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Reviewed 27 February 2016

Area: Play Santa Lucia – 4 hotels on a strip of beach. The Club Amigo Caracol has not closed and been renovated and opened as the Villagi Bravo and we heard that the Brisas is next for renovating. We did check out the Villagi and I put a few comments under a thread about the changes to that hotel in the forums section.

Who are the visitors? Mostly Italian and Canadian with many smokers. There are also some Cubans – family of staff from what we could gather. We tend to go for the peace of laying in the sun and getting books read but the majority seemed to be there to gather together and talk, quite loudly. It could just have been the mix the week we were there but it did impact on the type of vacation we are used to.

Smoking areas? The majority of the hotel seems to be at present set up for smokers which is different from other resorts we have visited.

Transport from Airport and hotel arrival: The bus was smooth, easy and had a bathroom on board.

Hotel check in was okay though we were near the front so could have been sped up by having more than two people doing it for such a large group. They were able to speed up the check in by not doing safe keys or towel cards (as you have to pay a fee for the safe key (2 CUC per day) and deposit for both the safe key and the towels (each was 15CUC (so an additional 45 CUC that you get back when you leave and at least 14CUC that you do not. In addition, they don’t do any exchange in the evening so you can’t get any CUC until the next morning anyway. Basically this leads to lining up again in the morning to deal with the additional items that could have all been dealt with the night before.

Rooms: Need updating however ours was clean, in fairly good repair given the age, air conditioning, fridge and TV all worked in our room – our friends did not have a fridge and had to borrow our remote for the air as theirs was AWOL (we were in 208/209 on the first floor with patio looking out over a field). We had good water pressure and lots of hot water. However, the bathroom is small with no vanity so handy to have hanging bags for your toiletries. Also remember this is Cuba, we have never seen a facecloth at any hotel so bring one with you. The room had a shower but not bath, which is okay by us. The bed was also surprisingly comfortable though we did have to ask for extra pillows as we were given two tiny flat ones.

The location of the room did get some noise from the show at night, we are early to bed types and the sound system despite facing the opposite direction has a very loud base, so it vibrates through the surrounding rooms.

Hotel grounds: Lots of work has gone into making this a nicely set up and well-presented hotel. Lots of plants, trees, flowers in many different areas, so take the time to walk around the resort it is well worth it. In addition, in the main area around the pool are potted plants hanging on pretty ironwork a very nice touch.
There are lots of nice little places with tables and/or chairs set up to sit around the resort.

At both the pool and beach there were always lots of chairs despite the resort being full. Also this resort has what I keep encouraging other resorts to do for the beach. The chairs are always stacked and cleaned at the end of the day. There were several workers who when you came to the beach would ask you how many and where, they would set you up with clean, working chairs. No hunting, no dragging chairs and very little saving of chairs was seen while we were there. ALL resorts should do this. Yes we tipped but like all of Cuba you don’t have to and with the hassle it saved it was well worth it. They also have the soft cloth type chairs at both the pool and beach.

Beach: Reasonably clean though many cigarette butts around this resort I felt like I was walking in an ash tray by the last day…come on folks why can’t you collect your butts and put them in the can people are in bare feet down there. The beach was nice for walking – you can walk for miles. We did not have many issues with kite surfers while we were down but have heard it can be an issue.

The beach does have a bar but it is ½ way back to the rooms instead of right on the beach. They don’t have any slush drinks at that bar nor ingredients to make many of the main drinks…though the one bartender certainly gave it a great try. They also don’t serve any food there.

Pool: There is a snack, coffee bar here (great cappuccino) and a bar with slush drinks. The snacks were mainly Sweet Potato chips (freshly made, these were fabulous), burgers, hot dogs and salad.

Staff: Majority were friendly and could not do enough for you. Front desk was the exception it appeared any time you went there that they ignored you at first and then they often could not help with the request. The majority of our contact with them was to get change for tips, they would not give more than 5CUC at a time, we even explained why we wanted it but still no go. At one stage we were asking while a bartender was exchanging his tips for bills and they were still stingy with how much they allowed out at a time.

Reynaldo who is guest services, the person who books your ala carte was very helpful and even arranged a nice Anniversary surprise for us at the Seafood ala carte. Thanks again Reynaldo.

Marie France who was the Air Transat Rep was also quite helpful.

Buffet: They set this up for us when we arrived late as well which was fabulous. There was a nice selection of foods at all times. The food here was among the top three that we have had in Cuba.

Ala cartes:
Seafood – Served at the little bar near the beach. Can be a little windy but was a lot of fun. There is a small band who play and sing to entertain. The waiter Merlin was quite a character, as was the Chef who was on that night, the food was delicious. We ate here twice as our last night we had our First Anniversary dinner here, they decorated the table, provided sparkling wine and a flambé cake for desert. They also sang happy anniversary to us with the band.

Brazil: This is located next to the buffet, it was nice, good food but a lot more subdued than the Seafood.

Tip for buying bottles of water: In the store it is 1.50 CUC for a large bottle but at the snack bar it is .70 CUC. You can refill your bottle anywhere on the resort.

We did the tour of Camaguey on the last day to pass the time, this included access to the VIP at the airport for 58 CUC per person for the day (this also included lunch, with a drink and a drink in the afternoon). I forgot the name of our tour guide but she was wonderful, she was a walking encyclopedia about the area and Cuba in general. I learned more from her than I have over many trips to Cuba over the past 10 years.

If we had not taken the tour the VIP would not have been worth it on its own. While it was much more comfortable than the main terminal, they had no cappuccinos, no ham and cheese (just cheese sandwiches which seemed to be quite bland – real, good Cuban cheese does have taste just check out any local restaurant to try it. They had some snacks (DON’T EAT THEM) while our friend who can eat anything made it through a bag even he did so reluctantly and for want of anything else. They did have juice, pop, tea, coffee, premium and local beer, premium liquor. The staff in there were friendly and helpful.

Room tip: Stick to rooms in the 200 block but on the other side of the hotel; rooms on the first floor have patios, second floor is only windows.
Date of stay: February 2016
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
6  Thank Whiteknight_013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 February 2016

arrived with hola sun never again,while in rout to hotel he has bus stop and gets off.we were told there was food ready for us as we were delayed.what a joke no way in hell i was eating this crap.need water because your thirsty not have to go down street because this place shuts down at 2 we didnt get there until 230.got to our room what a chicken coop .no room for 2 people plus luggage.next day transfered out . went to gran club where we had a blast

Date of stay: February 2016
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
3  Thank Joe D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 February 2016

Visited February 4th -11th. I chose this hotel not only because it was incredibly low priced but also because other reviews said there was an older crowd and it was a quieter property. As I was traveling without my husband and with our two teens I did not want a party atmosphere. This hotel was perfect for us. We used the bikes almost every day, biked to see flamingoes,etc. Felt very safe.
Our favourite activity was going out in the pedal boats and chasing starfish. We also saw lots of turtles and stingrays. I found the animation crew very respectful of my children and really went out of their way to keep them busy and entertained. The singers and musicians during the nightly entertainment were really good.
We were in room 217 and it was recently renovated/painted so no smell, no bugs. Air conditioning worked well as did the shower. Other people did tell us they had ants, mouldy odour and paint peeling so it depends on the section. Yes the furnishing is dated so we viewed it like being at the cottage, but on the beach. Our room had nice private patio to sit outside which we enjoyed. Food was fine for us, I didn't get sick but my kids had one day of violent food poisoning. Only thing we could think of that they ate and I didn't was the pasta, which they had ham, green peppers added so I thought the meat had been sitting out too long. It really only gets heated up, not cooked. Really, we ate too much, like having 3 suppers a day so we started having the ham and cheese sandwiches outside at lunch. Really enjoyed meeting Gisele, our server. Very nice woman.
You are allowed one supper a week at Brisas, food good, nice presentation but too busy. We decided that we liked Mayanabo better.
Only a couple of over drinkers , felt bad for the front desk because one loud drunk woman was screaming at them because there was no more wine, I heard they delivered her a bottle. Other turnoff for many of the other hotel reviews were the number of men who go down and bring prostitutes to hotels. Only saw one case of 4 Canadian men who had prostitutes there for the weekend, very sickening and shameful to see but used it to educate my children, felt sorry for their wives and for the young ladies.
There is seaweed, they do a pretty good job cleaning it up and in walking the beach in front of other 4 resorts, the beach was actually the best at Mayanabo.

Date of stay: February 2016
  • Trip type: Travelled with family
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
4  Thank LuvGettingLost
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 February 2016

First the bad, The weather in Cuba is very unpredictable these days, according to staff and the regular visitors to this resort. In our one week visit we had three very cold and windy days and two "good enough" day and two excellent weather days. This was not in the control of the resort but I was frustrated on the cold days for several reasons.
1) the room was cold and there were not enough blankets (one each bed was not enough for the weather conditions)
2) the Animation team seemed absent and there was nothing to do, or, they were not able to adjust their activities to account for cold and rainy weather. (more about this later)
Other frustrations were the fact that from 12-16th Feb there was a large Santa Lucia Festival going on nearby. We were told about it as the bus arrived at the resort, in a "oh by the way" sort of way by our Sunwing guide. It ended up shaping the entire experience, mostly negatively, and I think Sunwing should have given a disclaimer about those dates as part of the booking details. How this festival affected our experience:
in addition to loud music [that clashed with the resort music] late into every night the Sunwing advisor said not to attend at night, and to be careful if we attended it at all. However, all of the resorts in the area were in some sort of competition between one another that week, all connected with this festival. In meant that often the nightly "entertainment" we were expecting to have at our location, was non-existent, because the team was at another resort location or at the festival for activities related to their competition. There were many nights that nothing happened at our resort location, and it was very disappointing, and boring. As the rainy days continued, I asked if we could have some Salsa lessons or something to do and was told that because the animation team was preparing for their festival competition pieces they were not available to facilitate such things for the tourists. I thought this was unacceptable. Our last night the "entertainment" was watching three resorts of staff and animation teams receive awards, with the entire ceremony almost all in spanish (the MC said he wouldn't be translating for us since the awards were for "the workers"). It felt like we were attending someone else's family reunion.
Our Sunwing rep, nor the hotel staff, ever told us that outside the Buffet restaurant there would be posted a daily schedule. I discovered it by accident half way through the week. It was then I saw how our entertainment was connected to the festival and the resort competitions going on with it. I saw that we were expected to go to the other resort locations to attend "our" nightly entertainment offerings, but there was no way to get to them unless you walked [I could not do that distance] or hired a horse and cart or taxi at your own expense. I found this unacceptable and very disappointing.
About halfway through our week a large group of Italian seniors arrived and they had their own activity schedule with many things like Bocce ball and so forth, that others of us were not included. Again, disappointing.
Other disappointments. Ocean View room --- don't bother, it's too far away too see it, and you can't open the windows in the upper level to be able to hear it. The lower level rooms are much better because you can walk out to a little deck and sit on chairs and hear the ocean, but you can't see it because of a rise in the land or trees in front of you. All other rooms of the resort - expect to hear music non-stop. That is to say, if you want to listen to the wind blowing in the trees or the ocean, you can't do this from your room.
There is no sound proofing between the rooms, so we had to use our air conditioner to block out noise from next door and outside. That worked except that the air conditioner temperature cannot be controlled, so it's freezing cold in your room when it is on. There are not enough Air conditioner remote controls, so sometimes the cleaning staff would come and ask to borrow our remote ! We didn't use our TV, so I only know that it works because the room next to us left there TV on ALL DAY AND NIGHT. Again, the only way we survived that noise was to run the air conditioner.
When the weather got better we were expecting to get the "daily" boat ride to the coral reef. Most days it had been cancelled, and when it started running again we learned it was all booked up. Since the purpose of my trip was to daily go snorkelling I found this really unacceptable. I was told that there was only one boat for all three resorts, and so it was supposedly a "first come, first serve" deal, but the one day I had pre-booked the boat to the coral reef it was cancelled because of the wind." We booked the Catamaran tour to Playa Bonita, a lovely day but the snorkeling was too windy to be enjoyable and we couldn't snorkel at the starfish colony, as advertised, because of the wind. There was no chance to re-book for the sunny good days because it was all booked up, - again only one Catamaran for 3+ resorts. As I was there to take advantage of the 450kms coral reef just along the island, I enquired about a private boat option and was told nothing available. So, it came as a big surprise on my last day when the lifeguard at the resort took three of us on a small resort Catamaran to the reef, for a very reasonable fee. If I had known I could hire our resort Catamaran's to go to the reef every day I would have happily done this. I was really frustrated to find out by accident on my last day about this option.
The Good:
We did the Lobster Dinner excursion to Playa Coco and really enjoyed it. Highly recommend.
I don't usually recommend Cuba for the food, but I thought the food at this resort was really good, as well as the A La Carte options. They were also competing that week with the other resorts so it might of made a difference?
I don't eat meat, only fish, but I always had some fresh fish to eat or crab croquettes. If you are a vegetarian you might starve, because every day they only offered: salad greens, beats, cooked pumpkin and plaintain bannanas, papaya, guava, grapefruit, oranges and sometimes bananas & green beans, otherwise LOTS of meat. If you are Vegan, good luck! I think Gluten free would be hard to manage in this resort too, as many items were breaded and fried, or it was a bread/sandwich kind of food offering - so good luck with that here.
In the 24 hour snack bar, they would run out of food - not too many choices either.
The bars were ok, not a big variety. They even ran out of mint and Mojito's my second day there (before 5pm !)
Staff - most were not overly friendly but they were all professional and helpful when we needed something. The public relations guy worked hard for us, and the restaurant and A la Carte staff were very good.
The pool was excellent, good towel service and the beach well maintained. By the time we got to the beach the lounge cots had always run out and we couldn't get one - something they could improve on.
What really struck me at this resort was how many of the guests were repeat visitors. One man was on his 11th visit to the same place. We noticed that there was a kind of community atmosphere and people had the expectation that newcomers would sit and visit together. I came there to get away from people (my job is a people full job) so I didn't quite fit in to this atmosphere because of my specific needs for my vacation time, but I observed that there was a lot of opportunity to building new friendships with others if you are looking for that.
I REALLY LIKED that our room had a 110 outlet, so I could plug in my Canadian electronics without needing a converter!
Internet: we were told upon our arrival not to bother with buying internet because it was too slow and unreliable. We were told to walk to the Brisas resort or the gas station at the end of the road if we wanted to use WiFi.
One important thing: One of the guests at the hotel was wheelchair bound. On location he seemed to get around ok but we were absolutely horrified when the Sunwing tours airport bus came to take us on the last day. The hotel/bus staff were completely un-informed about how to transfer a physically challenged person from a wheelchair into a bus. The way they carried him, and DROPPED HIM both getting on the bus and off of it !!! was cruel and potentially dangerous. Watching this situation made us ill that someone would be subjected to such danger and humiliation. The situation was further compounded when he was sitting in an Aisle seat on the airplane and the window and middle seat passengers were trying to get to their seats and harassing him to move for them to enter. Another passenger yelled out, so all of the plan heard it, "he's disabled, he can't move!" The other two passengers had to stand on the seat chair arms and crawl over him to enter their seats. This. should. never. have. happened. like. this. why should this fellow have to suffer so much humiliation to travel ?!?!! Watching this left us very unsettled and sad.
So, let's end on a positive note - The beach is beautiful and you can walk a very long way along it. As far as my week of snorkeling aspirations went, I managed to get to the reef twice, and it was beautiful, but the irony is that I saw the most amazing fish the days I just went snorkeling walking into the water from the resort beach. For example: a large Lion fish (in the swimming area!!), small sting ray, a flying Gurnard!, and a sand flounder, to name a few. I think the flying Gurnard made it all worthwhile.

Room tip: lower level, bloque 2
Date of stay: February 2016
  • Trip type: Travelled with friends
    • Location
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
5  Thank DRTraveller81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 19 February 2016

Stayed Feb 11-18 , 2016. The food was pretty good enough variety. I was not aware of the fact that during the valentines day there is carnival around the hotel. A lot of Cubans are there from out of town to party. The rooms are very old. The security locker works with a manual key but you have to pay extra for the locker. I heard there are newly renovated rooms in one particular section not sure where. The room was clean and I was able to sleep despite the noise do I did not complain. Lot of seaweeds on the beach but the weeds are raked every morning. Professional hustlers at he beach (nothing new) but there is always a security guard on duty at the beach in front to the hotel so the hustlers stay on the side. You do not have to worry about loosing your stuff but (common sense) do not leave anything precious unattended. Money can be exchanged at the front desk after 9am but you can get slightly better rate at the money exchange in between Caracol and Gran Club hotel close to the beach. It seems that the water at the pool has not been changed for a very long time. There is Coco beach further away. Beautiful beach you can take a horse carriage the price is 10 CUC for a round trip but they always ask for a lot more. Overall a good experience. I got what I paid for.

Room tip: Block 3 is noisy due to loud music playing nearby until late night.
Date of stay: February 2016
  • Trip type: Travelled solo
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Service
2  Thank hdrsal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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