Just returned from a week at the Melia Marina Varadero. It was my first trip to Cuba and admittedly, my expectations were low, but nonetheless, I was not prepared for what awaited me. After clearing costumes, I walked into a melee of people, no line or any semblance of order, each was trying to elbow their way towards the security scanning machines to get through. I was a bit surprised to say the least, since we've just disembarked off the plane with the items that we boarded on with, so what is the purpose of scanning our belongings? This first taste of Cuba wasn't off to a good start already!
Once through the scanning process, I walked out and found my tour representative easily and quickly, a plus! She told me to find my bus number and pointed towards a sea of buses...just as I was contemplating how best to navigate through the throng of buses and find my bus, I was greeted by a fellow right next to the tour rep. who quickly took hold of my bag and led me to the bus. All along, I understood this to be a service provided by the tour operators. I thanked him profusely and decided to stand outside while the bus was waiting for others. The helpful fellow came back and asked me for tip, keep in mind that I am aware that one must tip, but there was a bit of a dilemma here. I hadn't had a chance to purchase any local currency as yet. I tried to explain this situation to the helpful fellow, but he muttered something and walked away. YES, I felt like a heel!
The bus ride to the resort was informative, the tour guide shared a lot of mores with us and by the time we got off at the resort I felt I was sufficiently armed with the know how of Cuba. Check in was fine and friendly. Though unlike another reviewer here, I was not greeted with any cocktail. I asked the clerk if any food was available at this time, she said that the pool bar was open 24 hours where I can find something to eat. I was taken to my room, which happened to be what is called a condo apt on a kart, and since I was unable to find my own way there, I was faced with the dilemma of not having any coins to tip. I explained to the fellow who took me that I will make it up to him the next time. He was understanding and this time I was spared of being felt like a heel. He took me up to my room, showed me the offerings inside the room. I asked him if he'd give me about five minutes and then take me to the pool bar, which he did. The pool bar is just that, the only offerings here were hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza and sandwiches. I however, do not eat any of these, so not much to choose from. I ended up having a pizza, which was okay after I scraped off the excess grease which was floating on top. I asked for a mojito, I was told it can't be made because they didn't have any mint. I had a cappuccino, and it was excellent.
Next morning, I had my first go at the buffet. I selected poached eggs and toast. The eggs were stone cold. The toast was excellent, since I toasted the bread myself. Totally disappointed with breakfast. My next trip to the buffet, lunch. Again, everything and I mean everything I selected was, not lukewarm or even tepid, just COLD. Again, disappointed. I thought to myself, perhaps the buffet will really shine at dinner time, but...sadly, no.
I did the a la carte restaurants. I was only allowed to book in two of the three offered. I decided on the Latin and the French themed ones. The Latin restaurant called the Don Ernesto was a great improvement over the buffet, the food was hot and edible, though lacking in the "Latin flavourings" and overall tasteless. The meat tornadoes (plural) was actually one tornado, and was supposed to be with a chimichurri sauce, which was not detected by this diner. The staff was very friendly and lovely. Oh, and I had coins to tip! The French themed restaurant seated me in the very dark and empty part of the room...I was not happy. I asked for a change of table and was told that the restaurant was fully booked for the evening...though there were only six other tables that were occupied and they were in the bright and cheerful part of the room. So, I accepted my fate and forged on and looked ahead to the delights of french cuisine. The bus girl poured water in my glass, handed me the menu and gave me the welcoming cocktail of the evening...a sparkling wine with some lemon/lime mix. I looked the menu over and waited for the waiter/waitress, and waited and waited and waited some more. A full 15 minutes went by and I was still waiting and contemplated leaving. When lo and behold a big woman comes without a hello or a smile, pad of paper and a pen in hand and said: "What you want?" Now, I am fully aware of linguistic differences and the challenges of the English language, but the tone and facial expressions always helps one along in deciphering, and trust me there was no mistaking of rudeness here. I said to her that she should offer me some wine, to which her curt answer, "You order food first" Now, I have admitted that this was my first time in Cuba, but certainly not my first time in a restaurant. I should be sipping on my wine first, and then order the food. So, I asked for the wine, "You want red wine white wine?" I asked what they have to offer. She said they have a Chilean Cab sauv or a merlot. I had thought that in a French restaurant, perhaps a french wine would have been offered...no, only Chilean. Even then, she said that I must, and the emphasis is on the must order my food now. So, needless to say, I got my glass of wine and my first course together. I had selected a puff pastry with vegetables provincial. What a joke! The puff pastry was half baked, the vegetables were the frozen variety, cubes of carrots, corn and green beans in a tasteless beige goop. I tried to eat it, but I couldn't. My next course was pumpkin soup. The soup was a thick goo, but at least it was seasoned. Had a few mouthfuls and gave up. My piece d'resistance came to the table and I must admit that the presentation was pleasing and my heart even skipped a beat in anticipation of biting into something tasteful. My first attempt at slicing into the chicken breast stuffed with something was a prelude into what was to come. The fork would not pierce into the chicken and the knife could not slice into what turned out to be overcooked chicken, and the mouthful was bland piece of chewy meat that was difficult to swallow. The wine ...well, let me be kind and say that it should have been used to prepare some sort of sauce for the chicken. It was at this stage of my fine dining, that I decided to leave. As I neared the door to exit, the big woman who took my order blurted:" Not tasty?". I answered: "No". She made no attempt to offer me any suggestion to make my dining experience better.
The resort as it stands currently (Jan 04 - Jan 11 2014) is boring. I suppose if one only wants to do the relaxing beach and sun thing then its perfect, because its a quiet resort. The few activities provided are also beach related. Other activities at cost provided are: day excursion to Havana, a catamaran day -- this includes snorkeling, lunch on an island, optional swim with the dolphins (extra fee), a jeep day trip into the countryside and swim/snorkeling. excursion. I did the Havana day trip and enjoyed it thoroughly. I walked into the "disco" one evening after dinner, around 10ish, and found it empty. The evening shows are okay, though the song list of the ones I did catch are very dated...early 80's pop charts. I would have liked to have seen Cuban themed shows.
I have travelled extensively around the world and I am very clear in my understanding of a 5 star rating. This resort is not a 5 star, it should be properly rated at a 3 star.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Five star All-Inclusive beach resort, situated in the Marina Gaviota Varadero, 40 minutes from the international airport of this tourist destination. This amazing hotel boasts modern rooms; bars and specialist restaurants, well-equipped meeting rooms; swimming pools with recreation areas and Yhi Spa. It offers something unique in Varadero as its facilities are integrated with a wonderful seafront with shops and a marina. Recommended for families, yachting, diving, fishing, events, meetings, weddings and wonderful honeymoons. ... more less
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