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“Fabulous night club (disco); but wines and other liquors were marginally acceptable”

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IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul
Ranked #27 of 64 Hotels in Varadero
Toronto
Level Contributor
12 reviews
8 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 46 helpful votes
“Fabulous night club (disco); but wines and other liquors were marginally acceptable”
Reviewed April 8, 2010

I am a 28 year old recent grad from Toronto, Canada and stayed in Iberostar Laguna Azul from January 25 to January 29, 2010 with my significant other. It was my first time to Cuba. With respect to all-inclusive vacations, I have been to Mexico (Cancun/Riviera Maya) three times and had some of the most fabulous times in my life. I have also been to Dominican Republic (Puerto Plata) and El Salvador.

Based on reviews here and what I have heard, I was reluctant to go to Cuba. But with tight budget and limited schedule (work and church), I was left with Varadero (Cuba) and Orlando (USA). Since the weather forecast indicated rather chilly one in Orlando, we decided to adventure and chose Cuba. Within hotels in Varadero, I was struggling with my own cost/benefit analysis and narrowed the hotels into the following ones: Blau Varadero, Iberostar Laguna Azul, Paradisus Princess Del Mar, and Breezes Bella Costa (all ranked pretty high on Trip Advisor).

I have mentioned in my past review on Valentin Imperial Maya (in Riviera Maya, Mexico) that I got to see Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso as the hotel transfer bus first went into the hotel. The “WOW” impression I got from seeing such a beautiful property (one of the highest ratings on Trip Advisor in the region) could not be forgotten for the rest of my life. That impression along with decent to excellent reviews on Trip Advisor led me to try the Iberostar chain.

Although we had a fabulous time there, it is unlikely that I would be returning to Cuba any time soon. That being said, I would love to try another Iberostar hotels in regions other than Cuba.

Location:
- The road from Varadero airport to the hotel had one lane on each side and was pretty narrow. The disclosure on the web states that it is supposed to take about 30 minutes from the airport. But it took more than an hour to get to the resort. The ride was pretty comfortable. However, since Iberostar Laguna Azul is located at the farthest end of the Varadero peninsula, the drop-off would happen at the very last. Almost all Canadian guests that were in the same airplane must have been hungry and were seen at the buffet restaurant soon after check-in.
- If you are going to Iberostar Laguna Azul, you will notice that this hotel is the only one that looks spectacular from outside (and pretty good even from inside). All other hotels on the way do not look like a place I wanted to stay (with minor exception for Blau Varadero). I cannot say anything about Paradisus Princess Del Mar since you don’t get to see that hotel on the way. (One reviewer who stayed at the Paradisus stated that he found Iberostar Laguna Azul to be the only hotel, other than Paradisus, that looked like a 4 star (or higher) property when he looked around the entire peninsula.)

Check-in: (3.5/5)
- We got during lunch time; and it actually took about an hour to check in. The reception (check-in) staffs were basically explaining the same thing over and over for each party. Instead, they could have provided an orientation to all the people who got off the coach bus to save time.
- Yes, the welcome drink was provided (I don’t really care about welcome drink; but people seemed thirsty).
- The front desk never asked me for a credit card or cash deposit for incidentals (which was nice).

Room: (4.5/5)
- None of the hotel rooms or junior suites seemed to have a genuine ocean view. There were pool view (most people wanted this), tennis court/night club view (we moved to this section, most rooms are empty since it can get loud at night time due to shows and club music afterwards; but it gets quieter after the night club closes), garden view, etc. Be careful! This tennis court/night club view rooms can have lots of mosquitos and other bugs. When we swtiched rooms to this section, the front desk staff gave me an impression that I may not like the rooms in that section. I noticed that there weren't many people in this section.
- Balcony (private) was adequate with two chairs and a table with an ashtray; but quite a few mosquitoes are waiting for your outdoor at night time. I was not bitten at all during my entire stay; but there must have been some people (including my significant other) whose bloods were found to be quite tasty for the mosquitoes.
- The hotel rooms mostly have two single beds. Make sure you request that you are put on a list to be switched to a room with one king bed. I was told to come back next morning only to find out that I was not on the list. Later that day, I was told that I can move to a room with a king bed. But we changed our minds since my significant other complained that I snore too loud. (Oops!)
- Mini-bar (inside the closet underneath the television) was stocked with 3 bottles of soft drinks (one each of Coke equivalent, Sprite equivalent, and soda water) and 4 cans of beers (Cristal at 4.9% alc. and Bucanero at 5.4% alc.). The hotel brochure indicates that the mini-bar is stocked every other day. Since we switched room after one day and only stayed for 3 nights, I cannot comment on whether the restocking is taking place as promised.
- Maid service was really good. Our room was cleaned thoroughly – the floor, the washroom, the bed. Although we brought tissues, the room already had tissues.
- The shower hose (made of stainless steel) started leaking at night. As other reviewers said, problems occur quite frequently (with lack of technology in Cuba I suppose). But it took less than 10 minutes for the repair guy to show up and less than 10 minutes to replace the hose.
- Our first room had few stains on couch and leg resting piece. So we switched rooms anyways (from two single beds to two single beds again but different building). The front desk gave me keys for me to check it out first before moving in. I eventually saw about 3-4 rooms and realized that although the furniture and the layout of the rooms are almost identical, certain things were missing in every room. So I chose the room with the most amenities already stocked; and then I moved ones we already had in our previous room into the new room. Yes, I carried a chair, tissues, etc. I was offered over the phone that a bellboy would come to help us; but we just did the job on our own (I didn’t want to wait for them to come and I needed some exercise).

Dining:
- Other reviewers have commented that the food here was actually quite good. In Cuban standard, I believe that the food was good. In North American standard and for those who have been to top resorts in Mexico, the food would likely be acceptable to good. It can depend on your expectation as well.
Seafood selection was pretty good. On our last day, the buffet had grilled shrimps (unpeeled), which were really tasty. Other days were good; but not as good as the last day of our stay. (Buffet – Seafood: 4/5)
Instant cooking stations were really nice. They had pork, beef, fish, etc. I noticed that the lack of seasoning was covered by excessive use of sea salt. (Buffet - Instant Cooking Station: 4.5/5)
Their pizza (thin), as other reviewers have noted, was excellent. But the seafood pizza I had in Mexico was much better. It seemed to lack variety of seafood choices and seasonings which are not available in Cuba. (Buffet - Pizza: 4/5)
- Labels are missing for most foods. Since I can eat almost anything, it was not a problem. But many people asked me what I was eating as I only figured out what it was after I ate it (them).
- Fruit selection/quality was very poor. They offered pineapples, grapefruit, mango, banana, and one or two other fruit I cannot recall (likely cantaloupes or honey dews or oranges). Pineapples were uneatable (sour) and that also affects the taste of cocktails served at bars. Bananas and grapefruit were the only fruit that was okay. (Fruits: 1/5)
- Deserts (sweets) were pretty good. But they all taste alike. (Desserts/bakeries: 3/5)
- We only tried the Cuban a-la-carte and the food was really good; I had the lobster and my significant other had the Halibut. But the service was terrible. The server didn’t say a word to us, kept us waiting and waiting. He also forgot to bring the soup; and no one offered to pour wine in our glasses. I complained to the manager in charge. And another server did his best to rectify the issue. They have a list of wines (5 as a part of all-inclusive and many others for sale). But no servers or even the manager in charge knew that they had such list. When they finally found the list, they did not have wines for sale in stock anyways. (Cuban A-la-carte - Food: 5/5, Service: 2/5)

Alcohol: (3.5/5)
- Drinks were quite strong (not watered down) and bartenders were working very hard. I tend to tip aggresively when I get more and more drunk. (Drinks other than cocktails or wines: 4/5, Bartender service: 4/5)
- More expensive drinks were hidden and I had to specifically ask for them. For example, there were if you simply ask for Tequila, you will be served
- They had Spanish wines that was disappointing. All the wines they had were cheap ones from Spain. I love wines and none of the 5 choices were acceptable to me. I still ended up getting wine by the glasses since I figured it wouldn't be worth purchasing one either. (Wines: 2.5/5)
- They have a wine list in every restaurant (Buffet or A-la-carte); but most servers did not seem to know (or maybe they didn't understand the word 'Wine List' in English). They have about 5 wines (all from Spain) as a part of the all-inclusive and lots more that was about CDN $15 and up.
- Cocktails were of low quality often times and the mix wasn't alwasy optimal. As I mentioned about the pineapples they have and how sour they are, cocktails are also affected. (Cocktails: 2.5/5)

Grounds: (5/5)
- Very well kept and clean. The property is beautiful as in other Iberostar hotels around the world.
- Adequate in size (all the facilities are pretty close while not condensed either).

Beach: (3/5)
- The ocean was not crystal clear and the colour was darker than I thought. I was expecting crystal clear water with emerald colour. I spoke to the other guest (who was travelling to Varadero for the first time like us) and she agreed. She said that it might be the strong wind that is causing the ocean to be dark.
- When we went to the beach near Hoteur Sunbeach where the flea market is located, the beach looked a little more beautiful than the one in front of Iberostar Laguna Azul. I've known this prior to going there as I read in one of the other reviews.

Pool: (4/5)
It was clean but pretty cold. I was in there just once. There were lots of chair in the pool area; but it can get quite crowded. The human-made waterfalls (which are at almost every Iberostar hotels) and the jacuzzi on top of the stairs looked fabulous.

Facilities / Activities / Night entertainment:
- There were quite a bit of activities; but I cannot comment on it since I didn't participate.
- There is one ping-pong table next to the towel services.
- There is one pool table (billiard) indoor.
- Live piano music in the lobby bar. I am pretty sure it was at least once a day.
- I played tennis couple of times. They have a coach on site who kindly allowed me to practice prior to playing doubles. There are two tennis courts with one that can also be used as a basketball court. The rental racquets were okay. The tennis balls were pretty good. But it was too windy to have a good tennis match. These Spanish speaking guests (Chilean, Argentinian, etc) were pretty good tennis players. The tennis court at Riviera Maya, Mexico at a 5-star resort was much better compared to the one at Iberostar Laguna Azul. (Tennis: 4/5)
- The night club (disco) was fantastic. My significant other really liked the state-of-the-art ligting system and the atmosphere (music, physical layout). Drinks were served quickly and there were plenty of couches available to enjoy the drinks while sitting down. The music in the ealier time caters for older people and it gets better as the night goes catering for younger people. I spent lots of money requesting particular songs. You can do that by going upstairs and tipping the DJ. (Night Club: 5/5)
- I really wanted to go to La Comparsita and/or La Rumba (two of the top clubs in Varadero); but failed to do so after realizing it would cost us so much to ride a taxi ride back and forth.

Gratuities/Tips:
- Many Canadians that go to Cuba posted their stories on bringing basic necessities to Cuba as a gift for Cuban people outside the resort or as a gratuity for hotel staff as an appreciation for the good service. So I bought items listed on Trip Advisor (toothpaste, bandages, soap, toothbrush, lotion, shampoo, candles, etc.). And I somewhat regret doing so. Firstly, it is awkward to be carrying these items to tip servers and bartenders. Secondly, it works better at other resorts of lower quality. Thirdly, it may give an impression that Cuban people are poor. They may look poor; but the numbers ($1 or whatever amount people earn daily) don't tell you everything.
- So if you want to bring gifts, bring ones to give to children near school and to the maid. For most resort staffs (and for being at an elegant looking hotel), tips in Cuban pesos or Canadian bills (or coins -_-) would suit better in my opinion.

Tours / Car (Scooter) Rental / Transportation:
- Since it was a short stay, we did not do any tours.
- Car rental is extremely expensive in Varadero. I asked the rental office in front of Iberostar Laguna Azul and also ventured to ask when we went near the flea market. I wanted to drive around. But at around CDN$200 per day, it was not happening.
- Scooter rental was available at a reasonable price compared to others options (still looked expensive to me); but, with the aforementioned narrow roads and the distance from the hotel located at the farthest end, driving scooter from the hotel seemed quite dangerous. And I did not see any one renting a car. However, there were many tourists staying in hotels close to downtown that rented scooters.
- There were double-decker buses available near the entrance of the hotel at 5 CUCs per person which included unlimited transportation (round trip) for the day I believe. However, the bus only came once an hour and at a Cuban time (meaning plus/minus 45 minute flexibility). So we shared a taxi with another couple at 10 CUCs one way (5 CUCs for each couple).
- The double-decker bus does not operate after certain time (I think it was around 8 or 9 pm). And we wanted to check out the nightclubs (La Rumba and/or La Comparsita). So we were stuck with only one option – taxi. There were many people who asked the reception (front-desk) to call a taxi. It is nearly impossible to catch one on the street (they don’t wander around at night time). There were plenty of taxis that came since many guests asked for a taxi. However, the price quoted was very high. So we walked away (based on my experience in Mexico). But there were always other people waiting for a taxi and most of them were willing to pay something like 20 CUCs one way. So we lost the negotiating grounds; decided to stick to the disco at the hotel (which was fabulous anyways).

Varadero Airport:
- The airport is pretty small and people smoke everywhere in the waiting area. The ventilation system is almost non-existent. Even as a smoker, it was unpleasant.
- There are shops prior to security check-point. My significant other bought some souvenirs at those shops. In the waiting area after the security check-point, there were 4-5 shops I believe that sold liquors, tobaccos, and cigars (of course). They accepted VISA and Mastercard (not issued by banks that are American subsidiary), which is rare in Cuba, and I was charged in American dollar. I bought a carton of ‘Hollywood’ Blue (Light) – American Blend (Cuban brand though, not American). They are merely acceptable (I still have three packs to go since I only smoked these when I ran out of other American/Canadian brands). I understood why people were purchasing ciagarettes from Canadian duty free shops. Alternatively, our Sunwing flight carried limited quantities of Marlboro (Light & Red) for CDN$39 per carton. It seems though that these Marlboros are not from the U.S. but from the Central America or the Caribbean region (I purchased one from El Salvador at a very low price and saw some minor differences compared to the ones sold in the U.S.).

Overall:
I got a better understanding why many reviewers who had experienced top resorts in Mexico expressed varying degree of disappointment. Despite the fact that Cuba is different and being well informed of such (and lowering my standards), I really began to miss Cancun/Riviera Maya region in Mexico. Yes, the price was right; being on a long-waited vacation with my significant other was great; and getting drunk and dancing the night away at the disco was unforgettable. But, I am not sure if Cuba would be on my top priority list in the near future.

  • Stayed January 2010, traveled as a couple
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5 Thank sbl36
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Saint John, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed April 8, 2010

We stayed at Iberostar Laguna Auzl from March 22 to March 29, 2010 and was a bit worried after reading some of the reviews on Trip Advisor. I can tell you I worried for absolutely nothing. The resort, the staff and my biggest worry "food" were wonderful. Our room was very well cleaned everyday, fresh towels everyday Thanks to Iris who did a wonderful job, staff always willing to help and very friendly. The food well all I can say is it was very good there is something for everyone, I'm a salad freak and I was able to have beautiful salad for every lunch and diner we had at the buffet. A la carte restaurants were also very good our favorite was the Romantico steak was melt in your mouth unfortunately we were unable to try the Japanese as they were fully booked the entire week we were there, but hey we'll have a chance to try it next year because we're already planning on returning in 2011. Resort is very well laid out, you don't have to walk any great distance to get to were you want to go, beach is beautiful plenty of palpates and loungers. Three pools main pool is very busy and bustling with activities all day long and two quiet pools were we chose to spend most of our week. Can't wait to go back. Don't believe all the negatives you read in some of these reviews a lot of them are really exaggerated. Oh and you just have to have a cappuccino from the Lobby Bar they are out of this world!!!!!

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
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9 Thank Chenook_10
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Calgary, Canada
Level Contributor
55 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 52 helpful votes
Reviewed April 8, 2010

My husband, Daughter (9) and I stayed at the Laguna Azul from March 31 to April 7. To give you a bit of background, this was our 5th trip to Varadero staying at a different resort each time so when I compare it to other resorts, it is not apples to oranges. I'm comparing it to other Varadero resorts. Compared to the other resorts we've stayed at, this one ranked #2 behind the Iberostar Varadero resort and in front of Blau Varadero, Villa Cuba and Sirenas la Salina.

Resort - Beautiful, spotless and new. Lots of options for eating, swimming, drinking and adventure. Great layout. Not too big. Has enough room and options for the number of people staying there.

Rooms - We were in 18318. Had a great room, very large, very conveniently located on the third floor, same floor as the lobby. Had a great view of the smaller, quiet pool and the ocean. Saw the sunset everynight from our balcony. Room was very quiet.

Staff/Service - Top notch, friendly waiters, bartenders, and front desk staff who went out of their way for us whether we tipped or not. I think our only complaint would be the maid service. It was inconsistent. We seemed to have a different maid every day and they had to be reminded every second day to leave us drinks in the mini bar and to leave enough toilet paper. They did a great job cleaning though.

Food - The food was really quite good, it did get a bit repetitive if you didn't have imagination or were a picky eater, which my daughter is. She still found something to eat every meal. The pasta at lunch and dinner was a big hit for her and the hotdogs and seriously yummy fries at the snack bar by the beach. I was thilled to be able to have black bean soup and rice almost every day.

The food was always fresh and there was always lots. We enjoyed the game of "what odd thing is being served with breakfast today". Our favorite was the hotdog chunks in tomato sauce, the ground beef and olive hash and the "Christmas Morning Wife Saver" made with fries- they were fantastic.

I would highly recommend the made to order pasta in the buffet, the ice cream at the ice cream bar, the hotdogs and hamburgers at the beach side snack bar and most of all, the fries Lourdes cooks up at the beach side snack bar, those could be a food group all on their own.

We didn't try the a la cartes. We never do as we find they're usually over rated and it annoys me when you arrive for your reservation that you stood in line for an hour for only to find half the restaurant empty from people who didn't show up for their reservation. There has to be a better way to do a la cartes but the resorts all do it the same so we don't bother anymore.

Beach and Ocean - Really great. Definitely not the best sand on the penisula but really quite nice. Lots of shells in the sand by the palapas but the sand by the water was really great. We were under yellow flag all week but only saw nasty jelly fish on the beach the first morning. After that, there were none.

There are 216 palapas on the beach (yes, I counted). There was always a shady spot to be found no matter what time of day you went. The beach is really wide so they are 6 and 7 deep in places. There were lots of loungers on the beach so you could always find a place to sit.

Pool - There are 4 pools on the resort. Two together in the middle, one with the waterfall and one with the swim up bar. The top of the waterfall also houses a hot tub. They were always busy but there were still chairs to spare and you could usually find a shady spot to sit any time of the day. When we were there they were building 8 new palapas for around the pool and on the day we left, the jackhammered out the holes to put them in so they should be completed soon for extra shade. There are two other pools, one on each side of the resort, each one has its own bar/snack bar that offers breakfast and lunch as well as cappuccinos and drinks. The pools are quite big and each one has it's own hot tub. The hot tub on our side of the resort was down for maintenance when we were there but the others were working.

Kids Club - We never used the kids club. It seemed to be geared toward younger kids - 3 to 6 or so. They did have a show at the kids club every day at 4:00 that the little ones really enjoyed. Clowns and animals and dancing, that sort of thing. There is also a playground attached to the kids club that my daughter played in quite a lot, mostly on the swings.

Entertainment - The entertainment staff was fantastic. From poolside games, bingo every afternoon, and beach activities to the theatre at night, it was all very well done.

Bars - The drinks were inconsistent from bar to bar but for good reason. The lobby bar has everything at it's disposal so made some of the best drinks. The pool bar and beach bar has limited space and so a lot of the drinks are made with what I would consider "lesser" ingredients. Where the lobby bar would use fresh orange or pineapple juice, the beach bar and pool bar would use more of a tang like version of orange and pineapple. Instead of fresh grinding all the drinks, like the lobby, they would fresh grind some and use the slushy machines for others. Also the amount of booze varied by bar, the pool bar was VERY heavy on the rum and the snack bars seemed to be quite light. If you were looking for a quality drink or like your fruity drinks really fruity, go to the lobby. If you're looking to get drunk, go to the pool bar. If you want something in between, go to the snack bars.

Excursions - We only went on the catamaran this year. We did it last year and enjoyed it so much we went again. They've made some improvements in the dolphin interaction portion that we were really happy with. They have built platforms on the side for the people to stand on and then the dolphins come down the line and say hi to everyone. Everyone gets a kiss and a chance to pet them and they splash everyone with their tails. inbetween each trip down the line, they do tricks. It was a much more pleasant experience, especially for the kids and the trainers told us it stresses the dolphins a lot less and makes them more willing to participate.

One tip for travellers to Cuba, take about 10 feet of string and clothes pins to create a clothes line on the balcony. It was really windy but we were still able to put our stuff out to dry securely and it dries much faster out there than in the room. We were able to hang out our swim suits and towels at night and they'd be completely dry by morning. A few people tried hanging stuff out without the clothes line and it resulted in bathing suits and towels in the gardens below by morning.

In conclusion, we would highly recommend Laguna Azul. It was beautiful and clean, the staff were outstanding. The resort was big but not too big. It was both a quiet relaxing spot or a party depending one where you went in the resort so you could choose to do either whenever you wanted. Would we go back? Absolutely! We've never stayed at the same place twice but we might change for this place as long as the price doesn't skyrocket.

If you have any questions about the resort, or about any of the others we've stayed at, we'd be glad to answer them.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank peanutsmomcalgary
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Five Oak Green, England
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed April 8, 2010

Varadero is a 12 km long peninsular and if you love Sun, sand and sea it is great.
The hotel is modern (finished 2009) and a max of 4 floors(beware the small step to your room it can catch you out). The food as with most All inclusive Hotels was very acceptable and the staff were all very attentive. If you like Pasta then go to the top left of the dining room, well worth it. The other thing to do is see PR and get the maximum number of upgraded meals you can in the special restaurants. The Japanese and the Romantic were brilliant.
The week my wife and I were there we had a couple of problems. They only had Gin the day before we left, one day there was no Baileys and one day they had no toilet rolls.
The other problem we found was that the tea/coffee making facilities were brand new and unused - basically because they didn't have any tea or coffee for them.
The courtyards in the sections of the hotel were incredible with plants and palms.
One word of warning, beware the Canadians - they were there in numbers(it's basically a four hour flight for them), and mainly the French speaking Canadians who, like Americans seem to gather together and all want to talk at the same time.
This does not detract from the Hotel and it's staff all of which were helpful and polite.
If you can get to Havana do so. We did it before we went to the Iberostar and spent 3 great days there.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
8 Thank MikeinKent
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Newfoundland
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed April 8, 2010

After visiting this hotel, I am at a loss as to understand why bad reviews are written. If you have to wait an hour for a new beach towel, is it really a big deal? Our visit from beginning to end was wonderful. Check in was a breeze and all our requests were fulfilled. The rooms were gorgeous and kept extremely clean by the maids. The drinks were amazing, especially in the Lobby Bar. The food was the best we have had to date. The Romantico restaurant was remarkable - the food there was awesome, the service was amazing and the ambiance was lovely. There evening buffets were great! We were a little disappointed with the breakfast buffet at first, but as the week wore on and we became more familiar with the buffet restaurant, all six of us easily found something we liked (we never went hungry!). The beach is amazing with plenty of palapas and the pools are devine. The service was top notch everywhere we went - no complaints at all. The Star Friends made sure everyone had a great time. To those who have booked this resort and are nervous due to some negative reviews, go have a great time and enjoy! Those who complain are only looking for something to complain about and if you look hard enough, you can always find something unsatisfactory whether you are in a 5 star in Cuba or Canada. Oh, yes, one of the six of us did get bitten by sand bugs, but she neglected to wear bug spray at the show one evening. There are no bed bugs at this resort!!! I wish I was heading back there today!

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
10 Thank sjbNewfoundland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kirkland,Que.
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed April 7, 2010

I was a little worried about some of the reviews, but was totally surprised by how great everything was. Everything was great, the only thing we missed was the fruit, I like a banana everyday, they had none. Salad also, they did have tomatoes and cukes, I didn't see any lettuce.

  • Stayed April 2010, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
4 Thank GaleMontreal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Moncton, Canada
Level Contributor
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed April 6, 2010

Just got back from our trip to the ILA, and had to write a review to ease the minds of people who are booked at this resort. This is our second trip to Cuba and we had a wonderful trip. We have also travelled to Venezula and the Domincan 4 times. We have mostly stayed in 4 * + to 5 *. It makes me chuckle to see some of the bad reviews some people have on this resort. Can’t believe we went the same resort as people who wrote the bad reviews. Not to repeat some of the good stuff already found on the forum, I will try to add some information from our trip (March 25th - April 1rst)

Arrival and Check-in: Bus ride around 30 minutes, check-in smooth, quick and serviced with a smile. We arrived at night, so I can’t comment on day arrivals.

Rooms: Just as we requested. Email had been sent the same week as arrival. Rooms on the 4th floor with small pool view. ++Very well cleaned (floors washed everyday). Fridge stocked daily with water and beer. Only once we didn’t get a bottle of water, we asked the cleaning lady and received immediately ++ no tip was needed, maybe just the polite way we asked :-) Face cloths available every day. Did not run out of hot water.

The only set back on the room would be the height to get in and out of the bathtub. Plus if some water got on the floor, it got very slippery (ceramic tiles). Our safe worked well and yes it could have had an easier access (it’s in the closet), but it was not a major issue.

Food: As already mentioned the buffet is nothing to sing praises about, but we managed to eat every day at every meal and yes I did gain weight (deserts and bread are delicious). The people tending the buffet are very eager to please. I would suggest trying to order pizza at the small pool (it’s where they have the steakhouse restaurant at night). It’s very good and better then the one at the buffet. We were a group of 10 and not one person got sick all week. We met a group of 11 and none of them got sick too. So for sure 21 of us had a happy stomach all week :-)

The ‘’a la cartes’’: We tried the Japanese and the Romantico and both were great. As a side note, while waiting in line for the 2nd service at the Romantico; a lady came out and said to us in line ‘’Do not try the ‘’langoustine’’ it is terrible’’, not 5 minutes later, a different lady comes out and not hearing the comment from the first, says ‘’You have to try the ‘’langoustine’’ it’s to die for :-) So as you see people have different taste buds, I would suggest to go and make up your own mind (by the way we did get the langoustine and it was fabulous!) The first lady I would assume would write up a terrible review on the same dish!

Beach: Yes it’s not as pure - white - sifted sand as some other Varadero beaches, but it’s still pleasant on the feet and feels good to walk on. People complaining on the shells, make it sound as if your walking on a dirty beach, believe me it is not! I had read the reviews before leaving and was expecting something awful, boy was I surprised by some of the complaints I have seen on this forum.

I saw workers daily cleaning up the cigarette butts discarded in the sand, by tourists. I saw straws, cups, paper and other stuff being thrown in the sand and the garbage bin not being 2 feet away. Some people feel if they are on vacation there is no problem in being lazy about their own trash. Then turn around and blame it on the staff for not picking up after them...go figure! It’s not because you’re in another Country or on vacation you become a litter bug! I did see the staff pick up this garbage and discard appropriately; I even pitched in to help in some cases, feeling ashamed on the actions of some tourists. These workers are not slaves!

The only down side of the beach are the chairs. They have no cushions and it gets to be uncomfortable after awhile. I would suggest bringing a soft cushion or something to make it a bit more comfortable. Yes a couple of times they ran out of clean beach towels at the end of the day, but we kept ours and exchanged next day with no problems.


Bugs: NO bed bugs, but yes there are flies in the theatre (they are very small and tend to bite below the knees if you aren’t wearing long clothing or covered shoes). The Cubans call them something like ‘Jenen’’ which is some sort of sand fly (but are not found in the sand, it’s just because they are the size of a grain of sand). They come out in the evening after dusk. You don’t feel them biting, it’s only the next day it starts to swell and make hard round bumps (which gets worst if you scratch). My husband had no bites, but he was wearing long pants every evening. I had a dress on and have the itchy bites to prove it. Regular bug repellent doesn’t seem to work, unless it has some sort of oil in it. I found out the hard way! I went 3 times to the theatre and next morning I would find a few extra bites each time. The times we didn’t go to the theatre, I had no extra bites. In the group of 10, only 2 of us came back with the itchy bites, but were the only 2 wearing dresses in the evening. So I would recommend good oily bug spray, or wear long pants and covered shoes to the theatre. Same we do here when we get mosquito bites (don’t scratch and don’t freak out)!

Tipping: Whether we tipped or not, we always received great service ...except for the beach bar, tip or no tip service was a bit slow :-(. We sometimes prefered to walk up to next bar and get our drinks... it helped to move around a bit too :-)

Back home here, I normally tip when we go for dinner, so I don’t see the issue of tipping anywhere else. Some people might say, we paid enough and don’t have to tip. But if you add up the amount for 7 nights for 2 at a hotel, 3 meals (all you can eat) X 7days =21 X2 people = 42 meals, airfare round trip for 2, this amounts to what you are paying for. Tipping in my opinion, is just the thank you we usually give anyone here back at home for receiving good service, so why not do the same there. I did not feel pressure to tip, but tipped when I felt like it. I saw no difference in service from any staff in tipping or not tipping. A friendly smile and polite conversation equalled the same great service as when I gave pesos!

Overall I would suggest to people who are booked at the ILA; go, relax, hope for good weather and enjoy the sun! Like we did. See for yourself this is a great resort with hard working people who do their best to serve the tourist well... treat them with the same courtesy and respect you would like to be treated if you would be working there! I would gladly return anytime and recommend this hotel to anybody wanting a great vacation down south!
Cheers!

  • Stayed March 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank nbsunseekers
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

Property: 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
#22 Luxury Hotel in Varadero
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
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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Also Known As:
Iberostar Laguna Azul Hotel Varadero

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