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Reviewed April 15, 2010

Like many, I was hesitant about going to this resort after reading several poor reviews. However, I know that people will complain about anything and those that complain about weather and water temperature...well, let's be realistic folks!! We cannot control weather conditions, water temperature and many other things... so just accept these things and move on!! There is no PERFECT resort, in my opinion. However, this resort was very clean with a relaxing and welcoming atmosphere.
We did not receive a room with ocean view and upper level as requested but they happily moved us to a great room (section11) on day 2 after we inquired about the possibilty of changing rooms. Our king size bed was firm yet comfortable, pillows were comfy and the room was spacious and clean with a great bathroom. We never had water temp problems or lack of water. We treated the maid to a small gift each day and always rec'd extra towels, face cloths and bottled water upon request.
We tipped alot but to those who clearly deserved it. It was apparent that many of the workers do long shifts, perhaps 12 hours, on their feet the entire time. For example, we had 2 1/2 hours of rain on our last day. It poured buckets and the rain water was coming in the main lounge. The cleaning gals (2) worked diligently to mop the water and push it out to the patio. It was extremely dangerous walking through there with all of the water on the floor but they kept on top of things and had the water cleaned up within an hour and the floor bone dry. That, I felt, was very deserving of a good tip. I did not find that any employee was anticipating a tip. Some we tipped, some we didn't, but overall staff was very friendly and accommodating. There may have been one or two that were having a bad day...but we're all entitled to those!
The resort was large yet compact, easy to get around. Lots of things to do and see...or if you chose to lay on a beach chair all day, that's easy to do as well. No one harrassed us at all... which includes the Star Friends entertainers to the beach vendors.
I have to say I was disappointed by the garbage at the beach...and this is garbage left by guests!! Plastic drinking cups, straws, bottle caps, etc. We, the guests, are to blame...but come on....pick up after yourselves folks!!!! At a resort in Mexico we used to watch them rake the beach each day to get rid of rocks, coral and garbage items... too bad they didn't do that here. There are alot of broken shells, etc and by raking the beach on a regular basis would be ideal. That being said, the beach was very, very nice compared to other beaches at neighboring resorts. Ours was by far the nicest.
Food was so-so... and we knew not to expect alot in Cuba. However, the buffet always had a large selection of food, lots of variety and some things were labeled. There were things I didn't try but wouldn't have tried them in my best friends kitchen either!! If something doesn't look appetizing, I don't usually indulge! On the downside I found the buffet to be very noisey at all times. Lots of people translates to lots of noise...kind of a cafeteria atmosphere. Ala cartes were excellent, esp the Japanese... so entertaining!!
We had a wonderful week, everything went well with the exception of one morning when I went out running. I ran throughout the resort and decided to run in though the neighboring resort (Selenis??) and on my return out through the entrance to the resort, 5 dogs came out the bushes and attacked me...didn't bite, but they appeared very ferocious and scared the %$!# out of me!!! Fortunately a taxi driver was sitting alone in his car, I appraoched him and he could clearly see that I was frightened. He escorted me out through the driveway and chased off the dogs. They returned to the bushes and i took off to my resort. I'm guessing they were a little on the wild side and probably haven't had their rabies shots updated!! LOL OR, they were highly trained and spotted a guest from another resort (the competition) and wanted me out of there since I wasn't a paying customer and was wearing the wrong colored resort id bracelet! Not a good experience indeed. I hope no one else encounters these mutts.If you are a runner, be very cautious!!

Date of stay: April 2010
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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7  Thank RunnerGal_25
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 15, 2010

My husband and I arrived here March 22 - March 29, 2010.. We were housed in Bldg 16, forth floor. We knew we were going into a brand new resort, but the reviews were so good, we decided to give it a go, and for the price it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try a different resort. We had read in the reviews that the food there wasn't the best, and people downright complained heavily about it.. I thought, they must be crazy, the food in Cuba, while not the best in the world, was normally quite good.

We arrived with little or no hassle, and was given our room number. I had emailed the resort prior to leaving and asked for a room facing the ocean, with a king sized bed, on the top floor. What we received was a room facing the ocean and on the 4th floor of our building.. (it had 5 floors)... The rooms are very nice, and comfortable.. They are, however, very noisy.. you can hear everything outside your door and above you.. We were woken up by kids tearing up and down the hallway and the above room. It was very annoying. We also didn't have any towels in our room. Just 2 small ones. When I asked the maid (she was next door) she said at 4 pm the towels will arrive.. well they didn't. I called down to guest services and they didn't pick up the phone.. We never rec'd bath towels for 2 days and it was on day 4 we rec'd a bath mat and 2 face cloths.

The room comes equipped with 2 robes, bathroom stuff like shampoo, body wash and lotion.. and also a sewing kit and boot polisher and a shoe horn.. also comes with 2 umbrellas, and iron and ironing board.. This is a plus.. most resorts I've been to in Cuba do not have this set up.

We went down for our first meal at 630 pm, and found the buffet to be ok, and then we sat down and tried to eat it.. We thought, oh no... the reviews were correct! We ate anyway and thought, well, there's gonna be breakfast and they are normally quite good in Cuba... the next morning the omelet guy was there (and actually they had 2 chefs doing this) and a guy making pancakes.. but that was about it... the rest of the food for breakfast was put out buffet style..the potatoes were not cooked all the way through and the bacon had a weird taste to it and not cooked either.. they also put out weird things like cooked carrots and peas for breakfast (I'm sure left over from the night before). The food situation there did not improve the whole week.

We stopped in to the beach restaurant the next day and had a decent meal. However, after checking out the 'snack shack' I noticed that the senora there cross contaminated everything. She used the same tongs for everything. I would rather her use her hands. And the food wasn't generally cooked either. Just be aware of this when eating there.

We went to 3 a-la-cartes and 2 of them were FABULOUS!!! The Japanese and Romantico are the way to go for sure. And when you are at the Japanese get the Mixed Grill and at the Romantico get the Lobster app and Filet Mignon entree. Its so good. If the food at the buffet was this quality it would be a fabulous resort! The Steak house was terrible at best, and best to be avoided if you could. And a word of advice, pick your a-la-cartes as soon as you get there, if the booking senora's are in. Because the food in the buffet is so bad, people want their a-la-carts for a chance of decent food. We actually ate off the resort 3 times due to the food.

The beach was absolutely absolutely absolutely the best one I've ever been on. The beach on either side of ours was destroyed (the La Selina and Tryp Peninsula)...they must have had a storm prior to us arriving and they both lost over half of their beach. It was amazing! We never had any issue getting a spot on the beach and we never had any issues with our stuff being touched. The beach bar was pretty good too.. no issues there..

The resort does charge a surcharge for money exchange FYI. If you can switch a small amount over and make your way into the mall in Varadero, there is a small money exchange place and they give you a better rate for your cash. And if you have any CUC left over from your trip, you can exchange it at the airport once you go through Customs..However, FYI, they do not exchange anything under 5 CUC. The airport has really good prices on Cigars, booze, coffee and cigarettes. Better than most resorts.

The staff here are good when it comes to face to face stuff... They do understand quite a bit of english and will try their hardest to assist.. However, when we asked to have a room on the same side of our bldg with a king sized bed, we were denied time after time. Finally after 3 days of asking, we gave up. We did notice that the resort was quite full however.

We never went to the disco, and only went to one nightly show, which was a little cheezy but good. However, heard the Disco was a rocking place! The lobby gets quite full at night for those wanting to sit around having a drink and a smoke! Outside is nice too, never seen too many mosquitoes.. I generally get bit like crazy when I'm in Cuba. (But if I do go out at night, I lather myself in bug spray which helps a lot). The beds are extremely uncomfortable, however, most beds in Cuba are and people need to realize that. They aren't in the Bahamas or Bermuda where they are staying in the Lapse of Luxury at a Sandals or Superclubs resort.

I strongly advise to take the Double Decker bus into Varadero for $5 CUC a day and to stop in at a place called "La Vinecea" or something like this... You can get chicken, rice, home made potato chips and a drink of pop for $2 CUC. And this time I tried the pork 'chunks' and that was only $3.50 CUC... It was the best! Cubans really know how to cook pork..

And as always, never forget your $25 CUC to get out of the country money!

Date of stay: March 2010
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
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6  Thank Pearla13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 14, 2010

Good hotel will be better in the future

My husband and I spent 11 nights at the Iberostar Laguna Azul in April this year. It was our honeymoon. The hotel itself is the newest property in Varadero which has its ups and downs.

Rooms
The rooms are great, definitely a high 4 start to 5. Very comfortable large rooms, good size bathroom very nicely decorated compared to other hotels and I have high standards when it comes to decoration. The bed was a king size and we did not find it rock hard unlike most of the reviews we read. Yes the reviews are right about noise because the materials used to build these hotels are not great. However I am a light sleeper and I managed to enjoy my stay. Yes on two occasions we had warm (not hot) water but come on it was not cold (like some reviews have dramatised) and after a hot day in the sun the shower was refreshing. TV only had CNN, HBO and Disney so for English speakers who are use to more choice not great TV.

View
The view, we requested a sea view and they certainly delivered we had a room overlooking the sea on the top floor, I don’t think it gets better than that. However other rooms had views of the swimming areas where it does get loud with the entertainment crew or of the entertainment centre where it was also very noisy in the evenings. Also there are rooms with construction site views so my advice is request, request and request.

Cleaning
The maid service is good we did not run out of toilet paper and towels and if you ask they will always give you extra water, towels, paper, shower gel etc. We tipped one CUC per day and she seemed to be happy with that. Also the maids have one day a week off so if your room has not been cleaned its probably because she is off.

Mosquitoes
Yes there are mosquitoes but I was prepared after having an allergic reaction in Mexico and needing medical treatment. I suggest if you are worried about mosquitoes buy vitamin B1 (thiamine mono-nitrate) and take for one month before you go and during your stay, take with you bug spray for room and lotion for legs etc. I didn’t have a single bite and was amazed considering some guests had big bites on their legs so I guess vitamin B1 works.

Service
This is the problem with Cuba and we had the same issue in Havana and Varadero the service is ridiculously slow, some service is fast but overall Cuba is a let down on service. It would be correct to say that the staff lack the drive to serve also they expect tips on a constant basis which did get on my nerves. Also don’t expect for anything to be on time and then you won’t be irritated.

Food
The food was okay, it’s again not as bad as some reviews make out and we did not get food poisoning and we were there for 11 nights. I think the best things to eat there are pizza which is always fresh, pasta (although I was not impressed with the amount of toppings available), fruit, deserts, French fries, burgers, hot dogs and avoid anything that looks strange or under cooked and you will be okay. Also breakfast was okay with fruit, different yogurts and baked goods which were very good, I think they have a good baker. I think as a tip avoid the burger shack as our stomachs were not that happy with their food for some reason and when we switched back to the canteen they were fine. The canteen itself is very basic and I would liken it to a 3 star hotel, we mainly ate outside on the terrace and avoided the inside. The best coffee is served in the bar upstairs, if you like coffee don’t bother getting it with breakfast and go to the bar for your fix. The al a carts were good, I would recommend Japanese and Gourmet, Cuban was okay and had good lobster. Also if you like me didnt like the canteen room service is okay and if you order at 5:30 it will not take two hours to get to you.

Beach
Amazing beach, better than most hotels on the strip (as we walked it) always had free lounges and palapas. For the 11 days we were there we didn’t see a single jelly fish and the atmosphere is much more relaxing than the pool. This is a useful tip, do not leave your towels unattended they get stolen and then you have to pay the 10 CUC’s to get a new one. Although people left their towels we had ours stolen and had a fight with the customer relations as it was not our fault.

Bank
There is a bank in a hotel next to Iberotar Laguna, you will pass it on the bus on the way to the hotel, I think it is called Serenis (not sure) but it’s literally a 5 minute walk and saves you from having to take the tourist bus to Varadero town. Take your passport to the Serenis bank and if you are going as a group take all your passports as the guard will not let you in unless you have your passport. The tourist bus is horrible and takes ages to get to the hotel as it stops at every hotel. Although Varadero town is worth a visit for the shopping.

Activities
We went to the Tropicana, it was fun but took a while to get there and get back so overall a long trip. We also went on the boat safari where we went snorkelling, stayed at a beautiful island and interacted with dolphins. Good trip and definitely worth the money.

Overall
Good hotel. Will be better when all the palm trees and other plants grow out as it does look a little naked. Reception staff were pleasant and more helpful than other staff. I don’t think Cuba was for me, I preferred Mexico for its food, service and range of activities, but Cuba was worth a visit because we stayed in Havana first for three days and you have to go to Havana if you go to Cuba, take my word for it.

P.S. If you see Loui the cat please feed him some fish or grilled chicken he is such a lovely cat.

Enjoy your break!

Date of stay: April 2010
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
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3  Thank Sunseeker123_London
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 14, 2010

my husband and i stayed at the iberostar laguna azul from april 5th - april 12th. we flew direct from fredericton with sunwing. played was delayed almost an hour, but we made up for it in the air and ended up landing in cuba on time.
checkin to the resort was smooth we arrived 11pm at night and had no problem at all. we were taken to our rooms, which were very nice. we asked for a king size bed but got 2 doubles no big deal we didnt try and change rooms. you;re so tired by the end of the day you dont really care where you sleep or at least we didnt, no biggie.

the BUFFET FOOD was good, this is cuban food it isnt amazing, but u definately dont go hungry. the pizza, pasta, fruit and desserts were among some of my favorites as well as the shrimp and chicken for my husband. servers were very friendly and i didnt find the expected tips at the buffet at all. i found we got the same service either way. on one of the SIDE POOLS, they serve really good sandwhices and pizza, if you sit down they will bring u a menu you can choose from. also the pizza here is thicker than the pizza you get at the buffet.

we did a JEEP SAFARI EXCURSION through sunwing with a group of 20 or more other ppl. this was a lot of fun it is a long day more excursions are. ADVICE on the jeep safari, the jeeps are standard and we did A LOT of driving through the city if you are like me and not comfortable driving in areas your not familiar with then DONT DRIVE! my husband did a great job, but even he was uneasy a couple times. also if you bring things for the children bring them on this trip there were tons of kids who stand at the end of the road and wave this was far out of the city kind of the middle of nowhere. we visited a farmers place, a cave, snorkeling and boat ride all on this excursion well worth the money!!!! we learned about these excursions by going to the meeting the day after we arrived. a lot of ppl did havana as well and loved it as well as the catamaran

we didnt book any A LA CARTES i heard they were good, but some ppl were still eating supper at around 10:30 at night when the reservations started to book up and believe me they book quickly.
the BEACH was beautiful water was sooooooo warm and nice! the pools were nice as well, but we didnt use them very often, more of beach ppl. we took beach towels and never needed them. there was only one day we were there that they ran out of towels we made out fine.

DRINKS!!! ok ppl are complaining a lot about the drinks on the resorts there are better places than others on this resort to get drinks. the main lobby bartender Addiel is the best! as well as the other open resturants by the side pools and 24hr bar. these drinks to me are better bc they blend their drinks so they are more smoothie like. the beach bar and pool bar dont blend them so i usually drank beer at the pool bar and beach bar. Addiel makes a great miami vice lobby bar. just because it isnt on the menu of cocktails doesnt mean they dont make it, always ask! these drinks ARE NOT watered down by any means

we visited some MARKETS IN VARADERO and took the double decker bus it came by the resort every half hour. going into varadero is the best way to buy gifts to take home. you can bargain there and usually get good deals. its a lot of the same stuff everywhere so look around for the best price.

the MAID who cleaned our rooms was very friendly. we left her small gifts everyday. the first 3 days we were they we didnt get any face cloths luckily i had brought my own also we didnt get clean bath towel till the second day. REMEMBER its not that they are not changing them for you, they just litterally dont have any clean ones to give you!

RECCOMENDATIONS ADVICE: bring face cloths you may not need them but i did
-bring dental floss i wish i had of
- BE CAREFUL about buying cigars off of the lifeguard on the beach. they are an EXCELLENT deal, and are the same quality at the cigar shop in the resort, BUT they do not have the cuban government stickers therefore when you get back to canada they might confiscate them at customs, we were lucky they didnt take ours but also bought some from the cigar shop as well.
- RUM! they give out 40oz bottles of rum like candy there! they are very cheap to buy and it is usually the prize when you play games on the beach pool etc. you are only allowed to bring back one 40oz bottle per person. or 1.4L of wine etc. cigarettes cannot exceed 200 and i believe you can only bring back 50 cigars. wood is also and issue with customs in canada. if you have wood, they will check it to see the quality of it. you are better off to buy varnished wood or sanded very well in order to be able to keep it.
- the bugs werent that bad we did bring bug spray but only used it once
- bring an extra towl just in case we never used ours but some ppl may need them.

this was an excellent trip the ppl/workers there are amazingly friendly always saying hi, we also met a lot of other travellers which was nice too! remember this is a vacation.
DONT SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF!!!!! i would definately go back. i visited cayo coco b4 which was a 4 star resort this was BETTER!!!!! enjoy yourself! hope this helps!!!

Date of stay: April 2010
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank NatalieThorne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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.

Date of stay: April 2010
  • Trip type: Traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
2  Thank Niles86
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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