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Reviewed April 14, 2010

I was travelling with a wedding party and staying with my partner.
I was prepared and open minded as to what Cuba might be like - as it was my first trip there.

Issues
1. The A/C was wack - our room was FREEZING. Always.
2. Our room had 2 "double" beds - which are truly singles by Canadian standards, so on this romantic getaway my partner and I were in seperate beds.
3. Our large group was scattered all over the hotel
4. The food - as I have had food issues before I stuck to breads, pasta, rice and pizza all week. My parter, who had one late night hamburger, missed an entire day trapped in our room with food poisoing.
5. No Cushions on beach chairs?! And RARELY on pool chairs?! at a 5 star?
6. The wedding was about 8 minutes of a hotel staffer reading off of peice of paper.
7. BEDS MADE OF ROCK

Good things
1. Gorgeous Spot
2. Ocean was clean and refereshing
3. I didn't tip much, as I spent most time in my bikini with no pockets - and I found service to be the same for me and for those tipping.
4. Havana - very nice, our guide was PHENOMINAL - but make sure to bring TP!!!

All in all... Im not sure I would return.
And dont be folled by the 5 star rating - I would say 3 at best.

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Niles86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 14, 2010

This was our first vacation to Cuba and for the life of me I cannot understand the bad reviews.
Check in: Our check in was quick...our room was not ready but we checked in at 11:00 a.m. Our room was ready around 2:00 p.m.

Towels: We had no difficulty obtaining or exchanging our beach towels, the trick is to do it in the afternoon.

Food: The food was ok, my daughter who is 7 managed to find something to eat everyday there and I thought there was alot of variety.

Service: I did not find the wait staff expected tips at all, I did not tip all the time but I did tip for service, I did not find the service bad at all.

The hotel itself is beautiful, the grounds were well maintained. If people complain about garbage, then we should be throwing garbage in the bins instead of expecting people to follow behind us picking up the garbage. I had no issues with dirt in the pools or at the resort itself.

Towels in the rooms were not replaced one day after the maid was finished but she came back later that evening and replaced them.

Overall, it was a great first experience and I will definitely be back.

We were in bungalow 10. This is an ideal location...out of the way yet still close to everything...will be better when they get the path to the beach completed.

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled with family
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7  Thank Stacy40
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 13, 2010

I should probably preface my review by noting that my husband and I don't typically stay in 5-star hotels, so I don't have a reference for this aspect of the hotel. Having said that, we have traveled extensively and stayed in everything from hostels to 3.5-star resorts. We have heard and read that hotels in Cuba vary greatly in their standards, and as such booked the Laguna Azul.

Check In
We arrived on a Thursday around 1:30 pm and were checked in right away. We arrived at our room to find one bed missing its sheets and only one towel. The bell hop was visibly upset at this and the maid came running in to say the room wasn't ready yet. No problem, we dropped our bags and headed off to explore the hotel. By the time we returned less than an hour later, the room was in perfect condition with not only bath towels and hand towels, but also two face cloths (which from reading the TA reviews is not always the case).

The Food
So many reviews had me worried about the food the first few days (I had been sick when we went to a resort in Mexico and didn't want a repeat). Nothing to worry about though... I never had a problem finding great food, whether it was the bread, the pizza, the omelets, or my personal favourite, the pasta! Many people complained that the eggs were runny (all sunny-side up), but if you went to the fellow cooking omelets he would gladly make eggs over-easy. That said, I did avoid anything I couldn't recognize. As the week progressed, it appeared as if more food was being labeled at the buffet.

The A-La-Carte
We had three included in our stay. Having read TA we knew to book as soon as arrived. We ate at the Cuban (great lobster!), the Romantico (my favourite), and the Gourmet (my husband's favourite). I think arriving on a Thursday was ideal as we had no problem getting 7:30 seatings. The line to book on Saturday (when there was a huge turnover of guests) was very long.

The Service
We only had towel art one day when our regular maid was away. Not a big deal. Our towels weren't changed daily, but then again they aren't at home either. In the buffet restaurant I found the service to be very good considering the number of guests vs. the number of staff. The staff were very friendly regardless whether or not you tipped. What I noticed made the biggest difference was how you treat them. The guests who treated the staff like their own personal servants tended to get less favourable service. We found that they were more than willing to go out of their way to help when you were caring and polite towards them. That said, they were certainly thrilled when you did tip them : ) We really liked the staff at the lobby bar, though they were incredibly busy most nights. Speaking of bar service, Adeile in the lobby bar makes the best Miami Vice and a killer (as in strong) rum and coke!

The Shows
There are large boards advertising which shows are on every night. They vary in quality based on whether they are done in-house or hired acts come in. The Acrobats and Magic were our favourites! Some of the in-house are entertaining, but be warned if you volunteer, it isn't for the shy! We never found a problem with mosquitoes here (an usually they love me) although the weather was quite windy.

Cleanliness
The hotel is very clean! I didn't see any bugs in our room. The floors were sparkling clean. The table cloths in the dining room were not cleaned often, but the place mats were always new. One day they had taken off the table cloths and just had bare tables... much better! They should do this more often.

The Disco
Loud and a lot of techno. Great mix of ages though!

The Pools
There are three. Two quiet pools on either side of the resort. Great if you want some quiet pool time and both have snack areas for lunch. The main pool is a little busier. Star friends come around and ask you to participate in a variety of activities (shuffle board, ping pong ball toss, Spanish lessons, aerobics, yoga and more). Obviously having lots of people participate makes their day easier, but they were perfectly nice if you said "no gracias." Our last day they were putting up several new palm-frond shelters around the pool. This should make it better as the shaded spots fill up quick! We only had a shaded spot one day thanks to our friends who went down around 3 am to "reserve" them (Thanks Nat and Sandy!). That said, there is lots of shady spots at the beach!

The Beach
Lots of spaces. Pretty windy when we were there, but maybe that kept down the sand fleas I read about. I did get a few bites, but they were fine with a little Benedryl cream. Haven't bothered me since I got home. Before complaining about the Laguna Azul's beach, take a walk down the beach to see the other resort's beaches!

The Beach Party
Our last night there was a beach party. The staff put up speakers and opened the bar late into the night. It was a blast. Not too sure how often they happen, but I'd recommend it!

Overall Comments
My husband and I loved the Iberostar Laguna Azul! No, things are not perfect (get your pool towels mid-afternoon not first thing in the morning) but the staff are doing their best with what they've got. If you are looking for North American 5-Star resort, maybe Cuba isn't for you! Life is what you make of it. We met some great new friends and had a fabulous vacation!

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
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11  Thank Cal_Al_Canada
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 13, 2010

We travelled here on Sunwing and getting from the airport was the good part. While none of the following comments spoiled our week, I have to say that while the hotel is new and still in good shape the wheels have already fallen off.
We arrived late in the evening so could not see each side of the resort. The check in process was painfully slower than other resorts I have been to. Lots of handwritten sheets with room assignments but our room key was ready. We were told we were in a building "down at the beach". Ahem. Yes its close to the beach (Building 10) but what they do not tell you there is no direct access.
A bell hop took us on a cart as it is a bit of a hike although not the furthest we have ever had. The very courteous young man got us to our ground floor room and in we went.
The fun began. The toilet was running non stop so I had to fix it. That was the first 30 minutes (its now 1 a.m.). My wife slid the closet door open and it fell off the hinges and hit her on the forehead. Time to say goodnight - well not quite.
The beds are advertised as doubles. In no part of this planet is a bed that is that size considered good for two people. They are singles for god's sake. The penny was beginning to drop on this "5 star" resort.
At 5.45 the rumble began. I have hearing aids and they were not in but the loud noise woke us up. Not 15 metres away in the broad light of day was - a construction site where they are building a new hotel! We got moved eventually but not before having to visit the desk and being told on numerous occasions (when they had told us to report back!) that the hotel was full and there was nothing they could do. BS all of it. BTW the front desk female staff were the most obnoxious bunch of people I have come across in the hotel industry anywhere and should be fired.
Back to the construction. Sunwing and the hotel should have been hnest that there is construction on both sides of the hotel. When i challenged them on this they had nothing to say. I spoke to the Sunwing rep and his answer was to say "what do you want my friend. The whole of Varadero is being built up". My response was to tell him that they should have been honest and advised people at the time of booking.
We had requested rooms to be close by so that we could be near our friends. We were well separate in other buildings.
Given the size of the beds our friends that were three in a room had to call for a cot. There were only two blankets in the room. despite repeated calls to housekeeping and visits to the front desk they never did get a blanket so she slept wearing clothes all week and used both bed spreads for a bit of cover.
The best part of the hotel was the buffet. Despite the fact that we lined up the first morning we were there as soon as the customer service desk opened there were only two a la carte bookings available. We took them but then cancelled later because they were so early so it was buffet every night. The food quality was excellent and I would defy anyone to go hungry here. The best selection I have seen at an AI anywhere so if food is your thing you will be OK. Yosneil and Felix were two of the waiters we had and they were exceptionally good at what they did and looked after us extremely well. They were faultless.
They advertise the restaurant closest to the beach as being 24 hours. We went in to get a drink on the monday night to get a drink to take to our room about 7pm and were told that they would not serve us as this was now one of the a la carte restaurants and the bar was closed to anyone without a reservation. Hmmm. They told us to go to the lobby bar. NOT. The reason we walked to that bar was we left the lobby bar after waiting over ten minutes to be served at the bar.
At 7.15 one night as we got ready for dinner there was no hot water to take a shower.
Twice we went for fresh beach towels - only to be told to come back as they had run out.
There is no bar service to your chairs on the beach. You have to go to the small hut located at the back of the beach to get a drink.
Drinks are not made fresh. They do not make a Pina Colada from pineapple and coconut milk - its a premixed thing that does not do the job.
If you have any mobility issues the height of the bath tub to step over may be an issue for you.
There was one robe in our room. The maid was told on day one. Three days later we got one. It took two days to get some Kleenex.
One night we were told the main bar had run out of red wine. My friend was so mad at the poor service at this point and so stormed into the lobby bar - only to return with red wine!
Why do they have noisy compressors at each of the outdoor bars that run for about thirty seconds every five minutes??
Last but not least if you like a smokey cigar and cigarette atmosphere then go to the front lobby. You will get your fill of nicotine as many people are walking around or sitting smoking - disgusting.
We all made it a good holiday and love Cuba but do yourself a favour. if you like to be ignored or abused by all means go to this place. if you want to be treated well go somewhere else.

  • Stayed: March 2010
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5  Thank searay34
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 12, 2010

We stayed at the hotel between April 3rd till the 10th. It was great. There is a few tips in here, but nothing new to a person who travels to places like this regularly.

The Bus Ride:
The young female Air Canada rep on the bus to our resort was very informative and entertaining. Apparently she was a student at the university there and was just starting to learn English and German. We had no problem understanding her.
The bus ride was prompt, not too bumpy, but we sat at the very front for that reason. The ride was approximately 45 minutes after 1 stop at another hotel. The roads were in good condition & we noticed that the streets were clean from garbage, better than back home in Canada. Also, we took all major roads, there were no dirt roads we drove on.

The Resort:
We arrived at the resort, which was big & beautiful from the front, very clean. There was marble all around
We arrived with 21 other people. 4 people were behind the desk working diligently to get all of us taken care of. They had another 2 people behind the counter, around the corner taking care of people that were already checked in that needed assistance with other things. We were checked in within 5 minutes.
There are smokers in the lobby, but there is also a cigar bar. I did not find the smoke overwhelming at all. We probably spent around $40 cuc on tips, and only gave it out when we felt necessary. Not once did we feel we needed to give more out to get better service. By the way, remember that if you want to leave a tip for people, don’t leave American money. They cannot exchange this easily and lose a considerable amount of money.

Our Room:
Our room wasn't ready (as we were expecting, as check-in time is 4p and we arrived at 12:30p) but she gave us our room number and told us to come back between 3-4p. We checked at 2:30p, but it wasn’t ready yet, so we waited another hour, and at 3:30p our room was ready. We were in one of the back buildings (10), and loved the fact that it was secluded from all of the activity. All of our towels were in the room, and on our way, we grabbed beach towels for the next day. The mini bar has 2 different beers (4 cans in total), 2 large bottles of water, 1 sprite, 1 orange pop and 1 regular cola. They re-stock it every other day. They also provided 1 body lotion (not sunscreen), 2 shower gel soaps, and 2 shampoos. Remember, if you want to leave things like this for the maid, they cannot accept the ones from their hotels. By the way, we had no problems with the water in the room. We did not have it turned off, and there was always hot water to shower/ bath in.
The king sized bed we had was alright. We slept very well for the first 3 nights with no problem. After that, we were probably over-tired. We used the extra blanket and extra pillows every night, it seemed to be very comfortable.
There was a coffee/ tea maker in the room, but no coffee or tea. When we called to ask for some, apparently (another growing pain we assume) there was no coffee for the room. We asked for tea, and we were brought 4 regular teas, and 4 mint teas. No sugar, sweetner or milk though, but if we really wanted to, we could have grabbed some from the lobby bars.

The Towels:
We weren’t able to change our towels in for a couple of days, but no big deal. We didn’t mind. We did see others with the white room towels, but I assume that they couldn’t get towels because everyone else had one. My husband also thinks this could be a growing pain. Everything they have has the Iberostar logo on it, and our assumption was that the beach towels were being ordered with the logo on them.

The Food:
When we grabbed a bite to eat at the main buffet & were impressed by the amount of choice of foods. 2 pasta stations, fruit and dessert bar, 2 different meat stations, & a pizza station. There was a chef overlooking all the foods that were not in stations (regular buffet food). The staff in the buffet were very quick and happy. I am pregnant and picky, and found it easy to find choices. The main dishes (pasta, hamburgers and hotdogs, French fries and pizza) were always available, but they also had a variety of foods every time you went, including the vegetables and the desserts.
If you are looking to have better service, sit close to the areas where the servers are. They can’t ignore you and always have their eyes on your drinks and dishes. We sat close to them on purpose and never had a problem. We even got up once together to get a second dish at breakfast, and one of the staff thought we had left and replaced everything! Fantastic service.
As I am pregnant, I was very cautious around the food. I ate mostly starches (fries, pasta, cereal) and ate yogurt every day. My husband was not cautious and enjoyed himself. Neither one of us got sick.
We slept in a couple of times and even though the buffet closes at 10a for breakfast, the snack bar always had breakfast (mostly continental) until around 11:30-12p. Great servers here too.
If you are a peanut butter fan, bring your own. I was and couldn’t find any for breakfasts.

The Drinks:
Depending on the bar, you could get drinks with fresh fruit, or you could get pre-made mix. I enjoyed the handmade virgin strawberry daiquiris that the pool bartender made when the pre-mixer was down. Try the Bloody Mary’s as well. I only had virgins, but these were very good. Again, it depends on which bar you go to, but they always made them taste good. I’m not a pina colada fan, but I heard lots of people ordering these and mojitos.
My husband enjoyed the Crystal beer they have, as well as amaretto and Canadian Club. The Canadian Club was not available at all bars, but didn’t bother him as he had lots of other kinds to choose from. He also tried the wine and liked it.
Some of the places you went to for breakfast had papaya juice that is typically mistaken for orange juice. If you want to ensure you are getting orange juice, order it and you won’t be disappointed. It was always fresh, and had some pulp to prove it.
Cappuccinos were great after dinner. If you add 1 or 2 sugars, they were perfect. The lobby is typically busy between 6p-8p, so go before or after to get a seat. There were always seats available on the outside balcony of the lobby; bring bug spray though.

A La Cartes:
We went and booked a la cartes after lunch to find that they had been closed between 12:30-1:30. We got there at 1:45 and there was a line-up out the door. We suggest booking as soon as you get to the resort. Don’t waste time if you want specific restaurants. It took us 30-45 minutes to book our dinners, but we managed to get all the ones we wanted before we left. Talk to the person booking nicely & you'll get what you want. We booked for a regular table at the Japanese restaurant & arrived ½ hr early and ended up at the Tapenyaki. The dinner was good and the entertainment was as well. We ate at the Tapenyaki, the Cuban and the Romantic. The Romantic was our favorite. Try the Lobster Salad Appetizer and the Asparagus Soup. Loved them both!

Room Service:
First, we were slightly disappointed to find out there is no breakfast service (doesn’t start till 11a).
Also, we ordered a large room service order at around 6p and didn’t get it until 8:30p. When the order finally came, they advised us that the kitchen “was broken”. We accepted the food and it was good, just wished they had advised us of the broken kitchen. We could have easily gone to the buffet instead. We didn’t order the room service again.
The maids didn’t come to our room early at all. We believe they were most likely there between 12-3p. If we wanted to sleep in, we had a great opportunity.

Getting your Seat at the Pool:
Lots of huts were available at the beach, but we aren’t much of beach people. If you like it by the pool, I suggest going to put your towel down around 7a to get a good spot. We woke up early 3 times for this reason. When we arrived, there was about 20 huts in total around the main pool (not a lot when you think about it), but by the time we left, it was almost doubled, as they were working on them.
They also have huts in the middle of the pool on islands that you have to swim to. Because they were not as easily accessible, we used these in the afternoon. You get a great view and you don’t get bugged by the activity staff.

The Pool:
The pool was warming up when we were there. At the beginning of the week, it was cold. By the end of the week, it was very warm. It hadn’t rained all week and the wind was beginning to die down.
The pool itself was amazingly clean, we saw them cleaning the pool around 8-9a every day. There are 3-4 servers around the main pool that serve and clean up cups. I never had a hard time walking around in my bare feet, as it was clean on the tile as well.

The Beach:
We took 1 walk on the beach. My husband didn’t like the fact that he constantly had to watch out for jellyfish. They were small, but they were there. We could have taken a walk on the sand, but it’s hotter, and there is many shells broken inside of it. Doesn’t feel too good on soft feet.

The Entertainment:
The entertainment at the pool was typical, however some days they do have silly games that you can watch and laugh at. They play bingo every day, and there is lots of activities for kids. They even had special shows for kids during the day time.
We ended up going to 1 show (as we weren’t show people) and the Magic show was pretty good. It got hot in the theater towards the end, so if you burn up easy, make sure you are close to a exit.

Overall:
If you’ve been to a 5 star resort before that you don’t need a reservation for the a la cartes, there are robes in every room, there is lobster and steak and every restaurant, ect; you won’t like this resort as much. If you’ve been to a 3-4 star resort, it’s good. We’ve been to a few in Cuba, Dominican and Mexico and we would rate this resort a 4 star resort. My husband believes that this resort is going to be amazing in 6 months to a year. If you really want your monies worth, wait.

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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9  Thank The_Wife_101
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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