Just returned from a lovely week at Memories Azul. As far as Cuban hotels go, I would rate the hotel a solid 4 star, with a few small things to perhaps bump it to 4.5.
I had a king room in block 52, and friends stayed in a double room in the same block. I had paid for Diamond Club with Balcony and Pool View. Friends booked standard terrace room. We were two doors down on the same floor with the same view, so unless it is high season, I wouldn't bother upgrading from terrace as you will probably end up with a balcony anyway.
Rooms were spacious and nicely decorated, large vanity area adjacent to the bathroom, however I did find the bathroom itself a little small. Maid service was excellent and room was cleaned thoroughly each day. I also had fresh towels daily, and was also offered a replacement clean set every evening, though I don't mind conserving and re-using, so declined this service. A few reviewers previously mentioned their towels were dirty and re-used over and over - we did not experience this at all.
A nice touch was beach towel in room at check in, which allows you to go straight to the pool or beach upon arrival.
Mini-bar in room was not switched on and empty when I arrived, unfortunately it took two days for it to be filled, however once it was, it was replenished with the standard two cans of beer (usually Bucanero, on occasion, one Cristal), two cans of pop and a bottle of water. I left a tip inside the fridge and this usually got me at least an extra bottle of water (helpful if you like to make coffee or tea for yourself in your room in the morning) and can of beer. My friends left a tip also, and didn't seem to ever receive anything extra, so perhaps I was just "lucky".
Our block was by the kids pool and the so-named by guests "quiet pool". Pool bar with a few chairs for sitting and never a problem finding a lounger or shade here. Pool was lovely and warm, large and a great way to end each day. The other pool at Azul is larger and where they do their activities and has more of a swim up bar, however this was much louder. It is also right across from the 24 hour grill, which is handy!
Beautiful. Soft, fine, white sand and you can walk for a while before being submerged. Clear turquoise water and plenty of seating. If you are diamond club there is a reserved seating area with more comfortable chairs and drinks service all day (if you don't have Diamond Club, they are really enforcing the rule now, so my friends and I couldn't sit together in this area as I was the only one with Diamond Club - no biggie for me). The "regular" seating area also had at lounger drink service, however this was somewhat intermittent, so I suspect they guys serving the Diamond Club would come over to this area when it wasn't busy in the Diamond Club Area. Hobie cats, kayaks etc. are available, however a few people who did not have their own snorkelling equipment were told there wasn't any and were disappointed.
The theatre is the largest I've seen in Cuba and a great set up for the shows, which were good. (I only saw two in the week, so won't comment too much here). Drinks service from the bar or at your seat.
In my opinion, the Italian restaurant was the best of the a la carter, although we only tried Italian, Mediterranean and Asian. A couple of friends also enjoyed the steakhouse, but after all the reviews I had read, I decided to give this one a skip.
Grills at the beach were great - you have to have the chicken sandwich - marinated chicken breast, onions, mushrooms, cheese and peppers - a great lunch at the beach! We also ate at the 24 hour grill for lunch one day, and this was just as good - burgers, sandwiches, fries, etc.
Buffet - the buffet really is hit and miss, which is not unusual for Cuba. That said, the made while you wait Pizzas, Pastas, Grilled fish/meats, Omlettes, Cesar Salads, etc were excellent, no complaints from me here. Also, they had a great spread of cheese and antipastos some nights, which could do for me for a light dinner as well.
Lobby bar was a great way to start or end your day - great coffees in the morning, great drinks in the evenings and service was excellent. Plenty of servers, so you didn't need to wait long. I found that this was not the case in the sports bar (Route 66) where there seemed to be plenty of staff, very few customers, and painfully slow service - I waited 15minutes when I was one of two people in the bar area and decided to go to the bar instead of wait any longer.
Overall, this hotel was a great resort, friendly and helpful staff, clean rooms and lots of amenities. This was my 12th trip to Cuba, and my first to the Cayos, so my only real disappointment (but I knew this going in) was that you could not just easily wander off the resort into a Cuban town, you had to either rent a car or book an organized tour/excursion.
A note on the Diamond Club:
If I were to book again, I don't think I would bother with the Diamond Club. I'm not one who drinks scotches, brandies, etc., so the additional "top shelf" liquor was not something I utilized. I was also just as comfortable sitting on the beach on the regular chairs, the robe was nice to have, and the turndown service was ok (however other than a note and a few candies on the bed, not really what I'd expect from a turndown service).
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