Old Reviews – Barcelo Solymar

just returned from Barceló Solymar in Varadero Cuba and it was amazing! I absolutely recommend this resort to everyone and anyone of all ages. Some people on this site have seemed to be quite picky with what they received at the resort, whether it is the food, the service, the entertainment. You have to keep in mind that this is a poor country that is just barely making it…once you see how the Cubans live and how they are treated, and then compare it to how you are treated in your own country and even in theirs, you’ll think twice about bashing how you were treated or what you received at the resort. Also keep in mind, if you treat the Cubans with absolute respect and I mean absolute, you will be treated as if you were one of their own family members. Trust me, be nice, tip (and I mean be good about this, $3.00CUC is very good and really not much out of your pocket) and always say GRACIAS and you will be treated the way you treat them!

Check-in – It was fast and easy. A recommendation – if you don’t like long line ups (which is what you will experience at ANY RESORT with a large bus unloading people) have one person grab the bags and one person go in and check in. I got off my bus and just went right in and was the first one in line. Everyone else was too busy trying to figure which bag belonged to them. We had our room within minutes! Very good service. Staff at the front desk is very helpful and friendly. One incident did occur where my IPOD was out of battery, so I went to the hotel "internet care" and plugged it in one of the computers to charge, one of the front desk staff members was in there on a computer and noticed what I was doing. I asked him if I could leave it with him to charge as it would take me a number of hours and I wanted to TAN!! He happily obliged and showed me what office to come back to pick it up and they charged it for me all day on one of their computers – I know hotels in Canada that would never do that!

Service – Overall, the service was excellent +++++ in all respects. Front desk – very nice. Maids, extremely nice, but very shy. If you leave them a note that you’ve left gifts etc…they will gladly write back and make your room look sensational! A little tip -If you would like to tip the maid money, best to put it in the mini-fridge where she can see it – she will over stock your fridge! A little tip – the maid will not restock if there are drinks that she left from the day before still in there…if you want more, take those drinks out and put them away somewhere, she will gladly restock! Or even leave a note for her…she will help you in any way she can!

Pools – This hotel had two really nice and clean pools. The larger pool was good to spend time relaxing and reading while the smaller pool had music and water activities (both pools had bars). The pools are freshwater…so I was told and the pool really did not smell like chlorine. The pool temp is chilly. When you first get there it will probably be too cold, but give it a few hours and when that sun is beaming down, you’ll thank the resort for keeping the temp at a little on the chilly side. The best part of the pools is that there are no swim up bars…i.e. no one is peeing in the pool, which I found Mexico was like -the pools there were warm and murky…Cuba’s is cool and blue, the way a pool should be.

Grounds – Excellent. Very clean, and the landscaping was very nice. Great walks at night, lots of security so you always feel safe.

Resort – We stayed in the main hotel and our hotel room was very nice. I wished we were in the bungalows as they looked really really nice – next time! There were no ants or cockroaches as people have claimed, however, those were reviews from 3 years ago. Very very very clean. The lobby was decorated with vines and had a "jungle" feel. There were a lot of cats and dogs around the resort – try not to pet them as they may have fleas. They are very cute thou…The whole resort was just beautiful and extremely welcoming! Very clean and very modern. The only thing I had a problem with was the elevators…but that’s me and not anything the resort did…

Activities – Many activities available. On the beach, you could play volleyball, frisbee or try any of the water sports such as water skiing, catamaran, paddle boats, snorkelling gear, kayaking etc which are all included. We did all of the non-motorized water sports – take advantage of it, it’s so much fun! We also went snorkelling way out! It costs $20 CUC and is worth every penny! You go out for an hour or so. A suggestion would be to buy or bring your own snorkelling stuff (mouth piece and goggles); I didn’t like the fact that other people have used it. Another great beach activity is the horseback riding at sunset. This too is $20 CUC and well worth it. The sun setting is beautiful and you have a guide with you that speaks perfect English (like a lot of the Cubans…very good English speakers).

Food – Overall, the food was as good as can be expected in Cuba. The Ala Carte Restaurants were very good (all three — see below). There were two buffet restaurants (1 for breakfast and dinner, the other for lunch). If you are into seafood, then you will really enjoy your stay. Personally, I stuck with the pasta, chicken, veggies, and pizza. I didn’t have any stomach problems. I think a lot of peoples stomach problems are due to the extreme change in your eating habits and drinking habits. You’re eating at least 3 regular meals per day if not more, you’re drinking alcohol everyday all the time…well for most seeing as you paid for it! Of course your tummy is going to nuts! Think about it.

Ala Carte Restaurants – There was three Ala Carte Restaurants — Cuban, Italian, and Seafood. Nothing more to say than they were all very good. You are required to make a reservation in advance which was very easy. You must try the Grilled Lobster Tail!

Beach – AWESOME! Lots of palm umbrellas to find shade. White sandy beach with security patrolling the resort grounds. Lots of stuff to do. Make sure to bring some pesos with you as the vendors are out in full swing and will not harass you…just blow you kisses!!

Entertainment – There was a show every evening at 10pm which we went to. There were Tropicana dancers, great music (live) and a full bar…for the smokers out there – you can smoke anywhere!

Trips – we did not get a chance to do any of the day trips, however, from what other people at the resort told us, they all seemed well worth the money. A few tips on trips – your travel company (e.g. Signature) will have a book of all the day trips they offer with prices and descriptions of what to expect. I met a lot of locals down there that were more than happy to treat the tourists to a day in Havana for only $25 CUC’s each…the day trip to Havana with your tour company may run from $70CUCs to $129CUCs each and you’re stuck on a bus 2hours there and 2hours back…it’s only 1hour to Havana by car, so taking up the offer from a friendly Cuban is well worth your time and money. Some of you weary travellers out there may think this is a scam…trust me, I met many tourists who took up that option with a local and in years past took it with the tour company and found that getting a taste of the "real Cuba" and not doing a "commercial" trip in was far more worth it! The Cubans are really not there to rip you off…the rules are so strict down there for them, that really they are only trying to be nice and make a little extra cash for their family.

Hotel room – Kept very clean. Always fresh towels, mini-fridge stocked, all toiletries fully stocked. You can leave your room with the peace of mind that nothing will get stolen or moved, or broken, the cleaning staff are very reliable and trusting…nothing like Mexico where you have to keep EVERYTHING under lock and key.

Night Life – Many night clubs in the hotel district in Varadero. Every evening, there are hotel staff members that organize trips to clubs. It’s best to ask around as to the best clubs as everyone’s tastes are different. I didn’t want an "Americanized" club, meaning all they played was North American music – I WANTED SALSA!!!! El Rancho is a good club….very close to Barceló and a nice walk home on the beach is a great way to end a night of Cuban dancing. There is a good mix of Spanish and English music. It only costs $10 CUC to get in and all drinks are inclusive!

Town of Varadero: Really nice beach town. A big huge market right in the centre of town. Bargaining is really not necessary as most everything is very cheap. I found that at the markets (especially the ones in Barceló) you could actually exchange personal hygiene products like shampoo (pantine, dove), all hair products, deodorant etc., for jewellery, these items are very expensive for them to purchase and they will be more than happy to do a switch.

Items to bring with you to give to the Cubans and tipping:

The following are some items that are greatly appreciated down there by the Cubans: -Personal hygiene products – shampoo, conditioner, lotions, deodorants etc… -Medicine – Tylenol, Advil, aspirin, band aids, first aid supplies etc..; -Vegetable seeds – i.e. carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber (much better for them to grow their own food); -Kids supplies – writing books, pens, pencils, crayons, markers, colouring books, reading books -Clothing – women, men, and children. Also at the end of your trip, anything you do not want to take back, leave it for them, or give to them. My sister had a really pretty yellow mini skirt for the beach that she purchased from Zeller’s for $10 CND. The towel girl told my sister that she was looking for a skirt just like that and asked if she bought it in Cuba and for how much cause she saw a skirt similar but it was $25CUC…the average Cuban makes at most $15 CUC per month so a $25 skirt is not worth it…so my sister gave her the skirt! -Feminine Hygiene products – all are greatly appreciated; TIPPING – the minute you do anything whether it be getting a drink at the lobby bar or having some food at the buffet – TIP and be generous the first time you tip ($3-5CUC). You will not only be treated great but when you go back to buffet or bar you will for sure have a drink ready, table ready and friendly staff ready to go! The tipping in the beginning goes a LONG WAY and then the rest of your trip, just tip normally, $1-2 CUC each time…I know tips are included, but you’ll notice the difference in treatment with other guests that are not so generous with tipping. Pretend you’re in Canada and tip when your meal or drinks are done! I loved this resort and the people of the resort so much that I am returning at the end of May! I completely recommend this resort and for the people out there giving the bad reviews on this resort – STOP BEING SO SNOBBY AND ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE! Go into the real Cuba and you’ll stop your complaining on "how the staff was rude, or the food was bland"…gosh a whole bunch of spoiled people say those kind of things!

Enjoy Barceló Solymar!

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