Melia Cayo Santa Maria Resort Reviews – Santa Clara – Cuba Hotels – Debbie's Caribbean Travel & Resort Reviews

Melia Cayo Santa Maria – Santa Clara – Reviews Posted – 29

Melia Cayo Santa Maria Bruce ~ Canada

April 2005

I have travelled all over the world and visited over 30 countries. This was my first trip to Cuba…it will not be my last. Because of the research I did using mostly trip reports from this site we brought things with us for the hotel staff and the locals. Take the time to go to Value Village and spend $10 on children’s clothes and toys. The smiles on their faces are priceless. We also took fishing gear for the catamaran Captain, nail polish (they all love red), hair clips, "scrunchies", colouring books and crayons. I just wish we could have done more.

Let me start by saying…WOW!!!…one more time….WOW!!! What a beautiful resort. Even though it is only a year and a half old and not as lush as the Sol, it was absolutely beautiful. There must be something special because there were more people staying at the Melia than the Sol. I’m telling you, it is absolutely stunning. This was our Honeymoon and the staff at the hotel couldn’t have made it any better than they did. We had a perfect week of sun and sand and romance. My deepest appreciation to Maria Elena and Miriela at reservations for making this such a perfect vacation.

The Flight
Air Transat could give the other airlines lessons in processing passengers. When we arrived at the airport there were nearly 100 people ahead of us and yet we were checked in in less than 15 minutes. The flight was on-time and smooth. If you can pre-book your seats, choose row 13. it’s the overwing emergency exit row and has more legroom.

Arrival.
The airport in Santa Clara is roughly the size of any Canadian gas station. Despite it’s size, the people are very professional and very efficient. Even the drug dog is adorable. Like so many before us, we lined up on the tarmac and waited our turn to go through customs. This is a very social event as everyone is excited to have arrived. We were through customs in about half an hour. Once through, change your money to Convertible Pesos and get yourself a cold drink while you wait for the rest of your group. Check-in is done on the bus and very easy. You receive an envelope with your room keys, bracelets and hotel passport and you’re done. I told you it was easy.

The ride through the countryside to the hotel is very interesting. The locals all wave and seem very happy to see the busses roll by. The causeway is something spectacular. An engineering marvel that the Cubans should be very proud of. The scenery is beautiful and only gets better as you get closer to the hotel. We arrived at the hotel roughly 7 hours after leaving Toronto. The staff at the hotel was waiting for us when we arrived. The entertainers were dressed in bright colours and dancing for us and there was rum punch for everyone. They kept the buffet open for us to have an evening snack. Our luggage was delivered to our room within the hour. These people know how to do things right.

Our Room
We were in room 1621. That’s the yellow bungalow right in front of the chessboard. You’ll know which one when you get there. Our second floor balcony not only overlooked the pool and resort but the ocean as well. Because this was our honeymoon, there was a bottle of Champaign, flowers and a fruit plate waiting for us when we arrived, accompanied by a very nice letter from hotel management. They even pre-booked us for dinner at each of the a-la-carte restaurants. The rooms are large and bright and very, very clean. The king size bed with 6 pillows was much more than we needed. Open the windows at night and fall asleep to an ocean breeze and the sounds of the waves and wake up to the birds singing. What an experience.

The Food.
The food was excellent. We tried everything. What we didn’t like…we didn’t try again. Simple eh??? Every morning we ate omelettes at the buffet and fresh squeezed orange juice. You just can’t appreciate good orange juice until you’ve had it fresh squeezed. The only disappointment was the coffee in the restaurants. I’m not sure if it’s the machines they use or what but we stopped drinking it. It’s not that it’s bad…just different. The coffee in the room was so good we started drinking it black and bought some to bring home. The wine we had was from Spain and Antigua. It was surprisingly very good.

Each night we ate in one of the a-la-carte restaurants the meals got better and better. The first night it was lobster on the patio by the pool. Serenaded under the stars. The next night, Italian. Also very good. The night before we left we ate at the El Portuna. The food at all of the restaurants is excellent and the service is as good as that in the best restaurants in Montreal and Toronto.

Activities.
We wanted to do it all. Unfortunately due to time and availability constraints we couldn’t. We did rent a jeep for 3 hours ($21). Good thing we chose the jeep over the scooters as only the road to the hotels is paved and the scooters are not off-road friendly. We saw a couple who rented them and she was not a happy camper. The jeep is definitely the way to go. We explored jungle trails and secluded beaches. Because it’s an island, all roads eventually lead to a beach. We made sandwiches at the buffet before we left, took drinks from the mini bar and had a picnic. Bring a few Tupperware dishes for this as there is no plastic wrap or sandwich bags.

On Wednesday we took the trip to Trinidad. It was one of those things you have to do once but not again. The bus ride is far too long (3 hours) and once in Trinidad the temperature must have been 40 deg C between the buildings. We left the resort at 7:30am and returned at 7 pm. That’s 6 hours on a bus. If you go, take bars of soap from the hotel, and little gifts for the locals. They really have very little. One part of this tour stops at another smaller hotel outside of Trinidad where you board an old Russian army truck and head off into the jungle. You stop at a little hidden oasis where lunch is provided. The next time we will take the Santa Clara tour just because it’s shorter.

On Thursday we sailed on the Catamaran. This is a MUST DO!!!! It’s $72/person but worth every penny. We snorkelled twice, ate fresh lobster on the boat and sailed all afternoon. The crews are fabulous and everyone on board quickly became friends. This will forever be our most memorable activity of the trip. Book early, as this is very popular.

We had a massage while there. You’ve gotta have a massage. Even if it’s just for the opportunity to talk to Roberto. He’s very well educated and very interesting to talk to. My wife and I were both very relaxed afterwards.

People
What can I say? The staff at the hotel is wonderful. Very friendly, very helpful and a ton of fun. Everyone from the gardeners to the entertainers are genuinely happy to see you and talk with you. Oraima, our maid showed us pictures of her kids and we chatted nearly every day. We left a note and a little something in the room each day for her and her family….again, the kid’s clothes and toys are greatly appreciated.

If you only see one show while there, make it the Michael Jackson show. This guy is great. Right down to the crotch grabbing and moon walking. Absolutely perfect. We went to about 4 shows and each was different and equally good. Remember, they are mostly kids and they do a much better job than I could. It’s not Vegas but they do a very good job.

Final Thoughts.
Genevieve, our travel rep was organized and very helpful. She will be missed when she rotates out in a couple of weeks.

If you bring one item to Cuba, make it a thermal mug like the kind used for coffee in the car on the way to work. For safety, no glass is allowed on the beach or around the pool and the plastic glasses they provide are very small. I spent a lot of time running back and forth from the beach to the bar just for drinks. The bartenders will mix your drinks right in your own cups.

There are currently 2 additional hotels under construction on the island. This place is going to take off and the prices will go up accordingly. If you want a wonderful vacation go now. You will not be sorry.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Brad from Ottawa

April 2005

A couple of things to get off my chest:

DO NOT tip with loonies and twonies, they are useless to Cubans, they just end up harassing other tourists to exchange them.

I overheard people complaining that they did not get good service unless they tipped. Duh! Were do you go in Canada and get good service without tipping? You don’t have to tip much to be treated very well here. The people are friendly and fantastic.

The "police escort" mentioned by a previous review, was simply to clear traffic to speed up the trip from the airport. Cuba is one of the safest places in the world to visit.

A number of women at the hotel are pregnant, if you are looking for things to take as gifts, take things for babies.

The Flight Skyservice sucks, what else can I say. The airport is small so the arrival and customs is very slow, you need to be patient.

The Bus to Hotel I grabbed a few beers at the stand at the airport, there is nothing on the bus. It was a bit of a long trip, but lots to see. You receive your room key and everything on the bus, so pack a bathing suit and sunscreen in your carry on, that way you don’t have to wait for your luggage to hit the beach/pool.

The Hotel is beautiful the room was the best we have had in Cuba.

Food I hate to disagree with Jennifer (hola) but the food in the buffet was not great, I have much better elsewhere in Cuba. For me it is not a big deal, there is no way I would starve and if I wanted to go on a culinary adventure I would go to France not Cuba, so I just didn’t worry about it.

Lobster Restaurant Jen, Cuban lobster do not have claws! These are not Nova Scotia lobster, and they are grilled, so a bit different. Just ask and you will get a second half, if that isn’t enough go to the pool snack bar and gobble down 11 pizzas!

Creole Restaurant The food here was just fine

Italian Restaurant This one was a disappointment, if I was going to skip one it would be the Italian. It was especially disappointing since I had to put on long pants.

Mediterranian Restaurant This was the best by far (ate here three times) the food was all fantastic, service was great.

Pool Grill A great alternative to the buffet for lunch, you had a choice of hamburger, grilled chicken or pork. Salad and fruit were available as well.

Pool Bar I spent a lot of time here. Rafael, Gallo and Yoelvis were fantastic, if you go treat these guys good. Rafael has a 2 year old son, Gallo has a son and a daughter and Yoelvis a 7 year old daughter. Take them presents and tell them I said "hi".

The Rum If you are looking for good rum (not just the Havana Club 7 year old) at the lobby bar you can try the Havana Club 15 year old and the Vigia 15 year old, for a few dollars. This stuff is seriously good rum. You can buy both in the Tienda at the hotel. The Havana Club for 100 Pesos, if you go to Santa Clara or wait till the airport when you leave it is 85 pesos, I bought the Vigia at the hotel fo about 60 pesos, never found it anywhere else. I intended to buy the Havana Club 15 year old and had been looking forward to it for months, but when we were in Santa Clara discovered 1 bottle of Havana Clubs special San Cristobal De La Habana a special limited addition bottling for 95 pesos, a rare find. This stuff is for sipping, like a good Scotch or Cognac, you definetly do not want to mix it. We also brought back a bottle of Santago de Cuba 15 year old (88 pesos at hotel) and Ron Solera Mulata (27 pesos at the Hotel about 20 in Santa Clara).

The Beach This is a seriously beautiful sandy beach. You need to get up really early in the morning to get a spot with shade, there simply are not enough to go around. But if you are up early you get to watch the pelicans gather. Some days there was not much to see in the water (snorkelling) other days there were thousands of fish just a couple of feet off the shore.

The Pool Again you had to get up early to get a shady spot. The pools are beautiful and in the evenings I was almost always the only person in the pool, nut sure why. As I mentioned the best part about the pool is the swim up bar and my new friends who work behind the bar.

Excursions If you like to snorkel, the Catamaran trip is well worth it. My daughters were new to snorkeling, and had a great time on this trip, there is a lot to see. But as others have mentioned for snorkeling just borrow a bike (most of them are pretty crappy) or for 21 pesos rent a car for three hours (split between 4 people it is well worth it) and heqad down the road for some incredible snorkeling on a beautiful reef. If you want directions send me an e-mail at bfield@fed.ndp.ca. We went on the day trip to Santa Clara, it was definetly worth the money. Che Gueveras monument is well worth seeing and as I said you can get a bit of a deal on some of the rum. You get to see a bit of the culture and history of this part of Cuba.

Overall this was my best vacation ever. We have been to Cuba a few times, Varadero and Havana. But I had the best time ever at the Melia Santa Maria. I loved the people, the hotel rooms are very nice, the beach is absolutely beautiful. I didn’t go to any of the evning shows, so I have nothing to say about them, my kids seemed to enjoy them. We went for 2 weeks, if you are going to Cuba, you should absolutely consider 2 weeks, it doesn’t cost that much more and is well worth it, one week is just too rushed and over before you know it. Any questions feel free to contact me. bfield@fed.ndp.cav

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Luis

March 2005

We are a couple in our late 30’s who traveled to the Melia Cayo Santa Maria resort with our two teenage kids. Off the start I have to say that this resort has great potential and with the right type of refining it could be an awesome place to spend a memorable week or two.

Arrival at the Resort:
By far the worst airport experience that we have ever encountered and we have been to many a locations. It took us a good two hours to make it through the airport and into the buses. This then followed by an hour and 30 minute drive to the resort. All the resort check in is done on the bus which helped not having to spend the extra time once we got there. Once at the hotel we were told that our luggage would be delivered to our rooms. This took about an hour and a half to happen.

Money:
Try and change your money at the airport as it doesn’t charge a fee on top of the exchange rate. Another thing to keep in mind is that they do not take any loonies or townies so try and get some Cuban Convertible Pesos in order to tip the baggage handlers should you choose or to have some drinks at the bar outside the airport.

Room:
The room was very nice we were quite impressed with the look of it. The bed was quite stiff and this was upsetting to my wife. The only other problem we had was with the bathroom as the shower head would not stay up forcing us to squat down when washing our head and face. Our toilet would flush but would then take about 15 minutes before you could flush again.

Buffet:
Considering the various travels we have done to Cuba, I have to say that Melia had the best buffet that I have experience (keeping in mind that it still has many horrible dishes). My favorite was the pasta bar along with an impressive bbq style meat section. There is something for everyone and if you stick to what looks reasonable you cant go wrong. If you like to experiment with your food then you may be in for some disappointments.

Lobster Dinner:
This restaurant is located under a hut right beside the pool. Do yourself a favour and avoid this waste of time. The dinner was horrible and for the little piece of lobster that you get it is just not worth it.

24 Hour Snack Bar:
This is a small snack bar by the pool and it gets a lot of people who are staying poolside. Be warned that this is the slowest one of all and you take for ever to get anything. What is most frustrating is even if you go up to the counter most of the time they don’t even acknowledge that you are there and instead just talk and mingle amongst each other. I have to say that I have never experienced this type of behavior in any other resort in Cuba. And don’t believe this 24 hour thing as we tended to be up till at least 2 am every night and if you try and get something they are always out of everything. Funny thing is you will see all the employees from the hotel come there late at night grabbing food and taking it away. They will even come in the golf cart trolleys pick up bags of food and take them off somewhere probably to feed their amigos. This one place by far made me want to contact the management or send an email to the owners as I felt the service was horrible and they made you feel like you were bothering them by being there.

Italian Restaurant
By far my favourite with a great meal and great staff would recommend this highly.

Drinks:
The Drinks were fine and depending on the person making them some were better. At the pool bar there were two of the best people at the resort and that was Yoelvis and Rafael. These guys were great and prompt and made some of the best drinks.

Activites:
What a joke the activities would be seen at times but in vary small scale. I am used to going to Cuban resorts and having the Entertainment (animation) staff always around mingling with the tourists and providing interesting things to keep people busy during the day. I have to say that this place lacks all this and I found that the entertainment people lacked the experience to handle a place that needs something bad as it does not have much to offer.

Pool:
Pools are very nice and very big and there is also a whirlpool. Problem is as everyone says because the lack of umbrellas many people get up very early in the morning head down to the pool through a towel on the chair and then go back to sleep. This makes it frustrating as we always went to bed late and the last thing I want to do is get up at 7:00 am arrrgghh. The whole week that we were there we never managed to get an umbrella by the pool. You would thing that the management of the hotel could figure out the resorts capacity and provide the appropriate number of Umbrellas.

Beach:
The beach is gorgeous and that’s because we love the ocean and the sand. Once again the same problem as by the pool, were there are limited huts and people getting up early and placing their towels on the chairs and then going back to sleep. Considering there are no trees it is hard to get any shade if you need it. Another problem is the bar being so far from the beach so a good thing to do is bring one of those big Tim Hortons coffee mugs that way you can fill it up at the bar and limit your walks to the bar.

Staff:
Most of the staff was friendly with the few exceptions. If you tip good the first day they even treat you better the following days. We would always leave at least a 2 peso tip on every meal. The beach towel lady was fantastic one of the nicest we met along with the two gentlemen at the pool bar (Yoelvis and Rafael).

Weather:
The weather was fantastic.

Entertainment:
By far the worst I have experienced in Cuba. You would think they would get the hint considering most nights most of the people would get up not even half way through the show and head to the lobby bar. This place really needs to place some greater focus on this as it is basically the only form of entertainment available. The piano bar/disco is a joke too, we were told that the real disco was at the Sol and once we went there we realized it was just as bad. So if you are looking for any type of night life activities you will not find it here. We were very lucky to come across two very interesting couples and spent most our evenings by the lobby lounge sitting around talking, laughing and drinking.

Summary:
To wrap things up we had a great week and great weather. We made good friends with some other tourist and this made it all the more enjoyable. If you want to have a quiet week to do some reading, some swimming then this is the place for you (as long as you can get up early to reserve a chair) if you are looking for excitement I would say look else where. Even though we enjoyed our week thanks to the good weather and good friends and would not return.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Jennifer

March 2005

I hope that this review answers some of your questions about this resort, and Cuba in particular. Even though I read the other reviews before coming, I had a significant amount of questions. We are a couple in our late 20’s, who have been to Grand Paradise Bavaro and Rui Mambo in the DR.

Arrival at the Resort:
Be prepared for a long wait at Santa Clara Airport. By long wait, I mean at least 2 and a half hours. You are heavily questioned when arriving, and have to go through security entering the country. Do not bring walkie-talkies or GPS systems in…they will be confiscated. Bags come off the tiny conveyor two at a time, which takes a long time. There is a small stand outside that serves beer and refreshments. I would strongly advise just leaving the luggage area and cooling off while you are waiting. The process was extremely inefficient. Some people received their bags and then just had to stand outside. Only when everyone had their bags could people start getting on the buses. This added an extra hour to the time, even though there was no worry of getting on the wrong bus, as we were all going to the same resort. The ride was fine, although we arrived very late (2am) and they were playing cuban music on the bus. It would have been better to let people snooze. You are handed an envelope of material for check-in. It contains a map of the hotel and keys etc. The map of the hotel, although it doesn’t say it anywhere, is your hotel passport. KEEP IT SAFE! You need it to get your towels, so bring it the first time you get them. You also need it to book restaurants.

Money:
You cannot change money in Canada. You must wait until you get to the resort or the airport. There is a money change stand at the airport which takes Visa etc. I changed money at the hotel lobby and got 0.79 Cuban Dollars to the Canadian Dollar. A real rip-off. I don’t know what the exchange rate at the airport was though. You need $25 Cuban Dollars each to get your visa, which you have to pay for at the departures area of the airport.

The Room:
Gorgeous! We were in building 4, in room 412. The best room I have been in on holiday. That doesn’t mean it was the best room I have ever been in, this isn’t the Ritz, but it was really nicely decorated. Two double beds pushed together, canopy and sitting area. The tv was broken though as the sub woofer had blown. Certain channels are very much louder than others, meaning blown speakers are a big problem. We made do, but it was really difficult to hear. The shower was also broken, and the shower head wouldn’t stay up beyond 2 feet! A call to maintanence was answered with "We are sending someone", then a two hour wait. We called again and asked when they were sending someone to which they responded "We are sending someone". Eventually the problem was fixed. The mini-bar was a little odd. I left a note in Spanish asking for extra water, which went unanswered. Water was very much in demand…we had to save ours up so we’d have some left for the evening.

Buffet:
The best we’ve had. Although it was very samey, the quality was quite excellent. In the buffet for breakfast, there are egg cooking stations. You can either ask for an omelette and choose how many eggs, and your toppings, or you can choose scrambled or fried eggs. They use quite a bit of oil, but it results in perfect eggs. They also have different types of sausage, bacon, toast, cereals and excellent croissants and breads. Lunch and dinner features the grill heavily…fish grilled to order (tuna, not the best though, tilapia, hake) chicken, beef and sometimes pork. These are all excellent, but these get tiring after a while. There is always a roast pork or beef in the centre area being carved off the bone. It is often dry but tasty. There is a pasta station at the other end where you can take your plate, fill it with the pasta of your choice, and they will warm it, toss it with the vegetables of meats of your choice, and add it to whatever sauce you want. Vegetables are very limited, mainly green peppers and cucumbers. There are salads, but I didn’t brave them. Breads are excellent. Desserts are ok. There is always ice cream but the cake desserts are very hit-and-miss. They soak the cakes in liquid which is odd. Fruit is also not the easiest to come by, but do get a banada flambe from the centre area. Servers are usually good at getting water glasses filled and fetching other drinks. They will even get you coffee if you ask, and that is also very good. Wine is of solid quality.

Creole (Cuban) Restaurant:
By the time we booked the specialty restaurants (to book, go to the lobby after 9am…there is a woman sitting at a desk. You cannot book a restaurant if you don’t have your "Hotel Passport" as mentioned earlier) we were only able to get reservations at the Creole and the Lobster dinner. I wasn’t looking forward to the Creole, the menu wasn’t to my liking, but oh well…let’s try something new! No-one really tells you it’s over in the Sol area, so give yourself time. The starter was an ocean fruits melody. I love shrimp, but they were really overcooked to the point of squishyness, and they were covered in a sort of tuna flavoured mayonnaise. Next, I wanted the slow cooked lamb (yum) but they were out so I had the pork with mushroom rum sauce. It was just pork from the roast in the buffet covered in a good quality sauce. Not too bad. The wandering musicians played for us which was nice. I can’t remember what the dessert was.

Lobster Dinner:
This dinner is the "Moonlight dinner". It was so windy that our things kept blowing away! There was another shrimp item to start, which was really yucky (and I love shrimp) followed by pumpkin soup which actually wasn’t bad. Then the joke…the lobster. One half of one lobster arrived, without the claw…so that means half a tail. OK, we were done in 30 seconds, the plates were cleared and we were given a fruit cocktail! We were so starved we went straight to the buffet! Really disappointing, I heard such good things and I love lobster. Oh well.

Snack Bar:
There is a 24 hour snack bar by the pool. It does calamari, hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, grilled chicken and fish. I heard rumour of pizzas, but never saw one. Generally good food. If you don’t like onions, specify your calamari without onions, as they pour an onion sauce over it for some reason.

Beach Snack Bar:
Same as above, but really crowded for lunch time. Never got a seat.

Drinks:
Mostly good. Sometimes excellent mojitos, sometimes not. Drink requests occasionally honoured. It’s hard to come up with combinations when faced with such choice! I decided to ask for a Chocolate Martini. I pointed to the ingredients on the menu (vodka, creme de cacoa, which they had) and it arrived with two olives. B+ for effort.

The Sol:
Really unusual over there. Full of French Canadians and Italians. Got a distinct "Us vs Them" attitude from the guests to our purple wrist bands. Lots of grumbling when we got served at the bars (although you can’t eat there). Basically, all of the activites are at the Sol (bache ball, bowling, marketplace etc). No-one was by the pool, it looked empty.

Activites:
Or lack thereof…I was really disappointed in the lack of activities. I am used to the animation staff wandering around and informing people when things were about to start, but that didn’t happen. We wanted to try archery, but was told that it was being built, along with the spa, gym and climbing wall that we wanted to try. Don’t even bother with the existing gym (which is over at the Sol) a couple of free weights, none of which I could lift and downright dangerous equipment. Disappointing. I didn’t see dance lessons, volleyball, anything. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, but I never knew when they would.

Pool:
The best! Of course, you have to be up at 7.30am to get shade, but there were always loungers around. Pool was well maintained and good for cooling down. Only one downside though…be aware of shade poachers! These are the people that missed getting the shade areas in the morning. You come back from a dip in the pool to find 3 people have squeezed in front and to the sides of you. I don’t like being nose to nose with a stranger, especially when they talk across you! Also, people WILL move your things and take your lounger, even if you just went to the washroom!

Beach:
Nice, but we prefered the pool. Waves were nice, and better than just floating around. Snorkeling can be done by going out of the resort through the lobby. Head to the road and turn right. A 45 minute walk, until the road turns to dirt, takes you to a good snorkeling spot, but go during high tide. Barracuda can be seen, as well as the usual smaller fish. Lots of fun.

Staff:
I have to disagree with most people here about the staff. The DR people are so much friendlier, always having conversations with us. We would say Hola to staff and they wouldn’t respond, or refuse to look at you sometimes, which I found really odd. We didn’t tip until the last day, to say a genuine thankyou for good service, but I heard that tipping is all they look for. I would also say that suggestions to bring and give out little things are misplaced. I saw a tourist give a waitress a pad of paper and a pen, and when she wasn’t looking the waitress rolled her eyes and laughed at her. I think money speaks best.

Weather:
I was worried about travelling in March, as I heard mixed things about the weather, but it was fab. 30 degrees, a little windy at times, but generally gorgeous.

Misc:
There were no bugs, except for a couple of (outdoor) cockroaches, and a giant flying grasshopper that scared the bejesus out of me. There are stray cats near the building by the buffet hall. They are perfectly happy and healthy, but appreciate a slice or two of ham. They seem to be treated well, and look in great shape (I was concerned about them, but saw they were fine during the stay).

Summary:
We had a great time…I know it sounds complainy, but it really was good. I just wanted you to be aware of potential issues you may have with this resort. We would return anytime! Definitely a 4.5 star, but represented as a 5 (which it isn’t…yet!)

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Neil from Mississauga

March 2005

Our vacaton was From February 22 to March 1 2005.

A beautiful clean resort with hard working staff. Not near any cities or shopping – actually not really near anything interesting but the "sister" hotel – "Sol."

Meals could be improved. We had the worst meals of the week in the Mediterranean Restaurant. Another 2 bad ones at the Creole restaurant (near the beach). Pretty good ones at the Italian restaurant. OK at the lobster restaurant (near the pool) It seems that the cooking staff needs more training. In the main buffet restaurant the hot food was often being served cold or not thoroughly cooked – or both! Never a warm plate to be found.

Remember that Cuba is not in the tropics – the first two days at the location were rather cool 20C during the day and a sweater was needed at night. During this time the pool was freezing! However it got progressively warmer for the balance of our vacation. By the last days it exceeded 30C – and the pool was wonderful!

Would I return? Of course! But I have a tendency to go to a different warm place every year.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Dee ~ Canada

March 2005

We stayed at the Melia Cayo Santa Maria from March 4-11th this year. While it opened as a 5 star last year and all the signage shows 5 stars, it was listed as a 4.5 by the travel agent we bought it from (Air Transat Vacations through Belair Travel in Toronto). This was our fifth time to Cuba staying previously at Playa D’Oro in Varadero, Las Brisas Guardalavaca and Playa Pesquero in Holguin and Iberostar Daiquiri in Cayo Guillermo.

Flight: On time, large plane (Airbus 310), all going to the same resort. All of Air Transat’s fleet has leather seats now which to me give the illusion of more space for seating. The meal down was a warm burrito and ice cream. On the way back it was a boxed sandwich with a brownie. The headphones for the in-flight movie are only 1$ CDN to buy, which I believe is 4$ cheaper than Skyservice.

Airport: We landed in Santa Clara Cuba which is an approx. 1 hour and 20 minute bus ride away from the resort. The airport itself is very small so be patient as processing of passengers, both in and out, take sometime. Also, currently, a police escort is required to take the buses part of the way to the resort. As a result, all of the busses are loaded and depart at the same time. This means that if you are one of the first people through customs you have quite a bit of a wait ahead of you before you leave for the resort. It took us approx. 3 hours from when we landed to when we left the airport for the resort. The busses are large, new Swedish ones, similar in comfort and style to our Greyhounds here in Canada.

Check-in: Done on the bus on route to the resort. Very painless. As it was late when we arrived at the resort, our luggage was brought directly to our room while we went to the buffet (kept open for the new arrivals) for a late night snack.

Rooms: This resort is like a smaller version of the Playa Pesquero in both layout and décor. Given that they are owned by the same Cuban company, I’m not surprised. As stated by many people the rooms are large, clean and very pretty. We had a room in one of the blue villas, second floor with a king bed. The maid service was good all week. The usual promptness, effectiveness and cute towel creations. We tipped with little cosmetic gifts which seemed to be appreciated, although I’m starting to feel redundant bringing the same things over and over. If you have room in your suitcase I’ve heard baby things and sports equipment are always appreciated also.

The Beach: Beautiful and long. The water gets relatively deep quickly. We had a mix of every flag colour available, including one red flag day which was awesome to watch. The waves were huge. Comparatively, the green flag day was very calm. The resort has the usual fare of water activities as well as a neat water trampoline that they put out on calm days. Snorkeling is not readily available around this resort as the water bottom is very sandy. However, as usual, a catamaran trip is available where snorkeling is part of the package. We don’t reserve chairs in advance and we had no problem finding seats at any time of day, even with the resort being 98% full. There is a waiter that runs up and down the beach taking drink orders. It takes some time as he has a lot of ground to cover but is a nice gesture if you’re patient.

The Pool: Again, a smaller version of the Playa Pesquero. Two halves, both abstract in shape. There is one swim up bar that gets busy in the late afternoon. Loungers are wooden with padding, some of which can double as floating mattresses in the pool. Again, we don’t reserve chairs and never had a problem finding seating. Shade can be at a premium at primetime however the pool provides an instant cool down when needed.

Food: Of all of the resorts in Cuba that we have been to, this buffet was our least favourite for some reason. It was lacking in some of the simple items like plain rice which made it a little difficult for people with plain palates. So on one hand there were unique things like smoked salmon which I’ve never seen in Cuba before, but a lack of side dishes that make a meal for some people. As usual the pasta bar was very good. Thankfully, this is the first time we’ve ever done an ala carte so our time at the buffet was limited. We ate at three out of the four available. The Creollo is held at the beach restaurant. A little chilly if it’s windy so bring a jacket. I had the seafood gumbo, the shrimp cocktail and the Cuban bread pudding for desert. All very good although the gumbo had a bit of an odd aftertaste. I honestly can’t remember what my boyfriend had heh. The wine was good. I had a white from Spain. The Mediterranean is held in its own little building beside the buffet. We had a cello player playing during dinner. Both of us ate the beef medallions with three cheese sauce. Very good. I had a little banana mousse thing for desert. My boyfriend had the ice cream, to which he is addicted. The Italian is held in the building beside the pool snack bar.

I wasn’t overly hungry for this one but things looked good. They serve lasagna, pasta and chicken dishes. The deserts weren’t our favourites at this one. I had the pastry puffs and they were mostly pastry, little puff. My boyfriend had the tiramisu (his first time trying it). Wasn’t his favourite but I don’t think that was the fault of the dessert. Just that he decided he didn’t like tiramisu heh. Each woman that comes gets a rose to take with them after dinner at this one. Each restaurant was small scale, with maybe 20 tables per seating? That’s a guess though. We had our ala cartes booked for us in advance as we are Melia members however, I was told that the wait to reserve on site was two hours. This is of course the reason we’ve never done an ala carte prior to this visit. We refuse to line up for two hours on vacation and are usually very happy with the buffet.

During lunch and brunch (we rarely do breakfast), we ate at the pool and beach bars mainly. Both really good, serving things like hamburgers, calamari, chicken, pork kebabs and french fries. Both are ala carte, the better of the two in terms of service would definitely be the pool bar. I think the beach bar is a little too big for the number of servers they have on.

A plus is that all restaurants have that aforementioned ice cream available. A nice treat on a hot day. Also, the beach and pool bars have slushie machines, serving orange and strawberry. Nice with or without alcohol. There seemed to be fresh mint available all the time. I remember a few years back, Las Brisas in Holguin had a hard time keeping it stocked. I’m not sure if that’s still a problem.

Overall: We enjoyed this resort quite a bit. I can see the touches that make it a 4.5+ resort. We would go back, but perhaps in a few years when the region has time to develop. Its only had tourism for three years so people are still getting used to it. Great resort for R&R, which is what we went for. You’re far away from any action so don’t go here expecting excitement. The clientele is mixed in age and origin but most knew what to expect and came ready to relax. If I was to make any suggestion to the resort for improvement it would be to allow a little market on site for people to shop at. As it stands, the only market is at the Sol next door and then only three days a week. Of course staying at the Melia gives you access to the Sol for walking and bar service. But we found we missed our little daily walk to see what the artisans had created. If the market can only be at the Sol then perhaps they could make it everyday and switch around the vendors as needed.

Our on-site tour rep was excellent. A Canadian actually, from Montreal. Very helpful and easy to speak with. She has a lot of hours available to talk to people so rarely was there a long wait to ask her something. She speaks atleast French, English and Spanish fluently.

One note is that my boyfriend enjoyed the grounds of the Sol more then the Melia. While the Melia is new, it is very sparse in both foliage (new resort so this will change) and decoration. Not too many statues and fountains that are common in resorts in Cuba. The Sol is decorated more elaborately which we preferred. Cosmetic but perhaps important to people who like to run around taking pictures of things.

Questions, feel free to email me at dee(nospam)@onelittlecoconut.com.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Lori from Ontario, Canada

March 2005

Hola Everyone! I miss Melia Cayo Santa Maria already and I have only been home for a couple of days! I wish I could have stayed longer. This resort had everything a person could need or want on a relaxing vacation. If you want more than relaxation then I would not suggest this resort for it is far from a towns. I travelled with my husband, sister and brother in-law and we are all 40ish. Please read my reviews of the whole entire trip.

The Flight – The flight was pretty tight, the plane we were on did not have a whole lot of leg room but it is a short flight and knowing where you are heading makes it OK. They served us a breakfast and had an enjoyable movies which made the time pass quickly.

Like mentioned in other reviews the airport in Santa Claira is small and it did take some time to process us all, but it went pretty smoothly. Some people did lose their luggage one being my brother in-law which took some time to process for they needed to get all their information. Luggage lost can happen anywhere so I put no blame anywhere and it was all found and delivered to us at the resort the next day. My advice to anyone is to mix your clothes when you pack. Place some articles in your husbands suitcase and vice versa, this way if by chance one piece of luggage is gone, that you both will have something to where, and always bring your bathing suit and shorts in your carry on.

The busses were very nice and new. It is a long ride to the resort but very enjoyable seeing the small towns and the countryside. I wished we could have stopped to take pictures.

Arrival at Resort- The resort lobby was great and you were greeted with a nice welcome reception along with a nice fruity drink which at this time is much needed. Everyone was very friendly and happy. The best thing about the arrival is that you did not need to check in and stand in another line up for they gave you your room key and information all at the airport so when you got off the bus you could just stroll to your room and change and go to the pool, beach, bar or whatever your preference is. Also they delivered you luggage right to your room.

The Rooms- We stayed in Room 2623 on the second floor with a pool view right near the Italian restaurant. We got very luck for the couple that were in 2622 wanted to be moved to an ocean view so my sister and brother in-law got to move to it and we were in the same villa. It was very close to the pool area, which was nice so we could sit out on our balcony and still see everyone. It was a perfect location! All the reviews that you may have read about the rooms are so right. The room was the nicest I’ve stayed in and it was very large. We had a king size bed on which was very nicely made each day. The maids cleaned the rooms very nicely and would always create some decorative creation on your bed like a bird from a towel or she would leave flowers. It was very enjoyable. We tipped her well. There was a mini bar which they stock daily with water and if you wanted pop or Cerveza (beer) you just had to ask….I know you do not spend a whole lot of time in your room but this room you could.

Pools- The pools were beautiful but cold and when you are hot who cares. This did not stop us from swimming up to the pool bar where our favourite bartender worked at. They had nice loungers by the pool which filled up quickly but this is normal. Some of the cushions on the loungers were floating loungers which was nice to float in the pool. They played pool games and it was very enjoyable.

Beach. The beach was my favourite. It was breath taking! If you like to walk the beach this is the beach to do it. The other reviews are so right that you can walk for an hour and never run out of beach. And for the risky travellers there is a nude beach to the far left past the other resort.

Bars- We loved all the bars with the front lounge being one of our favourites. The piano bar was amazing which turned into a disco at 11:00pm. If you go please go and check out the piano bar and the pianist has her daughter sing which was so amazing. The bartenders were all great and we loved the swim up pool bartender, she was my husbands favourite and if you have been there you would know why, she is so beautiful. The Cuban people are all very nice looking people. You could order any type of drinks within reason and if they did not know how to make it you could just explain it to them and you will have your drink. The service was excellent.

RESTAURANTS
Buffet- The buffet was big and the food was great the omelettes were very tasty same with the fried eggs. The pasta bar at lunch or dinner was really good in which you got to choose the pasta of choice and sauce and the various ingredients you wished to have in it. VERY GOOD! If you like fish you could get a grilled fish cooked to your liking. We had breakfast and lunch here daily almost until we learned you could have breakfast at the Creole restaurant which basically served the same but with a better atmosphere near the beach.

Creole- This beach restaurant was very good for you could get fries or calamari during the day and it was good. The Creole menu at night was also enjoyable. We ate here on our 1st night and we enjoyed everything I had the pork. The entertainment was very good.

Lobster- The Lobster Restaurant is by the pool and it is very enjoyable. We ate there twice during our stay. Like mentioned in other reviews when it comes to booking these restaurants, sometimes if you go right to them they can fit you in. Be persistent. The entertainment was great there was a grill during the day which became the lobster restaurant in the evening.

We enjoyed the entertainment as well they made you laugh. The lobster was very good and sometimes you can get seconds so do not be afraid to ask. Have a nice dinner! Bon Appetite!

Mediterranean- This restaurant had a great atmosphere and we enjoyed it. We ate here once. The pork was to die for. Again the entertainment was very soothing and nice.

Italian- We ate at the Italian for our second last night there and it was amazing. The saxophone player made it even better. The food was very good. Try to eat at this one for sure.

Entertainment- They have a theatre with Cuban shows and they were enjoyable even thought we did not spend allot of time at them. The shows at the sister resort next door were good as well. We loved the entertainment at all the restaurants the strolling 2 or 3 man groups. The pianist was so good to entertain you as well.

The People- The staff at this resort are so friendly. Every where you go someone is saying "Hola" with a smile. The Cubans are very beautiful people and very nice to talk to. You are not obligated to tip but I feel if you are getting good service with a smile then they deserve it. Like everyone else we brought little gifts like shampoo and soap and toothpaste. Coloring books and pencils for the children. Hair clips and lipsticks for the ladies. I even left a pair of new sandals I had bought for the trip thinking do I really need them, I figured they would get better use to them.

Tours- There were lots of tours to choose from but we only encountered on 1 which was the sunset cruise on a Catamaran. We did this on our last night and I recommend it. It was a great way to end your vacation. The lobster I had on this cruise was the biggest I had seen. And the sunset well lets just say it is now my background wallpaper on my computer screen at work and every so often I look at it for a reminder. We heard the snorkelling was good too and I think we would do that next time.

Climate and Bugs- We had great weather the whole week. One day had cloudy periods but we saw no rain. And as for bugs saw the odd fly but no mosquito’s, my sister thinks she got bit one evening at the Creole restaurant but that was it.

Check-outReturn home- First off this is a sad day…did not want to go home. Check out went very smoothly with no problems. Again back on the busses to the airport. Going through customs is a long wait however instead of standing in the line to get into the airport we sat at the tables just outside with our cooler of Cerveza (beer remember), and waited till they all got in. This way we got to enjoy that last moments in the sun. The plane will not leave without you and again once inside you still have another wait. They have a lounge where you can buy a drink and sit outside as well. Do not forget your 25 pesos each which is needed at the airport when you return.

Overall Experience- Overall we had a great time. We also found that a lot of the amenities very good and would give the resort a 41/2 star rating. Another hotel is being built next door which might be interesting to see. As for the sister resort next door you can go over and take advantage of the facilities there which is nice for a change. You can drink over there but not eat, but we found that the snack bar by beach at the Sol would serve you food and their pizza was awesome.

If anyone would like to email me and ask me any questions please do so, for I love talking about my trip. My name is Lori. I also have pics if you would like to see anything. fibberandmolly1@hotmail.com

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Chris

March 2005

Flight – Tight Squeeze due to the full aircraft. The airport in Santa Claira is very small and you wait outside in a line to go through customs. When you are leaving Cuba there is a small gift shop and a Duty free but it is expencive so do not count on that for getting gifts. There is also really no cigars there. On the way to the resort we went on a 1.30HR bus ride through the town and on a causeway. We had a police escort there and back. You Did All the room check – in at the airport. Remember to bring Canadian Money and you can exchange it at the hotel for the rate of the U.S. $.

The hotel lobby was very clean bright and cheerful. There was Internet Accsess For 6$ P Half Hour. There were phones that you could call Canada for $2.50 P Min And you had to pay as soon as you hung up. There was a gift shop at the resort but next door at Sol Their gift shop was much better and cheaper.

Bars- All the bars were very nice and you could get anything you wanted. If they dont have it and you explaine it than you most likely get it. The pool bar was open 24Hours and you could take the food back to your room. Pizza Hamburgers, Pasta, Chicken , And Fries. It Was All Tasty.

Pool- There Were 3 Pools and they were all very beautiful. But they were a little chilly due to no heaters. But when you are in the sun all day and need to cool off it is perfect.

Beach. Amazing beach but it drops iff quickly. there is alot to rent and they have a trampoline that they put in the water on nice days. We saw no jelly fish but people we met came across a Barricudda. It was a little cool but once you are in its fine. For the beach and pool make sure to grab chairs on the way to breakfast they go quick. Leave personal belongings because the rules are if you leave a towel anyone can remove it and take the chair.

Resterants – The buffet was nice and the food was great but after eating all the same for 7 days i kinda got boared of it. We had the italian 7 course meal it was nice. If They say the resterants are full go to the resterant and try and get in. We did and it worked.

Entertainment- It Seemed good didnt watch alot though.

Remember It Is All Inclusive To Visit Sol You Just Cant Eat The Food There.

Overall- The trip was great and We were sad to leave. Beautiful place and i reccomend it to anyone . If You Have Any Questions Email Me At sirhc06@hotmail.com (Subject Melia Santa Claira) I Will put Some Pictures In The Photo Secont Or Email Me On Specific Photos

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Barbara from Ontario

March 2005

I just want to ad a few things to the past reviews, which are quite accurate. This was our fifth time to Cuba,. We love the people and the resorts. This one was quite good, although we still prefer the Paradisus in Holguin, also owned by Melia chain, which is owned by Gavotte, which is the Cuban government. It was fully booked the weeks we wanted to travel, and also is $1000 more a week per person than the Melia Cayo Santa Maria. For the price we paid, this hotel is of excellent value.

Most of the guest at the hotel are Canadian so topless sunbathers were a rarity. There were very few children or teens, and the ones that were there were well behaved. There was music around the pool, but it was not loud. The Sol Hotel next door has more French Canadian and Italian guests. One Cuban tour guide told me he thought the Sol next door was just as good as the Melia although it is only a four star. The entertainment and musicians are professional level. The piano bar pianists are music teachers, and we enjoyed listening to them most evenings after supper.

If you don’t want to support the present regime in Cuba, don’t come, because everything is owned by the government. The only businesses that the Cuban people are allowed to own are small restaurants in their homes, roadside stands, small farms of three to four hectares, bed and breakfasts and crafts. The country seems to be crumbling, but you would never know it by the people who work at the hotel. Of course, they have the best jobs on the island and want to keep them, so they treat their guests like kings and queens. I felt so bad that they had to be so grateful for our little gifts. We had to pay for overweight baggage because of all the gifts we brought. And they were all well accepted, although in the future there are a few things I would leave at home. We had the chance on our Sugar and Rum tour to go through four Convertible Peso stores in the nearest town. Almost everything that you find in our dollar stores is available to anyone who has convertable pesos, which means the hotel workers. There is makeup, toothpaste, soap, cheap shoes and clothing, toilets and fridges and food. All in one store. According to our tour guide, these things used to be in short supply in Cuba, but now are all available, if you have convertible pesos, which only tourists are allowed to exchange their money for. Cubans are paid in Cuban pesos, which can not be used in the Covertible Pesos Stores. So hotel workers who get tips can buy most of what they need. The problem for the Cubans is that the toothpaste costs one peso, equivalent to one US dollar and they are paid 12 pesos per month so they have to think about each purchase. Next time I will tip more with pesos rather than toothpaste. Another thing to consider is that cash tips are shared by the workers in each section, but gifts are theirs to keep. What I did bring, and what brought the waiters crowding around was: small globes-from the dollar store: solar powered calculators: tools, like adjustable bit screwdrivers and plyers: Spanish-English dictionaries: sewing supplies, especially scissors-not cheap ones that don’t work and pretty mirrors. Becuase any extra money goes for food and clothing, the women seemed to love pretty things for their homes. What I should have brought more of was baby clothes, diaper flanellette from Fabricland and diaper pins, velcro by the yard, elastic in different widths by the yard, good quality toys, baseballs and fishing supplies. Manuel, who was our Hobycat sailor, lost his Baracuda lure-something called a rapel, or something like that, and was heartbroken. I don’t know anything about fishing, so I hope someone knows what that is. Someone brought him this item from Canada since you can’t buy them there. One of the guests was trying to find Manuel a replacement, but they were not to be had. Manuel works at the sports hut at the beach. Let us know if you can bring him a replacement.

We did do some extra things here. We went on the Sugar and Rum tour and it was quite good. The Sugar factory houses a musem of sorts with a history of the Sugar industry in Cuba. We took a Steam Engine Train to the Rum factory, which would not meet our Canadian standards of safety. Don’t go if you have a hard time on steep slippery wet stairs. But it was interesting to see how they made rum-great vats of fermenting sugar cane juice. Lunch was very good, at a model farm and no one got sick. Bring toilet paper. We also enjoyed two rides on a HobyCat catamaran. There are lots of them at the Beach Sports Hut, as well as kayaks and paddle boats and one man sailboats, that seemed to be rather tippy. They are included in your holiday package at no extra cost, except a tip. I think you can have as many rides as you want. A fellow guest went on the deepsea fishing tour and caught four Baracuda. He thought this place was wonderful. We tried to book the evening Catamaran tour but it only went out one night and was booked.

This hotel is about forty minutes from the mainland, so unless you take a tour, it is hard to get off the island. Some people rented scooters and had no problems. There weren’t any taxis waiting at the entrance to the hotel so you had to plan ahead if you wanted to see the Cuban countryside or towns on your own.

Bring a converter for your hairdryer or curling iron. The hairdryer supplied by the hotel works, but not like ours. One thing I usually enjoy doing on holidays is walking the beach. Although this hotel had a long beautiful sandy beach, the sand was soft and mushy. I have a bad back and just found it too difficult to walk this beach. I tried to walk towards one side where it was supposed to be firmer, but my back gave out before I could find some harder sand. That would be my one disappointment with this hotel.

Hope I helped some one with this information.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Joan & Chris ~ Ontario, Canada

March 2005

We are 2 married women in our 40’s, traveling (for the first time) without our husbands. We like to walk the beach, read by the pool, soak up the sun, enjoy the drinks and meet the Cuban people. This resort had it all.

The Beach ~ What can I say, the beach was amazing. The sand was a little soft directly in front of the resort, but walk to the right just a bit and it became much harder packed. We walked for over an hour and still didn’t run out of beach. On the way we were entertained by pelicans diving for their breakfast and were amazed by the variety of colours in the shells. The water was warm and a gorgeous greeny-blue and though we never had a green flag day on some of the yellow days it was really pretty calm. You had to get down early to get a beach umbrella, but if you went back in the afternoon there were usually some available. Walk to the left on the beach and you came to the sister resort, Sol and just past that was the nude beach.

The Pool ~ The first couple of days the pool was a little cold, but once the sun started shining and the days heated up, so did the pool. By the later part of our week everyone was going in to cool off. I especially liked that at the one end the water was just ankle depth, so you could just wade in. My friend is a non-swimmer and on our last day, I finally convinced her that it was safe to walk all the way to the swim up bar! In both pools there is a centre island that is planted with palm trees and plants, very pretty.

The Room ~ We stayed in Room 1422, on the second floor with a view of the ocean from our balcony. It was close to the pool area, but on the far side of the building. Actually it was a perfect location, close to everything yet not noisy at all. The room was one of the nicest I’ve stayed in, big and well-decorated. We had twin beds pushed together with a mosquito net draped from a hoop hanging from the ceiling. There was a day bed amply piled with pillows and a wicker cushioned chair. Across from the bed and flanking the bathroom entrance was a vanity table and chair on the one side and the TV and mini bar on the other. Going through a curtain you entered the sink area with a nice big counter and mirror. The two of us could both be making up at the same time with room to spare. To the left was the closet, one side having hangers (and the iron and ironing board), the other with 3 drawers and 3 shelves. The safe was on one of the shelves and included at no extra charge. To the right of the vanity was a door that led to the bathroom which had a toilet, bidet and tub with shower. There was lots of room in here to change and hooks on the wall to hang your clothes. There was even a laundry line that pulled out for wet suits!

The Restaurants ~ We tried them all except for the Mediterranean (and we heard good things about it).

Buffet ~There was always something good to eat on the buffet, from the omelets in the morning accompanied by that awesome fresh squeezed juice, to the best piece of ham I’ve ever had in my life! At one end you could get a piece of fish grilled to order (usually a choice of 3 kinds) and at the other end was a pasta bar. In between there was a roast of some kind and you could always fall back on the chicken. There were also salad fixings, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers. We never went hungry.

Creole ~ This was the beach restaurant during the day and the Creole at night. We ate here on our 2nd night, starting with a seafood appetizer, then a great potato soup and for my main course the battered fish. The batter was very light and the fish mild. We had a white wine with dinner but we both agreed that the red wines were much better. The one in the buffet tasted quite a bit like our favorite, Valapollicella.

Italian ~ Though we enjoyed our meal here, it was really the ambiance that hooked us in this restaurant. The service was top notch, the red wine excellent (this time it was from Antigua), very smooth and the food was beautifully presented. We both had a chicken dish and it was cooked to perfection, though the potatoes could have been hotter. For dessert we had the “cheesecake” which was good but really more of a custard.

Lobster ~ By the one pool there was a grill during the day which became the lobster restaurant in the evening. We enjoyed the strolling 3 piece group that played during dinner and my lobster was very good. It would have been even better with some butter to dip it in, but at least this way it was better for us. I must admit that we both found the pumpkin soup to be rather bland and needed salt to give it some flavour. Still we enjoyed our meal and it was fun to eat out under the stars.

The People ~ I leave the best for last, the staff really made this resort. This is my 4th trip to Cuba and I’ve always found Cubans to be friendly and happy, but these people topped them all. We were always greeted with a smiling “Hola” and after the first day were remembered and treated like old friends. We brought many little gifts and they were very much appreciated. The most popular seemed to be razors for the guys, toothpaste, toothbrush and soap for all and nail polish with a file for the girls. Oh, and clothes for kids. We had brought a few boys shirts down with us and the staff we gave them to practically cried. I’m so glad that we left a few things for ourselves at home and loaded up on things to give out. The people make you feel very humble and grateful for the many things that we take for granted.

I have been to Hotel Tryp and El Senador in Cayo Coco and Playa Turquesa in Holguin and though El Senador comes in a close 2nd, I have to say I like Melia Cayo Santa Maria the best. For a relaxing holiday away from it all, I don’t think you could find a better resort.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Rita ~ Toronto, Canada

March 2005

Missing Cuba Already.. 🙁

I just came back from this resort with my friend and her parents…(she posted the review below) and let me tell you, we had such a blast… it was amazing, we did not want to get onto the plane the day we were supposed to leave. I would honestly give this resort a 4 and a half star rate.. it was the best..everyone was soo friendly and nice, i loved it. The weather was amazing and beautiful most of the time…. the entertainment staff was amazing. by the third/fourth day we knew everyone and everyone knew us…. During the day, there would be games on the beach to play with staff, there was equipment we could rent, and there was also a GIANT trampoline in the ocean. Let me tell you guys how much fun that was….

We had the time of our life. The place was always very clean and nice. the rooms were wonderful very nice and colorful…the ocean was amazing, calm, and beautiful. honestly if any one wants to go to cuba, i would recommend Melia Cayo Santa Maria. Even though the drive is an hour and a half its all worth it… the 5 minute golf cart ride to the next hotel was great. we could go and come anytime we wanted…

The food variety was pretty good. I think the best food there was, was the snack bar and the buffet. I don’t have too much to say about the A la carte restaurants cuz we didnt get a chance to go because it was all booked. The bars were amazing..i think like two or three were open 24 hours so it was amazing…

The room service was amazing… the maids would leave us little things on our beds with notes…we did leave them however, tooth brushes, tooth paste, clips and bath stuff. If you do go make sure to bring stuff to leave for the maids and their families. even colouring books are great with markers/crayons or pencil crayons. they really appreciate it…

i think this was honestly the best trip we went on. We made a lot of great friends and hung out with them most nites….I really do recommend this hotel.. if anyone has any questions feel free to email me or add me to msn at juventus_babee_69@hotmail.com and i will answer any questions or if you just want to talk about the hotel in general email me.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Teresa ~ Toronto, Canada

March 2005

This is one trip I will never forget…..

When I think of Cuba and my vacation to Melia Cayo Santa Maria tears come to my eyes, because I miss every single minute of it. Not only is the country beautiful, the people are too. The people and staff at the Melia Cayo Santa Maria definitely made my trip as fun as it was. I went on this trip with my parents and one of my friends. My friend and I are both 18 years old and had the time of our lives. The staff would go out of their way to make sure that we were always having a good time. They would come on the beach with games so we could have mini competitions….also a great way to meet people. At night time the Piano lounge would turn into a Disco and all the young guys from the entertainment staff would teach us how to dance. The best part was that three bars out of the five would stay open 24 hours…it was great! So far, there are two hotels on the island. The great thing about this is that they are only five minutes apart and we were able to get a golf cart ride over to the Sol Melia resort to use their disco and bars. The drivers would bring you there and back whenever you wanted.

The hotel was very clean. The maids would come every morning to clean you room and sometimes they would make little animals out of towels, or leave flowers on your bed! The pools were spotless; I would always see someone cleaning them. The only complaint I have is the pool is very cold. But no problemo! The ocean was clean and super warm.

As yes, the Ocean. I have to tell you that when it comes to fish and water…I am a chicken. But guess what? I went swimming!!! The water was warm and so clear. You could see everything. It was just white sand for miles. It felt really nice on your feet..not to hard or mushy, just right. The weather was great, it got better and better every day. There is a nice breeze to keep you cool when the sun gets too hot. At night, it was a little cooler, but a light jean jacket would solve that problem. There were literally no bugs at night time. I hear there are a lot during the summer.

One very important thing to remember is the people. I want to tell as many travelers as possible. Bring lots of your old t-shirts..or baseball caps..cd’s..etc…The Cuban people are so grateful and work very hard to make your trip the best it could be. I wish that I could have been more prepared. They deserve so much and have so little. I made friends with just about everybody who works there…they are amazing!

Please I ask anyone going to this hotel, email if you have any questions or simply to let me know that you are going….I would really appreciate the notice! T_longo5@hotmail.com

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Lionel from Stratford

February 2005

My wife and I took our first trip ever to this resort.We were there from 08 Feb to 15 Feb. I read the reviews prior to booking so I was well aware of what to expect. We booked online which was a breeze. The flight was on time and the plane was a little tight but I knew that and knew it was only for a few hours.

The airport was small but everyone got through but remember you are waiting outside for quite a bit of the wait. Don’t make jokes with the customs boys as they are not amused.

The bus ride was 1 and 1/2 hours but it was comfortable as the buses are fairly new. It was a time to unwind. You are checked in on the bus for your room which was so good.

The rooms are spectacular and clean.Many people commented as to this being the nicest room they had ever stayed in. We stayed in bungalow # 12 which was next to the pool and near all the restaurants etc. I feel it is the best building in the place without an ocean view.The ocean view places were nice but unless you are on the top floor you won’t see it. Save your money and stay around the pool. The rooms are almost soundproof and you won’t hear the pool people. The pools were cool but hey your from Canada and if you haven’t swam in water colder than this then you haven’t been around water. I found it quite alright.Again most of the Cuban resorts I’m told don’t heat their pools. The pools are clean.

The ocean is breathtaking. It is so pretty it takes you back.Water was cool but everyone was in. There were lots of seating and huts near the beach and we hadn’t any problems getting a place.

The staff were so polite and well trained at all their jobs.They were all smiling and seemed so happy.

The food was excellent and I have trouble reading anything negative about this. We have to remember that we are in a foreign country and their food is different than ours.They have Canadian food types as well as their own and European. There was plenty of all kinds and I challenge anyone whether vegetarian or not to find anything that wasn’t good at the buffet. The a la carte restaurants were classy and so good.They had musicians at all of them and they were far from amateurs.I would almost insist that you take in the 4 a la carte restaurants as they are all special and well presented. I will not take anything away from the buffet as this place had great food as well. Each night had something different and special.

We took the catamaran cruise and enjoyed it. It is 70.00 US and worth every penny. They take you snorkeling to three spots and have an on board hot chicken or lobster lunch which was quite good.You have all the drinks you want as well. After the third dive they let the sails out and you sail for about 2 hours on the ocean which was exciting.The only thing about this that I would say is, the staff is so busy around and in the boat and they think everyone is a good swimmer.So govern yourself accordingly and stay close to the group as if you get in trouble nobody may realize it.Overall it was certainly worth the money.

We biked and enjoyed it as well, although there is no real place to go it was nice just to get away from the crowd and travel the causeway.

If you are looking for a resort you can walk to town this isn’t it. This resort is for R&R and specializes in it. This is one of the best romantic places you can go. The ride back on the bus was a nice ending to this trip. It took us through the countryside and we viewed the many towns where even through the poverty, the village people all looked happy. This is a trip we will not forget and again the resort second to none.

One must look at the negative opinions in reviews and ask what planet these people are from.These people would always find something wrong everywhere. This resort is tops and you won’t regret your decision. If there is something within the power of the resort people to enhance your stay it would be done. We would go tomorrow again if we could, but the resort can look for our faces next year.As my wife says "this is heaven" and folks I don’t think it can get any better…Bon voyage..

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria David ~ Canada

February 2005

My wife and I just got back from 1 week ( Feb. 1-8). We stayed at the Melia Cayo Santa Maria. The weather was nice but not that warm ( about 75) The plane ride on Sky service was a very tight fit. We arrived a little early in Santa Clara. The 1 1/2 hour bus ride to the resort seemed long. Anyways, the resort is beautiful. The rooms are very spacious and well appointed. It was the easiest in- room safe that I have ever used!! The beach is lovely but the ocean was so rough. We had only 2 yellow flag days, the others were red- (which means not to go inthe water ). The pool was very cold. You could easily get a lounge by the pool or at the beach. The food was OK. At the buffet, choose your own meat, and they will grill it for you, then go to the other end and get hot pasta with your choice of sauce. The choices of vegetables was terrible- must have been the time of year.

The specialty restaurants were a nice alternative. We went to all three and even went back to the Italian. By far the Italian was the best. We took one excurison- we did the catamaran/snorkelling. It was quite good and it also included a lobster lunch. It was a very nice resort with very friendly staff but we would not go back again as it was so isolated and the ocean was too rough.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Archie ~ Canada

February 2005

We just came back from this resort and thought we would give our review since we read all the reviews prior to leaving. After reading some of the reviews we were quite worried about what we have gotten ourselves into. But gladly to say we were pleasantly surprised by the out come.

Airport: The airport in Santa Clara is very small and did take some time to process us all, but everyone was very patient and the job got done. We were then escorted into these very nice buses, three in number and wisked to the resort via police escort. It is a long ride.

Check in: The easiest checkin available. They did it directly at the airport. There we had our keys, room numbers and bracelets.

Hotel: Once we arrived at the resort after an 1 1/2hour bus ride, we were greeted by the people in costume handing out rum punches. Boy did we need that. Our luggage was sent directly to our room and they had the buffet ready when we arrived at 10:30 p.m.

Rooms. As everyone else has said, the rooms are gorgeous, clean colourful with a king size bed, day bed and chair. The bathroom was in two pieces, one to shower and do your business and the other to groom. We never locked the patio door once and nothing was taken. Absolutely safe.

Beach: The beach was gorgeous and over 13 kilometers long. Sand was soft and white and never hot under your feet. Yes there was a nude beach beside Sol but actually the walk the other way was much nicer. We never encountered any jelly fish but did look out for them. Didn’t hear from any one else who did either. ONly negative about the beach is when an older gentlemen decides to walk nude in front of everyone and the kids. Stick to the nude beach man. Also to some the beach bar is a long distance away, but if you bring insulated mugs and tell them to fill it up before you get to the beach, then all is well till you get back.
The water is a beautiful colour , but it was quite windy there so you couldn’t enjoy the boats, but oh well you made the most of what you got. They can’t help about the weather.

Pool: There are two pools and yes they were quite cool, but no body seemed to mind just laying around beside it.

Food: We ate at the buffet for breakfast and supper. Didn’t get in to the a la carte ones. But we didn’t try hard either. Some of the food was just great and others not. couldn’t get used to the cheese but the bread and coffee was very good. ONly complaint is that they could have more fruit. The beach house had great chicken, hamburgs and hotdogs, plus a buffet. The icecream we had was very creamy and good. The cakes all tasted like shortbread, but they weren’t bad.

People: The people were awesome. We tipped and little here and there, and then they would bend over backwards for you. We tipped in canadian dollars, and that was fine with them and cheaper for us.

Checkout: Was a bit slow, but they gave you lots of time to do it. One word of advice. Do not loose their towel otherwise it will cost you $25 canadian to replace it and you won’t get another one. We brought our own so we didn’t have to deal with that. The last day it was reported that 5 people had their towels stolen that day. But they did warn you not leave your towels unattended.

Ride Back: Was great. We had a free tour of all the little towns. Quite an eye opener. We didn’t go on any extra tours, but being farmers we would of loved to go on a farm tour, but we needed 8 people to go and we had 6. Next time.

Airport: Very slow processing you, but this is Cuba I guess. Small facilities for the quantity of people. But we all got through in time.

Sky Service: we arrived 20 minutes early in Santa Clara and again 20 minutes early in Toronto. So we can’t complain. It is a very cramped plane. Would be good if they could loose some row of chairs to create some more leg room.

Over all: We loved it. The staff were great, the people we met were great. Everyone was well behaved. The resort is very clean and we could use the sister hotel next door which is also very nice. Their trees are much more mature, but give time and Melia will catch up. The shows were good. We enjoyed them all. Not much to buy, but this is Cuba and we came back with cigars, rum and some artifacts that local people had just made. It is quite out of the way, but we found it very relaxing. There was enough for us to do, but some might find it boring, we didn’t. Would we go again? For Sure.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Dave ~ Toronto

February 2005

The hotel is a new, quiet, family-type resort on a sandy spit 48 kms across a causeway to the mainland on one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen. If you like staying in one spot, lounging on the beach, in the water or around the pool, this is the place for you. If you like night life, or touring the countryside, best stay on the mainland, perhaps Varadero.

What we liked….the beach was phenomenal, clean white sand and sparkling clear water (only saw one non-stinging jellyfish)—if you’re a snorkeller, you’ll see a lot of sand; there was no scuba available the week we were there….if you’re a nature-lover, sun worshipper or just curious, there’s a nude beach just past the sister resort; we had some topless bathing at our beach—some ladies should keep their tops on ….the staff were great—helpful, friendly; the two young ladies in the room next to us found Cuban men attractive and friendly, crying out periodically, ‘ yeah baby, yeah’.….the mixed rum/fruit drinks at the pool bar were excellent…..the Spanish wine at dinner was not bad….the rooms were large, colorful, well designed and clean; beds (2 shoved together) were comfortable…..the bread and coffee was wonderful, the deserts were good—the food, plentiful and adequate but don’t expect gourmet cuisine—make sure it’s fully cooked and eat lots of that great bread….the pianist is excellent and singer at the piano bar has a great voice (someone should bring an Andrew Lloyd Webber music score for them)…..our highlight of the week was an overnight trip to Havana (fascinating place, great architecture in need of restoration) and had a ball—mostly due to the mix of people on the mini bus (caution—if you need to stop alongside the road, please remember, the no-see-ums in the sugar cane fields zero in quickly!)….the Havana hotel (new) was OK, but everyone would’ve preferred to stay downtown in Old Havana—much more character.

And, didn’t care for….two lovely pools, with largest not open during the week due to renovations—fortunately there weren’t a lot of guests that week….the small mini-bus (no seat belts/bathroom) was too small for 8 passengers, one unlucky person got to sit on a small fold-down seat—a mid-sized bus would’ve worked better….the frequent pan handling in Santa Clara and especially Havana made it feel just like home!….the revolution is long-over, but away from the resort, you are constantly reminded of it—let’s get over it and move on.. .. 28 years ago we were on holiday in Cuba–the Cuban people still don’t have much other than perhaps healthcare and education, so bring things to leave behind (old towels, bedsheets, clothing-T’s, jeans, footwear)…. our airline carrier, Skyservice was renamed “S—service” by passengers due to the 12 hour departure delay (arrived at the resort at 2 a.m. versus the expected 2 p.m. and lost a day), cattle-car conditions (same plane, an A310, with Air Canada has 3-4” more legroom)….oh yes, and only 2 washrooms on the Sh..service, sorry, Sky——-, charter plane…..expected a direct flight, but to fill up the plane, we flew in and out of Varadero on the way to Santa Clara…..be careful to only buy cigars with receipts and hologram on the box and not from the frequent sidewalk sellers; customs, with expert bag-sniffing dogs, may keep them and certainly will question you where they came from, etc.

Bring—an insulated mug for coffee or drinks on the beach (better than the small plastic glasses); deep woods off or other deet bug juice for evening mosquitoes; extra clothes/shoes to leave behind, ladies’ cosmetic items, even an old toilet seat—don’t throw that pink one out, leave it in Cuba!….you won’t regret it.

In summary—good value for your money, safe place, wonderful people.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria K & B ~ Canada

February 2005

We recently returned from one week (Jan 21-28th) at the Melia Cayo Santa Maria. Booked online (allseasons.org) using tour operator – Tours Mont-royal. Rates are very good to this resort during the month of January, increasing during Feb. and Mar. Booking went reasonably smooth, except that there’s no direct flights from Nova Scotia, so we had to book from Toronto or Mtrl which requires an additional overnight stay.

Rooms:
The rooms were clean, bright and tastefully decorated, included in rooms: iron, iron board, hair dryer, safe, extra pillows/blankets, a cosmetic bag filled with shampoo, soap, body wash etc., and they kept the mini fridge replenished. The patio doors all had a screen doors, which was great (I don’t like airconditioning).

Food/Drinks:
Buffet – Being a fish lover the food was great, although if you don’t like fish the choice might seem a little more limited, although they always had two or more other options such as chicken, lamb, pork or steak or deli meats. They sometimes had pizza, or french fries. There was a pasta bar and a salad bar. My only disappointment with regard to the food would be – only one selection of vegetable per day. The restaurants were good too, especially the Italian and the one that served lobster. The drinks – fresh pineapple delicious and refreshing, I would advise you to bring your own thermal mug.

Tipping:
Although not required, we tipped, and often (although we noticed a lot of people didn’t tip). But one thing to keep in mind is that while one dollar is not much to us, in contrast it’s worth much more in Cuba, for example: for the equivalent of one dollar, a Cuban can choose to buy: 104 litres of milk, or say 45 kilos of rice, and from what I understand the tips are shared amongst the staff, after all it is a communist country (any wealth gained will get distributed/shared).

Beach:
The beach on this island is spectacular, clear blueish green water, with sand in some parts as soft as powder. It stretches 13 km long, with the two resorts grouped more to one end, leaving maybe 7 or 8 km of beautiful private/secluded beach for anyone wishing to swim in the nude 🙂

There is a nude beach (small section at the other end) but it’s located away from the resorts incase anyone has a problem with this. Overall the beach alone is worth selecting this resort, and in my opinion, the best part of the trip 😉

Excursions/activities:
We didn’t participate in any of the excursions during this trip, however, we did rent a jeep and travelled to the nearest town – Caibarién, and spoke to a few of the locals (very friendly).

There’s also a couple of good nature trails near the resort, if you enjoy a good hike.

Activities are the usual found on resorts: The usual water sports, new to the resort include tennis, basketball, racket ball (I think that’s what it was), they are still working on this area and when done (according to one of the worker’s we spoke to) should include a gym, spa and sauna.

Over all I would highly recommend the Melia.

An excellent site for info and pics on both the Sol and Melia resorts on the island is: http://www.cayosantamaria.info/index.htm

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Greg ~ Canada

January 2005

We just returned from the Melia Cayo Santa Maria last night (well actually early this am). We had an incident regarding a nasty little virus that came from the Dominican and decided not to disembark in TO. Instead it joined us for our flight to Cuba. This nasty little bug made over 40 people from our flight sick and actually got this weeks travelers rerouted to Holguin. There is only one more thing I would like to say about the virus and that is the fact that the resort was absolutely fabulous in going out of its way to help track the problem and help the guests, even though it wasn’t their fault they were FABULOUS.

This aside the resort itself was as follows:

Food: Excellent, the specialty restaurants were very good. I can’t give you a list of best to worst since the group we met and hung out with all had differing opinions. I guess the cuban restaurant lobster dinner wins by a slim margin. The only complain about the food is the buffet restaurant. Surprisingly not the quality of hte food but the layout of the restaurant. The food area is at the back in a relatively narrow area which seems crowded. This is my only food complaint.

Shows: The shows at this resort are the best my wife and I have seen in Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican. The dancers are quite good although a little racy (this is their culture so we sit back and enjoy). The band is good and audience participation is good.

Beach: The beach is great, white sand, stretches forever, even during hte busy times we could find beach chairs. The only small complaints are that the beach volleyball court is over at the Sol and that during windy times you may encounter the occasional jelly fish.

Rooms: The rooms were great, they were spacious and extremely well laid out. My advice is that if there is something you want or are missing ask right away. They are good at getting what you need whether it is a few more beers or an extra pillow. They were very quick at correcting any issues we had.

Overall I think I like this resort better than both the Melia Cayo Guillermo and the Paradisus Rio de Oro.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria MK ~ Brampton, ON, Canada

January 2005

I have never written a review before today until I realized how important they were in choosing my own trip, so I feel I owe it to the public to submit a current and honest review. I figured negative reviews could be a bit picky and good reviews meant “thumbs up”- but now I know you need to check out the current weather and appreciate that not all trips are going to be great. Travelled 3.5mos pregnant with my husband and 8 year old son to the Melia Cayo Santa Maria Jan 18-25th,2005. I have been to a Riu in Dominican (EXCELLENT!) and twice to Punta Leona in Costa Rica (AMAZING COUNTRY!) I thoroughly researched reviews and prices for over a month, daily, and was certain that Santa Maria, Cuba was a decent risk and considering we paid $678.Cnd- I figured…how bad could it possibly be?

Flight-Toronto Airport via SkyService, 1.5hrs late and therefore they did not properly clean the plane as they normally would, more than 60 people on our trip contracted some sort of illness from the previous flight which had just returned from, yes, the Dominican! Many of us had a 12-24hour vommitting/severe diarreah episodes, I am not kidding you, this just happened. Both my son and I had it and could not eat normally for a few days. This has changed my view of air travel- I will probably always be paranoid of catching diseases on planes now, I will always ask how our plane has been cleaned before getting on and will never use airplane pillows and will keep my hand sanitized! Please take this advice seriously. One lady was so ill they were not going to let her on our return flight, and she was going to have to head straight to a hospital in Canada as she could not stop vommitting, on and off all week!

Weather-I have never experienced cold windy weather on a vacation, maybe January is like this in Cuba- my mistake…it was extremely windy and chilly throughout the week. On these days there was a red flag on the beach meaning- “too rough to go in the ocean”! You could try to enjoy the beach but you have shivers while tanning and absolutely no one in the water! On the nice days you pray for the clouds to disappear and run for a spot to tan, one day had many jellyfish so that ruined another beach day. The odd days of beautiful sun and heat were cherished and made the trip bearable.

Hotel- Beautiful, clean. Rooms are probably their best feature- very nice. Maids very friendly and appreciate little gifts for themselves or children- ours wrote us kind notes when we left her gifts. (gifts like soaps, handcreams, colouring books, candies- small things rather than tipping) The staff is very friendly.

Pool-Freezing. Nobody except the odd kid was in the pool, ever, all week! Few tried but only lasted minutes. And you dare not splash or have fun as you might wet some serious tanners reading for hours…yay.

Food/Bars- Wasn’t sure what to expect based on other reviews-The main buffet and snack bars were ok- it’s not that the food is terrible, it’s just the same odd dishes that most don’t touch. You end up sticking to the pasta bar, meat bar, omlettes, bread and butter, and cappuccino machine! So basically, you get bored of the food. The three a la carte restaurants must be booked and you can only go once…that’s a bummer but much more classy style and good food. You need to ask for your food to be well done as we were served raw burgers and had them re-cooked. Fruit is the same everyday; guava, pineapple, grapefruit, orange and sometimes bananas. They will slice them for you fresh which is nice. Desserts are bland and ice cream is not creamy. The cheese is aweful. We craved McD’s, cheesies, and real cheese! So, pack good snacks for your room! They didn’t have an outdoor bar with stools like many resorts- you know like a hut near the pool or beach that you could sit and chill and watch tv or listen to music, chat with the bartender and others….I missed that. Drinks come in very small cups so take the suggestion of bring your own coffee mug to have your drink put in- many did that I noticed.

Activities- Nothing to do! The catamarand was fun, you can ride bicycles on the property or play tennis or bounce on the trampoline. But we found ourselves a little bored because the weather was not so good I guess. I wish they played some louder more popular songs by the pool. Maybe tried to get the tourists more involved in night activites.

All in all- I guess it was an experience. I don’t think I will return to Cuba- not until I know for sure about the best month to go and I would definitely take others advice of sticking to 5star resorts and where they’ve had a good experience. Cuba is not a “last minute risk” place, pay the extra money and go somewhere really good.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Canada

December 2004

We just returned from Melia Cayo Santa Maria after a one week stay. We have travelled to many other resorts on different islands so we were able to compare. First off, for the price we paid it was a good deal. The resort is still under construction but it does not interfer with your vacation. The room was beautiful and well looked after. The staff are the friendliest we have come across. They will do anything for you and always with a smile. Rafael at the pool bar was the best! All of the staff at the restaurants were terrific too. The food I found, was limited and remained the same over the week stay. I love fruit and there was not a huge abundance of it. The pasta, minestrone soup, pizzas, hamburgers and salads were my fav. The entertainment was enjoyable and the piano bar was a nice relaxing way to spend an evening after dinner. We made quite a few friends while we were there and always managed to make our own fun. A few hints are… Make your dinner reservations for the Italian restaurant as soon as you can because the 7:00 sittings fill up quick. Try the catamaran with Robert, its free and he’ll show you a good time! Take lots of sun screen, it’s quite breezy there and you don’t feel the heat as much, so you burn without realizing. Enjoy the swim up bar, its a blast.

All in all it was a good holiday but I would rather spend a little more and go back to the RIU Palace on the Mayan and have a greater selection of food and palm trees at the beach. If you can, take school supplies, tolietries and even clothes for the staff and their families. They appreciate all they receive. Rafael has a little boy who would love crayons and a coloring book! It was a wonderful quiet getaway that we enjoyed and we are glad we gave Cuba a try.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Judy and Paul

November 2004

I was in this resort in may 2004 and for a 5 star my wife and I were very very disappointed. Lunch was served only at snack bar with very limited selection and very grease. ( chicken, rice). Also fruit selection was limited. apparently lunch in main restaurant is served only during high season. Manager was very rude, screaming at customer who complained about above. Htel beside which we visited in January 2003 was mucu more superior than this one. That was the main reason for visit.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Usha & Ajay — Makham, Canada

November 2004

We vacationed at Melia Cayo Santa Maria Resort from Oct 11 to 18 2004. This is a new 4+ resort, which opened in Dec of 2003. This resort has been merged with the next-door Sol Cayo Santa Maria, a 4 star resort.

All most all the guests were Canadian mostly from Toronto, Ottawa, & Montreal.

Our conclusion:
This is absolutely a marvelous resort and we loved every minute of our stay. A very relaxing holiday.
Excellent staff, service, gorgeous well decorated rooms, food/drinks, and entertainment.
We are already planning another trip to this resort sometimes in 2005.
During our return, we over heard people saying that they would not hesitate to come again. Met a couple who were on their third visit to this resort since it opened in Dec 2003.
Don’t go by negative reviews. We too were skeptical after reading some negative reviews but were very pleasantly surprised during and after our stay.

Landing/Check-in/out:
Resort is about 1.5 hours drive from airport but time flies by fast. Buses are very comfortable.
Check in was fast & smooth. All the information (room key & other documents) was supplied at the airport.
Upon arrival at the resort we were greeted by dancers and welcome drinks – which really cheers you up and set you in a holiday mood.
Baggage was promptly arrived in our room in less than 10 min.
For departure, Bell Boys are available to bring baggage from the room.

Staff:
All staff member (reception, restaurants, bar, chambermaid, entertainment etc) are very nice, always smiling, helpful, courteous, cooperative, polite, and would go any length to make your stay a pleasant one. Chambermaid was very good and deserved daily tip.

Rooms:
Large rooms, very comfortable, attractive, well furnished/ with beautiful décor.
Very comfortable beds with nice comfortable pillows
Rooms include: Telephone, TV. Coffee maker, hair dryer, iron/iron table, safe, & 110V outlet (not heavy duty good for shavers/battery charger/radio etc). Frig with ample supply of bottled water, sparkling water (we loved it), pop, & beer. No alarm clock
We were in 1728, which is on first floor, end unit with balcony (no immediate neighbors) and ocean view. Enjoyed morning coffee & evening drinks in the balcony with nice ocean view & breeze. What else we could have asked for?

Food:
Plenty of pork, fish dishes & calamari – the best we ever tasted. I am not a fish eater but loved it there and did not miss beef & lamb. You would always find something decent to eat.
Once a week lobster dinner (grilled right in front of you) with other seafood items such as huge oysters, clams, mussels etc. Big lobsters – had two half and was done.. I am told that in high season lobster is served more frequently.
Buffet restaurant decor, size, & service are excellent. We had ample of choice for tables but might be busy during high season. Like a typical resort buffet in Cuba, there is enough variety of food for breakfast & diner. Dinner offered grill with choice of fishes, pork, seafood, pork, chicken, & beef cooked right in front of you. It is closed for lunch during low season. But the alternate buffet restaurant near the beach is pretty good. MUST TRY FRESH WHOLE FRIED FISH and CALAMERI for lunch. Our favorite waiter was Edel at the main buffet restaurant.
A la Carte restaurants: The service & decor is excellent. In our opinion, the Italian restaurant is fine but Mediterranean is way better in many way – décor, ambiance, wine list, the live flute, and selection of food, all this is comparable to any fine restaurant in Toronto. We ate at the Mediterranean a couple of time and tried most of the dishes. All food items that we tried were excellent but out favorite was asparagus cold soup, potato soup (the best we ever tasted) and loin of beef – again a must try dish & ask for medium rare. Desert made from guava fruit was great. Ask for Misafel – he is a great waiter who made us feel very important and served us very well.

Bars/Drinks:
Drinks were fabulous, plenty of selection (sprits, liqueurs, & coffees) in Lobby Bar & Piano bar. Excellent bar staff.
In the lobby bar, not all bar items are displayed. Check the menu for the free premium drinks included in the package.
Ask for bar tender Gustavo in the lobby bar – he is a great guy & provides wonderful service. He remembered our drinking style, preferences, & served us accordingly. He deserves tipping but you don’t have to tip.
Try caipirinha, mojito, and the daiquiris. I also enjoyed Margarita, which came with a touch of ginger that gave it a unique flavor.

Beech/Pool:
Absolutely spectacular, the best we have ever seen – a big plus point.
No trees but lots of huts and ample of beech chairs.
White sand, blue/green clear water, NO SEA WEEDS at all
Jellyfish were not a problem to us. There were both kinds – the one that sting and the one that does not. We saw a few but it did not discourage us from going into the water. I don’t think it discouraged other guests either as we saw a lot of people in water.
One negative point – the beech bar should have been a bit closer to the beech.
Two big magnificent pools with Jacuzzi – lots of chairs & umbrella. Ample of float-on mattresses and very comfortable. We really enjoyed them for relaxation, reading, sunbathing, and even for short naps.
Again pool bar is excellent and I was told that there is a floating bar during the high season – please confirm.

Entertainment
Night entertainment was excellent and consisted of live music, dance, staff show, & live band. It can be compared with any good Caribbean resort.
The Piano bar in evening (7-11:30) was very relaxing. We enjoyed it every day prior to dinner with a couple drinks. If you to relax after days activities at pool, beech. etc, this is a MUST GO.

Sightseeing/shopping
This resort is for relaxation away from main city of Santa Clara. So don’t expect much shopping & sight seeing.
We took one day tour to the city of Trinidad ($54/person), which was just ok not worth spending a day away from the relaxation of the resort. This is again in our personal opinion.
I am told by a fellow guest not to bother going to Caibarién – the closest small town to the resort.

Other
Had no food poisoning or any kind of medical problem.
Room service is quite good but could use need little promptness in response time.
Tipping – not required but we tipped staff reasonably well, as they deserve it for the hard work & long hours (away from families) they put-in to provide us the best service. Since wages are low in Cuba, they can use this extra money.
If you can, take some 2-in-1 shampoos & soap for girls in the entertainment group (about 6-8). They will love it.
Try taking big plastic glasses from home, as the glasses they use at pool/beech for drinks are small.
Clean washrooms around the resort.
We encountered mosquitoes in the evening so bring repellent. I guess it is seasonal and is common in the Caribbean any way.

Feel free to contact us at: ajay.datta@rogers.com

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Chris and Joanne — Mississauga

October 2004

My wife and I recently took a trip to the resort Melia Santa Maria Resort, the newly 4+ resort on Oct 11-18. Our plane was delayed for 3 and half hours , so we didn’t actually get to the resort till late night. We were quite impressed with a check-in, very quick and painless. Rooms were very comfortable and greatly decorated. We found staff extremely friendly and we loved the swim-up bar. Comfortable floating mattresses, plenty of space and great weather. The beach was great too, nice and enjoyable and white sand. The drink were fabulous, excellent bar staff. Can you ask for anything more? Well the only complaint we had throughout our stay was food. The buffet wasn’t always fresh, depending what time you decided to show up at the buffet. The lobster night on Friday was a big fiasco. I am a big sea food lover and so is my wife. Towards the end of our trip my wife gave up on the dinners and was pestered by the Montezuma revenge. Last two days we tried to find something decent to eat and it seems the quality of food got even worse. Few people even complained to the chef in person. We really enjoyed ourselves at the resort, if it wasn’t for the fact that upon our arrival, my wife and I had to check in to the clinic and 3 days later discovered we had Salmonella poisoning (confirmed by the doctor).

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Donna — Toronto

October 2004

My husband and I, who are both 50, stayed at this resort from Oct 15th – Oct 25th 2004. It was our third time to Cuba in the last 2 years, previously staying at the LTI Costa Verde in Holguin and the Arenas Blancas in Varadero which are both rated as 4 star resorts and also our comparison point.

To simplify I will categorize my comments into pros and cons:

Pros

  • check in was brilliant, everything supplied in an envelope on the bus to the resort, we stayed in room 1621 which faced the pool and also had a side view of the ocean it was "perfect" great proximity to all the amenities. The room was spotless, huge & had a King size bed. The envelope also contained a small brochure or a passport as they called it, it contained the layout of the resort, your room number, and listed all the bars, restaurants & Facilities with their hours of operation.
  • all the employees we encountered were fantastic!!! it’s amazing how they can always manage to put a smile on their faces no matter how tired or frustrated they may be
  • the Piano bar which also turned into a disco at 11:30 was very enjoyable, the pianist was very professional and if not playing solo was often accompanied by her daughter, who had a very lovely voice, or a bass guitarist and drummer, the total combo was great.
  • the calamari and pizza at the Pool Snack bar were delicious
  • there were plenty of lounge chairs at both the pool and down on the beach and ample Palapas and umbrellas around the pool
  • the pools were very clean and refreshing and had these foam like floating lounges that were both comfortable to lie on and to float on. The swim up pool bar was a great place to meet people, the bar tenders Martha and Raphael were wonderful and tried their best to find the perfect drink for you.
  • The washrooms around the resort were also very clean
  • the service & decor in the specialty restaurants was excellent, if ordering the steak in the Mediterranean restaurant make sure your very specific as to how you want it cooked. The spanish/irish coffee was yummy.

Cons

  • our flight departed at 8:00 a.m from Toronto, we didn’t arrive at the hotel till 4:00 p.m.- way too long of a day to get to a resort
  • on our departure we had to be in the lobby at 8:00 a.m. left the hotel at 8:25, had over a 2 hour stay at the airport etc etc etc, anyway we eventually arrived back in Toronto at 5:15 p.m. again too long of a trip back home, especially from Cuba
  • the beach was absolutely stunning, one of the best we have encountered throughout the Caribbean islands, unfortunately, we couldn’t go into the water as there were so many jelly fish !!!!! this was a huge disappointment to us and to many others at the resort.
  • the food at the buffet restaurant (dinner only as it was closed at lunch time) was a let down as we had found the food at the other two Cuban resorts to be quite good and thought we would find the same at the Melia.
  • my husband also got a bad case of Montezumas revenge which lasted over 4 days, even taking imodium didn’t help…. in speaking with other guests we had found out that they to experienced this problem, but were lucky it only lasted a day or so.
  • there are also mosquitos, so bring along your repellent

Overall this is a very beautiful resort with many wonderful employees, but we would not return to it again.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Canada

October 2004

Our first trip without the kids in 8 years…so all we wanted to do was NOTHING. This is the perfect place to go for that. Travel time was a little long. On the way there we had to get off the plane in Cayo Coco and then get back on. Once we were in Cuba, there were long lines at Customs and it was a slow process. Then came the 2 hour drive; it was a picturesque drive…but by this point we were very tired and wanted to be at our destination. On the way back, we had a 2 hour wait at the airport, with no air conditioning!!! If I had had my 3 kids the travel could have been very long and tiring. The hotel is fairly clean, room could be cleaner. We ended up with 2 double beds joined together rather than the king we were expecting…which was a real pain. We always had enough drinks in our mini bar, enough soap, clean towels…a few too many spiders though!!!!!. All the staff were very friendly and helpful. The beach is absolutely breath taking. We saw no jelly fish. Ample beach chairs at pool and beach…however it was the low season. The food was ok…lots of fish. We did not eat the meat and still found enough to eat. The Italian restaurant was pretty good. We highly recommend the ‘Pargo Creole’ for lunch at the beach restaurant. Nightly entertainment was also good..the dancers were the best. We did a couple of day trips…we recommend the trip to Santa Clara for history and sight seeing. We also visited a cigar factory on this trip. The weather was good all week…although very windy the 2nd half of the week. We would recommend this destination for couples that want to take a break from life. We think the hotel will improve with time and become more of the 5 star that it is supposed to be.

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August 2004

Country: Cuba

Area: Cayo Santa Maria

Hotel: Melia Cayo Santa Maria
Rating: 4.5 – 5 Stars
Meal Plan: A/I
Wholesaler: Sunquest/MyTravel
Airline: SkyService
Date of Visit: August 2 – 9, 2004

Background: We wanted an inexpensive, relaxing one week getaway to someplace HOT with a good beach. My original plan of the Dominican Republic fell through on account of the price going up (I waited too long to book!) so I ‘settled’ for the MCSM, approximately two weeks before departure.

To quote the famous Rolling Stones song, "You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need", basically sums up our trip to CSM. It was exactly what we both needed. This was our third Cuban "cayo" vacation; the previous two being Cayo Coco and Cayo Largo. Of the 3, I liked this one the best for the beach and calm, clear ocean waters.

Airport and Check-in:
This was a super short flight from Toronto, less than 3 hours each way. We had no delays and no problems at either end. Even Cuban customs went well. Bob did get his eyeglass screwdriver confiscated by the Cubans on the return trip though. I suppose a 1.5 inch long screwdriver thinner than a pencil is considered a dangerous weapon by Cuban security, who knew??!??!?! Also, be prepared to have all your carry-on medications examined thoroughly. We were spared since my bag of lotions and potions was in the checked-in luggage, but I saw several people getting their carry-ons manually searched and all meds were being carefully inspected.

If you are planning on bringing more than 24 cigars back, make sure you keep the receipt as you may have these confiscated by Cuban customs.

Check-in was a breeze since it was done while still at the airport before boarding the buses. The Sunquest rep distributed the registration envelope which had our room key (card), a map of the resort and other related information. No wristband on account of the next-door hotel being closed. The bags were tagged with the room number and were delivered promptly to the room upon arrival. Very efficient. The orientation briefing was held later the same day, at 5:00pm. As a side note, I found our Sunquest rep Elena much more helpful than the Signature rep from our last vacation. Unlike the Signature rep who spent the entire half hour of the briefing plugging the over-priced optional tours, Elena actually gave us useful information about the hotel.

The Area:
CSM is approximately 1.5 hours drive from the Santa Clara airport. This may seem long, but the drive is very picturesque along the Cuban countryside and through small towns, that the time passes quite quickly. Currently there are two Sol Melia resorts on this cayo, the Sol Club being closed for renovations. There is another resort being built just down the road. Hopefully they won’t over develop this cayo the way they have Cayo Coco. The cayo, like the others is flat with mangroves and bush. It is supposed to be environmentally protected, I guess time will tell. We saw many aquatic birds on the drive there and back.

There is no town, and I suppose all supplies to the hotel must be trucked or shipped from the mainland. This gives you an added appreciation for the hotel staff; many who must make this commute to work on a daily basis, not to mention the chefs who probably never know what materials they will or will not have to work with! Kudos to them all!

The Resort and Clientele:
The Melia is very new, and finishing touches were still being carried out during our stay. Nothing intrusive or noisy. The next door resort was closed for renovations, so it made it just that much less over-crowded, especially the beach. Yes the foliage around the resort is not as mature as its next door neighbour, but the landscaping is still quite lovely with flowers, bushes and cacti spread out all over.

The bungalows and facilities are all centred around the pool areas. Even though this resort has more rooms than its neighbour, it is much more compact and therefore there is much less walking necessary to get around.

Thankfully the resort did not appear to be at full capacity; therefore no lineups for food, drinks, and towels. Playing ‘reserve a palapa on the beach at the crack of dawn’ was also not necessary. I was able to stroll on the beach at virtually any time of day and always find a spot. This may not be the case during peak season.

Clientele at the resort was a mixed bunch. About 50% of the vacationers were Canadian. I was surprised to see so many fellow travellers from Ottawa who, like us, also chose to fly out of Toronto instead of (the closer) Montréal. The reasons given were always the same. Price. The Toronto packages were selling at approximately half the price of the Montréal equivalent. Supply and demand I guess.

The rest of the clientele were Europeans from the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and France. Everyone seemed well behaved during our week; we certainly did not witness any boorish, loudmouth behaviour from anyone. Perhaps it was due to the fact that this is a family resort?

There is construction going on at the far end of the resort. They are planning on adding a Japanese a là carte restaurant, tennis courts and a spa.

The Room:
Wow, the rooms are gorgeous! We were very happy with our assigned room. We had a second storey corner room with a partial view of the ocean. Personally, I wouldn’t bother paying the extra money for an oceanview. Why? Well, the vegetation obstructs the view in many rooms, and during certain months of the year, the mosquitos are quite bad, making sitting on the balcony impossible. The rooms are very spacious and colorful. Our blue painted room had a lovely entrance alcove with mirror and lamp, a kingsized bed, tv with remote, coffee maker, telephone, stocked (water, fizzy water, cola, beer, lemon-lime drink, orange drink) mini-fridge, a day-bed/couch, desk and chair, full bathroom (in our room you could watch the ocean while showering! Cool!) with bathtub and shower (clothesline in the shower), toilet, bidet, separate sink area, large closet with drawers and shoe rack, ironing board and iron and full length mirror. We found we had more than sufficient storage space for the two of us in that room. We brought extra hangers this time, but we really did not need them. We therefore used them to hang damp clothes for airing out. We both found the bed very comfy, not too hard and not too soft. There were extra feather pillows in the closet for those like me who like sleeping with more than one pillow.

We had a corner balcony (therefore no immediate neighbours) with a lovely view of the ocean and the next door resort. On breezier days, this was a lovely place to sit mornings and evenings with a beverage of choice.

Beach(es) and Water: The number one reason for going to this resort, in my opinion. They could have been serving bread and water for supper all week for all I cared with a beach and water like that. The beach goes on for miles and miles, you can walk it to your heart’s content. I find the beach in front of the Sol Club was in better shape than in front of the Melia. The sand was whiter and softer at the Melia, but the beach was much more eroded. Palapas line the Sol Club and Melia beaches. Since there are no trees or any other sort of shade inducing vegetation on the beaches, the palapas are a necessity. The ocean was very calm most days, like a lake. We had a couple of breezy days which produced some minor wave action, but nothing serious. Unlike Cayo Largo, there was virtually no undertow, therefore a safe swimming venue for younger children.

Please be advised that the au naturel beach is directly in front of the Sol Club. We spent a glorious day there, but since it is so far from the facilities (ie: bars) we did this only once. There is a sign that tells you where this beach is located. One last item to note. The resorts are not built close to the beach. The beach is accessed via a wooden walkway. We are used to this from previous stays at hotels such as Sol Club Cayo Largo or Breezes Costa Verde.

Pools/Jacuzzis
There are two freshwater pools, one with swim-up bar. Floats are available for the ultimate lazy experience, so no need to bring your own unless you plan on floating in the ocean. The pool floats are not allowed to be removed from the pools. Some days the pools were quite busy and loud due to the many children. We spent our days on the beach only using the pool in the evenings, so this was not a problem for us. Some people did find the noise and the kids annoying though. There was one (unheated) jacuzzi around the pool area. Freshwater showers are spread out around the pool areas and off the ocean walkways.

Food/Drinks:
One does not visit Cuba for the culinary experience of a lifetime. If you can accept that fact, then you are well on your way to fully enjoying your stay. Food is a very personal experience anyway. Some people raved about the food, others complained. Suffice to say, we always found something good to eat. It does help that both of us love fish and seafood. If you are visiting an island, do you really expect to eat beef? The fish there were second to none. I ate fish every day, and usually at both meals, it was that good. Saturday night was lobster night and they had piles and piles of spiny lobster halves that they were throwing on the grill, as much as you could eat. After two halves, we couldn’t find any more room. The lobster was fresh and oh-so-good! Cuban ice cream was available at lunch and at supper.

There are currently 3 restaurants, one buffet and two a là cartes open for supper, with a 4th (Japanese) in the works. We tried the Meditarrean a là carte once. We enjoyed the ambiance, the live flute music, the wine list, and the service, but we did prefer the buffet the rest of the week just for the variety and convenience. We were able to sample Cuban wine at the a là carte. It was surprisingly good.

All the drinks I have sampled were very good. The bar with the most variety is the lobby bar. Try the caipirinha, the mojito, the daiquiris, the champagne cocktail…yum! Also, their freshly squeezed orange juice with aged rum was oh so good. Besides the lobby bar, there is a swimup bar, the bar at the ranchon and a small limited bar at the beach. Wine with meals was better than at most all inclusives. Spanish wine from the Castilla y Leon region (white, rosé and red) was always available. Cuban beer of course was always on tap and it was either Modelo or Cristal.

The Staff:
Our experience with Sol Melia resorts is that they hire amazing staff, and this resort was no exception. I cannot find anything negative to say about anybody from the resort. From the cheerful bartenders, wait staff and maids, to the front desk staff (the weak link in many an establishment), everyone was always courteous, helpful and friendly. Yes there are some management hiccups that still need to be worked out, but this is a new resort and there are always some sort of growing pains with every new venture. I was happy to see that most guests were tipping the staff who work long hours for so little remuneration. A few dollars here and there really do mean a lot to these hard working people.

Excursions, Activities and Entertainment:
We came to this island for serious R and R and therefore we weren’t looking for an active vacation. We did go on the catamaran tour which we enjoyed very much. This tour takes you around the island with many stops for snorkelling or swimming. The snorkelling was quite good, we saw, amongst other things: groups of barracuda, porcupine fish, flying gurnard, parrot fish, grouper, flounder, conch, lobster, hermit crabs and lots of tropical fish I can’t identify. This boat tour includes an open bar and a lobster lunch.

Other optional tours include Havana overnight, Trinidad, swimming with dolphins (not sure where that would be) and trips to Santa Clara. The resort provides the usual array of daily activities run by the fun animacion staff, such as Spanish lessons, aerobics, water polo, soccer, beach games, etc. The aquatic centre has pedal boats, catamarans and windsurfers available. I did not see any motorized watersports equipment during our stay (thankfully!).

Evening entertainment consisted of live music during and after supper. The MCSM has a super house band! This was followed by the usual staff shows. There were some excellent singing and dancing shows, especially the Cuban dances. What I particularly liked was the fact that both the singing and the music was live; not taped nor lip-synched.

Shopping:
As expected, very limited. There is one hotel shop that carries sundry items and a few souvenirs such as wood carvings, post cards, rum and cigars. There are two very small kiosks at the airport in Santa Clara that sell the same things. That is the extent of the shopping. Don’t visit the Cuban cayos if you have a need to shop on your holidays.

Climate:
The summer months are always nice and hot in Cuba, hence the reason why I only visit Cuba during this time. We had one cloudy afternoon with some sprinkles. The rest of the week was HOT and sunny. Some days we had virtually no breeze which made it a bit less comfortable outside of the beach area, but I love hot weather so this was absolutely no problem for me. The ocean was warm like bathwater.

Insects and other critters:
The only negative to the entire week. The mosquitos were brutal. I was glad I had my Deep Woods Off with me! It was impossible to sit around during the evening hours unless you completely sprayed yourself. They did fog twice daily, but it did not seem to make much difference. This does depend on time of year, so I can’t judge what other months are like. I do know that all 3 times we have visited the cayos (always in July or August) we have had the same problem.

The nasty Cuban horseflies were also at large just like in Cayo Largo, but this time we were prepared. We made sure we brought our repellent to the beach and sprayed not only ourselves, but our beach towels as well. As a result, we only sustained one or two bites each, whereas many others were covered in the big, red, raised welts that these pests leave behind.

I was very concerned about the many online reviews that mentioned jellyfish. As I seem to be a jellyfish magnet I was quite nervous about getting into that beautiful clear green ocean, but luckily my jellyfish close encounter was limited to just one. My left wrist made contact with the invisible critter one day close to shore as I was getting out of the water. Having no alcohol for first-aid (bar wasn’t open yet) nor any limes on hand, I scrubbed the affected area with wet sand (used it as a loofah, worked quite well!) and then I rubbed some hand sanitizer (which is about 98% alcohol) on my wrist. This worked quite well and the stinging/burning sensation stopped. I still got the nasty rash a day or so later, but at least it wasn’t itchy.
The only other critters worthy of mention were the land crabs which came out in the evenings and were hilarious! They are very sassy and well..crabby animals, but fun to watch as they click around sideways on the paths and get mad at anyone brave enough to cross their path!

In Conclusion:
Despite all the negative reviews I had the misfortune to read before going on this trip, we had an absolutely marvellous time! This has been one of the most relaxing holidays I have ever been on. I would not hesitate in returning to this resort nor to the sister resort next door (albeit fortified with more mosquito repellent). If you are considering this resort, I have the following advice to help you.

You wil enjoy this resort if: – Long, sandy (great for walking) beaches are top priority. – You aren’t bothered by kids. – You enjoy peace and quiet. – You prefer a resort in a natural setting. – You love calm, clear, swimmable water. – You love to have a beautiful, spacious room. – You enjoy an au naturel beach.

– You enjoy nice pools with a swim-up bar.

You should look elsewhere if: – Your primary reason for travel is to eat. – Shopping is of utmost importance. – You cannot tolerate mosquitos (this seems to be seasonal, however). – You don’t like to walk. – Off-beach snorkelling is a must. – You need a high-energy, party atmosphere. – Motorized water sports are important. – You prefer many cultural venues in close proximity. – Nude or topless beaches bother you.

– You are single and looking to meet and hook up with other singles.

If you still have questions, email me at: Ivona_Lancaster@hotmail.com

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Scott — Canada

July 2004

We attended the Melia Cayo Santa Maria in Cuba from 28 June 2004 to 05 July 2004 with my daughter and a friend (18 Years). I would estimate that there was about a ten persent occupancy at that time. Location: The location was about 1.5 hours from the Santa Clara airport. About 25 miles of the trip is on a narrow causeway out into the ocean. It is a very remote location. The beach was the best I have seen by far. The water was beautiful and warm. The pools were warm and the pool bar was good.

Resort: The resort was more like a three star. There was very little vegetation in the resort as it just opened in Dec 2003. There was a lack of bartenders and good food. The buffet hall had a strange smell(Musty).It was not fancy in the way of decor at all. The pools were excellent. There were only two restaurants on premise-Medditeranian and Italian. Neither were impressive. The sister resort had been closed on 04 June 2004 and I learned that some of the people at our resort had been originally booked in the sister resort and got upgraded at no extra cost. The sister resort was to have most of the restaurants. I found out about the sister resort being closed on the bus ride after asking about wristbands. The Sunquest Rep said at that point that we did not need them because the other resort was closed. The shows were very good and had taken alot of time to put togeather. The Disco was to be at the sister resort and as a result of it being closed the Melia turned the piano bar into a disco at about 11:30 PM. It was a poor attempt at a Disco. The sister resort did have the massage, beauty salon and fitness area open. The girls got denied acess to the beauty salon without a pass. The desk had no passes and the person that could print them had got to lunch. I was upset at this point and spoke to the desk staff and they managed to print me 12 passes to get me off their backs. The rooms were nice but no better than what I have had in the Dominican.

Registration and checkout:
The registration was excellent. We got a package for the two rooms on the bus including keys and just went directly to our rooms upon arrival. Checkout was a nightmare!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I paid the phone bill for the two rooms the night before ant it was very reasonable. It was about 2.00 per call. The next morning I went to checl out and was at the front of a long line. The clerk said that there was three towels missing from the room (20.00 Each). I told him to get the maid to recount because his towels were the last thing I wanted. The Maid called back and said that she recounted and there was just a face cloth missing now. I told the guy I did not have his facecloth. The line was being held up because there were others arguing with desk staff about alleged missing towels also. Eventually I was so pissed off at the Hotel and angry at holding up all the other people that I paid the five dollars and told them they could stuff the face cloth. I got on the bus and just before we were about to leave they called my daughters room number and asked to speak to the occupant. I got off went to the desk and they said that beach towels from her room had not been returned and wanted 40.00. I suggested that the guy check the records and he would find that the girls never had beach towels assigned to them as I had got four for my room. The guy checked and found that I had four towels assigned to me. I told him how much I appreciated getting called off the bus and holding it up and left totally pissed off. I would never go to this resort again if they gave me a trip there due to the treatment by the staff. The internet acess upon arrival was found to non existent as it wasn’t being hooked up for three months. PS they spoke very little English.

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Anne & John — Toronto

June 2004

Your site has been useful to me, so here’s my contribution on the above property…

Us as Vacationers in Caribbean…
We are in late thirties to early forties with no children. I have travelled quite extensively on businesses as well as other parts of the world for variety of reasons. We, as a couple, are regular traveller to Caribbean, usually vacationing twice a year, two weeks at a time. We have stayed at Sandals property in Jamaica to LTI in Holguin and are quite "fair" in our expectations in terms of the price-value.

Overall Assessment
We have paid very little, less than what we would normally pay for those rated at 4-stars. Given the price, I would say the value was good. The people are, as usually in Cuba, a pleasure. Is it worthy of 5-star rating? No. It has a long way to go. We have always enjoyed staying at Sol Melia properties and this was a bit of a disappointment. Who knows, given enough time, they may yet measure up to Melia’s usual standards, just not today. Details are as follows…

Check-in/Check-out
Virtually painless. All check-in done on the bus, which is over an hour drive from the airport. Arrival and baggage claim was done in a blink. The airport is tiniest I’ve seen to date. We left the hotel at 8:30a.m., so there was a plenty of time for check-out, breakfast, etc. I had to pay long-distance phone bill and the whole process took about 5 minutes.

Room
We had a room that was almost beachfront. It was nicely decorated in a typical Sol Melia style. The room also had a scale (good or bad, I’m not sure…). The in-room safe was the latest with the customer assigned punch code. No card or keys necessary. The water pressure was good, although the showerhead pressure wasn’t. No real problems with insects, etc. The cleaning was also good. As the hotel was new, so were the tv, furniture, etc. The couch was very comfortable with ample cushions.

Mini-bar & Room Service
Nicely stocked, though the re-stocking service was unreliably scheduled. As you expect to have the beverages restocked, this sometimes was annoying. Apparently, there are only two people with other duties servicing the whole property and they did not seem to have a solid routine. The room service is available from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Ordering, however, is a challenge and you will be surpised that what you get does not seem like what you ordered! (Though the food is still pretty o.k.)

Beach
It was striking looking. However, the beach was on what I can only describe as a high dune and you had to climb down to get to the water. The sand, though not quite coarse, was not anywhere as fine as that of Cayo Largo. Water was on the rough side, given that during this time, it is usually very calm at other parts of Cuba, even on the Atlantic side. Overall, it was a good beach for swimming as there are no rocks, corals, or even sea grass. To the west of the next property, Sol Club, is a nudist beach. Even during this low season, there still were a number of them at any time of the day. Even further to the west, beyond Sol Club, the beach gets "even" and you do not have climb up or down between your beach lounger and the water.

Watersports
I am an avid snorkeller and was very disappointed here. Beyond the nudist beach, there are areas close to the beach with sea grass, no corals, and you will encounter schools of fish and a number of barracudas (not interested in you, at all). To get any decent snorkelling, you could pay the watersports centre guys $5US to take you on a catamaran to a decent site. It’s quite worthwhile as the whole trip, back and forth, and snorkelling is about 2 hours.

Pool Area
It’s a nice looking area, half with wooden loungers with cushions and half with the normal plastic ones. They have many, many floating loungers which people also use to line their plastic loungers. It is cleaned diligently and everyday.

Food & Beverages
On Saturdays, they serve grilled lobsters for dinner at the buffet. They are good. But you only get 1/2 at one time, though it was more than enough for me. During the high season, the line would get long. It was o.k. during June. Overall, the quality was o.k., though nowhere near what I would call 5-star affair. If you like seafood, you will be o.k. If not, you may find the variety to be lacking. The bread was very good here, including croissants in the morning. You could skip the Italian restaurant. The Mediterranean was o.k., though I would not call it quite gourmet. The beach grill was good for lunch and the pool snack bar was limited in its offerings. During our stay, they were renovating the Italian restaurant and, thus, shut down the snack bar too early to get the place ready in lieu for the dinner (as the Italian restaurant).

Overall, there is no great deal of "mixology" here. The best cocktails were usually from the Lobby bar. Coffee is also the best here, comparatively speaking. Don’t expect "great" coffee of any type. At the pool bar, there is a short guy that makes great Pina Coladas. The variety of premium liquors are limited. But, we don’t spend our time drinking much anyway. We usually spent our time by the pool after lunch but during the mid to late morning, someone will come to take your orders for drinks at the beach, usually once. They use the typical Cuban standard plastic glasses: small and flimsy.

Other Facilities & Grounds
The resort does not have the typical 5-star amenities. The gym and other facilities are all located next door. They are currently prepping the grounds to build a spa facility. Not sure when they expect to complete this. The gardens is sparse and, overall, there isn’t much of grounds to walk about. Overall the grounds is the most sparse I’ve seen, regardless of the rating. They also don’t seem to have enough gardeners.

Entertainment
We are not much of the resort entertainement attendants, unless they are absolutely fabulous, which is rare for most resorts. They do have live music and what amounts to a modern orchestra everyday. Other than that, they seem to be amateur at best. But no matter, it is not what we come to Caribbean for…

Staff
This is a remote and new area, which probably should be taken into consideration. The staff seem to work hard. But English is a great deal of challenge, more than we have ever encountered in Cuba before (this was our sixth trip to Cuba). They also need more training and experience to gain that service-sophistication, especially for a property striving for a 5-star rating. But the real problem seems to the staffing allocation. The resort seems to have quite a large entertainment staff, not very employed during the day, at least, but not enough of the gardeners, room service, or event maids. They also seem to have surplus amount of the front desk staff in comparison. The front desk staff, usually the litmus test for a quality hotel, is not overly solicitous. But, as said before, overall they all work hard and most are genuinely interested in doing their best. (Someone just needs to show them how better.)

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Melia Cayo Santa Maria Primo — Canada

May 2004

Hello Debbie ,
My girlfriend and I returned (February 21st to February 28th) from a trip to this supposedly 5 star resort . As you can see by the date it has taken me awhile to send in my review of this resort . We have in the past travelled twice to cuba and both times where absolutely wonderfull (Iberostar Tainos & Tryp Peninsula).

Unfortunatly I cannont say the same this time .

Flight: Jets Go out of Montréal, good flight made it in time , no delays , seating a little tight but nothing to fuss about.

Arrival&Check in : fast no problem , every hotel should check there guest the way they do at this resort : on the bus as yoour heading to the resort (1hre1/2 bus ride ) you’re given an enveloppe with your room key, passport and bracelet.

Beach Positives: Very nice , beautiful water , great for walks , nice sand .

Beach Negatives : not enough palapas or for that matter chairs ,(many people from the resort next door were permitted in the resort where we were ) and just not as nice as Varadero’s beach .

Pools : very nice , water too cold , once again lack of chairs .

Grounds positives: very clean, easy to get around ,not too big

Grounds negatives : resort stil too young , lack of vegetation, not as plush as other places we’ve been ( in time this will come)

Food : okay buy Cuban standards always good not to have very high expectations when it comes to the food ,then at certain times we would get surprises . à la carte restaurants not worth the wait and aggravation of reserving .Pizza & grill place for lunch very good

Staff positives: friendly, attentive, always ready to help ( also very attractive a warm hello to Thérésa )

Staff negatives: this person that gave out the towels and took the " à la carte restaurant" reservations

Room all positive : clean , spacious , very colourful and always well kept . (love those bidets ) from time to time some little bugs or little reptiles .mini fridge always replenished.

Other guests: mostly canadiens 50% from Québec other 40% elsewhere in canada and about10% Europeen. This is where it started going down hill , I ‘ve come to the conclusion that because this was a brand new resort the people who ran it wanted to promote it so prices were more than reasonable for a one week stay. So I believe that since the prices where more than reasonable it catered to more peoples budget .Hence our dissapointment ,lets just say that most (not all) of the guests when we were there lacked in class and "savoir vivre". Some people just acted like they owned the place .Bumping in front you in line at the buffet restaurant ,sticking their chairs right in front of you at the beach and thats besides being load and abnoxious most of the time .

This resort will become a 5 star after it irons out certain deficencies (not many ), when it stops letting guest from the other resort use the facilities and unfortunatly probably when the prices go up and a different class of people start flocking to it . PS a friend of ours was there not too long ago and he told us that he did not encounter the problems we had with the guest when he was there. Then again prices had started to go up when he was there ….is that a sign ???

so bottom line it is not a place where we would return at least in the near future . once again Varadero is the place to go in Cuba .

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Last updated: April 26, 2005

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