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Reviewed 20 February 2005

We were at the Melia Varadero from Feb. 11 to 18th, had a good time, however there were a few points that might be helpful to share. > The upper floors are undergoing renovations. Unless you like the sound of tiles being removed by hammer and chisel, try the 1st floor. We changed our room to 1417...beautiful ocean view.
> The elevators were very slow, and not all three worked all of the time. Watch your step, they didn't always stop exactly level to the floor.
> They mix great Mohitos at the main bar, but this got quite busy at night.
Especially when "the Terminator" was working. He has one speed...slow.
A typical wait was between six and twelve minutes. This is not because we didn't tip, as I even tipped the guy who cooked my omelette in the morning. Go figure?
> The amount of lounge chairs with pads near the pools were limited. You have to get up early to claim one. Some people would put their towel and a book on a lounger, and then be gone for hours. I guess they went back to bed.
> The guys who poured drinks at the pool bar did exactly that...pour booze.
They didn't know how to actually make a good drink.
> The beach was very beautiful, with warm clear water. You had to swim over a coral reef to get to the sandy part.
> Food was pretty good compared with what we heard from other Canadians who stayed at other resorts in the area. I guess we used less Pepto than they did.
> We were able to get into all the "a la carte" restaurants but you must book them as soon as you get there.
> The only side trip we took was the Discover Jeep trip. $73 US each, but worth it.
> Staff were more than friendly, and spoke enough english to understand them.
> First impressions of the resort were impressive, but as you roam around, there are certainly areas that need some upkeep. For example, the bar tops need re-finishing and several areas need painting.
> Overall we had a great week, loved the up-beat Cuban music, and after the first two cool days the weather was hot. But we would not likely return to this resort as we feel it was not rated appropriatly. (4 1/2 stars).

20  Thank Ambassador29068
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 1 February 2005

We just got back form Varadero Cuba we stayed at the beautiful Melia Varadero having heard all the horror stories about the food in Cuba I was pleasantly surprised with the food at the Melia, I think North Americans go to Cuba expecting what they eat in their respective cities this is where the disappointment comes from. Well the Melia was very clean the staff very friendly most of them speak English the beach is beautiful this resort is right on the beach they also have a restaurant right on the beach and 2 others just off the beach
It is one of the best resorts in Varadero I would go there again in a heartbeat please feel free to contact me rtaitt2000@yahoo.com

Date of stay: January 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
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33  Thank rtaitt2000
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 31 January 2005

The service sucked. Evertime you went to the bar you had to wait even when there was nobody waiting in line. Most of the staff spoke very little English so communicating was difficult. The drinks must have been made by failures in bartending, because they were very strong, and It seemed like all they knew how to make were pina colades, and mohitos. The food was very good. The bartenders are just looking for tips. I been to Cuda before in Varadaro and had way better service at resorts with less stars. By the way, who rated this place with 4stars plus? Also, there are very few people there who are not elderly. It seems like this resort is geared for older folks. If you have kids, I would think twice about going here. If you are looking to have a good time with people between the ages of 23-40, don't go here.

19  Thank Angiebwains
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 26 January 2005

Quick Conclusion: Overall, we really enjoyed Melia Varadero. Resort was nice and clean. Staff were very friendly. Food got somewhat repetitive as week went on but was enjoyable with lots of choices. Beach is nice albeit not the biggest but lots of loungers to use. Water is crystal clear along the beach. Nice resort if you like to relax. Not much in terms of nightlife activities.

Detailed Review:

We were a group of four who went to the Melia Varadero (ages 26-30) between January 16-23, 2005. Overall, we had a great time. Majority of the guests were older (between 40-50 years of age) and would estimate about 60% full. It made for a nice relaxing time. Weather was so-so for the first four days, mainly cloudy and very windy. Temperatures all week were around 20-24 degrees Celsius. The last few days, it was sunnier and winds were a lot calmer, good beach weather.

Arriving in Cuba was pain free. Took about an hour to get through customs as 2-3 other planes arrived at the same time. Exchanged some money at the airport but the teller wouldn't break a $10 bill into smaller change (which we wanted to use as tips). Once outside, you'll have people try to grab your bag to help you to your bus. We just declined them. Bus ride to Melia Varadero was about 30 mins. with one stop at another resort (our bus was only a 1/3 full)

The lobby is very welcoming and at the center of the hotel there are beautiful trees, plants, etc. Check-in was easy but there wasn't any kind of order with all the people who had arrived at the same time. They also didn't have the key to the safe in one of our rooms. We checked back the next couple of days but it appeared that the previous guests had lost it. They didn't have a spare key either. We ended up putting all of our valuables in the one safe that we had a key for so it wasn't that bothersome. Some people have commented that the hotel could use some refreshing. There were a couple of areas that could use a splash of paint but overall it was nice and clean.

Rooms - very pleasant (we had rooms #2711 & #2714). Each room had two twin beds that were set up side-by-side, a TV with about 15-20 channels, desk and chair, coffee table, coffee maker and a mini-fridge that is stocked with three soft drinks and two beers. According to our travel agent at the hotel, they are supposed to keep this stock level everyday and if you wanted more on one particular day, you would have to pay the $5 US room service charge. We found that they only restocked the fridge every other day but we had plenty of bottled water everyday. One of us requested from our maid for extra cans of a particular lime soft drink and later that day came back to find 5 cans of them in their fridge (we did tip our maid each day, more on that later). We were on the second floor and had a balcony although there wasn't much of a view. Bathrooms were nice as well. On one evening, however, we did experience a lack of hot water. Also, if you use a glass or cup, they only wash the one you used instead of giving you new ones. The air conditioning in #2714 didn't seem to work that well but wasn't a huge factor given the temperatures during our stay.

Staff - overall, quite friendly. All can speak some English and they were very appreciative when we attempted to speak in Spanish. Sometimes, they didn't understand what we were saying/asking but we managed to get through to them fine. Our maid always greeted us with a "Hola" and a smile each time we saw her. Restaurant staff were quite accommodating. We had one server who made a rose out of a napkin and gave one to my wife each night he served us. They have to work hard considering all the people they have to serve. For the most part, our plates were cleared off quickly and got drink top-ups frequently. If you wander in after the main rush dies down, you may have to ask for them to clear a table. All of the staff seemed quite content working there. There's a comradery amongst all of them. We were expecting that the service would be so-so based on hearing that Cubans don't make that much money. That could be the case but we were very pleased with their service and demeanor (we tipped almost every meal).

Tipping - We were under the impression from reviews and the forums that the hotel staff would be working the same areas each time. So on the first day, we tipped "big" (i.e. $5 CUC) for good service on the premise that we would come back to them each day and then leave something smaller afterwards. What we found was that the staff changed areas each day, even restaurants/bars. They also share the tips. We only left $1 - $3 CUC the rest of week depending on the level of service we got for each meal. We tipped our maid each day with toiletries that we had brought down (eg. soaps, lotions, makeup, etc). She expressed a deep appreciation for these items.

Restaurants/Bars: Overall, food was good with good variety. Majority of the drinks contained rum (Havana Club) but they also had a good selection of other liquors which you could request. Their draft beer was Cristal which seems to be the beer of choice in Cuba. We didn't care much for it, it was a bit weak. Soft drinks and bottled water were available everywhere and wine was offered at dinner.

La Habana Buffet is the main restaurant and was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It had a very good selection of food which overall was quite tasty. It's mostly the same thing each time (fruits, veggies, rice, etc) but they do change up some of the meat/seafood dishes. Breakfast had an assortment of eggs, sausages, pancakes, etc. They have an omelet station where you can get a freshly made omelet. Other stations had fruits, delicious pastries, cereals and juices. For lunch and dinner, the stations offer made-to-order pasta, grilled meats or dessert. Salad bar didn't have always have lettuce. Desserts were always very delicious.

Fuerteventura restaurant was open for dinner only. We managed to eat there twice since the Chinese restaurant was "broken". This is the best a la carte restaurant at the hotel and the most popular, so book your reservation as soon as you arrive. It is dimly lit with candles on the table. There's a string quartet that played during our meals. Starters include a choice from three soups. Main course offers chicken, fish and filet mignon. We had the filet mignon which was very tender and tasty. However, the portion is very small so don't go there super hungry. Desserts capped off the delicious meal.

Italian Restaurant is actually located inside the La Habana buffet but just a different section. Food wasn't bad but wasn't good either.

Trinidad Restaurant was open for a la carte lunch and becomes the seafood restaurant at night. Lunch main course is a Cuban style meat dish which normally isn't available at the buffet. Portions are good for lunch. At dinner, all choices are some kind of seafood which can pose a problem if not everyone in your group likes it (happened to us). But we all decided to at least give it a try, afterall, we were at an all-inclusive, so if we were still hungry, we could always go to the buffet afterwards. Portions are quite small (eg. one dish was a small half lobster without the claw part). However, our server said that we could get more. I ended up trying the fish and lobster meals. Everyone enjoyed their meals.

Grill Varadero, located on the beach, was open between 12pm and 4pm. They served a variety of things off the grill (eg. hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken legs). Overall, quite tasty. The bar doesn't have as much liquor selection there though, mainly rum and a few others.

24hr snack bar was the place to eat when all the other places were closed. They offer pizzas, hamburgers, hotdog, sandwiches, etc. Nobody in our group cared for any of the food there. The pizza was bland and dry (no tomato sauce). The cheese in Cuba doesn't have much taste to it either. The hamburger is not made out of regular beef. It's actually pink in colour. It tasted alright though after we determined that it just wasn't an uncooked burger. Towards the end of our stay, we just ordered a plate of fries when we wanted to snack on something there.

Hotel Activities - found this on the lacking side. They do have a schedule of activities each day. Some of them didn't take place as scheduled though. Evening activities include a theme show. We took in a few of these and they were okay. There's a piano bar which sometimes had some live singers or a piano player. There's also a karaoke bar/disco which cater to karaoke first. The Cuban style music was great!

Swimming Pools - very nice but water was too cold to go swimming. But it was still nice to lie around on their loungers which had these very comfortable cushions.

Beach - very nice albeit not very big. It stretches to the Melia Los Americas resort which shares it. There are lots of beach loungers, some items available for watersports and a volleyball net. Sand is nice, water is crystal clear. You can walk out a fair distance into the water as it is fairly shallow. There were some spots where there was some coral/rocks. Not much to see in terms of snorkeling though. The water was a rough the first half of our trip and they posted the red flag which means no swimming. On our last day, it was perfect.

Other miscellaneous - although we didn't use everything the hotel had to offer, there were bicycles and scooters for rent, tennis courts, basketball court, ping-pong table, etc. Internet service (which was on dial-up) was $2 for 15mins. Calling cards don't work in Cuba nor can you call collect. We were told that it costs $3.50 per minute for long distance calls whether the call is answered or not. It's better to have someone call you instead at the hotel. They have little shops which we found pricey. Massage services are also available for about $25. We found some of the English translations quite humourous on their signs and menus. Varadero Golf course is about a 10mins. walk. The lone golfer in our group says that the conditions are fair, course design is beautiful and the wind presents a Pebble Beach like challenge. There's a plaza that's a 2 minute walk from the hotel where you can find a grocery store, cigar shop and souvenirs.

Excursions - we did 2 tours with the CubaCan tour company (Jeep Safari and Havana) and also went to the Varadero flea market. The flea market is not too far away, ~$7 taxi ride each way. It had a good selection of souvenir items. Prices were better than the hotel, plaza and airport. The 2 tours were around $80 CUC per person. Both were enjoyable as you get to see the real Cuba as Varadero is mainly a tourist area.

The Jeep Safari was great as you got to drive a mini-SUV and a small boat. It's more of an experience rather than a tour since you are in your own groups. It does get dusty when you do the off-road parts and the vehicles aren't exactly in the greatest condition. You also need to know how to drive a manual transmission.

Havana tour was great. Our tour was a small group of 8 people which was nice. We went to the cigar factory which was very interesting. Old Havana was nice but we did get annoyed at the persistence of some of the locals asking for money and stuff. We brought some stuff to give out but some of them would not leave us alone. Some of them were even picky about the stuff we offered. There was one old lady who faked crying even though we offered her some of our food and water which she refused. Just be prepared if you go into Old Havana.

43  Thank HandJ16
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed 11 January 2005

We stayed at the Melia Varadero Decemeber 18-25 and it was great. It was cold for two days, but five days of sunshine made up for it. It was a little boring on the cold days as there was nothing to do, but the beach was great (Volleyball, dance lessons, entertainment). Food was great and staff were, contrary to many reviews, very friendly.

Date of stay: December 2004
    • Value
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12  Thank Ambassador34980
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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