Just returned from 7 nights stay at Melia Buena Vista Exclusive Royal Service and Spa resort in Cuba.
I really regret having gone there. It was actually one of the worst 5* resorts I’ve ever been to.
Food for an exclusive 5* hotel is horrible. And don’t tell me “it’s Cuba”. Before staying at the resort, we spent almost 2 weeks driving around and exploring Cuba staying at various hotels and casas particulares and eating in restaurants and paladars. I strongly believe that we can now be objective on what food one can expect to find in Cuba. Saying “no good food here but it’s Cuba” is so wrong! Of course, it depends on what exactly one understands as good food. For us it’s fresh and organic produce, freshly caught seafood, fresh meat, poultry, local fruit, fresh juices. And all of these we found and enjoyed in Cuba. In spite of my fear to get some stomach bug from Cuban food, I had no problems whatsoever before we actually came to MBV.
Breakfast buffet was awful – plenty of pickles (who needs them in the morning and in such quantities?), cheese (the worst type, you know these processed melted sandwich-ready squares), cold meat cuts (with large chunks of fat - just looking at them made my cholesterol levels rise), only orange juice (while there’s abundance of fruit in Cuba), no pastries (as it turned out later, those you should particularly ask for and they will bring if available which is not every day), one type of jam (in a tiny bowl like one you’d use for soya sauce in a sushi restaurant), almost no fresh fruit (mostly canned and processed). You can order eggs a-la-carte and presumably other stuff but you should never count on them having whatever you choose - it’s typical for them not to have many things.
Lunch buffet – same pickles again, some canned fish, some salads (be ready for green, unripe tomatoes), emptied hot food trays not refilled – when it’s gone, it’s gone.. My first choice from the menu was not available (old news), the second choice was “chef’s recommended” soup which was uneatable due to too much salt in it.
Dinners – same “not available” thing. You order something just to hear that “this is not available today”. Whatever is available, is often of unacceptable quality (a lobster my husband ordered made him badly ill; I was ill too, not even sure from what; at one dinner we witnessed a party next table calling the chef and complaining about their food). Don’t make any expectations on what you’ll get. I don’t know how they name their dishes, probably just randomly and because it sounds fancy. I ordered a cheesecake and received just a cake with no resemblance to cheesecake with plenty of cream and jam. My husband’s pasta Bolognese was something with bacon and no tomato sauce. Their lasagne is actually a raviolo-sized portion with cubes of peas and carrots inside.
We have complained twice and another two times expressed our wish to see the manager but nothing was done. Waiters said it was a common thing for guests to complain and the management to ignore the complaints.
Luckily (probably, knowing their weak points), MBV gives you free pass to Melia Las Dunas hotel which is 3km away and we ended up having breakfasts and lunches there every day. They happened to have much wider selection and better quality of food though the level of this hotel is supposed to be a bit lower (5* too but mass-market, package tour property with price per day being half of that of MBV).
As far as dinners are concerned, besides food there is another problem. You need to book them in advance at reception otherwise you risk of being left without food. On our first night we were a bit overwhelmed with all these arrival-unpacking-moving room thing, so we failed to book our dinner. When my husband went to one of the restaurants to have a meal (I was too tired to go) they refused to serve him though the restaurant was half-empty. He spent 20 minutes reasoning with them, saying that we had pre-paid all meals and they just couldn’t refuse him food like that. Finally, they accepted him with the sign of doing him a big favour.
But the booking system is very imperfect too. Out of our 7 nights at the resort, twice our reservation was lost and we had to go back and forth from restaurant to reception and argue with them that we had booked. We saw other people doing so too. For one night we were not booked anywhere – they didn’t have availability. Can you believe it?
Now, as I’ve moved to describing service, let’s talk about their “Royal service”. If any royal were served like that, they would have executed some of the staff. I definitely would.
They don’t provide any toiletteries but a small bottle of shampoo and shower gel which are not replaced if used.
Every day they forgot to do/replace/refill something. Every day we were missing towels, water, rubbish bin bags...
Everything is sooo slow. If you order room service, you’ll never get it faster than in one hour be it food, towels or something else. We usually called them again in about 30 minutes to remind that we were waiting.
However, they were very fast to remove stuff which should not have been removed. We brought much fruit with us and needed plates and cutlery to eat it. So every day we had to ask them to bring plates and knives and not to remove them but nevertheless every day they disappeared. We even wrote a note asking not to remove plates but they were removing them anyway. To bring them back it was taking them not less than one hour.
If you order food, make sure you don’t change your mind about something later on because it will not be honoured anyway. After we ordered some food and called back 10 mins later asking to add some bread and drinks, we never received those.
Some waiters have very informal attitude to guests and though I’m not a snob and enjoy chatting with staff, but when in a French restaurant with silver service, waiters in uniforms and bowties and guests in eveningwear your waiter constantly addresses you as “my friend” and but only pats you on the shoulder, that’s a bit too much I’d think.
They managed to confuse our laundry we gave them to do with someone else’s. When we found strange clothes delivered to us instead of ours, we called them to report on that and they started arguing with us if we were sure it was not ours (ridiculous!) and that these were the clothes they had previously collected from our room (!!). By the end of the day they managed to find our stuff.
They provide beach towels but they do not replace them for you which would be a normal thing to do – instead you should go to the pool-side kiosk, bring your used towel and get a new one. But this kiosk has some weird working hours and as we were spending all the time in Las Dunas we could never catch them open. When we finally did, they had no clean towels, so they took our used ones and we had to come back in 30 mins; when we came, the lady had forgotten that she had taken the towels from us and gave us hard time with all explanations to do.
Our magnifying mirror on the wall fell apart and it was never fixed.
Check-out takes about 20 minutes if you are the first in line and unlimited time if there’s someone in front of you. They use dated equipment for credit cards (when they slide this machine across the card to get the print of the card number), interrupt for answering calls and questions of other guests and are in no hurry at all. This delay at check-out almost cost us a missed flight.
Upon departure we didn’t get even a goodbye.
I would also like to comment on the hotel layout, design and amenities.
The rooms are beautifully done (this is the main reason why we chose this hotel in the first place) but apart from these I had the impression that in the middle of the process the developers suddenly ran out of money and finished off with whatever was left from construction. I’ll attach some photos illustrating what I mean. All these rocks thrown around, these rusty metal centrepieces, fountain, these underwater lights on long cables as if forgotten to be fixed in their places... Who was their designer? Some beginner who heard something about the concept but didn’t quite get it? What was this supposed to mean? Barefoot luxury? It’s not it. Even Las Dunas being a mass-market hotel looks much more lush, cosy and attractive than this exclusive property.
Not enough umbrellas around the main swimming pool.
No entertainment at all. Sometimes they have a band performing live at dinner in one of the restaurants but that’s it. For entertainment go to Las Dunas.
And to finish up a few words about the beach. The best beaches on the cayo are taken up by Las Dunas and, as we heard, by Royal Hideaway Ensenachos. Beach at MBV is not very attractive-looking as there are lava rock formations stretching into the water like wave breakers. When the sea is rough and water brings seaweed, it gets collected around these rocks. However, when the water is clean you can snorkel there with a chance of spotting barracudas, parrot fish and even an octopus (but please note that they have only five snorkelling sets in the hotel to borrow, so first come first served).
Trust me, we were by no means prejudiced and so much looking forward to our stay at MBV. But we were so deeply disappointed that we almost moved to Melia Las Dunas altogether! And this is us, people who do not do package tours and prefer more quite, refined places. What stopped us was beautiful accommodation at MBV (their only advantage) and the fact that we had a car, so we travelled to Las Dunas as many times during the day as we wanted.
Well, some of you guys may see such an experience as staying at two hotels for the price of one, but others may think of it as overpaying for something you can get for half-price.
By the way, a small hint – if you come to cayo Santa Maria without a hotel booked, at Las Dunas side counter you can get both hotels (and maybe more) at discounted rates.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located west of Cayo Santa Maria in a privileged ecological environment, and surrounded by beaches and coves. All-Inclusive Five-Star Resort with 105 Junior Suites and Suites, and the Villa "Zaida del Rio". Designed for adults over 18 years. An entire hotel featuring Royal Service. Recommended for couples, weddings, honeymoons and wellness/spa. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Melia Buenavista Hotel Cayo Santa Maria