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Reviewed April 12, 2010

Lets start with .. I read the reviews daily before our departure and I was skeptical which version of vacation we were in for . I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time . It could have been I had been to Cuba previously and had my expectations realistic . The resort is new so there will be some small issues, the staff will have all these minor things sorted out soon enough . I travelled with my wife and our youngest son along with my extended family ( bro and sis in law) This Resort is clean.. any dirt or garbage you my see is caused by who?? us the tourists, some of us can't be bothered to use garbage cans.
The Resort is large but well laid out nothing was far off . But if you plan on hitting Buffets
3 times a day you better be walking or you will be not fitting into your clothes by weeks end. The pools were beautiful and kept clean always . The food was plentiful and you always found something good to eat ( complainers shhhhhh! ) The restaurants were good ( Steak house go for tenderloin ) and Japanese( have no fear use the chopsticks have fun )
Animation crew is good and will only get better, but nightly shows still need some work
Very bright and upbeat and good dancing throw some laughs in there .. and I think we will have it nailed .
Day trips , We did the Jeep Safari and although it was fun it was rushed and the snorkeling part is not for everyone if the waves are big you better be a strong swimmer
I was fine but my ten year old had his struggles and my wife and sister-in-law were exhausted by the time it was over * Xgames snokeling * Saturno cave swimming Great
but don't swallow the water.....
Havana Colonial Tour .. Our guide was Carlos he was top notch. We found Havana interesting and be prepared lots of restoration going on . Bring small coins for handing out if you only have pesos it will be an expensive day. Lunch was very good ,Tour over
all worth the money .
Go.. Have Fun ..Enjoy yourselves ..overlook the little issues and Unwind
This is a Great resort if you want to have a good time , you will.
If you want to complain thats just who you are anyway . Lifes short enjoy it today
Iberostar Laguna Azul two thumbs up !!

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled with family
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10  Thank caramarNiagara
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 12, 2010

we returned from an awesome and just great week at the Iberostar Laguna Azul. Wrote same coments last week they never got published , lets try again ! we styed from March 31 to April 8 in the morning .Ignore the bad reveiws as the time spent worrying about them is not worth itand don't go as nervous as I did .
Arrival/Reception - Arrived around 2 : 30 p.m. and was checked in within 10 minutes by receptions who spoke good enough English to answer all of our questions. We had asked for a king size bed and an oceanview through our travel agent ( Sunwings from Ottawa ) in advance and were no to pleased that we didn't got the ocean view ( got room 15204 ) but the bed was a king size, the room was ok and we go to Cuba to enjoy the beach, the sand so it was ok !. In the dresser we got as a gift a large bottle of Rum and a little note saying : happy honey moon :))) was our aniversary but its ok , lol .
Room - The room was very clean and ok , the fridge bar was filled every 2nd day with 4 beer, 4 pop and 2 large bottles of water. More than enough as there is safe water to drink around the resort. We got cleaned daily with fresh towels and shampoo as well as the standard towel art. .
A la Cartes - Booked all three the day we arrived in the afternoon without a problem. Japanese- Great with a good show ! Raciel was so much fun.
Romantique- Very tasty/ the service was very, very slow that night
Cuban - Poor grilled lobster.
Gourmet / Chef one : NO reservation here. got invited , weeeeeeeeeee, lucky us I know ! :).
Buffet- Lots of choices, some of which I would not choose due to not kowing what the heck they were, so I din't try ... but if you can't find something good to eat on here and lots of it daily then I don't know how you survive at home. Pizza, fresh bread,( that is really reallyyyyyyyyyy good ) chicken breast, beef strips, pasta ( get it freshly made/worth the 5 min in line,) soups, salads, cheeses( yum yum ) yum yum, deserts were all good.
Beach Bar ( or close to the beach ... ) - Not great , the 2 ladies down there ver very funny and you can have : burgers , hot dogs and cold fries )
Bars- Fresh Rum and everything else available : brandy, scotch , cavas , vermouth , etc etc at Beach Bar, and at the Lobby ( we liked it best ) and snack bar. I loved the Miami Vice , yamm yammm :) HA HA
Tips- We tipped around a dollar every round and got great service from everyone. Contrary to other reviews I read there was no begging or expectations of tips we never saw that .
Beach - Absolutely beautiful, but we prefer the one in the Barcelo Solymar ! but Laguna Axul is newer nicer so it was ok . Abundance of chairs, towels, shade .
Pools - excellent in the afternoon ! in the morning we stayed in the beach
Entertainment - O.K. ! loved one of the dancers ! very good job !
Money exchange - On site, next to the reception the rate was . 83 .
feel free to ask me any questions I will answer promptly.
I was afraid of going to Cuba , but will now go back. Heard a lot of bad, but all I saw was good. Same people like to complain and complain , but we have to say this Resort was very nice .
Enjoy your vacation , enjoy Cuba and have a great time like we did .

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank KanataKanata
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 11, 2010

Travel agent = First Choice
Party size = 2 adults 1 teen
Duration 2 weeks March 25th – April 8th 2010
Accommodation = Suit number 19326
Cost £4500 Stirling
Check in / Reception excellent although we arrived at 5pm and only 2 parties checked in at the same time. Staff friendly, knowledgeable and made the whole process quick and easy.
Porter/Bellboy whisked us to our suite immediately and showed us the layout of our room.
Suite consisted of:
Lobby area with coat stand and umbrella stand.
Bathroom (WC and marble topped unit with wash bowl)
Living area with minibar, TV, sofa, armchair, 2 small tables, coffee table, cd/radio,2 table lamps and 1 floor lamp table and 4 chairs ( and in our case a single camp bed) large freestanding sideboard and finally a unit with marble top on which a coffeemaker stood.
Double patio doors to tilled balcony with a sea view.
Bedroom which contained a large (6ft wide) king bed, 2 bedside cabinets, TV in a large wooden unit also containing a second minibar, dressing table with lamp and mirror.
Main bathroom consisting large bath with shower, shower cubicle, large marble top with a washbowl, hairdryer and mirror.
Separate WC.
Dressing room (good sized room) consisting of large rack with coat hangers. Full length mirror, unit containing 3 shelves over 3 draws. Iron and board, security safe.
Absolutely beautiful and no complaints.
The rooms were kept clean each day (around noon) with fresh towels each day except one (due to a laundry problem). The toiletries were replaced if necessary daily and the minibar restocked every other day. Special praise to our maid for the flowers and towel art (towels made into boats or swans).
Tipping – a sore point for most of the Canadian moaners!
I found we received exactly the same level of service with or without tipping.
Instead of moaning and ordering the staff around a simple smile, a please and thank you works well. The staff are not Canadian slaves (I single out Canadian because we witnessed Canadians behaving appallingly towards the staff) so don’t expect them to like being ordered around. Cubans are proud, polite and friendly so treat them with respect.
A tip is always appreciated but never expected!
Main buffet restaurant area opens between 0700-1000 breakfasts,
1300-1500 lunches and 1930-2200 dinners.
This as you can imagine gets busy as almost 2000 people eat between these times.
Of course the tablecloths may be a little grubby by the time you get to use the table but are fresh and clean when each setting opens. Places at the table are laid with a paper placemat, cutlery, and glasses. You my have to wait few minutes before the staff clear up and set a table for you but as I point out it does get busy and everyone here is on holiday so what’s the rush?
The buffet is varied, fresh but does get repetitive after the first week.
If you fancy fresh made items (pizza, pasta, pancakes, omelettes etc) be prepared to queue up like everyone else – smile and take time to chat to someone who you don’t yet know.
You will not go hungry on this resort and you will not suffer the dreaded “holiday tummy” unlike some of the other resorts.
Drinks are offered by the numerous waiters/waitress. Juice and coffee in the mornings and water, wines, beers, pops during the other times.
If you think you’re being ignored because you have the “not tipped enough complex” then get off your backside and get your own! Beer and pops taps available to all.
All three pool complexes have “snack buffets” available from 0730-1700
And started (during our second week) a “fresh made service” for pizzas etc orderable at the bar.
The main pool complex also has a 24hr burger/hotdog outlet and an ice cream stall.
As I stated earlier “You will not go hungry here” if nothing takes your fancy you can always order room service.
Book able restaurants: Cuban, Italian, Japanese, Gourmet, and Steakhouse.
Book early into your holiday or you will miss out. Limited to 3 visits per week stay.
For this be prepared to queue and hope they haven’t already been booked up.
Great food and service in any of the above restaurants.
Pools: 1 large pool area with pool bar, waterfalls and most of the daytime entertainment.
Fun and games in and out of the water, disco, and popular with most of the guests.
Pool shack where you can pick up your beach/pool towels ( we only had two days where we couldn’t exchange – due to external laundry problems , but what the hell, your on holiday so does it really have to ruin your day)? Book swap area, table tennis and an area for the entertainment team to rest.
Giant chess set, hoopla, skittles, deck hoops (or whatever it’s called) also in this area.
Towards the far end the kids club and kids play area.
If like me you require something a little quieter, then this resort has two smaller quieter pool areas with toilet blocks (lovely and clean) and bar/ eating facilities.
Whichever you prefer you will not have to do without a sunlounger though shade is a premium item around the pools so you may want to play the towel game early in the mornings to “reserve “yours. Personally I prefer an extra hour in bed!
Beach: Plenty of palpas (shades) and sunloungers on the beach.
You will notice that this resort has the widest stretch of beach on the strip so much the local parachute jump club uses it to land on during the day.
Sail boats, sea canoes, etc all free but best to book them 24 hrs in advance.
20 peso gets you an able sailor who takes you out on the boat over the reef to allow you to scuba.
As it’s an Atlantic resort don’t expect a Caribbean beach, lots of coral make up the sand content but it’s still nice. The sea was rather cool but hey it is winter! Also keep an eye out for the dive-bombing pelicans (bigger than they look can give you a fright when they drop next to you).
Beach bar serving whatever you decide on – remember what I said about smiling to the staff as you will queue for a few minutes here. If you don’t mind a 100yrd walk then go to the snack bar for your drinks and miss out the queue.
What is it with the thermo mugs? They seem to cause most of the queuing because the staff has to unscrew/ remove the lids and rinse the sand off them, and in my opinion makes the user seem greedy. This site does have a reasonable sized glass or for outside use plastic glassware so no need to bring out the “buddy barrel”.
What to do in the evening:
Theatre – daily shows between 2100 – 2300 some good, some bad, done mostly by the in house entertainment team except the weekly magic show which is great.
Fun pub/Disco: 2300-0200
Main lobby/ terrace and bar area: Chilled out acts (grand piano then local music groups) 2000 – late. This tends to be busy all night especially with the big groups of Canadians all generally having a great night if a little loud at times.
Cigar bar: a lovely quiet bar to sip a drink and smoke a good Cohiba (and good extraction so it isn’t too smoky).
Beach disco 2300- 0200 (thankfully only started on my last night as it was opposite our building).
Grounds/ Gardens: Very pleasant but will be magnificent when matured. Plenty of litter bins and ashtrays also plate/beaker boxes for those “al fresco” eaters (every 50 paces), it’s a pity some guests can’t be bothered to use them and chose to leave litter/beakers/plates on the floor. The same applies to stairways and corridors, why some people feel the need to leave glasses/ plates etc on the stairs/ floor is beyond me.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A TROPICAL ENVIRONMENT MOSQUITOS ARE IN ABUNDANCE SO FOR EVENING/NIGHTIME USE BRING JUNGLE STRENGTH BUG REPPELLANT AND COVER ANY VISABLE SKIN WITH IT.
OR YOU WILL BE BIT AND IT WILL ITCH!
Whilst here make sure you go on the tourist open top bus. 5 cuc per person for an all day ticket. Jump on and off when you fancy. Ask your travel rep for a local map and off you go. Great fun to be had and totally safe (has very little crime due to Cuban penal system being so harsh).Go shopping (vendors will not harass like other countries) try a local bar just off the main road or just go site seeing!
The most popular excursions are Catamaran trips. Scuba trips, Speedboat and deepwater fishing trips or Havana (in my opinion a must). I cannot recommend the dolphin shows as I won’t go to them.
I have read some reviews about this hotel and have come to the conclusion some people just have a compulsion to complain about the smallest of faults, in my opinion it’s their loss and their holiday they are ruining.
This resort is only 5 months old and the grounds, staff and management are still “bedding in” so what if there are a few minor teething problems, chill out and smile, your on holiday , don’t let a little detail snowball into something that’s going to ruin your or someone else’s vacation.
This is a Cuban 5 star resort – if you’re expecting a 5 star North American/European resort then you are going to be disappointed. If you want a good 4 star set in the best location with good food and drinks served by the friendliest of staff then this is the place to be.
Had a great two weeks here and would totally recommend this hotel.

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled with family
    • Value
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6  Thank Rain-City-Dwellers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 11, 2010

I stayed at the Iberostar Laguna Azul April 2-9 with my 20-year old son, my sister & 2 nieces in their 30s. We had a fantastic time together and in the end, that's what was important to us.

However, be aware of a few problems with this hotel. If you fly in before 5PM arm yourself with patience and be sure to pack your swimsuit & sandals in your flight bag. Although we arrived at the hotel at 11:30 am, our rooms were finally available around 6PM. So, to avoid stress, leave your luggage in the reserved area next to the front desk, head to the nearest washroom to change & then to one of the pools (there are 4 plus a kiddy pool) or to the beach. Have a drink & don't expect your room to be available before 5-6 PM! Bring facecloths from home because you most likely won't get any from the hotel. On the 3rd day, our maid took our towels. I called 4 times & then asked nicely at the front desk for towels! My son and I finally used our 'sandy' beach towels. Miraculously, some where delivered to our room while we out having dinner hours later. On our last night, even after calling multiple times & visiting the front desk, we received none.

Visit the à la carte reservation desk as soon as you arrive. And, again, be patient. We finally reserved at the Del Chef and the Steak restaurants. Both good. We were told that the Japanese restaurant was full. However, try dropping by around 7:30 and you might get lucky. We did and it was great fun with good food.

As mentioned in other reviews, the pools were pretty cold at first since they are not heated and Cuba had been experiencing cooler nights. But by the end of our stay, the water was warmer. We didn't let that ruin our fun.

We all enjoyed the catamaran ride and my niece jumped out of a plane & parachuted to the beach. That was quite a rush. They also went snorkling on a beach & then in a cavern. Both enjoyed that adventure.

So, to summarize, the staff is very friendly and yes, tipping helps you get a better service. But remember that Cubans are not paid very much for their work and they share their tips with their entire family. The Iberostar Laguna Azul is fairly new and it still needs some tweeking in the check-in, room service (our room was not cleaned every day - problems with towels) and restaurant reservations, so not quite a 5* hotel.

I wouldn't go going back to that hotel until they fix some of their problems, But frankly, I had a fantastic time with my family.

Frankie

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled with family
    • Value
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Thank Frankie_and_JP
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 11, 2010

Just got back from ILA (April 2 - 9) and when still reading reviews that ride the scale from very good to very bad, I have to add our two cents worth... We have been to Cuba four times in the past, as well as several visits to the Mayan Riviera, Bahamas, Hawaii, DR and Florida coast, so we have some bench mark for comparisons.

First of all, a 5* in Cuba is not going to be a 5* in Hawaii, and folks should know that and accept that if they plan to spend any time there.

Travel to and from Varadero with Sunwing

Would recommend this tour company - flights on time for departure from Halifax, flight great, representative at hotel was very helpful. Our return flight was hampered by bad weather and diverted to Moncton for a few hours and then to Halifax. We found the Varadero airport to be the least organized and most primitive of all those we have used in the past - long line up for departure and it took the better part of two hours for check-in and pay taxes, etc.

Bus trip to and from airport were great, quick and comfortable.

Hotel check in and room

We arrived around 10 AM, so room was not ready.. we knew that was going to be the case, so we had packed a bag with our day at the beach stuff. I had requested both from our travel agent and hotel reservation desk, a room on upper floor with view of ocean and we had a fabulous room with an awesome view. The room was large, very clean, and well stocked.

Maid , bar and restaurant service

Fridge stocked every second day, towels were provided when we needed them, however face cloths are rare and we had our own for days where the maid had none for us. Room always clean.

Staff in bars and restaurants were always kind, happy to serve us and interesting to speak with, as many speak excellent English and French as well. We found Cubans to be very friendly and even though we sometimes struggled to communicate with them off resort, they went out of their way to understand what we wanted and were extremely helpful - we had fun sometimes using sign language and a few spanish words we recalled from our Spanish language courses we took some time ago.

We tipped regularly throughout our stay, and on occasion had not pesos with us when ordering drinks, etc. but did not find any difference in the service we received.

Beach and pool

I found it coolish for the first four days of our stay with a brisk easterly wind coming off the water. Comfortable walking on the beach but had no desire to swim in ocean on those first days. The pool water remained cool as well as a result of the air temp which went down to 16-18C at night. On fourth day, it warmed up and was up in low 30s for rest of our vacation. Ocean temp was awesome, pools warmed up and it was tropical and what we were remembering from previous stays in Cuba...

Drinks and food

We found drinks were very good, mohitos, freshly blended banana mamas with real bananas, "hanoi specials" which we think are mohitos without mint which is replaced with lemon....yum yum....

The food was great - we were careful not to eat meat not cooked properly,( only one hamburg patty during the whole week found not to be cooked to our liking), but otherwise, always found some very good food, in buffets, snackbars and specialty restaurants. Great pizzas at snackbar by pool on Riu side of resort.

The coffee in buffet was not the best, so we made a habit of going to snackbar by the pool to get our cappucino and ended up having breakfast there most mornings.

Excursions

We did catamaran trip, afternoon and evening in Havana, and double decker trip to Varadero and all were fabulous.

We ventured off resort for long walks everyday and found it to be very safe and enjoyable. Walked extensively on our own in Varadero around market and had a blast and probably the best pina colada drink of our vacation - at Barracuda restaurant.

Enjoyed the size of the resort, much smaller that some we visited, but met lots of great folks from other parts of Canada.

Overall, we had a great experience and would return in a flash. Would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a vacation that is laidback and not extravagant.

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
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10  Thank Easternsunseeker
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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