> Destinations > Cuba > Trip Reports > Trip Report
My husband and I, our 5 kids (aged 5 to 13), and my mother-in-law, stayed one week at the Brisas Santa Lucia, from April 9 to April 16. We had 3 bedrooms in a villa.
I confess I didn't know what was waiting us after reading so many different reviews on the Brisas Santa Lucia but I've been really pleased by the hotel. Anyway, I was just asking for a lot of sun and we had a lot, but everything else was also perfect!
My comments :
- The trip : we reserved with Go Travel Direct and Zoom Airlines (at $5 600 for all of us - 4 adults (the 13 years old was one) and 4 children - taxes and insurances included, we HAD to go!). We had a very good service, good flight, good meals, and the schedule was perfect. Very long wait (at least an hour) at the Camaguey's airport, but it was hot and sunny, first day of vacations, so it didn't bother us! Neither did the fact that we had one suitcase checked (the dog smelled the medicaments, shampoos, candies, etc. in it!). Nice bus, very comfy, the one hour thirty minutes ride to the hotel was interesting for us, first timers in Cuba. VERY long wait at the arrival at the hotel, for the check-in (we were at the back of the last bus, so at the back of the waiting line also, snif).
- The rooms : we had a non-renovated villa but, frankly, it was fine. The rooms were very clean, everything was working properly, except for the patio door that couldn't close properly. No problems with us, we felt very secure at the hotel and around and it was good to have a way to enter in the room when we forgot our card to go in! Everything was kept spotless, inside and outside the villas. There is a lot of small cats wandering around the hotel. They look cute but they can be pretty savage (ask my daughter who has a souvenir from them!). TIP : if you like baths, bring a bath plug!
- The food :
1) The buffet : I don't know who told the cooks that tourists love ketchup and prepared mustard but that person should be hanged! A lot of dishes that would have been acceptable were wasted by the ketchup and mustard that were spread on (who likes bananas with ketchup-mustard or toasts with kechup-mustard.). And there was always a few dishes that looked strange, but, apart of those, there was a lot of good food! The pasta bar was great and popular, there was always fresh fish, sometimes shrimps, a lot of pork, always good chicken, a ton of deserts, very good ice cream, good bread (almost always very fresh), cheese, delicious fresh fruits and wonderful omelets in the morning. As about waiting lines, we never had to wait to go in the main restaurant (buffet). We were there at 6h30 every night. There was sometimes a little wait at the different stations (pasta and others) but nothing unbearable! Many said that the juices were made of powder, well, except the orange juice, they all seemed very fresh to me, and very very good (no powder in there!). The wine was ok, the coffee disgusting (bring one from the coffee bar, adjacent to the hamburger bar, those are real good coffees!).
2) The hamburger, french fries and hotdog bar : very popular among my children, mainly because it was open 24 hours a day, and always serving very honest hamburgers, french fries, cheese sandwich, and hot-dogs. My 13 years old son had always an hamburger or french fries in his hand when he was not playing volleyball in the pool or snorkeling in the ocean (and this was apart of the main meals!).
3) The " à-la-carte " restaurants : reserve as soon as you arrive for the International restaurant. There is always place for the Cuban one but we understood why when we went there. Much better at the Buffet.
- Activities :
Even if we didn't participate to many of them, there was a lot of organized activities, at the hotel, on the beach, in the pool, day and night. Spanish classes, danses lessons, volley-ball, competitions, etc. The kids Club was open from 10-12 and from 3 to 5, but not very well organised, even if Mercedes was very enthousiastic and good with the kids. Don't rely on the Club, your children will probably prefer jumping in the pool or the hamburger's Bar! Or, do like we did, bring the grand-mother ;-)
As of the shows, it went from poor (if you hear " Best couple contest ", run far from the show!!!!!!) to excellent (the danse, comedy and music ones were very very good!). It was incredible to see the versability of the animation team, they were active, day and night, playing volleyball, playing with the children, giving dance lessons, and then, at night, playing comics at the show and going dancing after with the tourists, mainly at the " Centro Cultural ", a great place to be if you want to be with " real cubans " . and if you are very strong and healthy (they were dancing until 4-5 AM sometimes!).
The beach is very nice, large and there is a lot less sea grass then in front of other hotels around. But the water is not shallow, so if you like to swim, well, it's definitely not the place! You can always go to Playa Coco, 8 kms from the hotel, where the beach is very very nice and the water more " swimable " and with very few sea grass.
About the chairs at the pool and the beach, we didn't need to reserve some when we were there (and it was pretty booked). There was amply spaces. You can borrow beach towels (10$ deposit/towel, but you can exchange it once a day), but be careful not to lose them, especially if you have children walking around with them. Nothing looks more like a blue towel than 200 other blue towels! And the lady who was responsible of the towels when we were there was like a guard dog, the only unfriendly cuban we ever met during our trip!).
There is two tennis courts (ok), one ping-pong table and one billiard table (under a roof, very practical in case of rain). Bring your tennis and ping-pong rackets and balls, the tennis courts are almost always empty and you will be able to play as much as you want (well, if you like to run when it's 35 degrees outside).
- Excursions : we did two.
1) Rancho King : a must with children and for those who love horseriding. Affordable (29$ for adults, half price for children) and well organized. Not a tourist trap, there was a lot of villagers assisting the rodeo and Vincente, who takes care of the tourists, is very nice and very interesting. A lot of attention given to the children, ours had been very spoiled. Nice horseback riding in the village, we learn a lot about cuban life. We visited a house and tasted some coconut water and sugar cane syrup. A very interesting excursion for those who want to learn more about cubans, fascinating. Note : Vincente has 4 children, one boy, 7, and 3 girls, 8, 17 and 21. A very big family for cuban standards. Just a little hint for those who have some clothing to give. Then, after the ride in the village (those who are afraid of horses can take a carriage), lunch (pork mechoui, mmmm) and a nice bonus : another horseback ride in the fields followed by a short lasso lesson.
2) Iguana Island : a little wasted by the winds that made the two snorkeling outings pretty hazardous and stressful. Too bad, because we stopped a first time over the coral reef but the braves who went in the water promptly came back, exhausted by the waves! The second time was a little better but still a little too rough for our liking. The iguana island, as is, is interesting but, without the snorkeling outing, does not worth the money paid for it. The diner was excellent (spiny lobster). Note : there was not enough lifesaving vests and snorkeling equipment, so bring yours (especially vests for children). I would not recommend this excursion for young children (less than 7 years old), the boat trip is long (2 hours each way) and young kids were bored. And it is very nice and cool to lie on the boat roof during the trip, but no way to do that with a small child!
Other excursions :
Horseback riding near the hotel : you can't miss the cowboy with his black hat wandering on the beach, looking for tourists wishing to go horseback riding, for 5$ an hour, per person. We went two times : the first time was fantastic, strolling along the beach, often breaking into a gallop (the children enjoyed it and were pretty good at it at the end), a real dream. The second time was very boring, mostly because of little children who were afraid to trot so everyone had to keep a slow pace, meaning the excursion was reduced to a little tour in a field and return, very deceiving compared to the first time! So, a piece of advice : dont bring children under 9 years old (or try to have a special excursion for them) or be sure there is none in your group. And put pants and socks ;-)
Snorkeling in front of the hotel : absolutely dont forget water shoes, the nice sand at the bottom of the water is replaced pretty fast by seaweeds and rocks. But, if you walk about 200 metres, almost straight in front of the place they lend pedalos, kayaks, snorkeling equipment, etc., you will find a very nice little coral reef, with enough nice fishes to overwhelm the amateurs and the children. For different fishes, there is also the dock in front of the Gran Club Santa Lucia, close to the restaurant at the end of the dock, there's a nice place to swim and see nice fishes. Beware of the posts under the water, there are covered with very abrasive corals.
Free, interesting and secure around the hotel. The principal road is very large and you can go around and into the village, without any danger. There are bikes for everyone, from 6-7 years old to adults.
Playa Coco :
Beautiful beach, 8 kilometres from the hotel. The road to go there is pretty rock and roll but it worths the trip. We didn't do it (next time) so you will have to look other reviews to find details!
Tips and gifts :
We have to say we did never fell pressure to tip. The service was excellent, the personal was very nice and smiling (except the lady at the towels booth ;-), whatever you tip or not. We did tip a lot, each day, to everyone (waiters, barmen, gardeners, cooks.). It was nothing for us and very precious for them. And they were extremely thankful and we were treated like kings ;-)
As for the gifts, we brought about 3 suitcases full of clothes (mostly for children), toys, medication, soaps, toothpastes, etc. And easter chocolates that we distributed to everyone on Easter day. We also brought garden gloves that we gave to a gardener, who thanked us profusely. After that, every morning, he gave us flowers and, when he left for his vacations, he kissed us " mi familia es tu familia ". We also reserved the gifts for the people outside the hotel, in the village. We ask a horse carriage driver to bring us in the village and we distribute our stuff to children and mothers. It went very smoothly and with a lot of respect from them and us. One of my daughter even gave her t-shirt (she had her swimming suit under!) when she saw that a little girl had nothing. And two ladies offered to do my 3 daughters hairs, one for free, and the two others for almost nothing. We talked a lot with the people there, it was very interesting. We also came back on the last day to give them all the stuff we didn't need to bring back home.
What is much needed : clothes, comfortable shoes, make-up (eyes crayons!), magazines for women, all kind of toilet products, toys, balls, t-shirts, hats, candies. As of medication, it's better to give it to the village's doctor who will greatly appreciate it. We also had a big bag for the school, full of pencils, coloring pencils, coloring paper, balls, pencil sharpeners, etc. And, of course, garden gloves for the numerous gardeners and workers of the hotel. " Our " gardener wore them all the time.
DONT FORGET :
- Bath plug
- Lifesaving jackets for kids
- Bike helmets for kids
- Tennis and ping-pong equipment
- Tim Horton's mugs
- Snorkeling equipment
- Water shoes
- Little gifts, clothes,.
- Mosquitoes repellent (we didn't need it but, during our only rainy night, there was a lot of mosquitoes!)
- Toilet paper (2-3 rolls so you won't have to chase the cleaning lady !)
Pictures : http://community.webshots.com/album/136134993rhxmSh
Thanks to Fabienne for this trip report ...