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Reviewed March 11, 2013

My husband and I returned a week ago from this lovely resort. I chose this resort based on the reviews on this site and cost. This place must be a hit as travellers are returning again and again....

Let's start with the good. Landscape and design of the pool - absolutely beautiful. The pueblo(little village) between this resort and the Las Dunas is a great escape if you need a break from the sun. The last 3 days of our stay the weather was in the low 20s so we went to the pueblo, played bowling, shopped and had a few beers at the restaurant/snack bar. The pueblo is not all inclusive - you must pay. Some reviews stated that this resort is quiet and no animation team. Not true during our stay. The animation team was on site, played music(good music I must add and not repetitive) and you have the usual daily activities. Service at the pool was great! Osbiel is the guy! Hardly got up to get drinks. I must add the animation team did a great job at the lobby bar one evening(on a rainy and windy day). We all went to the pueblo afterwards where a local Cuban band played classic/pop rock.
We only did 2 restaurants. The Mediterranean and Italien. We did not choose the most popular Japanese as we were only the 2 of us. Besides, we have been to this type of restaurant in other resorts. Knew what to expect. The Italien was great! Great ambiance! We could not get in for the French. Some have stated that the meals are small at the restaurants. Yes they are but we were full by the 4th course. Have the soup on your second course. The ranchon restaurant near the beach is where to go for a decent lunch. Barbecued pork and chicken fillet..awesome! Time your meals accordingly at this place gets crowded. Show up around 1.30 - 1.45 and you should find seats. Our maid did a lovely job in cleaning our room - as always. For the first time in an all incl. resort, the maid left us a note thanking us. We tipped and left some toiletries.

Now with the bad: bus ride from airport to resort is indeed 1.5hrs and there was only one stop - the resort. The buffet can be a zoo! This is my 8th time in Cuba, first in Santa Clara and second Melia. I had forgotten how the buffet are set up. Not sure if this is the case for all Melias. I'd say less than a quarter of the space is where the actual buffet is where you will find mostly side dishes. There's 3 stations where food is freshly cooked for you. Beware of the line ups! The buffet only opens at 7pm for dinner. I have seen people lined up starting at 6.30pm. I have never seened this in an all incl. resort. There's a restaurant(fast food) opened 24hrs next to the pool. We tried the hamburger and pizza and it was just ok. The Mediterranean restaurant food was good, however no ambiance and we felt rushed - for the next reservation. No tea/coffee was offered. Service is very slow at the lobby bar and there is not enough chairs/tables for this resort size. Good luck finding one if it rains! You will find some outside the lobby, but this is not where you want to sit in the evenings.
I was very concerned about the hot water. Luckily ours was luke warm and by the end of our stay it got hotter. See tip for choosing room. Heard from other travellers that theirs stayed cold. Yikes..
Our room did not have a handle nor a screen for the patio door. One of the linen was a bit odd. One of the covers was like a think rubbery shower curtain. There were a few very tiny ants. These things in the room did not bother us. U know just things that u will see in Cuba.

In Summary, I would come back to this resort if it was located in Cayo Coco or Holguin or anyplace in Cuba where the bus ride from the airport would be less than an hour. For me that was the biggest turn off. Then the buffet. If you like seafood, then this a resort for you(mind u there are other plently of choices). My husband ate plenty of fish, calamari and shrimps which he enjoyed. Nice plate of calamari at the ranchon. Time your meals accordingly. We left at 10am and was famished by the time we got to the airport (had breakfast at 8.30am) over 1pm. Long line ups again at the cantine/restaurant. Should of brought a baggie with rolls and bananas. I could not believe there were no Crystal beer at the airport! Must of ran out or something...

Overall this is a lovely and gorgeous resort. Service is high and low depending on the area. The good outways the bad.

Room Tip: The units on the right side of the map(google the map) is where you will have some hot water. Apparently that is where the hot water tanks are.
  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank colyjob
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melia S M, General Manager at Melia Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded February 9, 2016

Dear Mr & Mrs,
Greetings from Melia Cayo Santa María!
Thank you very much for your lovely review, by the sounds of it you had a great time! We are happy to read that you enjoyed the resort and our service.
We hope you will give us another opportunity to serve you in the future again!
Kind regards,

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 9, 2013

I stayed at MCSM from Feb 16 - 24th and was quite impressed with this resort.

Upon arrival at 3am we were escorted to our rooms on a golf cart by a very helpful staff member who did not expect a tip. I had a dollar to give him as I had saved it from my last trip, but that's all I had. He sure didn't seem like he expected more after helping lug our suitcases upstairs to our room.

10 days before my arrival I emailed asking for a second floor room closest to the beach and happily that's exactly what I got. My room was clean and fresh and the air conditioning was quiet and worked great. The water pressure was sufficient and there was always hot water at 4pm when I returned from the beach. Flat screen TV with closed captioning, mini fridge re-stocked daily, blow dryer, coffee maker as well. Beds pretty comfortable, not rock hard.

The beach was beautiful, but if you wanted some shade you did have to be up by 7am to reserve a spot. A worker on the beach always rushed to help me pick and set up a chair, and brush the sand off, I tipped them. Having a drink delivered to you while laying in your lounger is a great treat as well. Again, I tipped for this wonderful service.

The food was okay most of the time, my biggest complaint is that it was often on the cold side, if it was hotter it would have tasted better. The French and Japanese were very nice, good service and appetizing food. I found the buffet understaffed at times, often had to wait to have a table cleared, no big deal really, I just felt bad for the staff who seemed rushed during peak hours. The buffet could also use some brighter lighting, some areas a too dark to see what the food is, maybe that's the idea. :)

Line ups to exchange money were often long and once when I got close to the front, the worker suddenly told us he was leaving for an hour lunch break. Would be helpful to have lunch times posted as this happened at 11:45 and he only opened at 9am. Also, don't bother trying to change a bill with a small tear, it will be refused, means you get to line up again if you need more money changed. The holiday rep could have told us this at the welcome meeting.

I found the reception staff to be very polite and helpful, always a smile from them. I very much appreciated the nice young lady who did not charge me for losing my towel. I already paid for a late check out (thank goodness it was available) so it was nice not to have to pay extra for a misplaced towel.

All in all I had a wonderful week at this resort, wish I was back there now.

Room Tip: I stayed in building 07 and the boardwalk to the beach was right beside it.
  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Service
8  Thank Lucy2424
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melia S M, General Manager at Melia Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded February 9, 2016

Dear Mr & Mrs,
Greetings from Melia Cayo Santa María!
Thank you very much for your lovely review, by the sounds of it you had a great time! We are happy to read that you enjoyed the resort and our service.
We hope you will give us another opportunity to serve you in the future again!
Kind regards,

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 9, 2013

We once again returned to Melia Cayo Santa Maria on Feb 22, 2013. Over all we had a wonderful trip. This is probably our 10 plus time here. We've seen many other areas and resorts in Cuba but we keep coming back. The greatest asset of this resort is their staff. I have never experienced a server wait for a tip as otherwise mentioned in other reviews. We have seen the food improve year over year. Like anywhere else its time for some freshening up. The salt water and wind plays havoc with the buildings. The rooms are spacious and really well laid out in comparison to other spots we've been. On our first trip here, Melia was one of two hotels on this beach. The lack of water and hot water can probably be contributed to the addition of the many other resorts on this Cayo. Not having clean beach towels was a bit of a let down, but it wouldn't stop me from returning. We really enjoyed the changes to the gardens. Koodos to the gardening staff. They are incredibly hard working and take pride in the resort. Thank you William and all others. I thoroughly enjoyed my spa visit with "Elizabeth" and "Beatrice" is such a wonderful person.
To our housekeeper "Mislady" the lobby staff Danny, Juan Carlos and too many others to remember, the pool bar staff Osbiel, Yosef and Yosbel, Room service staff Alexis, Carel, Delio and Eduardo, entertainment staff Denise, Ernesto, Lazaro, Orlando and many many more THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU... Will we return to Melia? God willing.

  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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7  Thank P R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melia S M, General Manager at Melia Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded February 12, 2016

Dear Client,
Greetings from Melia Cayo Santa Maria!
Thank you for choosing our hotel for your vacations. We are pleased to know that overall you have enjoyed our services. We will take your suggestions into consideration to keep improving day by day. We hope you can visit us again soon.
Our best regards from sunny island of Cayo Santa Maria,

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 9, 2013

We stayed at MCSM during the period 22 Feb - 1 March. This is the fifth time we have stayed at this resort and although it has deteriorated somewhat it is still a great place to vacation. The first time we visited, MCSM and Sol were the only resorts on the beach. Now there are at least seven others, and more coming, all sharing the very limited physical and human infrastructure available to support them in the Santa Clara area. We have spoken with visitors to other resorts in the area during the period we visited and even the newer resorts experience the same problems.

During our stay water pressure was extremely low and hot water was lacking during the peak "after beach" period. It was better later in the evening but still was below standard for a four or five star resort. The resort is showing it's age, The first time we visited was in Feb 2007 and I think it had only been open about three years at that time so it was quite prisitne. That is not the case now as tropical weather, humididty, and lack of replacement parts (probably attributable to the on-going embargo) have caused the resort to age pre-maturely.

Food: I am surprised by all the reviews that attest to "food poising". We have never experienced any problems at this resort. In fact we were very surprised with the improvement in the food overall. However, it is still Cuba, with limited in-country resources (such as dairy products) as well as expensive and extremely long chains-of-supply.

Cleanliness:
Our room was clean, the sheets were changed mid-week, there were no-insects, the bar fridge was stocked regularily,there was a bottle of rum in our room (we were returning guests), and the maid (named Mislady) left us notes each day asking us if things were OK. The common washrooms and toilets are another thing. Toilets need to be cleaned more often and re-supplied with toilet paper and supplies regularily. Maintenance checks need to be made to ensure toilets bowls are secured to the floor properly.

Drinks: What can I say. I drink Jameson and there was plenty of that. Osbiel and crew at the swim up bar were again good fun to be with and poured a reasonably strong drink. The other bars were also good and had a good range of non-Cuban beverages available if you looked for them.

Beach. The biggest complaint that I would have is the lack of sun shelters. This, coupled with the guests who "reserve them with towels" early in the morning and don't show up until 14hrs, makes a trip to the beach extremely hot. Next time we go I will bring my own beach umbrella. On the positive side, more sun-shelters were being erected just before we left. The beach at Sol and MCSM are still the widest, cleanest and best in the area.

Beach towels: As others have said shortages are the norm. Using the same wet, sandy towel all week is unsatisfactory. There has to be a soluion to this problem.

In summary, Melia Cayo Santa Maria is not a five star resort by North American standards. It is probably closer to a three star. It is still my favourite resort in Cuba and there is no doubt I will go back there next year.

  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank RBM20
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melia S M, General Manager at Melia Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded February 12, 2016

Dear Client,
Greetings from Melia Cayo Santa Maria!
Thank you for choosing our hotel for your vacations. We are pleased to know that overall you have enjoyed our services. We will take your suggestions into consideration to keep improving day by day. We hope you can visit us again soon.
Our best regards from sunny island of Cayo Santa Maria,

Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 3, 2013

Just back from Melia Cayo Santa Maria, (today technically). Our third trip in 3 years to the northern coastal islands. We love Cuba, the beach, the people, fresh fish twice daily – but realistically there are some issue worth considering, (and notably folks who had been at the report last year told us it was substantially degraded in quality). A few things of note, good and bad:

- The food was excellent overall, above our expectations. Buffet very good, 24 hr pool bar food spotty, the a la carte’s we visited a pleasure (Japanese - fabulous, French- very good, especially lobster, Mediterranean - decent with some highlights. Very good rooms, attentative staff). Note: line up to arrange the a la cartes 9 a.m. day of arrival, don’t be late or it takes forever. If late - get a ticket, get a drink, see if the washroom has hand-towels, read all Sue Grafton novels. Have your spouse line up for bank at same time. Spend first morning apart.
- Staff was good if not quite enough to go around in spots; there are always some brilliantly warm people to meet. Danio at the morning &lunch grill (back right corner) a prince, the pool bartenders great.
- Rooms very nice, clean, (100% bug free except for the odd ant), well-appointed overall (we were in Building 20, nothing is too far away in the place, nice ‘wild gardens’ feel since we were near exterior perimeter). No coffee- maker or iPod player although advertised.
- Entertainment was good some nights, weak others, the roving minstrels and a la carte musicians quite good, piano bar people good. Music part of but not central to the place.
- Cuba,si, so nothing is perfect and the troubles remarkable. We had zero hot water except for, briefly, 2 days. Not just little hot water, NO hot water. For 5 -6 days. This was not uncommon for many buildings. If cold showers kill off your fun, be aware.
- Our towels in the room were not changed often, only the bed art du jour was fresh. And we could change our pool towels only once, because ‘the truck comes when it comes’, as in not very often. We luckily walked by the hut one day and there were some clean ones. Big cheers!
- Toilet had issues so we gave up expecting service and would have to reach into the mechanics to work it sometimes. Our run-all-day toilet my wife called our ‘water feature’. We weren’t the only ones with flush issues.
- Cost to extend room past noon on leaving day? $7 pesos per hour.
- Bus ride? Over 90 minutes but pleasant enough, a few cool towns to see as you go.
- Airport was decent. We had bought the VIP pass/lounge etc. Not worth it. Lounge is OK with awful food and worse wine and little value for $. No special line-up at airport for ease of processing luggage or border. Cayo Coco airport is worth it by comparison but not this one.
- Comparative to Melia Cayo Guillermo 2012? Guillermo had better staff, better beach, equal services, hot water - but very mediocre a la cartes. It is a trade-off resort by resort. Comparative to Melia Las Dunas? It could be homerism, but there were reports of substantial unpleasantries at the much larger Las Dunas.

So a great holiday not hurt by a few real issues. You may find hot water, flushing toilets and clean towels more of a deal-breaker. For us a forced novelty adventure whose charm wore off by the end. But we love Cuba, still.

  • Stayed: February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
18  Thank arturosrocks
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melia S M, General Manager at Melia Cayo Santa Maria, responded to this reviewResponded May 11, 2016

Dear customer,
Thank you very much for sharing your comments about your stay in our hotel.
We are happy to read that on the overall you enjoyed our service and hotel.
We pay attention to the issues you mention that help us to improve day by day.
We hope to see you back soon in the Melia Cayo Santa María Hotel!

Best regards,
General Manager

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