General: My third trip to this resort, and seventh to this location. (four times to Sol next door).
Flight & Arrival: Upgraded to Club Class and had a very enjoyable flight. A quick trip through Customs, and not long to wait for my bags. Transat Holidays rep was very organized, and handed out your package with room key, map of resort, and information, as well as the registration form to fill out. Baggage was marked with your room number before being placed on the bus. This is such a good system…..no delays on arrival, and your bag is taken directly to your room. You are free to enjoy your vacation as soon as you get off the bus!
Room: I received a second floor room in building seven, just the location I had requested. Perfect for me, close to the walkways to the beach and to Sol resort next door. All the Melia rooms are wonderfully appointed and comfortable. The mini fridge is kept stocked daily with water, beer and soft drinks. There are extra pillows in the closet and the king sized bed was comfortable, if a bit firm for me. A desk, day bed, chairs and tables make the room comfortable and functional. There is a coffee maker in the room, also a CD player. My balcony caught the sun all day long, so was generally too hot to sit on. However, it was great for drying my bathing suit! Water for showers was fine, although it takes a minute or two to warm up. Maid service was very good. I had no complaints.
Beach: The beach is in great shape this year, very wide in front of Melia, and lacking the sand "cliff" that was prominent last December. Of course, beach conditions can change quickly with wind and tide. Cayo Santa Maria has a wonderful beach for walking, especially to the east of the resort, as it becomes firmer and easier to walk on. Going west the sand is more coarse and you sink in, making walking more difficult (but a great workout!)
Grounds: Beautiful, as always. Gardens are well tended and foliage is mature.
Restaurants: Very good service and decent food. A bit less variety this year, possibly because of the season of hurricanes and their affect on the growing of produce. I was disappointed that the a la cartes lacked entertainment. Last year that was one of the highlights of eating at them. The snack bar by the pool still serves excellent pizza, and they seem to have realized that it should be cut before being served! Wonderful not to have to "do it yourself". The beach restaurant is great for lunch. Perfectly cooked fish fillet, not to be missed. (I’m vegetarian, but the fish was worth cheating for)
Bars: Good service at the lobby bar, although I don’t do mixed drinks much so I can’t comment on that. I also don’t use the swim up bar, although it did seem popular.
Activities: Sailing was wonderful, as we had a windy week. Fabulous, fast, wet, sails on the Hobie Cats almost every day. When the last day turned out to be calm, I took advantage of conditions to go snorkelling and was able to observe and photograph quite a few fish. Lots to be seen just off shore anywhere there are rocks, but the best place (if you are up for a hike) is in front of the island at the west end of the beach. Lots of Barracuda everywhere, plus quite a few other varietals. I saw a Porcupine fish in the rocks about 15 feet off the beach. I don’t participate in many other activities, but there is lots to do if you are interested.
Internet: A huge improvement over last year. It worked well and quite quickly every day. I was able to send emails reliably with no problems.
Sol: Guests of Melia can use the facilities of Sol (excluding food). Sol has a wonderful quiet pool fringed with palm trees, which is a very relaxing place to sit in the shade and read a book.
Pool: The pool at Melia is deep enough in places to dive into, which is enjoyable for those of us who hate wading in. It’s a good depth for swimming. I avoid the pool with the swim up bar (although the temperature is likely warmer!)
Tours: There are quite a few on offer, but I prefer to spend my days on the beach.
Entertainment: I love the piano bar in the evening. At Melia, there is no longer a separate room for this, but it is incorporated into the lobby bar. I like to visit the Sol piano bar at night….wonderful ambiance, attentive staff. As soon as you sit down someone comes to your table to light the candle and take your drink order. The Spanish Coffee is particularly good. I enjoy the pianists at both resorts, so I tend to shuttle back and forth at night. There is also a trio (piano, drums and guitar) at Melia several nights a week.
Weather: I had a wonderful week. Some people might not have appreciated the windy days, but it was perfect for sailing and for walking the beach, so I have no complaints. Evenings could be a touch cool, nothing a sweater couldn’t handle.
Staff: Some of the best staff around. I have absolutely no complaints. From the front desk, to the bell boys, to the maids, the wait staff, the bartenders and the sailors, all are excellent. Friendly, helpful and lots of fun to be around. This resort has first class people all the way!
Conclusion: I will be returning to Melia, and also to Sol, whenever I can. Simply one of the best resorts in Cuba. I highly recommend it. Enjoy this wonderful location before it becomes too crowded. Barcelo will soon be opening a large resort down the beach to the east, and a new hotel is planned west of Sol. Right now it is still possible to walk on an almost deserted beach. Unfortunately this will not be the case in the future!