Gran Caribe Villa Tortuga
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Travel Blogs from Varadero
Coming to Matanzas was a bit of a travelling risk. Not for any crime related reason but it just isn't on the tourist route. That said, our casa is full. Everyone we’ve met along the way kept saying "Matanzas, but why?". Well why was because it didn’t sound all that bad in the LP and we didn’t have enough time to make it to Trinidad by bus and we certainly didn’t want to get into the resort territory of Veradero (Cuba’s answer to Cancun).
Today we decided to head out to Matanzas, a coastal city two hours east of Habana, to see a baseball game and check out the beaches (Matanzas is 30 min west of Varadero, a famous beach resort in Cuba). There were tourist buses going to Matanzas but we decided it was faster and cheaper to ask a taxi driver on the street to take us there. Luckily we found a really nice guy who took us to the baseball stadium and the beach ...
... to compete in this game were Mark from Canada and a nine year old Mexican girl, who was being whispered the answers before making the charge. Mark was in his mid forties and had clearly been making the most of the free booze; he didn’t really know what was going on and fell off the chair a few times. His best answer though came with the Madonna song Material Girl. The music stopped, he was short of pressure because the Mexican family didn’t have anything to send ...
... stretch their legs. However this was not the typical rest stop you would expect to see coming off the Parkway. It was a little shack with a house behind it that also had a small area one could get something to eat and drink. Behind the house was a magnificent view of the ocean. We spoke few words and just admired the scenery with the sound of the crashing waves one last time. After looking out into the vast sea for ...
... the moat. Later on, the fortress was converted into a prison. The prison bars are still in the windows of the building. At the moment, the fortress is now a museum of the history of Castillo de San Severino and of slavery in Cuba.
One of the most interesting things at the museum, other than its apparent adaptability to be used ...
How has this hotel rated in the past?
Historical Traveler Reviews Gran Caribe Villa Tortuga Varadero
I stayed at Villa Tortuga two years ago (2002) and will NEVER return. I checked in at 5:50AM and I didn't get a room until after 4:15PM the same day. The front desk offers little sympathy and it's not FUN to watch people come directly from the airport with their little suitcases in hand trot off to their rooms while I'm told they are still cleaning mine. NOT!!! As for the food, I grew up on a farm....there was never any dog that I saw that would not eat the "meat" that I threw in my purse from the buffet. World of Vacations rep was no assistance nor my travel agent in Edmonton. After six months I get a snotty letter from the management....yes the grounds are well kept but shouldn't there be bathroom tissue in all the bathrooms surrounding the pool? Edible food would be nice and well a smile from the staff might've made a difference. I know of three other couples who were also PISSED. Thank GOD for side trips or I would never have lasted. Is it fair that I finally got a hot shower on day four of day seven......I DON'T THINK SO!!!!!!
The travel agent warned me Tortuga was lower end and I decided I didn't care, since I was booking at the last minute and really only wanted the beach and the sun. And that's about all I got. The room I had was clean, and that's about the only positive aspect.
Well...we were originally scheduled to depart Halifax on February 19 and due to the 95cm of snow that came down, needles to say our flight was delayed! We finally got off the ground on Feb 20 at 11pm.The flight was with Air Transat, booked through Sun Holidays.We arrived in Varadero at 4:30am then were taken by shuttle to Villa Tortuga Laurel.Check In: We arrived at about 5:30am to a VERY dark resort. I think after certain hours they shut off all the outside lighting to conserve electricity. The lobby looked a little dirty and dark. The receptionist at the front desk was not a happy woman. Anyhow, the check in took 10 minutes and she kept our Canadian passports overnight (as is now the custom to complete Cuban documents). A bellman took our luggage to a villa that was one room block from the beach, directly in front of the pool area on the opposite side.Room: Upon entering I was very surprised...NO MUSTY SMELL!!! The room was a standard fare with 2 3/4 sized beds, desk, table and 2 chairs. large balcony and a bathroom with a HUGE shower stall (no tub...who really needs one anyway?) Needles to say I was very surprised at the room. It was extremely clean and the beds were quite comfy...flat Cuban pillows though....oh well!Buffet Restaurant: Since there is only one, this is where EVERYONE eats. Breakfast starts at 7:30am and runs to 9:30am. The food I must say at this resort was 10 times better than I've had at 5* resorts in Cuba. Lots of fresh fruit and juices for breakfast, scrambeled eggs and hardboiled, tonnes of awesome bread and sweet breads, bacon, ham and on the occasion there were pan fried potatoes too!Lunch: This is served from 12:30 to 2:30 and there again is a load of fruit and cold pasta salads, veggie salads and bread and normally 3 hot dishes which consisted of fish, pork or beef.Dinner: Served from 7pm to 9pm and was always great (with the one exception where Liver was labeled "BEEF"...big mistake as lots of people were loading their plates only to see it end up in the garbage. Always 4 or 5 hot selections with hot and cold veggies. salads, pasta and piles of sweets and 3 or 4 types of Cuban ice cream which is THE BEST IN THE WORLD. Coffee, tea, wine and beer, water or softdrinks are all self-serve.Our day would normally begin with waking up and heading down to the beach where we would place our beach gear on a lounger to 'hold' it till we got back from breakfast. Then we would lay on the beach till around noon when we'd grab a bite, then head to the beach bar for a drink or two before heading back to our loungers to soak up the sun.BEACH: 20kms of snow white spotlessly clean sand and calm, electric blue water. The temperature every day was from 26 to 30 degrees celcius (78 to 90 F I think??) The water was very calm and you can swim out for quite a ways before you are over your head. No rocks or seagrass...white sand bottom as far as you could see. HEAVEN!!POOL: Clean, but small and has a wading area for kids. Because of the beach, most people spend all their time there and return to the pool late afternoon for a drink or three!! hehehStaff: All the staff were fantastic (with the exception of front desk) and helpful.There is a mini-mart at the beginning of the resort and a gift shop as well.All in all, I would say we got WAY more than we paid for ($1900 taxes in for 2 people) and would highly recommend this place to anyone except those seeking SHERATON or HILTON quality...this is not it but well worth the money you'll spend.We had the best time and are actually headed back again next year! This was my 4th trip to Cuba and is the best island in the Caribbean to visit!I feel bad that Americans cannot go...oh well...makes it easier on all the Canadians who can!
One Week in January
I was at the Villa Tortuga from Jan. 4th to Jan. 11th. 2004. I was lucky enough to meet a number of very good people there, and had a very interesting time. The hotel room was clean and tidy, the view of the ocean was good. (would have liked a room on the 2nd. floor though) The hotel staff were friendly and very accomidating. The food was hit and miss, mind you the pizza restaurant was fine. The bars were great, so were the cuban cigars. This hotel would be what you make it, come with an open mind.
I've just got back from Villa Tortuga, Cuba last night, and here's my personal experience over there. ENVIRONMENT: Me and my boyfriend spent 8 days there, the hotel itself is set along the beach in Varadero. It is actually located at the one end of the beach. It doesn't really matter as to which part in Varadero the hotel is loacted, as every direction of the beach is beautiful. In fact, I quite like the location of this Villa, as it's easier to get around from one end to the other.
We spent the week of October 18th at the Villas Tortuga Gret.I believe that when you have the right attitude things can be positive. For instance, whenever asking for information or questions, always wear a smile; it"s contagious.This small and quaint hotel is lovely.We requested ocean view rooms and it was worth it. We were located on the second floor and close to the end of the property. Rooms were quite spacious and neat. Confortable beds. Sheets changed every day as well as towels which were always sitting on top of the beds in forms of swans, sail boat over waves, or simply "Cuba" spelled out with a nice and plain tiny bouquet of flowers. Great ain't it? Balcony nice and large with a sliding door that would perfectly lock. Large functional bathroom. We did not expect to have face cloths because this is a Canadian custom. Anyhow, with the sand from the ocean you can suerely get a complete and natural scrub, therefore, the heck with the face cloth.The beach was gorgeous. Although we were visiting during the fall, the ocean was not that calm and yet not that agitated. We swam safely and just totally enjoyed it.The nights were quite windy and perhaps a light sweater would have been necessary once or twice. We enjoyed looking at a stary sky....just wonderful!The Lobby was nice. We had no problem with the front desk staff. I had to call the front desk because there was a small problem with the shower. our call was answered immediately and the repair man was at our door within 20 minutes.The bar staff was just amazing. The choice of drinks were limited but they invented different cocktails that it worked very well for us.The pool was nice and clean. We were there during the low season, therefore we had a lot of space just for us. No kids! It was greatly appreciated and would go back at the same time just for those reasons.This area of Varadero is quite nice because when walking around, we ran into the locals, men always saying nice things to us (obviously we were 2 women) flirting and throwing kisses at us not in a vulgar way of course....just so latin (so un-north american) this part made our trip even more wonderful.Of course if you go to Cuba, do not go if you are a fussy eater. I won't go into details but the food at the Torguta Gret was not all that great. We did not starve and let's face it, this is Cuba where people have limited access to food and I think we as tourists should not be too spoiled. Many times I have seen tons and tons of food thrown into the garbagge because consumers from richer countries don't give a darn and eat with their eyes. Selfish and just plain terrible. We did have nice sfuff, for example delicious papaya, pineapple and guava fruit. Ice cream was very nice. Coffee was very good. The paella was amazing among other specialties served sporadically. The staff also was very friendly.We tipped almost everyone and in return we had very good service.At this time the main dining room is being renovated, therefore there were only 2 places to eat: one was the bar near the pool served pizza (delicious when crisply baked) and hot dogs. which I avoid in Canada as well.The beach bar was nice. There is a barman that sings and dances making it really a Cuban experience. Some games were played there, like darts and dices...was a lot of fun even if only a few people participated due to low occupancy.The dance lessons were fun. The night entertainment also. These people work very hard and try to make it enjoyable for all kinds of people from different ages and countries. And many do not want to participate. It is a pitty. But just the same, they do their performance and try very hard to make everyone laugh and enjoy the evening.I would recommend to visit a place called "La Cumparsita". There is karaoke on the top floor, while on the main floor you could have an cuban-african show with dancers and lots of percussion. Then a band would take over to play and sing salsa.....amazing.With all this being written, I would certainly recommend this lovely hotel to people who do not need to be at 4 and 5 stars hotels, to people who understand and enjoy being with modest guests and to be surrounded in true Cuban Life. Humble but proud. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We arrived knowing we were staying in a 3 star resort. We have done so on other trips. THIS was less than 3 star. Trouble started right away as our "room with a view" looked at a back fence. To upgrade was $200.00 each per week!! In U.S. funds. There was usually no water and when there was it was a trickle and cold. The dining room was set beautifully, but the food was enedible. We had to go off resort everyday, every meal. So much for all inclusive. We wre told by our representive from World Tours we could snorkle and dive. We were on a sandbar!! Since returning we have made many complaints to our local tour angent, Cheryl at Paradise Tours, with no response to settle this horrible vacation. I'm so glad for others who have posted great reviews, but we had the VACATION FROM HELL! The feeling of being TRAPPED was overwhelming! Villa Tortuga was the absolute WORST vacation of my life, 2 weeks of B.S. and I have travelled all over! What a crock!
I stayed at Villa Tortuga, Varadero, Cuba last October 21-28 2002 and had an amazing week. Myself and my friend found the rooms to be clean, spacious and loved the 'swan' towel sculptures left every morning by our maid.....nice touch! The Tortuga is only a 2/3 star so we wasnt expecting much, but went for one week all inclusive and have no complaints. All rooms are split into two/three storey buildings 2mins from beach, which was complete paradise style, beautiful white sand with palm trees and a wooden hut beach bar (all alcohol and soft drinks included) We layed on the beach drinking my new favourite drink, rum and coke looking out onto the clear blue sea. Going in mid-October we got a really cheap deal as hurricane season, so were so lucky we had missed the 'Hurricane LiLi 'by literally days...The sun shone every day and was hot and water very warm.Going off peak also meant the beach was very quiet, no crowds fighting for sunbeds, plenty of room, peace and quiet-pure relaxation! Staff were friendly, helpful and you can book excursions, use internet, visit on-site Dr (I had bad case of mosquito bites) So definately, definately take extra strength protection. I recommend visiting your local Hospital/clinic that deals with tropical diseases/medicines to get some really high strength protection.Food was above average, buffet style for all meals, but good selection and good range of drinks and lovely deserts-recommend the sponge cakes& ice cream!We crammed quite a lot into our week, booked three trips through the guite at the Tortuga. One day trip to Havana - an absolute must!! It is such a beautiful, naturally, unspoilt city, crumbling buildings and more like a film set, such a contrast as have the amazingly restored old US cars being driven round a very obviously poverty striken country. Got to see real Cuba and makes you realise how lucky you are to live in a free country. Bought some cuban cigars for my boyfriend and only regret not having visited a cigar factory (available on request to tou 30min drive to other end of Varadero picking up at other hotels along the way. It was also so cheap compared to other caribbean resorts and a photographer is on hand to take any pictures at a very reasonable price. I got two large photo's taken with the dolphins, which are a treasured keepsake. The trip is a few hours, with a show at start, then 30 minutes or so in groups of 4/5 swimming with a dolphin. The habitat is keep as natural as possible so is in a murky watered lake which sounds worse than it was. It was fine, warm and worth it to be able to swim with these amazing animals. You also get to be pushed up into the air by your feet-my photo 2!Jungle Tour - my favourite tour is so good, recommend everyone to go on it. Again, it was very cheap and it a few hours. We did ours straight after our dolphin trip as it was literally across the road. In pairs around 12/14 ride a jetski for about 30mins (great fun!) all around lots of swamp land waters until you reach a little island where you can see various unusual animals. I held a baby crocodile -very scary but worth it. You stay there for a complimentary drink, then take a drive back-such a fun day!Varadero itself is lovely, very easy to get around as basically one main room with hotels all on beachfront with cafes,restaurants, in-expensive craft markets (beautifully handcrafted wooden cigar boxes, figurines, key rings etc) You can take a horse and cart ride from one end of Varadero to other or a small bubble three wheeler bike (we did this-very fun and faster)I am definately going to visit Cuba again, hopefully next year and one week was definately not enough,it being a very long flight of 10hrs from UK)two weeks would of been lovely. Next time I would also go to see Club Tropicana show in Havana on an overnight tour-other guests were impressed.Nightlife-Tortuga staff organise a bus to some of the larger hotels end of Varadero (near dolphins) who have cuban shows in the evening, for around £10/12 we took a bus there, back and a free drink and entrance-great showsco' with all your dodgy euro pop-which the cubans love!I could take about Cuba for ages, but all in all a great place to visit for a holiday-definately go and see Havana, take the Jungle Tour, Dolphins and lay on the amazing beach in hot sun!Go book it - now!
Just got back on May 11 2003 from a 2 week stay at the Villa Tortuga Gret. Had an amazing time and met some great friends there. I would definitely suggest this hotel to anyone interested in going. The "animation team" made a Huge effort to get you involved and keep you busy. The only downfalls that I experienced was the front desk service, not only were the majority of them miserably (which is never a good first impression) but they didn't take complaints very seriously, and never followed through! Now I didn't personally have any problems regarding air-conditioning, flooding etc. but a few people that I had met on our resort did, and they had to fix the problem themselves or live with it! The food was mediocre but edible and my boyfriend didn't mind the food at all. I was forewarned about the food in Cuba though, so I was well prepared! One big suggestion for future guests is BUG REPELLANT. I brought some and was still eaten alive. The reception area and bars were indoor/outdoor and the only escape is your room or the restaurants! Not a lot of english speaking guests though, the majority seemed to be from Europe and Spanish was the number one language. Make the effort and have fun and you'll come back with tonnes of memories!
Pleasant surprise, great deal!
I spent a wonderful week at the Tortuga over New Years.The best feature was the cheerful, friendly and helpful staff. Food was decent, my room was clean and airy, the beach was clean as was the water....!!!! Right next door was a 4+ star hotel and it seemed gloomy and unwelcoming by comparison. Also heard horror stories from people I met in the streets about the condition of their hotels, so the Tortuga was a good deal and I would definately go back.