This was our first trip to Cuba and our expectations weren't high as we did not know what to really expect. However we spent the first two weeks of July at the Iberostar and had a really great time. The weather was fantastic, the hotel was great and the people really fab and it was refreshing to be on holiday without the heavy American commercialism of other Caribbean Islands.
The hotel isn't 5 star by other country standards but having looked at some of the other hotels in Varadero this is definitely one of the best.
We were greeted warmly at check-in and the service was quick and efficient. We changed money at the same time again quick and efficient (they will give you smaller coins happily if you ask) By the time we walked to our room our luggage was being dropped off which was perfect. We stayed in block 14 which is lovely and quiet and we would ask to stay there again if we went back, I had emailed the hotel before hand asking for an upper room with garden view and we did get a second floor room but with a rear view, it wasn't bad but not as nice as those front facing and a really bright security light which looked over our balcony. Not a problem with the blackout curtains though. We had a bottle of sparkling wine waiting for us which was a nice touch.
The rooms are really generously sized with iron and ironing board, safe, bathrobes and good full length mirror. Mini bar with soft drinks, water and beer was stocked everyday. The bathroom had separate shower and bath and again really generous size.
The gardens are beautifully maintained, the gardeners work hard and are always cheery, they make flower animals for the guests which is nice, the gardener near our room was really friendly and liked to chat to practice his English. The staff generally are really nice, friendly and efficient. Rooms cleaned every day with some interesting towel art which was nice. On our first day we had a couple of little repairs, the hair dyer didn't work, TV remote needed batteries and a lamp bulb needed replacing. We left a nice note for the maid and when we returned all had been put right which was good. There's an ice machine in each block which is a nice touch too.
The beach isn't the deepest but really clean and the sea fabulous. We liked the fact that sun beds were not row upon row it made a quieter more tranquil experience. The sun bed guys were great and would find you a bed and put out your towels. They didn't expect a tip but were grateful when you did. We were on the beach by 7.30 though catching the cooler rays so we often beat them to the beach.
We had read different reports on tipping with some holiday makers stating it was expected, we didn't find this and we just tipped when we got good service. The beach bar staff work hard and were really pleasant especially those at the smaller of the two beach bars, we got our own drinks most of the time but added a few cucs to their tip jar on the bar which they appreciated. The lobby bar staff were really great especially Ellie, after a couple of days she knew what we were drinking and her service was fast, drinks were great there is plenty of choice and we tipped her at the end of each night and she really appreciated it.
We didn't spend much time at the pool, the beds are close together and it's where all the activities take place. The activity team were really good though they ask you to participate but if you say no they don't pressurise, they are happy for you to sit back and watch and they all speak several languages which is impressive.
We are not ones for evening entertainment but the shows are very good, the staff put in such effort, the Michael Jackson and the rock night were 2 we particularly enjoyed.
Food was ok, not 5 star but we didn't expect it to be. There is something for everyone in the buffet restaurant with a theme most nights. Desserts were good too, best choice we have had in all inclusive hotels. The restaurant is quite big but we sat in the same area each time to the sides of the restaurant in the circle areas and it felt more intimate. The staff cover the same area too so you get to know the waiting staff if you sit in the same area.
The speciality restaurants were ok, we liked the Mediterranean the best, mainly seafood which we liked, they serve a good surf and turf. We tried the Japanese and it was ok, better experience I think if you were in a group. The international was ok pretty much what is served in the main buffet but it's a change in environment so we went a couple of times. We liked the fact that you can book these in advance so it helps plan your evenings. The staff were really nice at all three, good service, very attentive, you can buy wine from a menu or have your all inclusive drinks, there's no pressure to purchase though although we did through choice.
We went to Havana on the day trip through Thomas Cook (Jesus the rep is really great and on hand every day, he likes you to chat about your stay) we were glad we went but when we go back again we would use a private guide. Herding 40+ people through Havana wasn't without problem as you are always waiting for someone and it's hard to please everyone as people like different things, but It gave us a great flavour of the city and next time we know exactly what we would want to do and see. Must say the guide was great, she was really informative and gave lots of background information on Cuba and the people. We also did the Buena Vista social club trip with premium extras. It was worth the extra for the open Cadillac ride to mansion Xanadu and dinner. The views from the mansion are amazing at sunset, food was cold though but hey it was an experience.
We intended to use the open topped tourist bus which runs up and down the peninsula all day, but there was always yellow cabs around and they offer low prices to compete with the bus and you don't have to walk the 10 minutes to the main road in the heat.
Definitely recommend a jaunt in a coco taxi in Varadero itself they run up and down the Main Street and you can just call one as they pass, great experience 7 cucs from flea market to the centre.
We had a great night out in Varadero, the taxi driver recommended a restaurant and we were a little unsure when he dropped us off but wow the food was fantastic, we had the biggest lobster tail we had ever seen for just 25cucs each-amazing.
So many positives about our trip but will just mention a couple of things about the hotel which could easily be addressed and make it perfect. Reserving sun beds, there are signs everywhere by the beach and pool stating reserving beds not allowed. However everyone reserved beds and for us who are really early risers,we never reserve beds but have early breakfast and settle ourselves for the day, we were really disappointed that the signs weren't enforced especially on one occasion we got to the beach at 7.45 and a lot of beds were already reserved, to add insult to injury it was 10.30 when they were eventually occupied and they left at lunch time, this happened every day!!!
The international restaurant during the day has an issue with birds as people don't close the door, they also come through the roof, not a huge issue but am sure something could be done to help prevent this as the birds are pecking at the buffet.
So all in all we had a great time, we don't usually go to the same place twice but if we did go back to Varadero we would definitely stay at the Iberostar.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Directly on the beach of Varadero. Iberostar's first 5 star hotel in Cuba. Luxury and comfort in an elegant atmosphere. Top gastronomy and excellent service. Equipped for every kind of meeting, gala dinner, party, etc.. Ideal for groups & incentives. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Iberostar Varadero Hotel Varadero
- Iberostar Cuba
- Iberostar Varadero Cuba
- Varadero Iberostar