We were there for a one week stay from March 7th 2010 to March 14th 2010. This was my sixth visit to Cuba and second to Varadero; as usual we booked a’Last Minute’ Selloff (one week before we left) so we got an excellent rate. We booked with Signature Tours and were afforded the same package offered by Sunwing (see Sunwing Club bookings). We got to Pierson Airport at the mandated time, and everything went like clock work. We were traveling in a group of six, two of whom were young children so we got to board the aircraft first. I would ask that travelers observe the request to arrive three hours before departure as our flight was held up for an additional twenty minutes as we waited for five people who were held up in ‘Security’….they were lucky the pilot waited for them.
It was an early flight out of Toronto which we specifically chose so that we arrived in Cuba by mid-morning. As usual there were no problems getting our baggage, doing our money exchange at the airport or getting to the hotel; the shuttle was as usual efficient and our Cuban tour rep. as usual, very friendly and funny. Upon arrival at the hotel we were not surprised that they did not have our booking, this is normally the case when you book ‘last minute’; this was not a problem as the front desk just needed a few minutes to get us our rooms; while we enjoyed our ‘welcome cocktail’ the staff quickly got us two rooms next to each other as requested, we were in rooms 734 and 736
Rooms: The rooms were clean, one was equipped with a king size bed, the other two three quarter beds (larger than a twin but smaller than a double); we were able to get an additional cot put into our room for our eight year old grand-daughter; the a/c worked and there was lots of hot water; the only time we ever had a problem is one evening when we tried showering at around nine, guessing it was because most people were getting ready to go out at that time, we just avoided that time slot for showering; we also got a ‘complementary’ bottle of rum in our room, and the exchange of beach towels was done by house keeping daily as part of our package. The one caution I will add is…. in selecting rooms, try to request one on the ocean side of the building, ours were on the opposite side, and because there is a local oil refinery in the area, very early in the morning (between two and five), even with the air conditioning on, you will be awakened by a nauseating scent from the oil field…it is gone by breakfast time. After complaining about the scent the second day, the front desk was willing to relocate us to the other side of the building (Ocean view) but because we couldn’t get two rooms together, we decided to stick it out… we then learned that whatever it is they do at the oil field to generate that scent…isn’t done everyday, some days we were fine.
Restaurants and Bars: Now this is where the hotel failed my ‘return test’. The main buffet was a little unsettling, apart from the quality of the food being the lowest I have had in Cuba, this eating area had opened windows which allowed birds to come swooping by while you ate, some of them even nested in the section dividers and would fly by from time to time or could be seen sitting on some tables eating the crumbs after the patrons had left…. this whole thing seemed very unhealthy to me as the staff would simply brush off the table then re-set it for the next guests. While the two ah la carts we patroned both had a very nice ambiance, the quality of the food was quite poor; there was also a shortage of wine (we were told wine is in short supply all over Cuba right now…that’s thier story anyway)as a result, the only place we could get wine with our dinners was at the À la carte …. Or if you dined out of the hotel which some guests elected to do. Bars: All of the bars had a good supply of alcohol; both foreign and local….except for wine; I simply substituted liqueurs when I couldn’t get wine.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The week we were there, the beaches at that end of Varadero left something to be desired; out front of the hotel the water’s edge was quite a hike away from where the Palapas (shade) is located; as matter of fact, the beach itself formed a small dune so that the waters edge was not visible from the shade making it difficult to keep an eye on children (the life guard also sat on a regular bach chair in the shade, so we knew he couldn’t see if anyone was in trouble either). The ocean was also not suitable for swimming most of the week because of the rough waters and swift undertow, we were only able to go into the ocean twice that week; and being very windy on the beach most of the week made it less than desirable to sit in the ‘sand storm’. The beach area in front of the hotel was also not very well maintained, garbage from the day before (disposable drink cups, plates and straws) could be seen all over the beach; again the garbage pile up could have been due in part to the wind, and also, it was quite a hike back from the waters edge to the ‘few’ garbage receptacles I guess. The pools (kids and adult)The week we were there the ‘Animation Team (who lead the activities) were almost no existent. There was very little music around the pool, and nothing at all on the beach. I compare this to other hotels I have stayed at in Cuba where they set the atmosphere every day by having Cuban music playing for most of the day, and always have something scheduled to keep the guests engaged and entertained. At about ten o’clock at night, there was some entertainment, but by then, most people had either gone to bed or off the resort in search of a good time.
were not heated, but the gardens were very green, lush and beautiful.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: The week we were there the ‘Animation Team (who leads the activities) were almost no existent. There was very little music around the pool, and nothing at all on the beach. I compare this to other hotels I have stayed at in Cuba where they set the atmosphere every day by having Cuban music playing for most of the day, and by mid morning activities abound, they always had something scheduled to keep the guests engaged and entertained. At the Playa….after lunch ‘the team did do some ‘very lame’ games around the pool, but had to go around begging participants to get involved. Their Kids Club consisted of a few toys kept in a shed which the children could use; fortunately our eight year old grandchild found a family with three children in her age group….they chummed around all week. At around ten o’clock at night, there was some outdoor entertainment, but by then, most people had either gone to bed or off the resort in search of a good time.
Other Comments: Fortunately this resort is located just minutes away from the small ‘touristy’ commercial part of town, there are many restaurants, bars and small markets. For five CUC’s (visitor pesos based on the US dollar) you can buy a day pass on a double decker tour bus that runs the whole length of the tourist area; you are free to leave the bus, then grab another later on. Like I said, this was my sixth visit to Cuba, I chose this hotel because it was at the ‘Last minute price’ and I thought it was a good deal….it was not, we could have done better. I will also, never go to the North Coast of Cuba this early in the year again, it is just too cool; previously the earliest we have been down was April, and the latest November both times the weather was in the thirties, on this last visit, most days we were in the lower to mid twenties…..and windy.