Having been to many places around the Caribbean, including 5 times to Cuba, I can say that this resort is a far cry from 5 stars they advertise and corresponds to a 3-star hotel at best in places like Mayan Riviera in Mexico, for instance. Nature (the beach, water) is great, but when it comes to service, there are significant gaps. Some people argue that prices for this hotel are lower than in Mexico. Not quite so, given that THIS IS NOT a 5-star hotel at all. Some of the issues listed below are of systemic nature, whereas others are “little things”, but the mere number of these things adds up to create an overall negative experience.
To summarize, this hotel is simply in a “Junior League”. We are certainly not coming back.
Here are my reflections of our recent stay there.
1. Beach – a very nice stretch of powder sand, beautiful Ocean, practically no weeds. This is really the main highlight of the place. However, the beach is not cleaned on a regular basis, so unfortunately it is not uncommon to see litter (used plastic bottles, cans, etc.).
2. Money exchange – defrauding customers is a common practice. Watch for it!
When in Cuba you need to exchange your money to Peso Convertible (or CUC), which is a Cuban equivalent of the US dollar and is the only legal tender for foreigners. You can exchange your money at the Front Desk.
This is how the process is supposed to work:
• You hand over your cash
• The clerk tells you the amount in CUCs
• He/she then passes the indicated amount over to you
• He/she asks you to sign a receipt
• He/she then gives you a copy of the receipt for the transaction
And this is how the process actually works:
• You hand over your cash
• The clerk gives you some cash in CUCs, but you have no idea if it is the right amount, since they do not tell you how much you are supposed to receive
• He/she asks you to quickly sign a receipt (they would not even pass it over to you – will keep it in their hands, so that you do not have time to look at what you are signing)
• After you sign the receipt, they take it away, do not give you a copy and show you that the transaction is over
• Little do you know that they NEVER GIVE YOU THE EXACT CASH, only releasing the “dollar portion” of the converted amount. So even if they owe you $5.93, you will receive $5.
This happened to my 3 times before I complained. I do not mind tipping, but this has nothing to do with tipping. Next 2 times I was given “almost the exact amount” (still no pennies, so $5.90 in the example above) after they read something on the computer display (they ask you the room number prior to the transaction). However, I could clearly see that the people in the line before and after me were defrauded using the same scheme, so nothing has really changed.
On top of all that, they close the exchange counter from time to time without any notice or any pre-defined schedule, so you may end up trying multiple times until you actually get served (in my case one time I tried 4 times prior to being able to exchange). At the same time, even if the tourists are not served, the Front Desk clerks routinely exchange money for the hotel employees (who bring their tips) in front of your very eyes.
3. Front desk – they do not pay much attention to your needs, and sometimes we felt that customers were more of a nuisance to them (do not really want to say rude, as this could be a cultural thing). Here are some of the “little things” that we experienced:
• Upon arrival they give you a little brochure with your name, dates of stay and room number. The one that was given to us has a wrong name (not misspelled – completely different), different dates, etc. They also forgot to put the “all inclusive” wrist bands on – only after our reminder did they put them on
• One day we happened to be by the Front Desk and asked them to take care of a light bulb that burned out in our room. The response was shocking: go back to your room and call the Customer Service
4. Customer Service – as we later found out, there is a Customer Service desk at the lobby. However, it is not 24 x 7, so if you need some help, say, on a Saturday or Sunday, or in the afternoon on any other day – good luck to you.
5. Food – Quality and variety are simply not there, and the organization at the Buffet restaurant is very poor. Here some examples to illustrate the point:
• There is only one cooking station; one typically has to wait in line for 10 – 15 minutes to get served. Why can they not properly arrange this is beyond me
• Very limited variety of fruits, and amazingly they are of low quality. But to make things worse, you can actually see how they cut them. They do it right in the restaurant; the person who does this is not wearing gloves and has a garbage can ride beside her, between food shelves. So she takes, say, a mango, cuts it, then throws the waste into the garbage can (which attracts flies, etc.), and then reaches out to the next mango, cuts it, etc. Not sure how much you will want to try this mango, having seen the above
• Serving tea/coffee – this is really the heat of the season. They do not serve tea or coffee in any of the restaurants (including the specialty ones) during lunch or dinner – only during breakfast. At the same time they serve pastries for dinner, for example…
• There is one more observation, which is both funny and sad. One night the variety of food in the Buffet restaurant looked much more favourable. However, there were not so many servers available. I then noticed a table with some apparently big local bosses (3 of them) being served by at least 4 or 5 servers, with the local Assistant Director and some other managers standing around the table. Who cares about the tourists when an inspection comes in, right?
• Specialty restaurants - Initially we signed up for two: the Italian one and International. However, after our visit to the Italian restaurant (Il Limoncello), with food barely reminding Italian cuisine, we decided not to bother anymore.
• Booking of the specialty restaurants – unlike some posts where people refer to difficulties booking these restaurants, the only difficulty was had was the fact that when we tried to do this the first time the computer program they use did not work, and it was easier for them to tell us to come again “some other time”, rather than to manage the process manually until the software gets fixed. When we came back the next day, there were no issues booking any restaurant for any day we wanted. Based on our observations, 60 – 70 % of the specialty restaurants were empty on any day.
6. Quality of coffee and drinks served in bars varies from bar to bar. The worst is at the lobby bar (do not recommend going there), the best is at the beach bar by the pool. If you are served by Rahul there, you are guaranteed to get the best coffee in the house. The only problem with this bar is that sometimes it opens at 11 AM, sometimes – at 12 noon (for different reasons: no coffee or other ingredients, no electricity, etc.). A very strange schedule for a beach bar….
7. Maid service – this is probably one of the bright spots of this hotel. Good quality of service, friendly staff willing to help whenever they can.
8. Property/facilities – the main building and pool were opened close to 20 years ago, and require some renovation. Rooms are generally kept is a good shape but not without issues. In our room the shower leaked, the balcony door lock did not work, water pressure was low…. Again, not the end of the world, but adds to the overall impression.
9. Fridge replenishment – was never done. We had an all-inclusive plan. Unlike what can be found at any other 4/5-star hotel, the fridge contained only 2 bottles of beers and 2 cans of soda. However, after we consumed the two soda cans, they were never replenished. One is also entitled to a large bottle of water daily.
SO these are the facts; it is up to you to decide if they can influence your decision.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Meliá Las Américas is the premier Golf Resort in Cuba and it is also the only one with direct access to The Varadero Golf Club. Located on The Varadero Peninsula, a tropical paradise jutting into the clear waters of the Caribbean on Cuba’s northern coats. Poised between the beach and championship golf course, the 5-star hotel is an upscale all inclusive adults only (over 18 years). ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Melia Las Americas Hotel Varadero
- Melia Hotel Varadero
- Melia Hotel Las Americas
- Melia Las Americas Varadero