Guests at The Sirenis Playa Turquesa were in a good mood, enjoying all of the resort, complaining only about the swimming. And the airport… but this is Cuba. Here are some comments, mostly on things other people have not mentioned. It includes the drawbacks of Sirenis, which other surprisingly high-praise reviews seem to have missed. It is not a better place than many other good resorts; other reviewers must have been shocked that it is good at all.
Ours was fine (700s, for Nolitours), everything worked, hot water always, very good aircon. Big enough, and quiet balcony. It is true the walls seem thin… we were beside an incessant cougher. Medium-sized buildings set nicely in greenery; you get a nice forest view from the balconies.
Restaurants and Bars: People did not complain about the food. There are grilling stations with great choice (not big line-ups), quite a few salad mixtures (didn’t get sick), many cheeses and cold meats, even smoked salmon … they try to make the food classy. There is always an excellent large baked fish and a meat hidden behind the middle of the line-up for the pasta station. Always several cooked vegetables (canned, but this is Cuba), several fruits, and mushy cakey desserts…. Pre-prepared foods were okay, kept in regular warmers. No foods ran out. We enjoyed the Italian a la carte, a quality meal. Serving staff was friendly and quick enough (coffee or tea water sometimes cool). The buffet has a knockout view… we usually sat at the edge to enjoy it. Bars seemed fine, although drinks could vary. Service was good, without tipping. The lobby bar is filled with lobby noise, buses pulling up, not too nice. Three evenings a pianist plays forlornly amidst the din. The bar by the upper pool has a nicer atmosphere; and there is a bar in one pool for those who wish to soak and drink.
One notices slightly the focus on tips, some staff being unnaturally friendly, etc. We accept that as their life, on a dollar a day under their repressive system. So no complaint here about the pressure for tipping — we ignore the hints (which are minor), and don’t try to solve Cuba’s problems by sympathy tipping. Others were tipping, feeding this lop-sided system where people can earn ten times as much from tips as from their salary… and more than a teacher or medical worker. Anyway, we have already paid a healthy labour fee to the hotel; but instead of the staff getting it, most goes to the government.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is long enough, with sailboats and kayaks available at one end. But walking further, in either direction, is painful coral rock. So no long seaside walks. The coral rock has interesting fossil shapes in it, but no shells. At the right end there is a track that curves inland for a pleasant kilometer walk up to the road. At the left end also a path going inland. The road out toward the highway is okay for walking; bush both sides. There is a tourist attraction park (Rocazul) 1 km. away. Sirenis is really isolated. The beach itself is nice sand, good swimming at high tide, but bad for swimming at low tide. It becomes a huge wading pool, 2-3 feet deep. Hence the pleasant turquesa colour. Enough nice sandy parts underwater, but there are also coral rock parts. For our week, high tide was 8 a.m. and swimming was perfect… but lonely. Lots of loungers. Very basic snacks and drinks cabin. Good bathrooms nearby at the Cuban restaurant and the gym. There is medium seaweed, but they clean it up (very slowly). Surprisingly, the beach has no palms, just basic low trees. So it is not as pretty as it could be. (Only five little palm trees in total at Sirenis, at the swimming pools. Lots of mini palm type plants around the pools) The pools are impressive, ranged down the slope with nice ocean views. Seemed very clean; and never really lacked in loungers. The whole large central area is neat and open and well landscaped. From the beach towel house at the bottom by the beach to the top pool is four storeys of stairs. One guest was heard groaning ohmigod. The whole huge resort is neat, good for walks. From our average room to eat and back totaled 1.5 km. It is well enough lit at night.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
No comment, not our interest. The so-called animation at the pool seemed to be blessedly minor. The kids club seemed unused.
Other Comments: The airport is small and basic. They tortured our planeload on entry by scanning each bag (for what?), only two scanners: a 45 minute sardine line-up at 1 a.m.. And the government wants to have happy tourists? The equal line-up for check-in on departure is, alas, more normal. No mention at the airport of the nasty new law requiring everyone to have health insurance. The tour package operators use this new law to try to scare us into expensive health insurance, but nothing said at the airport. (One rumour is that the provincial insurance card is enough to satisfy the law anyway, so it may be good to take it.)
Overall, a very good holiday for us. This resort does try to make everything enjoyable.