Paradisus Princesa del Mar Resort & Spa
Travel Blogs from Varadero
Before I get to Havana, I want to show you how different publicity is in Cuba. There are no outdoor billboards advertising Coca Cola or Havana Club rum along the highways. In their place are signs advertising the glories of the revolution. It is as if the only signs you see on U.S. highways are praise for Barack Obama.
You will smile at some of the examples of the advertising arts that I have discovered along the way with my ...
... the pool. The pool water was decidedly chilly. But hey. This was the really not a biggie. Once you got used to it it wasn't too bad. Number one fact; I didn't have to work for one minute of that week in Varadero and no one expected me to clean, cook, e-mail, telephone or respond to even the most vague of inquiries. Also, no laundry. Plus factor for ...
... 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 ...
... they just pretend to be local people, just because of the tourists and their tips. In my opinion the show wasn't impressive, it was easy trick to get some more tips from tourists. After the show we enjoyed lobster lunch. It was first time for me to eat lobster. First time do not lie, it was delicious.
After nice lunch we went to visit Bellamar caves. The cave was quite long and deep in the ground. Inside was ...
... nothing to share with them, then they asked us to buy sea stars, or Cuban cigars, rum, whatever what I want, but we told them, than we do not want anything and maybe later we will think about this. Well, these guys didn't look like thieves and been friendly, but probably the poor situation in family makes them to catch tourists and offer various stuff.
Today we stayed in a hotel territory, after the beach we went for the ...
How has this resort rated in the past?
- Swimming pool
- Room service
- Fitness/Health center
Historical Traveler Reviews Paradisus Princesa del Mar Resort & Spa Varadero
Gorgeous resort but poor service and food
Hi, my fiance and I were at this hotel from Jan. 2-9 and we both felt that while the resort is gorgeous and romantic and clean, the food and the service was quite lacking. The staff was so poorly trained that usually it took 2 people to do one task. I don't know what it was, but the staff didn't like or couldn't work alone. The staff was often confused too, especially at the front desk. Because the buffet is mediocre, everyone races to reserve a spot for 1 of the 4 a la carte restaurants. One day, my fiance had to stand in line for 2 hours to reserve a table! There were no more than 30 people in front of him but the staff (2 of them) just took a very long time to book each reservation. Another problem was that you could only book 1 day in advance, so every day, you had to go through the same ardulous procedure. It was only on our second last day there that they changed the rules to allow you to book for several days at once!
So like I said, the buffet was hit and miss - mostly miss - as everything is pan fried in a lot of oil. When they say "grilled" or "sauteed" or "poached" on the menu, it's really pan fried. The food is excellent at the Japanese and French restaurants, though. The Bamboo (oriental) is just bad.
The beach area was nice. It doesn't have the perfect white sand (the sand had little shells) as most of the other resorts in Varadero, but it's not a big deal.
All in all, we had a good time. We just kept saying to ourselves that we were on vacation and the hotel's administrative problems didn't matter. The staff did try their best. It was all a matter of proper training.
We took a trip to the town of Varadero. It was dissappointing. 10 years ago, it was kind of charming as it was not catered to tourists whatsoever and you could talk to locals and even go to the same bars. Now, it is a tourist trap filled with gift shops. There are many more tourists than locals now. Our guided tour of Havana was just okay. They only take you to places filled with other tourists. My suggestion to a future traveller there is to find a private guide who'll take you around. A couple we met did that and had more of a "back alley" tour, which I would have preferred. Oh yeah, now everyone expects to be tipped. Our small change is worth so much to them, which makes us feel good when we tip, but I can't help but think this will make locals in the tourism industry become the elite due to their access to tips, which is weird. I don't recommend giving money to children. Yes, they are cute but you are actually encouraging them to leave school and beg on the streets.
Great facility, lousy service
First, the Good. The facilities were wonderful - fantastic room (even the Jr Garden Deluxe), very clean and spacious; great grounds that are manicured and very clean; good beach; restaurants are above average (especially Japanese and French - stay away from the Oriental!); etc. Now, the Bad. The managers don't seem to know what they are doing! Service is slow and unresponsive; employees will only serve one customer at a time (ie three employees will work on one customer when there are twenty people in line); booking a dinner reservation took up to 2 hours standing in line; ordering a drink can take upwards of 15 minutes......Some day this resort will be wonderful, just not yet. We heard excuses (more customers than they have ever had) but the bottom line is that the service was not acceptable. I'd like to see this rating improve, and think it will, however, its going to take some time.
Sandals Princesa del Mar
We just came back from a week at the Sandals Princesa del Mar in Varadero and we had a great time! Because the resort is beautiful and our room spacious and luxurious, I give it an above average rating. Also, the pool area and the scattered hot tubs really make this resort stand out. However, there are some things to note when booking a room at this hotel. For one thing, the beach does not have the perfect white sand that other resorts that are closer to town (farther west) has. The sand has little bits of shells. This is not a big deal, really. You have to decide what is more important. Most resorts that have the perfect sand don't come with as luxurious a setting as the Sandals Princesa del Mar. Another thing to keep in mind is the food. You don't visit Cuba for gourmet food. The food at the buffet is only good when they have grilled lobster, but when it doesn't, it's just okay. So many of the food is pan fried with too much oil. The food at the resort's Japanese and French restaurants is really good, but they are hard to get a reservation at when the resort is full or near full. Don't even bother going to the Bamboo (oriental cuisine)restaurant unless you will be ordering the Sammon.
This Sandals resort is a relatively new resort and it has a lot of administrative kinks to work out and as a guest, you have to be patient and remind yourself that you are on vacation and that the staff is trying the best they can. The week that we were there (Jan. 2-9), they had the most visitors they ever had and they didn't know how to handle the increased guests. Hopefully, their experience this past week has taught them a lot. They could use more training. Like I said, you have to remind yourself you are on vacation and that waiting a while to be served whether at the concierge desk or at the bar is not so serious. That said, they still should work on their administrative skills and kinks!
In terms of the Varadero area, it is quite built up for tourists now compared to 10 years ago. You can now take a double decker bus ($5 for all day pass) there. If you're looking to stay mostly at your resort and are looking for a great beach, then Varadero is super. The town of Varadero is a bit of a tourist trap now and it's worth a visit, but it has lost a lot of local flavour compared to 10 years ago. If you're looking for local culture and less tourists, I'd stay in another area of Cuba. A trip to Havana is a must, but if you take a guided tour, they only take you to the touristy places. We met another couple at the airport coming back home that they found someone to give them a private tour of Havana. It sounded like a much more interesting tour!
All in all, Cuba's great. The people couldn't be nicer and their music makes you feel like throwing your worries away and learning Spanish!
Beautiful Resort BUT Terrible Food
My fiancee and I stayed at the resort from Dec. 23/04 to December 30/04.
With the resort being only ten months old, it is new, very clean and well maintained. The buildings are quite beautiful as compared with other all inclusive style resorts. From this perspective, the resort is amazing.
Unfortunately, while the resort may be beautiful, it is in Cuba after all. This means that the food is barely edible and the weather is highly unpredicatble.
In terms of the food, it was horrific - and that is being generous! It should be noted, however, that I enjoy good food on vacations. If you're not picky with food, then this should not bother you. But if you are used to better food at 5-star resorts in Mexico or Domican or Arbua, you will be disgusted by the food at this resort. We spoke with a few other couples that also go to 5-star resorts around the Caribbean and they also agreed the food here was awful, even though the resort was quite beautiful.
In terms of weather, Cuba in the winter is plaugued with a couple nice days followed by a number of cooler days with wind. This is just Cuba in the winter. It's not the resort's fault, but you should be aware of this before booking for Cuba.
Thus, all in all the physical beauty of the resort is 5-star, but the food in Cuba has to be 1-star, while the weather is 3-star. So if this resort is the best available option for a vacation, then take it. But if you can go to the Domincan, Mexico, or Aruba instead, don't even consider Cuba. We would go back to Princessa Del Mar in future years, but only if we could not get a decent deal at these other vacation destinations. It really should be lower on your vacation priorities list.
Lastly, I rated this hotel 4 stars. To be clear, it is above average FOR CUBA! It is not above average as compared with resorts in other Caribbean locations. As compared with other Caribbean locations, I would rate the hotel 3-stars.
Just returned from Sandals Pricesa Del Mar. Stayed from Dec 17th to Dec 24th 2004. It was our first vacation together and the resort was incredibly beautiful!!!
Food- I was expecting a little more from the food. On the first day of arrival, we ordered a hamburger from the 24/7 Raquet Club Snack bar at around 4pm and the burger was still frozen and raw on the inside. As well, on another day we waited over 40 minutes for a ham and cheese sandwich and a couple of skewers of meat with fries...not exactly quick snack time. As for the other restaurants, they serve good food but nothing exceptional. Our favorite restaurant and the best by far is the Japanese Restaurant, Sakura. The worst is the Oriental Restaurant, Bamboo - the satay and tandoori appetizer dishes came covered with the same tomato sauce .
Room- we stayed in a garden-view deluxe jr. suite. It was a beautiful and spacious room. I was happy that the guy who restocks the fridge remembered to fill ours with mango juice after I asked - its the little details that count!
Resort & Pool- the pool temp. was pretty chilly even on the warmer days. Only on the last 2 days before we left did the pool begin to warm up and that was also when more guests started to show up. The overall layout, architecture and upkeep of the gardens around the resort and pool make this resort and our trip an unforgetable one. Everything looks so beautiful, magical and surreal.
Service- I felt that on some parts, service was lacking. Some of the ladies who worked at reception and the public relations department were not very helpful and carried an air of arrogance and irritation with them. An incident that upset me was at one of the lunch restaurants: Our waitress was very unfriendly, arrogant and seemed very resentful of having to be there. We had already ordered and recieved our food but I wanted to order another drink so we smiled and nodded over the waitress and she just looked at us and walked back toward the servery area/back of the restaurant. We waited a while for her to come back to our table but she never came back to serve us or see what we wanted and I ended up approaching the bar area of the restaurant to get myself a drink. What bothered me more was that while I was at the bar waiting getting my drink, our waitress was just standing there watching and talking with another waitress. On our next few visits to the same restaurant (there are only 2 options for lunch at Princesa) we sat on on the opposite side of where we initially sat the first time in hopes of getting a different waitress (waitresses are divided into different sections of the restaurant- right or left side) and the 'new' waitress was much more pleasant, friendly and helpful. As for the service at the reservation restaurants and breakfast, it was all wonderful.
Beach & Watersports- take advantage of these...they're included!!! While there I didn't see many people doing many of the watersports. We went on the catamaran, did pedal boats & kayaking and the banana boat. It was all so much fun! I wish we had more sunny and less windy days there (the beach was red-flagged for a couple of days) so that we could have done more.
Everything was overall fabulous and I wish I could have stayed longer!
My only complaint is regarding some incidents of the service but other than that everything was wonderful.
My husband and I stayed at Sandals Princesa from Dec. 18th-25th. All in all it was fabulous! Truly a 5 star. In the past, we stayed at the Radisson Cable Beach in Nassau, RIU Jaliscu in Puerto Vallarta, Jack Tar Puerto Plata, among others. The resort had VERY low occupancy which was fabulous for us. They did not cut any services! This is an undiscovered gem!
Transportation- We took Air Canada direct from Toronto to Varadero. No delays, no problems. We heard that Sunwing/Skyservice in particular had major delays (i.e. 12 hrs.) and not necessarily due to weather conditions in Toronto.
Grounds/Buildings- Check-in was quick and easy. Everything looks new and beautiful. They work on the gardens continuously. Sometimes the gardeners will even surprise you with a bouquet of flowers. We stayed in a standard garden view- very clean, spacious and modern.
Pool- one beautiful free-form pool. Relatively cold, but refreshing. Floatation devices were a very nice, relaxing touch. Waiter service is offered by the pool.
Restaurants- Breakfast- 2 options. 1. Buffet- 3/5. The omelettes were pretty awful and often not cooked through. Good bacon. Wide selection of food and juices. 2. Continental breakfast- at racquet club and lobby-we didn't try these.
Lunch- 3 options- all a la carte. 1. Italian (Firenze)- Quite good. Air conditioned. Start with extensive anti-pasto selection and a varied menu. 2. Port Royal (at the beach)- good selection (sandwiches, fish, salads, soup, meats). 3. Racquet Club - informal, open 24 hours. Good food.
Dinner- each night 3 of the 4 a la cartes are open. You need reservations, but we never had a problem getting the restaurant or time we wanted. No buffet option.
Japanese- FANTASTIC and entertaining! They had tepanyaki tables. It was a 6 course meal. There is an optional sushi bar and if you ask for sashimi they can make it. The large prawn shrimps were the highlight at the tepanyaki.
French- Wonderful and elegant. Piano player in the background. All food is great.
Italian- It was a typical Italian menu, but average food. It was too similar to the lunch menu. Also has a piano player.
Chinese- AWFUL. They tried to throw in Thai and Indian food here. Didn't work. Skip this one. The advertised peanut sauce was tomato sauce (on the satays).
Desserts at all restaurants were very good-ice cream was excellent.
Bars- Most bars offered international drinks (lobby bar had the best selection). There was a limited menu-know your own preferences because they don't know how to make too many. Their English is limited. They are, however, very friendly and ready to serve. Try the Ponche Cuba for something dessert like (yum yum). Piano bar was quiet and intimate-good pianist.
Entertainment- We did not venture too often to seek entertainment, but there was plenty of it. In the evening a live band played in the lobby or courtyard. One night they brought a fabulous synchronized swimming group from Havana. Overall nice evening entertainment. The day activity staff had organized activities which were fun. In addition, there is a games room with two pool tables, fooz ball, table tennis, chess, and others.
Spa- state of the art. The gym is fully equipped with modern motorized equipment and free weights. Also there are two saunas, steam room, Swedish showers, Jacuzzi and two plunge pools. Most of the Jacuzzis did not have warm water...none were hot. We had a couple massage-not enough pressure-very light, surface massage.
Beach- LONG, with gorgeous turquoise water. On our first day there was LOTS of icky seaweed, however, his was due to high winds and a cold front. Once the weather stabilized it was relatively clean. The sand was brownish but not too shelly. The beach chair were uncomfortable-hard plastic and no mats (unlike the pool). Plenty of palapas.
Water sports- large, all-inclusive selection (water skiing, banana boat, scuba diving, etc. etc.). My husband tried banana boat- due to low occupancy, he was the only one on. They did not hesitate to take him and it is included. He had lots of fun. We went on the catamaran...great!
Staff/Service- VERY FRIENDLY! We do anything for you with a smile.
Conceirge- On our last night we upgraded. They give you FREE BOTTLES of liquor---I'm talking about a 750 ml bottle of J&B or Gordon's Gin, etc. No limit! We brought a couple back, but some people brought more. The Jacuzzi tub is very nice. Service is excellent. Heated pool is a little too warm, but very private and situated with a great view of the sea. The Hill Top restaurant offers gourmet food. Fantastic!
Overall- we would return in a heartbeat.
Enjoy your visit!
We were at the hotel on the week of November 28th. If you like luxury all the time, this is the place. It is a beautiful, spotlessly clean hotel. There were only 100 people staying here this week with rooms available for 800. That did provide us a few problems as there was no buffet dinner and lunch, except for one day when 100 travel agents flew in. The a la carte dinners were nice, especialy the Japanese, but my husband and several others could be seen at the 24 hour restaurant getting a burger at midnight. Sometimes you just don't feel like dressing up in long pants for dinner and since there was no buffet we had to dress everynight. A grill of some sort would be nice too where you could just grab a burger, but again you could only get this at a sit down restaurant. The beach was long, crystal clear and although as some reviewers mentioned had shells, they were little and never a problem. We are beach people and this was one of the nicest we have seen. My husband went on the catamaran with the guide who works there, and learned a lot about the waters. The sand in the water was soft and ripply. The other problem due to a lack of visitors was there was only entertainment two nights, one of which we missed because nobody advertised it. There is no activity board and the communication is poor. One night we were looking for something to do and asked at the piano bar if there was a show tonight, only to be told no, then we found out that there was a magic show in the disco at 10:00 and there were only 10 people there. The other problem was that when we booked it said it included 3 games of golf, it didn't. The golf course is around $40.00 to play, $30.00 for a cart and a $15.00 cab ride. I would not hesitate to go here again, luxurious rooms and details were fantastic. It will definately be going for a lot more than we paid in the future. Fantastic resort, just empty. With a few more people it will be hard to beat.
Still ways to go for a 5 star resort
new resort taken over by Sandals from Lido group.
facilities great..jr.delux package is real nice.
food is really good...selection of at least 6 restaurants.People are very accomodating at resort. Pools are pleasant.....many bars etc.
we were there from nov.27-dec.4/04
But had power failure once..water pressure is low at times...no hot water at times. Tries to live up to 5 star rating,but falls short.
Beach is nice and sandy,but coarse.....
Water sports are many and all inclusive. Try sell offs first..because prices here will definitely rise soon. Billy D.
My husband and I visited the Sandals Princesa Del Mar resort for one week on November 7, 2004 and ditto to the review dated April 2004 - it's very accurate. We would highly recommend this resort if you're looking for a relaxing vacation spot.
This resort began operating under the Sandals Princesa Del Mar name a few weeks before we arrived in November, and was formerly the Grand Lido Varadero. It's an adult-only resort with many amenities not typically included in vacation packages, such as scuba certification and dives, windsurfing, sailing. Upon arrival there were only 34 guests (and 350 workers) in a 430+ room resort, which we're guessing is because of the recently changed ownership. In no way did the resort scale back on it's services because of this.
The staff were fabulous and extremely friendly. They graciously accepted tips (wages are extremely low so as a kind gesture a peso here and there means a lot to them) and went above and beyond our expectations. They struggle with English but if you slowly and repeatedly describe your request they usually understand.
The 6 restaurants had extraordinary menus (the French restaurant was the common favourite) with varying selection of quality seafood, poultry, lamb, pork, beef, etc. (I'm happy to say none of the guests complained of stomach sickness while we were there). Although the dessert menus were limited we were happy with what was served. The hotel is set back from the beach more than the other resorts, but it leaves more room for privacy. The ocean was warm and beautifully clear.
The fitness centre and spa had state of the art equipment - very impressive.
The hotel did have continuous problems with their credit card machines so be prepared and bring extra cash to avoid disappointment or inconvenience.
The hotel put on nightly entertainment shows and offered live entertainment.
All in all this hotel definitely lived up to it's 5 star rating!
This will be the crown jewel hotel in Cuba, I kid you not. Only opened March 19, 2004, we arrive April 1. I lok=oked at my wife several times during the week and announced what I was sure were firsts; first one to sleep in bed, first one to take shower in bath; first one to sit on the bar stool.....When we checked in there were only about thirty rooms booked and they were still landscaping. when this place matures the grounds will be spectacular and the facilities unmatched. Staff super friendly, food exquisite, wine with dinner is no cheapie and plenty of it! No surcharges for cognacs, liquers, champage. Hot tubs everywhere; fashion shows by the pool once a week. Mind blowing health and fitness facilities. Clean, clean, clean. I know its new but the evident standards will ensure it's kept that way. Cuban people are so friendly and you need not worry about hassle when you venture off resort. safe to drive; scooters or cars. Both can be rented right outside resort entrance. Did catamaran cruise; excellent value and it's combined with dolphin show which was kinda neat. rented a car and drove to Havan (about 1.5 hours) and no problem getting there. Roads are in good condition and parking was a breeze. A little dirty but beautiful architecture and culture. Varadero golf course is a nice course; not overly long or difficult but challenging nonetheless (add a club or maybe two depending on the winds at 17!) It's target golf at it's best on 14, 15, 16. Beautiful resort, beautiful people, beautiful country. Best Carribean experience I've had.