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Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

December 2008
Just a quick note to tell you about our music-filled week. It was extremely quiet on the resort this week of Christmas 2008: the resort was probably only about half to 2/3 full. We had the AMAZING luck of experiencing all the incredible live music arranged through the resort. We figured we experienced about 5 different live bands / acts a day. We heard and saw so much wonderful Cuban music it blew our socks off. There were pianists, guitar players, various brass instruments, every kind of drum and percussion instrument, girl bands, boy bands, solos, duets, trios, 4, 5, 6, 7-people bands (sometimes more!), a guy who sang opera, a 25-person choir, a cappella singing, and so much beautiful improvised jamming, It was like being at a week-long music festival. All this music was actually not part of the nightly entertainment act in the disco – it was in addition to the regular advertised entertainment. The music was performed throughout the resort: in the lobby, the square, the restaurants, by the pool, etc., throughout the day and night. It was brilliant and such a treat. To see and hear this many musicians you might pay hundreds of dollars and, lucky us, it was just there, a part of the whole experience.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Eric and Diane 
Barrie, Ont
December 2008
Arrival: Dec 5
It was good, we came in late. The best part is no wrist bands so you didn't have to wait to get a drink or food.

This is our 3rd visit to Cuba. We are normally DR vacationers.The best part of our Vacation was meeting so many great Canadians. I would say that 80% of the resort was Canadian the week of Dec 5th. The rooms were good. Air conditioning worked all week. The toilets flushed, and the water pressure was good. What else can you ask for. We like to stay on the 3rd floor for the exercise, privacy, and security. Less problems. We stayed in building One. close to the beach. But this resort is not large, it is close to everything.

Restaurants and Bars:
The Food was good. The buffet had good variety. Lobster night was unbelievable, my husband ate broiled lobster till he was full. They did not have a limit and they did not run out. The pasta bar was very good. The sauce is incredible. They cook your pasta to your taste, with as many ingredients as you want. The desserts are much better than in the DR. The coconut desserts are very good. The Raquet Club has hamburger and fries plus much more for a late night snack from lunch till the morning. BUT the best kept secert about the Racquet Club is the Breakfast. The girls that work during the day speak good english and it is not a problem to ask for well cooked bacon, whole wheat toast and eggs over easy. Just to name a few items on the menu. They will serve you fresh squeezed orange juice, and coffee from the expresso machine (always fresh), as well they have fresh fruit. They serve you quickly and with a smile, it was a pleasure to have breakfast there everyday with the other guest who discovered this location. Not to many sits but plenty of service. The alcohol was hit or miss. They would run out of Baileys, Malibu Rum, mint for the Mohitos but they had their substitutes. The beer and wine is good. My husband does not drink so the staff at the Racquet club would make him delicious vanillla or chocolate milkshakes he was in heaven.

And of course the beach. It was good. not white sand like Santa Maria on the other side of the island. It was very quiet. No music or activities on the beach. There were activities at the pool. If you are a younger adult who wants lots of fun and activities this is not the resort for you.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
The disco was dead. But we went to the Mambo a 5 peso cab ride. They had a live band every night that went on at 11:45 and played for one set after that it was great DJ music. We also went closer to Varedaro and went to a younger disco called the La Bomba, it was rocking!!!The trip to Havana was ok. The begging from not only the street people but the staff that worked at some of the museums. A little disappointing.

Other Comments:
If you are young go for the 4 stars and have a blast. The Barcelo Solyemar is a fabulous hotel for the younger crowd, walking distant to Varedaro and 24 hour outdoor bar in the middle of the hotel. It was always full of people having fun.Have a great vacation
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Mary Lou 
Cambridge, Ontario
December 2008
Arrival: November 22-29, 2008
We arrived to a beautiful hotel...check in took but a mere few minutes. Everyone one was very friendly and accomodating. We booked online 3 days before our departure. Our first impression was beautiful.

Our room was #4121 located not far from the beach and pool area. It was clean and quite comfortable. The building exterior was appealing. We received clean towels daily and fresh bed linen. We went with 3 other couples and they all had the same opinions.

Restaurants and Bars:
The hotel offers a la carte and 5 restuarants which we went to and thoroughly enjoyed them. Especially the Japanese Restaurant - Ahmed was our chef and he was very entertaining. The bars were excellent with their daiquiri's and princess del mar resort drinks. The services at the Racquet Club was exceptional.

The beach was clean and the bar was conveniently located. The pool was beautiful but cold. The staff was pleasant both at the pool bar and around the pool.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
The night shows were exceptional. We experience deep sea fishing which was a blast-caught a tuna, drank and ate lobster. Took our own taxi and tour guide to Havana and had a splendid and informative time. The city of Havana is quite beautiful with a statue of Jesus across the water way. One of only 3 in the world.In Varadero we visited the vendor markets and were pleasantly surprised by the friendly people. We took the double decker bus there for 5 CUC. The next time we went into town we took the public transport for 2 CUC each way. This was a less congestive way to travel there.

Other Comments:
We loved this resort. We have never been there before as this was a very last minute trip for us. We flew Skyservice. The airplane was on time departing and arriving in Toronto with friendly airline staff. This resort was alot of fun and we recommend it to anyone. We never saw what your previous review from Merv said and we were at the resort in the same month. We met some wonderful people there and hope to return there again.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

November 2008
Hi! Many of us read these reviews & think, lighten up people, you're on vacation... well unfortunately, I can't write a good review of the Paradisus. It was our first time to Cuba. My husband now refuses to go back, although friends & family tell me that other areas are lovely. Before you book! Ask your agent if the hotel is under renovations or if it is fully running. These resorts/hotels do not necessarily look like the photos on the websites & travel books. I think some of these photos must be from at least a decade or more ago. Many are missing shingles, are dirty, & appear in shambles. The Paradisus advertises 7 jacuzzis, of which 2 in the spa had water in them, albeit green. Many of the other resorts were undergoing renos that the guests were not made aware of when they booked ( a group we met stayed at the Oasis... they called it a Mirage... They stayed on the 5th flr with no operating elevator, the restaurants were not fully operational, the pool was shut down, etc.... This is not the only hotel/resort where people felt disappointed ). Having been to the D.R. before, we were told to expect more from the resorts in Cuba. This is FALSE!. The Paradisus is a 5* but is comparable to a 4-4 1/2* in the D.R., although the food was better. The Paradisus is a beautiful resort. The rooms are nice with deep soaker tubs & nicely decorated. It is the service that it lacks. You often waited 15-20 minutes to get served at the pool bar & many of the others. Everyone used a 5-letter explitive to refer to a certain bartender & her lack of service at the paino bar. It became a joke among a group of us that met at the resort. You have to ask for service everywhere but at the beach grill ( service was fast, quick to refill your drinks, although not friendly staff ), the sports bar was ok. They were a bit friendlier once they got to know you & were quick to refill drinks but not so quick to get you your first one. There was one young waitress at the Japanese restaurant who gave us pleasant & attentive service. The front desk & staff in general are not forth coming with information. Apparently they have a complimentary guest suite for use on your last day if your flight leaves after check out times. We were not made aware of this until we asked at check out time. They also did not tell us at that time that you must reserve it. Lucky for us there was a 20 minute openning. She also gave us the first smile from a staff member that we saw after 3 days! I praised her & tipped her very well just for that. Overall... it was all the little things in the service that the resort lacked that greatly disappointed us. I could go on & on but I am sure you get my point. The highlights: the waitress I mentioned earlier; the pina colodas at the piano bar, the varied entertainment; the variety of live music each day at different venues; the gardeners ( if you acknowledge them, they can't do enough for you: offering us grasshoppers made from palms, banana leaf hats, cononut drinks from the nut, flowers ), the massages at the spa; pottery in the town of Varadero is incredible but they are only open certain days ( other good buys are any crochet items, handcarved decorative bullhorns, of course rum ). Unfortunately, it rained for 3 days, & the Varadero pennisula is a flat coral/sandbar so the water did not drain well which made a lot of people cranky to have to walk through. Why is it as children we loved to jump in mud puddles... We had fun with it. The power went out a few times & pople were upset that the generators were not running & candles were not made available. Those of us with lighters lit them up & the staff openned their cell phones to help people get to their seats in the complete darkness. The housekeepers leave a note letting you know that if there is anything you require to please ask them & they will be happy to help you. Well... all she said was call #477. We did do one excursion, the catamaran. It is nice, the best pina coloda was an extra $2 peso at the restaurant on Cayo Blanco, but for the extra money, the catamaran trips in D.R. are far more bang for the buck. Overall... the peoole appeared to lack spirit, personality for the most part except for a select few... It is a shame... We met people who have been going to Cuba for 11 yrs & they said that the Cuba that they experienced this year is not the one they knew & enjoyed. Cuba is trying too hard to be Americanized & not showing their own culture that many of us go there to experience. Although, I am willing to give Cuba another shot perhaps, if a deal comes along, but I won't go back to Varadero. If you go, I hear the Serenis LaSalina was nice for a 4 star, although the pool was closed for repairs & people that booked there were being put up at the Paradisus. I hope they had better luck with the service than we did.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Adam & Tracy 
New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
July 2008
Arrival and Flight: Booked through Air Transat out of Halifax, April 11-18, 2008, typical cramped seating, 3.75 hours direct, in flight meals and movies broke up the trip nicely. Originally booked at Breezes Varadero, but bumped to the Princessa, when we arrived off the airplane. Best luck ever......We've been to the DR & Cuba (4+star) twice before and this was the nicest resort by far. Check in was pretty painless, after about 40 minutes in air conditioned bus from airport in Varadero.

Rooms: 1st room was substandard,#2218 (second floor) two separate twin beds pushed together, A/C completed didn't work. Offered to move on second day, right next door. Beautiful room, our's overlooked the tennis courts so occasionally we had a little noise from drunks playing sports but nothing in the evening or mornings. Bathroom always very clean and maids seemed to do a good job.

Restaurants: Has to be the highlight of this resort - 5 al' carte restaurants, booked first thing on our first morning, no problems. Generally all have excellent food and the service varies from friendly to super warm. Buffet was also excellent, lots of variety, seafood and various grills for lamb, beef and pork, breads were excellent. Lots of variety of wine offered at dinners, always offered and free flowing. A small tip and wait staff would remember you and make a point of refilling your glass every meal multiple times. Bars: Lobby bar always busy, but made some excellent strawberry daiquiri's. Very relaxing to sit and have drinks served off their table menu. Best practice, tip one wait staff right off the hop and expect service with a smile. Pool bar, quick and basic. Lots of selection for drinks of all types.

Beach and Pools: Pool large and super clean. Beach beautiful and clean, beach bar makes great Mohito's with fresh mint. The beach is excellent for swimming, shallow sand bars which you can walk out on far out into the water. Lots of large beach umbrella's even when crowded.

Activities and Entertainment: Night time shows in basement bar were excellent and entertaining, very high quality dance and fashion shows. Lots of fun. Lots of pool based exercise going on. Outdoor jazz concerts in the evening in the open courtyard were neat.

Tours: Best part of this week for us. Varadero definitely has the most selection and established tours. Catamaran tour to Cayo Blanco was completely incredible. Lobster tail lunch included. Isolated pure white sand beaches and lots of places to explore.
Jeep Safari: Best day of the trip. Pay the extra $20 to have your own private jeep and enjoy the day from heaven. Visit a remote country farm and taste all the fresh fruit of Cuba, go fresh water swimming in an amazing underground cave ( Saturino Caves ?), drive through the city streets of Matanza city ( mind-blowing) and have a delicious Cuban lunch in the country side with horseback riding and fresh sugarcane juice. Plus all the fun of off road driving in a 4X4 jeep through mud holes. Highly recommended! Bring candy or stuff for kids as there are lots of children along the way who wave and smile.

Varadero: Red double decker tourist bus will pick you up at the resort gates and tour up and down the Varadero area. Stops at all the other resorts so it can be a long trip. $5 and you can travel on the bus all day. The town is super safe and peaceful, no one bothers you in anyway. Lots of touristy flea markets up and down the town. The amazing beach of Varadero is just a block off the main drag in Varadero town.

Departure and Check Out: Varadero Airport on return is a sweaty churning nightmare of tourist flights but nothing you can't handle.

Conclusion: Beautiful resort, good service , deserves the 4+ star. One of the nicest resorts in Varadero by all accounts. Very relaxing Adults only resort. Will return!
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Burlington, ON
June 2008
This was our 2nd trip to the PPDM in Varadero. We enjoyed is so much in October 2007 that we were happy to return so soon.

As return guests, we were upgraded to an ocean-view room and treated to a few extras like flowers and a bottle of rum.

This is an excellent resort in terms of comfort of the rooms, quality of service and food and especially the musical entertainment (an important aspect for us). We absolutely love the piano bar, particulary when Orlanda et al are playing. The other musical acts in the evenings and sometimes at the beach bar at lunch are also wonderful.

The pool is lovely and the water is always pristine and not too hot. There is plenty of shade available and the pool is shaped in a way that there is lots of poolside available.

We really enjoy the buffet restaurant for breakfast and lunch; the staff go out of their way to make us feel special, with little touches like remembering what particular biscuits I love and bringing one with the coffee. They love to chat about their families if you show any interest, especially if you make the effort to speak some Spanish. The food is very good and we enjoy the stations where we can ask for tailor-made things like omelets and pasta, or get our fish cooked just so.

All the a la carte restaurants are very good, although the staff at the French restaurant take themselves entirely too seriously. The Italian restaurant had a marvelous duo of older musicians playing some classic Cuban songs. The Japanese restaurant is great fun, although a real Japanese chef would probably be horrified. Our only complaint is that we were not able to book the a la carte restaurants for the first 3 nights of our stay because of the timing of our arrival on a Thursday (all booked for that week). And after that, the selection was somewhat limited and we never did succeed in visiting the Cuban restaurant, which is our favourite. I have heard that you can pre-book by internet, though.

I booked 2 massages at the spa and this is one area where I cannot give a good reference. I felt that the draping was very sketchy in terms of maintaining my privacy and I was not comfortable during the first massage so I cancelled the second. This impression was confirmed by other women that I spoke with. I think the resort needs to look into the practices here.

The staff at the resort was delightful. The reception/customer relations staff was very helpful in every way, including very efficient arrival and departures.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
New Brunswick
April 2008
A friend and I vacationed at the Princesa del Mar for 1 week from April 11-18, 2008. This was our 15th trip south, our 4th to Cuba and our 3rd  to Varadero. Although we did not book this resort directly but were ‘bumped’ upon arrival at the Varadero Airport, we felt very lucky to end up at this fine resort. We went from a 3.5 star resort to one of the top 5 star resorts in Varadero. Overall rating 8.5/10

Note: We were a little concerned about the weather before we went cause we heard reports it was bad this spring. Well the week we were there it was great.

Check-in was a little busy as there were quite a few of us from our flight who ended up at this resort but overall it really did not take too long before we were in our room.
Check-out was a breeze. Walked up handed over the room key cards, booked the Hospitality room and that was it.

Room- We were given room 1116, a ground floor Jr Suite in Building 1 which was close enough to everything but still far away as not to be bothered by noise. Oceanview would probably be available on the 3rd floor. The room was a good size with nice dark wood furniture. The Balcony had a nice patio table/chair set and overlooked a quiet park like area. A nice quiet spot for morning coffee. There were 4 bath towels in our room everyday and 2 bathrobes in the closet for our use. Beach towels are in the room upon arrival as well as an umbrella. (Which we never had to use) We had hot water with good pressure no matter when we showered. There was lots of closet and drawer space for us and there was a included programmable safe. The maid did a good job keeping our room clean. The only things we had  problems with was that we had to get after them for the minibar to be replenished the first couple of days and there was no fan in the room and the A/C only worked so-so.  Room – 8.5/10

Layout- The Princesa resort is a newer smaller resort close to the end tip of Varadero. Nothing was far away with no more then a 5 min walk from the beach to the lobby. Off one side of the lobby down a set of stairs was the courtyard area with a Cigar Bar, Piano Bar, bank, shop, game room, and 4 a la carte restaurants. Straight ahead from the lobby also down a set of stairs was the grand pool area with a swim-up bar and plenty of loungers with nice pads. To one side of the pool is the buffet and the other is the spa. There is also a 24 hour snack/bar, the Racket Club, (where I’d go for morning coffee) just down the walkway on the buffet side from the pool and a 5th a la carte down the walkway behind the spa. Down the center of the resort is the walkway leading to the beach and the Port Royal Bar restaurant. The only draw back for us was the fact that the pool area is near the lobby and not the beach. This meant  we only made it to the beach a couple of times, and never to stay for any length of time. Layout 9/10

Staff – Since this is a smaller resort one gets to know the staff and they get to know you. Most of the staff were very efficient and pleasant. Empty glasses were constantly being picked up and the bar areas were kept very clean and tidy. There was no language problems here at all but they really do appreciate you trying to speak to them in Spanish. Most of the staff were very friendly and even as you passed them on the pathways would greet you with an ‘Hola’. A lot of the staff even took the time to ask you how you were.  We would have to say this was some of the best overall service we have received from a resort vacation. Staff 9.5/10

Buffet– We only did breakfast and lunch at the buffet and for these two meals we found the selection at the buffet very good even though it was basically the same every day. They had the best selection of veggies and desserts I’ve ever seen at a resort. At lunch they had several grilling stations for fish, beef, hamburgers, and hotdogs. All done the way you like them. I did walk through a couple nights and the dinner buffet looked good as well. Service here for us was great – the servers got to know us and would even have a table for us when they saw us walk in. Liuba was very good. She took great care of us, even bringing us a glass of ice for our water and always checking to see if we needed anything else. Dishes were always cleared away and our glasses were never empty. There was Champagne and Orange Juice as you entered the buffet for every meal.  The buffet had linen napkins and table cloths and its own bar. Buffet – 8.5/10

A La Cartes – There are 5 dinner a la cartes here. I went right over the first morning there and made reservations for all 5. I had to wait in line for about 15-20 mins but no problem.  I also went back later in the week to make another 2 bookings with no problem. We ended up doing all 7 of our evening meals at the a la cartes.  The menus at the a la cartes were somewhat limited but we could have visited each one more then once and still been ok.

The Racket Club also does a la carte meals through out the day with no reservations. We only did breakfast here once and it was good but it can be quite busy and therefore slow.  The menu did however have a good selection. Our server kept us supplied with Mimosas and coffees while we waited for our food. 8.5/10

The Oriental restaurant , Bamboo, was one of our favs. We ate here twice and both times were nice leisurely evenings with good food and service. The second time there we got the same server and table and he remembered us. Food wise everything we had was good, from chicken skewers, calamari, and spring rolls for appetizers, to the soup course, to the pork, salmon and our fav the Curry Shrimp Noodles for our main courses. The fried rice that comes with most main course was great! Portions were very good and in fact a little too much.  9/10

Our 1st and last nights we ate at the French Restaurant, Marseille. Both times were very nice; the food was good and the service great. Main courses even come out with covers that are removed at the table. They have French Wine included and the bottle is left at your table.  A selection of  desserts are brought around on a cart, or you can order a cheese plate. They also have a drink cart.  The last night a lady came to play the piano before we finished and it was a nice topper to end our vacation. I mean really what could be better for your last dinner then to sit in a nicely decorated restaurant with good food, wine and service listening to piano music. If we didn’t have a bus to catch we could have spent another hour there lingering over coffee and after dinner drinks.  8.5/10

The Italian Restaurant, Firenze, was another nice evening out. The food and service were both very good and there were musicians playing. There is a good selection of bread in a basket on your table and an appetizer plate is brought to the table almost as soon as you sit down. The Red wine was again brought and left at the table. The Tiramisu for dessert was very good.  8/10

The Rock House was the Cuban a la carte. This restaurant is set off by itself and is open air and small. I was a little leery of going because the night before I overheard people saying it was horrible. Well I’m glad we went. The food was a little different than what we’re used to but it was very good. I had a bowl of soup that was just as good as what I’d get at home. My friend had the Fried Chicken and I had the Fish - both were good. The desserts are a very good bite size serving and quite good. Service here once again was very good. 8/10

The Japanese restaurant, Sakura, was a different experience. You sit at a table of 8 with the Chef cooking your main course right in front of you which means it can get quite warm. It is entertaining to watch the Chef as he cooks. The one we had explained what he was cooking as he went and made a show of it. Appetizers and desserts are brought around separately. For appetizers we had the Tempura and the Sushi - both were good. Main course consisted of fried rice, fried veggies, chicken, beef, fish, shrimp, and calamari. The food here was very good but be prepared for huge portions and a leisurely paced evening. 8.5/10 Things of Note about the Princesa

  • There were no towel cards – beach towels were in our room.

  • There are no bracelets.

  • There was a good selection of international drinks at all bars. Although no true Bailey’s most of the time they do have other knockoffs that are quite good. Single Malt Scotch was usually available at the Lobby Bar.

  • In the evenings they had different singers in the courtyard area. Bar Service was available in the courtyard area during these times.

  • The Cigar Bar and Piano Bar (non-smoking) were nice spots for before or after dinner drinks. Most nights neither were very busy. The Lobby Bar area seemed busier.

  • Shade Umbrellas for around the pool were available at the towel shack and the staff would carry them over and set them up for you.

  • Pool floats were also available – and were very nice and relaxing to lay on in the pool.

  • We never had a problem finding loungers at the pool, but later in the afternoon it did get busier.

  • Activities such as Wine Tasting and Sushi Making were held daily in the courtyard area and there was a Cuban show (music, dancing and games) around the pool. All were in the late afternoon.

  • There were Hammocks throughout the property and benches along the walkways.

  • There was self serve Champagne, Orange Juice and pastries available in the lobby all day.

  • They did seem to run out of various things through out the week at various bars. Certain brand is there one day but not the next. But no big deal for us.

  • Some walkways were not well lit.

As with the Punta Cana Princess that we stayed at in January some of the best assets with the Princesa is its size, the friendly smiling staff, a la carte choices, good International brands, and the fact that it is Adults Only. We could have easily stayed for two weeks no problem. The Princesa was right up there with the 4 ½ and 5 star resorts we have vacationed at in the DR and Mexico. Overall we had a very good  week at the Princesa and it is one of the top 3 resorts we have stayed at so far. We would recommended it to anyone wanting a top resort in Varadero.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

April 2008
Arrival and Flight
March 17-25, AirTransat, from Montreal

General comment:
This resort in my view is absolutely perfect for a romantic and relaxing vacation. We are a couple in our mid forties and wanted to go to a place where we would get spoiled and have all of the expected 5 star service and we were not disappointed. Although you might read some reviews that are somewhat negative about this place, these people, in my view, are obviously a little fussy. It is Cuba after all and you have to accept that it is a communist country so they might not be able to offer everything all of the time.

At this resort, the staff goes out of its way to make you happy and anytime we asked for special services we got them. For example, our shower head broke and within 20 minutes we had someone fixing it. When you arrive, they offer you an organized welcome with a drink and they escort you to your room in a little Golf cart type vehicle and they will pick you up as well when you leave if you can ahead. Tipping is expected but they certainly don't make you feel bad if you don't.

The rooms are very beautifully decorated and cleaned daily. Short on facecloths for some reason, but otherwise everything perfect and well stocked. The maid went to great lengths to impress us with her fancy shapes of our towels with fresh flowers laid on the bed every day.

The restaurants a la carte are all quite good but you do need to reserve as soon as you arrive to get the best times; The buffet is just fine except for the coffee; Bizarre because the coffee every else on the resort is awesome. They had a Lobster night (Sunday) at the buffet and it was absolutely perfect, with loads of fresh lobster, huge shrimp, crab legs and fresh salmon steaks cooked to your liking. There was always fresh vegetables during the day with a variety of salads, pizzas, and great icecream and yogurt. The 24 hr snack bar is great for a late afternoon snack or even a very early breakfast without having to go to the buffet. They will give you your food to go if you want to eat on your balcony or terrace.

there is a disco for after the nightly shows to go to. It is under the lobby and a little smokky and dark. Not great but a typical disco atmosphere and a fun place to go practice your salsa moves. Went a few times and there's never more than a dozen people there after 11h.

Beach and Pools
Absoluetely perfect. Plenty of chairs for everyone and a Bar right on the beach. Yes you have the obsessed people who will reserve a chair at 7am with a towel but we never got stuck without one, on the beach or the poolside at any time of day. The beach sand is a little coarse but free of any debris. The water is nothing but sand and beautiful waves on most days. You can walk for hours one way or the other. The resort is almost at the tip of the peninsula so it is a 20 min walk to go to the tip - very beautiful. As you walk you realize that the Paradesius beach is quite nice, the neighbour resorts had a lot of debris on their beaches for some reason.

The grounds are manicured daily and very beautiful. There is a smelly area but it is only at one end so just avoid it.

Activities and Entertainment
Daytime activities are varied and kept low key. They post a bulletin every morning on what goes on that day by the Pool Bar, so it is easy to plan your day. No loud blaring announcer on the speakers by the pool as you can get at other resorts. The activities they offer include dance lessons, yoga, fitness, aquatic sports, contests, rhum drink making contest, even a golf putting contests. There is a very big life size chest game on the grounds which we often saw people there playing and a beautiful tennis court. I mean the pions are as big as a child!

The nightly entertainment is almost Las Vegas style and always very good. Being an adult resort, it is geared for the adult and the dancers are revealing lots of skin. I called the shows - The Thong show. But it does not take away from the entertainment value. Top quality shows every night. And to boot, they have a very good house band at the market square (where all the restaurants are) that plays dinner music from 7h to 9h, while you wait to go eat or after you finish dinner. The musicians are professionals and the music appeals to every taste, from jazz, to top 40 stuff.

We did the Havana day trip to old Havana and this one included a tour of a Cigar factory and the Havana Club Rum museum. Well worth it; our guide was full of historical knowledge about Cuba and quite entertaining to listen to. I am not the kind that loves this kind of cultural stuff, but honestly it was very entightning. The tour ended with shopping at the market and it's amazing how every stall sells the same thing. The trip to/from Varadero to Havana is quite long and being one of the last resorts on the peninsula, you end up picking up everyone and dropping them off on the way back. A little annoying.

We also did the Catamaran tour which included snorkling and lunch on an island. You are on the water all day and I absolutely recommend this one. Except check if you can buy your tickets directly from the Catamaran place rather than via the hotel. The bus picks you up at the resort, crosses the street and bam you are there. You can walk to it in less than 5 minutes from the resort. Not sure if you can buy your own tickets at the Catamaran dock, but I would go for a quick walk to check it out for sure.

Also rented some scooters from the resort to go to Varadero. Recommend this if you have an adventurous side. Only takes about 15-20 min to get there and the traffic moves slowly so it is not dangerous at all and there are tons of tourists on scooters everywhere in Varadero. Nice little town with a market for shopping. Found a very nice little snackbar for lunch on the corner on 13th ave and the Main street. Very good food and beer!

Departure and Check Out
Checkout was seamless and the bus was on time and it went well. Except the plane ride back was very unpleasant, very full and stuffy with bad food again. Air Transat needs to improve their flights for sure.

Would go back there any time and I highly recommend it to anyone.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

April 2008
We have just returned from a one-week vacation, our third to Cuba. We selected the Paradisis Princessa del Mar based on generally good reviews, price, and location.

We arrived at the hotel at 0300hrs, the last and only passengers on the transfer bus, and were checked in and transported to our room quickly and efficiently.

A review of any resort hotel is purely subjective. Everyone reacts positively or negatively based on what is important to them. As a mid sixty’s couple with many years of travel to Mexico, Cuba and the Islands, we can only compare this resort to others we have visited in the past.

Generally, there is very little significantly different here. The grounds are beautiful, the pool is magnificent, and the rooms were attractive, comfortable and equipped better than most. The beach is reasonably clean, although not as well manicured as those in other areas, and the sea is a spectacular turquoise. All the facilities appeared to be in good condition and pretty much as advertised.

On the positive side, there are no bracelets! There is a 24-hour snack bar, a bank on the premises is open 12 hours a day, and there are a few non-smoking areas. The specialty restaurants we visited were excellent, and the piano bar is the best-kept secret.

Disappointments: This complex has the potential to be a lot better than it is. Elements that are missing include, staff at the resort entrance to manage luggage, organize busses, and provide advice and information for guests. The nightclub is below the lobby. It may be dark, smoky, and intimate, but we felt very uncomfortable and left after a very few minutes. The buffet restaurant is awful! Getting the first cup of coffee or juice in the morning was difficult. Getting a second cup was impossible! When the dirty dishes piled up so high on our table we tried to remove them ourselves, and were told to sit down and someone would come and remove them. Wine with dinner must be rationed as we were seldom offered a second glass. Waiters routinely clean the crumbs off the tables by sweeping them on the floor with their hands. This is not 5 star quality!

Geographically, the hotel is at the end of the Varadero spit, and a long bus ride from town. The famed white beaches found closer to town are not evident here, and the brown sand is quite course. The lagoon that is east of the resort is pretty smelly, and if you are down wind it can be quite unpleasant.

Overall, it was a decent week away from the snow and cold weather. We easily found alternatives to those things we didn’t like, and enjoyed ourselves.

We will probably not return to this resort as we feel that there are hotels in other areas that offer better value.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
February 2008
We left Ottawa Feb 1 for Veradero having only booked three days before. The 6 am flight with Skyservice was delayed only one hour. We were glad we had paid extra to have reserved seats (two aisles), as the middle seats seemed a bit tight.

During the flight a guy in his 30s went to the plane’s microphone and announced that his girlfriend had just accepted his marriage proposal and that the wedding was to take place in Cuba. There were 13 couples in this group… apparently everyone but the bride knew the wedding was to take place in a few days .. (kind of makes you wonder where in Cuba you’d look for a wedding dress?) the future bride & groom had been living together and had a couple of kids so maybe it was just a quiet ceremony... Anyway, this same couple was still together on our return flight Feb 8th so guess all went well. When we landed there was a Woohoo! >From the back of the plane and lots of clapping. Everyone was ready for a week of sun!

A Transat Vacations bus was waiting for us at the airport and we checked in at the Paradisus Princesa del Mar hotel, an all adult resort. There was no lineup at check in and we were invited to sit down at a desk and were each given cold face cloths and a punch-type drink. We had asked for a room on the second floor so we’d have a balcony, but the room they gave us was overlooking the tennis courts so we were able to upgrade to a nicer view for $235.

The girl at the restaurant reservations desk could only give us an 8:30 pm reservation at the Japanese restaurant the first night but we were able to get in just by showing up at 6:30 pm with just a bit of a wait. While waiting to be seated for dinner, we discovered there was a champagne reception going on in the Piano bar with some canapés, so we went there before dinner.

Japanese restaurant - We sat between an Irish couple on the left and 3 guys from Insbruk who didn’t speak much English. I had the fish and DH had the chicken and beef dish, both good. It was a very nice evening and we got some tips from the Irish couple who had a few complaints, nothing major. This was a nice way to meet people – you can talk to them while you’re watching your food cook.

French restaurant - DH had the steak, which he said was excellent and I had the fish, which was so-so.

Cuban restaurant - we both had the tilapia and it was excellent – better than we’d ever had!

Bamboo restaurant – we both had the spring rolls and salmon – both good.

Italian restaurant – we both had the ravioli, which was very good.

We only ate lunch once at the Grand Buffet, but preferred the restaurants for dinner and the Racquet Club for breakfast and the Port Royal for lunch. I was impressed they had champagne available at the Grand Buffet at 9 am!

The entertainment starts at 10 pm and we were only able to catch 2 of the shows: the Caribbean dancers held in the discoteque (which was very good but we had to leave half way thru as I couldn’t keep my eyes open.) and the choreographed swimmers which was also quite good considering they were doing it in 4 ft of water. We did hear that the Magic Show was excellent.

We liked the band that was playing in the Market Square each evening, and discovered that we could have champagne there as well. We went there after dinner for a dance or two and retired around 9 or 9:30 pm.

The weather was consistently warm 28-30 degrees C, and the first few days were breezy but still nice. We had about an hour of drizzly weather, but since we were under a little hut at the beach at the time, it didn’t bother us.

The beach was not crowded where we were. We could always find a spot in front close to the volleyball net. The water was very clear and turquoisey, refreshing, not cold. The beach bar was not too far and a waiter walked around asking if we wanted any drinks. On our first day there, I walked to the right of the resort and met up with a local, probably in his 20s or 30s who asked if I was from Canada. He told me about his daughter and friends and told me their names (nothing I could pronounce) and then he asked if I was staying at the Princesa del Mar. When I said yes he asked me if he could have some shampoo for his baby (who I though he said had just turned 15, but I could be wrong). Anyway I was barefoot, in my bathing suit listening to my MP3 player. The next day I went the same way and brought cash with me but I didn’t see him.

The swimming pool was great…. There was always a rubber mattress available to float around in. Although, if you didn’t get there before about 8:30 am, it was hard to get a spot with shade…. Most of the trees had been just planted, didn’t offer much shade…and there were only a few umbrellas. On our first day we found a great place under an umbrella, but when we got back from lunch, there was a European guy who placed his chair uncomfortable close to our chairs and continued to move it closer for shade as the sun moved. His topless wife sat about 10 ft away from him close to the edge of the pool and they held an unending conversation with us in the middle. After that, we went to the beach until around 3:30 pm and then went to the pool when it was easier to find shade.

We were given a complimentary 1 hour session at the spa. We booked it on our last day and didn’t know quite what to expect. They told us to wear our bathing suits and bring a beach towel. When you enter, there is spa-like music and candles on the floor on either side of the hallway, very soothing, nice. We were given keys for lockers and then were directed to a multi-spout cold shower. Then we went into the steam room, but before we knew it, the room was filled with steam so thick that you couldn’t see your hands in front of you. Unfortunately we were seated directly above where the steam comes out so it stung my mildly sunburned feet. I couldn’t see DH or the other couple who were across the room from us and I found it quite claustrophobic – luckily I was closest to the door so I was able to go out into the hall. DH & the other couple found it quite enjoyable. Then we were directed into the sauna but it wasn’t heated up yet so DH & I went into the whirlpool outside. There were 3 whirlpools, one cold, one tepid and one warm. When the other couple came into the whirlpool area they said the sauna was heated up so we went in there afterwards. An interesting experience but it would’ve been nice to know what to expect! And in retrospect, I was surprised they didn’t ask us to sign a waiver.

The only mildly negative experience we had was one day at the Racquet Club, it was very busy and we had to wait about an hour for our brunch, and when it came, it was not exactly as we had ordered (no sausage or hash browns and sunny-side up instead of over easy) but I think maybe the cook didn’t show up and that the waitresses were cooking the meals as well as service.

In all, we would definitely go back, we did hear people complain that the service was not that of what you would expect from a 5* hotel, but we just thought if there was a delay, it was done in ‘island time’ and we were never inconvenienced by it.

We gave tips on our last day to the people who served us every day, and we left t-shirts, money and cosmetics in our room for our housekeeper.

I have recommended this hotel to my girlfriend who is planning to go in March with her mother and I hope their experience is as positive as ours was.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

February 2008
My husband, another couple and I have just returned from a week at the Paradisus Princesa del Mar in Varadero with Air Canada Vacations.

First, the positive side: Check-in was efficient, and when we found our rooms unsuitable, we were quickly assigned new rooms. The weather was perfect; and the safe, uncrowded beach stretches forever. On the beach, there are a few carts selling fairly good quality merchandise, and nobody hassles you. We had few problems with bugs, day or night. The pool area is gorgeous, and the staff does a good job with aqua exercise classes and salsa dancing classes. The gym is the best equipped we've seen at an all-inclusive, and there's even an instructor there full time. The spa looked great, but we didn't try it out because two of us have sensitivities to perfumes and it was quite heavily scented. With one exception (a waiter at the Oriental restaurant), the staff was pleasant and courteous, although sometimes the service was slow. We thoroughly enjoyed both the food and the staff at the Japanese and Rock House restaurants. The most basic rooms at the resort are called "junior suites," but they're just ordinary hotel rooms with a king-size bed, sofa, chair, desk, and balcony. They're clean and very well maintained. The grounds, too, are kept clean and are fairly well manicured. The layout of the resort is excellent, with two restaurants embedded among the sleeping quarters and four more located off a delightful European style plaza. Beer, wine, and mojitos were our favorite drinks--better wine than in many all-inclusives.

We enjoyed what we saw of the entertainment, but all of us were early-to-bedders so missed much of the fun.

We took two tours--to Havana and Matanzas--and enjoyed both of them.

And now for the negative: Although the buffet had a reasonable variety of food, it wasn't what we had come to expect of a five-star resort. Much of the food was bland, and the coffee was terrible. (Go to the lobby bar for somewhat better coffee.) People at other resorts told us that this was the best food to be expected in Cuba, but if the Japanese and Rock House restaurants could serve tasty food, I think the rest could, too. By the way, the 24-hour Racquet Club restaurant had good food, too. We didn't try the Italian Restaurant. The French restaurant was elegant, but the portions were so small that two of us went to the buffet afterwards...

Although we had a lovely view from our room, we were near the lagoon and the smell was unbearable when the tide was out. By keeping our patio door closed during those times, though, we could keep the smell out of our room. (Buildings 4 and 6 are probably the worst, being closest to the lagoon.) However, the worst smell was the mustiness. During the week, our friends never succeeded in getting the musty smell out of their room. After a day, though, most of the smell was gone from ours. We just opened up the patio doors and the room door and let the air pull through for several hours. Then, we used the air conditioning when we were in the room. Another problem was the humidity. We didn't mind it, but our friends said their bed sheets were so moist by the end of the week that they couldn't sleep under them.

All in all, considering what we heard from other tourists, I'd recommend this resort if you're going to Cuba. However, I'm headed elsewhere next time.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
January 2008
We were at Princesa del mar last week, and despite cold and windy weather can not say enough abut the staff, the service and quality of food. We ate in the Oriental, Firenze and Hard Rock specialty restaurants and all were excellent. We paid to see a review in Havana that was no where as good as all the shows in the nightclub. We are happy to recommend it to anyone, and hope to return someday, to be able to use the beach and the pool. Neither was in use due to the lousy weather!!
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

December 2007
My girlfriend and I spent December 13th-20th, 2007 at the Paradisus Princesa Del Mar in Varadero. We flew in from Toronto.

We booked with SkyService and I had heard bad things. I was expecting a delay, but the flight was on time. The only issue I had was with how closely the chairs on the plane were together. I am 6 feet tall and was very cramped. Usually I have no trouble sleeping on planes, but I could not on this flight. Fortunately it was not a long flight.

The reception at the hotel was okay. We waited for about 5 minutes. I had forgotten to print off my hotel voucher and the receptionist got upset with me. I printed it off right away and she was then happy, although it cost me 6 pesos and took 45 minutes to do so. The internet at the resort is extremely slow. Interestingly enough, the receptionist then lost the hotel voucher and I had to print off another one a few days later. No big deal.

Our room was very nice. The maid was great. We left here a couple pesos each day and she made nice designs from the towels every day.
Considering I got ood poisoning and was violently ill on my vacation, our maid had to put up with alot and she did a great job.

There were not bugs, and then AC worked well.

The mini-bar only came with one beer and I had to call every day if we wanted it replaced. It was not worth the hassle. If you enjoy drinking in your room I suggest you bring a bottle of your own. Buying it at the airport when you arrive is your best bet.

Firenze (Italian): This restaurant gave me food poisoning. I ordered the seafood. My girlfriend did not get sick and ordered the tuna. Both dishes were terrible. I had the fried mozzarella as an appetizer and it was terrible as well. It does not come on a bed of basil and tomatos. It come on a drop of ketchup. My girlfriend had the calamari as an appetizer and it was okay. Much better than any other food we had from the restaurant. Another couple we met also ate at the restaurant and the man got food poisoning from eating there. I am not sure what he ate, but we saw him the next day and he looked extremely ill. Food poisoning is awful and it ruined my vacation. Do not go to this restaurant ever.

Marseille (French): We read good things about this restaurant. It did not meet our expectations in any way. The food was a bit better than Firenze in that it didn't poison me, but that is about it. I had the onion soup to start which was the best part of the meal. It was watery and tasted like onions. My girlfriend had the artichoke hearts and they came right from the can and were nothing special. I had dijon chicken as my main and it was incredibly overcooked and dry. Better than the raw chicken I got at the buffet however. My girlfriend had the lobster (crawfish) and she thought it was okay.

Sakura (Japanese): This was the best food I had my whole trip. They cook it all in front of you so you know it is prepared well. You choose from chicken, fish, shrimp, beef and mix that with vegetables and rice. We both thought it was delicious, and very entertaining.

The Buffett: The selection was quite good. After being poisoned I ordered a stir fry which what cooked in front of me. When I brought it back to my table and went to eat it, the chicken was completely raw in the middle. After that, I stuck with the pasta, bread, pineapple and jello which was decent. Feel free to tell the chefs that you want things well done. The omelettes in the morning are quite good, but again, you should ask for them well done unless you like them runny.

Bottom Line: Do NOT go to Firenze unless you want to be poisoned. Do go to the buffet, but make sure that anything cooked for you is well done. Definitely go to Sakura.

The Piano bar is great, although I had a bad experience with a server who worked there. My first night I did not tip as I had no pesos (always tip if you want good service) One of the servers at the Piano bar did not like that. Two nights later at the Disco, I ordered a rum and coke from the same server and it was awful. It tasted like she had put a cigar in my drink. She has blonde hair, and usually only works at the piano bar, so watch out for her! The brunette server at the Piano bar is great, so if you can, try to get her. The music at that bar was quite good.

The Disco had some good shows. Particularly, the magic show. This is not a resort for you if you want to be partying all night long.

The lobby bar has the best selection of drinks.

Beach and Pools:
Quite nice. The pools were a bit too cold for me, but the beach is beautiful. The sand is a bit grainier than other areas, but in general it was nice.

Very well maintained.

The sailing that is included was alot of fun. I recommend it. It was difficult to track down the scuba guy to book a dive, but that may have been because the weather was a bit stormy at times.

We had a hydrotherapy voucher included in our trip which we did at the spa. It was definitely a waste of time. Maybe save it for a rainy day if you have nothing better to do. Don't waste good weather on this "hydrotherapy" as you can get the same thing by having a 20 minute shower in your room. My girfriend paid for a massage and she said it was just okay.

Bottow Line: Go sailing. Don't do the hydrotherapy. The massages are nothing special.

We booked our vacation with Transat. At the hotel, they have a representative who we booked our activities with. As I was ill from food poisoning we were only able to do one activity and chose to do the catamaran tour. We were told that this included a catamaran ride, a dolphin encounter including a picture with dolphins, snorkelling for 30 minutes, all you can eat lobster for lunch, and all you can drink. We paid 85 pesos each for this.

We did not get to snorkel at all, and although our picture was taken with the dolphins and brought to the hotel and shown to us, we never received it as they said we did not pay for it. When we confronted the agent (Genevieve) about this, she refunded our money, but we were not able to get the pictures, which is what we in fact wanted.

Also, despite the fact that we were told we would snorkel and did not get to, the lunch is not all you can eat. Everyone is brought a plate with a lobster (crawfish) tail on it with some fries, beans and boiled frozen vegetables. After eating that, the men running the tour brought out plates of lobster tails from the same kitchen that were prepared very well and tried to sell them to us for 10 pesos. I would have had no problem paying for it as it looked delicious, had I known what to expect. However, as I was under the impression that everthing on the trip was paid for, this made me feel ripped off. Be aware of this. I would recommend bringing some cash to buy this food as it looked much better than the free lunch.

Bottom Line: If you book the catamaran tour, you are not guaranteed snorkelling, and you should bring some extra cash for food.

The hotel is very nice, the beach is just okay, the pool was nice but too cold, and the food is not good. I heard that the food at this hotel was good for Cuba, and if that is the case, I will never go back to Cuba again. Obviously getting food poisoning makes it difficult for me to give rave reviews about this place.

On another note, when leaving at the airport, you will have to pay a 25 peso tax. There will likely be a woman in a red jacket who tells you that before you go through customs you should go upstairs to a restaraunt and relax for a while. This is a SCAM! The restaurant sucks, and after you get through customs you will have a much larger selection of food and drink. Also, don't buy booze or cigars before you go through customs. They are sold for cheaper once you are through.

I would not recommend this resort to anyone. I would not recommend Cuba to anyone. Food poisoning is not something that anyone should risk on a vacation. It is 1 week later, I am back at home, and I am still recovering. I am guessing that the other man who also got food poisoning when I was there is feeling the same way.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar

November 2007
This is truly a 5-star resort with the ability to kick it up to a 5+ if you stay in the Hilltop section of the resort. Guests were mostly 30-60 (children under 18 not allowed).

However, I need to mention that the resort was only 30% full this week, so I can’t comment on how it operates when it’s full. It was not a “party” resort but there was lots of fun to be had at all hours.

Check-in/out – very efficient. Gave our small group a 5-minute quicky orientation, sent us off to our rooms in a golf cart with a busboy and our bags. Full orientation with details of excursions were held the following morning.

Rooms – nicely decorated and comfortable without being very fancy. Fully equipped bathroom with a jet tub. Very clean. Mini bar, lots of mirrors and closet space. Only downside was that the air conditioning in our room just made it to adequate. However, having talked to other guests, this was an exception.

Pool – refreshing temperature (not soupy); lay out allows lots of poolside space. Nice arbours providing semi-shade, lots of chairs, but never enough umbrellas wherever we go. Shallow and deeper parts.

Grounds – lovely, very well maintained. Lurking gardeners will offer flowers and crickets made of palm leaf, hoping for tips. The paths, hedges and gardens are laid out to give the impression of more privacy.

Beach – great beach with soft sand but enough small shells to be entertaining. You can walk right out into the water without needing water shoes. Lots of palapas and a little beach bar with patrolling servers. Pads provided for loungers if you want them. The beach grill is on the other side of the windbreak/sand dunes with excellent light lunches, coffee bar, washrooms, etc.

Gym/Spa/Fitness – very well equipped gym with well-trained staff. Pilates and yoga classes offered; I’m told they were good. The spa is full-service with several choices of massage, hydrothermal circuit, whirlpool, manicures, pedicures, etc. Well-appointed locker room with showers and toiletries. Had an excellent massage!

Restaurants – best food I’ve ever had in Cuba (5th trip) and in many other Caribbean resorts as well. The buffet has an excellent selection of hot and cold choices for lunch and breakfast (they were closed for dinner because it was low season). Eggs, omelets, pancakes made to order as well as a great selection of other choices for breakfast. Lunch always included a fresh fish/seafood bar with shrimp, tilapia, etc. cooked to order; pasta to order; whole turkey, chicken, ham; stir fries; lots of hot and cold vegetables and salads; wonderful cookies! The wait staff cannot do enough for you.

Reservation restaurants:
Open air Cuban – wonderful small menu. Wear bug spray unless there’s a fair breeze.
Japanese – great entertainment, lots of fun, food was good if not entirely up to true Japanese specs.
French – excellent; also provides slightly snotty “French-style” service.
Italian – mixed reviews – mine was not good, my husband’s was great. Got the same response from other people we talked to.
Asian (Chinese, Indian, Thai) – didn’t try it.
Beach grill – nice light lunch choices, great coffee.
Tennis Club – 24 hours – super French Fries – also super mosquitos!

Bars – excellent at all the bars except the Tennis Club, which was slow and mosquito-y.

Nightly shows were very good. Sometimes held in the outdoor plaza, weather permitting and sometimes in the disco. The Cuban dance show and cultural shows were the best. The entertainers will usually try to sell you a music CD after the performance (10-15 pesos). The one that I bought was actually an excellent compilation of various Cuban salsa bands.

Special mention to the Piano Bar: 2-3 nights a week, the Huricanes play and they are truly wonderful. They play a mixture of Cuban and Western music and do a super job of figuring out the crowd and playing to them. The bar staff are excellent here and have been known to dance with the guests as needed.

Live music is found in random places at random times in the evening: the lobby bar, the plaza, piano in the Italian restaurant.

Staff: The entire staff – maids, bar, wait, front desk, animation, restaurants – was completely helpful, friendly and willing to address whatever requests we had.

Excursion: we didn’t go on any; but the trip to Havana which included the Tropicana Show got great reviews from other guests. The catamaran trip with beach picnic, snorkeling and dolphin swim also got great reviews. Many other choices available.

I would not hesitate to recommend the Paradisus Princesa del Mar to a discerning traveler.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Mike & Win 
November 2007
We have just returned (5th-19th October) from a wonderful two weeks at the PDM. It was our first time in Cuba. And to be honest, didn’t know what to expect, but we were very pleasantly surprised.

The resort is absolutely stunning, beautifully maintained, with gorgeous gardens surrounding it. Our suite was lovely, and because we had gone there for our 30th wedding anniversary. We were upgraded to a sea view suite.

The staff were friendly, helpful and extremely polite and couldn’t do enough for us. The gardener gave me fresh flowers every morning for our room, which was delightful.

The food overall, given that it is Cuba and there are shortages, was extremely good. We had the best fillet steaks that we have ever had, and the seafood and fish was delicious.

All the restaurants are good, but The Marseilles French restaurant was our favourite, followed by Firenze (Italian).

After reading other reviews I took lots of t-shirts, toiletries and make-up and gave them to the staff, who were so grateful. The average wage in Cuba is 10CUC (about £6.00)per month, so Cubans are extremely poor, and anything that is given to them is very welcome!

I would recommend Cuba and especially PDM to anyone
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Gary & Norine 
Winnipeg, MB Canada
March 2007
Who we are and where have we been

We just returned from spending 14 nights (February 25 –March 11, 2007) in Varadero, Cuba at the Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort. This was our first trip to Cuba. We are “experienced” sun travelers as we have been going to the Caribbean, Mexico and South America for the past 30 years, most years at least twice. We appreciate “good/fine” dinning, so when we travel, food and service are our top priorities and to a lesser extent the rooms of the resort as we like to spend our time enjoying the beach and what the resort/island has to offer. We believe that our vacations begin at home which means we research the location and the resorts before we leave and have a very good idea of what to expect when we arrive.

We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Cuba and would highly recommend the Paradisus Princesa Del Mar Resort. Having been to most of the “top” all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica and the Caribbean and Mexico over the years, this is one in Cuba really surprised us! We have read all kinds of stories about Cuba being “short” of certain items and the food having no taste. We experienced minimal shortages that you would experience in any resorts in the Caribbean or Mexico and had some of the best meals that we have ever had any where in the Caribbean. The Paradisus Princesa Del Mar property was originally built to be a Superclubs Grand Lido property, but was quickly changed to a Sandals property when the US government threatened Superclubs with the Helms-Burton law, so Sandals (head quartered in Jamaica with no assets in the US) picked up the property and ran it as a Sandals for about 3 years up until November 30, 2006 when Sole Melia assumed management responsibility for the resort and re-branded it a Paradisus. Sole Melia has continued the Adults ONLY nature of the resort.
This property was as good as any Sandals property we have stayed at with much better service.
We would highly recommend this property to anyone going to Cuba if you are looking for decent food, excellent service, a great beach, great rooms and not into partying. This is not a party place as the clientele were on average between 40-60 years of age.
I must mention that we met the new General Manger Luigi Fedele, his assistant manager, Raoul and the Food and Beverage Manager, Antonio “Banderos” and they were visible all the time! They are doing a fantastic job at this resort and it’s refreshing that they are all visible and approachable.

Photos of the resort and Havana, the first 2 albums can be viewed at

We booked this vacation in July, 2006 with Air Canada Vacations and received a substantial discount for booking early and paying for the trip in full no later than September 30, 2006. We did have to over night in Toronto as the Varadero direct flights out of Winnipeg left on Mondays and weekends are days that we prefer to travel on from a “saving” vacation day’s perspective. The flight out of Toronto left at 6:30AM and it was Air Canada’s usual Air Bus 320 but this one had been equipped with their new “video/audio” system, so we could choose a movie to watch. They served us breakfast and refreshments which were edible.

We arrived at the Varadero Airport at about 10:10AM and it took about 15 minutes to disembark, clear customs and start the wait for our luggage to arrive from the plane. As we were waiting for our luggage, I went to the money exchange booth and converted $200CDN into “convertible” Cuban pesos. Our bags were some of the first to get off the plane, so we picked our bag up and proceeded through the last customs area with no problems. I must make mention that Cuban Customs officers did NOT stamp our passports. I knew that this is normal practice when Americans visit Cuba, so I am not sure why they didn’t stamp ours.
We then went to the area where all of the Tour company representatives were located and found the Air Canada Vacations person. We had booked “concierge” at the Paradisus Princesa, so the representative immediately put us in a taxi and we were off to the resort.

We arrived at the resort at about 11:30AM and were greeted by the bell persons who immediately asked us if we were “concierge” (because of our arriving in a Taxi) and then loaded our bags into a golf cart and then took us up the “Hill” to the Hilltop Concierge check-in area. This “Hilltop” area is very similar to the Concierge area at the Sandals Regency property in St Lucia. We arrived at the Hilltop and were asked to sit down at a desk and were offered champagne during the check-in process. Our room was not quite ready, so they told us to go for lunch at the Hilltop restaurant while they finished cleaning our room. Our suite was ready at about 12:30PM.

Rooms (actually Suites)
All of the rooms at the resort are what could be called at least a junior suite. We had booked a Grand Luxury One Bedroom Concierge suite. All of the concierge suites are located on the Hilltop except for 24 suites which are on the lower level of the resort on the ends of the regular blocks of suites at the resort. These 24 suites on the lower level will NOT be offered as Hilltop concierge suites once the resort signs new contracts with the wholesale tour operators. This will decrease the number of Hilltop suites to 48 in total.
Our suite was located in the Habana block, suite 7113, which is next to the Hilltop concierge area.
The Grand Luxury one bedroom suites are all on what is called the main level. These suites all have “hot tubs” on the patios as well as 2 lounger chairs and a small table with 2 other sitting chairs. The suite is a true one bedroom suite with a separate bedroom with large ensuite bathroom with 2 sinks, large soaker tub and separate shower stall. The living room area is huge with a dinning area, wet bar and another bathroom (powder room).
The difference in suites are that the 2nd floor units do not have the hot tubs on the balcony but have a whirlpool bath in the ensuite. The second floor units have a smaller balcony due to not having the hot tub.
When we checked in, we were given a check list for alcohol in our in room bar. The selection was scotch (Chivas or Johnnie Walker Red), gin( Gordons or Tanquay), rum, vodka, Millwoods (Baileys type) and juices/sodas and beer. When you consumed a bottle, you had to leave it on top of the bar and then the “bar” person would replenish it.

The resort is about 4 years old and is in very good condition for the Caribbean. The main level of the resort has a huge zero entrance pool in the centre of the resort with all of the restaurants being in a “U” shaped building to the side of the pool. This set up is very similar to the Sandals Whitehouse property in Jamaica. The grounds are very well kept with gardeners everywhere tending to the plants.
The Hilltop area is on a small hill over looking the ocean. Here, there is a separate “heated” swimming pool, the concierge lounge/restaurant and the Hilltop blocks ( 6 of them) of suites.

The beach at the Princesa was very wide and sand was white with some sea shells in it making it not as soft as some of the beaches we have been to. Some one had mentioned that the beach was man made but no one could confirm that. We walked all the way to the Sandals Hicacos beach one day and found the sand in front of the Hicacos property to be softer but the beach was not very wide. Also, it was very crowded at the Hicacos property compared to the Princesa.
We never had a problem getting a chair on the beach but if you wanted to be under a Palapa, you had to be there no later than about 8:30AM. Also, there were only a limited number of pads for the chairs on the beach which meant that you had to be out early for those as well. Around the main pool, all chairs had pads and there was never a problem finding chairs. The better chairs were normally taken by 8:30AM but there were lots of chairs and space.
At the Hilltop pool, there were more than enough chairs/pads for everyone. It did get a little crowded in the afternoon around the Hilltop pool. The heated pool at the Hilltop was a nice touch. The first week, the temperature was 90 degrees in the pool as the temperature outside was about that. The second week, the weather was a little cooler, so the heated pool was nice compared to the much cooler main pool.

Room Service
Room service is included for all Hilltop suites around the clock (24 hours). We only used this on our last day for breakfast, but other people used it and said that the meals were very good and the waiters bringing the meals would do a great job setting the table and making sure that everything was to your satisfaction. The room service meals all came from the exclusive Hilltop restaurant.

Spa Services/Sports Complex
We never used the spa but on this trip we used the workout room almost every other day. The equipment was all in working order with a large number of treadmills, recumbent bikes and elliptical machines. The weight area was also very good. The room was never that crowded and the spa people were always around to keep towels and water available. We noticed that the tennis courts were seldom used and looked in great shape. The usual water toys were available such as Hobie-cats, paddle boats, etc and they didn’t seem to be used that much. Scuba was also included and we noticed a few people taking the resort course in the pool.


As we had mentioned in our introduction, we like good food when on vacation as well as the option to dine a la carte for all evening meals. Paradisus Princesa gave us this option and we took advantage of the a la carte dining for all our evening meals. With our having chosen the Hilltop concierge option, we were able to make all of our reservations with no problems for times or venues. All of the restaurants were not always open. Every Sunday, the resort would publish the next week’s opening days for the restaurants.

The Hilltop
The Hilltop restaurant is the restaurant at the Hilltop concierge area that is ONLY for concierge guests. This is a very elegant restaurant that is open 7 days a week for a la carte, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The only time you needed reservations was for dinner and you could make those at any time. We had breakfast here only once and it was very good. We had lunch the first day we arrived and once when we were sitting around the Hilltop pool as well.
We ate dinner here six (6) times during our 14 night stay. The menu changed twice a week and had a very decent choice of appetizers, the usual Cuban salad (mostly shredded cabbage as opposed to lettuce), soups and entrees which normally consisted of beef (tenderloin), lobster or shrimp, regular fish (snapper, salmon, etc), chicken or lamb. For desserts, they had a separate dessert table with many offerings.
We enjoyed all of our meals except for one lamb chop entrée which was very fatty. The first 3 times we ate there, I ordered lobster with everything else that I ordered and it was very good but I got tired of eating it. You could order lobster with anything for an entrée.
Once a week, on Thursday, there was the manager’s special dinner and we had the best dinner of our vacation the first week. All the meals were well prepared (I had to order all beef rare to get medium) and presented and the service was top notch.

This is the Japanese restaurant and we ate here twice. This is a teppanyaki style restaurant where 8 people sit around the grill while the chef puts on a show of preparing your meal. Beef, chicken, shrimp and fish were the choices – you could have any and all. Lots of fried rice and vegetables. Everything was very tasty. Appetizers consisted of tempura shrimp and vegetables, sushi or carpaccio.. Desert consisted of fried bananas, chocolate brownie or ice cream.

This is the Thai/Asian restaurant and we ate here twice. Norine had the shrimp in curry coconut sauce both times. I had the beef stir-fry and the chicken with mushrooms. Meals were served with fried rice. Dessert was delicious coconut cake, which we ordered both times. Spring rolls were on the appetizer menu, but they were out of them both times we visited. Other appetizers we tried were chicken satay and shrimp. .

This is the Italian restaurant and we here twice. While we were there they introduced a new concept of an antipasta platter that Is served to each table, consisting of shrimp, olives, cured meats, artichokes, grilled eggplant. Very tasty. Entrees we tried were lasagna and the chicken stuffed with cheese, with a side of pesto pasta. Both were very good. Stay away from the fried rice ball appetizer but order the calamari with marina sauce.

This is the French restaurant and we ate here once. We only ate here once because the Hilltop restaurant was very similar but slightly better preparation and presentation. We had a delicious artichoke and sun dried tomato appetizer, escargot in brioche (not great), and onion soup. Entrees we had were salmon and the chicken fricassee with lobster. Poached pears for dessert were excellent.

Rock House
This is the Caribbean/Cuban restaurant and we ate here once. This restaurant was only open twice during the week but because we were “concierge” we were able to get reservations. This is the only open air a la carte restaurant for dinner. The stuffed potato appetizer was great, along with the vegetable soup, which wasn’t really vegetable because it had ham in it. It was more like a pea soup with ham. For entrees we had the carribean chicken which was basically fried chicken, and a grilled fish filet. The food here was very basic and probably our least favourite.

Port Royal
This is the restaurant that serviced the beach during the day. For the first week of our vacation, it was open for continental breakfast as well. After the first week, it was only open for lunch and the lunch was typical lunch fare from burgers, fried chicken Cuban sandwiches, fish, etc. During our first week, we ate most of our lunches here as we were on the beach all day. This restaurant was never open in the evening except for special dinners for large groups. Depending on the occupancy of the resort, it could open for evening dinning but was never open when we were there for the evening.

Grand Terraza Buffet
This is the main buffet restaurant of the resort and we ate most of our breakfasts here as well as most of our lunches during the second week. We never ate dinner here, so we can not comment on how the meals were for dinner. The breakfast selection was pretty standard stuff with “real” cereals missing. No high fibre cereals or any cereal that we would recognize. The fruit selection was decent and they had 2 different sections making fresh eggs and waffles, etc. For lunch they were always carving some large piece of beef, lamb, chicken, turkey or ham. There were different vegetable salads with some lettuce. I have to mention that lettuce was not that prevalent and when it was, it “leaf” lettuce, not romaine or iceberg. They also had an Italian section that made fresh pizzas and different pastas with sauces and meats.

The beverage selection at the resort was very similar to most high end all-inclusive resorts. The wine selection was decent as well with a choice of Chilean, Italian, Australian and Spanish white and red wines. The best house wines were the Chilean ones and they were running out of those in our second week. I bought a couple of bottles of Don Melchor (2000 and 2001) Cabernet from Chile at the Hilltop, and they were priced very well considering we were in Cuba. The “top shelf” selection at the Hilltop bar had some of the best that we have seen at any all-inclusive in the Caribbean. They had a couple of single malt scotches and some decent vodka. I normally like to drink Johnnie Walker Black and they didn’t have it the first week but it appeared the second week. The beer selection was primarily Crystal (4.9% beer) on tap in most bars with Mayabe (4% light beer) and Buccanero (5.4% darker beer) available in cans at the beach bar. The Hilltop bar had Becks (German) in bottles the first week, and then in cans the second week.

We found the service to be overall very good to excellent. We had wait staff at the pools, in all bars and on the beach. The beach service was a little spotty but in all bars and at the pools, there was some one walking around taking orders and remembering what you had ordered for the next time. It’s all about service and the Cuban people are very attentive.

Dress Code for Dinner
For all a la carte restaurants, collared shirts and “long” pants were mandatory for men. Most people dressed up for dinners especially at the Hilltop restaurant.

The entertainment was very professional and included everything from a water ballet to a “Tropicana” style song and dance show. There were musicians playing at breakfast and lunch all the time and at the Hilltop, there was pianist playing every evening in the concierge lounge area. All of these musicians were profession in the sense of their musical talent with their instruments. The Piano Bar was our most frequent stop after dinner as long as there was no one smoking a cigar in it. The pianists in the bar were great as well as the wait/bar staff.

Day Trip to Havana
We took a day trip to Havana and it was very interesting to say the least! We checked into taking the regular bus tour with 40 of our close vacationers but decided to rent a Taxi for the day and do the tour on our time. We arranged the Taxi through one of the Bell persons and the cost was approximately $170CU pesos for the day. We had to buy our own lunch which will add to the cost of the day, so if you are considering this, remember about the lunch! All restaurants in Cuba are government owned and operated and they are not cheap. We bought our driver lunch and for the 3 of us it cost around $80 Cu pesos which is about $100CDN and no restaurants take credit cards!
Anyway, the ride to Havana was about 90 minutes on a very good highway with a few stops along the way at our leisure.
The City is “Frozen” in time from an automobile perspective. All of those fifties Chevrolet, etc are still running and it is almost like a Twilight zone show. We would recommend that if you are in Varadero that seeing Havana is a must. The architecture is unbelievable and hopefully most of it can be preserved before it crumbles.

Cuban Money
This is a very interesting topic. Cuba has always been dependant on the US dollar for its commerce. In the past few years, Cuba has been attempting to lessen its dependence on the US dollar. All transactions by tourists must now be made using the new Convertible peso which has a value of approximately $1.08US. This may sound simple BUT for every currency conversion transaction that you do, they charge an additional 4% conversion charge. So, when converting your CDN dollars to Cuban convertible pesos, they first convert to US dollars then to pesos.
We tried all methods, credit cards, cash advances and direct conversion of cash and they all seem to work out to be the same with a slight advantage to cash advances if your bank at home doesn’t charge too much of a flat fee for the cash advance.
Also, the Currency exchange rates at the hotel were identical to what was being charged at the Airport exchange. Remember, all commerce is owned and operated by the Cuban government.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Linda and Alfonso 

March 2007
We stayed at the Sol Melia Paradisus Princesa Del Mar from March 17 to 24th and were not disappointed. It truly is a 5 star - only complaints and I will get them out of the way quickly - hot tubs were not heated, music at the pool a bit repeative and the sand at the beach is not as powderly as other spots (walkable barefoot, but there are shells).

Now for all the wonderful things

CHECK IN and OUT - fast, curtious, in our rooms within 10 minutes of arrival at the hotel. Check-out equally fast, welcome drink, golf cart to room, polite.

INTERNET - about 1 CUC per minute - no connection on two days othewise only waited a few minutes for one of the 2 PCs to become available TIPS - expected, but we did not tip every time for everything and we still had great service (you can tip in CUC) ROOM - garden view with everything functionning perfectly - not too much pressure in the shower (extra long tub), but typical of down south. Very clean, maid service with the usual pretty towels and flowers every single day (we brought a few toilettries to leave for Lydia), spacious room, never any noise in the area FOOD - did all the a la carte at least once (Japanese restaurant and the french twice), expect the Rock House, as closed quite a few days. Buffet was the best I have ever seen - impossible to get tired of it, for all the choices. And yes, the food was tasty (imagine, a different roast meat every day (trukey, pork, beef, baked ham), stir frys, pasta stations, 3 kinds of fish station, and the usual breakfast selections.

BARS, DRINKS & ENTERTAINMENT - the water ballet and the circus show were the best; evening music with the house band or any of the panio players, or classical ensembles was way above average whether in the a la carte restaurants or the piano bar, or the buffet. Champagne at breakfast and dinner; house wine was more than adequate, premium liquors, drink service on the beach or at the very large pool

ANIMATION - yoga, pilates, pool and beach volleyball, soccer, tennis, bikes to ride. You can do as much or as little as you like.

EXCURSION - Havana day trip was great, w/Cuba tours - everyone should see Havana once. Very safe. Be prepared for people who will play a song for you for a tip, sell roasted peanuts, sell a photo opportunity (ladies in traditional costume who will give you a kiss and let you take a photo for a CUC), do a quick caricature for a CUC - all very affordable for us, but beware of those selling fake cigars and the children who beg - you will be develop an entourage of children if you give. This excursion is a MUST for the history, architecture, the beauty of the city, the cemetery which is fascinating. Another thing to do if you want to take 90 minutes out of your holiday is the walking tour of the Eco Reserve down the road from the resort. You will see interesting flora, a mangrove forest, cactus, termites, lizards, caves that once housed indigenous peoples and pirates, butterflies, and then walk down to the playa (Giant Fig beach, I think) and back to the hotel along the beach, past a few hotels.

VARADERO itself - you can skip the town, as a tourist trap - nothing authentic about it.

Great place for the between 30 and 60 group - not a spot for those seeking none stop action
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
February 2007
My husband and I stayed at the Princesa from Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2007, and we were both blown away by what a tropical paradise this is. Neither of us had been to Cuba before, and I'd picked this place on spec. We taxi'd to the hotel from the airport and saw some of the other places that looked run down, and were slightly worried. But upon arriving at the hotel, were pleasantly amazed! Crystal clear pools, a world class spa, superb restaurants, and topnotch service!

The beach was very nice, calm and missing the 'boomp boomp' music that seemed so evident in many of the other hotel beach areas. Just very relaxing. Mind you, there were dance classes and other activities scheduled, but they didn't interfere with the people who were there to relax. The spa was excellent. My advice -- try the couples massage. Wow!

We did a private taxi tour of Havana, which cost 160 CUC plus lunch for the 2 of us, versus the bus tour which cost 65 CUC per person, lunch included. The private guide who explained all of our questions was well worth it. Arrange it with the bellman, Ovidio, who was extremely helpful and friendly. Of the restaurants, my favourite was the Japanese one, Sakura. The chef prepared a mouthwatering meal right in front of you. My husband's favourite was the French restaurant, Marseilles, where we had delicious beef tenderloin. We didn't enjoy the Italian or the Rock House that much, and since we weren't concierge guests, didn't get to do the hilltop restaurant.

The port royal had good sandwiches for lunch, and their baked potato was good (although I laughed at some of the menu choices, cream cheese potatoes had some sort of cheez wiz stuff on it).

I was leery of the buffet since I'd read so many bad hotel buffet reviews of other hotels, but all I could say was WOW! Such a choice, and desserts to die for! Our waiter, Jean (his spelling not mine) was so very friendly and professional! The maitre'd, Johandra, was wonderful as well. As far as concierge goes, I doubt whether given the choice I'd take that option. It's quite a bit more expensive, and gives you access to a bit of the grounds that's off limits to 'regular' guests, one (heated) hot tub, a pool and the hilltop restaurant. Oh, and free golf, except that you have to pay a 10 CUC taxi each way and rent a 30 CUC golf cart.

We were very happy with our 'regular' room, which had a t.v. (didn't even get turned on during the whole week), a CD player, a king sized bed with lots of pillows, and a view that's worth a million dollars. The bed wasn't pillow topped, but let's face it, we're in Cuba and were doing MUCH better than the resident Cubans, in a foreign and communist country. No WalMarts, no big superstores, really no restaurants outside the resort area. The gift store had lots of stuff in it, but if you miss it don't sweat it, you can get the same stuff at the airport after security, sometimes a bit cheaper! The cigar bar looked a bit empty, but the piano bar was always bustling. There was grand entertainment in the plaza each night, followed by a performance of water ballet, magic show, dancing or other things.

My only comments that aren't stellar are: the hot tubs aren't heated except for the concierge one and one in the spa area that is lukewarm. This is likely due to extreme energy costs. The spa closed at 7, so the steam room (Wow!) and the sauna (great!) were not available then, it would have been nice to have a sauna before bed. The food in a couple of the restaurants was a bit odd (but then again, you are in Cuba and the cooking is not what you're used to). The maid service was good, but sporadic. If she didn't have juice to refill the frig when she was there, it didn't get done. If you asked for 2 bottled waters and she could do it though, she certainly did.

All the staff were extremely friendly, and loved to talk about their country and their families (and found our photos of Canadian winter quite amazing!). The maid in our room, Zufeidys, made lovely towel sculptures for us, and on the last day there, she put flowers in our room and filled a tub full of bubble bath for me! Very romantic setting all in all.

My advice is to take a suitcase full of goodies and pass them out as much as you can. Razors, soap, shampoo, hair barrettes, calendars, sunglasses, ball caps, vitamins, over the counter meds, inexpensive makeup, hair gel and spray, t shirts and even good shoes are very appreciated and hard to get. Don't take Canadian coins, even loonies, as tips since the locals can't exchange them into their currency, so they're keepsakes, nothing more. Don't take American currency since there's a huge tax on exchanging it. The workers are paid in Cuban Pesos which buy them groceries and pay bills but do not pay for consumer goods (clothes, etc) and they are very expensive to buy anyway. I tried to give ours to the 'invisible' people (i.e. gardeners, etc. who do not get much interaction with the public) as well as to our maid and waiters.

There was good (dial up) Internet access but only between 9 and 3.

Overall, I'd say it was a 4.8 out of 5 stars! I'd go back in a minute!
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
January 2007
This is our third time going to the paradisus princessa del mar and have yet to be dissapointed. It is now a paradisus hotel and no longer a sandals. Everyone says that Oscar (the old manger, not longer there with the change) was the only thing holding the resort together and we have met him twice, he was great. But the new manger Luigi Fedele was also excellent, the has been in the hotel industry for years and 15+ years with sol melia, and from what we asked from staff and gathered that he was really bringing up the quality of an already great hotel. He has very helpful and I think will be great for this hotel.

The concierge service is well worth the extra money, the last two times we did not opt for this but will from now on.

The cuban people are the nicest, most honest and trustworhthy people I have ever met. I tipped them whenever I could, 5-10 bucks is what most of us blow at tims for a couple of coffees but to them is huge, and they deserve it!!!!

The hilltop restorant is UNBELEIVABLE, it is way better than most keg or other upscale chain restaurants. Lobster was amazing, steaks like they were from $60 a plate alberta steakhouses.
Japanse restaurant also amazing. Bamboo very good.
Buffet the best for breakfast, great omlettes.
For afficinados, take scotter to casa del habano and casa del rum across the stree in downtown varadero.
Tours are begining to be very expensive and do less and less every year. Use to swim with the dolphing in the catamaran tour, now $10 to take your picture just standing beside the water, no swimming, and with your own camera!

there isn't really anything to complain about, if you read reviews about people complaining about stupid stuff just remember you are on vacation,so the beach bar may be out of beer by 3pm, oh my god, you might have to walk 50ft. to the other bar.

You will love this amazing resort. Will, disney at the hilltop are great. Felix (in charge of recreation was awesome), as well as federico (call him uncle rico).
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Joel and Kim 
North Bay
December 2006
We stayed at the PDM and had the concierge service which is what makes all the difference at this superb resort. This was our 2nd time to Varadero having stayed at the Melia Las Americas in 2003 with our daughter which we had enjoyed, but the PDM is far superior. The MLA has changed and now is a couples only resort and appears to have gone down hill a bit. It is mostly the organized staff at the PDM that make all the difference. The staff is extremely friendly and if you go concierge there is nothing they won't do for you. We had a concierge grand luxe room in the building just beside and to the left of the Hilltop pool and restaurant as you face the ocean, called the Pinar del Rio building and highly recommend this location due to its proximity to the Hilltop restaurant, pool and concierge desk. The grand luxe rooms are on the ground floor and have hot tubs on the raised patios/balconies. The 2nd floor rooms are 1 category down in cost and have jacuzzis bathtubs in the bathroom instead of outdoor hot tubs. We enjoyed beautiful stars and a moonlit ocean view from our hot tub every night. Our bathtub was also large enough for 2. We started in room 7112 but the hot tub was broken and they moved us to 7110 right away. The view from both rooms was beautiful and essentially the same looking out over the beautiful natural lagoon with pelicans to the beautiful turquoise sea beyond. I had read reviews calling this lagoon a swamp which is absoutely untrue, it is quite beautiful. The only problem was the windows in 7110 were not air tight and howled with wind which disappeared if you left your balcony door open a few inches which is what we did. At this time of year there were no mosquitos, but I believe at other times of year this would have been a problem. Our first room 7112 was superior in this respect, so hopefully they will fix the hot tub here. The private heated hilltop pool is very nice and quiet. The beach is beautiful, the sand is white and soft. I walked to Sandals Hicacos and this in contrast is a tight tacky disney world like layout and much more of a party place whereas PDM is way more beautiful, quiet and romantic. Hicacos does have a dive centre right on the property whereas PDM contracts out to nearby dive company but 1 free dive is included at both places. The ocean is cold at this time of year. The whole resort was only about 30-40% full so restaurants were no problem, but even if busy I think concierge means you go eat where you want when you want. The Hilltop restaurant is the best, basically gourmet international, superb lobster, beef and appetizers like beef carpacio and salmon tartare. We tried some others and loved them all, our favourites in order were the French, the Rock house(cuban), the Japanese(do earlyin your trip as 4 couples per Teppan table is a good way to meet other couples in this quiet resort). We missed the Italian and the Bamboo(oriental) but heard very good reviews from other guests. We did the main buffet on Sat night as it was lobster night and it was excellent. Our last night was our anniversary and they did a special table for us at the Hilltop and special baked Alaska for dessert which we were touched by as we did not expect this special treatment. Thursday night is the special concierge cocktail party with all you can eat hoeur dourves to die for and unbelievable entertainment . I agree that the service at all restaurtants but the Hilltop is excellent but too fast, so to make the meal more romantic I would suggest just ordering the starter, finish it and then order the main course. For breakfast we preferred the main buffet as they do omelettes in front of you which guarantees there hot. Lunches were good at Hilltop and at Port Royal Grill on the beach.

The concierge was great for help with anything. We did the Havanna tour and the Helicopter tour to the mountains both of which are awesome and the 24 hr room service was great as they brought full breakfast to our room well before any other breakfast options were open. Packed lunch delivered to the room for me in the morning to take Scuba diving. The free golf was great, but from Dec 1- April 30 golf carts are mandatory$30 and taxi is $10 one way to the golf course so the golf isn't quite free. The private taxi to and from the airport included was also wonderful. On departure for 20 CUC you can book a VIP service/lounge with your tour agent that includes express check in, no lining up!, and unlimited drinks and snacks in the air conditioned VIP lounge. I recommend this. Conquest offers a prepaid Havanna tour for 25 canadian dollars that we didn't book and were greatful as our rep told us this is only a transfer to havanna, no guide.

A final note about Cuba, the people and staff are wonderful, no one is expecting tips but with the average monthly wage between 15-30 dollars per month a 1 dollar tip means a lot to them and not much to us. When I changed money at the airport I asked for 100 1 dollar coins and the girl laughed but did it for me. We used these up for the week and I guarantee we made lots of staff happy and were probably treated even better as a result.

All in all, a fabulous resort, gorgeous grounds and facilities, wonderful staff, certainly the best resort in Cuba. Varadero is not the real Cuba, but is an excellent spot for proximity to Havanna which is a must see before Castro dies and relations with the US gradually warm, (after Bush is kicked out), and the all mighty dollar gradually wins out, and Mcdonalds and KFC destroy this incredible city. I should add that for those who have trouble laying around like me this resort is very good for golf, tennis(George the tennis pro is a super nice guy who will play with you and give lessons, included), sailing(the guys will take you), beach volleyball and 1 free dive daily. Finally, I would recommend going soon as this resort is now no longer a Sandals and unfortuntely Mr. Oscar Lora who everyone says is the reason this place is so good is now gone. It may remain great, but it will of course depend on the new management. I cannot say enough about this fantastic web site as I got all my info on this resort from here including the best advice which is to be positive with Cubans and try a little Spanish, and they respond in kind, andto get off the resort and see Havanna and the country. Enjoy!
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Bev and Greg 
July 2006
We have just returned from a very relaxing and enjoyable holiday at Sandals Princesa, Varadero. We were concierge guests and thoroughly enjoyed our suite of rooms, our Jacuzzi tub, our privileges at the Hilltop restaurant and the other perks awarded concierge guests. The “Returning Guests” dinner and the “Concierge Evening” were exceptional. I won’t repeat the positive comments of other guests regarding specialty restaurants- we were pleased with all of our meals. Since we have visited Cuba many times, we always realize that we are in a country that may have some difficulty with supplies! The grounds are beautiful, our view was spectacular, the weather was amazing. We agree that the staff at Sandals Princesa is excellent- very professional in dealing with all guests- and always made us feel welcome and pampered.

We have stayed at Sandals Hicacos several times and can easily state that Sandals Princesa is far superior in every way to Hicacos- staff, management, accommodations, food, facilities, entertainment, bars, internet service, currency exchange- the list goes on. We chatted with several other guests who had also stayed at Hicacos and felt that Princesa was a far better choice.

Just to clarify several comments that have appeared on this site- yes, the beach at Sandals Princesa has slightly coarser sand than further down the peninsula. It is a beautiful beach on which you can walk for miles and the sand bottom goes as far out into the ocean as you could want. There are some sea grass beds that provide excellent snorkeling. Also, regarding the birds that try to enter the restaurants- every effort has been made to solve this- large screens have been installed at each al fresco location. These really help to control the birds. Now, if only the guests would stop feeding them, the birds would have no reason to try to get into the restaurants! Other guests have mentioned the mosquitoes- an ambitious program of spraying regularly has helped a great deal, but mosquito repellent is a must for evenings.

This was an excellent holiday for us. We wanted a quiet, relaxing, stress-free environment and everything about this resort met our expectations. We had a great time and will certainly return.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
June 2006
My wife Sheena and I made a return trip to Cuba in May this year and spent 14 nights at the Princesa del Mar. Of the three Sandals Resorts we have stayed at this is the best to date.

We stayed at one of the Concierge Suites at the Hill Top and I think this was a very wise choice. The Suite we had was excellent and came with a decent sized balcony with its own sun loungers and a perfect sea view – I would however ensure you book one with a sea view as some have pool views over the complex itself. I would also not advise booking a sea front suite as although you benefit from all the perks that the Hill Top has to offer they are located away from the Hill Top area itself.

We found the standard of service overall very good and certainly of a very high standard at the Hill Top. On the food front the restaurant at the Hill Top was excellent – in the morning or at lunchtime you can dine on the terrace surrounding the restaurant and enjoy the light breeze and the view of the ocean beyond. The main buffet restaurant was not really our thing as at lunchtime there was not, in our view, a wide enough choice of cold meats, etc to have a decent salad – plenty of hot dishes though.

Of the other specialist restaurants, although the food was generally good, more attention could have been done to “theme” them. The Italian for instance is just a large room where they serve Italian food – we are lucky enough to have toured the world have been to many other resorts where each speciality restaurant is themed.

What made it for us was Oscar, the General Manager. He is very “hands on” and can be seen constantly walking around making sure things are right. We were invited to dine with him and another group of guests who had been to Sandals before and he was the perfect host. He is always immaculately dressed, is the perfect gentleman and is well travelled. – nothing is too much trouble for him: he wants you to enjoy your holiday

He also organises and hosts two cocktail parties and dinners each week – one for the Hill Top and one for the rest of the resort - again the attention to detail at the Hill Top event is certainly worthy of the 5 star rating – champagne, live music, excellent food and to cap it all - water ballet. Not just any troop of performers but the Cuban Olympic Team.

Overall the weather could have been kinder to us. and the resort itself lacks the ambiance and romantic touches you would expect a resort of this type to have.

Would we go back to Cuba, yes we would but perhaps to a prettier setting. With the resort being relatively new (and water being at a premium), the grounds do not have a lush tropical feel about it. Not a lot to complain about really.

If anyone wishes any more information please feel free to contact us at johnh@chalmers85.freeserve.co.uk
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Matt & Lisa 
April 2006
We just returned from a week (April 19-26) at Sandals Princesa del Mar in Varadero.

Our aim was to go for a relaxing, turn-off-the-world type of vacation, and for that we were not disappointed. The atmosphere of the resort is pretty chilled, which was fine for us. We didn't go looking for parties or sample the night life at the resort or in Varadero, so we'll restrict our comments to the basics.

Staff was generally friendly and courteous and not overtly pushy for tips, though we did tip wait staff when we felt it was deserved.

There are a good number of chairs around the pool but not many umbrellas, which are a must especially at this time of year as the sun is very intense (and our week featured 7 days of 35-plus degrees Celsius, sunny weather). One or two days when we slept in and skipped breakfast we had trouble getting an umbrella until people started to leave the pool around 3:00, so it's best to go and get an umbrella before 9:30-10:00 - we tipped the pool staff 2 pesos for bringing and setting up umbrellas for us.

Our room was on the third floor in building 5, a pool view (as opposed to garden or ocean view) room. The room was fine, reasonably clean, nothing fancy. Air conditioning worked fairly well, thankfully! We didn't see the "hilltop" area with the concierge suites, so we can't compare. Building 5 was in a decent location, near the pool, pretty central between the beach, restaurants, and lobby.

Food at the main buffet was bland and repetitive, but this seems to be par for the course in Cuba. If gourmet meals are one of your main concerns, you can do better than Cuba! The main buffet is indoors but open-air as it's open at the front, which meant it could be steamy at times, and there were many birds flying around the room, cawing from the chandeliers, and occasionally making dives for the buffet. Like us, the birds seemed to prefer the breads on the buffet and found that section the most appealing! Dried bird poop on the chairs and tablecloths was a bit of a turnoff, however.

The resort has several a la carte restaurants. The steak house (Port Royal) and Cuban/Caribbean (Rock House) were okay but we only visited each one once. These restaurants, along with the Asian (Bamboo) are first-come, first-serve, no reservations. The Italian (Firenze), French (Marseille), and Japanese (Sakura) are reservation-only. You can reserve 3 days in advance, so it wasn't too much of a problem to get reservations.

We enjoyed Sakura the most - it's not an a la carte restaurant as there's no menu, but rather a set course: 4 pieces of sushi, a little taste of tempura, a bowl of soup, and then the food prepared at the teppanyaki cooking tables by the chef - grilled vegetables, vegetable and egg fried rice, chicken and steak (one prepared with Hoisin sauce, one with teriyaki, though which meat was with which sauce varied), then shrimp, mussels, salmon, and another fish (perch one night, mahi mahi another). It's a LOT of food, and we found it very good. The chefs try to put on a good show and they work hard at the grill - we went 3 times in our week at the resort, and had Evelio as our chef twice. He's a good guy and the staff member who made the greatest impression on us.

We went to Firenze and Marseille once each during the week. The food at Marseille was quite good, though after eating at Sakura the portions seemed awfully small! Firenze, unfortunately, left a lot to be desired. We both ordered different flavours of risotto, but the meals that arrived were basically glorified Uncle Ben's rice. The waiter also took our dessert order when we ordered dinner, but apparently forgot that as he brought us menus again after the main course so we could choose our desserts again, and then left us alone for 10-15 minutes without coming back to take the dessert order, so we left to have dessert at the main buffet before it closed.

The pool is large but only certain parts are deep enough to swim or even just sit and cool off in ("deep" meaning about chest-deep, rather than knee-deep in other parts) so we really couldn't swim much. We generally prefer pools to the ocean for swimming (hate that salty feeling on the skin) so we spent most of our time around the pool rather than on the beach.

Overall, we were generally pleased with everything other than Sunwing Air, and won't likely book with Sunwing again. They changed our return flight from direct to via Montego Bay 3 days before we left, turning the trip home from 3.5 to 6 hours, and they also fly out of Terminal 1 at Pearson, which can be a problem right now insofar as we got off the plane and had to be bussed 15 minutes across the airport to go through customs, and then wait 30-45 minutes for bags to arrive.

It's hard to compare 5-star resorts in different countries so we're not going to say "this should be a 4, not a 5"... Just know that you're not going to get the same level of luxury in Cuba. We went in late April and only booked about 2-3 weeks in advance, so we paid a reasonable price (under $2500, including tax, for both of us). Had we spent $3000+ on this vacation we'd have been disappointed, but if the price is right we'd consider going again, both to Cuba and to the resort (or perhaps trying Sandals Royal Hicacos next time, though it's supposed to be more lively, less chilled than the Princesa).
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Dana and Alex 
April 2006
We have just returned from a week at the Sandals Princesa del Mar Resort. We were there last year, so we thought we knew what to expect. Big surprise! Last year we were very happy with the service and everything else, but were we in for a surprise this year! We booked a concierge 1 bedroom since we had enjoyed it so much last year. We found everything tremendously improved, we think mostly due to the competent management of Oscar, the General Manager of the resort. He is always on the premises. If he is not inspecting the food in the restaurant, he is talking to the guests while keeping a watching eye on what’s going on.

The food is excellent and varied, including beef, pork, fish, seafood, etc. Returning Sandals guests are invited to dinner with the Manager. We completely forgot about it and we stumbled upon the assembled guests by mistake. It did not matter. Oscar made room for us right away. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner (worthy of a 5 star hotel in Toronto) and we listened for hours to a string quintet of the Havana Symphony Orchestra. The following evening we went to the concierge bar: cocktail party. More excellent hors d’oeuvre (I snooped a bit and I found out that the chef is French and you could see that the staff had a good teacher!), more classical music, piano, a Cuban singer, followed by a surprise: a show of the Cuban Olympic synchronized swimming team. The entertainment is great: live bands everywhere, from the main lobby of the hotel to the beach restaurant.

The beach is wonderful, and I swam a lot in the sea. There were lots people on the beach and just as many around the swimming pool. The staff are curteous, well-trained and it is a pleasure to interact with them. The room was squeaky clean. We had a wonderful experience and we are looking forward to going back next year.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Carl and Frances  
Kingston, Ont.
April 2006
Just finished a week (Mar. 24th - 31st) at the Sandals Princesa del Mar through Sunwing Vacations. The resort is over-rated as a 5 star; should be closer to 4. There are far nicer beaches in Ontario(eg. the Outlet beach and Sandbanks in Picton) than this one. Certainly the beaches in and close to Varadero are nice.....but this one is full of shells, gray in color, windy on every day, sea wead washing up, etc. No fun, little activity or music on the beach, if that is what you want. We were surprised, but the swimming was very cold and hardly anyone in it.

Never had to fight for a swim-up bar stool! Very little traditional or any other kind of music to promote a fun environment. A few fun around the pool contests every once in a while, but ....boring. But if it is quiet time you wish for, it is nice. Service is OK but some employees seemed to have 'attitude'. Food in the buffet is about on par with most other 4 star buffets, but nothing to write home about. The lobster night was well done, but we found out about it by accident. Speciality restaurants were also decent. Evening entertainment was cute and 'they try', but certainly not too professional. However for a Resort, it was OK and passable. We met lovely people and made our own fun anyway of course. Forget about relying on the internet to stay in touch. It was absolutely a sick joke in the view of one of our travel companions constant attempts to get a line out to speak to her family back home. Rooms were very comfortable, well appointed and beds not too bad. I would recommend this place for someone looking for a 4 - 4.5 star place that wants a quiet, layed back atmosphere as opposed to a fun environment and doesn't have large expectations on quality of food.

Sunwing was absolutely disgusting throughout this trip and afterwords from their so-called 'Customer Service' department. We paid extra $'s to travel in the morning on Fri. (6am flight) in order to have a complete 1st day. We couldn't get through to confirm flight times as they ask you to. We tried and kept trying. We received a phone call around 7 pm as we drove in to Toronto the night before that the flight was not going out until 2:30 the following day. Eventually, we got to the hotel and checked in by around 9pm.! We in fact lost an entire day on our 7 day vacation, since we were supposed to be there before noon. The Sunwing rep. who's name appears elsewhere in these reviews, was absolutely usleless in either helping us or in fact expressing any interest in our situation to try and offer help from Sandals to perhaps even stay an extra night in a resort that was only 50% booked and come home a day later on a flight which we found out was also not booked up. Upon return, I (and others) sent Sunwing a letter to articulate our plight with having paid for 7 days and in reality only received 6. There response was simply to dismiss our letter with pre-printed 'letter #3' off their shelves. Out of the $3206 my wife and I paid, we lost about 14.29% of our investment....or about $450. for services (food, drink, use of the resort, etc.) not received, not to mention the stress it caused us. So paying for services expected and not received is not an issue with Sunwing. Their response to us, is such that I would never again use them and I hope that if those who have done so and found it to be positive, that you never get into a position whereby you need them to step up to the plate.....because they will not.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Sylvie & Alain 
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
March 2006
We spent a great week at the Sandals Princesa Del Mar (PDM) from March 17th to 24th.

We are a couple in our early 40’s and have been to 4 all inclusive resorts in the last 5 years. They include; Occidental Flamenco (Punta Cana), Iberostar Daiquiri (Cayo Guillermo), Riu Bambu (Punta Cana ) and Sandals PDM (Varadero). We booked through internet this time (Escapes.ca) app. 3 weeks before our departure and we feel we saved a lot of money.

Flight: We do not usually comment on the flight as we have become accustomed to mediocre flights with very little space to move. However, this time we flew with Sunwing (out of Ottawa) and were pleasantly surprised. We had booked our seats in advance and obtained 2 seats with greater leg room. It cost us $50 each for both flights. This is the best $100 investment we made !! I am 6’3” and I had ample room in my seat. The service was also very good.

Arrival and Check-in: Arrival at the airport was smooth. While I waited for the luggage, my wife changed some cash as suggested by other reviewers. As indicated by others, the exchange rate is better at the airport; 1.30 VS 1.33 at the hotel. We took the private bus for the PDM and 40 minutes later we arrived at the hotel. There were only 3 couples on board so the check-in was quick and easy. We were on the beach shortly thereafter….

Room (#3216): Clean, comfortable and nicely decorated. No smell and no insects. The room includes everything you need; Hairdryer, safe, iron, bathrobes, stocked fridge.

Food/Buffet: The food was decent and you could always find something to eat. Some days were better than others but in general, it was pretty good given that it is Cuba. As others have reported, Saturday night is lobster night.

For lunches, we ate most of the time at the buffet with the exception, once at the beach restaurant (Port Royal). The atmosphere is more relaxed and had musicians which created a nice beach ambiance.

A-la-Cartes: We ate at the Italian (Firenze), Japanese (Sakura) and French (Marseille). They were all excellent with the French being our favorite. The service was impeccable and the food very good. We each had the beef tenderloin which was perfect. The ambiance was also great with a pianist playing music in the background. The Japanese is also very good and a lot of fun to watch. As for the Italian, the food and service were good.

Bars: We hung out mainly at the main Lobby bar. We also went to the piano bar on a couple occasions. Although this bar allows smoking, the ventilation system seemed to do its job. We avoided the Cigar bar for obvious reasons as we are both non smoking. The bars have premium brand name liquor and scotch.

Pool: The pool is not very deep. Lots of padded lounges and sun shades. In fact, too many lounges. It is extremely crowded and you have people literally inches away from you on either side. It was way too crowded for our liking. The service at the Swim-up Bar was generally good, but the first couple days, you couldn’t buy a smile from these employees…..

Beach: The beach is nice and great for walks. As reported by others, there are small shells in the sand bit this is not enough to be uncomfortable. In our opinion, this beach is not comparable to the beach in Punta Cana but still a decent beach. Lots of lounges and palapas. It was nice, not to have to be on the beach early in the morning, to reserve a lounge and palapas as it is frequently the case in other resorts. It was windy the first few days but it was nice and made the sun more tolerable.

Activity Staff: Did not see much of them all week, in fact almost non existent, but it was fine with us because we travel south to relax, enjoy the sun and beach.

Facilities: Very well manicured. The resort is well laid-out. All the facilities pretty centrally located. The gym has excellent fitness equipment which I used everyday. My wife also used the Spa facility and enjoyed a massage which she said, was done pretty professionally.

Tours: We took the Catamaran tour ($85 CUC each) and enjoyed the swim with the dolphins. It was a great day on the water. We did not however take the bus into Varadero to shop at the market. We did not want to spend this time away from the beach simply for shopping. For those interested, the "Double-decker" bus runs a giant loop along the resort strip (stopping in front of each hotel) and down through Varadero and returns on a 1-hour route (5-Pesos pp for a day pass).

Overall: We enjoyed very much our stay at this resort. The weather was fantastic with absolutely not a single cloud in the sky for the first 5 days. Most employees serve you with a great smile. The service is good and most of them speak pretty good English with some even French.

Although not a truly 5 star, this hotel is probably a solid 4.5 star. We feel to be a true 5 star hotel, attention to little details need to be present. For example, the lounges at the beach are hard plastic with no mattress. This becomes uncomfortable. The food although good, it is Cuba. It is quite evident that some days, the acquisition of certain items is difficult.
We would strongly recommend this resort. Great resort for the money, as we paid under $1500 for our stay.
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Ken and Loretta 
March 2006
This was the first time for my husband and I to go anywhere like this. We and another couple left Toronto on February 16 for one week in Cuba. We had a wonderful holiday and the resort was beautiful.

The only problem we encountered was with the airline company. We originally planned to book with Air Canada but found a cheaper price on “redtag.com” flying with Sun wing Airlines. We were delayed out of Toronto by three hours due to mechanical problems with the aircraft. No big deal, we still arrived at our resort before Dinner. On our day of departure, we were scheduled to depart Varadero at 1300, but when we got to the airport we noticed that the departure time said 1345. This was only 45 minutes so not much of a problem. We looked around the airport and waited before we went through customs. As the day went on the departure time kept changing on the screens. As I work for an airline I totally understand that mechanical problems happen, but I was very disappointed that not once did anyone stand at the gate to address any questions or to let us know what was happening with the plane. The only person to talk to was the info booth and the lady didn’t speak very good English. So, 10 hours at the airport made for a long and disappointing day. I am not very happy with Sun wing, and even though I have emailed them three times, I have still not got a response.

Our Room
However, the flights did not ruin a wonderful holiday. We stayed at the concierge one bedroom suite which was worth the extra money. We were given a private car ride to and from the airport, and private check-in at the hilltop. We had a hot tub on our patio and a mini bar that was restocked every morning (at no extra charge). This included beer, champagne, wine, rum, vodka, pop and water.

The room was beautiful. It was clean and very spacious. As I am terrified of bugs and spiders I was a little concerned about this but we did not find any insects in our room. There was a frog on our patio one night and a few little lizards, but they are cute so that was no big deal.

Room service was quick and efficient. One night there was no answer at room service, so my husband called the front desk and within minutes someone from room service called us right back.

They offer laundry service which was done by the next morning. However, we paid 36.00 Cuban pesos for about 6 items so it was a little expensive.

The maid was wonderful – we had the same woman for the whole week. Every morning I would leave her a little gift bag with soaps, makeup, toothpaste, gum etc and a little note, and she would always leave a note to thank us for the present. Every morning she would do fancy things with the towels.

The Restaurants
As we stayed on the Hill Top, there was the Hill Top Restaurant just for our rooms which was fantastic. The buffet was always great – usually had breakfast there. We managed to get reservations at every restaurant while there and we thought the Japanese was the best. The chef was awesome and got everybody involved. We had read reviews saying that the food in Cuba wasn’t the best, but I think it depends on a person’s expectation. We loved every meal and thought the food was really good. All the staff at every restaurant was wonderful and very friendly. The only thing is to pay attention to the dress code for each restaurant. We had read that it was casual to dressy and no beach wear. One night one of our group was dressed in dress shorts, shoes and buttoned up shirt but was told that he had to have long pants. But, no big deal, he just went and changed.

Day Trips
We only got to do the day trip to Havana as we wanted to spend lots of time sitting on the beach. It was a long day but well worth it. Our tour guide was full of interesting information. The tour of the cigar factory was interesting. It was a 2 hour drive, but went very fast. It was well worth the money.

We rented scooters one day and drove into Varadero which was fun. Things are different outside the resort. We stopped at a little amusement park for a bathroom break, but after the guys were not impressed with the men’s bathroom the girls opted to wait till we got back to the resort. Also, anywhere outside the resort all public bathrooms have a lady sitting by the door and expect you to pay them. Some even require that you pay for toilet paper.

Our first day on the beach a guy came by wondering if we wanted to go horseback riding. As we thought it was something with the resort we signed up for it. When we realized that it was a private company we asked the resort about it (we were a little nervous) but they vouched for the company. It was for about an hour and the guide took us down along the beach. The guide was awesome, very friendly and took lots of pics for us.

The beach was beautiful. As soon as we went there, a worker would find us chairs and set them us for us. The beach bar made fantastic Pina Colada’s. We did the paddle boats one day and the guys went out in the kayaks which they said was lots of fun. Every day there was volleyball on the beach.

I would advise anyone to be careful at the airport. As soon as we got there, 3 guys grabbed our bags moved them about 10 feet to our car and then asked for a tip. As we were waiting to exchange our money at the resort we ended up giving them $5.00 cad. I would recommend not letting them take your bags, or else exchange money at the airport for some pesos.

At the resort no one asked for a tip. We always left a peso at our table after every meal but it wasn’t expected. Every time we walked up to the hill top to our rooms the gardeners always gave us bunches of flowers or little grasshoppers made of leaves. At first I thought it was just for a tip, but they never acted like it and if you didn’t tell them to wait and give them the money they just walked away.

The guys did a day of golfing which was about 20 min away and said that it was lots of fun. As we girls weren’t interested in that we both got a massage and French Manicures. The massage was well worth the money – very relaxing and professional. The lady at the salon was super nice and spoke English very well.

Even though we used sunscreen we did burn the first day. There were no bugs or insects – did not get bitten once the whole week.

The weather was beautiful everyday.

Overall, we had a wonderful holiday excluding the flights off course. I would highly recommend this resort - it was well worth the money. I would go back there anytime.

If anyone has any questions, or would like to see some pics (we have lots), please email me at anytime at fatsmoke@hotmail.com
Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Merle and Darrell  
Elkford BC
January 2006
Merle and Darrell ~ Elkford BC We visted Princesa Del Mar for the second time this year and I have to say that Oscar has turned things around as far as service goes. In some ways it was nice to return to a familiar resort and see our Bartender Jose and the girls still at the lobby bar. He recognized us and was very surprised to see us. We find the resort outstanding in appearance. The rooms and grounds are beautiful. There has been changes and improvement in the entertainment since our last visit. The syncronized swimming was better than it was a year ago. Don't miss the circus, those people are amazing. I may be a little biased but I thought the magic show was both entertaining and funny. Yes there was a fashion show one evening but we have to do something. Another night in the square we were entertained by a Cuban Band, complete with dancers. The singers had very powerful voices. One lady in particular was very good. I believe there was a bit of a conflict between one set of dancers as the female appeared to be in a huff and would go to the sidelines during the breaks only to be sent back by the lady in charge. Not sure if I was the only one watching this or not. This particular dance team did not seem to know the steps and was watching the other team and trying to follow them - thus they were always a few steps behind. There is potential there though and it was a good show with colourful costumes and a wonderful drummer with dreadlocks who got the audience involved, drumming on his drum.

As returning Sandals guests we were invited to a Managers Dinner which was held on the Wednesday night. The banquet hall was beautifully decorated with rose petals on our table, wine, champagne, you name it, not to mention the Havana Symphony. The dinner was wonderful. If you have a chance to attend - do not miss that one. The evening dress code seems to be a little higher standard at this hotel - I brought along a couple outfits that were less casual but as far as squeasing my swollen feet into heels at the end of the day - Forget It - It simply can't be done, and besides I am on vacation.

Saturday night is lobster night in the buffet.

The steak at Port Royal is like the sole of your shoe so don't line up too quick for that. They BBQ excellent hamburgers at Port Royal most days just up from the beach and..........you can get a decent burger at the raquet club -

We swam in the ocean nearly every day - used the paddle boats and enjoyed the beach. We had 2 weeks of wonderful weather about 30 degrees.

Not much else to say - really when traveling to Cuba it depends what you want out of your vactation and where you are comfortable. Princessa Del Mar has improved greatly as far as service goes. It is a beautiful resort, with good restaurants. It is great if you travel with other people but if you are just a couple alone in the resort the evening can get a little boring. We saw a few couples sitting by themselves, looking bored. Sometimes we would listen to see if they were speaking english before attempting to speak to them. I think what the resorts needs is more organized activities going on so that people meet and mingle more. Part of the fun in traveling is meeting other people. I have to tell you, we spent the first week right in Varadero at a 3 1/2 star where we met some fun, down to earth people that we hope to keep in touch with. So different strokes for different folks. All these reviews have to be taken with a grain of salt - To find the perfect fit, when booking a resort make sure you know what you want out of your vacation.
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
Margaret and Vic 
United Kingdom
September 2005
Ruby Wedding Anniversary and 30th !!!!! Birthday Celebration

Thanks Virgin for a good food, services and entertainment on flight to and from Cuba – your Premium Economy seating on the Jumbo from London (Gatwick) to Havana was for us First Class. Leaves other Premium Economy services in the Second Class league.

Congratulations Sandals. Contrary to previous reports we found the staff at Princesa the friendliest of any hotel we have visited. They offered warmth, smiles and nearly everyone tried to speak a little English. It’s amazing how much enthusiasm and how much individual presentation there could be of simple phrases such as "Good morning – How are you?"

The Sandal’s image we have seen for so many years of a romantic couple on an isolated tropical beach came to life for us. In other reports the quality of the sand by this hotel was criticised. My wife and I both walked barefoot considerable distances to adjoining hotels and did not find the fine sand abrasive or cutting. For us the beach was absolutely splendid.

There have been previous criticisms of the waterfront beach staff for not making equipment available. As an intermediate windsurfer, and rather novice catamaran sailor, I found the staff willing (despite language difficulties) to explain the tides, winds, wave and current conditions affecting their decision of what water sports equipment to make available.

There was always a valid safety reason if some equipment was not available. Those guys are there to ensure guests have a safe and enjoyable holiday.

During our stay , light sea breezes were kicking in at about 15.00 hrs. It might be a good idea to extend the opening hours of the waterfront sports to much later in the afternoon or early evening as only "Mad Dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun!"

Our two-week visit was from the end of August 28th to September 11th 2005. There were only about 80 guests in accommodation designed for 850. For us the staff to customer ratio resulted in a superb level of attention.

Even in peak times we think there will be no future problems with booking speciality restaurants. The main buffet restaurant (Gran Terrazza) was only open for breakfast and the specialist restaurants opened on a rota basis. We were able to visit a specialist restaurant every evening and were able to book a week in advance to our selection. Customer Services have long opening hours and you can make your reservation any time.

The "Sakura" restaurant provides not only excellent food but also a demonstration of martial arts! The chef wielding a knife as if it were a weapon of execution cooks the food in front of you. Brush up on your chopstick eating skills – we got left behind and had to resort to a fork!

With the exception of the "Rock House" we found the other restaurants lacked character. For example "Firenze", the Italian restaurant, served superb steaks with authentic tasting tomato based sauces. No pepper mill was offered and when one was found there was no pepper in it. Parmesan cheese was available one evening but in large lumps but not offered as grated. I’ve never had a "Tiramisu" that had no coffee liqueur in it. The traditional Italian desert is easy to make with whipped cream, cheeses and sponge. Judging from the quality of the Manager’s Dinners on Tuesdays (don’t miss these!) the chef’s are superb and very capable. The staff needs inspiration to try and create the atmosphere and service of an Italian restaurant and not a cafeteria. The live piano music in the "Marseille" (French) and "Firenze" restaurants is a mix of excellently played classics and more contemporary music but not particularly French or Italian.

My expectation of Sandals was the same expectation one has of McDonalds – that the quality of the service is similar in any country.

For our special Wedding Anniversary we were invited to the "Hilltop" restaurant. What a spectacular view of the lagoon and Concierge pool we had from our window table. With a piano playing in the entrance lobby and ourselves the only customers we felt like millionaires!

Missing the lobsters mentioned in previous reviews we both selected lobster for our Hilltop meal and in due course two small lobsters the size of a freshwater crayfish arrived. I thought the flesh of my one was somewhat strange – a rather soft streak of protein in the centre of the shell. Margaret offered me a little of her lobster which had firm flesh still attached to the shell.

Sadly I had to let the waitress know that I was not happy with my lobster but had to wait about ten minutes for it to be replaced with one that was both fresh and cooked properly.

I do feel that an observant chef would have seen the appearance of the lobster was not satisfactory and should not have let it be released to the dining room.

Margaret had one of the special birthdays a girl wishes to forget! Our favourite "Rock House" restaurant made amends and got some magnificent lobsters that they cooked superbly.

We repeat the warnings of others concerning mosquitoes in causing nuisance in the outside restaurants. The answer is to arrive early and apply mosquito cream. These darn Cuban biters are damned clever and will find any bit you miss! Sadly the waiters and entertainers are not provided with protection and so please donate any of your surplus cream to them at the end of your holiday.

Also recommended is "Aspivenin" suction device that pulls the anti-coagulant or venom from a bite before it can develop into something irritating.

Guests at other hotels stated they were much less affected by mosquitoes so I’m wondering if this problem might be linked to the lagoon within the hotel grounds.

We will always remember the special breakfast for our Anniversary. The staff really entered into the spirit of things and organised a table with heart decorations and a tropical celebration cake plus of course a bottle of champagne. "Orlando" the musician we had booked played on the guitar and sung many of the "folky" numbers Margaret had played and sung. It brought tears of joy

We would I think find this hotel horrendous if fully booked. The level of background music around the pool needs to be monitored to avoid the place becoming like a Butlins holiday camp. Thoughts need to be given as to whether more ethnic Cuban music should be played to give a foreign atmosphere. Whilst we were able to walk between the closely spaced sun-loungers it would be difficult to do so without disturbing people if all were occupied.

We were somewhat put off by the musty dank smell of the entrance to the underground "Captain Morgans Bar" used to provide evening entertainments. We went there for the "Magic Show" but the announcements and music were so loud that we had to come away.

We enjoyed long swims across the pools but agree with previous reviews that this would not be possible if the small pools were crowded. We were also able to relax on the floating beds. If you are able to get one in peak season we doubt if you will be able to relax on it in a congested pool!

To avoid strap marks a tan thru costume is essential wear a- the pools and beach are generally not topless.- except for the fellas!

Unfortunately we did not make the trip to Havana. We could not face up to a four-hour return trip to do so as we had already done one of these legs from the airport to the hotel.

On one of the "no sailing" days Margaret was having a siesta on the beach and I decided to have a long beach walk hoping to talk to a guest at an adjoining hotel for comparison purposes.

The first person I spoke to was Cuban and wanted to know if I had any soap or toothpaste for his baby.

The second person was a Cuban who did not speak English.

The next was a Cuban who wanted to sell me cigars - "No I don’t smoke" seemed to be a phrase he understood!

Surely the young woman emerging from the sea topless might be a foreigner. I was right! Immaculate was Spanish but spoke English very well indeed. I teased her jokingly "Why are you here with all those superb beaches in Spain"?

She explained she was interested in the political situation. We immediately hit common ground. I explained I had been very much inspired as a boy when reading Castro’s speeches at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

We had both gleaned from the Cubans we had spoken to that they were well informed and if there were to be any changes they did not want to follow the route of Russia or East Germany. The free education and medical services are most appreciated and the greatest freedom they have is to go anywhere at anytime without fear of crime of violence.

There is a shortage of certain drugs but some Cubans have suggested this is related to the embargoes

No Cuban had been able to explain why, if they wanted cheap essential items such as soap or toothpaste, they could not go along to a local branch of the Communist Party and get action to ensure these things were provided.

Cuban pay is low by our standards. For example a Doctor will get 500 Cuban pesos month (20 CUC), a teacher 350 (15 CUC) and a waitress 250 (10 CUC)
On the other hand living expenses including renting a property are very low
Cubans may be poor by our standards but they have pride in their Country and they care for each other.
We must be careful not to corrupt their society by overgenerous tips (we saw 3 CUC handed over in one restaurant – that is a third of a month’s pay)
We must also be careful no to encourage black marketeers. One guest felt sorry for someone who said he was in pain and couldn’t get any drugs. He asked if she could let him have any left-over medicine at the end of the holiday.

Finally I would not recommend this hotel for UK visitors in the Cuban peak season – there are less crowded hotels and a warm climate nearer to home - for example Fuerteventura .

To justify the travel and cost from the UK we would seek something really special and this is not yet achieved by the Princesa.- even the Concierge food would need improvement to match a four star Mexican hotel.

Consider the off season if you want to see Cuba and maybe book into a Havanna hotel at the beginning or end of your holiday if you want to avoid the long road journey to and from the City
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
Marlene & Steve 
Nova Scotia, Canada
May 2005
My husband & I and another couple spent March 1 – 8 at the beautiful Princesa del Mar Resort. We originally were booked at the Playa Varadero 1920. Due to overbooking at that resort we were transferred to this amazing place. We were notified four days before we left so we were somewhat prepared for the move. I was a little hesitant about this resort as the negative reviews I read were a little unsettling.

When we arrived in the afternoon my worries were drastically lessened. There was some confusion in the main lobby as to what we were to do, but we quickly found the right line to get into in order to check in. The staff was very friendly & helped us quickly get checked into our rooms. We were given champagne which was a welcome after the flight & bus ride. If I were to make a suggestion for any improvements on check in I would suggest that there be signs placed somewhere visible for new arrivals. It gets confusing for some when they’re not sure what to do, or if there was a staff member there to help answer questions.

Restaurants: We made reservations at the Japanese restaurant and enjoyed it very much. Our chef was wonderful and explained how everything was being cooked. We ate at the buffet the rest of the stay. We liked to eat early & the reservations were sometimes past 9pm.

The buffet was not bad considering the amount of food that was being prepared. It was not always hot & I had a bit of a problem with that, as well as my husband. The food is a little bland so you definitely need to add spices. You can always find something you like. The omelet counter was my favorite in the morning.

We did encounter a problem at the Gran Terrazza- Buffet Dining room, the night before we left. On the resort website and in the info package in each room, it stated that the men could wear casual or dress type shorts to the buffet. Our husbands and many others were turned away & told they had to wear pants. Needless to say, they were not happy, as they had worn shorts all week. Meanwhile, while we are waiting for them to change, other men that came with shorts on walked into the buffet and set down. We even spotted one man with a bathing suit on. If they were going to change the rules there should have been a sign positioned outside of the buffet. Also, they should put up a roped area at the entrance, as some people will not wait to be seated. Unfortunately, the gal in charge was not able to handle everyone complaining and became very upset.

Entertainment: Each evening there was some kind of entertainment. We attended an amazing magic show at the Captain Morgan Night Club. Also, one night there was water dancing at the pool which was very entertaining. We also spent a few nights in the whirl pool. That was located at the Racket Club. Apparently this was the only one that was heated which seemed like a waste of all the other whirlpools, as they were too cold to get into.

We also did the Catamaran day trip which was alot of fun. We had lobster on the way to the island, but it wasn’t great. Being a Nova Scotian, believe me; we know what lobster is all about. Their lobster doesn’t come close. We went swimming and then had a nice buffet dinner on the island and then returned back to mainland. We were then taken to the Dolphin show which was very entertaining. We then got ready to leave and when we returned to the buses none of the drivers would take the four of us because they weren’t going to the Princesa del Mar. I think that they didn’t understand what we were saying. One driver was kind enough to get us a taxi bus which we had to pay for. We arrived back at the resort and noticed one of the buses drive in behind us with passengers. It wasn’t a big deal really, it’s just frustrating when you don’t talk their language. It was nice to experience a different culture and would definitely return to Cuba.

“5 Stars for Princesa del Mar”
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
May 2005
Don't quite know how to say this, but it's been bugging me and Im feeling a need to warn others, don't really think this should happen to anyone else. I want to wait for the answers from them before acting, but this is a health issue.

Sent a letter to our travel agent and to the Princes del Mar Canada staff when we got home. We've been promised an answer from both within 6 - 8 weeks. Not sure what the answer will be as we didn't ask for anything. Just wanted to report something which I think should take less than 24 hours to pass on. Anywhere else this would have been cause to sue!

The resort is indeed lovely. We have travelled extensively to all inclusive resorts and have been to Cuba a few times and know what to expect. The grounds and buildings are beautiful, the beach is nice. The service just a little less than what I would expect at a 5*.

We arrived in our room mid day, hungry and tired, to find our bathroom not clean - dirty sink and towels. Called front desk - told to contact housekeeping ourselves. Tried three times. Mean time checked bed - one side only. Didn't look too great to me, but my husband thought just a little untidy, besides the beach towels were made into swans atop the bed covers....must be clean. Went out to hall and found a housekeeper who came and cleaned the bathroom and apologized for the condition....not her room, but happy to help.

That night collapsed into the bed - didn't even turn on the lights. I slept on the side that I hadn't checked. Woke the next morning to see the sheets were soiled ...I dont even want to tell you with what! Disgusting! Hopped directly into the shower - no soap...in the housekeepers rush to clean up the day before. Oh well shampoo will do.

Went directly to the front desk to report this. Requested a room change. After about 1 1/2 hours of discussion we got one, but they really didn't want to move us (resort 25% full). No apology of any sort...actually made to feel like we were in the wrong.

I don't know how this could happen. I did read that the sheets weren't changed everyday in previous comments to this web-site. No big deal....but not between customers? The room was emptied, so why would the bed be made up?

I would just like anyone going there to beware of this. It was our only real complaint for our vacation.
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
Pamela and Matt 
Guelph Ontario
April 2005
Originally booked into the Playa Varadero 1920 I was delighted to learn we were upgraded to the Sandals Princesa Del Mar for our stay in Cuba. I logged onto Debbie’s site to check reviews on the resort and to be honest left for Cuba with mixed feelings do to the many poor postings related to the Princesa and various visitor’s experiences. I am happy to say however that throughout my stay pretty much all of what I read was discounted by my personal experiences at this resort.

The trip to the Princesa resort was enjoyed on a small private bus where we had a direct trip which was nice as it was 9pm and instead of having to stop at a number of resorts along the way delaying our trip we were dropped directly.

Check in was taken care of within minutes and we were driven to our room. We threw on some new clothes and hit had our first drink and light meal in Cuba at the 24 hour Racquet Club, the buffet also happened to be open so we slid in to check things out..they close shortly after 10pm and even though it was around that time there was still food to sample and the staff was more than willing to seat us and serve wine etc without rushing us.

The beach is beautiful. There are some miniscule shells yes, but they are hardly bothersome you do not need flip flops to walk on the beach. A suggestion is to get down there early, before 10am is suggested, there will always be a beach attendant more than willing to run to get you loungers and get you all set up. They are very friendly and don’t linger for a tip if you don’t happen to have a pesos in your swimsuit however are very appreciative if you do. The beach is very safe, an attendant is on duty at all times during the day, beach bar is generally open until 4pm. We ventured out to enjoy the full moon and breeze a couple of times at night, and felt very safe. You will not find peddlers on this beach you can walk to them should you wish to purchase goods but they will not pester you. You can leave your towels and bags down there throughout the day and wander around, we didn’t once have any items go missing.

The pool is generally busy so get there early for a lounger as well. There is less shade to be found at the pool than at the beach but it’s entertaining if you are in for a little music and fun. If you are looking for rest head for the beach!

Food was bland for the most part in the buffet as other reviews may note. But trust me you will not go hungry! The meat, breads and desserts are delicious. The Ala Carte restaurants were terrific, we especially enjoyed the Japanese restaurant they put on a great show! Service in all restaurants including the buffet was wonderful the staff were all very attentive. Book your Ala cartes asap upon your arrival as they get booked up only late seatings may be available if you delay your choices. We lingered at all of our Ala Carte dinners and were served as much as we could drink and were never once rushed. We got dressed up and found that you can do as you please, fancy or not it makes no difference. Men were in long pants and shirts at every dinner I had.

The room was clean, no bugs whatsoever, everything worked as it should and our maid Marilin did an excellent job. There is actually a tub which I haven’t seen at other all inclusives. There are I believe 10 3 level buildings throughout the property. Can I suggest you ask for the building we stayed in, it’s called Granma. I suggest this because it’s very close to the beach, easy access to the Racquet Club and Port Royal for a quick drink run or a bite to eat and far enough from the main pool to be quiet in the late evenings when the shows are going on.

We did the catamaran trip and had a swim with the dolphins. When taking this tour just be patient at the dolphin pools, the staff keep things very well organized and you will all have an opportunity to swim with them as well as having a private picture taken. You will have the option of purchasing a picture for $10 cuc, it’s a big 8x10, if you do want the picture make sure to be in your hotel lobby at the time given so you can pick them up. This is a party, they serve alcohol (free) throughout the boat ride so don’t go if you are looking for a quiet sail at sea.

We also did the helicopter tour. I’ll never forget it, it was fantastic! You may think this is an expensive tour at $160 cuc however it’s well worth the money in my opinion. Please note that while they do not mention this on the brochure this can be a strenuous trip and is not for those who have any kind of physical impairments. There is a 2 ½ hour hike involved down a mountainside, you’ll want to make sure you have good hiking shoes, not flip flops. You will have an option to journey down the river or walk down the mountain at a certain point….we opted for the river and it was a terrific rush but again can be dangerous for those not in good physical shape. I ended up a little bruised and battered but loved every minute of it. It’s the perfect way to see the entire country, you travel from one side to the other and they will open the door on the side of the helicopter to give you a great view. Bring a morning snack as your first bite to eat will not be until after the hike and make sure to bring water as well! I suggest wearing a bathing suit under pants or shorts, you can bring your camera on the hike our tour guide was happy to catch pictures of us as we dove off of boulders and slid down the river. They take you into Trinidad city the architecture is amazing and our tour guide Roberto made this trip the best excursion I have ever done while on vacation, he was very knowledgeable and spoke near perfect English.

My boyfriend and I both gained a little weight, had a bit too much to drink a couple of times, got a ton of sun and exercise and had some real adventures during our trip. I have no hesitations in suggestions this resort for a stay in Cuba. If you have any questions please send them to igotglint@hotmail.com I will make every attempt to reply as quickly as possible.
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
Fred And Sue 
April 2005
Cannot say enough good about this resort. My wife and I stayed the second week of April and had a fabulous time. Check in only took a couple of minutes, champagne in hand and off to our room with the bell hop in a golf cart. From the time we landed to our room would only be an hour at most. Our room was extremely nice. Clean, stocked bar everyday, two washrooms, all of the amenities you could have at home and no bugs. The resort is layed out beautifully and easy to get around. Grounds are very well kept. The pool was refreshing and the beach was fantastic. Not sure what all the talk is about tough sand. Try a good ole Canadian beach this is heaven in comparison. So what a few ground up sea shells. Suffer on. (OPPS--spilled my Pina Colada) Try that on a Canadian beach. Bars for the most part were all well stocked. If you did not find what you wanted at one they usually had it at another and there were several to frequent. Reason to experiment and carry on. The buffet was fine as were all of the A-La-Cartes. We liked the Japanese not only for the good food but the experience we had in meeting so many wonderful people. We ate at the Hilltop often and had wonderful meals there each and every time. Must say HI to Daymi and Taymi, they were always so helpful. The only trip we took was the Catamaran and enjoyed it thoroughly. We like to snorkel so this was it and the dolphin swim was certainly an experience to remember. Oh and did I mention the lobster and shrimp lunch. To die for. We had lobster on this visit to Cuba four times. My wife and I have traveled all inclusive for the past ten years now and without a doubt the Princesa Del Mar is the best we have visited yet. I am sure there are lots more resorts out there that will compare and we will keep searching them out for as long as we can. However the Princesa certainly won our hearts as did the Cuban people and would recommend this resort to anyone.
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
Wally & Carolyn 
April 2005
Just got back from the Sandals Princessa, and had a fantastic time, from start to finish.

Arrival and Check-in: Smoooth. Arrived at the airport, and were quickly whisked away in a cab directly to the resort. Arrived at the front-desk and were checked in within 5-minutes (with champagne in hand). The resort was about 50% capacity, so they immediately upgraded us to ocean-view. The bell-hop loaded our luggage on to a golf cart and took us directly to our room. On the beach within 2-hours of landing at the airport. Game on.

Rooms: Clean and comfortable. No issues with critters. Equipped with everything you need (Hairdryer, safe, iron, stocked fridge, bottled water, etc.) Kinda thin walls, not that we could hear our neighbours conversations or anything, but we were awoken in the middle of the night with some coaching being given by one of neighbours who seemed to liked it "right there".

Food: Pleasantly surprised. We're not big buffet eaters, but for breakfast it had all the staples: omelets made-to-order, fruit smoothies, yogurt, fruit, breads up-the-whazoo, etc.. On par with any of the buffets at the RIU's and Superclubs we've stayed at. No problem fillin' the belly.

Lunches: We opted to do lunches at the Racquet Club (TIP #1: highly recommend the Hawaiian Burger with double-cheese/pineapple) and down at the Beach Restaurant (great Seafood salads and Garlic Shrimpies). Service was great, and a more relaxed atmosphere compared to the buffet area feeding troughs.

A-la-Cartes: After reading a lot of the negative food reviews, we were both pleasantly surprised. The French and Seafood restaurants were nicely done. The Japanese was a lot of fun. The biggest surprise was the Steakhouse. In our 6-times to Cuba we've never seen a fat cow, so we didn't expect much, but the beef filet and asparagus tips were great. The portions in the Italian were a little small, but the Racquet Club is open 24-hours (I think I mentioned the Hawaiian burger, the perfect cure for the drunk-hungries). The service in all the a-la-carte restaurants was great. TIP #2: even though "the rules" say you can only visit each a-la-carte once during your stay, I believe it's just "a guideline" (shhhhhh....)

Bars: Lots of bars. TIP#3: The main Lobby bar was busy at times in the evening, so we'd just slide over the Cigar or Piano bar for quick service. Fully stocked bars, nice to get real Bailey's on ice after dinner.

Pool: Lots of padded lounges and sun shades. Gotta love the Sandals Floaties. TIP#4: Had to wait a bit for the pool-side waiter to bring drinks to your lounge, but service at the Swim-up Bar was good, and swimming to the bar is a form of exercise. The music was a great mix of typical Cuban "Resort Music" and retro-80's tunes (We thought we were listening to Mix 99.9 at times).

Beach: The beach went for miles in either direction, great for walks. Quite breezy the week we were there. Lots of lounges, and a small bar down on the beach. The only thing that sucks about the beach is the salt water and all that sand :) We managed...

Activity Staff: Did a good job motivating enough people to do stuff, which is a task given that Sandals go-ers are probably the laziest bunch of resort go-ers we've ever seen. The crew even took their Canada vs. Cuba Volleyball loss with grace. That said, the Amazonian activity crew leader scared the hell out of me :)

Facilities: Very well manicured, lots of nice fountains and gazebos and stuff. Very well laid-out, all the facilities pretty centrally located. Excellent fitness center equipment. The brown lagoon seemed a little out of place, some people wondered why it wasn't "blue" water (aka: load it with Copper Sulphate and kill everything)

Tours: Being as lazy as everyone else, we did none. We did however take the bus into Varadero for 1/2-day to shop at the market. TIP #5: The "Double-decker" bus runs a giant loop along the resort strip (stopping in front of each hotel) and down through Varadero and returns on a 1-hour route (5-Pesos pp for a daypass). Unlike the Havana market, the vendors were pretty laid-back, we felt very safe, and the prices were cheapy, cheapy.

Overall: Great Cuban resort for the money, for a change we'll likely do the other Sandals (Hicacos?) in Varadero next time.
Sandals Princesa Del Mar - Varadero
April 2005
My husband and I returned from Cuba 2 weeks ago and had an absolutely amazing time there. The highlight for me was definitely the catamaran trip where you swim with the dolphins, my husband thought the food was the best part. I thought the "Princesa del Mar" was a beautiful place and really we had no complaints except that the hot-tubs were not always that hot. We met so many nice people there, mostly Canadians and many were Maritimers, so there you go! I just loved the beach and I've been to a lot of beaches. I don't know what all the fuss is about the sand. Give it up you people that complain about a micrscopic shell in the sand! The pool was beautiful and so relaxing. I liked the fact that they had some activities you could join in if you wanted too. The nightlife wasn't as wild as I expected with no kids around. We were at the "Captain Morgan" club quite a few times, but it was only really packed once. The entertainers were quite good , although you saw the same band a lot with the same two women singing. The food I thought was really good, we especially liked the Japanese and the French one. The buffet was excellent for a buffet with good omelets and the bacon was to die for!! I didn't like their coffee right away, but I got used to it. I thought the staff was extremely friendly and always tried their best to help. I would go back in a heart beat and think of our Cuba oassis ofter especially when my 3 kids are driving me crazy!!