Old Reviews – Club Karey

My friend and I went to Club Karey from Ottawa for a week in early February 2006. We chose it because it was the least expensive place available for the time we wanted; our rep at Go Travel Direct said that she didn’t know why it was on sale, it just was. That smelled like trouble but we were up for an adventure and looking for a bargain, and we knew it would not be the Ritz. We also knew that Cuba has some economic challenges because of the American embargo, so we were not expecting our every need to be met. That said, Hotel Club Karey has some serious deficiencies! Here’s the bad and good:


-frequent water shut-downs in our room – no tap water, toilet, shower. Each time it took over an hour and several phone calls to be restored. Apparently the entire water system on the resort has to "fill up" each time, and this takes a long time. -the grounds are treacherous, particularly for children, the elderly or those of limited mobility. Absolutely NOT suitable for anyone in a wheelchair!! There are many large cracks in the sidewalks, changes in elevation and loose pieces of concrete everywhere. This could have been because of recent hurricanes, not sure. At least it’s something to be aware of. -there were many scary-looking cisterns throughout the grounds whose concrete lids were cracked or in some places missing altogether. One of them had raw sewage flowing freely from it onto the grass beside it.(!!) -while we were there a little girl was injured by falling into a skimmer by the pool – the lid had previously been cracked and in pieces. After the girl hurt her leg, a number of other guests took up her cause and complained, and the staff eventually replaced the skimmer lid with a new, uncracked one. -lots of garbage on the beach – I picked up a fair amount but this really needs constant attention by guests and staff -the food is very plain and generally unappetizing, but this is typical of Cuba. Nobody goes there for the food! The only problem is the restrictions on the food at this particular resort – in one case we asked for a banana after supper, and were told "No – breakfast only". The waitress seemed quite uncomfortable with our request. Maybe it’s due to food shortages – ? Also, getting a bottle of water required almost an act of parliament. -the door to the porch of our villa had been broken some time before, and not replaced – so when there was a rain storm, water came pouring into the room and soon covered the whole floor. We were quite concerned about electrical hazards, not to mention everything getting wet. By the end of our visit, the staff were checking it out, so it may be fixed now. -many small ants in the bathroom – if bugs freak you out, do not go to this resort. (or indeed, the tropics) -watch out for the resort’s "entertainers" who try to get you to go to downtown Varadero with them, to an open-air bar where there is live music. The music is pretty good (and loud!), but it turns out when you get down there that there is a cover charge of 10 pesos (10 US dollars). This includes free drinks inside, but you should know that if the "entertainer" from the resort brings four tourists in, he gets in for free. None of this is, of course, advertised ahead of time.


-the staff were, in general, lovely. They were friendly and fun to talk to, and helpful. Thanks to Loraim, José, Katya, Orchidia and everyone! -the drinks were flowing, as much or as little as you would want. -the bread in the restaurant is wonderful – fresh out of the oven, and delicious. -excellent table service in the restaurant -security was pretty good – there were uniformed security personnel, constantly but unobtrusively patrolling the grounds. We felt quite safe. -this hotel uses the "villa" concept – old houses turned into guest apartments. We found it worked quite well, and enjoyed the short walks to get to the main building & other facilities. If you want to hang out with other people, the main building and the bars are always busy – or if not, you can disappear to your villa or the beach. -the beach at Varadero can’t be beat, and this hotel in particular. Our villa was literally 10 steps from the sand. Fabulous! -not bad value overall, for the money – as long as you’re prepared to "rough it". I would recommend Club Karey (rhymes with "today") for budget travellers, and those who are able-bodied only, due to the rough grounds. If you care about comfortable accommodations, it’s probably better to go somewhere else. If you like an amazing beach and friendly people, this is a good and inexpensive place.

General Cuba notes: we went on a day-long catamaran trip where there turned out to be no life jackets whatsoever, so if this alarms you, don’t book that trip (or ask ahead of time). Don’t leave your sandals on the beach, while walking barefoot on the beautiful Varadero sand (mine were gone when I got back after 15 min). We took a bus trip into Havana for the day, from the Varadero bus station – that worked quite well and was a lot of fun. In the bus station, the booth where tourists buy their tickets is not the main booth in the centre of the building, but a secret desk down the hall and around the corner. Don’t forget to save 25 pesos for the airport tax on the way home. Also, I overheard the airport baggage clerk trying to bribe someone else in order to allow her oversized luggage on the plane, by only paying 30 pesos to him instead of whatever the official fee was. These all-inclusive deals have very strict luggage weight rules, so if your luggage will be overweight on the way home, bring enough money for any fees. And finally: The public bathrooms in Cuba, except in the elegant hotels in Old Havana, are generally disgusting and in poor repair. Bring toilet paper with you wherever you go. Have fun!

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