Arrival Cienfuego A non-event. Customs and Immigration were the normal Cuban standard. Out to the 10 passenger van, delayed a few minutes as one person was adamant they were going to have a cigarette before we left on the 90 minute drive to the resort. We actually had one passenger who wanted to stop half way to the resort and have a beer or two. He was voted down by the other 7 passengers, was not a happy camper and sulked for the remainder of the trip.
Arrival at Brisas Trinidad del Mar A very quick and courteous check-in and baggage taken to the room. It was now 4:00am Cuban time. The room was very clean, two twin beds, TV, desk, glass coffeee table, two chairs, nightstands and sufficient storage with a large closet and we were lucky as we had a small bar fridge. We were on the top floor, ocean view, and far away from the entertainment stage. Nice balcony and a great view. The bathroom was starting to show it’s wear and tear. Low water pressure and hot water only now and again. Best to shower very early or very late during the day if one wanted water pressure. Hand showers only, no free standing shower….. unless you were vertically challenged and could fit under the hand shower holder at about three and half feet from the bottom of the tub. All electrics were 220 V. No shampoo or Rinse, no hand cream. The little soap that was provided was not good but then again we always carry all our own soap/shampoo etc and leave the partial bottles for the staff when we leave. Porcelain bidet as well, and if we had fresh flowers we could have found a use for it as well. During our stay we did notice a few little ants in the bathroom but they never took anything so, no big deal. Wall safe was “no-charge” and was nice to have. Some people complained that there were no instructions about how to use it. They are fairly standard…..punch in a 6 number code, punch the letter “A” and you have a useable safe. Unpacked, shower and off to bed.
The Resort Facilities This resort had pretty much everything any other resort had in Cuba and the equipment was in good shape. Nice little gym with adequate workout gear. Bicycles, water volley ball, beach volley ball, tennis courts, Jacuzzi and a great swimming pool that wound through the center of the resort. Also had catamarans and paddle boats. Not a facility but an item I had not seen before was the resort clock tower, about 4 and a half stories high, and the clock chimes the hours loudly….. every hour…although the hands do not move. There is a stairway to the top and one can get some really great photos of the entire complex from that vantage point. I think all the facilities were what one would expect at a 4 Star resort. Now this resort did experience Hurricane Dennis this year so there are a few ongoing repairs to crown moldings and roof tiles but nothing that was really important.
On our first day at the resort we did a walk around the entire resort and was surprised to see that all four boardwalks that radiate out from the resort to the beach had broken planks in them and some planks were actually missing. One would have to watch their step when using the board walks. I took my camera, shot about a dozen pictures, tracked down the manager and PR fellow and showed them the photos. They agreed they should be fixed but..alas…”that is the responsibility of a company the resort subcontracts to and they didn’t know when they would get the boardwalks fixed”. Fair enough, I said but I mentioned law suits and broken legs as well as possible comments on the Internet, (reviews) That afternoon while sitting at the pool we hear an abundance of hammering and by that night all the boardwalks had been repaired. During the evening it is not uncommon to see two groups of musicians moving around the resort playing Cuban music. In the A la Carte restaurant there was a young man on guitar and an older man on violin and they were just excellent. They were the only ones who did not have a CD for sale…what a pity as they were the best.
Entertainment Well done and the kids really put their heart into their work. Show every evening and the themes follow what most All Inclusive resorts have.
Beach Towels Like all Inclusive resorts beach towels are provided but the way one acquires one is a bit of a headache. Normally when one checks into an All Inclusive resort one receives their room key plus a plastic card that one turns in at beach towel hut in order to get a towel. When one leaves, one merely turns in their last towel, picks up their card and takes it back with their room key. If they have lost their towel and do not have a card they are charged $25.00CUC.
At Trinidad del Mar one has to pay $15.00CUC to get a card at Reception. You get a card plus your money receipt and trudge off to the beach towel hut, pass in your card and get a towel. When you leave you take your towel to the towel hut, get your card, go to Reception with the card and your money receipt and your $15.00 CUC will be refunded. If you misplace your money receipt it throws a wrench into the works and you may be standing there for awhile until they figure out that THEY have a copy of the receipt and that would be proof enough that you paid for the towel. Ahhhh the bureaucratic lunacy …have patience. I mentioned this funny operation to the PR fellow…they will look into possibly conforming with other resorts.
Bugs If the wind was not blowing or the wind was light the “no-see-ums” were out in full force. These are very tiny black dot like creatures that have the jaws of a gator and by the time you realize you have been bit….it is too late. Their bite feels just like someone breaking your skin with a very sharp needle, just a pin prick, but…my oh my…do they itch and the can swell into a reddish bump. They do not bother the locals and seem to really like light skinned, fair haired folks. The only resolution is DEEP WOODS OFF with DEET. If you use that stuff be warned that you will only be protected where you spray so spray right up to your shorts/bathing suit line. Wait until it is completely dry or at least put a towel on the chaise lounge before you lie down as DEET reacts with plastic and you may need a crowbar to pry yourself off the lounger. Don’t forget to spray your neck and arms.
Internet The cost is $6.00CUC for thirty minutes. It is not run by the hotel but is located near the Lobby Bar. One must buy a code card from one of the telephone persons that sit around the two screens. Unfortunately none of the operators speak any English but I’m sure you will be able to follow their prompts and the Net is v-e-r-y- slow but if you are an email fanatic you make do.
Lobby Bar Excellent service by a great group of fellows. Very courteous and quick to serve. No complaints what so ever.
Beach Bar. Service was OK but surprisingly they had no plain water, only carbonated water. No snacks available either. We personally only used it once.
24 Hour Snack Bar Makes the best pizza in Cuba. Also hot dogs, burgers, fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks and better cappuccino that the Lobby Bar. A great fellow there who is always happy is a young man who introduces himself as ERNEST HEMMINGWAY but who is actually Ernesto Jorge and everyone knows him. Great place for a snack and………….. for some, the only place to eat.
The Main Buffet There is little I can add to what others have posted. The food was really not that good but I must elaborate. Let’s face it, eggs done at home can be done there the same way but the bacon was swimming in an inch of fat and there were no link or pattie sausages, just some other type of sausages that turned most folks off but there was always juice and fruit as well as cereal and French toast and small pancakes. All in all, breakfast was OK.
The service was not good, in fact we were ignored for almost a week and then I guess the word got out that we were there for two weeks and all of a sudden we had service. Personally I don’t think that is the way to treat guests and made that fact known to the PR fellow and a manager. Perhaps the servers were tired of the bus tour types but in my opinion everyone should be treated the same. Not the case in the main Buffet, Hopefully they will get the problem resolved. We certainly do not go to Cuba for the food but it is nice to be treated as paying guests and not be totally ignored. Lunch was switched over to the outdoor restaurant on day three for us, (El Ranchoe) and here it got pretty bad. The food was probably the worst I have ever seen in my six trips to Cuba and certainly does not equate to 4 stars. The only upside was that good ice-cream was available for both lunch and dinner…in fact…the pastries and deserts were actually 4 star but the main course food was recycled and very uninviting ….so…. pizza anyone?? The same can be said about the evening meal which was back at the main Buffet. …not good.
Craft Market and Store. The hotel has a store with just about all the same stuff you find at any resort and they do take credit cards. As well there are normally some craft people around the Buffet Restaurant almost every night.
Ala Carte Restaurant Excellent service and a great menu, the only place to eat, but guests are normally only allowed there once every 7 days. Again this was 4 star quality.
Scuba Diving Rather than take up space here you can read about our experience at
Money Exchange.. The best place is the bank in the basement of the ANCON hotel which is located next door to the BRISAS. It is open almost everyday but closes early in the afternoon. From Brisas head for the beach, turn left and the ANCON is about ¼ mile away. Surprisingly Security at the ANCON does not want you to walk in front of their hotel. You must stay on the beach and then turn and walk up to the hotel. The rate in December 2005 was I.00 CUC = 1.3046 CDN. The rate at the Brisas was about 1.3254 plus a 4 % surcharge.
Downtown Trinidad This is a “must-do” trip. A cab will cost you about 5 or 6 CUC each way and if adventurous, a “CoCo” will take two for about 4 CUC. A CoCo is a vehicle with two seats and is powered by a scooter engine and comes complete with a driver. The passenger seats look like they are inside a coconut shell…thus CoCo. All vehicles will drop you off near the center of the city, vehicles are not allowed in the very center of this historic town. Head for the “tower building”, enter, pay 2 CUC and go up the very narrow spiral staircase to the top. Fantastic view of the surrounding area from the top and well worth the 2 CUCs. Lots of craft markets in the alleys and streets and some good bargains. We stopped and had drinks in a small restaurant. Beer was 2 CUC a bottle and soft drinks were 1.5 CUC. Wear comfortable shoes as all the street are real cobblestones. It was a treat to walk through the area and peer into shops and homes. All the people we met were very nice and no pushy sellers anywhere. On a hot day one could spend about 4 hours and see all you want to see. Easy to catch a cab back as they wait for the “touristos” to exit the “old” part of town.
The Return to Canada An early morning bus ride to the airport in Cienfuego allowed us to see the countryside we missed during our night drive to the resort. The airport terminal is one of the nicest and the cleanest I have seen and check-in was a breeze. The duty free shop was a bit cheaper than the hotel for all products including alcohol. Once again we noted that there were only about 30 of us in the entire plane…must be the time of the year or perhaps not too many Canadians know how good this area really is. Once again we were late leaving on Cubana but who cares…it was snowing in Toronto. The only odd thing was that on our return flight the crew was charging $1.00 CDN for a can of pop whereas there was no charge for soft drinks on our flight down. Was this Hola Sun’s policy, Cubana’s policy, or a bit of a money making enterprise by the crew ?? No big deal.
Summary The only downside to this resort was the quality of the food. If you go to resorts strictly for the food you will be sorely disappointed but if you accept the fact that the quality is lower than one would expect at a 4 Star then all will be well. No one has ever starved at any resort and naturally we all have different tastes and I have yet to book a resort based on just the food review. The resort is well laid out and the staff do all they can to make your stay pleasant…well almost…the service at the main buffet was questionable at the beginning of our stay. The PR fellow and the manager are well aware of the food problems as they hand out questionnaires every week and I am sure they are trying to get the problem fixed. We found the weather great and the vast majority of the staff very friendly and helpful. I have written a letter to the manager pointing out the names of at least 4 persons who went beyond what was required to assist guests and I think it is important to give credit where credit is due. It is very easy to sit back and complain about little things but I think those that deserve a bouquet should be pointed out to their bosses. And finally….would we go back??? Yes, absolutely…we had a great time.