My girlfriend and I stayed there from January 2-9 on the caribe side of building 38. We read a lot of the reviews carefully before we chose the Melia. I'm not too sure what resort people were staying at when they said the service was terrible because the servers and bartenders we had were absolutely amazing!
At the last train stop, restaurant Turey, there are two bartenders there, Jose Vasquez and Biv Navarro (sorry I never could pronounce his first name), that were fantastic. Señor Navarro would always greet me like I was a long lost friend and I wouldn't even have to ask Jose for drinks, he was constantly paying attention and as soon as my glass was getting empty he would hand me a new one and once he noticed that my girlfriend was slowing down on her drinking, he started making her non-alcoholic drinks i.e. strawberry banana smoothies. If you decide to go there, I highly suggest you ask him for a "Jose Especiales", I think it's vodka, coconut cream, chocolate syrup, coco liquor and milk. It was basically chocolate milk that you didn't notice had alcohol until you tried to stand up lol.
At the International Market buffet, we were privileged to have a server name Edurlin Molla who made you feel like a celebrity with the level and quality of service he gave you, and it wasn't just because we tipped him. I watched him closely and he was greeted all of his customers with high fives and big smiles. There were multiple times that I overheard other customers asking other servers if Edurlin was working at the moment. He was great!
The buffet actually had pretty good food, I've been to Cuba before so I was expecting to get the same stuff over and over and over but they actually managed to rotate the food up nicely. The only complaint I had was that the cooked veggies were soaked in butter and my girlfriend has a dairy allergy and some of the meats were a little on the salty side. However, I was delightfully surprised with the overall quality and selections, it was better than I expected. We went to the Italian, mediterranean and Thai restaurants for the a la cartes. We were actually a bit disappointed with the Italian restaurant, it tasted the same as the pasta dishes in the buffet, which wasn't a bad thing it was still good but I was hoping for something more. The mediterranean (the Capri) was probably our favourite overall we would both recommend it to anyone and the Thai restaurant had a wide variety of asian dishes to choose from, it was also pretty good. I would recommend that you just check the menu for each restaurant before you reserve a spot.
The resort itself was beautiful, particularly on the tropical side but it's fairly big and a lot of other reviewers complained about having to walk "so far" to get anywhere. We were about a 5 minute walk from the buffet and restaurants and about a 7 minute walk from the beach. I guess that's pretty far if you have small children but the trains to come frequent enough that if we didn't feel like walking we never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a ride. Honestly, with the amount of food you're likely going to eat at the buffet, you'll probably want to be walking to your rooms. It's a vacation, there's no rush for anything and we were both so happy with the weather and all the birds on the resort that we never noticed the distances for walking at all.
We bought the cheapest room, the junior deluxe with a king sized bed and it was probably bigger than the new "affordable apartments" they're building here in Vancouver, BC. The rooms were relatively clean and the fridges were stocked up with pop and water. The bed didn't really feel that comfy when first sat on it but I slept like a champ so obviously it wasn't that bad. We had some problems on the first night with our safe, which wasn't working, and trying to get both sliding doors to shut and lock was like trying to solve a bloody Rubik's cube. We also had problems with our key cards, it worked when we first entered the room but didn't after that so once we walked over to the front desk and talked to the lady, she sent someone over for us and gave us new cards. The service guy didn't speak a lick of english but he was super friendly and very patient with me when I had to get him to show me (more than once) how to unlock and close the sliding patio doors. For whatever reason it seemed like the doors were a quarter inch to short so I could shut and lock one end but not the other. The walls didn't do much for soundproofing, this became very evident on the second night when I guess one of our neighbours had a 3am flight or something and felt the need to repeatedly slam every single drawer, over and over.
-first night was a nightmare, the last thing you want after an 8 hour flight is trouble with your rooms. It was also a bit frustrating that after check-in, the bell boys don't show your to your room, they meet you there. Well when it's dark outside and you've never been to the resort before and all the directions you're given is "turn right here, left there, right there", it gets a bit irritating. I think some better organization is required here
-the room service was really slow, if you're out early and all day it's fine, you will never have an issue but there were two instances where we were gone for over a 4 hour period and our room still wasn't cleaned yet. In all fairness though it is only one maid working 12 rooms and I think she's short on supplies, twice after our room was clean she came back to bring us floor towels so I don't think it's her fault.
-The staff have limited english and french, not that I'm expecting them to be fluent but everyone was so friendly that I legitimately wanted to talk to them but beyond the basic greetings of "how are you?" and whatnot, the conversations would stall and I felt bad for the servers who looked like they had so much to say but didn't know how to put it in english. I'm fluent in french but it didn't appear to help much. I have very limited spanish and had a great time, if you are fluent in spanish I can only imagine how much better your experience will be with the servers.
My girlfriend and I loved it and would definitely come back. I have to express though that I talked to a couple of the workers; the servers work 16 hours/day 11 days on 3 days off, the bartenders work usually around 10-12 hours/day 12 days on 3 days off and if my tour operator is correct, they only make $200/week and I really hope that's USD not pesos (40 pesos= $1 USD). So please tip, I used to be a server and nothing angers me more than people who don't tip.
Note: if you're doing an excursion, I highly recommend Bavaro Runners, it's without a doubt the best bang for your buck and we felt it was one of the best excursions we've ever been on. Sammy and Adolfo were fantastic tour guides, I seriously wanted to grab a beer with Sammy after the tour, the guy was hilarious and although Adolfo had limited english, through my broken spanish and his broken english I still got a good feel of his personality and he was great too. Bring a lot of money for souvenirs though, we spent I think over $110 on coffee, cacao, vanilla, cinnamon, cane sugar, rum and cigars. You do a lot on this excursion
building 38 was centrally located fairly well
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.