Holà chiquitos bananos, We’re back from our 2nd time at the Iberostar Laguna Azul in Varadero (April 3-10). I’ll be brief: GREAT WEEK! Sun all week long, only the rare shower early morning or during the night, some wind; did go out on catamaran 2 days. As usual, we found the staff to be courteous, friendly, helpful AND thankful for our gifts and tips (with no expectations). Some of the staff even remembered us from 2 years ago (we did keep in touch with a few of them and had sent pictures from our last visit). quick check-in with a smile around noon, with complementary cocktail.
Maricel, Anna and Alain at the Reception are EXCEPTIONAL employees who go above and beyond… That initial welcoming smile is soooo important!
19 facing pool
Rooms: Perfect location and closer to the beach than our previous trip. A slight problem with the toilet one night (DH to the rescue!) Also a slight problem with shower head but at least we had hot water!
ADA was our room lady. Never saw her but we exchanged little bilingual messages and we marveled at her towel art each day.
Restaurants and Bars: Thanks to Mother Nature, the lobby terrace was in full swing all week long which was great. Friendly service, good drinks (particularly at the Jazz bar, gracias Carlos). The dudes at the beach bar could learn to SMIIIIIIIIIIILE a bit more. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Cuba has some fantastic musicians and aren’t we lucky to get to see/hear some of them! We caught one trio (LAS CANTARELAS) of ladies on the Lobby terrace one night and the next night at the new Jazz bar down by the pool. Su-perb harmonies (reminiscent of Brazil’s Trio Esperança) and guitars. One of the ladies has collaborated with famed Buena Vista Social Club’s Ibrahin Ferrer. Excellent performances both nights. The Romantico was by far the best of the a la cartes (I had duck), and the Tex Mex (far right if you face the beach) was the least liked… but it did have the nicest setting imo (open air like the Ranchon, but with flowy curtains, overlooking the east pool)
FOOD: Yes, there was plenty of food all week but… not much variety. Food mostly overcooked and/or cold. WONDERFUL hard-working staff. Some inexperienced, slow BBQ staff (at Ranchon near beach and at one happy hour by pool). FORGET the beef, people, stick with the chicken, pork and fish. We DID have some wonderful smoked salmon one night at the buffet and good turkey and fish as well.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Impeccable. They even added a few garbage bins on the beach and most tourists picked up after themselves (thank you), except for the smokers… dang. I know it’s sand, but an ASHTRAY it ain’t, so guys, PLEASE pick up when you leave. 1. As mentioned by a few people on TA, Gaviota(as in The State) has been experiencing a problem with its (only) laundry service for this hotel’s beach towels, hence many people went without fresh blue towels, some for as many as 3 days. Totally inacceptable for this rank of hotel. The poor staff apologized profusely and often, but obviously, their hands are tied. They’ve complained too, but to no avail… Guess it’s up to US PATRONS to complain to Gaviota+hotels reps in our reviews. *Note: One such day, a young Spanish woman (group of 3) literally stole a towel from a young mother next to us. Of course, the Canadian couple were appalled and complained to the hotel; the Spanish woman just laughed at them, and said "I dare you to prove it" in Spanish. HOW RUDE! (another incident is mentioned in final comments)
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We went to an all-Cuban wedding during our week It’s similar to our 10-min civil weddings followed by a reception and small lunch, bar service, loud music, –the only two differences being that Cubans can ALL dance lol (me loves me some salsa) and they luuuuuuuuuv to sing Karaoke (not all Cubans can sing, lol). I also thought that Cubans loved cigars and ronron but to my surprise 95% drank beer, the others colas and rum or colas, while a couple (including us "whities") had mojitos. Only a small percentage of the people there were smokers (who went outside, thank you).Everyone was very friendly, curious, and layed back. Wonderful memories!
We went out for catamaran runs 2 days (with Frank and Julio, very nice dads, had wonderful –and meaningful– conversations with both).
Other Comments: Noticed a couple of things: For those who like to walk the length of this end of Varadero, you’ll be glad to know that there is now a sandy path running around the point past the Paradisus toward the Iberostar Varadero and beyond. We walked as far as the Blau one day and could have continued right into town; beautiful 2h walk! Many Cubans now own permits to sell their wares on the beach so people selling knit dresses, staws hats, beer mugs, shells are now being seen up and down the beach. The vendors are respectful, and under close surveillance by the occasional cop, keep their distance unless otherwise asked to approach. One final comment: Do you want to know what realllllllllly bugs me? Incident 2: There was a line-up for ice cream one very hot afternoon, and this (again, Spanish –trust me, I know the accent) morbidly obese man, Barbie in tow, walks right up to the counter in front of everyone in the line-up and shouts out his order. The employee was obviously embarrassed BUT she served him anyway ahead of the others. WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE????? What’s worse? The guy with no manners or "savoir-vivre" OR the fact that no one in the line-up SAID ANYTHING?? GEEZ LOUISE! Ok, done ranting! Hasta luego, dudes and dudettes! Zendudette