Old Reviews – Iberostar Playa Alameda

Photos We were there December 11-25, 2005, 3 adults, 2 boys — ages 6 & 9.

Air Carrier: Travelled from Toronto via the SkyService cattle car. A little crammed but the price was right having booked last minute (ie. about 3-4 weeks before) through Escapes.ca . Cheapest last minute available. Flight was not great: Skyservice staff were terrible quite frankly and had a hard time being bothered to do just about anything. Nevertheless, we got there safe and sound.

Varadero Airport: Only flight to arrive at the time of 11:00 PM. There were 10, count ’em 10 customs agents waiting but not ready to handle a few hundred tired and excited tourists. It took over 2 hours to g! et us all processed, at approx 15-20 minutes per family. Un-bloody-believable. Remember that there is absolutely NO incentive for any Cuban government worker to work expediently — no tipping is allowed or recommended given the little the camera up in the corner of each cabin. Also, important to remember that the customs’ computer system is not even Windows-based, but DOS based and extremely SLOW. This was certainly part of the problem. Finally got through, got luggage and got to the hotel about 45 minutes later.

Playa Alameda Resort: In short, wonderful. Not a huge resort, but lovely, with friendly, well-trained and impeccable staff. We arrived at the resort well into the wee hours of the morning and were welcomed by the porter staff (Enrique is wonderfully friendly), and the reception staff who had our room keys waiting to an unexpected Ocean front room (we had got exactly what we requested but did not know it was ocean front/vie! w). Two rooms adjoining for the five of us.

The resort is Italian owned (Gaviota Group), which didn’t really make a difference to us. However by the second week which included Christmas Day, the resort was at full occupency with mostly Italian. Again that was fine, except that the Italian Tour company affiliated with Gaviota brought in several Italian animateurs/entertainment staff. Clearly a clash of cultures between the Cuban staff already working at the resort and the Italian staff who took over — boistrous and pushy with far too much loud banter. Other than the Italian guests, who were all very friendly, there were Canadians, Brits and some Germans.

Rooms: Spacious, colonial style, comfortable beds (in the two rooms we had one single cot, one king and two full double beds, not twins). Rooms were 1815 and 1810 both with clear gorgeous ocean view and large balconies. Bathrooms are marble, clean! and everything worked. The safe worked well. Cleaning staff were excellent and trustworthy.

Restaurants: With the exception of the Beach restaurant which was being renovated and not opened until the 2nd last day of our trip, the buffet was open for 3 meals per day and then there were 2 other specialty restaurants opened in the evening. Lots of variety at the Buffet. We have a son with severe food allergies and he did not experience any problems. Yes, after 2 weeks we were ready for a change but that would be expected after two weeks anywhere. The Christmas Eve Gala dinner was phenomenal — mostly seafood including crab, lobster, scallops, mussels, oysters, you name it, turkey, ham, steaks, etc. Flowing champagne. The Romantico restaurant was fabulous, excellent food (mostly seafood) and amazing staff. The Italian (of course) was just OK, actually not very good at all, and likely didn’t meet the standard! s of the Italian guests either.

Bars: All were great, variety could be more at the pool bar and of course, they kept running out of mint for Mojitos which is weired since mint would naturally grow like wildfire if they grew it at the resort. The lobby bar had the best brands of booze but service was sometimes slow. Incentally, the white wine served in the restaurants was exceptional.

Entertainment: We are not overly picky but quite well travelled, and don’t appreciate hoaky entertainment that we have seen at some all inclusives throughout the Caribbean and cruise ships. I have to say that the house band (mostly Cuban and salsa style music) and the resort dancers were some of the best, if not the best I have ever witnessed anywhere we have been. Dancers were amazing, exceptionally trained and well practiced. The shows were top notch and I looked forward to them. My only critic! ism is that it would have been better for us if they shows started at 9 PM instead of 10 PM, but the resort does cater mostly to a European crowd who are used to eating later in the evening, so all in all understandable. Finally, the classical quartet that played in the evenings at the Romatico restaurant are amazing — very talented musicians, at par with any professional orchestra musicians in Canada or Europe. Thankfully that is one thing Castro did right, by nurturing Cuban arts and culture — it shows to this day. What a shame the rest of the world can’t appreciate their talents as well.

Kids Club: Located next to the shallow end of the pool, with a huge and safe play structure. Two ladies work there who are great with children and really love what they do. Very concientious and great at communicating with parents and keeping you informed of what’s up next. We particularly liked the one night of the week when t! hey have dress-up (lots of great costumes to pick from) at 6:30, parade around the resort and take the kids to the buffet restaurant for dinner at 7PM, to give the parents a night off without having to hire a baby sitter. They were good at keeping the kids in line and actually spoke with parents of one boy who was too aggressive for the kids crowd. Much appreciated.

Beach: Beautiful and in good shape. Snorkelling is not great as there is no natural reef close by. One can walk for about 2 KM either way of the resort. All beach club equipment is in great shape and paddle boats are a fun way to spend a few hours. Sunrise every morning was breathtaking.

Guest Relations: Ana is the Director of Guest Relations and we did track down her e-mail address to send a room request before we went. She is wonderful and works extremely hard at her job. The resort is fortunate to have her employed there. S! he’s a gem.

Tipping: Not expected, but yes appreciated. Also, little gifts that are useful to the staff are very appreciated and in some cases valued more than monetary tips. Panty hose, hair accessories, toothbrushes, toothpaste, pencils, school supplies, childrens clothes and shoes (even used). Remember that these items are not always available to Cubans even if they have the money. Walmart is an extremely foreign concept to these people.

Overall Assessment: A true Cuban 4.5 star that is trying to improve to reach the 5 star category. Got lots of potential. Staff and service are exceptional. Food is very good for Cuba and entertainment is excellent for a resort. Unlike the DR and Mexico, potable water was not a concern — no tourista problems experienced here. Although we like to explore new resorts, we would go again to this resort. I would rate it 8.5/10, particula! rly since we got such a good last minute deal for a two week holiday — at least 50-60% cheaper than what we would pay if booked months before and wanted to go in February or for March break for example. Enjoy.

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