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Just returned from Club Amigo Caracol with my husband and 12 year old son. Not for the overly fussy, the party-seeker, but great for a family looking for value for money. We had a FABULOUS time. This is a budget place in the midst of renovations. A number of hotel rooms were closed and we saw a constant stream of painters, plumbers etc so I can only assume that as the new rooms come on line things will get better.The kitchen and dining room are brand new, along with a new chef. The food was excellent, kept appropriately hot or cold, and no one was ill. There was a fresh fruit table, a salad bar with vegetables, cold pasta salad, etc, and a hot table with poultry, beef, pork, fish, seafood and pasta every night. The desserts were awesome. We each gained a couple of pounds. Excellent Crystal beer, white and red wine(sweet for my taste), water etc served to your table or from the bar. Omellettes, French toast, boiled eggs etc at breakfast. Missed coffee and tea at lunch and dinner, available at the pool bar, but got used to the beer ;) Snack bar at pool if you missed buffet hours.
First room assigned us was mildewy, had broken window locks, but asked Alba rep for a change and were moved to newer, upstairs rooms with high ceilings, more floor space and more windows. Ask for an upstairs room with balcony, if possible. Our son had a bed in the separate "living area" with a door,which gave us a little privacy. Small frig was nice touch. 13" TV with 10 channels incl Cnn and Discovery in English and Spanish. Bring reading material if you love to read, there was nothing to buy to read even in Spanish. Bedspreads, curtains, furniture were worn, but clean.Towels are threadbare, bring your own beach towels. Remember, material things are hard to come by in Cuba.
The beach was gorgeous white sand, but our beach had low weeds. Lots of beautiful shells, sand dollars etc were in those weeds, however. We didn't mind the weeds in the water, but some people do. Bring water socks, as little burrs get into the sand. If you go 100 M. to the next beach, The Gran Club Santa Lucia, or Brisas Cuatro Vientos, they have weedless, clean sandy beaches, very safe for children, never very deep for hundreds of feet.(Hint to snorkellers:there is a beautiful, small coral reef about 750 M out from the Club Caracol beach. Stand in front of the beach rental hut and look for the second light green area. It's too far to swim, but a pedal boat will get you there in 20 minutes. All kinds of coral, just stay still for a minute and fish will emerge from coral and rocks.)Lots of fabulous conch all over the Caracol Beach, trumpet fish, crabs, and clams. Better snorkelling at the big reef, 2 KM from shore. Ask Obert to take you or take the Alba tour.
Highlight was the entertainment . This is heaven for the 8 to 16 year old crowd who are bored without their Nintendos. The animation staff at Caracol was fantastic. They rehearse at 7 AM every day, have exercise for guests at 10 AM, aquafit at 12, Spanish lessons at 3, dance lessons at 4, and a fabulous show from 9:30 to about 11 every night. Some of the skits between dance numbers were a bit sophomoric( the 12 year olds loved them!) but the music(a real Cuban band, trumpet, sax, percussion, keyboard), singers and dancers were out of this world. They included the kids in everything. I would think it a bit boring had I been a single looking for nightlife, but for people with kids, it is fabulous.
Be prepared for a long wait to clear customs upon landing in Camaguey. The Cuban customs went through every bit of my son's hand luggage, and did a cursory search of everyone else's. It took about 90 minutes to board the bus and get going, and 90 minutes to the resorts. A nice touch, however, the hotel kept the restaurant open for us and we had the option of a snack or full hot meal at midnight after going to our rooms. Also, the bus was a very nice a/c coach with washroom and drinks service.
Tours were available to a ranch, to swim with dolphins, and to see Camaguey. I took a $10 tour in a zoomobile (yes, this was quite hilarious) to the local town to see the local clinic and school where the children performed. Got to see a local salt mine, local housing etc. Great tour!They refunded $5 because it had rained and we couldn't visit the local farm we were supposed to see. I'll take it again next time.
Other resorts at Santa Lucia--Club Amigo Mayanabo-another resort undergoing reno.-spoke with others there-new kitchen, very good food, new pool, weedy beach, not too big a beach. Guests were happy with their deals and some seniors are going to return when Mayanabo opens for extended (3 month stays).
Gran Club Santa Lucia-beautiful grounds, cleanest beach, some folks not as happy with their "Animation" team as ours and came for our entertainment, but liked food. Some small rooms, no balconies, but clean and renovated.
Brisas Cuatro Vientos-lovely clean beach, lovely grounds, some guests complained of substandard rooms and were moved to Gran Club(another option to keep in mind at Santa Lucia since Alba had guests at 3 resorts).Most guests seemed happy.
All of these resorts are undergoing some kind of renovation, so please report when you return. I can only assume they'll get even better. And the Cuban people were wonderful! I'm looking forward to my next trip to Cuba.
Thanks to Patricia for this trip report ...