IBEROSTAR CUBA – 3 HOTELS, 3 STORIES

This year in January I spent one week in Cuba travelling across the island and discovering again a beautiful destination where I always love to go back. The tour organised by Voyage Jules Verne used for all our stays hotels from the Spanish chain IBEROSTAR, all rated 5 star. To be clear from the beginning: if I will take care of my own bookings I would never chose Iberostar for my accommodation,  in Cuba nor anywhere in Europe. Just because “budget hotels”, even the high end ones are not my cup of tea.  The chain has the reputation of mass produced tourism style services and my previous experience in hotels and resorts proved the point the most of the time the stars associated with different establishments were given after a very “generous” assessment. And in Cuba the story was not very different than in Europe.

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HAVANA – Iberostar Parque Central

On my previous trips to Havana I used Parque Central because it’s excellent location. You are minutes from the vibrant Havana Vieja and in no time, you discover yourself absorbed by the vibes of Obispo street. The hotel is still no. 1 according to the ratings and the service style didn’t change to much in the last 5 years.

 

Before I used the colonial part of the hotel, facing the Central Park, but, this time I had my accommodation in the new wing The Tower (El Torre). Is linked to the old building with an interesting underground passage reminding you with photos and artefacts about the history of Cuba.

Even if the entire complex is rated 5 star be aware that between the colonial part and the tower are couple of differences which made the new building more a 4 star hotel. At the end of the day airline crew stay there and, taking in the account the cost awareness in airline industry I don’t know any airline placing their staff in a 5 star hotel.

The tower has its own reception and concierge so, if you are staying here don’t attempt to use the colonial services…you will be send back to your 4-star world. But in the tower, both the Reception and Concierge are very polite and helpful. And if you add a tip in your first day you can assure for yourself a nice smooth stay with guaranteed taxi and restaurant bookings.

During my stay, I have a room at the 8th floor which had a little inconvenience. The hotel has 3 elevators and most all the time only one was working so be aware of waiting time and be open to start friendly conversation with others using the one and only elevator in the building. Can be quite useful for tips about the city.

The room and the bathroom are quite big with generous space but again the size, the amenities and the furniture are more 4 stars than 5. Maybe the only 5-star touch was the spot-on cleanness of the room.

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On top of the Tower I found a nice, decent size pool with a bar and a restaurant, not so glam like in the colonial part but still a pleasant place for a Mojito in the afternoon. Time to time the restaurant was offering dinner and special events and one night I enjoyed the Cuban National Cameral Orchestra during a special dinner.

Of course, you can spend a lot of time in the colonial part of Parque Central where the lobby is buzzing with action and live music, the food and the cocktails are pretty good, the service is great and the prices reasonable. Such a pity that The Tower didn’t offer the same atmosphere; the only thing that you could do in the lobby was people watching: tourist waiting on top of their suitcase for the transfer or flight attendants checking in or out.

The breakfast was outstanding with great choice (a mixture between European, English and local dishes), lots of fresh fruits and juices (the Cucumber juice was amazing) and a service in line with any high-class traveller. Of course, you can chose to have breakfast in the colonial building, but here in the tower was a little bit more cosy and intimate with quicker and better service. Perfect experience to start your day.

Both Front Desk and Concierge were very helpful and well trained. You can exchange money at the reception if you need more CUC any time of the day (the office located in the colonial part of the hotel have opening times not very accommodating for the tourists) and the Concierge can book for you any tours taxis or restaurant. One evening trying to find a last-minute table in a restaurant, Eddy the Concierge, recommended us an excellent place. Was very honest both about the prices and menu and actually he advises us to walk instead of taking a taxi as the restaurant was very close. That’s what I call an excellent Concierge.

Bottom line the Torre Parque Central is in reality a 4 star hotel but with good accommodation and services. Of course if they will try to bring some live in the premises for sure will be as popular as the Main Lobby in the colonial wing of the hotel.

TRINIDAD -Iberostar Grand Hotel

IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Trinidad is indeed the door to a world of maximum comfort in the centre of Trinidad. Is actually an adults-only hotel (guests cannot be under 15 years old), hosted in one of the most impressive properties on the island.

Located in Plaza Carillo the hotel is just a walking distance from extraordinary restaurants, vibrant places full of live music and famous Plaza Major with its impressive cathedral and an open-air Casa de la Musica.

The IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Trinidad include 4 junior suites, 18 double rooms and 18 doubles with a balcony being closer to a boutique hotel them the mass-produced tourism promoted in Cuba by the Iberostar chain. The perfect choice for a fantastic, relaxing stay.

I had a double room with balcony on the first floor and I regretted that I spent only one night here. Drawing inspiration from traditional colonial architecture, the entire hotel brings guests back to sixteenth-century Cuba. The room (#108) was divided into four distinct areas: hall and walk-in closet, private bathroom, large bedroom, and terrace. Add to this an iPod dock and radio alarm clock, pillows à-la-carte, free Wi-Fi (30 minutes) to get the image of the perfect stay.

The terrace was quite large offering lovely views of Parque Céspedes a place always buzzing with music and Cuban spirit. Despite of the fact that the square and the park were always busy the isolation of the room give you the chance of a perfect sleep.

The breakfast served in a very elegant and understated restaurant was a real gastronomic celebration mixing in a smooth way Continental, Spanish, English, American dishes with a twist of Cuban cuisine. Impeccable service and you risk to spend more than accepted time here…it was amazing.

The best asset of the hotel is without doubt the staff. The reception was very efficient and very polite at check in, being helpful and friendly for our entire stay. When we asked the reception about a restaurant where we wanted to have dinner the lovely lady on duty provide us with a map, marking the shortest way and even she offered to call the restaurant to check availability. When we left the hotel for dinner the doorman offered to come with us to be sure that we will take the right turn behind the hotel and we will not get lost.

One little warning: when at the bar or in the lobby watch out for the magician – he is very good but knows new guests and targets them to buy his special box or send you to a not very good restaurant where he will get something in exchange.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel-it is one of the best in Cuba and the staff couldn’t be friendlier and nothing was too much trouble.

CAYO SANTA MARIA – Iberostar Ensenachos

The hotel has, indeed, a 5 stars’ plaque at the entrance but the reality is a little bit different. The resort is divided in 3 different sections and only The Village can be clearly associated with a 5 star hotel.

The frustrating thing about our stay there is the huge difference between the hard and the soft product of Iberostar Ensenachos.

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The original building was planned to be a real 5-star resort. The gardens are amazing, the access to the beach is spectacular and the beach itself is what you expect from an idyllic Caribbean white sand beach. The room are big, with a lot of space and a nice terrace. Even the public areas rich a kind of opulence and luxury expected for a high-class hotel. But the similarities with other 5 star hotels stop here.

My accommodation was in the Spa section in a building still under renovation so from the big terrace I have lovely view of scaffolds and construction sites. The room amenities associated with 5 stars were missing in the first night and the next they when you got your slippers and bathrobes you realised how many groups of “all-inclusive fans” used them.

The room was clean at a superficial level with a lot of dirt in the corners, under the beds. In the second day, we realised how the cleaning was going on: buckets of water on the floor and after that the door was left wide open, with nobody around, to dry. Safety and security rules, no way! Anybody can enter the room and pick up whatever they fancy because was nobody around!

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The food was typical for a 3-star all-inclusive resort anywhere in Spain, Turkey or Greece. Mass produced, with meals looking more like a bunfight in a cheap summer camp than an enjoyable moment. Even the cocktails were the victims of “all-inclusive” cocktails: powder from a can, something coloured made in a plastic bucket and a lot of cheap white rum.

Another “included” surprise: HOUSEFLIES! There were everywhere there was food, in the buffets, at the beach, any food places. They were also in the lobby anywhere sweet drinks were served! Dead flies in food so as the week went on my appetite got less and less. Flies come from maggots which comes from garbage! It is a major health issue to have flies walking all over the food.

Striking was the level of customer service. At Iberostar Ensenachos as higher you are in the hotel’s hierarchy as rude you must be. The lower grade staff in bars and restaurant smile all the time, work hard offering a decent service. The reception and the management is appalling with no customer skills and no wish to do something in line with a 5 start hotel requirements.

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The most concerning aspect of this hotel is safety and security. We witnessed in two different days quite violent conflicts between guests and both the reception staff and the security guards were watching the scenes having a lot of fun and without interfering. Quite terrifying!

The general excuse “what you expect, is Cuba!” doesn’t work here. We meet a couple staying in the posh part “The Village” and cleaning and service was completely different. Something like borderline 4/5 star. Another night we paid and book a table in The Colonial restaurant and the quality of the meal and the service was very good. So, it is possible!

Iberostar Ensenachos is far from a 5 star resort. Cuba have 5 star establishments, both hotels and resorts, but Iberostar Ensenachos is nothing more than a cheap all-inclusive holiday resort over-marketed as an exclusive place to be. If you like a resort in Benidorm, Bodrum or Paphos  Iberostar Ensenachos is your place. At the end of the day nothing is exotic apart of the location and don’t forget that for budget holidaymakers from Canada, Cuba is the same like Cyprus for British or Bali for Australians.

Iberostar Ensenachos is not at all an exclusive 5 star holiday is an all-inclusive mediocre resort tailored for budget holiday maker.

I will not recommend it to those who look for a real 5 star experience in Cuba. And for sure I will not come back…at the end of the day everybody has his/her own standards and expectations.

~ by leonard69 on January 30, 2017.

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