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IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul
Ranked #28 of 64 Hotels in Varadero
Reviewed February 22, 2012

ok so here is the real tuth about this resort.6 of us travelled to laguna azul the 3rd week of jan.
we have been to DR (9 times),NEGRIL (0nce) and cayo coco (once) so its a pretty honest review.
The check in
upon arrival we were greeted quickly, we had a early flight so our rooms were not ready yet (11am in the morn) so we decided to hit the large patio just outside the lobby bar and soak up some sun and dive into our first round of drinks. yes at 11:30 am its vacay.bags were put in a storage room and all was fine.

The room
we had paid a few bucks extra and booked a suite,building 19 2nd floor facing the ocean,it was only like 100 bucks mpre so it made sense,room was great 2 baths (great for getting ready) nice king bed, 2 TVs,large balcony.so absolutley no complaints here!

The buffet
so in our other carribean travels we have had bad to good food,dont get me wrong we always seem to put on a few lbs and we never starve but it is bland! the imported cheese was the best thing,pizza bar if you begged him to put extra sauce and vegs on it,breakfast was real safe eggs any style,fresh omlete + pancake bar,smoothie bar, so nothing wrong with breakfast. lunch we tried a couple places,the beach bar/rest was poor,burgers, dogs, and warmed up cold meet made it a scary option,nothing was bad but nothing was great either.lunch and dinner buffet was pretty typical,a couple of strange foods and a bunch of north american food,nothing stood out and we will try anything!

a la cartes
heard cuban was bad so didnt book it.
italian- eh nothing to rave about, swordfish was not bad.
romantico-didn make it to much rum that day, but the other 5 walked out.
steak house was closed.

The shows
we went to 4 shows in our week there, all were typical hollywood was great.

The lobby
after our dinner and a show we always ended up in the lobby area for some late night drinks,our typical waitress licelle was great,she rememberd our drinks from the first time we met and with no tip yet even,she earned a well earned large tip the last night there, but make sure you put it in a envelope with a note that its to them,if you dont it goes in the comon tip jar and they will only get a small amount of it.still the lobby and nite was a busy place. no complaint s here!

The disco
wasnt bad good mixture of music only visited it twice,as we are not 21 anymore 1am comes early.

The pools
a little chilly ( jan) but you got used to it in a few min,lots of seats and never really had any chair issues.pool bar was ok,we thought the main pool would be loud and party like,not! it was quite a few people were around but no ripping party.

The beach
Was very clean, with a couple of little stands of stuff but nobody bugs you, you will get asked but just say no and they wont bother you.

Catamaran day trip
snorkelling we didnt do cause we have done it may times,and the ocean was freezing.lunch on the island was well interesting,id reccomend not getting the lobster as my wife did and 6 hrs later it wasnt pretty.swimming with the dolphin was pretty cool,if you pay 10 bucks more the dolphin will drag you around for a min. pretty cool!

Veradero
take the doubledecker bus outfront of the hotel its cheep and on time.hit the market and grab some gifts, there is another small one across town if you still havnt seen enough of the same stuff,it has a place for beer so it made the 5peco trip in a little lemon shaped rickshaw even better,ake sure you try some of the fresh made cinnamon round donuts or chiros that were a perfect afternoon snack.look for a bus symbol and wait they run every 20 min,dont wast your time at the mall of the americas at the melia, its more like a brand name flea market i needed new sandles as i broke mine so i had to go.keep you bus ticket cause its good for all day.

all in all the resort was great,clean and very friendly cuban people try very hard to make it enjoyable,the food was to be expected from what you hear about cuba,there is no shortage of beer and rum,this is not a hotel for kids, the child area is like a chicken coop really,so if you have kids this is not the place.i wouldnt really say id reccomend this hotel to friends however i would not prevent them from going either. given the time of year we went it was 28-29 all week and sunny so it was a enjoyable trip. hope this helps. feel free to ask any questions about this resort you my have.
thanks

Room Tip: building 19 facing the ocean, its a suite but it has a great view, 3rd floor is the best.
  • Stayed: January 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank simplelarry
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed February 21, 2012

This hotel did not live up to its potential, despite the prestigious Iberostar name and the apparent satisfaction of other Tripadvisor reviewers. My wife and I have been doing all-inclusives in Cuba, DR and Mexico for over a dozen years, and this was among the least enjoyable, though a tich better than Iberostar Cozumel.

Check-in

We arrived before noon on a Saturday and so had a good selection of available rooms. The friendly receptionist offered us roms in three or four blocks before we settled on a fourth floor room in Block 18 overlooking the main pool. We had been concerned to avoid noise from construction at the adjacent RIU Hotel (near Blocks 10 and 12), but needn't have worried as that hotel is now completed.

Room

Except for a few ocean-facing suites that are out of our preferred price range (up tp $3K for 2 weeks), all the rooms are identical, save for some with slightly deeper balconies due to the architectiral facade. They are spacious, with nice tile floors, but the furniture (dark, simplified Spanish colonial) is rather boring, already well nicked and scuffed, and not offering a great deal of storage space. The large bed and mattress proved to be very comfortable, as were the large, soft pillows. The bathroom had a large, built-in oval tub, with an adjustable shower hose clamped to a vertical track. The track fell off the wall the third evening, so we left it sitting in the tub for the maid to see. Sure enough, we found it back in place the next day ... not flushly mounted but reasonably secure if you didn't grab hold of it. Over the course of two weeks we found that if we showered for dinner between 6:30 and 7:45, there was insufficient pressure to get any water out of the shower at normal head level. We had to lower it to waist level (which meant sitting in the tub) to get a small dribble that was just barely adequate to clean-up with. I hate to think what the people on the fifth floor had to cope with (or without) at that peak usage time. By 8:00 pm, the water pressure was back-up, but the hot water supply was exhausted. Cold showers are no way to wrap up a day, especially with the cool on-shore winds typical of Varadero evenings. It's hard to believe such a new hotel (2years old) could be so under-designed in the crucial area of water supply.

We tipped the maid a peso every day and got a reasonable job of cleaning, decorative towel art, and 2 daily bottles of water (we didn't use the beer or pop in the fridge). They only provide a purse-sized packet of Kleenex instead of a full box as in other hotels, but we managed to get our maid to double our allocation. She still had a tendancy of forgetting to provide clean bath mats, face cloths, new soap and extra toilet paper, from time to time.

We had an overhead fan in the room, but it never got used. The control knob on the wall was missing. The AC was fairly quiet, and frigid on high. We normally switched it to low or turned it right off, and left the balcony door open. The latter was heavy to open or close and very tricky to lock. The screen was out of its track and occasionally rattled in heavier winds unless jammed open or closed. Fortunately, we never saw any insects.

General landscapimg and amenities

For our tastes, the grounds, buildings and gardens were poorly designed and visually uninteresting. The centrepiece of the complex is a large flat expanse of extensively patched tile surrounding an ugly big paper-mache rock that stands between two semicircular halves of an amoeba-shaped pool, blocking the view from one side to the other and providing no functional benefit other than an ersatz waterfall on one end, a few unshaded and never-used chairs on the top, and a hide-out and storage room for the pool boys in its interior. The greenery is negligible, as are any colourful swaths of flowers; The palm trees are few and short, and remote from the pool. The sun-chairs are arranged all around the pool in continuous chains, side-by-each, so that there is no room to move them as the directions of sun and shade change through out the day, and no privacy from other guests coming and plopping down right beside you and talking away in loud voices.

The U-shaped phalanx of lobby/buffet and six inter-connected residential blocks of buildings around the main pool are blandly symmetrical with little architectural relief. Beyond these, outside the "U", are two quite attractive smaller pools with more open space and lawns , though still not much vegetation. Each pool is dominated by a large thatch-roofed restaurant structure, which would have great potential if only it were used for either food or bar services. Unfortunately, neither is used for breakfast or lunch, and only one comes to life as a specialty restaurant at night.

The beach is the one good thing about the layout. The sand is well groomed. There are tons of palapas, and front row ones can still be found at 8:00 am. Ample chaises-lounges, though they are hard plastic and bum-numbing after a while. The animation events at the beach are entertaining, energetic and draw a good participation turnout. The beach peddlers, while many, are not pushy or intrusive, and have an interesting array of products that many guests buy. We spent all our time at the beach, weather permitting, moving to the pool area only when the winds got too high.

Food and Drink

Apart from the five specialty restaurants (3 dinner reservationa allowed per week), there are only two places to eat: the main buffet in the lobby complex and a thatched restaurant near the beach called the Ranchon. The size of the food service area in the Buffet is the smallest I've seen in any all-inclusive resort, and the variety of choices is accordingly limited. The Ranchon is also self-service at breakfast and lunch, but without any live cooking stations; the service area is so tiny and the food options so unpalatable that we eliminated it from consideration the minute we saw it and never ate there. Ditto for the adjacent 24-hr "snack-bar" serving inedible burgers, weiners, cold fries and hard tasteless "pizza". So we were prisoners of the Buffet morning and noon, though we tried to escape at night as much as possible.

The Buffet food is not really BAD. It just really isn't very GOOD. At breakfast there are 4 fruits, day after day: guava, pineapple, watermelon and over-ripe papaya. No citrus or mango. The orange juice is either powdered or canned, and heavily watered. Other juices consist of the above four fruits run through a blender with milk or water added. The omelets and fresh fried eggs from the 3 show-cooking chefs are good, but the pancakes are thin and dense, and waffle irons non-existent. The fresh bread and pastries section is, however, very good, so you can always get a full breakfast of carbs and sugar. The coffee tastes like boiled corn-cobs. The lunch options would have a number of dishes on offer from the steam-tables, but they seemed incapable of actually transmitting any heat to their contents, the identification of which was often unknown due to poor labelling. The salad bar had a nice variety of ingredients, though seldom any recognizeable lettuce. The show-cooking pasta bar was OK, if a little heavy, but you wouldn't want to rely on it on a steady basis. Pizzas and burgers were inedible (tried them; spat them out). The best options were for fish and seafood lovers, with fresh fried fish filets, fried shrimps, mussel and octopus paella, etc. But comparatively slim pickings for meat-and-potato eaters. But you could always fill up on sweet cakes and ice cream inthe dessert section.

By contrast, the five specialty restaurants served very good a la carte dinners. The best by far is the Romantic, with a wide variety of tasty appetizers and main entrees, including tender beef, lamb and duck. The Italian is pretty good (though I'm not a fan of beef carpaccio, riccota cheese, or mascarpone). The Japanese has two standard tepanyaki tables (good quality beef, chicken and shrimp, but everything is doused in salty soya sauce), and a large area of ordinary tables and chairs at which no service is available; they just sit there empty every night - - what a waste. The Cuban restaurant is the night-time version of the Ranchon, and actually has a nice salad bar and good selection of tasty main courses, most notably broiled lobster (no extra charge)! Finally, "Del Chef" in one of the underutilized side-pool structures has a good set menu with a coice of steak (tournedos) or seafood (snapper) for a main course.

Drinks were a disappointment, but this may be more of a national problem than the specific hotel. The local rum is quite alright, and even if watered makes for quite adequate Cuba Libres or rum punches at the beach and pool bars. However, no one in the resort can make a decent Margarita. My wife and I don't drink beer. In the evening hours we prefer more traditional liquors (scotch, gin, etc. - - no rye to be found) and seek out the better brands. None of them tasted right, and when I started sampling straight Beefeater, Chivas and Johnny Walker on the rocks, it became clear the stuff was all fake, presumably distilled and bottled by the Government and supplied to all the hotels. I ordered a banana daiquiri from the lobby bar one night and couldn't drink it; they apparently use Cuban-made banana liqueur which tastes more like shellac; they never heard of popping a real banana into a blender of rum and lime juice! End result: the vacation was a far more "sobering" experience than I had expected it to be.

Entertainment

Well, it's not all bad news. To management's credit (and this may be they only time I give them some), they have put resources into buildong a very competent and professional enetertainment team. The nightly shows in the Theatre were among the best I've seen anywhere down South. There are talented musicians playing in the lobby or a bar down by the pool most evenings. There are entertaining games and shows put on by the pool and beach animation teams every day. So there are some smiles in paradise.

Bottom Line

Would we come back? Not a chance, even if we won it on a game show. It has a few things going for it, but many more going against it (no bicycles; no bank -- the front desk exchanges money at a higher rate; no stores -- other than a tiny tuck-shop -- in or near the hotel). At best, it is a visually and functionally boring hotel struggling to provide a tolerable level of service. They say all hotels in Cuba are effectively two stars below their advertised rating, in which case my above rating of 3 out of 5 is fairly generous in that it follows the average expectation. In fact, I would have rated it 2.5, if half-stars were permitted.

Room Tip: Resort faces due North, to beach. Choose west-facing rooms in blocks 10, 11. 12, 18, 19, 20 to get...
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank Brian252
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Director A, RDM at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, responded to this reviewResponded February 29, 2012

Dear “Brian252”

First of all I would like to thank you for choosing an Iberostar hotel for your holidays.

We are very sorry that you were not satisfied with our resort.

We really appreciate your detailed insight about our property’s facilities and services. We know there is still room for improving that is why comments such as yours help us in achieving this goal and making our resort a better choice for our future guests.

Please know that our entire staff works very hard in order to give the best possible service and to guarantee our clients’ satisfaction.

Hoping that you do decide to visit us in the future please accept our best regards.

Management
Iberostar Laguna Azul

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 21, 2012

Our group of 8 stayed here Jan. 29 for a week

Rooms were very clean, fridge well stocked the entire time. Maid service good.

Grounds are lovely, pools well appointed -- beachfront was nice and free of debris. There were plenty of activities taking place during the day, yet always a quiet place to be found at one of the two quiet pools if needed. No issues with chairs or towels. Seemed to be a good mix of all ages.

The service at all the bars and restaurants was extremely efficient. Poolside service was great too! The ice cream bar serves a good assortment of cones and sundays -- nice touch. Buffet food was fine. À la carte dining (Italian/Japanese) were OK -- They do the best they can providing food to the masses on a continuous basis. Best meals we had were off the resort at La Casa del Chef in Varadero -- and at a paladar in Old Havana.

If you are into cigars, the cigar bar situated just off the lobby is a nice place to kick back with an after dinner drink. Snack bar was open into the wee hours, which we appreciated more than once!

Laguna Azul has a casual elegance about it, which I found appealing. Resort overall met my expectations.

  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank lola017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 20, 2012

We had a wonderful time.....again. We didn't have to cook, clean, make drinks or anything else. This is a great destination. The food is great - if you didn't like something you could order something else. It's clean and staff are the best we have encountered (fifth time in Cuba). Entertainment and activities were fantastic. We spent a week at this hotel 2 years ago and stayed closer to the beach. This time we stayed in the main hotel with ocean view and loved it too. Would highly recommend this hotel to anyone.

Happy GTA west travellers.

Room Tip: We really like the ocean view and being close to the main pool area.
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank BlaBla G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 19, 2012

We stayed at the Iberostar Laguna Azul because a dear friend of the family was getting married in Cuba. We were honoured to be invited to the wedding and seeing as this was our first trip to Cuba we booked at what we were told was the best.

Our family's experiences of the trip:

Check in was slow, OMG slow!
Once we were checked in we were given the 60 second tour.
We had to use the facilities as soon as we got to our room. Our toilet did not work, we called and asked that someone come and fix it. (six days later it was fixed)
The food was in a word ! AWFUL

Oh, and we were to have a suite, where mom and dad have one room and children the other room. Well, that never happened!!

The beach was great, the pool was great!
The biggest problem we faced with the pool was that the pool cabano did not have enough towels. We know this because we did not have towels for 3 days!

We participated in the a la carte restaurants and the first was Cuban. The Cuban restaurant was disappointing to say the least. We also chose the Italian, and before we were finished the appetizer my darling husband had to leave the restaurant before he threw up. My meal was great, my daughter's was not even cooked. My daughter and I left before our after dinner drinks arrived. We were so upset and we felt as though we were let down.

Oh and another thing. We had asked the front desk to please make certain that there were 3 bottles of water in our room each day. We were told by the front dest that the bell boy is the one we needed to speak to about the water. We asked the bell boy to please ensure 3 bottles of water were in our room each day, as 3 of us were sharing a room. The bell boy told us that it was not his job it was the maids job. (I got the feeling we were being put off and put off and put off) Not good!

Our daughter wanted to use the "kid's toys" but when we went to use them, The one and only ping pong ball was bronken, the one and only pool cue was broken, oh and any other "kid's toys" we wanted to use were broken. What is up with that?? And then, thank goodness my darling husband is a big guy he went to the front counter and asked for a ping pong ball or a pool cue and balls - he was told, "sorry they are broken" then he raised his voice and told them that they had better get some equipment out, even if he had to pay for them....... you won't belive this IT'S A MIRACLE!!! the toys were found and my daughter and her new found friends could use them. I was ticked that it had to come to the point of my husband getting loud in order for the kids to have some fun. Really?

Check out was fast. Thank goodness. We were so glad to get out of there.

Room Tip: Choose a room closer to the ocean, so you don't have to hear the noise from the disco!
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
13  Thank MJ E
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Director A, Rooms Division Manager, Iberostar Laguna Azul at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, responded to this reviewResponded February 27, 2012

Dear "MJ E"

On behalf of the resort management and staff I would to thank you for choosing our resort for your holidays. We are very sorry that you were not fully satisfied during your stay with us.

We apologize for the maintenance issues you had in your room upon arrival and for the lack of pool towels. By general rule our maintenance staff acts very quickly on the reports received, we appreciate your comments and we have already increased supervision to avoid this kind of situation in the future. Regarding the lack of pool towels, we, unfortunately, depend on another company for this service and sometimes when demand is too high or they have any specific problem there are occasional delays with the regular supply of towels, as a corrective measure we have increased our stock of pool towels so in the case of future delays our guests are affected the less possible time.

We sincerely thank you for your comments, please be assured that we continue working hard to improve our services, in order to go beyond our guests’ expectations.

Best Regards.

Management.
Iberostar Laguna Azul.

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 19, 2012

We visited cuba for the 5th time and we were accompanyed by friends who were there for the first time. All four of us have nothing but praise for the wonderful service that we recieved from beginning to end. The resort was clean, the food was excellent, and the service was over and above, we did not want for anything. We would all recommend this resort to any one who is looking for a great holiday spot. good times, great drinks and food and a all around fun place to be.

Room Tip: block 16 was quiet and a great view of the courtyard
  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank cubaiswonderful
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 19, 2012

This resort is one of the newest of the area. It's well equipped and the personel is nice. I enjoyed my stay, but the food is really of bad quality. Variegated in the choice, but the same every day and not well cooked nor tasty. I premise I am italian and this resort is frequented by americans... so probably the food is adjusted to the american taste. Italians expect something different, especially at a 5 stars resort... even pasta was disgusting, despite it is so simply to prepare..
Besides food, the activities (amination and sports) are really good and the beach is wide and well kept. I suggest this resort... if you adapt to any food! Otherwise probably it's better to get a cheaper resort.

  • Stayed: February 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
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Thank agrimante
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul

Address: Autopista Sur Km 17 | Punta Hicacos, Varadero 42200, Cuba
Location: Caribbean > Cuba > Matanzas Province > Varadero
Amenities:
Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
#2 Business Hotel in Varadero
#7 Family Hotel in Varadero
#8 Romantic Hotel in Varadero
#20 Luxury Hotel in Varadero
Price Range: $148 - $414 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul 5*
Number of rooms: 814
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located on a beautiful stretch of Varadero's Beach. Approximately 160 km from Havana and 20 min. from downtown Varadero. 814 rooms allocated in different buildings, 24 are suites and 8 are for handicapped. Reception 24 hrs. open, currency exchange, internet 24 hrs. Buffet restaurant with show cooking and 4 a la carte restaurants and Ranchón near the beach. Lobby bar, Cigar bar, aqua-bar, and 2 snacks bars at the pool. Conference rooms, SPA, gym, and beauty salon, 2 tennis and paddle court. Ice cream saloon, animation theatre and disco. 5 outdoor swimming pools. Miniclub (4-12 years). ... more   less 
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Iberostar Laguna Azul Hotel Varadero

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