Recent posts by Trillium | Debbie's Caribbean Resort Reviews Forums

I travel in November and April and the low season pricing at selloff prices allows me to take two trips a year and I’m not stressed out driving to the airport which is a 3 hour drive in snowy, icy, unpredictable weather. Fall and spring are still chilly enough to want to go away, cheap enough to not break the budget, and not crowded at the resorts. The Caribbean sun is always nice and hot and the water temp is warm.

Usually the Villa Cojimar and the Oasis Villa Playa Coco are priced pretty comparable and the Villa Cojimar (built 14 years ago) is a wonderful resort experience for a 3 star Cuban hotel. I was there end November and the staff, service and quality were as good as any 4 star I’ve been in Cuba. Many of the staff have been there since it opened so that speaks volumes for how they treat their staff and loyalty. I highly recommend you give Villa Cojimar a try next time you want to visit the Cayos.

Villa Cojimar was the first resort built on Cayo Guillermo. It has a very cottagy feel to it. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there, 21 – 28 Nov 09. I had a villa 15 steps from the ocean from my patio. Good food, close to the beach (the resorts in Playa Coco are set back behind the lagoon that you have to cross via wooden bridged/walkways) so it is a long walk to get to the ocean and no washrooms. Villa Cojimar, Iberostar Daquari, Sol and Melia Cayo Guillermo are all right close to the water but a longer ride from the airport (45 minutes). Love the area but lots of little no see-ums after dark so bug spray is most important. I paid $555 taxes included on Westjet vacations for my week end November (and no single supplement charge……..bonus).

I love the UV protection clothing, especially for on the beach and snorkeling. I have T-shirts with 65 UV and they are thin, dry quickly and great for keeping the sun off my back snorkeling. I was pleasantly surprized to find our COSTCO (Kingston, ON) selling UV 25 protection T shirts just after Christmas for only $9.99. They mostly had X-Large left by the time I’m noticed them but there were a good assortment of colours of lime green, white, & black. More and more stores are carrying UV protection now; especially sports stores but they are appearing in department stores too. Its so much better for the environment than all the lotions that wash off in the water and you’re not putting chemicals on your skin……….I love the products.

I’ve noted some very good last minute deals for Christmas/New Years but seat availability on the plane might pose a problem when you are looking for 10 seats very last minute at this very busy time of year. The 3 star resorts are the most abundant in selloffs. just announced their Christmas/New Years deals. I don’t know what gateway you will be leaving from but its worth checking the online sites for advance deals.

Again, at the risk of hijacking this thread, if its excellent snorkeling sites you crave in calm water, check out the Mayan Riviera (Akumal) area, or Cozumel, or San Andres Island (out of Montreal this year only unfortuneately), Roatan, Honduras….awesome snorkeling from the beach. As for Cuba, I’ve read that the Bay of Pigs area on the southern coast is excellent and there are a few nice resorts on the southern coast. I’ve enjoyed snorkeling at Jibacoa and Holguin (Luna y Mares)…right from the beach. I know what you mean about missing that underwater paradise.

If you fly Cubana out of Montreal, the movie is only in French and Spanish but they speak three languages on the announcements. Very comfortble flight, though but my flight had a 2 hour delay leaving Montreal last April waiting for the flight to fly in from Havana. Coming home, no problems at all.

There is a bit of chatter on the website. The Nolitours brochure should be available anytime. Some TAs have told their clients that its looking like only departures this year from Montreal. Last year, they started out of Toronto and later in the season, picked up passengers in Montreal. Someone reported contacting Air Transat when they saw the San Andres route beginning November 19th this year instead of the first Thursday in November. About the hotels, I’ve stayed at the Marazul (loved it), the San Luis (loved it too) and the Aquarium looks like a fun place too. The Maryland and Las Delphines are very small and right in the city and I’d stay in them too. They are all unique. The Marazul is up for sale so its questionable right now if the Decameron chain will continue to carry it. We’re waiting to see if Decameron will include the Marazul this year. Everybody is holding their breath (those of us that enjoy going to SAI every year, that is.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I think it is Sunwing that is waiving the fuel surcharge if you book by July 31st for travel through 2010 to several Caribbean destinations that Sunwing offers. That’s why you’re seeing the $110 taxes to Cuba but the offer ends Friday at midnight.

July and August can be unbearably humid and not so bad in October. Ocean temp in July and august is like being in a warm bath. Oct ocean temp is still warm but not so much as the summer months. The humidity in the summer is draining if you walk a lot and of course, those summer showers come every day in Jul/Aug.

NH Krystal Laguna Villas & Resort (previously El Senador)Cayo Coco, Jardines del Rey, Ciego de Avila, CUBATel: 011 533 330 1470 Fax: 011 533 330 1439

Email: [email protected] Att: Maurits

There are two sides to this resort so you have to specify whether you are booked into the Sendaor or Laguna side in the villas or the hotel section.

I was looking for a 10 day package this summer on the yourtraveltickets website and found 10 days to Cayo Largo, Cuba departing from Montreal… shown below:Cayo Largo GRAN CARIBE C. LARGO 2.5 ROOM AI 27 Jul 2009 10 nights $695.52 $222.00 Cayo Largo SOL PELICANO 3.5 ROOM AI 27 Jul 2009 10 nights $925.52 $222.00 Cayo Largo SOL PELICANO 3.5 STANDARD ROOM AI 27 Jul 2009 10 nights $928.72 $220.00 Cayo Largo SOL CLUB CAYO LARGO 4 ROOM AI 27 Jul 2009 10 nights $999.12 $222.00

SharonAnn, I’ve found that the 10-day, 12-day or 17-day AIs to Cuba are not standard but they seem to be more common from the Montreal Gateway in April/May/June timeframe. When this option is available, you can choose the longer timeframe from the drop-down box when it asks you to select the duration on any online website.

2 weeks in Cayo Largo in April for the first time going for more than a week. Absolutely totally relaxed. Going for the 17 day offers next year to that wonderful island end April/May. Much always want more, eh?

A good friend of mine is taking her 13 year old goddaughter to Villa Cuba for a "mother/daughter" fun getaway. After researching all the options available, she chose Varadero and Villa Cuba for them because it offered so many fun things to do and of course, that gorgeous beach. They are also departing from Montreal but on August 2nd.

I’me just back from 2 weeks at the Gran Caribe/Villa Coral, Cayo Largo and had the opportunity to visit the other hotels on the island during my stay. The Melia owns the Pelicano and Sol and the Barcelo is now under the ownership/management of the Gran Caribe. I have been to other chains throughout Cuba and the Caribbean. To answer your question about comparing the Cuban-run Gran Caribe to the Melia or Barcelo. Well, for the Cayo Largo comparison, I had a thoroughly enjoyable 2 weeks at the Villa Coral. The Gran Caribe on Cayo Largo now has 5 hotels on the island. The Italians have exclusivity to two of them: Isla del Sur and Villa Lindamar. The Canadian, Italian and Cuban guests are accommodated in the Villa Coral (72 rooms) and Villa Soledad (approx 42 rooms). However, Gran Caribe has just acquired what they have named the Playa Blanca (former Barcelo). It is a 20 minute walk down the road or 5 minutes by taxi. Since the Barcelo built this only 5 years ago, it is the newest hotel on Cayo Largo and although smaller than the Sol, it is as fancy as its competitor in the lobby and grounds. For me, I stayed in the 3 star Gran Caribe and the food was very good (IMHO). I was the only totally English speaking guest in the entire complex. The french folks from Montreal were mostly bilingual and very friendly. The Italians and Cubans stayed to themselves (language barrier, I suspect) but everyone was friendly and smiled when spoken to. I think the majority of the English speaking guests that visit Cayo Largo go to the Sol, Pelicano or Barcelo (now Playa Blanca). I saved $600 in staying at the Gran Caribe as opposed to the Sol and $200 from the Barcelo/Pelicano. I know I would enjoy myself no matter which hotel on Cayo Largo I stayed at. It was nice to be able to visit all the hotels and all the hotels provide shuttles to the beautiful beaches of Paraiso and Sirena. It really is a tiny island.

I just returned from a two week stay on Cayo Largo. During my second week, there were only a half dozen Canadians at the 72-room Gran Caribe and the remainder of the resort was filled by local guests that flew in from Havana and other main cities of Cuba for 2 night/3day stays. I had a real eye opener about how Cubans act on vacation. Nobody was there to relax that week… became party central every night and going into the pool was not possible as it was taken over by "pool sports". The buffets were swarmed as soon as it opened. Don’t get me wrong, I begrudge no paying guest their entitlement to food and drink but please display some manners no matter what culture you grew up in. One day at the Playa Paraiso beach, I picked up a full garbage bag of empty snack wrappers, water bottles, beer cans, etc that a group Cubans (6 adults, 4 children) walked away from after they enjoyed the beautiful beach for a few hours. A large garbage can was only a few steps away. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the public beach in such a state. An onlooking man and his wife from Italy was watching me pick up the litter and chattinging away in Italian probably the same things I was thinking in English… lazy, disgusting and rude to leave your garbage behind, especially being from their own country. I also witnessed how rude and demanding they were to the staff who were waiting on them at the bars and dining room of our resort. These Cubans weren’t the poor ones living on government rations; they wore more gold around their necks than I own and the women were dressed to the 10s in fashion. I’m beginning to think that there are factions of Cuba’s people that are quite well off and don’t deserve my empathy and sympathy for their way of life….the "nouveau riche" so to speak but have no respect for anyone. Times…they are a changing in Cuba.

I just recently spent two wonderful weeks at the Gran Caribe Villa Coral in Cayo Largo. It was sold as a 3 star and I had no complaint with the food on any of my 14 days. I have stayed in 5 stars down to 2 stars in Cuba in years past and my experience with the Gran Caribe in Cayo Largo was excellent. Perhaps the variety wasn’t as abundant as 4 and 5 star levels but in my kitchen at home, my family doesn’ t get the choice every day that I had at Villa Coral. I suspect the new Gran Caribe Playa Blanca will probably be a 4 star level as it is still relatively new infrastructure. Sadly, they can’t do anything about the beach as that is up to the forces of nature to add and take away with the weather patterns. I was able to go through every hotel on Cayo Largo and would book any of them. That little island is a great destination.

I would think if you booked using a credit card and the supplier cannot deliver on a suitable package for you on your original booking date to an alternative destination, then the credit card company will reimburse you if you send a letter to them. Perhaps your travel agency will fly you to another departure gate free of charge or for a minimal fee if there is one nearby. For where I live, I have the option of flying out of Toronto, Ottawa or Montreal. You should discuss that possibility with them. I would also think that if another date outside what you have already booked is not possible for you to take your vacation, then the travel operator can be pushed to reimburse you in full.

I can comment on the Gran Caribe as I’ve just returned from two wonderful weeks there. The Gran Caribe is made up of four side-by-side resort complexes. Canadians are accommodated in the Villa Coral and Villa Soledad sections (the two in the middle). The remaining two, Isla del Sur and Lindamar are exclusively dedicated to the Italian clientele. Soleded doesn’t have its own amenities; it is comprised of several beach bungalows and two two-storey buildings behind the bungalows which all have ocean views. It is a short two minute walk on the sidewalk to the Villa Coral where you eat your meals in the buffet (not air conditioned and is closed in but there is an outside adjoining patio overlooking the ocean to eat also). The Villa Coral has a swim-up bar and the pool has a wide step to enter. Breakfast at the Gran Caribe Villa Coral begins at 7:30 – 10:30. There is a good selection of fruit, juice, bread/toast, two dry cereals, hot entrees, breakfast sweets (cookies and pound cake) and a made to order omlette station. The coffee is from a coffee machine in the morning and is very good. Lunch buffet opens at 1:30 to 3:30 and supper buffet is 7:30 to 10:30. Coffee is not served with lunch or supper, only cold drinks including red or white Argentinian wine. Coffee is taken at the 24-hour Isla del Sur bar – a short walk next door to the Villa Coral. Pizza and ham and cheese sandwiches are offered as a snack at the Coral swim-up bar from 2 – 5 pm. The Villa Coral offers one a la carte twice a week at the Ranchon oceanfront outdoor restaurant located at the Lindamar….a 5 minute walk from the Coral and 2 minutes from the Soldedad. They offer grilled steak, pork, fresh fish and chicken. It is a set menu twice and week at 8 pm and must be reserved by Jorge Felix, the Public Relations Manager. The restaurant will accommodate only 30 people and there is only one sitting.
Its true, the beach in front of the Coral and Soledad are filled with coral and the waves in front of all the hotels are strong compared to Playa Paraiso and Sirena but there are calm days too. The beach in front of the Isla del Mar is all sand and does not require beach shoes. The clientele at the Gran Caribe is mostly Italian, French-Canadian and Cuban (on the weekends for 3 day stays). I was the only Anglophone in the entire Gran Caribe complex for my two weeks. There is a snack bar at Playa Paraiso and Sirena to purchase drinks, and food ranging from 1 peso for drinks to 20 pesos for a cooked lobster. With 24 hour advance notice, your hotel will pack you a picnic lunch if you make arrangements at the reception. A lot of people would take the 8:30 or 9:30 shuttle to the beach (15 minute ride) and stay until the 1:30 shuttle and return to their hotel for lunch. Taxis are also available to and from the beach from all hotels for 2 pesos per person each way. Taxis are faster and far less bumpier than the train. I flew from Montreal on Air Cubana, on a new Airbus. Passengers on Air Cubana should be aware that the movie is only in French or Spanish and there is no complimentary water, pop or juice offered. There is a charge but they do serve a breakfast or lunch complimentary depending on the time of the flight . The only English spoken by the crew is in the announcements. The Barcelo, located just down the beach from the Isla del Sur (15 minute walk down the road…a bit more difficult by beach at high tide) is just in the process of being transferred to the Gran Caribe chain of resorts….Cuban owned and Cuban managed. I truly enjoyed my two weeks at the Villa Coral. I have posted my review which will be published on Debbie’s reviews on May 1st.

This resort has been on my short list until I read the horrific reviews from two different guests last November describing in horrid detail the method used to kill some dogs that were on the beach right in front of guests and then hauled their lifeless bodies away in a small wheeled cart. I get ill every time I see this resort name mentioned. I choose not to support a resort that supports such cruelty. I didn’t want to believe what I was reading at the time but when the occurrence was reported by a second, unrelated reviewer, I was sadly convinced the incident must truly have happened. I’ve copied the sad reports so you know I’m not fabricating the story. I love going to Cuba and continue to vacation in other areas. I really hope this method is not repeated throughout the country. I noticed in the weeks that followed on the heels of this incident that the pricing for Cameleon Villas Jibacoa was really cheap, (out of Toronto). In time, like all things, memory fades and people forget will continue to patronize this resort and its insensitive manager….copied as posted on Trip Adviser…….Animal lovers beware!!”Cameleon Club Jibacoa piperk muskoka ontarioNov 10, 2008 15/23 found this review helpfulMy husband and I travelled to cuba for our first ever vacation there ,we booked through our travel agent who recommended this particular resort because it was in a quiet location and we were told that they kept several animals there which was a big plus for us as we had to kennel our dogs ,we booked for two weeks and the first was quite enjoyable ,we really enjoyed the snorkling and the reefs are exquisite ,the food leaves a lot to be desired and the beach was not cleaned up often,the staff however were very friendly and hard working,we met several couples from canada who had been here before ,several many times and we all took to the animals.At the end of our first week there was a horrific incident involving the dogs ,where a supposedly proffesional"dogcatcher" was called in to remove them ,in front of many of us sitting on the beach ,one dog was pulled out from under a chair by it’s lame leg spun over the man’s head several times and had it’s head smashed into a tree ,during the hysteria that followed the manager was very nonchalant ,and actually quite agressive toward one lady who was taking pictures to the point of trying to physically take her camera away,needless to say we were all helpless and many of us opted to be transferred ASAP as this had ruined our stay ,in total 2 dogs were removed and 5 little puppies who"s eyes were not even open yet ,they did however leave the pup’s mother who can no longer care for them.I feel this particular management could certainly adopt a policy of descretion where their guests are concerned and this report:Tourist Beware”Cameleon Club Jibacoa jobreau2 New Brunswick, CanadaNov 6, 2008 18/28 found this review helpfulWe just spent two weeks in Cuba and the first week at the Cameleon Villas Jibacoa was an experience we could have done without. Cruelty to AnimalsDuring our week at the Cameloen V. Jibacoa a number of guests, including ourselves, became friendly with a few of the resort dogs. One little guy who we called "Itchy" was adorable. He had the mange bad but one kind tourist gave Itchy a bath and took him into the salt water with her each day to try and clean him up and heal the sores. Another one with a sore leg, we named her "Limpy", was also a favorite with the tourists. On our sixth day at the resort a jeep, with a small white box on wheels hauled behind it, pulled up in the parking lot. One man from the jeep came down to the beach, pulled Limpy by the tail from under a lounge chair where she had been sleeping, then grabbed her by the hind leg and proceeded to twirl her around in a circle, hitting her head into the tree. He then lifted her up and put her into the box on wheels behind the jeep. At this point the women on the beach are crying and screaming, the men are hollaring but it didn’t stop this "dog catcher" from torturing this poor animal. It was absolutely horrible and I still have nightmares from it. Needless to say, many of us asked to be transferred to another resort immediately at a cost of close to $400. It was wll worth it and the food was much better at the resort we moved to.Several of us approached the Manager regarding our distress over this abuse but he was unreasonable stating "I am a good man, I love animals and they have dog catcher in Canada too". He was so busy patting himself on the back and being self righteous that it was a useless exercise. By the shape of the resort, the sub-standard food and the abuse witnessed by the tourists, it is obvious that the Manager of this resort should be in another line of work.A couple of days before the above incident, the Manager was witnessed by several tourists kicking a puppy in front of the entrance to the office.We have been to Cuba many times and have never witnessed cruelty like this before even though there are dogs on other resorts. We would never return to this particular resort and perhaps never again to Cuba.
Hi Armanda. I saw your post and emailed a friend of mine who was born in St Kitts and goes home yearly to visit family. This is her reply to me:"I don’t believe there is a ferry (the waters back there are way to choppy, most people get there either by their yacht/sailboat or they fly. I myself have flown from St Kitts to St Maarten on "Caribbean Star"…. "

I think runners or sneakers are all catagorized as "Nikes" by the Cubans. That must be the most common "brand" that is brought as gifts so not knowing to call them runners or sneakers they call all of them "nikes" and the "Mrs." shoes would translate to "ladies" meaning our regular leather with or without a heal.

Hi jinnl. The Barcelo Marina is a 4 star so they probably have "top shelf" international brands of liquor so the Bicardi and sprite will most likely be available but you may have to ask for it specifically; otherwise, they just serve their national brands. I’m not a beer drinker but most people seem to enjoy the Cuban beer. They have a light and a dark on tap. I’ve never seen sangria offered anywhere I’ve been other than in Europe.

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