This was our 8th trip to Cuba, but the first to CSM. We always go 4 Star and have always been delighted with the resort we chose. I always use Debbie’s Carribean to choose my Cuban vacation. I usually dismiss the totally negative reports, as some people are never happy with anything. As regarding Sol, they were actually right. I’ll break down the resort into departments and give you my honest opinions on them.
Arrival: Cuban Customs were much more investigative than I have experienced in the past. Agents seemed to be selecting people at random from the lines and questioning them before they entered the "booth". My wife was questioned quite extensively, even though this was our 8th trip to Cuba. They are also taking your photo on entry and exit.
Note: On departure, you are now not allowed any liquids, including alchohol on your carry-on baggage, as applies when leaving a North american airport. all liquids must be in checked baggage. Your duty free alchohol is now sealed in a security bag on purchase.
Rooms: Rooms: Clean enough to start, but in bad repair. The safe was broken when we checked in, and we waited ages for a technician who simply pushed the broken parts together. The air con only had once speed, “blast” so we wanted to use the ceiling fan, which didn’t work. Customer Service told us “they are all broken, we don’t fix them anymore”! After that we struggled with heavy closet doors which were jammed in their tracks and a TV which flickered on and off the whole time. It must have been an architect with a sense of humor who designed all of the rooms with a picture window in the bathroom! I rather enjoyed showering looking out at the jungle, but it might have been a bit different in the suites where the windows face the public walkways. Gotta hope that blind doesn’t pop up, Girls! Housekeeping: Despite the fact we tipped well, it was hit and miss whether the bathroom was cleaned or not. Finally had to leave a note on the mirror to Please Clean the Bathroom, which actually worked. Yes, the towel elephant and swans are cute, but I’d rather have a clean toilet than a towel heart; and why the hell would you use a soiled wet towel to make one in the first place? Yuk!
Restaurants and Bars: Food: This is where we start to go downhill. I know it is said Cuban food is bland, but in all of our other visits this was not the case. It seemed that any food that was pre-cooked was totally overcooked; vegetables were mushy and meats and fish were usually hard and dry. If you stay with the fresh grill, you will get properly cooked meat and fish. Pasta and Pizza is available freshly made, and fruits are plentiful when in season. We were always able to have a decent meal, but never saw shrimp or crab! Deserts were on the sweet side, with mostly icing and sugary items. The best part was the Champagne on Ice for morning Mimosa’s and a lunchtime toast! You may or may not get used to the plentiful Mockingbirds in the Buffet restaurant who freely share the salad and bread bar with the guests, with little apparent intervention from staff. A La Carte: Sol advertises two of these, but one was closed and under renovations, which we were told by Customer Service would be completed by our second week. It seems Cuban renovations consist of a gutted building with workers sleeping in the shade during the day. Nothing changed in the two weeks. There were two other facilities which could have functioned well as a replacement, but these were not used. We went to the Italian a La Carte twice, as we couldn’t believe it could be that bad more than once, but it was. Ambiance and service is fine, but the entrees were inedible. The fish we had the first time was so overcooked it was like compressed wood fibre, and the beef the second time was so tough it should have been put through a blender.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Beach: The beach is consistently beautiful in it’s entire length, so use this to pick your location, but not the resort itself. Sand drops quickly at the waterline, so you are very soon in deeper water; if you are not a swimmer you will be staying very close to shore. There is a “reef” at the far western end, but it is flat and featureless with almost no fish or coral, as it receives the full force of the ocean waves. The only fish I found were a few small reef fish along the rocks at the western end of Sol’s beach. Definitely not a reef-diving destination. However, the Catamaran excursion takes you to an actual reef in more protected waters. Pool: Large and warm. Cleaned frequently and the tiles didn’t feel slimy underfoot. Safety: If this resort were in North America it would be and Injury Lawyer’s heaven. Numerous holes to trip in, a rotting plank on the walkway by the Piano bar that my wife (95LBs) almost went through. A heavier person will likely break through for a drop of 3 feet! Missing grids along the pool that someone will eventually fall through and suffer serious injury. Numerous small ledges and steps that are very easy to miss in the dark. You have to watch your feet all the time around this resort. Grounds: I got the distinct feeling that Sol had been abandoned for about ten years, and had only recently re-opened. Some units are so overgrown with jungle they look like a newly discovered archaeology site. Much of the shrubbery is dead or dying and in very poor condition. The few gardeners I saw spent endless hours raking leaves from patches of grass and sand, while ignoring piles of palm fronds and garbage which sat for days in the public areas. There are a number of water features and ponds in and around the front lobby; must have been nice in days past, but they are now fetid pools of murky algae and debris. Perhaps one of the gardeners could put on some boots and remove the accumulation of garbage in these ponds which has obviously been there for months if not years. How can management walk past this mess and not have someone assigned to cleaning them out?
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Take the double decker bus to the Pueblo a la Estrella, where there is a large, clean tourist shopping area to buy the typical Cuban handicrafts and souvenirs. Walk up the "cathedral" tower for a nice view of the island. There are several restaurants and bars there and it it the place the party set go at night for the disco’s and bars there. There is a second Pueblo very close to Sol, the one with the Pirate Ship Bar. It can be reached with an easy walk through the Melia resort next door.
Animacion try and organize games and activities, but their success is dependent upon the number of guests who want to participate.
Staff / Management: Hotel Staff: The reviews on the staff were very complementary and played a major factor in choosing this hotel. And yes they were great, and we made several very good friends among the servers. But this in itself was not enough. Management: There Is??? Saw various white shirts walking between offices, but never once saw a manager interacting with the guests. This was totally different from the other resorts we have been at where the managers were very visible and accessible to us. I guess they are tired of complaints and it’s easier to just stay out of sight. If you stayed with me this far, congratulations, but I really wanted to do a comprehensive report. We had a good time, and enjoyed ourselves; most of these deficiencies could be rectified with very little capital expenditure, simply by better management and allocation of resources. It might even deserve a Four Star rating. If low cost is your only condition, then go to Sol. But I wish we had spent a bit more money and gone to either of the two Melia resorts right next door. Walk over to them and it is like a portal to another world or lush gardens, flowering shrubs and clean fountains. We will return to CSM on a future trip, but no way will we go back to Sol!