Advantages Well located, Good value, Superb Beach
Disadvantages Only one restaurant
|Value for Money|
|Quality of Rooms|
|Standard of Service|
|Quality of Food & Drink|
|Quality of Facilities|
We have just returned from a two week break at the Riu Turquesa at Varadero and were generally quite happy with the hotel and the resort. This was a late booking and we got a very good price for a family of four on an all-inclusive basis.We flew with Thomsonfly direct to Varadero from Manchester. Thomsonfly do not provide drinks other than water onboard and you have to pay for headsets. However the flight was fine. At Varadero Airport we joined a long queue to have our passports and tourist cards examined in minute detail - one by one. It was a slow start to the holiday and we were glad to get on the air conditioned coach to be taken to the hotel which is a little over half an hours drive away.
The hotel itself is located some distance along the Varadero peninsula, very close to a dolphinarium and Aquaworld which is where many of the official excursions are based. It is some distance from the town and the nearest supermarket is a taxi or bus ride away.Checking in to the hotel was quick and efficient. The lobby area is spacious and airy and there is a bar! There were plenty of staff available to check us all in and we didn't have to wait long. Staff retain passports to carry out paperwork so do not be surprised by this. We were provided with a safe key, a card to obtain beach towels and an electronic keycard for the room. The bellboys took our cases on a golf buggy, leaving us to walk to the room through the hotel grounds.
The hotel occupies a large plot and the majority of rooms are located in separate blocks of eight rooms on two stories. There is plenty of space around each block but it also means that some of the rooms are quite some distance from the main hotel facilities. The gardens were well kept and clean and there are plenty of litter bins. Rooms are a reasonable size but simply furnished and with very limited storage space, especially drawer space. Each room has a balcony or terrace. Our terrace faced another block of rooms and I suspect that the majority do. There did not appear to be any possibility of a sea view room, in fact the beach was not visible from the main hotel accommodation at all.The room was basic but more than sufficient. There is an entrance lobby area with a reasonably large wardrobe (not many hangers) and drawers. The safe is located inside the wardrobe and is free but a lost key will cost you 50 pesos. The bathroom is a good size with a bath with shower, washbasin in a counter, toilet and bidet. The room itself has two double beds and a settee. Additional beds can be set up for children. The TV and fridge complete the facilities. The fridge is restocked with beer, water and cola every other day. Tap water is not safe to drink. The maids keep the rooms immaculately clean and towels are folded into different animal shapes each day.
The main facilities are located around the swimming pool which is large but very shallow in parts. The pool was very clean and warm when we stayed there. The pool has fountains at one end and a sitting area with jets - not quite a jacuzzi - and a pier which proved a great attraction to all the children staying there at the time.Adjacent to the pool is the snack bar which is open from 10am until midnight. The snack bar provides a continental breakfast in the morning and burgers, hot dogs, fries and other dishes throughout the day. The bar serves soft drinks, beer and cocktails made from local and international brands. There is also a soft drinks dispenser with chilled cola, orange, pineapple juice sparkling and still water . Hot drinks can be obtained from another dispenser and there are a selection of icecreams in a freezer. There are always plenty of waiters or you can help yourself. Drinks are served in small plastic glasses during the day and larger glass ones during the evening when the pool has closed. There are plenty of tables and chairs and the staff are very helpful in clearing glasses and replenishing drinks.
The next building is a large open 'theatre' which is used during the day for craft sales and displays. This building also houses the table tennis table and a very dilapidated pool table. During the evening it is the centre of the entertainment which starts with the mini club disco, moves on to bingo, quizzes and competitions, salsa lessons and demonstrations and the main show for the night. The team work very hard, bingo was carried out in 4 languages for example. Entertainment is what you make of it I suppose. The bar in this area is open in the evnings until 1 am and the bartenders are extremely efficient. We rarely had a wait for a drink.The main restaurant is the last of the buildings. This is a large enclosed room which has a smoking and non-smoking area. You are allocated a table and sitting for dinner on your first night which remains yours for the rest of your stay although you are free to sit where you want for breakfast and lunch. Along the length of the room are the buffet tables and grill stations. Drinks are available from dispensers in the centre of the room but the waiters are very quick to fill glasses.
The food is, like the majority of Cuban all-inclusive hotels, rather limited. Fish, chicken or pork is grilled freshly, there are bowls of vegetables and salads, stews, bread, cheese and dressings. The pasta and pizza station was always busy and these dishes proved the most popular over the two weeks we were there. Other foods were pretty average and the vegetables barely reached average. Breakfasts were the best meal with a selection of hot and cold dishes, freshly made omelettes, waffles etc. Breads were very good as were the selection of fresh fruits, especially mangos. No-one should go hungry but it's no gastronomic feast either. However other hotels in Varadero appeared to be similar.The staff are excellent. Waiters, maids, reception staff, everyone was ready to help and ready to smile.
The beach is superb. It's a little way from the main hotel buildings and not immediately visible but it is well worth the walk. White soft sand, warm turquoise sea, enough waves to make things fun. There are plenty of sunbeds but you need to be there early to get one near a shade. For the first time in my life I saw bins on the beach and there were staff employed to pick up litter which was done frequently. Non motorised water sports are free including snorkelling, kayaks, pedalos and hobie cat trips however some of these need to be booked in advance. The entertainment team organised activities on the beach including aquagym, volleyball etc but you don't get pressured to take part. The beach bar is good although the plastic glasses are a bit small.The hotel has recently been downgraded from a 4 star to a 3 star. This is probably because of a lack of facilities in comparison to other hotels in this bracket.. For example there is no gym or spa. There is no a la carte restaurant and just one buffet and the decoration is getting a little tired. However it is a good 3 star hotel and met our needs. Many people who were there at the same time as us had booked at 4 star prices and were a little unhappy about that. Make sure you get a good price when you book
I'd like to finish with some general advice for travellers to this hotel or Cuba in general. You cannot get pesos outside Cuba
and the best exchange rate we got was at the airport on arrival. There is a 10% charge to use a credit card and cards that are issued by providers that are affiliated with american banks are not accepted. The safest thing to do is to bring sterling in cash and change small amounts at a time.
Excess baggage is heavily penalised at the airport on your return home and it is amazing how many people were just over the luggae allowance. Keep your bags as light as you can and buy your duty free rum at the airport after you've checked your bags in.Official excursions are expensive but if you tell staff at the hotel that you are keen to visit Havana or anywhere else they will often let you know of an alternative excursion you can take.
Keep in mind that there has been a trade embargo for a very long time and things that we take for granted may not be available in Cuba or only available at a price. Take any medications you will need with you.Otherwise - have a great time and enjoy. Cuba is well worth a visit.
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