Our first try at an ‘All Inclusive’ hotel, and first impressions were not encouraging.
Reception was rather frosty and off-hand (in total contrast to our hotel in Havana), although we did not arrive with anyone else and reception was not busy. We were given a room on the 4th floor, near the lifts, with a balcony that had half the view removed due to the central retaining wall of the hotel blocking it. We asked to be moved. The receptionist gave us the standard ‘the hotel is full’ reply. We insisted that our room wasn’t suitable, and were then told if we returned in 1 hour, we could have a room on the same floor, but further down the corridor – which we said we would look at and that we thought would be fine. We returned in 1 hour, but were given instead a room on the ground floor, with no explanation - (so they had at least 2 rooms that weren’t occupied). We did not have a view of the sea, but overlooked the lagoon area, gardens and could just see the pool, so a pleasant outlook. Being on the ground floor turned out to be a plus, as we never had to wait for the lifts and the sound from the entertainment room seemed to carry upstairs rather than down our corridor. (We also found out the next day from our rep that reception should have handed us a Virgin welcome envelope but this was never produced by reception).
One other thing to note about arrival - this must be one of the ugliest hotels on the Varadero beach strip. It is ‘high rise’ for Cuba with 9-10 floors, of an unattractive construction (in our opinion), and you can see it from miles away - we took to calling it ‘the Bunker’.
All of the above now said, the hotel turned out to be very pleasant. Our room was spacious and kept spotlessly clean by our maid Gypsy. There were plenty of toiletries and the towels changed as you required them. All the staff in the hotel, other than the ones we encountered in reception, were friendly and welcoming. The food was pretty decent for buffet food and plentiful, with a freshly grilled fish and meat dish also available. Breakfast was also good with plenty of choice including fresh fruit, omelettes, bacon and the like, along with plenty of breads and salads. For us, the food became a tad repetitive, and we were glad that we were only staying for 6 nights (unlike many guests who are there for 2 weeks).
Alcoholic drinks were always available, and we found the local Cristal beer the Chilean wines all good. There’s also plenty in the way of spirits and we certainly got a liking for Pina Coladas and Mojitos. Whenever you needed a refill, your glass or cocktail was replenished almost too quickly!
The pool is huge with a good pool café bar at the side of it. Indeed, this café bar had the best coffee in the hotel and we usually took our breakfast coffee here, rather than in the restaurant. Very pleasant gardens lead down to the stunning Varadero beach. Note for those that like to sunbathe on the beach – the Blau’s beach area is quite narrow and when the tide is high (which happened due to a storm whilst we were there), there’s not a lot of room. On the day that the beach was out of commission for sunbathing, due to high winds and tides, this was the only time that sun-beds around the pool became scarce.
We took the tourist one day and it stops at the end of the drive near the hotel. The bus calls in at many of the hotels along the strip and then into Varadero town itself. The ride is 5CUC (about £3.40) per person on an open topped bus, and it ran on time, every 30 mins. Varadero is a fairly sleepy, quiet place with not an awful lot on offer. There are a couple of restaurants and a couple of little markets selling the usual tourist stuff and that’s about it. We also went on a short trip to Cardenas one afternoon, and it really is worth a visit just to see all the horse and traps and very few cars.
Would we return to the Blau? Well, it did turn out to be one of the better hotels on the beach strip, with lovely staff (except reception!). However, maybe we aren’t the ‘all inclusive’ types. The wrist tagging at the start of the holiday, the fact that you needed transport to go anywhere outside of your hotel (except walking on the beach), and that Varadero town itself had little to offer, made the whole beach strip a little claustrophobic for us. We had an enjoyable and relaxing stay, but 6 days was more than enough for us. The highlight of our holiday was our stay in Havana, which we thought was the ‘real’ Cuba.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Just on the shore of the magnificent and famous Varadero Beach, the hotel consists of a 13 floor modern building, completely new. Ideal for those who want to enjoy the beauty and the atmosphere of the most well known beach of Cuba, with the best facilities and a wide list of activities. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Blau Hotel Varadero
- Blau Varadero Cuba