NH Krystal Laguna Villa's & Resorts Page 2 – Cayo Coco – Cuba Hotels – Debbie's Caribbean Travel & Resort Reviews – NH Krystal Laguna

~ NH Krystal Laguna Villa’s reviews posted on this page  –  27

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Katherine ~ Canada

May 2006

We have not travelled much – went to Cancun to a 4.5* all-inclusive resort in 2004 and the El Salvatore (NH Krystal) February 3-06 – was certainly not a 4* – more like a 2.5. There were not enough garbage cans or cigarette disposal locations – so people just threw them on the ground – you would never have found that in Cancun – the staff would have cleaned them up immediately. The bathrooms around the resort were filthy and even the seafood restaurant the taps were broken in the woman’s washroom and there was no soap. I do hope the restaurant staff had soap and water to wash their hands before handling the food. The bathrooms in Cancun has fresh flowers, and were spotless and there was always staff there to clean up.

We waited for 1/2 hour for service at the Grill near the beach – then I went to find the waitress twice and after another 45 minutes left – without ever receiving our lunch. We saw people come after us – eat and leave. Our waitress was terrible. We found most of the staff very unfriendly – with the exception of our waiter in the "El Emperador" – Henry – he was absolutely amazing. We found the buffet at the El Emperador much better than the La Laguna – where our room was. The buffet restaurants ran out of food close to the end of each meal time. When we were in Cancun – the food was so much better (beef actually looked like beef) and the buffet never closed – so you could eat when you wanted. Our cleaning lady was very good and our room was on the second floor – so we were happy with the room. I did notice the garbage and a old paint can sat out for 3 days before someone picked it up.

There was a terrible stench coming from the Laguna – if you tried to find some shade – the only spot was a sandy location a piece away from the pool where there were hammocks and shade trees – but you couldn’t stay there because of the smell.

When we arrived early morning – there was only one person on staff and even though we had completed our paperwork on the bus – some people were 2 hours getting through the line up and to their room and we arrived at midnight. Our flight was with Air-Transat Nolitours – certainly not first class- not very roomy seats and no movie or radio for either the flight there or back – that’s a long flight without a movie. The man who put out luggage on our bus to the hotel expected a tip – he was quite rude if you didn’t give him one – even if you carried your own luggage.

We found the staff in Mexico so much more friendly and more appreciative. I guess they were used to the US visitors and were so happy to have Canadian’s who treated them with respect. Maybe Cuba should allow the US to visit – then their staff would appreciate the kind Canadians more.

We met so many people who had come to this resort before and would never return – they said that when it was Canadian owned – it was truly a 4* and they could not believe how it had deteriorated. But we did meet many nice people and had no problems with theft. We took the Jeep/horseback tour and our tour guide was great and this was a very good tour.

We plan to go back to Cuba – but certainly not this site – it was quite disappointing.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Christine ~ West Yorkshire, UK

May 2006

We have just returned from an 11 night holiday at the NH Krystal in Cayo Coco, Cuba and can honestly say that it was the worst holiday of my life. For a start no way was this hotel 4*+ it would be lucky to get a 3* in England. When we arrived we found the reception staff very cold and "not interested" they gave us a room number and left us to find where it was. On arrival at our room we foundthe toilet broken, air conditioing broken, telephone not working and , although clean, black mould stains on the bedding. We complained to reception and the Thomas Cook rep and they eventually moved us to a large suite with balcony which was very nice. We unpacked and after about an hour of being in the room "bang" the electric went off (the main switch had tripped). This went on every 10 minutes for about an hour. We rang for a maintenance man who eventually came and switched the main switch on again (which we had been doing anyway) and left and of course within 10 minutes it went off again. We spent the next 2 days trying to get this mended and having to stay in or around our room waiting for maintenance men, electricians, the maintenance manager to come to the check the electricity supply. They eventually gave up and moved us yet again on the 4th day to another room. The electricity in this room was fine but there was no hot water for 3 days ( one of those days there was no water at all for part of the day). The food at the hotel was terrible (unless you were willing to pay to go into the VIP restaurant then you could have lobster, fillet steak etc) if you go all inclusive it should mean all inclusive and cover all restaurants. They ran out of beer several times over the holiday, ran out of dough at the Italian restaurant for pizzas, ran out bread at the Cuban restaurant several times. The entertainment was terrible and very amateurish although I must say we had some great nights in the Cigar Lounge and entertainment was great it was just a pity it shut at 10.30 every night.

Theft was also a major problem at the hotel with theft several pairs of trainers went missing, beach towels, personal clothing, handbags, money and when the reception staff were complained to they were not interested. During our first few days at the hotel we were informed that half of the complex was closing down "because it was low season" so we lost out on lots of different (and better looking) bars, restaurants, shops, swimming pools etc. To sum up I would never go back to this hotel again and would not advise anybody else to either. Though saying that during our second week after things had settled down we met some great people and used to meet up at the adult pool (sadly lacking a bar here) and enjoyed the rest of our holiday just lazing, swimming etc. Most of the Cuban people we met were lovely people, the gardeners etc were so grateful for any little gifts . A word of warning though there are mozzies everywhere and bite anything available.

The weather was fabulous – that is something I could not complain about.

Our flights with Thomas Cook were good (though we did upgrade both ways) choice of meals, films etc. Altogether not a hotel I would go to again, if it had been 3* maybe I would have accepted things a bit more but when it was advertised as 4 star plus I expected a lot more.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Larry ~ Ottawa, Canada

May 2006

We went to the El Senador for our son’s wedding. Having read some of the earlier negative reviews, we were somewhat concerned, and our expectations were not high. This turned out to be an advantage, as the resort exceed our expectations, and we were quite satisfied with our vacation.

The other reviewers have commented about the food, etc, and I won’t go on about it here other than to say that everything was satisfactory. I’m a picky eater, and I had no problems. I’ll just offer some general comments and advice based on our experiences.

This is the slow season; the Luguna side was closed, and the Emperador was only about 1/3 full. There were never any crowds anywhere – no problems getting pool or beach chairs, no problems with restaurant reservations. This is a good time to go. The rainy season doesn’t get underway until later in May, so I’m told by the locals.

Unlike North American hotels, the El Senador does not provide face cloths, facial tissues, or clocks in the rooms. Take them with you if you feel you need them. (although who needs a clock on a vacation?). The rooms are clean and comfortable, although not the Chateau Laurier or the Royal York. However, if you have a room on the ground floor, you may get complimentary frogs in your room (the maids leave the doors open while cleaning, and I guess that’s when they come in).

We went on one excursion – a day trip to two cities – Moron and Ciego d’Avilla with a visit to a (closed) sugar mill, a cigar factory, a ride on a steam train with lunch on a ranch. Very nice. When visiting such places, take Kleenex or toilet paper with you, as some of the public washrooms didn’t have any. A hand sanitizer such as Purell might be useful also. We were never bother by people wanting money or trying to sell things while in the towns, although on a couple of occasions a young man would give a flower to your lady, and then you felt obligated to give him a peso. The people were friendly, and if you greeted them in Spanish were very pleased (and sometimes surprised).

Change your money at the resort bank, rather than the airport – they gave 76 pesos for $100 CDN at the airport, and 80 pesos at the resort. Carry a few Canadian dollar or two dollar coins to tip the baggage guys at the airport – they are just as happy with Canadian money (they will then approach Canadians on their way out of Cuba to get you to give them pesos for their Canadian money). There is a safe in the room to keep your valuables.

If you want to use the resort’s bikes, bring a small can of WD40 – they could use a drop or two of oil 🙂

The sun is HOT, and there is NO shade around the pool, and the beach shelters only provide a slatted roof – better than nothing. Bring sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat. It was always quite breezy, so a hat with a string under the chin (my Tilley hat was ideal) is useful if you want to walk the beach.

People were tipping, and in fact the literature in the hotel suggested it was expected – 10 percent was suggested. How do you figure out 10 percent of a meal whose price is included in your package? Some people left a peso or two at each meal, others (like ourselves), gave a tip at the end. But service did not suffer if you did not tip each time.

Our Air Canada flight home left at 9 PM – checkout time is 12 noon – you can keep your room until 4 PM for an additional 40 pesos. If you are travelling with a group, have one couple hold on to their room, so you can store your hand baggage and have a place to change just before you leave.

You can also pay 20 pesos per person to use the "VIP" lounge at the airport – this gives you access to much shorter lineups and a nice air conditioned room to wait for your flight, with free drinks and sandwiches. We did this, but I probably wouldn’t bother if I went again – the lineups were not that long, and there is lots of time.

As others have mentioned, the bank at the resort can only change money – no cash advances. And if you use your credit card to purchase things such as tours, there is an 11 percent surcharge.

In the restaurants, if you want to order a bottle of wine other than the house wines (which are fine, by the way), you can charge it to your room. But in the VIP restaurant (25 pesos per person extra), you have to pay cash, or go to the hotel reception desk and pay with a credit card, and then take the receipt back to the VIP restaurant. Weird.

Moral of the story – take cash with you to Cuba.

The coffee in the lobby bar was better than that in the buffet, so for breakfast, we would go to the lobby bar for coffee, then into the buffet. But it turns out you can order cappuccino in the buffet, even at breakfast, so it really wasn’t necessary.

Bugs. There were some mosquitos early in the evening, but we never needed bug repellent. And their bite isn’t as itchy as our home-grown variety. There were also the occasional "no-seeums". The room windows do not have screens, so we didn’t open the windows at night, although it would have been very pleasant to do so, as the night air was quite comfortable and there was always a breeze. The air conditioning barely was able to hold it’s own in our room.

All in all, an enjoyable vacation. Would we do it again? Certainly. And at the same time of the year. It is good value for the money.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Liz ~ Manchester

May 2006

We are a young couple from England (25 and 30) and visited NH Krystal from 30th April – 8th May. We were a bit worried about going to the resort as we had read the reviews beforehand. Overall we had a lovely holiday and we thought it was very good value for money (we did get a last minute good deal off the TV) and we would definately recommend Cayo Coco to other people … although there were a few negatives…

Our outbound journey was with Thomas Cook, which we would not recommend this airline to anyone. It was crampted, their was no communication on the flight (i.e. what the food was going to be), the films were old and limited choice. We flew First Choice on the return journey, which was considerably better. There was much more space, better food, better films. We would recommend First Choice. (Please note that we had to pay for drinks and snacks on both journeys – and we expected them to be included).

Customs at Cayo Coco Airport was good, although a little slow. We had to queue to go through passport control and have our visa’s checked, but it wasn’t too bad as the airport was air-conditioned and new and clean. There were people there to help you with carrying your cases to the transfer bus (although they expected a tip and we had not exchanged any money at this point, so we ended up giving English money).

Check-in at the hotel was a little slow, and they were not forthcoming with directions to our room (and the place is very big) so we ended up wandering around for about half an hour trying to find our room.

We took sterling cash with us and got it exchanged at the bank. The bank was only open between 9.30am and 4.30pm, so we went without money for a while. You cannot withdrawal money from a credit card at the resort, but apparently you can at the hotel up the road. The bank was located between the massage place, the gym and the tennis courts. They always had money and lots of change.

The resort was very quiet (with mainly Canadians and some Brits) and on our second day they closed the Laguna Side of the complex. We were a little gutted about this, as the pool and the grill seemed a lot better on the Laguna side. They also changed the location of the seafood restaurant and the 24 hour bar – which took us a while to figure out. Due to them closing the Laguna side, we were upgraded to a suite on the Emperado side. The room was very nice, clean and spacious (although we did miss not have a balcony).

We had read reviews about leaving packages for the maids. We left cosmetics, paper and pens each day and our room was immaculate (although from speaking to people the service was equally as good if you did not tip or leave gifts).

Service was excellent at the resort and everyone was incredibly friendly (with the slight exception of the reception staff, who seemed a bit cold). We did tip (approx 1 peso), although not every time. We decided to tip the people who were really friendly and offered a great service as otherwise we would have spent a small fortune. Everyone really appreciated the tips, as we learnt from speaking to them that they were incredibly qualified but they got paid a very small amount each month (approx £12 a month) and the tips doubled their wages. Service did not drop if you did not tip and you never felt under pressure to tip.

The food was ok. We tried the Italian, seafood and steakhouse restaurants. The service was excellent. The seafood restaurant was the best. One thing that we found was that the food was often the same in the restaurants as it was in the buffet. We therefore often ate in the buffet as there was more choice and you could have a little bit of everything (although it was sometimes a little cold). We recommend the freshly cooked meet and the freshly cooked omelets at the buffet. The only downside of the buffet was that it did not have the atmosphere of the restaurants.

The entertainment was the downside of the holiday. There was very little entertainment and nightlife. The shows were dreadful, however the redeeming factor was the ‘Cigar Lounge’ as the bands were truly amazing – we only wish that they played for more of the night as they only played between 9.30pm and 10.30pm.

Another downside of the holiday is that stuff went missing. We had our personal beach towels taken and there was no way of reporting this and there was no lost property and nobody seemed to care. We met many people who had beach towels taken, and one family even had their children’s hats and trainers taken. Just make sure you keep an eye on stuff, as they charge 25pesos (about £18) for towels that go missing.

The beach was amazing. It was absolutely beautiful and we never saw a jelly fish and it was very very close to the resort. We walked a long way down the beaches and our part was by far the best.

We only did one tour. We did the ‘jungle / speedboat tour’. It was 40 peso (so about £27). It was very very good. We absolutely loved driving our own speedboats and they went really fast. You also went snorkeling, which was ok, although there weren’t a huge amount of different fish. I would definitely recommend this trip. We did fancy going to Havana, but this was very expensive 190peso (about £150) so we decided against it.

Overall we had a really good time in Cuba, although we would say NH Krystal was more like a 3 star resort than a 4 and a half star resort.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Chantal ~ Moncton NB

May 2006

Check In: our rooms were not ready but we went to get a good drink and sat next to the pool while we were waiting….35 mins…

Weather: 29-30 feels like 38-40 all week…bright and sunny…it’s hot but you can still breath normally….lot’s of sunscreen cause it’s burning the skin very fast….

Food: well the breakfast at the buffet every morning was really good…bacon…over easy eggs…omellettes…good orange juice and those fresh fruits…pineapple….wow..amazing….Lunch time…we went mostly to the grill next to the beach….good little veggies bar and the chicken sandwich…hot dog with fries were good….and the bar at the grill have the best drink…. for Dinner time…well we were a group of 14…so not easy to get a reservation for all of us….the Italian Restaurant was the Best…Osmany one of the server was a lot of fun and very very good…the best server on the resort….we also went to the steak house…which was ok also…the cuban well…the appertizer were really bad but the main course was really good..

Entertainment: Adrian….the most wonderful man on the resort….we had a blast with that guy….he loves Canadians hockeys MOntreal…good gift for him….we played the olympics..beach volleyball…softball and little games next to the pool…he made a good mood….Dayia is another animator….she makes us dance merrengue…salsa…mambo…she’s amazing…she’s a real nice woman…bring her some nice woman’s stufff….Jenny the Reservations girl…she helps you with Dinner reservations…Taxi…anything…she’s very helpful…she loves Sandals(flip flop…hard to find in cayo coco…good gift again) the Show people at night….wow they are really great dancer…you have to learn the resort dance….it’s good memories when you get back…the animation is a lot of fun…..also the scuba diving guy at the resort…take the class it’s the most wonderful thing you can do….a few of my friend went to Moron City…the loved it the taxi guy was really helpfull the had a great day….a lot’s of market to buy nice gifts to come back…best place to shop.

Rooms: we were on the El Emperador side…rooms were really nice…always clean….the maid was really good…left water bottle everyday and the room was always clean….

overall the resort was wonderfull…we had a really great time and would go back anytimes

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Leanne ~ Canada

May 2006

My husband and I spent our 15th wedding anniversary at NH Krystal (March 2006). We were a little worried because the recommendation of people we knew all went when it was still EL Senador.

We had an amazing time and met some amazing people.

Arrival: Other than Air Canada no having people sitting beside each other. We were able to work that out before we took off in Toronto. The flight was great meals both ways. I could have done without Chicken Little as the in flight movie. It certainly was nice not having a long bus ride to the hotel. You can grab a beer on the bus trip to the hotel.

While one of us got the luggage the other went to get Cuban money (more than enough time for that) same rate at the hotel. It is nice to have the money right away for tipping etc. Canadian and American money means nothing to them. They can’t even exchange it.

Our ck in was quick and easy and I person in the golf cart takes you to your room and gives you a little tour. All staff were helpful, friendly and would go that extra mile for you.

If you are reading this there is one thing you need to know. Spend the extra money and stay in the villas on the lagoon (houses on stilts) The rooms are amazing and you get a few extras. The best extra was the unlimited booking of the a la carte restaurants but most important extra was the VIP restaurant. This is free to the people on the Villa and 25.00 extra a person for anyone else. Amazing food. I had steak and lobster every night. The lobster tail was huge and the steak in flown in from Canada. Even though the steak and lobster were 2 separate items on the menu, they would put what ever you wanted together. This place with meal, wine, Spanish coffees would easily be a 200.00 meal in Canada. We ate there 4 out of our 6 days

Beach: Amazing. We had a routine going that we would hit breakfast; go to the beach in the morning lunch at the buffets which were good, beach restaurant or a pool restaurant. Try all three very good for lunch. After that we would head for the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Go to the lobby bar and then head back to our room to change for dinner….not a bad life style eh????

Bars: Not as much night life as I expected but still good. The shows every night run from about 9-1030. We saw one and the dancing, singing and costumes were great. The people in the shows were your Gardner, maid, pool side people by day and show people by night. They work so hard and always have a smile on their face. We really liked the cigar lounge atmosphere and entertainment, but the time was the same as the show so you had to make a decision what to see. At 10:00 there really is not a lot of entertainment. There is a “disco” but seemed for 19 and under crowd. The Lobby bar is usually where we would end up and the bartenders are very entertaining. Make sure to try both Lobby bars. Freddie can do some amazing things with his bottles and Ice.

Day tours: We did the half-day catamaran tour. This was absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth the money. The boat ride is very relaxing and open bar. The boat stops twice along4 coral reefs and you are given the chance to go snorkeling with tropical fish. Just make sure you don’t go on a windy day because you may not be able to snorkel. I think ½ a day was more than enough. We did this ½ way through our trip and booked it with people we met down there to make it that much more fun.

The glass bottom boat looked like fun but we ran out of time. Some people went into the town but it did not appeal to us.

Miscellaneous: We brought a lot of things with us for the maids and other hotel staff, from the gardeners to the bartenders. They really appreciate that. Things that I brought with me like Tylenol nail polish remover shampoo I just left behind because these things are very expensive.

Learn a few Spanish words while your there….it fun. Bring a coffee mug to fill up while on the beach so you don’t have to keep walking back. I was wondering how the wine was…I really enjoyed the white wine. My husband is a Gin man and he was happy to see Beefeater on the shelf.

We really enjoyed our self and wish to go back some day.

Reading some of the reviews before we left made us a little unsure…..we saw a few of those types of people at the resort. Miserable people who complain about everything.

The only negative thing to say was by evening some of the public washrooms were a little dirty but that was about it.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Ted ~ Canada

May 2006

Let me start by saying….I am far from being overly positive about anything, yet I am equally as far from being overly negative. I tell it like it is no matter what. Some people can’t really handle a reality check from time to time but sorry that’s how a dish it. I am a realist. I see things for what they are and refuse to sugar coat things to spare peoples feelings especially those of who I do not know and may never meet. As for any of my friends who may read this, I wanna make sure you know what’s what before spending your money. That being said…here’s my review.

Travelled Apr 21 – 28th 2006 NH Krystal Laguna, Cayo Coco, Cuba.

We booked with SunQuest through Travel Last Minute. Not the best idea if you you are big on customer service. I called them 2 times prior to booking for info and pricing. No response and after leaving voice mail, no call backs. My sis in law booked with them so I opted to do so regardless of the customer service or lack there of. We booked about a month in advance…communicated by email. Better idea but not much. Received tickets the week we left. Everything we needed was there. Smooth sailing.

Flew with SkyService….excellent services on plane. No leg room (I’m 6’1). Aside from that….all good.

Checkin at NH Krystal went very well. We got there about 11am, Check in time at the resort is between 2 and 3pm. Seeing that we got there hours before check in I assumed that we would be leaving our bags in the lobby till the rooms were ready….wrong. We booked 2 rooms (Emperador side junior suites, 2 king beds together, nice sitting room with chair and love seat), one was ready one was not. So we were able to drop our bags in one of the rooms. The gentleman who brought us to our rooms (Ashley) via over sized golf cart was absolutley great. He gave us a quick tour, showed us where some of the restaurants were and dropped us off at our door. Very polite, very well spoken, and spoke in great english. He carried the girls’ bags up to our room, the boys carried our own. We tipped him about 3 peso for the 4 of us and in return made our first dinner reservation at the Cuban restaurant. Overall check in experience. Top notch.

Rooms….very big, very clean, didn’t see one bug in the rooms, towels clean and smelled fresh everyday. I honestly have no clue what some of these people are talking about in their review on many review sites. I find it near impossible for someone to have such a horrible rooms when our rooms were spotless. But hey who knows, all I know my room was as good as any I’ve been in in my many hotel stays over the numerous road trips we taken. House keeping was phenomenal. We left a large gift basket of soaps, razors, bath salts, etc. on day 2. Tipping the house keeper is nice but definatley not required. We left nothing on day one and our room was just as nice as on day 2. After 2 we didn’t tip till the day before we left when I gave her 12 peso pretty much 2 per day. I believe our friend left a little something every other day and there rooms looked exactly as ours when house keeping was done. Fresh towels made up like sea shells, boats swans. I would recommend tipping just because you know they don’t make a whole lot of money to start with. Over all rating of rooms….Above average, as nice as anywhere.

To the Cuban Restaurant….the service was very good. Served spring water (for anyone worried about that). Wine was nice (fruity). The cuisine on the other hand was 50/50. I ordered Cuban chicken. Portions are small, it was pretty good but very bland. Very little flavor if any other than whatever chicken tastes like. The wife ordered Honey chicken. it was more like Honey Teryaki chicken, open flame grilled. Not so good. Tasted very burnt, but what was odd was that it wasn’t. Wouldn’t recommend eating there if you are the least bit picky.

Steak House….went twice ordered the same thing both times Steak El Pincho. Nice piece of sirloin steak, potatos, carrots, very nice gravy on the steak. Problem….first time, steak melted in my mouth. Second time, steak tougher than old boot leather. Service excellent. But probably wouldn’t go back. Chewin old boots…not so fun. But take a chance, the first time was great.

Italian Restaurant….went twice. Very nice ambiance. Very nice buffet table of salads and marinated veggies, and meats (all you can eat). Pasta cooked just right. I had Arribiata sauce…not bad but it taste like it came from a can. I ‘m sure you can make a better sauce at home. I definatley can. But it was ok. Ordered it both time I went. The pizza was ok but it ‘s not like pizza back home. My friend ordered the fish. Very nice presentation, good size portion of some white meat fish. I had a taste. Now I don’t really eat fish but this was something that I would order for myself if I had to order fish, little garlic, very buttery. Wine was free flowing. Left there with a buzz on. Excellent service, quality of food above average for sure. Definatley make a reservation for yourselves.

The best resto by far….Sea Food Restaurant. Served by the best waiter I have had anywhere. Approached each us at the table individually, said a couple of nice words to each of us, very humorous. Made you feel like you were a regular at the restaurant. We ordered the Surf and Turf. I was expecting it to be the run of the mill surf and turf….filet mignon, shimp /scampi or scallops. Turn out to be filet mignon and lobster. Filet mignon was perfect, didn’t even need a knife to cut it. The lobster was half a small lobster. My wife and I don’t eat seafood ever but we ate it and would have it again without hesitation. again forever full glasses of wine. Our waiter Pedro must have come by the table 5 -6 times to make sure we had everything we needed and to see if we wanted more of it. Amazing experience. If you don’t want to do the A la Carte resto.do yourself a favor and go to the Sea Food place. You will be glad you did.

The Buffets….breakfast (awesome), bacon was good, the egg guy was great. He’ll make as many of them as you want any way you want em. On more than one occasion he had 4 different orders going all at the same time on one small little grill. All came off hot, unburnt and just perfect. ….lunch buffet (better to go to one of the grills). Not all that much of a selection. Always fresh fish daily cooked in front of you. (perch, mahi mahi, and swordfish) aside from that…your lookin at cold cuts, cheese, salads. And pasta…kinda luke warm at it hottest. ….dinner (same as lunch) left much to be desired.

The grills….Laguna Azul side, burger, dogs and pizza. Always a little salad bar out as well. What can I say, it’s had to mess up hot dogs, aside from the buns being twice as big as the weiners, it was so bad. Pizza, again not like home. the burgers were like a box o’ burger you find at any grocery store. The best part of this grill was the bar staff….probably the second best tasting drinks at the resort and always served with a smile whether you yip of not….El Emperador side grill, bigger selection on menu, nicer atmosphere right on the beach. Had a really good toasted ham cheese sandwich, the cheese is not the same as at home either but the sandwich was very good. The bar staff here looked as though they were expecting a tip. Drinks were good, not so much smiling going on over here.

The Beach….beautiful. Crystal clear water, soft white sand. We had been to Bahamas and Hawaii before come to Cuba and where as the water in those places were clear but looking out to the ocean the clors were many shades of blue…..in Cuba the water in equally as clear bt in shades of beautiful greens. Plenty of space to drop a beach chair in one of the many beach huts. Help yourself to a chair or wave down one of the staffers….they brough us our chairs wiped them down for us to get rid of the sand. There was always a nice breeze but that is very danger ous for us sun worshipers….you don’t feel the bake but believe me, you bake. Again unlike some of the reviewer on here who claim to have seen hundreds of jelly fish….bull. We didn’t see one. Sea weed….ok, there was sea weed but it looked as though someone had raked it up away from the shore line. so no, thre wasn’t sea weed under every footstep as they claim. there was leaves in the water for maybe the first 20 yards or so. But this is only due to low tides that didn’t make it in far enough to wash it out to sea. And even at that there wasn’t all that many leaves to begin with. Speaking of low tides….no word of a lie, you could walk out at least 150 yars and still be only mid thigh deep, ok i’m 6’1 but still you get the picture. We did walk the beach to the left and right of NH Krystal….by a long shot we had the nicest beach of the 2 resorts to either side of us. facing the ocean going left is Tryp. Where we had 50 feet of beach from huts to water Tryp doesn’t have 15, lots of seaweed and the sand is very dark where as we had white. To the right…Sol Cayo CoCo, white sands, beautiful sand barges, lots of free space for your chairs….problem….so much seaweed on the shore line you are guaranteed to be waking in it. So now you know.whether you stay at Krystal or not….walk up to their beach, far nicer than the other around it. Oh yes the Beach bar….drinks were good, service with pretty quick. Difference in service, this guys didn’t speak the best english so I think he was a little uncomfortable. Regardless, beer is beer and daiquiri is daquiri. I think this guy would appreciate the tipmore that the resort bartender….it really didn’t look as though many people were drink out there.

Now….what I’m sure everyone wants to know. The Resort Bars….no matter where you went on the resort the drink were strong. Forget about ordering double or triples, tell them whether or not you are driving (that is their joke I guess), if you tell them when they ask, that you are not driving, there’s pretty good chance you are gonna be knocked on your a** by the end of the night. The bartenders are all show all the time. 10 am, noon, dinner, 9:30 pm or even 3 am the Lobby bartenders are flippin bottles, juggling shakers, even throwing blind, ice cubes across the bar into peoples glasses….rememeber Tom Cruise in coctails??? One word…Amateur. Emperador had a huge pool bar to go with the massive 2 tier pool. In my opinion this is where the best tasting drinks were made. The bartender didn’t smile or talk as much but….I can see why. Not many people swim with change in their pockets. And as tipping at any bar was far from expected and really didn’t effect quality of service….at the pools it may have. But the service was still pretty good and we really didn’t wait all that long, no more than a minute or 2. Oh yes, they had a pool boy, walking laps around the pool fetching drink all day long. If you didn’t want a drink on the 3rd or 4th pass he looked at you as though you were nuts but that’s all good, the guy was super nice and brought the drinks back fast.

All and all….my experience at NH Krystal was pretty good. The place is huge. We weren’t harassed ever by anyone, service in the restos were great the bar staff was fantastic, and again the rooms and house keeping was top notch. Even the gardeners greeted us with an Ola every morning and gave the ladies,cute little animal sculptures made of palm leaves.

The only thing lacking, which is a pretty big deal. Mind you we went to relax and we did but….entertainment and activities were almost non existant. Nothing was going on during the day and if there was, nobody was advertising it. I would have liked for the animation staff the go around recuiting people for whatever activites they did have, but they didn’t. The night life at Krystal….forget about it. Unless you are going there with a group of friends or going there to the mash every night, there is nothing happening. There is a show every night. Half hour before each show there was a live band (very good) Each night the show is different but is hardly entertaining. There was lip syncing (hello…lip syncing), each show had latin music which was nice, and each had dancing (obviously) The guys were far better than the girls which is rare. All six of the guys were really good and you can tell the practice together a lot more than the girls. Their energy and intensity was exactly as the others and there syncronicity was awesome. The girls aside from 3 were all over the place and kinda looked as though they coulda had something better to do. But the 3 who were good….Julie, Katia, and not sure of here name but you’ll know who I’m talking about when you see her (tall, thin, black, very pretty) were great, you could tell that thses 3 really enjoyed what they were doing. I would not be surprised if the were ballerinas. But after the show….it might as well have been lights out. No music anywhere. No people walking around…..nothing. We even went to the on resort disco (none of us are big dancers) and there was no more than 6 people in there. And the music in this place…wow. I’m positive that the dj had to bring his own music and it hadn’t been updated since god knows when. We’re talking spice girls, janet jackson, old madonna. Needless to say we didn’t stay long. Come to think of it, even during the day they were playng the same tunes, except for when someone woud bring the bar keep a cd from home, and then that cd would end up skipping. Anyways we were in bed around 12:30 every night aside from maybe 2, the first night we talked softball (not supposed to do that on vacation, we have all summer for that) till 2 am. The second, the girls went to bed early and the boys went for a midnight swim, and had a few drinks, well a few too many. I personal spent the night sleeping with my head on the toilet seat. So you know how that went. Stay away from the tequila…rough.

Ok so back to the overall. Resort…..beautiful, Beach….beautiful (not enough seaweed to complain), Bar staff, waiters, all staff in general….excellent, Food…..you can eat far better at home (who goes there for the food anyways???) Pools….excellent. Entertainment and night life…..lousy.

I give her a high 3.5 maybe a low low 4 stars. Definately not a 4.5 star as advertised. Would I go back??? Yes. Will I be going back on my next vacation??? No. I’ll be checking out plenty other resorts before head back to NH Krystal

For all of you who wrote reviews that this place was terrible and the worst experience you’ve had……you are either just plain impossible to please or talking to hear your self talk.

DO NOT be afraid to go here. There will always be something that isn’t up to par no matter where you go.

Enjoy your trip….I hope this helps make your choice a little easier.


Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Kellie ~ Montreal, QC

April 2006

I just returned from a wonderful week at NH Krystal (April 14-21). At first I was a little apprehensive of going there because of the negative reviews the hotel had been getting lately. All I can say is ignore the negative comments- this is a gorgeous resort and I would go back tomorrow. We were a group of 8 people ranging in age from 9 to 78 and everyone enjoyed themselves.

Here are a few comments:

Arrival: Went off without a hitch. We traveled with Air Transit (Nolitours) and when we got on the bus we were given registration cards to complete before we got to the hotel reception. There were no lineups and we all booked in within 10 minutes!

Beach: Breathtaking! I’ve been down south quite a few times and I’d probably say this is the nicest beach I’ve ever seen. The white sand is soft as silk and never too hot to walk on. The water while we were there was very warm and we didn’t see many jellyfish, except for one which stung my Aunt. The bar on the beach serves a great rum punch!

Pools: All of the pools were very clean. We hung out mostly around the Laguna pool because that’s where a lot of the action was- aqua fitness, water-polo, and pool volleyball. We never had a problem getting a lounge chair. The only think I would recommend is to keep an eye an your beach towels because 2 of ours’ went missing and it’s 15 pesos each if you lose one!

Food: Overall, I was impressed with the food. I wasn’t expecting much because Cuba is not known for their food and I am extremely fussy. However, I did not have any issues at any of the restaurants. The breakfast buffet is great- the chef makes your eggs just the way you like them and there is plenty of homemade bread to choose from. For lunch we usually ate at the grill by the pool, there are sandwiches, hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, porkchops, fries, etc. Again- no complaints. This grill is also opened 24/7 so you can get food at any time of the day. For dinner, you have the choice to reserve at 5 of the a la carte restaurants. The steakhouse is pretty good- the steak is a bit tough though and don’t expect a big baked potato. The Cuba restaurant was good- try the deep fried pork! The Italian restaurant isn’t bad either. The rest of the time we had dinner at the buffet- again no problems finding something to eat. The pasta bar is very tasty. The only recommendation I would have is if you are fussy, bring your own ketchup and pepper.

Bars: No complaints here! We always got excellent service at all of the bars around the resort- and there are lots! Drop by and say hi to Axel who works at the pool bar in the Laguna pool- he might even let you make your own drink! There is an impressive bartender at the Laguna Lobby at night too who flips bottles around his back, over his head, etc. I can’t remember his name though. As a note, we were never hassled to leave tips and we were not expected to leave any either.

Staff and entertainment team: We get along great with the staff and often participated in their organized events. If you win any of the daily events you are awarded a certificate with your name on it at 9:20 before their nightly shows start. The nightly shows were for the most part fairly good.

Day tours: We took the half day tour to Moron. You get to visit the city on horse and buggy and then you are given an hour of free time to do as you please. You also go on a boat ride on a lake where you are given lunch. You get back to your hotel around 2ish. My favourite tour was the half-day catamaran tour. This was absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth the money. The boat ride is very relaxing and open bar. The boat stops twice along4 coral reefs and you are given the chance to go snorkelling with tropical fish.

Miscellaneous: It might be a nice idea to bring a few small presents for the maids and gardeners. We used to leave our maid a small present (soap, kids’ toys, nail polish, etc) everyday and when the gardeners gave us birds and grasshoppers made out of palm tree leaves we gave them something to. They really appreciate it.

All in all, we had a great vacation and we all want to go back next year!

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Wayne ~ Canada

April 2006

I had read several negative reviews after booking our trip. This was our first trip to the Caribbean and had booked on the advice of our travel agent. The proximity to the airport is excellent (10-15 minutes) after talking to people who had travelled to other islands.

Accomodation  We were originally given a ground floor room. The first night we found it very damp so the next morning we went to our rep on site and we had a third floor room in a couple of hours which was wonderful. The staff even offered to come and help us move. Next time, we’ll ask specifically for a third floor room.

You’d never go hungry but we found it bland. By Cuban standards, it’s probably AAA+++ from what we’ve heard the people have available to them. I thought the ice cream was excellent – it tasted homemade. The mango or guava and coconut were very tasty – completely different from what you get at home.

They were fabulous and people we talked to who had visited other parts of the Caribbean said they were by far the best

We took a half day trip to Moron which everyone should do as you see the real Cuba. We also took the half day catamaran but it was a little rough for snorkling although the beach in the ocean was excellent.

Tipping We took a whole suitcase of stuff for tips as well as good used clothing. I had spoken to someone who had been working (university prof) down there for 3 weeks and lived with the Cubans. He said ball point pens, toothbrushes, school supplies were very hard to get. We also stocked up things from the dollar store i.e. needles, thread, sewing kits etc. This year, we’ll watch the "back to school" sales and stock up on crayons etc. I gave my sandals to the security guard on the beach the day we left. His comment to me was that he nothing to give me. We found that the staff often wanted to give you something when you gave them something. The only thing I’d caution is that the security guards were all born in January plus all their spouses and children!!! Fancy that ! We found that they never asked for tips but you seemed to get this story.

My wife didn’t take a hat and couldn’t find one to buy. I saw some ladies in the buffet with these hand-made hats. I asked them where they’d got them and they told me to go and talk to the gardeners. Well she had a hat in 30 minutes so I gave him 5 pesos. He would often present her with a corsage of flowers on a braided palm every day after that. He also brought me some carvings. We’d also make apoint of greeting him every day and having a little chat.

All in all it was a wonderful week in a beautiful spot. We’re planning on going back next Jan. After talking to others, we feel it’s as good a spot as any. We really enjoyed the Cuban people and that’s another reason why we’d go back.

Both my wife and I are fair-skinned. We went for several tanning sessions before we went and we found we didn’t burn even though we sat out a lot. It’s something others might want to consider as we saw people with nasty sunburns.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Lori ~ Canada

April 2006

My husband and just returned from vacation at NH Krystal, Cayo Coco ( formally El Senador ) We went from April 7-14, 2006 After reading reviews we were a little afraid but went anyways ** Glad we did **

Resort: The resort is gigantic ! There are two sides, Emparodor side and Laguna side We stayed on the Emparodor side. The only critizim I would have about this side is it tends to be a little noisy at night. There is a bar across the pool and sometimes people got a little loud. The Laguna side seemed to be a little quieter. The rooms were very clean and seemed to be well maintained. There were no bugs or insects at all during our stay. ( that we saw )

The best part is that the resort is only 10-15 bus ride from the airport !!!!!!

Food: At first it seemed the food was going to take a while to get use to. Definetly edible and always a variet of things to choose from. The only problem with the buffet is that there were no signs to tell you what you were eating. There were 5 a la carte restuarants that were awesome! You could go back whenever you wanted and there were no limitations as to when / where you could eat. We ended up eating at an a la carte everynight.

2 grills that serve: hamnburgers , pizza, hotdogs, fries, poutine ( quite good )

Pools I think there are 5 pools altogether ( hard to remember as the resort was so big ) All pools kept very very clean and well maintained I would recommend the adult pool ( very quite and usually a lot less busy then the rest )

No problems with towels or beach chairs – always enough and available

Beach If for anything, you have to go to the beach! It is about 5 minute walk from the rooms but it is breathtaking ! This was my first visit to Cuba and the beach was the best I have ever seen Clear green water and powder white sand

No problems with jelly fish, sharks or unwanted creatures

I know that many people write how important it is to tip the staff at the resort, I would only make mention that a lot of people tip the bartenders, maids and restaurant staff and forget about the gardeners, mechanics etc… It seemed as thought they appreciated the tip more then the bartenders and maids.

Weather You cant complain about the weather, if it rains it rains

I would only very highly recommend that you take caution after it rains, the walkways are tiled and become very very slippery when they are wet. Several people fell after it rained and injured themselves. If you go slow and carefully you will be fine

Final Verdict Over all, I would recommend anyone to go to this resort Nothing bad I can say about it at all

Everything was good ( no exceptional but very good )

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Russ and Rosemarie ~ Canada

April 2006

My wife and I just returned from NH krystal resort (el senador) March 24-31. The hotel was fine. Room was clean and the staff was quite friendly. The food was good (remember you are in Cuba). The beach was fabulous. One trip you really have to take is to Playa Pilar (a forty min ride from hotel. We took a cab which cost 40 pesos. The driver waited there for 4 hours and drove us back. The beach was amazing – best I’ve ever been on – better than the Mayan Riviera beaches in Mexico and Cozumel. It was miles long and only about 20 people in total on whole beach. Like being in paradise. The dunes (45 feet ) were beautiful. My wife and I stroilled along completely alone for hours and the water was crystal clear. There is a small beach bar/grill where you can get a beer for a peso. Very romantic and secluded. The trip to Cuba was worth it just for that day alone. Watch out for the wild bulls on the hotel propery at night. Believe it or not they roam the grounds at night and a few people came across them right between their rooms and the hotel pool. The bulls weren’t aggressive but they sure can scare you. We enjoyed the Cuba vacation a lot. It was very relaxing and certainly less hectic then Mexico.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Theo ~ Canada

April 2006

After reading the reviews both positive & negative on Cayo Coco and the NH Krystal (EL Sanador) resort our party of six decided to proceed with our trip with a open mind. Results: As a group of six people we all agreed to the following: 1) Flight to & from – Transat- excellent, roomy,courteous 2) Resort-cannot say enough,staff more than accomodating, rooms clean,comfortable.We stayed on the Laguna side,Emparodor side was very nice also. 3) Meals- excellent, you will not want for more!

4) Found all criticsims unfounded, would recommend to all

"Great Experience" would go again.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Shawn

March 2006

I just returned from a 1 week stay at the NH Krystal Resort in Cayo Coco Cuba from March 19th to March 27th. I was there with 8 other people and here is my detailed review.

I honestly believe now that anybody that gave this place a bad review was either a.) not staying at NH Krystal b.) working for another resort and posting fake reviews about this one or c.) a person that just can’t be pleased and hates everything they do or see.

FYI ABOUT CUBA... 1-800/866/877 numbers do not work. Collect calls cannot be made from Cuba. Calling cards do not work. There are no ATM Machines in Cayo Coco. Only Visa/MasterCard and Canadian/Thomas Cook travelers cheques can be accepted.

Cash advances cannot be withdrawn from a credit card but credit cards can be used to pay for excursions. Also some of the stores take credit cards, however the market does not.

Excellent! no problems here, customs was much easier than what I thought it would be. We got our bags and jumped on the bus. The bus had too many people on it so they brought in a second bus and chartered us separately to the resort at no charge. The currency exchange office was open (at midnight) and getting Canadian money changed into pesos was fast and easy.

We arrived at 12:30 at night so I was expecting check in to be very slow. On the contrary it was extremely fast. We had to fill out this little form (which was given to us at the airport so you had plenty of time to fill it out). The hotel already had these little packages with a map and keys already done up with our room number and name on them. 2 Employees at the front desk were working so everybody got their rooms very fast.

We stayed on the Laguna Azul side of the resort in building 20 on the second floor. Fairly big rooms, nice bathroom, fridge (which was always filled with a 1.5 liter bottle of water daily), safe, 2 large double beds, a TV with approx 25 channels (including CNN, TBS, TNT, Cinemax and more). The AC stopped working for the first 2 days, but it was my fault because I didn’t close the window right and the AC won’t work when the window is open. Water pressure was always good whether you took a shower in the morning or in the evening. Friends of ours stayed in building 14 and 31 and they had no problems either. There were a couple of very small bugs that we would occasionally see in the bathroom. These bugs are so small that it would be impossible for the resort to stop them from coming in as they can easily slip through the smallest crack or opening they can find. They were not an issue whatsoever. Nothing was taken/stolen from our room. It’s funny how we heard rumors about people getting their passports stolen and money but nobody we talked to the whole trip actually experienced theft first hand. I’m starting to think the rumors were spreading a little fast from people that even a 5 star resort couldn’t please. We left a little package for the maids everyday (stuff from the dollar store) plus 2 pesos and our rooms were always sparkling everyday. A couple of days the maid would track me down if I was walking around our building to thank me for the gifts. The power outlets in Cuba are 220 Volts (Canada is 110 Volts), but they have the same size plugs. Check your equipment before you buy a power converter as a lot of things do not need one. If the voltage on the back of your equipment says 100 – 240V than your safe and can plug it directly into the wall as I did with my shaver and camera battery charger. I’m not sure about all of the rooms, but in our bathroom the plug had 3 holes, if you used the middle and the right holes then you got 220V if you used the middle and the left holes then you got 110V. All the plugs have stickers above them informing you of the voltage just in case.

Plenty of staff, this place was in no way understaffed as some people have wrote. In fact we came across 2 incidents where new staff was being trained by upper management. Some of the more busier bars had 3 to 4 bartenders working there during the busy time periods. I’ve been to Mexico before and found the people to be very rude when it came to getting tips. Not once were the 9 of us ever pressured into giving tips. Rumors of staff holding pictures of their family and the gardeners asking for tips was non-existent. The cleaning staff was always cleaning the grounds and the floors in the lobbies. Check out Wilbur at the Laguna 24 hour bar during the evenings. He does amazing tricks flipping bottles around while making drinks.

Lots of washrooms on the resort and all of them were very nice. The first day we went into the beach grill bathroom and the urinal was ripped off the wall and laying on the floor, but the next day it was completely fixed and the bathroom was sparkling. ALL of the bathrooms were very well maintained and some were nicer than washrooms I’ve been to at classy hotels here in Halifax. I read lots of reviews of the bathrooms being in bad shape but this issue has since been fixed and were all perfect the 7 days we were there.

Wow!!! Just WOW!!! The food at this resort was unbelievable. Anybody who got sick cannot honestly blame the food. People forget that they are drinking all kinds of different drinks then sitting out in the blistering hot sun for hours at a time. Sorry, but if I did that back home I’d get sick too. Don’t blame the food for your inability to forget what alcohol and the sun will do to your body.

We ate at both buffets on each side of the resort and loved both of them. The food was different everyday and was always tasty. We never had any problem with any of the waiters. They were always there to refill our drinks and take away our dirty plates.

A little word of advise on eating at the "a la carte" restaurants at this resort. If you are a fan of eating at classy restaurants than the a la carte restaurants are for you. If you like to gorge at Wendy’s/McDonald’s than the buffets are more for you. You don’t get much at the a la carte restaurants as these meals are very fancy. (typical serving sizes). It’s the same as eating at expensive/classy restaurants in Canada.

Each Restaurant had to be pre-booked the day before from a guy at the entrance to the discothèque. He is there every morning between the hours of 8 am to 11 am. There were always 9 of us booking and we never had a problem getting into a restaurant even though some days we didn’t make it there until 10 am. Every night we all got dressed up to eat at the restaurants (highly recommended as most people are fairly dressed up and you might feel out of place if you don’t.) Our waiters were always nice and we always left a little tip for them.

We ate at all 4 restaurants (Steakhouse, Italian, Cuban, and Seafood). ALL AMAZING!!! We didn’t eat at the VIP as it was 25 pesos per person and we didn’t feel the need as the food couldn’t get much better than what we were already eating.

There is also a beach grill which serves really good calamari as well as a 24 hour grill on the Laguna side of the resort near the front lobby. Here you can get sandwiches, French fries, very good hot dogs, hamburgers, poutines, and more. The Nachos and quesadillas are no longer available at the resort any more.

There are 4 boardwalks that all lead to the beach. It isn’t a long walk at all (less than 5 minutes). People have complained about the smell of the lagoon, but really it isn’t that bad. In fact most days we couldn’t smell anything. Lots of fish to see in the lagoon. The beach is unbelievable!!! The teal color water goes out very far. Where the teal water "appears" to end is actually just the coral reef and the teal water continues for as far as the eye can see as I saw during my parasailing excursion. NH Krystal lies on the nicest part of the 9 km beach that stretches along the coast. There is a little "dark" section of coral reef right in front of the beach bar. Bring your snorkel equipment here as you can see lots of fish, including tons of needle-nose fish.

We went to the beach almost everyday that we were there and we never once saw one single jellyfish. The seaweed was raked every morning (minimal amounts of it). Getting a chair or a hut was never a problem due to the vast number of available seats. My girlfriend even found the coconut guy that drives around on the beach that sells a very good coconut drink (made from a real coconut that he carves with a machete) for $2.50. "Coo-Coo-Nut" is the only thing he sings as he’s making your drink.

You can rent kayaks, sailboats and snorkeling equipment free of charge from the nautical booth directly on the beach. (1 hour per day per room) There is also a beach bar and grill on the beach as well. We walked to the beaches on the SOL and TRYP resorts and found that their beaches weren’t as nice as NH Krystals. The sand was also more grainer at these 2 resorts and didn’t feel like the ‘flour’ sand at ours. If you rent a kayak you can paddle down the beach towards the SOL resort, there you will see a little inlet where you can paddle into. If you continue through the path it will take you right into the lagoon. 4 of us did this and had a blast.

There was a show every night at the outdoor amphitheatre but we never got a chance to watch one. We would walk by and looked pretty entertaining but we never stopped to watch a full show.

There is a discothèque/club on the Laguna side, it never really got busy (except Sat night had a lot of people) but it was a fun place to hang out during the evening.

There was always something going on at both of the main pools during the day, whether it was water polo, dance lessons, fashion shows, games, etc.

There are lots to do on Cayo Coco, but I will only talk about the excursions that I went on.

Half-day Catamaran – This cost 40 pesos and included the following: Bus ride to the dock (in Cayo Guillermo) and back (approx 20 minutes each way), 4 hour trip on the catamaran which includes an open bar and 2 – 1 hour snorkeling sessions. Not many fish but enough for your first time snorkeling. Wasn’t a really interesting coral reef, but still pretty cool. We saw a barracuda (about 4 feet long) which I managed to get a photo of (has yet to be developed though). Highly recommended.

Jungle Boat Adventure – This cost 40 pesos and included the following: Bus ride to and from the same location as the catamaran tour (Cayo Guillermo). 1 1/2 hours out in a Miami Vice/James Bond style cigar boat (45 minutes there and 45 minutes back) plus 1 hour of snorkeling. The trip includes taking the boats through fairly dense mangroves. Once at the snorkeling location (which is in the mangroves) you park your boat at the dock get out and put on your equipment before you jump in. If you don’t like very large fish swimming near you then you won’t like it. At any given time there must have been thousands of fish around. At times you couldn’t see the ocean floor due to the vast amount of fish. Bring bread or bananas and you can feed them right out of your hand. Some fish we encountered were up to 3+ feet in length. When it was time to head back our tour guide asked us if we want to go back with the slow group or have some fun with the fast group. Obviously we choose the fast group. But of the 13 boats that went out only 5 of us choose the fast route. This was the best part of the trip. WE ripped through the mangroves at around 60 km/h. At times we though we were going to flip the boat (but apparently it’s almost impossible to flip them). This was our favorite excursion and was highly recommended.

Scooters – You can rent the scooters at the front lobby of the Laguna side. They are 10 pesos for the first hour and 5 pesos for each additional hour. Plus you have to put your own gas in if you want more than the 1 liter of included gas. 2 pesos of gas will give you hours and hours of driving. This was really fun as we drove to the TRYP resort parked and walked around. You can visit the other resorts but you need to get your hotel to call first to inform them that you are coming over to look around or you will be turned away. (as we learned at SOL before we called)

Parasailing – this also cost 40 pesos and although it only lasted about 20 minutes it was a blast. I took off from the beach and went up to an altitude of 1200 feet (400 meters). You don’t have to control the parachute as you ride tandem with the instructor. So it’s perfect to take lots of pictures. Here is where you will see how nice the resort and beach really are and how they compare to the other resorts close by. After you reach 1200 feet you are disconnected from the boat’s line and you slowly drift over the resort and back down on the beach for a really soft landing.

Bat-Cave – This only cost 13 pesos and included the train ride to and from the cave plus an open bar and admission to the cave. It gets a little hot in there so don’t dress to warm. It is in fact a real cave with lights and speakers that were fused into the rock. We were informed that there would be no bats in the cave, but after being there for under 10 minutes we saw our first bat flying around. I managed to get a couple of pictures of the bats up in the holes. This has a very nightlife feeling to it and was very fun.

Overall this trip was completely amazing!!! There was NOTHING bad that I would have to say about this resort. I’ve stayed at a 3 star resort before (in Cancun) and this definitely was 4 1/2 stars. Lots to do and see! After visiting Blau, Tryp, and Sol I would HIGHLY recommend NH Krystal over these resorts.

I have built my own website that has over 300 pictures on it that I took while in Cuba. Once I get my underwater pics developed (over 100) I’ll post them too. If you have any questions feel free to email me at using the link on my site.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Laureen & Larry ~ Canada

March 2006

Hi Debbie,
Just arrived back earlier this morning from NH Krystal Cayo Coco. Our trip was for only one week beginning March 19th until the 27th. At first we were very hesitant about going because some of the negative reviews on the web sites. But I realize is only one persons’ perception and that you can’t paint the whole picture with just one brush.

Our review is as follows: We arrived late last Sunday night and was so pleased with the airport. All shiny and new and also air conditioned. It was a breeze going through customs and was happy that it was only a ten minute drive to the resort. We stayed on the Laguna side ground floor. We had trouble receiving hot water but was so happy to be there we thought we could live with that. We also had the disco next door but it only stayed open until 2 am. So if you want a quiet area, do not stay at building 15….

Staff: I found the staff at the resort so pleasant and kind.As a matter of fact we felt this resort won hands down over the other resorts that we have stayed at in Cuba. They work such long hours, I do not know how they can keep smiling. They truly have to be kind souls to take flack of flaky tourists. The gardeners, guards, maids, bartentenders and waiters are top notched. But I do have favourites. Pedro at the Seafood restaurant treated us like royality and the food was excellent. He will hold a special place in our hearts. We also enjoyed the cuban and italian as well. We ate at the steakhouse but I am not much of a meat eater so I can’t honestly tell you about this one except the staff was wonderful especiallly Carlos.

The Seafood gala on thursday night was the best!!! The selection was great and no matter what there was always something you could eat.

Excursions: We tried to book the jungle tour but was not able to get it so we tried the 1/2 day catamaran snorkling. I have never tried it before and used the snorkle like a straw lol. At the least the water didn’t taste too bad. The water was rough and so the experience was not a great one for me but the boat ride was excellent. We would recommend this excursion.

Para Sailing: My husband tried this and enjoyed it. For 40 pesos you got 10 minutes of actual air time. Nice experience for him.

Bat Cave: we did not go to this one but hope to next year.

Resort Grounds: Well kept. Very clean and the pools are nice especially the adult pool . Very quiet except for the gentle flow of the waterfall. The bathrooms were very clean and well stocked(toilet paper) Gym (nice) air conditioned and modern. The beach was cleaned regular and was it nice to saunter along the seashore looking for miniature seashells. Darn, just thinking about it makes me want to book again!!

By the way there is a 1000 pound bull (and thats no bull) roaming the resort at night.I saw him by the buffet restaurant one evening. I guess he’s been hanging out by the disco and also had been spotted around the steakhouse (not a good idea) I asked about him and found out that the bull has been on the resort since 2001 and that one should not get to close to it. So please don’t tease him or else he may end up on your plate.

Would I recommend this resort Absolutely. Would I go back there again? Absolutely! If you have any questions, feel free to email Laureen & Larry at nova_scotia7@hotmail.com

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Debbie ~ Canada

March 2006

We went for spring break for one week at NH Krystal Cayo Coco (formerly El Senador) – myself, my girlfriend and two children, 7 and 11. This was my second time to the resort and the first time was just with friends and no children.

Air Transat
They treated the children very well by giving them a little flying kit. This was a great way to get them started and keep their excitement level going. We chose to not pre-select our seats but by coming to the airport a bit earlier it was not a big deal. The food was from Subway but the subs were already fully dressed with onions, lettuce and there wasn’t a choice in filling (but you didn’t have to eat it!).

Airport (Cayo Coco)
Clean, efficient. We were fortunate to already have some Cuban convertible pesos to give the fellow who took our baggage. The line up for the currency exchange was quite long. We found that teamwork amongst ourselves could work. One waits for the luggage while the other waits for money, this method worked well the entire trip.

I got off the bus right away and went straight to the check-in counter while my girlfriend found the bags from the shuttle bus. This sped things up tremendously as again, there were only 2 people at the desk at that time.

The 24-hour pizza bar is great. We were able to have something right away because it was about 10:00pm and we’d been traveling the evening. The guys who work behind the counter are efficient and get a bit neglected because we always tip the waiters and not the people actually making our food!

The buffets were good for the kids, especially at breakfast. We found the Emperador staff to be a bit more dynamic but maybe that’s because they were consistently there each dinner time. The staff on Laguna changed over much more. The Thursday night seafood buffet is quite good, highly recommend it! The italian a la carte restaurant was really good too, especially for the kids. The line-ups for the reservations were a bit of a pain but nothing out of the ordinary. We had developed quite a routine of having lunches at the beach grill, which again for the kids was perfect. They really enjoyed the hamburgers, just a safe food for them to go to.

Overall my kids and I had a good time. The food was okay and there was always a safe food to fall back on for anybody. The service was friendly and tipping really makes a difference. The shows were fun for us to attend also. The mini-disco for kids is good the first few nights but then the kids get bored of it and wait for the "real" show.

We will be going back next year. For the price to go there it is worth it. I have been to Mexico, Dominican Republic and Cuba’s food did not make me sick, there was always bottled water and I feel better spending less and still getting a relaxing sunny vacation.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Amanda ~ Canada

March 2006

Just returned home from a week’s stay at NH Krystal Cayo Coco (formerly El Senador). This was my second visit to this resort but the first visit for the other 3 people I was traveling with. We were there from March 2nd until March 10th. We traveled Air Transat but had a West Jet flight both ways. I will title each category I think is important….

West Jet
I can’t say enough about how great the flights both ways… the staff were incredible, absolutely the best! They were hilarious cracking jokes all the way and very efficient at getting everything out to you quickly. There was individual satellite TV for each seat, which was very nice! You could pay $5 and watch a movie – we watched Walk the Line on the way home. The headsets were $1 for the cheap ones and $5 for the better version. I would absolutely seek to fly West Jet again.

Jardines Del Rey Airport & Transportation to the Hotel
Same as last year, very clean and very fast at getting us all through. This airport is 100 times better and cleaner than Varadero. You don’t even have to be scared to go to the washrooms there as they are very clean, and there’s toilet paper! LOL

The bus was great, fast again at loading us all on and had us to the hotel in 15 mins… very short ride which is nice because you are so excited to get there!

Check In & Reception Desk
This also was great… they did only have one person on that night but he was working fast and no one really complaining. All week though they had 2 people on usually and no real complaints to speak of with this staff…

Rooms on Laguna Side
Rooms were clean. We were on the 3rd floor in building 20 and had a lovely view. Towels were scarce until we asked for extras, which was no problem. I will say that it would be nice if they got some new towels as some of the ones were received had huge brown stains on them but you just kind of didn’t think about what those stains were! LOL All joking aside it would have been nice to smell javex on the towels too just so that you know they’ve been bleached, but it’s really no big deal. The water pressure is brutal from about 5:30 pm to 7 pm so please be aware and just shower accordingly. Otherwise water pressure was great. For first timers – there is a fridge that the cleaning lady puts fresh bottled water in every day and this is a really nice touch!

Beach, Pools & Weather
First off the weather was perfect all week. Two mornings were a bit overcast but by 11 am it was beautiful. It was easily 30 degrees each day! Great for the tan!

The beach is lovely! Always lots of lounger chairs and a guy will bring them to the spot you want them and clean them off for you for a peso. The water was always warm. Be careful of the little jellyfish though as there seemed to be an awful lot there this year. There are plenty of paddle boats, etc for you to use too.

The pools are beautiful. And kept very clean. And we never had a problem trying to get a chair there either.

Food, Food, Food!
I can’t say enough about how great the food is at this resort! The one couple that I traveled with said they’d never return to Cuba because the food was so bad… but hesitantly they traveled with me to Cuba this year… they loved the food! In fact I think it’s safe to say we all put on a couple pounds!

All Night Pizza/Fast Food Place – amazing! We had at least one pizza a day, always with fresh pineapple – yum! The poutine rocks there too. Even the hotdogs aren’t bad there! It’s a great fix late at night.

Buffets – We went to the Laguna side breakfast buffet every morning with the exception of one that we tried the Emperador side, but it was pretty much the same. We had an awesome omelet guy on the Laguna side and so his omelets were the best! His name is Aicel and if you see him say hi to him from Casey and Amanda from NS! He is hilarious – remember to say please and thank you to him or else he won’t start your omelet! He’s quite a character! Lunch buffets were yummy too – everything from tacos to pasta to seafood, it was all good! The ice cream is very very good there too. At night we only ate at the buffet 2 nights – both nights having a fantastic waiter named Ramigo (he is a real doll! He came up to me as he remembered me from last year). If you get him as a waiter you will get top-notch service no doubt.

Steakhouse Restaurant – We ate here twice. We might be a bit prejudice but Simon who waits on tables there is the best in that restaurant! 😉 He is very efficient and wants nothing more than to make you happy. The food was excellent here. The shish kabob thingys are yummy!

Italian Restaurant – We ate here once. Everything was great here too. The menu and the way the restaurant worked was different from last year and I will admit I was a bit disappointed that the big bowl of parm cheese wasn’t there! But no complaints whatsoever.

Seafood Restaurant – again fantastic! Try the surf and turf! So good! The service again was excellent. Should have eaten here twice really.

VIP Restaurant – WOW WOW WOW! If you aren’t staying in the stilt cabins then this restaurant to book in costs 25 pesos. But it is absolutely worth it. You will feel like you are dining at a 5 star restaurant in a big city. There are a number of different wines to choose from and they were hands down 100 times better than the other wine the resort is using (not that the other is bad…). The food was absolutely phenomenal! Tasted like home. Lots of flavor. We asked for a lobster tail on the side of our dishes and that was no problem. I am glad however that we did this restaurant our last night there because I would have probably paid to go back there a couple more times before leaving! I highly recommend spending the money and having this experience!

The bar tenders with the exception of one rude one (at the bar beside the pizza joint) were excellent – he was that bad that I really wish I had taken his name, it was all week he was just plain rude to everyone. Sure there are sometimes line ups, but oh well! They are working as fast as they can at the same time trying to make sure that you are happy. Wilbur in the lobby bar on the Laguna side puts on quite an act with tricks, great to sit and drink and watch! Try the banana mama’s – they were the best!!!

Internet Access
Okay this was quite frustrating… In this whole resort of 690 rooms there are 4, yes 4 computers for the whole resort to use! It was 5 pesos for one hour. The fee is fine. The computers are very old and very slow and if you go during peak time – evenings, and 9 am in the morning – you will easily waste 15 mins of your time to get pages to load! That’s all good and well, but I do believe that they need more computers for people to use. FYI – you buy your time at the reception desk.

Shops at the Resort
I will admit I was a bit disappointed with the lack of jewelry there this year… Last year there were a lot more options… I only came home with one bracelet this year, which is great for my bankbook! LOL The shops would show signs stating their hours of operation but a couple of them were hardly ever open, this was a bit frustrating when you are trying to get a few gifts to take back.

Dollar Exchange
This was again no problem at the resort. The week we were there it was 0.77 pesos for every $1 Cdn. The “bank” is now by the Massage room and the hot tub. The hours were decent too. People were always lined up first thing but we just learned to go back around 11 am and there was no line! They never ran out of money. Do NOT take any of the old Canadian dollars as they will not exchange them. We had an old $50 that they would not take, no worries though as we were okay for money… (Thank god!)

Catamaran Tour
We did the full day catamaran cruise and loved it. We left the resort at 8 am and returned around 4:30 pm. It was very relaxing and the view was perfect. Lots of beer and rum to drink too! For the snorkel lovers they stopped at two different spots for an hour. One was a reef and the other an old old shipwreck. The food at lunchtime was yummy! I would recommend maybe taking a little snack with you though. And take bread or banana to feed the fish if you snorkel. I would definitely do this tour again.

I think that pretty much covers it all.. any questions, please e-mail me at amanda@seabright.ca

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Canada

March 2006

My Husban and I (34 and 35) and our two chikdren 5 and 14 went to Cayo Coco and stayed at the El Senador (NH Krystal) Hotel from March 3 to March 10 2006. This is our 3 rd time to Cuba and its our LAST. No matter where you go in CUBA the FOOD is really BAD. I mean REALLY BAD. We are not picking eaters but man its bad!!! The only reason we went again is because we thought that MAYBE because its been a few years the food must have change well.. Let me tell you NO WAY..

Check in at Hotel: Upon arriving at hotel we went into lobby to register. A couple busloads of people had arrived by this point, so there was quite a lineup. There was only one person on duty at front desk so check-in took over hour. When we finally checked in we were given rooms In Buliding 45 our room was 4526. We had read reviews here that some people had problems with their belongings being stolen off terrace on main floor so really wanted a 2nd or 3rd floor. Do not stay at the Laguna side the rooms are very old and smell. We had a friend on that side and man did I feel sorry for them. We were in the new side and the rooms were not to bad.

Grounds: Nicely taken care of BUT boy what a smell. I am not sure where its comes from but even sitting by the pool it smelled like SHIT (sorry)

The Rooms: Our rooms were a far walk away from the lobby and we stayed in building 45 on suite side. The room is quite spacious and clean and exactly as pictured on the hotel webpage. And the villas on piers on the lagoon well again what a SMELL. Our housekeeper was NOT friendly and always wanted something she would ask me for money and told me to leave her stuff for her family. They do not change the bed sheets and the towels OH many stains. water pressure in shower was very poor.

Pools: The Laguna pool is clear and well maintained but cooled same with the newer side. THE music is so bad there. Here were are lying by the pool and they have this blaring music frist thing in the morning..

The Beach (Playa): There are boardwalks across the lagoon leading to the beach so the walk was so far. My daughter cried because it was such a LONG walk. The lagoon is pretty shallow and has lots of fish, jellyfish, and the occasional stork. There is a lagooney bad smell when with first get to the lagoon. Along the boardwalk to the beach the boardwalk branches out to the sides and the villas on piers are along here. At the end of the boardwalk to the beach (both boardwalks at each end of resort) there is always a security guard on duty day or night BUT saw one stealing form a ladys bag. There are also shower heads up on the end of the boardwalk for rinsing off and also a faucet for rinsing off your feet (these are at pools as well). BUT DID NOT WORK. The beach is gorgeous with typical Cuban ³icing sugar² sand. But there were so many Jellyfish that we could not spend to much time in the ocean because they would tought you.

A-La-Cartes: You are able to book 3 a la carte reservations per week but again the FOOD was so bad no matter where you went. I would say 90% of the people who left with us were very unhappy with the food.

Buffets: NO good same thing every day. We all got sick and we still are sick.

Entertainment: I don’t stay around for the shows at night, and I don’t do disco, but I understand from those who do that there is a good.

In conclusion, Cayo Coco in general is a good place to but the food is very bad. Also things go missing there. As we were sitting by the pool my son had his addias slippers taken away from the pool guy. Also if you do not tip you get BAD service. The frist time we went to Cuba back in 1994 the people were so nice. BUT now no way they have changed in a very big way. THEY want you to tip and they make you feel bad if you don¹t. We will NEVER go back to Cuba, It will never change. This resort is not a 5 STAR its like a 2.5 there were a lot of people sick this week so that has to say for something.

PLEASE do not go here its not wroth your money!!!!

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Cathy

March 2006

we visited this resort from feb 23rd to mar 2 and although we had a good time (because of the people we met) i would never recommend this resort to anyone. the food was horrible at the buffet, if it wasn’t for the pictures of the chicken, the pig and the cow above the food we wouldn’t have known what we were eating most of the time. also the tables in the whole resort were never cleaned off after someone ate there so you ended up having to clean your own table off. service in the pool bar and grill during lunch hour was terrible, we sat there for a good hour and didn’t get served and we asked the waiter at least 10 times to come and take our order and he kept saying ok but he just kept serving other people.

the public washrooms were worse they we could have ever imagined. there was always a strong smell of urine, no toilet paper, most didn’t flush, no soap and the only time i ever saw a cleaning lady in there she was asking me to change canadian money for her. i heard before going to cuba that if you gave someone a tip they would be very grateful…not true…most all workers expect tips and do not even acknowledge that you gave them a tip. at the buffet the omelet cook, the seafood cook and the pasta chef all had plates out for tips and then you felt required to tip the waiters that gave you water. by the time you were done eating 1 meal you’ve spent 10 dollars in tips. by the time you tip the gardeners, the maids, the bartenders, bus drivers, waiters, cook staff, beach chair staff, tour guides…(i’m sure i’m missing a few)… you spend hundreds of dollars. i think this is ridiculous.

the rooms we ok however there was always little ants and bugs everywhere and the extra blankets had huge holes in them. we went on an excursion to Moron which was $150us. this was not worth the money and while in Moron the tour guide told us to walk around alone for 45 minutes and during this this time we didn’t feel safe at all, the locals looked at us as if we were meat and we were asked for pesos several times. there were a few things that were good at the resort such as the pool bar and grill being open late, you could order pizza and poutine directly from the cook. also there were a few of the workers that were great…. a bartender who made sure we were always served, a bartender and a waitress who was great and a few others who were great people as well. we also met a lot of other tourists that helped to make our stay fun. the glass bottom boat was worth the money and you see tons of fish and coral. the beach was very nice and the grounds were kept clean as well. the pools were always clean. my husband liked the a la cartes because they allowed him to try several things from the menu even though you were only supposed to get one thing. this was our first time to an all inclusive resort and it will probably be our last. if this is a four and a half star resort i would hate to see a 3 star.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Sophie and Josée ~ Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

March 2006

My friend and I (both 21 years old) decided to book 1 week prior to our vacation. We went from February 21st to February 27th with Go Travel Direct. We had a great vacation, and we would like to recomend it to anyone

Arrival:Customs were fast and easy. We then got onto assigned busses in which we were given envelops. They contained our room key, bracelets for the resort as well as stickers for our luggage with our assigned room numbers on them. When we got to the resort, there was no need to check in. All we had to do was leave our luggage in the lobby with our room numbers on them and they were eventually brought to our room.

Room: We booked a regular room, but upon our arrival, we had a hard time finding it. They had overbooked so we were assigned a villa… which was a very pleasant surprise. Even if the lagoon often smelt a little fishy, there was no smell in the room itself. It was always well cleaned, and our towels were always fresh. We found that the more we tipped the chamber maid, the more complex the towel design on our bed was, which was kind of funny. We tipped her every morning with Cuban pesos and/or beauty products. Everything in our room worked. Tip: there is a card in a slot inside the room when you come in. Push it in and leave it there (it is the power to your room) We had a hard time figuring why we couldn’t turn on any lights.

Bars: A tip that we had received prior to our vacation: bring a mug. We brought big mugs which the bartenders would kindly clean and refill for us. This saved us many trips to the bar. The bar offers plastic cups, which are pretty small, so unless you get a few drinks (for yourself) at a time, you will find yourself back in line at the bar sooner than later. The snack bar was great (you can get food 24/7) and the staff was always very nice. The Disco was pretty full, after all it was spring break, but for some odd reason, when they would close the disco, they would insist on playing the Celine Dion Titanic song, which made everyone break out their interpretive dancing skills. The lobby bar was more relaxed than the snack bar and disco. The cigar lounge had a live band playing (I think every night) and the bartender (both times I went) was the most skilled of them all. The snack bar was usually the loudest. That’s mainly where the spring break vacationer (including ourselves) would party. A special shout out to the (very nice) people of Queen’s University!

Money: There is a “bank” on the resort in which you can exchange Canadian currency into convertible Cuban Pesos.

Weather: Hot and sunny. Some nights we needed a little sweater, but that’s expected.

Food: I’m really not a picky eater, but I have to admit, the food was great. We ate at the buffet most of the time (we were too lazy to get up in the morning to book for A la carte restaurants) The variety of food was very impressive. If you go, try the “custom made pasta.” I haven’t heard of anyone on the resort who didn’t like it. Even if you don’t book a la carte, you can try and get in to a restaurant because a lot of people don’t show up for their reservations. I found that the A la carte restaurant had the same type of food as the buffet, it was more of an atmosphere thing.

The bad stuff: Let’s see, things that didn’t go perfect…. We lost power on the whole resort for about 30seconds, which was really scary. The public washrooms weren’t the cleanest. I got a bad sunglass tan, but that’s my fault. Wear sunscreen and lots of it!

Shows: The "tex mex show" (i think that’s what it’s called) was hillarious. If you go, don’t miss it. If you know people in the show, it’s even better.

Beach: if you see pictures of the resort on the website… that’s what it looks like. It was beautiful and huge. I recommend going on a kayak or paddle boat for an hour. It seems lame, but it was a lot of fun.


The departure was the worst part of the vacation. We wanted to stay forever. But it was relatively fast and painless. A very typical departure (made easier of course by Go Travel Direct)

Overall, I give this trip a 9.5 out of 10

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Celine and Eddy ~ Northern Ontario

March 2006

We traveled Air Canada vacations to now the NH Krystal Feb 16/06 for one week stay. My wife and I in our fifties and our son and fiancé in their twenties. Very easy going through customs and security, we were through in no time. Buses ready to transport quests to hotels, very smooth. Rooms very clean and modern, some mattresses need replacement, we had one that was okay but other one was worn out. Not many rooms with balconies we really missed that. Showers very good in morning but water pressure poor around 6 pm as I suppose a lot of people getting ready to go to restaurants. The resort grounds and pools very well kept. Beach was beautiful. The food was excellent whether you went to buffet or any of the restaurants. If you would like a quieter stay it is best to stay on Emperdor side, less students who keep later hours than most of the other guests. The washrooms other than the rooms and lobby require more attention.

All in all we were satisfied with the experience.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Erin ~ Canada

March 2006

My boyfriend and I (25 and 28) went to Cayo Coco and stayed at the El Senador (NH Krystal) Hotel from Feb 20-27. We were traveling my parents who are in early 50’s. My mom will likely post her review on this site as well so you can get perspectives from both age groups. We booked through Maritime Travel and Transat Holidays. This was our second time in Cuba as we won a trip to Varadero in 2004 and stayed at Coralia Cuatro Palmas – a 3.5 star. Will do some comparison of El Senador and Cuatro Palmas later as this is all I can compare to.

Check in at Hotel: Upon arriving at hotel we went into lobby to register. A couple busloads of people had arrived by this point, so there was quite a lineup. There was only one person on duty at front desk so check-in took over half an hour. When we finally checked in we were given rooms on first floor with terrace. Our travel agent had assured us we would get a room on a higher floor with a balcony but the front desk person at the hotel said no request was put in. We had read reviews here that some people had problems with their belongings being stolen off terrace on main floor so really wanted a 2nd or 3rd floor room but the front desk person said they were all booked up but to check back tomorrow as they had people leaving. (We did check back next day but the front desk person did not speak much English and said we couldn’t change rooms as they were overbooked already so we ended up staying on the 1st floor on the older Laguna side). We were a bit worried when we checked in as there was quite the party going on at the lobby bar…apparently it was spring break for the college kids and there were about a hundred rowdy drunken kids in the lobby and spilt drinks everywhere. We hoped that this was their first or last night and that was the reason for their celebration, and hoped that the resort was not party central. (Later in the week it was calmer although our building was not far from the disco so the bass could be heard most nights in our rooms til 2am and you could clearly hear partygoers passing by to return to their rooms in the early morning and it was sometimes hard to get to sleep. In contrast, the days had a very calm and relaxing atmosphere.)

Grounds: The hotel itself is gorgeous and large. Impressive architecture and decor, water features and plants. The lobby has a bar and some shops and plenty of seating and tables. There are tiled walkways between all the buildings and to the lobby, buffet and pool areas. The grounds are very well taken care of by the gardeners who were up early watering plants and raking leaves. I never saw any garbage around the grounds during my stay. Gardeners were very friendly and always whistling a tune. Don’t forget to tip these guys as they very much appreciate it. The gardener in our area, Raoul, was very friendly and always smiled and greeted us so we often gave him small gifts from the dollar store such as gum, candles, and bath items for his wife. He was very appreciate and though he did not speak much English at all he often knocked at our door to give us fresh flowers or an intricate woven bird out of a palm leaf and one day saw us outside and gestured us to follow him to where he cut down two coconuts and cut off the tops to put in straws and also gave us a carved coconut husk he made of two eagles.

The Rooms: Our rooms were not a far walk away from the lobby and we stayed in building 14 on Laguna side. The room is quite spacious and clean and exactly as pictured on the hotel webpage. Other accommodations that are available are similar 3 storey newer buildings on new side of resort, some 2 story duplex villas, and the villas on piers on the lagoon. Our housekeeper was friendly and always had the beds freshly made and bathroom sparkling clean. My only complaints on room are that hairdryer only randomly worked (and my international electrical converter wouldn’t power my own hairdryer), TV remote didn’t work and TV speakers were have blown and water pressure in shower was minimal- although my parents room had a different shower head with good pressure.

Pools: The Laguna pool is clear and well maintained and has a volleyball net and a swim-up bar in an adjoining section. There are bridges over the narrow parts of the pool which lead to the 24 hour bar and lunch/snack area. There is also a kid’s pool not far away with small slides and a water fountain at the "kids club", which has lots of activities and daily entertainment for kids. The resort is absolutely huge and we weren’t provided with a map so it wasn’t until day 2 of our vacation that we discovered the newer Emperador side of the resort which also had several pools, swim-up-bar and Jacuzzi. These were also beautiful pools which were well maintained and spotless.

The Beach (Playa): There are boardwalks across the lagoon leading to the beach so it is a bit of a walk. The lagoon is pretty shallow and has lots of fish, jellyfish, and the occasional stork. There is a bit of a lagooney bad smell when with first get to the lagoon but it doesn’t linger for the walk. Along the boardwalk to the beach the boardwalk branches out to the sides and the villas on piers are along here. At the end of the boardwalk to the beach (both boardwalks at each end of resort) there is always a security guard on duty day or night. There are also shower heads up on the end of the boardwalk for rinsing off and also a faucet for rinsing off your feet (these are at pools as well). The beach is gorgeous with typical Cuban “icing sugar” sand. Every morning the staff goes along the beach with a small tractor and truck and removes the seaweed. There is a beach bar and plenty of lounge chairs and also a little hut where you can sign up for the all inclusive water sports.

A-La-Cartes: You are able to book 3 a la carte reservations per week but are allowed to bring guests. If you are traveling with friends or make friends there that you’d like to eat with, use your reservations to book them in too and they can use their reservations to include you. You can book outside the buffet in the mornings until 10am but there are huge lineups and they only book for the current and next day…you can’t book for whole week. We only made 4 bookings between 2 couples for the week as they were always full even at 8am in the morning. Some people didn’t make it to the a-la-carte restaurants at all as there was no availability! We managed to try all a-la-cartes but the VIP, which costs extra if you are not staying in the villas. The seafood restaurant is awesome. We had the surf and turf…you get half a lobster and steak and veggies. The steaks are thin and small but didn’t taste horrible. Our waiter, Pedro was very friendly and efficient and told us about the food and taught us some Spanish, he was also quite the ladies man as well. The Italian restaurant was ok but not as impressive. Appetizer consisted of antipasto buffet with olives, sliced meat and pickled everything. For a main course you chose your pasta type and sauce. There was no option of adding veggies etc. Steakhouse was decent, but again, steak is thin and small so don’t go with a big appetite. I had the salmon which was quite good. Stay away from the beef soup as an appetizer as it is a couple of chunks of beef in a bowl of broth. Instead try the elcose? salad with tuna and veggies. Cuban restaurant is also good. The seafood cocktail was delicious and we all ordered seconds. The Cuban chicken is the same chicken as you get in all the restaurants and beach grills but that is ok as it is very tender and delicious. At all a-la-cartes there are musicians who rotate amongst the tables and play songs. Some even take requests. Beware that menu items are not always as you would expect….lemon cheesecake is actually more like lemon meringue pie minus the meringue and black forest cake is more like tiramisu (yet very delicious).

Buffets: Breakfast has all the makings of a typical continental breakfast. There is an egg guy who makes eggs and omelets (I highly recommend these – stay away from powdered scrambled eggs). We quickly discovered that the buffets were unorganized and understaffed. It was sometimes hard to find a clean table that was set with cutlery and you usually had to flag someone down to get coffee. There is a second dining room to the buffet on the Laguna side but they never open this until there is absolutely no unoccupied tables left in the main dining room. My parents tried the breakfast buffet over on the new Emperador side of the resort and found the buffets to be much better stocked and a better variety, also clean set tables and much better service. We never went to the buffet for lunch as the 24 hour eating area beside the Laguna pool and the beach grill closer to the Emperador side were great. Pizza, chicken, poutine, hamburgers, hotdogs and sandwiches are all tasty and we always received prompt and friendly service. We ate at the buffets a few times for dinner. Assortment of meat and veggies and they occasionally had cooks carving roast beef or you could chose from a selection of fish for them to grill for you. There is also a “make your own pasta” section where you choose noodles, sauce and toppings and the cook will sauté them up for you….although there was only one chef and huge line. Food was overall not too bad, but you may want to bring some ketchup (this was often hard to come by) Tabasco sauce and pepper as typically Cuban-made food is kind of bland.

Bars: There are many bars throughout the resort including a 24 hour bar and 2 swim up bars. There is no list of drinks but typically anything made with rum (rum and coke, rum punch, banana mama, pina colada) is available along with cervesas and wine. Don’t forget to try the espressos and Spanish coffees! The bars sometime seemed understaffed, especially at night. If you go to the cigar lounge/bar be sure to ask Rueben to make you his favorite drink, the Rueben, but no other bartender knows what this is or how to make it. Also the disposable plastic cups are very small so be sure to bring a big insulated coffee mug to save you multiple trips to the bar.

Entertainment: The entertainment was always great. There is nightly kids club entertainment at outdoor theatre at 8:30pm followed by adult entertainment at 9pm. There was a variety of dancers, impressive bands and other shows that involved audience participation. There is also a games room with ping-pong tables, pool and various other activities. A good night hotspot was the cigar lounge/bar out on the lagoon which also had a separate room with pool table and had nightly entertainment.

Activities: Daily scheduled activities were put on by friendly and energetic animation staff and included beach/pool volleyball and water polo, Spanish lessons, dance lessons etc. There was also the beach hut where you could sign out kayaks, windsurfers (there were only 2 of these and one was ripped and out of use), paddleboats and snorkel gear and sign up and pay for other activities such as parasailing, glass bottom boat, waterskiing etc. I highly recommend the parasailing from the beach for 40 Pecos. It is only a 15 min ride but truly breathtaking and you get a great view of the resort and surrounding island. Also very popular is 4 hour jungle boat adventure/snorkeling tour for $39 Pecos and well worth it. Be sure to book early as this fills up fast, Our first day was Monday and it was already booked up until Friday. You get to drive your own speedboat through zigzaging throughcoves and down rivers – great adrenaline rush. You boat to a snorkeling area where you get to snorkel for half an hour or so and there are many fish, but not as much as a variety or volume as we saw in Varadero. Be sure to bring bananas and bread as the fish will eat out of your hands. We also encountered a Cuban version of a beaver amongst the trees which ate bread out of our hands. If you want to get the most out of the boat ride back, mention to your tour guide that you’d like to go fast and he will let you go after everyone else taking an alternate route zigzagging and taking sharp corners around the bay. You can also rent scooters in front of the hotel for 10 Pecos an hour. These are always fun but since Cayo Coco is just several resorts on an island, there is really nowhere much to go but down the road and back. Emilie, our Transat representative was at the hotel daily to book tours and answer any questions we had on the hotel or about Cayo Coco or Cuba itself. She spoke fluently in Spanish English and French (as did most of the animation staff and waiters in the hotel).

Weather: vacationers that were staying for two weeks and arrived a week before us told us about a cold snap where one day it had dipped down to 9 degrees. Fortunately we arrived in 25 degree weather and sunny skies and it got warmer daily to reach 37 degrees on our last day (be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen as there is no permanent shady place anywhere and the sun can get quite intense). There always was a slight breeze which was nice and it was always a bit windier on the beach…one day they had to shut down water sports for the morning as the wind was too strong. When we left we heard another cold front was moving in so looks as if we picked the perfect week!

And now for the bad news…

Public Washrooms: This is where the resort was severely lacking and had major problems!!! Most often several toilets were clogged and out of order. There was rarely ever toilet paper or if there was it was in large rolls that wouldn’t fit in holders so instead were placed on floors which were often wet… (never go barefoot and always bring tissue). Cleanliness was definitely lacking and bathrooms sometimes had noticeable sewage smell. There is often never any soap so be sure to carry a travel size bottle of Purell. We were often too leery to use the public washrooms so instead tracked back to our rooms where washrooms were spotless and sanitary.

Checkout: We had to checkout at 12pm and our flight did not leave Cuba til 1am. We packed our bags and everyone leaves these all day lines up in the lobby near the reception desk. You can opt for a late checkout (at 4pm I think) but this cost 40 Pecos! The other option is to use a courtesy room for ½ an hour at some point on your last day so you can shower or nap and freshen up for dinner or the plane ride home. Unfortunately there are only 6 of these rooms and everyone checking out seems to want them at the same time. If all are taken as they were when we went to use them, they ask you to check back with them in 15 minutes or so. You can’t put your name on a list or anything. My father stood at the front desk so we’d get first dibs of the many people that were waiting elsewhere in lobby and expected to be notified. We got room for an hour to share since we were 2 couples and had booked different rooms for our vacation. Unfortunately, the room had no fresh towels and only used soap; there was a pile of wet towels on floor from the previous people. We called front desk for fresh towels and they advised they would be right up. Two more calls and 2 hours later there were still no towels and we gave up as we were hungry for dinner. The service in this place is definitely lacking despite the webpage which states that “The El Senador’s superbly trained staff is always ready to serve and will do everything possible to meet and exceed your needs and expectations.” Definitely not so in this case.

Also we overheard of several thefts but didn’t speak directly to the vacationers involved. One girl’s jewelry, some electronics and several items of clothing went missing from her room one day and she suspected it must have been the maid. Another woman arrived back at her room to see a security guard rummaging through her belongings….apparently most of her stuff had already disappeared at that point. I heard she told management and they set up meetings to discuss this but management never showed up. I also witnessed an upset vacationer complaining of an unresolved issue at the front desk and once he left the staff laughed and told the next person in line that the man was crazy.

In conclusion, Cayo Coco in general is a good place to vacation if you enjoy the nightlife or relaxing by the beach or pool in the day. It’s not such a good place if you like to explore the culture and area and have a variety of out-of-resort activities. No Cubans are allowed to live on Cayo Coco and all staff are bussed into work. There is only a handful of resorts along the beach on the island’s far side and the rest of the island is woods and a few roads across to the side where it connects to the mainland. About an hour’s drive to the nearest town, Moron. El Senador (NH Krystal) is a gorgeous resort that was once likely worthy of a 4.5 star rating in 2001, but now is in need of maintenance, more staffing, and organization. Its services and facilities are comparable to the 3.5 star Cuatro Palmas I stayed in 2 years ago in Varadero, aside from its El Senador’s huge size and younger age. Also this hotel seemed to be geared towards the younger crowd but that may be just because it was spring break and spring breakers were the main population that week. Public washrooms are absolutely horrible, some areas are understaffed and there appears to be some issues with customer service and security that need to be ironed out by new management. The resort is pleasant overall and we had a good vacation but would not return here. El Senador has so much potential but the few problem areas (which could be quickly and easily addressed) can ruin its appeal. Read reviews from many people and form your own opinion, get an idea of what to expect and decide if it seems worth the money spent before booking.

If you’d like to see some pictures visit the resort’s website www.el-senador.com . I will also be posting some vacation photos on my site http://spaces.msn.com/erin-munroe. by the end of the week. Hoped this review, although lengthy, was of some value to you.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Russell ~ Toronto, Canada

March 2006

Upon landing in Cayo Coco we had no problem getting through customs and getting on our bus (there was a group of 30 of us) to the resort, which is only about 15 minutes away. It took awhile for us to get signed in, but we were able to sit at the bar and drink as we waited. We had a junior suite which was nice and roomy with a balcony off the back.

The first few days were incredible with excellent weather and many things to do. The food was okay, but not great until we found the seafood restaurant open only for dinner. Possibly some of the best lobster I have ever had. This is also where we received by far the best service of the trip; however, the rest of the service we received was quite poor. From the front desk staff to security to the cleaning staff we felt the quality of service was deplorable. What was most frustrating was trying to report thefts from our rooms.

My roommate and I both had our cell-phones stolen, as well as a gold chain, money, and our MP3 players. When we complained to front desk next to nothing was done. Since this was our last full day, this put a serious cloud over the trip. When we got down to the beach on the last day, we found out that many of the other people on our trip had things stolen as well. Mostly money and jewelry were taken, with a few clothing items. As I said, the front desk was useless to helping us try to locate stolen items.

That being said, there were several bartenders who were excellent and never stopped laughing, joking and impressing us with the bartending skills. Unfortunately, the “24-hour bar” wasn’t always 24-hours, which was a little disappointing to a group of thirty 22-year olds. The food selection at night is also severely limited and inadequate.

There are numerous events you can do at this resort from an all-day catamaran trip with all 30 of us, to free kayaking, to parasailing. Five of us even went skydiving, which is government run and better run than the two places I have been skydiving at in Canada. This costs 120 pesos, or about $150 Canadian, about half price from what it costs in Canada. We also went rented mopeds which were lots of fun for people our age.

One thing worth noting: the Lagoon is not a lagoon at all. It is a swamp where the hotel deposits its sewage and is absolutely revolting. You can avoid this for the most part by not splurging for the Villas on the pier which smell from being built on the “lagoon”. You have to walk over this lagoon every-time you wish to go to the beach, but you get used to it after the second or third day. I don’t think that is a good thing, though.

I waited a few days to write this report because when I originally got home I was irate upon having nearly $1100 worth of goods stolen from our room. After reflection, I did enjoy the trip, but I would warn anyone going down to bring nothing with you, as they will go through your bags – my gold chain was in an inside pocket of my carry-on and could not have been found without some serious searching. And do not expect four-star service from this “four-star” resort, because you will receive it in general.

In summation, I feel the resort would be much better with better service, severe discipline for cleaning staff and security should things go missing, and a cleaner lagoon. Although I did have a good time, I was with great friends. I feel I have been to resorts which are better deals for the amount of money you are going to spend on this resort.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Mairi

February 2006

2nd time to Cayo Coco, first time to the Krystal (1st time was the Tryp in 2004). We are a couple, early 40s. We were there 10 – 17 Feb 06. We had a fabulous vacation!! We were in Cayo Coco during what I would classify as a cold snap. Definately not what we planned but what can you do? Regardless we had a great time.

We met some good new friends…if you were there you may have met them too….they would be the loud bunch from Sudbury!! In case you are reading Hi Jim, Deb, Shirley & Carol!! We were the quiet shy ones from Ottawa (wink, wink)!

I have no real complaints about the Krystal. If I had to say something it would be that they appeared to be understaffed. The bars were very busy as sometimes there was only once bartender so you had to wait for drinks and the other thing is the public bathrooms..they really need to do something about these. I went to the Tryp a couple of times and there was a noticeable difference in the clealiness of the lobby bathrooms etc.

We stayed on the Laguna side – Building 19 ground floor. There were many little ants on arrival and a bad musty smell…but we talked to the front desk and they took care of this the next day. The building has a nice central location, close to everything but not noisy at all. Two dbl/queen beds pushed together. Reasonably comfortable beds and cheap pillows. Our housekeeper took good care of us leaving our bedding in assorted shapes everyday. Only once was our room left messy, I think it was our regular housekeepers day off as the bed was barely made, there was no water, no clean towels and no new roll of toilet paper left. It really was bad, but it was only one day so I didn’t bother complaining. There are no faceclothes so if you use them bring a couple along. The fridge kept the water cold and there was a safe for our valuables. The air conditioning didn’t really work. I think we always had hot water.

The beach : Beautifl…nicest part is close to the beach grill and good snorkeling right in front of the small beach bar hut.

Restaurants...buffets good…although a bit of a wait for omlettes (understaffed) but otherwise good. Thur is Gala night..all you can eat lobster. A la Cartes – went to them all…if I had to pick I would say the Italian and the Seafood (lobster again) 24 Restaurant/Bar – Good pizza late at night & poutine!

Beach Grill- good when you are hanging out at the beach.

Pool – we only went to the Laguna pool. No complaints. Swim up bar good and the pool was sparkeling clean.

Bars – we hung out mosly at the lobby bar as it was cold for 3 days.

Favorite bar – Cigar Lounge – it is only open 5:30 – 10:00pm…The building is beautiful. There is a pool table here. Ruben the bartender serves Caesars here and the band is good, sing along stuff and sax solos.

The grounds were nice, well maintained and clean.

There is a hockey rink, which came in handy for some during the cold weather…I noticed it was pretty busy over there as was the games rooms (pool & ping pong).

Excursions – took a taxi to Moron – loved it..very safe $70 pesos for as long as you like – highly recommend doing Moron this way.

Cycling – old crappy bikes but we took them for a spin anyhow.

Bat Cave – $10.00 pesos. Includes tpt and drinks..leaves the resort at 11pm. Great if you are under 25…but not so great for old people like us (early 40s)

Pillar Beach – Cayo Guillermo – Beautiful! Lots of chairs. You can take the $5.00 bus and then hop a $10 (return) taxi to Pillar or if you are energetic you can walk to 8 km.

Other Resorts – we wandered into a few with no problems off the beach.

Horseback Riding – don’t waste your time or money.

Tipping – there is lots of tipping, the bartenders do the best so don’t forget some of the others..wait staff, housekeepers, GARDENERS (they work hard), the a la carte reservation lady, bus drivers, taxi drivers. We didn’t notice any difference in the service whether or not you tipped…if you are nice that works just as well…I am not suggesting you don’t tip I am just saying make a friend they appreciate that too!

The Cuban people and hotel staff were great and friendly as always!!

This has nothing to do with the resort but the money exchange is a bit of a drag…plus or minus a$1.28 cdn for one Convertibe Peso…..makes things kind of expensive. Then it kind of feels like Canadian Tire money so you are kind of throwing it around like it is too.

Not sure if I covered everything or not but to finish I will say that we had a great time, made some great new friends and we would do it again.

You can see some pics here. They are mostly of people but feel free to take a look.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Cheryl ~ Canada

February 2006

My friend and I were at El Senador from February 10 to February 17, 2006. What a disappointment. First, we had dead cockroaches in our room. Dead or alive, they weren’t welcome; we spent the whole week watching for them.

The food was terrible, they rotated ravioli for 4 straight days, had powdered scrambled eggs, meat was undescribable, couldn’t tell chicken from beef. They are now using Uruguay beef rather than previous Canadian Alberta beef. For three days they ran out of lettuce and as that was all I was eating by the end of the week, I lost 4 pounds (bonus). The suites are nice (less cockroaches) but they need work. The entertainment was great – the staff awesome and the cappuchino was wonderful. We had only 2 1/2 days of sun and heat, the rest was rainy and cool, cool enough that we had to wear jackets but that isn’t the fault of the tour operator or the hotel. The most beautiful beach and water. I’d put up with the rest of it just for that. On our last day, our flight was cancelled due to bad weather in Ottawa – they stuck us at the airport for 9 hours then sent us to the Sol Cayo Coco; they gave us a room and access to all facilities. THE FOOD THERE WAS AMAZING!!!!! and they are only a 4 star. The El Senador could take lessons. The rooms are not as nice but for the food aspect, the room would be fine. Next year, Mexico.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Toronto, Ontario

February 2006

4 of us (2 married couples in early 30s, no kids) traveled to Cuba to NH Crystal Resort on Jan 28th for a week and I feel that I must post a review to ensure readers truly understand when they are making a resort choice.

Of course, we had a wonderful vacation. The weather was beautiful all week, it only rained one day and it was slightly too windy another too. The beach is the best I have seen yet and I have traveled all over the world. The water was warm and the sun was hot.

However, I feel we overpaid for the accommodations and food. We chose this resort because we heard the food is not good in Cuba and you have to go for higher than 4 stars to get decent food. We certainly didn’t starve and there were lots of things that we good (poutine was surprising, though I can’t see it lasting since a Spanish company has now taken ownership). We had read a lot of good reviews about the resort and chose it based on them.

I believe that this resort was built but then very little upkeep was done. We initially stayed on the Laguna side, where all of the regular rooms are located. After 2 days we paid 30 CCPs more per night (via Sunwing) to move to the Suites side. The rooms were noticeably much newer on the suites side. Which is why I suspect that the resort owners were ‘checked’ out for a while before they sold the resort. The tiles in our bathroom on the Laguna side were cracked and overall the room appeared a bit shabby. The beds were terrible – very saggy in the middle and it all smelled musty. Little things were broken all around the Laguna side of the resort – the public washrooms by the bar/grill – the doors wouldn’t shut properly, the toilets didn’t flush properly and the toilet tissue was too large to fit the holder so it was always on the floor. It smelled very bad in there because the toilets were often overflowing. I have stayed in much better hotel rooms that cost significantly less for what we got. The suites side was in much better shape, most likely because it is newer. Our room there was quite nice and the beds were marginally better. Towels in the room were very shabby too, beach towels were great.

I had low expectations for the food so I was happy with what they had. It was interesting, though, to learn that most of their seafood (except for the shrimp) came from Canada. In addition, on the buffet for veggies, it seemed that the only local fresh veggie was tomatoes. I’ve always appreciated fresh vegetables when traveling to a tropical country so that was disappointing. Even the carrots came from a can.

The buffet on the Laguna side was where we ate most meals. It was by far the best. We tried the a la carte restaurants -1.the seafood – definitely not good food though a beautiful location ; 2. Steak house – awful. The steaks were like rubber, reminded me of the mangy looking cows on the side of the road on the way from the airport. I heard that the previous owners used to bring steak in from Canada but not now. My sister had good feedback on the Italian restaurant. Overall, the same food was available from the buffet and it was better. The pasta on the buffet was nice, the chef cooked it for you.

This area of Cuba is quite isolated so there’s not much to see outside of the resort. I would not recommend going to the Baco Nature Park – it is a former airport that has been turned into a pseudo nature park (all wildlife are in enclosures). It might appeal to kids but it’s not worth 25 pesos. They have deer there, not so interesting for Canadians. The iguanas were the most interesting but I can concerned about how the treat the animals there. The iguanas were handled a lot. The enactment of a native village was bizarre and uncomfortable for us all. we did see 3 flamingos – the most natural – but they were far away in a lagoon.

The most fun excursion was the Jungle Boat tour – where you rent a small speedboat and zip around some lagoons and then go snorkeling. Well worth the money but book early, it’s very popular.

We did feel some pressure to tip, and we did bring a lot of things to give to the staff (paid extra for baggage in fact). However, it didn’t seem to make a difference if we tipped or not – service was the same. It was always quite good, though the lobby bar was tough sometimes. The annoying things were when a gardener asked 3 times for my husbands Oakley sunglasses and when the pasta chef had a tip plate with a photo of his family displayed prominently on his pasta table.

Sports facilities/medical
Excellent. great gym, tennis courts, water sports. Definitely recommend going on the snorkeling trip to the coral reef on a catamaran (though I don’t think they are taking good care at all of the coral, watch that you don’t touch it with your fins since the water is quite shallow in spots). You can do that trip by booking with the guys on the beach who manage the kayaks.

The medical treatment was excellent and inexpensive. We both got strep throat and received excellent care. The nurse was very nice, though her English was not good. I can speak some Spanish and that helped a lot.

The currency exchange ran out of money and didn’t have CC pesos for 2 days. That was not good. There’s not much to buy at this resort and no places/towns near by. It wasn’t a real problem but I was very surprised that the cigar supply was so inadequate. Isn’t that one of Cuba’s big things? The supply at the airport shop was also quite limited.

Credit cards were accepted for some things excursions, etc>) but not American cards and you were charged 11% more if paying by credit card.

In Summary
I think the new owners need some time, perhaps several months, to make their mark on this resort. The reception staff told us that the new management was aware of the issues but it will take some time to fix. The shabbiness is really on the surface a a bit of spit and polish will make all the difference. The grounds are gorgeous with incredible vegetation and lagoons. I do hope to hear that this report will be returned to its former glory. In the mean time, I do think it should be considered to not be at the 4+ star level

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts VC ~ Toronto

February 2006

My husband and I travelled to this resort the week of January 15, 2006. This was our second time in Cuba (1st time was at Playa Pesquero in Holguin). We made the inevitable comparisons between the two sites, and each had their positives and negatives.

  • Beach was fantastic – absolutely beautiful sand and the water was warm. Unfortunately, the weather was really variable the week we were there and there were a couple of days the wind was so strong that we couldn’t be on the beach (sand blowing, water really rough). Those days, though, were spent by the pool where there was a fair bit of shelter from the wind.
  • Food was fabulous! I was a bit nervous this time around because the food at Playa Pesquero (especially the a la carte restaurants) had been horrendous. I’m not a picky eater but PP food was really terrible. The food at NH Krystal was fantastic – from my omelette every morning to the Roast beef and Turkey dinners, the cappucinos available at every bar, etc. The a la carte restuarants were all awesome and the service fantastic (another problem at Playa Pesquero). There was no lining up for hours on end to book the a la carte restaurants although you can only book at most a day in advance.
  • The poutine was great, but I have to disagree with others about the pizza. We tried it twice and each time there seemed to be a bit of a kerosene smell/taste to the crust (or whatever fuel they’re cooking with) – the only complaint.
  • Try as much as you can to get on the new Emperador side. We unfortunately stayed on the Laguna (older) side in a bottom floor room. I could care less about tiny ants or a a bit of sand on the floor, but what got us in our room was the overwhelming musty smell (like wet towels that have been left sitting in the washing machine – you know the smell). That smell permeated the bedding, the linens and over the course of the week all our clothes. Not a HUGE deal since we spend so little time in the rooms, but definitely try to get on the newer side of the resort or an upper floor room.
  • Another reason for the upper floor rooms – there was one of the workmen one morning as we were sitting in bed having our coffee who came right up to our patio and was about to take my husbands OP bathing suits that were drying on the chair. He saw us sitting there watching him, and took off. We heard that a couple of days before departure there had been a couple of other breakins on other main floor rooms – the safes in the rooms are hardly what I’d consider secure, and they’re locked by key, rather than electronic code. Keep your key on you when you leave – most people "hide" their safe key in their room – doesn’t take much for someone to find it and scoop your 25CCP’s you’re saving to get out of the country……
  • We found this time as compared to Playa Pesquero that some staff were quite pushy about asking for our "stuff". We didn’t experience this in Holguin and staff there seemed genuinely grateful for the suitcase full of things we brought with us to give away. It seemed to be a much different atmosphere at NH Krystal, and at times a bit distasteful given that often, they seemed to be better dressed than I was. We still left and gave away plenty, but it seem apparent that some staff are getting pretty used to tourists leaving their Nike, Reebok, Varnais, etc. stuff and are getting more confident in asking outright for it.

Generally, for a number of reasons, I’d go back to NH Krystal, but only on the Emperador side.

Top of Page

NH Krystal Villa’s & Resorts Bill ~ Oshawa, Ontario, Canada

February 2006

My wife and I had the vacation of a life time. And completely enjoyed ourselves at this resort. I had read some good reviews and some of the other ones too and was a little pensive about what to expect. I am here to say that those people who had complained were probably just complainers anyways and would complain even if they had a great time. This vacation in the sun was what we needed after the dismal weather we have had here in Canada this year.

Jennifer our travel agent works for Flight Centre out of the Oshawa Center booked our holiday. Our flight was with Skyservice out of Toronto and with the A320 plane we had lots of room in row 12 and 13. My wife and I are larger people and found ample/comfortable seating for us. Service was swift and very good. We had all our paperwork done in advance so this sped things up for us at all points.

Cuban customs was good and very secure. The drug dogs checked everyone and all the luggage. Officials were polite but they did not smile. Make sure you have all documents and your Plane boarding pass ready its quicker for you. After customs came the luggage pickup and this was very quick. Porters are ready for you but the walk is only 100 yards to your bus and not needed but all you have to say is no and they back off no problems. There is a Money Exchange right outside customs and they charge a little more than the rates we found quoted on the internet currency exchange sites. We change in $300 Canadian and received $231.85 Cuban Convertible Pesos. Busses are right outside the door as are your travel agent reps. Sunquest had a man named Frank for our trip and he was great. He explained many things to us on our trip and was available the whole time to book side tours and everything for us. A real asset to Sunquest and NH Krystal. Time to resort was about 20 min.

Hotel check in was smooth for us. I handed the clerk the paperwork from the agent and she had the envelope ready for us in a matter of seconds. She checked our passports to make sure we were who we were and then put wrist band on us. This is a new policy for the hotel and is intended so only NH Krystal guests got NH Krystal services as we could wander to all the other resorts. 2 other resorts were just short walks away down the beach. You could go and watch the shows of each resort if you wanted to but it was not necessary as the Animation Team at NH Krystal was great. A new show every night.

Our room was large. You entered the door and had a small sitting room with a 2 seater couch and table and a wing chair. Opened the sliding doors to the bedroom and you were greeted by 2 King size beds a small desk with TV and place for your luggage. In the next room (a change area) with sink and floor to ceiling mirrors that opened up to the closet and safe area. Then was the large bathroom with full tub, toilet and bidets. Lots of light and windows if you wanted them. The air conditioner kept our room very comfortable but not chilly. This was more than I expected and is considered normal for this resort.

The resort was out of this world. A piece of paradise. Gardens kept in immaculate shape, pools that swam with color and style. And remember this whole place is wheel chair friendly. The staff were the best (our Canadian hotel service industry could learn some pointers from these people). I have to mention Lixander the Emperor pool man who worked all day at keeping the place clean and making sure that you had all your wants and drinks taken care of. And my friend Sandro the Emperor pool bartender he was a laugh and knows how to make a Miami Vice that is to die for. Very friendly people work here and the gardeners if you chat with them will make you small animals (birds, Crickets, Grasshoppers)out of palm leaves. I gave one gardener my baseball cap and he found me the next day and gave me a sombrero type hat he made from palm leaves. The resort is clean and well kept. If anyone had a problem it was acted on very quickly from chatting with other guests. Many guest I chatted with have stayed at other resorts and will now be coming back to here for their holidays.

Activities are always available, from the pool side games to the off site tours etc. One of the Activity team members taught me to do the Merenge. And even though we did not travel with young children I’m told the Laguna side of the resort has a Kids Club during the day so parents can have some time in the sun alone too. The beach is awesome, cleaned every day and at all the walkway points there is hotel staff to help you with anything from getting chairs to security if needed. They also have included in the package Kayaks, sailing and a large variety of beach game equipment. There was also Parasailing and Ride the Hotdog in the water as well. Oh and a neat beach shack Bar. In the evening you go to the stage for the night time show. Before the show at about 8:30 is the kids disco where the kids are up onstage and have a blast. They had a magician one night. After the kids there was a live band that played for about 30 minutes and each night it was a different band. Usually one that played at your dinner table during supper. After this came the stage show and this again was different each night. My wife and I attended the shows every night. Some of themes were Show Time, Music night, Fashion show, Romance, Cuban Provinces etc. We were very impressed with the quality of these performances. After the shows if you still wanted more the Adult Disco was open for business until 3am. Or you could hop on the Choo choo train and go out to CAVE. This is a disco inside an actual cave but is more for the younger adult partiers. We still enjoyed it though.

The meals in this place were great. We had 2 buffets to choose from for breakfast and they served everything you can imagine. For lunch we could choose from 4 places to eat at, 2 buffets and 2 grill type areas, one right down on the beach. For supper it was card blanche with 2 buffets, an Italian, a Seafood, A Cuban, A Steak House, A poolside Grill, or if you bought the VIP package you even had another one to go to. All the food was great and flavorful, the tastes and presentation were a pleasure and very prompt. I gained some weight after this holiday :-). If your still hungry after the disco the is the grill at the Laguna side that is open 24 hours and Ray will make you a pizza that is mouth watering.

Tipping here in Cuba with the new currency is easy to figure out. 1 Cuban Convertible Peso (tourist dollars) is a big tip to the workers. 10 CCP is good for your room maid at end of stay, but the workers also like some things that they cannot get in Cuba or things that are so expensive they won’t buy it. Hats, Caps, T-shirts, Shoes / Sandals, Blue Jeans, Makeup items for the women, Crayons and coloring books for the workers children. All this is very much appreciated as well. Tips for the restraunt works should be about 1 CCP unless you ask for something special then tip accordingly. It was my wife’s birthday and I took her out to the Seafood restraunt and Pedro our waiter treated her like a queen. 1st Class all the way. He got a little more.(wink wink)

I advise that you take the orientation class with your travel guide at the beginning of your holiday as you will learn many useful things to help with your holiday enjoyment. You can even pre-book after this class for many of the offsite tours that the rest of people will have to wait for. And these trips fill up fast.

This resort was the best place we could have ever gone to and next year my wife and I will be returning for 2 weeks, one is just not enough. Enjoy your holiday and remember your sunscreen.

Top of Page

Last updated: September 2, 2006

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *