Arrival: June 9th – June 16th: Once again we booked our trip with Sunwing vacations and were not disappointed, professional, courteous service, smooth flight and on time, honestly we do feel Sunwing does offer the best charter service from Canada and will continue to use them for our charter vacation needs. For our flight to Holguin, we choose the Elite Plus upgrade ($40), this afforded us the extra luggage allowance needed (30kg), as well as priority check in at Pearson International and the Extra leg room seats (35" pitch). If you chose to book the Elite Plus, I do not recommend booking row two (2). Although you do receive the extra legroom without having to deal with the person in front of you slamming into your space, the actual seat width is narrower as the table trays are stored in the armrests, rendering them stationary, I have to admit, this was fairly uncomfortable. Arrival at the Holguin airport was somewhat disconcerting, greeted by fully masked and gloved security/custom agents, heightened Swine Flu security protocol was in place and appreciated, however, you would honestly think they were protecting themselves against the Ebola virus.. I have to admit this was the easiest and fastest time we have ever had through customs in Holguin, no questions what so ever, it felt as though they wanted us out of the airport as fast as possible. As this was already a late night flight I was more then happy to grab my luggage and hop onto the bus as soon as possible. Honestly, it took us exactly 1hr and 37 minutes from the time we landed in Holguin to arrival at the PRDO, an all time record in my books. Arrival the PRDO was just as smooth. As we arrived at the PRDO just after 10:00 pm and only had a small group of four (4) couples and a mother and daughter team arriving at this resort with us no big fanfare for our arrival. As soon as we jumped off the bus and ensured we had our luggage, the front desk staff greeted us immediately and asked us to have a seat in the lobby while they provided us with cool towels and champagne. The front desk staff took our paperwork and passports for check-in and came back within 10 minutes our room keys and welcome information in hand.
As repeaters, we were also presented with a lovely welcome back letter from management and roses, which reminded us why we love this resort so much. It’s the little details that sets this place apart from other resorts we have been to, and why we keep coming back.
Rooms:: Total check-in time took no longer then 15 relaxing minutes, and we were quite happy to see that we were once again given our regular room, 3418. In my opinion this room is in the best location for us, although, I have to admit, each time we go the room seems to fall deeper and deeper into disrepair. As reported the accommodations at the PRDO are in dire need of updating, although clean, we found the ripped curtains, uncomfortable bed, missing/broken bathroom tiles and caulking patchwork to be a little disappointing. This did not effect our vacation in the slightest however, not really acceptable for a 5* resort, even in Cuba. One slight difference, improvement? Our now clear view of the pool from our balcony. Thanks to Hurricane Ike and the clearing out of vegetation at this resort, we now have a view of the pool, in the past the foliage was so deep/dense around this block of rooms that we had no view what so ever. As for the Hurricane Damage around the rest of the resort? Well, I have to say if you have never been to this resort, you probably wouldn’t even notice, however, we were personally shocked at the difference, and not necessarily in a bad way. The gardeners have worked so incredibly hard to clean up the mess Ike left behind, and in our opinion many garden areas have actually been improved. We have always personally found the area between the Cliffside path and Superior Junior suites to be very dark and dank, however, now, these suites do have a clear view of the ocean, maybe still too dark for my liking but certainly cleared out quite a bit.
We also found the vegetation around the pool and main path to be seriously thinned out, maybe removing some of the privacy these rooms had in the past, but the gardens that have been replanted or revived after Ike, are more manicured, clean and attractive. The other area I noticed an improvement was the beach. Previous visits I noticed much of the vegetation encroaching the beach area, however, I do believe Hurricane Ike took care of this, as the beach does appear much deeper
Restaurants and Bars:: Umm, I will try and keep this section directly to the point. The Buffet (La Ceiba). This open-air buffet offered a large assortment of both North American and European cuisine. Along with the usual hotplate choices you will find cold cuts, cheeses, salads (sans lettuce), fruits, cereals, yogurts a variety of breads, they also had a fry station which will take care of eggs, bacon and sausages in the morning, and a variety of meat selection (beef, chicken, shrimp, fish, pork) for lunch and dinner. You can also choose to have your omelets and pressed sandwiches made for you in the morning, or fresh homemade pasta for the lunch or dinner. I should also mention they do have a person who will make the famous Cuban banana crapes, which is still my favorite dessert in Cuba. A la Cartes (in order of preference) El Patio: International Cuisine The El Patio is still most definitely our favorite restaurant at the PRDO. Romantic and intimate, this restaurant offers a complete menu of international dishes, including Lobster and steak, a great wine selection and amazing service. Actually I believe next time we visit the PRDO we will try and ditch the other A la Cartes and try to at least book the El Patio twice. Mediterraneo: Mediterranean Cuisine The menu at the Mediterraneo was almost identical to that of the El Patio, however, we really didn’t enjoy the atmosphere as much. Again the wine selection and service was wonderful, the meal enjoyable however fell a little flat in terms of atmosphere. Tsuru: Japanese A truly enjoyable evening as we were lucky to have great table mates from England and Scotland, however, the meal itself was far from authentic, the assistant waiter was not on top of service and the chef himself did not put on a very good show. This would have been our third time at this particular A la carte and to be honest, we have never really enjoyed this restaurant (and we love Teppanyaki ), a great way to make new friends, but I think in the future we will try and stick to restaurants that are more indigenous to this region. El Bohao: Cuban Due to the Repeaters dinner changing from Wednesday evening to Monday we once again missed out on our reservation for the El Bohio. The restaurant is open-air, and Cuban themed, people seemed to either love or hate it, I can’t leave an opinion other the to say the trio of guitarist who played at this restaurant were amazing (we could hear them from the buffet). I believe for our next visit we will substitute the Japanese for the Cuban. La Laguna: Pool Restaurant and the Santa Maria : Beach Restaurant Both the pool and beach restaurants were open for lunch and provided a nice sit down menu, both had similar offerings available, hamburgers, hotdogs, salads, sandwiches, french fries, the pool restaurant also served an amazing four (4) cheese pizza, which we enjoyed just about every day. The Beach restaurant stopped serving lunch by 3:00 pm, while the Pool restaurant closed at 4:00 pm. 24 hour room service is available and I believe the menu is identical to the Pool menu. Just a brief mention of the Repeaters dinners.
What a spectacular evening, I mean really, probably the highlight of our trip. This was a sunset dinner which took place on the bottom tier of the beach restaurant, you are greeted with champagne, shown to a table which overlooks the beautiful Playa Esmeralda, a set four (4) course menu (which changed the week we were there), is presented by your own personal wait person and your choice of red or white wine is served . A serenade of music by both the trio of guitarists from the Cuban restaurant and by Osario via the sound system brought to the beach, helped to add an additional element of romance. A lovely, lovely evening had by all!
Three main bars at this resort, the lobby, the swim-up in the pool and beach bar, to be honest this was one of our biggest disappointments. June is the beginning of the slow season, and many of the more senior staff were on holidays, plus June, is also the month where they bring in and start training the new staff. Although everybody tried hard, I can tell you, unless you were ordering wine, beer, lime slush with rum or a call drink, you were really not guaranteed to receive the drink you thought you were ordering. We are not big drinkers but I can honestly tell you, we never did have true success ordering anything other then wine or beer.. Inconsistent at best and downright awful at its worst(chocolate martini with olives anybody?). However, the resort did have enough mint for mojitos all week, even if the club soda was always flat and the mint leaves dirty.
Entertainment/Shows:: Well, if I were to be honest, and could choose one word to describe the entertainment, I would say it was dire. Now, not all of the entertainment was bad, actually most of the pre-show acts were phenomenal. We were treated to a glorious tenor opera singer from Holguin one night who was amazing, a stellar saxophonist, pianist, singers. All stellar performers and for the most part somewhat wasted on the resort crowd.
However, the PRDO dancers were awful, and I do mean awful. I have never seen a group of more uncoordinated entertainers in my life, honestly. We sat through five (5) shows hoping they would get better only be sadly mistaken, as the week progressed the shows became worse and worse. Badly choreographed dancing coupled with un-timed lip-synching was the best the PRDO had to offer for their nightly performance. I actually began to feel badly for these entertainers as I don’t believe they ever had an audience more the 30 guests the whole week.After the evening show we would return to the room, the Fun Pub is no longer. Yes, there is a piano bar of sorts however, each time we visited, no music or bar was in operation, just an air-conditioned room. So, by 11:00 pm we were back in our rooms left to make up our own fun, however, without, the kids this was not to hard to do
Beach/Pools/Grounds:: The PRDO is set amongst the most spectacular natural beauty I have seen in the Islands. As mentioned earlier, quite a bit of the vegetation has changed, still very tropical if not quite as lush, the gardeners here work so very hard and it shows. The Pool area is quite large for such a small resort, plenty of loungers although, still a little shy in the shade area.
As the resort was not at capacity, we rarely had a problem finding a chair with shade; however, the actual sun beds were saved before the birds woke up, as we now had a view of the pool, we could see people getting up and reserving the prime locations very, very early in the morning. We don’t play these types of games, but yes, it is quite something to see adults saving sun-beds by laying down towels first thing in the morning and then spending most of their day at the beach. Very selfish behavior by the guests, which is a very difficult situation to control for the resort.
What can I say about this beach? Playa Esmeralda is a phenomenal beach, small yes (you can walk the entire length in 20 minutes), but quite deep, white and soft. The PRDO section of the beach is quite rocky, and probably not a clean as it could be, but the snorkeling here is phenomenal. I am glad to see very little damage to the reef had occurred from Hurricane Ike, and I would hazard to say, the aquatic life not only survived but also has actually thrived since our last visit. If you are looking for the quintessential Caribbean beach experience, I would suggest you walk towards the Sol Luna Mares section of the beach, here you will find the soft deep white sand with a smooth entry, much more typical of the Caribbean beach dream..
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
Okay this is the second area that fell flat for us. I rewrote this section a couple of times, as I am not quite sure how to put this. Bluntly? The animation staff/program sucked Is that a bit harsh? Let me try to quantify. Past visits the animation staff were visible, activities were scheduled, advertised and promoted throughout the day, at the very least you could go to the club house and clearly read the daily schedule of activities and feel free to speak to an animation member who could advise you or provide information on any of the activities/tours offered. In the past the animation staff would try and get to know all the guest, even if just a friendly hola in passing, asking how your day or trip has been going and seriously at least pretend to be interested.
Not this trip:: First of all, it has been a couple of years since we have been back to the PRDO and only recognized two (2) of the previous animation members, so for us, the animation staff are new, keep in mind, our room was directly across from the clubhouse and we did spend the majority of our time around the pool, no excursions this trip. The only regularly scheduled activities were volleyball, water aerobics and yoga. As it was low season one member of the animation staff told me they did not schedule activities, not unless a group of people were interested, hard to get a group of people interested in something when none of the members actually advertised what activities were on offer. Funny the clubhouse had a sign, which advertised all sorts of activities, however, try finding out when and where the program was to take place, even offered pottery and candle making, when asked, the animation staff laughed at me. No pottery class, this is Cuba. When asked why the board advertised the activity if not available the staff, shrugged and replied Es Cuba. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all about it. Anyway, throughout my stay, I would pass by animation members, who didn’t even look up, never mind ask how things were going, when trying to get information about programs; I would get a blank stare and be invited to volleyball. I found the members to be very unfriendly, and extremely unprofessional. One time I tried to return beach towels only to be told to wait outside as a few Canadian girls pushed by with about a dozen beers in hand to give to the staffers. I couldn’t tell you how many times I saw guests coming into the clubhouse with beers for the staff. I swear in one hour alone I saw this one group of Brits, supply at least four beers each to the 3 staff members at the clubhouse. In turn, whenever the animation staffs were around, you can believe they gravitated to the few groups of people who plied them with booze. Instead of mingling with all the guests, the animation staff had a few favorites and spent their time socializing with their select few. I could go on and on, but lets leave it as we were NOT impressed and actually after being to 14 different resorts, I would say this is the most unprofessional animation staff we ever encountered.
Now on the other end of the scale, my husband and I booked three spa treatments. Wow, what an amazing place ! Words can’t even begin to describe the peace and beauty of this spa, if going to the PRDO, please do yourself a favor and book at least one (1) treatment. The therapists alone are equal to if not better trained then any massage therapist I have visited here at home. Honestly, if anybody would like further information please feel free to contact me. I will say the staff here are exceptional, professionally trained, knowledgeable and over the top when it comes to ensuring your enjoyment. I miss them all already.
We had a great time at our favorite resort, but no, it wasn’t perfect, and to be honest, not at the same caliber as previous visits. I still believe the PRDO offers a great product and wonderful service for the money and we will be back again someday (if only to visit the spa again). However, what was once our little special place, seems to have lost some of its shine for us. The unprofessional animation staff, poor bar drinks, horrible evening shows and condition of the accommodations have dropped the star rating for us, where we once would have considered this a 5* plus resort in Cuba, I would probably only consider it a weak 4.5* resort. In summary, although the PRDO may still be the best AI resort you can find in Cuba, I do believe for the same money spent, you will find better quality resorts in both Mexico and the DR, biggest problem for us is that those resorts are in Mexico and the DR. Cuba still has our hearts and we will be back!