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Cuba FAM Report for Travel Agents

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Cuba FAM Report for Travel Agents

  1. 1. Sunwing| RIU FAM to Varadero Cuba 19-22 SEPT 2014 Hosted by: Valerie Ward,RIUBusinessDevelopmentManager Toronto& WestCanada 416-302-1287 In destination: Gorica Petkoska,DirectoraComercial ClubHotel RiuVaradero/RiuPlayaTurquesa SalesOffice Varadero/ ++53 45 66 79 66 Cuba| Currency Tips: - Recommendclientschange currencyupon arrival atthe airport,as the rate will likelybe betterthanat the hotel. I exchangedfora rate of 1.1415 so $100 CAD= 87.60 CUC - For tipping:USDis so expensivetoexchange there soithelpsthe staff if youcantip inCUC; if the airportdoesn’t give yousmall enoughdenominationsthenyoucanhave the exchange atthe hotel make smallerbillsforyou. CUC comesas lowas 5/3/1 notesand coinsincluding1CUC - Keepsmallercoinsonyouforvisitingtoiletsoff the resort(notmandatorytopaybut usuallyisa ladythere takingcoinsinexchange fortoiletpaper) –on that note justbringyour owntoiletpaper/kleenex asit’spretty terrible everywhere,eventhe 5star hotels
  2. 2. Itinerary: DAY 1: RIU site inspection,welcome dinner@ItalianRestaurant,Michael Jacksonshow –awesome! DAY 2: Site inspections(7),poolsidedinnerwithAquaShow indeluxesection –not so awesome DAY 3: Havana daytour, dinner@GourmetRestaurant DAY 4: RIU specialisttraining,afternoonatleisure (Igota massage at the spa & swamat the beach),farewell dinner& eveningdeparturetoVRA airport
  3. 3. DAY 1: RIU Varadero: Situatedbetweenthe MemoriesVaraderoandthe IberostarLagunaAzul,the RIU wasour host hotel forthe three nights. Note:atthisendof the peninsulathere isasmall mangrove (vegetationarea) thatseparatesthe resortsfromthe beach.Onlytakesa couple minutestowalktobeachbut no ’beachfrontaccess‘foranyroom categories. Uponarrival we were takento the Adults-Only‘deluxe section‘exclusive lobbyforcheckinand showntoour rooms (deluxe suites – bedroom,livingroom+ 2 bathrooms!).Thissection‘sroomsare situatedinacircle of 3-level villassurroundingthe adult pool.There isalsothe exclusive restaurant locatedpoolside +a snack/bararea. Thissectionisclosesttothe beach. Duringthe lowseason,the standardroom sectionof the resort(locatedfarthestfrombeach) isclosed.Soanyone bookingintostandardat thistime of yearwouldbe upgradedintosuperior,andthe few gueststhatIspoke to inthe Deluxe-sectionpool hadbeenupgradedintoadults-onlyfromsuperior. Overall,the hotel isratedas5 stars butI foundthe differencebetweenother 5star propertiessuchas the Paradisus PrincesaandRoyal Hicacos to be great. I wouldconsiderthe Riuaverysolid4 star or perhaps4.5. Itdoeslooklike a ClassicRIU, withnice grounds,decorandcommonareas,fantasticstaff/serviceandentertainment. Note:Sunwing/Signature guestsrecieve1hr/dayfree wifi access (all roomcategories).Otherguestshave topayfor wifi.Onlyaccessible fromlobbiesandthe cigarlounge.
  4. 4. - Adultonlysectioncomeswithextended2pmcheckout,can requestpillow topmattresscover - ShampoolookedandsmelledlikedishsoapsoIcan’t recommendthe amenities - Roomwas spaciousbutmusty,smell of cigarette smoke fromotherroomoroutside wascominginthroughmy AC (butthe AC workedwell &fanoverthe bedwas verynice) - Overall cleanliness butneededadeepcleaningwhenlookingclosely,espsmall bathroomatentrance toroom - NO clocksinthe rooms or on anyTV channel – thisis a RIU-wide conceptbutIdont like it,Iwant to knowwhat time itis!Hair dryer outletinroomhad adapterbuilt insoyou can plugindevices - Resortis walkable buttheyhave cartscirculatingtoo:staff veryfriendlyeverywhere - I triedthe snack bar & the lobbybar (that’swhere Ifoundthe bestcappucino) andhad promptservice during busytimes – theywere workingreallyfast - I was treatedtoa spamassage whichitself wasnice butthere wasnoaccompanying‘spaexperience‘ –itwas justin andout of the massage room,spa seemedprettyemptyingeneral
  5. 5. DAY 2: Site Inspections I’ll just make a few points about each property that youmay not alreadyknow. Memories Varadero: SalesManager YudeisysMaury I had preconceivedthisproperty(formerlySirenisLaSalinas) tobe a little run-downbutitseemsrecentlyfreshened-up. Nothingextraordinarypoppedout atme but itseemsa solid4 star familypropertywithabright,airyentrance and buffetareawithdiamondclubsubsection. The large grounds& walkwaysare verywell maintainedandthe propertyislaidoutlike afigure ‘8‘witha pool inthe centerof each half (one quieter,one more forfamilywithwaterslide).There isamainsquare inthe centerwiththeatre and a la cartes. DinnerreservationsforSunwingguestscanbe made forthe whole weekatthe Sunwingdesk(open9-5pm). ParadisusPrincesa del Mar: SalesManager Falcon| Paradisusisthe top tierof the Meliabrand, andthis18+ resortis surelya5 star property.Itis quiet,withnodaytime animationteambutsome greateveningentertainmentanddailyactivitiessuchaswine tastings.There isalsoacentral ‘square‘withthe airconditionedmainbuffet,shops,cigarbaretc. There isan outside eatingareaavailabletoreserve for private functionsaswell. Our ‘guide‘of the property –Falcon – was so funny.He would‘ohhhandahhh‘as he enteredeachroomor say ‘wow‘! whenshowingthe restaurantsetc.All but150 roomshave Kingsize beds(twinavail.uponrequest). Note:guestswithaccessibilityneeds canbe cateredto here – mostlyflatgroundswitha liftforthe onlysectionof stairs enteringthe lobbyarea.Roomshave eitherashower-onlyORashower/bathcombinationandcanbe requestedfor eitherpreference. CertifiedPADIdiversget1dive/dayincluded.
  6. 6. I was impressedwiththe Royal Service section,theyhave concierge service, swim-uprooms,beautifulpool,exclusive poolside bar/snackareaand Miramar Restaurant(buffet breakfast/lunchwithmini-portionsthenitrotatesdifferent themesfora la carte dinners)...youwouldneverhave toleave thissection.Private airporttransfersandWifi isincludedforRoyal service guestsandtheyhave the true premiumbrandsof liquor (chivas,royale,etc).The HilltopRestaurantalsoavailable to Royal Service guestsandspecial guestssuchashoneymooners, returningguests,anniversariesetc.
  7. 7. Mercure CuatroPalmas: - Was nearlyat full occupancyat thistime of year - 3 stars,but great beachfrontlocation,3levels(stairsonly) - Youngeroverall guestaverage age:lotsappearedintheir20s/30s - Lobbybar is 24 hours - 160 standardrooms,120 inthe Las Palmassectionacrossthe street(def notrecommended) - Pool & seaviewisnice butthe roomsthemselvesare small,basicandstuffy –inmidstof refurbishment,can accommodate forsome withphysical disability(groundfloorrooms)
  8. 8. Mercure Playade Oro: - I’mgoingto go aheadand justtell younot to bookthisresort.JustNo. - Restaurant/theatre facilitywassmellyandBAD - Buffet’El Dorado‘was okaybut notmuch better - There ispizza& snacksby pool andthe Cuban’Ranchon‘beachgrill - The whole place needscleaningandpainting...astale waterlagoonkindof smell outsideaswell - Propertyseemednearlydeserted –all guestswere hidingonthe beach - 5 levelswithelevator,4accessible rooms - The savinggrace was that the roomsare all renovatedandthe inside of the roomwasactuallyprettynice consideringthe restof the resort MeliaLas Antillas: - Exclusive toSunwing - At full occupancy,I was impressedwiththe lookof thisresort,the photosdon’tdoit justice - Walkingintothispropertyafterthe Mercure,the cleanlinesswasnoticeable (couldevensmellthe bleach), indoor/outdoorbuffetareawasnice,theyholdalobsternight1/weekfor all guests - 44 connectingroomscan be requested - ItalianRestaurant,discotil 2am,nightlyshowsalternate ona2-weekscheduleforlongerstayguests, 24hr lobbybar - Theyconcentrate all the activitiesatthe beachinthe morningand at the pool in the afternoon,whichIthinkisa great ideasoguestshave the optiontoenjoyeachat quiettimestoo - Nice pool/entertainmentstage/pool barandgrill areaas well Royal Hicacos: SalesManager Berta MartinCabañas | The former‘Sandals‘Royal Hicacosiscurrentlyunderthe ‘Blue Diamond‘brandandinthe processof convertingtoa Royalton(will be calledRoyaltonHicacosVaraderothiswinter).Eventhoughthereare,inmyopinion,no updates neccessary,theyare makingupgrade changestoimprove evenmore.Overall Iwasveryimpressedwiththisproperty, mostlybecause the photosinthe brochure & online don’tdoitjustice.
  9. 9. All juniorsuites,with2stepsdownfromthe sittingroom intothe bedarea.There will nolongerbe a ‘concierge‘ categoryas ALL rooms will have abutlerservice (that’swhattheyare callingitbutI’msure it’smore of a concierge than a butler).Thisresortisverysimilarinamentities,pricing,andvalue tothe ParadisusPrincesa,howeverthe differenceis that there’smore activitygoingonatthe Hicacos(alsomaybe a youngeroverall average guestage). I reallylike the ModernColonialPlantationstyleof thisresort;the commonareasare connectedby a raisedboardwalk and the ‘Calle del Medio‘boulevardislovely,featuringshops,the coolestcigarlounge,beautyparlour,Frenchcreperie & Le Bonheur24-hour snackbar withchamingpatio.We were treatedtoa white-glove service lunchatCaribe Restaurant,whichalsofeaturesa‘wine cellar‘roomwhere theyserve VIPdinnersforspecial honeymoon/anniversary clients. Everyone waspleasedwiththe qualityof foodandservice. The spa still holdsthe Sandalsstandard‘RedLane‘service/productsandthe spahasa sauna/steambathavailableforall gueststo use forfree.There isalsosquashfacilitieshere whichIbelievetobe the onlyavailable inCuba. The updatesfor the Royaltonchangeoverinclude agymfacilityrenovationandsoftcosmeticupdates inthe rooms;ie. paintingfromcolourful Caribbeaninteriortoa crispwhite/blue theme,additionof the Royalton‘dreambeds‘whichare producedhere inVaughanON and shippedover.
  10. 10. Note: The Candlelight VIP Dinner in the Wine Cellar has a cost of 150 CUC; the menu is as follows: Choose 1 appetizer, 1 soup, 1 salad, 1 entrée, 1 dessert APPETIZERS: Medallion of lobster with mango saffron dressing / Jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce / Tuna slices SOUPS: Cherry tomato soup with Pesto / Crab bisque with aged Cuba rum Black bean soup with cumin / Rock fish soup with herbs SALADS: Palm heart salad with smoked salmon / Mixed salad with balsamic cream ENTRÉES: Grilled Beef tenderloin topped with Duck liver / Chicken breast stuffed with cheese Grilled Seafood medley (lobster, salmon, tiger prawn, mahi mahi) Spinach burrito with veggies and tomato sauce (Vegetarian) DESSERTS: Tiramisu / Chocolate delight / Cheesecake
  11. 11. Iberostar Tainos: - Appropriate forall ages/families - Main hotel housesthe standard roomsandall of the 2-storyvillasare the ‘bungalow’categorywhichdoesn’t make sense tome because there isnothingaboutthemthatmakesthema bungalow inmyopinion –rooms aren’tgreat overall,alittle bitjail-cell-ish - Safe available for2CUC/day - Minibaris restockedevery2days - Overall the commonareaswere impressive,beach,pool area,lobbybar,restaurantsall lookfine DAY 3: HavanaDay Tour I immenselyenjoyedthe full daytourof Havana. I’drecommenditto anyone;it’sworththe 2 hr drive. We had a local tour guide,Libby,whowasextremelyknowledgeableandI’mjustso happywe got to doit. We came back to the resort andate at the Gourmet Restaurant.Althoughthe décor,the serviceandthe presentationof the foodin the a la carte restaurantsisgreat,the fooditself wasunfortunatelyjustnotverygood.Ifoundthe redmeat to be consistentlyovercookedbutchickenandfishwasa bitbetter. Skyline of Havana
  12. 12. Jesus Christof Havana One of the ‘cigar ladies’
  13. 13. DAY 4: RIU Specialisttraining isworththe effort,greatincentivesforloggedbookings. We hadan afternoonat leisure toenjoy andthe beachwaslovely…didnotwantto leave! Our flightexperience withSunwingwasgreat. Check out my other reviews: Haley Whitelaw | | 519-672-9020