Airline Carrier: Westjet – flight down ontime, pretty uneventful. flight back also ontime – the flight crew is worth mentioning though – VERY entertaining – like going to see Just for Laughs; most enjoyable flight I have ever taken.
Check-In/ Reception: Some dancers, a welcome drink, but most amazing NO LINE-UPS! A reception room next to the front desk was set-up to receive all arrivals at once with at least six staff waiting to check you in. The hotel had already prepared envelopes with all the necessary docs./key cards. They put on our wristbands and called a bellboy who took us and our baggage (which had been unloaded from the bus while we were checking in) to our room. The whole thing lasted 5mins. WOW!
Room: Originally, a standard room, on the fringe of the cabanas surrounding the adults pools. Welcome gift is a full bottle of rum. Room was fairly nice, decent size with king bed, adjacent couch and coffee table, tv, closet in the main room, 1room bath. Noticed some ants on the ground outside our door though and some coffee stains on the wall. Could have made do, I suppose, but have never pressed the issue before so decided to see just how far the management would go to accomodate a guest. Left our things in the room and talked to the front desk – they told us to come back in a couple of hours while they made some calls. After taking in a tour of the pools, bars, and pool bars, we returned to find that a bellboy would meet us in our room in half a hour. On time, he came and took us to a new room – executive room right beside adult pools. The shiznit: relatively same size as original but better artwork, 3room bathroom/powder room/walk-in closet, and prime access to beach/adult pool/restaurants. FREE UPGRADE! As nice as the room was, still not worth the $20CUC/night/person extra if we had had to pay for it ourselves.
NB. tvs are equipped to handle rca jacks – the first time I have ever found this in Cuba. Very nice as you can hook up a portable DVD player to it – none of the rooms come with one. About 25 channels of satellite tv – about half are english and include 5 movie networks, tbs, cnn, espn, disney kids; no nbc, fox, or cbs though – so NO NFL PLAYOFF COVERAGE. HOT water everynight – also the first time I have ever found this in Cuba. No alarm clocks in any of the rooms so bring a travel one if you need help getting out of bed. 220V outlets – our hairdryer/curling iron needed a travel converter but our DVD player worked fine – check the label of your appliance – newer models may work fine. Maid service usually late morning, mini-bar stocking usually late afternoon. Only 1 missed mini-bar stocking. Room towels (like 12!) replaced as you wish, bed always made and decorated with some sort of towel art. fresh flowers. VERY clean.
Lobby: HUGE! I cannot say enough about the lobby. Polished stone tile throughout, many fountains, pools with secluded daybeds and coffee tables. Huge wood paneled bar. open air gardens and cafe areas. you must see to believe – this in itself is worth the trip (we paid $1800 for 2 people, AI, 1wk, incl taxes). Contains all services such as cyber cafe, phone rooms, money exhange, concierge, front desk, bar, bar, bar, access to buffet restaurants (2), travel desks, amphitheatre, disco/karoke, store, a la carte reservations, and LOTS of lounging, drinking, people watching space. Live music every evening (piano+saxaphone). Worth mentioning is the "last call for alcohol cart!" (last call starts somewhere round 5:30pm and lasts for about 10hours. The guy is hysterical and makes for great entertainment.
Pools/Cabanas: There are 2 seperate pool/cabana areas: families vs. couples. They are located at opposite sides of the Lobby, a la carte restaurants, activities/games bldy, and main promenade (which includes store, ice cream parlour, bar, bar, bar, beer garden/24hr snack bar, local items for sale (the vendors are not pushy at all). Walking from one area to the other once you know where the paths go takes about 3mins. Look out for the golf carts/elect. bikes as this is how the staff travels. Access is completely open and back and forth between areas – they are seperated merely to suit people’s preferences for an environment. Each of the areas features 2 HUGE pools including swim-up bar, snack bar/open-air dining, towel service, bathrooms (VERY clean). Unique to Family Pools – one pool knee-deep throughout for little ones, picket-fenced off day clubs for all ages (4 different areas geared towards different age groups from 1 yr-17yrs), seperate whirlpool – HOT water!, all games/activities such as pool volleyball, salsa lessons, water aerobics, variety/staff games take place here, there is plenty of shady areas along the perimeter of the pool deck. Unique to Couples Pools – not much shade and sheltered from the breeze, a great place to bake. Quieter than the other pool area, all of the chairs are quality with little pullouts to hold your drink. There are quality floaties for the pools which are doubled at the end to hold up your head enough for a sippy. Backround music is a laid-back volume and a good mix of local/international tunes. This area is all about relaxing. Due to the distance between the areas, the environments usually do not collide. NB. pools/decks cleaned daily, lots of clay disposal for garbage which everybody seemed to use, water is not heated so hope for hot weather, disabled pool access chair at couple pools.
Cabanas are 2 stories, accessible at both ends with 16 rooms/building. Standard warm-weather poured concrete resort building. Nothing remarkable except not many stairs/very brightly painted.
Beach: The best beach in Cuba by far! No shell fragments – just like walking on powdered sugar. 10km long and shared by only 3 resorts, plenty of lounge chairs (plastic), and crystal waters. Beach accessed at 3 locations (from each pool cabana area and the main promenade) by a boardwalk over some scrub areas (the entire resort is located in a tropical preserve). Takes about 30secs to reach the beach. Beach bars located along the boardwalk in case you can’t wait for the bar at the end of the boardwalk/on the beach, 10 secs away. Showers to wash off your feet.
A la Cartes: There are 5 al la carte restaurants. Reservations are made in the main lobby. Reserve EARLY as all of them fill up VERY fast once a planeload of new visitors arrives. Each restaurant has 2 sittings: 6:30pm and 8pm.
Sushi – did not go Italian – did not go SeaFood – I hate SeaFood and I loved this restuarant. Down by the beach (beachside grill and lunch buffet in daytime), great ambiance, excellent service, better than expected wine, and spectacular food. Lobster and all the other for the seafood lover and great fish, shrimp, and turf for the seafood hater. So good I proposed to my girlfriend here. Romantic (Spanish) – We were seated and waited 20mins for wine, another 5mins saw me asking for bread which arrived with no butter, and still nobody had arrived to ask after our order. Many other diners looking around lost as well. Dinner went downhill after that. unremarkable food, walked out before dessert/coffee. So glad I did NOT propose here as earlier planned. SteakHouse – By Far, the best a la carte I have ever been to! A 5star restaurant anywhere in the world.
Buffet/Snacks: The food was exceptional not just by a cuban standard but by an anywhere standard. No matter the time of day, you can always get a fresh cooked or buffet lamped meal/snack (they have both options all the time so go for fresh). The choice is tremendous and includes all the resort staples as well as so much else: one night they had everything & the kitchen sink + rabbit! There is something for all appetites. Another see it to believe it.
Tipping: All tipping included with your package but cuba is a very poor country. Dollar store items are very much appreciated and we were sure to leave a little care package with those staff that made a real impression. We tipped a $1CUC at the bars whenever we had some on us (about 3/4 of the time). It didn’t seem to make a difference with the good attitude anywhere. All happy attitude being equal though – when you first get to the lobby bar (it can get very busy at nights), make sure the bar man sees you tip – you’ll get faster service later on. NB all tips are communal and are shared equally by the barstaff.
Entertainment/Activities: Very lively. Shows 6days/wk – themes vary. Standard resort stuff but the costumes and performances are quality. And the amphitheatre is extremely impressive – HUGE! Seats about 3 hundred with another hundred along the back in a street cafe motif. Professional lighting/sound booth above. Something for everybody – a see it to believe it Michael Jackson impersonator, a trick-bmx bike demo, and some incredible dancers. Live music in the promenade every evening with salsa; with 3 bars including a non-alcoholic smoothies bar, its a hit with all the kids. For late night, the disco is BUSY. No joking – not the usual 3 or 4 tourists, there were at least 50 or 60 people every night (and this is the off season). Beach party 1 night – neon lighting is very cool by the ocean.
Also offered are sightseeing trips with dinner and local entertainment in nearby fishing towns, swimming with the dolphins, sunset catamaran cruises with lobster dinner on a private isle, etc. Not sure of the quality as we did not go but overheard others saying the sunset catamaran was AWESOME. NB. these activities are extra $. NB. There’s plenty to see and do on the resort but it is relatively isolated. It is NOT Verodaro nor is it Old Havana. It is the essence of relaxation and a place to have fun/recharge, NOT a tourist metropolis/cultural mecca. NB Judgement based on: fiancee is laid-back and doesn’t like to make a fuss; I am anal and like to make a fuss. We have been to Melia Cayo Guierellmo(sp?) – 5 stars and Playa Alameda – 4.5 stars during the 2 previous years
Melia Las Dunas is the best of our Cuban vacations so far. We are already planning our return trip next year.