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We just returned from a one-week holiday at Paradisus Varadero. Here's some background information on our perspective, we've traveled extensively in the Caribbean to locations such as;
· Mexico - Acapulco
· Dominican Republic - Bavaro
· Jamaica - Ochos Rios
· Turks & Caicos
· Cuba - Holguin
· And now Cuba - Varadero
So from our perspective in terms of importance in a holiday ...
2. Resort grounds (Pool etc.) & accommodations
3. Food / Restaurants
So onto the review;
The beach in this far end of Varadero is okay, the sand is fine the beach depth is good with many palapas (for prime real estate you'll need to venture out before 9am). However, the shoreline and first 10 feet of water is littered with shells and broken coral (Please take water socks!). You can wade out a fair ways before you reach 5 feet, which is great for a dip, but a pain for snorkelers.
Resort Grounds & Accommodations (4/5)
The resort is well managed with plenty of workers trying to keep it so. The pool is fairly large and varied in depths of 6.5ft to 0.0ft, so it would appeal to everyone. The pool bar was situated in about 5ft of water which was a pain for some who tried to reach it. The giant Jacuzzi in the middle of the pool was broken and it didn't seem to look functional for some time and some of the pool's tile flooring is starting to tire and patches of broken tiles can be seen. As with the beach, if you want to get some prime real estate around the pool 9am seems to be the magic hour.
Our room was on the first floor and large. It was five piece . (toilet, tub, shower, bidet, and sink). Again with the pool, the room was starting to look a little tired (paint, vents, furniture etc.), the resort is relatively new so I'm not sure as to whether it's due to the craftsmanship or the climate or both. Another little surprise was ants, there was a steady stream of these little ants in the room, which wasn't much of a nuisance, but with anything just the knowledge of them and management's lack of response was enough.
I would recommend a second floor room if possible, we couldn't change because we were toting our 1.5yr old with us. It would be such a pain to pack and unpack again.
Food / Restaurants (5/5)
First in general, yes the food is over-cooked bland and oily, but that would be for the passive client. We on the other hand were more aggressive in giving the grill cook instructions (broken spanish/french/english) and spices to add. This made the experience great at the buffet.
Buffet - regular fare for breakfast, eggs as you like, fresh squeezed juices, meats, sweets, and crepes and lest I forget champagne. The only weird note is the bacon wasn't in strips it was more like pieces. Lunch was just as bountiful with roasted meats, baked fish, pasta bar, meat/fish grill and my favorite smoked salmon. As with the first note, you needed to be proactive in your seasonings and instructions. Dinners were equally good with roasts, lobster, shrimps, grilled fare and special themes.. SUSHI! Wines were also available at any of the buffet sittings.
Spanish (a la carte) - We occasioned this restaurant once and to be honest, we didn't like the offering too much. As with most a la cartes in all-inclusive resorts the menu was fairly limited. The dinner was very "neuveau cuisine", two small beef medallions with a couple sprigs of vegetables or a stuffed chicken breast that looked like it came from KFC. Our son did enjoy the rice pudding ball for dessert.
Italian (a la carte) - We enjoyed this restaurant for both dinner and lunch, while the menu had limited selections we weren't shy to ask for special items or spices. The pizza and pasta dishes were great. Desserts were good as well.
Romantico (a la carte) - This restaurant was only open for dinner, and we had one sitting for the week. The food was good and tasty, however as with the Spanish restaurant the servings were rather small. The answer to this problem was, don't be shy, and order more than one entrée! We both had the lobster and I had ordered the lamb rack as well.
We found service to be excellent in all areas. Let me qualify this a bit, we usually tipped $1 at the buffet and $2-$5 dollars at the a la carte restaurants. We didn't tip because we felt bad due to their wages, but rather for service rendered. If they made an effort or did something special then we usually tipped. One area that we used $US to get something special was at the beach grill, my wife loves lobster and it wasn't at the beach grill, $5 took care of that situation for the week! Another area of note was maid service and mini fridge, we had brought some gifts down and left something each day for the maid and usually $1 for the person filling the fridge. This brought us the usual towel swans, extra towels, pillows and stocked fridge.
Last but not least is the Baby Club staff, our son 18mths had a great time when we placed him in their care. We used the club for 1 morning (after breakfast) and two afternoons (after lunch) and one full day. The staff was really friendly and accommodating. We had no misgivings about leaving our son in their care. We had brought down some stuff (pens, pencils, stickers, paper and bubbles) which we decided to leave at the Baby Club so other kids can enjoy them.
All in all, I have to admit this was a good choice for our vacation. With a little regular maintenance Paradisus will maintain what I believe as the #1 resort standing in Varadero.
Thanks to Sam for this trip report ...