Date of trip – Jan 27 – Feb. 3, 2007 – great weather 87 degrees
Overall it was a good resort. There were some things that I thought would be included, for example, having the fridge filled with water, pop and beer. However, you are only given one large bottle of water and it is your responsibility to refill it throughout the week. Friends that we were staying with had their bottle thrown away by their maid and they talked to the front desk about it. The front desk could care less and said that they needed to contact their maid as they are the only ones who have access to the water bottles. Not a big deal, but something you should be aware of. My husband was disappointed that there was no coffee maker in the room. Pool Bar – 10:00am – 10:00pm Lobby Bar – 10:00am – 1:00am Snacks in the Buffet – 10:30pm – 6:30am Breakfast is served from 7am – 10am. A fairly good selection of food. Sometimes we did find that you might not be able to find plates, glasses or cutlery. So we found if we went before 8am this was not an issue. Lunch is available from 1pm – 3pm in the beach restaurant. Again, very good selection of food. Dinner – you have a choice of 3 a-la-cartes – reservation times: 6:30, 7:00, 8:30 or 9:00PM. By the looks of it they only fill 15 persons per seating. The Italian restaurant is the best a-la-carte choice. The International buffet (6:30pm – 9:00pm) had a good selection too. Pool – 7:00am – 7:00pm Gym – 8:30am – 7:00pm
When we checked in they asked us if we were on our honeymoon. Apparently this was the best room in the hotel. I did email them ahead of time and requested an upper floor overlooking the ocean. We had a junior suite (#753) that was close to the pool and beach. Our balcony overlooked the beach. It was a very spacious suite. Two washrooms, a sitting area, 2 TV’s, king size bed, table and chairs in the bedroom, hairdryer. It was very clean. I think they must have refinished the floor as it appeared new. Remember if you treat your maid well, she will go out of her way to ensure you have a good stay. Don’t forget the basics, toothpaste, hygiene products, soap, shampoo etc. I also took down some of my kids old soccer uniforms which she greatly appreciated.
Absolutely gorgeous. It was great not having a resort on the one side as we had plenty of room to find a place to relax. I did find the area by the beach bar busier, but if you went down closer to the DuPont Mansion, you would have no problem finding a lounge. Bring a travel mug for convenience.
JEEP SAFARI ADVENTURE – $73 CUC – well worth the money. We drive a jeep ourselves for about 1 ½ hour through the back roads and country. We stopped for a washroom break and drink. Got back in the jeeps to go to a ranch. Did a little 10 minute horseback ride, held a baby crocodile & tree rat and my husband rode a bull (not to worry, very tame). Lunch was provide with one drink. (very good food) We then hopped in speedboats and went down the river for a 45 minute drive. It was great, but seriously just be cautious of others when driving. One guy didn’t know what he was doing and thought he could race everyone (we were suppose to be single file) and did donuts and nearly hit us (very close call). Another crew was so close to each other in the water, that we thought they would hit each other. Once we were done with the boats we had another break and then got back into the jeeps and drive to a cave for swimming. We visited the cave for about 20 minutes, had a swim and them headed back to return the jeeps. Throughout the driving we not only saw the back country, but we saw a bit of the town as well. I found it very safe and there was no way you could get lost. There were about 7 jeeps in our group along with the tour guide at the front and back. Along the way, there were some children looking for stuff. I was kicking myself for not knowing this ahead of time as I would have brought stuff along. They were very calm, not like they expected anything, but very appreciative if they did receive something.
HAVANA TRIP – Before I left Canada I had emailed Jorge (firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange a day trip. This was so worth the money. I am sure we got a better experience than what you would on a tour bus. There were four of us that traveled together. Jorge arranged for the taxi which picked us up at 8:30am. We met our guide, Martha at 10:30am in Havana. Martha is an excellent tour guide. Just a sweet, personable, very knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. We had her for 5 hours to take us around. She walked us through the Museum of Revolution and the Capitolio. I talked to people who did the bus tour and they just walked by these buildings. One thing with having your own tour guide is that she did what we wanted to do and she looked after us. The staff at the Capitolio were going to overcharge us for admission. The cost of admission is $3CUC without a camera and $5CUC with a camera. So she saved us a few $’s there. She took us through a residential street so I could hand out some toys to the children. There were a few beggars, but nothing that made me feel threatened. She showed us the store were the Cubans receive government assistance. The Cubans only receive enough food to last them 15 days into the month. They only receive toiletry items (soap, shampoo, toothpaste) once every three months. That is why it is so important to bring these items down with you. Our guide took us to La Bodeguita Del Medio for the best Mojito we have ever had. Again, I think she saved us money because we gave her the money to purchase the drinks. I am sure tourists paid more. We went to a restaurant for lunch which was very good. We ended the day at the market. Which by the way, we were told that the best time to do the market is after 4pm as the vendors will negotiate on prices as the market closes at 6pm. HORESBACK RIDING – $15CUC for 1 hour. They bring the horses to the resort and you go out front of the hotels and go to the end of the beach for a picture opportunity.
TAXI/COCO TAXI/HORSE CARRAGE/VARADERO TOURIST BUS – Before getting in the taxi, coco taxi or horse carriage, please ensure you agree on a price. Be specific if you want return trip and also includes all persons that you are traveling with. I saw one family of 4 get off after their horse carriage ride and all were in shock when the driver said “each”. Our tour rep told us the rule of thumb for the Coco Taxi was 1CUC for every KM. The Varadero double decker bus was well worth the money – $5CUC for the day. My husband and I went into Varadero to deliver a medical bag (more about that later) and then visited the market (great prices by the way). We went back to the resort for lunch and then hopped back on the bus in the afternoon to go to the Plaza America mall (good prices for liquor). We shopped there for a bit and then continued on the bus to the other end of the Pensula (1 hour) and saw other resorts and scenery.
I changed the majority of my money at the airport without any issues. You were automatically given a receipt. I changed $60 at the front desk at the hotel and was short changed $2. My own fault as I did not request a receipt. The second time I went to exchange $40 (with my calculator), I witness the staff ripping off the 2 people ahead of me $2 each. When I showed my calculator and asked them the rate, I got the correct amount the second time around . . . hmmm
NOTJUST TOURIST – I had read other reviews about this organization and decided to sign up and take down a donation of medical supplies to Cuba. I arranged to pick the bag up in Toronto which was filled with lots of medical supplies. I called my airline ahead of time to ensure that they would allow me to bring on this piece of humanitarian aid for free. No problem – they package the bags so they do not exceed the 10kg allowance for humanitarian aid. Honestly we were questioned a customs and it was quite entertaining. They called the airport doctor from her office and they asked if my husband was very sick. Once we showed them the letter (in Spanish) from NOT JUST TOURISTS (www.njttoronto.ca), the doctor gave a big smile and thanked us for brining this much needed medication down to Cuba. On our 2nd day in Varadero, we delivered the medical supplies to the clinic which was very easy to find. The doctor at that clinic was very appreciative.
My apologies for the long review, however I hope it was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me email@example.com