LONG REVIEW… but totally honest!! Back to my review…
Arrival: Stayed Sept 10 – 17th, 2010. Flew Sunwing… early flight… on time, no issues… food was actually good on the flight. Arrived at the airport, was greeted on our exit by a Sunwing rep who gathered a taxi for us while we exchanged some $$ in the departures lounge. (Side note, don’t worry about changing your money at the airport.. exact same exchange at the front desk at Sandals). Taxi driver didn’t say a peep except when we arrived at the resort… I guess it wasn’t a big deal, as we don’t speak Spanish.
We were welcomed after a few mins at the front desk.. then had to wait while a Conceirge rep was called to come and get us. We left our luggage in the lobby, and she walked us through the resort to the Conceirge office, where we were poured a glass of champagne and offered chocolates, and welcomed "home". She explained things about the resort, the ala cartes, the pools and some excursions, then took us to our room. We were told our luggage would show up shortly… so we went to the grill for lunch.. an hour later our luggage still hadn’t arrived, so we walked back up to the lobby, and yeppers, there it was still sitting in the open… the lady at the front desk said "oh, they said you were going to call for the bellboy to bring it…" well, whether we were or weren’t supposed to call, I don’t know.. maybe a miscommunication, but by this point we were sweltering and needed to change from our pants to shorts ASAP… tip, bring shorts in your carryon!
Rooms: All rooms at this resort are the same…. split level room.. seating area with a wicker couch and chair, then step down to your king size, very tall.. and very firm bed. The conceirge room has a fully stocked bar including wine, both white and red.. a bottle of Chivas Regal, a bottle of rum, a bottle of vodka, 4 beers, 2 huge bottles of water and 4 cans of pop. This was refreshed daily… in the afternoon. We did leave peso’s for the person refreshing the fridge for us. Nice size bathroom… huge tub, built for two.. water stays REALLY warm so you can soak for a while if you want. Separate room with toilet.. We were in 2801, ground floor.. huge balcony.. overlooked the conceirge pool. We had gardeners outside our room daily, which we gave gifts and drinks to.. but they seemed to expect it from us when they saw us… didn’t like that by the end of the week. Had room service breakfast almost every morning.. just hang your card on the door the night before, and you can enjoy fresh fruit, hot coffee and croisants w/jam when you wake up (tip: you can order whatever you want by writing it on the back of the card)…. a nice touch for conceirge as well.
Maid service was good… cleaned mid morning, then again for turn down service at night before bed. We left gifts and trinkets everyday as well as a peso or 2…Do yourself a favour, read the link about GIFTS TO CUBA… I’m sure some people still like the little things we tend to bring, but to be totally honest.. THEY WANT CASH… they don’t want the school supplies, the make up, the jewellery etc… so don’t fool yourself with thinking you’re doing something good for them…. They’ve got cellphones, ipods, designer clothes.. if you want to give to anyone, send it to a remote village somewhere to people that will and can actually use the stuff!!
Restaurants and Bars: FOOD: Ala cartes were great… first 2 nights we went out.. first to the El Caribe, which was very good, both food and atmosphere.. and the second night we went to the Seafood restaurant.. again, very good… which surprised us. We had less pleasant ala carte experiences past trips to Cuba. 3rd night we did the buffet…. mistake. The food at this resort was pretty good compared to other resorts, in our opinion.. EXCEPT for the buffet. We both had pork this first night in the buffet, and for 3 days following I was happy that I had brought my immodium with us.. nevermind the fact we did an excursion that first day of my issue… *ugh* More than likely because it was low season when we were there, but there wasn’t a big enough selection of food… IMHO. And the smell of the buffet was nauseating after a couple of days.. ventilation isn’t up to snuff, so lots of smoke and grease when they’re cooking at the stations. We ate lunch at the grill, which was not bad.. but it’s burgers, fries, hot dogs and mystery sandwiches… we don’t eat fries as a rule at home, but they were safe there!! When we couldn’t get into an ala carte, we went straight for the pasta station and had spaghetti.. why? because it was a safe bet. Tuesday nights they have a gala management dinner… Lobster.. and lots of it… we again had spaghetti. Desserts were great… not alot of veggies, but lots of breads and the parmesan wheel was there as well.. Just watch what you eat.. make sure they REALLY cook your meat.. don’t be afraid to ask them to keep it on the grill a little longer than you would usally have it…. you don’t want to spend days that you should be at the beach, on the can!!! Italian was very good as well, we only ate there once. Grill at night for sunset is very nice.. but pack your bug spray… you’ll need it once the sun goes down! All restaurants were very clean… the odd fly.. but hey, you’re in the tropics. Not over abundance of them like people had previously noted. Tip for Newbies: they present you with a wine list at every ala carte… you have to pay for these wines!!.. if you just order white or red wine, its Santa Carolina, Chilean wine.. not bad, not great… but its the house wine. We noticed some people getting pressured to buy off the menu… the servers must get commission on wine sales.. don’t do it!! Staff were very good, and in the buffet, Carlos and his team were great! Always refilling your drinks.. asking how your day was… try to get in his section.. he’s great!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Main Pool was terrific.. not too much excitement to disturb your relaxation, but enough to keep you somewhat entertained or interested on what was happening in and around. They did aqua-fit in the mornings around 11am, volleyball in the afternoon.. they didn’t pressure anyone to do anything… Pool bar was good, although you had to get out of the main pool and get into the pool that housed the pool bar… Pools were very clean, grotto was nice… water was a nice temperature… shallow areas to just lay in and catch some rays… built in seats around some of the outter walls… nice. Beach was AMAZING!!! Beach at Sandals is by far the best on the strip… nice and wide… clean, and not alot of rocks, shells or coral when getting in…. water was so warm… sand so soft… JUST SIMPLY AMAZING. They had water sports for free, including water-skiing, and banana tubing… but those were offered in the mornings only. Weather was awesome as well!! Sand fleas were very much present… we usually went to the beach for swim, then headed back to the pool or room.. one day we stayed down there for about a half hour, and I got about 10 bites on my legs… Mosquitos were bad as well.. saw some people with huge welts on their arms and legs.. one woman said her arm had swollen up so bad they had to go to the Dr.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We did do the day trip to Havana… an organized tour. Its not a bad way to get a taste of Havana, but in hindsight, we should have done the private taxi tour with a guide, but to be honest, when we were first told about the price of 200CUC, not including lunch or tip.. seemed a little pricey… also watch who you book your tour with. We made the mistake of NOT booking with Sunwing, and after talking to other guests, we took the wrong tour.. they got to do and see so much more than what we did… again, hindsight is 20/20. Oh, one other thing.. don’t bring stuff to hand out to people in Havana.. we were told before hand not to, but there were people on our trip that did, and they literally got swarmed and people kept on them for stuff and pesos!!
Other Comments: Used the Spa one afternoon when it was raining.. I had a reflexology treatment, and my DH had massage… would we do it again? No, probably not.. but it was a nice break while it rained. Was the conceirge with the extra $$$$… NO. Particularily in low-season, I don’t think its worth the extra $$$.. If you want the booze in your room, for what you save in rates on your room, just go to the little shop and buy your cans of beer to keep in the fridge.. Oh, one more thing.. I had emailed them before we left to request 2 things.. 1, that we had an upper floor… we didn’t get that. Probably was a good thing, because we enjoyed our balcony… 2, was that it was my DH’s birthday the day we were arriving, and asked if they would put a little sign in the room or something.. well, while on our walk to the conceirge office, 2 people stopped to wish him a happy birthday.. then there was a sign on the door and a birthday cake waiting for us in the room!!! Very nice touch!!
I’m sure there’s other things I’ve neglected to mention.. but all in all the resort was GOOD, NOT MIND BLOWING GREAT. Will we be back? Hmmm.. doubt it… there are too many other countries to visit… and we think we might try a cruise next. We’ve been to Cuba 3 times now.. time for a break…
Entertainment / Bars: Lobby bar was awesome.. great entertainment in the evenings, people tended to gather there before and after dinner..before the main nightly entertainment as well… Juan Carlos and Maggie were greatl! Juan Carlos is like an old friend you haven’t seen in years… treats you like he’s known you forever… nice guy, and great service! Entertainment was pretty good.. for what we saw. Low season, so not alot of people out and about, but they did have the 1st annual Cuban Film Festival… we didn’t make it to any of the movies unfortunately…they were the nights I wasn’t feeling so hot. Conceirge party on Wednesday around the Conceirge pool… nice, HUGE bar, all brand name alcohol… although we got rained out after a few mins, they had a short aquatic show with 4 people, and a few draws for coffee, rum and other assorted stuff. All ladies got a nice red rose, and you had your picture taken by the resident photographer.