We booked a last minute vacation on line not really caring where we went or when we went as we have travelled extensivley in the Caribbean we just wanted to escape the Canadian cold and snow. We booked a week out and paid@ $850 from Ottawa. This is a good price from Ottawa, however the same trip can be booked from Toronto for $640. We left on a Thur and saved several hundred dollars by not travelling Wed, Fri or Sat. We saw that Sunwing and Air Transat offered similar packages but their flight times were not nearly as good, for example they left Ottawa at 8pm at night and arrived Santa Clara 135 am followed by a 90 minute bus ride in the dark to the resort. We booked with Air Canada and left Ottawa at 600am, stopped and changed planes in Toronto and arrived in Santa Clara at 1230 pm. The bus ride into the resort was pretty and well worth doing it in day. We understand Air Canada has better flight times because the other carriers dont want to pay the higher airport fees for premium times.
We are a married couple, I am 60 and my wife is 57. We have traveleed extensively in the Caribbean, Divi and Almond in Barbados, Breezes in Curacao, Jolly Harbour in Antigua, Club St Lucia in St Lucia, Sandals in the BahamaS, Turks and Caicos and Jamaica and The Royal in Playa del Carmen. We have also been to Cuba twice before, Brisas in Guardalavaca, Holquin and Sirenis La Salina Varadero. Melia Las Dunas we would say is a good three star resort,comparable to Brisas in Guardalavaca but definitely not 4.5 star.
We flew with Air Canada and the flight was on time, there is no meal service on the flight and it costs $30 extra per person to pre-select your seat. We were met at the airport by the Air Canada rep, baggage was quickly cleared thru customs and immigration and we boarded the pre assigned bus going to our resort.We were also given our room assignemnt and keys at the airport before boarding the bus. This was very efficient and quick. We had a very nice bus ride from Santa Clara to Cayo Santa Maria which last about 90 minutes and goes thru the pretty Cuban country side and then you cross the 48 km causeway to the Resort. Our luggage was taken to our rooms on arrival. Unfortunately there was a lot of commotion, screaming and yelling from returning guests and staff when we arrived at our assigned block. That definitely disappointed us from what had been a good experience up to this point.
Rooms: We were assigned Room 3816 in Block 38, and we were immediatley disaapointed upon entering our room. It smelled musty and old,it was on the first floor and the screen to the patio was missing, so we could not even open the patio door without bugs coming in. We had sent an e mail before arriving and had requested a second floor room in a quiet area as we were older. We went back to reception and politley tried for 2 hours to change rooms. The people at the desk although polite were unhelpful, defensive and at one time I ahd three desk people explaining to me why we couldnt switch rooms. We were offered an upgrade to Oceanview for 35 pesos more per night. I even spoke with Ernesto one of the managers and although he said he would try and try and get us another room we never heard back from him! As this was a last minute budget trip, and we are going to Barbados in February we declined the offer.
The rooms are nice, good quality and comfortable. Room service was good although we had to ask for the bottle water to be restocked. We hated the main floor as we could not use the screen on the patio which we had asked to be fixed and the room was musty. The room was comfortable however and in a good location for restaurants and the looby
Restaurants and Bars: There were 5 or 6 a la carte restaurants on the resort. We recommend booking dinner reservation as SOON as you can after arrival as they get booked early. Lineups for booking can be long and what is interesting is that the a la carte restaurants really are not that full at night. If you walk up to the restaurant at night and ask you may be able to get in. They advertise a "dress code" at the reservation desk of long pants for men and dresses for ladies. This is a joke as the dress code is not enforced at the a la carte restaurants as we saw men eating in shorts and ball caps. We prefer to dress up for dinner so this was a disappointment. Our favourite a la carte restaurants were the Oriental, Romantico (Italian), the seafood and the pizzeria. The Mexican restaurant was not that great and they rushed you thru dinner. We ate dinner our first night at the buffet and it was terrible!! The food was cold and the experience forgettable,we even had a woman changing a diaper at the next table over from us. We would not go back to the buffet except for breakfast. We liked having lunch at the beer garden and the grill just beside the beer garden where the chef grilled fresh fish, pork and chicken.The chef there was amazing and very friendly. The main lobby bar was open 24 hours a day and they served premium drinks like courvousier, Jamesons and a good vodka martini. Tea was served at 5 pm daily with sandwiches and we enjoyed that. The cappuccino served at the m ain bar was excellent. They had a specialty coffee bar at night in the lobby was also excellent.
They ran out of tonic water and tomato juice at all the bars which is surprising and disappointing, no more gin and tonics and no more redeyes!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach was beautiful, powder white sand, some dunes and we walked the long 6 km stretch ofetn. The beach here we thought was better than Varadero and Holquin. They had two pools at each end of the resort one activity pool and one relaxing pool, each had a snack bar and swim up bar. We prefered the relaxing pool. The water was cold and very refreshing!!!!! Loungers were easy to get. The towels you had to sign for but you coulod exchan ge them every day for clean ones. The grounds were fine but some areas needed attention, broken concrete and some fresh paint.
The resort was very large and they do have a shuttle service which comes in handy.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We liked to relax around the quiet pool but they did have games at the activity pool. We walked to a market called Pueblo just past the kids section and it was worth it. We also took a yellow 1930 Ford with a rumble seat,Cubataxi to a market 5 km away and it was fun and worth it. We did the Santa Clara-Remedios day trip and it was fun and well worth it. It cost 70 cuc from 7 am to 5 pm and included lunch in Santa Clara. The highlights were the Che Memorial/museum, the Remedeios church and crafts. The sugar cane museum and boulevard in Santa Clara were not that great. The steam train ride into Remedios was fun and allowed you to see some of the country side.
The entertainment at night was not that great. The dancers and entertainers were very professional and Cubans are known throughout the world as great entertainers. The themes chosen were terrible however, Disney, Beauty and the Beast and one night Celine Cion.We dont go to Cuba to see that. The Cuban music they played after the show by the pillars was fantastic!!!
Other Comments: There was a security issue one night when one of the guests was very intoxicated and pushed another intoxicated guest to the ground while they were dancing. Security was called and basically stood in the back ground and did nothing. I spoke with the Security manager and told him my wife felt uncomfortable and he should ask the guest to leave. The security manager told me to mind my own business and that we were in Cuba and they would handle it their way. I thought this situation was not handled very well. The last comment. We are English speaking Canadians that understand French. 70% of the guests here come from Canada and 70% of them come from Quebec. Quebecers travel in packs, especailly to Cuba where the price is reasonable.As a group they tend to be loud, rude and butt in front of the line. They smoke everywhere and they tend to overtake the experience. The locals start to think all Canadians are French and act that way.
Having said all that we might go back for a cheap package someday in the future perhaps to Melia Cayo Santa Maria or Melia Buenvista.