This was our second trip to Cuba, and our first time at a five star resort. My partner and I decided to splurge and indulge ourselves at the Melia Buenavista based on the amazing reviews of this hotel. In my opinion, it is nowhere near it's five star rating and still has a long way to go. That being said, we still had a great vacation- but really had to "look over" the bad things and try to focus on the positive. To give you some background, we are a young couple in our late twenties, who wanted a vacation to get away from it all. We are not a big fan of the nightlife, but do enjoy having things to do in the evening.
Check In: Check in was a breeze at the MB, there was a large group of us arriving and we were greeted with mimosas and cold towels. Our room was just like the pictures, stunning. We had an oceanview room and loved waking up every morning to the ocean. We had all amenities in our room upon arrival, but I would definitely recommend bringing a shower curtain to cover up the boards around your outdoor shower if you don't want people to see you showering.
Service: This is a part that we really struggled with. Being to Cuba before, we knew that tipping was a large part of getting good service. We enjoy tipping as a way of showing gratitute, but I have never been to a resort (especially 5 star) where I was hounded for tips. Upon arrival, we had no CUCs yet as we hadn't made our way to a Cadeca. (BTW, the MB does not have it's own Cadeca, you may only exchange money at the hotel lobby where the exchange rate is higher.) The gentleman who brought our bags to our door stood in our room and put out his hand. After realizing what he wanted, we politely let him know that we didn't have any CUC's right now and that we would find him and tip him later. He asked if we had any Canadian or American, and because we only had twenties, had to tell him again that we would find him but we had nothing now. He was very snobby and left our room with the door wide open. This was not the type of service I expected, especially at the beginning of our stay. Most bartenders were amazing with drinks and we were happy to tip them. As other reviews say, the boys at the pool bar are amazing, and always have a smile on their face.
Royal Service: We found the royal service extremely lacking for our vacation. Our butlers, although helpful when we saw them were most of the time nowhere to be found. You could request things on the "Royal Service Phone Line" by dialing 700, but when you call someone answers in spanish and we had a very hard time getting our point across. We ordered room service three times throughout our trip. Once was for a burger around 9pm and it came an hour and a half later and it was still red inside. The second time we The third time we tried to order a bottle of champagne to our room but were brought up two half full glasses and were told that they do not offer bottle service to your room anymore. Needless to say we were a little upset. The royal service was handy for making a la carte reservations, although many places we wanted to try were already booked. Our butler explained that MCSM and MLD only reserve four tables per night per restuarant, so it is difficult to get in. All in all, the royal service really wasn't what we had expected- we are not sure if this is just because the hotel is newer or if we had our standards too high.
Food: Breakfast at the a la carte was pretty good each morning, they had fruit and meat trays sitting out, as well as you could order from the menu. Service was quite slow, but the fresh squeezed orange juice was delicious. Lunch at the same restaurant was horrible, thank goodness we found out that Las Caribes next to the lobby has a delicious pizza and pasta restaurant. I wish I knew about it sooner, we would have eaten there all week. Dinner at the Bistro (Los Navegantes) was edible, the appetizers were very different than what I was used to though. (Raw shrimp, quail egg soup) Dinner at MLD was our favourite, the Italian and Romantica were delicious. As I stated above, room service was horrible- food was undercooked and cold.
Beach: The main beach at MB is very pretty, there is a large swimming area as well as a good snorkelling area. The beach is different than at the other resorts, it has a lot more vegetation around it and there are fish everywhere. For a crystal clear, white sand type of beach I would recommend making the trip to MCSM or MLD as the beach there is similar to Varadero.. shallow, clear waters that seem to go on for miles.
Buses: The resort offered shuttle buses to and from the different resorts at no extra charge, but these buses rarely came on time. Most buses were either late or not going to your destination. Buses were easiest to get at night, during the day they were few and far between and often left us waiting in the lobby for over an hour.
The Pueblo: This "little town" was good to get small souvenirs, but really that was it. Both times we went it was a ghost town, with no one there. I heard from a few people that the nightlife was also pretty bad, with most people coming over from Barcelo around 3am. Buses only come once every three hours in the evenings, so if you are there at the wrong time, you're kind of stuck there unless you choose to take a cab back fro 5 pesos.
In closing, our expectations weren't really met for this vacation, but we did have a good time enjoying each other's company and soaking up the sun. Our most memorable times from our vacation were going to the other resorts. We loved spending time at MLD, the resort grounds are gorgeous, the servers friendly, the beach great and the food delicious. We loved our room at the MB and the beach, but that's about it. I am not trying to be picky, as we are both young travellers who are not used to extravagant things, but we expected a lot more from this vacation based on the reviews and what the hotel said it offered. I think this resort will be great in a few years once the vegetation grows and they work out the kinks, but before then I will be trusting a more established resort and will think twice about splurging for a "five star."
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located west of Cayo Santa Maria in a privileged ecological environment, and surrounded by beaches and coves. All-Inclusive five-star resort with 105 junior suites and suites, and the Villa "Zaida del Rio." Designed for adults over 18 years. An entire hotel featuring Royal Service. Recommended for couples, weddings, honeymoons and wellness/spa. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Melia Buenavista Hotel Cayo Santa Maria