Las Brisas Guardalavaca – Page 2 – Holguin – Cuba Hotels – Debbie's Caribbean Travel & Resort Reviews



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Las Brisas Guardalavaca – Holguin  ~  Reviews Posted – 12
Las Brisas Guardalavaca Nancy ~ Nova Scotia

March 2005

I have just retuned from Les Brisa after spending a week there with a friend. I had read through many of the reviews already posted so did not have too many surprises. Our original room was in the Hotel section with a “gardenveiw” that actually turned out to be a rooftop. The air conditioner was also very nosiy. As we arrived in the early hours of the morning we spent our first night there. The next morning we requested a room change and were shown a very nice spacious room overlooking the front of the hotel with a king and a single bed and huge balcony. We also chose to look at a Villa room . Despite a small additional charge for the villa room we chose this as they are quieter. These rooms are very spacious. We did find a general lack of maintenace in the rooms, small things like missing sink and bathtub stoppers, rusty handrails in tubs with rust stains on tiles, missing ceiling tiles , etc, We did request a few maintenance issues be addressed and some were dealt with. Our patio door on the main level we discovered did not lock and despite repeated attempts to have it fixed it was not during our stay.

The beach and grounds of the resort are very nice and well maintained. The ocean was so warm. Chairs were difficult to get on the beach.

The food was mediocre. Breakfast was generally not too appealing with the same food every day, although the omelettes were good. Lunch and dinner were much the same with your choice of meat – fish, chicken, pork, beef . Rice was always available which in general was good. There was a limited selection of fresh salad ingredients, although the ingredients they had were always fresh. Fresh fruit was available every meal and it was very good. Dessert selection had not appeal to either of us. We tried both a la carte restaurants and were disappointed by both. The Italian one is located on the second floor of the hotel, no windows, little atmosphere. The seafood restaurant is located by the beach in nice location and nice décor. We were not impressed by the food in either of them.

We found the staff to be inconsistent. Some were very friendly and helpful. Others did not speak very good English , so communication was difficult. Some staff did not seem to care. We were actually told to leave the buffet restaurant on our last morning for breakfast, arriving 5 minute before it closed. Other people were still arriving so we ignored them and had breakfast anyway. Also went to return our towels the last day at the beach towel exchange as you have to return your towel coupon so you won’t be charged for the towels Arrived at 4:45 and already gone for the day Hours were suppose to be 9-5 every day. So beware of posted hours. Can’t depend on staff to always be there.

The beauty salon was really a horror story if you expect Canadian standards. Had arranged for a facial, manicure and pedicure. Chair and floor were dirty with bits of skin and nails on them. Instruments are not sterilized between clients and I was draped with a damp towel that had obviously been used by someone else. Would not recommend this to anyone.

I have been to resorts in Mexico and DR and this was by far the worst one. I would not return to this resort.

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca Alan and Juanita ~ NB, Canada

March 2005

To celebrate our 25th anniversary year, Alan and I spent a week at the Brisas Hotel in Guardalavaca, Cuba. It was a wonderful week and we brought home with us many great memories.

At the airport, I converted Canadian currency to Cuban convertible pesos while Alan collected the luggage. It was efficiently handled and I did not have to worry about exchanging currency at the hotel. Tour representatives were at the airport and had our package information ready at hand. They directed us to the bus we were to travel on and each bus had a representative go to the resort with us. When we arrived at the Brisas hotel, we were told that it was full and that we were going to stay at the Villas, which was indeed an upgrade for us. The Villas staff had our keys ready and check in was efficiently handled and our bags were taken to our room for us.

The staff at Brisas was all very helpful and pleasant. We were able to eat at the Villas or the Hotel, which was nice for the change of venue from time to time. If you don’t like birds, you would tend to eat at the hotel restaurant as the open design at the Villas enabled birds to enter the dining area and nibble.

If you like to use a face cloth, pack one of your own as the ones supplied are basically the size of what we consider hand towels. Also, remember that sunscreen does expire, so make sure the sunscreen you take with you is new. Don’t let an overcast sky fool you as you can still burn. We learned that the hard way.

In order to be fair about the food, it is basically plain and bland, but there is such a great variety of options everybody can figure out what they would enjoy and make choices to keep them happy. A popular breakfast choice was the omelette made fresh for you, but the cook would happily scramble or fry eggs on request. One time, we got very creative and took hot dog buns, filled them with vegetables, added chicken we had taken off the bone and made lovely sandwiches. There is fresh squeezed orange juice and plenty of fresh fruit. Another time, I will take a jar of homemade jam with me for my toast in the morning. If you like coffee, take some instant or those Maxwell House individual coffee bags. I found their coffee was very strong as it was prepared in advance.

One afternoon we rented a moped and set out on our own. The lady we rented from suggested a village not too far from the hotel and we stopped there on the way back from a little excursion along the road. There is not heavy traffic, but it is always wise to keep your eyes and ears open and be very careful. When we stopped to turn around at a point going up a high hill because the pavement had stopped and the dirt road was not too appealing, a local woman invited us into her casa for a visit. We went in and that was indeed an experience. Her name was Bridgett and she spoke in both English and Spanish so we could understand her. She offered us coffee and showed us chairs in the back yard to sit and wait while she went to fetch a burning stick from a neighbour so she could light her fire to heat water. Bridgett had coffee beans she grows and allowed me to grind some with a pestle and mortar. We then watched her put the ground coffee in a sieve standing over a pot through which the hot water was poured. After our coffee we had to leave in order to return the scooter. On the way out, my husband left some money for her, which she would not find until we were long gone. This was an experience I will never forget. A web page will soon be created and include some pictures from this visit to a Cuban casa.

At the resort, we relaxed and it was always so clean and comfortable. Our maid was wonderful and appreciated the gifts we took for her. If you are wondering what to take for gifts, sanitary products are appreciated, as they are very expensive there. Also, panty hose and hair clips and elastics are nice gifts along with toiletries. I did take packets of vegetable seeds as recommended by another review.

It has been very dry in Cuba for the past two years and the water is precious. Not having hot water was understandable and that is just one little thing one has to get over and not let bother them. We had warm enough water for comfortable showers. A bottle of water is supplied for each room, and when that is gone, you simply take the bottle to the restaurant or bar to have refilled. They are being very environmentally conscious at the resort and if everyone cooperates and helps out, the environment is healthier.

In order to get a beach chair, it is indeed important to go early in the morning and select a spot before breakfast, leaving your towels to reserve your seat. The beach towels supplied cost $15.00 convertible Cuban pesos each to replace, so I would not recommend you leave them unattended for too long. I did have one incident in which someone had taken one of our beach chairs along with both towels, but it was resolved without too much problem because it just so happened 4 people seated nearby witnessed the whole thing. With our towels back, we put that behind us and were just more careful from then on. This part of Cuba is indeed worth visiting and it is safe. There are no big cities nearby and the local residents are very welcoming and warm toward visitors. We did enjoy our time there and would recommend it to those wanting a relaxing holiday in the sun.

This is a lengthy review, but I hope if you got this far that your concerns or questions have been addressed.
If you have any questions, please ask. My email is juanitaa@nbnet.nb.ca

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca BettyBoop

March 2005

My husband and I back last Fri from Brisas.We have been to Playa Pesquero last 2 years and have found Brisas closer to the people and not so isolated.playa is nice but,big.TheBrisas staff were amazing No surprisethere.The beach and walk way to market are great. Lots to eat.You won"t go hungry.Something for everyone. The entertainment people like Beny and Jo were great. The Chistopher columbus show was so funny. Water ballet show is very good.We stayed in hotel section. Was comfortable.We looked at the villa rooms.They are nice.A bit bigger.More money as well. A bit more quiet on that side if you like.Went for horse and buggy ride. Nice to get out and see the country side and the people.Rented scooters.They are safe as long as you are responsible on their roads.Helmets and valid picture licence are required. The weather for us great but, 2 days. They definetely need rain. Hope it does in their rainy season.Money exchange no problem.Airport was good. The hotel varied little.Massages we had were great. My husband swam with the dolphins.Amazing creatures.They are in the process of building a bigger facility for them.Its is a very busy attraction for them.One morning had only cold water. No big deal.Off to the beach we went .:)The snorkeling my husband liked.Lots more fish he seen here.The katamaran adventure was fun as well. Thank god for gravol.A few waves that day.All in all it was a fantastic trip.Can’t wait to go back.Saving pesos as we speak.
Cheers BettyBoop

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca Denis & Kelly ~ Wpg, MB Canada

March 2005

We just returned from Las Brisas on Friday and we had a wonderful vacation. We are a couple in our 30’s and brought along for the first time our two girls ages 9 and 4. There was a group of 11 of us traveling to Cuba for my mother’s wedding on the beach at Las Brisas.

We flew Skyservice to Cuba and everything went smooth, the seats are very crowded but we knew this going in. When we arrived in Cuba and got off the plane it was just amazing, it was so hot and we were so happy to be there. We passed through Customs no problem and got our luggage, we were going to exchange some money at the airport but the line was just so long and slow so we decided to just do it at the hotel. We found our Signature Rep no problem and got on our air conditioned bus with a couple of Cervasas for the road!!! They are selling drinks right in front of the buses and they take Canadian money. We all had our shorts in the carry on bag thank goodness, you need them right away….it was hot!!! The bus ride was about 1 hour and the sights were great, the kids were just amazed at the scenery.

The bus stopped at 2 other hotels and then Las Brisas last. We got off the bus and checked in, everyone was very friendly. Our whole group stayed in the Villas. I got the room that I wanted #6204, it has an amazing view of the ocean/beach. One couple in our party requested to move as their room was very small with a tiny balcony and no air. They were moved the next morning. We were all spread apart in the Villas, but everyone liked their rooms. I loved the Villas and would stay in them again.

We arrived at the hotel at 3:00 pm and we put our stuff in the room and went straight to the beach. The kids swam in the ocean for the first time……salt water, the faces they made…..priceless!!!! We then went to the pool had a few drinks and tried to figure things out.

It is a big complex between the hotel and villas and it took a few hours to find out where to book everything. Make sure when you check in you get your 2 dinner cards, your towel card, your safe key, and exchange some money, this saves many trips to the front desk!!! You book the a la carte’s and the free train ride excursion at the hotel PR desk and the free 30 minute catamaran ride at the hotel Aqua Sports hut on the beach. We went to the orientation in the disco at 5:00 pm it is very informative for first time visitors, after that it was fun in the sun!!!!

We got up every morning at 7:30 am got our chairs by the villa pool and went for breakfast. Lots of choices, the omelets are amazing!!! Bacon, sausage, fruits, cereal, cheese……etc. We always ate outside on the patio, it was lovely. After breakfast we would swim all day in the pool with the kids, they loved the swim up bar and the slushy machine!! We had brought our own mugs, a must!!! We always went for lunch at the hotel grill. It was a nice walk down the boardwalk and the food their is great!!!! The pizzas are to die for!!! They also have, hot dogs/hamburgers and fries. Don’t forget the donuts for dessert!!!! We usually hung out at the hotel pool for awhile, we participated in the dancing lessons once….too funny. My 4 year old won the dance contest…..Follow the leader, leader, leader, follow the leader……LOL!!! Back to the villas for a swim in the ocean and then relax by our pool until 5 or 6 pm. What a life!!!!

We usually ate at the Villa Buffet but the Hotel Buffet was very good too!! We had our 2 ala carte’s, one at the Seafood which was excellent, we had the lobster. The other at the Italian, we had the steak…..very good. The band starts at 8:30 pm every night and makes sure you look at the days activities for the whole day located beside the Villa Buffet so you know what’s going on, where the show is etc. After the band is over at 9:30 pm they give the daily awards and then the scheduled show starts. They are very funny, and the girls enjoyed them. It does get cool at this time so bring a sweater. Two things I wished I packed are my jeans and a big hooded sweatshirt. Oh well, I know for next time!!!!

After the show is over about 11:00 pm you can go to the disco, we did one night and partied until 4:30 in the morning….it was a blast!!!! Or you can just hang out at any one of the many bars. We were usually done by midnight, we would go back to the villa, put the kids to bed and sit out on our balcony every night, it was just beautiful. Bring some candles, it’s very romantic.

There are many excursions to choose from swimming with the dolphins, catamaran trip, etc. We decided to just take the free 30 minute catamaran ride with the kids, make sure you go on a calm day though!!! We also took out the paddle boats and the snorkel gear, that was very fun!! Lots to see underwater by the pier. The other people in our party went on that 2 hour free train ride and they loved it.

We rented 2 mopeds for 2 hours and we took the girls and 2 huge bags of toys and clothes and went up into the villages and met the people and gave away our goodies. The Cuban people were very appreciative of all the stuff we brought for them. We got invited into a Cuban home and we sat and talked it was quite amazing. We took tons of pictures and video taped everything, we gave the woman some pesos and she was almost in tears.

We also went on the horse and buggy ride which was very fun, and we went to the market about 4 times…..ohhhh the treasures we found!!!!!!

My mother’s wedding was perfect for those of you getting married at Las Brisas. They really take care of every detail and do a great job at it I might add. Nothing like getting married under a palm tree beside the ocean with a Cuban band playing….it was amazing!!!

All in all, we loved the resort and Cuba. We have no complaints at all except that I wish we could have stayed longer!!! I would definitely go back and I would recommend this resort to all, it is a great value for your money.

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca Dan and Family from New Brunswick

March 2005

About Us
Hey Everyone! We were a group of 9 going down to Brisas Guardalavaca for my Mother-In-Laws wedding. The group consisted of myself, my wife, daughter(5 years old), son (16 months), my mother-in-law, her fiancee, his adult son, my sister-in-law and her fiancee. This was the first time on a plane for me and my kids, the rest of the family had been to Cuba previously. I should also mention that my wife and her mother are Scrap Booking Superstars, therefore it was not unusual for there to be a photo opp every 10 minutes or so. Ok so it wasn’t that bad, but not to far off.

Travel Down
We left for the two and a half hour drive to Halifax Airport at around 11am, all except my sister-in-law and her fiancee that were leaving from Alberta. The weather was great for driving and we made great time, about an two hours and fifteen minutes to the airport. We left our coats and stuff in the car as we all dressed in sweaters or hoodies, parked the car and dragged our never ending luggage inside. It took us about 15 minutes to check in and it went smooth except for the fact that my son was ready for a nap, the joys of traveling with kids. Next came the fabulous 2 hour wait in the airport until we could precede to customs. Customs was smooth and we were through in minutes. The waiting area upstairs was packed but after only 20 minutes or so they called for the child boarding for our flight. My wife and mother-in-law boarded with the two kids, the rest of us boarded soon after. We were flying West Jet and I was very disappointed to see that there was no in flight movie and no sign of the famous seat back TV. Other then that the flight was smooth, no turbulence at all, the flight staff was great, funny, and very attentive. Other then some incidents with the kids not wanting to stay seated the flight was great. On the flight they served us a box lunch that had a chicken breast a couple types of salad, a role and a great brownie. We landed in Hoguin 20 minutes early. As we went through customs we were trying to get through with our carry-on’s and a stroller and got barked at when we didn’t pick everything up at light speed, but no worries we are on vacation. We find our bus and climb on board. We wait on the bus for at least a half hour while they detain a couple of young guys that smelled of pot. They finally clear customs and we are on our way. The drive to the resorts was about an hour, we were the last stop of four. We checked in with no issues and were finally in our rooms around midnight. We head off to sleep, the real vacation begins tomorrow!

The Rooms
The lot of us were in 4 different rooms, all on the fifth floor. All but my In-Laws room were standard view rooms. The rooms were what you expect of a hotel room, they had 2 double beds that were pushed together to make a king size bed, there was plenty of storage space in the closet and the desk. The bathroom was a good size. (Note to Cuba newbies: to flush the toilet pull up on the knob on top of the toilet. Oh the drama this caused.) I will say that we did have some issue with water while we were at the resort both with the temperature of the water and water pressure. There were times that there was no water to the rooms at all, even to flush the toilet. But I have read since getting back that Cuba has a bit of a drought situation right now. All in all I showered everyday and enjoyed 5 of the 7 showers. This was the only real issue we had at the resort. Or balcony, which was quite large looked out the front of the hotel and had a great view of the countryside and the mountains in the distance. My In-Laws room was ocean view and a corner room, so it actually had 2 balconies, one was just like our’s and the other was the same size as the room itself, very big, very nice for the whole family. They looked out over the pool area and the ocean, beautiful view, but they said that ocean view was very loud in the evenings until the entertainment was over. The television in my room had only half the channels of some of the other rooms so I went down to the front desk, they sent up a lady with a remote. She pressed a couple of buttons and presto I had about 25 channels, including ESPN, HBO and Showcase. You see with a toddler who naps in the morning and afternoon, something to do in the room is essential.

The Resort
The resort was great, very clean. There are some signs of wear in the hotel but nothing distracting. The buildings were always clean, the staff always friendly. The housekeeping especially were fabulous, interacted with the kids everytime time they saw them, always a towel swan or something of that sort, both on the bed and in my sons crib. The villas definitely look newer but I never did see inside them.

The Food
Now I had read all of the review about the poor food quality and the repetitious nature of the selections, so I went down there expecting the worse. We ate most of our breakfast and suppers at the Villa restaurant, had lunch one day at the hotel restaurant and the rest at the Beach Grill. The selection at the Villa buffet seems to be better then the hotel but that might just be due to the layout of the place. Breakfast was usually a very good meal. They had all of the usual breakfast staples, cereal, bacon, sausage, and a great omelet station. They either had breakfast potatoes or French Fries. Fresh fruit and bread and rolls were available. Also for some reason every morning you could have cut up hotdog’s, odd but tasty. The Grill served, french fries, hotdog’s, hamburgers(real ham), grilled cheese, grilled tuna and some great pizza that was custom made for you. The Supper Buffet had a good variety, roast turkey, chicken, fish dishes, meant balls which they call Neet Balls, Mashed Potatoes which they call Masked Potatoes, vegetables, shrimp, bread station and a great pasta station which I made allot of use of. The desserts were not very sweet, but the ice cream I loved, almost like a Wendy’s Frosty. They had doughnuts at the grill and popcorn as well. I did find that the food got repetitious at the end of the week but I am also a picky eater, if I was more adventurous I wouldn’t have eaten so much of the same thing.

Recreation
I found that there was alot to do at this resort at no extra cost. They have tennis and basketball for the sports nuts. Shuffleboard and a large chess board for gamers. The beach was great, very clean, the water was nice. I will recommend that bring water shoes then the seaweed isn’t a problem. My mother in law was bitten by a turtle but it didn’t break the skin and wasn’t that painful, but water shoes would have helped that as well. On the beach they had volleyball twice a day, paddleboat’s, kayaks and the hobbycat which was awesome. Most fun I had all week. They had seadoo’s on the beach but I never did see anyone take them out. They also had a shooting competition every morning, I never saw that but I heard it was fun.

Entertainment
I had read that it was hard to find out where the entertainment was from evening to evening, but they gave us a sheet at the beginning of the week that outlined it for us. The house band was very good, energetic performers. The mariachi bands that performed at suppers were a big hit as well. They went from table to table serenading. Also at suppers there were dancers, this was very cool as it gave you a taste of their culture. I only caught a couple of the shows as the kids were usually in bed but what I saw was very good. Word of warning some may consider the Fashion Show unsuitable for younger vacationers. There was nothing graphic but it was alot of sort-of dressed Cuban women and men. From what I heard the rest of the shows were good and well worth watching. My wife and daughter went on the day trip to Hoguin while I stayed with my son. They had a great time seeing the Cigar factory and the local dwelling and stores. They said that it was well worth the money. I was talking to a couple of girls on the bus that did the Swim with the dolphins and they loved it, I saw the tape and it looked like it was a great time.

The Staff
This is where Brisas really steps up. I only ever ran into one staff member that wasn’t really friendly and I think that was an issue of them being very busy not rude. My In-Laws had been to Brisas a number of times before and had a good relationship with a server named Mario. Mario was great, always making sure he had seating for the whole family and a high chair for my son. Everytime my drink was half empty he was there to ask if I wanted more. Aside from that he was very funny and extremely intelligent about the political climate of all of Latin America. The housekeeping staff was great. Anytime we needed anything they were right there to help us out. The biggest reason that I would go back to this resort over and over again was the staff, please take the time to talk to them and build a rapport, trust me it will make your stay so much better.

The Wedding
The wedding was on the Monday. It was right on the beach. They had made an walkway out of flower petals, at the front they had made a heart and the word love also out of flower petals. Very romantic. The wedding was beautiful and seemed to be very stress free. I guess the stress is all the paper work before you arrive. They had champagne and music on hand for the wedding. Afterwards they had 4 horse and buggy’s to take the wedding party on a short ride around the resort. A very nice touch. They had the reception dinner at the Seafood a-la-cart restaurant. My son has a fit early on and I left with him and had them bring me back a plate of food, I had chicken, potatoes and vegetables, all were outstanding, the rest were really impressed with the seafood. They said that it rivalled some of the high class restaurants they had eaten at in Canada.

Travel Home
At about 8:30pm we boarded the bus to the airport. This time we were the first stop. World of Vacations said that they only had a pick-up for 3 at Brisas, but there were 3 adults and 2 children. Regardless they let us all on but the kids had to sit on our laps. A bit cramped, but go with it. About an hour later we pulled into the Airport. This time there was a huge line up for check in. It still only took about a half hour though. Got through customs with no issues at all, much more friendly this time around. We hung out in the airport for about an hour before boarding the plane. They had seated us in the first row of the plane. This was great, much more legroom. Also this time we had the TV’s. I watched Biographies on the guy that started Taco Bell and Colonel Sanders while my family slept. We had a bit of turbulence this time but nothing to be concerned about. They gave us a box lunch consisting of a power bar, bean salad and a role. The staff again was great, very funny, very attentive to the needs of a family traveling with kids. For the record I love WEST JET! After debarking in the freezing cold we went through customs without issue again but had to have a couple wooden items we had bought checked out, everything was fine. If you buy wood make sure it has no worm holes in it or they will confiscate it for quarantine. We gathered up our luggage and headed into the snow for our two plus hour drive home. Home Sweet Home a couple hours later.

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca Rick and Karen ~ Canada

February 2005

We are a Canadian couple late 40’s early 50’s from Brantford Ont., and this is our first trip to the Caribbean. We are very happy about the time we spent at Los Brisas and feel that so much of what you get out of a vacation is what your expectations are going in. We expected to have a fun, relaxing time and that is what we got.

Flight was uneventful other then having to be up at 1 am to go to the airport for a 6:20 flight.

No problems with Cuban immigration and I went right to the bank while Karen waited for the luggage. Being first time travelers we walked right by the Rep and tried to find our bus…. People were very helpful and directed us to the bus but then told us to check in with the rep.

Just over a one hour bus ride to the resort, and we checked in with no trouble. Were taken to our room, in the Villa section, (room 8207) which was very nice and clean with a large bedroom with king size bed and a sitting area with 2 chairs and a couch. The only downside to the room was it only had a small (about 2 foot wide) balcony as that side of the villa faced another only about 10 feet away. We considered asking to change rooms but decided that we really did not care about the balcony.

Saturday, our arrival day was cool and cloudy (it had rained during our ride) but the rest of the week was warm (28 to 31 deg C) with only scattered clouds so we got lots of beach time.

I really enjoyed the food at both the Buffet and the A La Cartes but Karen was less enthused with the buffet… different tastes… the buffet had lots of fish as well as chicken, turkey, pork, octopus, quail, duck and of course vegetables and fruit. I particularly liked the Swiss chard as I had not had it for years. Karen was most impressed by the lasagna she had at the Italian restaurant.

We went on 2 excursions, one called Locomotour, which was a trip to a sugar mill then a ride on a steam train followed by a trip to the place where they say Columbus landed and a small show by the natives. Overall it was a nice trip but the sugar mill was a disappointment as it is closed and all you really got to see was the shop where they fix the trains. The other tour was a sunset Catamaran cruise with snorkeling, sailing, drinking, watching the sunset (with more drinking) all followed by a Lobster dinner at a restaurant on the beach. It was a great time.

On the beach there was what I guess you would call an ultralite with a zodiac boat on the bottom, they offered 15 min flights for $45 and Karen and I both did this, and as Karen says “it was excellent”.

If you wanted to get a Beach chair for the morning you needed to get your towel on one by 8:30 am….. however if you wanted to wait until after lunch there were plenty of empty chairs.

We also made several trips to the market beside the Atlantico. We bought several necklaces, some prints, leather purses and hats as well as a number of bone statues of musicians.

Speaking about Musicians we really enjoyed the shows at night particularly the band that we there the first part of the week. There was also a fashion show and a water ballet as well as the plays

We both really enjoyed the people; they are so friendly and helpful from the front desk staff, to the waitresses, gardeners, painters, bartenders, security guards on the beach and on and on. I particularly enjoyed talking to Miguel on the egg bar at the Villa breakfast buffet

I really enjoyed the smiles on the peoples faces when you tip them or give them gifts, we had taken some gum, toothpaste and brushes, work gloves, pencil Crayons and drawing pads. I gave the gloves and some toothpaste to two men who were painting the outside of the villa and they were so thankful.

Overall we are very pleased with our choice of Los Brisas Guardalavaca.

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca Richard and Penny ~ Canada

January 2005

We’re Richard and Penny, a Canadian couple in our mid 50’s and after 35 years of international traveling this was our first try at an all inclusive resort and the result is that we want to return. Maybe we just hit it lucky or Las Brisas is just the best of the best. We went from Jan. 18 – 25, 2005

Flight from Canada was – well, a flight.

Customs in Cuba – not different from anywhere else, except maybe a little faster than most developing countries. Bus ride the 70 kms from Holquin to the hotel was slow, due to the vast number of people, cyclists, horse drawn carts and tractors on the road. I began to wonder if the idea of the socialist state was one of "the road belongs to me as much as it belongs to you" frame of mind. Even though there was a wide unpaved shoulder, it was empty. Unlike other Latin countries where motorized traffic takes precedence, here it does not. I found it an interesting but not frustrating experience whereas several of our bus companions were calling to the driver to "get the lead out we feel the beach calling". Even though it was 7 PM.

Hotel was great. We were off the bus, checked in, then up the elevator to the 4th floor in what seemed like 5 minutes. We had room 411 which was on the front (land facing side) of the hotel and it was perfect. A king size bed, ample closet space, a mitt full of hangers and a bottle of water in the fridge. We soon discovered we had one of the best rooms in the house, for even when the sun was shinning, it was very windy. The trades were blowing non stop from the ocean but we were able to sit comfortably on our balcony sipping mohitos and reading in the warmth of the blazing sun. This part of the hotel also proved to be nice and quiet. The moment one crosses the Rio Grande and hits Latin America the most indispensable tool is the ubiquitous broom, and Cubans have taking sweeping to a new art. Every time we left our room there was some one sweeping the hallway, the stairs, the lounges, the walkways, the beach, the poolsides, under your chair, etc. etc. Brisas is certainly one of the cleanest places I have ever been. There were fellows fixing and painting and generally doing a fine job of continual maintenance. I’ll include the beach here as that is what everyone comes for. The beach in front of the hotel is man made. I’m not too sure what they meant by that, except to think they added more sand than what was there by nature. Two groins have been built to help keep the sand in place. I’m not big on snorkelling or diving but reports from fellow guests were that there wasn’t a lot to see in close. The beach runs towards the west about a km where it widens from 10 – 20 meters to at least 100ms. Here there were some friendly locals as well as a few fellows raking seaweed. There is a restaurant/bar at the end of this beach as well. All along, from the first bit of sand in front of Brisas to the public beach are plastic beach lounge chairs which if there is no one else’s towel on it, it’s yours. There always appeared to be vacant ones.

Service was excellent. From our chamber maid to the gardeners, they were all helpful and courteous. Again, having traveled a lot, I always feel a tip is an essential element of international travel and never more so than in Cuba where the people making your holiday are earning $8 – $12 per month. We quickly learned that unlike North America where Mcjobs are the entry level positions of students going into university, here the service industry has become the ultimate jobs for graduates. The tips are filtered through the society mainly because of the extended family, so the extra your waiter earned went for a little more food, clothing and shelter at home and in the neighbourhood.

Food was in great quantities and quite varied. At breakfast you had a choice of waffles, eggs ( any style), sausages, fresh fruit, breads and of course coffee. We soon learnt the best cappuccinos were to be had in La Turquesa restaurant in the main hotel. It seemed each bar and restaurant some how managed to make them slightly different, stronger or weaker that is, and we like ours strong. Lunches could be anything from a hamburger ( that is real ham) and fries to a grilled pork chop with a variety of vegetables in between. I especially enjoy what I call "aquarium fish" which are small fish deep fried and quite crunchy and spicy. There is Tabasco sauce in each restaurant but found I some times had to search for it. Dinners in the buffet restaurants seemed to have a huge haunch of pork each evening but one evening they were doing steaks as well as there being a large unidentified fish on a platter. The poolside bar does little doughnut fingers in the afternoon. Lightly sprinkled with sugar then a dollop of melted chocolate made them a excellent snake in-between meals. Limber in the El Tajedo bar in the main hotel is the master of the mohito, do not miss.

Other things we did were kayaking and sailing in the Hobie- Cat which was exhilarating. One afternoon my wife lay down for a nap and I headed out for a walk. I went east from the hotel along the road to Banes. The first km or so the few people I met asked for money or if I wanted a senorita but as I got further away the locals started calling buen tardes and hola. When I reached a little village about 5 ks along people stopped to chat and were generally surprised to see an tourist walking. Some thought I must have a problem. Eventually a fellow driving a small horse drawn cart pulled over and in passable English asked if I was lost. He ended up giving me a ride most of the way back to the hotel, not all the way as he did not have a license to carry tourists, and invited my wife and I to his farm the following day. The next day we rented a moped, which you pick up at Hotel Atlantico, about a km away. Shorter by beach than by road. Make sure you have either your passport or at least passport number when renting a vehicle. We headed off and at about the 20 km mark there he was with his son sitting by the side of the road. We were made to feel like royalty, being given two rockers to sit in and two cups of the best coffee I’ve ever had. We met the family, petted the dog, were shown around the house then the farm and after two hours of discussing the Cuban way of life we headed back to what seemed the totally decadent reality of Las Brisas. We had brought a hockey bag of stuff to give away and left much of it at the farm. The rest we gave mainly to our chamber maid and some of the service staff. All the day to day items such as soap, shampoo, disposable razors, clothing and leather palm work gloves for the gardeners were much appreciated.

We changed money at the airport, in the bank and at the hotel. There didn’t seem to be much difference in the rates. Only drag at the bank is you may have to wait 1/2 hour, 1 hour, 2 hours…..depending on the line.

You’re welcome to write us if you have any questions at rpope@shawnigan.net

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca Katherine from Canada

January 2005

Charlotte and Chris (previous review) already did a very good review of this place. I concur, it is very nice and caters to two different kinds of vacationers, wild and quieter. We switched over the villas after our first night, no problem at all, we snooped and found an empty room we liked and they sent a guy for the bags…..done.

Our adult kids came and met us for our second week, they arrived during the night on Christmas, we’d already been there for a week. They are in their mid twenties, boy and girl, they had a blast even though the weather didn’t cooperate for them (see photos). OUr first week was great.

Beaches
The beach itself is not amazing as it’s not very long, but there is a great walkway that parallels the beach and you can walk for a good 1/2 of an hour all the way down to the end of the public "Guardalavaca Beach". This beach is georgeous and well worth the walk (about 10 minutes or so). We walked it almost every day. We snorkelled in front of the hotel, what a riot, careful not to go at low tide! I got beached!! what a howl! the water was about 1 inch deep and I had to get up and run (not easy with flippers on… you get the picture?) Anyhow this was a better area to snorkel than last years Melia Cayo Coco where we never got into the water cause of the waves.

Food
You won’t go hungry here. The food is not gourmet, yet if you go to the a la carte restaurants it’s not too bad. If you like larger portions, just order double (the kids ordered scampi + shrimp one night and double scampi another). The Italian was fun and food not bad, we went there on New Years Eve, the service was oh so slow, but it’s their big celebration of the year (Revolution).

We got to Cuba from Montreal on Air Transat, I just hate flying with them, and we were lucky as there were no delays, it’s just that they fly at the weirdest (cheapest?) times. We got home at 9am, how to ruin a great holiday! (not that it was their fault, but our furnace had gone off and the radiator cracked and it flooded the garage and basement……….NOW that’s really how NOT to end the holiday)

I still think that vacationing in Cuba between November and March is risky for the weather, we had about 5 really nice days out of 14, it was too bad, cause you really depend on the weather when you’re down south. It got really windy, the beach closed and the clouds rolled in for our last week, you can still burn cause of the UV rays so be careful.

I probably wouldn’t go back to Brisas, especially at Christmas, there was NO celebrating of any kind (they don’t celebrate Christmas) it is Cuban owned and there was a pretty big difference betweeen Melia Cayo Coco last year and Brisas, in the spoiling department that is.

Once again the Cuban people are generally a very nice, kind, sweet people, if you’re nice to them they reciprocate, that said, I found the staff to be friendlier last year at Cayo Coco. These poor people get very few tips (Brisas) and generally seem resigned to their jobs, when you do give them a little pourboire it is greatly appreciated unlike Melia Cayo Coco where it was just taken for granted.

See photos at: http://community.webshots.com/user/ilovetheocean

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca – Holguin Charlotte & Chris – Both 26 ~ UK

January 2005

Gatwick North
We arrived at Gatwick North on 8th Dec at about 7am. At that time on a Wednesday morning checking in was a dream, it helped that there were plenty of check-in desks. We were through all the necessary checks, security, etc in about 10mins. A bit of advice for anyone not having travelled from this terminal before, Gatwick North is smaller and so there are less shops if you’re planning on getting anything at the last minute. My husband had decided to leave getting any books until he got to the airport, but the Waterstones has closed down there and WHSmiths only have a limited selection.

Flight
We flew with First Choice Airways and had heard a lot of negative comments about them particularly the lack of space. As a result I had pre-booked extra legroom seats and we would recommend anyone over 6ft do that! It costs about £60 pp extra (booked direct with the airline) but it is well worth it. We had expected emergency exit row seats but in fact we were seated just behind the bulkhead. The flight out took 10 hours but only 8.5 hours on the way back and these were overall better than expected. Entertainment was good: they gave you complimentary headsets for the TVs and there were about 2/3 films with programmes in between. Food was changeable: Outbound was fairly good with cooked breakfast, choc ices and a ciabbata sandwich; return was not so good with a mushroom stroganoff which was extremely unappetising and a continental breakfast. My only real complaint was the temperature, I was freezing!!! On the way out there were very few blankets but were promised on the way back there would be blankets and pillows for everyone as it was a night flight. Even with a light jumper, the blanket, and snuggling up to my husband I was cold. We suggest you take a warm jumper and socks for the flight. The most bizarre thing was boarding the return flight on 22nd Dec at 4pm Cuba time with the sun shining, 30 degree heat and they’re playing sing along to the twelve days of Christmas complete with snow scenes while we’re waiting to take off!

Holguin Airport
Small and therefore very efficient. Do not bother to pay for an upgrade to get through check-in, security etc faster, it only takes 5 mins! Remember that you’ll need your tourist card completed in full, and hang on to the second half as you must have that to exit the county along with 25 Cuban pesos pp. On the return journey we were at the airport for 3 hours, and being a tiny airport there is not a lot to do so make sure you have something to keep you occupied. The prices are the same as at the resort so do not bother to wait to stock up on duty free at the airport – you won’t get as much choice!

Coach Transfer
Apart from waiting at the airport for an hour to get going we didn’t experience any problems. It takes about 1 hour to get to Guardalavaca from Holguin and its a good opportunity to see the real Cuba with all its ancient American cars. Once you start getting to the resort try and keep an eye on people getting off the coach before you, a large family staying at our hotel arrived to find one of their suitcases had already been unloaded by another tourist at an earlier hotel.

Reception
The reception staff are efficient but as a result usually seem unfriendly. People also get confused because they’ll talk to you and then talk to their colleague in rapid-fire Spanish and you’re not sure when they’ve done what you asked them to do. There is also a lack of understanding as to what messages are or what lost property is. When you check in make sure you are given enough booking cards for the a la cartes (see section on Food below) and another booking card for the beach towels. A safety deposit box is 28 Cuban pesos for 2 weeks. The exchange rate on Cuban pesos seems to change daily, currently fluctuating around the 1.86 mark. If you do take dollars out instead of sterling you will be charged 10% commission instead of the usual 3%.

Hotel Buildings and Grounds Brisas Guardalavaca brings two complexes together: Hotel with reception, shop, post office, disco, restaurant, cappuccino bar, trattoria a la carte, lounge bar, pool, pool bar, hot tub, terrace bar, entertainment stage. Villas with reception, shops, internet, restaurant, seafood a la carte, lounge bar, pool, hammocks, jacuzzi, terrace bar, entertainment stage, beautiful grounds.

There are also sports facilities at the club house, a kids club, tennis courts and of course water sports (see section on Pools & Beach)

Room
We were in 122 in the hotel section which is on the ground floor with a view of the pool away from the disco, restaurants etc. The rooms are large, clean, and well-equipped with a fridge, TV, bottled water, toiletries, hairdryer, etc. The maids are very good and clean daily, plus they leave towel artwork for you in the shape of hearts and swans. My only comments on the room are it was a little musty and we often only got small towels. There is an entertainment stage outside with the pool, we didn’t mind at all but if you’re that side of things do not expect to get to sleep until after 11pm when the evening show has ended.

Food I know there are lots of debates and opinions on the food at this particular hotel. I personally think this depends on how fussy you are. There are 2 a la carte restaurants, you are entitled to eat in each one once each week of your stay (i.e. 2 week stay equals 4 a la carte bookings). Here is our experience of the various restaurants: Hotel: First thing to say is the choice here is outstanding. I would be very surprised if you could not find something to eat. At breakfast there is continental (selection of cereals, tinned fruit, dried fruit, fresh fruit, breads, sweet rolls, toast, cheese, cold meats, jams, butter), omlettes made to order (2 eggs plus your choice out of onion, cheese, mushrooms, ham, tomato, green pepper), cooked (about 5 kinds of sausage, scrambled egg, bacon, fried eggs if you ask the omlette chef, potatoes), and of course drinks (freshly squeezed orange juice, other juices, coffee, hot chocolate from a large vat!). At lunch and dinner there is an even wider choice including soup, breads, loads of different salads, different dishes of pork, lamb, chicken, turkey and loads of varieties of fish, pasta made to order (choose from 2 different pastas and two different sauces and add ham, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, green pepper, onion), lots of veggie dishes (but watch out for the hidden meat content, my one complaint), potatoes, lots of rice and beans! We must not forget dessert of course, however in my opinion this is the one downfall…90% of dishes are sponge with neon coloured thick icing. We did also see lots of biscuits, plus there is always one flavour of ice cream, some creme caramel and jelly. Each night is usually a themed night ranging from atlantico to Cuban to romanico but we were sometimes stumped as to where the theme was. If you are a vegetarian it is advised you speak to the chef who will no doubt get you something especially.

Villas: We only ate here twice. First was a Cuban a la carte – strongly recommended! Very good food beautifully presented. Also more of a romantic evening with the candlelight. Second was another Cuban night but not a la carte. Similar to hotel restaurant in choice and quality, although I preferred the atmosphere here a bit more.

Trattoria: The better of the two a la carte restaurants. 5 course meal consisting of a choice of Italian appetisers, soup, salad, main courses and desserts. Typical dishes include bruscetta, prawn cocktail, ceasar salad, lasagne, pizza, steak, chicken, ice cream, cheese cake. They also do an excellent house red and is topped up continuously by the attentive waiters.
Seafood Restaurant: Like the trattoria so there is again a choice from a 5 course menu. There are also dishes which are not fish should you wish. The waiters are again good and here they tend to have multiple talents, i.e. ours did magic tricks, another sang songs. My recommendation is the lobster which is excellent. My husband was a little disappointed with his paella as the portion was minuscule.
Terrace bar grill: We didn’t eat here as I’m not a fan of greasy food, but if that’s your thing or you don’t like the sound of the restaurant food there are hamburgers (made with ham), toasted sandwiches, pizza and chips. There is also a kind of donut stand round the side where you can get donut strands with sugar and choc sauce.

Bars
Pool Bar: This swim-up bar is by far our favourite. Jose Pupo is the best barman and makes wonderful cuchi cuchi’s! This is also where the Cocktail ‘lesson’ is held and if you do only one of the entertainment teams activities this must be it – you will never look at banana liqueur, triple sec or orange juice the same way again!

Cappuccino Bar: Came in a very close second in the favourite stakes. Carmen is great and they make the best Spanish coffees there (although the recipe alters depending on who serves you!)

Lounge Bar: Only place you can get Mojito’s, and so worth visiting! Make sure you stock up before it closes at 11pm Terrace Bar: Open 24 hrs which is a plus, but the drinks they can make is limited and the staff aren’t as friendly here.

Pools & Beach
The hotel pool is free form with 2 little bridges and of course our favourite bar in the middle. It is very well kept and cleaned daily. Off to one side there is the children’s pool and tucked away in the trees is the hot tub. This is by far the liveliest of the two pools, so if you like to be in the thick of things and don’t mind a bit of music this is the place to be. The villas pool is much quieter. In our opinion it was also not as clean. There are plenty of sunloungers around both the pools, with hammocks available at the Villas. A ‘private’ beach runs the length of the hotel and villas, this means that there are guards posted who ward off locals trying to sell cigars and tourists who are not staying at the Brisas. Beach towels are provided when you exchange your booking card and can be changed as frequently as you like. Make sure though you do hang on to the relevant number of towels until it’s time to go home as they must be handed in to get your booking card back. Without this you will be charged 15 Cuban pesos for every missing towel when you check out. It is a beautiful beach with lots of coconut palms and again plenty of sunloungers. At either end of the beach there are water sports equipment shacks where you can borrow snorkelling gear, get a pedalo/kayak/windsurf or book a sail on the catamaran.

Entertainment
The Brisas team put on a programme of daily events and run the nightly shows. A typical day will start at 10am with Aerobics. Regular activities include Target shooting, Volleyball, Basic Spanish lessons, Cuban geography lessons, Waterpolo, Football, Bicycle tours, Walking tours, Petanque, Tennis lessons. Remember the ‘Cocktail Lesson’ is a must. We also thoroughly enjoyed the volleyball and waterpolo. The activities conclude about 5pm. Then in the evening there is a house band, certificates of the days winners are handed out and there is a show of some description. We didn’t see many of the shows but the decent ones were: Water Ballet, Black light, Funtastic, and the must see Christopher Columbus.

Excursions
Inclusive run by Hotel: A train type vehicle takes about 50 hotel/villas guests on a two hour trip. You start out with a drive in the countryside where you can get a glimpse of the real Cuba. First stop is a banana plantation where you get a taste of fresh bananas, guava, coconut and other native fruits, you can also experience real Cuban coffee. There is an optional extra to ride the horses if you wish. Second stop is a small town where you can see the town square, a school, and talk a walk up to the look-out-point (not for the mobily challenged!). We believe this trip is a worthwhile way to spend a couple of hours if you’d like to get out and see the local area.

We didn’t pay out for any excursions, but here are the reports we heard from a number of friends: Dolphins: Well worth the money (about £45 pp) if your life-long dream is to be in the water with dolphins. The aquarium is currently closed as a new one is being built, so the set up at the moment is an enclosure just off the beach. You get about 20mins in the water with them and there’s an opportunity to buy photos. We did learn that you can experience these wonderful creatures without resorting to the tour operator: take a horse and cart to the location (about 3-5 Cuban pesos) and then you can pay to sit on the sidelines and watch them all day (approx. 10 Cuban pesos).

Havana: There are two trips, the 1 day trip costs about £125 pp and 2 the days trip costs about £200 pp. We heard mixed reviews about this trip the main complaint being the amount of travel involved. Even though this is via an internal flight it still takes about 5 hours to get there and the same to get back to the hotel. The majority opinion is that it is better to do one of those package ‘twin centre’ holidays where you fly into Holguin, spend 10 days in Guardalavaca, then take an internal flight to Havana and spend 4 days there before returning home from Havana airport.

Overall Impression of Hotel, Resort & Cuba
We would recommend this hotel to couples and families who are looking for a good standard hotel but not expecting any frills. Whether it’s fun and noisy or peace and quiet you’re looking for you will find it here, the twin complex caters to both types of holiday. You will not find luxury, but there will be everything you could possibly need. A very big plus is that it is incredibly safe, with so many guards there is nothing to worry about. The resort is pretty much the hotel and its neighbours. It is very quiet with virtually no traffic and we again felt quite safe. You will only occasionally get bothered by the odd local asking for money or selling cigars. The phrase "Lo siento, no tengo dinero" is very handy for that. On the whole we loved Cuba and will definitely be returning one day.

Questions & Queries
If you have any questions I’m very happy to try and help answer them: charlotte_beadle@hotmail.com

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca – Holguin Eric — Ottawa, Canada

December 2004

Flight:
We flight from Toronto with Air Transat. Flight to go there was ok since they now have on most planes leather seats! . I highly recommend to get pre-selected seats in the back of the plane if you are 2 because they have 2-3-2- seats configuration in the back. Return was quite horrible with 2 ”good” turbulences, the worse was in landing to Toronto because in was very windy. The pilot done a good job !

Arrival :
I visited 4 different resorts since last year, and it was the worse check-in ! No welcome cocktail, just one person at the check-in lane… They just give us the keys of the room and a small map. We ask for the safe key at the same time but she told us to come back later for that. A guy bring the luggages to your room: good point because he bring them immediately to your room. They didn’t tell us that we need a Towel paper for beach towels at the check-in and we had to do again the line just to get the paper ! Rating: 2 *

I also found customs people very rude, and unfriendly. Please note that at Holguin airport, you got 3 lanes ! First, customs; second, security control !!! ( yes, with metal detector ! despite it was already done at Toronto) and Bank line ( to change money to convertible pesos). All of that took more that 60 minutes , plus the bus ride that was 1 hour and few minutes.

First impression: Despite the resort just had 10 years old, I seems to have 25 yo ! The mirrors at the lobby were dirty and almost all lobby and strairs windows were the same. Buffet windows also were dirty: it just seems that they don’t clean them ? I went to Melia Cayo Guillermo and Bahia Principe Akumal and their lobby were clean and magnificients ! Brisas lobby was more a ”Motel ” lobby.

Rating: 2 1/2 *

Front desk staff:
They were unfriendly and sometimes rude. When I came to ask for change for tipping !!!! , they seems to be very annoyed by that and they say some sentences in Spanish to themselves… I ask for 1 $ bill for convenience and got 20 coins of 1 $ ( you can get 3, 5, 10 or 20 $ bills, but not very useful for tipping and coins are difficult to place in your swimsuit ! ) . I prefed getting US dollars for tipping as before, but now we need to get Convertible cuban pesos. I understand Cuban choice for that but it’s not my fault nor other tourist fault if we need change for tipping !

Rooms:

We got a Hotel section rooms that was ok, no more ! 2 single beds, a small TV, a mini -fridge, the bathroom and the safe. Balcony was ok, but a quite dirty. We just got a water bottle once in the mini-fridge. No sodas, no beers. Just one soap and small shampoo bottle during our stay. We had to take our one soap and champoo. Maid done a good job, and she came everyday.
Rating: 3 *

Food :
Buffet food: it was a nightmare. Same plates recooked everyday. You will see sausages in the lunch and evening bufet, then recooked and place in slices in next breakfast buffet. Everything was salty, and had no taste. A lot of pork meals , so if you are Muslim or Jewish, you will find the week long;-( ! Soups were ok and I almost stay on bread, some salad, soup. They other meals were of low quality ( salty chicken, beef had a curious taste and texture ) …

Has I already read in an other review, hotel buffet really looks like a cafeteria. Desserts were nothing special, with curious cakes and some pastries and ice cream. Villa buffet had a better look but food were not better. Note that they have ” theme” buffet everyday and Hotel and Villa buffet were differents. rating: 2 1/2*

A la carte food: El patio (seafood) was ok , no more. Good service, but they serve whole giant shrimps with everything !! (3 *) La Trattoria (Italian) was by far better. (4*)

Snacks food: 24 hours open . Vegetable plates, hot dogs, HAMburgers with french fries. It was almost good. (4*)

Overall, food was worse than expected , if I compare with previous travellers reviews.
Rating: 3*

Beach:
2 differents ” beaches ” sections: hotel section with more entertainment and villa section that was almost quiet. Large beach, beautiful sand, trees on the beach, enough chairs, a good breeze (windy). Some rocks in the water. Rating : 4 1/2 * .

Pools:
hotel pool was ok no more and begin to show his age ! A lot of music there so more a party pool. The villa pool was better for relaxing.

Grounds and buildings:
Hotel section seems to be older than villa section and needs fresh painting and cleaning ! Villa section had beautiful gardens and more up-to-date buildings.

Entertainment:
Show were good no more. Differents themes shows everyday that were quite good. Animation by the pool in the afternoon.

Overall rating :
I don’t understand why this hotel is still a 4 * resort ? I think that compared to Bahia principe Tulum (4 1/2), Melia Cayo Guillermo (4 1/2) and Royal Decameron Panama (4* but deserve 4 1/2 !!! ), this resort is by far below these other resorts. I’m not a travel agent so I don’t know evaluation criterias for resorts but I give a 3 * for hotel section and 3 1/2* for villa section.

I will not stay there nor recommend to other people. I don’t agree with some other travellers who say ” you are on vacation in a all inclusive, don’t expect gourmet food”. I don’t expect gourmet food but standard food, well cooked, well prepared, with other spices that salt ( why don’t use pepper, basilic, etc ?? ). I got nausea just thinking to buffet so I eaten often at snack ! I will try Dominica republic nex time.

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca – Holguin Leslie — Montreal

November 2004

Arrival:
My mother and I flew by Skyservice from Dorval airport. We had the opportunity to advance book our seats, which we didn’t. We wanted aisle two aisle seats, which we were not able to get and so found the flight to be a bit claustrophobic. The seats are placed very close together. At least it was not a long flight. On the return flight we booked the VIP lounge through the signature agent and were the only people in that line when we got to the airport. We were able to get the aisle seats that we wanted as well as wait in an air-conditioned lounge with sandwiches and drinks served. I would definitely book the seats in advance for another time. The trip from the airport took about an hour by bus. Although it was dark, we were able to see some of the houses dotting the roadside.

Rooms:
When we arrived at the hotel, we were told that the hotel was fully booked and were up-graded to the villas. Since we were supposed to have an ocean view at the hotel, I was a bit disappointed. We had a ground floor villa and once I checked that everything was OK with the room, we settled in. We were surprised to find in the morning that our patio had a view of the ocean as well as being surrounded by nice vegetation and gorgeous flowers. I agree with previous reviews that the place is showing its age a bit, but since you spend most of your time out of the room, it was soon forgotten. A running toilet and lack of a plug for the bathtub was soon sorted out with the desk.

Meals:
We found the food to be very good. There was a good selection and you could always find something to eat. We had breakfast at both buffet restaurants and found little difference in the food. We preferred the villas buffet because it was closer and had more of the feeling of being open air even when you ate inside. Our favourite part was the freshly made omelettes. For lunch we ate once at the buffet but preferred the patio restaurant at the villas. There they serve pizza, pasta, sandwiches, salad and HAMburgers. They really are made with ham but I quite enjoyed them and they are probably safer than undercooked beef burgers. The evening buffet was mostly at the hotel. The food was always nicely presented but be aware that since it is a buffet, the meat does tend to be slightly overcooked. The dinner at the seafood a la carte restaurant was good. We ordered the jumbo shrimp that came with their heads on. I soon decapitated them. They were slightly overdone but the rest of the meal was. The entertainment was the waiters and waitresses singing, juggling and performing magic tricks. The dinner at the Italian restaurant in the hotel was very good. The atmosphere was nice and the beef was cooked exactly as we ordered it and was very tender.

Beaches and pools:
We spent most of our time on the beach by the villas. If you like long beaches to walk on then this is not the place for you, since the beaches are more like little coves. However, there was lots of shade and the water was nice. The pool by the villas was quiet with not a lot of shade but was find for the afternoon. The pool by the hotel was where all the action took place.

Getting around:
It was a little walk between the hotel and the villas. You could get between the two by the walkway along the beach or by strolling though the grounds. We found a lot of stairs needed to be climbed at the hotel. If you have difficulty getting around, you are better off in the villas.

Tips:
We were the first group of people to have to deal with the convertible Cuban peso instead of American dollars. We were not sure if the Cubans could use these pesos but left them anyways and they seemed to appreciate them. Nobody seemed to be looking for tips anywhere. We also left goods that we knew were appreciated (soap, toothpaste, clothes, candy,etc.). I even went out of my way to tip the gardener. You are not expected to tip but since I feel that we have so much more than what they do, what does it cost us.

Excursions:
We took the included excursion, which was basically a two-hour trip into the countryside (to a plantation, a town and a stop at a little tourist market). We had learned that we would be seeing children on this trip and took a bag of lollipops, gum, colouring books and crayons to give them. There was another women on this trip who had been before and was prepared with dolls. The children seemed shy and were nothing but polite, but did their faces light up when they saw what we had for them.

Entertainment:
The entertainment was very good as well. The house band played for one hour followed by the award ceremony for 10 minutes. Then came the show for the night. I enjoyed it all except for the Fashion show, which was just OK.

Conclusion:
While I enjoyed my stay at the Brisas Guardalavaca, I am not sure that I would return again. While it is nice to return to someplace familiar, there are many other nice places to visit. However, I would definitely recommend it.

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Las Brisas Guardalavaca – Holguin Jackie — Kitchener Ontario

November 2004

My parents took me(12) and my sister(8) to Brisas and all of us absolutly loved it!

Rooms
You either book the villas or the main hotel. The villas are little groupings of buildings that are all open and have 2 or 3 stories. It’s really nice I liked it better than a hotel. The only problem was the stairs getting my luggage up! It proved to be a task but my dad carried the big suitcases up (he’s so strong :P) Villa rooms are supposedly bigger than the hotel rooms but our balcony i swear was less than a meter wide! No big deal because the whole villa building (not the rooms) was open 😀 The rooms are airconditioned we read the reviews and it said it got damp in the rooms….we had no problems with dampness at all. The air conditioner is strong so don’t turn it up to high in the middle of the night you will wake up freezing. We also had no problem with bugs or lizards. We found one teeny lizard the last day but it was cute.I didn’t think it was threatening our lives not to mention any of the other lizards :S. You get a couch and a tv with not many channels but who cares you don’t spend time in your room. Vh1 was the best channel on the whole tv it was all american entertainment (sorta like mtv or in Canadas case MUCH MUSIC).

Food The Food was wonderful! My parents told me it wouldn’t be as good and americanised as Jamaica was but i thought it was excellent through and through! They’re was always pasta (you could get it without sauce for those picky eaters aka my sister) and they had the best pizza EVER. The villa side buffet was excellent but i can’t say that about the hotel side being we never ate there. The seafood restaurant had good food according to my parents. I tried the lobster because my friend loves it and i hated it. Although i’m graetful it was a half lobster so there were no eyes(thank god the legs were bad enough!). The Italian restaurant was fabulous I had the lasagna and it was extremely scrumpdidliumptious! It may look a little dingy from the outside but that’s because you have to walk through a bar to get to it. Once you are inside it’s like a real fancy restaurant the room is lit by beautiful candles and the service is speedy and friendly!

The 2 above restaurants you can only visit once and you need a reservation.By the hotel pool there is a 24 hour service where they serve fries pizza and drinks all day and alllllll nite!

Pools
There are 2 pools the hotel side and the villa pool. The villa pool was proven to be more quiet than the hotel pool. The hotel pool had a stage by in front of it so there was practically always something going on. The villa pool also had a stage but no as many things happened on it. The pool water was pretty cool sometimes but it was hot outside so it didn’t matter. It wasn’t the cleanest but there weren’t bugs floating in it and stuff. There were about a million thousand yellow floaty things always floating around the pool very comfortable they were. Oh yeah and it’s topless 😉 hee hee

Beach
Okay you couldn’t walk down the beach really far because there were things that stopped you like, rock. but there was a walkway you could walk down pretty far at the top of the beach. You come across locals by walking down that..indeed you do. The sand was really nice for a man made beach and the water was deliciously warm! Very salty though (reminder: don’t open your mouth). There was seagrass but not every where. And shells aswell lots of them but that was IN the water not on the beach. I suppose it depends when your there and i suggest taking water shoes so that you don’t have to walk through the seagrass (somepeople don’t mind that stuff but it bugs me personally).

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