We were 3 (from Montreal)- one adult, one senior and one 10-year old and stayed at the Tryp Cayo Coco from December 23rd to the 30th, 2006.
This is a long one-I religiously tried to read up as many reviews as possible before booking this trip-I want to make sure I include everything.
Travel: We flew Air Canada with much turbulence…so much so we never saw breakfast-but did catch a glimpse of one nervous male attendant as he ran down the aisle throwing cookie packs at passengers before regaining the safety of his seat. I unfortunately took my Gravols too late and the effects only kicked in as we were landing, so the airport experience is a bit fuzzy-it was hot and I recall a cocker spaniel sniffing luggage.
The return flight was better, great food, good service and nice (newer) plane. Btw: keep you headphones-they work on other equipment-we use ours on our computer. Otherwise-they all get trashed with the rest of the garbage. (tsk,tsk Air Canada-not very environmentally-friendly.)
Tryp Cayo Coco: Well we never did see the Tryp hotel-on the day of our arrival that is…as we were one of the 3 families met at the airport and told that we were ¨bumped¨, and were told the hotel had overbooked and we were all sent to the next-door hotel-the Blau, for first night. The irony of this is that we were all from the same tour company and never really got a clear answer, why we were chosen from other passengers who had the same reservations There was one theory that if the hotel would need to bump anyone, they would not go after those from the bigger tour companies, so as to keep them as clients.
This left all of us very frustrated and extremely disappointed. Two of us had VIP packages too, and, upon our arrival at the Tryp the next day (only after 12 :pm), we were assigned rooms and told that this was all that was left (?!) Although we all later received monetary compensation, it certainly left us all in transition for the first two days…which is a lot when you only have 6 days of vacation-we left at 8:am on the 7th day.
Rooms: When we finally got into our rooms at around 2:00pm, we were in Block 1-which was at the far end on the resort, and ironically across from the Blau. Upon my reservations (in September) I had inquired about the choice of rooms and the vicinities, as my aunt has certain physical limitations and would not fare well in stairs or too much walking. I was reassured that my VIP package gave me such priorities…we were the furthest from the main lobby building and on the third floor.
Our room was very lovely and clean. We did not have a ceiling fan like other rooms however, and had to rely on either cold air conditioning or damp hot wind from outside at night. This might be a factor should you have the option to actually chose your own room.
VIP: We had an ocean view (most buildings did), a coffee machine-which we used daily. The bathrobes and slippers never saw the light of day as we were never in our rooms other than to sleep/shower. I was the only one drinking and only managed to drink 1/4 of the rhum bottle in our room (6 cuc at the store). You can refill your water bottle daily at the water/soda/coffee machines in the buffet restaurant for free. My aunt and daughter did drink the daily replenished soda in the fridge-but again-you can purchase it at the hotel store.
You can leave a deposit of 15 cuc-which they’ll give back at the end of your stay for a clean towel daily (by the pool) btw :nothing..absolutely nothing ever truly dries in your hotel room-we came home with luggage full of damp clothes. We had brought our own towels but by day 3 on the beach, they were completely rank and undrieable and came home wet.
Tipping: We did leave 3 pesos every day on our pillows for the maid and I had bought a bunch of little things from the pharmacy too (toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, shower gel, earrings, chocolates, pencils, art things for kids.) We would leave a couple of these items every day as well. Knowing what I know now-I would probably add such things as gum, candy, panty hose, make-up. Some people also opt to leave behind clothing & shoes behind.
Our general rule of thumb from the start was 1 peso per person. So for every meal at the buffet –where you were served beverages at your table-we would leave 3 pesos. At the cooking stations also-some people would leave a tip. If we ate at the à la carte restaurants where you were given full service from drinks to desert-we would leave 5. I also always left 1 peso when I went to the bar for a coffee or drink. I think overall, between the 3 of us, we must have spent 150 cuc for all of the above. It was worth every penny too..it was so humiliating to see so many fellow vacationers walk away from their tables without leaving one cent. Im sorry but if you can afford this trip-you can afford the extra bucks to tip! Where I come from, the tipping norm is 15% of your bill..so 1 cuc/person is nothing.
We had 2 days of everything. Two days of full sun-around 38 degrees. Two days of full clouds/very windy and cold-we wore sweaters & shorts, and two days of cloud & sun-around 25 degrees.
The Beach: Oh-my-goodness! One word : Heaven. We spent every waking moment there-took long, long walks in the early mornings-especially very cool the two days we had stormy weather. We picked seashells-btw :not allowed to take them home/they’ll stop you at the border and take them away if they catch you (we were told by one of the travel agents.) On the two quiet sunny days we swam out to the corrals with bread and were promptly surrounded by a whole variety of tropical fish! Bring a snorkeling mask & tube and underwater camera-you can borrow a mask from the sports center on the beach, but it’s only for 1/2 hour and if its really nice weather most likely they’ll all be taken already. We always sat near the grill (bathrooms/lunch) and the bar (drinks/music/games). We also did the banana boat ride for 5 pesos/person which was great fun.
We didn’t go to the pool at all as it was much more crowded and rowdy –the pool bar, crushes of beach chairs side by side, and the kiddy corner right next door, along with the entertainment people on the loudspeaker every once in a while announcing activities.
Activities: We had already decided that we would not book any excursions-this being our first trip to Cayo Coco. We did, however book a spa package. We booked through our agent, and were picked up by bus and were taken to a spa at the north tip of the island. (3 minutes away-we could have walked.) For 35 cuc we received a mud wrap, a steam sauna, a massage and a choice of saltwater (heated) pools to swim in with massage jets. Two hours later we were promptly bused back to our hotel feeling ever so relaxed. They offer all kinds of therapeutic packages and we highly recommend you try this out. One thing-and Im not sure if this was just our agent but, we were not presented the lesser expensive activities to do (ie.bird watching on the island), but instead, were given as options the more expensive items-so do some research/read the reviews before you go. Also-plan your week’s activities even before you get there (7 days goes by fast!)-and check the weather-we only ended up having two days where boats could go out for snorkeling (highly recommended btw),because the rest of the time the water was too rough. We had brought cards and little games for my daughter, but she quickly found other things to do on her own, whether it was feeding the kittens underneath the lobby area, playing with the lizards, crabs, flamingos, chasing after the birds that ate the said lizards..she also made friends with other kids and enjoyed all of the evening shows with us after dinner.(we’ll have the gorilla song in our heads forever.) She loved the donuts and cotton candy stands also.
The gardeners -these quiet souls would come out from out of the bushes and offer us sculpted flowers, grasshoppers from palm leaves and would offer us freshly opened coconuts-to my daughter’s delight! (give them a tip.)
Restaurants: Well all of the lovely pre-booked reservations at the à-la-carte restaurants turned out to be completely useless for our particular party of 3. Most of the restaurants attempted the French Cuisine concept,(see cold dice of veal with one pearl potato at the Italian restaurant (?!) which was completely lost on my 10-year-old and my aunt. We were also mostly always ravenous by dinnertime, having spent our days running around at the beach, and the small servings and waiting times turned into torture for my daughter. All this said-if you yourself are a picky eater, or have small children…all 6 à-la-carte evenings may not be as pleasurable as you may imagine. We gave away two of our reservations to another family and gladly enjoyed the very lovely dinner buffet instead.
For lunches, we always ate at the beachside grill, which had amazing fish, burgers, etc, as well as an ice cream bar for the kids. One thing-apart from the burger place in the middle of the pool, the beachside restaurants did not handle the take-out concept very well, and always seemed at a loss and a little annoyed when we wanted to take our food with us back to the beach. I might recommend to the hotel managers to perhaps invest in take-out counters.
Conclusion: We will definitely go back! (Loved the beach, the people, the hotel, and my personal favorite..the coffee!) We also met up with other folks we had met on the plane earlier who went to other resorts on the island-turns out ours was the best! (best food, closest to the beach..etc) We went there to escape the Christmas craziness and do absolutely nothing, and we managed to do just that. We came back with a great tan, great pictures, and completely re-energized! We will definitely not get the VIP package again-which turned out to be completely useless for us (from the bumping, to the restaurants.) One other thing-the airport VIP package you are offered for extra cost when you are leaving that include a private air-conditioned lounge, etc, is also completely useless, as the rest of us also get air conditioning, stores and restaurants in the waiting area once you go through the passport counters. Save yourself some cuc money for that area btw-many of us changed all our money before crossing the passport counters…they only accept cuc or credit cards for that area if you want to buy a coffee or even do some shopping while you’re waiting for your plane.
I think that’s it, I hope this helped someone-have a great vacation and Viva Cuba!