My wife and I stayed at the MLD from May 26 - June 2. We flew with WestJet and booked a Superior Standard room. Overall, we had a great experience and I can safely say that the reviews on this site are generally accurate. To clarify that statement, I think people have made some relatively objective statements about MLD but I think the overall ratings are open to interpretation. For example, the drive to the resort is approximately 2 hours but your enjoyment of this will depend on the weather, time of day and familiarity with the route. This was our first time to Cuba so we were soaking up the scenery. If it had been nighttime, or if we had traveled the route several times before, it would have been boring. This was a highlight for us but others might not get the same level of enjoyment out of it. Likewise regarding the size of the resort - some walking is involved but we never had to walk more than 5 minutes in any direction. That might not be the case if you have children, are elderly or have a physical disability.
The resort was very nice and the level of service was about what I expected. I wasn't expecting anyone to cater to my every whim and desire - there are hundreds of other people at the resort and most restaurants and bars only have a few people providing service. I had read reviews about the piano bar being under-serviced but I found there were at least four bartenders working at any point in time. We never had to wait for an espresso or cappuccino.
One thing I was not expecting was the difference between the a la carte restaurants and the buffet. For me, the buffet was generally a much better experience. Food was more varied and (mostly) better quality, service was more polite and the overall vibe was more enjoyable. Although there are five restaurants and two buffets listed for the resort, only three a la cartes and one buffet were open during our stay there. We went to the seafood and Italian-food restaurants. I read very good reviews for Columbus (Italian) but I was really disappointed with the service and food. There was a level of pretension that simply did not merit the food that was served. For example, the seafood "medley" consisted only of shrimp, the minestrone soup was very similar to canned, condensed soup, the chicken entree was overcooked and the tiramisu was simply a piece of cake placed on top of custard. Yet, the staff were behaving as if this was the most exclusive spot on the resort. Ultimately, the whole experience felt contrived - it was an attempt at fine-dining without the fine dining. However, the seafood restaurant was fantastic and it served the best fish I've ever had. My wife generally dislikes fish and she, too, thought it tasted really good. The service at this restaurant was also a little bit more relaxed and enjoyable. Wine was always topped up and the wait staff were generally non-intrusive, which is a good thing for us. Of course, tastes will vary and I highly recommend trying any and all of the a la cartes if you're interested.
Our room was located on the second floor of building 28. The spot was ideal because it was exceptionally close to the quieter part of the beach, it was around the corner from the pool (where you have to pick-up/exchange beach towels) and was only a few minutes walk from the central hub of the resort (i.e., lobby, buffet, piano bar, etc.). The room was generally clean and room service was like clockwork every day. Floors were washed, towels were replaced, bed linens were changed and litter was always removed. We also never had a problem with having drinks delivered every day - two sodas, two beers and a 1.5L bottle of water. I suspect some people will be put off by the old-looking faucets and drains in the sink and bath/shower but it did not bother me. A couple of things to keep in mind: 1) The bath drain operates by twisting the round metal plate, which I haven't seen before; 2) The fridge may be turned off when you first arrive (don't assume it's broken); 3) You're in a tropical climate so don't be alarmed to see the scant insect once in a while. I noticed some very tiny (i.e., <0.5mm) insects around the patio door area and had to squash one small beetle (its presence was my own fault because I left a damp towel on the floor). The bed was very clean, although the mattress was somewhat too stiff for my liking. However, I never had back problems or sore limbs. Overall, the room was very good given the price, service and easy access to other areas of the resort. I would highly recommend the Superior Room and I would definitely recommend building 28 if you're main goal is to access a quieter part of the beach.
Despite any pros and cons that can be drummed up about the resort, the beach is the real reason to stay at MLD. It was absolutely fantastic and it would be a shame to spend the majority of your time anywhere else on the resort (at least during daylight hours). The water is very clear, very shallow and plant-life is virtually non-existent. The shore is set up with relatively comfortable reclining beach chairs covered by umbrellas and shelters. The crowd was never too big and we always had some space between occupied chairs. There's a small amount of wildlife to watch if that's your thing. There are small yellow crabs that burrow into the sand, a couple of small lizards that occupy the thatch in the umbrellas and roof of the shelter, small fish that occasionally travel the shoreline and we were lucky enough to see a pelican land in the water once while we were swimming. This is a great, great, great beach.
Here is the reality: this is not a Four Seasons resort. It is rated as a 4.5 or 5 star resort because of the services it offers but don't expect to sit in the lap of luxury. The drive to MLD gives you some glimpses at the living conditions of many Cubans who do not belong to the upper-elite in the country. Our tour guide pointed out what appeared like a rundown, concrete block of apartments and said that was where the resort staff lived - these were some of the best housing options available because the block would not be affected by a hurricane. Bear in mind that everything is relative, don't take things for granted and respect what is available in this country. If you go to the MLD with the right expectations, you will have a very enjoyable vacation in Cuba.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Magic and Legend unveils an ancient story that goes back in time to 1492, with the discovery of America. Melia Las Dunas, a 5 star resort, All Inclusive, ideal for your vacation with your Family, Reunion & Incentives, Weddings, Honeymoon Distinguished by the variety of services, the inviting atmosphere and the confort of its facilities, Melia Las Dunas offers the vacations of your dreams. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Melia Las Dunas Hotel Cayo Santa Maria
- Melia Cayo Santa Maria
- Melia Hotel Las Dunas
- Melia Las Dunas Cuba