We stayed in this hotel (our first time in Cuba) for 11 days after having "done" Havanna (the real cuba) for three days previously. In Havanna we stayed in the Iberostar Parque Central, a brilliant hotel in a vibrant city (I have reviewed this separately). Veradero is the "tourist" Cuba and when in Veradero you could be almost anywhere in the world - if you want to spend lazy days on the beach then it is perfect, but there is very little else to do.
The hotel was initially very disappointing - we had been upgraded to a Junior ocean view suite which was spacious enough, if a little jaded. The "ocean view" could just about be glimpsed over the rooftops of the fairly newly built Royal Suites buildings, but if you are expecting to open the balcony doors and smell the sea whilst watching the waves - forget it. The balcony was nice and large with good quality sun loungers and a table and chairs, though half of the balcony was taken up with an empty Jacuzzi that no longer works - but it is Cuba!
The suite itself was large with a separate bedroom, lounge and bathroom, but the furniture is in need of replacement, which is surprising as this as a hotel owned by the successful Melia chain. In the lounge area there is a small "kitchen" with basin and underneath a fridge, which was rusty and in poor condition, though functional. Bizzarely there was a coffee percolator which has coffee and filters, but no milk. When we requested milk (or even powdered milk) we were told it was not supplied. If you like black coffee.... The suite had 2 TV's and 2 CD players!!
The pillows were awful and it took three requests to get these changed, which eventually they did. The aircon in the bedroom was not working, in the lounge area the aircon unit leaked, leaving a puddle on the floor but that was fixed the same day, and the door handle to the balcony was broken which took two days to fix. There is a safe, and ironing board and iron in the room, along with a daily top up of one large bottle of water, 2 cans of soft drinks and 2 of beer. We went running most days outside at around 7am when it was cool and requested two bottles of water each day instead of the usual one, after the first day when we had used the water provided and all of the 24 hour bars had no water at all when we asked, come back later we were told, but that never did get resolved despite asking for this to happen at the customer service office in reception.
Housekeeping was erratic, we got a foot mat in the bathroom twice and then had resort to using a towel when stepping out of the shower, as we slipped on the floor tiles. We got no small hand towels just very large bath sheets, which usually are rationed in other hotels. The bedding was also erratic, pillows and cushions appeared and then disappeared and for 3 days we had no top sheet, we did check the bed, nothing, just the original waffle white cover that was originally above the sheet, but then low and behold a sheet appeared again. the dual open ended pillowcases revealed less than clean pillows, so I suggest you don't look!! But we did get towel swans on a daily basis on the bed.
A really annoying start after having had great service at the Iberostar in Havanna. Come on Paradisus management, you can do better and the room should be checked properly before being given to a guest.
However... despite these relatively minor issues, we had come expecting a four star at best by European standards, and so relaxed and eventually got to really appreciate the good points about this hotel. Firstly, it is adults only and a walk along the fantastic beach past the heaving children-filled beaches of the other hotels soon had us breathing a sigh of relief that in fact the Paradisus is a really peaceful hotel. The grounds are immaculate, the beach is fantastic and the pools are great. Despite the large number of rooms it never felt busy at all. In fact we were able to use a small pool close by to our suite that had originally been designated for the Royal Service (which was based in the suites we were in until the new buildings were developed), and most days we had the pool to ourselves! . The beach area again has plentiful sunbeds and shade, but the first day were there we were mortified at the loud music being played by the "sports" team who appear at the beach around 10.30-12.30, then move to the pool area at 3.30. It seemed an intrusion at first when all we wanted to do was hear the sea, but as the days progressed we got to really appreciate it as it was done with humour, with "stretchy time", followed by beach volleyball and then aqua exercise. The four lads doing this are fantastic and made many people happy and it was not really an intrusion at all, really well done!!. On the beach which is fabulous white sand and with clear sea (no jellyfish or spiky anenomes) there are also pedaloes, kayaks and catamarans which are free so really great, and the sea is flat most days. The only downer is that you would expect to be able to go snorkelling (which of course you can) but don't expect to see much more than seaweed, as the area (like so many places in the world) is completely overfished.
I also took advantage of the free dive per day offered by the resort for qualified divers, 3 times per week, which was immense! Taking two dives per trip and paying for just one. There is a brand new Marina only 500m away where the dive centre is located, and whilst it is disorganised (they never actually asked to see my Padi card or held a proper briefing with buddy checks) it is really relaxed diving - collect by bus from the hotel at 9.15 so no need to get up early, and after two dives back at the hotel for around 2.30! Paradoxically for a country that is so poor, the diving centre itself is in brilliant condition - owned by the government with four lovely new covered fast hardboats, and amazingly with great new Scubapro gear. I had taken my own equipment expecting the worst in Cuba, but actually I would happily have used theirs. The first dive every day was free, and the second dive cost 50CUC (about £30). However, after your first day if you went on additional days the second dive was reduced to 20CUC (about (£13) which is a brilliant deal for two dives in water that is 29 degrees! The diving was not outstanding, but is interesting with a number of wrecks deliberately sunk to create a marine park about 20 years ago. No big fish, but some nice corals and reasonable number of the usual small reef fish. Lion Fish here are becoming a menace and eating their way through the reefs killing the fish population, and on one of the days the dive guides conducted a Lion fish spear fishing day as a way of trying to restore some equilibrium !
In the hotel itself there is a large buffet which opens for breakfast lunch and dinner, but the food here is not the best. A couple of themed evenings would have been appreciated as in our 11 day stay the food hardly varied at all, and it is a bit of a throwback to a 90's style package holiday on the Costas! The service in the buffet (for drinks) and in the Hilltop restaurant was often slow, and with one of our visits to the Hilltop, when it was only half full took them 30 minutes from giving us the menus to come and take a drinks order, then the food order - not good enough and not well managed, the Hilltop is also a very hot room.
There are a number of restaurants in the resort as well as the main buffet - an Italian, a French, an oriental and a Japanese, as well as the "international" at the Hilltop. In addition there is a "Rock Bar" open 24 hours a day for drinks and snacks, and a "Grill" near the beach that used to be a Cuban restaurant but is now only open short hours at lunchtime for barbequed food. However, whilst this sounds fantastic, the way they operate them is farcical, and again a throwback to yesteryear. All the restaurants don't actually open each night (not even the buffet), and you have to visit an "Information" room to book your restaurant meals a week in advance and are given a ticket. We had to do this twice as you can only book seven days in advance, with the next weeks opening days and availability for Monday onwards being available to guests on Friday afternoons. Really frustrating and how does that fit in with a five star hotel?! The food quality in each of the specialist restaurants was excellent - when you could get in to them. There were a couple of nights where despite booking early, we could not get a slot at any one of the restaurants, and on one of those nights decided that anything would be better than the buffet again and so chose to go to the brand new Mexican restaurant La Currho in the nearby Marina and pay for a meal out -it was excellent and only cost £30 including wine..
There is a "square" outside the restaurants where nightly entertainment was put on, but it was not consistently good and boy do the mosquitos bite both in the square and in reception - remember to take your spray.
There is a good gym next to the pool if you prefer to exercise inside, with treadmills, spinning cycles, steppers and weights. But spray and paper to wipe down your machine after use, would be a good idea, the towels provided are very small, just big flannels and these have to be requested, so a hand towel from your room, if you get these might be an idea.
The spa is also good but not up to the usual five star standard- the massages are fine but the overall experience is lacking.
Outside of the hotel there is very little to do. The new Marina is just being completed and is worth a visit - new shops are just opening up, and we also found a ten pin bowling alley which was great fun. There is also a Jazz club at the Marina and every Thursday in the music centre a performance by one of the many Buena Vista social club bands (including one of the original members) which should not be missed - a brilliant small "theatre" and a great night out for 15 CUC (£10) per head, tickets can be bought in the hotel reception. The Marina takes five minutes to walk to.
There is an open top tourist bus service that drives up the coast and back to Veradero town about 5 miles away regularly (about every 30 minutes). However the town itself has little to appeal.
Overall, we would return here again because despite the niggles it is a really relaxed environment. If only the management of the meals and the rooms were better, it would be exceptional.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort & SPA is located in Varadero Beach, the Cuban sun and beach tourist destination for excellence. This stunning Ultra All-Inclusive 5-star hotel is designed for adults only over 18. The property houses 630 rooms equipped with modern comforts and provides a varied gastronomic offer, daily activities, swimming pool and meeting rooms which convey an ambiance of quietness and service. Discover the magical peace of this paradise, recommended for weddings, honeymoons, incentive trips and spa/wellness. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Hotel Varadero
- Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort And Spa
- Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Varadero
- Paradisus Princesa Varadero
- Princesa Del Mar