We just got back on Thursday and had a fantastic trip. The bus ride to the resort was LONG (almost 2 hrs) and we had no washroom on the bus. Check that out before you drink too many beers! It was nice that we arrived at 10 a.m. at the airport so we were able to check out the countryside and the 44 mile causeway on the way to the Resort.
The Royalton was spectacular; clean and with gorgeous views. The rooms were clean and spacious but, we started to get some ants our second last day (pretty much all caribbean hotels have one bug or another so this was expected). The water was only luke warm the first couple of days in the room but, things got better as our week went on. Maid service was great as well. The pool looked inviting but, was a tad cold. It is their winter too after all :) We spent about 1/2 our time at the beach and the other 1/2 by the pool. The ocean wasn't cold and we went in often.
The poor butler tried to show us the highlights of the Resort upon our arrival but, it was a gorgeous day and we had heard the next day wouldn't be so nice, so we hurried him along so we could get to the beach! I think we saw him 2 times after that (you get two butlers who alternate their days off). We heard great things about some of the butlers who ran baths for their clients or set up a romantic dinner for them but, neither of ours treated us to anything special. We'd never had a butler before so it didn't bother us in the least, however, we didn't tip them when they came looking for a tip on our last day. We did tip the maids every day along with the bartenders and everyone else who provided us with their time and smiles (including the gardener who provided me with a beautiful flower each day he saw me).
How do I describe the beach? Look at my pictures. When we walked over the 'crest' by the beach bar and saw the amazing teals and blues of the crystal clear water I said 'the 2 hour drive was worth it'. You could see white beach sand for miles in each direction and brilliant coloured hobie cats dotted the waters just offshore. All of your worries melted away and I literally felt tears welling. We have beaches where we live in Nova Scotia and they are beautiful but, on this day the water was completely calm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky; heaven on earth to be sure. We parked ourselves on a sand bar just off shore and bathed in the sun with our rum punches and pina coladas for the next 4 hours of daylight we had left.
I was sick on Day 2 (from heat stroke not the food). I was able to enjoy a majority of the day by the pool and ended up in bed for the rest of that evening. We ordered room service when I started to come around and it was there within 1/2 hr. We also ordered up an extra pillow (which took awhile but, it got there).
We spent some time every evening in the Cafe Bar by the lobby which is open 24 hours. There was a pianist there each night and shows took place outside of the lobby (we missed all of them so I can't comment). The a la carte restaurants (Eggscellence and Senses) were okay; food in Cuba doesn't appear to be that great anywhere. We were never disappointed at breakfast however, and enjoyed our french fries and hamburger at Sunset Snack Bar late one evening. They also have sandwiches at the 'lower' pool bar each afternoon that you can grill yourself that we enjoyed as an afternoon snack/lunch. The Beach Bar also served some great marinated pork one day that we enjoyed along with some fresh fruit skewers.
The first few nights, we met great couples who were all heading out the following day so that was sad but, on the third night we started meeting couples who were going to be there longer than us so made some great friends.
The drinks were great and you just had to search the different bars to see who had the top shelf stuff and ask for it! The bartenders were friendly and open to anything you wanted them to attempt putting together for you.
Visit the 'Market' and pick up some trinkets and definitely visit the Japanese Restaurant in the Pueblo as well! Only 10 pesos each for the Japanese Restaurant and all reviews I heard were the same as ours; terrific food!! You just register at the front desk.
We did not do any excursions this year as we had done all we had wanted when we had visited Varadero some years before. We had enjoyed the Catamaran tour when we did it then and had great reports on it from others who had done it during this trip. We went over to the Pueblo to a Wednesday night 'Carnival' at a cost of 15 pesos each. This included a live band, open bar and food (although we had a hard time finding good food). We had a good time. The Carnival ran from 10:30 p.m. - 5 a.m. for all of you late night partiers.
Overall we enjoyed the Royalton. We love Cuba for its beaches and its people but, I think this will be the last visit for us. We try not to visit the same place twice.
Our next trip is to Costa Rica in March with our travel buddies and I am so looking forward to THAT trip report!
Try it out if you want to visit Cuba. The Beach will not disappoint but, you may wish to wait until March - May to give you a better chance of your weather being a little less windy and somewhat cool at times.