Traveled from Mar.15-22 as a couple to celebrate our (past) 15th anniversary. We are already planning our return for next March with the kids.
This was our first trip outside Canada or America, and really didn't know what to expect. Read all the reviews before going and said to ourselves lets just see where the chips fall.
The airport itself is small, and you could have a long wait for the baggage. There is also a money exchange there but if you leave the building to change over anything, you cannot get back into the airport. You can change it at the hotel or there is a bank in Pueblo La Estrella, make sure you have your passport for any bank or the airport exchange. Yes, the drive from the airport is long, but you are on an island off the island. What do you expect??
We had really only 3 issues with Hotel Gaviota. Check-in, we had no one to tell us where to go, so we were wandering in the dark after we got our room key. Now granted we did arrive after 12:30am, and there weren't that many staff around. Secondly, the French Canadians were extremely rude!! Everyday we encountered either loud obnoxious voices or just overall being rude to the staff, or at worse not tipping. I'm sorry but the staff we came into contact with almost every moment were very friendly, hospitable and quite frankly hard working people. I know we probably over-tipped in some cases but due to their service, they deserved it!! The third issue was the smokers! Absolutely disgusting from some of them. Yesterday being our last day, one of the female cleaners was sweeping the snack bar. A very rude (have to say it French Canadian) lady was smoking her cigarette, dumping her ashes on the floor, until the cleaner brought her an ashtray, which this older lady should've done herself. Seriously, have respect at meal times for those who do not smoke. The beach itself in some places had smoke butts all over as well.
Best stand out people for sure were Brady-in the snack bar (and the cooks back there too), Noslon-in the lounge/main bar, Petra-the bananas foster cook (dinner buffet), Vyorski-at the beach bar, Rodney-the panini guy on the beach, Tonelli(?)-at the snack bar as well. This is just to name a few. Yes, sometimes their English wasn't the greatest but they understood what we were after and if they didn't then the tried their best to make it right. Not once did we EVER feel pressure from staff to leave anyone a tip. That is ridiculous that people have posted that!
Now I know everyone says you don't go to Cuba for the food. To some extent thats correct, but however there was some really nice surprises we found. The Cubans can make a mean pizza, some half decent pastas, burgers and fries and a wonderful simple beach side panini.
Food---honestly the best was at the snack bar. You could get breakfast all day long (toast here wasn't spectacular), the burgers were decent but the pizza's they made here were totally amazing. Have them put bacon, ham, tomatoes, onion and gr pepper on it (if you like that much), you will not be disappointed.
The buffets were decent. A co-worker of mine told me "to eat with our eyes", and we did just that. The waffles were awesome with their honey and cinnamon, the omelettes, fried eggs and the bread, toasted and dipped in honey....fantastic!! The bacon isn't the best, but think about it! What buffet do you know that has the best bacon? I certainly know of none. I wanted to bring back some of the honey but couldn't find it available. There really was a lack of raw vegetables available, but we ate lots of tomatoes and cucumbers. Desserts got better as we were there. The banana or pineapple foster are to die for made by Petra or the other girl. BTW....everyone who made/grilled something for us, we always tipped them 1 peso for their service, which they really appreciate, and hey, one thing I don't have to worry about cooking......
The A la Cartes....We just choose to do two of them. Chinese was just okay for us. They have one piece of sushi from the appetizers that had pineapple in it that was really good. The Italian was really good as well.
Cleanliness was amazing through out the property! Our room was ALWAYS left in immaculate condition! The guys cleaning our room always left a design on our bed or even the towel swan in the sink. Always asked us if we needed anything extra, even when stocking our mini fridge. Was the floor always spotless, not a chance, but you try sweeping up that fine sand and you won't be able to do it either. Our toilet paper was always full, and everything was over our expectation.
The beach was phenomenal! Yes a little narrow, but never had a problem with getting a lounge chair nor a covered area when we were looking for one. It is very windy down there however. We have come home now with beach sand in every crease of our backpack due to our second last day. The sand was just whipping around it seemed that day. The water was amazing! The waves were fantastic to jump in and around, and you could go so far out with out having to worry.
As far as vacations go, you may never find the perfect spot. But if you want a great relaxing/fun place with lots to do and friendly service then this is THE place!
A few extra notes....bring peanut butter and ketchup if you can't live without them. Also lots of suntan lotion, the stuff at the gift shop isn't very good. The excursions seem all really good. We did the Santa Clara one and had a good time, and met some awesome people from other hotels that day. Only three downfalls on our excursion...first-you have to wait on others if they are late back to the bus, second-not enough free time in some areas, and third-when you get off the bus be prepared to be flock by townies wanting money. Do not give them anything!! Want to do a little shopping
Any questions, just ask!
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