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Blau Club Arenal
Crystal 

March 2008
Flew into Varadero and it is about a 2 hour drive from the airport. The resort is in need of some major renos and as a result it is closing for 8-11 months effective April 2008. It is a 3 star so one shouldn't expect more than that.

There were clearly better rooms than others. I got one of the less appealling rooms but I paid $630 for the whole trip so can't complain. The rooms could have been cleaner but weren't realy bad. Everything worked in my room and it was nice to get 2 big bottles of water everyday in my fridge. Never had a problem getting hot water which was also great.

Food isn't the greatest (never tried the snack bar or the a la carte though) but I could always find something to eat. The fruit, salads and bread were the best options. The grill stations offered some good food i.e. fish, chicken etc but I found a couple times it wasn't cooked completely so watch carefully. Service was pretty good. There was an obvious which people did/did not tip.

Beach was great; very few people there. Few umbrellas for shade, but if you get there before 10 you could typically get one, as well by the afternoon. They have unusual beach chairs; not the ones that lie flat so I ended up lying on my towel for tanning. The pool seemed nice and there are lots of chairs, but again minimal shady spots.

There uis a town to the right on the resort which is nice to walk through. You get to see real Cuban life. There is a restauarant just over the bridge that I heard was very good. Farther into town there is a store where you can buy groceries. I bought my coffee there (Cubita which is fantastic). You can't buy it in the resort store. It is the same price as in the airport. The rum is the same price at this store, the resort store and the airport.

The resort has a shuttle twice a day to Havana for free which works great. I only went one day and regretted it as Havana is a cool city. Make sure and get beyond the hot, crowded market which is right where the bus lets you off. There are definitely lots of poor people there that you want to help. But beware because like with any place there are lots of scammers too i.e. asking for milk for their babies, saying they are deaf mute etc.

Shows and staff are quite good.

Mostly Canadians here and when I was there it was mainly a middle aged crowd. Not a party resort. After the show its pretty quiet. Few people go to the disco.

The resort is small enough that you get to know people which is great. Its also small enough that you can go back and forth to your room when needed. It doesn't take long to get anywhere.

In sum, I got an amazing price, it was a great trip and well worth it. If I would've paid double I wouldn't have been too impressed but once the renos are done it will be a different place. Its definitely the best place if you want to spend time in Havana. Its Cuba (paradise) and the perfect place to relax.
Blau Club Arenal
Dawn 

February 2008
Fabulous time. Keep in mind that this offers Cuba with the culture, people, history and architecture of Havana. For under $1000. including immunizations, spending money, flights, free shuttles, nourishment and drinks---where else can this be had? Certainly not in major cities such as Paris, Rome, London, L.A., Los Vegas, New York and so.

Keep expectations real. Go with an open mind. This is Cuba after all. Is this not a 3rd world country? It is much more of a culture shock in eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Mixing with the culture and people is paramount. They are a proud people ---- clean and well educated.

The property is some disrepair but they are being realistic and know it is time for renovations come May to December. I wonder if prices will rise once renovated. This resorts offers an airy open feel. No high rise with only tourists. This type of vacation is not for those who are looking for a five star high rise hotel overlooking the ocean say at Varadero with little else to do other than soak up the sun and eat/drink lovely food and get all kinds of R& R.

I walked for miles and miles. And now I am home to rest. I can always rest at home. I found exactly what I was looking for ---- culture, activity and mixing with the Cuban people. What a wonderful opportunity the Blau Club Arenal has to offer.
Blau Club Arenal
Brian 
Toronto
May 2007
i reviewed this place before - i have now stayed there 3 times - october and november 2006, and march 2007. most everything in my first review still stands, and i think that lyse's review is a bit hard on this place.

my big disappointment was that they installed pay phones - you have to buy a $5cuc card if you want to make outgoing calls - before they would do calls at the front desk. i used the internet - 2 computers in the lobby - speed was slow, but not as bad as another place i stayed at in santiago.

during my stay in march, the weather was not hot, and it was windy, making the beach a bit unpleasant because the waves were big and the wind was relentless - there was even a huge sand-dune that extended along the path to the beach and blocked the road for a time - cars were getting stuck on it!

another complaint was that i spent several days away from the hotel - when i returned, the maid didn't check the room every day or she would have seen i had returned - i had to ask the reception desk to send the maid. food is still not great - i did start going to the poolside bar to eat lunch - ham and cheese sandwich and fries is about the only thing on offer, and it was tolerable.

they need more umbrellas on the beach, and the lounges are getting sparse as many are damaged. also, i don't like having loud music play around the pool during the day.

i will return and recommend this place, with the usual caveats that apply to most 3 star hotels in cuba.
Blau Club Arenal
Dave 
the Ottawa Valley
February 2007
1st week of February we stayed (two of us) at the Blau Club Arenal, Playa de Este hotel. We booked at the very last minute and then read various reviews only afterwards. With the negative review from Lyse (Jan 2007) and another site's very negative review, we then tried to change the hotel but could not. This was fortunate because we had a wonderful time, with no complaints.

The pool did not need repainting and was in excellent condition. What moaners such as Lyse should recognize is that they are getting 3* standard (and it's on a par with 3* any other place in the world I've stayed in my view) but for 1.5* to 2** prices; when you take into account the cheap airfares. You are not compromising quality in exchange for proximity to Havana. Rather, you are getting a 3* all-inclusive hotel including air fare, on the cheap; depends on your point of view.

Thank goodness I do not work in the service industry and have to put up with complainers such as those running down this hotel. The unlimited supply of wine was fine. Unverified hearsay about watered-down wine has no place as a review comment.

We tried to stay another week after a few days, but had left it too late to get the return flight changed.
Blau Club Arenal
Lyse 
Canada
January 2007
Dec 22 to 29th we stayed at the Blau Arenal in Playa del Este (East Havana Beach). We are a family of six - 49 & 56 and kids 25, 24, 21 and 16. We have traveled quite often but never to Cuba. We knew that we were compromising quality in exchange for proximity to Havana City. We had been told that this hotel, while billed as a 3 star, would not measure up to any 3 star we had stayed in. It was a rocky arrival after many delays on an icy tarmack in Ottawa in the freezing rain. The 3 a.m. check in was relatively quick but not problem free - we were given mold and turpentine smelling rooms with no flushing toilets and no c/air (in one instance). No amount of complaining in the lobby was effective. The two suites we had paid for were unavailable until the next day! With that, we went to bed, not daring to unpack a thing! Do not let them check you in to 303, 302 or 309. People who came after us had the same thing happen to them!

Our move to suites went smoothly 242, 243 & 263 (and for our trouble, we were given a free late check out and an additional suite instead of a room). The weather was lovely - things began looking up. This was going to be a "make the best of it" type of holiday. The coffee was great (espresso & cappuccino machines at each bar), the beach was reasonably clean (approx 200 metres away), over a sketchy boardwalk affair in need of repair, but manageable (it needed more proper huts & chairs). The property itself is in need of massive amounts of repair and sprucing up (the pool for example, needed draining & painting, though the chairs were new. None of the floor tiles matched (patchy repairs having been done over time), the ceilings leaked in many rooms & main areas, there were open telephone and electrical rooms, the lobby had broken chairs, the internet was down for the first 3 or 4 days, the rooms, though clean, had old blankets, bad drapes, small pillows, and closets but no bureau drawers. The safes and t.v. remotes, however, were free - often not the case in Caribbean countries.

Many of the facilities challenges were offset somewhat by the wonderful service from staff, animation team, bar tenders, especially when tipped early in the vacation. A peso (convertible CUC) is worth approx $1.40 Canadian and can be exchanged at the front desk daily (don't do too many in advance) ...and we generously distributed some of these upon arrival (not waiting until the end). We quickly became established regulars in the small, well laid out place. The intimacy of a 166 room hotel with a good crew makes for a quick comfort level being achieved. We met interesting people from around the world. The prices in the beauty salon and gift shop were reasonable.

The food was o.k. at best. Limited in selection, but more surprisingly, devoid of any "fresh seafood" and strictly rationed - if they ran out of something, it was gone! The kids lived on ham & cheese sandwiches and fries from the snack bar (breakfast ended long before they were up 7:30 to 9:30 am), then on to the pasta bar at the buffet for lunch & dinner - interspersed with some greens, and some meat when recognizable (roast pork & chicken were o.k.) - bread & butter were popular, as was the red wine - the deserts were mediocre. No fear of over indulging here! Mojitos were available sporadically when they had "fresh mint" on board. Some nights you could get brandy and a cappuccino, on other nights, no brandy. It was very random. Other guests spoke of their wine being regularly "watered down". And a Havana special did not look the same at each bar - depending on what powder juice crystals they had available - yes folks, no fresh fruit juice here!

Shows and activities were pleasant but not overwhelming - just constant enough not to present some of those awkward lulls so often felt in other resorts - where you finish dinner at 8:30 and wait until 10 for the show while kids participate in a "mini disco"! No, these guys had the live band move to the lobby and had the animation team and patrons dancing and singing while they waited for the show - nice touch! Their shows were also more innovative than most - yes, some lip synching, but outside dance troupes a couple of times, a couple of comedy sketch shows, with good mime rather than a lot of multi-language stuff, one Broadway memories show, a fashion show around the pool & clothing sale afterwards on Christmas eve, live music throughout, all contributed to a really good time.

Access to Havana was brilliant! Two coaches per day (9:30 and 2:30) free! That was enjoyed by all. My husband says he'd go back, I'm not so sure. But then again, he's the old car and history buff!
Blau Club Arenal
Brian 
Toronto
November 2006
blau arenal club, playa del estes/havana

this is 3 star all inclusive resort about 25 km east of havana, right beside the town of guanabo.

this was my second trip to cuba, and this resort was a vast improvement over the 2 1/2 star villa tortuga in varadero when i spent my first trip. the food here was much better - i had fried eggs every morning and fruit, but i didn't actually spend that much time here or eat many meals here.

the resort is very private and quiet - you walk across a bridge and across the narrow road to get to the beach - and the beach was very good - not quite as good as varadero, but close in spots. you can walk 2 miles east along the beach through guanabo - where there are lots of locals but the beach isn't as nice - to the west things are less busy and the beach is nicer. my only real problem was a lack of umbrellas on the beach in front of the hotel.

the room was ok - the shower head was clogged but they fixed it - a/c was fine and generally i was happy with the room. they brought in new clock radios while i was there.

the real advantage of this place is that you are close to havana - you can spend the morning or afternoon on the beach and you are a $15 taxi ride from old havana (or vedado, for some nightlife) - plus there are 2 buses per day. i travel alone and like to rent a car or walk and see the real cuba, so this place works well for me!

i am actually booked to return next week!