Cayo Coco, Jardines del Rey, Morón, Ciego de Avila, Cuba
(Jardines del Rey)
This All Inclusive beach resort has a delightful village feel to it, with colourful courtyards and "roads" leading to restaurants, sports facilities and guest rooms.
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"We got what we paid for...."
Pat on Jun 7, 2010 >
4 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jun, 2010 | Leisure | With friend
561 people found this review helpful
I was part of a group of six (five matured ladies) on our annual 'Gals get-away'. As usual we booked a 'last minute sell off' and so were quite happy with what we got. However, most of us being 'repeat visitors' to Cuba, in retrospect were glad we did not pay full price for the 'Cameleon Gold Package'offered by Nolitours; While it was a great package to have we found it was only really worth the $605.00 we paid at 'sell off' (some people paid even less).
Trip down to Cuba:
We were booked to travel down late in the afternoon of May 29th by Canjet however due to mechanical problems with the original carrier, after about an hour and a half wait, we ended up traveling by Air Transat; the flight was fine as it was a larger plane (so we actually had leg-room), however the sandwiches they served were terrible (stale), but we were offered a complementary drink of 'Champaign' (so that we wouldn't complain about the delay or food).
Arrival in Cuba:
This again was a delight as we were greeted by one of the 'service people' who have worked at the airport for years (yes, they will remember you if you have treated them well). Going through Immigration was a breeze even for the one traveling companion who was not traveling on a Canadian Passport, she was required to answer a few more questions than those of us with Canadian passports, but everything went well. WE WERE NOT ASKED FOR ANY PROOF OF HEALTH INSURANCE even though we all carried proof of the new mandatory health insurance. We did our 'money exchange' at the airport; this is a good idea as you will then have the correct currency to 'tip' your service people at the airport. PLEASE DO NOT TIP IN CANADIAN COIN (loonies or toonies). No International Banks (including Cuba) accepts coin from any other country, so foreign coin is useless to a local. If you are really serious about tipping.....then do it in the currency of the country.
The rooms and amenities (clean linens, bath robe, slippers, beach towels, stocked bar)were all as presented in the brochure.... the rooms were all updated, clean, and attractive; lots of hot water and complementary bath products; every day we had 'house keeping' who replenished our linens and re-stocked our mini bars. In our package we received our beach towels on the first day in our rooms (no deposit required), it was then up to us to do the 'towel exchange' every day; however on the last day we simply had to leave them in our rooms (not take them back to towel exchange which is what is generally done).
The first room I was assigned faced the 'lagoon' which I didn't like as I could 'smell it' (it was very humid the night we arrived). I requested a change of room, and the next day I was re-assigned to an ocean view room. This may have been easy for them to do because this is the 'off season' and there may have been a surplus of rooms available. UPON ARRIVAL, IF YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH YOUR ACCOMMODATION PLEASE SPEAK WITH YOUR 'TOUR REP', THE FRONT DESK PEOPLE ARE SIMPLY ACTING ON THEIR INSTRUCTIONS, do not take out your frustration on them, to do that would be like screaming at the kid on 'cash' at McDonalds if you get a bad burger.
Restaurants and Bars:
This was my seventh visit to Cuba, fifth to Cayo Coco and first to the Blau. I can honestly say, this is the best food I have had in Cuba, both in the buffet and in the a la carts; because I do not generally go to Cuba for the food, I was pleasantly surprised. Other than what is offered on the menus in the a la cart you can also request special orders like we did in the Sea Food Restaurant where we were able to get a delicious lobster (much larger than anything we can get in Canada) for only $15.00.
A heads up here, for those of you who love exotic flavored 'pasta' stir fried dishes' do like we did, take along a bottle or two of your favorite 'sauces' (we took a ginger teriyaki and a lobster sauce), the chef in the buffet will be only too happy to add it to your 'custom made' pasta dish; in addition you will have a very grateful chef when you tell him that he can take the rest of the sauce home to create the same dish for his family.
The bars were stocked with 'the usual' in both foreign and local drinks. The bar in the main building in particular had a nice 'slush' machine, wish they had them at all the other bars.
The beach in Cayo Coco was as usual.....superb, the best in Cuba I think.
The Life Guards on 'beach duty' also double as 'beach assistants' and are quite happy to assist you with setting up beach lounges (which are very heavy) once you choose a palapa (beach shade); again please 'tip' these people when you can as they do go out of their way to ensure that you enjoy your stay with them. The Blau now has a nice connection of salt water pools which run the entire length of that part of the resort now being accommodated (part of the resort is still being renovated). There is the usual 'swim up bar', pool and beach grills and washroom facilities, so food, drink and anything else needed is always not more than a few steps away.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
WE did go in the 'Off Season' and so were not expecting to see many activities going, however, again we were surprised .... There were the usual 'pool games' most days (as long as people will participate, they will do them). We arrived on a Saturday night and both that night and Sunday night there was very little going on, however from Monday on there was a live show every night at the Disco (with audience participation some of the time), then dancing for anyone who cared to stick around. In addition our package entitled us to attend the 'Nolitours' cocktail hour every day at the 'Pink Tower'...this was just a 'mix and mingle' with entertainment for the gusest of Nolitours. Trips off resort were available through both the 'Tour Reps' and by 'private employees' who also ran tours on their 'day off'. Whenever possible we booked with the private employees HOWEVER, their prices are not always the best.... so check both sorces.
All in all this was not a bad hotel to be at; they did deliver everything they said they would. I would recommend this resort, if you are an adult looking for a nice quiet get-away; in this off season it was not particularly inviting to families with young children as there was no 'kids club', this area was still 'under construction'; if you are planning to take younger children, I would check to see if those facilities are now up and running.
In addition, unlike their neighbors at the Tryp Cayo Coco, I found the staff to be not very warming or friendly, not too many of them smiled at you or greeted you, you had to make the first move, you had to really reach out to them before they 'warmed up' to you, however once you 'made the connection', then they were fine.
CAUTION: This entire resort is designed to look like a Spanish Village; every exterior surface through the resort is paved in 'cobble stones' of various sizes, shapes, textures and designs. These surfaces are not suitable for anyone who may be physically challenged or require the use of a mobility device to get around i.e. a cane or walker; it is even very hard on luggage with wheels; as such I opted to have the Bell Boy carry my luggage on a dolly rather than ruin the wheels on the cobble stones by dragging it along.
Laurie on Mar 20, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2010 | Leisure | Family and Kids
493 people found this review helpful
The Blau is the oldest resort on the island but it is clean, modern and very close to the beach. We went over Ontario March Break and while the other resorts were overrun by out of control drunk teenagers, the Blau, with its mix of families of all sorts was relatively quiet and low key. I think other times of the year, the Trypp and DH would be fine. They are more modern than this one and seem to have more activities on an ongoing basis.
Other reviews commented on the poor food. We found to our pleasant surprise that the food was just fine. I particularly liked the grilled shrimp at dinner and ice cream became a favourite every night.
Travelling from Ottawa direct to Cayo Coco was a delight. Our Signature rep met us at the airport. There is a big push to book the VIP room at the airport for the way back, but we had no problem with the main airport departure lounge instead. The shops actually had better souvenirs and cheaper with a money exchange right there.
Our rep gave us a good briefing on the morning after our arrival and was very helpful throughout the trip. There is also a Canadian working there, Mango, who can help you with any challenges you have. Front desk was also very good.
Our rooms were in the main pavillion which was very convenient looking over the plaza, but also noisy as we were next to the disco which played into the wee hours. With closed windows and good air conditioning, there was no problem sleeping however. The rooms were clean and the maid service very good. Other reviews had talked about bed bugs but we had none and saw no bugs other than mosquitos. The resort sprayed a smoke screen of sorts morning and night which kept the mosquitos down to almost none. I did hear that other resorts had lots of mosquitos.
Restaurants and Bars:
We enjoyed the buffet. Tried the Italian restaurant but with few waiters and lots of customers, did not like it very much. We were actually happy to get back to the extremely good service at the main buffet. The wines served at meals were quite good. The boys (12 and 14) really liked the hambergers grilled at the beach bar and the fries at the salt water pool were good as well. Our real treat every night was the Churros served up to order with a variety of delicious toppings. Another treat was the Spanish coffees from the main bar. Many of the tropical drinks were very sweet but the rum and coke and the cold cervasa at the beach were always great. A Timmy mug is good for keeping your drink cold at the beach.
Spent very little time at the pools with the beach so close. Good to get there in the morning to grab a shade hut for later in the day. A beach boy will get you the lounger and set you up. The water is beautiful and was warm due in part to the shallow water. It was usually pretty windy so there were waves but that just added to the fun for the boys. You can sign out kayaks and snorkling masks from the boat house. Did not see paddle boats. The Hobbie Kats were sailed for you.
Next time would bring own snorkling mask and bougie boards to take advantage of the waves. Get your towels on arrival by getting a paper at the front desk and taking it to the towel hut. Towels can be exchanged daily.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We really enjoyed the glass bottom boat that we waded out to from the beach. For 20 CUC, it would take you out to the reef for a good half hour or more snorkling. Before getting to the reef, they go along the beach and pick up people from the other resorts and it is fun to exchange stories. We went on it twice. We also really liked (especially the boys) the boat adventure. We only took the 2 hour tour and it was enough. The snorkling is pretty good and getting there in the little boats is great fun.
My mom took the two day overnight to Havana and couldn't say enough about how good it was. She particularly liked the hotel.
We also took the all day catamaran but because of wind, were not able to snorkle on the reef. Pretty good anyway, but not the best because of that.
Do NOT recommend the horseback riding. Too much trotting on very skinny horses. Very hard for beginners and even experienced riders.
The shows are quite good and the staff had everyone in stitches. My boys have now downloaded the theme song and are still dancing to it.
Bring Canadian money and enough to tip - as you would at a resort in Canada. I spent a lot of unplanned money in tips. Bring bug spray and extra sun screen. You go through a lot of sun screen and to buy one at one of the shops was $20 Pesos or about $25 Cdn.
To book excursions, they covert the money to US then to Canadian (and I think Pesos are in there too). If you can plan your excursions roughly ahead of time, I recommend you pay in Pesos, not by credit card. They will only take Canadian bank credit cards (Visa). No bank machines were seen.
We also brought things like toothbrushes/toothpaste/toiletries. I even gave one shop lady a package of boys underwear. Also, they like Canadian stuff. Always greatly appreciated by the polite and pleasant staff.
We enjoyed our stay and would recommend.
Breanna on Mar 9, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2010 | Leisure | With friend
508 people found this review helpful
Welcome to the old spanish style way of living! These buildings are beautiful, and well maintained!
You'll feel like you've taken a trip back in time! You will not regret this vacation!
The arrival was quick and easy. Blau is only 15 minutes from Cayo Coco airport, so it's very convenient.
Upon arrival we were directed towards the front desk, where we were checked in within 10 minutes. Frank was the one who served us. So cute, always smiling!
Once we left reception our bags were unloaded off the bus. From the lobby down towards the new Nolitours area is a little bit of a walk, but we didn't mind. Had some problems finding our room, but that made it even more exciting!
Eventually found our room (2973) and our bags were delivered within 5 minutes by Ricardo! What a lovely guy. You will always see him around the resort, so make sure you give him a wave and a wink!
Our room was great. We asked for 2 double beds, but received a King. Fine with us! The bed was so big I could barely see my friend on the other side of it!
Fridge was stocked up daily by the house keeper. If you leave her a couple pesos everyday, she'll make sure you're taken care of. Anything you want to leave her, should be left on the pillow.
The bathrooms are quite big with lots of space. We were on the top floor, and some other people had complained that there was no hot water, but we never had a problem.
The one downfall to the room was the following...
We had 2 rainfalls when we were there. One was all day, and by 2am that morning the floor outside the bathroom was flooded. I guess the roof was leaking and it was dripping down the walls. It didn't bother us, but I'm sure there are some people out there that it would bother. Shit happens. We just threw a couple towels on it, and it was taken care of.
The second rainfall was in the middle of the night. The wind was so strong that it blew the rain right under our balcony door and flooded one side of the room. Again, no big deal. Just threw some more towels on it and and put one in the gap underneath the door!
Restaurants and Bars:
We didn't do any of the A La Cartes, but I heard that the Italian was amazing!
Buffet style Brekky, Lunch and Dinner. Always penty. My friend is a vegetarian, and there was always lots for her to eat. Always fresh bread as well, which was really lovely! We were always treated excellent, and someone was always available if we needed anything. The 24 hour snack bar was nice as well, over by the piano bar. Ham and cheese sandwiches toasted...excellent!
Our drinks always had more alcohol than mix, so we weren't complaining! All the bars were excellent! We especially loved the one down by the ocean where the activities take place. Some great Cuban music to listen to!
We were over by the salt water pool, but never went swimming in it. It was quite cold actually, and I only saw 2 people go in it. We prefer the ocean anyways. Be careful down at the ocean when you are swimming when the tide is changing. The current is quite strong. The lifeguards are always on duty, and to be honest, you may just want to be rescued by them! :)
We saw a woman trip and fall when walking back up to the beach, and they were right there when it happened to help her back up. So once she realized how good looking they were, it turned into a joke. As soon as they turned their backs, she would fall again on purpose, and they would come back and rescue her! Really funny to watch!
Jellyfish are always lurking about. Three times..yes three, by hand brushed one! We were just wading in the water slowly making our way down the beach, and I felt a slimey thing brush against my hand. Then it happened 2 more times after that! Wasn't stung, but at that point I got out. If you do get stung, I was told it's not bad. Just feels like a bee sting. Just be aware.
Also, always lots of loungers available. Just be warned that Cayo Coco is usually quite windy, so it can be cool down at the beach. The days that it isn't windy though..the water is clear clear clear! I've been to beaches in Australia and Thailand, and I've never seen water so clear before. Beautiful!
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We didn't do any excursions. We were thinking of doing the catamaran one, but the water was quite rough most the time. The days that it was calm, we just wanted to lay on the beach! So in the end we didn't do any excusions, which was fine by us. We spent most of our time hanging out with the animation team. Mainly Maikely(Kely), George, Pino, and Deirel (Dee). If you see these people, please tell them Breanna sends kisses! We made some true friends down there, and we've talked to them nearly everyday since we've been back! My boyfriend even wants to come down and meet them now, because he's heard so much about them!
Through the day there are always activities going on down at the beach. I recommend that you check it out.
Also, the animation staff does a great job of keeping everyone happpy. The shows were great in the evenings, and the disco was even better. Most the tourists would leave around 12, but we would usually stay until 4am or so dancing with the team. Great memories! Doing the salsa until 4am was amazing!
We can't wait to go back to this resort! I usually do off the beaten track type traveling, but decided to do all inclusive this time with my best friend. What a great decision that was! We are planning a trip back in April or June, mainly to see the people and do some more dancing! The music is just amazing, and completely in my element! Can't wait! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to send me a msg on here! Would love to hear from people.
If you go, enjoy your stay! Remember that not every holiday is perfect, but if you make the best of what you have, it will make it 10 times better. I've read reviews on here where all people do is complain. Remember, Cuba is a third world country. These people try their best to make YOUR vacation memorable! Whather it's with a smile, a wink or a simple hola, it will make you feel like a million bucks! Oh and a quick shout out to Rob (Mango) who is down there from Jan-March doing PR at the resort! I'm sure you'll meet him! Have fun, and keep smiling!
Posted by: Michelle
on Feb 16, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
370 people found this review helpful
Overall, we enjoyed our stay very much but the keys have definitely lost their 'quaintness'. I'll cover all the sections below. We are 34/35 and found there were many couples our age. There were a lot of couples in their golden years. We were looking for a beach relaxation vacation which is exactly what we got. Never went to the disco and we never caught a show. We hung out in the main square drinking Cubadas or Cappuccinos or cervezas and at 7 pm the Churros restaurant opens.
We also booked the Chameleon Gold upgrade and suggest you do too. We got the bottle of rum which we finished in about 2 days... LOL. and enjoyed the 30 minute couples massage on the beach. We also appreciated the bathrobe and slippers. We didn't use the shampoo/soap so can't comment on quality there. We enjoyed being in the new section of the hotel.
We flew on Canjet. I can say, I'll definitely be skipping this airline next time. Surly attendants, uncomfy seats and when your luggage gets damaged, they refuse to fix it.
We were through security in under 30 minutes. We were on our bus within 45 minutes and a the resort about 15 or 20 minutes later.
The hotel check in was very quick and friendly.
Our luggage was delivered to our room in about the same amount of time it took us to find it. We landed in Cayo Coco at 8:30 pm.
We booked the Chameleon Gold section. Our rooms were newly renovated, very nice and comfortable.
We wanted a room on the main floor so we wouldn't run out of hot water. We didn't have any problems with hot water, but then again, we made sure to shower before 4 pm. The bathroom is huge and the vanity and closet area is separated by a frosted glass partition from the shower/toilet.
The beds were actually comfortable if you like it a little on the hard side like we do.
There is bad news... ALL the beds have bed bugs. It's a tropical country and it is a hotel so definitely inevitable. As a solution, I would suggest you bring long sleeved PJ's and pants. Trust me, you won't be too hot. Blast the A/C and this will help deal with cockroaches. There weren't a ton of them, but in our experience, if you blast the A/C and then put a towel under the door between the outside and inside of your room, you should be fine. We always do this and we've never had any unexpected friends.
If you forget your long PJ's, like I did, I used the in-room bathrobe to sleep on top of (I only figured that out about day 4 of our stay) and I stopped getting attacked by bugs! If you happen to be a Melaleuca customer, bring you Solumel spray bottle and spray the mattresses daily. Should help kill them all together.
Our maid was fantastic and always left the 2 bottles of water we requested.
Our room was 2 double beds squeezed together. i was fine with that. The room also comes with a safe, obviously (it was included, no additional fees). Our fridge was refilled daily with 2 large bottles of water and usually 1 pop and 1 beer. You could leave a note for the maid and modify accordingly like we did.
A note on the Chameleon Gold: They say you get a bottle of rum and some chaud-four... you do get a bottle of white rum.. and we got 2 suckers. The restaurants were closed by the time we arrived/left our room and found the buffet so we had to eat sandwiches.. more on that.
Restaurants and Bars:
I was disappointed with the selection @ the buffet because in all past 5 trips to Cuba there was more local food and variety. I love Cuban food, but from what I understand.. the typical tourist wants what they can eat at home.. why? Not sure exactly.. which means the Cubans now present you with what they think you want. we always found something to eat - usually crepes and omelettes with bacon. Another disappointment was the juice... we used to always have fresh squeezed orange juice. They don't seem to have that anymore... instead you can expect Tang. There is fresh mango juice. There's also the toast station and hot chocolate&pastries at every meal. For lunch, we mainly ate at the grill bar or the beach bar. The grill bar is next to the pool. It's also the same restaurant that doubles as your 'Chameleon Gold' special dinner. We ate there the second night.. and were surprised that there was a fixed menu. Neither one of us can eat mushrooms or shrimp so I can't comment on the appetizer (shrimp cocktail) or the soup (cream of mushroom). The main course was very good. I had the white fish and my husband had the pork chops.The beach bar has BBQ lunch.We lucked out because we got 4 a la carte dinners instead of 3 & never ate dinner at the Buffet. all the bars are good.. but if you want excellent service without having to tip each and every time stay away from the lobby bar. They don't make very good drinks either - at La Placienta which is directly across from the lobby that's the place for excellent coffee,drinks and service.All the a la carte restaurants were good. I especially enjoyed the Cuban. We also bought some Kleen Kantean bottles (40 oz for water for the day and 20 oz insulated for beer or coffee - I highly recommend them!) At 7 pm there's a Churros kiosk. Have one.. they're fantastic. Directly across from the Churros is the sandwich guy. One is better than the other.. I never caught their names, but the evening guy makes sure the sandwiches are nicely golden and the cheese melted.
The pool, like the ocean is unheated. I don't know why this surprises people.... it's the Caribbean! Just jump in.. you'll ajust.
I swam in the salt water pool and the ocean only (not the freshwater)... even on chillier days and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The week we went (Feb 7-14) was pretty low on occupancy. Starting on the 13th, there was a huge influx of people so I'm guessing chairs MAY have been difficult to find but we were on tours so didn't notice.
On the beach there's a couple guys who'll help you with chairs and dust them off.
The hotel has the Internet Cafe and I never had trouble connecting to check my email. The Public Relations office is also in the main building, next to the internet cafe and that's where you have to present yourself and your a la carte tickets to make reservations. You can only do that before 5 pm. The main building also has a bank open until 11 pm (maybe 10 pm). They allow you to take cash advance on your credit card which was convenient. The prices have gone up significantly since I was last there (4 years ago) - but it's still cheap.
The grounds are absolutely beautiful. Very colonial and very established. The hotel was opened in 1993 so the gardens are very well established.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We did 3 off resort activities. The first one we did was the Catamaran tour. I was surprised at how commercial Cuba has gotten. When I did the exact same tour a few years ago, we were 8 ppl on a small boat and the Captain's mate dove for our lobsters before we reached the reef. The Captain cooked the lobsters to perfection and it was a very nice intimate day.
This time around... we shared a 60' catamaran with about 80 ppl. Lunch was ok- lobster was overcooked. they served chicken which was good (but they ran out) and rice along with shrimp (allergic to shrimp so I can't comment on how it was done). A cold front moved in that afternoon and the water was too choppy to get to Pilar Beach, but I'd seen it a few times so I enjoyed just being on the ocean on the catamaran. I think it cost 80CUC per person.
The 2nd tour we did was the sunset horseback ride with dinner on the beach. It was 30 CUC for 2 hours and dinner per person. You do collect ppl from other resorts so if you and your friend are the only 2 waiting for the cowboy... don't worry, there'll be more ppl. LOL. If you select this, don't go for the lobster dinner.. it's over cooked. the fish was fantastic. You do eat dinner on the beach with some local musician serenading you. We were back at the hotel within 2 hours.
We also did the Jeep Jungle Safari. This was a new tour for us. It was good, although the description was misleading... I was thinking some back roads and sightseeing- NOPE- you pay about 70CUC per person and you get to drive your own Suzuki Jimmy which is smaller than a Vitara. You do have to have 4 ppl in the vehicle. You drive to the town of Moron and stop at a motel to shop for souvenirs. From there they take you on a tour through town to the lagoon. They give you a 10 min. boat ride on the lagoon.Then you sample some fish which was delicious (white tilapia). there's a band that plays for you too. From there they take you to the mountains to an observatory where you can have a snack of fruit. There's also a toilet you can use. after the observatory they take you to a farm for lunch. We had pork, plantain, rice and beans (the first and last time.. it was awesome and I thought the resort would at least have it.. but no), fruit, salad. it was very well cooked and was delicious. The farm is not a working farm.. just a tourist thing. They have some animals (mostly birds). You can visit the little witch woman who will explain Cuba's different religions and you can have your tarrot read. There's a guy with a baby boa you can hold, an ox you can ride (the tip jar is on his head), they can take you on horseback rides or carriage ride. You can also shop for souvenirs on site. After this you go to the Crocodile Farm. They have mainly American crocs, and there's one Cuban croc. You can also hold a crocodile. This time there was a 3 month old and a 3 year old. they're easy to hold and not gross.
Overall, we had a good time.. we relaxed and enjoyed our first vacation in 4 years since the kids were born. I was disappointed that Cuba (the keys anyway) have lost their 'personal' touch.. it's more commercial now like DR is. Although no one harasses you to buy anything which is great. Food has certainly gone downhill..but like I said.. I hear it's because tourists weren't thrilled with the local food... no idea why.. I'd rather eat dirty rice, pork, all the fish I can get and Chorizo over what I can get in Canada and make better myself.
Drinks were delicious.. as long as you don't get them at the lobby bar... and the burgers are always good.
I really liked this hotel.. I would go back, but we won't... only because we like to try different resorts if we return to the same place.
Just a note.. when you go on excursions in Cuba.. always take toilet paper with you... there usually isn't any anywhere off resort....
If you have questions, email me email@example.com
I have the photos posted on Facebook for 'everyone' to see.. if you have trouble, let me know.
"Good vacation, if you emphasize the positive"
Ronald on Feb 3, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
373 people found this review helpful
Guests at The Blau Colonial were in a medium mood, praising the beach and complaining about the food. Here are some comments, mostly on things other people have not mentioned.
The beach is long and perfect. It attracts the majority of guests, at least to the loungers (there are enough). Some days were quite windy on the beach. No jelly fish or seaweed, and the water is warm enough. To the right you can walk for miles (cutting across a long narrow point in the Sol Melia) on great sand. To the left is rocky shore but you can go 1 km to the next resort at least. There is a hotel bus to Playa Pilar ($6, several times daily) if you want a beach that is possibly more perfect.
The land around the resort is boring flat shrubs and low trees. Basic bicycles are included (half had flat tires), so you can explore. Nothing on the island to visit (except the $ show at the state park). There are excursions to the town of Moron... one sees Cuban poverty amidst remains of the earlier eras.
Rooms vary a lot; building 29 is excellent, new marble bathroom, spacious, fine air-con, even an umbrella. Nolitours includes a kimono, slippers and nice bath supplies. Housekeeping was fine; a free safe is provided. The buildings all look good, with their attractive verandahs and tile roofs.
The pools are pleasant, medium size, very clean and usually enough loungers. Mercifully they do not have animation furor. The animated fun lovers can find that in a square at the central bar.
The grounds are pleasant enough in the east half, badly neglected if not desert in the west half. Total effect is not what it could be. There are 20 species of flowers, but it is a hunt to find those other than the basics. Gardeners seldom seen... except those offering coconuts for a tip. Landscape design seems ad-hoc, lack of strong focus spots, plants too close to narrow walkways, plants clipped too much, etc.. In any case, lots of room for walking. Even get views of a big backwater lake.
Restaurants and Bars:
Meals varied... third week of January was bad. That means maximum one cooked vegetable, repetitive meat and fish (but always enough), almost no dessert except fruit and the good ice cream. Then it improved: salad dressings, pickles, several vegetables (cold cauliflower, canned corn), different meats (turkey, salmon), liver pate, small cakes. The hotel probably cannot get better supplies... surely they do not intentionally feed us canned everything (fruit, mushrooms, sardines, beans, etc.) every day. They did have plenty of fresh papaya and other fruits, and excellent fresh fruit juices at breakfast. There were several kinds of sausage at breakfast, cheeses, a good pasta station, always ketchup. Food did not run out. The line-ups were due to poor design -- people waiting for grilled meat and blocking other foods. Service was friendly although sometimes forgetful.
The bar drinks were not weak, although they were variable in quality (e.g. pina colada made from milk). Service was fine without tipping. Others complain more about pressure for tips; they were maybe susceptible to it. Only the tough waitress at the outside tables at the lunch buffet appeared to be embarrassing people into tipping. But the atmosphere is always there, servers hang wishfully; and guests seemed to be tipping often, maybe out of sympathy. This is a problematic subject: the serving staff can earn over 10 times as much from tips as from their pitiful government salary. So they naturally are dominated by the hunt for tips. One can only wonder about the effects of having two very different classes of hotel workers (the tip-receivers are required to "donate" monthly to a fund for the non-tip-receiving staff), about the corruption in getting these golden-tips jobs in which you can earn more than a teacher, and about the feelings of having to hang upon the dropped change of the capitalist foreigners. Generous tipping guests fuel this system; and probably do not realize that they already give $100 a week in their vacation price (in extra labour fees charged by the government to the hotel), supposedly for the people's benefit.
Overall, a very good holiday for us, as we just skated over the problems and enjoyed nature.
"The food is ample and varied and ranged from tasty to gross"
Neil II on Jan 7, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
302 people found this review helpful
Arrive at Pearson 1:45 hours before departure. Was glad that I had booked with westjet as travellers could print boarding passes and therefore eliminate getting to airport 3 hrs in advance.
I printed boarding pass in advance but was surprised to see as long a line for those with boarding pass as for those without prebooked boarding pass.
Also surprised that only 5 agents working on side for those with boarding pass and unfortunately one of those agents was preoccupied with one traveller the entire time I was in line which was about one hour. Our flight was delayed about 20 minutes. Westjet said it was due to a runway change but I think it was because they didn't have sufficient staff at check in booths. Note re seats: comfy with good leg room Oh and Westjet....single ply tp in the lavatory! How much more would it cost them for two ply?
Arrived at Jardines del Rey airport and processed smoothly and quickly through immigration. Take note that all arrivees were scanned by thermal scanner. I watched the display on the scanner and there was a temperature reading within a bubble (think of the dialogue in a comic strip) that pointed at anyone whose temp exceeded 37 C. There were a couple of readings I saw at 37.9 degrees but no one from our plane was pulled aside (as far as I could tell anyway). Masks worn by many Cuban staff at airport.
Waiting coach transportation had us at our resort within 15 Minutes. Check in quickly processed. Bellman carried bags to room.
room in renovated section nice. Note: central A/C which is blessedly efficient and equally important: QUIET Third floor room with 16 ft cathedral ceiling. Canopy over bed. King bed kind of hard, not pillow top, but very firm. Nice king sized pillows too. Very impressed!
Bathroom divided in two. One half for sink and closet other half was toilet, bidet, and tub. Petty complaint is that hand held shower head not securely attached to bracket. Did I mention that there was always lots of hot water and I was on third floor! Doors opened with card pass key. Fridge stocked with beer (Bucanero) water and cola and Refilled daily!
Quickly found beach and bar. Gets dark early so no beach time on day 1.
Disappointed that there was not fresh orange juice at breakfast. Otherwise pretty standard. Asked for omelet with eggwhites only and while cook rolled her eyes at my request she made it all the same.
Straight to beach after breakfast. Bar served basic drinks. No mojitos. Washroom clean and had soap. Beach staff cleaned off lounger (plastic, not fabric loungers).
No towel war issues. All loungers stacked nightly, and when you arrive in morning staff place lounger where you want it and sweep off the sand.
BBQ lunch served. I had ribs...delicious. Also serve hamburgers and grilled chicken. I didn't see a French fry all week. I don't mean that I didn't eat a fry. If they're served anywhere on resort I didn't notice it. Buffet supper: good. Had pasta and grilled meat stations. Veggie and fruit salads available
booked a la carte dinners
Guy at beach liked my sun glasses. Offered to trade for some peso cigars. You'd think I asked for weed by his reaction. Said he cannot do that for me, then said maybe.
Italian a la carte: Wow! Entree was outstanding. I had mozarella and seafood dip and ceaser salad (first time ever had ceaser with cabbage) but good dressing. Good lasagna too! Smooth dry Spanish red wine. Bottle left at table.
Breakfast: Still no fresh OJ. Consistently offered fresh pineapple grapefruit papaya and guava. Omlette lady continues to have attitude. Now in addition to rolled eyes there's a definite grimace that says she's making my eggwhite omlette under duress. Not that she's busy. No lineup as resort occupancy still low.
Love capucino every morning before breakfast on patio. Despise the coffee served in the buffet restaurant. This is common in every resort I've been to in Cuba. Why and how can the totally ruin coffee the way they do for anything that is not espresso or capucino? Speaking of coffee. There's a coffee maker and ground coffee in my room. Guess where the ground coffee came from?......Mississauga, and I checked the bag carefully to make sure it wasn't some town called Mississauga in Cuba!
Morning bartender says he's cold. Temp about 20 C. At 7:30am.
One of those days on the beach. Definitely cooler and the on-shore winds made it chilly in the shade.Warm sun is nice out in the open but I burn easily so cannot spend too much time in direct sunlight. So with T-shirt on I am comfortable in shade.
Having seafood at Dorado as I write. Different from my Italian a la carte, bottle of wine not left at table. Service is quick as restaurant no busy. Not fast enough to speed up the family with baby. Like babies, just not their noise when eating out.
Dorado is just metres from Atlantic and it would be nice to enjoy the ocean breezes but at night the mozzies would have a feast. Speaking of those little blood suckers I haven't seen one or been bitten yet.
Meal: creamed seafood soup, seafood bruscetta (dry), and seafood casserole. The casserole is yummy almost like seafood jambalaya but hands up if you agree that unpeeled shrimps including heads and their stringy hair like attachments is gross. I love seafood but much preferred the Italian meal. Sure others will have reversed opinions. Seafood resto also loses marks for not serving coffee. Not even the stuff they pass off as coffee in the buffet resto.
Must mention that room is spotless. I've seen exactly one fly in room. No ants, crabs or crawlies of any description anywhere near the room.
Music: Haven't heard even one rendition of Guantanamera all week. Yeah!! Sitting in piano bar beside Fontanella resto and just heard a really nice version of Don't cry For Me Argentina. He's playing Nat King Cole's Unforgetable and just segued into As Tears Go By. As most musicians here the piano player is very talented.
Just told bartender how to make a Barbados Sunrise. He renamed it Cuban sunrise. Ingredients by the way include OJ, Malibu (really impressed they has Malibu),&grenadine. Yummy! So ask for a Cuban sunrise when you're here.
Tryp's beach is groomed and generally looks better than Blau's beach.
Parasailing available @ $40
Glass bottom boat cruise $40 I think
Flying boat rides @ $30 I think
Cell phone service; good signal, clear air too
iPhone: no problem at immigration with new 3Gs phone. Didn't even look at it.
GPS: in spite of Apple's contention that their GPS works with satelites, as well as with cell towers, There is no GPS service in Cayo Coco and probably not in Cuba at all. The Maps ap will not work.
The compass works as a compass but the lat. & long. Coordinates at bottom of screen show that I'm apparently still in Toronto.
I tried opening these aps with data roaming turned both on and then off. GPS doesn't work. That's why immigration doesn't bat an eye at smartphones.
So up to this point my review has been positive for the most part. Truly the only negative revolves around the buffet restaurant. There are three factors that would make or break a restaurant: Food, hygiene & service.
The food is ample and varied and ranged from tasty to gross. This would aptly describe all but a handful of Cuban resorts.
Hygienic practices need some work here. Table cloths need to be replaced with clean ones when they're soiled or at a minimum use place mats and replace when soiled. I shouldn't have to ask the wait staff that the table cloth is soiled. They bus the tables and unless blind, they ignore it consistently.
They just don't get service. No one takes you to a table upon entry. They don't hustle to initially fill water glasses and offer coffee. Re-fills happen but when it's not busy, conversation amongst co-workers takes priority over doing their job. Buffet staff could learn a thing or two about hustle by observing the hustle that takes place during lunch at the beach resto.
Would I go again?: Sure. Mostly good things about the Blau. I've learned to live with the food. I've never gone home hungry or weighing less than when I arrived.
"Great bartenders who were always pleasant"
Rick from Sarnia on Jan 7, 2010 >
Visited on: Nov, 2009 | Leisure
283 people found this review helpful
The arrival was fairly organized with "Entertainment staff" prepared to carry the luggage for you. I would have preferred to have a package that included my key given at the airport but since there weren't many of us arriving, it was done fairly quickly. When I went to tip the staff for handling my luggage, he politely declined the tip as he said it was part of his job!!
Rooms were clean and a good size with a large, bright washroom. There was a problem with our toilet seat which was repaired within an hour of us reporting it to the customer relations staff.
Restaurants and Bars:
Great bartenders who were always pleasant and wanted to please. I would prefer fresh squeezed OJ in the morning. Coffee was great and I enjoyed the fact that they would leave a full carafe on your table so it was available without waiting for a waiter/waitress or having to get up to get it. Food was fine. I always ate too much, especially at lunch at the beach bar.
The grounds were expansive and immaculate. One could immediately tell there was a lot of work done. The beach was great as was the pool (saltwater). There were always lots of chairs available.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
I am not one for entertainment in the evening at resorts but the quality at this resort was much higher than other resorts I have attended. Hopefully however, the evening show will soon move from its close proximity to the piano bar as at times, the music of one competed with the music of the other. I did not go on any tours as I was not impressed with the rep from Sunwing.
I found that the general mgr. was always visible throughout the day and was interested in any suggestion you had or any concerns which he handled right away. Awesome!! Based on my visaits to other resorts in Cuba, I would rate it at a 3.5 star facility as opposed to a 4 star facility but I think they are on the right track to improve it quickly.
"Don't plan to take a shower for the week"
Alexandre on May 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: May, 2009 | Leisure | Family and Kids
234 people found this review helpful
Traveled to Blau Colonial with my husband and 7 year old daughter last week in March 2007. In sum, it is a pretty looking hotel - Colonial style buildings. As for the room - don't plan to take a shower for the week because honestly there is no water pressure at all and the water is cold..
There is a mini club - but no activities planned so not sure why it is there.
The most annoying thing about the hotel is the way the BUFFET IS SET UP. No matter what time we went there was a very long line up in order to get food. Everyone had to wait in this line up in order to reach the tray food and the 2 tiny grill areas. Even if you did not want something from the grill area you still had to wait in the line-up in order to reach the tray food - so no seconds - unless you wanted to wait again. The reason for line-up was that they only began to grill food when you asked for it which in theory is nice but did nothing to help the line up move faster. Not fun waiting and watching for someone else's food to be grilled....
If you tip at the Buffet the waiters will remember you and you will get INSTANCE service. If you didn't tip you were practically invisible and would have to try very hard to make eye contact with any waiter for a drink or coffee.
CAYO COCO is windy pretty much all the time - so always red or yellow flag. So if you do not like waves and wind you will not like the beach.
So I would rate this hotel a 2 star only and not a 4.
"The International Spa is lovely and very modern"
JayBeckyNovaScotia on Apr 1, 2009 >
Visited on: Apr, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
239 people found this review helpful
Late night , 1 guy on reception, he tried to be efficient but with clients not staying in line , it made it difficult for him.
We were in a standard room, it was very spacious ,clean and well maintained. Mini fridge re-stocked daily, swinging doors between wash area and toilet bathtub area, but vision privacy was there just no sound privacy. We knew there would not be facecloths, but very nice soft towels. Balcony had comfy chairs and a small table. Some areas could be noisy though as rooms were right beside Disco and others were in building with reception and with late night arrivals and early departures I expect noise would be an issue.
Restaurants and Bars
We had 3 guaranteed A la Carte's one at each of the 3 restaurants, they were all nice with a couple choices for entre's not necessarily to the theme of the restaurant though,ex:Italian-one choice was steak. The buffett was good also, lots of choices. Coldest beer was in lobby bar and you could get glass glasses there not the small plastic cups!
Well maintained, lots of chairs and palapas available. We had several days were it was quite windy and overcast, staff still there to assist with chairs.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
Did the Pilar plus jet boat tour, it was the highlight for everyone on the tour. Loved it!
This property has a great atmosphere and wonderful architechture, very nice feel for the guests. Train ride was just OK if young kids it is good. Horse and carriage ride I heard similar comments but did not actually do myself. The International Spa is lovely and very modern, great prices for the services.
"The beach and rooms were good."
AnneLondon on Mar 1, 2009 >
Visited on: Mar, 2009 | Leisure | Family and Kids
177 people found this review helpful
My husband, 2 year old son and I spent March Break at the Blau. The weather was perfect the week we went, but they had just had a terrible storm the week earlier. Take your chances with Cuba. The food was what we expected. The beach and rooms were good. Our big problem was the students. This hotel is the main hotspot for the S-trip organization in Cayo Coco. Student (high school) "organized" March Break trip. There were a ton of them. They would sleep all day, emerging from their rooms around 4pm and coming back to their rooms at 4am. They were typical under-age students. VERY drunk, not supervised and not made to be respectful of people sleeping. The hotel staff would do nothing about them. We never complained, but many did. We never slept well b/c of all the door banging and yelling in the middle of the night. You also could never get to a bar because it was 6 students deep. I would stay at the Blau again, but never during March Break!