|Grand Playa Turquesa - Holguin||YHZ||New Brunswick|
We stayed at GPT the week of April 15 - 22nd. Skyservice flight from Halifax was on time and uneventful - cabin crew were excellent and food was great! Arrived in Holguin and went through Customs quickly - luggage took a while to arrive but that gave everyone time to exchange some money. Out to the bus, picked up a couple of beer for the ride and we were on our way.
Check in was quick - luggage was taken to our room by cart and it was all accomplished within 20 minutes - great.
This resort is huge and yes, there are lots of stairs but they didn't bother us. If you don't want to take the stairs there are golf carts going though the resort all the time, simply flag one down and hop on - they will take you where you want to go.
The resort itself is beautiful, very well maintained and the landscaping is awesome. Beach is fabulous, white sand as far as you can see. The water is great - have read some reviews saying there was a lot of seaweed in the water but did not find this to be the case, there were a couple of patches but nothing you wouldn't expect to find at a beach!!! Beach bar was great, pizza and ice cream shack was also great.
We were in room 518 - great location for sure. Close to the beach, pools, beach buffet - didn't need to climb the stairs at all during the day if we didn't want to. The rooms are huge. We had a queen bed, TV, etc. The bathrooms are large with separate areas for the toilet and the shower - great idea. Water pressure was the best we've ever encountered and we only had no hot water once, at 7:00 in the morning - no big deal. Power outages are quite normal at this resort - the power went out at least 4 - 6 times every day - just for short periods of time though so really caused no inconvenience. Gladys was a maid and was an awesome lady - always made sure our rooms were spotless, lovely towel/pillow/blanket creations every day ....we left her lots of pesos and gifts - she worked very hard for us.
We mainly ate at the buffets - the Hacienda at the top of the hill for dinners and split between the Hacienda and Bucanero (beach buffet) for breakfast and lunch. There is a much better selection at the Hacienda however, if you're at the beach and don't want to go up the hill, the Bucanero is the place to be!!
As we were unable to get into most of the a la carte restaurants, we only tried the Italian - wish we had gone to the buffet. The food was not very good and the staff was not pleasant - it was like they would rather be anywhere but where they were.
Don Bartelo's is the 24 hour bar and is also open for continental breakfast and for lunch, closing at 4:00 to prepare to become the Grill restaurant for the evening. Heard this was the best of the a la carte restaurants however, we were unable to get a reservation. Don Bartelo's is a very busy spot and could definitely use a lot more staff - 2 bartenders just doesn't cut it. They have awesome cappuccino and we would stop in here in the mornings for a cup. The wait staff in the food section of this restaurant are not very pleasant either - it seemed like it was a real bother to come and take our orders and then it was a really long wait until we got our food. This is understandable if the restaurant is busy but when there are only 6 people seated and ordering, it just seemed really strange.
The evening staff in the Hacienda was great. Elyse - our waitress was the most pleasant young lady - a really wonderful girl. She always had a smile on her face and even though she was busy, always took time to stop and chat with us for a few minutes - she's a prize and this resort could use more staff just like her!!!
Evening entertainment left a lot to be desired. We went every night, hoping it would improve over the week but the theatre was usually 80% empty every night. The only night it was good was the night the entertainment crew from Playa Pesquero came and provided the entertainment.
The pools were beautiful - didn't find them cold at all - just refreshing. It was between 32 & 36 degrees the entire week we were there and the pool water certainly perked you up in the heat of the day. The pool bar was extremely busy as you can imagine and the bartender here were great! They certainly seemed to be the happiest of all the staff we encountered - always a big smile and remembered you and what you drank!! Hats off to Ivan, Leonardis and Luis (the floating bartender) - a great bunch of guys for sure!!!
We did go out on the Hobie Cats and it was a blast - Roger was an awesome person to sail with and we had lots of fun - thanks Roger!!!
The only excursion we did was the Ocean Paradise catamaran. It was $69 CUC per person and worth every penny. You sail on the catamaran for about 45 minutes to a reef, snorkel for about 40 minutes, get back on the catamaran and sail to another reef where you snorkel for another half hour. There is an open bar and loads of music - it's a great time. Before leaving the catamaran you are given a souvenir T-shirt and after leaving you board your bus and are taken to a wonderful restaurant for a meal - either lobster, chicken, fish or spaghetti. Get the lobster or chicken - they are delicious. Do the morning catamaran - you leave the resort at about 7:50 a.m. and arrive back around 4:00 p.m. - it's a great day.
We went twice to the market in Guardalavaca - $10. CUC each way - 4 people. We sat with some very interesting Cubans and chatted with them - they knew more about Canada and it's provinces than some kids graduating high school. Both days were great!! Lots of beautiful handcrafts, woodworking and jewelry to be had at excellent prices.
All in all, we had a good time. The resort itself is beautiful, the beach and pools are fabulous, and the food is excellent. We were totally disappointed with the staff as a whole and the atmosphere in general. The staff was not friendly at all and it seemed that those that were friendly with the tourists were all of a sudden transferred to a different location where they had no interaction. One of the entertainment staff told us there were not allowed to get friendly with the tourists!! Cuba always calls us back because of the people - we enjoy getting to know them and chatting and laughing with them - this was not the case at this resort.
Signature was a big disappointment for us. We booked with Signature, even though it was a little more expensive, because of the Signature Club inclusions. Guaranteed late check out was the main reason - well this "is not available". We had a 9:10 p.m. flight and had to check out at noon, so we paid a little extra for this "perk". It wasn't a perk at all - it was not available. Occupying four rooms we figured it would at least be possible to keep one room - not. We were not offered a hospitality room or anything. We ended up walking around the resort for 6 hours carting our carry ons, purses, etc. We were not impressed. Also, our preferred reservations at the a la cartes did not materialize - we couldn't get in to them. The absolute last straw was when the resort locked one of our group out of our rooms on the last day. We had been at the beach and arrived back at our room at 11:59 (bags were packed, we just needed to run in, call a cart, take the bags to the curb and wait). Well, we were surprised when the key card wouldn't work - the luggage, passports, money, etc. was still in the room. Guess they weren't kidding when they said late check out wasn't available.
We are very laid back people - not picky at all. We are big tippers and tipped generously throughout the week (even when we received bad service). It is not my intention to come across as a whiner or a complainer - I'm not - I'm simply giving you an honest opinion of my take of the Grand Playa Turquesa. This is the first time I have written anything negative about a resort I have visited and it was difficult.
We will definitely be going back to Cuba for a 5th time but not to this resort and I really wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it to anyone!!
|Grand Playa Turquesa - Holguin||Canuck||Ontario|
We spent an absolutely wonderful week between March 4 to March 11 at the Occidental Playa Turquesa near Guardalavaca in Cuba. Our flight from Toronto via Air Canada was excellent and on time, actually we were ahead of schedule coming into Holguin. Our trek through customs immigration and baggage pick up at the airport was quick and easy and our bus was waiting outside to take us to the hotel. This trip took about one hour. The buses are comfortable and the drivers are courteous and friendly.
At the hotel the check-in was quick and painless. There was no golf carts available at the lobby to transport us to our room as they were very busy with other guests checking in so we made our own way. It's great to have your luggage on wheels. The room was spacious and well furnished. It was a lower-level room although we had asked for an upper-level when we booked. Due to being heavily treed in front of the balcony the room was very dark so the next morning we asked for a change of rooms and reception responded quickly and efficiently to our request and we had a new room pronto. The new room was on the second-floor and was bright and airy with a limited view of the sea above the tree-top line. We were now all set. .
The daily maid service for the room was excellent. Our room was immaculatetely cleaned everyday and we were supplied with new towels every day also.The rooms had two single beds side-by-side which was fine for us.There was a coffeemaker in our room but we had brought our own tea kettle and a 1 c.Melita coffeemaker and didn't have to use the hotel coffeemaker all week The balcony had two nice canvas deck chairs and was quite large. This lovely outdoor space was really great for sitting out in the late afternoon and having a quiet read while sipping a Mojito. The bathroom was three-piece and had separate toilet, separate shower and a separate washbasin counter. These features in the bathroom were great in the mornings when both of us could use the bathroom for different options. The bathroom also had a hair dryer and a 110 volt plug-in for shavers. All of the other plug-ins in the main room were 220 volts. You will certainly need a heavy-duty electric current convertor with all of the plug attachments if you bring a kettle or coffeemaker from Canada to use here. My only complaint about the rooms were that the walls were too thin between units and on occasion we could hear our neighbors snoring (LOL) and their private conversations too (which kept us awake on occasion, but entertained) . Of course a good pair of earplugs (which we always carry) will do the trick if you are light sleepers like ourselves.
Beaches. Landscaped gardens on the Turquesa property sit on the side of hills that lead to a white 1 km long sandy beach with crystal clear turquoise color water, shaded well by trees. There are lots and lots of lounges on this beach. You will have no trouble getting one at any time of the day. Lots of sports facilities as well. The catamarans are great but you have to lineup and book your turn at 9:30 a.m. sharp at the club house on the beach where they look after the catamarans. Be there by 9 a.m. to be sure of a reservation. Also on this beach is a snack bar for pizza and other snacks. While we were there the ice cream machine was broken at the snack bar and I had to go to Don Bartolo's for a fix of ice cream when I needed one. There is also a beach bar for any drink you may want. There are paddleboats as well for to take out.
This hotel has amazingly kept grounds! The landscaping in the whole complex is just amazing. It is indeed a Bio-Park. All kind and manner of tropical plants and trees adorn the grounds here. Landscape maintenance seems to be a top priority in this hotel. There are lots of gardeners and helpers at every turn. This place is a credit to the hard work done by the maintenance staff. I take my hat off to them and the management also. If you get a chance talk to these men and women, please tell them how great a job they are doing on the landscape and drop them a few CUC's here and there if you can. It was amazingly wonderful in the morning to sit out on the balcony at about 6 a.m.and listen to the myriad of birds singing. Life is beautiful isn't it.
The pools. Absolutely marvelous. A great engineering feat. There are seven pools at this hotel. There is waterfalls between six of them. Of the six main pools three are swimable and three are more or less for show or for wading in to cool off. There is one pool for adults only(if you want to relax by a quiet, spotless pool with a minimum of traffic, this is the place for you). There is a seventh pool in the children's area away from the main pools. All pools are kept immaculate and they are freshwater. Some people said they were quite cool but I think they were just right as the temperature the whole week that we were there was hot-hot-hot and those pools saved us from frying like Canadian bacon.
The bars. What can I say. There isn't enough time in the day for to do them all and then fly right. LOL. Yes, we did visit the bars for a drink before lunch and after dinner and on a few other occasions LOL. The service was very good at all of the bars. Don Bartolo is the 24-hour bar and they have a great selection of rums and quite a few international drinks. Our favorite bar was close to the Bucanero buffet down fairly close to the beach. This was a great place to have a drink before lunch and people watch. This was slushy central for both adults and kids. Slushies were served with or without Rum. Service here was fantastic. After dinner we would normally go to the piano bar or the lobby bar which is one and the same. Here we would have a wonderful after dinner drink and listen to some good piano music. On two occasions we had drinks at the sport bar or the disco bar which was right next to the Chinese a la carte restaurant. If you like television sports and and later in the evening disco, this was the place to go. Bar service was pretty good everywhere though.
The restaurants. We tried most all the restaurants but we are not gourmet people and we preferred the buffet entrées and salads and desserts more than that of any of the a la carte restaurants. This is not to say that the a la carte restaurant's weren't good. They just didn't strike our fancy, that's all. The food in the buffet restaurants was quite good and plentiful and for us the buffet had as much choice and variety as we really wanted. Breakfast was especially good at the buffet. Of course that is my favorite meal of the day so I'm prejudiced. We mostly ate lunch at the Bucanero buffet close to the beach and enjoyed that restaurant very much. Most days there was something for everyone in the food choices at both buffets.
Money. We had no trouble exchanging our Canadian dollars for CUC at any time during this week at the hotel. There is right next to the reception a Cadeca that is open quite a few hours during the day. We usually got there early and had no trouble exchanging any amount of money. But if you are asking for all single CUC notes they will usually limit you to 10 notes. That's not too bad. If we needed more single notes than that we usually went back after 3 p.m. and we were never refused more single CUC notes. Their exchange-rate was competitive with the airport. We had no time when we arrived at the airport to do the exchange as we would have kept people waiting on the bus. But we were prepared for that, as we do keep a little stash of CUC's every time we depart Cuba as we know that we will be coming back.
The Occidental Playa Turquesa over all. There was a lot said in a lot of reviews I read on different forums about the size of this particular resort. It is quite big. I would say 1.5 km long and 600-800 m deep. Being 70 years old (at the end of March) I was a little bit scared of the doom and gloom stories and reviews about the walking involved and those dreaded stairs that everyone spoke about but I guess I must be in reasonably good shape as by the second day we were walking everywhere and managed the stairs quite well and we even walked to Playa Pesquero by road in the middle of the week (we did take a taxi back). That is only 4 km or 5 km away I would say. We also took a tour of the Rocazul Bio Park close by and really enjoyed that as well. This Park is well worth visiting. The fee for the Park ranges from 15 CUC's to 40 CUC's per-person depending on what type of tour you are taking. You can take a tour with a guide to the top of a hill in the Park that is about 100 m high. You can see quite a bit of the countryside from there. We also took a taxi into Guardalavaca and spent about three hours visiting the town and walking the beach. Quite a lovely town with a nice marketplace and we also enjoyed looking around the other hotels for to get an idea of whether we would stay in Guardalavaca on our next visit. Actually we will certainly go back to the Holguin area and especially Occidental Playa Turquesa on our next journey to Cuba, which shouldn't be too far off. Guardalavaca would be a bit busy for us. We prefer being out in the boonies so to speak. If there is any more questions regarding anything else about our week feel free to ask and if I can I will answer it as best I can.
Our trip back to Toronto. The bus from the hotel to the Holguin airport was really great as it was still light out and we were able to see a lot of countryside. I certainly will be coming back to the Holguin area as it is quite beautiful.Our trip back to Toronto with Air Canada was uneventful and went very smoothly. I certainly would have no hesitation in using Air Canada again. We arrived home a little after 1 a.m. and had no troubles whatsoever going through customs and getting our car at ParknFly. The week went by way too fast. Below is a link to some photographs that may be of interest that we took of the resort. These are best viewed with Internet Explorer on full-screen with the monitor set on 1024 by 768 pixels . Canuck.
|Grand Playa Turquesa - Holguin||Deborah||Alberta|
After the Playa Costa Verde closed due to the drought, 4 days before travel, I was called by our Travel Agent and offered a different resort, the Grand Playa Turquesa in Holguin. Because Signature was on the other line while he was talking to me, I had to decide in a hurry, or get a refund. Because we wanted to travel, I quickly looked at the Signature page for the hotel and found it to be acceptable. Told them that would be fine and hung up the phone. Afterwards, I went to the reviews and read a little on this hotel. I became concerned as we were traveling with a 2 year old and the reviews were not great! We decided to make the best of it!
We left home early in the morning, 4 am, to arrive at Calgary airport by 7. We parked at the Park And Jet, (first time) and felt a little rushed by the van waiting to shuttle us to the airport. He and some other passengers were waiting and I felt like I had to hurry and get things in quickly to not make them wait too long. Once on the shuttle, I then started to worry that I may have forgotten things in the vehicle. As it turned out, all was well, but should point out, to take your time and be sure you have everything all under control!
Airport check in went well, after checking in and leaving our luggage, we went to the Signature counter to see if they had a different hotel voucher for us, but they said the one we had would be accepted at the new hotel. This concerned me, but accepted their word.
Our flight left on time, and was uneventful. Two movies, and 5 and a half hours later and we were in Holguin. There were many people on our flights that traveled in sandals and shorts, etc, but we kept our runners on and summer tops and light fleece jackets. (we would be arriving after dark and wouldn't be excessively hot).
We were able to change some Canadian money to Convertible Pesos at the airport while waiting for our luggage. The buses were lined up and waiting and everyone on our bus was going to our hotel, so it had only one stop! Upon arrival at our hotel, which had a beautiful lobby, we waited in a fairly long line and eventually got checked in and then waited for a trolley to take us to our room.
We had a room in the 700's. (I would also recommend like so many before me, to get a room in the 500's, more central to everything. Claim an injury if you have to, it is worth it!). Be sure to get a map.
We got to our room, and the trolley driver came in with our luggage and explained the safe, and the air conditioner, etc. Very helpful. We were so happy to see a crib waiting for us! It was suitable and appreciated.
The rooms were beautiful, and clean and so new! It was a treat to stay in such a new hotel. The colours and space were so well used! The air conditioning system worked very well, and was electronically controlled, very modern.
Each room has a bar fridge with 4 cans of pop, 4 cans of beer, and 3 bottles of water. They were not replenished. Each room also has a hair dryer (does not work well for styling but does work well for drying), and an umbrella that can be used for rain or shine!
We quickly changed and headed up for some food. We were very hungry after only being served a lunch on the plane! We went to the buffet, but it closed at 9:30 and no food to be found there. We then went to the Don Bartolo, (24hr snacks) NOT! They do not serve snacks while their a la carte (the Grill) is open. They told us they would be able to get some snacks for us at 11. It was a little before 10!
The waiter must have felt sorry for us, and the others from our plane, and at 10:10 we were given some hamburgers and fries. Probably the best burgers and fries I have ever eaten!! He got a large tip!
After our snacks and a few drinks, we went to bed to get an early start on our next day! We truly had a great week, and really enjoyed ourselves.
The resort is very beautiful with great scenery and greenery! Very lovely pools, cascading down the hillside, ending at the kiddies pool. Beside these lovely cascading pools are very many steps! Steps we had to carry our 2 year old and stroller up and down several times a day! And truly, this was the only downfall of the resort! And if we did not have to carry him, it would not have been a downfall at all! For the first few days it was fine, but after that it became a bit daunting and we found ways to not have to go up to the main buffet (LA Hacienda).
There was always lots of highchairs around for our little one, never once did we not have one! And because I was a little concerned about what he ate, he was able to have french fries at all meals, breakfast, lunch and supper. There was also pizza at lunch and supper everyday! I know you are thinking that is not a healthy choice, but after having my husband twice have food poisoning at other resorts, I felt the fries sometimes a safe choice for his little inexperienced tummy! I was also able to get him a bottle of milk for bedtime each night at any of the bars or the main buffet. They poured it from a container that they kept in the fridge!
I found the food great! Probably because I did not have to cook! We ate at
all the a la cartes. In order of preference!
4)Italian (very slow)
5)Mediterranean (very fishy, and left feeling hungry)
During the day, the Mediterranean is the Bucanero buffet, for breakfast and lunch! Close to the beach and handy for those down at the pools as well!
The main buffet has a large variety, with several grills going all the time to offer freshly cooked choices. We enjoyed the buffet and did venture up after some of the a la carte evenings we had to have a desert and allow our little one some more familiar foods for him. In the morning, the buffet has a fruit shake that is made fresh and poured into jugs. Several different flavours to chose from. (The Bucanero buffet does not have fruit shakes, but has yogurt in jugs to pour on cereal).
The beach has a snack bar that serves ice cream and pizza, with a bar right next door. The beach itself has a corral reef, not very large but has lots to see while snorkelling. The Hobie cats are a blast, and the locals sure know how to give you a ride! There are plenty of paddle boats, but you need to reserve in the morning! The beach was beautiful, but it was not a smooth beach, a little difficult to walk in sometimes!
The lowest level pool has a bar, and it is also a swim up bar for the next level pool. They have slush drinks that are very good. Kids like them too! (sans alcohol of course). They shut down at 5, which to me seemed to be a bit too early as people were just really getting into the swing of things then because the animation team get things revved up at around 4 pm.
The entertainment seemed fine, but we sometimes left early due to boredom and our little one falling asleep!
The trolley system runs all the time, and will come and bring you up or take you down anytime. You just call 0 from your room and request a ride, or just show up in the lobby and get in! Very handy!
There is a train (larger trolley) that goes to town where there is a bank. It costs $5 each. But the wait at the bank is about an hour to an hour and a half, so it is easier and maybe cheaper to change money at the hotel. But they do run out of money, so be sure to do it shortly after noon!
We would highly recommend this resort, but will probably not return there ourselves as we try to go to a new resort each year! If anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A link to our pictures http://community.webshots.com/album/255020413crMaqStop