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Depending on brochure, star rating for this hotel is 4 or 4+. In our
opinion it is definately a 4+ resort.
My husband(53), myself(49), our son and his girlfriend, ages 24, spent
one week at this resort from Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, 2002. My husband and I
had recently been to the Breezes Jibacoa in Dec. 2001. We loved our
first experience in Cuba and were anxious to return, this time to
Varadero. Let me begin by saying that this resort is a "work in
progress", meaning that because it is so new, there are still some
things that need to be worked out or completed. Barcelo of Spain very
recently acquired this property, but it is managed by Gran Caribe of
Cuba. The resort has a more elegant, european flavour, rather than the
layback Canadian style. Total capacity of this resort is about 1050
guests, but there were no more than 250 guests at the time of our stay.
Sections of the main hotel building(west side) are still under
construction. The property is beautifully landscaped, but time is needed
for the vegetation to grow and flourish. The lobby is very impressive.
There are five elevators, one of them glass.
ACCOMODATIONS: There are actually three types of rooms available at this
resort. We experienced two. We spent the first night in the main hotel
building(east wing) on the second floor facing the main roadway. The
room was well appointed,with a comfortable bed, bathroom with bidet and
european style wall mounted shower in a deep bathtub. The dressing area
and wash basin are separated. Hairdryer is provided. The closet was spacious. We chuckled when
we saw the bathroom weigh scale which is provided! Unfortunately, there
were no facecloths or a box of kleenex, so bring your own. There is also
no coffeemaker in the room which the brochure had mentioned. Perhaps
they are yet to come. There is a mini fridge in all rooms which is
refilled daily with 2 juice boxes, 2 cokes, 4 water bottles(carbonated
and non), 2 cans of beer and 2 chocolate bars. The room was nicely
decorated and spotless. Unfortunately, the disco is on the lobby level
under this section of the hotel.
Between the traffic noise and the
pounding noise from the disco, we didn't sleep a wink the first night
and asked our Signature Rep to please move us elsewhere. Our rep.,
Francarlos was great, and we were moved the next day to rooms in the two
level outside buildings. These are part of the original resort, a bit
older, but nonetheless very clean and spacious with the same amenitities
as in the new five storey main building. Thankfully, there was NO
bathroom scale! Our building was very near the west side of the main
hotel building, on the ground level, with the balcony facing a quiet
service road and the beach. Unfortunately, a very noisy generator comes
to life every evening from about 6 to 10 pm., but otherwise it was very
quiet and peaceful. Again the rooms were spotless and stayed that way.
The third type of accomodation at this resort is a two storey bungalow
with a living and kitchen area downstairs and the sleeping area upper.
Again these are part of the old section of this resort and other guests
told us they were very spacious, especially if you have children.
THE BEACH: Three boardwalks lead over a small sand dune area to a
beautiful wide very fine white sand beach. It's gorgeous! While we were
there, several more palapas were being built. Otherwise there is little
natural vegetation to provide shade. There were plenty of lounge chairs.
Hopefully, they will also build a few beachfront showers to rinse off
the salt water in the future as these are lacking here. On days when the
green flags are out, watersports are available. We used the kayaks and
also went out for a catamaran ride. There is no decent snorkling in
front of many Varadero beachfront resorts in this area, so we opted to
pay $15.00 per person to be taken by motor boat to a nearby reef. Peddle
boats, wind surfers and banana boat rides are also available. The
closest bar to the beach is in the large rancheron which doubles as the
buffet lunch restaurant. It's a bit of a walk. Drinks are served in
small plastic cups. We had taken thermal mugs which were filled very
reluctantly. The bartenders were great and very apologetic in explaining
that the Barcelo management frowned upon thermal mugs. The Spanish
management don't want guests to drink too much! As long as management
was not close by, our mugs were filled, otherwise the bartender gave us
two or three drinks in plastic cups which we then filled into our mugs.
Hopefully this policy will loosen up a bit in the future.
FOOD AND A LA CARTES: The food was amazing, both in it's variety and
presentation. Our son's girlfriend is a picky eater and she had no
problem finding lots to eat. The soups were especially delicious. The
desserts were super! Occasionally, the buns were a bit on the stale and
dry side, especially for the evening buffet. Another guest did comment
that the food was a bit bland, but then Cuban cuisine is not spicy like
Mexican. If you really like it hot, bring a bottle of hot sauce or
Breakfast and dinner were served buffet style in the main hotel indoor
restaurant. Be aware that even for the buffet dinner, men MUST wear long
pants! Lunch buffet is served in the large rancheron near the beach.
Must wear T-shirt over your bathing suit! There is also a light lunch
and snack restaurant by the main swimming pool (under the sails). Again,
you must wear a T-shirt to receive service here, even for a drink! We
stopped by for a glass of juice, but because I was wearing my bathing
suit and had only a short pareo, we were asked to sit in a chair next to
the pool where there are almost no shady areas to sit and we were served
our juice in a plastic cup. Probably just as well in hindsight because the
obese gentleman wearing Speedos and a brief T-shirt which barely covered
his tummy who did receive service here, made me lose my appetite. Again
the waiter was very apologetic, but these are the Barcelo management rules.
The snack bar by the second, activities pool is great. Pizza is yummy.
They have a small stage and sound system here, so in the late afternoons
it's a fun place to be.
We had heard from other guests that the Italian a la carte was
disappointing and didn't bother to eat here. Seemed it was empty most of
the time. This restaurant is located in the main building, next to the
buffet restaurant and becomes the 24 hour snack bar after 11 pm. We did
however eat at the International restaurant which is located in a small
building beachside, next to the rancheron. The food was okay, but it was
very hot and stuffy by the 9 pm seating and they don't like to open any
windows because it is air conditioned. There was no music and lacked
some atmosphere. We did noticed another guest getting sick outside after
their meal. We were fine after dinner, but are wondering whether our
mild case of the trots came from eating here. Our favourite a la carte
was the Seafood. Not only was the food excellent-try the crab salad
appie and the shrimp or lobster entree; but this was the only place
where you could eat outside and enjoy the warm tropical nights.
Reservations for all a la carte restaurants are made at the customer
relations desk in the lobby next to the front desk. Considering the
total guest capacity of this resort, seating for the a la cartes is very
limited and can only be made one or two days in advance. Service was
ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT: A schedule of daily activities is posted
in the lobby, however we did not see many happen. Perhaps there were too
few guests or not enough participation. The dance lessons were great and
lots of fun. The activities staff were a wonderful group. We tended to
see them more in the late afternoon and evenings when they mingled with
the guests. There is a games room, but it is located on the far east
side of the resort. The games room is however well equiped with pool
tables, backgammon, chess, etc. This is also where you pick up your
towels for the beach and pool. A bit out of the way actually considering
the location of the two pools and beach.
For children, we noticed a Kids Club building as well as a nice
playground. There were few guests, and even fewer with children, but I
did ask one family for their comments. The four children were ages 8-12.
Activities were offered by the staff of the Kids Club to the two
families, and the children did spend some time away from the parents,
but it had been the parent's choice to entertain their children
themselves. They were very pleased with what their children were
The evening entertainment started at 10 pm and was again located inside
the main building; same room as the disco. This was a big disappointment
for us as all other resorts we have been to, always had an outdoor stage
and show. The first couple of nights, the shows were decent but the
volume was so loud that your eardrums actually hurt and we left after 15
minutes. Later in the week, the volume was finally turned down(many
guests had complained), but the shows were either bad and boring or just
mediocore. We noticed the house band performing as the disco
entertainment. The band was good, especially the percussionists.
The piano bar was pathetic with a portable keyboard, but the bartender
there was great as was the talented fellow playing the keyboard. Again,
this area is a sealed off air conditioned room, across the hall from the
disco/party lounge. It seemed to be empty whenever we walked by. The 24
hour lobby bar was amazing with it's beautiful grand piano and excellent
service. A delightful quartet played in the buffet at lunch and dinner.
If you are like us, and enjoy spending your time outside in the evening,
this place is not for you. We almost resented being forced indoors.
There is no mosquito control either, so don't forget the bug repellent
or you'll be eaten alive.
SHOPPING: Varadero is a short walk from the resort. You can also walk
along the beach, about ten minutes to one of the flea markets. There are
a few vendors with loaded bicycles walking along the beach, but no one
bothers you. The tobacco and gift shops in the hotel are very well
stocked. Prices are competitive, but unfortunately they have not yet
received the credit card machines, so cash only for now. We opted to
take the tourist shuttle bus, $1 per person fare, to the Plaza of the
Americas. Lots of shops, great selection, decent prices (depending on
the store) and you can use your Visa.
SUMMARY: The check-in must improve! One person at the front desk and one
bellhop made for a very tedious and lengthy process. The keycards for
your room also operate the in room safe. Be aware that this card is
computer programmed to stop working exactly at check-out time- in our
case five minutes earlier. Don't be late or you'll have a problem
getting your travel documents out of the safe! Be prepared with dressier
clothing for evening meals- no shorts allowed! The staff are all
required to wear white shirts and bow ties- terribly uncomfortable and
somewhat pretentious. All of the doors are glass, so we presume that
staff are posted to open the doors for guest safety.
We did enjoy a relaxing week on the beach, but would not return to this
resort. We are more down-to-earth people who enjoy a relaxed outdoor
atmosphere in a tropical resort rather than a "refined elegance" type
resort where most of your time is spend in an indoor, air conditioned
environment. Hopefully in time, some of the silly and petty rules set
down by Barcelo will be changed. This in itself would make many staff
and guests much happier.
Enjoy and let me know how it improves in the future.
Thanks to Christel for this trip report ...