) from the El Senador Resort in Cayo Coco, Cuba. This was my first time there but definitely not my last. From landing to take off, with the exception of 1 surly person in the reception area & the pain of having to change my money (for tips) from Canadian to Convertible Pesos this was totally a pleasure. The staff were friendly & helpful, the food was great & plentiful, the grounds were beautiful & well kept (okay the grass was dry but Cuba is in the middle of a drought) & my room was spotless, with good air conditioning & lots of hot water. My tour company was Jetsgo which operate differently, I wanted to pre book my seat but was told they only do that during the last 2 weeks before departure, & when my travel agent got through @ 9:05 a.m. 2 weeks to the day before leaving, the first 10 rows were already gone!!! The airline was Kelowna which was adequate but no more, leg room being tight, not as bad as Air Transat (which I won’t fly with) but the cabin crew were great in both directions, the flights left exactly on time and coming home we had a choice of chicken or pasta & complimentary wine for lunch. All in all it was a most enjoyable trip.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco James ~ Canada

January 2005

Debbie;
I have used your reviews for all of our past vacations and I thought I would post a review of our most recent one to El Senador.

Flight – as expected, cramped but a quick flight.

Arrival in Cuba – Airport was quick and efficient, a very quick trip to the resort.

First Impressions – We arrived at El Senador prior to any of our rooms being ready so the all the arriving guests were told to come back at 2pm for check in. This was not unexpected, as they do have to clean and prep the rooms. Our first impression of the resort was that it was nice but poorly maintained.

Rooms – the rooms are bare, with not even a beside alarm clock or clothes iron. Not a big deal as we were only going to sleep there. Ants were another small matter that did not go unnoticed, not a major problem though (we had a ground floor room). I must qualify this section of the review as we were in the most common room available, I don’t know how well equipped the junior or lagoon villas are. If you are expecting a very well decorated and well equipped room this is the wrong resort for you.

Food – the food is not exceptional but definitely edible in the buffets. The a la carte restaurants are excellent and easily booked. The many options for food and dinning are a big plus for this resort. If you are expecting gourmet food this is not the resort for you, although the presentation is always top notch.

Pools – There are two large pools, a smaller adult pool and a kid’s pool (which never seemed to get used). The pools are large, nicely designed with both larger pools having swim up bars, a very nice touch. They could use some more maintenance around the pool areas, as there seems to be a lot of wear and tear. All in all the pools are very user friendly.

Beach – The beach is excellent! A big plus for this resort and from what we could tell El Senador has the best beach location of all the Cayo Coco resorts. The only drawback might be the wind. We had wind 5 out of 7 days, which is apparently unusual. It put a damper on ocean sports so be prepared for that. I would definitely give the beach two thumbs up!

Service – I love Cuba and the Cuban people, they are so warm and friendly. They however, (aside from a few) don’t seem to work very hard. It’s almost like most of the staff are unsupervised, as they never seem to be working. Having said that, these people will go out of their way for you if you need them too. They have such a love of life it’s hard not to become attached to some of them. If you have young children you will be in very good hands as Cubans love children. It’s a good thing that everyone is on vacation because you have lots of time to wait for service.

General – My wife and I have been to Cuba several times and this was our least favourite resort, that’s not to say we didn’t have a good time but I would definitely have to pass on this resort for another trip unless it was a super deal. This resort does not strike you as a five year old resort, it definitely seems older than that, due to the poor maintenance. It would be a stretch to give this resort a 4+* rating, a 4* is more fitting.

If anyone should have any questions about the resort feel free to contact me.
jball1@cogeco.ca

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Erin & Boomer ~ Ontario, Canada

January 2005

My boyfriend and our 4 friends loved the El Senador. We are all experienced travellers, but we must say that El Senador is now our favourite resort.

The food was excellent. We went to the Cuban, Steakhouse and Italian and all of them were excellent. The poutine was amazing. The service was fast & very friendly. The drinks are all good – especially the spanish coffee. We would go to the Cigar Lounge everynight after dinner before going to the disco.

The beach was very clean. The water is clear and you can walk out very far. We brought our own air matresses, it was very relaxing floating around.

The staff is very friendly. We brought lots of gifts for the staff & their children – they really appreciate it since they don’t make much money. If you want to get your hair done with beads, don’t go to the hair dresser at the resort, its too expensive – talk to the animation team – the girls will be able to help you out ……….

The rooms were cleaned each day at different times, but that didn’t matter to us because we weren’t in the room much. The fridge is stocked with big bottles of water. We stayed in Laguna building #19. We had a nice view of the ocean & the pool.

Watch out for the bulls at night. The are wild and they wander onto the grounds to graze. They keep to themselves. We only saw them twice.

We can’t wait to return to this wonderful resort 🙂

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Doug and Roberta ~ Canada

January 2005

For years, my wife and I have looked forward to finally having a honeymoon somewhere tropical, and this year we arrived at a position where we can start getting away annually, so we decided on Cuba as our first trip!

Having researched resorts online, we had already decided to experience Playa Costa Verde, only 50 minutes from Holguin, when we went to Sears to have them arrange it. We excitedly told the agent we had never done anything like this before, and asked them to please lead us through it. It was booked December 16, having us departing for a week January 4. Once we received our tickets around Christmas, and seeing it was done thru Signature, I was browsing their site online and noticed the available upgrades. With all I had since read about the possible delays and lineups in Cuba and here in Vancouver, and the added perks at the resort, we wanted to take advantage of this offer. However, because the Sears rep failed to present this offer to us when we originally booked it, and there being fewer than 48 hours before departure by the time we knew these offers existed, we couldn’t use the seat selection for the 7 hour flight down. Granted, Sears gave us a discount after the fact, but in the end, seat selection on the way back was the only part of the offer we actually realized for our money.

Got the call from Sears informing us that the resort we studied and booked was shutting down due to lack of water the night before departure. Because they were closing in less than an hour, I was told we had to decide immediately whether to be transferred a short way to another resort, or to reschedule the trip for another time. I had to insist on some time to have a quick look online at the resort. Once I visited the El Senador web page, I was pleased with the look of it, but concerned about the price difference advertised between it and Costa Verde. I called Sears back, asked about the price difference, but with such little time left before they closed, they couldn’t tell me how they would deal with that. When asked how far away the El Senador was from Holguin, I was told 4 – 4-1/2 hours by coachline. This meant being at the resort before midnight, still time for a meal and some drinks, so we decided to go for it. We really had no choice given Sears was about to close and all of our logistics re: children, pets etc. were set for the next morning.

3 AM January 4th we head to the airport in Vancouver having a small snack to tide us over until breakfast on the plane. We confirmed this with the Signature folks at the airport as I am diabetic and knowing meals are coming is obviously important. We trust those we hire to guide us, otherwise, why hire them… Once we board the aircraft at 7 AM, we are told that there will be lunch served around noon. This is a problem. So I drank some orange juice to tide me over. Lunch ends up being a rather small portion of chicken and rice with a roll, not nearly the carbs I was expecting for breakfast. Drank some more OJ to tide me over. Obviously we will be fed by Signature on the bus around dinner time, be at the resort shortly before midnight, no problem.

8 PM Cuba time, we land in Holguin, clear customs and are escorted to a mini-bus along with 8 other adults and 2 small children. Bench seats, no food, and soon enough the bus takes off with a Signature “guide” who speaks almost no English and curiously 2 drivers. All the guide can spit out, with a great Cuban smile is “8 hours or less”. We all laughed. I ate the rest of the airplane chips to tide me over. We’ll be there soon and be able to eat.

4 hours later, we ask again, in English with silly Spanish accents, hoping the “guide” understands, how much longer. “3, 4 hours” he says. We all laugh. Must be just around the corner. The bus stops for a pee break at an outdoor market. No one was prepared for this so no one had pesos to buy anything. The drivers buy food, change seats, and proceed to gorge while they continue the voyage. By this time it’s midnight and there’s been no effort by this Signature “guide” to tend to the fact that his passengers now haven’t eaten since around 3 PM Cuban time. None of us are laughing now. 1 hour later they stop for gas. It’s an argument at a dark, out of the way gas station for some fuel with a cantankerous female proprietor. After about 45 minutes, we are finally moving again, now starving and getting nervous. The kids on board are scared, sensing the adults fear and hearing the hushed conversations going on. 2 hours later, now about 2:30 AM, the bus stops, turns around and drives the other way. Now we’re lost. The driver stops twice, asking people out on the highway for directions in loud, angry Spanish. Finally at 3 AM we see the first roadsign indicating Cayo Coco and the relief starts to take over the hunger. My wife, at this point, is getting extremely worried about me passing out from lack of food. The adrenaline of knowing we are close is tiding me over, but barely.

3:30 AM, January 5, 8 hours after landing in Holguin, we pull up to the resort. We are elated, exhausted, starving, angry and completely in the dark. While standing in line for check-in, we are pleading for information from the resort’s Signature rep, and were being told not to worry, we’ll be filled in tomorrow. Our bags are whisked to our room and we left alone to figure out what to do for food.

4:30 AM, we find that the buffet has put out some coldcuts and vegetables to satiate our hunger. No real food, we are told, until breakfast tomorrow. I ate some coldcuts and drank some juice to tide me over. The next day we discovered there is a 24 hour pizza/hotdog place on the other side of the resort… 5:30 AM we finally get to bed.

11:00 AM we wake up and hustle our weary bodies excitedly to the buffet for breakfast. Breakfast is over and it won’t be open for lunch until noon. We search out the Signature rep to get ANY information on what to do, how to sign up for a la cartes or activities. He is inundated at that time with those who had arrived at a decent hour last night or this morning, trying desperately to get their own things booked, and tells us to have lunch. We do.

12:30 PM we finish a quick lunch and find that the rep is now gone, however there’s a note on the hotel desk saying that our orientation will be at 3 PM, so we wander about, trying to learn a bit on our own and talk to other Signature clients enjoying the same Signature service. We learn that those on the SkyQuest-arranged coach buses were given sandwiches and a real, English speaking guide for the trip.

3:00 PM, finally we get to our orientation. We all listen politely as the Signature rep goes through his rehearsed presentation, then learn we are out of luck for a la carte and excursion reservations for today. Finally, in a unified manner, everyone starts in on him, wanting to know how Signature is going to compensate us for the time lost due to the bus ride which was twice as long as promised to everyone. When he alluded to a $50 credit, which we haven’t seen, the place nearly erupted until he finally admitted that it had to be handled in Canada, and there was nothing more he would do for us.

4:30 PM, day 2, our vacation can begin. We finally have a short time to spend at the beach, eat dinner, have a few drinks, then go to bed early to ensure we can be up early enough to sign up for our dinners and excursions.

8:00 AM, day 3, January 6th, we are in the lobby looking for the rep. Once found at 9:00, he tells us another will be there soon and to have breakfast first, after which the new rep would take our reservations.

10:00 AM, after we eat, my wife and I split up so she can book our a la cartes while I book our excursions. After waiting nearly an hour while the new Signature rep books those who arrived this morning, when my turn comes I am told that the one thing we wanted to do was now sold out all week. The jungle boat tour. We manage to book the horse-ride for the next day, and the catamaran for the day before we leave, Monday. Great, we got something booked. My wife returns to tell me that there were only two restaurants that weren’t already fully booked, so we booked twice at one, once at the other, and hoped we could book the coveted Italian later in the week. By this time, it’s noon on day 3 and we have done everything we can to set things up. Now the “bus” group is starting to wonder why Signature can’t land the plane at the Cayo Coco airport, only 15 minutes down the road, instead of requiring we endure another 7 hour bus ride on day 7. The rep has no information, telling us that they should be handling in Canada. Is it being handled? He doesn’t know. Forget it, lets start our vacation for real now.

Half of day 3, January 6th to day 5, January 8th, we have a blast. We have no issue with the El Senador nor the awesome Cuban staff! Daily, though, we ask the rep about the impending return trip, like what time we will have to leave to make the connection in Holguin on our last day. He has no answers. Canada is handing it.

Day 6, January 9th, we run out of pesos, so we go to the front desk only to be told we can’t buy cash with our credit cards. A couple standing behind us point out that it was explained to us at the orientation. At his SunQuest orientation, I pointed out, not the Signature one. It is Sunday, so the bank is closed, there is no Signature rep around today, we are probably leaving early in the morning on our last day, Tuesday, to bus it to Holguin, so in order to have the 25 pesos each to pay the airport tax, we now have to cancel our catamaran excursion for Monday as it would have us miss the short bank hours.

Day 7, January 10th, we have now only enjoyed 4 days here and we’re leaving early tomorrow. We approach the Signature rep as soon as he appears, cancel the catamaran, and despite his neglecting to inform us of the unusual “no pesos on credit card” policy, and despite knowing we are “pesoless”, he can offer us no transportation to the bank, so we walk. Hour and a half later, we arrive, buy our pesos and take a cab back. Now, more than half of what is really our last day is gone, we are stressed out about still not knowing tomorrow’s plan, and are not having too much fun. We try to make the best of it, and make our way to the beach for a last walk along the ocean, where we bump into a SunQuest client who tells us that he had heard that the flight has been diverted to the Cayo Coco airport and that we no longer have to take the bus to Holguin. We rejoice. We then returned to the lobby to check the Signature book to confirm the news only to find it now contains a note saying we will be boarding the bus for Holguin at 9:00 AM the next morning. Depressed, we blow off the rest of the evening early to get to bed early so we can get up in time to pack and have a good breakfast, as we already know that Signature is not going to take care of us on the long bus ride. Feels like we have had a weekend in Cuba.

9:00 AM, January 11th we have eaten breakfast and are awaiting instruction. The Signature rep finally gives us some good news, the SunQuest book was right, the Signature book wrong. Indeed, we are flying out of Cayo Coco tonight after dinner. We rejoice, another partial day in paradise! We enjoyed that day to death, said goodbye to our new Canadian and Cuban friends, and headed home.

Over the course of a week, we enjoyed only 2 days unfettered with logistic hangups. If you grouped the unfettered hours on the partial days with the full days, generously, you end up with 4 days of vacation. In the end, our premium upgrades landed us nothing as the the El Senador didn’t honour them, thus no cigars or rum in our room, no minibar service, towels or bathrobe as anticipated, and no “express” service at any of the airports. The Signature rep failed to recognize the obvious disorientation of those who weren’t expecting to come to this resort, so everyone who was diverted lost much of their valuable vacation time searching for information. Knowing this, Signature should have gone to the ends of the earth to ensure that this group had the opportunity to understand and book the things they had looked forward to for months.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Carolyn ~ Canada

January 2005

We just returned home from staying at the El Senador- Cayo Coco Cuba. I read several reviews before leaving and had some concerns, but I was pleasantly surprised. The complex was very nice. This is their dry season, so things looked a little dry and there really wasn’t alot of colour, but all in all it was picturesque. The food was good. There were lots of choices and they try to accomodate you in every way. They had peanut butter and pancakes and syrup, which we heard is not usual in Cuba. The Cuban people were lovely, very friendly, polite, and courteous. The room was adequate, nothing fancy, just your basic hotel room.

Because of the hurricanes back in summer, there were trenches dug all around the buildings to drain excess water away from the bungalows. It doesn’t look pretty, but it did serve a purpose and when you realize why things are done, its easier to accept. There was lots to do in the complex itself, but we rented scooters for half a day and really there isn’t anything to see once you exit the hotel property. There was no night life to speak of, other than the shows in the hotel complex. (which was fine with us). If you’re looking for a quiet holiday where you meet people and eat, and drink and eat and drink some more. I would recommend this resort. Next time I think we’ll try somewhere else , only because I like to sight see and there wasn’t anywhere to go.

We were also told to bring things for the Cuban people. I would suggest things for the hotel workers to take home for their children. They all talk about their kids, and we got the impression that they would just love to take things home to present to their kids. Most of the workers travel by bus for hours to arrive at work early in the a.m. and work until late into the night and return home on the long bus ride. Unbelievable! And we think we have it hard. Take goody bags, hats, shirts, candies for kids, gum, books, writing paper and pens etc. They will truly be appreciated. I found Cuba to be a good deal and great value for your money.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Steve ~ Canada

January 2005

Just got back from Cuba and have been reading some of the reviews. I am surprised that a lot of them are so positive, considering that so many of the people I ran into at the resort were furious, due to the lack of drinking water, hot water, water pressure etc. Although there were some negative aspects to the resort, I felt that a trip is what you make it and although there were inconveniences, I tried not to let them bother me.

Positives:
The resort is very large and even though this was the busiest week of the season, we had no problems getting chairs by the pool and never felt crowded. There are plenty of bars and the beach was gorgeous. A crew was at the beach everyday cleaning seaweed and the grounds of the resort were immaculate. However I could do without the guys watering the lawn if it meant that I would have some water pressure and warm water in our room. We had baths at night and there seemed to be some warm water then. Run the tap for 3 minutes and warm water will start to come out.

The food was safe and very good at the buffets and a-la carte restaurants. My steak was great although I have heard others complain. The buffet breakfast was always cold, even if you got there at 7:30 in the morning when it opens.

Negatives:
Don’t bring walkie talkies to Cuba, as they will be confiscated by customs, although you can pick them up on the way out. The airport on the whole was not large enough to accommodate all of the tourists. Try and get there early if you depart on Sunday’s as there are 10 flights usually leaving in the evening, but I wouldn’t suggest that you pay extra for the VIP treatment. Also don’t bring American money, as they no longer accept it and you will be penalized 10% when you exchange it into Cuban convertible pesos.

We didn’t receive drinking water in our room for the first three days. The only way I started to get some is by bribing another cleaning lady, since ours didn’t have any water. Once I wrote “Agwa Please” on a post-it note and tipped the maid did I receive drinking water. I went to the front desk three times to complain and they did nothing although they promised they would.

Bring your own towel because if someone steals yours the fee is $80 US per towel

On the whole I think this was a pretty good resort, but it all depends on your tolerance level. The main compliant was the water situation and it is frustrating when you are paying good money to go to a 4.5 Star resort and you can’t have a warm shower. My main compliant was the airport. It took us 2.5 hours to get boarding passes and we were worried that we would not get on the plane, even though we were there with ample time. Then you had to line up again to pay your departure tax and another line for customs/security. I would not bother going to Cuba again for this reason, although it may not be as bad if you went to the resort at a time other than the peak of the season. Perhaps there is hot water when the rooms are not all booked, I don’t know.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Bill and Lynne

January 2005

We had the best vacations ever there. We were there in february 2002 and 2003. soon to be february 2005. We love it there. I’ve heard negative things about other resorts and this one had alot to offer. A 24 hour bar, very important. Also lots of restaurants to choose from. Our bartenders Victor and Ozwaldo were fantastic!!!! They took very good care of us> I find them very friendly down there, we met lots of people. We went on the snorkle trip where you got to drive your own speed boat awesome. We also went to the town of Moron and went through the town on horse and carriage, then a sugar cane factory, alligator farm,train ride, and lunch at an outdoor restaurant, and also on a boat ride. I recommend you try the day trips. The people are so kind and friendly. Everyone that worked at the resort were very kind. If you are at a bar ask for a drink called poppa hayya. You will get a big laugh. Also a very good drink is a hummer. I can’t wait to go back there. I loved it, and so did all of our frinds and family.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Mélanie

January 2005

I justed came back from paradise !!!

It was my second trip to Cuba. Last July we went to Playa Pesquero in Holguin witch was good but never like the El Senador.

We heard a lot of bad things about the El Senador and we decide to chose the Tryp Cayo Coco.We had a phone call from Nolitour the day before whe left saying they over book the Tryp and they where sending us to the El Senador.

Man that was the best thing that could ever happen to us!!!

We were 7 travelling togheter for Christmas and evreybody loved there trip.The hotel is great, the rooms are clean (we stayed on the emperador side), the decoration is nice, the food is excellent witch is normaly rare in Cuba, the sea is crystal clear,the sand is white, the pool are really nice,the shows are wonderful,the animation team are incredible you have to meet Danny, Adrien and Luis they are incredible, The cook,the housekeepers,the gardeners evreybody there are so nice…You will be sad to leave !!!

We stay only a week and honestly it was way to short. It was the best trip I have ever made.

You have to try the salsatheque, the italien restaurent, the spanish coffee, the poutine…

If I would go back ? I am alreading packing !!!!

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Michael & Anki

January 2005

My wife and I just came back from a week in paradise at the El Senador Resort Cayo Coco and we just want to tell your readers what a good time we had during our stay.

The resort is awesome; the rooms are clean, the pools crystal blue, the restaurants terrific and the entertainment highly pleasing.

The food… well, they are the best food from a resort we ever stayed before. The dinner buffets are wonderful; each night with a different theme – Cuban, Mexican, Canadian and, of course, monsterous seafood! The a-la-carte restaurants are also magnificent; the steak house serves some of the best steaks on the island, the seafood restaurant has a wonderful lobster thermidor and the Cuban restaurant serves the most marvellous grilled red snapper of all!

But most of all, we want to write about the people; from the front-desk, to the servers, to the housekeepers and gardeners and the animation team. They are most wonderful and cheerful people you can ever meet. They live to serve us – the tourists!

Another unforgettable trip is the one we made to the city of Moron; where we observe ordinary Cubans live their lives. These people do not have a lot; but they do with they have and they show that in their bright, sunny smiles. I strongly encourage you to take a half-day excursion to visit the city, along with the authentic Cuban lunch, and the crocodile farm and the boat ride…etc.

Please, when you go to Cuba, bring along with you everyday household items such as toothpastes, toothbrushes, soaps, band-aides, Tylenol sample packs, candy treats (especially those sizes from Halloween), and little toys, pencils, colour-crayons…whatever you can comfortably carry with you. Give them out at your hotel to the servers, gardeners, housekeepers, guards, and when you are on your excursion, to the people you meet on the street. Your heavenly father will smile upon you!

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Vicki & Susan — Canada

December 2004

My sister and I spent one week at El Senador. Like other people I was a bit worried by some of the negative reviews. But I was pleastantly surprised. The resort was great. Check in was easy, we were given our room key on the bus. We were greeted by the animation staff and our luggage was delivered to our room minutes after we got there.

Our room was large and very clean. There was plenty of hot water and good water pressure in the shower. The air conditioning worked well.

The grounds were huge. The Emprador side was closed, but it didn’t matter. Our side was more than big enough! Lots of areas to walk around in. I never did see any cows, but I did smell some manure around the adult’s only pool. I did think the grounds could use some more tender loving care. The lawn in areas had obviously not been mowed in weeks. But over all the grounds were well tended and beautiful.

The beach was totally AWSOME!!!!! Very long with nice hard packed sand that was easy to walk on. This is the first beach I’ve been to that I’ve got tired of walking it before it ran out! It was nice to be able to walk onto the other resorts and check them out. I think ours was the best. The water was that wonderful aqua marine green. We never saw a jelly fish and we spent every day on the beach.

We went on the jungle tour. My sister loved it! She was able to drive the little 2 seater speed boat thru the lagoons and mangroves. At the end of the ride you got to go snorkeling. It was a blast, well worth the money $39 U.S. We also went on the glass bottom boat, this took you out to a coral reef where you could go snorkeling. I loved it. The fish were so pretty and came right up to you. The high light of the week had to be when we went para gliding! It was terrifying in that you are well over 200 feet in the air. You go up with a guide, once you get up high enough you are unhooked from the boat that has towed you out. You then are just sailing through the air. The view is incredible and the sensation of floating free is totally amazing!!! You take off from the beach and you land very gently back on the beach. I would do it again in a heart beat!

The staff was very friendly. The service was good. We never waited more than a few minutes for service. The bar tenders and their imitations of the movie “Cocktails” were great. They seemed to really enjoy their jobs.

The food was good; especially for Cuba. There was plenty to eat if not a great variety. The roasts were very good. I missed not having a pasta bar that I have had at other resorts, but otherwise it was good.

This was our 4th trip to Cuba. It was defintly the best beach we have been to. I would highly recommend this resort.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Fran & Dan — Canada

December 2004

We just got back from a week vacation at El Senador. We were two couples. I just couldn’t believe all the negative reviews we had read because this was a perfect resort. Nothing negative to complain about. The food was excellent, the staff awsome. My husband played hockey everyday and once a week they have a baseball game going on near the tennis court. Lot of beach volleyball, pool volleyball, water polo. We went on the catamaran excursion, excellent, we did some snorkeling ,ate lobster on the boat and visited a beach which was beautiful. The lagoon villas were very big with a nice balcony. We had a great time and I would go back anyday.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Lee, Hope, Kayla and Ted — Canada

November 2004

We’ve been back a month and seems like so long ago.

We had the best time at El Senador and we highly recommend it.

From arrival to departure the staff at the hotel couldn’t have been friendlier or more helpful.

We were greeted as soon as we arrived and were told not to worry about our luggage as it would be brought to the rooms for us. Check in was smooth and informative and took less than 10 minutes. We were offered a ride to our rooms at building 21 (which was a 45 second walk) but declined as we really wanted to stretch our legs.

We arrived about 9:30 p.m. and as soon as we unpacked we headed to the beach. There was a guy standing at the top of the stairs leading down to the beach and he was able to tell us all we needed to know about what to expect the next day on the beach. As it was the off season, there was no need to reserve lounge chairs or fight for shade, and no reservations had to be made for meals.

The beach is the most beautiful beach we have ever seen, and no….no jellyfish to be seen. The beautiful white sand and beautiful green ocean was heaven.

The grounds were kept very well, the pools were indeed clean and suprisingly very little chlorine was used. We were able to swim under water with our eyes open with very little irritation.

The Animators were so friendly and fun. I have to mention a few….Ermundo and Janet (for those of you who have been there, you’ll know i mean the one and only "Janet Jackson" and "Mandy"), talk about high energy. These two never stopped. We played pool volleyball for hours. They constantly seeked us out to see if there was anything we wanted to do, or if there was anything they could help us set up or just give us some history about the hotel. At one point, *********** even offered to babysit for a couple who really wanted to go to the Disco and have a bit of adult fun. She stayed 5 hours past her shift and those kids had the best time in her company.

Another person I have to mention is Giovanni, the pool lifegaurd. Talk about amazing. He was able to take us on a day excursion, snorkeling. He took us to this most beautiful island, that we had to reach by catamaran. My two daughters (19 and 16) were very smitten with Giovanni. My youngest was deathly afraid of sharks and he took the time to educate her on there behaviour and their habitat. He was very patient with her and encouraging. He swam with her the whole time so she wouldn’t be scared and helped her to get used to the equipment for snorkeling. We had purchased an under water camera and he offered to dive down and take pictures for us (as we couldn’t really figure out how to do that with the whole snorkel and being so bouyant). The pictures turned out amazing. We found a friend in Giovanni and exchanged numbers. He hopes to come to Toronto in the near future and we can’t wait to show him around our beautiful home as he took the time (on his day off) to show us around the Island.

the last person I have to mention is Joel the lobby bartender. His english was amazing and he was so friendly. We had no idea what to drink and he made us all the most popular drinks and told us if we didn’t like it…no problem i’ll make you something else. He took the time to ask our names and made a point of saying hello to us every time we saw him. He was very busy but no one felt like they were waiting forever for service. He could obviously walk and chew gum at the same time as he served multiple people at one time while talking to everyone who cared to listen.

The food was good, a little different then what were used to at home, but all in all an experience we enjoyed emenselly. i have to agree with one of the other writers here though when they said the rolls were like hockey pucks..what was up with that, maybe a little reminder of home and the fact that were missing our beloved Maple Leafs.

All in all from start to finish, we had the best time. I know alot of people are complaining about the fact that the entire resort was not open at once. But seriously people, if your staying in El Senador, who cares if the Emporador is not open, and hello you can’t eat at more than one restaurant at a time. And PLEASE, you had to wait five minutes for a drink or a waiter or some sort of service…..you’re on holidays, whats your big hurry… slow down, relax, enjoy the scenery, take a breath…and please chew your food before you swallow!!!

We give this hotel, beach, rooms, activities and most of all employees a great big 10 out of 10.

OHHHH and lastly….the cows people….see the horns…their bulls.

Hola all from Lee, Hope, Kayla and Ted

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Bob & Liz from Oshawa

November 2004

We have just returned from a week at El Senador and were a little nervous because of some of the negative reviews. I must say, we had a wonderful week. Our check-in was quick and we were escorted to our room right away. The resort is half closed because it is a huge resort and therefore slower in the off-season. The half that was open was great and had all the facilities of the full one so it wasn’t a problem at all. There were three a la carte restaurants open and we went every night (except for lobster night at the buffet!) with no reservation, a real off-season treat for us. (Lobster bisque is heavenly)

Our room was great and cleaned every day when we returned from breakfast. We found the staff to be very friendly and the service was great. The drinks and the bartenders were the best we have seen (this is our third trip to Cuba). Make sure you have a Spanish coffee.

There were three pools open, one with pool bar, an adults pool and a children’s pool also. Of course activities every day; volleyball and water polo in the pool, dance lessons, Spanish lessons, aerobics and a pretty good gym with outdoor pool and tennis tables. Every day at 4:30 there is a ball-hockey game on one the tennis courts. The animation team are very good and get good participation.

There is nightly entertainment (I thought very good, great live band) and a bus to go to a disco after if you want to.

The sandy beach is beautiful, not very wide but very long and you can walk right thru to resorts on either side. The great thing about this resort for us was that it is very big, and you don’t feel cramped, lots of places to walk around to.

FYI, we are a couple in our forties, this is our third trip to Cuba (we have also been to Mexico 2x) and we will probably return to this resort. (Although I really liked Iberostar Daiquiri as well)

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Gina

November 2004

Date: August 8th-15th

Age: 18 to 23

Arrival:
Smooth departure from Toronto Pearson, a bit of turbulence half way, but smooth landing! The resort is about 10 minutes away by bus, and once we’ve picked up our luggage, we stepped outside and we received an enveloppe containing our room key, room number, list of restaurants, phone numbers, etc. Then, we were ushered into a bus. Unfortunately, they had 3 buses going to El Senador and not all the passengers from our flight were going to the same resort. They might have miscalculated, but there weren’t enough buses in the end. So we embarked on the bus that basically passed by each resort. Luckily, El Senador was the first stop so it made no difference for us in the end. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were greeted by the animators dancing to music, but most of the people were preoccupied with the check-in and finding the luggages in the bus itself.

Food:
There were 4 restaurants open during the low-season [May to November]: Buffet Los Portales, La Sirena Grill, El Malecon Seafood and El Gallo Steakhouse. Upon our arrival (around 5pm), we strolled around and immediately tried the Seafood Restaurant. I was personally impressed with the food. Presentation was amazing, portions were just right and was delicious. They also had a band which would be playing for each table and would be selling their CD. I bought it, and it’s a great souvenir. However, breakfast at the Buffet (the only place for breakfast) was mediocre and bland. We were surprised to find bacon, but it was burnt half the time. Also, it’s true that there are no tags at the Buffet indicating what the dishes are… therefore, we tried a little bit of everything. La Sirena was the best place to eat lunch. You could be soaking wet coming out from the pool, and march directly to order! They serve burgers, hot dogs, poutine, pizza, etc… good home food for the homesick! The Steakhouse was also amazing but service is a bit longer there and the desert table was out in the open with ants crawling all over.

Room:
We were 2 in each room, and we were placed in the Club room on the Laguna side. The Emperador is closed during low season, so basically half the resort is completely shut down. The room were very spacy, the beds were large, everything was great, we couldn’t have asked for more! Also, we were lucky to be placed in building 21 which was right across from the Gym and Activity area. At first we were a bit reluctant, but we later loved our building because we were quite close to almost everything. Everyone would always be gathering in that area for a game of ping-pong, pool or tennis in the late afternoon, and the animators would also assemble there on their breaks.

Bar:
Sometimes it took really long before receiving the drinks, especially after supper where the bars would simply be flooded. In this case, the recommendation would simply be to tip the bartender. Most of the bartenders all have fixed hours (or so it seemed). Some were nicer than others, some more skilled and would put up shows by twirling the bottles of alcohol. Make sure to try the Coco Blue!! Our favorite bartender was none other than Felix who would make amazing drinks! He was there almost every night at the Sirena Bar while the entertainment shows would be on.

Beach:
Lotsa jellyfish!! We were actually in Cuba the week that Hurricane Charley passed by. We weren’t affected, but itw as really windy and stormy that night. We were actually sitting at the Seafood restaurant when it began to rain and it was extremely windy. Our wine glasses were being blown off the tables and were shattering all over the place. But we quickly ate what we had, and ran for the lobby. The next morning however, the beach was filled with jellyfish. I had encountered 3 people that day that had been stung by jellyfish while going out for a swim in the early morning. I strongly suggest not to go into the waters too early in the morning or too late in the afternoon since it seemed that those were the times that the area was flooded with jellyfish. Other than that, the sand was pretty clean, hardly any pollution and garbage (unlike at Tryp).

Pools:
There would be 2 scuba instructors with equipments in the morning that would teach you how to scuba dive for free in the pool. My friends gave it a try and they really loved the experience. Usually around 11am, there was usually a game of water-volleyball with the animators. And right before the game of water-volleyball there was beach volleyball at the beach. All these activities directed by the animators were extremely enjoyable, as they too were looking to have some fun and meet people.

Entertainment:
2 shows out of 6 were fashion shows. They were usually on weekends since it seemed like most of the animators get the weekend off. The fashion shows weren’t that great, but it’s always interesting to sit and watch for a bit. Comedy night was pretty funny but they had to move it into the Disco because it started to rain (light rain though). The other shows were mostly game shows that would involve the participate of the crowd, and the winner of each night would get a bottle of Havana Club. As mentionned before, the animators did a great job with the activities during the day. In the morning there were areobic lessons, then it would be beach volleyball, followed by water volleyball, water polo, hockey, spanish lessons and dance lessons. Tennis lessons were also free i think, but regardless, the tennis instructor was really nice and always kept us entertained.

Service/Staff:
The service is not as slow as other people might say it is. It’s not that bad. But we all understand that 1) we’re on vacation, there’s no rush 2) these people work the whole day, every day, in unbearable heat 3) enjoy every minute of relaxation! We would usually be done eating supper within an hour and half. Tipping is always appreciate, although they don’t seem like they expect it. The people at the front desk are always friendly and greet you with a big smile. We were up all night during our last day and we had loads of fun with the people at the front desk, the bartender and the security people roaming around on golf carts. That night, it came to our realization that the security guards on the beach stay standing up all night, peering out. We know this for a fact, because we actually wanted to go watch the sunrise, but we showed up a bit too early. The gardeners were sooo nice. They would climb up on trees and cut down coconuts so that we can drink them and then eat the inside. Everyone working on the resort would always say "hola!" when you passed them. The cart drivers were a little crazy, speeding especially night, but it was all really fun since i’m pretty sure they purposely tried to surprise us. We always left a tip and some goods for the maid every day, and they showed their appreciation with the modeling of things out of the towels. They would also pick fresh flowers from the garden to bring it into our rooms and display them nicely.

Outings:
We initially wanted to go snorkeling, but we loved the resort so much that we became so attached to it! However, we did rent scooters for the day and went into town. We actually went out one night for a joyride and we stopped at the side of the road where it was complete pitch black. We looked up, and we saw the most amazing sky of stars. It was phenomenal and i can say that i saw many shooting stars that night but i was too much in awe to actually make wishes. The animation team also organized 2 trips to other discos at the neighboring resorts. They brought us by a little trolly/train to the Salsateca at Sol Cayo Coco. They charged 10$USD for the cover and for the ride. However, it was only the second night that we decided to go a bit later in the evening. So we took a cab which ended up costing 3$ for 5 people. And cover was only 7$. The disco at El Senador was always empty and rather pitiful. But those at Tryp and Sol were wild, and they would even have live bands that came in from the city to play. Therefore, the people that actually went to go party were not only tourists but also locals.

Weather:
Although Hurricane Charley passed by, it affected us very little. Because of the stormy weather conditions, many people that were booked for resorts in Havana were turned to El Senador. And it was a great experience to meet a couple of Europeans that were still in a good mood despite not getting what they intially wanted. Also whenever it would rain, it would only last about an hour. Overall, we had A LOT of sunshine, and hot weather!

Also another tip… BEWARE of strolling cows and crabs at night! We thought we were hallucinating at first, and accusing each other of being drunk, but yes.. it is true, there was a herd of 20 cows one night by the tennis courts eating grass….

The animators were truly the people who made our stay memorable. We had lots of fun with them and they are the reason why i would return to the same resort again. I would really like to see the Emperador side open during low-season so it could accomadate more people, and we would also have more choice in food and activities.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Amy — Canada

November 2004

This is partly a review and partly a response to the review posted by Susan. While I respect Susan’s opinion and experiences, I want to make sure that those considering a vacation at El Senador see another side of the resort, as our experience and the experiences of the many friends that we met while staying at El Senador were very positive. We stayed at El Senador the last week in October.

Yes, when we arrived there were no members of the animation team dancing; however, I would hardly consider this enough to ruin someone’s vacation.

Our room was a little musty, but otherwise very clean and very big. Our room was cleaned very well each day.

We found the grounds to be beautiful. Yes, they are doing repairs on the El Emperador side of the resort, but I don’t think you should complain about a location that you are not staying in. The ditch digging did not bother us at all and we spent many afternoons in the adult pool. I also didn’t smell any manure. I had no problems with the pathways and believe me, there were a few nights that we had a few too many glasses of rum punch.

As for the food; the first night we were very unsure of what to think. The buffet really was terrible. Our rep also told us that we could eat at the a la carte restaurants as many times as we would like. We ate at the Steakhouse, which was great, and the Italian (also great). Every other night, we found something we really liked at the buffet.

The beach was narrow, but beautiful. During the week, we went to the beach every day but 2 and I saw 2 jelly fish the entire week. This is after all the ocean!

As for Moron or Ciego d’Avila not being typical Cuban cities because of their lack of “tourist shopping destinations”. Yes, this is typical Cuban life. I have friends and family who have spent a great deal of time in Cuba and the vast majority of Cuban life is not like it is in the tourist attractions of Havana.

Not once during out stay, did we feel hassled for tips. We met many wonderful employees at El Senador who truly made our vacation special. I’m not sure why proper North American etiquette of tipping for good service goes out the window when you’re on vacation. I have to say that I have never felt so good about handing someone a tip. These employees work very hard and deserve every dollar.

In the course of a typical day there was aerobics in the morning, usually followed by beach volleyball or soccer, water polo in the afternoon, salsa lessons by the pool and a game of Cuba Vs Canada hockey. There were plenty of activities offered and the animation staff work incredibly hard.

I really enjoyed my stay at El Senador. Yes, there were “hiccups” in our vacation; but we were there to have a good time and not to dwell upon the negative.

I would absolutely recommend El Senador

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Susan

November 2004

I must say I was looking forward to staying at El Senador because of being told it was the place to stay. Although my trip from the airport to the hotel was fine we were not greeted by the animation team. The front desk was not busy at all and I was checked in right away. However, I was not told that I needed a safe lock for my valuables and after having my luggage taken to my room had to return to ask for a lock. There is no charge unless you lose the key then you have to pay $20.00 US.

I was very disappointed in my stay there. Half of the resort was closed down and there was only one buffet restaurant available and half of it was closed off as there were not the number of people that warranted opening other space. They do not label their food so if you can’t identify it by sight you don’t know what you are eating. The up side was that because there were so few people at the resort no reservation was required for the a la carte restaraunts without reservations. The briefing personel from the travel agent kept talking about the beautiful beaches. Well the tied never went out until afternoon so if you were looking for a leisurely walk on the beach in the morning — forget it
— there was no beach to walk on – not to mention that if you are not in one of the lagoon suites you have about a 10 minute walk to get through the resort to the beach. This is not a resort for a disabled person as there are no elevators in the hotel complexes and the walkway to the beach is all stairs. In the afternoon when the tide went out the beach was covered in seaweed and jelly fish so you still couldn’t walk leisurely without watching where you were stepping.

I found that the groundskeeping was very poor as well as the room service. The smaller pathways were made of square adobe bricks that had nothing between them to steady them and those paths that did have grass between the bricks, the grass was so overgrown that you could easily trip. Also, watch out for the cattle manure as the cows roam through the resort at night and the manure is not cleaned up.

During my stay they were digging a ditch in front of the hotel complexes, using a jack hammer at the adult pool from 9-3 each day and then the odour of manure…I certainly felt my money could have been spent at a better resort where there would be quiet, calm and resting atomosphere.

There is no shopping other than the boutiques at the resort. The closest town in 1 hour away and only houses the employees of the resort…no shopping as it is no the typical Cuban town. If you are looking for a trip to Havana as an excursion you will pay a lot for this….$175 US for one person since it is an 8 hour bus trip to Havana from this resort. If you want to see the Havana Tropicana Show them you need to go over night and that costs close to $300 US per person.

I felt that the room service was not good. I arrived in my room to find dustballs of hair on the floor in the bathroom, there was no fresh bar of soap and no bottle of water. My bedsheets were never changed at any time through the week – even though they indicated that they would be changed mid-week, the floor in my room was never washed or swept the entire time I was there, and the bathroom sink and toilet was never cleaned. Very disappointing.

I find that the staff in this resort are very expectant of getting the $1 for everything. They even have a staff member come around the pool in the afternoon to see if you want them to get you a drink and if you say yes..when they return they stand there expecting a tip. Same with the waitresses and cook etc. you get minimal service if you don’t tip and as soon as you do they are very friendly.

The adult entertainment never started at night until 9:30 and there weren’t very many other activities during the day.

All in all I would never return to this resort and was very disappointed in the resort as a whole.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Franca

September 2004

Just got back from El Senador. Thought I was booked into a 5 starNOT!! We were not aware that there were two resorts. The Empador side is very nice. We were on the Leguna side. This is not what I paid for. And for this reason, I will not visit the El Senador again. They should let you know at booking time what you are really paying for.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Jenn — Canada

August 2004

This was my first trip to Cuba and it was absolutely fantastic for our group of people who were in their late teens and early twenties.

Check-in was short, we were given our room information and resort information when we arrived in Cayo Coco, and we just dropped the sign-in sheet at the front desk. Although there was nobody to help us with our luggage because the lobby staff were understaffed, it wasn’t very hard to find our way around the resort.

We were well taken care of in terms of activities promoted by the on-site animators (beach volleyball, water volleyball, hockey…). The shows were okay, not fantastic, although there were some very funny bits to it. I dont blame them really because of the animation staff working during the day had to stay late in order to perform for the show in the evening. Overall, the animation staff was fun, friendly and very warm. The Disco was piteful at the resort, however when the animation staff organized a trip to another disco (salsateca) in some other resort, it was lively and packed with people (absolutely amazing!).

The rooms we had were spacious and the housekeeping staff were very friendly and creative with the rooms, as well as very clean. But the handle for the hand towel did fall off, and we had advised the front desk it was never fixed.

Most of the food was okay, some of it was bland, but feel free to add salt and pepper to your choice. However, the service was really slow. Our group didn’t mind because we were on vacation and were in no rush to get any where, but it was long just to get some water while waiting to order, and forget about ordering drinks because of the lack of variety in the restaurants (seafood and steakhouse&cuban). The Buffet was not too bad and had a variety of meats, vegetables and rice, but the bread was practically rock solid.

The quality of the drinks served at the bar really depended of the bartender. We went to certain bars for certain drink, because I must advise, some of the drinks had way too much alcohol in them. Although I did not try the coffee, many of my friends did try and loved it. Apparently the best coffee they’ve ever had.

The beach was clean and gorgeous. But when we were sick of being in the sun we resorted to going to the ping pong/pool table/gym area to relax. Nearing the end of our vacation, most of the animation team would be there and challenge us to play ping pong or pool. The lagoon wasn’t too bad and be on the watch out for cows roaming the grounds late at night, which is quite funny.

Overall, I thought it was a successful vacation. Although I had a great time, I must say the resort is understaffed and the staff they have are overworked. Even though they try to provide the best, which they do, at some point these people will burn out, which is more of my main concern. The people there were great, I had a great time, and I definitely would recommend it for people in their late teens and early twenties.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Aldo, Toni and Bianca — Canada

August 2004

This was our first trip to Cuba. We had heard only good things about the resort. This was one of the reason why we chose El Senador for our vacation getaway.

We have gone on many cruises and resorts before and I know that when a tourist arrives, they are always greeted with music and welcomed by the staff. This was not so at El Senador.

It took about 20 minutes to check in and it was not very busy at the front desk. It was hot and humide. I was looking for a bellboy to bring our luggage to the hotel room. There was no one in site we had to carry our own suitcases to our room. It was quite a walk especially when you’re not fimiliar with the area.

I found there was not enough staff for the people on the resort. Although they are extremly friendly I would have preferred that they interact with the people.

There is no activities for children from ages 10 – 14 years of age. I have suggested to build a mini golf or have them interact with the dancers. I know that the dancers are super nice, and the children love them to bits.

Every morning I had to mention to the cleaning lady to change our bedsheets and give us soap, shampoo, towels and etc… If you didn’t ask it wasn’t done or if you left them money or gifts. I find this is pitiful. Changing the bed replacing soaps, towels should be done automatically.

You know we work very hard all year long. You pay good money to have a all out vaction and then you arrive to destination and find out you have to beg or get upset to get what you are entitled to get it is quite disturbing to me and my family.

I hope that this resort is not cutting corners because this will indeed my last time that I will visit your resort and will discourage people from coming.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Briab and Lydia — Toronto

August 2004

The following reflect my impression of this resort: Dates- Aug 8-15,2004. Food- Adequate Beach-Beautiful. Staff-understaffed bt 20-30%. Results in very slow service and a lack of friendliness from staff. They just don’t have time. Accomodations-Adequate. It took 5 trips to Reception to get another room. Air conditioning and fridge did not work at first. AC only adequate. Rooms need refreshing. Lagoons smelled of Septic. Manager- Filip Hofman. Met with him Wed. AM. Received excuses"I’ve been in Havana for 5 days" not solutions. This is our 5th trip to Cuba.

I would Not recommend this resort’

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Cali & Gary — Canada

August 2004

We went to El Senador for our honeymoon after seeing their website. We thought it was beautiful and just what we wanted from a resort. Unfortunately when we got there we were so disappointed.

Because of the low-season half the resort was closed. The closed section was more beautiful than the section we were staying in! We were expecting everything mentioned on the web-site and we didn’t get it.

We paid too much for the villas on the lagoon. The water smelled so much you couldn’t stay on the terrace for more than 1 minute before feeling like you were going to vomit. Every time we had to leave our room we practically had to hold our breaths because of the smell.

Our first night we arrived at the resort at 10pm and we were told we could eat at the Italian restaurant before it closed for the night at 10:30 but by the time the single front desk employee finished checking us in, it was too late. We were all starving and had no way to get food.

The staff was very friendly but extremely overworked. There weren’t enough waiters in the restaurants. We had to wait a long time to get a glass of water or even utensils.

I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t recommend this resort to anyone in the low season.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Halifax

July 2004

Well it’s that time again where you’re tired of working and your thinking of getting away and so you browse the sites. But wanted to add to this one to make people aware.

Traveling: Newly married couple from Halifax, NS

Date: Feb 13-22/04

Place: El Senador

After working hard to get some time off my wife and I came across this awesome sell off deal to Tryp Cayo Coco that we thought we couldn’t lose. We had originally had booked to stay at Tryp but due to over booking we had the lovely offer to stay for 2 nights at Sol Cayo Coco (3.5 or 4 star)… which let me tell you, it’s the pits!! Unless you’re a University student on a real tight budget and looking to get a lot of booze for nothing, well that is the place. But back to Tryp (4.5 star), nice place and if you have any problems go see the manager… we did and got a free trip to Tryp for our hassle for not getting into our room due to the over booking and other “VIP” services that we not told about.

But you’re asking yourself…what does this have to do with El Senador… well here it is:

Due to the lovely “White Juan” in Halifax, we were stuck in Cuba for an extra night… (I know… the horror…lol) So my wife and I got shipped off to El Senador, which were greeted so kindly and fast! The atmosphere was so soft and cool; it made you feel comfortable right away and with the big screen TV in the lobby who wouldn’t!! lol As we walked around to find our room the grounds were beautifully maintained and the lighting on the walk ways were perfect. As we stepped into our room we had to take a double take and think if we were lied to, because the room was SO AWESOME!!! Big bathroom that my wife says is “a girls dream”; the bed was nice and big but a little hard as they all are there, along with the sofa and love seat to greet us. After we played with the lights we were fast asleep and the morning came and it was time to check out the grub! Let me just say that the food at the other two resorts were nothing in comparison, El Senador was above all the best place there for food. Its one thing to go year to year and try to remember what the food tasted like but take it from me a guy who likes food tasted 3 places in one week. The selection was great… they had BACON where as the other places did not. Crêpes, toast and all kinds of bread, juices … you name it and it was there. Lunch was just and good but it had to be fast cause we caught a plane right after that.

The Gardeners were pretty cool, they seemed like they were not there for the tips but honestly willing to lend you a helping hand. And well so was the rest of the staff. The rooms were CLEAN! … Well except the windows, they need some good window cleaners down there.

Out of the whole Cuba experience my first, my wife’s fifth and seeing all the Hotels that we did in the run of a week I give EL SENADOR 12 OUT OF 10!!! Tryp … well lets just say 8 and Sol 3, there is a weeks review of one traveler.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Frank & Wendy — Hamilton, Ontario

July 2004

My husband and I, along with our 18-year-old son visited El Senador from July 4-11. We got an amazing on-line deal through Sell Off Vacations, only $795. PP taxes included. We flew Air Transat out of Toronto. The seats were surprisingly more spacious than when we flew with Skyservice to Punta Cana last October. Arrival at Cayo Coco was smooth, customs took only a few minutes and we were soon on the way to the resort. When we entered the Laguna Azul lobby it was deserted. We learned the next day that the hotel had only about 250 guests for the week. We knew when we booked that during the slow season many services would not be offered, and we were prepared for this. El Senador is a huge resort, but only about 3 or 4 of the apartment type buildings were in use, and a few of the lagoon rooms. The place was like a ghost town. Adding to the desolate feeling was the parched nature of the grounds. The drought Cuba has been suffering is truly taking its toll on El Senador. All grassy areas are baked, and much of the vegetation is dead. Any recent plantings have not survived. The feeling was not lush and tropical. I can only hope that when the rain finally starts that the grounds will be able to bounce back, because it truly is a beautiful resort. The lagoon seemed to be a little low on water and had quite a bit of scum on it, no doubt due to the drought. We did not find it to have an odour at all, and there was never a problem with mosquitoes at any time of the day.

We had requested and received a room next to our son. We were on the 3rd floor of Building 19. The rooms were clean and spacious. The air conditioning could have been a little more powerful, but it did keep the room relatively cool. We had no real problems with lack of hot water. We found all the staff to be friendly, well spoken, quite fluent in several languages and very pleasant. Even the gardeners, housekeepers and the chefs had a good command of the English language, something that has not happened very often in our travels.

The large main buffet has been closed for the summer and moved to a smaller restaurant, (the former Oriental buffet). It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It usually took quite a while to be offered a coffee at breakfast, and only 1 day out of 7 were we given a spoon. It was difficult to flag down a server, as they seem to practice the art of avoidance, although I think they were probably just overworked. The Italian restaurant has been moved to where the pool grill was, and the Steakhouse has been combined with the Cuban restaurant. The Seafood restaurant remained the same. The beach grill was closed. That meant if you are beach people like us, when it came time for lunch you made the long hot trek down the boardwalk to the two available lunch restaurants, which were only 200 feet away from each other. Better to have one by the pool and one by the beach, but what can you do? We were a little disappointed with the limited variety of food on the buffet, but what was there seemed fairly good. Absolutely nothing was labled. This could be a huge problem for people with food allergies. Cheese and sliced meats were on an unrefrigerated table, and the food appeared to be “sweating”. Not very appetizing. I was quite surprised to see liver on the buffet grill! Not my choice for sure, but it must be popular as it was on the grill at least three times during the week. Our favorite for lunch was the pool grill (Italian at Dinner) it had great pizza, burgers, roasted chicken, hot dogs and fries. Even poutine if that’s your choice. Due to the low occupancy, dinner reservations were not required for any of the a-la-carte restaurants. We did not try the Seafood restaurant, as there appeared to be no non-seafood items available on the menu, and my son and I do not eat seafood. My husband was content with the seafood offerings at the other locations. We ate 3 times at the Cuban/Steakhouse. The first time was a disaster. There were only tables for two available, so we waited for a party of 4 to leave. This only took a few minutes, but then it was over 15 minutes before the table was cleared. We sat down before the place settings arrived, and it was a further 15 minutes before there were any glasses on the table or we were given menus. We were at the restaurant nearly 2 hours from start to finish, and the service was unbearably slow. We enjoy a leisurely meal, but this seemed to be a lack of organization. It was the same scenario on our 3rd try at the restaurant as well. By the time a table was cleared and re-set there were 9 parties behind us waiting for a place to eat. The space was there, just not cleaned. Filling water glasses took priority over seating guests. A bus boy is desperately needed. However, this time once we were seated, the service became top notch. The one time when service was impeccable from beginning to end was when the manager was on location handing out questionnaires on the resort. On that night tables were being cleared as soon as they were vacated. They even combined 2 tables for two to accommodate us. Coincidence?

On Thursday evening there was a Lobster gala around the pool. It seemed quite well run, other than the fact that plates were on the wrong end of the buffet table, and there was only one ladle for the 3 different sauces. The dinner was followed immediately by a water show. It was a nice change of pace. We ate on 2 occasions at the Italian a-la-carte. Loved the bruscetta. Service was good, however, they did not have all menu items in stock. My husband ordered tortellini, and they had none. I ordered penne and was told they only had spaghetti or fettuccini. A very disturbing thing was the antipasto bar set up on a side table. It was not refrigerated nor covered, and food was left sitting out for several hours. (Dinner ran from 6.30 – 10.30) Birds could be seen actually walking in the platters and eating the food that patrons would later be serving themselves. It was sickening. Not only should the food have been refrigerated, but also it should have been protected at the very least by some sort of sneeze guard to keep the birds away. These birds were not just pesky, they were downright aggressive. If you left your plate to go to the antipasto bar they were on the back of your chair heading for your plate, even if there were other diners still at the table! One thing each restaurant had in common was that the poor servers were run off their feet. There were never more than two wait staff at any given restaurant, and they were expected to clear and reset the tables, serve the food, as well as run to the bar for drinks. One extra staff member at each restaurant would go a long way to improving things for everyone.

As mentioned by many others, the beach is absolutely beautiful. White powder sand, blue-green water and very shallow. There was no sign of jellyfish. You could walk for miles to the left or right and we do feel El Senador had the best beach of all the resorts. We had a relaxing time reading our books, sipping cocktails and running into the ocean to cool off every now and again. Even when lying under the shade stands, you are not protected. They could use some palm fronds on the top to offer more protection from the sun. We found the beach to be quite comfortable with the breeze from the ocean. We tried sitting by the pool one morning, but with no breeze, it was just too hot to enjoy. The same goes for walking the grounds. It was just too hot. That is one drawback to traveling in July. Now for the problem. Due to the fact that the beach grill was closed, this meant there were no washroom facilities on the beach. A guard was posted at the entrance to the grill saying the building was closed, washrooms included. The closest washrooms were either back by the pool, or the little wooden “huts” on boardwalks 1 & 3. Unfortunately, these huts did not have locks on the doors, and even if they did, the wood was so swollen the doors could not shut, and often there was no toilet paper. There was never any soap. Same for the washrooms in the games room. Not one stall with a functioning lock, and no toilet paper to be found. Again no soap. This is not acceptable for a 4½ star resort. Both my husband and I suffered some tummy troubles, which required proximity to a washroom, and we always had to make sure we had supplies with us. You should not have to carry your own T.P. and soap to a public restroom. The washrooms by the lobby were well stocked, but the ones by the stage had no soap as well.

We did not watch many of the shows, but what we did see of them seemed to be well done. We prefer to relax in the lobby with a cool beverage. We felt sorry for the lone bartender in the evening having to serve everyone and run out to the lobby and clear the glasses off the tables so he could clean them. Again, another staff member would not go amiss. Our son tried the disco a couple of times, but there were never more that a handful of people there. The only excursion we took was the glass bottom boat to the reef, $20. per person well spent. The snorkel equipment they had seemed in good condition. It would have been more time efficient to hand out the gear while we made our way to the reef instead of having everybody scrambling for equipment once we got there, but again, what can you do?

All in all, we had a nice time at El Senador. The resort is beautiful, they have a spectacular location, and amazing weather, but with the problem of low staff numbers, the birds in the food, and the lack of proper toilet facilities, I cannot in all honesty give it a recommendation. Perhaps during times of higher capacity when the Italian restaurant is at its usual location, and when the beach grill is open, it would be o.k., but I’m afraid we will not be going back to try it again. Did we get good value for our money? Yes. But I would have been sorely disappointed if I had paid any more.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Josh and Lee — Toronto

June 2004

We went to El Senador, Cayo Coco for our honeymoon. We had no problem getting an upgrade to a villa on the water, all we had to do was ask. There was a bottle of Cuban rum and a fruit plate waiting for us there as well.

Food: 7 out of 10, they say not to expect much for food when you go to Cuba, but we were pleasantly surprised. The food was pretty good.

Bar: 8 out of 10, the bartenders were friendly and talented, and was well stocked. Accommodations: 9 out of 10, as I mentioned earlier, we were in a villa on the water, and it was amazing. Large sitting room when you enter, high ceilings, own deck, A/C, huge bedroom, ceramic floors.

Beach: 9 out of 10, the beach goes out a long way before it gets too deep, it was awesome. El Senador pretty much has a huge beach all to itself despite there being other resorts on the island. The beach and the beach-side bar/grill (where you could get poutine!) were a definite highlight.

Entertainment: N/A, we were too ‘busy’ to attend much, but we heard it was good.

Service: 7 out of 10, the workers were helpful and friendly for the most part. Some of the guys did oogle my wife’s body (but I can’t really blame them for that I guess).

Outings: 8 out of 10, we went on two outings: 1. a day trip to Moron, 2. a boat racing and snorkeling trip. Both were fun and I even got a nice box of Monte Cristo #5s from our guide on the sly for a great price.

Overall, 8 out of 10, not too shabby!

We have some great memories of El Senador, and hope you will make some there too!

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Vero— Canada

June 2004

HI, I just want to warn some potential vacationers about this resort…I stayed at el senador for one week in Dec. 2003 and I have to say that it was a big disappointment. This was the fourth all-inclusive trip (Beaches Varadero, Grand Paradise Punta Cana, Fiesta resort in Riviera Maya) for my boyfriend and Iit was by far the worst. My boyfriend and I have renamed it “The resort that lacked everything.” 1) There were never enough towels for the guests. 2) The AC didn’t always work. 3) There was not enough staff anywhere for anything. 4) They often ran out of drinks and food. 5) They didn’t even have enough locks for the safes. (We had to wait in line at the lobby every morning and afternoon to get a key and they always told us to “come back later.” After the third day we gave up, and had to hide our belongings. 6) The service everywhere was horrible, especially at the outdoor restaurant. (We often waited over an hour just for someone to take our orders –and to tells us that they didn’t have anymore fries, pizza, etc. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they often forgot our orders or messed them up.) 7) The other restaurants also lacked staff, cutlery, food, dishes, and the tables were filthy (imagine having to eat over some other person’s crums!) 8) The staff at the lobby also lacked manners. 9) As for the entertainment or what they call “show time,” we renamed that as “Waste of Time”

10) To top it all off, a lot of the restaurants (buffet and a la carte) were closed while we were there.

It is extremely unfortunate that such a beautiful place is being neglected like this. I strongly recommend any other resort than El Senador. It is by far the worst I have yet seen! Hope this helps anyone who is unsure about where to go.

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El Senador – Cayo Coco Linda — Canada

May 2004

Arrival: Four of us arrived in Cayo Coco at 9:30am; we were greeted by Air Transat and whisked away on the bus. We were given our keys and information on the bus, so no need to sign in at the desk. Other resorts should adopt this method, as it was a great process. Unfortunately, they were having problems with quantities of safety deposit box keys, but we did end up getting one later on in our stay. Apparently, they will be rectifying this issue shortly.

Room: We reserved a one bedroom villa on the lagoon which was absolutely beautiful. There was a mini fridge with water only that was replaced every day. The rooms were kept very clean. There were also great warm blankets that kept us cozy at night. We had no tap water the first day (broken pipe); however, it was quickly rectified by the friendly maintenance staff.

Resort: The resort was huge (two resorts in one). The walking was great. Every night we strolled around after supper. There was an impressive gym, as always, we had great intentions, but never made it. The landscaping/vegetation were nice on both sides of the resort. There seemed to be more vegetation on the Emperador side. The Laguana section had the beautiful lagoon and therefore less vegetation.

Staff: The staff works so hard, long hours, few days off; however, always smiling faces. We found the staff to be very friendly and provided great service. The bars were very busy, but trust me, we never had to wait long enough to complain (and we made many, many trips to the bar). Tipping was a bit out of control, but whether you tipped or not, you still received good service.

Food: The food was very good, a lot of Canadian (North American) influences, bagels, peanut butter, cream cheese, hamburgers, fries, pizzas, etc. We ate at both buffets, as well as, the Italian, Cuban and Seafood restaurants. We enjoyed all of our meals. The buffet had roast pork, chicken, beef, fish, all you can eat seafood, and yes, including lobster (every Thursday). On Thursdays, a line up started around 5:45pm, buffet opening at 6pm, for the all you can eat lobster. The lobster was delicious, well worth the short wait in the line up. They also had the best pizza we have ever had at the pool grill. We ate there everyday for lunch once we discovered this pizza.

Beach: Wow, the El Senador definitely has one of the nicest strips of beach in Cuba. The ocean view was breathtaking. The beach is perfect for talking long walks. This was our traveling companion’s first trip south. The look on their faces when we approached the hill looking down on the beach was priceless. During our two weeks there were 2 red flag days and 12 green flags. There were lots of sun shelters on the beach. It is best to go early in the morning to save yourself a spot. The water was warm and the beach was wonderful. We spent all of our days lying on the beach enjoying every second of this tropical paradise.

Pools: There were pools everywhere, even an adult only pool. They also had two swim up bars. We never had the privilege of using the swim up bars as we spent most of our time at the beach. The pools were very clean and lots of action at the Laguana pool.

Excursions: We took the shuttle bus to Cayo Gullermo, the return price is $5 US. This shuttle bus is well organized, safe and clean. They picked us up on time at both locations. The scheduled pick up times are great. The resorts we visited let us walk around the facilities and use the beach. We met up with friends staying at the Melia Cayo Guillermo and Iberostar Daquiri, both resorts were very nice, however, we were a little partial to Cayo Coco’s beach. The shuttle bus is a great service. I hope they keep it up; it is wonderful to do something off of the resort for such a small price. We also went on the Half Moon Island catamaran and snorkeling excursion which was very beautiful. We saw a sunken Spanish ship and lots of tropical fish, a must if you enjoy this kind of thing. Keep in mind, there are no bathrooms on Half Moon Island. There is a new hospital under construction on Cayo Coco. The old Cayo Coco Airport has been converted to a park. We were told that they will soon offer swimming with the dolphins at this park (June of 2004) in Cayo Coco.

Overall: We had an excellent vacation at the El Senador. We had read a few negative reviews lately which had us very concerned. We can’t figure out what people were complaining about. Oh well, to each his own. We walked to the Melia Cayo Coco, where we stayed in April 2003. We would probably go back there, as Melia Cayo Coco stole our hearts. We loved the intimate feeling MCC had due to the staff and small resort size. We also like the adults only at the MCC. The El Senador is a family resort and there were a fair amount of kids, which made it a little busy. Would we return to the El Senador again? Probably; however, we do prefer smaller resort such as the Melia Cayo Coco. If you are planning to go to the El Senador, don’t hesitate for a second, as the resort and staff made our stay a memorable one.

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