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Barcelo Solymar Resort – Varadero, Cuba Kim, Vic and Mark Oshawa, ON Canada

March 2005

http://www.barcelo.com/Barcelo/EN/Producto/America/Cuba/Varadero/Solymar/Principal/Principal.htm?cHotel=122

Family of three (son age 15) just returned from a wonderful week at the Solymar – March 12 – 19. I admit I was a little bit nervous about this resort after reading others’ reviews from various sites, but put that all out of my mind and planned to have a great time.

The weather was absolutely perfect – seven days of sunny, very warm, not humid days. There were only two red flag days at the beach. Having been to Cuba last year (Cayo Coco), we knew what to expect at the beach. Beautiful white sand, and lovely clear blue water. Although previous posts mention the beach is not clean, we did not experience this. In fact, there was a machine every morning that scoured the beach for cigarette buts, etc. Walking the beach was fantastic, although the Solymar does have in my opinion one of the nicest parts of the beach. It seems to be the widest and longest stretch of beach compared to the other resorts passed.

ROOM: We arrived at the resort at about noon on Saturday, and we fully expected our room would not be ready. We changed into our swimsuits and began touring the grounds. The grounds are very well kept, clean and beautiful. We hung out at the pool and our room – we stayed in the bungalows, was ready around 3:00. We were located in block 22. Bungalows are great, spacious, air conditioning worked great all week, and believe it or not the hot water was exactly that, in fact, too hot on occasion. There was one afternoon when the water was quite cool (although it was nice to have a cool shower after being in the hot sun all day). I mentioned this to the front desk on our way to dinner, and was back to extremely hot water that evening. We did have a minor flooding problem on our last night at the resort. There was a flood in the bathroom on the first floor of the bungalow. We let the front desk know and it was cleaned up. Unfortunately there was no plumber around in the evening so the problem wasn’t fixed. Although we refrained from using water, upon our return to the room after dinner there was further flooding. We contacted the front desk again, and they offered us a room in the main hotel. We decided it wasn’t worth moving for one night, so we used the hotel room offered to shower the next morning. The set up of the bungalows is kind of unique in that each floor has it’s own air conditioning unit, and is almost like a separate unit from the lower portion. As a result, the strong smell from the flood in the first floor bathroom was not noticeable upstairs where we slept. All in all, this wasn’t a significant problem.

FOOD: Main buffet was plentiful with lots of selection. On two occasions there was proscuitto (Italian cold cut) that was probably the best my husband has ever had (he is Italian). The seafood a la carte at the beach is also a lunch buffet with lots of choice. Both the buffets were good. There are three A la Cartes Cuban, Seafood and Italian. The Seafood wasn’t too bad, but the Cuban and Italian were excellent.

BARS: Definitely not lacking. Lobby bar – makes great cappuccino for the morning beach walks, and superb Spanish coffee for after dinner. The Piano bar which is not very noticeable, directly across from where the evening show takes place, is quite cozy and romantic. The singer and piano player are great! Make sure you visit this bar, especially if you like ballads! The sports bar, which is also not very busy, has pool tables, air hockey etc. and offers a pretty good pina colada. Two pool bars, also offer snack or fast food throughout the day and normally can always find a table. Also the beach bar – for those ice cold crystal beers, rum punch or whatever else you fancy. I never experienced a long wait in any of these bars. I have read the contrary in previous posts, and can only offer this. I would visit the lobby bar and sit at a table, rather than standing around the bar waiting for someone to serve you. All the bars except for the beach bar, have servers that come to your table to take your order. As a result, the bartenders are filling the servers’ orders, before taking an order from someone standing waiting at the bar. Lounging at the pools, I would often make a visit to the pool bar and was served pretty quickly. Also found the staff at all the bars to be friendly. In particular my good friend Raul at the lobby bar made sure my wine glass was always full – lol.

ENTERTAINMENT: As stated above, the Piano bar was great. We didn't make it to any of the evening shows, too tired after long days in the sunshine, although they appeared quite lively. Others that we met during our stay commented they enjoyed the shows.

EXCURSIONS: We did the jet ski adventure which was lots of fun and went deep sea fishing for half a day. We also rented scooters and travelled into Varadero – very fun, although there are lots of vehicles, horse and buggies on the roads that you need to be cautious.

STAFF: Everyone we dealt with was friendly. In fact, we left our maid a couple of gifts on the first day along with a note. She wrote us a thank you in English, and reminded us if there was anything we needed just let her know. We did ask for extra water a couple of times, and towels, which she looked after right away. In fact, our mini-fridge was stocked each day with bottle of water (1.5 L), two beers and two soda drinks. We never asked for it to be replenished as noted in other posts. I don’t know if we just lucked out with a great maid, or we experienced good service because we left a small gift each day, regardless, of the reason, service was terrific.

BEACH: Definitely one of the best that I have come across. There are some Vendors on the beach but they don't hassle you...if you need to buy gifts this is a good spot, in fact, we found them to be much cheaper than the flea markets, and the gift shops in the resort. We never had any problems getting beach loungers, or the shade huts. Only two red flag days, so lots of water sports and water activities. We went on a two-hour snorkeling trip directly from the beach – 15 CUC pesos each person. It was lots of fun, feeding the fish and watching them swim around you. Also took out the paddleboats one afternoon.

POOLS: There are two. Both quite large, and very clean. The pools are not cold, just right in my opinion to cool you off from the hot sun. No lack of loungers, or shade to be found. The shallow pool, or kids area pool, is also where many of the activities take place. Ping Pong tables, games for the small children, pool volley ball, basket ball net etc. Lots of fun times spent here. The Aqua gym classes were great as well, and offered in the pool and the ocean. Dance lessons, cocktail mixing lessons here as well. There is definitely a lot to do.

OVERALL REVIEW: We would definitely return to this resort. I am a firm believer; it is up to each and every one of us to make our vacations what they are. We went with the idea we would have an excellent vacation, nothing would spoil it, and that is exactly what we experienced.