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Christmas at the Brisas Del Caribe Varadero Review
For anyone going to Cuba in general for the first time, here are some travel tips:
- When you pack your luggage at home, do NOT put a LOCK on your luggage unless you want your bag to be the last one off the Cuban carousel. Then detained by Cuban customs (who speak very little English) and have the entire contents of your luggage checked.
- Your travel agent will give you a “Visitors Card” that you have to fill out for Cuban Customs. Once you have passed through customs, they will give you half of the ticket for you to submit upon your return to Canada (or home country). Pray you do NOT lose this stub, because if you do, you can forget about leaving Cuba on the plane with everyone else.
- Also upon departure everyone must pay $20USD departure tax. (Don’t spend all your money on Bongo Drums and Rum.
What to Bring:
- When I go to Cuba I always pack stuff I can give away to the needy, and there are a LOT of needy in Cuba. (more-so for the people in the heart of the cities, workers in the resorts have it pretty good). The average Cuban makes about $10USD per month….that’s not a typo… ten USA Dollars a month!! Things like toothpase, soap, toilet paper are all rationed to the citizens and lineups for these goods are very long. Things like Clothes, medicine, and leisure items are almost impossible for them to acquire. So bring (in no particular order)
- Cash (Cash is King, and dollar goes a LONG way)
- Toothpaste, shampoo, soap.
- Pens, pencils, crayons
- Candles, flashlights, don’t forget some extra batteries
- Young childrens/Baby clothes (this was by far the most common wish)
- Medicine (Tylenol, aspirin etc)
Brisas Del Caribe
Well I had read a lot of reviews about this resort (mostly good) and am happy to report that this resort was great!!
To explain how the resort is laid out, the Beach is to the north, directly south of the beach is the pool, south of that is the “North” building (also known as the old or main building), south of that is the Garden, then finally the southern most building known as the New building.
We stayed in the North (old) building which is really the Main complex. We had an Oceanview/Pool facing room on the 3rd floor with a King sized bed and very “clean” and powerful air conditioning . The view was excellent although the beach is mostly obscured by the lush palm trees, which is OK as the backdrop is the ocean and the orange/blue horizon at sunset. The room was a good size and very clean (the housekeeping staff is very good), the bathroom as well was very clean with good Hot Water, and good water pressure in the shower. There is also a bedae (sp) in the bathroom, which I assume is more of a European immenity. The room has a large closet with tons of hangers, a good sized dresser drawer with 3 drawers. Each room has a safe which can be opened using the room key. The balcony in the room was very big and became a great place to watch the moon and listen to the ocean.
North or South?
A lot of people question whether the North (old) building or the South (new) building as a matter of preference. Here is my opinion, I would stay in the North building every time:
PROS: Close to everything, Buffet restaurant, convenience store, coffee bar, pool, beach, reception, front entrance where buses and taxis are.
CONS: about the only negative thing I can think of was that although the “stage” for nightly entertainmentwas far enough off to the side of the north building, the music was still pretty loud through closed balcony doors.
PROS: I little quieter in the evenings because it is not near the entertainment stage. The 24hour snack bar is located in the South building. The walk through the garden is quite nice.
CONS: Not close to the beach, pool, store, reception etc. Close to the road, where buses, trucks, cars etc. pass.
Well I have mixed feelings about the food, but I can tell you it’s not as bad as everyone says it is, but take my advice… you do not want to eat at the buffet 3 times a day. This is the reason why people get sick of it… it becomes a bit monotonous, and this goes for ANY buffet restaurant ANYWHERE in the world. I would suggest having lunch at the Beach grill every day, although it’s Hamburgers, Hotdogs, Pork, or Chicken…. YA GOTTA LOVE A GOOD BARBEQUE!!! Brisas Del Caribe has 2 “A La Carte” restaurants and you are allowed to visit each one only once a week. Believe me, they’re doing you a favour because the food there sucks pretty bad, but I guess that’s the trade-off for getting dressed up and taking your partner “out for dinner”.
Brisas also has a 24hour Snack bar located in the South Building which was pleasantly surprisingly very very good. This is also the same kitchen that supplies the 24 hour room service and contrary to what I had read on previous posts, we ordered room service about 4 times on our trip and got exactly what we ordered, within 20-30 minutes, and the food was excellent!!
All in all, you won’t have a problem with the food… but bring the alka seltzer because if you’re like me… you always eat too much at a buffet.
The Beach and Excursions
Short and sweet, the beach is quite nice….although the Brisas Del Caribe strech seems kinda short, therefore the “huts” fill up quite quickly… get out there early of it’s a nice day! However, to the left of the Brisas Del Caribe is another resort (yellow building) which we believe was the Club Med property, we walked to their huts every day (about 3 mins) which were almost always empty and had the beach to ourselves.
Evidently beaches in Varadero are “top-optional” so there are a lot of topless women on the beach. December 30th, the water seemed cold when you dip your toes in, but once you “take the plunge” you’ll get used to it quickly. The second dip is always easier.
JOLLY ROGER TOUR leaves at 9:00am, is a MUST! It costs $70US, but is well worth it if you are a sun worshiper. Also bring along $10US for a 2-3LB Live lobster cooked right on the boat. It will DEFINITELY be the best meal you’ll have in Varadero!! You will then spend the day snorkelling, and dock in the beautiful island of Cayo Blanco… bring a camera! By the time you get back to your hotel (approx 5pm) you’ll have had the perfect tan you came to Cuba for!! (Children 5 and over are no problem)
DAY TRIP TO HAVANA if you haven’t done this trip before, it may be worth the price to see what “inside Cuba” is really like $63.00US. Although if you’re not into long busrides, pollution, blatant poverty and fear of shady characters… I would suggest passing on this one. (personally I found this trip to be quite educational). The first time I was in Cuba we were approached by a local on the beach who was selling his own private “tour of Havana” for $30US… we were sceptical about this guy and his “tourbus” until he showed up the next morning in an almost new Mercedes Minibus with Airconditioning and the works. There were 8 of us and this bus could fit 15 quite comfortably. He would not take our money and insisted that we only pay him upon our return to the hotel. I wish I had kept the mans name and contact information because that was by far the best Havana trip EVER, and the fact that his English was excellent was a definite plus.
I believe tipping is a personal thing, a reflection of ones generousity and I consider myself to be quite generous… but quite frankly a lot of the people we tipped at Brisas Del Caribe, I wish I could take back. A lot of people in my opinion did not “earn” the tips and quite frankly seem to have gotten used to “expecting” tips. You will see that the real Needy people are in the “cities”. Like Varadero, or Havana. We tipped the maid every day with Baby and Childrens clothes, soaps, pens, crayons flashlights, batteries, radios, Tylenol, Aspirin, Cough medicine etc (All of which we had purchased in bulk at Walmart and Costco before we left). We also gave her cash at the end of our trip to help her family out.
Cigars The Deal
We went into the markets and shops in downtown varadero, and was approached by a young woman who was short with dark hair in a pony tail. She asked us if we wanted Cigars to which we declined then asked my fiancée if she wanted her hair braided which we also declined. She seemed very polite and was quite pleasant and trusting. That day we did not buy cigars. For the next 2 days we ran into a lot of people who were selling boxes of Cigars (Cohiba, Romeo y Julietta, Monte Cristo etc) for about $50-75US per box and most of these people just seemed “shady”. We returned to the shops 2 days later to see if we could find the little woman we met the first day and after about an hour in the shops looking at arts and crafts, we were approached by the same woman. She took us to her house which was about a 3 minute walk. And there her husband showed us 3 boxes of Cigars, (Cohiba Esplendido’s worth $800 in Canada, Romeo & Julieta #2’s worth about $600CDN, and Monte Cristo Corona’s worth about $500CDN). I asked them how much and could barely contain my surprise when she told me $35US for the Cohiba’s, $45 for the Romeo y Julieta’s and $40 for the Monte Cristo’s… obviously you would think for that price they would be fakes but I have been smoking cigars for about 10 years and know what to look for… after careful inspection… I could not tell these cigars from fakes. You would think that $120USD for 3 boxes of cigars was a great deal right?? Well I had brought a six pack of flashlights and a case of Batteries which I bought at Costco, some baby clothes and Tylenol in my knapsack and offered these goods and $40US for the cigars…. They were so elated about the deal, the husband gave me a handful ( 5 cigars) of Cohiba #1’s from his own reserve in a wooden jar!!! I was so happy when I left I took my fiancée to a restaurant on the way back to the hotel for Lobster dinners!!!
Thanks to Rene for this trip report ...