This was my first trip to Cuba although I have traveled to other places including various other islands in the Caribbean. I'm 24 and traveled with a friend during Ontario reading week.
I was pleasantly surprised with the cleanness and general condition of the room. It was spacious and things were well scrubbed and swept. The bed was large and adequately comfortable. They seem to have resolved the pillow complaints by putting two pillows in each pillow case to approximate a normal pillow. That being said I'm judging this against my other southern vacations and you still only get 2 pillows for a larger than King sized bed. There were minor stains on the couch and chair, and I definitely didn't pull the bed a part to check the mattress or box spring like some guests seem to have, but everything was clean, comfortable and secure. Oh, except our tv didn't work. We tried it once and then went back to not caring but if this is an issue for you I'm sure they would have swapped it if we had complained.
The resort is large but not ridiculously so. Walking end to end of the main resort (not the adults only section) takes about 15 minutes. There are 3 pools spread out along the linear resort and 2 main beach sections. The main building including the front desk, buffet, and most of the bars and a la cartes is located roughly 2/3 of the way up the strip.
The food was actually rather different from what I expected reading other reviews. The main buffet has a fresh meat grill (line up, get handed your choice), a pasta station (line up, order your choices), a general buffet (hot choices grab what you want), a cold buffet (salad with everything pickled, some cold seafood and ham cold cuts), a 'pizza' station, a bread bar, and a fruit bar in addition to a desserts table. They also occasionally had a special carved meat item.
However if you don't like pickled things don't expect to eat vegetables for the week. Also if you don't eat seafood or eggs your options become much much more limited. They also tend to mix utensils so if you have a food allergy consider making separate food arrangements. Overall the food was generally pretty decent once you found something to your liking.
We went during a busy week and generally didn't have issues with line ups for the custom cooking stations. What we did have issues with was a lack of plates (they were like gold and we did occasionally have to wait for them to be washed before eating) and a lack of space in the buffet. The late start times meant that everyone tried to go at once when the buffet opened at 6:30 pm for dinner and consequently was often lined up to get a table until 8pm or later.
The a la cartes were hit and miss. We technically could have gone to 3 but elected to stick with just using 2 of them. We went to Mexican first then Italian.
The Mexican was at the far end of the resort in an outdoors pavilion. At sunset on a nice calm, warm night it probably would have been very nice. By 8 pm in a wind storm it wasn't. One of the wind blocks was broken and a table actually blew over. They also haven't mastered doing set seatings for dinner and it was more than half an hour before we had any food. The waitress also took my friends drink order and completely skipped mine.... twice. The food was about what I would have expected at a baseball game. It was a total skip to the point where we dashed into the buffet for sandwiches after.
The Italian was much much better. The service was excellent, food choices were good and well portioned, felt much more like going out to eat (albeit still not the standards of a nice restaurant at home). It lacked compared to the a la cartes I experienced in the Dominican but was a nice change from the buffet.
The discotheque was quiet, even during reading week but did have good music. The animation team staff being there drinking and trying to pick up every night didn't really help it.
The beach was lovely but had a definite shortage of chairs on busy days. I also didn't get offered help finding or setting one up once, but other travelers were for the most part very good at offering them if they were leaving. It was generally very smooth and calm. I didn't have any issues with too many rocks or sharp objects. The water stays shallow for quite a ways and there are no plants or fish. It's a great beach for those not so comfortable with the ocean but not so much if you're looking to snorkel or see things. There are also free catamaran rides and kayaks from the beach. The boating staff were very helpful.
The resort staff were generally very friendly, they've clearly been trained that the guest is always right and are very eager to earn tips (sometimes obnoxiously so). Generally the dinning room and food staff were my favourites. Mikeal at the lobby bar also makes some very yummy, very dangerous drinks and offers great service. The animation team was the counter point to this and really dropped the ball on activities. There is a huge schedule of events but they rarely seem to happen and only ever if you ask if they're going on. This was probably our biggest disappointment with the resort. The stuff is there but it was really hard to meet other guests when you had to be the ones constantly trying to get the activities going yourself.
We did the jeep tour, Varadero city tour and havana tour with cubacan tours (the airtransat desk at the hotel). The total for all 3 was surprisingly cheap at just over one fifty. The jeep tour is the must do and includes an extended drive in your own jeep, ranch property visit, drive your own boat ride, lunch in a national park area and a quick swim in a cave. The Havana tour was good for first timers but expect the typical slow pace wait for the tour group deal. As the last resort on the peninsula be prepared for about an hour of picking people up from other hotels at the start of each tour. It's actually not as bad as it sounds and lets you see the other resorts/ get that extra sleep.
A few more general words about the resort / area:
-Smoking is allowed everywhere and people take advantage of that.
-The resort is a strong mix of all ages and seems to work for everyone
- The construction was right outside our window and generally still not too bad
- Food options outside of the general buffet hours are extremely limited and often don't operate on schedule.
-The cigar bar is a real gem, lovely setting and atmosphere - worth the walk but generally quiet because of it.
-The floor show at night is well done but quite risque.
-Water was often challenging to get. You get one 1.5L bottle per room, per day. If you want more ask at the lobby bar early in the day. They get a limited quantity and you generally have to beg for it. The front desk will simply send you over to the bar to ask for it.
-There are no slushy drinks so expect non iced pina coladas and no daquiri's etc.
-Some travelers seem to forget with the lack of Americans we still aren't back home and should still be putting on polite international traveling behavior. There seems to be a higher incidence of Canadians acting poorly than I've experienced other places, especially I found from the older, we come here every year, set.
-There is a definite divide between tourist areas/ services and local areas/ services, you are strongly expected to stay on the tourist side so if you're looking for more experience the local culture this isn't the city to go to. For example the club we went out to (The Cave) was almost exclusively Ontario University students and had a DJ from Toronto... fun but I could have stayed home for that. Think Disney world - it's all pretty on the outside but you'll never see the dirty side.
-Bathrooms: Please understand that outside of North America free clean bathrooms are not the norm. The Cuba standard seems to be a surprisingly clean room, with a door that may or may not lock or extend up to eye height, no toliet paper, no toilet seat and slightly less than 50 % chance of it flushing and having running water to wash your hands. Most of the public bathrooms on the resort come in just above this with toilet seats, 50/50 chance of paper, 50/50 chance of locking door and pretty reliable flush/ tap working. It was also nice that tipping to use most public toilets really was optional unlike in Europe.
Overall the resort was nice side of typical based on my experience and I would recommend it if you're looking for somewhere in Varadero. That being said the lack of animation team kept it from 100% fulfilling what we were looking for.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Blau Marina Varadero Resort***** All Inclusive, is a luxurious hotel surrounded by beautiful gardens and unforgettable views that offers its clients superb service and comfortable environment. The 548 rooms and all the installations of 5 star All Inclusive hotel Blau Marina Varadero Resort***** offer the perfect combination for memorable family vacations. Blau Marina Varadero Resort***** offers its clients: Complete Twin rooms, Twins with Sea View and Suites All Inclusive package 6 Restaurants 6 Bars Daily and night animation 2 tennis courts 1 universal court Beach volleyball Non-motorized water sports (catamaran, snorkelling, windsurf) Fitness and aerobics rooms Parking 3 pools for adults 1 pools for children Playground Sport Club (library, billiard, ping pong...) Conference hall with capacity of 300 seats Business centre Souvenirs and boutique Wifi (Looby and meeting room. With charge) Blau Marina Varadero Resort***** ALL INCLUSIVE: Breakfast, lunch and dinner in Buffet restaurant Typical Cuban dinner once a week Selection of national and international drinks (top brands with extra cost) 2 tennis courts Courts reservation and necessary equipment 1 universal court Beach volleyball Petanca Non-motorized water sports (catamaran,water cycles, snorkelling, windsurf) Fitness and aerobics rooms Parking Access to all the shows in “La Senora de Atocha” every night Mini bar daily filled with 1 bottle of water, 2 soft drinks, 2 bottles of local beer 3 pools for adults 1 pool for children Area for children in main pool Playground 3 dinners per booking per week in our "a la carte" restaurants (reservation required) Snacks in Pool Bars ... more less
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