Sirenis Las Salina Varadero Reviews Page 2- Cuba Hotels – Debbie’s Caribbean Resort Reviews – Sirenis Las Salina information

~ Reviews posted on this page — 24

  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Canada

April 2008

Our group of 6 adults (mid thirties to late fifties) and one child (6) just returned from a week at Sirenis. We enjoyed the trip but all ended up with mixed feelings about this resort. For a little background, this was our third trip to Varadero, and we have stayed in a different resort each time not because we didn’t enjoy them but because we like to try different resorts each trip. We have stayed at Iberostar Varadero (loved everything about it), Blau Varadero (loved everything except the elevators) and now Sirenis la Salina. I’m not going to go into the flights, the airport or anything else outside of the resort except to say they were uneventful. We flew out of Calgary with Nolitours flying on Transat. The short version of my review is this:

Pros – beautiful resort, lots of trees, lovely landscaping, great staff, new buildings, good size rooms, great pools, good food.

Cons – huge delay getting room on arrival, too big, seriously flawed bathrooms in rooms and around resort, not enough bars open in evening. Overall this is a beautiful resort with a fantastic staff that, with some minor changes, could be amazing. Would I go back? No. Would I recommend it to others? Yes, with warnings. If you are interested in more detail, read the following:


We arrived after our night flight at about 6 am Cuba time. Check-in was the first, and most major, issue of the trip. It took about 45 minutes to get through to the check in table only to find out that there were no rooms available for any of the people on our flight. That wasn’t really a huge issue as we had packed bathing suits, change of clothes, sunscreen, etc in our carry on. We were then told that our room should be ready around 2:00 that afternoon. We thought there might be a delay but 8 hours? We weren’t expecting that. We were told to leave our luggage and anything we felt we didn’t need in the check-in room. We didn’t want to leave the cameras, other electronics, passports, money and valuables in the room so we took our carry on luggage with us and left our checked bags in the room. We asked where we could go to change out of our travelling clothes and were told to go find a bathroom. We were not given any information about the resort, no towels, no map, no idea of where to eat, etc. We were basically left to fend for ourselves for 8 hours. We headed to the lobby at 2:00 only to be told it wasn’t ready yet and to check back at 4:00. By this point my husband and I had been up for about 40 hours, my daughter was not feeling well from lack of sleep and too much heat/sun, and I was nursing a pretty substantial sunburn inspite of my 45 spf sunscreen. I pleaded with the front desk to please find us a room that was ready as we badly needed sleep and to get out of the heat. They were reluctant but did find us a room across the hall from our original room that was ready. Unfortunately, this meant giving up the cot we had requested on booking for our daughter as they were not willing to have it moved to the new room but we were happy just to get a room and with the two doubles pushed together, there was enough room for the three of us. The others in our party did not get their rooms until after 7 pm that night leaving them to fend for themselves for over 13 hours. Having a few hours delay between arrival and room assignment would have been inconvenient but acceptable. Having an 8 to 13 hour delay was not. I’m not sure if the resort or the tour operator caused the delay but regardless it didn’t start the trip off on a very good note. We slept most of the remainder of the day and when we woke up the next morning decided to just forget about the first day and start fresh.

Too Big
The resort is absolutely huge. In my opinion it’s too big. The walk from the lobby to the beach (and our room) was a 10 minute walk at a reasonable pace. We enjoy walking so this didn’t really bother us but is something you really need to be prepared for if you are considering this resort. What bothered us about the size is that they didn’t seem to consider that when setting up the timing for things like bars closing to become a la carte restaurants. From 6 pm to 9 pm or so, you could only get a drink from the lobby bars or the buffet which are both on one end of the resort. For the people who have rooms on that end of the resort, that was great but for those of us who were on the beach side, that meant a 10 minute walk to the bar for a drink. After 8 pm the theatre bar would be open for drinks but would absolutely packed with people waiting to see the shows. There really should be a bar on the beach side open the same hours that the lobby bar is open on the lobby side. We couldn’t figure out why the beach bar closed after 6 pm. It turns into the Mediterranean al la carte at night but only a very small portion of the building is used for the restaurant and the actual bar area is not used at all.

They really need to reconsider the bathrooms on the resort. The showers flood if you aren’t very careful and the taps on the sinks in the rooms are too small for the gap between the tap and the bowl so unless you turn the tap on full blast, you will flood the counter top. Many of the bathrooms in the rooms and around the resort also don’t flush well regardless of which one of the dual flushes you use. These things didn’t really bother us once we figured out how to compensate for them but are something this resort is really going to need to look at for the future.


The resort is very beautiful. There are sculptures everywhere and there are amazing areas filled with all different kinds of trees including mature cactus. The gardeners do a wonderful job. There is a plant on the resort in certain places that my daughter found very amusing. It’s a “sensitive” plant called Mimosa that is a member of the same family as the flytrap plants. When you touch it, it closes its leaves and will stay that way for about 10 minutes and open back up. There are patches of it all over the grounds, especially around the theatre.

We found all of the staff to be very friendly. The waiters and waitresses in the buffet and the two a la cartes we visited were great. The staff at the reception desk was very friendly. Our maid, Wendy, was outstanding. The bartenders were top notch. The cart drivers were fantastic. The staff really makes this resort as far as I’m concerned.

The pools are really well laid out and fun. The waterslide was a HUGE hit with the kids and a few of the adults. Having two completely separate pools was nice. When you wanted a party, you could go to the waterslide pool and when you wanted to just relax, the quiet pool was a nice alternative.

Food We found the food quite good. Even our extremely picky daughter found things to eat at every meal. The omelettes at the snack bar and the buffet were a great breakfast item, the burgers and hotdogs at the snack bar were a real hit at lunch. The dinners in the buffet were quite good. The Mediterranean a la carte was okay but we were disappointed to find out it’s just another buffet with similar food to the main buffet so not really a treat. The French a la carte was outstanding and even included a kids menu which was a blessing for us with our picky eater. We did one excursion that I didn’t see mentioned in any of the other reviews I’ve read so I thought I would mention it. If you have a group of up to nine people and are interested in seeing Havana, check into the Havana A la Carte trip. This is basically the Havana trip that the buses take but in a minivan with your own personal driver and guide. It doesn’t include any of the museum tours or lunch in the price but, if you’re willing to pay for those when you go, you can enjoy a private tour on your schedule and with only your group. We’ve taken the Havana bus tours before and found this to be a far more enjoyable experience for not much more money.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Nicole ~ Edmonton

March 2008

This trip was my second to this resort, the first time was in November 2007, and now in March. Last trip was with my husband, this time I took my 6 year old daughter and my mother.

Check In
Went smoothly. We had requested a room upgrade for being a return customer, we never received one, we were placed in building 24 which is fairly close to the Lobby, buffet and the kids pool. We arrived at approx. 6pm and our room was ready.

The room was impeccably clean and there was a stocked fridge. We also received two beach towels which was different, on our first trip we had to place a $15 CUC towel deposit at the front desk and get them from the towel hut by the rowdy pool. Our maid Sara was awesome, we tipped her $5 CUCs the first, third and fifth day of our stay, in between we left her small things, and in return we always had plenty of towels, a spotless room and a stocked fridge. One thing about bldg 24, it is close to the resort they are building next door(part 2 of the Sirenis Mega Resort) and the construction starts at 6 am, so if you like to sleep do not get a room in this building as you can hear the equipment going, trucks backing up etc.

Buffet and A La Cartes
A lot of previous reviews have trashed the food and the buffet and unfairly I think. Since our last stay the staff have worked really hard to get things running smoothly in the buffet. I found the food was always hot, the variety was good, we stuck to the cuban dishes and seafood and never had complaints. The food at the fresh station in the middle of the buffet area was always grilling up something awesome, and their omelettes in the morning are excellent. I had pork chops one night and they had chicken on the buffet three times. If you cannot find something you like then you are the world’s hardest person to please. You were only allowed to book two a la cartes so this time I picked the Mediterranean and the Cuban. The Cuban was amazing, it is by the quiet pool and the service, ambience and food were a ten. The Mediterranean is where the beach grill is during the day, we were not impressed with this one. The food was good, but it was buffet style, you had to get up and get your own food. They should not advertise this as an a la carte. Also, the service was not as good here, the waitress got us water and then never returned again to see if we needed anything else. I would not recommend this one for service. A few mornings we ate breakfast by the rowdy pool, they served croissants, fresh fruit etc and the lunches at the beach grill were good too.

There are two, we hung out at what I call the rowdy pool. This is where the animation team does their games etc, and an improvement over our last trip is that this time they were actively going around the pool trying to get people involved. My 6 year old lived in the pool and went on the water slide so many times I swear she lost weight. The bartenders were great with her too and never ignored her when she went up to the bar for a pop. The other pool is close to the lobby and has a quieter atmosphere, so if you don’t like a lot of kids or rowdy teens spend your time at this pool.

Beautiful, shallow, and long. Loved it, the beach and the people are why I keep on returning to Cuba!

Evening Entertainment
Great nightly shows, and a live cuban band plays every night by the theatre. Nightclub is not great.

We had a great vacation but this resort is not without its issues. Below are the negatives: – it is too big for itself. This is more a personal thing, I don’t like mega resorts and this one at capacity has approx. 2500 people. This means waiting in line, for money exchange, to book the a la cartes, at the buffet, at the bar… – money exchange. They rip us Canadians off huge in Cuba on money. There is an exchange office in the hotel that gave us $1.06, at the front desk it was $1.15! The exchange changes daily with often times some huge swings, that do not reflect the reality of our dollar. – line ups. I referred to this already, be prepared to stand in line a lot. This is a function of the resort being too big. – they charge $2 CUCs per day for the safe. I have stayed at four other resorts in Cuba and none of them charged for this. It is a small amount, but they seem to nickel and dime you everywhere. – They have seven a la cartes but will only allow you to book two of them for a one week stay, and half the time the good ones are booked. – Power and water shortages. One day the resort was without water from 10am until sometime after 9pm. The last time we were there they had a power outage for a whole day. Again, the resort cannot handle its capacity. – Cleanliness. The buffet and lobby get quite dirty, even though the staff works around the clock to try and keep it clean. Again, a function of the size of the resort. – A lot of Seaweed washed up on the beach one morning and no effort was made to clean it up(this is minor unless you are grossed out by seaweed) but they raked the beach one morning and then not again(maybe their tractor ran out of gas lol). – Not nearly enough palapas on the beach, which caused people to fight over the shade that there was. There are not enough umbrellas by the pool either, and people go out and leave their towels at 6 am to hold an umbrella!

Final Recommendation This resort is a solid 4 star, but no more. Will I go there again? No, because I like a smaller resort with less people and a more relaxed atmosphere, this place was just too big and busy, and service suffered as a result. The staff there are amazing however, they made our holiday and we rewarded them for their efforts as they really tried hard!

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   R ~ Canada

March 2008

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this resort (Feb 7-14/08) Everything was so new and clean. There were a few maintenance concerns, the showers do definitely leak, it’s the design of the tub and shower, adjust the shower pressure and lay down the towels. Activate the safe as soon as you unpack, the resort does know when you use it because you activate it with your own code. (2 pesos a day). Was nice to have a balcony, second floor was great. Food was great, wasn’t Canadian standards some people expect, lots of food and variety. Beach Grill/Bar good for breakfast. Make reservations for A la cart restaurants as soon as you can after arriving, they book up. Japanese was exceptional and Cuban was that much better than the main buffet. The resort wasn’t crowded, no delays in registration, no line-up for meals etc. Would not recommend this resort for the elderly or physically impaired as it is large and spread-out. We loved the extra walking. Minibus transportation quickly took us and our luggage to our room after check-in, called the night before check-out and they arrived to pick us up. Will stop anytime during the day and pick up walkers if not full with the check- ins or check-outs. Also can call from your room for a pick-up if available. Bring Kleenex, face cloths if you like- none available. The beach was fantastic, loads of lounges and sunshades. Lots of activities on the beach and at the pools. The tourists should pick up there own litter. Our second trip to Cuba and we would certainly recommend this resort to your friends.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Clare ~ Toronto

March 2008

We arrived March 6th-13th inclusive. The hotel came as a recommendation from our travel agent. Yes the hotel is huge & lovely, and the rooms spacious however it does have its bugs that need to be worked out. We arrived by Air Canada the 6:30 am flight so we arrived at the hotel by about 11:00 am after being the last drop off point. My agent had requested for adjoining rooms for me & my three children, however I wasn’t suprised upon check in to find out we weren’t even in the same building. After asking for anything closer together at least in the same building or the same floor, she finally located 2 adjoining rooms but they wouldn’t be ready until 4:00 pm! I did expect this so I made sure that the children had their swim suits & towels in their carry on bag. At this point I was given a map (which was hard to understand) and we were on our own to explore. I did review many reports on here & trip advisor so I was already aware of the shortfalls. The beach is approx 1.5 km away from the lobby. The beach is nice however more so the far right the beach is more beautiful. It is also too narrow for the size of the resort, and I find it hard to understand why they are expanding this to a phase 3 & 4. This resort does have the makings of a 5star, but Vegas "it ain’t". The "noisy" pool has a waterslide as mentioned in the other reviews, however it should be monitored by a guard to ensure that the children leave adequate time between people going down to avoid accidents at the bottom of the pool. There is a beach bar & grill which is nice that serves breakfast & lunch, as well here at the "noisy" pool too. There is another pool called the "quiet Pool" which is less structured and noisy and also serves a nice breakfast & lunch. The water here is warmer than the noisy pool. WE had 2 bad days of weather so there was a lot of sea weed ashore by the ocean. As it was not groomed my children & I stayed at the activities at the noisy pool. The Buffet was less than desirable. You are allowed 2 of the 6 a la carte restaurant reservations, and the food there was great. Now if they can make food like that there, why not at the buffet. Also, I did notice (as I am a professional chef), that there weren’t enough serving utensils for each food choice, plus the cooks who cooked up the pork chops, minute steakes and fish, used the same utensils for the raw food as for the cooked food….that is a huge mistake & hence the reason why my daughter got an upset tummy as did one of my friends who happened to be at this resort at the same time as us. Good thing we had our immodium & gravol! Also please note that I witnessed the spraying for bugs twice during the week both taking place between 6:15-6:30 pm. This seems quite dangerous to me as they spray regardless of who’s arround. You might be enroute somewhere around the paths, or by the pools and/or beach or going back to your room. They spray for bugs not caring about the people around. This is something that could be done perhaps on a daily or every other day thing after midnight when no one is around the property! I didn’t appreciate seeing people breathing in this "Raid" type product. Be sure to book your a la carte reservations when you arrive but don’t waste your time in line! Go back around 1:00 or so. Same with money exchange. Don’t be in line 1 hr to change money 1st thing in the morning go later in the day & take note that there is one located near the spa that no one seems to know about! Cabs are hard to get and you do have to bargain with them! Try to make use of the double decker bus for $5 pesos all day or $2.00 pesos for one way. The catamaran ride was worth it as something different to do, and it takes you to Cayo Blanco (White Island), however, there is nothing Blanco about the Cayo! Yes there is white sands, but only after you walk past about 4 feet of sea weed to clearer waters. The lunch there that they serve you is nice! I’m just surprised the grounds aren’t groomed especially knowing that there are about 5-6 catamarins each day that travel there. Surely there are exquisite beaches somewhere on Varadero! Do bring, peanut butter, syrup (there is any at all), granola bars or snacks if travelling with children. Yes there is something edible to find at the buffet, however even my children who are not picky eaters, were tired of the buffet by the 3rd day. Your beach towels will be found in your room, however changing them for fresh ones can be a challenge. There was a line up for them at the one towel hut each day! Try to go in the afternoon. Lobby bar & cafe are a great place to hang out, esspressos and cappacino are great. Getting a good drink is hit & miss. For some reason they seem they give you far too much alcohol in the small glass provided and not enough of a mix. Also a good idea is to bring your own plastic bottles with straws (I purchased from the dollar store) as they give you small glasses. This will eliminate how often you have to go to the busy bar to get a drink & eliminate waste too. Overall this was a 7 / 10 trip. Would I go back … not unless they hire more staff to attend to the 2,300 + in attendance at this resort.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Marina

March 2008

My husband and I had a wonderful time at Sirenis La Salina Veradero. We were there from Feb.16 to Feb.23. The beach is magnificent. The resort is beautiful and huge. We do not mind walking since it is a good exercise. Our room is clean, and the service people at the resort, including our chambermaid, are very friendly. We took the Havana Historian excursion, and loved every minute of it. We wanted to go back as soon as we left. Before we went for the trip we read quite a few reviews complaining the bad food in the resort and generally in Cuba. Wondering how bad it could be we found out it is not the case. It all depends on how you think. Some people think the food in Cuba is bad. From a country of plenty, like Canada, to a country of not much, like Cuba where common Cubans usually can not afford to have pork on their dinner tables, those people who complain simply do not realise how fortunate they are. Emigrating from a communism country where we grew up having less, we understand and deeply appreciate what the Cubans have done for the tourists. Cuba is not famous for its cuisine. With what they know and have, they have done their best. For common Cubans the life at those resorts is probably like haven. We should not take things for granted. There is plenty of food to choose from at the resort main buffet, and even better food at the a la carte restaurants. You can always find something you like. It is all about attitude. Think and act positively, find beauty in every situation, try to enjoy every moment, and you will find yourself having a good time.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Laura and Richard ~ Brampton

March 2008

Arrival – I travelled with my husband and daughter to this resort Feb.27-Mar.5. We are in our 30’s and my daughter is 4. Sunwing was the tour operator and airline. No issues with the flight out or coming home – both smooth and slightly delayed on the way home. The airport was quick and painless. There is a guy who sells beer by the buses out front, which was great for the bus ride – which was about 40 minutes. We arrived to the resort at around noon and the bellman directed us to the room for check-in, which took about 20 minutes as we were last in line. The room was ready to go (early!), but the rain was really coming down, so we waited for our turn to be driven by cart. The room was lovely, but we had to move as we requested a king bed with a cot, not 2 beds (they are unfortunately true 3/4 beds and small). We ate at the buffet (not bad, really!), and then went to the front desk to be moved. They were very friendly and were able to move us, but we would have to wait a couple of days for the cot as they were all booked. We opted to do this and 3 days later (with much effort) the cot arrived at 7:00 pm. The sunwing rep was very helpful with this and made sure that we finally received the bed (it had been requested when we originally booked 3 months prior). Over all though, we found the staff to be very accommodating and pleasant.

Rooms – The rooms are very spacious and nice. Good beds – big pillows and lots of hangers/shelves/drawers for clothing. There is a string in the shower for hanging wet items – although some were smart and brought string and a few cloths pins to hang on the balcony, which really worked well! The beach towels were in the room waiting. The bathrooms are not perfect – the shower does have it’s issues with water leaking and there is mold on the walls. Too bad as it will be costly to repair! But overall, very nice, everything was in working order and the water was always hot no matter what time of day. The maid was very nice and thanked us for the gifts we left. The staff really did seem to appreciate gifts rather than money as a tip, just something my husband and I noticed. A lot of the staff would take the doller coins and buy cigarettes for the most part. ***Extras that you may want to bring; kleenex, hand/face towels, clock, cd’s for the player in the room

Restaurants – There are many to choose from, which is great. We booked our a la cartes the afternoon when we arrived and there was no line. There seemed to be a line when they open in the morning, but usually not in the pm. We booked the Japanese and Cuban. Both were good. We were offered a third reservation for the Italian, which was enjoyable as well, but didn’t make it through the entire meal as it was too late for my daugher (10:00 pm before dessert). I heard that the other restaurants were good as well. The main buffet was large and a bit of hit and miss for food. Breakfast by 7:30 was ok – after than it gets busy. The omelettes were a favorite. Lunch was no issue as long as it wasn’t raining – then it was full and crazy. Arrive to dinner before 7:00 pm and there was no line – after that – busy again. The food was edible and occasionally there was something that we wanted go back and get more of. Lots of starch. The fresh bread was delish. The quiet pool was our favorite place for lunch. We liked the service and the food there – a la carte. Pizza, Cuban Clubhouses with fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, fish, and a cold salad table as well. Be patient and they will serve you. We did go to the beach grill for breakfast a couple of times – it is buffet only though, but not busy. It is also open for lunch, but we did not try it. The restaurant above the cave bar is a la carte for breakfast and lunch as well. Overall, it was typical Cuban fare and they all were usually busy, but when the resort is a full capacity, it is to be expected. I was frustrated the first day with the lines and chaos of the buffet, but decided to relax and enjoy – and then it was fine – a glass of beer or wine helped as well! My daughter (good eater – not too picky)did find things to eat during the week, but I would recommend taking peanut butter, syrup, and snacks from home to suppliment. *** the bank – the one in the lobby is usually busiest in the am and then not too bad in the afternoon, BUT, there is another one beside the gym in the central square that is open every day and seems to be undiscovered!! ***

Bars – The bars were all pretty good. Yes – there is a wait at the lobby bar in the evening, but not too bad and there are lots of people to converse with. The central square in the evening is nice with the live band. The piano bar is air conditioned and a good place for a pre or post dinner drink. The pool bars were usually busy, but the staff were really great. Almost all guests had the "bubba" kegs to get bigger drinks and keep them cool. The bar at the beach was a bit far from the actual beach and was always lined up, so we did not use it very often.

Beach and Pools – The beach was rough the first 2 days of our trip and it was very windy, so no swimming was aloud. It cleared up and by the 4th day was beautiful. The sand is soft and while not white, still great!The palapas would be gone by 7:00 am the week we were there, but they are so close together that you can catch shade if you are near by anyway. It is very crowded, but if you can stand the sun with no shade, then there is tons of room to the right and left. The activity pool is where all the action is. The kids (and adults) love the slide and it is lined up all day. My little one did enjoy it too, but there is no one at the top to make sure that it is ok to go down, so there were a few incidents with safety. My husband was always near by, just in case. This area was very busy and loud. The quiet pool was not totally quiet, as it was a great spot for families with younger children, but no loud music or staff to try to get you out of your chair. There is a swim up bar and loungers available pretty much throughout the day. The pool boys will bring you a comfortable chair cushion to you from about 9:00 – 11:00 am, but if you are not in your chair, even if your towel is there, they will not leave the cushion. I loved that service and my daugher took a few afternoon naps pool side when she was tuckered out from all the swimming and sun.

Grounds – The grounds are constantly being worked on and are tropical. The walk is like everyone has mentioned – kinda long – and the carts are not too frequent, but they are around. The layout is pretty good, although they really could have put the beach bar a little closer to the beach. Print off the map that Debbie has a link to on here as the one they give at the resort is pretty bad. Also – make sure to get your information package with all of the restaurants, bars, activities, etc. and all the times that they are open etc. on arrival. We did not receive ours until we asked on the 3rd day. It makes navigating everything a little easier.

Activities – There was never a lack of things to do at this resort. The busy pool went from 10:00 am and 5:00 pm with games and contests etc. Same at the beach. There was nightly entertainment in the centre square usually starting at 7:00 pm. There was mini-club disco at 7:30 and the the real show at 9:30 every night. These shows were really good – professional and impressive. Best I have seen in my 13 years of travel to the Caribbean at the resort. We visited the mini-club for a short time one afternoon. They are very friendly and great with the kids. I would have been comfortable leaving my child there, had she wanted to stay to play longer.
There are several catamarans, peddle boats, and kayaks on the east side of the beach.

Tours – We did not do any of the offered tours this time, but we did hear that the catamaran tour to the island with snorkling was great as was the day trip to Havana. Some people who we spoke with had done the overnight trip and were not thrilled with the accommodations and wished they had only gone for the day.
The buses to take you into Varadero come but the hotel often, but are a little harder to catch on the way back. Taxis are about $1/km for 2 passengers. Their are good restaurants and deals to be had in town.

Conclusion – We would definitely return to Varadeo as the beach is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and there is much more that we want to see and do. We would likely try a different resort however, as this one was a little too large and busy for our liking. It is a good, reasonably priced resort though and I would give it a 7 out of 10 overall.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Steve & Karen ~ Regina, Sk

March 2008

I was going to give a long review on this resort, but Frank & Wendy’s review described this resort exactly. This is a huge resort and at our time here, my guess is that there was 2500 plus patrons. Line ups for just about everything you want to do.If you want peace and quite and relaxation, this is not the place to go. I must emphasize that management has to improve and provide much more staff and better training in dealing with the large number of patrons.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Frank & Wendy ~ Hamilton Ontario

March 2008

My family and I recently returned from Sirenis La Salina in Varadero Cuba (Feb 24-Mar 2). This new resort is beautiful. It is an ideal location, and we were very impressed with the grounds and layout. The facilities are very well kept. Our room was clean, spacious and well maintained. We feel it has the potential to be one of the best resorts in Cuba, but there are many issues to be addressed before this can become a reality. Customer service is below par, partially due to the fact that the resort seems to be understaffed and poorly managed. Keep in mind that while we were there, the resort was overbooked, with 2500 (or more) guests. This probably had a bearing on many of the issues we encountered. Check in staff has very limited English skills. We were not informed of the trolley to take us to our rooms at check in, and spent much time wandering the resort with an illegible map looking for our building. The signs indicating the building numbers are not lit at night, making our midnight arrival extremely difficult. Cots that had been requested for two of our 5 rooms were not supplied. My son actually slept on the floor the first night. It took 4 repeat visits to the front desk to finally have the cots delivered. Although it did not affect us directly, there were several parties with people in wheelchairs who had been assigned rooms on the 2nd or 3rd floor. The beds advertised as “doubles” are in fact the dreaded ¾ bed. A family of 4 is being told that this is standard accommodation. We traveled with a group of 11 people. We are all frequent travelers and have had many visits to Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and are well aware of the limitations to Cuba as far as its food supply. The problems we encountered at La Salina were not so much food related, but that there seemed to be no organization. No logic was being used for placement of items. Instead of bowls near the cereal, they would be near the salad (at breakfast!). Butter for the bread was placed near the eggs. There were no salad dressings, only oil (not even vinegar). A major cause for concern was the lack of serving utensils. Every item on the buffet needs to have a dedicated utensil. If there were 5 items on a table, often there would only be 3 serving utensils. Frequently there were seafood items sharing utensils with non-seafood items. For those with seafood allergies, this could be a potentially fatal problem. The pre-made scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet were not cooked thoroughly. This is a salmonella risk. Plates, when you could find them, were not clean. Dried food particles covered the plates and utensils. There seems to be a real problem with the dishwasher. Line-ups often took over 30 minutes for the omelet bar or meat grilling station. When the cook ran out of eggs or pork chops, there was no one to replenish for him. He had to leave his station, go to the back kitchen and return with more food, making line ups even longer. Empty bins on the buffet were very slow to be replenished. On every occasion when peas were served, they were hard as a rock. Dried peas need to be re-hydrated before cooking. They were simply heated and served. The coffee machines were often out of order, or empty. When they were working, there would be long line ups to get a cup of coffee. One morning we were given instant coffee at breakfast. The staff seemed to lack training as to proper food handling. At one pool snack bar I watched as a server picked at acne on her face, then deliver plates of food without washing her hands. Tables were not cleaned properly between clients, if they were cleaned at all. At the Beach grill, our sons were rudely yelled at by a bartender for sharing a plate of french fries at a table near the bar. The boys were not misbehaving, as they were sitting at a table with us and their grandmother. Adults eating hamburgers in the same area were not reprimanded. At the pool grill, a request for menus came with a roll of the eyes and a single menu for eight people. Most of the servers seemed like they would rather be doing any thing else but their jobs. That being said, we were always able to find something to eat, although the food was very carb heavy. There was lots of rice, pasta, breads, and potatoes, as well as sausages floating in oil at every meal. The burgers were good, although I didn’t travel to Cuba to live on burgers. I think they are trying to cater to what they feel the tourists want, instead of focusing on what they do well. Avoid at all costs the rubber pancakes at breakfast. I’m not sure what they are doing to them, but they are indigestible. Our two ala carte meals (Cuban & Steakhouse) were very tasty and well served. One thing we found truly disappointing is the policy of no large tables. When a family travels together and books a specialty restaurant, they expect to be seated together, not at 3 separate tables. The host at the buffet on our first night flatly refused to seat us together, telling us if we wanted to have one table, we had to eat at either 6.00 or 8.00, as it’s too busy at 7.00. The trolley carts to take you around the resort should not be sharing the same paths as pedestrians. There were more than a few near misses with the carts, and a few accidents as well. The path ways need to be widened, or perhaps the trolleys could use the ring road on the outside of the complex, and leave the inner pathways for pedestrians. There never appeared to be more than 3-4 trolleys in service at any one time, and when people were checking in or out, the trolleys were pulled off of regular shuttles to transport luggage. There were trolleys parked outside the resort, but no one to drive them. The lobby bar is always busy, especially in the evenings. Most people like to enjoy a before dinner cocktail, or an after dinner drink. Two bartenders are not enough for 2500 people. One thing that was a concern was the serving of minors. A 15 year old boy in our party was served so much alcohol that he actually blacked out at the bar, and needed to be carried back to his room. Although we feel he shouldn’t have been served at all, we truly feel that a bartender needs to recognize signs of inebriation, and have the authority to stop serving alcohol, especially to a minor. We were only able to exchange our beach towels for fresh ones on one occasion. Every time we approached the towel hut, they were out of clean towels. The time of day seemed to make no difference. We tried morning, noon, and late afternoon. We were always told they were waiting for laundry service. There was no information about the resort in any of the 5 rooms we had. We wanted to order a bellhop and trolley for checkout, and could not find any phone listings. We could not contact front desk. Dialing “0” was never answered. We finally dragged our bags down three flights of stairs and waited for a trolley cart for over 25 minutes before we decided we had better walk the 1 kilometer to the lobby, for fear of missing our airport transfer. A trolley finally came past when we were ¾ of the way to our destination. This was not too much of a hardship for us, but it was extremely difficult for my elderly mother-in-law. Although the beach is beautiful, and the loungers plentiful, there are nowhere near enough palapas to accommodate everyone. This causes people to play the towel game. I felt the palapas were too close together, like I was in a sardine can, but when you have a short beach and 1000 rooms, some things have to give. There is about 300 feet of sand between the resort and the berm where the beach starts. Perhaps a few palapas could be scattered in this area. Although taken separately, many of these problems are not a big deal, but to have so many issues on one vacation is not a good sign. Although our vacation was not a complete disaster, it was a disappointing and frustrating experience to say the least. We had traveled as a group to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 75th birthday, and that is something that we will never be able to replace. Would we go back? No. Would we recommend Sirenis? Not at this time.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Barb

March 2008

We had the most delightful stay at La Salinas. Staff was very friendly. Food was abundant and tasty. I would bring a closed salt shaker as theirs is damp and hard to use. I put on 3 lbs while there. Our chambermaid was quite friendly and would do up our towels and curtains in different designs daily. Quite the imagination. I emailed the resort 2 days previous to arrival to ask if we could be close to our friends and in a quiet section as this was our 25th anniversary and first trip away since honeymoon. They did not reply but upgraded us to a suite right on the water and our friends received a congratulatory note with a bottle of champagne and a cake. Much appreciated. I was very leery about staying at this resort because of the bad reviews but was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable our stay was. Any complaints we might have had were put aside easily as we were on holidays (with no agendas or schedules) and on ‘Cuba’ time. The beach was absolutely fabulous. It was raked by tractor every morning before 6:30 am. The water was clear and blue/green. The sand was clean, ie: you didn’t have to fight with seaweed, fish or shells. You didn’t have to worry about stepping on sharp shells. My husband and I enjoy walking so the size of the resort wasn’t a problem. You will most definitely do a lot of walking every day. We did not encounter and ‘bug spraying’ or bugs for that matter. My only complaint would be that they didn’t have a variety of specialty non-alcoholic drinks readily available (not including pop and water). There were many special alcoholic drinks but nothing fancy for us non-drinkers unless we came up with a recipe ourselves. (Pineapple juice and Pina Colada mix go very well together.) We took air mattresses with us to the beach and were the envy of many as the beach chairs get awfully hard to sit or lay down on all day. We went into Varadero for a day and were delighted with the market, although beware, several vendors have the same items and varying prices. The vendor who visits the beach every day has the same items as the market at a much higher price. We went into Havana for the day trip and were delighted again. It is definitely a trip worth taking, once. Once is enough but it is definitely a must see. Take a roll of toilet paper with you on these trips as the bathrooms tend to charge for each sheet of tissue they give you. They are also minus a toilet seat, although bathrooms are clean. All in all, I would definitely visit Cuba again. There are 3 new resorts going up next door to this one that should be open within the next year and a half. I would suggest those ones also as their beach is lovely (we walked it) and the buildings look very nice.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Edmonton, Alberta

February 2008

recent stay atsiranis las salina was very disapionting as this resort has many proplems 1-poor service at main restaurant 2 –cold and uninviting gives the imprsson of a messhal 3- food was mostly cold and tasteless 3- salads tasteless 4-desserts bland no taste 5-resort is tolarge for our liking would not recoment to any body staff atfront counter not very helpfool

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Joe ~ Kitchener, ON

February 2008

There were a total of 8 in our group, with ages ranging form 44 to 88! Check in went smooth with no real issues. Suquest had a room set aside for their guests, with room keys ready to go. The "buses" were ready, and handled the influx rather well. That said, my wife and I opted to walk to our room… on the other side of the resort! Yes, this place is huge… but even with baggage in tow, we had no problems walking the distance. Rooms are large and beautiful. Very large and comfortable king beds. Tastefully decorated. Iron and ironing board in closet, hair dryer in bathroom (with 110v outlet). The food was typically Cuban, but always a good selection and we thought quite tasty. (For the record, this was our fifth trip to Cuba, so the food was never going to be an issue. That said, it rated as good if not better than other resorts) As far as the ala cartes, we tried the Cuban and the Steak house. The food at the Cuban was exceptional! My brother and I got some kind of a potato ball that was to die for! Most of us went for the chicken with a lime sauce. Wow! I’d go back just for this dish! At the steak house, a few of us ordered the chef’s salad. It was a very nice salad served in an edible "bowl". Again… wow! The steak is not what you’d expect from a Canadian steak house, but this is Cuba! It was perfectly cooked, and served with a bit of a gravy. I would have no problems ordering this again. The beach is typical Varadero, which means the best around. There is some decent snorkeling right there. The pools are very large and the warmest we’ve swam in in Cuba. The activity pool has a large water (tube) slide and is the favourite hangout of the kids. The quiet pool is large and where most of the adults and older crowd hang out. The bar service here, with Boris and Xavier is fantastic. The grounds are large, well landscaped and beautifully maintained. There were activities going on throughout the day, some at the activity pool, some at the beach… we did not partake. We toured Havana on our own with the assistance of a hired van and guide (450 CUC for the day). We also did the Rio Cojimar tour. This included about a half hour of snorkeling at a reef near Matanzas; a visit to a huge cave and swimming in it’s incredibly clear fresh water; a free cigar at a small bar (the mojitos you have to buy). Then a nice river boat tour down the Cojimar river, lunch at an isolated location (very good Cuban fare) and some fun activities (ever hold a crocodile, snake and tree rat at the same time?!?). All in all we had a great time. Not sure what all the fuss is about. If you have any idea what Cuban resort cuisine is like, you won’t be surprised (nor disappointed). Yes, the place is huge, but my 88 year old father handled quite well. He hardly used the bus service at all. If you go to the lobby bar after dinner, it will be crowded. Don’t like crowds? Go to the piano bar. Always quiet there, and very nice. (These places are tame compared to the bars I’ve frequented here in Canada) There is another money exchange booth to the left of the medical/fitness building (as you’re facing it). We would go back if the opportunity arouse, and would recommend it to anyone.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   David ~ Ontario

February 2008

We purchased this vacation from Sunwing Tours through the Bel Air Travel web site, but used our agent Sylvia (1-888-776-6885) to finalize the details. As the price was already deeply discounted there was no further discount. Usually the discount is 12 % off book price. The E tickets arrived with no delays and all was in order. Copies of this review are provided by Resort Reviews International and are forwarded to the resort management, tour companies, airlines, travel agents and agencies, newspapers and travel magazines in both Canada and the U.S.A. Please feel free to send or give copies of this review to clients or associates. This is our sixth trip to Cuba but our first using Sunwing and traveling from London, Ontario.

At the outset
This is a huge resort and would not be recommended for the elderly, those with very young children or those with a mobility handicap. This is a new resort which opened in July of 2007 yet it has the look and feel of a resort which is several years old. The resort does not command the respect of the guests and as a result the resort is not treated with respect by the guests. The resort is severely understaffed with both workers and visible management.

We chose to fly Sunwing out of the London, Ontario airport and it was a pleasure. The airport is not congested, parking is $62.00 for the trip duration and the service is polite and speedy. We were delayed leaving due to weather and deicing, but much time was made up on the flight down. In flight service was excellent and the breakfast meal was actually edible. The flight had a few bumpy stretches but it is winter and upper turbulence is to be expected.

Arrival in Cuba
We were a bit late arriving, but customs was quick and luggage came along quickly as well. Once again bus loading and departure is painful and should be sped up. The advertised time from airport to hotel is 30 minutes but in fact it takes 90 minutes with the stops at four previous hotels. How about being honest in the brochure about travel times?

Arrival at hotel
We arrived at the hotel at 12:30 p.m. Sunwing advertises private check in and this did occur in a building remote from the lobby. Rooms were not assigned, bracelets were obtained and then we were told to periodically check back and see if the room would be ready at 3 p.m. The welcome cocktail was available but the bottle of rum was not given. At a subsequent visit to the front desk we found out our room request had not been honoured. We had communicated via email with the hotel reservation department beginning in October right through January 27 and we received no response. We had requested specific buildings, floors and beds. None of the requests were accommodated. Sunwing had certain buildings and when we booked our agent did not inform us of this fact. None of the emails were answered so the hotel did not tell us this either. Many of the travelers on our flight had requested specific buildings because of age or mobility problems and had sent emails to the hotel. The hotel made NO effort to be accommodating. Sunwing, agents and the hotel must keep travelers better informed and be more amenable and accommodating. We created enough of a demand for our accommodation request that we finally got an upper floor with two double beds and were taken to our room about 3 p.m. Some guests did not get a room until 5 p.m. Needless to say don’t bother emailing the hotel, but rather deal with your agent and ask them to deal with the tour company and the hotel to have your room requests met.

Upon arrival at the room with the bellboy and our luggage the room keys would not work but fortunately the maid was close at hand and opened the room. We had to then go back to the front desk to have the keys activated and then go back to the room. What a waste of time. The floors in the room were dirty and had not been swept let alone washed. There were ants in several areas and the maid sprayed and then left us a spray can of insect killer. There were no bath towels and the beach towels were not in the room as advertised. There are simply no hand towels or face cloths. The shaving mirror was hanging off the wall and only attached by one screw. The iron decorations on either side of the vanity were loose. The toilet seat was loose. The bed spreads were badly stained. The advertised hot line for guest help was not answered. The hair dryer had a cord of about 24 inches in length. There was shampoo and body wash but no Kleenex, lotions, shower cap, etc. There is a TV with very limited English channels. There is a CD player/radio combo, but no clock. There is an iron and board and also a weigh scale (check your luggage weight to avoid surcharge). There is a mini bar with large water, two beers and two pop replenished daily. There is a good amount of out of suitcase storage. Towels were very often late in arriving at the room, often as late as 6 p.m. The floor in the room was only washed once during the week and that was on Tuesday. The bath tub/shower combination is truly dangerous. The tub is very deep and narrow and although a stool is provided great care must be taken when entering and leaving the tub. Water from the shower is not contained and runs out onto the floor leaving great puddles. Again take care. Apparently some kind of a fix is in the works but how long before completion is anybody’s guess. The safe costs 2 Cuban Convertible Pesos daily, but the front desk has no way at this time of knowing if you use the safe. It is electronic but for your own safety use it anyway. Now think of this – 2 pesos per day times 1035 rooms times 365 days is 755,550 pesos annually. The safe should be free as this is an all inclusive resort. The main floors in the halls of our building, number 38, were only washed once in the week and that was Tuesday. The stairs were never observed being washed. The windows in the stairways were filthy and never washed in our one week stay. Daily maid service begins at 9 a.m. but why not at 7 a.m. to start on the rooms that have been given up by early departing guests. This would speed up guests getting to their rooms when they check in. Make sure to leave your beach towels in the room when you check out although I haven’t figured out how they know they are in the room before you ever leave the hotel at check out time. Advertised turn down service did not occur at all.

The hotel is laid out like a pair of eyeglasses that run from the beach at the north to the lobby at the south. One set of rooms closest to the beach surround the activity pool. The other set of rooms surround the quiet pool and contains the lobby area. The town square with restaurants and theatre is in the middle. From beach to lobby is a very long walk. All of the pathways are very dirty and no evidence of cleaning was seen. There are insufficient garbage cans and there are no ashtrays or garbage cans at the entrances to the room buildings. As a result there are garbage and cigar/cigarette butts just thrown on the ground. There was very little evidence of these items being picked up. More garbage cans and ashtrays are immediately needed. Many light standards are broken off and simply not repaired. Gardens are overgrown in many places with weeds and grasses. There are many dead trees throughout the property. Many trees have dead limbs just hanging and need to be pruned. Many palm fronds overhang the paths low enough to hit in your face. More pruning needed. There are four or five dead trees right in the lobby behind the main desk. Fountains are not working in the pools or they are working so poorly that they shoot water all over the paths or the town square. Because you cannot take glassware on the shuttles so people simply leave their glassware beside the pathways and there was little evidence of these being picked up. One of the foot washers near the beach simply had no water. There is a lot of natural jungle growth or patches of trees that have been preserved but there was no effort put into clearing out dead undergrowth at the edges or clearing out dead trees. These would be lovely specimen areas with very little work. These areas are littered with trash as well. To the east of the resort there is a new resort being built so be aware that noise, light and fuel smells do migrate to this resort. And now the shuttles. There are at least eight multi passenger golf cart shuttles at the resort. There is no schedule of operation. The pathways are almost too narrow and somewhat dangerous for walkers and shuttles to share. These shuttles should be running constantly all day every day to offer transit to the guests. As said previously it is a big resort with a lot of walking. With the shuttles running all the time guests would feel that there is a leisurely way to get around the resort. If you need more shuttles buy them, but get this operational very soon.

The beach area is very wide and you can walk for a long way in either direction. The sand is somewhat course and is your typical sand colour. The water is clean but not really clear. Due to the way the Varadero strip extends into the water the waves seldom crash against the shore. There is no really good snorkeling right off the shore. There are lots of lounges available and a fair number of palapas offering shade for those arriving early at the beach. As the day goes on the beach becomes very crowded. There is a beach bar/restaurant very close by. Several local vendors arrive daily with their trinkets to sell. There are paddle boats, kayaks and sailboats available. Scuba introductory lessons are available in the activity pool. There was no evidence of the beach being raked of debris before the morning crowd arrives. There was a fair chunk of water weed/grass evident first thing in the morning. There are insufficient numbers of garbage cans and ashtrays at the beach so it very quickly becomes junky and littered with trash and not a very nice place to be. There was no evidence of any pick up during the day. Garbage cans were not emptied during the day but just left to overflow onto the sand. In spite of it all the beach is popular with the guests.

Activity Pool (closest to the beach)
This pool area contains a huge water slide which was a hit with all ages. There is a restaurant and bar as well as a swim up cave bar. There are pergolas and lots of canvas umbrellas many of which are already broken and in a state of disrepair. There is still a terrible lack of shade so get to the pool early for an umbrella. There are many lounges but you will be crammed in like sardines by noon so you better really like the people next to you. Lounge cushions are distributed starting at around 10 a.m. but only when the pool guy arrives. Why is he not at the pool at 7 a.m. to be ahead of the guests and get things ready and cleaned up? Why not provide a flat bed trolley so many cushions can be loaded up for distribution? There is a Jacuzzi/ bubble pool located in the main pool but it hasn’t worked now for about 3 months as they await a repair person to arrive from Europe. The Kids Club and Kids pool is also located here. Starting at 10 a.m. the music and talking begin and it doesn’t stop until 6 p.m. The decking of the pool was not cleaned once in the week and it was so filthy you would not want to walk on it in your bare feet. One day two fellows were sweeping the plastic coping around the deck but there was more talk than work. One day a fellow was filling a garbage can from the pool and throwing the water on the deck. Cigarette/cigar butts were not cleaned up on a daily basis and were left in some cases for three days before removal. The garbage cans were very small, few in number and filled to overflowing each day. No attempt was made during the day to empty the cans. The interior of the cans were not cleaned out. The slide leaked water onto the deck and was not cleaned each day and as a result algae began to grow making the area very slippery. The stairs up to the top of the slide were not cleaned once in the week and black dirt ran down the outside of the stairs. In the pool itself, there was much evidence of algae growing at the joining of the walls and floor of the pool. The water polo nets were all ripped and wouldn’t stop the ball. The snack bar tables were filthy all day long and had a glass inset piece which had black mold growing on the under side. Used glassware and dishes were slow to be removed. Hot dogs, hamburgers and sandwiches were available. Not once did I see the actual bar surface wiped dry or cleaned. Washrooms by the snack bar were dirty and very little effort was made to keep them clean and replenished during the day. There seems to be too much talk and kissy kissy amongst the staff and not enough time working, but there is no evidence of supervision to keep the employees on track and at work. Beach towel exchange is at this pool but not once did we have a towel that was not ripped nor stained.

Quiet pool (closest to the lobby)
This pool area was quiet and peaceful and had lots of umbrellas, pergolas and lounges. Shade is available to the early arrivals. This pool is close to the lobby and buffet. There is a snack bar which serves breakfast and lunch and the typical food is available. There is a bar/swim up bar. The swim up bar surface has black mold growing in the grout between the ceramic tiles. The washrooms were clean and well stocked. The pool deck surface was filthy and no evidence to clean it was made during the week. Again the garbage cans were small and not cleaned out inside. Garbage cans and ashtrays were too scarce. Lounge cushions were distributed much earlier in the day. Again provide a flat bed trolley to speed up the cushion distribution. Staff should still be at this pool each day by 7 a.m. to start the day’s preparation and clean up.

Two gyms with various exercise equipment were provided in the town square area. There was a whirlpool tub which was not working but contained about 6 inches of stagnant skuzzy water.

The lobby of this resort is simply too small to accommodate the numbers of guests. When groups are arriving or leaving and waiting for busses or rooms to be ready they sit in the lobby and literally hog the bar area and this leaves little if any space for other guests to come in and get a seat, a drink or a coffee. This issue needs to be looked at and corrected immediately. The tables in the lobby/bar area are metal with a glass insert and all have black mold growing on the bottom of the glass. Table cleanup service is slow to non existent and there is no staff to go around and take drink orders. The actual bar surface is always dirty and no evidence was seen of cleaning the surface of the bar. Starting at 6 p.m. and on the bar area is so busy, getting a drink is painful and long and there is no staff circulating to take drink orders. The lobby contains the bank but no hours are posted. The hours are 9 to 12, 1 to 5 and 7 to 9. Maybe. Exchange rate was favourable and pretty much matched the internet price received before our trip. Take any currency except US dollars which loose an additional 10 percent and credit card charges also incur an extra 1.5 percent surcharge. There is a hairdresser in the lobby area. Hours are posted. There is a store in the lobby area open 9:30 to 8:30. They have a decent selection of cigars which are fresh and priced the same as everywhere in Cuba. The rum selection is good. If you are not in a rush wait for the airport and the duty free – better selection but the price is not very much less on cigars. The rest of the store is a disappointment. Bring the things you need from home. They would do real well with some English magazines and pocket books but with a lot of those things being U.S.A. produced that causes a problem. You cannot even get an English newspaper. There is a coffee bar which serves consistently good coffee which is a whole lot better than that available in the dining room. Long distance telephone service is in the lobby. Tour desk, tour reps and internet are located between the lobby and the buffet. Specialty restaurant booking desk is here also. You may go to two in a one week stay. Book early. The front desk is constantly busy and requires that you bring your patience with you. Language understanding can be a problem. The lobby is always full of smoke from the cigarettes and cigars and there is no way to get away from it. There really should be a smoking section established so non smokers can enjoy the lobby activities too. Food Services

Main Buffet
This buffet is located in the lobby complex. Breakfast starts at 7 a.m., Lunch at 12:30 p.m. and Dinner at 6:00 p.m. This is a typical buffet featuring grill stations (2), pasta bar(2), salad bars, bread stations, fruit, cereals, egg stations(3), drink dispensers for juice, pop and beer, deserts and ice cream. Most of the food items are labeled at lunch and dinner. To be honest you could always find something tasty and wholesome to eat but be prepared as the food is not of the North American style and tends to be bland. Most meals featured steak, chops and fish on the grill, fresh pasta, omelets, burgers, sliced meats and cheeses. The salad bar lacked lettuce most days but featured plenty of other fixings for salads. There was also roast pork, roast beef, roast chicken and fish. There was a good variety of vegetables although too much effort was placed on trying to enhance and add other things to the veggies rather than just cooking them nicely. There were many mixed dishes which resulted from the previous meals leftovers. Buns and bread were often too hard to eat and butter was often not put out and there was no jam. There was no sharp knife available to cut the bread. On a regular basis, in other words at every meal there were many plates which were dirty yet in the stacks with clean plates. There seemed to be a subtle change in the quality and presentation of the food on Tuesday and we heard it was due to a new executive chef. Under no circumstances should hotel employees or tour company representatives be allowed to eat in the dining room with the guests of the hotel. The food is a very weak point at this hotel, but this is true at many resorts in Cuba. Cuba is in the same climate zone as Florida, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the Dominican Republic and for the life of me I cannot understand why they cannot establish a productive fruit and vegetable growing operation which would provide fresh produce to not only the hotels but to locals as well. The Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture should collaborate to make this happen. Until the quality of the food improves tourism in Cuba will not flourish as it should. Steak House
The steak was tough and dry. The potatoes were instant mashed potatoes from a box. The vegetables were frozen. The meal was terrible. Japanese
The meal was cooked in front of you. The appetizers were tasty and wonderful. The main course of vegetables, fried rice and beef was truly great. Even the dessert was tasty. Make sure to visit is restaurant.

Bars There are plenty available serving many kinds of beverages. There is a good smattering of International brands. Mixed drinks taste different at each bar and there is simply no consistency in the recipes.

Additional facilities
Tennis courts are on the east side of the resort and are elevated somewhat. There is a supper piano bar in the town square area. What a nice break from the noise and hustle of the resort. The drinks are great and the music superb. Visit here often. Theatre and nightly entertainment is in town square and live music begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday evening at 9:30 p.m. is the Aquatic Ballet in the Activity pool. Excellent show and not to be missed.

Tour Reps
Miguel and Manuel served us well and were able to solve some major issues. Please do not fail to use the resources of your reps if you feel you are not being treated in an appropriate fashion.

Bug Fogging
Fogging was done Monday and Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. just at dinner time as many people are walking about the resort and are sitting in the dining room. The fog goes into the dining area and settles on guests and food. This is not appropriate and fogging should be done during the night time hours. Fogging was also done at 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning as two groups are awaiting departure from the hotel lobby. Again the fog enters the lobby and settles on the guests. Fogging must be done over night so as to not affect the guests.

Check out
Our requested wake up call was ten minutes late. The bell boy and golf cart arrived at the requested time. Beach towels were left in the room. Two keys were presented. We did not pay for the safe. There was no evaluation survey. The bus was 45 minutes late in arriving and of course there is the stopping at hotels on the way to the airport. Trip is about an hour and a half. Varadero Airport is well equipped with shops and eateries. Don’t forget 25 convertible pesos each for airport tax and if you want your passport stamped you must ask. Plane was slightly delayed. Flight to London was smooth with a very nice lunch served. All in all a great experience with Sunwing.

Only with Sunwing (in the brochure) Private check in was very disorganized. No private check out. No turn down service all week. No bottle of rum. Final got it upon request on third day. Beach towels were not in the room upon arrival. Had to search out maid next morning to get towels. Be prepared for room occupancy between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Check which buildings Sunwing has at its disposal before firming up your reservation.

It is 90 minutes to the hotel not 30 minutes as advertised. Sunwing needs to work with this hotel to improve guest services and accommodation. I often wonder if the ratings for these hotels are pulled out of a hat and no one ever visits to really see what the hotels are really like.

Hotel in General
There is a lack of preventative maintenance. There is a lack of maintenance. There is a lack of gardening. There is a lack of repairing of breaks and damage. There is a serious lack of staff. There is a serious lack of management evident on the property. Each room needs a thorough inspection and necessary repairs immediately carried out. The staff are too interested in socializing, doing kissy kissy and standing around. Management should quickly begin to implement some of the suggestions offered throughout this review.

Summary Sirenis La Salina is a new hotel that looks old already. It is a dirty poorly kept property. This is NOT a hotel that is recommended. This is currently, at least according to Sunwing and other tour companies, a four star hotel that is racing very quickly downhill toward two star status. At the current time only Three Stars can be awarded as there are just too many problems with this resort.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Tony ~ Halkirk AB

February 2008

This resort does have some serious misgivings. Let me begin by saying that our family of 4 have been to Cuba twice before and really enjoyed it (Holguin, SantaClara) This is the Wally world of resorts; the staff is way too small for the 2300 people The rooms were very nice (new) The weather was excellent (sunny, hot, very little wind) Nice beach (fixed the beach chair problem, Lot of chairs but very busy) The problem with this resort are Line ups. Check in was wild to say the least we went with nolitours (cameleon club) At 700 am. 200 people had a mad scramble for the Nolitours wristbands, rooms were to be ready by 400 pm. They told us to come back in two hours but that meeting was in French, so we went to the orientation. A lot of people there and the English was very hard to understand so we went back three times to the front no Nolitour rep, finally other people in the room said they found an envelope with their name on it with keys and an (unreadable) map in it. So we did the same found our rooms clean and ready by noon. (no lie, we did not see the rep all week but 3 days later our bottle of rum show up in our room) We were closest to the beach well with in a 1000 people or so but still very nice. As bad as it sounds we did not really mind, our friend came on the same flight but he came with sunquest and finally go his room at 4:00 pm. Coffee was very good but the line ups made it very unpleasant. At least it made me cut back on my coffee. Food was the same as other places in Cuba but with the staff shortage we found the food was under cooked and cold. They really need another large buffet.(check under your plates at the buffet)

Bars Bring as big a go cup as you can find. They had 2 bar tenders where 6 would be busy. We tipped a lot but it made no difference because they had no time (we were one 2500 other people).

Walking paths They have to put a ring road around the outside of the rooms away from the walking public. The buildings are set up like a figure 8 and it would be easy to do this. The vehicles are on the walking paths all the time, day & night & there are a lot of them. This is a discount resort, if you get it at 40% off other 4 Star resorts it would be worth it. We got it at a very good price and did enjoy our selves but found it very tiresome. All other resorts that I been were more relaxing. Bottom line they need 4 times the staff, buffets, bars & coffee spots to make it a very good resort. Please don’t make this resort your first trip to Cuba. Please read a lot of reviews on this resort, I have and most are kind.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Art & Jeanne

February 2008

We were at the SLS from Jan 4 – 18th. I will give more of a family point of view of the resort. We traveled with our 5 & 10 year old boys. As you can tell from reading all the reviews some things can change quickly. What some people complain about others love about the resort. We have been to 16 other resorts from Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, Venezuela & Cuba and usually stay at 3 star resorts.

BEACH: was great for the kids. The water doesn’t get deep fast and usually the waves were small. There was only one day that the 5 year old didn’t go into the water because the waves were too big but the 10 year old & dad loved that day the most. The beach is very long but not very wide. We found it to be very crowded. I need the shade and we always found one even though we only went at 9:00 to get a palapa. To follow the shade we had to move our loungers and some days you had to sit with strangers to follow your own shade from the palapas. They also have 3 rows deep of them which I have never seen before. The beach is very long so I’m not sure why they have them so crowded together. There are plenty of loungers, always lots of them still piled during the busiest part of the day. I’m also not sure why they don’t have a beach bar set up. Even if all it served was water & pop & beer it would be handy. For the size of the hotel and number of guests they should have a washroom closer to the beach also. We found there were a lot of bees around trying to get into our drinks. We had our travel mugs and they still managed to get in a few times. The cups are really small so they are a must even for the kids. We talked to people that stayed at other resorts and they never even saw a bee never mind swarms of them. My kids loved the slushy lemonade but so did the bees. There are vendors on the beach which is very nice. One sells crochet tops and the other 2 sell various wooden ornaments & jewelry. Someone walks around and sells t-shirts once in awhile. They will never bother you and yell like they do in Mexico. Their prices are more than in the market but than you also don’t have to pay to go to town. It comes in handy to bring a little cooler bag or even an insulated lunch bag to put the drinks in from your fridge. Every day they will refill the fridge with 2 beers, 4 pop and 1.5 L water. We would bring the drinks to the beach everyday and what we didn’t drink we gave to the security guards or gardeners or the guys that set up the beach chairs. You might as well give them away because you’ll get more and they really appreciate them. One day there was a lot of fish right on the beach. You can get the catamaran guys to take you out snorkeling for 2 hours for $20 for adults and $10 for kids. They had a great time and it was just long enough, they didn’t have to spend the whole day to go out.

RESORT SIZE: yes it’s really big 900 meters from beach to lobby. We found it way too big for our family. We were in block 34 which is beach front and it was a 15 minute walk. For adults we didn’t have a problem but with younger kids that can be a long walk to do up to 6 times a day. They have carts but most of the time they are at the front of the resort not being used. We counted 10 carts at the front one time and you only see maybe 1 to 3 running at a time. We could do the 15 minute walk most days and not see a cart or they’d be full. Yes it was nice to walk but sometimes it would be great to not have to. It’s also a big pain when you just get back from the lobby and have to go right back because your room key wouldn’t work. We heard that it happen to a lot of people that after 1 week they had to go back to get it recoded. Not fun when its 26c and you’ve just done the trek to have to go back. The carts also drive very fast and the paths are very narrow. You just about have to get right off the path for them to go by.

RESTAURANTS: they now have 7 a la carte restaurants. The Japanese, Italian, Steakhouse (are all in the middle main courtyard), Mediterranean (beach restaurant by day), Romantico (waterfall pool restaurant by day), Gourmet (some call it the French by the main buffet), Cuban (newest one is quiet pool restaurant by day). You are allowed 2 per week but if you go after 2:30 to the guest relations you might get some extra for that day. We booked the Japanese twice from the start because we had heard here it was the best. The meal was excellent but both times we went we had to wait 1 to 1 and half hours to get seated. The restaurant opens at 6:00 and our reservations were for 6:30 but didn’t get seated till 8:00. That’s a long time to ask a 5 year old to wait to get food. The kids really enjoyed the show cooking. The Italian was not very good. My 10 year old had the lasagna and was still hungry when he was done eating. We had asked if we could have the calzone (it’s an entrée) as an appetizer for the kids and they said no only 1 entrée per person. I’ve never been told at an all inclusive that we couldn’t have 2 if we wanted. We really had a wonderful steak at the French. It was the tenderest beef we’ve ever had in Cuba. We all enjoyed the Romantico, it was one of the kids favorites. It was nice to listen to the cello & violin & bass. The steakhouse wasn’t our favorite meal. Some of the menus are very hard to understand. I can read French also and I was still confused with some of them. I ordered the shrimp omelet and received a hard taco shell with shrimp and a little lettuce. The kids thought it was really funny. We ordered the steak and it was very tough. The food was pretty good in the buffets for Cuba. The only real complaint we had was that the food wasn’t served warm enough. They were handing out surveys both weeks that we were there and we did notice some of the complaints had changed things. The food was a lot warmer the last few days so hopefully that will not be a problem any more. We also noticed that some of the things weren’t done very sanitarily. They often didn’t have tongs to grab the buns or taco chips. People just used their hands. I suggest bringing some hand sanitizer to use. We brought a little container with garlic salt which helped out a lot of meals. We had also brought along some hot sauce & peanut butter. Breakfast was only served till 10:00 in the main buffet. We tried the beach for breakfast one day but it wasn’t very good, no pancakes or French toast. The kids would rather walk the 15 minutes than eat there. It would be nice if the buffet at the beach had more of a selection for lunch. It’s a long way to walk to the main buffet for lunch when you’re on the beach. The hamburgers & hotdogs are good but if you want something else for lunch you have to walk the 15 minutes to get it. We found this was the worse restaurant for service. It’s not because they don’t try it’s just under staffed. You often had to wait 15 minutes for someone to offer you water or a drink. The problem could be easily fixed by having fountain drinks that people could help themselves to. Our son often went to the bar to get his own drink and was often ignored until a nice adult would tell the bartender that he was also waiting for a drink. Make sure that you get special bracelets for your teens if you don’t want them to drink. They will serve alcohol to anyone that asks if they have the same bracelets as adults. The waterfall pool restaurant was handy for lunch once in awhile. The service was rather slow there, sometimes waiting 30 minutes for a hamburger. You could get hamburgers & fries & hotdogs & pizza & Cuban sandwich. The pizza was crust with tomato soup and cheese. The Cuban sandwich was only ordered once and it was dry & awful. The buffet sometimes does a theme night; while we were there it was Mexican night on Friday. It was by far the best night to eat at the buffet. Just look for a manager in the buffet and ask. It’s really not worth getting an a la carte on that night. They had shrimp & beef & chicken on the grill. The only problem was the line up was very long. The kids never had a problem finding something to eat. They have a version of diet coke in most restaurants & bars. Our kids really enjoyed the orange pop. They also have red & white wine which we both found to be good.

ROOMS: are really nice. We had two really small doubles & a cot set up for us the 1st night for the 4 of us. The 2nd day we got an extra cot which was much better. The beds are way too small to sleep 2. On the 3rd night we had no water which didn’t really bother us but the next morning we had too much. Over night the water pipe had burst upstairs and flooded our room. We woke up at 7:30 to find 1 inch of water on the floor. There was so much water that it flowed into the hallway and flooded it. We phoned the front desk at 7:30, 8:00, 8:30 and no one came. Finally went to the front desk to talk to the Sunwing representative Manuel. He went with us to the front desk at 9:00 and helped us out. We ended up changing rooms because 2 of us have asthma and I didn’t want to stay in a room that could get musty. With the help of Manuel we were put in an ocean view suite in the same building that we were in. I’m sure without his help it wouldn’t have been the same. The girls at the front desk told us to make sure you tell on the internet how much we helped. (I guess they do read the reviews!) It sure makes a difference to have someone there that is on your side. If you ever have a problem with something I suggest you find your rep first because they sure can help. The ocean view suite was in building 34 on the main floor. It has a separate living area with TV and couch & table and bathroom .There is a door separating the rooms than it’s the bedroom with another TV, with separate closet and another bathroom. These bathrooms have a separate bathtub & shower stall. It came in very handy to have 2 bathrooms and 2 people could shower at the same time. The toilet is in a separate little room. I’m not sure how much the suites are extra but they sure were great for a family. We had 2 cots brought into to living room area which made it a little crowded but great to have our own room. The upgrade was the only thing that really helped us get over the flooding. It took us most of the day to move our things and get settled in. The hotel was nice enough to clean our clothes that had gotten wet. We never checked the price of the adjoining rooms for the kids because it really wasn’t offered through Sunwing. These rooms would be great if not much more for the week. The location is right on the beach but not really ocean view. The beach is up on a rise so you couldn’t see the water from the main floor. It was only a couple minutes to the beach which was great (and is good if you have a little one that needs the bathroom often) but furthest away from lobby. We traveled with Sunwing but our room was in the Cameleon club building. We had requested when booking to have something close to kids club and beach. We had also emailed the resort and they were nice enough to accommodate us. The resort is so big I suggest you request when booking what area you’d like. Some people have no desire to be by the beach and loved being beside the quiet pool and lobby. The rooms have hairdryers, iron & boards, CD players that also play mp3 cds. A couple things you might bring if you want them are facecloths & an alarm clock. Make sure to print out map from The map they give at the resort really is bad and hard to figure out. I printed the other one before I left home and it sure came in handy when you getting use to the huge resort and while checking in.

KIDS CLUB: We phoned Selloff Vacations & Sunwing to check the hours of the kids club and were told it was 10 to 5. We also emailed the resort and were also told the hours were 10-5. When we got to the resort we were told they were from 10-12 and 2-6. We were very disappointed to not have the hours we were told available. We were told we could get the kids club from 12-2 but at the cost of $5 per child per hour. We would have had to spend another $20 a day to get what was supposed to be offered. Only after we talked to the Sunwing rep. did the hours change 11 days later. When our kids did use the club they were usually the only ones over the age of 3. Sometimes there was only 1 lady to take care of them and the little ones that were there. Of course the lady had to take care of the babies so our sons were left to entertain themselves. There are 2 sides to the kids club; one has cribs and a little kid’s playroom which is very nice. The other side has older kid’s games. Unfortunately since there was only 1 caregiver they often had to stay on the baby side. Not to much fun for a 5 & 10 year old. They were usually the only ones there over 4. Other kids would check it out and see that they weren’t doing anything then would leave. They’ve been to 5 other resorts with kids club and said this was the worse one. They never had a schedule of activities and often they sat and watched tv. The club was fine for kids 3 & under. The activities around the pool & beach were also geared to get the adults involved and not the kids.

LOBBY: The internet is 3 pesos per half hour. I found it to be pretty good for dial up. I did notice that the one computer (middle one) out of the 3 wouldn’t work properly for me to check my yahoo emails. I heard some people say that they tried for an hour but couldn’t sign in to facebook at all. I suggest you set up a different account if facebook is the only way to email. I was able to check my mail and send out emails on a couple of days for the half hour. The lobby is always busy and very noisy. There was always a line up for coffee every time we went by.

ENTERTAINMENT: We went to the evening show every night. They start around 9:45pm in the theatre. Some nights the house band plays in the courtyard outside which is very nice. We enjoyed all the shows, very well done. They have a magic show, black light show, a few different dancing shows which are all different, and also acrobats & water ballet which is in the waterfall pool. You just have to ask someone on the animation team what the entertainment is for the evening. They hand out a list when you check in but we found a lot of nights it was wrong. There is a lot of place to sit in the theatre but the bar gets pretty crowded to get drinks. We would just go across to the piano bar as there was hardly and line ups there. Bring bug repellent since it’s an open theatre. The only bad thing about is that the entertainment is done around 11:00 which is late for the little ones.

SUMMARY: My kids usually always ask if they can go back to a resort the next year but this year they said they don’t want to go back. They found it too big to walk around and they really didn’t like the kids club. This resort is great for some but it’s not for everyone. We got a good deal for it so we were fairly content but we’d never go back. It all depends on what you want from a resort. >From our point of view this is not a good resort for kids. It’s a perfect place for people who don’t mind doing a lot of walking and don’t mind a quiet nightlife. With the resort going to double with all the construction it will be even worse for line ups and the size to get around. I strongly recommend checking out the map for the resort and requesting when you book for which area you want. If you don’t care about the beach and like quiet the lobby area would be great. Bring bug spray! We live in Manitoba and are use to mosquitoes but I’ve never had so many itchy bites before. We used Muskol every night but still had bites. I think they came from sitting on the deck at night after the kids were in bed. People that stayed at other resorts said they never had a bite or saw a mosquito. The resort is far away from town. We took the 5 pesos bus to town and it took 35 minutes.

Make sure to read the reviews and figure out what you want for a resort and if this has what you want. That is why the ratings are so different, make sure it’s the resort for you and you’ll have a great time.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Buznbro ~ Toronto

February 2008

Well, my wife and I recently returned from this resort (Jan. 16th-30th) and over all, our trip was awesome! I’ll try and be brief but I highly doubt it, so hear go’s:

Check-in: very fast, arrived early (noon) and was fully prepared to wait until 4pm, as research had told me, but was pleasantly surprised when our room was immediately ready!

Room: Awesome, new, clean, fridge stocked, you get the picture!

Grounds: Large, beautiful and in some cases, not quite finished, but only minor touches were being worked on.

Pools: enjoyed both the quiet and slide pools and both were enjoyable. Cave bar was pretty cool too!!

Beach: Being a Canadian, I thought it was great, sure there was seaweed here and there but they were very diligent in trying to keep it clean. Water was refreshing and we had some great cat naps/book reading sessions there. You could do as much or as little as you wanted.

Anamacion: Thought they did a great job, always busy and they worked their butts off to keep people occupied.

Food: Aaaaah, everybody’s favorite topic…well this was our 6th trip to Cuba and once again, we thought it was decent…my wife and I worked out and had a few long runs and STILL gained weight!!! Again, to each their own right…..

Buffet: Huge and beautiful…yes, there were lines for specific items but if you went with some sort of a plan (ie: certain arrival time, etc) it was ok…patience is ALWAYS a good thing to bring when travelling (what’s the hurry anyway…we rush enough at home!!) Particularly enjoyed Mexican night (Friday’s) mmmmmm!!!

Al le carte’s: We were there for 2 weeks and were lucky enough to get 4 reservations,

Gourmet: Delicious, great service!

Steakhouse: Again, very good, great service!

Japanese: Fantastic, great food, great service and great people at our grill!

Cuban: Probably our favorite…it was awesome…food was excellent, service outstanding and live music and company just made it all that much better!!

Gym: Not bad, lot’s of free weights and other equipment to choose from…only complaint…move the cardio equipment around so people can actually see the tv…gets depressing staring at the wall!!:)

Drinks: Again, what’s to whine about…it’s paid for and you can have as much or little as you want!! Never felt obligated to tip, but like at home, if we received great service, we tipped, if not, it didn’t really matter…either way the staff really appreciated it!

Weather: I love this one….it’s January…where I live, it’s cold, in some cases snowing/freezing rain, etc…here it was high 20’s low 30’s most days…we had 2 days of rain…BIG DEAL!!! It’s still winter in Cuba too…listening to people bitch and sniffle about it being a little windy or a few clouds rolling by was hilarious!!! Only in a perfect world folks!!

Entertainment: Very good…we had seen alot of the shows from our previous visits to Cuba but did get a chance to enjoy a few…namely the acrobatic, Cuban and Aquatic show…all enjoyable. Do make sure you see the acrobatic show….awesome!

Bars: All good…the piano bar turns into a disco after the nightly show ends. We did it up a few nights in there but on other nights it was pretty quiet.

Excursions: Didn’t do any, accept visit one of our "amigos" in Cardenas City…absolutely awesome!! His mother was nice enough to cook us a "real Cuban" lunch for which we were truly gratefull…if you get a chance to leave the "resort" life…do it…there so much to see outside and it’s completely safe. Just like at home, take the same common sense attitude and all will be well! We also went to varadero a few times for some shopping…GREAT section to try instead of the same old Calle 15 section (which is the market the bus usually drops everyone off at) try Calle 62…awesome…we had lunch at a place called La Fondue…outstanding grub and really reasonably priced!!!

Final thoughts: My wife and I are very patient people, especially when travelling. We know that everyone comes from vastly different backgrounds and understand that what might appear offensive to some folks, is completely acceptable to others, but there ARE certain issues which continue to leave me scratching my head and wondering WHAT the hell are people thinking!!!

Cleanliness: I was really appalled by how ignorant some people continue to be when visiting another country (ie: leaving cups, ciggy butts, etc) anywhere they pleased…there were garbage cans/ashtrays ALL over the resort…give your head a shake!

Respect: SLS mainly consisted of vacationers who spoke English, Spanish and French…on the whole it was civil but there were certain occasions where the linguistic cultures seemed to clash…if you were there you know what I mean!!

Smiling: There are those that had a permanent one during their stay and others who probably don’t do much of it back home …either way…please DO NOT underestimate the power of one…it is one of the most non-verbal forms of communication we have and it costs you nothing!!! Please keep an open mind and pack some patience…if done, there are no bad vacations!!!

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Gary

February 2008

We arrived Jan 14 to the 28th. There were 15th of us down for our buddies wedding. It was my first time at a all inclusive there were some problems like one room had water leaking down from the room above and had mould growing on the wall. They gave her a new room right away. You really had to watch your shower curtain or you wound have water all over the floor. I loved the phone in the washroom. I left 2 pesos a day for the maid and she was so nice. We found that if you put you key in the wrong door your had to go to the lobby to reprogram your key. lots of rum made all the doors look the same. Yes there is a lot of walking but that was hafe the fun. I found a back walkway that took me right to my room down by the beach in 7 mins. The biggest help I can give would be at the money exchange. Our first day there they gave us 82 cents on the dollar the next week it was 86 cents. The problem was some people wanted to take money out on visa but they cant at the resort. They told us to go over two resorts and they gave us money on our visa at a better rate it was 6 cents higher. Over all it was great we heard people complaining about the food. If you just watched the lines for the pasta or eggs in the morning they would make it right in front of you. The la carts were great I liked the Japanese the best. One thing we learned the hard way don’t give out gifts down town Havana it turn into a mob of people grabbing and pushing it was nuts. We never enjoyed the market in Havana they are so aggressive no time to look around. The three markets in Varadero were the best you could drink beer and shop with no hassles. The beach was incredible I cant swim but the water was waist deep for a while and just a lot of fun.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Pearl ~ Medicine Hat

February 2008

Arrival – We arrived at 0700h and check-in went fairly smoothly considering the number of people to process. It took about 1 hour to head to our rooms in the pouring rain. 2 of our 3 rooms were ready. Bring a waterproof jacket for inclement weather!

Rooms – We asked for adjoining rooms, but our 2 daughters ages 12 and 14 were put on the bottom floor. My inlaws were on the second floor, and my husband and I were on the 3rd. At least we were in the same building. We ended up putting the girls on the second floor with the inlaws on the bottom floor. Maid service was sketchy. Each of our rooms did not get cleaned one of the 7 days. We had to ask for clean towels, floor mats, beach towels, water for our fridge, etc. Beware of the flooding bathtubs when you shower. Our water ran out of the bathroom, down the hall of our room, and under the door of our room into the main hallway. During our orientation, we were told to hang onto our beach towel because if we lost it, the chambermaid would have to pay for it. On our last day, we were given a note to say that we were to leave the beach towel in the room when we left or WE would pay $15 Cuban pesos for it. It also said that we were allowed to exchange it for a fresh towel every day at the club house by the pool. That would have been nice to know on the first day, since the towels were getting pretty dirty by then. I exchanged 2 of them one day with the chambermaid, but she was very hesitant and did not look happy. Our room smelled like mold and urine, but the other rooms were OK. Facecloths and hand towels are not provided. You will need to clean your feet off before you get into bed at night because sand gets tracked everywhere on the tile floors. The safe was easy to use and cost $12 CUC per stay. We used bottled water to drink and brush our teeth with. We had no problems with sickness. We were given a phone number to phone if you had any problems with your room, but no one ever answered the phone. The king sized beds were comfortable and the decor was nice.

Restaurants – The food was adequate. We learned to look for food that we could live with. There is no such thing as peanut butter, honey, or jam that we would recognize. The eggs and omelette lines, though long, provided good quality food. Milk comes out of a beverage dispenser. Hot chocolate without milk was good. Coffee is strong. The pasta bar and the icecream are also good. Beware of food that has been sitting out for 6 hours in the buffet area. The 2 a la carte restaurants that we chose were the Mediterranean (seafood) and the Japanese. They were both very good. We wish we could have chosen more. Nolitours hosted a BBQ for us on Wednesday evening. Don’t miss it if you are invited: BBQ pork, beef, and chicken along with baked potatoes and salads. There is a non-smoking part in the main restaurant, but it took us a few days to notice it. Smoking is everywhere. We found that eating supper in the buffet restaurant was not too busy around 6:30pm. After 7, we even saw lineups of people waiting to get into the restaurant. Our girls often ate in the pool snack bar where the hotdogs, pizza, hamburgers, and french fries were consistently good. They are served almost all day. Service is sometimes slow.

Bars – They are open at 1000 and are often busy and noisy. The pina coladas were great.

Beach and Pools – Beaches were beautiful. Watch out for uneven areas of sand as you enter the ocean. If you take a long walk to the left, you will find an old reef with many shells to see and pick. Crabs can be found scurrying around as well as lizards. You need shoes for this area. If you walk to the right, you can walk without shoes for a long way. The local people may stop you and ask you for clothing, shoes, soap, and shampoo. It seems as if these are items that are hard to come by. They may ask you for these items in the flea market areas as well, so if you do want to help out, take these items with you when you go. The children’s pool area was loud and crowded, and water was colder than the ocean, so we mainly hung out at the beach. The pool activities start at 1000h with Latin music playing loudly all day.

Grounds – The plants were very new, but they should be spectacular in a few years. There were even some plumeria trees (fragrant flowers used in Hawaiian leis). We walked 0.5 km to the main buffet one way. Lots of walking. None of the rooms are on the beach. There are a few units that face in that direction, but it is still a bit of a walk. If you want to see mature foliage, take a long walk down the beach to the right and visit the TRYP hotel Beautiful! A much smaller and quieter place. The Paradisis Varadero to the left is also beautiful to see.
There are mosqitoes as well. I could never feel them biting, but the welts would show up the next day.

Activities – If you do not like loud Latin music, this may not be the place for you. There are activites such as bingo, exercise, dance lessons, trivia, etc. all day. The music starts at 1000h and goes all day until midnight. There are various shows and ballets each night in the main square (courtyard) and theater. My inlaw’s room was on the courtyard side, so if they wanted to sleep before midnight, they had to use earplugs. Our room faced the mangrove forest, and it was much quieter.

Tours – We chose to take our girls to the dolphinarium 5 minutes from the resort. We took the transit bus for 2 pesos per person. For $80 CUC on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or $93 the other days, you can swim with the dolphins. The girls spent 30 minutes in the ocean lagoon with 10 other people and 3 dolphins. Pictures were taken of 2 dolphins kissing their cheeks. The staff will not let you take closeup pictures with your own camera. They block the view so you will pay to buy their pictures. The girls also got to hold on to their dorsal fins while the dolphins gave them a ride. At the end, two dolphins pressed their noses on the feet of each person, pushed them forward, and then catapulted them into the air, much like you would see at Seaworld, but not as high. Our girls thought that the experience was fantastic. We also took the Havana Colonial Day trip…wonderful. Even our girls enjoyed it. About 11 hours long. Had a wonderful lunch which included one drink only. I personally wouldn’t pay the extra 2 bucks for the lemon daiquiri again. The glass is martini sized. We saw old Havana and the political area where Castro works. The Christopher Columbus Cemetary was fantastic. Not a lot of time at each place, but great to see. Also took the bus on our own to Varadero. There are 2 flea markets there..a smaller one downtown, and a larger one about a 30 minute walk away from there. Much less crowded than the Havana flea market. Our girls each got their hair braided for $25 CUC each (plus tip). We followed the hairdressers down the back alley to their house behind the flea market. It took between 60-75 minutes, unlike their "10 minute" prediction. Tipping is pretty much expected off of the resort, but on the resort it was less pressured

Conclusion – I personally would like to try a 5 star next time, but for $1108 Canadian per person for the week, it was adequate. We didn’t realize how little English the staff would actually know, so perhaps a Spanish/English dictionary would be good. If you want peace and quiet,great food, and great service, don’t come here. If you like to drink, smoke,speak French(lots of French Canadians), and party, this is a great place.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Kelly

January 2008

My husband and I just returned from Sirenis La Salina on Jan 28th, and we will not be returning to this resort again. This is only our second trip to Cuba and had it been the first we would never go back. Every thing we went to do involved a huge line up. Check in, reservations for the restaurants, money exchange, coffee, food, drinks. If you don’t mind walking then this is the place to go. From building 36 to the lobby was just a tad under 1/2 mile. Do the math, 3 miles a day for food at the main buffet!! Thankfully there are carts that will take you around the resort.

Check In: This was a painfully slow process especially at 11:00 PM. There was two different flights that landed at the same time and two resort reps to check us in, here is where the fun starts. Both reps checked in the people on the NoliTours flight while the rest of us on Sky Service waited in another room, by ourselves and a bunch of fruit drinks with bugs in them. The whole process took until 2:00 am. That is 3 hours of wasted time and we were starving. We went to this huge buffet room and had burgers and finally got some sleep at 4:00am and were expected to be at orientation for 10:30am if we wanted to know and where things were.

Food/ Buffet: If you have ever been to an East Side Mario’s and found them loud, that is nothing to this buffet. We were calling it the "mess hall" because of the size of it. We finally gave up talking because we had to yell at the top of our voices and we still couldn’t make out what was being said. Most of the wait staff was okay, but during breakfast don’t take the ketchup off of other tables because they will hunt you down and make you tell them exactly where and who you passed the bottle on to next. The wait staff has been nick named "Ketchup Kops" The egg line up was painfully long but in all the food was good. The coffee bars had painfully long long line ups as well. Lunch and diner had good varieties of salads but again the line ups were dreadful.

In general: The entire resort is sadly understaffed for the amount of tourist that they are trying to accommodate, there was well over 1000 people there. If you are going there with the hopes of meeting new people try somewhere with fewer people. The pools are wonderful and the water slide is a must to try. The rooms are very nice with lots of pillows, blankets and towels, stocked fridge etc. Cleaning staff are very friendly and do a good job on the rooms. The beach water was warmer than the pools, very crowded, little shade, but there was a lot of lounge chairs. It wasn’t as much fun

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Robert

January 2008

Hi debbie…. I just came back from this resort yesterday and wanted to give you my opinion about it… The resort is excellent, very clean and very beautifully done. The vegetation in and around it although new, gives you the impression of having been there for ever…. The staff, from Otto the general manager to the last maid are amazing people, friendly and itching to serve you in anyway possible. The food at the buffet was good, but a little repetitive, however a new cheff is taking over and that will change I was told. The a la carte restaurantes are amaizing. One small thing I wasnt too hapy with was the buggy system, it could be organized differently so they roam around more often. Other than that, I would not only recommend it but I would and probably will go back there again as soon as I have another vacation. To who ever goes there check at night the grrop that sings at the "criollo" restaurant, it’s great.

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   S. Reid

January 2008

hi debbie. my husband, myself and my 12 year old son went to la salina the week of jan 11-18.2008. apparently the week before there was over 2000 at the resort but the week we were there it was about half as many. we found absolutely no problems at all. the resort was new and beautiful. the pools were gorgeous and the beach was magnificant. the rooms were very nice and the staff was also very good. the food isnt gourmet but we didnt expect it to be special. there are a lot of options though besides the buffet and the ala cartes there are snack bars where you order from a small menu. lots of fruit and vegetables. overall we really enjoyed ourselves and had a wonderful week of 30 degree temperatures and breezy evenings. still there but only in my head. haha

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  Sirenis La Salina Varadero   Patricia

January 2008

I travelled to Sirenis la Salina with my parents, brother and my husband from December 30th to January 6th. Ages 24, 26, 41, 47 and 15! I am the 24 year old! I will never return to this hotel again. This is my 4th trip to Varadero and this is the worst hotel I have ever been to! I read reviews before I went and assumed some people are just difficult but they were right this hotel was horrible!!! I have never written a review but i think everyone deserves to know what this hotel is really like!!!

CHECK IN/FRONT DESK – We arrived at the hotel at approximately 12:00pm and had to wait until 4pm to get our room. Once they told us our room was ready we had to wait another 1/2 for the bellboy to go and get our bags and then once we arrived at the rooms me and my husband had to wait in my parents room as the maid was still cleaning my room which took her 1HOUR!

FOOD/BUFFETT/BARS –The service is horrible. The buffet staff was 99% incompetent and 1% was friendly and competent. The food in the hotel was horrendus! There was nothing to eat. I spent the whole week eating fries and bread with cheese because everything else sucked. Most of the time you had to wait in line to get fries! In the morning you spent at least 1/2 hr in line to get some eggs – by the way breakfast was the only good meal. The worst lineup by far was at the coffee bar the minimum wait was 1/2hr. The service was so bad that on the Wednesday morning when we were having breakfast in the buffett one of the guests got on top of a chair and screamed "WHO IS NOT HAPPY" then he started speaking in french so i didnt catch the rest but alot of people started getting up and following him to the back of the buffett and I went to find out what was going on…what was happening was that the majority of the hotel was unhappy especially for some that paid good money to go there…my family paid $7500 to go!! He was having people write down their information and he was going to try and get people there money back. While this was going on all the security from the hotel and management was running around i guess getting there superiors because all of a sudden a cuban showed up..I have no idea who he was but he worked in the hotel..maybe the head of security but in spanish he told the guy who had started the commotion in the buffett that he is never to repeat what he had done and that if he stirrs up any more trouble they will call immigration on him….HILARIOUS!! What came out of what happened was for the rest of the day there was management in the buffett and everything was running smoothly..but that only lasted for that day…by the next day the service was shit again!!! A little more explanation into the service here – once you got your food you had to wait forever for them to come and get your order for drinks…but the second day we got our own drinks and my dad would go up to their stations and get his own wine or bring the bottle back with him!! If you asked for cutlery it took them a good 10mins to go to their station and return with it. If the table wasnt set up when you walked in they would just ignore it and hope you would deal with it yourself, when you would ask that they clean up the table they told you it would take about 15mins – 15 MINS to clean up some plates and cups FOR FU** SAKES! It was really horrible
– please do beleieve this as I am not exaggerating!!

THE ROOMS – In the rooms, one day me and my husband discovered that the maid had instead of putting the towels we left on the floor to wash she had refolded them and put them back in our bathroom….DISGUSTING! In my parents room they had three people in there and the maid keep leaving them only two towels. When I went into my room the day we checked in I only saw only two big towels I asked if I could have some face towels and the response I got was that there are no face towels, the hotel doesnt have any!!!!

THE GOOD – The beach is amazing, the pools are wonderful and the hotel is very nice…except that the common areas are very small for the capacity of the hotel. We were told the Friday before we left that at that moment there were 2300 people there and their max capacity is 2500. They definately needed to make the common areas bigger, especially the lobby!!! We got three days of really crappy weather so everyone was in the lobby and there wasnt enough table or chairs for everyone! I hope my review has helped someone in making the decison to not go to this hotel. I had read reviews before and just assumed that some people were really picky..but believe me Im not a picky person and I WILL NEVER RETURN!!! I think the people who wrote good reviews about this hotel were the ones I saw all week that were constantly HAMMERED!!!!

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January 2008

"This was my first resort vacation, so I have no frame of reference for this report. That said, I think the bar has been set pretty high and any of my future travels will have much to live up to. I travelled with my girlfriend from December 17-24. All we wanted was a place to unwind and relax, a clean room, decent food and a beach to lie on. We got what we wanted. I apologize, in advance, for the length of this review, so I’ll get to it.

Travel to Varadero:
Via Air Transat. Other than the departure time, the flight was decent enough. I wasn’t expecting anything fancy and it wasn’t. They offered a surprisingly appealing breakfast package and the flight crew were all pleasant. We departed Edmonton and landed in Varadero on time. Nice start. *Bring a Pen!* – They are not easy to come by at any point on this journey, whether it’s borrowing one from the flight attendant to fill out your Cuban Tourist Card and customs declaration before you land, or having the front desk man at the hotel lend you one, only to have him stand guard and give you the hairy eyeball as you fill out postcards for the schlubs back home. You never know what you have until you don’t have it no mo’.

Varadero Airport:
Getting out of the airport was pretty smooth. A bit of a line at customs, but our agent was polite, smiling and got us through quickly. Luggage arrived promptly. Tour agents are waiting immediately outside the airport to direct you to the correct bus to get you to your hotel. We had no trouble finding ours, getting our luggage stowed and finding a pair of seats onboard the A/Ced tour bus. It was a comfortable ride and the 45ish minute ride to La Salina passed quickly, thanks to the guide who quickly got us acquainted with our surroundings and kept us entertained. The driver was no slouch either. We were makin’ time.

Hotel Check In:
The process went very smoothly for us. We asked at the front desk where to check in and were pointed in the right direction, to a salon room off of the main lobby to the left. A hotel rep was ready and waiting with virgin mojitos and a (very) light snack. We got our room (card)keys, rum and coffee. We also received a map of the resort and an entertainment schedule (see photos), although I can’t recall if this was at check in or at the orientation meeting the following morning. We were then off to find transport to our room, which can be found straight through the main lobby or off the right of it. We easily found a minibus up to the task and after a short wait as the driver loaded as many of us aboard as comfortable and safe, we were whisked off to Building 38, which we soon discovered to be a very short distance to the beach. This was the only request I made of our tour operator (NoliTours) and I was very pleased that we were accomodated. The porter/driver gave us a quick run down of the grounds as we cruised past and offered to assist us w/ our bags when we got to our building. We declined, since we travelled comparatively lightly. We gave him a tip for the ride and the info (he seemed kind of shocked) and made our way into the building. We should have taken him up on his offer to carry our luggage up to our suite, but we’re young and strong and soon found ourselves in our 3rd floor suite overlooking the activity pool, and to a lesser extent, the ocean. We were home (at least for the next week). **This is an important note:** These are 3 story buildings and there are no elevators. If you can’t do stairs, make sure you specify a ground floor suite. Other than the vast amount of ground it covers and the walking required, the rest of the resort (grounds/buildings) appeared quite accesible for those with limited mobility or using wheelchairs. There is a lot of walking involved here. Walking or waiting for a minibus. Take this into consideration when booking here.

The Room:
Very nice. Clean. New, vibrant paint and tile work. Fairly spacious w/ 2 double beds (we didn’t specify), satellite TV (mostly spanish with some english and chinese), reading chair, A/C, safe, mini-fridge (ours had to be turned on using the dial inside under the ice box), balcony w/ 2 plastic chairs and a table and a sweeeeet view. Nice bathrooms w/ huge counter/mirror, hairdryer, scale and some soap/body lotion/shampoo. As mentioned many times by previous reviewers, the tub is badly designed. Put towels down before you start your shower (one a the end of the tub, opposite the tap, and another on the floor where the tub meets the sink counter). No slips! Just wring them out and reuse them the next time you shower. No need to have them cleaned every day. We got settled in and then went in search of food.

*Some helpful room hints (I hope)* $2CUC/day is a flat rate and you will be charged this amount for each day of your stay, whether you request the safe be opened on your first day or your 5th. Get your money’s worth and get it done right away. The techs came by to open it within a couple of hours and we entered a code number of our choice to lock it. Worked like a charm.

This appears to be a very energy/environmentally conscious resort and there are some interesting little quirks that you may or may not be familiar with… Lights/power/AC are activated by placing your cardkey into the lit slot just inside the door when you enter. Removal of the key will cause the power to go off in the room after approx. 1 minute, A/C and all. Don’t get caught in the bathroom or call maintenance because you have no power. Esta muy embarazoso. Speaking of the A/C, it will not work if the patio door is open. Great idea to save energy! Flourescent bulbs all around too. Add to that the fact that it is built around/within a forest (natural preserve is right next door), so much of the flora is well developed and mature. I was very impressed with this resort’s attention to these sorts of details. I imagine the Cuban gov’t had the last say on how things would be developed, so these efficiency measures can surely be attributed to them as well.

Food: It was an interesting experience. It ran the gamut from awful to delicious. I did enough research before we left that I knew not to have outrageous expectations. All I wanted was edible. We decided to forgo the a’la cartes, mostly because we wanted to spend as little time standing in lineups as possible, so I cannot comment on how long the waits were for reservations (I don’t even know where they took them) and obviously cannot comment on the food served. We were all buffet, all the time (with some snack bar visits thrown in for color). Our first meal, we headed for what we knew, in particular the peas and corn. We simultaneously took our first bites and looked at each other, horrified. If all the food tasted as bad as these two simple little vegetables did, we knew we’d never make it off that island alive. It then became apparent that the buffet would become a experiment in trial and error. Simple really. If something didn’t taste good, try something else. Eventually, the list of tasty items grows and you have a pretty decent meal sitting in front of you. There were a number of beef, pork, fish, shellfish and chicken dishes rotated throughout the week, some better than others, but there certainly is variety. I would recommend the grill area in the middle of the buffet. Chicken carved, on the spot, right off the bone (the best tasting single item I had all week), fresh grilled fish and beef (although the latter I found to be a little to tough and stringy for my liking), seafood paellas… Dee-lish. Also a lovely salad/cheese bar, which my girlfriend had to appreciate, no matter what, since she’s vegetarian, and a picky one at that. Green peppers were better than any I’ve tasted here in Canada. Lots of veggies, cooked or raw to choose from. Again, ye be warned though… look out for the corn and peas! There was also a pre-made pasta bar and a chef at the back who would cook plain pasta in the sauce of your choice. All in all, I didn’t mind the food and neither myself nor my girlfriend suffered from any sort of illness during our stay (other than the self-inflicted rumshot wounds I incurred on the Catamaran Tour!) They really are doing their best to please everyone all of the time, even if the results would sometimes indicate otherwise. The service was excellent, with someone there quickly to offer beverages and to clean your table when you are done. Tips are not necessary here, but surely appreciated. One family gave what appeared to be baby clothing and other essentials to an obviously pregnant server. She was very appreciative of the gesture. There is also a fine Cuban band that plays in the hall during dinner, called ‘Espacio….6’. They have a CD for sale, so if you like what you hear, make sure to pick one up. Besides, everything tastes better with good tunes behind it all…

In addition to serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the buffet hall becomes a snack bar from 11:00pm – 6:00am.

The Beach: I loved every grain of sand on it, if only for one week. It could get a little weedy in a couple of spots and the sand was surprisingly uneven out in the surf, making wading around a bit of a guessing game, but these are insignificant issues, and completely out of the control of the resort. Lovely sand and some very interesting shoreline features as you head towards Varadero. I did see lifeguards regularly. The beach is raked every morning, to remove anything the surf may have brought in the night before. There were only a couple of occasions when finding a beach lounger would have required actually looking for one, and on those occasions, we just dropped our beach towels down on the sand (we brought our own) and relaxed. Nothing to get worked up over. New palapas are being built almost daily to try to keep up with the arrival of more loungers, of which a sizeable shipment arrived during our stay. There were a couple of vendors out each day with a variety of souvenirs for sale. They were not intrusive at all, nor were any of the vendors we encountered. A better shopping experience than FutureShop for this very reason! At your disposal as part of the all-inclusive, but with reservations, are hobie cats, windsurfers, kayaks, and paddleboats, for an hour at a time I believe. Just look for the hobie cats on the beach and head inland from there to find the Surf Shack and make your reservations. The earlier in the day, the better. Oh, and contrary to popular belief, the jaunt from the beach to get a beverage is a short one. Maybe 50M from shoreline to bar. Visit the Beach Grill/Bar and get a daiquiri from Hector. It’ll knock your socks off. Make sure you bring an insulated mug from home (the on-site store had some, but just in case they run out of stock). Not only will your daiquiris stay icy and cold, but you’ll cut down on the litter (plastic cups) that is, sadly, beginning to accumulate in spots. More on that later. Fresh made omelettes are available here each morning until around 9:00ish, as well as a breakfast buffet with fruit, bread, eggs, bacon and the like. Go early and enjoy a delicious, hot breakfast near the beach. This is also the site of the ‘Thank You’ Beach BBQ from the hotel. Unfortunately, we did not attend, and therefore cannot comment on it.

If I had to nitpick, I’d say the beach in Varadero itself has nicer sand, clearer/cleaner water, and was just somehow more the tropical beach I had envisioned. That, however, is like saying you prefer Ferraris to Lambourghinis. Both are fine, fine machines. Any differences really just come down to personal taste.

Main Building – Front Desk (safes, beach towels, internet passcode, among other things). They are pleasant enough to deal with, but the less time spent here, the better. Try to get all your stuff looked after all at once. After the lineup at the desk, you can soothe your jagged nerves with a drink in the lobby bar or crank them up higher at the coffee bar. In either case, the lobby is a nice place to sit down and enjoy a drink. Open and airy with bright decor and Cuban rythyms wafting through the air. Also in the main building are the Bank, to exchange CADs for CUCs, the gourmet a’la carte restaurant, phones, hair salon and buffet restaurant. Take special note of the Tour office, Internet Salon, store & scooter/car rentals. Pablo was our NoliTour rep and he was excellent. He did an orientation meeting the morning after our arrival to introduce us to the resort, the tours offered, and to the local culture. The time and venue was listed on the pamphlet we received at the airport the previous day. We booked our catamaran tour through him and it went off without a hitch. I would recommend sailing with the "Crucero del Sol" outfit, as they took us to an offshore dolphinarium to swim and have very high quality photos taken w/ the dolphins (they’ll tow you around the tank for the right price too), snorkelling on the world’s second largest coral reef and finally, to Cayo Blanco, for an hour or two in an idyllic locale with stunning white sand and turquoise blue waters. Top it off with a lobster or chicken meal cooked fresh on the island and the $170CUC for the two of us was a very easy bill to swallow. Amazing Day! Pablo was also able to direct us to a number of schools in Varadero so that we could drop of some donations of paper, crayons, clothes and the like. We had originally found an address for an orphanage in Matanzas City, but he was quick to point out that we didn’t have to travel that far to find suitable recipients. We followed his directions and found a small school for disabled kids in Varadero that was more than happy to take the supplies off our hands. That was a profound experience, I’ll tell you. Thanks again to Pablo. We decided to rent a scooter on three different occasions to zip into Vardero at our leisure. Scooter and car rentals are outside the rotunda that contains the tour office and internet salon. You can’t miss them. $15CUC for the first 3 hours, and $3CUC for every hour after that. If I recall correctly, we were told $21CUC for a 9am – 5pm rental, as a sort of an all-day deal, plus fuel (at most, $3CUC). Roberto was running the rental kiosk more often than not, and even went so far as to lend me his own personal helmet when the hotel, due to a lack of supply, was unable to provide one for me. Service Above and Beyond, for which I offered a five peso tip, and he humbly accepted. Just make sure to have your license w/ you. There isn’t much traffic along the way, and when there is, just stay to the right and you’ll be fine. There are a few potholes to speak of and fluctuating speed limits, so be aware of that too! If you wreck the scooter, you pay. No insurance will save you! The double-decker buses that run the strip were apparently a good option as well. It is a pay once/use the transfer all day scenario costing $5CUC. Just don’t miss the last one out of town, or you’ll have to find a cab or walk, and La Salina is almost as far out on the penninsula as it can get, with only 3 or 4 resorts located further away from town. The internet was scary. Remember dialup? On a bad day? Welcome to Cuba, where everything happens just a little bit slower 😉 $10CUC, payable at the front desk, gets you an internet passcode good for 1/2hour of internet access time, and a chance to maybe get an email or two sent off before your time dwindles away. We tried, originally, to contact the outside world in the afternoon, and after using up 19 of our 30 minutes simply trying to login to Hotmail, we decided to come back during the evening sometime, hoping that bandwidth would be freer then. We returned and were able to send one cryptic email off in the 29th minute! It was exhilarating and downright frustrating at the same time. That said, we were there to be out of touch with reality, not wired in. So, like water, it rolled off our backs. Off to the store for a cigar. The store was handy (just off the lobby), well priced and fairly well stocked, all things considered (No Pens here either!). Souvneirs, clothing, books, shades, toiletries, pop, snacks, liquor, drums/maracas, and of course, tobacco are available here. The girls behind the counter were pleasant and easy to deal with. They seemed a little aloof at times and may take their time, but again, that’s Cuba. Relax and enjoy.

Quiet Pool – Large, pretty pool that arcs around the 1st snack bar. 2 bridges cross it with a graded shallow end one way, and the swim up bar the other. Snack bar serves burgers/fries/pizza/sandwiches, all pretty decent tasting. There is also a small salad buffet with the occasional hot dish available. Also a full bar, although not as well equipped as the others. If you want something super fancy, head to the swim-up bar. The term quiet is a relative term, as there are still plenty of kids splashing and yelling (adults too), but there are no activities held or music pumped here. Nice place to find a lounger/umbrella (availability flucuated thru the week) and relax w/ a cocktail.

Activity Pool – Another large pool with waterslide (my girlfriend loved it!), cave bar, main bar/2nd snack bar, volleyball, water polo, music trivia, dance/Spanish lessons and, one evening, a very glitzy and well recieved synchro swimming show, among other things. For an overall view of what was scheduled during our week there, events calendar is included w/ the photos I will/have posted. Easiest to find a lounger here in the morning or mid to late afternoon. I was surprised how quickly the area quieted down after sundown. Not a peep until the band struck up by the theatre building. The water was quite chilly in both pools.

Theatre & A’la Cartes – Located between the two pools along with the spa/gym and doctor’s office. The theatre had live bands out front, almost nightly, and inside they held dance and other musical performances. Our orientation w/ Pablo was also held here. The a’la cartes are directly across the square from the theatre. I believe the nightclub is also housed here. We didn’t visit them, so I cannot comment.

The vast majority of the staff at La Salina are genuinely friendly and very helpful. We tipped our maid $10CUC the first morning, along with some earrings/necklaces. She left us a nice thank you note and we were not left wanting for towels, bottled water, pop/beer at any point in the trip. We left her $5CUC more on the morning of check out, for her efforts all week long. I honestly believe that we’d have gotten the same service w/o tipping. I’m not saying you shouldn’t tip, just that it won’t necessarily get you any better or quicker treatment (communism is beautiful). It just seems that, tip or no, things will get done at the same pace either way. Pull up a chair and relax. Good service should be rewarded with a peso or two, or five or ten, and more importantly, with your respect. On a resort stocked almost exclusively w/ Canadians (of which I would estimate a 50/50 French/English split), we watched far too many people dumping empty cups, platefuls of food and smoke butts on the ground, in the bush and on the beach, or where ever they pleased, with utter disregard for the hard work and effort put in by the resort workers/grounds keepers, who are out everyday trying to make the place beautiful for us. I am a smoker, and it was very easy for me to find ashtrays and trashcans to deposit my butts into, rather than to use Cuba as my personal wastebin. We found ourselves picking up trash on the way to our room, out of some sick sense of guilt. We also witnessed two middle-aged women nearly come to blows, in front of their children, over a poolside lounger. Toys were thrown, insults (in French) were hurled and a couple of staff members were even brought in to mediate. The sight was both hilarious and sad, all at the same time. Unfortunately, I was emabarrassed for Canada on more than one occasion. OK, sermon over… The locals, what little interaction we had with them off the resort, were all very friendly, gracious and seemingly happy. This was the vibe we got from the school children we visited and their teachers. Despite the rundown classrooms, bright, colorful artwork, done by the kids, hung on the walls and almost all their faces had smiles on them. We did have the good fortune of meeting a man who doesn’t have the luxury of working on a resort, and as a result, has a little tougher time than some of his countrymen. He graciously accepted some money from us, as he’d shown us around Varadero’s old water tower (disguised as a fortress-type building on a hill) and been candid in his conversation with us. We bought/brought him some toiletries from the resort store once it became apparent in our brief initial meeting that things like soap and shampoo are tough to come by for the average Cuban, even if he was holding enough pesos in his hand to purchase such things. Again, like pens, it’s the little things that we take for granted that mean a lot there.

Check Out:
The beginning of a very long and brutal travel day back to Alberta. Check out is at noon and our flight was due to leave at midnight. Twelve hours without a room kind of sucked, but we were able to have our luggage stowed (in a somewhat, but not completely, secured environment) for the day, so that we could enjoy our final day w/o worrying about our stuff. Shower facilities were apparently available, although we didn’t inquire about that service. Spent the day at the pool, beach and had one final buffet meal before our bus arrived to take us to the airport. Ours (NoliTours) was running around 10-15 minutes late, while the Sunquest shuttle got there an hour late. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Perhaps the same hasty driver we got on the way in?

Varadero Airport: Tolerable at best on this evening. Already faced with having to go home, our flight being delayed an hour didn’t sit well with us, although we were informed that a 1 hour delay in Cuba could be considered as good as on-time and worthy of a great celebration. The time passed and we boarded what we now know, in hindsight, was the flight from hell. No sleep, constant turbulence, not one, but two lousy movies and a pizza snack made at the Smurfit cardboard box factory. I was a cranky boy by the time we touched down and my Jeep is fortunate that it had the good sense to start after a week in the airport parking lot. I fear I may have dismantled it on the spot had it not… All in all, we came home very happy with the price we paid, the resort (with food quality being the only real issue we could raise), the NoliTours reps (Pablo in particular), and most of all, the people and country of Cuba. We’ll be visiting again, as soon as possible, and we would certainly consider staying at the Sirenis La Salina again, especially for the measily $900/ea that we paid this time around. The resort is bound to improve on it’s shortcomings and become more and more expensive as time wears on. Now would be a good time to experience it."

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  Sirenis Las Salina   Irene and Ian ~ Mississauga, Ontario

January 2008

Arrival – Dec. 21 2007 late evening arrival with usual confusion finding correct bus etc. but all in all not really a problemRooms – rooms was great, clean and comfortable. only complaint was a poorly designed bathtub / shower. very hard to keep from flooding floor. minor problem tho.

Restaurants – buffet staff were very friendly and helpful. ala carte staff really seemed to lack training. we did not expect much and were not disappointed, food sucked. everything we tried was either overcooked or lacked any flavour. hotel should get some advice from cruise line staff who never have a problem feeding large volumes of guests with top quality and presentation.

Bars – great. always pleasant and smiling staff, but sometimes overwhelmed when busy. coffee bar in main lobby had great coffee and capacchino

Beach and Pools – beach was very good and always staffed. lots of beach chairs. pool areas were also great but sometimes a little crowded and hard to find chairs and space.

Grounds – grounds were very nice and well kept but still a bit imature but this is understandable for a hotel only open since july.Activities – always something going on although we did not do much, we were there for the beach and sunshine

Tours – we took catamaran trip to cayo blanco, trip = great food = yech. also took day trip to havana, worth every penny!!. do not miss. interesting to listen to tour guides official stories and her unoffical comments. bit of insight to life in cuba. best mohito at la bodegito de medio (not sure of spelling)

Conclusion – in all a great trip made better by the excellent weather. if we return to cuba, i would prefer to find somewhere with better dining. it may sound petty but for us good dining is part of the vacation experiance and la salinas has a long way to go in this area. but if dining is not important then this is good spot, especially for families.

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January 2008

Hello everyone. We, a family of four including 2 kids stayed at La Salina Dec 21-28 of 2007. We flew Air Transat from Toronto to Varadero. Usually charter airlines jam you in your seat but the flight was short for us, so it did not matter much. We were given a small hot meal in the plane. In Cuba, the Cuban immigration although slow, it never is a problem. We were transferred to the hotel by a special bus. Checking in was quite simple as everything was ready for us. We were given a cocktail, a bottle of Rum and some coffee upon arrival, which was a nice treat. The Hotel is beautiful. It is quite new and that’s a plus. It has 2 huge pools, one slightly quieter for the people that want little disturbance. The other pool, the main pool, is also huge. It is beautifully set, with a waterfall cave swim up bar, and a tube slide almost 3 stories high. Lots of activities by the pool. You don’t go to Cuba for food as everything is bland. This place has several al carte restaurants for which you have to make a reservation. We tried the Japanese, the French, and the Romantico. There are a couple of other as well such Cuba and Mediterranean. The Japanese place is the highlight of the place. It is really nice where the food is cooked in front of you. The Buffet is OK, nothing especial, but OK. You can pick and choose what you like. There is a lobby bar, a piano bar, and several other places by the pools to get drinks, and snacks. The coffee is the best in Cuba. The rooms were nice and clean, lots of towels, shampoo, soap, toothpaste/brush, water, beer and softdrinks in the mini fridge, TV, etc. No complaints there. The hotel is huge. It will take a good 5 minutes to walk from the beach to the main lobby but so what. Doing some walking is good after all that rum / food. There are lots of golf carts and you can always catch a ride. The beach is fantastic. Overall, this place is great. I recommend it, and I would go back there again.

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Last updated: January 21, 2009

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