Thanks go to: Manager Ana, for her presence, her love of animals, our conversations, her genuine interest Reception jefa Annelys for all of her help, with a smile Head chef Juan Carlos, for his rounds each day, for taking the time to talk with the clients, for our trilingual conversations and his constant interest in our feedback Room lady Yanara, gracias Our beach bartenders Jorge (George) and Luis Esperanza y Sheila for the morning cortados! Dayli at the lobby bar for her smile, her service… and her history lessons! Lauda at the morning Buffet. Her smile was infectious! Yaima for the excellent stretching class on the beach. Animators Maykel, Marvis and Julio for their energy. The tall smiling lady who diligently washes the tiles in front of the Buffet each morning.
All of the talented musicians who made our stay so memorable.
Arrival: Flight out of QC City with Sunwing delayed 1 hour (weather, what else?). Fast run through Cuban aduanas, short busride to hotel, speedy checkin (I was the only one getting off lol), 11 p.m., the reception clerk informed me right away that my friend from New BUNSwick (lol) had just arrived a few minutes before.
Heads up: Safe is optional, 2 CUC a day.
Rooms: We had rm 2312, twin beds, 2nd floor, quiet bldg equal distance from lobby and beach and close to pool. We were in the "back row" of bldgs, so our balcony view was of vacant lot between our hotel and the one next door. We DID have a wonderful breeze, spacious balcony with 2 sides AND a beautifully blooming tree to our left. We went to the lobby to enquire about an upgrade (never hurts to ask; the hotel was not full) and the reception lady graciously showed us a larger rm in the main building and a 2 rm suite same bldg but no view, so we decided to keep our quiet room (not there much anyhoo :D)
This room was in a renovated bungalow of the hotel, so new paint, brand new bathroom with Italian shower WOW, lots of hot water and great water pressure. Room was always clean, well stocked every day, fridge too. A bunch of itsy-bitsies found there way to some fruit… and into one of my books (they crave the glue, I’ve read), but problem was quickly resolved with no more incidents occurring during the week.
Restaurants and Bars: Gotta say, I’ve been to a lot of AIs and the food here was GREAT! Would you believe no french fries or bacon all week! Very healthy selection for all three meals. Head chef Juan Carlos is Chilean and spent several years abroad, so this definitely shows in what is offered, despite a smaller budget (4 star). The frijoles and eggplant were delicious, as well as the paellas and merou grilled to perfection. I’m impressed! Restaurants: Buffet, Ranchon restaurant for lunch (near pool and beach; this one becomes the Cuban restaurant at night, open concept, no a/c), and Japanese. Cuban restaurant, limited options but everything looked good. The grilled fish filet with slight panko and garlic was delicious, as was the chilled rosé. Japanese restaurant, champagne at the door, food was great (not too salty), sushis as appetizer, the cook was awesome, great smile too, the rest of the service was very rushed, the Maitre D pushed for us to buy the wine displayed.
Service everywhere with a smile, a couple of employees even spoke French.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Beach: a solid 10. Lots of chairs, older ones that did not fold all the way down and brand new ones that did, blue tarp. Chairs on other side of large elevated beach bar with sitting area. Lots of palapas, towel war in full swing, despite the hotel not being full. Not sure they had the personnel to "pick up" after everyone daily, lots of cig butts (puleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez, people, do your part!). Water was gloriously hot, with the exception of 2 days during cold front when water was cooler, waves, red flag. No jellyfish or seaweed, easy access to water. The usual vendors (hats, mugs and dresses) were present daily on our stretch of the beach and most days under surveillance. We did a 12k walk around the end of the peninsula to the Playa Alameda one day and noticed not one single vendor on that stretch of beach. Go figure. Pool: no comment, only sat there for a short period on one windy day. Looked pristeen and was quite large, with a wading pool nearby and kiddies club.
Grounds: Beautiful mature vegetation, several trees I had never seen before, many flowering shrubs, gardeners hard at work each day. NOT BITTEN ONCE, yehhhh!
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Dolphinarium next to hotel. We went for a walk out there and could easily see the dolphins from the bridge. The usual other excursions (which we did not partake in): day in Havana, day on a catamaran, deep fishing, jeep safari, etc. And of course downtown Varadero minutes away. The animators were omnipresent without being pushy, a jovial bunch. There was yoga/stretching each morning at beach and pool, followed by salsa lessons and various games (petanque, rifle lessons (?), darts, pool, etc.) Small crafts section in lobby and small boutique with the usual. Live music every day during lunch (wonderful!) as well as each night (different each night) in the lobby outdoor area. Internet was iffy all week.
Other Comments: The positives: Better than average food, great beach, nice clean room with Italian shower, good drinks, excellent service with a smile (without looking for a tip), excellent service at the Reception The negs: Japanese restaurant, service (wonderful smiling cook) by other staff was rushed (and frankly wierd). We heard about similar complaints by others during the week. There are 4 stations, only 1 was operational, was that the reason? Although the lobby area is nice, open and airy, I did notice a slight lack of cleanliness (glass rings, dirty tables and counters, pillows out of place) most of the week, not acceptable for that first impression, imho. Internet was on the blink most of the week (not a problem para mi) Many many cigarette butts in the sand, why can’t people stop using the beach as a dump????
One last thing: I must mention that I was fortunate to witness the great work by our own Spanky Project in collaboration with the Varadero APAC (animal protection organization) in collaboration with Ana, the delightful Tainos manager and animal lover, who signed up the hotel to participate in a free spaying/neutering activity on the site when we were there. All of the cats were gently captured and the mission was crowned a success (don’t know about the 2 dogs). Thanks to Ana, this campaign will no doubt spread to neighbouring hotels. Way to go, Ana!