Old Reviews – Gaviota Playa Costa Verde

We were a party of 13 family/friends traveling to Playa Costa Verde (April 14-April 28). I apologize about the delay in having this posted, but it took some time to get it together.

DEPARTURE/ARRIVAL:

We arrived at Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto at 1:45 p.m., check-in was fine and the flight left on time (4:30 p.m.) via Air Transat to take us to the beautiful Playa Costa Verde Resort. We have to state that we were not very pleased with the flight changes that we went through with Air Transat (seven days prior to our departure). The flight was originally leaving at 6:25 a.m. and a week prior to departure Air Transat changed it to 6:50 a.m., we thought at the time fine, it is only 25 minutes, but when we found out by going online that the flight changed from 6:50 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. we were very angry as we had specifically booked the Friday flight times because it was leaving very early in the morning, which is our preference. There was a Saturday flight that left at 4:30 p.m., but we didn’t want a late afternoon flight, hence booking the Friday flight. Needless to say, this particular customer service was horrible and we may as well have been talking to a wall and we, to this day, are still in negotiations with Air Transat with respect to this issue. Back to the report…uneventful flight, a little turbulence on the way down, but the pilot switched course and it was fine all the way to Holguin, we had booked and paid for bulkhead seats, which is great for hubby. Instead of the regular wrap type sandwich, they provided us with a Subway sandwich for dinner and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert. Let me tell you, it certainly beat those boxed lunches that they used to throw at you, that’s for sure. The flight attendants were amazing round trip, best crew we ever had on Air Transat. Next time we are definitely going to book Club Class seats though.

ARRIVAL IN HOLGUIN AND CHECK-IN AT RESORT: Arrival at Frank Pais Airport in Holguin was perfect, we were the only flight arriving at the time and immigration was quick and efficient. The luggage however, seemed to take forever as the employees at the airport kept removing baggage from the carrousel and you had to go from one area to another to try and locate your luggage, certainly not organized, that’s for sure. After finally retrieving all of our luggage (there were 7 of us the first week and then 6 more came down the second week) we were off to the buses to hurry up and wait while the rest of the tourons kept us waiting for about 45 minutes (o.k., give or take a few minutes) to find their way to the bus. Finally we were on our way to the Playa Costa Verde. It took one hour to get to the hotel. We arrived at the resort at approximately 10:45 p.m., check in was a breeze, but when we were taken to our rooms, we realized that there was a mix up. We did get the king size beds and upper floors that we had requested, but we had also requested an adjoining room and that did not happen. All was fine for the night and it was rectified the next day, although I certainly wouldn’t use the word “quickly rectified”, as it took most of the day to get it all arranged, but after everything was said and done, it all turned out to our liking.

ROOMS: The rooms were lovely, but were in need of perhaps a paint job, some new drapes and a new bedspread. I was under the impression that they had closed down the resort for renovations, but it appeared that they did not renovate the rooms themselves. They were very clean and spacious. We had a bit of a leak on the Friday night we arrived, but just chalked it up to the air conditioning system working overtime. The first three days we had problems with water from the air conditioning (in the dressing room area). Saturday we called and they sent a “technician” to fix it, he came in with two rolls of duct tape, I though o.k., clearly this has got to get better. On Sunday we had yet again to call someone and that another technician came as it was leaking even more and so an hour later he told us he would be right back to get some parts (don’t know what kind of parts he was referring to), and then he returned, made some more noise and announced it was fixed. We thought finally…(yes it does get worse) my sister-in-law and I went back to the room on Monday and lo and behold the water was right out the door and was running right into the room across the corridor. Needless to say, we had the third “technician” to come up to fixed it and he was the one that finally said “it can’t be fixed without the right parts” (considering it was fixed with duct tape the first time, I suppose duct tape is now considered not the “right parts” and some rattling done the second time). Off to the manager’s office we go to get us moved, but finally after a couple of hours we had our room changed from Villa 26 to Villa 14. I think we had our room in Villa 26 packed in about 15 minutes (well considering we had 6 people helping us…). Excellent location, right in front of the pool and a 2-minute walk to the pathway to the beach. Speaking of the manager, I must say we were pleasantly surprised…thank you Jose for all the time and effort you put into making our stay most enjoyable. The second week six more family members came and they were put on the bottom floor. We had originally requested upper floor, corner rooms. Needless to say, some bugs (some rather large and hairy ones) appeared, but after a few days, they did not really have a problem with them. If you are afraid of spiders and believe me, there are some rather large spiders, whatever you do, avoid the bottom floor rooms if you can closest to which they like to call the “protected area”. The manager did offer to move them, but they had already unpacked and decided to stay where they were.

CLEANING OF ROOMS The first week, the maid we had was o.k., she wasn’t as good as the maid we had the second week. We had different towel art every day and she was extremely efficient. As for our other family members, they reported that the maids were doing a very nice job. We did find out, however, that the money and gifts that are left for the maids are pooled at the end of the day and the managers get first pick and whatever is left over the staff have to share. Didn’t like that one bit considering the things we left for our maid thinking she was going to take it home to her family, probably went to the managers. Terrible thing that is happening in Cuba.

BARS AND SERVICE: Well what can we say, the bars were great, but service was very slow at times. Not enough staff on hand for the amount of people staying at the resort. They had at least eight staff members off sick and didn’t bring anyone else in to help out. Eduardo at the beach bar was amazing, but he only had two hands and most times there was a very long line up to get drinks. Most times it was extremely hot waiting in line in the sun, and, of course, the people of certain countries, butting in and giving us dirty looks when we said excuse me there is a line-up. They just walk right up to the front of the line and stand at the side, well we certainly didn’t allow that after spending 10 minutes in the blazing sun. Very rude if you ask me. Eduardo did his best, but I think the resort should ensure that there are at least 2 bartenders at the beach bar. They are in desperate need of a beach bathroom as well. We were told that they are building one next year (we shall see).

WEATHER: The weather, well what can I say, it was perfect! Fourteen days of solid sunshine. A few days it was very windy though and the second week the tide was out quite a bit, so we just used the beach in the morning and in the afternoon, when we went back for lunch, we stayed at the pool. This worked for everyone in our travel party. One day during our second week it threatened to rain (just a few sprinkles) and that was it, but it sure looked like a huge storm coming in.

BEACH: The beach was absolutely lovely…the color of the water was amazing. Quite a bit longer than the beaches in Guardalavaca, which we love because is great for long walks on the beach. There is some coral at the shore so I would suggest bringing water shoes, unless you want to walk over to where they dock the boats, etc. as it is pretty much sandy there. The water was lovely, but a little chilly getting in, but once you were in it was very rejuvenating! Love those hot and cool currents. The fish, so the women in the traveling party were told, were awesome and the underwater camera pictures proved it. The men in our group snorkelled a few times and some of the fish were surprisingly large.

DAY TRIPS: We went into Guardalavaca three times for some shopping. The first and second time we went were just the woman and the men took the scooters into the mountains. It was extremely hot the three times we went. We took a cab going to and from town. It worked out to be 3 CUC each. There is not a lot of shopping, but they have some nice things if you are in the market to purchase souvenirs. Had a few drinks at this little restaurant and just wandered around. We actually walked along the boardwalk to the Las Brisas where we stayed 2 years ago. I am hoping the renovations that they are doing will improve the main hotel somewhat.

POOLS: The pool was wonderful and very well kept. No problems whatsoever. But beware…the towel game is in full swing and some people were down at the beach and the pool around 6:30 a.m. We are beach people, so there were an abundance of areas to choose from, but we too joined in as I always say “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. We actually had our towels removed one day (they actually took our towels and we know it certainly wasn’t the Cubans) at the beach and our chairs taken prior to 8:30 a.m. when we arrived at the beach after our breakfast. Breakfast opened at 7:30 and we were generally at the beach by 8:30ish. We thought it very rude that people would do this considering we were at the beach all day and we saw quite a few chairs and palapas (including theirs) empty for most of the day. We didn’t always get the same area each day, but as long as we had our palapas that was fine with us. We had 13 people with us and finally the man that brought out the beach chairs watched our area until we arrived at the beach. He actually asked my brother and sister-in-law if they were “family” when they sat down in the chairs he had been watching for us. They had to laugh that he was being very protective of the “family’s palapas and chairs”. Very sweet man, we tipped him daily and brought him clothes, water and pop.

RESERVATION SYSTEM FOR BOOKING ALA CARTES O.K., this is important and we all think perhaps this should be revamped, if you book for 13 and they can’t give you two tables, one for 7 and one for 6, make sure the particular restaurant knows ahead of time that you wish to sit together. They do it by room number and depending upon the number of people in your room, that is how many seats you get at a table. They had my mother-in-law at a table all by herself. This problem should be looked at and corrected. We were not the only one dealing with this type of problem as other guests were complaining as well. To be honest, the only time this happened was in the Japanese Restaurant (read below).

FOOD

Kyoto (Japanese): The show table was very nice to have, after quite a hassle to get the table together. This is where the reservation system lacked. As I said, they were going to put my mother-in-law at a different table, which didn’t happen in the end, but the woman seating us was quite ruffled when we got there, then the hassle with us and some other guests, just turned her very unreasonable. Of course, words were spoken back and forth. There was another table available, but she said that was for “guests”…whatever that means, I thought we were the guests. Needless to say we all calmed down and had a lovely dinner. We were told and did order everything on the menu (there were 7 of us) and it was amazing. We had a lovely little array of sushi to begin with and then chicken, beef, fish, rice stir fried and then they offered dessert. Couldn’t eat another bite!

Briary Buffet: Food at the buffet was extremely good, far surpassing any food we have had in Cuba previously. For those that said the food is horrible and tasteless, then you are probably one of those people that eat at 6 star restaurants every day or are extremely fussy and, quite frankly, you are the ones that will never be pleased. There were absolutely no complaints whatsoever about the food from anyone in our travel party. Everything was excellent. The seafood night was incredible (Thursday). Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. The lobster was terrific! My brother and nephew had 6 small lobsters each. Their soups were amazing and fresh. Breakfast was wonderful, the eggs are always so fresh and the orange juice, oh my gosh, it was the best. We certainly can’t get that here in Canada, that’s for sure! Tuesday night is beef tenderloin night and it was extremely good. The food overall was a 10 in our opinion.

Caribbean: The food here was very good. It is the snack bar by the pool for lunch (do try the pizza, awesome), turned dinner restaurant at night. Service was fantastic as was the food. The lobster salad was to die for, couldn’t believe the chunks of lobster. The steak was very good as well. A little undercooked for me, but my own fault, should have had it cooked a bit more.

Italian: We ate at the Italian twice and enjoyed it thoroughly. Too many courses though, but service and food, awesome. Everyone in our traveling party were extremely full after all those courses. Of course, Italian food is one of my favourites.

Cuban: We were told to have the lobster here and we did. It was o.k., probably wasn’t cooked as well as we would like or something, but none of us cared for it too much. The Cuban Soup was awesome! I would love to get the recipe for that. Service was wonderful. My mother-in-law had the salmon and it had some bones, so if you are having salmon, just be care with the bones.

DEPARTURE Again because of the flight changes, our flight was not leaving until 9:40 p.m. arriving in Toronto at 1:50 a.m. Left the resort around 6:00 p.m. and after check-in at Frank Pais Airport, had time to sit for about 1 hour and then time to head home. Flight was extremely turbulent, but made it home in one piece.

NEGATIVES

The problem with the air conditioning was terrible considering it was inches from our clothes hanging in the closet. I still can’t believe that it took three different technicians to figure out what the problem was (yes I know, I am in Cuba). Also with respect to the bottom floor rooms, considering that the upper floors were specifically requested six months in advance (I know, no guarantees) you would think they could try and accommodate us as the rest of the traveling party was on the other side of the resort from us, but all together. The service at the main, pool and beach bars was extremely slow. It wasn’t the staff as there were numerous people out sick and they didn’t replace them, but we felt that they should have acted upon this and hired more staff to work the bars. This is actually amusing. Whatever you do, do not lose the blue towel!!! Actually we think it was probably another tourist that took it because clearly, they were missing their towel. This is the first time that we have had a towel “stolen” by another tourist. The staff at the front desk actually had the nerve to say if the towel or towel card was not returned, the couple in question cannot leave the country. Absolutely ludicrous if you ask me. For goodness sake, it was a 16 peso towel. So another friend of ours said to them to call the Canadian Embassy to have them settled the issue and then, of course, after a bit more arguing, it was pretty much finished. How ridiculous is that? We travel every year and we do know they take their towels very serious (they do take inventory you know)…be that as it may, I believe the tourists should not take each others towels, as was the case. If they can actually physically move your belongings and take your chairs and not sit in them all day, they are not above taking a towel that clearly they thought they were entitled to. It appears that quite the game is going on.

All in all, it was a fabulous holiday. I would highly recommend this resort for young and old alike. We had 13 of the nearest and dearest with us and we couldn’t have asked for more. Cuba will always remain in our hearts and you can bet we will be back very soon.

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