Flew Air Canada and arrived at Frank Pais airport – pesos from the previous trip came in handy for the all-important Cristal beer for the bus ride. They were repairing a road in Holguin which necessitated a detour. AC on the bus was great, but a shame to arrive in the dark when the countryside is so beautiful. Arrival at hotel was quick and painless and bellboy carried our bags upstairs after taking us in a golfcart.
Room was fine – the beds are too hard if you are used to a pillow-top mattress, and we needed the extra pillows from the closet. AC was okay, but not "meat locker" cold, the way we like it. Fridge filled daily with pop, beer, water. Maid did a fantastic job of cleaning our rooms daily, and room service was very quick. Shower was fine, toilets flushed, and eventually we figured out which light switches turned out which light! Flat screen TV and to our surprise, they get Global Toronto so I could still watch The Young and the Restless! You are given purple bath towels on the bathroom shelf, which you can take to the beach and then exchange daily.
Restaurants and Bars: Really great food – we enjoyed El Bohio, the Cuban restaurant with shrimp fritters and lobster, great service from Alien and Liudmyla, and a fabulous old-school Cuban trio straight out of Buena Vista Social Club. The Japanese restaurant chef, Roybert, is like a Cuban Guy Fieri, great chef and great personality to match. Sushi, seafood, and lots of champagne – and a great decor. The best restaurant was Los Helechos, the Royal Service restaurant, which is comparable to a very fine restaurant in a major city. Service was high end, the food was exquisite in preparation and flavour, and the staff were lovely. Repeaters dinner at Santa Maria was a special treat, and Roberto is one of the most friendly and devoted waiters I’ve ever met. We met Eduardo the GM and he has a place of which he can be very proud. The buffet was great for all three meals, and I even tried quail eggs for breakfast one day. Be sure to try the bananas crepes flambeed in rum for dessert. The Ranchon had great grilled fish, crispy thin pizza and the Paradisus salad, with fresh shrimp.
Bar service on the large beach was great, with Jorge (with the gorgeous eyes!) and Danneris (hope that is correct) serving great lemon slushies with Limoncello. Lobby bar could be hit or miss in terms of service but on the other hand, there was always a busy crowd.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Never went into the pool, although it looked fine to me. The grounds are extremely well manicured, and I was fascinated to watch the gardener trim the hedges into geometric perfection with just simple swipes of a machete. They are always painting and tending to the grounds.
The beach: I love this beach. The colour is mesmerizing. There seems to have been some erosion and it is rocky closer to the hotel, but if you walk toward Sol Luna, there is clear water and no rocks. Lots of fish in the water to look at, and the beach is kept very clean. Can’t say enough about the beautiful beach.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Our only activities were eating, floating, napping and drinking. We went into Guardalavaca to the Mercado to shop twice, once in a regular cab and once in a sweet ’57 Chevrolet.
We did do the Spa, the couples massage which worked out to less than what I’d pay in Canada, and it also included a foot bath and massage by Rolando, as well as guava juice and sandwiches brought to us, both on the private spa beach, and at the saltwater pool. The relaxation massage by Jorge Antonio was amazing – I felt reborn afterward. Spa was very clean and professional, and the huts are airconditioned so you do not get too hot or too cold.
Other Comments: I’ve been to MX five stars and I could see that the Royal Service area was exactly comparable, but I would say the regular PRDO is more likely a four or four-and-a-half, if you are comparing by international standards. Since I usually go to three stars in Cuba, it is definitely one of the best available, and the fanciest hotel I have been to in Cuba. I would also like to add that the serving staff were really amazing, they knew our names and preferences and made us feel like we were honoured guests. Mabel at the concierge desk was very helpful with specific requests and she is a treasure. I went with a girlfriend to have a week of chillaxation, and we got it. This is not a party hotel, it was mostly honeymooners and couples and extended families of wedding guests.
We did the VIP for 25 CUC at the airport, which is a quieter way to wait for your flight. Smoking lounge is directly across from it, if you are a smoker. Amazing ham and cheese panini (they kept makin’ ’em and we kept eatin’ ’em!) and unlimited drinks.