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Gran Caribe Club Coral
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Reviewed April 29, 2009

REVIEW GRAN CARIBE CAYO LARGO CUBA
APRIL 12 – 26, 2009 (VILLA CORAL AND VILLA SOLEDAD)

This resort is a little pearl in the tiny island of Cayo Largo.

I flew from Montreal to Cayo Largo on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. I had booked online with Yourtraveltickets from St Catherines, ON two weeks before departure and paid $1166 for two weeks All Inclusive at the 3* Gran Caribe. My flight on Air Cubana, a new airbus, was delayed 90 minutes as they were waiting for the plane to arrive from Cuba. This was the first time I have traveled with Cubana. The seating was comfortable; they distributed headsets prior to showing the movie. One ear was in Spanish and the other ear was in French for listening. There was no English option. The morning meal served at 10:30 am was a cold entrée consisting of fruit cup, apple Danish, bun and butter orange juice and coffee. There was no complimentary water, juice or soft drink service. All these were for sale only. The flight lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. Our flight was combined with the Cayo Coco destination but we landed in Cayo Largo first.

We quickly went through Customs. We were the only plane on the tarmac at the time. ¾ of the passengers disembarked at Cayo Largo and only 2 of us were going to the Gran Caribe. There was one other passenger on the 40 pax bus with me. We arrived at the Reception Desk of Isla del Sur to check in.

The Gran Caribe is a four-hotel complex. The Barcelo (which has just been transferred to become part of the Gran Caribe chain in May 2009) is to the left and the Pelicano is to the right, both only a short 20 minute walk away. Two of the four Gran Caribe sections are exclusively Italian Club sections (Isla del Sur and Villa Lindamar). The Villa Coral and Villa Soledad have Italian, Canadian and Cuban clientele.

I was in Villa Soledad for the first week of my stay (room 5041). I was on the second floor with a beautiful ocean view, which allowed for watching the spectacular sunsets in the west each evening. My room was basic, spotlessly clean, contained two single beds, double closet, fridge, TV, dresser, and the bathroom had a tub shower, sink, bidette, toilet, and hair dryer installed on the bathroom wall. The air conditioner was new. The hotel supplied bars of guest soap. The fridge was not stocked with anything.

The second week of my stay I moved to Villa Coral to be closer to my traveling companion who was assigned a room in that section. The Villa Coral room (4028) was on the first floor with a full ocean view and was just a few steps to the beach and the section closest to the Villa Soledad. This room did not have a tub or bidette or a hair dryer. I believe the Soledad rooms, although in a quieter part of the resort, because there is no pool or buffet there, are more updated. They were about to put a new red tin roof on my building as I was leaving.

The main buffet in the Villa Coral had better than average food than what I was anticipating for a 3* in Cuba. Every breakfast provided a made to order omlette station, fresh fruite (watermelon, pineapple and the sweetest orange sections I’ve tasted all winter), fresh baked loaves of French bread and rolls, various cheeses, ham slices, jams and butter and a selection of breakfast cakes. The hot entrees included deep fried potato rolls, which were delicious, bacon, ham, pancakes (one morning only), boiled eggs and toast. There were two choices of cereal and milk, yogurt and buttermilk in jugs. There were also jugs of fruit juice (frozen concentrate, I think) of grapefruit, orange, mango and mixed fruit). Coffee and hot chocolate came from a machine but it was very good. There were sugar bowls and salt and pepper (white pepper) on the tables. The buffet walls were decorated with various paintings from the Leonardo de Vinci era. There was only an air conditioner directly above the salads and dessert tables. Breakfast was from 7:30 until 10:30 a.m.

Lunch was open from 1:30 until 3:30 and there were a variety of salad dishes as well as platters of cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce (on week #2). Oil and vinegar was the only salad dressing offered. We brought our own favourite from home. There were 5 hot entrée steam table dishes of chicken, pork, fish, pasta and soup. Red and White Argentinian wine was served on request. An alternate lunch option was available at the Villa Lindemar Ranchon beachfront restaurant which served chicken, fish, hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. This became an a la carte on Tuesdays and Thursday evenings serving steak, pork, or fish.

Supper buffet opened at 7:30 until 10:30 p.m. Throughout my stay, there were always at least 5 choices of meat, 2 vegetables, soup, various salada similar to lunch and desserts consisted of crème caramel, cake, éclairs, fruit flans, ice cream and fresh fruit. No coffee was available at supper. We would walk next door to the 24-hour lobby bar at Isla del Sur for a delicious cappacino, expresso, and café Americano while sitting on the patio overlooking the entertainment stage and large freeform pool of the Isla hotel.

There is a 5-member house band (Cinquillo Pinero) that circulates in the dining room. One night they gave the half a dozen Canadians in attendance at the pool bar an impromptu concert from 8 to 11. It was a magical evening. You can view a video on You tube if you key in SUCU SUCU A ISLA DEL SUR

Entertainment was at 10 pm each night at the Isla del Sur but it was only in Italian. The entire resort complex of the four hotels was 95% Italian guests from Italy, and the remainder of the clientele were from Quebec and Cuba. I was the only Anglophone in the resort and my traveling companion was the only Maritimer. I think all of the English speaking only visitors to the island from Toronto tend to book at the Pelicano, Barcelo or Sol. The Gran Caribe is not sold out of the Toronto gateway, only Montreal.

The Villa Coral has a swim-up bar (Giovanni and Vladamir are excellent, fun bartenders) and there are two activity staff (shout out to Alex and Daeme), two great people who teach salsa, give Spanish lessons and provide various games activities. I even saw Alex babysitting an 8 year old boy one day while his parents went on an excursion. Pizza is served in the afternoon at the bar as a snack. Music is loud and often repetitive.

The beaches of Cayo Largo are renowned for their beauty. The Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena are picture postcard perfect with powder soft sand which is not hot to walk on. The water is clear and aqua marine in colour and is either calm as glass or has very gentle waves perfect for laying on an air mattress. Walks along this beach towards Punta Mal Tiempo to the left or beyond Playa Sirena always produced interesting things to see like starfish, sting rays, birds, etc. There is nudism displayed on this island in various sections of all the beaches. There is a complementary shuttle train three times in the morning: 8:30, 9:30 and 10:30 going to Paraiso and Sirena. It is an extremely bumpy ride but a lot of fun. Taxis are for hire and cost 2 CUCs per person and are faster than the road train. At Paraiso and Sirena there is a restaurant and bar to purchase food and drinks. The palappas and loungers are usually taken by the 8:30 arrivals but become available at 1:30 when the shuttle comes to pick up and return guests to their hotels. The last shuttle returns at 5:00 pm.

There is a gift shop located across from the main entrance of the Isla hotel. They sell rum, coffee, beach bags, swimsuits, snorkels and masks, towels, handicrafts, fragrances, cigars, crèmes. It is quite remarkable how well stocked it is. There is a little post office beside the store (tienda) which sells post cards, stamps and pens. Beside that is the car, scooter rental which is popular.

Jorge Felix is the Public Relations person and is always circulating throughout the resort, greeting guests, making a la carte arrangements for the Ranchon steak house on Tues and Thurs evening (seating for 30 people). If you have a problem, Jorge does his best to find resolution.

I had the opportunity to visit each of the other hotels on Cayo Largo and in comparison, the Gran Caribe does show its age (it was the first hotel on the island) but it is kept very clean and in good repair. The Villa Coral buildings are painted in pretty pastel colours (blue, pink) that are pretty against the palm trees and various bushes that dot the resort.

The Italians were given an orange bracelet to wear. I was given one but told not to wear it, just show it at the Villa Coral for my first meal and then put it away. The Cubans that arrived throughout the week for 3 day stays wore pink bracelets.

The reps from TMR, Varaplaya and Cubana were present each day to book various excursions that people wanted to take. The Catamaran tour was very popular for $73 CUCs. It included snorkeling, visit to Iguana Island and a lobster dinner at sunset.

The village was a $5CUC taxi ride away and houses the museum (a history of Cayo Largo and pictures of the hurricane damage from 2001), a store, a couple of restaurants, a bank, turtle sanctuary and marina. There are apartment complexes for staff in this village also. It takes about an hour to see everything in the village.

This was my first trip to Cayo Largo but I immediately fell in love with its charm, quietness, natural beauty and friendliness of the people. I will go back again next year and probably meet the same guests I befriended this year (shout out to Suzie, Sebastian, Andre and Diane, Joanne and Linne, all from the Montreal area.).

I would recommend this resort for a totally relaxing vacation. It certainly helps to speak French, Spanish, or Italian here. Anglophones are definitely the minority population. I got to practice my French that I haven’t spoken since high school. It was a fabulous 2 weeks for me. I loved every minute.

20  Thank Trillium
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 10, 2018 via mobile
Google Translation

Stayed: March 2018, traveled with friends
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 31, 2018 via mobile
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Stayed: January 2018, traveled with friends
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 15, 2018
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  • Stayed: February 2017, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 13, 2017
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Room Tip: un vrai trou mieux vaut aller voir ailleurs o
  • Stayed: December 2016, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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