Melia Las Dunas Reviews

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Melia Las Dunas  

Cayo Santa María, Jardines del Rey. Caibarién, Villa Clara.

"I will be back"
Posted by: brown on Aug 4, 2014
see all reviews

Melia Las Dunas Reviews
Melia Las Dunas Pictures and Information
Melia Las Dunas Cayo Santa Maria Cuba

#1
of 9 Hotels in Cayo Santa Maria

User rating 3.9

Based on 31 reviews

Melia Las Dunas Information


Located in an exotic tropical paradise of white sand beaches and shimmering turquoise sea, hotel Meliá Las Dunas is Cayo Santa Maria offers dazzling Five-Star luxury for families and couples. Designed to respond to even the most discerning tastes, the hotel’s restaurants offers ample choices in fine dining. Enjoy a visit to the ice cream parlor, beer garden and participate in the varied recreational activities for all the members of the family such as nautical sports and animation.

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Melia Las Dunas Reviews

Melia Las Dunas Review: 3.9 of 5 31 reviews
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"Melia Las Dunas Hotel"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Susana  on Dec 3, 2008  >  1 contribution(s) Spain
Visited on: Dec, 2008
1041 people found this review helpful

I loved it. The private beach was like paradise. There were no waves, the water was crystal clear and turquoise. The hotel food isn't bad. This is Cuba and there are foods that are hard to find or can't be found at all, like vegetables. If you're the salad type, forget it. The staff was very kind. It's been an unforgettable trip for the whole family, grandparents, nephews, brothers. I will do it again and bring my daughter next time. (Translated from an original in Spanish)

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"Wow. You won't starve here."

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Elizabeth from North Bay, ON  on Jan 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2009
102 people found this review helpful

Arrival: January 24 to February 8
Our arrival at the airport was uneventful. While waiting to board our bus to take us to our hotel we managed to buy a couple of cervesas for the 1 1/2 hr trip to the hotel. Because it was night we could not appreciate the scenery but the bus ride went by quite fast. Upon our arrival, the check in was surprisingly fast...less than 15 minutes to get all the information and baggage delivered to our rooms.

Rooms
The room was large and clean and was suitable for me and my sister with two separate twin beds.

Restaurants and Bars
Wow. You won't starve here. The Romantico was probably the best meal we had although I find all the hype to dine at the a la carte restaurants a little over-rated. The two buffet restaurants had everything you could imagine and sure to please any palate. The most common factor was that anytime a server took your order it took forever but once your order was placed the food came quick. The lobby bar is still my favourite place. All kinds of liquor, including my favourite, Disaronno.

Beach/Pools/Grounds
Had a little bit of a problem getting chairs at both pools. One must have to get up at 5 to save a chair. No thanks, I can swim at a pool anyday so we opted for the beach which had pure white powdery sand, beautiful azure coloured ocean with crystal clear waters. Beach bars, snack bar, water sports including a free 1/2 hr catemeran ride. Just like in the brochure. My sister has been to Cuba five times now and thought this to be the most beautiful beach out of all the other areas in Cuba she visited. The grounds were lush with mature vegetation, and I never felt crowded as a result of the large resort.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
We signed up for the catemeran, the tour to Santa Clara and a deep sea fishing trip. The catemeran was awesome and had a great group of people on board. The captain and his grandson were great and the lobster lunch delivered to us was to die for. It was really good. Santa Clara tour was very informative and I now have a new appreciation for Cuba's politics and culture. I have come back and signed out some literature on Che and also signed up for Spanish lessons. I still have not come down from my high yet. Unfortunately our deep sea fishing was cancelled twice because of the rough seas and high winds. My sister and I wanted to do something nice for our Cuban hosts and opted to bring two locals with us as our treat. Unfortunately, Melia hotels do not allow staff to mingle with guests so that was unfortunate. It didn't work out anyways as a result of the cancellation.

Other Comments
The resort is secluded and staff are bused in every day for the 1 1/2 hour drive one way. They work very hard and are extremely pleasant. Please consider being nice to them and don't demand. I know as tourist we pay to visit these places but these people are very friendly and polite and work hard to work for peanuts. Also, don't tip them in Canadian coins. I must have lost over $30 in exchange because they would come to me to cash in their "tips". Overall, I have no complaints and highly recommend this resort to anyone. We did hear some complaints but I suppose you can't please everyone. I'm sure that even the 5 star hotel on the island had some guests complaining about something or other. My advice to those people...stay home! This resort had lush vegetation, clean rooms, beautiful beach to die for, excellent staff, beautiful lobby and lobby bar, good food (great at times), new friends, local and foreign, and I would give it a 10!

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"Service was excellent"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Pauline from Ontario  on Jan 1, 2009  >  3 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2009
113 people found this review helpful

Arrival: Jan 24 - Feb 7
On time

Rooms
big rooms very clean

Restaurants and Bars
good food, lots of restaurants. Lobby bar the best

Beach/Pools/Grounds
Nicest beach in Cuba
The grounds are fabulous, lots of gardeners

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
Catamaran for the day, good lobster and shrimps, Santa Clara tour

Other Comments
This resort was super. Nice and big. Service was excellent. For those who want to relax. A little far to land. Enough to do on the resort. If anyone from Ontario going, it would be greatly appreciate to contact me. I would like to send baby stuff for cuban friends. pas_lynn@msn.com

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"Amazing experience"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Terry Williams  on Jan 12, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2009
1268 people found this review helpful

Jan10/09 We just returned after a week in heaven. Our son and his bride decided to have their wedding at this resort and it was the most beautiful day and the most beautiful wedding I have ever seen. The grounds, the staff, the ocean, the white sand, no clouds, warm winds and gorgeous accomodations made for the most amazing experience we have ever had. We loved the people and the island, everyone was friendly and accomodating and the scenery was fabulous! I can't recommend this place highly enough! If you want pure pleasure, a great tan, sand between your toes, turqoise water and lots of fun...go here!! We will go back!!!

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"The beach is spectacular"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Jerry & Marilyn  on Feb 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) 
Visited on: Feb, 2009
87 people found this review helpful

Our family of four (including teenagers ages 13 & 16) enjoyed a wonderful stay at the Melia Las Dunas from January 25 – February 1, 2009. This was our third trip to Cuba, having previously stayed at the Playa Pesquero, and the Iberostar Daiquiri. The weather was great, except for one day, which was on the chilly side. Evenings can be cool, and a sweater is a good idea.

Check-in was efficient. I had emailed the hotel prior to going, requesting adjoining rooms in a central location. I also included my MAS # with my request. On arrival we were very pleased with our room location (block 37, rooms 3712 & 3713). Although these rooms are not adjoining, they are in a fabulous location – steps from the adult pool, snack bar, activity centre, and perhaps a 2 or 3 minute walk to the buffet and lobby. We also had a complimentary bottle of rum in each room, and all of our a la carte reservations made for us. I believe this was a perk of being a MAS cardholder. The rooms were lovely, very clean and well equipped. Our one complaint was the lack of hot water. Most days it was lukewarm (made for quick showers), however, a couple of days we did have hot water. The room safe is free.

The Las Dunas is divided into two sections – the adult side, and the family side, each having it’s own pool. The adult pool has a quiet relaxing atmosphere, with comfy padded loungers. Unfortunately during our stay, chair saving was in full force. If you were not at the pool by 9 a.m., your chances of getting a seat were slim to none. I found this very frustrating, considering many of these chairs went unused for hours, while others lay on the cement gazing longingly at the unused comfortable chairs. There are probably ¼ the number of chairs at the adult pool, compared to the family pool. The family pool is similar in size. It is of course, much more crowded and noisy. Both pools were kept very clean.

The beach is spectacular. I will echo the previous poster who said “like a picture on a post card”. During our stay all but two days were quite windy, making for some great waves. On the two calm days, the ocean was FULL of jellyfish. I heard this had something to do with the time of year. Staff warned people to stay out of the water, and we certainly heeded that warning.

We did not see much of the animation team during the day. The “teen club” was an empty building. There was a schedule of events posted that were to take place everyday at the activity centre, however, these often did not take place. The activity centre was equipped with air hockey, pool, foos ball, and various other activities. This is also where you borrowed the tennis rackets. However, you should know that the courts are on the other side of the resort, by the spa/gym/doctor’s office.

The food was okay. I am admittedly an extremely picky eater. Our favourite meal was at the Oriental restaurant. The Romantico was also very good. Our other a la carte reservation was for the Pizzeria, and I would suggest skipping this, as it was basically the same pizza you can order all day long. I did have some concerns about food handling – particularly at the buffet grill. Here the cook handled uncooked pork, chicken and beef with the same utensil, and then served the cooked meat using the same utensil. Just something to be careful of, as there is nothing worse then getting sick on vacation. The Beer Garden was one of our favourite places for lunch.

There were quite a few weddings while we were there. What a fabulous location to get married at! The snack bar by the adult pool was transformed most evenings into a private reception area, and it really did look lovely.

The Las Dunas is a fantastic hotel. The grounds are lush. The lobby is amazing. The staff are very friendly, and eager to help make your vacation wonderful.

Overall we had a great holiday. Thanks to everyone who has written reviews in the past. I enjoy reading them, and find them a great tool when deciding where to vacation.

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"This is the ultimate destination in Cuba!"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Mathieu  on Feb 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2009
90 people found this review helpful

This was our first trip to Cuba and I must admit that we did become somewhat sceptical after reading so many bad reviews concerning food and amenities in Cuban resorts however Melia Las Dunas did not disappoint in ANY aspect! I have broken down our review into sections for easy reading. This resort is truly amazing!

TRAVEL DATES
February 7, 2009 to February 14, 2009

DEPARTURE FLIGHT
We booked our vacation online with SellOffVacations.com and had a great experience. The package was with Transat Holidays who chartered a CanJet plane for our flights.

The CanJet reps had computer problems when we checked-in and had to add people to the manifest. It was quite the fiasco however, they did end up getting everything resolved and everything went smoothly. The flight left little bit late, but nothing major. The flight was uneventful and alright. Since it was morning, we had a continental breakfast. It was pretty good.

ARRIVAL - SANTA CLARA AIRPORT
We went through the Cuban customs and security check quickly, grabbed our bags and we were greeted by a Transat Holidays rep and told which bus to board. We were then greeted at the bus and given our welcome package which included our hotel passport(room number and map), some other papers and our room key cards. The bell boys grabbed our room number and attached stickers to our bags so that they can bring our bags to our room when we arrive at the resort.

TRANSIT - AIRPORT TO RESORT - 90 MINUTES
We had a well informed guide who informed us about our resort and when our information session with our Transat Holidays rep would be. The bus was pretty nice and comfortable and allowed us to see the real Cuba. It was very interesting.

ARRIVAL - MELIA LAS DUNAS
We were greeted by the entertainment team and given a cocktail right off the bus. Since we had received our welcome package before boarding the bus, we were able to immediately proceed to our rooms where our suitcases quickly arrived. It was the best check-in experience we have ever had and I have travelled to Florida, France and Spain.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The resort entrance and lobby is lavish and beautiful. The property is probably about 2km's wide and has lots of trails which can be confusing at first yet there are signs everywhere. It is very easy to get your bearings your first day. There is a lot of walking but this is a good thing considering it is an all inclusive with great food and drinks. If you do have trouble walking, there are shuttles all over the resort and you can simply call customer service to get a shuttle to your room. They arrive very fast and will provide you with a quick means of transportation. The resort has many gardeners that take care of sections of the resort. Everything is very beautiful and well maintained. A true masterpiece!

ROOM
Standard room was big, had a king-size bed and was very nice looking and clean. Fridge was stocked with water, sparkling water, pop and beer and was restocked daily if you drank something. The maids did a nice job everyday and made animals out of towels but make sure you put your towels in the tub so that they put new towels, otherwise they won't make anything out of the used towels.

LOBBY BAR
24 hrs, great cappuccino, they had Bailey's, Kaluha and lots of imports that were all included. Excellent service, excellent place to relax.

RESTAURANTS
Buffets - The food at the buffets we're really good. Meat, fish and pasta stations for fresh made food and buffet style items. Items we're very different every day. This is a great thing so you don't eat the same stuff everyday. Flambéed bananas or deep-fried bananas every night that are very good!

Beer Garden - Corrona, Burgers, hot dogs and grilled shrimp. Good food, fast service and open 24 hours a day.

Pool Snack Bars - Great burgers, hot dogs, panini's, pizzas, fries, poutine and banana chips. Everything was really good and quick while you're by the pool.

Ice Cream Bar - We had ice cream a few times including a banana split. The ice cream is really good and is a nice touch during a hot afternoon.

À LA CARTE RESTAURANTS
Oriental - We had sushi, tempura, spring rolls and soup to start. Chicken tepenyaki and Tuna loin steak for the main course. Tempura pineaple with ice cream for desert. This restaurant was excellent and quite true to oriental standards we find here in Canada. We really enjoyed it.

Grill - We had chicken skewer, tomato soup to start. Pork ribs and chicken, beef & pork skewer for the main course. Black forest cake and brownie for desert. It was very good. We were very satisfied with the taste of all the courses. Nice setting.

Romantico - We had lobster & shrimp salad and Melon and cured ham to start. Tomato & pumpkin and seafood soup. Beef as the main course. White & dark chocolate surprise layered cake. This was a beautiful dinner. Great fancy dining experience and was very good quality.

Pizzeria - We had chicken noodle soup to start. Margharita and Hawaiian pizza for our main course. Santa Maria Crepe and Crepe Suzette. Everything was super delicious and the pizzas are huge so bring your appetite.

Italian - We had beef carpaccio and vegetable soup to start. Second service was shrimp bisque and pasta. Chicken parmesan and beef. All of the food was delicious and well prepared. We enjoyed it alot.

Mediteranian - We had lobster bisque to start. Whole lobster for the main course. The lobster was excellent and we enjoyed it very much. Make sure to sit in the center of this open-air restaurant to avoid cats as they seem to be around that restaurant for the seafood.

POOLS
It was nice to have the different pools - adult only and family pool. The adult only pool was great for a quiet, relaxing day at the pool. The family pool had music and entertainment, making it a more interesting area to sit.

BEACH
Very nice sand, you can walk out for several hundred feet in the ocean. There were some fish, not many but was very nice. You can walk 10km's down the beach in front of other resorts.

NIGHTLY ENTERTAINMENT
Great variety and great quality shows. Excellent entertainment team and covered outdoor theatre. Full bar service to your seat.

DEPARTURE
We had to checkout at 5:30AM so we were able to have one last great cappuccino before departure. We had a great tour guide on the way to the airport for the 90 minute bus ride. We purchased the VIP package from our Transat rep at the hotel and enjoyed it thoroughly. It costs $20 CUC per person but gave you a special check-in, special waiting room with couches and full all-inclusive bar and restaurant and first on the plane. This was a great option as it made the wait go by very fast. I highly recommend it.

OVERALL This resort is excellent and people of all ages will enjoy this resort. The quality of this resort should make it a 5 star. This is the ultimate destination in Cuba!

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"Quel beau voyage"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  rose vernier  on Feb 26, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2009
307 people found this review helpful

Nous étions a l'hotel pour une semaine a partir du 15/02/2009. Nous étions en voyage de noce. Très bon service, très bel hotel, bonne nourriture et beaucoups de choix. Nous y reviendrons Rose et Michel

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"The breeziness was very pleasant"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Luke from Toronto  on Apr 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Apr, 2009
116 people found this review helpful

Arrival
The flight with CanJet to Santa Clara was fine, and a local Transat Holidays (multilingual) agent was there to direct us to the correct bus for the hour-and-a-half trip to Melia Las Dunas. The guide on the bus was a student and his English a bit difficult to understand, but frankly he was a bit superfluous anyway as we all just wanted to get there and finish with the journey.

Check in at the hotel was quick and painless, which is just as well as it was nearly midnight by the time we were in our room and ready for bed.

Next morning, after the talk and introduction to the hotel and its facilities, we had to book (up to 4) a la carte dinner restaurants for the week, although we actually just booked one, preferring to use the buffets and snack bars the rest of the time. We also had to book our excursions (again we just booked the one, to Trinidad), and pick up our beach towels for the week from the pool area (they seemed to run out of clean towels for a while the next day, but we had no problem getting ours, and once you have them you can exchange them for clean ones as often as you like). We were there during the last week in March (the week after Toronto March Break). This is technically spring in Cuba, and the weather was hot and sunny, with about half a day of rain the whole week. It was pretty windy the whole week, though, and the waves were quite high until the very last day, so water sports (and some trips) were inadvisable. In the hotel itself, away from the wind on the beach, the breeziness was very pleasant, however. Evenings were of course cooler but still warm, and the nights pleasantly cool for sleeping (but not cold). And no mosquitoes!

Rooms
No complaints about the room - clean, nicely decorated, well-appointed, comfortable enough beds, easy-to-use security safe, minibar fridge stocked with the basics (minibar drinks are included in the package and restocked daily), good shower with plenty of hot water, little balcony, TV with an adequate selection of programs in several languages, even a hairdryer. No dodgy toilets, cockroaches, sewage smells or any of those other things you tend to read about in these reviews.

The rooms are in two-storey blocks with 24 rooms in each block (12 on each floor), with access from both ends. Some of the upper rooms probably have a sea view, I would think, depending on the direction they face and the part of the hotel they are located in. Ours looked out onto jungle and a gravel path.

Like most of these places, however, the walls are paper thin, and it is pot luck whether you get a noisy one or not. We had a party crowd in our block on one night, with lots of late-night drunken shouting and clip-clipping up and down stairs, and then another night with a very loud television. But these seemed to be isolated incidents, and in general it was pretty quiet.

The maid kept things pretty clean and tidy, and did the towel origami thing each day. She also left us a cute little welcome note (in English) on the first day. She did, however, insist on leaving the air conditioning on full blast each day, which was totally unnecessary, and we had to open all the windows to warm the place up each afternoon when we came in.

Restaurants and Bars
There are two main large buffet restaurants, where we ate pretty much every breakfast and dinner, plus another restaurant which has a lunch buffet. The main buffet restaurants are attached to each other, and frankly there is not much to choose between them, although there may be (very) minor differences between what they serve from day to day. The choice is fine for a week, but you'd get pretty sick of it after two weeks, I would think. As vegetarians, though, the buffets were by far our best option, and we never had any difficulty finding a table. In addition to the expected salads, breads, cheeses (and cold meats), fruits and desserts, there were usually a selection of cooked vegetables, potatoes, pasta, pizza, eggs, etc, as well as the made-to-order omelette and crepe stations at breakfast and the made-to-order pasta station at dinner (as well as a meat/steak station which we did not investigate).

The (not made-to-order) hot food was not always hot and the ready-made pizzas, pasta, crepes, etc, were usually pretty tired and cardboardy. The cakes and desserts were very much variations on a theme and not particularly fascinating. Juices were canned (apart from the orange juice, I think), the cereal was often stale. The fruit was pretty much limited to pineapple, banana, papaya, melon, watermelon, orange and grape fruit, and it was not great quality at that, but it was edible. The cheeses were very bland and often variation so processed, but there are one or two which re OK (particularly one with little holes in it).

But having said all that, quite honestly, you don't go to Cuba for the food - you just need enough to keep you going, and it certainly had that. The croissants were pretty good, the flambeed bananas are recommended and it was nice to get Spanish-style churros and dipping sauces. As a veggie, I have eaten much worse.

There were also four or five a la carte restaurants (e.g. specializing in pizza, pasta, Cuban food, seafood as well as a so-called romantic one). From a quick look at the menus revealed a severely limited vegetarian selection so we just booked the pizza place for one evening, as much for a change of scenery as anything else. It was OK but certainly nothing special.

In addition to the buffets and the a la carte restaurants, there were several bars snack bars scattered around, open for lunch and for most of the afternoon, serving sandwiches, pizzas, burgers and hot dogs (no veggie ones), fries, even poutine. The Beer Garden bar is open all day and night and serves food all day, so you're definitely not going to starve.

There are also of course many bars to serve all that alcohol, including swim up bars and the 24-hour Beer Garden, and small bars on the boardwalks to the beach. The beer is a choice of the local Crystal and Bucanero (OK, served nice and cold) as well as Becks and something else imported which I have forgotten. The wine served is cheap Spanish plonk and not very exciting. And there is the usual array of spirits and cocktails (and a few non-alcoholic cocktails and slushies for the kids).

By far the best coffee, cappuccino and cocktails were served in the piano bar by the lobby, and we soon realized that it was better to get a cappuccino there rather than risk the cafe con leche in the restaurants (which was sometimes OK and sometimes not).

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
The beach, as you will probably have gathered, is beautiful - clean, white sand, no rocks, beautiful turquoise sea, no jellyfish, no hookers or people pestering you. It is separated from the hotel by a natural area of vegetation crossed by three boardwalks. There are plenty of loungers and some palapas for shade (no natural shade). It was quite windy most of the time we were there and the waves can be a bit scary (but fun), although I am not sure how typical that is. You can walk for several kilometres up and down the beach from the hotel, past the three other hotels on the that part of the cayo and some totally undeveloped parts.

The pools are also nice, a little cold, but not enough to keep you out of them (just enough to keep them from being busy). There were enough sun-loungers and we never really had a problem finding shade when we wanted it. A minor problem with people leaving towels, but not too bad, and not as bad as many other places. There is an activity pool on one side of the hotel and a leisure pool on the other. We were on the quieter leisure pool side (although you can of course use either), which suited us fine. Actually, even the activity pool was not that active or noisy, although I believe they had some water sports events from time to time. It's certainly not a wet t-shirt contest/thumping disco kind of a place. There is a late night disco near the reception for those that need that kind of thing, although I can't comment on it.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
The lobby area is pleasant with plenty of seats and a nice place for an evening cocktail/coffee/game of cards. There is an information place, and the Transat Holidays people were also usually there to answer any other questions. The bank in the lobby often had a line-up for changing Canadian dollars to convertible pesos, but not always. It was open quite long hours, so just wait until the line dies down, or try later in the afternoon. Lots of 1 peso notes or coins are useful for tips, and bear in mind that you will need 25 pesos per person for exit tax at the airport when you leave. There are a couple of stores and, of course, an artesania market. Phones and internet are slow and expensive, but at least available.

The activity centre (sports and games area) was well used, but not overused, and you could usually get to play whatever you wanted (table tennis, air hockey, table soccer, pool, board games, etc) when you wanted it. There was always someone there to help, and there were also different activities going on at different times, including basic archery lessons, Spanish lessons, mini-tournaments, etc.

The activity centre also loaned out basketballs, tennis rackets and balls, etc, for use at the tennis courts over the other side of the hotel. the tennis courts were in good condition and one or more was usually available (despite it being shared with the Melia Cayo Santa Maria next door). You can take out bikes for free, and even scooters - there is nothing much to see, but it makes a nice change, and you can get to the other end of the beach or go birding at the causeway.

The gym near the tennis courts was also in good condition and reasonably well appointed (and cool!), with a weights room, treadmills, step machines, a rowing machine, stationary bikes, exercise mats, etc. It was rarely in use when we went there, and we never had a problem in getting onto anything. The spa (also by the tennis courts) seemed relatively expensive, comparable to Toronto prices, and we were not tempted, especially given that everything else was for free. The watersports centre on the beach was not operating for most of our stay due to the wind and high waves, but in theory they have sailboats, windsurfers, kayaks, pedallos, and more - all free.

I'm embarrassed to admit that we didn't bother with the shows (starting at 9.30pm) at all. From what I saw of the practices, it was the usual predictable (and necessarily amateurish) all-singing all-dancing affairs with enforced audience participation. Sorry, but been there, done that. There were various pre-show entertainments in and around the lobby, mainly revolving around salsa, of course (I was pretty sick of salsa by the end of the week, although even on the bus back to the airport some people were still calling for more).

Day trips worked out at around $100 per person, so we only booked one, but I think it's important to get out of the hotel at least once and to see a bit of the real Cuba (because the hotel is very definitely NOT the real Cuba). Bear in mind that there is no town around the hotel that you can walk to or even cycle to. We went off on bikes one morning and there is nothing but scrubby jungle and a handful of hotels on the whole island - no locals live there at all, and construction workers and hotel staff are bused in each day.

The snorkelling/catamaran trip was not available, due again to the wind and the waves, although I'm not sure that we would have chosen it anyway (it doesn't involve the real Cuba either). The jeep trip looked a bit like something quite tame pretending to be something adventurous, and the prospect of driving in a convoy didn't appeal. We were tempted by the so-called jungle hiking trip until we realized that it was 4 hours in a bus to get there, and 4 hours back, with a much shorter time in between for hiking and swimming in rivers. There were shorter trips to Remedios and Santa Clara, but if we were doing city sight-seeing and markets, we thought we'd go for the best and booked the Sancti Spiritus/Trinidad trip.

And very good it was too. You get to see a bit of small town Cuba from the bus, get information on farming practices, etc, etc. There was a more or less enforced stop at a famous artisan's factory (actually nothing special, and a bit of wasted time in my opinion), and sangria in an converted colonial house. A quick walk around the provincial town of Sancti Spiritus and it's market (a food market for locals, not a tourist market. The lunch at a converted farmstead in a natural park just outside Trinidad (pretty basic food and conveyor belt service, but pretty surroundings by a river - it would have been nice to be able to spend more time there walking around).

Then on to colonial Trinidad (World Heritage Site), guided tour around a museum and free time to potter round the markets, have a drink in cafe, or just walk around and distribute any gifts for kids, etc. Lovely little town, with cobbled streets, brightly coloured colonial houses, 50-year old American cars in the streets, and only a small amount of people trying to foist knocked-off cigars on us.

Then back on the bus, and our guide George (presumably Jorge), who had already told us lots of interesting stuff about education, healthcare, prices, jobs, car licence plates, etc, opened up to questions about Cuban life. He was, I thought, very honest and open about the good and the bad, and clearly very proud of his country and its achievements, while recognizing its limitations, and he earned his tip. The trip picked up from the other hotels on Cayo Santa Maria, (Sol Cayo Santa Maria, Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria, Melia Cayo Santa Maria and Royal Hideaway Ensenachos) so we also got to chat to some other people. All in all, a good 12 hour trip, pretty well organized and well worth doing.

Other Comments:
Between 90% and 100% of the guest were Canadian, and I would say that at least 70% of those were Quebecois. It was predominantly a middle-aged crowd - very few kids, teens or babies, and very few of the very old, mainly thirties to fifties. Not too many buff bodies, and not too much screaming and shouting.

A lot of the guests were big into drinking, carrying around their own large refillable mugs. However, considering the quantity of alcohol imbibed, they were reasonably well-behaved and there were only really a couple of occasions when I felt a bit embarrassed to be Canadian. Don't get me wrong, I like a drink too, but I just don't see the point in excess.

The staff were pleasant and courteous and attentive to a fault, and even the cooks and gardeners seemed to be trilingual. We tipped most meals and some drinks, but its certainly not mandatory (and I don't really think it makes any difference top the service you receive). We tipped a convertible peso at a time (it just seemed easiest) and it seemed to be well received (a convertible peso goes a long way for the locals).

We were there during the last week in March (the week after Toronto March Break). This is technically spring in Cuba, and the weather was hot and sunny, with about half a day of rain the whole week. It was pretty windy the whole week, though, and the waves were quite high until the very last day, so water sports (and some trips) were inadvisable. In the hotel itself, away from the wind on the beach, the breeziness was very pleasant, however. Evenings were of course cooler but still warm, and the nights pleasantly cool for sleeping (but not cold). And no mosquitoes!

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"Level of english among staff was very good"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 3.5 of 5

Posted by:  Doug from Toronto  on Oct 1, 2009  >  3 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Oct, 2009
118 people found this review helpful

Arrival: Oct 3, 2009
Spent 1 week here in October 2009. We have made many trips to 5 star AI resorts in Punta Cana and Mexico, but first time to Cuba. This was a last minute sell off deal. I knew it was only 4 star but It was so cheap that I figured lets check it out. Airport is a long way (1.5 hours) from hotel which is a bit of a negative. However, interesting to see the little towns on the way.

Rooms:
I was in room 4122 which was a suite. Very large, very clean, everything worked, no bugs or smells. Absolutely no complaints. This is a VERY large property and some rooms are a LONG way from beach/lobby. This was a well positioned room.

Restaurants and Bars:
Overall quality of food was adequate but nowhere near the quality of Mexico/DR. The buffet had decent selection but you really had to be picky. Hard to believe, but there was lettuce only 1 day of 7 (so no salads which is a big thing for a lot of people), absolutely no apples, oranges, grapes, cereals, flavoured yogurt only 2 days. Selection of cheese etc poor. House wine terrible. Much of the food was cold to luke warm. Many, many selections had no description of what it was, so I passed. Beer was good, mixed drinks just did not taste good. Booze either watered down or ??? I normally only eat in a la carte, but here did not do any. Main reason is stupid stupid but common practice of men needing to wear long pants. This place was HOT even at 8 PM and because of the huge walking distances between buildings, you were sweating pretty good. At least buffet allowed dress shorts. Also practice of needing reservations; we have been spolied at Dreams/Excellence properties where no reservations needed.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Overall property very clean, very nice. Need to walk a bridge over the dunes to get to the beach which means no restaurants/washrooms near the beach. Beach was very nice; white sand and beautiful water. Beach in high tide is quite narrow and palapas are built touching each other, so hard to get privacy. But no jetskis, no para sailing or sight seeing helicopters, so really quiet beach experience. Water is shallow, sand bottom, warm and just perfect.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
People who book tours at places like this are idiots. You come for the beach and sun, yet people pay big bucks to spend a day in sweltering heat to see some silly village or whatever. Save your money!

Other Comments:
a) Entertainment did not start until 9:45. Way too late.
b) Ice cream shop in main lobby square closes at 7PM, just when lots of people might like one before/after dinner.
c) Pizza parlour is included as al a carte. Really just a little open air place that should be open to all without silly long pants/reservation policy.
d) Level of english among staff was very good.
e) Staff overall were good, friendly. However service was certainly not up to DR/Mexico standards.
f) Overall, I would not return to Cuba simply because of the food. DR/Mexico might be a bit more money, but worth it.

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"For a great family vacation go to Las Dunas"

Melia Las Dunas
User Rating:  Melia Las Dunas Review: 4.5 of 5

Posted by:  Greg from Montreal  on Oct 1, 2009  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Oct, 2009
140 people found this review helpful

Arrival: From October 18th to October 25th
I arrived with my family at Santa Clara Airport at 19h30 in the evening. We were greeted outside the terminal and were given an envelope with our room keys, a map of the resort, bracelets and everything else to complete our checkin. I found this well organized and no doubt it saved quiet a bit of time that we would have spent in line at the resort to checkin. Our bags were put on the bus and marked with the room number so we had no worries once we arrived about dragging bags around as they were delivered directly to our room. All in all very impressed with the organization for our arrival.

Rooms:
We had upgraded to superior rooms and had one for my wife and I and another for the kids, happily we discovered that they were beside each other as requested. The rooms were a good size and well prepared for our arrival, again we were very happy.

Restaurants and Bars:
As this was low season one of the buffets was closed but this did not create any problems due to low bookings for this week. The food was good for resort buffets with lots of selection and enough changes every day to make it interesting. We ate at the Italian and the Romantic restaurants and enjoyed them both, we actually went back to the Italian a second time because we all enjoyed it. The bars were al clean and service was friendly, if there is any negative comment it would be that in all bars that we tried except the lobby bar the drinks were a little weak, not a big deal for us as we were not drinking much but still an issue.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
The beach was one of the nicest I have visited, over 16 kms long and the sand was amazing along all of what we saw. The pool was large and the water was clean, there was a "pool boy" working at the pool all day every day. The grounds were kept clean and again it was not difficult to find people working at keeping them that way any day we were there.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We only went on one tour, we asked about the full day Catamaran trip but were told only half days were available so we book that. They charged us 42 pesos for three of us and 24 pesos for one child. Advertized during the cruise was a visit to an old ship that went aground, snorkling and some free time on an undeveloped beach. What they did not tell us was that we would visit a facility out on the water that had dolphins in it, we had about 15-20 minutes of time with a dolphin and a trainer for the four of us, it was simply wonderful and by far better than a dolphin excursion I had paid $120.00 USD for in Mexico several years ago. The woman at the hotel said we would see dolphins but this was much more than that, if you visit this area make sure to do this trip, bargain bargain bargain and an amazing experience.

Other Comments:
Although we are not the most well traveled people around I have been to enough places to know that this was an excellent week at a wonderful resort with friendly, helpful and well organized staff. All week long we wondered why Cuba has such a poor reputation for food and in some reviews service. My wife and I went to a resort in the Mayan Riviera that cost almost double what we paid for 4 of us this time and the food was no better and apart from the room was no more impressive overall. If you are looking for a great family vacation go to Las Dunas, really had a great time.

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