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Iberostar Varadero
Stephanie & Kevin 

June 2008
# in group: 1st week 34, 2nd week 2

We stayed at Iberostar Varadero in April 2008. Everything was definitely 5 star quality. We got married at the resort our first week with a group of 36 in attendance, and honey-mooned by ourselves the second week. We would recommend this resort to anyone. I couldn't have asked for much more.

Material item tips are greatly appreciated by the Cubans, and they can accept money tips in CUC's (Cuban tourist currency). The food and drinks at this resort were also 5 star. We talked to other tourists staying elsewhere, and heard reports of their resort running out of rum and various types of food. This was never the case at Iberostar Varadero. The beauty of the Spanish architecture is incredible, and the staff were people you wished could become life long friends. They also work so hard for what little they get paid. You will definitely want to be prepared to tip.

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have pertaining to details of Iberostar Varadero or Cuba in general. Please feel free to email me at qwence@hotmail.com. Please put "CUBA REVIEW QUESTION" in the subject line so I don't mistake your email for junk mail.
Iberostar Varadero
London, England
March 2008
We visited Varadero Iberostar resort for 5 nights from February 19th Me my wife and two girls (children) aged 16 and 10 from London, England..

This hotel was booked mainly because it was a 5star Hotel and we did not want to take any risk since we were going only for a few days. We were not at all disappointed and are proud of our decision.

We all loved our stay at Varadero and enjoyed every bit of it. The food was great and ample available round the clock. Drinks were of international standards and staff was extremely courteous.

Rooms were very spacious and had no problem in getting what we needed. All the stories of tipping is compulsory was proved wrong.

Night entertainments daily were something to look forward to each day served with drinks and bar. Kids and us really had a fantastic time. You have to get their by 9.15PM to get our special seats in front.

The only comment is their Mediterranean restaurant is too small we could not get a place during our stay. Their Japanese serves only one type of food and is too heavy. Their Cuban restaurant was not to even their standard of the daily Buffet restaurant. You get three A La Carte entries during a week. Apart from this it was a memorable Holiday and the kids and us look forward to going there again.
Iberostar Varadero
Steve & Karen 
Regina. SK
March 2008
Arrival - We arrived from another resort we stayed at the pervious week via 1958 Pontiac convertable taxi. (fun) Our check in at noon was friendly and efficient as our room was ready for us. We were immediatly carted to our room by again a friendly porter.

Rooms - One word. EXCELLENT. Rooms were spotless, all amenities (coffee, mini bar, towels, and toiletries) were kept up all week. Rooms were nicely decorated and we were fortunate to have a top floor junior suite facing the ocean which provided a beautiful view.

Restaurants - Very good. The buffet was as good as the restaurants the we visited and included just about anything that you could want. From all kinds of seafood to Cuban to our regular Canadian fare. One thing though is that the chefs do not know how to cook meat. Hams,pork and beef were overdone and sliced incorrectly. But that is a minor problem.

Bars - Very good. All drinks were excellent and the bartenders were professional. The lobby bar was a nice place to have a predinner drink with live relaxing music in the background. Classy.

Beach and Pools - When we first arrived the beach was beautiful. The sand was clean and the ocean was clear and blue. We spent most of our sunny days there. All kinds of activities are provided (kayaks,paddle boats,and Hobie Cats). For a small fee we were able to take a Hobie Cat with a very helpful guide and do some snorkleing. Beatiful. Unfortunatley,later in the week, due to bad weather elsewhere, huge waves and high tides virtually destroyed the beach.

Grounds - Beautifully landscaped. Well layed out, well maintained and easy to get around.

Activities - The nightly entertainment in the theatre was good. Each night was different with a good band and lots of color.

Conclusion - We would come back to this resort anytime. Compared to the resort we stayed in the week before, this is definatley a five star resort
Iberostar Varadero
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
November 2007
Arrival - Arrived on Cubana Airlines - uneventful.

Rooms - Not a five star as advertised. Took two hours to get into our rooms due to a malfunctioning door lock. Was in building 15 - the furthest away from the main desk. Had to return for new keys 4 times!

Restaurants - Japanese restaurant was excellent. Cuban was okay. Mediterenean - wouldn't recommend. Buffet - same old thing every day - not five star food. Bad fruit.

Bars - Bars were good with relatively good service.

Beach and Pools - Beach was nice but washed out due to Hurrican Noel in the area. One main pool. Other pools are much to small to advertise as alternatives to the main one.

Grounds - Typical resort grounds. Well maintained. Friendly staff. But, again, not a 5 star.

Conclusion - Have been to much better resorts - for less money and at a better time of year. Again, not a five star
Iberostar Varadero

June 2007

Hola All,

Despite getting sick with the pneumonia for the full two weeks we were in Cuba I made the best of it.
I was so upset because this was our 2nd time back to this resort and was sick the whole time but we plan to return this September for a week to make up for my sick time the last visit.

Our Flight with Air Transat was great but we were late leaving and didn't get to the resort until 5:30 am....ouch.

The resort was still as breath taking as the first time we were there. The landscaping had matured more and it was even more beautiful. We stayed in block 17, the junior suites. They had bumped us to the junior suites for being return guests with the Iberostar. It was really nice and we had an amazing view from our room. Our maid was really nice and left fresh flowers and towel art everyday.

Well as for the staff that is self explanatory. That is the reason we choose Iberostar mostly. From the gardener Ricardo to the pool staff Charlie and of coarse my favorite, the star friends: Susel, Alex ,Lee, Fidel,Alaine,Dayron and all the rest. They are all like family to us.

We traveled with my Sister in law and her husband and we took them into Havana where we rented a car and had someone drive us there. It was excellent. I would highly recommend taking a car then the bus tour. Can't really do and see as much as a personal driver would do.

We had taken the scooters on many occasions and that was always fun. Just watch out for pot holes and traffic. If the resort doesn't have any scooters then up the street in front of Sandals there is a hut there that rents scooters. The same guy runs both locations so it is ok to rent there.

The food was excellent, lots to choose from. There is something for everyone. My favorite a la cart is still the Japanese. It may be a little salty so drink lots of Aqua!!lol

The evening shows are fun, the acrobatic show was out of this world. If you get a chance to see it while you are there you won't be disappointed. After the shows we took in the disco which I was unable to enjoy most nights :( It was pretty crowded almost every night. We went to Mambo club one night but it wasn't as good as it has been in previous years. Still charge $10 to get in but some other people only had to pay $8. That is Cuba for you. Well I guess I can let you in on how the medical is in Cuba if anyone was ever wondering. I made many, many trips to the International Clinic which is located close to the market and the Palm Real Hotel. All I can say is that the nurses and doctors especially Dr Juan Carlos is AMAZING!!! They speak pretty good English and I understood everything he told me. They are extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The facilities weren't the greatest but it was very clean which was a big relief to see.

I even tipped my doctor before I left to go back to Canada after he gave me the clearance to fly. Don't expect to get your money back for your medical expenses too quick. We are still waiting. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE MEDICAL INSURANCE BEFORE YOU TRAVEL!! And make sure you get trip cancellation/Interruption insurance. Where I had to go back and forth to the Clinic for 3 days for my IV treatments I put in for trip Interruption. I am still waiting to hear if I will get something back for that. I am hoping I will since we paid so much for our trip and it was ruined because I got sick. On a more happier note , you cannot go wrong with the Iberostar Varadero. I would HIGHLY recommend this resort to anyone and you can tell what we think of it as we are returning for the 3rd time in Sept.

If anyone has any questions please feel free to contact me.

And as I had read in a previous NEGATIVE review please don't let that bother you. Some people no matter how hard you try you cannot please them. The food is great, the resort is perfect and the weather and beach are excellent.

Take care and Happy traveling to everyone!! :)
Iberostar Varadero

June 2007
Here is my review on Iberostar Varadero, I am NOT exadurating at all, everything that I have said is 100% accurate, trust me! If you go to Melia Varadero or Sol Palmeras that are 4 star and less expensive and much better than Iberostar Varadero and compare it to Iberostar Varadero 5 star hotel more expensive then you will know what I mean, don't say I didn't warn you! I am doing this voluntary on my own; I saw this hotel was #1 on tripadvisor.com out of all 208 hotels in Cuba so that's why I decided to go to it!

Don't say I did not warn you! This is real.

The hotel rooms are far from the main building where they have all the restaurants, lobby, reception, bars and everything else.

It is very very annoying to not have everything like guest rooms, restaurants, and reception in the same building, imagine if it was raining how annoying it is to walk all these big distances and in Cuba Varadero it does rain a lot! Out of 7 days I was there, 4 days was raining. And there are no elevators in this hotel; you have to go up and down the stairs!

Melia Varadero is one building that contains everything and it has 2 or more elevators.

Food is not good in Iberostar Varadero; I had to always go out to buy food from restaurants in Varadero even though I had paid for all inclusive! :( I found pizza nova in Plaza Las Americas and it was ok, don't eat their pasta's tried it, had no taste! Only pizza's, I found a Chinese restaurant in downtown Varadero called Lai Lai which was amazing! Their food is great, I had canton fried rice which was the best, tried the fried shrimps which was ok and also tried chicken and pork sweet and sour sauce which was ok too and their prices were reasonable! About 4 CUC a meal.

In Iberostar Varadero there is no 24hrs. Restaurant! The restaurant that's open late starts from 11pm to 4am, and they are always late they always start at 11:40pm instead of 11:00pm. And they don't have a variety of food, only 2 dishes to choose from.

Unlike Melia Varadero which has a 24hr. restaurant, and a menu with a lot of choices to choose from, this hotel isn't like that.

Also, their food for lunch and dinner is mostly Cuban food and I, my friends and a lot of other people did not like it.

They have a restaurant called El Bohio, their buffet food is uncovered and birds always comes and eat from it, then a minute later you'll see a tourist that comes and eats from the same food! That didn't realize what just happened :)

This hotel is rated 5 stars, it should not be rated more than 3.0 stars.

Melia Varadero and Sol Palmeras are much better than this, these two hotels are rated 4 star, guest rooms are all located within all the same building, main buffet restaurant is downstairs, their food in all restaurants are great and a huge variety! Their main buffet restaurant is 3 times bigger and 3 times more variety food than the buffet restaurant called Ambrosia located in Iberostar Varadero.

I heard from a few people that Barcelo Solymar is a good hotel but I haven't tried it yet, I also heard to stay away from Sol Sorinas, I think that on my next trip to Varadero I will choose to stay at Melia Varadero or Sol Palmeras.

One day I was in the room watching TV and all of the sudden one of the room service people knocked on the door and a second later right after she opened the door and walked in on me! While I was walking towards the door, there is no privacy at all there.
Iberostar Varadero
Shawn and Jenn 
Nova Scotia
May 2007
april 20 to 27 arrived in the morning at Iberostar varadero check in was quick ,rooms wernt ready but it was only around 11 so didnt think they would be ready so all had swim suits carry on so went and got change to go for a swim and wait for rooms.

Rooms we great had s suit room 1744 and a room 1622 both with great views of the ocean rooms had round plugs 220 volts except for thr bath room which had both round and flat plugs which switched from 220 to 110 which will have a pic online rooms had fridge with water beer and pop in them we asked our maid for extra water and always got lots .

resort was great nice layout everything fairly close always seeing gardeners around dong work pool bar was great Charlie was the best always having a cold drink coming for us and we didnt even have to move I think he was watching our glasses because we just laying there and a refill would appear was great ,rossio not sure about the spelling was enteriner and she always stopped to talk and thats what was nice about this resort the people who worked there seem to love to take the time to talk to people.

beach was nice was a bit windy but still no sand blowing so not to windy a bit bigger waves but great to play in ,could go for long walks down the beach .did manage to get on some of the other resorts even though they didnt want you to .ther walk ways from the resort to the beach were very hot if you didnt have sandls on .

food was great as well at this resort no problems at all with food and they even have room service which was nice .

activities were a lot of fun alway had something to do if you wanted to but if not you could just watch.

shows we good as well

all in all this resort was on of the best weve been to so far and will be going back to this resort . 6 year old daughter loved it and the kids club as well .

any questions email dayteksk@hotmail.com
pics at http://community.webshots.com/user/dayteksk
Iberostar Varadero

April 2007
The four of us (two adults and two twelve-year-old girls) went to Iberostar Varadero in April 2007. I’ve been to Cuba three times and my guy has been four times. We attended when the resort was at full capacity. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this resort, especially to families. The staff, food, layout and size were extremely good. Our biggest disappointment was with the main pool, which we felt was too small for the volume of guests. We also would have enjoyed a better selection of premium liquor.

Flight to Varadero: We booked an Air Canada Vacations package through itravel2000. The flight left and arrived on time, despite the beginnings of an ice storm in Halifax. We paid extra for pre-assigned seats, which we got on the outbound trip but for some reason didn’t get on the return trip. This assured us two aisle seats and since my partner is 6’3”, that is a necessity. Unfortunately, the short guy directly in front of him had a predilection for keeping his seat reclined to the maximum position (and then kept rolling his eyes because he kept getting kneed in the back. I guess he enjoyed lying on the lap of a guy he’d never met…wish I’d taken a picture!) Fortunately, the flight was on time and the movie was good. We had a hot breakfast (forgettable). We’ve flown Air Transat and Sunquest before and Air Canada Vacations was similar in terms of amenities but had better flight times. Strangely, the on-board personnel came through the cabin before we landed and sprayed some kind of “non-toxic insecticide”, which is apparently a new requirement by the Cuban government. You also have to fill out another card now before entering the country, in addition to the usual tourist visa. Customs: No problems entering or leaving either Cuba or Canada. We are a stepfamily and we had our girls (both 12) with us. The girls were able to come to the window with their natural parent and they took our digital pictures (I think that’s new) and checked our papers. If both natural parents are not traveling with the child, be sure to remember your notarized permission letter from the other parent (or else the official documents to prove that you have sole custody). I have not encountered a problem myself but my partner was questioned closely a couple of years ago when he was traveling with his daughter and her mother was not present.
Transfer to Resort: The Air Canada Vacations representative was waiting right outside the airport doors, as was the beer guy. We weren’t approached by any “porters” this trip so we quickly made our way over to the motor coach and boarded the bus, which was clean and air-conditioned. We didn’t have to wait too long to load and there were three or four resorts to stop at along the way to let off other tourists. The Air Canada rep talked along the way and explained some of the sights we were passing. (I have finally remembered to keep a few pesos for next trip to tip the driver and buy the beer.)

Check-in: I was one of the first to check in and it was very quick. We had requested rooms next door to each other on the top floor but instead ended up with adjoining rooms on the bottom floor…we asked to switch for two rooms next door to each other on an upper floor and were quickly accommodated with Room 1122 (two double beds) and 1123 (king). Our wristbands were put on at check-in. The adults had blue wristbands, while the girls had red ones. I noticed that the smallest children had white ones…I am not sure whether this had to do with alcohol control, or what.

Rooms: Our room was a standard resort-style room. There was a large palm tree right in front of our balcony that gave privacy. There was a towel rack on the balcony, which was useful. There was no bureau for clothes, but there were several shelves in the closet as well as a safe, an iron and ironing board,some extra blankets and pillows and a couple of large umbrellas. There was also a suitcase rack near the closet. Across from the bed there is a large armoire that houses the television and bar fridge. There is a coffee maker on the desk (be careful—ours leaked profusely). There is no alarm clock or radio, so you may wish to bring at least a travel alarm. There is a ceiling fan as well as an AC system and both worked very well. The AC turns off when the patio door is open. The bathroom was very spacious and the shower was very nice, although the water pressure wasn’t overly strong. Beware of the faucet handle for the shower, though…it is a bar-style handle that is very easy to bump into while showering and this can cause a dramatic change in temperature (ow!) There is a liquid soap and shampoo dispenser in the shower but if you’re at all fussy about such things, it’s safest to bring your own supply. The bathroom also has a bathtub, which I didn’t use, and a large vanity with a sink, mirror and magnifying mirror. The hairdryer was the same tube-style design that you see in most resorts and was underpowered. There is a wall plug for shavers that you can switch between 120V and 230V and this can be used for charging your iPod, I’ve discovered. There is a toilet and bidet in a separate alcove (no door). Our room was clean when we arrived, but not spotless. For example, I found a cotton swab under the toiletries basket in the bathroom, which must not have been moved when the housekeeper cleaned. Throughout the week, we noticed that the middle of the bathroom appeared to have been swept and possibly mopped on a couple of occasions, but there was still some hair and dust along the baseboards. However, the major cleaning issues were well-covered and glasses were spotless, toilet cleaned, etc.

We found that the bed cover and throw pillows on the bed were a bit musty-smelling but the sheets themselves were very clean and the bed was nicely made up. The bed was also very firm, which I like. Our room was right next to the ice machine which I thought might cause a distraction but which we actually never heard. However, the doors to the rooms are all on very strong springs and they slam shut. Even if you hold the door handle while trying to close it softly, it makes quite a racket. So, the sound of slamming doors was occasionally heard although I can’t say it ever created a big distraction for us…I expect that would be different if you happened to be stuck on a floor with, say, a large wedding party with everyone running between rooms. You really couldn’t hear anything through the walls between the rooms.

We saw tiny ants in the bathroom and near the bed a couple of times. We never saw any larger insects in the room itself.

Beach: Varadero Beach is my favourite beach anywhere. However, we’re more into walking along the beach and body surfing than into lying on the beach. The water is an unbelievable shade of turquoise and the sand is soft and white. When we were there, there were no jellyfish nor did we see any fish. I ended up getting a few bites on my legs and arms but I’m not sure if they were sand flea bites or ant bites.

The red flag was up for a couple of days during our stay but we still managed to get out on the Hobie Cat twice. The second time was right before a rain storm (they later put the red flag up) so it was a lot rougher, and more fun. The watersport guy took it easy since we had the two girls with us. Weather: We had quite good weather, although we were surprised at the humidity compared to this time last year. The temperature ranged between 28-32 Celsius. A couple of people who worked at the resort said they thought the rainy season might be starting early. Apparently they had a couple of thunderstorms the week before we arrived and there was another on the third night of our stay but all was well by morning. We had a brief rain shower the day before we left but it subsided to a bright, sunny sky in the afternoon.

Food: We were very pleased with the food at IBV. There was a good selection and the buffet items were rotated frequently. As usual in Cuba, the ham and pork was outstanding, as was the bread and pizza. Oddly enough, I wasn’t impressed with the coffee at the buffet, which has never happened to me in Cuba.

Japanese Restaurant: Fantastic! Everything was delicious, and the teppanyaki chef’s performance was entertaining. Note: the sushi offered is all cooked. I was a little disappointed but I realize it’s the safe decision on the resort’s part. The miso soup was more like beef consommé…but still tasty. We would have happily gone back to this restaurant a couple more times if we were able but with the resort being full, it was very difficult to finagle an extra night.

Mediterranean Restaurant: This was the least impressive of the three a la carte restaurants. The service was also quite distracted on the night we were there. They did have a shrimp appetizer on the buffet that was pretty good, and the lobster bisque was tasty. The cheesecake was quite good, too.

Cuban Restaurant: We weren’t expecting much from the Cuban restaurant, but it turned out to have the best soup (sopa ajiaco) in the resort. We all had the grouper and it was excellent. During the day, the Cuban restaurant doubles as the snack bar, but we didn’t use it, nor did we try the beach grill.

Bars: Overall, we preferred the selection of liquor at the lobby bar but it paled in comparison to the selection at Sandals when we were there in 2004. However, I did pick up a fondness for mojitos made by Emma. The pool bar was quite good and the service was quick and pleasant. My partner ordered a martini at both the Cuban restaurant and the lobby bar and neither one was very good. Nothing a bit of training wouldn’t cure but a little surprising.

Staff: The staff was extremely helpful and pleasant. One of the reasons we keep returning to Cuba is the people.

Tipping: We tipped at most meals and often for drinks, and we also left something for the housekeeper every day. However, this was completely voluntary on our part and did not seem to make any difference whatsoever in the attentiveness of the staff.

Internet: There is a glassed-in room near the lobby that has four computers for internet access. The internet cards can be purchased at the Check-Out desk and they cost 10 CUC for one hour. It’s easier to get a computer at IBV than at any other resort I’ve visited, and the connection speed was relatively good. The internet cards have an ID number and password that you have to input when you sign on—please beware that sometimes you have to enter the ID number in the “password” box and vice-versa…there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to this so if the codes don’t work the first time, reverse the order and try again.

Grounds: The grounds are very nice, although both Paradisus and Sandals on either side of IBV are much more lush and established, particularly Paradisus. The grounds are beautiful without much “wow” factor (yet). As the plants become more established with time, I’m sure they will fill in and be more impressive. We were very pleased with the layout and design of the resort…it was a very compact and user-friendly layout. I decided that if I ever win the lottery I’d love to have an open-air sunroom like they have near the pool. We saw several frogs and small lizards on the grounds. The groundskeepers are very busy and pleasant and they will often stop and give roses to the ladies or grass “animals” to the kids.

Pools: There are three pools (plus a kiddie pool at the Mini-Club). The main pool is pretty, but not very deep or large. The loungers were three or four rows deep in places. We quickly staked out a favourite place by the spa pool, which is smaller and has 3 wooden shelters with approximately a dozen chairs around. There is also an activity pool where you can play basketball, water polo, etc. The pools were rather chilly compared to the ocean but since we mostly use them to cool off after sitting in the sun, it didn’t put us off. There is an unheated Jacuzzi in the middle of the main pool and a lukewarm Jacuzzi in the spa building (no charge).

Transfer to Airport: Check-out was quick and simple. We put our luggage at the pick-up/drop-off at the lobby entrance. Our bus came a bit late, but since we were transferring at 7:30 a.m. for a 10:50 a.m. flight, we were just as glad to not have to sit in the airport.

Flight: For some reason we did not get the pre-assigned seats I’d requested but we were both placed in the emergency exit row at the window, which has no seat in front of it so the legroom was luxurious, for once! Our return flight was very smooth and we had a nondescript hot chicken meal.

Misc.: People do reserve loungers by the pool and the beach. The good spots on the beach seem to fill up earlier than the good spots by the pool. There were craftspeople at the resort selling a variety of items (leather goods, beadwork, silver jewellery, carvings, etc.) While they don’t usually barter as much as at the market in Havana, you can usually get a deal if you’re buying a couple of pieces instead of just one.

My daughter and I did the Colonial Havana trip with Gaviota Tours (through Air Canada Vacations) and it was excellent. This was the second time I’ve taken that tour and it was somewhat different this time, which was good. The market in Havana has a wider selection and better deals than the market in Varadero, although there is less pressure and the vendors are quite friendly in Varadero.
Iberostar Varadero

April 2007
Hi, a group of 10 stayed at the Iberostar Varadaro on April 13-20.

This was my 3rd trip to Cuba and I love it more each time I visit.

The resort was very nice, clean, beautiful grounds and plants, flowers. I love. I did not see one mosquito, they do spray at night.

There was no Crystal beer at the mail lobby bar??? What is that about?? A few issues with bar service, if you are the first one at the bar you are not always served first?? Drinks were good, strawberry daiquiris at the Pool Bar are excellent, Mitias are also great….very strong. The champagne at the lobby bar is so good!!!!!!!!!

The staff were very good, the front desk was very efficient, the best I have seen in Cuba. The rooms were big and very clean, bathroom very nice with bath separate from shower, our maid was great but did not replenish our bar as she should have. She also did not replace my coffee 2 days and did not clean the table from the day before, still had crumbs on it. There is room service and the pizza from room service is excellent, much better than the buffet. Also the chicken from room service is yummy!! Another thing this resort should have is bottle water available at all the bars.

The entertainment was excellent, never boring. Beach of course was beautiful and water amazing. Beach barbecue with hot dogs and hamburgers was great!! Pool was very nice, a bit cool but very refreshing. Pool bar great! Weddings are very popular, there was 11 weddings the week we were there.

Japanese restaurant was very nice, Cuban restaurant was also excellent, was not impressed with the Mediterranean. We had reservations for 9:00pm and felt like we were being rushed the whole time. When we ordered our main course, she also asked us to order our desert at the same time ????

Buffet was very good, but a little repetitisious. The bananas are delicious. Watch your juice glasses at breakfast, they are not cleaned well, most have lipstick stains on them!!

Bottom line this is an excellent resort with only a few small issues, not enough to stop me from returning or recommending it to be an amazing place to spend a week in beautiful Cuba. I love this country more every time I return. The people are what make it so warm and relaxing. I never feel nervous in this country. The shopping in Varadaro is excellent and the Jeep Tour we took was also excellent. We found that the best prices for stuff is at the airport when you are leaving, better prices than the markets.

Looking forward to my next trip to Cuba, I would recommend this resort but I would like to visit another part of the island, have been to Varadaro twice and Holguin. Next time I would like to try another area. The thing I like about Cuba is that is does not change, it is like another world, back in time, but so relaxed and they seem to not have the day to day stresses that we have.

Graciais to all in Cuba!!!!!!!! I look forward to my next visit and recommend this resort to anyone as an excellent place to stay in Varadaro and money very well spent!!
Iberostar Varadero
freezing in Ontario 

March 2007
We stayed at the Iberostar Varadero from March 12-19. I had read many reviews before the trip and had high expectations of this resort. We had travelled to Cuba previously, as well as to Cancun and the Mayan Riviera, and found this resort to be comparable to the others, but not superior to them.

We were in Building 17. The view was beautiful, and the room spacious. I was happy to find a coffee maker in the room, which I was not expecting. The maid was meticulous and left towel/bedding “sculptures” as well as a short note daily. My only ‘complaint’ about the room was the noise. It was easy to hear doors slamming, toilets flushing, and even people talking and walking overhead. I would suggest you try to get a room on the top floor of any of the buildings. Sleeping was a struggle due to the noise.

The grounds are beautiful, and more lush than many of the pictures you find online (it has been open a few years now). The layout of the resort is quite good, with everything close at hand and easy to find.

The animation team members (Star Friends) are lively and friendly, and quite talented. The evening shows were worth watching. My son enjoyed the kids club and evening mini-disco.

Service on the beach, pool side, and at the bars was good. We did tip, but it made no difference in the quality of service we received – we tipped because the staff work very hard and deserve a tip! The buffet restaurant selection was plentiful – you could always find something good that you liked and the service was great. We tried all 3 a la cartes, our favourite being the Japanese. The food was fresh and hot, and the show-cooking was a lot of fun for all. Our least favourite was probably the Cuban restaurant, where the menu selection is limited. Not finding any lobster at any of the restaurants or buffet, we elected to purchase whole lobsters for $30 CUC each. These were cooked and served at the Mediterranean restaurant. They were terribly overcooked (grilled), chewy and not worth $30. The rest of the food was good, however, with the appetizers served ‘buffet-style’ so choosing an appetizer was easy.

The beach was beautiful with plenty of chairs available, even with the resort full to capacity. The pool was very cool - good for a quick dip, but not to linger. It was difficult many days to find lounge chairs at poolside, as we don’t play the “towel game” where people reserve their seats at the pool and beach long before they plan to use them… grrr…. (Note: The information package you receive upon check-in states that the ‘reserving’ of loungers is not encouraged and management has the right to remove your items from the chairs if left unattended. They did not do this, but maybe they should). There were often vendors on the beach and at poolside, but were at no time assertive or pushy and the merchandise was beautifully crafted.

In summary, this is a beautiful resort and the staff did a fantastic job keeping up with a large number of guests. I do not regret going to this resort, but would not likely return. We like the charm of the Holguin area of Cuba over the more commercialized feel of the Varadero area – and there are a lot of other great resorts to visit.
Iberostar Varadero
NB, Canada
March 2007
Just returned from a great week at the Iberostar Varadero with Air Canada Vacations. The flights were on time and reasonably comfortable. Breakfast was served on the flight to Varadero and lunch on return. The weather was not as warm and sunny as we had hoped for but it was much better than the -25 temps here in NB. We had only one full day and a couple of afternoons of sunshine. It was cloudy but fairly warm (not hot) for the most part. I don't know what the temperature was but one day I wore a long-sleeved cotton sweater all day. I also wore a sweater, jacket or wrap every evening. It rained one night and we had a few short showers throughout the week.

Check-in on Sunday afternoon was very quick and efficient and we were given our suite in Building #17. This area is very quiet area and, although the resort was full, there was always a quiet spot to be found. We were in Room 1727 on the second floor and had a pretty nice ocean view. We tried to get the third floor but there wasn't anything available. We were very pleased with our suite. It was spacious and very clean. Our maid was very efficient and left us daily notes and lots of towel art with flowers. The bathrooms are very large and there is a hair dryer which worked fine. There are shower gel and shampoo dispensers in the shower (didn't try them so cannot comment on the quality). There is also a basket of toiletries containing shampoo, lotion, shower cap, shoe shine sponge, a sewing kit, tissues etc. The closet is spacious with lots of hangers and robes were provided. Umbrellas were also provided but, thankfully, we didn't need them. The safe is in the closet and there is no additional charge for use. The mini bar fridge is stocked every second day but we just asked the maid for extra water when we needed it and it was never a problem. Coffee machines and condiments are provided as well. AC worked well and we had no problems with the plumbing; always plenty of hot water with decent pressure.

The pools and grounds are very well maintained. The resort is a nice size and laid out very well. Everything is easily accessible. It was difficult to get a chair around the main pool but the sports pool and spa pool were usually empty.Yes, people do reserve their chairs early in the morning with towels or other belongings and many seem to be left unused for most of the day. Very frustrating! We spent most days at the beach and we played the towel game there. You can't beat 'em so you might as well join 'em! There were always plenty of chairs but palapas were taken early. There was often bar service on the beach which was a nice touch. The water at the beach was much warmer than the pool. You can walk east for about 10-15 minutes and then there is a rocky outlet where you need shoes to pass. You can continue on for at least another half hour and see some new resorts being built. You can walk west for about 45 minutes before you come to a rocky area where, again, you need shoes to pass. You can continue walking but I'm not sure how far.

The buffet restaurant is very nice and there is something there for everyone. I have to agree with other reviewers though, the food was not as hot as it should have been. It's really a shame because they have some lovely pasta dishes but each and every time I tried them, they were only luke-warm. Bad timing I guess. They did have some pretty good salad fixings every night and there were many nice cheeses to try. There were different fish and meats with potatoes, veggies, anything you can think of. The servers are excellent and you don't have to wait long for water, wine, coffee or for your dirty dishes to be removed. There are two omelet stations, breads, cereals, juices, smoothies, meats, cheeses, waffles, french toast, even hot dogs and french fries for breakfast. The service we received at the specialty restaurants was very good. Our favorite was the Japanese but the Mediterranean and Cuban were both good. The beach grill makes excellent hot dogs and hamburgers but, if you need relish, bring it with you as there is none available. We often picked up our burger or hot dog and went to the snack bar where they had pickles and onions available. The snack bar also has french fries, rice & pasta dishes (luke warm though), pizza, a salad bar, an ice-cream bar all buffet style. They also have self serve drink dispensers for water, juice, soft drinks, tea and coffee. You can also have a late breakfast at the snack bar but I cannot comment as we ate early at the main buffet.

The lobby bar is very nice with a wide variety of drinks to choose from. The service is very good and there is live music there most evenings before dinner (6:30 or 7ish). It was full every night we were there but we managed to get a table after a few minutes of waiting. The evening shows were pretty typical except for the acrobatic show, it was exceptional. There is plenty of seating and it was almost full every evening. The Star Friends animation team do a wonderful job and they have so much energy. It seems they work from morning till midnight. We didn't make it to the disco so I cannot comment. In fact, we didn't hear anyone speak about it all week.

We didn't use any of the watersports equipment as it was quite windy and everything was already booked on the nicer days. There are a couple of billiard tables, an internet room and a few shops. The gym was better than most we have seen at other resorts, but it was only open from 9 - 6. In my opinion, they should open earlier in the morning for the early birds. There are two treadmills, a climber, a bike, a weight station, free weights and balls. The spa is OK and they have saunas and two large jacuzzi pools which are included at no extra charge. It appeared that most people were not aware of this as there were not many people using them when we visited. Prices for massages and esthetic services were quite reasonable.

We had visited Varadero a few years ago and did the Havana tour then. It is a definite must do! This time around we just went into Varadero to the markets and Josone Park for a great pina coloda. The double decker bus service was sporadic and often they were full and would not stop. We did try it one day but found it very frustrating so we used a taxi to return.

The resort is very family-oriented. There were many children while we were there. They were well behaved for the most part but more visable than at other resorts we have visited in the past. I would recommend this resort more for families than couples and I would not rate it a 5*, it's a 4 or 4 1/2 * at best.
Iberostar Varadero
Phil & Heather 
Winnipeg Canada
March 2007
Vacation Photos

In 2005 we stayed at Brisas Guardalavaca which is rated at a 3 ½ to 4 stars so we did have some expectations as Iberostar Varadero is rated as a 5 star resort.

On this visit we were 3 retired couples; from Winnipeg, Calgary and Manchester UK. Our British friends arrived 3 days before us and met us with a gin & tonic. A very civilized beginning to what was to be an enjoyable two weeks.

Arrival: Check in was easy and quick. We had emailed our request for building 17 in November and while we were on the ground floor and did not have an ocean view that was not a problem, in fact we enjoyed not having to climb stairs. The grounds very well maintained and the gardeners often gave the ladies flowers for their hair or just to carry.

Pool: The pool was the largest I have ever seen and wasn’t ever crowded, not surprising as it not heated and is about as warm as Lake of the Woods; in other words the ocean is warmer! We love the beach while some of our friends spent more time beside the pool. There are plenty of loungers but of course the choice locations are taken early. Good bar at the pool and if it’s too busy then the Cuban restaurant bar is close. Several times servers took our orders and brought our drinks to our beach chairs. How decadent!

Beach: Great beach. Much better than Guardalavaca although Brisas’ has snorkelling at the breakwater. The Varadero beach is very soft and white, very similar to Manitoba’s Grand Beach.

Food: The buffet was excellent with a variety of foods to satisfy most guests. There were daily features and the roast beef, roast turkey; beef tenderloin, lobster and giant prawns were excellent. I personally ate a variety of fish every day as well. Desserts were also varied and excellent, and of course the Cubans know how to make ice cream! We did note however that sometimes pork and chicken were a little underdone. Iberostar Varadero features three theme restaurants; Japanese, Mediterranean and Cuban. We found the Japanese restaurant with its combination of good food and entertaining chefs to be the best although we had excellent dinners at the others as well. We did not try the beach grill.

Entertainment: The stage area, complete with bar, featured different shows every night. While the sound system was fine for music and singing, the announcer was almost unintelligible in four languages. We spoke with others and a consensus was that there was less Cuban music and dancing and more American influenced entertainment. Those of us who were in Brisas Guardalavaca in 2005 remember their entertainment was better.

We did not try the disco. Occasionally the buffet restaurant featured musicians and they were always good. For our group of six, the best place was the Los Arcos bar adjacent to the main lobby. It featured attractive surroundings, excellent bartenders and servers, and occasionally there was entertainment.

The Staff: The entire staff was excellent; from the maids (and their clever towel artwork), to the wait staff, the bartenders, in short everyone!

Trips & Tips: We took two tours. The first was quite extensive as we visited and rode a steam train, went to a sugar cane plantation, visited a small Bay of Pigs museum, visited an alligator farm, and had a boat ride down a river to Cuba’s largest lake to visit a representative, early Cuban village. We did arrange for a private tour to Havana. The price was less than the bus tour and we went directly to Havana without stopping at other resorts and bus stops along the way. Our guide was excellent and our driver stayed with us the all the time. It was a great way to see Havana. We did have to pay for our own meal. We chose this method as we left an hour later and arrived back an hour earlier. We had our own agenda and managed to see what we wanted. We would highly recommend a tour to Havana; it is a unique city and so different than anywhere in Canada.

We took the bus into the town of Veradero twice. We had to wait an hour to get money on our Visa card. It is best to exchange all your Canadian dollars at the airport when you arrive. They offer the best rate and the hotel exchange rate is higher. Any transactions on Visa are charged an extra 11%!

Veradero is very nice little town with shops and restaurants. The market is better than Havana as it is not as busy and offers the same items. After much shopping, we found the best place to buy cigars and rum was at the 2nd level duty free at the airport after going through security. The selection was better there than anywhere else and the prices were the equal of Havana.

We did tip, not every day and not every place, but we noticed that all tips were shared. We also brought small gifts; for example, gloves and bars of soap for the gardeners. We also did our best to speak our limited Spanish every day and it was always well received.

Conclusion: The grounds, facilities and pools are always kept extremely clean and small problems are quickly fixed. Iberostar Varadero is worthy of its five star rating and we would unhesitatingly recommend this resort. But as usual, the best part of visiting Cuba is meeting its citizens.

Additional information and pictures of our recent trip to Cuba can be seen at our Cuba website: http://www.winnipegacc.org/cuba/cuba.html.
Iberostar Varadero
Vancouver, Canada
February 2007
It was our first vacation to Cuba for my wife and I, we are in our mid to late 30's.

I decided to start out the review with our findings to typical questions that we searched for prior to leaving for the trip regarding Cuba.

Before you leave -
Go to dollar shop or Walmart or Daiso etc. and spend about $100 to bring below items:
Tooth paste/brushes
nail polishes
lip sticks
school supplies (pencil/pens/crayons/notebooks etc)
other every day items that we regularly use as granted.
You can give them instead of or with money as tips. For the school supply/stationary, drop in at a local elementary school and give (if Varadero, there is one on 47th just south of 1st Ave.) It is very rewarding and priceless to see the bright smiles on the kids.
At the resort, give them along with about CUC5 to your maid on the first day along with a message (same maid for the week), it sets the standard for the rest of the trip, extra towels and bottled water etc.
Also give them to gardeners and clean up crew, kitchen staff, and reception desk clerks who usually do not get tips like the bartenders and waiters. (don't forget to give them out at the early days of your stay as it will help set the standard of service and they will appreciate and remember you)

Money -
One of the questions was how much cash to bring and where and when to exchange them, since credit cards are useless and if they take them, will add 11.5% service charge. So I have below recommendations: (Cuban currency for the tourists is called Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) not to be mistaken with the local peso, which is about 1:24.
Best exchange rates at the Air port, the resorts/hotels are convenient for exchanging but were about 5% worse. Banks in City has same rates as air port but had a big line up. So the best place to exchange your money is when you arrive at the airport, while waiting for the luggage, go to the exchange counter there (on the left side of the luggage carousel).
For 1 week vacation for 2 adults, 2 Excursion tours, I recommend as follows
: CUC300 - full day excursion tours (about CUC70 per person)
CUC40 - tips
CUC50 - gifts to bring back (various local hand crafted arts etc)
CUC40 - 4bottles x Ron
CUC100 - box of cigar
CUC 50 - Departure tax (CUC25 per person)
About CUC550 would suffice (we ended up spending CUC800 though but we did 4 excursion tours and bought a lot of things to bring back).
Bottom line - exchange for about CPC500 at the air port with 40 in CUC1 coins for tips. For additional, use Hotel day by bay.
(CAD$1.31 – 1.35 = CUC1 when we were there)

Iberostar Varadero (IV) Resort -

Located in between Paradisus Varadero and Sandals Royal Hicacos at the eastern side of the peninsula.
One of the most beautiful grounds in Varadero. We visited many other resorts as the tour bus went to pick up other guests, with the open lobby concept, IV was most elegant and beautiful. Also one of the newest on the peninsula.

Room - we stayed at the standard room, very clean (good size about 400sqr ft with marble washroom with separate shower unit) all with balcony, 2nd floor facing north on building 14 (fartherest away from the main building, but it was quiet). Best ones seem to be building 17 and 20 facing north for ocean view. But they are all fine. There is also a built in voltage converter and a hair dryer in washroom so no need to bring them. We did find some small ants in the room and they sometime bite...it bothered my wife but it didn't for me.

Water - we were concerned about what we can eat and drink since we heard about the contaminated water. DO NOT worry about water at all at IV resort, apparently they have a central water filtration system at IV and all water from shower, taps, ice cube, kitchen, all in the Resort is good to drink. So we went nuts with the cut fruits and salads and all food served. The maid will provide you with 1x1.5L and 2x360ml bottled spring water and replaced every 2 days (our maid supplied us with the triple the volume replaced every day...gifts and tip at the first day paid off!)

Food - You hear a lot that food at Cuban resorts' buffets and restaurants are bland and terrible....we were a bit worried about this prior to our trip as we are picky with the quality of food (we dine out at fine restaurants (in Vancouver) for Italian, French, Japanese, Pacific NW, etc.etc. twice every week $200 per outing)
To our surprise we found the buffet at IV to be quite decent. Some items were not kept hot, but there were enough of several made on the spot items that were hot. On your fist couple of days, plan your week and book a la carte restaurants at the guest relation desk. (best time are 7 to 8pm so the dinner ends just before the show, and they go quickly).
There are 3, Cuban, Mediterranean, Japanese teppan yaki.
They are all OK. One advice is not to eat sushi (served as appetizer at the Japanese, I got sick that night from it. It takes a lot of care in carrying raw fish for sashimi or sushi and these resort hotels are questionable).

Pool - Good layout and clean. Plenty of waiters to serve you and no need to secure the chairs early in the morning like some other resorts as there are plenty to go around for everyone. A good swim up bar.

Beach - clean and white like walking on baking flour, one negative is that there is not much depth to the size of the beach, only about 25 - 30m, but not a big deal.
There are also a plenty of chairs for everyone.

Entertainment - Plenty of animation staff (great people) to lure you to various games, competitions and activities played throughout the day. The winners get diploma that are presented at the theater just before each night's show.
IV puts on different show every day (theater seats about 600 people), from 9:30pm to 10:30pm and they are all entertaining, and good to watch.

Varadero city –
Best bet is to take a half day and use the double decker bus. You have to walk 300m from the resort to the bus stop, they are CUC5/person and comes every half an hour. They are easiest and cheapest and will take about 30 min to downtown. Taxi will cost you CUC15 each way. If you are a bit more adventurous or have motorcycle driving experience, you can rent a scooter/moped for CUC25/24hours or CUC15/3hours at the hotel. It will take 15 min to get to downtown.

Best place to shop is the biggest flea market for the local hand crafts at 1st Ave and 16th street.

Excursion Tours -
We went on :
Seafari tour of Cayo Blanco on a 70' cat (CUC75/adult)
Havana day tour with cigar factory (CUC85/adult)
Snorkeling tour (CUC30/adult)
Discover tour (CUC73/adult)
They were all excellent, but if we were to pick 2, they would be Seafari and Havana hands down. In retrospect, we took too many tours and wished that we spent more time at the resort during the day (after all we did pay for the all inclusive)

Weather -
4days - sunny, 30C day, 20C night.
2days - cloudy, 25C day, 18C night
1 day - rainy, 20C day, 15C night

Overall, we found Cuba to be very interesting place to visit with a lot of history and it being one of the last true communist country working at its best. I say this because, we were amazed with the positive nature of the people. (Yes, our exposure to out side of the resort town, Varadero was limited but...we felt enough of it to have come to this conclusion)
There were very little solicitation and threat by the locals and we found the Cubans to be just plain pure, and positive. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle and money grabbing environment that we live in at home.

We would highly recommend IV resort. We will be back again.
Iberostar Varadero
Montreal Canada
September 2006
Hi everyone! My name is Chris and am 24 years old. I recently just came back from a trip to Varadero Cuba during August. I went with my girlfriend and we had a blast. Im from Montreal Canada and this was my first trip to Cuba. This rating is only for IBEROSTAR VARADERO - Rated from 1-5

FOOD: 1-2
Services: 4
Staff: 5
Rooms expectations: 5
Activities: 4
Beach: 5
Overall: 4.5


Although I found Ibeorstar Varadero to be probabaly one of the best hotels you can get for the price you pay, in Varadero, i would not go back there simply because of its secluded location. For example, I had to walk 20 minutes in the scorching heat just to get to the nearest bus stop that takes you all along the Varadero strip. This being because iberostar is located on a street that was just built perpendicular to the main street where the bus comes. It is one of the few hotels that the bus does not stop to pick you up or drop you off, i would probabaly fo next time to Blau or Melia Las Americas.

I recommend you bring enough of money to rent scooters: 24$/ day or a car 120$/day. If your on a budget take bus, 5$ a day.

I also recommend you do not eat any food at any hotel for lunch or supper. The food is really bland and has no taste. Not even the al carte restos were good and I will not review them. I recommend you spend your money on going downtown and eating at the outdoor restos, 3$ chicken, 2$ pizzas. 12$ for 2 lobsters. go to CAILLE 13. very good and cheap food there. the best food is at the shabby looking places, not the nice and expensive looking restos or high class buffet.

Catamaran tour was ok; Havana is not worth it unless you have lots of money to spend on just sight seeing. i suggest you do 2 activities and spend the rest of you r days on the beach and eating local but good cheap food and shopping for cool items.

Probably the nicest staff in Caribbean’s. Please always tip them, whether 50 cents or 1 $. They are living in a poor country and they are such nice people compared to other countries like in Cancun and Jamaica.

Remember that if you want a decent hotel. You should go to any hotel located at the far east of varadero because that where all the new and foreign resorts were built, starting from Melia Las Americas and eastward.

The cheapest and safest place to buy cigars is at the duty free shops at the airport. for example, Monte Cristo number 5 for box 25.
Hotel: 130$
Downtown: 145$
Airport: 100$
Duty free , also in airport: 88$
Don’t buy your cigars anywhere else because they will confiscated if you don’t have the government seal hologram and government receipt.

Caterman tour with dolphins.
I have one good advice if you don’t want to get ripped off by taking pictures with Dolphins. Bring a Digital camera with you and go with a friend. While you or your friend is posing with the dolphins, take a picture behind the photographer at the same time and you will save 10$. Remember not to let them see your camera. They will ask you to put it away . so hide it in your pocket of your swim trunks.Or even better, when you arrive at the dolphin location, there are 2 pools each with a trainer. Go to the side with the young trainer. Tip the young dolphin trainer 2 $, and ask him to take allow the dolphins to pose with you while your other friend takes the pictures. After the photographer has taken the pics of everyone else. The photographer might be upset, but hey! 10 $ for one picture is a rip off.

-change your money at the Cuban airport, not at hotel -bring minimum 500 Cuban convertible peso -never go out with more then 50 $ -ask for at least 40 one dollar coins to tip for the week
- use sunscreen 45 first 2 days then use SPF 30 afterwards -travel light, bring a medium size suitcase half empty to bring souvenirs back. Remember its 10$ kilo for overweight suitcase.
-and last but not least, enjoy your vacation to the max. dont stay at the resorts all week baking in the sun, explore Cuba and its riches. i really recommend renting scooters and eating downtown everyday, food is so cheap and good.

For more info on trip email me at cookeydoe44@hotmail.com I hope my comments will help you enjoy your trip in Cuba.
Iberostar Varadero

August 2006
We visited the Iberostar in June/July this year.
It was our first visit to Cuba and the hotel was absolutely fantastic.
I dont normally go for All Inclusive but the foord and entertainment were excellent.
We never tired of the buffet in the main restaurant , it was delicious .
The animation team worked very hard entertaining every day and we made friends with 2 of the dancers Desmony and Jose' who were very friendly and polite.
I would not hesitate in recommending this hotel. Definatley 5 star
Iberostar Varadero
Toronto, Canada
June 2006
My husband, my 9 month old son and I have just returned from IV and thought I’d post this seeing that there isn’t a whole of info on traveling with an infant to this resort. We all had a fantastic time, especially the baby!

We were deciding between the Bahamas and Cuba as they were both a relatively short flight from Toronto but based on what we read on this site we decided on Cuba and its warm people. We also chose this resort based on the excellent reviews on this site which were independently echoed by our travel agent. All the positives we read on this site we found to be quite accurate so I will try not to repeat what’s been said.

We booked our trip through Air Canada Vacations, mainly for the roomer seats onboard in which to wrestle a crawling, cruising, highly adventurous baby. It also proved to be a good choice as the charter flights that flew the same day had airport check-in lines 10 times as long ours. Also the shuttle pickup to go home for the charter came about 30 minutes earlier than ours though the charter flight left an hour later! This all made it worth the $300 more we paid – the less time on a bus or in a line with a baby the better! (Note that part of the extra $$ was $100 that Air Canada charges for babes-in-arms for some reason???)

At the Varadero Airport I exchanged our money while my husband got our bags – much quicker as everyone else got bags first than ended creating quite a line for their $$. The exchange rate was 1.24 CAD per CUC. Couldn’t get $$ out at the resort and we couldn’t find an ATM that took our bank card in Havana. We took some extra cash out on our Visa at a bank in Havana – you need to show your passport if you forget your PIN.

We were a tiny bit concerned about the heat this time of the year for the baby as well as going to Cuba during rainy season. Tropical Storm Alberto was a tropical depression hitting the western part of the island about 2 hours away on the day we landed but in Varadero it was just a light rain with a strong breeze. The rest of the week was mid-30 degree celsius and quite humid but not intolerable as it can get in southern Ontario, especially by the pool and ocean.

The IV is a very nice, new, open-air resort with nice grounds. It’s very clean and has a great atmoshphere. The staff is fantastic - very friendly and outgoing just as the postings have said! We booked a standard room which was very spacious with a king bed and a crib was brought in for us. We were in building #15 – the furthest from the main building and our view was of the green fencing facing the next resort. But for the amount of time you actually spend in the room, we didn’t mind. We also didn’t mind the extra 30 seconds to walk to our building; it was nice after over-indulging at the buffet!

Because o f the baby, we wanted extra towels and bottled water. We left a note (in my feeble Spanish) asking for this the first day with a nice tip and some gifts for our maid. She left us notes with our extra towels (formed in the towel art mentioned in others posts) and extra water for the baby every day when our fridge was stocked (every second day). She also found us in person to say thank you.

The crowd was mixed, average age being mid-thirties I’d guess from all over – England, Germany, Holland, Brasil, Scandanavia & lots of other Canadians. There were mature couples, young honeymooners, families (infants to pre-teen) and a wedding party from Britain.

We felt so comfortable being anywhere with the baby. We played at the beach where the nice soft sand was great for his little knees and hands and there were always plenty of loungers and umbrellas available no matter what time you arrived. The main pool had a big area of ankle-deep water that the baby liked to crawl around. He also enjoyed playing with the stools at the swim-up bar. No one seemed to mind the presence of any of the children around and he found lots of playmates amongst the grown-ups. This was great as we got to spend time swimming and hanging out in the main areas. We never made it the kiddie pool!

Though we didn’t utilize the baby-sitting service I really wouldn’t have minded and probably will next time – the staff at Lucy’s Mini-Club were very nice. Other families we encountered did leave their toddlers and preschoolers and they seemed to have great time in the kids program.

The staff was very warm and friendly. We made it a point to at least greet everyone we met and once they got this go-ahead, they would get quite animated and start asking questions and playing with the baby and showing us their baby pictures. They genuinely seemed to love kids. They would sometimes come up to greet us coming into the restaurants or the animation staff would find us as we hung out at the pool or beach to chat or play with the baby. He was very popular!

We tipped as much as we could and brought along lots of soap, toothpaste, pens, pencils, candy, stickers, shampoo, feminine products, half bottles of perfume and outgrown baby clothes. We handed this out as well as all our leftover baby food, diapers, beach toys, baby wipes, baby spoons. It was all so appreciated we wish we had brought more to give.

Taking into consideration the fact that you aren’t eating what you’re used to, the selection and quality of the food was quite good. The water was fine to drink (but we did opt to give the baby bottled water from home and provided in the mini-bar) and the coffee was good. They have sleek modern espresso/coffee makers in the restaurants and the lobby bar has a large European model (the kind with the gold dome) – excellent espresso and regular coffee too. (We are coffee fans so we were hoping it would be decent!)

The Mediterranean restaurant was very good (the seafood here was MUCH better than the offerings at the buffet), the Japanese was good – the sushi was not very good but the tepanyaki and udon noodle dishes we had for our main course was tasty (we are big on Japanese food & it couldn’t quite compare with the excellent Japanese food we normally have here). The Cuban restaurant was good as well - the beef tenderloin was very good but our tuna was overdone. The only thing is that it is an open-air building by the pool so it is hot and humid and there were a lot of flies on the buffet where the appetizers and deserts are.

All the restaurants had more than enough high chairs and we were able to find some plain potatoes, rice, fruit or bread to give our son. Whenever we arrived with a sleeping baby the staff would find us a quieter spot. On a few occasions, they even ushered us to a closed off section so he could sleep in peace and we could then finish our meal in peace too.

Not normally our thing but we did go to the show one night and it was cute. But everyone we talked to thought they were fun. Didn’t make it to the disco as our little one isn’t into dancing quite yet..!

We went into Havana one day. On the advice of our travel agent and friends who went on the bus tour with their baby last month and ended up frustrated as they had a tough time keeping up while attending to the baby (they spent much of the tour staying with the baby on the bus while the others went on), we opted to hire an English-speaking driver/guide to take us to Havana. We did this through our Air Canada rep. We paid a little more (160 CUC vs. 67 CUC each for the tour) and it was well worth it. We chose our departure time and the drive was much quicker (1.5 hours) as we opted to skip most stops the bus makes along the way. Our driver was very nice and we talked Cuban history, politics and compared ways of life in Canada and Cuba. He explained what the usual tour stops were (Revolution Square, a walk through Old Havana, Hemingway’s bar, a cigar factory, new Havana, a drive down 5th avenue where the government and embassy offices are, the fort) and we chose what we wanted to see. He walked around with us and translated for us, helped us find a bank and buys cigars (we got a receipt as others on this site suggested but were not asked for it at customs).

He took us to a shopping centre and it was great to shop as the locals do (no tour buses here!). It was definitely an eye-opener. Our dollar-store selections are sometimes equal to or better than what is available in most of these shops. The amount of decay in Havana and other towns is also astounding – you’ll read about it and hear about it but when you see it, it’s humbling. Earning $30-40 CAD per month, these folks are so underprivileged and the place feels left behind from the rest of our world. When you go and if you can, be generous with your tips and gifts, it is so needed and appreciated.

We also went into Vardero for a morning. We again opted out of the bus ride. The double decker bus costs 5 CUC round trip per person but stops a lot so from IV we were told it might take up to one hour to get to the market which took 10-15 minutes by cab. It was a 12 CUC cab ride to the small market and then we walked the kilometre up 1st Avenue to the big market (14 CUC cab ride to the resort)– you could hop on a horse and buggy for about 6 CUC or take a Coco Taxi but we thought we’d enjoy a stroll which was a nice way to see things. The two markets are all tourist souvenir stands, which was disappointing. Not much else to see in town - it’s quite small.

Bringing the baby along on these excursions was a non- issue. We decided to bring our Graco Quattro Tour stroller vs. an umbrella stroller and it was fine and not cumbersome at all as some suggested it might be. And the baby was far happier in it! We also have a Baby Bjorn and between the two the little guy was comfortable and happy sight-seeing too.

Also, we had a look in the Havana grocery store for baby supplies and it is quite costly. A jar of baby food was about 2.50 CUC and diapers double what you’d pay here. Plaza Americas is a very short cab ride away and has a market in it that carries baby supplies too. Just in case you run short or (heaven forbid) lose a suitcase. (We split the baby stuff evenly into all suitcases and our carry-on just to make sure the baby wasn’t totally deprived should one of our cases be lost).

All in all, it was a great trip and the IV was a great resort. Great place for mom and dad and terrific place for babies ~ enjoy little ones!
Iberostar Varadero

May 2006
Couldn’t get any better…this place was way beyond my expectations!

We arrived April 25 and departed May 2. It was the best week of our lives!

It was a group of 14 all between 22 to 25. At first we were worried about too many kids and not enough people around our age…but it was nothing to worry about, not a whole lot of kids and quite a few people our age, tell you the truth….the older ppl partyed with us the most!

Arrival: Check in was very good…I had made a request that our group (6 rooms) were in the same block and have a pool view….well it was great, we were all in block 19…couldn’t have a better location!

Pool: The pool was big, and never very crowded. We brought floats to lay in the pool with, that was a good idea! To get a good spot by the pool we had to get up around 8:30 and put towels on it. But there are lots of loungers around the pool. The swim up bar was great.

Beach: The beach was the best part….this is the reason we picked Cuba over Dominican…and was it ever worth it! The sand was white and sooo soft, and the water was sooo clear…it was so fantastic to say the least!

Food: We were going with the expectations that the food wasn’t that great…well it was better than we had expected…but nothing like home! We never went hungry…there was always something even for picky eaters. We had the grill at the beach a lot for lunch, they had the best hamburgers and hot dogs. Like everyone else says, you have to try the Japanese restaurant…food was great and it was a good show! We were not fussy on the Mediterranean restaurant and did not go to the Cuban. We enjoyed the main buffet most nights, there was always a good variety. The 24 hour burger place was the best…every night around 2 or 3 am after the disco or coming home from other clubs we would go get a feed of burgers!!

Night Life: The disco was on the go every nights after the evening shows (which were all great). The workers would go to the disco after working all day and get the place on the go!! We went to Club Mombo, which was a good club, it was a 10 minute walk from the IV.

Workers: This is the part that made our stay AMAZING! They were always encouraging people to get involved in the games/ activities. They really got to know you, used to sit with us at the buffet and eat, hang out with us around the pool and in the pool. Really appreciated the gifts we left. And most of all loved partying with us at night! Ernesto was the man…he works as the bell men…we give him sooo much gifts/meds for his family (wife and 2 boys) and he was ever sooo grateful…he really took care of us. Took us for rides to the beach in the golf cart, dropped us at our room every night, even though it was a 20 sec walk away, and picked us up at room upon departure, he showed up at the room to collect bags and put them on the bus for us…without even asking him…he was such a nice man!

Trips: We did the catamaran tour…it was excellent. But a bit too windy for snorkeling that day, but was ok. The lobster dinner at the island was very good. We also took a bus into the market. That was a good experience and no one in the market hassled us like we expected. It was very nice!

Conclusion: Overall this resort was AMAZING….better than we have ever imagined! It was definitely a 5 star resort! The only regret was that we were only there a week…would loved to stay there another week!

Feel free to look at our pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/allisondale3

Or e mail me if you have any questions: allisondale13@hotmail.com
Iberostar Varadero
Bill and Janet 
April 2006
Travel arrangements;
We booked through mytraveltickets.ca in early September. Transat Holidays was the tour provider. I had three choices in ticket delivery: regular post, priority post and airport pick up. I called the contact number for mytraveltickets and they checked all my information and reassured me that all information was correct and in the computer system in the unlikely event that there was a problem with airport delivery of tickets. After that I received my booking details by mail and a month and a half before my trip I received an updated flight schedule by mail. There was no problem with airport pick up of tickets. Our tour rep. in Varadero was very good as well.

We flew with West Jet. Our departure was delayed by 45 min and we were not informed of this until the time it was supposed to go. That would be my only complaint as the flight was comfortable with leather seats, leg space and seat back tv's. We had a boxed meal, 2 beverages and a snack. It was a four hour flight down and 3 hours and 55 min back. The crew was friendly. The drinks and meals were carried down the aisle and served and not served from the cart as on our CanJet flight last year. I say this as the cart would block the single aisle on the 737 making it hard to get through the aisle. We arrived around 1:30 and seemed to be one of the few planes arriving. I waited for the luggage and my husband changed some money at the exchange. The worker miscounted his CUC's but made no fuss when my husband asked her to recheck it! We breezed through security and the airport and were at our resort within a half hour of leaving the airport.

There were 10 of us and we were met with cool drinks and shown to the Reception desk. They had envelopes for us and check in was very quick. Our room was not ready and it was suggested that we leave our luggage near the front door with the porter and go to the Buffet for something to eat and then check back.

As for the resort:
There have been so many positive and in depth reviews written about this resort and there is really nothing that I can add . I had booked a Junior Suite and emailed IV 2 weeks before leaving to request a room in building #17, ocean view, second or third floors but we were placed in building 20 on the second floor (we opted for a ground floor room as it was ready sooner). There is no ocean view from this building as there is some heavy vegetation along the beach here. I was a bit disappointed at first but the room was very nice and kept spotless by our maid. We were seldom in it. This building is about a 2 minute walk to the buffet and directly across from the spa/gym. Between our building and the spa is a small rectangular pool if you opted for a quiet place to swim or relax. We were a very short distance from the beach which we accessed by a short board walk. Along this was the one and only beach bathroom (One and unisex). This was the busiest part of the beach as from here you could take out the hobie cats, pedal boats, etc. It was also very close to the beach bar and area where animation would do their morning activities. There was music here but it was not played too loudly. This area is where we "lived " most of the week. The water was calm most days ( 7 green flag days) and only the last day did we have any good sized surf. The drop off is fairly gradual and then returns to sandy bars. The water was warm and the bottom sandy and so no real need for water shoes. Our second day there we walked to Playa Varadero 1920. We thought we were walking to the outcropping of rocks at Plaza Las Americas but the building we were seeing was PV 1920! It took approx half an hour to walk here along the tide line. This took us past Sandals, Club Amigo, Iberostar Tainos, Beaches, Blau Varadero, Arenas Doradas, Brisas del Caribe. On the other side of IV is Paradesius and I would say it has the widest beach but the one at IV is a close second and the sand is fine and white. So if you like long walks along the beach this is definitely a place to go! There are lots of palapas and while we were there they built about a half dozen more at our end of the beach. There are loads of mesh covered loungers but if you want a palapa in the front row you definitely need to have the towel out there by 8 AM. There is a beach attendant to drag the loungers and to find you a spot if needed. Drinks are served on the beach. The beach in front of building 17 seemed much quieter for those who like more privacy. We saw no jellyfish the entire week and did not notice any sand fleas. On the topic of itchy, biting things we only noticed a couple of mosquitoes one evening when it was very humid. We did not have to apply mosquito spray.

The food at the main Buffet was plentiful and tasty with lots of variety. The main buffet is very large and well staffed and your water glass and wine glass are never empty. Coffee is served with Breakfast and frequently topped up. If you want coffee at lunch or dinner the staff will bring you a cup on request or you can go over to the coffee machine and get what you want. They even filled my travel mug so I could enjoy my coffee at the beach and the airport. We had grilled lobster on Wednesday evening and lobster tails one other evening along with crab and scampi served various ways. For Lunch there were lobster tails on a couple of occasions. This buffet catered more to Canadian tastes than did the one at Melia LA. There is a second buffet which serves continental Breakfast for late risers and lunch but their lunch buffet is much more limited. We booked 2 ala cartes. The Japanese alacarte was fun and the food was good but I am not that experienced with Japanese restaurants. The Mediterranean restaurant had excellent service and the food was pretty good but I would not go back. The appetizers and desserts were served buffet style and were mainly things that you could get at the Main Buffet. We did not book the Cuban restaurant but another couple we met dined there and had a very good meal. If I were to return to the IV I would probably skip the ala cartes! The main buffet is so big that if you want to have a special meal or a quiet private meal you can find tables in areas that will provide that.

What can I say? Whatever IV is doing here, they are doing it right. The staff seems happy to be working there and is always busy but approachable. They are completely customer orientated and are always friendly, helpful, and smiling. They anticipate your needs as best they can and they make the place! Our maid service was excellent and we always had interesting towel sculptures, etc to come back to. As for tipping, the staff certainly appreciates tips but there is no pressure to tip and no lack of service or smiles if you don't tip.
The resort was fully booked when we were there. Another couple did not get the ocean view with king sized bed room in building 17 that they had requested both through their agent and by email and had to wait 3 days to be moved but in the end they got the room they wanted. Being fully booked did not translate into long line ups at the bars or Buffet. The Cafe (lobby) bar is very busy from suppertime on but we never waited long for a drink. They also served peanuts or popcorn if you wanted them with your drinks.
Friday was a customer appreciation day. We received fresh banana daiquiris in the lobby and in the restaurant we were given evaluation forms to fill out. (evaluation of the entire resort).

We had beautiful sunny weather with temperatures around 30 degrees the entire week. The fifth day of our stay threatened rain and thunderstorms for a couple of hours in the afternoon but that passed and the sunshine returned.

Animation staff are active throughout the day. I don't know how they keep so fun loving and engaging day after day with the hours they work and then participate in the nightly shows with enthusiasm. We went to the shows every night. On the most part they were very good and always entertaining. My favorite was the Tropicana show. The pools and pool bar seemed very busy. We never used this area since we prefer the beach. One day while returning from the beach late in the afternoon we watched an acrobatic show put on by some young athletes from Mantanzas. They did their balance acts and flips above the concrete pool deck which was kind of scary to watch. That was followed by another show of water ballet put on by another group from Mantanzas. I do not know if this type of entertainment was held on a regular basis.

This year we went on no planned excursions! We had a wonderful, relaxing week and we only left the resort to walk and toured Varadero one day. We took the Double Decker bus into Varadero. Last year we got a seat on the top but this year both levels were packed. It is about a 10 min walk from the resort to catch the bus. We saw a bus coming from the other direction and heading toward the end of the Peninsula and so we ran over to the stop on the other side of the highways. That was a wise move as by the time the bus went out to the end of the run and picked up people from Barcelo Marina Place, Sandals Princessa and Trypp they were packing us on like sardines and it was very hot! When we got to our bus stop the people that were waiting with us earlier opted not to crowd on. We got off at the Big Market by Sunbeach and wandered around. We did not buy anything. We then walked back to Quatros Palmas. On the way we stopped into Josone Park and had some very good Pina Coladas by the little lake. There are a couple of restaurants in this park and if we had not booked our ala carte for that evening we would have eaten here. The park is a nice break from the resort and the heat of downtown. I have since read in my tourist guide that there is a 2 CUC admission for this park but there was no one collecting money when we went in.

Additional Information:
Our only complaint is not a major one. The mojitoes we had at the nightly entertainment were not that good! We didn't try the ones at the other bars and there were certainly many other very good drinks!
The in room safe was free and you keyed in your own security number.
The hairdryer in the bathroom is not that forceful. I have short hair and seldom used it but I can't imagine drying long hair with it.
There are face cloths provided.
The bar fridge is restocked every 2 days with 1 can Cristal, 1 can Bucanero, 4 cans soda, 1 bottle tonic, 1 bottle mineral water, and one large bottle drinking water.
There is a small shop with chips, candy, etc. There is another shop with T-shirts, cover ups, souveniers, etc. There is a third shop with rums, cigars, coffee, honey, etc, and there is also a jeweler’s store. I bought a t-shirt for my grandson here and then found it in a shop in the departure area of the airport for 3 CUC cheaper. The coffee I bought at the resort was about .40 CUC cheaper at the airport and the rum was slightly cheaper as well. Like anywhere in Canada you pay for convenience!
Money exchange at the resort when we were there was 15 CUC for $20.00 Canadian.

Value for Money:
I would have to say that this resort is excellent.
Iberostar Varadero
April 2006
This was our third trip to Cuba. We enjoy the ease of getting to it from Ottawa, and the Cuban people, service, sun and sand are all terrific. I have been to many other islands and enjoy this one tremendously!

This time we stayed at the newer Iberostar Varadero and enjoyed it tremendously. Two years ago we were married at Sandals Royal Hicacos next door (which we loved), and last year we stayed at the Melia Cayo Coco. We felt that, for different reasons, the Iberostar and Sandals were both great places to stay.

The service, restaurants, bars, beach, grounds, rooms (with showers to die for, they were so nice!), were all terrific. We enjoyed every minute.

My only comment regarding the Iberostar is why do they make you wear those tacky, ugly, uncomfortable, bright blue plastic bracelets? Why can't these resorts come up with something a bit more tasteful? When you are expected to dress up for dinner, these bracelets are definitely an eyesore!

Also, when arriving at the Varadero airport, be prepared for the luggage porters who claim that they cannot take Canadian coins so only a $5.00 bill will do. I think that they will take the coins, if that is all you offer.

Finally, be prepared for a long wait in a very crowded airport when departing Varadero. To check in, purchase the departure tax sticker and go through Immigration took over 2 1/2 hours. One lady fainted but was promptly attended to. It was a pleasure to be promptly cleared at Cs

Remember, this is the Caribbean, not Canada, but I would be hard pressed to find just as nice resorts so easily in Canada. We will return soon!
Iberostar Varadero
Mike & Pat 
March 2006
We spend two great weeks, Feb 13 - 27, enjoying the beach and sun at this quality resort. Some comments:

Rooms - we were building 17 on the third floor which had an excellent view of the beach and ocean. It was roomy and kept clean. Spacious washroom with separate shower and tub.

Beach - the sand was off white and comparable to Bavaro, DR. We walked east and west along the beach and noticed it to be quite a bit courser as we passed Beaches. Of the different resorts beach fronts we saw (14 or so), I'd say IV was tops. There is a huge development happening east just past the giant cactus park.

The staff do an excellent job of keeping the beach in reasonable condition despite a few tourons who insist cigarette buts belong in the sand and drink cups and straws don't belong in the provided garbage bins.

The beach bar crew usually get out and offer drinks a couple of times in the AM.

The life guards have a side business going with cigars. Watch them for a while and you'll see the action.

Ocean - had some huge waves going at the end of the month which were enjoyed by many of us. Otherwise what you expect: clear and a gorgeous blue. No snorkeling though.

Pool - didn't spend too much time there. Lounges were padded and comfortable but shade was hard to come by and there were far too many unattended towels.

Food - Very good for Cuba. Breakfast fruit variety was inconsistent. The orange juice was much better than we've had elsewhere. Omelets made to order. The buffet was plentiful but a bit boring after a while. No theme nights like we've had in the DR and Mexico. And they could use some work on keeping it warm.

We ate at each of the three al a carte restaurants twice and enjoyed them each time. The soup at the Cuban restaurant was a treat and the bar there did a great job for us on Spanish coffees. Lots of good seafood at the Mediterranean with attentive and superior service. The Japanese restaurant puts on a quality show and there is plenty of oriental style of food.

Staff - Most have good language skills and are hard-working and friendly. We noticed tips are pooled and shared at the end of shifts. I'd rate the staff at the Iberostar Varadero among the top we've had anywhere. They do get moved around and we got to know several reasonably well.

Drinks - Carlos, Emma & Armando at the Lobby Bar looked after us every day. Always smiling and very well organized. Kir Royals were a hit with many, especially before dinner. Carlos, if you read this, Mike says hello and "it's been another hard day at the office". We enjoyed Dirty Monkeys from the pool bar but unfortunately some days there were no bananas to be had.

Trips - did the Havana special which included the Tropicana show. The 1950 early 60s cars were worth seeing as were the old buildings but it is disappointing to see the lack of upkeep. We weren't permitted in any of the historical buildings. The old grave yard was a highlight along with the chicken lunch in the garden of an old home converted to a restaurant. The Tropicana show was very well done with plenty of dancers and costumes that were superb. Too bad that they crowd people in along long tables with limited viewing.

Entertainment staff - probably more than we've seen at other resorts. They work hard at trying to getting people involved. The young ladies do get the attention though.

Evening shows - we went almost every night and found them to be entertaining. The entertainment staff is augmented by six dancers and four singers and that definitely helped.

Internet - $10 pesos for an hour. We found the speed to be good in the early morning but by mid afternoon it was terrible. And I'd swear the clock was on steroids.

Tips / Gifts - Probably Cuban Convertible Pesos makes the most sense although we brought two suitcases full - one for the community full of needed medical supplies and another with caps, shirts, OTC medicines, paper, pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, razors, deodorant, nail polish, lipstick gum, work gloves, shoulder bags, couple of backpacks, etc. - which were well received.

We were not ready to leave so that says plenty of positive things about the Iberostar Varadero. We'd go back again although it will have to wait a couple of years as Australia calls. Any questions -> meintvos@msn.com
Iberostar Varadero
Paul and Pam 
March 2006
Just returned yesterday, I`m just going to mention a few less than excellent things about Iberostar Varadero:

Food could be hotter, the breakfast omelet station is very busy, food was not as good as Mexico or Dominican, deserts kinda blah, but still more than adequate Lobby bar is noisy especially during the live shows right next door...resort could really use a quiet bar or coffee place Pool bar and beach bar shut down early ie 5:30 ish Bar drinks are sometimes not as good as they look Lots of nationalities here. Resort, staff, weather, beach, Varadero make this a 4.5+ resort for us, would not hesitate in recommending this resort
Iberostar Varadero
Glen & Marg 
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
March 2006
We spent two weeks at the Iberostar Varadero as a group of 4 couples, and enjoyed the resort immensely. I echo the comments of others regarding the food. The buffet food was the best we have experienced (previous stays at 4.5 star resorts in Mayan Riviera and Punta Cana). Lots of variety and flavour, fresh cooked at 4 stations, features changed from day to day. For example, pork came in the form of chops, roast, stew, leg of ham, and whole piglet. Seafood was grilled whole jumbo prawns, breaded shrimp, sautéed peeled shrimp, calamari, grilled lobster, assorted grilled fish, and cold crab salad. Chicken was tender and moist, even had roast turkey breast one day at lunch. Pastas and pizzas were fresh cooked and tasty. We never got tired of the buffet. The Japanese restaurant food was good (twice), and the chef was entertaining. We did not find the Mediterranean restaurant to be good as the buffet (except had fun with the tequila bam-bam shooters), and we did not try the Cuban restaurant. Lunchtime burgers at the beach grill were tasty.

I won’t repeat details from other reviews, but the beach and bars were excellent, service great and always with a smile.

We had a junior suite. The room is only a few feet longer than the regular suite (couch instead of a love seat), but the building (#17) had a spectacular ocean view from the third floor. The larger room may not have been worth the extra cost, but the view was. If you like to enjoy a coffee on your balcony in the morning, bring some go-cups to get coffee from the buffet. (The coffee was decent, not strong and bitter like in Mexico.)

One item I would like to help clarify is money. The exchange rate at the airport was 1.29 $Cdn per CUC. At the resort it was 1.30. (Of course it varies day to day with fluctuations in the Cdn vs US dollar.) So, not much better a rate at the airport. At the end of the holiday when exchanging 30 CUC leftover money at airport departure, we only received $35 Cdn (1.17). My recommendation is not to exchange more at airport arrival than you are sure you will spend. It is easy to exchange more at the resort as you need it.

Secondly, there is NOT a large surcharge for using VISA to pay for tours or purchases. For example, for a 100 CUC tour, they charge your card 111 $US. This is not a surcharge, just an exchange rate from CUC to $US. When that was converted on my VISA bill to $Cdn, it ended up with an overall cost of $131. Only about 1% more than the cash exchange rate.

Lastly, a word of caution. I bought a box of cigars at a store in Havana early during our stay (172 CUC). It was too large to keep in the room safe along with cameras, purse etc. I put it in a white plastic bag inside a zipped up carry-on bag. Sometime during our stay, the sealed box was either opened by somebody, or more likely replaced with another box. Likely with a box of knock-offs. So I recommend you put any purchased cigars in the safe if possible, or in a locked suitcase.

In closing, we highly recommend the Iberostar Varadero for a great first class vacation.
Iberostar Varadero
March 2006
My wife ( 39) and I (44) from Canada just came back from one very quick week at the 5 Star Iberostar Varadero. This was our first trip out of the country, as we waited 15 years for a honeymoon!

We booked through Signature Vacations and departed from Winnipeg on a short 4 hour flight to Cuba ( after they de-iced the wings a few times) we took off. The flight was ok for the short time we were in the air, but any longer and it would be annoying as there is little room on those A320's. Friends pre-booked the seats by the emergency doors to get some more leg room, so there is a tip!

We were not disappointed at all. The Hotel is breathtaking. Just to let everyone know, we booked this hotel based on friends reports and the reviews you are reading here, so they are important for other travelers.

After driving past the gated and security patrolled entrance, checking in was very easy. The hotel is made up of several three story separate buildings with 36? or so rooms in each building, and no elevator. If you are not willing or able to carry your luggage up the stairs, the boys will carry them for you, just tip them a peso or two for their efforts. They will also pick up your luggage when it is time to go.

Checking in was very easy, and the counter staff are all very fluent in at least three languages, Spanish, English and French. A person is already there with a cool drink for you to sip on while you wait in line.

The rooms - Ours was a regular room with a queen sized bed, and it was wonderful. The bathrooms are huge, and everything worked in the room. Note the air conditioner tempature is preset, although you can control the fan speed. The floors are tile, so there is a bit of klip-clop from people walking in the room above you. Next time we will get a top floor corner room, as I figured that they are the quietest, although this was the quietest hotel we have stayed in. Absolutely no excessive guest noise at all. The only complaint is that the doors close so loudly you think a gun has gone off! After a while you do not notice that. The programmable safe was large and easy to use - however I have no idea what they would do if the power went off. Lots of towels and soaps, and toilet paper which is like gold, a bit more on that later.

The Beach- As this was our first time in any ocean beach location, we noticed that the sand was like powdered sugar. Careful with cameras, even digital or video, as the sand gets everywhere and will get into cameras. I did not open my cameras on the beach to replace any film. I waited until I got back to the room and used one of my wife's makeup brushes to clean it off first. However, the sand is amazing. Lots of beach chairs, and if you want a place under a permanent umbrella on the beach get there at about 0700hrs or they will all be taken. Blue towels on the beach chairs means they are taken! There is security on both ends of the beach. They were all very friendly and I talked to them every day, and tried to bring them a glass of juice- no rum- but they politely declined. They have radios with them, and actually their presence is quite reassuring, but what a dreadfully boring job, and I know they looked forward to some interaction with the tourists. The beach goes on and on for miles, and many small shells were taken home by walkers.

The Ocean - Brilliant blue and warm. We had one really wavy day, and if you had the courage to get out to the second sand bar where the water was only a couple feet deep, the waves crashed onto your head, and you could ride them into the shore. Great fun for kids of all ages! One day the yellow caution flag was out down the beach a ways, but that did not stop this ignorant Canuck. No sharks, as it is apparently not deep enough where we were. And it is salty! We decided to stay on the beach all the time, as we can sit by a pool anytime in Canada, but the pools at the hotel are nice and there is entertainment most of the day.

Tourists - Lots, but I suspect the average age was about 35 to 40. This hotel and beach is not a place for singles such as some places in Mexico, but there were a few singles, but it was mostly couples, honeymooners and some families. Just a short note to travelers considering bringing their children,( we have two younger kids,) and while the hotel is a great place with lots of activities, we winced as mom's and dad's chased and fought or settled fights with their kids on the beach and in the hotels. Parents, unless your kids are totally independent, ie 7, 8 or older, leave them at home as you deserve a break and the younger kids - we saw a few babies and lots of toddlers- will not remember the place. Taking care of your young kids is the same in Cuba as it is at home, never ending and lots of work.

Food - Simply wonderful. The general dining room is a huge buffet with food options for everyone. We ate there all the time, although our week could have included one dinner at each of the three other restaurants. I was told that they were also very nice places to go to. My wife ate lots of seafood, and I believe the last night we were there many of our group got some bug that I suspected was from the seafood. I don't eat it, and I ate everything else and I was fine. I suggest you do not change your diet that much, as that usually gets you in trouble.

Staff - Cubans at this hotel appear to be the hardest working people I have ever met. They literally bust their behinds to serve you. They are genuinely friendly, and are very affectionate to all ages and all nationalities. Some non Canadian guests were rude and treated them poorly, causing my Irish heritage to come out, and I told them off using universally accepted phrases and body language. We gave a pregnant server some baby clothes that we had brought down with us, and she was very grateful. We will return just because of the staff at this hotel. By the way, many Cubans told me that they love Canadians, UK, French, Italians and Americans in that descending order. So, Canadians, keep it up. I suspect it is the way us Canucks treat everyone with respect and courtesy, sorry to the others, but that is the way I saw it.

Rum - If you like Rum, this is the place. Drinks are overflowing with it. I guessed that an average drink has 2 or three ounces or more of Rum in each one. Sipping on drinks is a good strategy, as you can be hung over at suppertime if you do not watch it. I had a few, but mostly I ordered banana or strawberry daiquiris - no rum- and got wide eyed looks from the bartenders, so I eventually said they were for my kids. One bartender figured that one out, and we had a good joking over that for the rest of the week.

Trips - We did the Catamaran and the Jeep tour. The Catamaran was a great day with snorkeling and lying on a secluded beach about 20 minutes out to sea. We had really big waves, and it was not a problem for the boats. Bring some bread for the fish and they will swarm around you. Also, bring your own mask and snorkel, as they go from your face to the box without being disinfected or cleaned. We brought some alcohol gel and cleaned them before we put them on. The guides are a blast, and they had us up dancing, singing and playing games for bottles of rum. The jeep tour takes you into Cuba onto sugar cane and banana farms. There is a swim in a freshwater cave, and if you opt for the boat ride up the river it is quite a sight. The roads are very rough, so if you have back problems do not go on this tour. Bring your own toilet paper, as you may be charged for some, about 3 squares, and it is common to charge to just enter the washrooms.

Golfing is also a good time, and the course is worthy of Tiger Woods, who has played here. I suggest bringing your own clubs, as our group complained about the worn grips of the rentals. Golfing with rental clubs is 110 pesos per person, about 140$ Canadian. Book online, as we had a choice of 0700 or 145pm one only one day. It was a hot round of golf.

Scooters - there is no insurance on scooters, so if you wreck them you pay for them. Check with your local insurance company to see if there is a rider for this. However, the roads are narrow and they drive fast, especially the taxis.

What to bring for gifts - we asked many staff and guides, and they would like Tylenol, Aspirin, and other medicines that are hard to get in Cuba. Clothes were also appreciated, and next time we will bring as much as we can for all ages. Kids want candies, especially on the jeep tour that winds through some slums, and we also gave out notebooks and pencils. We also left behind as much as we could in the hotel room, including half bottles of shampoo, razors, etc etc. If you leave it on the hotel bed, it is understood that it is a gift for the staff, and they are not offended to get a half bottle of shampoo, as these things are hard to get and expensive for an ordinary Cuban.

Nice to know - Set up a hotmail account as the hotel has email at one hour for 10 pesos. We sent email each day back to the kids and grandma, and that was a nice way to keep in touch. Phoning cost 4 or 5 $ per minute, so use email.

We are already saving for the next trip to this hotel, although I would like a 10 day option instead of one or two weeks.

If you want to contact us on email, johnandshannonincuba@hotmail.com and if we can help them we will.
Iberostar Varadero
Kitchener, Ontario
February 2006
I returned February 25 from a week at Iberostar Varadero. I travelled with my three teenage children and we had a terrific time. Let me begin by saying that I have travelled to numerous resorts in the Caribbean over the past ten years and generally stay at 4.5-5 star resorts. I always appreciate reading the reviews on this site and base my decisions on where to stay on information found in this site.

Check-in was quick and efficient. The rooms (we had 2) were terrific. They were spacious, clean and well-appointed. The in-room bar fridge was stocked daily and maid service was very good. The resort is well laid out and walking is no problem from any room location.

The food was better than I expected. I travelled to Cuba in the fall (Cayo Coco) and was disappointed with the food. Although still a notch below Mexico in terms of quality, I was quite pleased with the choices and quality of the food. Service in the restaurants was very good. We always found food that we enjoyed. We especially enjoyed the chocolate ice-cream, the bbq'd hot dogs at the beach bbq, and the Japanese restaurant.

I was very happy with the bar service and the drinks. There are several locations for drinks, and I rarely had any wait at all. The drinks were good - real juices used for example, and they usually didn't overdue the alcohol.

The pools were remarkably clean, although the water was colder than what I would like - a general complaint. It took a few minutes to get in!! We never had difficulty finding chairs at the pool or on the beach and the resort was at capacity. The beach of course is beautiful and you can walk a considerable ways.

My son and I played tennis each day. There is only one court, so book ahead of time. Some players book advance times each day for the entire week, so book early if you want prime times (end of the day).

The entertainment was Ok. The dancers and singers are mostly professionally trained and are quite good - the additional resort staff making up the skits, etc., are Ok.

If you have teenage daughters or if you are a female considering travelling alone or with additional females, be prepared to be approached often by the male staff on the resort (mostly the entertainment guys). Many of these guys are constantly 'on the look' and as a father with 2 teenage daughters, I was not impressed. This was not simply guys looking to ensure that the females were having a good time, they were looking for more than that! This is an issue at many resorts in many places.

I was very impressed with the shopping in town. I think for the first time in my travels, I did not face huge pressure from vendors to go into shops/by things from them. It was a pleasant,casual experience.

Unlike some other resorts in Cuba, I saw no pressure whatsoever for tipping.
I always provide some tips at all-inclusives where I feel it is warranted, but I resent the pressure that I have seen. There was none of this at Iberostar. As many of you know, the staff are paid very little, and I find the people so appreciative of even small tips and gifts that most of us can easily provide.

I would definately recommend this resort and would stay there again. Other than the temperature of the pool water and the aggressive tactics of some of the male staff towards women, I had no complaints.
Iberostar Varadero
David, aged 48 years old 
February 2006
My wife, two daughters (aged 4 and 6) and I spent one week at the Iberostar Varadero in Cuba in late January 2006. It was billed as a five star resort and it certainly lived up to its rating. We had two ocean view rooms – called junior suites – that came with a king sized bed or two double beds, a sofa, table and chairs plus a balcony overlooking the turquoise ocean. A satellite television, mini in-room safe and mini refrigerator completed the furnishings. The bathroom was European in design with a bath tub, shower stall and a separate toilet and bidet.

The resort boasts five restaurants and five bars (possibly more) including a swim-up bar, a live floor show every night, a discotheque, three pools and the most beautiful strip of Varadero Beach I’ve seen in my four trips to Cuba. The staff was incredibly friendly and very affectionate to our daughters.

Lucy’s Kids Club was open daily from 10 am until 5 pm with its own pool, play structures, games and a wide variety of activities. In the evenings, a “mini disco” would take place and certificates were awarded to the days champions. After a day or two, our girls settled in nicely allowing Mum and Dad some free leisure time.

The food: in one word “great!” In my previous three trips to Cuba, food varied from bland to very good but at the Iberostar Varadero, everything was excellent. The main dining room and specialty restaurants provided a wide variety of hot and cold dishes: grilled beef, chicken, pork, fish and seafood plus pasta and pizza for the kids. Fresh soups, salads, breads, desserts and ice cream rounded out the fare. The fresh squeezed orange juice was a big hit with my two fussy eaters.

This time, I left the resort only once to go to the nearby “Plaza America” shopping mall (a six peso cab ride – which includes the tip, by the way). This mall has a supermarket with lots of baby supplies (on our previous trip, we lost a suitcase with diapers and baby food but were able to replace it quickly), souvenir shops, a fabulous cigar store and a bank where you can get an advance on your Visa card (no American credit cards).

The rest of my stay was spent lounging on a deck chair reading trashy novels, smoking large cigars and sipping Mojitos or delicious Cuban beer.

I have nothing but praise for the Iberostar Varadero and would return without hesitation.
Iberostar Varadero
Judy and Aleks 
Ottawa, Canada
January 2006
Hi Debbie,

I had written this up pretty much as soon as we got home, but somehow never ended up sending it… better late than never I guess!

My husband and I (about 6 months pregnant at the time) stayed at the Iberostar Varadero for one week from Feb 6 to Feb 13, 2005. We were looking for a place to escape winter for our last chance to kick back and do "nothing" for a week. I really appreciated seeing a few reviews of the resort before heading off, so I thought I'd return the favour. We had a really great time, and would consider returning to the IV for a future visit. We've only been to the Sandals resort in the Bahamas for our honeymoon, so we don't have anything to compare to in terms of other Cuban all-inclusive resorts.

Flight: We booked with Air Canada Vacations with departure from Ottawa. Our 5:40 AM flight on Sun, Feb 6 was delayed for almost 6 hours due to extremely heavy fog. No planes were landing or taking off. A plane from Montreal was flown in, and we finally boarded at around 11:45 AM. The flight took about three hours, and we landed at the Juan G Gomez International Airport in Varadero just after 4 PM local time. (Cuba is one hour ahead during the winter.)

Money Exchange: We exchanged Canadian dollars for Cuban Convertible peso (CUC) at the airport booth. To save time, it's best if one person lines up at the exchange booth and the other goes to baggage claim. The rate at the airport that day was 1.2986, which was a bit better than the rate at the resort. Get some small bills/coins for tips.

The Air Canada Vacations rep (Rainer), a Canadian citizen, told us that he converts his salary from CUC to USD in Cuba then to CAD back home, and it ends up working out to more in the end. We asked the resort if we could exchange CUC back to CAD or USD, but they don't and told us to do it at the airport. At the airport, there was also "black market" money exchange. I'm not sure what rate they were giving, but they had both CAD and USD to exchange. Be sure that you are given CUC and not the Cuban Peso, which is worth much less.

Customs: We had no problems entering. Keep in mind, that unlike in Canada, they only allow one person at the window, and you also need to show your return airplane ticket in addition to your passport and visa. When leaving Cuba, you need to first check-in and get your boarding pass, which you need to have with you when you pay the 25 CUC/person departure tax. The boarding pass gets a sticker placed on the back as proof of payment. Then you go through customs, and to the boarding area.

Transfer to Resort: There was a person holding up an Air Canada Vacations sign to greet us as we exited the airport. Our bags were brought to and loaded onto the bus. We were given a ACV brochure that listed the optional tours available. Rainer greeted us onboard the bus and explained the brochure and answered any questions we had. We ended up waiting for about 30-45 minutes on the bus for a couple that never showed, which was a little annoying. The ride to the resort, which is towards the end of the peninsula and one of the last stops, took about an hour. On the way, the local guide spent about 30 minutes telling us some interesting tidbits about Cuba.

Check-in: It was fairly quick. You get an envelope with two room keys, two towel cards, a photocopy of the resort map, and a page explaining the resort information (e.g., restaurant hours, services, etc.) The wrist band is put on at reception. Ours were blue. One of the bellmen gave us a short tour of the resort on a golf cart, and then dropped us off at our building. Our bags were delivered about 20 minutes later.

Rooms: We were in building 18, second floor, on the beach side. It was an ok view. There is a run of sand and trees between the guest buildings and the beach, which was most of our view. During the day/early evening, we could hear a generator running. It was turned off at night, so we could hear the ocean at night if we opened our window. We could see the ocean if we leaned out a bit from our balcony. The best ocean views would be from buildings 17 and 20, which house the junior suites. I'm sure from some of the rooms in our building you'd get an ocean view from the third floor and maybe second floor if facing the right way. As requested, we had a king-sized bed. The rooms are large and are equipped with a closet, safe inside the closet (no charge), iron/ironing board inside the closet, ceiling fan, TV armoire, ice bucket and fridge located inside the armoire, desk, two chairs, table and balcony with chairs. A 1.5 L bottle of water sits next to the ice bucket in the armoire. The fridge contains two varieties of beer, cola, orange soda, lemon-lime soda, four small bottles of water - two sparkling and two non. (Not sure how often the fridge is supposed to be restocked, as it appeared somewhat random.) There are extra pillows and blankets inside the closet. The AC controls are located on the wall by one of the night stands. It turns off when the balcony door is opened. The bathroom is spacious and has a separate shower and tub, sink with lots of counter space, wall-mounted make-up mirror, hair dryer, second phone, toilet, and bidet. Soap, bath gel, lotion, shower cap, and a shoe shine cloth are provided. Bring conditioner if you use it. Two bath towels, hand towels, and face cloths are also provided. We had an adjoining room (unrequested), so we didn't have a couch that would normally go where the door between the rooms is located.

Beach: The beach is beautiful. It is kept quite clean. You can walk out into the ocean quite far before it becomes deep. The water was not warm when we were there, but it was much warmer than the pool. There are plenty of beach chairs and several plastic tables, and there is a person that comes to set up the chairs and anchor your towel to the chair. A waiter comes around shaking a maraca to take drink orders. The beach bar and snack bar are both complete. The snack bar serves burgers and hotdogs with toppings/ketchup/mustard. Compared to the other resorts, the staff keeps the beach chairs organized. The Sandals next door had chairs strewn about the beach.

I believe the day there was a red flag and changed to yellow, I may have brushed up against a jelly fish, as I had a slight stinging sensation on my upper thigh. It didn't last too long and the redness disappeared within a few hours. We walked along the beach that day to the Sandals and the Paradisus and saw numerous jellyfish washed ashore.

Weather: The weather was fairly decent for the entire week. There were two days with "hot" temperatures (around 26-29C). The other days started cloudy and windy, so it was a bit cool. By early afternoon, the clouds usually cleared and it was warmer. The majority of the days, there was a yellow flag on the beach. We had one day with a green flag on the beach, one day with a red flag (very windy and cold), and another day started off red and was changed to yellow. It never rained during the day, but it did rain a couple times in the middle of the night.

Food: Based on feedback from friends and this site, I was quite apprehensive about the food before we got there. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the selection and quality of the food. My husband and I are not food snobs, but we do like to eat out at nice restaurants of varying ethnicities and styles. The food isn't knock your socks off, but it's pretty good. Due to my pregnancy, I was more conservative in my food choices and tried to avoid unbottled water, ice, alcohol, and uncooked foods. My husband pretty much ate and drank anything he pleased. Neither of us had any gastrointestinal illness. At the restaurants, the servers are constantly filling wine glasses, so it seems like you've only had one glass, but they've filled it at least 4-5 times.

Reservations for the three a la carte restaurants (Japanese, Mediterranean, and Cuban) need to be made at the Guest Services desk in the lobby. We had no problems making multiple reservations for restaurants for the week. We asked about restrictions and we were told if there is a lot of demand, then they may restrict to once per week per restaurant. It's best to make reservations at least the day before for the Japanese and Mediterranean restaurants, as they get filled first.

Japanese Restaurant: Very good! The meal begins with four types of sushi, vegetable tempura, and chicken or seafood soup. Then the teppanyaki show begins. The cooks are still perfecting their "utensil acrobatics", which is quite endearing. Vegetables (mushrooms, eggplant, broccoli, etc.) and fried rice are served with a choice of chicken, beef, shrimp, or octopus (or a combination of these). We highly recommend the shrimp! The tempura banana dessert is delicious. An after dinner drink is the final touch. My husband says the Creme Catalan liqueur (similar to Baileys) was tasty.

Mediterranean Restaurant: A selection of hot and cold appetizers are served buffet-style. Then you are offered a seafood soup, and entrée. The first time we went, we both had the salmon and puff pastry, which was fairly good. The second time, I had the escalopes (beef) and my husband had a fish dish. Both were very pleasant. The desserts are very good and served buffet-style. An after dinner drink is also served here.

Cuban Restaurant: We heard that this was the "worst" of the three restaurants, so our expectations were low. I had the chicken and my husband had the grouper. The dishes are served with rice and "banana chips", which were very nice. We ended up having quite a good meal there. The bartender made me a special non-alcoholic fruit smoothie with orange, pineapple, banana and strawberry. Yum! The other restaurants don't have bars inside, so they don't offer anything other than sodas, red/white wine and an after dinner drink. The Cuban restaurant during the day/late night serves as the snack bar. The fresh-squeezed orange juice (from the bar, not the machines) there is really good.

Buffet Restaurant: A pretty good selection of cold and hot dishes, soup, breads, fruits, and desserts. They even had a bit of Chinese theme going for Chinese New Year.

Staff: Very cheerful and helpful. They try really hard to make you happy and meet all your requests. They seemed extra cheerful when they noticed I was pregnant. No complaints here. There is a female bartender at the pool bar that makes amazing cocktails that look and taste great. I didn't get her name, but she always made an effort to make each drink special.

Tipping: There was no pressure to tip from any of the staff. We both willingly tipped at meals, and for the great service we received. Each day we gave a little something to our chambermaid, and we were greeted with various towel art when we returned to our room. She even wrote us a couple of notes thanking us, and wishing us a good flight home.

Spa/Gym: We didn't use the spa or gym while we were there, so I can't comment on the facilities. They are located in the same building, next to the tennis courts. The spa hours were from 9 AM to 6 PM. I checked the price list, and a manicure and pedicure were listed at 20 CUC and 30 CUC. There were two types of facials: a cleansing one (50 CUC) and a mud mask (20 CUC). There were also other services such as massage.

Internet: There is a glass-enclosed room next to the lobby with three computers for internet access. I believe the cost was 10 CUC/hour.

Activities: There is a board with the activity schedule posted outside the bathroom hut by the pool. There are activities such as archery, rifle shooting, soccer, aqua-aerobics, waterpolo, darts, bingo, bocce ball, Spanish lessons, ping pong, beach volleyball, dance lessons, aerobics, introduction to diving, etc. The Star Friends come around the pool area to gather up participants. There seemed to be enough entertainment for the children, as we never encountered any screaming/bored kids. If you take part in the activities and get the best score, you are awarded a certificate that is presented just before the evening show begins.

The beach activities include catamarans (these must be pre-booked), kayaks (one and two-person), windsurfing, and pedal-boats. This equipment can only be taken out on a green flag.

Shows: There is a different show each night that takes place in a large pavilion. The schedule is posted on the wall outside the Japanese restaurant next to the bathrooms. We caught the "Crazy Show" for a few minutes, which seemed a little "unpolished", but hey, they try! The "IberoGrammys" was quite good, and we were impressed with the dancing and costumes. The "Chicago" show, based on the musical/movie was also quite good. As I'm quite sensitive to the smell of smoke, my only beef with the venue is that you can't avoid being enveloped in cigarette and cigar smoke. We usually sat at the very back, which helped somewhat.

Grounds: As others have mentioned, work is still on-going to finish the plantings, and what has been planted still needs to grow in. It should look quite nice once it is complete. Compared to the Sandals next door, the grounds are not as elaborate looking. It's simpler, which is nice.

Please don't walk or put chairs on the grass. It's so hard for grass to grow there, and the gardeners are working hard to tend to it. I constantly saw people wearing it out by taking short cuts or putting loungers on it even with signs telling them not to.

Pools: There are four pools. The main pool is large and has a swim up bar. There is an unheated jacuzzi in the middle. An entertainment pool is located next to the activity pavilion. This is where the waterpolo and aqua-aerobics takes place. The children's' wading pool is located next to the children's play area (Lucy's Club). The spa pool is located in front of the spa/gym building. The pool water was quite cold, so there was usually nobody in it.

Optional Tours: We went on the Havana day tour (without the cigar factory tour). It cost 65 CUC/person. We were scheduled to be picked up at 7:50 AM, but the bus was about 20 minutes late picking us up. It took about three hours to reach Havana, including all the pick-ups after ours and one rest stop. The tour started in Old Havana visiting museums, a church, a school, the wooden street, Hemmingway's favourite bar, etc. Then we had an included lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the canal and Old Havana. One alcoholic and one non-alcoholic beverage were included. There was a band playing live music.

After lunch, we were given free time to shop in the market. Here, offers abound for "black market" cigars. Next, we were taken to the Romeo y Julieta cigar shop, where you can buy cigars, liquor, coffee and a few other items. On our way back to the bus from the shop, the cigar factory employees quietly indicated they too had cigars to sell. Then it was off to the new Havana, where we visited Plaza de la Revolución and Capitolio Nacional.

The last stop was a rest stop, where they serve "the best piña colada". My husband didn't try one because the line was insane (several tour buses were there at the same time), and they were charging about 4 CUC per drink. Instead, we took some pictures at the lookout point and looked around at the souvenir stands. We returned to the resort at about 6:30 PM.

Outside the resort, expect to tip for the washroom. Bring toilet paper or tissue with you if you need more than three squares. Bring some pens/pencils, candies and school supplies to hand out to the children.

Miscellaneous: We too noticed an occasional sulphur-like smell that wafted through the resort. Our window was open a couple of nights so we could hear the ocean, and I only smelled it for about 20 minutes one of the nights. As another reviewer mentioned, it appeared to originate from a ditch in front on the resort by the road. The odour was quite strong when you walk along the road towards the Sandals resort next door. There was also an odour by the bathrooms located by the Cuban restaurant.

If you want to visit the other resorts, you cannot use the beach entrances. You must use the main entrance off the road.

We didn't use the lobby bar or the discotheque, so we can't comment on those. Guest buildings 14, 15, 16, and part of 20 were incomplete at the time of our visit. Also, the souvenir shops were still not open.

All the tour companies place binders on a counter by the lobby for their guests. Any changes in flight departure times would be listed in these binders, so you should check your tour company's binder the day before and the day of your departure. The counter is located in the hall to the left of the reception desk (when you're facing reception).

Check-out: It was fast - just handed in our room keys and towel cards.

Transfer to Airport: We put our luggage at the pick-up/drop-off at the lobby entrance. When the bus arrived, they checked our names off the list and put our luggage onboard. The transfer took about 1.5 hours, including all the pick-ups.

Flight: The flight home left pretty much on time. (We heard the announcement indicating the on-time arrival of the flight from Ottawa - the very flight we took the previous week after the 6-hour fog delay. Incidentally, announcements begin with an extremely LOUD beep over the PA system.) Flight time was about three hours.

Overall, we had a great time and would recommend staying at this resort.
Iberostar Varadero
Jo & Jo 
January 2006
We went to Iberostar Varadero on 28 December 2005 for 2 weeks. We are 2 single girls (age 31 and 33) and the main reason for us going on this holiday was to have fun for New Year and avoid the rubbish British weather!

We flew with Thomson from London Gatwick. The plane was REALLY cramped, but luckily there were a few empty seats across the aisle from us, so we managed to spread out and this made the flight bearable… Also, on the flight home we managed to get 2 seats each, so this was ok. However, we have heard that flying First Choice you get a lot more leg room than on Thomson - we think that if we had only had 1 seat each we would have been seriously squashed!!!

The hotel was beautiful. The grounds and all the buildings are very well maintained, even though they are only just over a year old, you can tell that they are constantly being looked after. There is always someone painting the walls of various buildings and the bushes are constantly being trimmed and tidied up. The beach is also very well looked after, any seaweed is tidied up every morning and the sand is raked with a tractor most days.

The beach is beautiful. We got there at about 08:30 every morning and waited for the sun to come up. The sea is fantastic, you can walk out about 200 metres before the water is too deep to stand up, and it was usually pretty warm (especially after being splashed by your 'friend' on the way in!!). The sun bed attendants are also brilliant, they lay out your towel for you and brush all the sand off the bed at the start of the day.

The lifeguards are fantastic. We were not sure if they would be much good if you were actually drowning, but watching them on their daily strutt up and down the beach, like David Hasselhoff, was very entertaining!!!

Our favourite highlight of the day was when the macramé shop arrived – and guests purchased everything from macramé owls to trousers! WHY?????

We went to 2 a la carte restaurants at the beginning of our stay (the Japanese and the Mediterranean). We were not overly impressed with the food (we had to visit the buffet after the Mediterranean for a top-up). The food was nice enough, but we found that the choice and quality of the food in the buffet was so good that there was no need to go a la carte. Having said that, there was just the two of us, I am sure that if you were in a larger group you would have had a really good time at the Japanese restaurant. We found that we never got bored of having prawns, lobster and steak to eat at the buffet! And the staff at the buffet were also very good and always saved us our favourite table and made sure we had plenty of alcohol to keep us going!

Bar Staff
The bar staff were all brilliant. Arlis at the theatre bar (then moved to the pool bar) was really nice and very good at pouring champagne!!!! After a couple of days most of the bar staff get to know what drink you want and serve you without even asking what you would like!!! Perfect!!!

We particularly enjoyed our banana daiquiris from the pool bar.

New Years Eve
We were lucky enough to be away for New Years Eve and can honestly say that it was the best NYE we have ever had. Everyone got a party bag with a hooter, garland and various other tat. We had bottles of champagne each with straws and at 12:00 the bar staff sprayed everyone with champagne…. Then they had an acrobatic display team on the stage…. Then it was off to the nightclub for a drunken frolic. Brilliant!!!

The entertainment staff were very enthusiastic (some more than others!!!!!). We didn't really get involved with the games by the pool or on the beach, but some guests were up for everything!!!

The evening entertainment was hilarious. Not everyone's cup of tea, but if you have a few drinks beforehand and just go along for a laugh it was so funny!

The nightclub was hilarious. It was pretty busy every night with an assortment of dodgy dancing (especially mine). We had planned to go to the Mambo Club in Varadero, but the nightclub was such a laugh we didn't bother!

We had such a good time at the Iberostar Varadero, we have booked to go back this year! Hello to Rusty Roo Roo, Anna Marie, Andre the Swiss man and anyone else we met while we were there.

If you want to ask us anything about our holiday, email on: mingerous_maximus@btopenworld.com
Iberostar Varadero
Sher and Rob 
Calgary, Canada
January 2006
My husband Robert and I visited this resort Dec.26/05 to Jan.2/06.
We are from Calgary, Canada.
I won't bore you with all the places we have been,but having been to other Iberostars before, we were looking forward to coming here, as our choice in Cuba. Flew Club class out of Calgary,Alberta, on Air Transat. A great way to go, as you are first on,first off, no line ups, and your bags come off first!

Get your money as soon as you can at the airport.
Who cares about the exchange rate, you need cash right?
The resort is lovely,what can I say. It is an Iberostar, and they are the best hotel chain as far as I am concerned.
The staff can not be beat. They are amazing.
TIP THE BAR STAFF !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They deserve it! Especially the guys at the bar were the theatre is.
We gave each bartender $5.00 CPU a night. If you don't want to do that, give at least 2.
Every time we sat down at a bar, they were there, with our drinks before anyone else, line up or not.
And they loved us. We would sit and talk about their lives, and it was great! We gave them Canadian T shirts and hats and they were over joyed!!!!!!

There star friends are brilliant, and so friendly. They called us by name every time they saw us.
GREAT PEOPLE. I can't say enough.They all speak great English, but we would speak in the Spanish that we knew, as a sign of respect. We are, after all, in a Spanish speaking country.

The disco is a great place to go, after the other bars close. Good music.
The beach is beautiful, and there are fellows there, ready to go and get you chairs, dust them off, and place your towel on it for you. I tipped them too.

They all work so hard, and you gotta know they don't make a lot, so why not share what you have ? It really makes your holiday better.
Not saying you would not get good service if you did not tip, but lets face it, you do it at home, so why not show your appreciation for good service.
The guys at the beach bar are awesome as well!

Food is good, no probs there, good booze, It was all good. Lots of Europeans and Brits. Met wonderful people we will be lifelong pals with!

Smoke the cigars at least once, even if you don't smoke, it is part of your Cuban experience!

Hats off to the hotel, It was Brilliant!