Playa Esmeralda, Carretera Guardalavaca, Holguin
The resort is surrounded by beautiful gardens in an area of ecological importance, typical of the eastern part of the country.
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"Overall Review of Sol Rio de Luna y Mares Resort"
Charles Johnston on Sep 14, 2005 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Sep, 2005
1882 people found this review helpful
We spent 2 weeks a couple years ago, weather was awesome, staff extremely friendly. Lots to do and keep busy. You can just eat, sleep, drink and relax by the pool or beach or become involved in the daily activities and nightly entertainment. We just had a great time and would definitely make a return trip. As I indicated before the staff was just awesome.
"one of my best holidays"
adrian denney on Sep 22, 2005 >
1 contribution(s) United Kingdom
Visited on: Sep, 2005
1814 people found this review helpful
2 weeks march 2005 . fantastic holiday stayed at Sol Rio de Luna y Mares Resort, swimming with dolphins is at the hotel even though they don't tell you. just walk round the corner and your there. food ok but staff fantastic nothing is too much trouble ./ lady who does rooms even helped when one of party was ill . The people of the area are sooooooooooo friendly. re bookin 2007 .
Mrs. J. Barbara on Sep 26, 2005 >
1 contribution(s) United Kingdom
Visited on: Sep, 2005
1666 people found this review helpful
I cannot say anything bad about this hotel. We had such a good time, the staff were lovely. Some people did not like the food but as far as we were concerned it was fine - the omelettes and "on the spot" prepared pasta dishes - out of this world! Entertainment ( day and night) = excellent. Some Europeans do not understand this is a poor country and expect far too much, everything clean, hardworking staff = what more can you ask? We will return!!!
"Three visits, hoping for four!"
Gwen Chute on Sep 1, 2006 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Sep, 2006
1547 people found this review helpful
I have been to the resort three times and can hardly wait to go again - it is the perfect holiday!
The staff, the beach, the ecological/historical walk, driving around the countryside practising my Spanish (everyone is very patient and helpful), the food (I'm mostly vegetarian), the music, the fabulous entertainment.......
I almost want to keep it a secret, so it won't get too busy! Whenever I get overstressed, I just remember my last visit (March 2005) and plan my next- hopefully New Years!
"as good as it gets"
I. Boldt on Nov 16, 2007 >
1 contribution(s) GERMANY
Visited on: Nov, 2007
1064 people found this review helpful
After the individual tour, the hotel was the icing on the cake. For the first time, nothing was missing. The rooms were large and clean and everything was in working order. Horseback riding was offered free of charge. The traditional Cuban food served was good, in terms of variety, originality and authenticity. Live music and cats were a treat. Even though I was there during the high season, I had a choice between sun and many shaded areas beneath trees and parasols. The beach was at the disposal of the tourists and few residents exclusively. One felt no fear of thefts or disturbances. (Translated from Spanish)
"Arriving up to the hotel was fabulous"
Julie from Ottawa, ON on Jan 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2009
129 people found this review helpful
In April of 2006, my roommate and I (from Ottawa) visited Cuba for the first time. Yep, just us girls looking to relax and also have some fun. We were definitely not disappointed! We flew out of Toronto Airport and within 3 ½ hours or so we landed in Holguin Cuba.
We booked online with “redtag.ca”. The package ended up being supplied to us through “Hola Sun Vacations”. There was a giant mix-up at the Toronto Airport (where we were to pick up our tickets) and they actually let us go through to get on the plane, without even giving us the tickets back at check-in! It wasn’t the travel wholesaler’s fault, but that’s what we get for being newbies with the online booking thing. Long story long…we delayed the plane a little, but got our tickets and headed off. Mind you…we had a few stares on the plane for holding it up. Oh well, something frustrating always has to happen when you travel…so we were happy to get it out of the way before we were actually on vacation!
The flight into Frank Pais International airport (Holguin Cuba) was spectacular. We could feel the temperature hit us as soon as we landed before we were even off the plane. We were presented with an amazing lush climate, even though there were a heck of a lot of farmer’s fields and skinny livestock too.
The airport is small, yet well laid out. It was quite easy to get through check-in. The buses and tour guides were waiting for us with signs stating what travel company they were with. We were approached by gentlemen selling cold beer as the buses were waiting to be filled. I nice treat for someone like me who is still wearing a sweater from the cold Canadian climate.
The bus took about an hour, but the hour flew by as we had so much beauty to look and the sight of a different culture shock to take in. It felt like the old saying “Is this what Heaven is like? If I’m dreaming, don’t pinch me just yet!”
Arriving up to the hotel was fabulous. We went from a drive through poverty (but beauty), to a paradise in the middle of nowhere! This resort is “Stay at One, Play at Two”. Hence the hotel name, “Sol Rio Luna y Mares”. Luna is one complex, Mares is the other. We checked into the Mares side upon arriving. The bus will let you off at one or the other, depending on your tour package. If you find out later that you got off at the wrong side…no worries…just walk through the one complex to the other. They are attached.
Check-in was fast and efficient and it was nice to have a refreshment bar only steps away from the check-in (for those waiting longer) on the Mares side. The check-in lobby area is fantastically set up with water pools containing tropical fish, lush greenery, available seating, a few shops, and also the restaurant “Colon” is there if you are hungry and waiting for a room that may not be ready yet. Yes, funny name for an eatery, but it is apparently pronounced “Coal-on”. Depending on what time you arrive, the restaurant may be closed in order to set up for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Our room was a standard room with the same bathroom as mostly all the rooms we checked out (from hanging out with so many people that we met that week). Most standard rooms have 2 double beds (which was nice for us but not as nice for Honeymooners…but they have suites anyhow…which has a king bed in them). From what we saw, most or all rooms had their own balconies, whether ground floor or not. What a way to relax away from everyone and everything, but by sitting on your own balcony…especially at sunrise and sunset even if you are not overlooking the ocean. The TV worked with numerous channels. Fridge was handy for keeping water cold and there was plenty of room for all of our outfits and swimwear in the provided dressers and closet. The bottoms of the dresser drawers are not sanded, so putting a hand towel down first before the clothes are put in works very well so you don’t get any shredded clothes. There was a key-pad safe in the room, along with the air conditioning thermostat we could adjust ourselves if necessary. The bathroom was quite large with a shower/tub, sink and large mirror, a toilet and a beday (which is good as they don’t like to supply much toilet paper).
We met 16 people from Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, USA & Russia during our stay. It was nice to be able to relax when we wanted, but go find our “friends” when we wanted to party! The bars were always open (even during the wee hours of the morning when normal people are sleeping!) There were many bars in the hotel. On the Mares side, there was a large one in the main open lobby, a swim-up one in the main pool (don’t worry…I think the water turns colour if someone pees in it), all the restaurants had bars in them and last but not least...the beach had a small, yet beautiful bar. Oh yeah, and the Theater bar is open at night during showings.
There were activities by the pool and just outside the open lobby bar throughout the day. There were special entertainers that would assist in traditional dance lessons (even when people were drunk they had a lot of patience) and pool activities like water polo, volleyball, swimming race challenges (I never knew how many ping-pong balls could fit inside a bikini – you’ll have to go to figure out that game), yet part of the large pool was kept for those who wanted to relax and enjoy the bar area also. There was a smaller pool for the kiddies too. There were other activities in the main lobby area as well, like pool tables, ping-pong, and most of the time there was live entertainment on the stage area. On the Luna side, there was a mini-putt area, a lookout nature reserve area and trails, tennis court, pool table, souvenir shop, and another decent-size pool with hot tub. Nightly, the piano was brought out into their main lobby area by the bar with an amazing piano player. We would request songs and she knew them all funny enough! She made it a very romantic yet fun atmosphere. Most people felt they could dress up and drink wine during her show.
There was a spa on site as well with steam rooms separate for men and women, saunas, lockers, gym facilities, an open air hot tub, a small pool, yoga classes every morning, and even a doctor’s office in the spa area.
The beach…oh my God… the beach. Just read other reviews or check out pics others have taken and posted online. There were plenty of palapas, plenty of chairs (that paid gentlemen always wiped off and delivered to where we wanted to. The sand was absolutely spectacular and the water was even better. There were activities offered down at the beach also. There was a main central hut that we could go to in order to sign up for activities ranging from water sports to beach volleyball. There was a giant chess board set up also (makes for funny pics). We could get extra towels and snorkeling gear at the hut too. The beach is not too long of a stretch, but all very private. There was another resort down the beach, but the shore was not as maintained as Luna/Mares. No shells to hurt your feet on, no big enough waves to sink the skinniest of people. Air Transat even threw a party one night of the seven for it’s guests (we snuck in with people we meet – oops) that was absolutely magical and spectacular. There were tables and chairs all set up and decorated with white sheer linens. There was a line buffet set up along the beach with a pig that had been roasted all day on the skewer and many more delectables. There was table service for drinks and to pick up the plates etc after the meal. Tipping the staff was appreciated. There was live entertainment when it became dark, with fire shows, exotic dancing, drinking games and lots of extra fun. We had a blast! After that beach party ended, the nightly disco beach bar opened up (like it does late every night) and we danced, drank and enjoyed the different Latin and American music ranging from Sean Paul to Nelly to Ne-Yo to Madonna etc. Fantastic.
At night, the theatre was entertaining as well. The theatre was your typical theatre set up with the rows of seats rising the further back they went. The stage was enormous, and the shows were spectacular. Some nights they were themed (like cabaret and impersonations) and some nights people from the audience were allowed up to make fools of themselves. All in good fun mind you! Drink service was also provided if needed. Every night in the main lobby area of the Mares side, you could enjoy live local singers romancing the atmosphere. Breathtaking. They sold CDs for quite cheap as well. What a better way than to bring the memories home via music.
There were bikes and cars for rent outside the complex. The tour reps were available during certain posted days and times for questions or to book off-site activities (like the swim-with-the-dolphins package that was located very close to the hotel also!) There was a telephone station where you could pay-as-you-go for calls back home, and small booths set up at various times to buy souvenirs, cameras, post-cards, etc. One internet station was set-up, but someone was always on it so I could never use it. There was a money exchange booth on the Mares side and one on the Luna side as well. It was nice to only have to bring Canadian money! The rate was better to exchange Canadian dollars to pesos instead of US funds to pesos. I believe it still is these days. As it is next to impossible to change pesos back to Canadian dollars upon return to Canada, we could spend each day exchanging only what we needed to at the time we needed it!
I guess the last thing I have to mention was the restaurants and the themed dinners. You will read other reviews stating that the restaurant on one side was also closed when they were staying there…but if they had have toured the whole complex, they should have found something else open. Even still, they could have asked any of the bartenders if they could find them something to eat. They would have gone into the kitchen and fetched something to tie them over until main meal times. The only reason they would have been closed was due to construction, setting up before main meals, getting ready for theme-only dinners that night, etc. Speaking of the themed dinners, if you book through a tour wholesaler (package deal), you will get vouchers for a number of themed dinners to choose from. You must have them booked in advance as they get full occupancy quite quickly. They rotate nights for the theme dinners, so if it is full one night, you should be able to go another night. The Mares side closes down the open restaurant/bar by the pool area for the Mexican theme dinner. The Mexican dinner is the only one we didn’t find tasted like actual Mexican dishes (different but good…just not what you expect). The Luna sides hosts an Italian dinner with many courses and very good choices, in the open restaurant/bar by their pool. The music was extremely Italian, ranging from Andrea Bocchelli to Josh Groban etc. Absolutely fantastic, romantic and suitable for the amazingly delicious Italian food they serve. Wow is all I could say! For couples looking for the ultimate romantic dinner that even tops the Italian dinner…there is a chance to get a voucher for the dinner down the beach in a very private setting. It is set up on the sand with white sheets as the outer walls blowing in the ocean breeze, and served is steak, lobster, wine, etc. They go all out with the professional service.
I have read many articles and felt that I should do the all-in-one description of one of the best values for your money. I have now been back twice and planning to go again to see the friends I have made there, Dario, Ray, Junior, Wilson, and the rest of the gang!
"Resort was better than what I expected it to be"
Dave from Ontario on Feb 1, 2009 >
3 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2009
128 people found this review helpful
There was a maid whom I did not like, so this resort is not even one star. Oh, yes, and my wife lost something when she left it somewhere unattended for a long time, so maybe this resort is not even a one star!! The beach is too far, so I had to walk a lot, and the staff refused to carry me on their back to the beach after my frequent requests! After all I have paid "A GRAND" so everyone had to bow to me which they did not! After all that I paid, The weather was not good I emailed all my friends and family members to ban this resort and will never go back there again till my last breath, unless Raoul Castro himself send me a written apology to my door
I AM KIDDING!! This is a NON-BIASED and WHINING-FREE review and YOU WILL NOT SEE SENTENCES AND REMARKS LIKE THE ABOVE ONES IN MY REVIEW.
The resort is very nice. The beach is great and ideal for resting, tanning, snorkelling, reading books etc.. The food is good and the restaurants are just OK, some better than the others. The main buffet in Mares (Colon) is offering a good variety of fish, meat, chicken and pork to roast on site which is nice. Don't worry, you will not be disappointed in my opinion, as far as you are there to have a nice relaxed time and you are easy-going.
The rooms on the Luna side are fine and clean apart from the bathroom and the tub, which are OK but can use a facelift. The Mares rooms are better since the bldg is 10 yrs younger. The highlights of the resort are the ELITE BEACH and the wonderful entertainment group.(see my video posts to see the samples). The entertainment was better at the start of the week however the Tues and Wednesday shows were not that great. The other nights were just wonderful (including the weekend and beach party) as I compare them to two 5 star resorts we have been to in the last 10 months. Highly recommended. They start at 9:15 0r 9:30 as posted daily in the main lobby at the entrance of the buffet. The service is good and the staff try to do their best to help you. There is a small disco at the beach which starts at 23:00 everyday. The pools are nice and kept pretty clean. The bars and snack bars are all fine with descent service. Overall resort was better than what I expected it to be.
Things to know::
1-The horseback riding is free for one hour. You should book it a day ahead if you are planning to do it.
2-The snorkelling is great under the chapel of the next door resort (see my posted clips)
3-The mini-zoo is well worth it(2 CUC entrance). Take you camera and pay a visit to the lagoon right next to the zoo.(A CUC is 1.41 CAD - Feb 2009)
4- I highly recommend scooter ride. 10-14-18-21 for 1 to 4 hrs rental respectively. The daily rental is 27$(return till 5 pm). You can go to Guardalavaca mini-market (10-15 min drive). I suggest driving further to the next village which is almost 10 km further down the road. It is nicer and the drive is fun.
5- The excursions are nice but expensive. (With 1.41 exchange rate). I recommend jeep safari (71 CUC)v 6-Catamaran ride is also nice if you are into it. It is free and joyful.
7- Pedalos are also free and fun.
8- We did not see even one sand fly or mosquito (however take your repellents with you)
9- Cuban restaurant is not that good. Others are nice. You get 2 reservations per week of stay.
10-On the last days of your stay, check the boards for any possible flight delays so you can enjoy more hours if such a thing happens.
11-The recreational center is also free to use (Sauna, Jacuzzi).
12- The Holguin airport is small and crowded once you pass into the waiting saloon. Remember to keep 25 CUC per passenger for airport taxes on the return flight.
13- Internet is 6 CUC for 60 min. You can use the voucher several times as far as there is still minutes left on it. The speed is pretty slow (like a dial up in Canada)
14- Enjoy the resort. You will find it lovely.
Luna y Mares is nice for a3.5 STARâ€? resort with nice staff, very nice beach, wonderful entertainment group, good food and ideal for a week of stay. I recommend it as a very nice 3.5 star resort.
"Believe everything good you read about Luna Y Mares"
David & Catalina fromBracebridge, Ontario on Apr 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2009
131 people found this review helpful
When did you stay at this resort: April 18 to 25
This was our fourth trip here in three years. Believe everything good you read about Luna Y Mares, and ignore everything negative. This is a six star resort hidden beneath a four star rating. Just remember, this is Cuba; not all is perfect all the time! If you treat the Cubans with the respect and courtesy they very much deserve, and roll a bit with the way things are, you will want to return again and again, as do we.
"You won't find more friendlier staff"
Graham on Apr 1, 2009 >
2 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2009
142 people found this review helpful
We flew Sunwing and our arrival went very well. Staff were very efficient and friendly.
We had requested 3 rooms together via email and via Sunwing and this was done. We stayed at the Mares side first floor. Rooms were spacious and clean and a very friendly room maid.
Restaurants and Bars:
There is a new french restaurant which enforces a dress code of long pants for men. I had to sit out this one as I didn't take any long pants (my own fault), but the other 4 said it was an excellent experience and their best meal during the stay. The dress code is NOT enforced at the other restaurants. We also ate at the Italian which was good. The Colon buffet on the Mares side was very good and a very good selection of food. The selection is even better than 2007. The staff were excellent.
This is a 5 star beach and won't disappoint. The water lacks seaweed and just the nice aqua blue water with a very sandy bottom. The sandy beach area is very long and wide and lots of Cabanas and chairs plus many trees for shade if you prefer.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
One person took in the tour of Holguin(day trip) and was enjoyable. Be aware the costs of tours are in American dollars so be cautious of how you pay, ie conversion to Canadian dollars or pesos and exactly what is will cost in the end.
This was our 3rd trip to Holguin and 2nd to Luna Mares. The devastation to trees and plants the from Hurricane last year was VERY evident comnpared to 2007, however, the hotel is doing their best to do what they can to bring it back and it is still a lovely resort. The Luna side was quite dead due to the end of the season. The Canadian dollar was only worth 70 cents while we were there. The horse&buggy ride to the market is now 15 pesos for a half hour (1 hour last time) and the bird sanctuary next door is 5 pesos not 2. We were told the rate increase is to help with the hurricane costs. There is constant management visible and interested in you and they are constantly maintaining quality control. This resort is by far a 4 star and great value for the cost. You won't find more friendlier staff.
"We also went ‘snorkeling! That was great fun!"
Lorie on Apr 1, 2009 >
Visited on: Apr, 2009
141 people found this review helpful
You had me at ‘Hola’…
Arrived back to a really damp and rainy Nova Scotia after a week at Sol Rio de Luna y Mares at noon today, so before I completely slide into a two day crash, I’ll relay my experience and hopefully it will be useful.
We were trying to decide where to spend a week. That was all we had. I’ve only been to Cuba once, spending much more time in Mexico and South America. I knew Guadalavaca was a beautiful area and not quite as ‘slick’ as Veradero and after some resort research, I decided on Luna y Mares. For one thing, it seemed like the resort had huge personality and I really liked what travellers from my area were saying about the staff and management. As an aside, somebody in another review mentioned a ‘cookie cutter’ vacation, and in my opinion that’s a good representation of the experience you’ll have in Orlando or Las Vegas, or even Cancun, which is sort of like Miami. You’ll rarely see a bug, and essentially enjoy completely sterile and pristine accommodations. Staff will be efficient and professional and friendly, and you’ll be blown away by Hollywood and Broadway style stage shows… and what’s not to like about that? If that’s what you want.
For us, it’s about the experience.
Because, on a ‘cookie cutter holiday’ you’ll rarely find a housekeeping staffer who throws her arms around you after the second day of cleaning your room, telling you tales about life in her country and displaying genuine interest in life in yours, nor will you often find a bartender making impassioned salient points about why Che Guevera is a hero and ‘descamisado’ and will never die in the eyes of many Cuban people.
So, ahem… after that fairly lengthy prelude, I’ll give you the goods, as I saw them!
We flew Transat Holidays and arrived at the ungodly hour of 4 am last Sunday, April 5. I was far too excited to sleep and after getting our room ( more later) prowled around the resort for an hour to check out the lay of the land. My excuse for this pre dawn explorative quest, was that I was hungry and wanted a burger- a blatant lie—I was waaay to excited to eat it, but we did get one on the Luna all night snack bar. We were served by an amiable if somewhat sleepy bartender. I didn’t have any tip money so I gave him some sun glasses, which I felt was good and proper. Anyone I ask to cook for me at 5 am deserves something, don’t you think? The hamburger was good. It tasted a lot like my mother’s to tell the truth, and the fries were delicious! After the burger, I had no more excuse not to retire for the remainder of the night, so off we went to room 4009 on the Mares side, overlooking the pool and the ocean. It was big and it was spotless, and it was COLOURFUL! To me, it embodied the Caribbean in a blend of turquoise, pale orange, burgundy and white—a combination that I wouldn’t have thought stunning, but was. The beds were two singles pushed together. Very comfortable. There were extra blankets in the closet, and water in the small fridge. The bathroom was large with a tub and shower, toilet and bidet; sort of a cool European touch, I thought. Everything worked perfectly. The room fixtures were not brand new. It was not the Hilton or the Hampton Inn. I thought it was better.
Sunday am, we staggered off to the Transat Orientation before 10. The Transat Rep was informative knowledgeable, and remained extremely accessible all week. During orientation, the hotel’s food and beverage manager introduced himself, welcomed us, but we didn’t catch his name; only that he was from Spain, so we nicknamed him Mr. Barcelona!
Tromping back to our room on the way to the beach, we met our housekeeper. Her name was Rosa Carmina- and we completely fell in love. She told me with complete sincerity, that the most important thing for her was that my holiday be happy and stress free. I gaped. I couldn’t help it, but she meant it, and though I’m not sure I deserve it, such was the level of her professionalism. She was incredibly funny and, intelligent- and a way of connecting with people instantly. I don’t mean that housekeeping staff shouldn’t be / aren’t intelligent, but it occurred to me after several conversations with her that the country would be better served with Rosa in a diplomatic capacity. She hopes to finish up her degree in the fall, and I can’t help but think her talents are a bit wasted making ducks out of towels, sporting sunglasses and scarves (although the one she did for me looked uncannily like a great aunt I had that died last year!)
We were extremely fortunate to receive an invitation to the new French Restaurant (Bistrau ) on it’s opening night, and it was one of the most delicious meals we’ve ever had anywhere in the world. No joke. There were a group of Health Care Workers from NS at the next table, and we overheard them trying to estimate how much the meal would have cost in Halifax. Possibly $300 a couple with wine; at least that was our guess. I was able to snag a copy of the menu, so here it is, although it will no doubt vary.
Nicoise Salad with Tuna Duet of Asparagus with Citrus Cream
Smoked Salmon Plate
Champagne Pate with Cognac
French Onion Soup
Lobster Bisque with Armagnac
Salmon Steak, with Creamed Dill and Fried Vegetables
Sauteed Caribbean Prawns with Garlic and Butter Rice Crown
Pork Medalions with Matignon Sauce and Potatoes
Beef Entrecote with Pepper Sauce and Stuffed Potatoes
Chateau Brilliant and their Classic Garnish
Pears Cooked with Red Wine and Vanilla Ice Cream
Carmelized Banana Pie
There you have it! We had Smoked Salmon Plate and the Lobster Bisque to start. The smoked salmon tasted exactly like home to us (NS) but it was from Chile. Good on the Chileans, I say! The bisque was also delicious!
We then had the pork medallions and the beef- both of which were fork tender. For dessert, we had the banana pie and the pears. It was a toss up- but I think I’d choose the pears next time—amazing.
The restaurant is very small, and there were a group of very celebratory French Canadians there as well. They were having a lot of fun, and slightly boisterous, and on the way out, a gentleman with their party congratulated the Maitre’De on the opening and whispered humbly that he hoped he “wasn’t too loud.” I snickered to myself, wondering if he’d ever seen a bunch of Nova Scotians on a rant- Here on the South Shore, we drink Cuba Libras; just without the lime—we call them ‘Dark and Dirtys’! Between the two provinces, no doubt we’d be a force to be reckoned with!
We had opportunity to speak with Carlos Freeman, the Maitre’De, and he told us, he had spent the last several months preparing for the opening of the restaurant, ensuring that the ambiance be perfect, his staff highly trained in both food and wine pairings as well. While the other a la cartes were excellent within the resort, Carlos and his staff’s culinary efforts, I believe will make his restaurant many guests first choice. Plus, Carlos is a great conversationalist and host. We felt really privileged to attend the opening.
The Colon Buffet is large and varied. The name still cracks me up, even if it is Columbus in Spanish—no doubt that show’s my level of maturity. Seriously, if you can’t find something to eat there, you’re not hungry. It has a huge selection and the food is very good. It’s been covered in many reviews. My biggest regret is that I saw a pig roasted on a spit and it looked delicious! We went to the French Restaurant that night, so I missed Porky Pig- much to my dismay!
This is getting lengthy, so I’ll try and summarize a bit. We took a horse and buggy to the mini zoo. Our driver’s name began with a G, I believe, but his horse was named Hurricane. He was a lot of fun! He talked in broken English; I in broken Spanish and once in a while we understood each other. Once we got to the Mini Zoo- Rob, the handler took us around to all of the animals, and ‘G’ was so interested, he decided to come with us. We got up close and personal with an African Turtle named Paca, and went in an iguana’s cage named Marisa and scratched her under the chin. ‘I mention G and Hurricane in particular, because we took a horse and buggy into Guadalavaca the day before and our driver was dour and incommunicative and wouldn’t even try to converse with me in my horrible Spanish. I know it must be frustrating but it’s a bit deflating. I’d much rather take another trip with G and Hurricane. The mini zoo doesn’t seem to publicized well, and it’s really worth the trip. You could walk it or take a bike. It’s not far at all.
We also went ‘snorkeling! That was great fun! Close to the Rio D’Oro, we even saw what we think was a tuna. If you have your own gear, that might be good as it’s very popular and might not be available when you want it.
The hotel entertainment was also great fun! Very talented entertainment staff were able to engage a large range of ages and cultural tastes effectively. I also loved the music. I’m really glad not to hear hip hop blaring through the speakers by the pool. It’s not that I mind hip hop (although I’d prefer Nickelback- I’d just really rather hear local music) and that was phenomenal.
The bar staff at 1492 was excellent! Dania (daytime) is very charismatic, and is able to make each patron feel like they were the most important in the world. That’s a gift when you’re not always respected by vacationers.
It’s likely evident, that we, like many people grew very attached to people in a very short time. My partner gave away his ipod. No coercion, or manipulation by anyone. I was proud that he did it.
I had read that Mohamed Fawzi, the General Manager of the hotel was extremely competent, as well as customer oriented, and that was evident quickly. I had the pleasure of speaking to him briefly. I’ve never seen management as visible or conscientious about performance and quality control in a resort. It appeared that at least several managers put in at least a 16 hour day in the trenches interacting with their guests, and there seemed little Mohamed wasn’t on top of.
Mr. Barcelona (we learned his name was Ferran, an hour before we left!) cropped up everywhere too. I’d see him conferring in the early morning hours with his manager, while walking the property, and later clearing glasses from a table if the wait staff were swamped and once high fiving a bartender on the way through the bar. It really made me happy to see “Mr. B” high fiving his staff, because after a day or two in dealing with the front line staff, it’s evident that life for them in Cuba is not the same as life for us. For example, we have no problem buying aspirin, buying a pound of hamburger, and many things we take for granted are just beyond their reach, economically. That’s one reason, I think it assuaged my conscience to see that their managers treated them with respect. I went so far as to ask Rosa, the ‘housecleaning diplomat’ if the General Manager was a good boss. If she had been disparaging, I naturally wouldn’t have given her up- but she wasn’t. She said he had very high standards and wanted the hotel to be excellent. A worthy answer I thought.
Last evening, we had grilled lobster at a table by ourselves outside the international restaurant. It overlooked Playa Esmerelda; there was no wind, and the moon was almost full. The lobster was grilled, and served with a pepper mayonnaise, ceasar salad and a French onion soup that was as delicious as any I’ve had anywhere. For dessert, I had flan with coconut ice cream, and then we watched the water ballet show. I can’t see how our last evening could have been better. I am grateful I don’t have ready access to that coconut ice cream here in NS. I don’t want to be mistaken for the rare Albino Northern Porpoise on my next trip!!
Three last things
1. Second morning out, I got sunstroke. We were on the beach for two hours and I had a hat on. No booze. Really, violently ill and dizzy.l Had to go back to our room, and lay down for almost 24 hours. Be really careful of the sun.
2. We bought some beautiful end tables from a vendor at the hotel. Very nice man. They had fish swimming through sea grass and customs confiscated them because he used seeds for the fish eyes that are poisonous. Apparently it permeates the wood. There’s no way he would know we’d have an issue, but make sure you check because we could easily have taken them out and replaced them with something here.
3. If anyone wants more details or has questions, we’d be delighted to try and answer them. firstname.lastname@example.org
As for a return visit, bring it!