My husband and I spent a wonderful week at the Blau Marina Varadero from April 2-9th, 2013. Overall, we enjoyed the resort with its friendly staff, excellent food and coffee and beautiful beach. We would return in a heartbeat!
Check-in: Our check-in at 4pm was made chaotic by 3 couples complaining at the front desk about their rooms not being ready. It took 30 minutes for staff to realize we were not part of this group and that we were actually trying to check-in, but after that, they were very apologetic, friendly and quick. We got our keys and map of the resort right away. There really should be a better system to deal with new arrivals vs complaints (clearly separated line-ups maybe each with its designated staff?).
Rooms: Location is everything! At first, we got a room in building 10 and though the room itself was nice, very clean and spacious, it did not have a telephone. As we had small children at home, this was an issue for us as we wanted to be reachable in case of an emergency. When we spoke to the front desk about the issue, they were friendly, but just shrugged it off and said ‘In building 10, the phones often don’t work’. Luckily, I had read reviews before leaving and knew to go directly to the customer service desk. This is a small desk directly in the lobby and there was always someone sitting at this desk whenever I walked by. The lady at the desk was very friendly and told us to come back in 30 minutes so that she could resolve the issue for us. When we returned, she told us to go to the front desk for keys to our new room. Our new room was on the second floor of building 15 facing construction. The noise from the construction was never really an issue. This room had 2 telephones and like the first room, was very clean and spacious. The beds were firm (which both my husband and I prefer). The pillows, as mentioned in many other reviews, were flat on our first night, but folded in half, they were fine. The rooms have sliding glass patio doors that have both a regular lock and a chain lock, it felt very safe. There is an in-room safe at no extra charge that operates on a 4 digit code that you pick. Note, you must enter a code and hit ‘lock’ each time (which is good, as if you wanted, you could put a new code each time). There is also a large trunk in the room, but you must bring your own lock for it (the locks that we had on our luggage worked great!). We were able to fit both our luggage and carry-on luggage (4 bags total) plus our souvenirs in this large trunk. A/C worked very well, the room stayed nice and cool (no need to leave card in the slot to have power on all day).
-take care of your maid and she will take care of you! A small gift, a tip (2-3 CUC) and note go a long way! Our maid knew us by name and always took time to talk to us when we saw her. Excellent customer service (more than that really! She really went above and beyond in many respects).
-Buildings 11-15 surround the pool area, which does get a bit busy through the day but close to everything. Buildings 18-24 would be a bit of a walk, but there are some golf carts that can pick you up and drop you off (though we never used them, so not sure how it works or how often they run).
-When you enter your room, look next to the light switch, there is a slot to put your room card in to activate the power in the room.
-Make sure the door has locked behind you! Our door mechanism was a bit glitch and sometimes when we thought the door was locked, it wasn’t! We played around with it a bit and found that it worked best if we took out the room card from the slot and waited for the power to go out before we left the room, this seemed to fix the issue with the door’s locking mechanism. There is also a deadbolt for when you are in the room.
Though I’m not a picky eater, I was a bit concerned about the food before I came, as I had read several negative reviews. Anyone who cannot find good food to eat at this resort is by far too picky! I never had any issues with cold food or lack of plates (if there are none at one end of the buffet, check the other end or by the meat station, there are usually some there as well).
Buffet: The buffet was a bit repetitive, but offered such a large array of choices that you could have a different plate at each meal if you chose to do so. There were always deli meats and cheeses, cold salads, breads and some fresh fruit (though not a large selection, usually pineapple, watermelon, guava and bananas). There are three different made fresh stations at the back of the buffet: 1 meat station(by FAR the best of the food here was their meat!), either beef or chicken and fish (all delicious! And sometimes you could get it with veggies in a wrap); 1 station that usually had quesadillas, 1 station that has pizza. And of course, the main buffet section always had a wide selection of dishes, usually including rice, potato dishes, vegetarian dishes (though be careful, a lot of the vegetable dishes also had meat, for example, a dish labelled only as green beans was actually green beans and bacon!), seafood and meat dishes as well. I tried a large variety of dishes at the buffet and of all I tried, only 1 item I did not like (ravioli). My only complaint about the food was that it was sometimes over salted, so if you are on a low-sodium diet, you may want to stick to the ready-made stations or be careful in your selections. Breakfast was excellent, especially the omelet and crepe stations at the back (you could also get fried eggs at the omelet station). There were all kinds of pastries and fruit and always something different each morning in the main buffet trays. My only complaint about breakfast is that they only served bacon the first few days we were there and the rest of the week, they had different types of sausages, some were good, but for those like my husband who are less adventurous with food, bacon is a must! The service at the main buffet was excellent! We always sat at the same station to get the same two waiters who were both very attentive and friendly!
We tried 3 A-La-Carte restaurants:
Tex-Mex: was by far the best of the restaurants we tried. My husband had the chicken burrito and I had the Moachican Beef which were both delicious. For appetizers, you had access to a cold buffet and also got some cheese quesadillas and tortilla chips with a few dips. You also got a choice of soup, which was nothing to write home about, really mostly broth. Dessert was a simple, but delicious chocolate dessert. Two tips: 1) don’t try to go even 5 minutes early for your reservation, you will be turned away (a bit rudely)! 2) Slather on some OFF bug spray before you go!! This is in the grill by the main pool and is open-sided with some loose-fitting screen panels. We woke up with several dozen bug bites from our nice dinner!
Italian: For appetizers, you had access to a cold buffet and choice of soup, which were OK. My husband ordered the Diavolo pizza and I had the stuffed chicken breast. Both were delicious! Tiramisu dessert was very good.
Seafood: I had high hopes for this A-La-Carte, which we had saved for our last night, but was somewhat disappointed. For appetizers, you had access to a cold buffet and choice of soup. My husband and I both chose the Lobster Cream soup and though I can usually choke back food I dislike (and again, I am not at all a picky eater), neither my husband or myself could eat it! It tasted terrible and was very gritty. The main dishes, my husband had the salmon and I had the Red Snapper with prawns were tasty, though a bit undercooked for our taste. Also, if you have an aversion to wildlife or germs, you may wish to avoid the lighthouse altogether. As it is an open-air restaurant with loose-fitting screen panels, they have a large family of birds living right in the restaurant and they make themselves right at home! One couple had to move tables as the birds were fixing their nest directly above their heads and dropping bits of grass into their food. I did not mind the birds, as I thought it was adorable (and did not get anything in my food), but not everyone appreciate these cute little guests.
- Book your A-La-Carte restaurants immediately! I believe the hours are from 9am-4pm at the customer service desk in the main lobby. We could not book upon arrival as it was past 4pm, but we booked first thing the next morning and already, the best we could get was our last 3 nights of our week-long trip, including one reservation at 9:15pm (which was not a problem, we had a snack at the buffet at 6:30pm to tie us over).
Pools: There are 3 pools at this resort:
1)large main pool where you can find the kids club/waterslide, a swim-up bar and most of the entertainment activities throughout the day
2)a quiet pool by the lighthouse that does not have a bar right there (though you can sometimes through the day get drinks at the lighthouse bar) but was my favorite! It has a large sheltered area with loungers and we never had any issues finding two loungers in the shade. This pool area also has some shade, which was my favorite place to relax, in the shade of the palm trees, in the water with a cold drink!
3) Pool near buildings 20-24: This is a nice pool with a swim-up bar that has music playing. However, we only went once, as it got quite full and loud with a lot of drunk, rude, people that congregated at the bar (of course, this likely depends on the tourists that you end up with that week). As we were looking moreso for a quiet, relaxing vacation, we avoided this pool, as it also did not have any shade at all.
The beach here is a beautiful white-sand beach, though it does tend to have quite a few broken shells and seaweed on shore. The waters are crystal-clear and the waves on windy days are amazing! We never saw a single jellyfish and we really enjoyed the beach. We never had an issue finding a palaupa, even on the main stretch of beach (very long beach with three large sections of palapas to choose from). Though there is no bar directly on the beach, at the main section, there is a walkway to the Theatre Bar, which doubles as the Beach Bar (one side open to the theatre for nightly shows and other side opens to the beach). There were some daily activities such as beach volleyball on the main beach but it was not very disruptive. This resort also offers non-motorized water sports as part of the all-inclusive, including Kayaks, Paddleboats and Catamarans (though you can not take the catamarans out yourself, a staff member goes with you). We took a paddleboat out one day and it was fantastic, though it was not a windy day, so there were several little black flies that swarmed us, though we got no bites from them. Sadly as Varadero is very windy, the water sports were often not permitted for safety reasons.
-There are several bars to choose from at this resort, all of which are quite good in their own way. The Lobby bar was our favorite place to hang out for cappuccinos (best EVER) or cocktails. One side of the lobby is open-air and the other side, and all along the main building, are large windows that are often open to allow the nice breeze through. The lobby bar also has slushies, which make for good cocktails or a good non-alcoholic treat on a hot day. You can also have your bottle of water refilled here (note it’s not bottled water, but twice filtered water which the Sunwing rep assured us was safe). We tipped 95% of the time, but I did not notice any difference in service when we did not tip. I think it has more to do with smiles and being polite. You get what you give. If you are rude, impatient and ignorant to staff, don’t expect good service, just like any other part of the world!
-Theatre/Beach Bar: good drinks and they have a drink menu, which comes in very handy! You can also get cappuccinos here that are just as good as the main lobby.
BARS TIP: -Bring your own insulated mugs as they only have very small plastic cups with no straws (even for hot cappuccinos!) if you take the drinks to go, rather than sit there with them.
Other Services and hotel overall:
The service is definitely a selling point for this resort. Staff are very friendly and helpful. Never once did I walk through this resort where I did not see cleaning/maintenance staff hard at work. The washrooms did sometimes run out of paper towel or toilet paper, but they were replenished quite often. The front desk staff were friendly, though often busy and not that helpful. If you have any issues whatsoever, go straight to the customer service desk, they make things happen! You can now have your money exchanged directly at the front desk (at the check-out side on the left) and it runs all day until 8pm. You can also get small change here for tipping, though they often run out of singles (1 CUC). The exchange rates are posted right at the desk, but it’s up to you to do the math to make sure you don’t get ripped off. The gift shop at the hotel is open every day until 8pm and has a large selection of reasonably priced souvenirs and necessities (such as suntan lotion which we ran out of…a bit expensive at $15 for a small tube, but came in handy. They also sell Coke/Pepsi products and Pringles here, as well as locally made snacks. !). Along the main building past the theatre, there are also some vendors there selling reasonably-priced items. One of our favorite things to do on the resort was to play ping pong at the Club House (there was also a pool table). The double-decker bus to downtown Varadero is the best way to get around, it’s $5 per day per person and you can use it as many times as you want (you get a ticket good for the whole day until 8pm). You can take the bus by the side of the road on the right, directly out the front gate of the resort. Though we did not have our kids with us, there were a lot of young children at the resort and the staff seemed to be really good with kids!
Entertainment: We did not partake much of the entertainment at the resort. We did watch part of the nightly shows, which featured very talented dancers! Before the show, they had a mini disco for the young kids to go up on stage and dance with the animation staff. It was very cute and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. The costumes were not always kid-friendly, but the shows take place at 9:30pm for a reason. If you don’t want your kids exposed to revealing clothing, don’t take them to the nightly shows. We never did make it to the Disco which opened at 11pm each night and is located near the lighthouse. In terms of activities through the day, there was always something going on either at the main pool or the beach, but this was not something we were interested in and the animation staff were not pushy like I have seen at other resorts. If you are looking for a nice relaxing vacation, it is very easy to find at the Blau Marina!
Excursions: I highly recommend the Matanzas/Yumuri Tour! We had been to Matanzas on a previous trip and wanted to revisit it, that’s why we picked this excursion and were pleasantly surprised. At 49CUC per person, it is the least expensive. It includes a full day (from 7:45 to 5pm), you travel on a comfortable bus with a nice tour guide, starting with a boat trip down the Rio Canimar where you will see the tallest bridge in Matanzas (you can purchase delicious lobster tails for $10 that are well worth it!), followed by a short walking Tour of the city of Matanzas where you visit an old pharmacy turned into a museum (must pay $1 to take pics). Then you drive through the Yumuri Valley to Gaviota Ranch where you have a typical Cuban lunch with 1 drink and then you get some free time to have a coffee at Montejo’s house, go for a short horseback ride or go on a paddleboat on the lake (lunch and activites are all included in the price!). You also stop at Montserrat Heights, which has a beautiful church which has a beautiful view of Matanzas on one side and a breathtaking view of the Yumuri Valley on the other side! You then finish the day with a visit to the Bellamar cave…a long way down, even longer way up, but well worth it!
- 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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