From the top: two key things to remember when visiting Cuba. 1. It is a Communist country. 2. It has been under embargo for 50 years. Thus, if you roughly understand those two concepts, you can put into perspective what is good / not so good about this resort.
The arrival went well. Apart from passengers not collecting all their bags and having to be reminded by the staff (can you imagine?!), we got underway. TIP REQUEST WARNING: From this point on you will be asked for money / tips until dropped off at the end of the trip. So… we were reminded several times of how the bus driver was getting us to the hotel safely yadda yadda yadda and could you please show him how much you appreciated it… (Recommend 1 peso for that job…)
Our room was musty and had mould on the bathroom ceiling. Poor engineering is to blame as there is no fan / exhaust in the b.room!! Thus, keep the A/C / balcony door open when / as possible to alleviate this. Also, water, coffee maker etc, are best acquired by tipping the maid at arrival to ensure a week of happiness. (5 pesos for the week and any left over items you don’t want to pack / donate to her).
Restaurants and Bars::
The a la carte restaurants were virtually all exquisite. First: tip and treat the booking manager (Miguel?), who makes the reservations for you. Three are allotted, but often ‘cancellations’ etc, occur and you score more if you *(ahem) tip him. *5 pesos recommended especially for the International restaurant… Waiters generally spoke two – three languages (Sp, En, Fr), and were generally excellent (earned their money!). Notables were at Int’l and BBQ Grill. Note: the "Oriental" Resto is a name, so don’t expect actual curry or chinese food… Wine is free and plentiful and food was always very well prepared and presented as though in a high end restaurant. Recommend 5 pesos depending on how attentive…
Beach was stunning and long. Plenty of space; recommend being on the flanks as more room avail / less crowds. Water veh’s were in good supply and lots of fun. Pools were grandiose and in great shape; very appealing though some try to ‘reserve’ their loungers for the day (throw the towel down at 8am and walk away). The resort tells you and encourages, you to cast aside such practice, so if you see an unused towel where you want to sit, take it off and sit! The grounds were immaculately maintained and often groundskeepers will try to sell you things (coconut drinks, necklaces, hats of palm leaves etc). Caveat emptor… if you want it, fine otherwise give ’em the Heisman.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
Did not go on any tours; you are really isolated from ‘Cuba’ so if that is what you want (ie: beach and sun and not to be bothered) you will get it. IF however, you want to do more, you can but it will cost you***.
The "lagoon" has GOT to go!!! Add a fountain, jet stream or fill it in but it stinks and was our single biggest complaint. All in all, noting two points above (Cuba, communist), you get generally great service and tipping at the bars (1 peso each time or here and there) builds a great rapport with the staff. We saw people try to pawn off clothes etc in exchange for goods and it was refused. They are proud, (Generally) hard-working ppl. Lastly, we saw more instances of visitors being rude than vice versa, and it really isn’t that hard to say "por favor" or "please" when asking for something; politness is universal.