Another cloudy, cool morning, but less windy and it gradually cleared up and warmed up. At breakfast I discovered the omelette station, just like on a cruise ship, and the omelettes were really good! Unfortunately, they did not seem able to make a decent batch of bacon. The bacon person would throw a huge thick slab of frozen bacon onto the grill, and while the outside cooked to a crisp, the inside was still frozen and raw. The bacon bin always seemed to be empty, with a few burnt crisps, and it always seemed we were waiting for more to cook. In the "hot meat" section where there were usually unidentified "meat" croquettes and cooked chicken, on this day they offered bacon wrapped banana bits. since it was the only bacon available, I tried some, and it was not as bad as it sounds! Fried bacon and banana...
Out on the beach by 9:30, it was still dull, but no sweaters needed. The sea was calmer (yellow flag) allowing swimming, but no water sports, although it was still a bit cold for swimming.
Instead, we walked the beach, and enjoyed a Drink of the Day, "Delicia", which consisted of pineapple juice, orange juice, creme de cacao, and dark rum. Another tip we got from Trip Advisor was to bring thermal drink cups, and we brought Carnival sip-top cups, which the bartenders gladly filled to the top with our drinks of the day.
At lunch time, we wandered over to the outdoor buffet, and outside of that, there was a long line at an outdoor giant wok where a chef was preparing some sort of shrimp and rice concoction, which we bypassed as I am not a seafood fan. Next to that was a giant punch bowl containing white wine and fruit sangria, which was absolutely delicious. I had some of this with my lunch from the buffet, which included turkey, rice, tiny lamp chops, and ice cream for dessert. Today there was a mariachi band playing at the back of the buffet, lively Cuban music to dine by. Such a fun atmosphere!
By afternoon, the temperature had warmed considerably and I was finally able to get in the water. It was a perfect sunny, warm afternoon on the beach, and we watched the pelicans, the wind surfers, the beach walkers, and just enjoyed the sun, sand and surf.
Returning to our room to clean up for dinner, we were greeted with our daily "bedspread creation". Instead of towel animals, our room maid would make some sort of creation using the bedspread, and sometimes a towel. Yesterday's was a sailboat, and today's was a flower. Nice touch!
The dinner buffet was good once again, and I tried the pasta corner, where a chef prepared your choice of spaghetti bolognaise, or penne pasta with tomato sauce. It was very good! Again, the dessert choices were plentiful and delicious. I could feel the pounds catching up with me.... During dinner, there were strolling Cuban musicians entertaining around the dining room, again, a lovely atmosphere. They later played in the lobby bar area, and were quite enjoyable while we nursed after dinner drinks.
Tonight we attended the Music Quiz again, and won again, this time a large bottle of champagne! I stand corrected about the other night's prize; it was a 40 oz of rum, not a 26 oz.! Much nicer prizes than keychains, luggage tags, or having to share a "Ship on a Stick" amongst 4 people!
The quiz was followed by the Blau Dancers, a lively and colourful troupe who performed most nights. After their performance, they would come into the audience and invite guests to come up on the dance floor, teaching them how to Salsa. We did not join in, but it was fun to watch.
At 9:45 pm, the main show started, and tonight it was a Magic Show. I had imagined it would be an amateur production with a few card tricks, but I couldn't have been more wrong. It was a very impressive, high quality magic show with incredible illusions, tricks, a talented juggler, acts of daring involving whips and fire, and of course, girls in sexy costumes. All in all, a very impressive and enjoyable bit of entertainment, comparable to, if not better than, some I've seen on board cruise ships.
Finally it was off to bed, another fine day over, and looking forward to our first excursion tomorrow.....
...to be continued....
Last edited by rollerdonna; March 24th, 2011 at 08:44 PM.
Reason: add on
Congratulations again on winning the trivia - not surprising cuz believe you two started building up your expertise on the Sail of the Century and ever since you've moved, you practice at the Pub a couple of nights a week.
How's about joining me on my Emerald Princess trip and we'll win big time ... but no "ship on the stick" stuff.
As always enjoying your reviews.
I cruise the Emerald Princess, Eastern Caribbean on April 16, 2012
Carnival Liberty New Year's Eve 2007
Liberty of the Seas 5/2008+11/2009
Allure 1/16/ 2011
This excursion day is going to be very little review, with lots of pictures, because there was so much to see! In fact, I will have to divide it into the morning excursion, and the rest of the day, because it was a full and interesting day!
We were picked up out front of our hotel at 8:30 by the same type of comfy, air conditioned tour bus that brought us from the airport.
On board was our tour guide for the day, a lovely young woman named Nyla, whose English was very good, and was very forthcoming in answering any questions we may have had.
After 5 or 6 stops at other resorts to pick up other tour guests, we had about a 40 minute ride to a sugar cane plantation. The bus actually drove off the road and into the muddy field, where we all got out and walked amongst the tall stalks of sugar cane. There, we met Miguel, a "Machetero", or Machete Man, who works the cane field, cutting the sugar cane by hand with a machete.
Our tour guide Nyla also demonstrated the use of machetes.
Miguel sliced off several stalks of sugar cane, peeled them expertly with his machete, then chopped them in bits for us to taste. The stalks were a bit fibrous to chew, but once you got it chewed, it tasted nice and sweet.
We then re-boarded the bus, which took us to an old sugar cane processing plant.
The factory had been built in the 1800's, and had not been in use processing sugar cane since the 1980's. It was one of the most dilapidated, run-down buildings I have ever seen, and I have no idea why they would want to show tourists such a thing. There are still a few operating sugar cane factories in Cuba, why not go to one of those?
The redeeming factor of this tour was that at the factory, there was also a steam train museum, as steam trains used to transport the cane from the fields to the factory.
The "museum" consisted of several well preserved steam trains in a shack with no walls, attached to the factory, which also had no walls. We were allowed to walk around and climb on the trains, and were welcome to take pictures.
There was also one operating steam train (much to my husband's delight!) and we all climbed on for a ride. Those riding up top in the front got a facefull of soot!
The train did not go very far before backing up again, but we got a view of some of the little town of Guama, and some of the shacks that people lived in.
It was a very poor little town, evidenced by the emaciated and mangy street dogs we saw.
I also spotted a child care facility called an Infant School, with a small play ground, and only one child with one caregiver outside.
There was also what I think was a water tower or perhaps fuel tank, painted with the very familiar likeness of Che Guevara. His face was everywhere, from this tank, to fences, walls, and on every T-shirt and postcard you could find in any gift shop, including the airport.
"Revolucion" propaganda was also often seen painted on walls, fences, and souvenirs, encouraging one's support, much like the multitude of election posters that are sometimes the blight of North American cities.
Before leaving the factory and the trains, we were treated to some sugar cane juice, processed right before our eyes in a juice pressing machine, and served fresh and cold in clean glasses. While we tasted, we were entertained by a quartet of elderly musicians serenading us with yet another rendition of "Guantanamara", seemingly the most popular song in Cuba!
From the sugar cane factory, our bus continued on into the town of Cardenas, in the Matanzas province. This was a cultural centre of sorts, where we visited a very old museum of pre-revolutionary Cuba, a church built in the 1800's, and a statue of Christopher Columbus who discovered Cuba.
As the museum was extremely boring, and the guide spoke only Spanish, we went outside to wait, and I got a chance to take some photos of the architecture, people, bikes, and horse and buggies which were the main mode of transport.
As it was lunch time, local schools were letting out, and parents picked up their children on bicycles, mopeds, and sometimes in horse drawn carts.
I was interested to see that elementary school students wore red uniforms, while middle school wore beige, high school wore blue, and technical school students wore yellow. All schooling, including college (and uniforms) is paid for by the government, and education is of utmost importance in Cuba.
Finally, we loaded back on the bus to return to our hotel. It had been an eye-opening experience, seeing a little of Cuban life outside the glitz and glamour of resort life. The people have so little, yet are so proud of what they have, and are so open and willing to share it all with visitors.
Day 4 to be continued...
Last edited by rollerdonna; March 25th, 2011 at 11:21 AM.
Oh Rd, I love seeing a slice of everyday life in a country so close, yet so far away. One thing I have always seen on tv about Cuba, is how gracious the people are there.... smiling faces, in spite of their circumstances.
Trip, with her book & tea!
Chat Hostess & Board Moderator
Last edited by Trip; March 25th, 2011 at 02:23 PM.
As this was a particularly long day with lots going on and consequently loads of photos, I've had to divide the day in half. We had arrived back from our 1/2 day excursion around 2 pm and headed directly to the lunch buffet, where we enjoyed another delicious lunch. The buffet area, with indoor and outdoor seating is to the right of the pool bar seen in the photo.
By 3 pm we were on the beach for a relaxing afternoon of sun, sand and surf. The waves were high once again, so no watersports, but it was nice for swimming, walking, and exploring the beach, finding sand castles and sand sculptures.
We had by now gotten into the habit of a 5pm cup of tea by the pool bar, followed by a drink of the day, while we played Bingo. Bingo cards were given out free of charge, and the prizes consisted of bottles of wine or rum. We didn't win one, but we had fun trying!
At dinner tonight, as with most nights, there were free cocktails given out at the entrance to the dining room. Tonight's tempting taster was called a "Havana Special", consisting of rum, pineapple juice, and Maraschino Cherry Liqueur. Delicious!
After another tasty dinner, we exited the dining room and ran straight into none other than Michael Jackson!
This was just a little teaser for the late night performance this evening, which I will get to soon.
Before that though, we watched the Kiddie Disco, and participated in the Music Quiz. No winning bottle of booze this time, but it was fun. At 9 pm the house band "Charisma" performed their wonderful blend of Cuban music and mainstream hits like "She Will be Loved' by Sting. They were a very talented band of musicians and singers and most enjoyable.
The music was followed by a short fashion show featuring some beautiful Cuban girls modeling some of the gorgeous crocheted dresses and beach wraps that are so popular in Cuba. They could be purchased from vendors on the beach, or at little shops and flea markets in town.
And then the main show of the night began and I have to say, I was totally blown away. Titled "Blau Star Night", it featured the troupe of Blau dancers in a series of song performances by well known groups and singers like The Black Eyed Peas, Queen, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Michael Jackson, and a popular Cuban group called "Antonio y sur Talisman".
Black Eyed Peas
Freddie Mercury and Queen
Antonio y sur Talisman
Although the songs were lip synched, the performances and costumes were incredible, and the dancing simply amazing. "Freddie Mercury" and Queen had me laughing so hard at Bohemian Rhapsody that I had tears running down my face, and "Michael Jackson" doing the moonwalk was just plain creepy! The whole show was a high caliber performance and I was very impressed. The cast posed for pictures following the show, and you can see how amazing the costumes and sets were.
Finally, after a very long and enjoyable day, we headed off to bed to see what kind of bedspread creation we had waiting for us tonight...
Kuki, the half day sugar cane/steam train tour cost $39 per person, quite reasonable I thought, especially given the nice bus.
The day trip to Havana (8:30 am - 6:30 pm) cost $67 per person and included a lunch. We didn't choose it quite truthfully, because we didn't want to give up that much beach time! Also, it involved a lot of walking, which James' feet could not have handled, and a lot of Cuban history going back to the 1500's, which I was not particularly interested in.
I would like to plan to see Havana on another visit sometime...
Another excursion we would have liked but didn't budget for, was the Dolphin
Adventure, which involved swimming with the dolphins.
We heard from several guests that this was a fabulous tour and not to miss it next time. This one was $97 per person.
Other excursions were a Jeep Safari Tour at $73 and a Catamaran Cruise at $101., that included snorkeling, lunch and a dolphin show.
I think if we ever go again, we will save up and try some more excursions!
Cuban Experience Day 5 Thursday March 17 St. Patrick's Day
Another beautiful day in Paradise; the weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot, lovely breeze, perfect beach day. We were on the beach by 9:30 and chairs were at a premium. Because the surf was calmer, there were a lot of people using the pedal boats, kayaks and Hobie Cats that were available. (no extra charge)
Since it was hot enough for swimming, I headed back inside for my bathing suit, and when I came out I discovered a Stretch Class just starting by the pool, so I joined in. We were on mats in the shade of palm trees by the pool, with beautiful relaxing spa music playing softly, and our instructor put us through the paces of a number of yoga and pilates poses.
I enjoyed it immensely, and wished I had bothered to seek out the class earlier in the week. Activities were posted in the lower lobby, but we just never seemed to remember when and where they were, so intent were we in being beach bums!
On the way back to the beach, I went to the bar and filled up our Carnival drink cups with the Drink of the Day, "Caribano", consisting of rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, and melon liqueur. We were set for the day!
Taking a break from lying in the sun, I checked out some of the beach vendors. I don't know about elsewhere in Cuba, but at the Blau Varadero beach, vendors were permitted on the beach for only so many hours a day, and they stayed in one spot. You go to them if you are interested, otherwise, they leave you alone. This was a nice change from the Caribbean where you are pestered relentlessly.
Each vendor traveled by bicycle; the bicycles were pushed by two people, and a large frame was built around the bike to display their wares. There was usually one vendor of crocheted dresses and cover-ups and a few hats, another with assorted jewellrey, and another with many hand made craft items, including carved wood cars, statues of Cuban ladies, and a beautiful carved wooden palm tree, which I bought for our cruise room.
We enjoyed another good lunch in the outdoor grill. Did I mention that wine is served freely with lunch as well as dinner? There was also a jug of ice cold water on every table, and you had your choice of soft drinks and beer from the dispensing machines at the buffet.
After lunch I finally had a dip in the pool. Large as it was, the pool was never crowded, and it was refreshingly chilly.
A long, leisurely afternoon was spent on the beach, soaking up the sun and the sound of the surf. Again we were surprised by the lack of noise. The only music we heard was about 20 minutes of salsa for the lessons on the beach, and one song to announce Happy Hour at the bar. There was actually more noise (shouting on loudspeakers) from the resort next door, than we ever heard from our own hotel
Happy Hour found us at the pool bar for a cup of tea and Bingo, followed by a couple of "Sex on the Beach" drinks.
Since it was St. Patrick's Day, James had a Happy St. Patrick's Day hat on, and I had my green Alexander Keith's "Luck of the Irish Meets the Pride of Nova Scotia" T-shirt on. We both got plenty of comments and "Happy St. Patricks Day" wishes all day long, mostly by fellow Canadians.
Before getting ready for dinner, we headed back to the beach to take some sunset photos. Such a perfect day offered some perfect photo ops!
Dinner this evening was hit and miss. Once in a while you got something that was just not quite right, or not to your taste, so you just went back and tried something else. That was the good thing, there was always something else to please the palate.
Following dinner, there were again some very good musicians playing in the lobby bar.
We enjoyed them for a while, then moved over to watch the Kiddie Disco (they were doing their own Music Quiz, with Disney movie songs), followed by our Music Quiz, which we didn't win, but then we can't win all the time! The late show tonight was outdoors by the pool once again. We were early enough to get front row seats for the Aquatic Ballet, a totally different show from earlier in the week. Same troupe, but different music and choreographed routines. Just as they were getting started, James suddenly disappeared from my side! His plastic patio chair legs buckled and broke, and down he went, backwards onto the concrete deck. Fortunately he wasn't hurt, and security people from the hotel were quick to come and help him up and find him a better chair, but he sure caused a stir!
The Aquatic Ballet, like the first show we saw, was awesome! The performers were very talented dancers/swimmers/acrobats and the costumes incredible. We had a very good view of the girls' "bottom-less" costumes, and being in the front row, we were also the recipients of a few good soakings when the male dancers decided to make a splash!
When the show was over, we had to go back to our room to change as we were soaked! We stopped at the bar on the way, and took our drinks back to our room and retired early. Another day, another bedspread creation....
As always I am so enjoying your presentation. It is also significant to see the parts of Cuba other than the resort. The Cubans are a very proud and hard working people and I so hope that all the political crap can be worked out and they get the break they so deserve, especially the children as someone pointed out.
Were that to happen (as one day it most assuredly will), Cuba will once again be the paradise of the Caribbean for which it was so famous for so many years.
Kuki, in answer to your question, no, I don't think there was any bar service on the beach, but then I wasn't looking for it either, I brought my own drinks in the big cups from the beach bar, which was situated just up the stairs to the boardwalk from the beach.
There was table service at the pool bar, if you were sitting at the tables near the bar. I'm not sure about poolside, as I never sat there.
Happy Hour by the Pool Bar
"Blue Varadero" by the Beach Bar
Last edited by rollerdonna; March 27th, 2011 at 12:07 PM.
Cuban Experience Day 6 Friday March 18 (and Tuesday March 15)
It has come to my attention that I have skipped an entire day in our week of bliss on the beach. When you spend day after day doing nothing but soaking up the glorious sun and enjoying the sound of the surf, I guess it's easy to skip a day, as one day is just like the next! So, I will say that Tuesday, the day I missed, and Friday where we are now, were pretty much alike, full days on the beach enjoying the sights and sounds of the sea, the people, the pelicans and the watersports.
Tuesday and Friday were also alike in that they were the two days that we tried the "specialty" restaurants offered at our resort. The first, on Tuesday evening, was a cozy little hideaway around back of the main outdoor buffet, near the tennis courts. We didn't even know it was there until we went looking for it. Called "Palma Real", it was a rustic sort of building, with a log cabin look, and high ceilings. First impression was calm, quiet and civilized, with tablecloths, fine china, silverware and tinkling glasses. We were greeted at the door by a hostess who poured us tall glasses of champagne, with a dash of cherry liqueur in the bottom, nice touch! The restaurant was not crowded, and there were servers scurrying around, bringing you water, wine, bread, and taking orders. James asked for a glass of wine, and our server brought him the whole bottle, in a little wicker basket. While we waited for our dinner, and throughout the evening, we were entertained by a wonderful classical style trio on violins, and cello.
The food was fantastic. We started with a wonderful cream of vegetable soup, followed by turkey and shrimp for James, and beautifully done beef tournedos for me. Sides were roast and mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables, all very artistically arranged a la cruise ship. Our wonderful meal was followed by a delicious Amaretto Pie, and all in all, it was a meal comparable to any specialty restaurant on a ship.
On the Friday night, our reservation was with "Las Adelfas", the Cuban style specialty restaurant. This was really the lunchtime buffet in disguise. At lunch, the sides were open to the sun and breezes; at night, they pulled down privacy shades, put comfortable cushions on the hard wicker chairs, and tablecloths, fine china, silverware, glassware and fresh flowers on the tables. The buffet area was turned into a cooking kitchen, where you could watch the chefs prepare the meals. All in all, it had a very nice ambiance.
This restaurant was a little busier than the last, but then our reservation was for 6:30 rather than 8:30. Again, we were greeted by a hostess with a glass of champagne, and there were many servers busy around the room, bringing water, wine, and Cuban appetizers which appeared to be plantain chips and deep fried breaded chicken nuggets.
The menu featured Cuban food, but I had no trouble finding something I liked. I chose an orange glazed roast chicken, while James chose a beef pot roast, both of which were absolutely delicious. Our meals were served with mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables, black beans, and a very small side salad, consisting of a tiny leaf of lettuce (at last!), and slices of cucumber and tomato. Again, the meals were artistically presented just like on a cruise ship, and our desserts of sweet rice puddings with cinnamon were scrumptious. We had tea with our dessert, and it was served with a glass of hot milk, as is the custom in Cuba. No little cold sachets of milk or cream were ever served with tea or coffee.
One odd thing though, was that there was a resident cat wandering the restaurant, begging food from diners. It came and ate a piece of chicken right out of my hand!
The service was not slow, but leisurely, giving us enough time to digest before the next course, and to enjoy the strolling musicians who provided both lively and romantic musical entertainment throughout the meal. I even requested my favourite Spanish song, "Besseme Mucho", which they serenaded us with at our table.
All in all, another wonderful Cuban experience, with very good food!
Following dinner on the Friday was another big production show called "Latino", filled with amazing costumes, dancing, African rhythms, Cuban music, even a fire-eater in a skeleton costume.
I never ceased to be amazed at the quality of the resort's entertainment, and the high energy of the performers. Even after such an energetic performance, the dancers came into the audience to invite guests up to dance with them, and the dancing was still going on as we went up to bed....
Last Day. Always the hardest, knowing you have to say goodbye and go back to the cold, so we were up and out early to enjoy every last minute. We were all packed and ready before breakfast, as we had to vacate our room by noon. Luggage could be stored for the day in a room behind the reception, until our bus was to pick us up at 5:30pm.
It was a bit awkward keeping summer clothes or swimsuit out for the day to enjoy the weather, then a quick change into pants and shoes for the trip home, but we managed. This was helped somewhat by the fact that I had burnt myself terribly the day before on the beach, and could not possibly lie in the sun the last day. I spent the entire day under a palm tree in the shade, at times wrapped in towels because the breeze was so chilly.
James spent the morning on the beach without me, getting his last fix of the sights and sounds of the sea.
I did manage to participate, albeit painfully because of the sunburn, in the 10 am stretch class in the shade by the pool. Again, I wished I had known about the class earlier in the week, I would have liked to have done it every day.
At 11:30 there was an "Aqua Gym" class organized in the pool. Another great activity I had managed to miss all week, as I had been at the beach. I really wanted to join in, but as it was in cold water and directly in the sun, I could not, my burn was too painful. However, it was great fun watching the instructor and all the women in the pool, stretching, circling, punching, kicking, and generally having a good workout to some lively tunes.
Our last lunch was enjoyed in the outdoor buffet, along with the mariachi band entertainment . I noticed that all week, the music we heard always set a mood, or gave ambiance to a situation, reminding you that you were in Cuba, and that Spanish was their language. I didn't mind it at all, as it was never loud and overwhelming. Our afternoon was spent under the palm trees near the pool, napping, and enjoying the drink of the day, "Rhumba", featuring creme de cacao, dark rum, and pineapple juice.
Around 4:30 we made one last visit to the beach bar, which was also a 24 hr snack bar, and had a couple of their very good toasted sandwiches, before embarking on our long journey home. While there, we ventured to the beach for some photos and a last goodbye.
Back in the main lobby by 5:00pm, waiting for our bus, we managed to snag a last glass of champagne and orange juice, which was on a table for arriving guests.
I managed to get one picture of one of the many fabulous old cars we'd seen in Cuba, this one was a taxi parked outside the hotel.
Our bus picked us up promptly at 5:30, and we bid a sad goodbye to Blau Varadero, hoping to be back again some day.
...to be continued...summary coming up!
Last edited by rollerdonna; March 28th, 2011 at 10:32 PM.
Donna - another great review with wonderful pictures. Thank you very much.
I hope you cruise or land travel soon again, but could you please post your day by day reports separately as it takes in my case (with AOL) forever to load them ... the 'puter starts from the beginning and loads everything before you get to the latest posting. Hope James is feeling much better and you haven't gotten his bug. Thanks.
I cruise the Emerald Princess, Eastern Caribbean on April 16, 2012
CruzNut, I'm so glad you enjoyed the review and the pics, and sorry they take so long to load, but I was asked to post them all in one thread, as they just get scattered around in the wrong order when I do otherwise.
And now, for my conclusion....
One of the most asked questions I've had since returning from our Cuban all-inclusive holiday is "Did you like it better than cruising?" That is an interesting question, and it has many answers. Basically, the answer is no, not better, but just as much. However, there are many other factors on both sides of the pros and cons that need to be addressed.
COST: When an all-inclusive is advertised as all-inclusive, it really is. You pay your package deal including airfare, taxes, and hotel, and virtually everything is included. There are no hidden costs for activities, entertainment, or meals in specialty restaurants. We didn't even have to pay to play Bingo! Tipping is appreciated, but not demanded, nor is it automatically added to your bill. At an all-inclusive, you tip at your own discretion, and you can leave token gifts such as toiletries, makeup, T-shirts, or souvenirs from home, on your bed for your room maid, or given to your favourite server, bartender, or whomever you think deserves a little extra. Such niceties that we take for granted are so much appreciated in Cuba.
EXTRAS: The only extras associated with an all-inclusive are the excursions. There were several to choose from, and easy to book through your own personal tour guide who works for the agency you booked with. Tours seemed relatively inexpensive compared to ship shore excursions, and although we only took one, we heard nothing but positive reports from other guests who tried several.
FOOD: I have heard both good and bad things about the food in Cuban all-inclusives. Perhaps because we did our homework and researched our choice thoroughly and chose a 4-star hotel, or perhaps we were just lucky, but we had no complaints at all about the food. Yes, it was mostly buffet style, no fancy dining room and waiter service every night for dinner, but the choices were plentiful, the servers (for water, wine, and table clearing) were friendly and efficient, and there was always something good available. The specialty restaurants were in my opinion, comparable to those on cruise ships, and at no extra cost!
DRINKS: Probably the biggest saving in an all-inclusive is at the bar.
All drinks are included, and this includes wine with lunch and dinner, and complimentary cocktails upon arrival and departure, as well as every night before dinner. Also, the drinks were a good 80% alcohol and 20% fruit juice, unlike the watered down drinks on cruises. For non-drinkers or for kids, there were also virgin cocktails available, as well as two flavours of "slushies".
We are not big drinkers, but while on vacation we enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, a "drink-of-the-day" during the day, and maybe a cocktail at night. That alone on a cruise would up our bill $200 or more in a week, and as the cruiseline drink prices have gone up, I have stopped drinking on cruises. I didn't over-drink on the all-inclusive, just because it was free, but I did enjoy a few drinks.
ACTIVITIES: People have said to me, "I wouldn't want to be stuck in one place for a week with nothing to do and nowhere to go". I am the first to admit that this is precisely why we chose an all-inclusive this time, because we wanted to escape our cold winter, soak up the sun,and just veg out on the beach all day! (and a beautiful, clean beach it was too!) When we cruise, we always choose beach excursions in ports, but they are never long enough. You always have to get back on the bus and return to the ship after limited time enjoying the beach. This time, we did nothing BUT enjoy the beach day after day, but this doesn't mean there was nothing else to do! As mentioned before, there were excursions available, and the reason we only took one was because we didn't want to infringe on our beach time. If you so desired, there was public transportation available in the form of taxis, buses, and even bicycle rentals, to go into the town of Varadero to explore or shop. I heard there was a wonderful flea market there, with a multitude of hand made crafts and local artisans. The hotel offered a wonderful program of daily activities as well, includingvAqua-Gym, Stretch Class, Tennis, Beach Volleyball, Water Volleyball, Salsa Lessons, Spanish Lessons, Scuba Lessons, and the availability of all water sports like pedal boats, kayaks, Hobie Cats, and windsufing, all at no extra charge. There was also a spa and beauty parlour/barber in the hotel, offering services at rates much much less than on a cruise ship.
ENTERTAINMENT: I think my biggest surprise on this vacation, was in the quality and caliber of the entertainment. I had expected a nightly dose of Cuban musicians with endless renditions of "Guantanamara", so I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was such a diversity and excellence of entertainment. The Blau Dancers, a troupe of very talented dancers/acrobats put on such wonderful, lively and colourful shows almost every night, and in addition, mingled with the audience and taught guests how to dance Cuban style. The Water Ballet was magnificent, and a real change of pace. I had to admire their stamina performing in a rather chilly pool at night! The Magic Show was certainly a show-stopper too, as we sat close up and could not tell how the amazing tricks and illusions were done. Then there were all the smaller entertainment acts; strolling musicians in the lunch and dinner buffets, mariachi bands, nightly duos, trios or quartets of musicians performing in the lobby bar area and in the specialty restaurants, every single one of them fine, talented musicians and/or singers. I have experienced some very good entertainers on cruises, but in many cases, the pool bands, and even some lounge entertainers have left much to be desired.
ODDS AND ENDS: One of the oddest things I found about our hotel in Cuba was houskeeping’s practice of not providing you with a facecloth! We always had plenty of clean towels, both bath and hand towels, but there was no facecloth to be found. We never did meet our room maid, so never had a chance to ask her for one, although I suppose we could have asked at reception, but it hardly seemed worth the trouble. I simply used one hand towel as a facecloth, and the other for drying, and both were replaced fresh every day. Speaking of thing being replaced, there was a mini-fridge in our room, containing bottled water, beer, wine, and soft drinks. If you opened one, even if you didn’t finish it, it was replaced with a fresh one each day, all at no extra charge. Very different from a cruise. Another oddity I mentioned earlier was the fact that every time you left your room and removed your key card from the wall slot, the lights went out and the air conditioning went off. Personally, I thought this was a great energy saving measure, and perhaps might be a good idea for cruise ships as well.
In conclusion, we loved our first visit to Cuba, and really enjoyed everything about our chosen resort, especially the sun, sand and surf. However, as my husband said, we missed the thrill of seeing ships at sea and in port, as well as the excitement of pulling into a new port each day!
IF YOU’RE INTERESTED: If you’d like to see more on the Blau Varadero Resort, video, music, entertainment, please check it out on Google or YouTube. There are some fine videos available to give you a better idea of what the place is all about.
Hope you enjoyed reading my review, and if you ever get a chance to visit Cuba, I hope you too will have a wonderful time!
Donna, I've really enjoyed your "daily" Cuba posts. I don't think we'll ever be able to cruise to Cuba, so it was nice to see what happens there !
I'm glad y'all had a good time! I hope James is feeling better ASAP!
Edited: I posted before I read your last post. I think the All Inclusive resorts are great for people who either experince really HOT or really COLD weather most of the year! We have 4 season's here, so we really wouldn't be interested in a AI in a HOT area.
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Last edited by Fern; March 28th, 2011 at 10:04 PM.
Trip, in answer to your question, no, we really didn't meet up with any other
guests to hang out with, although we certainly talked with several on a casual basis.Most everyone we met were Canadian AND teachers, as it was our March Break!
We did meet and talk extensively to a few couples on our trip back to the airport, all of whom were traveling to Halifax and lived in various parts of Nova Scotia.
And Yes, it was a kind of romantic getaway for the two of us, and we enjoyed the peace and quiet, but we both agreed it would be nice to travel with friends if we ever do it again.
Great description and photos!!! we enjoyed it very much, thanks for taking the time to share with us all
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