After what must only be described as an 'underwhelming' trip to Cuba at the neighbouring Blau Costa Verde in 2008, my wife and I decided to book the Paradisus Rio De Oro (PRDO) after reading the excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. Overall, it's safe to say that there are many positives to staying at this resort, and it certainly is the better option for all who visit Holguin, but it isn't without its (small) faults, which I'm sure could easily be rectified.
Upon arrival, my wife and I were greeted by a smiling lady who later identified herself as the Honeymoon Co-ordinator (Iraida), who took us to a private air conditioned office for a private check in. We were welcomed with a glass of sparkling wine, and a warm welcome to the hotel. Iraida told us of all the amenities available at the hotel, and promptly advised that she had booked us into a honeymoon room (corner room with larger bed) in block 39, which was ideal for both the main lobby and the pool area. Check in was quick, and we were soon whisked off to our room.
The room in block 39 was what we'd expected in terms of decoration - traditionally Cuban. It featured everything you'd expect from a hotel room in any package holiday resort these days, including television, coffee machine, safe, hair dryer, towels, robes and even an iron and ironing board. Unfortunately, the air conditioning in this room was quite lacklustre, and upon speaking with some other guests it became apparent that it wasn't just ours. By no means did this make the room uncomfortable, but it wasn't as cool as we'd have liked it to be. The bathroom could certainly do with being renovated - in no way did it reflect a 5* (even by Cuban standards) resort, but everything worked and it was purely aesthetics that let it down. I am of the understanding that the resort is renovating its rooms but this may take some time, understandably.
After checking in, we took our first look at the grounds around the resort and we were instantly impressed. The hotel obviously takes a lot of pride in its surrounds, and you can see this everywhere with every bush, flower, tree, fountain and pathway - all immaculately kept thanks to the hard work of the groundskeepers.
The resort isn't as large as you'd think it would be, and took us less than a day to get our bearings. The main lobby is on the other end of the hotel to the pool and the beach, and it's a good 10 minutes to walk from one to the other. The hotel offers one shop which holds drinks, (limited) snacks and (limited) personal care products, as well as a small range of Cuban souvenirs. It also offers a cigar shop which sells cigarettes and associated paraphernalia, a gym (though we never visited), a spa (more on that later) and a Club House where the animation team are based.
Food & Drink...
The Hotel has a buffet-style restaurant, a poolside snack bar, a beach restaurant and five a la carte restaurants: 'International' cuisine El Patio, a Japanese-style teppanyaki restaurant, a Cuban restaurant, the Mediterranean and the 'exclusive' Royal Service restaurant.
Unfortunately for us, the hotel was operating at less than 40% capacity during our stay and as a result the buffet selection seemed quite sparse at times. Nonetheless, the variation of food and the quality of it was great during breakfast and dinner, but lunch was very restrictive. It was also unfortunate that during our first week at the hotel, we only ate in one a la carte restaurant. The hotel advised us that we couldn't book any dinner reservations the first week because they were 'very busy'. However, it soon transpired that the hotel was in fact only opening the odd one or two restaurants in the evening, and yet when a large number of holiday-makers such as ourselves complained about not being able to get into any restaurants, they did nothing to appease demand. We found this incredibly frustrating as we'd booked through Thomas Cook under the impression we were guaranteed to eat in each once per week.
The beach restaurant and the poolside snack bar offered the same menu of a la carte-style options throughout the day, comprising stodgy snacks such as hamburgers, hot dogs and toasties, to more healthy options like salad and fish. There was enough to keep both my wife and I happy and we chose to eat at both during lunch moreso than the limited buffet.
We did manage to eat at all the a la carte restaurants in the second week, and found them all to be very good. The Japanese restaurant was a good night out (ensure you go on the show table), although because it's such a show in preparing your food, it's a long night. The food was delicious though and freshly prepared in front of your eyes in traditional teppanyaki style (though how authentic milk is, I'm not entirely sure!). We enjoyed the Cuban restaurant too, although it must be said that Cuban food is very bland by nature, so don't go there expecting a taste explosion in your mouth as you won't get one! The food was cooked well and the portions decent. El Patio (the international) was delicious too. It's effectively a variation on the Mediterranean restaurant (which was also delicious), and should be a French / Italian but doesn't quite have the gusto to say it is. Royal Service restaurant we found to be hit and miss. We ate there on a few occasions because we upgraded, and found two out of three times we came out feeling underwhelmed.
Whilst we were at the hotel, we were invited to a special 'romantic dinner' in the beach restaurant because we were celebrating our honeymoon. The night was a great night, with the general manager and his team there to greet us and the food was nothing short of delicious. We also attended the Royal Service's 'Colour night' which again was spectacular.
I've read a few reviews from people complaining about the drinks at the resort, especially the wine, but we had no issues with them at all. Cuba is a country that suffers from an importing system that means when they run out of items, they could run out for a while. This of course extends to drinks, but we always found the bars plentiful. Sometimes they wouldn't have mint for a mojito, but honestly who cares when there are copious other choices to make? The wine, whilst not especially for the wine connoisseurs amongst us, was drinkable and didn't let us down. Can't comment on the red, because we didn't try any.
On two occasions we visited the Spa, which we would highly recommend. It boasts sun showers, steam room, sauna, foot baths, a relaxation room, saltwater pool, beach, sun terrace and outside jacuzzi. On the two occasions we went there, we found it extremely quiet and peaceful, resulting in total relaxation. We had a couples massage whilst there, which was extremely good value for money and the best massage we've ever had. The only complaint I'd have is that the changing rooms are not very private, and are unisex. Also the toilets (again, unisex) didn't have any locks on the cubicle doors.
On the second week of our stay, we upgraded to the Royal Service. This was purely because the main pool was being refurbished and there wasn't an acceptable alternative other than to upgrade to use the Royal Service pool. The Royal Service is an exclusive area of the resort which is hidden away from the main resort, and is accessible via a lengthy walk or by buggy transfer. It boasts its own infinity pool, lobby bar, saloon and beach with beach bar, as well as offering guests a higher standard of room and better service (supposedly).
Checking out of our main room and into our new Royal Service room was easy, with the staff taking care of our baggage etc. We were introduced our butler upon check-in but aside from showing us around our room and delivering our room service order once, the whole 'butler' experience was a bit underwhelming - I often saw him meandering at the beach bar as opposed to doing anything else, which was a shame.
The rooms in the Royal Service were very nice - I can't explain how much of an improvement on the main resort rooms they are! Though in fairness, this standard of room should be standard at a 5* resort in the first place. It benefited from a spacious front area and an amazing bathroom with his and hers sinks as well as a jacuzzi bath and outdoor shower. The bath took an age to run so we never benefited from the jacuzzi bath, and took a liking to the outdoor shower instead. We were told by our butler that he would run our bath for us, but we needed to give him 2 days notice, which was a bit ridiculous so we never used this service.
The Royal Service, upon first arriving, was supposed to be that little bit more special and exclusive, however we found as early as the second day that it was more isolated than exclusive and service was incredibly slow. The morning staff in the restaurant were often dismissive and uncooperative, and the morning / afternoon staff in the lobby bar were unavailable or downright rude. At one point, one member of staff perused the entire pool area and asked everyone but us three times if they wanted a drink. I ended up going up to the bar to request my own, which was no big deal, and the next time she came around the pool area asking for drinks, she completely dismissed my wife as she asked for a refill and simply spoke to me - which wasn't appreciated at all.
It was also frustrating that there was a severe lack of amenities at the Royal Service. We found ourselves going down to the main resort during the day to play pool, go to the shop etc. The hotel could benefit by offering more to Royal Service guests, not less.
On the Friday (four days before we departed), there was a sudden influx of Royal Service guests, and as a result we couldn't get a sun bed around the pool. There wasn't an increase in staff either to cater for these guests and obtaining a drink was slow and frustrating. The pool bar in the six days we stayed there never opened, and it wasn't clear how we could get a snack between restaurant openings, so we ended up going back to our room and ordering room service more than once.
Many repeat guests at the PRDO say they return because of the staff, and it's clear as to why. I've never been to a hotel where the staff are so professional, personable and hardworking (aside from one or two in the Royal Service). Iraida (honeymoon co-ordinator) was brilliant - she helped us organise trips out, obtain bookings in the restaurants in the second week, and was on hand to ensure our stay was as good as it should be. In the main lobby bar, Yander was the standout member of staff - extremely helpful, polite and always made that extra effort to ask us how we are, engage in conversation and make sure we had drinks. I also found Alien on hand to help, and very personable too. Of the other staff, Jorge who drives the buggies, alongside Carlos, were exceptional. We always smiled when they were the ones giving us a lift to and from various places as the ride was pleasant and enjoyable because of their hospitality. Carlos, the food and beverage manager, is a credit to the hotel. It didn't matter where we were - breakfast, lunch or dinner - he was there, smiling, ensuring we were OK, taking time out for all the guests. We joked that there must be three of him because he's so visible all the time. I must also mention Dania and Esperanza who were exceptional waitresses and such a pleasure to be around.
Overall, our stay at the PRDO was a good one. The staff are great and the entertainment was decent enough at night too. Food was good and drink plentiful and the rooms were accommodating both at the main resort and the Royal Service. However, what has halted me giving this five stars is the frustrations felt whilst at the resort over the two weeks.
As I've already mentioned, the Royal Service was a big let down and it was hugely disappointing not to be able to enjoy the a la carte restaurants both weeks. However, it was the handling of the pool closure that really put a dampner on our honeymoon.
We were advised prior to arriving that the pool would be closed for renovations during our stay, and that we'd be able to utilise the four star pool in the neighbouring hotel during this period. Given that the hotel was a good 25 minute walk, this was simply unacceptable. The hotel put on no special buggies to transport guests to and from the hotel despite saying they would in their communication to us, and there was no 'wider range of gastronomic options' as promised - if anything, this was even more limited due to the poolside snack bar being closed.
We also found it difficult to book excursions with the hotel. We booked four, of which three were cancelled and we therefore didn't explore Cuba as much as we'd have liked to. Fortunately, on our previous trip in 2008 we booked a number with Thomas Cook so we have seen Cuba, but we didn't want to repeat these trips again this time around which is why we looked to the hotel's own excursions. I feel more could've been done to accommodate our interest in these excursions.
Overall, if you're looking for somewhere that's relaxing, set in beautiful surrounds and with a good range of food and drink, do come to the PRDO. I do feel it's the best hotel in Holguin and if I do return it would be to this hotel. I imagine many of our frustrations on this particular holiday were caused through a mixture of renovation work and a hotel operating under capacity, and it's such a shame because otherwise this hotel may have been perfect.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located in the Bahia de Naranjo Natural Park, in Playa Esmeralda, on the northern coast of Holguin province. Five-Star Ultra All Inclusive Eco-Resort with 354 rooms. Conceived only for adults aged 18 years or more. Maximum comfort and perfection in its private Royal Service area for a fabulous experience in a world apart. Recommended for weddings, honeymoons, incentive trips and wellness/spa.Guest Rooms 354 rooms: 254 Junior Suite, 24 Junior Suite Deluxe, 16 Junior Suite Deluxe Ocean View, 2 Suite Deluxe, 36 Master Junior Suite Royal Service, 14 Master Junior Suite Ocean View Royal Service, 6 Master Junior Suite Luxury Royal Service, 2 Garden Villa Royal Service. Dining: 8 Restaurants (A la Carte, Buffet), 5 Bars. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Resort And Spa
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Hotel Holguin
- Paradisus Hotel Guardalavaca
- Rio De Oro Paradisus
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Cuba
- Hotel Paradisus Rio De Oro
- Paradisus Rio De Oro Resort & Spa Cuba/Holguin