We returned from our 10th trip to Cuba on March 10, this time staying at the Sirenis Playa Turquesa. This was our 8th resort. It is a very visually appealing resort.
We flew with Air Transat out of Halifax. Arrived at 10:00 and breezed through the airport, to the bus, to the resort. We were almost the first off the bus, (without any pushing or shoving, I hasten to add!) I got the luggage while my wife went to the check-in. It was so fast and orderly that the only slow down was them waiting for me to get there and be banded (1st note: only Air Transat guests get banded, like true snowbirds!), I had to stop for my welcome cocktail! A bellhop took us to our room on a golf cart and we were in our room by 11:30, THE FASTEST check-in we have ever experienced!!
Perhaps because we were first to check-in or maybe it was advance email (?), we got a room directly by the pool, which was a perfect location. I had emailed and asked for an upper floor room, however, our first floor room turned out to be good. The room was very typical to most of the Cuban resorts we have stayed in. An entry hallway with large closet (containing safe and iron & board), large bedroom with patio doors onto good sized balcony. Although almost of the buildings are only 2 stories, the ground floor is off the ground so the balcony does not step out onto the ground, thus avoiding low level insects or other creatures. The bed was typical, hard with thin long pillows. We had a daybed/cot in our room (useful for piling junk on) and an armchair, with another desk chair at the dressing table, TV and bar fridge, which was stocked each day. The only 110/120 volt outlet is in the hair dryer in the bathroom (usually meant for razors). The bathroom we had was in 3 sections, the main room had the sink and vanity, a separate toilet and a separate shower (no bath). It was adequate as bathrooms go. Overall the room was quite functional.
Restaurants and Bars: A very nice lobby bar with early evening entertainment. The buffet was good with a good choice of fruits, salads, carver items, casserole dishes, cooking stations, and above Cuban average desserts. The 4 ala cartes (Cuban, Mediterranean, Grill, and Italian) we ate at were good; in fact, I think the food at the resort was some of the best we have had in Cuba. My main observation with the ala cartes was that although the service was okay, they did not seem as "special" as in other resorts; or that is to say that in many Cuban resorts the staff seem to attempt to make the dining experience more special than the buffet, even if they often fall short. The Italian was the best, although they have not completed the decorating. With Air Transat we were allowed 5 ala cartes, but we did not go to the Oriental ala carte due to the poor reviews and we are not that into Chinese food, if it had been Japanese we would have tried to go twice! However, we heard several favourable comments about the Oriental. We had several lunches at the Beach snack bar, where the table service pizzas were the best we have had in Cuba. Through Air Transat we were offered the Beach snack bar for a continental breakfast, we only went twice as the selection was limited, however, there was no waiting for my omelette. We did not try the 24 hour snack bar for food. The 3 bars we frequented most were quite good: Lobby, 24 hour, and Beach snack bar. They have 2 of the best bartenders I have encountered, 1 at the lobby bar and the other at the beach snack bar, they make the best Pina Coladas, my new favourite the Mulata and the guy at the Beach snack bar makes the best Mojitos going. The bar on the beach was limited and made the Pina Coladas with slush. I only used the swim-up bar a couple of times as the water was quite cool, but it had one of the most entertaining bartenders I have ever seen, and was featured on stage one night, think Tom Cruise in "Cocktail", only for real!!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach had lots of shade, which is important to us; however, we did not stay there very long most afternoons as the wind was quite chilly. It is a relatively short beach with exposed, dead coral at each end. You can explore beyond the ends of the sand but you need something on your feet. The pools are one of the more aesthetic features of the resort. They cascade down the slope, going from the shadeless adult pool, down to a family pool, down to another pool with access to the swim-up bar, and ending at the shallow family pool were all the pool activities take place. Except for the adult pool, all the pools have shade cover on both sides of the pools; however, it was quickly snapped up by the unattended towels!! The one slightly annoying feature of the upper pools was that the music from the activity pool was piped up to them making for a distraction for those trying to read or sun-snooze. In addition, each pool is linked by blossom covered arches which disguise the number of stairs on both sides of the pools. The Turquesa grounds are very lush and to my wife’s great pleasure the bougainvillea and other plants were in full bloom and cover a good portion of the resort. We found the layout good and logical. The roads/paths within and around the resort are wide and make for a good evening walk. Fortunately our room was very central, so I may have had a different opinion if we had been on one of the ends. However, I don’t feel that there was more than a 10 minute walk to most areas of the grounds. There are also the usual facilities: a store which I thought had a limited variety, until I got to the airport; a Cadeca (money exchange), the exchange was 85.6 CUC = $100 Cdn (in early March, 2010) and has good hours so no great line-ups; and an internet area.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: I cannot comment on daytime activities as we seldom take advantage, however, as our room was by the pool, I can report that the late afternoon activities seemed well attended, loud, and of an adult nature. The nightly entertainment was as good as or better than many Cuban resorts with only one audience participation night, and one night was the water ballet. As we have been to Cuba and the Holguin area several times we only took one tour, Inside Cuba. It was well worth the 49 CUC (?) each and included a train ride, a tour of a cigar factory, lunch, tour of Holguin and free time in the city centre. We had taken a similar tour before but it was made more interesting as there was a Book Festival in the main square.
Other Comments: We enjoyed the resort but I have to admit it wasn’t my favourite, although I cannot be specific as to why, it is just a personal think. My wife liked it more than I did. As I said it is very visually pleasing with a large plaza off the lobby. This was the first resort that we had been to that actually catered to larger groups. All of the eating areas, i.e. buffet, ala cartes, snack bars, and bars, had large tables capable of seating 8 or 9 people with out having to pull tables together. I did not see any, but I got the impression that the suites were good for families and larger groups. In addition, there were 2 weddings in the week we were there. As well, the Turquesa had one of the largest Kid’s Club area I have seem at any resort, complete with shallow pool and cute kid sized sun loungers. The resort staff were very friendly, helpful, and quite efficient by Cuban standards. I had read several reviews that talked about being ignored by wait staff or not being served at bars without tipping but I never found this on any occasion. My biggest complaint (and this has happened at other resorts) was the lack of live musicians (as opposed to dead musicians!). There was a trio each night for a short time in the buffet, but not at the ala cartes, and there was either a pianist, singer, or saxophonist at the lobby bar for a short time early evenings. However, to be fair at least the canned music they played at other times was Cuban (one resort we stayed at a few years ago played "Hotel California" 24/7). Overall, you will enjoy the Playa Turquesa.