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What a fabulous resort. We were there from April 17-24. The trip down via Air Canada was great. We must say that it was a pleasure to travel with leg-room (and we're not tall people) and a choice of entree and served with smiles! We took off from TO a little late (about 30 mins) but landed in Holguin about 15 minutes early. Headed onto the bus (the Rio de Oro has a separate Rep holding a sign) and it was great. The bus was pretty much full and we went directly to the resort. During the bus-ride was when we got our orientation from Camillo so it killed two birds with one stone. The ride was about 45-50 mins and it was a good chance to see the country-side and a bit of "Cuban Life".
Check in was a bit different as we didn't check in at the main desk but were directed to a table to the right of the entrance and handed our map and keys. We then stopped off at the reservation desk to make our a la carte bookings. While we waited for Mabel to return from lunch, we enjoyed a cervesa and a mojito. The lobby bar makes the best mojitos (also the best coffee - Americanos with Baileys to start each morning!) Hopped onto a "train" (golf cart with trailers) and were taken to our room. Second floor, garden view.
The resort reminded us a lot of the resort we were in in the Dominican Republic in that the buildings were the same type, 2 storey bungalow type, lush, mature, tropical vegetation hid the buildings so there were not many, if any, rooms with an ocean view. All the buildings would be very quiet as they are not near the pool, stage, restaurants, etc.
The food was excellent, service top-notch, grounds and rooms clean and well-kept. Top-shelf liquors served all day. The only thing missing were some SPA services. Beau had a massage and felt that she didn't want to be there, but, indefense to her, there were two massage therapists when we first arrived and they were completely booked for the whole week. Near the end of the week, they had called in another therapist to help with the load but these people work all day on their feet and with their hands. We're sure they were exhausted!.
The a la Cartes were great! Wonderful service and great ambiance. Our favourite was the Japanese and we had a great bunch of people with sat at the table with. The "show" put on by Royberg (Jackie Chan) was super. We did enjoy all the food in all the restaurants and the buffet was great all the time! Especially the desserts!!!
The only restaurant we didn't enjoy too much (the food or the service) was the pool restaurant. We did, however, enjoy having our lunches at the beach ranchon.
We checked out the 3 caleticas and were met by a security guard who was watching the gated entrance to the "Garden Villas" and the caleticas. No one but the Rio de Oro guests are to use these 3 coves. There was also a guard at the last one, sitting on the steps down to the beach, playing with nail clippers. On our way back, the same guard was at the gates still and started a conversation with us, in pretty good English. Of course, he had a friend in Canada (Toronto) and he had 3 children, one of whom had a throat problem and needed penicillan. Interesting.
The caleticas were beautiful and quiet and protected from the winds that blew on Playa Esmeralda. There wasn't much snorkelling to be done here.
We walked to the "driving range" one cloudy/rainy afternoon (and then it poured rain while we were there) and each hit a bucket of balls. It was fun. As we walked along the road, we were met up with a local who spoke very little English. We got the gist of the conversation that he had 5 children and one had asthma (he pulled a puffer out of his pocket - don't you think it should have been with the child?) He then asked if we could meet him on Friday at noon at the same place so we could take something back to Canada with us from him? We just said no and kept walking - he continued on trailing behind us until he got to the stables which were close to the entrance to the Luna y Mares resort. When we got to the Luna y Mares resort we walked through it. As at our resort, the walkways were VERY slippery when wet, even with running shoes on, so be careful! We saw and heard of many "slip and falls" at both resorts. The pool was not as nice and/or large at the Luna y Mares than at the Rio de Oro and was closer to the buildings (rooms, bar, etc.) The grounds were nice and well-kept with some interesting little "view-points" along the pathways. A security guard was at the top to the ramp that lead down to the beach. Not sure why. He asked us what time it was. Can't figure out why he would ask this but it sure would be a boring job.
I enjoy going to the shows at all the resorts we have gone to but these shows were the most professional we have seen. And the costumes!!!! WOW! We must say, however, that at this resort, there are no audience participation shows and at the end of the show, no one wanted to even get up and dance with the dancers as they do at other resorts. This is a very staid resort. Not many people here are of the mind that they want/need to be/get plastered and make fools of themselves. Perhaps this is one thing that the entertainment crew could do without. They would come out to the audience, trying to get people up to dance and maybe one or two did from the audience. It was like pulling teeth and you could tell that both the dancers / entertainers and the audience didn't really want to be any part of this.
Three weddings took place at the resort while we were there. What a beautiful location for a wedding in the wedding gazebo and the grounds around it. The wedding parties made it down to the beach for photos but didn't last too long down there. It was very windy and many of them seemed to not want to get the swim-suit crowd in the pictures. A bit difficult to do!
We didn't spend much time at the pool but it was very nice - wooden loungers with pads on them. The pools were sort of a free form, with a small waterfall but didn't seem to be cleaned every day - always leaves and such in them. There was a small "kiddie pool" that was used a fair bit. We were a bit surprised by the number of small children that were at this resort. Most of the kids were probably under the age of 5.
There was never really a need to save any chairs at the pool or the beach but lots of people still did it. As for the palapas on the beach, there were very few in front of the Rio de Oro but there were many in front of the Luna y Mares.
The beach was wonderful, although a bit short for our liking. Lovely white sand and beautiful turquoise water! Not much more one could ask for! There were all shapes and sizes of people on the beach wearing all shapes and sizes of swim-suits. Speedos, speedo-types, thongs (on both men and women), topless, etc. There were also a handful of pregnant women wearing bikinis! What a beautiful sight. The snorkelling was close to the Rio de Oro side of the beach, and there were lots of people taking advantage of this opportunity from both resorts as we shared the beach with the Luna y Mares. We also had a guard on the beach and saw him once stop a couple with wristbands on to tell them they could not come onto the grounds at the Paradisus. We did not have to wear bracelets.
On our last day we again walked to the "driving range" and were met up again with the same fellow that wanted us to take something to Canada. This time he "jumped out" of the bushes. We stopped a moment, and then turned around, going back to the resort, and got some bicycles. They are in pretty good condition (only one gear) and the brakes worked VERY well.
Just in closing - while were were there, there seemed to be some Sol Melia "big-wigs" checking out the resort. They walked around the resort, looking at various aspects of it and probably looking at ways of continuing to make this the 5* that it should and could be (cosmetically). Some of the rooms that were vacated got a bit of a spruce-up before the next guests checked in by having new curtain rods and drapery installed. One would also think that there were other cosmetic updates in the works (shower curtains, bedspreads, etc.). There is also plans to have SPA services installed (hair salon, steam room, etc) I don't know where the brides got their hair done but they all looked lovely.
All in all we had a very enjoyable, relaxing vacation at this resort. This a bit more upscale resort and as such, the dress code in the evenings was more dressy. It was nice to see everyone dress up! The ones that didn't dress up too much were the ones that may have felt a bit out of place. Even for the buffet. Would we go back to Cuba again? - Definitely! Would we choose this resort? Probably not. Although there is a fun pub with a disco, there were only a couple of nights that it was very lively - mostly before a plane-load of Europeans left. That's also when there weren't as many people dressed-up for dinner. As with most resorts, a lot of things depend on the clientele for the week. It's what WE make of it and we made this celebration a quiet, romantic one! This is the perfect spot for this type of vacation.
Thanks to Beau & Shirley for this trip report ...