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Reviewed March 11, 2013

They Cubans say that you could plant a pencil in the fertile Cuban earth and it would grow. That may be true but Cuba imports 80% of its food, for reasons which I will not go into and as a result the meals all over Cuba tend to be second rate. Bearing this in mind the food in this hotel was both plentiful and of good quality for Cuba. The hotel is all inclusive for alcohol entertainment and a la carte restaurants. Book the a la carte choices as soon as you arrive to avoid disappointment. The large buffet style restaurant was also excellent with a good choice of food.
The evening entertainment was enjoyable and diverting.
The beach was perfect the hotel being situated right on the shoreline. The Cuban people were always welcoming as were the staff who could not do enough for their guests. Salaries are small and so even a small tip is appreciated.
Take the day trips to Havana where every bar is filled with live music but be prepared for the culture shock for life under a socialist government where the usual advertising hoardings are replaced with images of Che Guevara.
Go to Cuba now to experience not only this superb hotel but a way of life which will not last long

  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
2  Thank Bob M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
residentmanagerPVA, Manager at Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded March 17, 2013

Dear Bob,
Thank you for taking the time to write such a kind review of our hotel and for the warm words regarding Cuba and our team, service, food and general relaxing atmosphere, which we try to provide to our guests.
We look forward to welcoming you back again soon

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 11, 2013

Introduction

We have just returned from 2 weeks (February 16 - March 2) in the Royal Service at the Paradisus Varadero Hotel. We have been going to the Paradisus since 2007. This was our 6th visit to the hotel, and our 5th in Royal Service. We have spent a total of 12 weeks at the hotel. Our daughter and her family have visited 4 times to date.

To say we love the place is an understatement.

One can travel the world looking for the perfect vacation destination. We have been to many places over the years. Our search for perfection ended with the discovery of the Royal Service at the Paradisus Varadero. The extra cost to upgrade to RS is well worth the price. RS has 80 rooms for 160 people. The main section of the hotel holds an additional 900 guests. Plans are underway to enlarge the RS section.

We have stayed in the royal service sections of other Caribbean hotels. They were very good, but not great like the one at the Paradisus Varadero.

This year, we met a couple on their 26th visit to Cuba and their first stay in RS. They have stayed mostly in the Varadero area for all these trips. They were at the nearby Iberostar last year, and said that it is nowhere near as nice as the Royal Service at the Paradisus.

Royal Service - management and staff

Dayamis Logilde has been the manager of the RS since it opened in December, 2009. Dayamis knows how competitive the Caribbean market is for tourism. She understands the meaning of superlative customer service, and inspires her staff to go the extra mile to provide service that continually exceeds the expectation of the guests. It is this level of uncompromising service that sets the hotel apart from others we have visited. Without exception, Dayamis and her staff of butlers, waiters, waitresses, room maids, pool attendants, receptionists, bartenders, drivers and gardeners, will attend to your every need, always with a happy, gracious and enthusiastic attitude. You will be treated royally. Thank you Dayamis!

Thank you also Mr. Vito Pascual, the hotel's new general manager. He oversees the entire operation, ensuring that it continues to be the great hotel that it is. He is making changes to make a great hotel even better. I was impressed by the number of times I saw Vito walking around the property, making sure the guests were happy and that everything was in good working order.

Vito has hired a new food and beverage manager - Antonio Hernández - as well as a new head chef - José Arco. Both are doing an excellent job. We have always thought the food at the hotel to be excellent, and this year was even better. Variety and presentations are particularly noteworthy.

Repeat customers

An indicator of a great hotel is the number of repeat customers. This hotel has many in that category. Last year we met a couple from Switzerland who were on their 22nd visit, twice a year ever since the main section opened 12 years ago. We met others on their 2nd, 3rd and 4th visits. We met those who travel great distances to be here - England, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and of course Canada. It is a very cosmopolitan hotel, and all the more interesting because of this.

Repairs are fast

Another mark of a great hotel is the speed with which repairs are made whenever necessary. Every hotel needs adjustments occasionally. Light bulbs burn out, door lock batteries expire, and maybe the water should be hotter. In the RS section, it is often only a matter of minutes before repairs are made. No need to ask 2 or 3 times and wait hours like at some hotels.

I read all the Trip Advisor reports for this hotel. Some people would rather complain in print about something gone wrong, rather than at the time finding the right people to fix the problem. I met a guy complaining about no hot water. I asked whether he had spoken to Vito the general manager. He had not. Dear readers, you must go the the right people when you have a problem. Those dear, hard working room maids may not understand your English, French, German or whatever.

Close to the airport

The hotel is only 40 K., a mere 30 minutes on a good highway, from the nicely renovated Juan Gomez Varadero airport. No 2 or 3 hour bus ride to endure. Remember that long ride in St. Lucia?

Safety

People ask whether Cuba is safe. Most definitely. On a scale of one to ten, with 10 the safest, we rate Cuba a 10 and Mexico a one. We have always felt completely safe, both around the hotel at all times, and on visits to neighbouring Havana, Matanzas, Cardenas and Varadero. Readers will remember and shudder at some of the recent events in Mexico, where Mexican authorities dismiss the murder of tourists as "accidents".

Just the other day, the newly appointed head of Mexican tourism was murdered.

Royal Service rooms

The rooms are magnificent. Very large and nicely decorated. The bedroom / sitting area measures 20 by 17 feet; the balcony or patio 10 by 17; the bathroom (as large as some hotel rooms) 12 by 17; and the outdoor shower 11 by 8. The shower is a wonderful feature, and there is always plenty of hot water with strong pressure. The outdoor shower in the ground floor rooms is even larger.

The bathroom includes his and her vanities, a large (good for 2) Jacuzzi tub with shower, and a separate room with toilet and bidet. The lighting is excellent, as it is in the bedroom.

There is a large walk-in closet with many drawers, and a safe for valuables.

The bed is king-size and comfortable, with many pillows. The air conditioning is excellent. The large, flat-screen TV has such English channels as CNN, HBO, and CTV from Montreal. The well-stocked bar is continually replenished with name brands - Beefeater gin, Chivas Regal Scotch, Havana Club rum, etc., as well as wine, champagne, beer, soft drinks and water. You will never be thirsty. For repeat customers, the staff remember your preferences. A thoughtful touch indeed.

The rooms have high ceilings; the towels are plentiful and as good as at any Four Seasons Hotel. Your room will be maintained by a staff of two - day and evening maids - so it will always be clean and with fresh towels. Thank you Cary and Yenny.

Each building contains 4 units - 2 on the ground floor, and 2 on the second. They are well-built with poured concrete, so you will not hear your neighbor coming in at 4 am. For those who like to party late and sleep late, the rooms have excellent black out curtains to keep out that brilliant Cuban sunshine.

Royal Service butlers

The butlers are great. They make dinner reservations, arrange transportation, exchange currency, bring ice and meals to your room, and do whatever necessary to make your visit exceptional and memorable. Thank you Kenia, Rolando, Eldys, Alex, Luis and Isaac.

Royal Service pool

The main section of the hotel has 2 pools, one of which is particularly large and lovely. The RS has its own beautiful pool for the exclusive use of RS patrons. It is surrounded by comfortable Balinese beds. There are also numerous palm umbrellas with lounge chairs by the pool, and along the beach in front of the RS.

Lidaimi and Jorge, assisted by Marvin, work alternate days looking after their pool guests, constantly on the move serving drinks, sandwiches and fresh fruit. Oscar Tarifa provides free foot massages that people love. Coto and Marvin keep the pool spotless. Yosebani and Montenegro take care of the grounds around the pool and throughout the RS area.

A new feature this year - you can order lunch to be served at the pool. Try the hamburguesa Paradisus - delicious!

There is a vast quantity of towels at the pool. No need to endure the towel inventory control that exists at some hotels. Also, there is no need to wear one of those irritating plastic bracelets during your visit. Don't you hate those things? This is a classy, elegant hotel. No wristbands!

Food and restaurants

I will start this section with a message for those food snobs who fancy themselves gourmet epicures, and who never like the food no matter where they are. If you don't like the food because it is not like what you get at home, then stay at home. The whole point of travelling is to enjoy different foods and new recipes.

The food at this hotel is excellent!

RS has its own exclusive and lovely Bella Mar dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eggs are made in the morning as you like them by Luis, at the breakfast buffet. Or, you can order from the menu - a new feature this year, with excellent choices. We particularly like the way the eggs benedict are made. And there is smoked salmon on the breakfast buffet, complete with capers.

The food is excellent, with good variety. The dinner menu features, inter alia, shrimp, lobster, chateaubriand, and other choices you will love. The hotel has some of the best ice cream we have tasted.

The service in Bella Mar is outstanding. Muchas gracias to both Janets, Mailing, Katy, Karina, Tania, Dayana - and i am sorry I do not have all the names.

There are 4 specialty restaurants in the main section of the hotel. Your butler will make reservations. These are the Sakura for Japanese, Stella di Mar for Italian, Romantica for French, and a new Mexican theme restaurant. A fusion restaurant will open soon. Food and service are excellent at all four. Romantica features a trio or quartet each evening.

The ARA buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The place is huge, with a staggering variety of fresh food. Enough variety to please the most fastidious tastes. There are cooking stations for eggs, meat, fish, pasta etc., to cook food the way you like. If you are unable to find something you like, you are being ridiculously picky.

Then there is the 24-hour restaurant by the main pool, and the beach buffet for lunch and dinner.

When it comes to food and service, the Paradisus goes to extraordinary lengths to please its guests. Job well done, we say.

The beach

The hotel has the best beach we have ever seen. Miles long and exceptionally wide in front of the main part of the hotel. It is shallow a long way out, waist deep 150 feet from shore. Great for young children. The beach is a short 5-minute walk from the Royal Service, and if you do not need the exercise (yeah, right), then Hernan, Ashley or Adnan will be happy to drive you over.

The water is as clear as gin, and a stunning cerculean blue/green on cloudless days. There are dozens of beach chairs. You will always get one. There are several beach bars, and refreshments are never far away.

Google the Paradisus to see pictures of the beach. The hotel is also on Facebook.

The grounds

An army of gardeners is constantly at work, dawn until dusk, keeping the gardens immaculate and the grounds spotless. The plantings are magnificent, with many royal palms providing shade and ambience. The property is huge, so even when the hotel is full, as it usually is, you never feel crowded. There is an aura of calm, quiet elegance everywhere. This is a classy place, never raucous or frenetic. Serenity prevails. Thank you Yosebani, Montenegro, Camilo and Luis, and all the other gardeners whose names I do not know.

Gym and spa

No great hotel is complete without these. The gym and spa facilities, right beside the RS section, are of the highest standard, with first class equipment in the gym, and well-qualified staff in the spa offering a variety of treatments. There are hot pools for relaxation, all in a superb setting overlooking the ocean.

Prices are very reasonable, considering the quality offered.

Main lobby and buildings

The main lobby is an architectural delight in a Tahitian/Japanese theme, with reflecting pools filled with plants and fish. Stunningly beautiful.

The guest rooms are contained in attractive, low-rise two-story buildings, 8 units per building. Many of these rooms have been recently re-furbished, and the rest will be done soon. Be sure to request a re-furbished room.

Internet service is available in both the Royal Service and in the main lobby.

Sports activities

The hotel provides Hobie Cats, paddle boats and snorkelling gear. Scuba diving is easily arranged. Deep-sea fishing is available at the nearby Gaviota Marina. In 2011 we chartered a sport fisherman for 5 hours ($350 CDN) and caught some fish, including a 60-pound barracuda. Catamaran cruises are very popular. There are 4 tennis courts at the hotel, and an 18-hole golf course is only 10 minutes away.

Day trips

One great advantage of the Varadero area is the variety of trips you can make to places beyond the hotel. Havana is only 2 hours to the west. This city is a must for visitors to Cuba. Matanzas and Cardenas are two cities much closer and both are very interesting. The town of Varadero is a short cab or bus ride from the hotel. Lovers of old cars, especially the American ones from the late 1950s, will find themselves in car paradise. Many are available as taxis.

On this trip, we hired Santiago from Varadero to take us to SanFrancisco de Paula and Cojímar in his lovely 1955 Cadillac Eldorado convertible. A memorable day.

Hemingway fans can visit the author's "Finca Vigía" estate, 16 K. southeast of Havana. This is a remarkable restoration, thanks to the Cuban government. Hemingway's fishing cruiser "Pilar" is there, resting on the old tennis court, beautifully restored.

We enjoy visiting "Xanadu", the magnificent mansion in Varadero once owned by the Dupont family. Only 10 minutes from the Paradisus. On our recent visit, we had a superb dinner. Truly, "una noche para recordar". The golf course is located at Xanadu.

Tipping

Some all-inclusive hotels discourage tipping. Many travellers tend not to tip at an all-inclusive, believing this is covered in the overall cost. In the case of hotels in Cuba, please tip generously for the good service you receive. In addition, because goods can be scarce in Cuba, try to bring items with you that can help these good people. Items for both adults and children such as: toothpaste, tooth brushes, soap, vitamins, medicine (Tylenol, Advil, etc.) clothing, notebooks, pens and pencils for school children - these are but a few of the items so gratefully appreciated.

One more message for Trip Advisor writers

A few have written that Cuban people are unfriendly. Anyone who thinks this must have a personality disorder. Cubans are the friendliest people you can find anywhere. Try smiling and a few words in Spanish next time.

And on the subject of bugs in the room. Look, if you bring food to the room and leave crumbs around, I guarantee you will get a bug or two. Bugs make no distinction between one star and five star hotels. Clean up after you eat in your room. If you wait for the maid to come along, it might be too late. We have never had a problem with bugs.

Finally - to the guy who complained that a pool tile was broken - get a life!

In conclusion

Congratulations if you have reached this point. Brevity is not one of my strengths. I know you will love the Royal Service at the Paradisus Varadero as much as we do. Treat yourself to an exceptional vacation. You will be treated royally. Once you visit, you will want to return again.

Amor y recuerdos a todos nuestros amigas y amigos en Servicio Real en la Paradisus Varadero. Amo Cuba. Amo alos Cubanos!

See you next February.

Elena y Pedro

March 11, 2013

Room Tip: Ocean view, second floor
  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
11  Thank VACATIONER097
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
residentmanagerPVA, Manager at Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded April 1, 2013

Dear Elena & Pedro,
We are glad to know that your 6th experience at Paradisus Varadero was wonderful and we take the chance to thank you for your high and detailed reviews about our staff, services and facilities you have enjoyed during these unforgettable weeks with us.
We hope you will give us another opportunity to serve you in the future again for 7th time and not last!
Kind regards.

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Reviewed March 11, 2013

We just returned from Cuba. It was our first time there and combined some business meetings with vacation time. I must say we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The resort is in a beautiful location. It shows a bit of age but is well maintained. At the first of the week the weather was a bit cool but it warmed as the week went on. The facilities are diverse and there is something for anyone. The staff members are friendly and helpful and truly thankful for anything you give them. The room was comfortable and spacious and quiet. Internet access was extremely limited but I guess we don't go to a place like this to sit at the computer. The beach is wide and never crowded. If I was to return to this area again, I would certainly plan to stay in this facility.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled on business
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
1  Thank eyeguy777
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
residentmanagerPVA, Manager at Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded March 17, 2013

Dear Elena y Pedro.
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such detailed review of your recent stay with us at Paradisus Varadero and it’s great to read how you describe about our Royal Service and resort and more importantly that you had a great vacation with us thoroughly.
We sincerely appreciate your taking time to provide your comments and feedback and we are all looking forward to welcoming you next February.
Best regards!

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Reviewed March 10, 2013

This was my first trip to Cuba so I am writing this review for all the first timers to answer the questions I had about going to Cuba, hope this helps. I traveled March 2-9 with my 13 year old son and husband.
airport: when you enter Cuba you have your photo taken. This is repeated when you leave the country. You have to pay a 25 peso exit tax when you leave, per person cash only, before you get the photo taken. Getting out of Cuba takes one hour between checking luggage, paying the tax, getting your photo taken, and going through security. They will confiscate your lighters at security too, fyi. You can buy sandwiches at the airport but duty free is limited to rum, expensive souvenirs and cigars and you cannot buy booze before you check your luggage.
Royal service: we did not upgrade to royal service and did not regret it. We had friends in the royal suites who told us that they had unlimited a la cartes, an a la carte restaurant that was exlusive to royal people, a personal butler, & a private pool, but that their room was not any nicer or bigger than ours. The royal suites are set far back from the beach, buffet and the location is inconvenient in my opinion.
the room: we stayed in building 21, a good location for the pool beach and snack bar. Our room was always very clean but tired with rips and refurbishing needed. We had a king bed and a single bed for our son. The beds were rock hard but we all slept well every night. I tipped with toiletries and nylons and the cleaner thanked me in person. We had a problem with hot water in the showers, we had to run every cold tap and flush the toilet repeatedly to have a shower warm enough to be in. The last 2 days there was also a sewer gas smell in our bathroom so we kept the door closed with the window open. It was not bad enough that I complained about it or asked for a different room. Other guests told me that they also had problems with warm showers but some buildings did not have a problem at all.
buffet: I was very pleased with the buffet. I do not eat a lot from the steam tables but prefer the fresh made stations of which they have a pasta, fish and meat station where they cook to order for lunch and dinner. The food was the same for every meal but still tasty. I do not mind eating the same thing daily. For breakfast they had an omlette and pancake station too. You can also get the best cooked bananas by the desserts--my favorite thing all week :) Sadly you cannot get mixed drinks in the buffet, only wine.
a la cartes: you are allowed 3 reservations and you need to make them the first morning you are there to get in. Your choices include Japanese, Italian, Mexican and Romantic (children allowed). We went to the Romantic--definitely go, great menu and the best resort food we have ever had. They flambe the Chateaubriand and crepe dessert which is always fun. The Mexican had only fajitas as the entree, you just got to pick which meat you wanted but the meal was still very good. The Japanese had tasty food but although Teppenyaki there was no show to speak of and not entertaining at all. I heard good things about the Italian food too. Again no mixed drinks in the restaurants, only wine.
beach: I expected a powder soft beach and was disappointed, the beach was not any better than the Mayan Riviera and in comparison to some resorts I have been to actually worse. Lots of interesting shells but being in the Atlantic ocean the water is colder than the Mayan too.
pool: There is a lap pool and a nice shallower pool. Water is not heated as per usual at these resorts.
bars: there is a lobby bar which gives you a great cappucino as well as mixed drinks, several beach bars and a pool bar. Drinks were very strong, no watering down going on :)
snack bars: there is a beach snack bar where they grill chicken, beef, pork and sometimes lobsters at 1 pm. There is also a snack bar by the pool open 24/7 where you have a limited but good menu.
shopping: there is a great gift shop at the resort where everything is very cheaply priced compared to Mexico, I did all my souvenir shopping here. There are also huts by the pool where you can get crocheted coverups, wood figurines and jewellery.
going off the resort: I did not feel comfortable doing this so cannot comment.
Activities: less than what you usually get in Mexico. The sports centre is far away from the pool where you can play tennis, chess, archery and BB gun shooting. Often we would go there but it was locked up with no attendant, we found out later she was also the tennis pro and was on the court. There are pool and ping pong tables near the lobby too.
Summary: great food, okay room, strong drinks, no wristbands, shower problems but if you are not fussy you will have a great trip. I will return to Cuba again but will watch for a good sale!

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank aquacaliente
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
residentmanagerPVA, Manager at Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded March 17, 2013

Dear guest,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write such detailed review of your recent stay with us in your first time in Cuba. We are delighted to know that your experience at our hotel was good and we take the chance to thank you for your opinions about our staff, services and facilities!
We are looking forward to welcoming you again in the next future!

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Reviewed March 8, 2013

My wife and I recently stayed for 7 nights; the first 4 in the Junior suite and then upgraded to the Royal (as a treat). The food, rooms, amenities, staff, beach etc are all 100% and we would definatley return. It actually took us a few days to discover everything it has to offer! Highly recommended.

  • Stayed: March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
7  Thank Wayne D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
residentmanagerPVA, Manager at Paradisus Varadero Resort & Spa, responded to this reviewResponded March 17, 2013

Dear Wayne,
We are very grateful for your nice words about your true vacation experience in our hotel and the time you spent on this review. Thank you for comments and look forward to welcoming you and your wife again in the Paradisus Paradise!

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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