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Villa Tortuga
Vancouver, BC
March 2007
Just spent 2 days at Villa Tortuga in Varadero. Don’t think I’ll go back…

This place was a constant balancing of good and bad. For example, the ocean is indeed beautiful, but the beach is filthy with garbage, and every morning, it’s strewn with hundreds of Man O’War jelly fish. The dangerous kind! No signs anywhere, and no staff picking them from the beach so no one steps on the stingers. This actually applies to all the hotels on that strip of beach.

Nice array of food, but not much of it was edible, and certainly not tasty. There was a paella and tapas night -- the paella was nothing but rice with onions, and the single “tapa” was bits of beef wrapped up in bacon, so overcooked I couldn’t remove the toothpick nor even cut into it with my knife. I didn’t go hungry, but more than half of the food never made it onto my plate. There was an outdoor grill with special dishes at most meals, though you only knew that from other guests telling you about it. Getting food from this cook was a true imposition on the man; he was always grumpy.

24-hour service at the desk, but half of the desk staff were surly. None of them was welcoming in the least. Helpful, but not friendly.

There were nightly shows, but some of the acts were too dangerous for those who tried to perform them, which made for some awkward moments, and some of the dancers had never rehearsed the pieces before going on stage. I thought I was looking at an old I Love Lucy episode at times.

The room was perfectly acceptable, much like those in Canadian hotels. I was even able to control the air conditioning. Also a small TV, but with a lot of good channels. However, though it looked clean, there were over 40 flies in there when I checked in. Slow flies though, so I spent ½ hour killing them, along with scores of mosquitoes. Still, I woke up the next morning with about 25 flea and bed bug bites all over my body, and even more bites the morning after that. I checked the other guests at breakfast, and sure enough, there were tell-tale marks on many people. The first night, I had to kill 2 small cockroaches on the floor -- hey, it’s a hot climate… Still, after the room was “cleaned”, there they were still squished on the floor, big black spots impossible to miss. But then I did have those lovely towel swans on the beds…

The singers /musicians from the show -- acceptable at best -- also serenaded us at the dinner tables. Of course, out come the CDs, so I bought one for $10 -- the most expensive one in the trip yet. When I got home to play it, there was absolutely nothing on it! I guess that overall, that’s what I want to do with most of my memories from this place…
Villa Tortuga
May 2006
My friend and I just came back from a one week vacation at the Villa Tortuga hotel. 1-st night we arrived to the hotel at 1 o'clock after midnight -there was no food waiting for us. Weather was excellent +30*C and fresh air on a beach, but stinking of shit around hotel. Food was rather untasty but monotonous. Suspicious guards everywhere - it recalled me Romania in early '70.

Once only, I forgot and left my money in the room, after I came back it became evident half of my money was stolen ( $ 110.-can. and 90 pesos -convertible = over $ 100.-us).

A blue thermos disappeared from our room, - later we were accused of stealing it and receptionist threaten us that we won't leave Cuba without paying for it and she called airport police.

And what has benn disturbing me the most- we wrote 6 postcards and left to a clerk at reception desk , she promised they will be send as soon as possible . -Two month gone and non of ours friends received a postcard.

Never again !!!
Villa Tortuga
March 2006
I just returned from one week at the Villa Tortuga in Varadero. I was travelling alone and didn't spend much time in the hotel, I prefer to walk and travel around and see more of the local culture and architecture, particularly since this was my first time in Cuba.

Villa Tortuga is a nice campus of buildings at the south end of town. It is possible to walk to various things from here - but it is probably not that central for many people - if you like walking and going to clubs, you are better off around at a place near Calle 60 or even up a little farther at the Club Tropical. Tortuga was right on the beach, unlike some of the other low end all-inclusives. For me, it was a good choice, and much better than being in any of the newer resorts north of town.

The room was fine - clean, the AC worked (too well - I couldn't adjust the temperature and was too cold most nights) and there is ample hot water - though it takes a minute to warm up. The beds and room were clean, and I had a balcony and a TV with CNN etc. For the low price I paid including the flight (Nolitours/Transat) it was a good deal.

The pool is nice - but not much of a deep end. The beach is good, though never enough lounges. Limited selection of drinks at the bar, but the staff were nice, particularly at the bar beside reception. Most of the guests were French Canadian or non-English speakers - so I didn't meet many other guests to get their opinions - lots of Torontonians over at the Alcazul however!

My only real problem was the food - which was like bad cafeteria food. But it is hard finding ANY decent food in Varadero, or Havana for that matter, because of the nature of Cuba. Generally I would have only breakfast (before 9:30) and have some bread, grapefruit, juice and hard boiled eggs. Lunch, the one time I tried it, was worse in terms of foods I thought looked edible (but then, I don't eat seafood) - but unlike another review, it didn't look unsanitary to me. Even at the snack bars, sometimes the best food is a simple hamburger and fries - finding a decent chicken breast is a challenge - a 1/4 chicken is usually a part of the bird you won't recognise! Beef is from Chile and doesn't taste like North American beef, and the cut doesn't resemble the billing (a fillet mignon at the steak house wasn't). I managed to find a Tobacco store at Calle 27 that sold real Mexican Coca-Cola - my one addiction and I couldn't have survived without it! La Sangria had good fries and garlic bread. Restaurant Castel Nuovo looks charming but the fries were bad and the lasagne looked quite bizarre and I couldn't eat it. My dinner companion didn't like her steak much.

If you go to Varadero, I suggest forgetting the nightime shows at the Tortuga and try some local venues - EcoDisco at Calle 54 was fun for 5 pesos - live band and great dancers. Club Havana is a generic Disco for 10 pesos - both places give you unlimited drinks for the 5 or 10 peso cover. Calle 17 has a little show at night that you can watch for free from the sidewalk. I didn't do much of the nightlife beyond that.

Don't rent a car at HavanaAuto beside Villa Tortuga - the cars aren't that good - try MiCar or CubaCar in town. I spent time in Cardenas, Matansas, and in some spectacular rural areas west of Matansas driving the back-roads with incredible scenery, but it was always great to be able to come back and jump in the ocean after a tiring day at the Tortuga. One of the guards arranged a driver (Lazaro) with a rented car for 100 pesos - this made the trip to Havana easy for me because I didn't have to worry about parking, he knew the city well enough and it let me go where I wanted, when I wanted. Beware - if you get a car with driver, you might find them giving one or two friends a ride without giving you notice that they are planning this - but It didn't bother me that much.

The weather was great for all but the last 24 hours of my stay - this was late March 2006.

Nevertheless, for the money I paid for my last minute deal, I got good value and would recommend this place if you really need a base of operations for sightseeing rather than as a place where you stay all day and eat the food.
Villa Tortuga

March 2006
We went to the Villa Tortuga for a one week stay. Buyers BEWARE!!! It is the most disgusting and filthy place I have ever been to. I have travelled many places and I have never seen anything like it. Disgusting food with bugs all over all of the time. I spent the week eating anywhere else and slept on my own beach towels so I wouldn't have to touch the sheets. Stay anywhere else but there.
Villa Tortuga

October 2003
We spent the week of October 18th at the Villas Tortuga Gret.

I believe that when you have the right attitude things can be positive. For instance, whenever asking for information or questions, always wear a smile; it"s contagious.

This small and quaint hotel is lovely.

We requested ocean view rooms and it was worth it. We were located on the second floor and close to the end of the property. Rooms were quite spacious and neat. Confortable beds. Sheets changed every day as well as towels which were always sitting on top of the beds in forms of swans, sail boat over waves, or simply "Cuba" spelled out with a nice and plain tiny bouquet of flowers. Great ain't it? Balcony nice and large with a sliding door that would perfectly lock. Large functional bathroom. We did not expect to have face cloths because this is a Canadian custom. Anyhow, with the sand from the ocean you can suerely get a complete and natural scrub, therefore, the heck with the face cloth.

The beach was gorgeous. Although we were visiting during the fall, the ocean was not that calm and yet not that agitated. We swam safely and just totally enjoyed it.

The nights were quite windy and perhaps a light sweater would have been necessary once or twice. We enjoyed looking at a stary sky....just wonderful!

The Lobby was nice. We had no problem with the front desk staff. I had to call the front desk because there was a small problem with the shower. our call was answered immediately and the repair man was at our door within 20 minutes.

The bar staff was just amazing. The choice of drinks were limited but they invented different cocktails that it worked very well for us.

The pool was nice and clean. We were there during the low season, therefore we had a lot of space just for us. No kids! It was greatly appreciated and would go back at the same time just for those reasons.

This area of Varadero is quite nice because when walking around, we ran into the locals, men always saying nice things to us (obviously we were 2 women) flirting and throwing kisses at us not in a vulgar way of course....just so latin (so un-north american) this part made our trip even more wonderful.

Of course if you go to Cuba, do not go if you are a fussy eater. I won't go into details but the food at the Torguta Gret was not all that great. We did not starve and let's face it, this is Cuba where people have limited access to food and I think we as tourists should not be too spoiled. Many times I have seen tons and tons of food thrown into the garbagge because consumers from richer countries don't give a darn and eat with their eyes. Selfish and just plain terrible. We did have nice sfuff, for example delicious papaya, pineapple and guava fruit. Ice cream was very nice. Coffee was very good. The paella was amazing among other specialties served sporadically. The staff also was very friendly.

We tipped almost everyone and in return we had very good service.

At this time the main dining room is being renovated, therefore there were only 2 places to eat: one was the bar near the pool served pizza (delicious when crisply baked) and hot dogs. which I avoid in Canada as well.

The beach bar was nice. There is a barman that sings and dances making it really a Cuban experience. Some games were played there, like darts and dices...was a lot of fun even if only a few people participated due to low occupancy.

The dance lessons were fun. The night entertainment also. These people work very hard and try to make it enjoyable for all kinds of people from different ages and countries. And many do not want to participate. It is a pitty. But just the same, they do their performance and try very hard to make everyone laugh and enjoy the evening.

I would recommend to visit a place called "La Cumparsita". There is karaoke on the top floor, while on the main floor you could have an cuban-african show with dancers and lots of percussion. Then a band would take over to play and sing salsa.....amazing.

With all this being written, I would certainly recommend this lovely hotel to people who do not need to be at 4 and 5 stars hotels, to people who understand and enjoy being with modest guests and to be surrounded in true Cuban Life. Humble but proud.