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“Excellent resort, food the only problem”

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IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul
Ranked #29 of 63 Hotels in Varadero
Toronto
Level Contributor
87 reviews
28 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 88 helpful votes
“Excellent resort, food the only problem”
Reviewed 9 March 2012

An honest review of the Iberostar Laguna Azul:
Rooms: The location of our room was horrible, we were in block 15 on the 3rd floor right next to the main lobby, so we had tons of foot traffic always outside our front door. We were right next to elevators so at night when trying to sleep we always heard drunk people yelling and running. On our second day we asked to be moved, but were told the resort was overbooked and there were no rooms available. To fix this problem we slept with earplugs every night. In terms of the actual room, it was very nice, large and spacious…and VERY clean. Our maid was awesome, always left extra towels, flowers and towel art. The room was cleaned spotless every day. On our first day we left her ten dollars, and then every day after that we left her gifts we brought down, she was very appreciative. In all, the rooms are great. If you want an ocean view room make sure you are on the 3rd floor or above.

Beach/Pool: Gorgeous. The beach was stunning, crystal clear blue waters, smooth sand. You can rent paddleboats or kayaks for free which is a lot of fun. Bring your own mask and snorkel ( so you don’t have to pay to rent) and jump off the paddleboat in the middle of the ocean to see some super cool colourful fish. The pool was awesome, huge and nice water temperature. There was always a place to sit at both the pool and beach; however there was not always a place in the shade.

Staff: All great and very helpful. Cubans are truly some of the nicest people I have met, they work extremely hard to ensure you have the best trip possible. One day I was feeling sick and at lunch time only wanted a banana but they did not have any, so one of the chefs went into the back and brought me a bunch of them. So kind. Onay working in the Cuban restaurant was amazing. We had an issue with our sliding door one day and a mechanical staff arrived at our room within 15 minutes of notifying front desk. We ended up having a great conversation with him about life in Cuba, which made me realize truly how hard these people work every single day. These are some of the most genuine people around.

Entertainment: We only saw 2 shows, the magic show and the Cuban show. They were very good. Don’t miss the magic show. Keep in mind smoking is allowed almost everywhere except for in the buffet area, so if you are sitting in the theatre, main lounge or bar for a drink you are constantly surrounded by smoke. If you are not a smoker this is really gross. If you are a smoker, please don’t exhale your smoke directly into the people sitting next to you.

Food: I got sick on this trip from the food, which is the only reason I haven’t given the resort 5 stars. This was the only problem I had with this trip. It is more of a country wide resort problem however, as you can’t avoid the bad food in Cuba. I got sick right after the sushi dinner, and unfortunately remained sick until after I got home. I have travelled all over South and Latin America and did not get sick there, so it was curious I got sick here. I also took Dukorol. Anyway the a la carts were decent, tex mex was good, Cuban (we got lobster) was good but very small portion, and sushi was disgusting. If you are a true sushi lover you are going to be so disappointed. I literally got sick 2 hours after eating the sushi, so did my boyfriend. Terrible. In terms of the buffet though, there was always something to eat, however there is absolutely no taste in anything, and some of the foods were not edible—you couldn’t even tell what it was. You could eat a chocolate pastry and a beef dish and they would taste exactly the same. No flavour at all, no seasonings, which was a disappointment. Almost all of there vegetables are canned. Now I did not go to Cuba expecting good food, I did however, believe there would be more options of things I would eat. I had brought my own seasonings with me, but ended up giving them to one of the staff members before I had the chance to use them. Some of the choices that were good were their thin crust pizza, some pasta, bread selection, and grilled chicken and fish. The people on this site who say that the food was outstanding must literally be able to eat anything—from what I saw at this resort most people barely had anything on their plates, and most people talk about the poor quality of the food. I am not picky and found it hard to find food options here that tasted and looked good. Fruit was good. Room service meals were terrible, don’t even bother with room service as nothing is cooked when you get it and the food looks as if it’s been mangled about. I have stayed at several other Iberostar resorts and the food has always been outstanding. If only the food in Cuba could be comparable to other Caribbean destinations such as Jamaica or Barbados, more people would visit—this was literally the only thing that makes me question if I will go back. One week with food that is not good and makes you sick is not fun. I understand it is hard for them to get certain food products, but I ate at a restaurant in Matanzas city and the food was OUTSTANDING. So much flavour and great quality, so I know they have the capabilities to make good food. It’s the resorts that have crap food, Cuba itself has GREAT food.

Excursions: We went into Varadero on the hop on hop off bus. You may not want to do this, even though it’s cheap we had to stand the whole bus ride which should have taken 20 mins to get to; however you stop at every single stop there is so it ends up taking you 45 mins on a bus where they stuff everyone in like sardines. It was uncomfortable and didn’t seem that safe. In Varadero we ended up taking a coco taxi back to the hotel, something I recommend everyone do. It’s an awesome experience and cost only 10 CUC. If you don’t know what a coco taxi is, Google it. We wanted to do a tour of some kind and inquired with Judith of Transat Vacations, she told us our options, all of which were quite expensive and in a 40 person tour bus stopping at different hotels along the way. Right outside of the hotel there are a bunch of cab drivers waiting for customers, and we totally lucked out with a driver we used to go into Varadero one day to the flea market. His name is Alejandro and he said he would take us wherever we wanted, so we agreed on a tour of Matanzas City for 60$$ inclusive for the both of us, he brought us wherever we wanted, showed us some very cool sites, brought us to an amazing restaurant and stopped at a cool market. They are private drivers so they can go wherever you want. Transat vacations wanted $67 dollars per person for the same trip, and of course you go with 40 other people. I would HIGHLY recommend Alejandro; he was AMAZING. He is a university professor at a local university teaching industrial engineering, he spoke English almost perfect and this trip with him was the highlight for us. Such an incredible individual. If you want his contact info message me and I’ll be happy to give it to you. When Alejandro found out my boyfriend loves fishing he actually brought us to his house in Matanzas City and showed us pictures of different fish and sharks he has caught. This is the real way to see Cuba, not on a tour bus. Please do not stay in the resort the whole time, Cuba is VERY safe and there are so many beautiful things to see.
*Also note that the exchange rate at the hotel is not the greatest; you have the option of going into town to a bank and getting a much better rate, but you will wait in line forever. The hotel also has several shops to buy souvenirs here, go into Varadero-- everything is half price. For example, this resort sells key chains 2 for 1 CUC. In town it was 4 for 1 CUC. The hotel sells wooden cars for 10 CUC, in town they are 3CUC.

***Keep in mind this is a huge resort with over 800 rooms. I have been all over the Caribbean and never stayed at such a massive resort. When I went on this trip, February 24-March 3rd, the resort was completely full, which meant standing in line at the buffets for breakfast lunch and dinner, and waiting a while for drinks to be served. There were a few meals we had where no one ever asked if we wanted a drink. Kind of disappointing but I understand the staff was very busy. Also, while the staff do rely on tips to supplement their income, they also love receiving little gifts of things such as chocolate, toothbrushes, gently used clothing, soaps, etc. Don’t just think about the maids, they get everything. Divide any gifts you bring to others such as servers and even front desk staff. They are SO appreciative. Don’t forget about the door men and gardeners as well, very nice people who receive very little attention. We gave them packs of juicy fruit gum and they were so happy.

Overall this is an excellent resort, I would definitely return, however unfortunately since I got sick it makes me a bit hesitant.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
8 Thank BarbadosBum
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Director A, RDM at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, responded to this review, 12 March 2012
Dear "BarbadosBum"

First of all we would like to thank you for choosing Iberostar Laguna Azul for your so valuable vacations.

Thank you very much for your good comments and reviews about the hotel, staff and services, opinions like yours are very important to keep working every day to exceed the expectations of our customers and achieve ever greater improvement of our staff.

We are sorry to hear that the food variety and quality was noy up to your expectations, be sure that your comments help us very much in order to improve day by day.

Hoping that you do decide to visit us in the future please accept our best regards

Carefully

Management.
Iberostar Laguna Azul
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English first
Ignace, Ontario, Canada
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 9 March 2012

Our group of 7 stayed at this great resort from Feb 27 - March 5. We had read all the reviews and they were helpful. We brought towels (not really necessary) and washcloths (very necessary). Also suggest bringing rags/paper towels/ kleenex. Otherwise, there is is no way to clean up spills in the room except toilet paper. There is a coffee maker but no coffee until you talk to the cleaning lady. Strange since they don't sell coffee at the resort so where's the profit?
We loved the place. Amazed that people had bug problems - our rooms in bldgs 17, 18 and 16 were very clean. Never even saw a bug other than one pesky mosquito that we managed to kill.
The food at the buffet and snack bars was wonderful. We ate at Del Chef (bad) and Romantica (tiny amounts of food, beautifully presented) and decided that we would stick with the buffets in the future. If you want to book a special restaurant, do it as soon as you get there. When you enter the lobby turn right, go past the tour booths to the first hallway to the right. Down there, past the cigar bar, is the office where you book the restaurants and they book up fast. It took us 2 days to get directions for booking (language barrier).
If you want a tour to Havana, call Pablo Luis Loyola [--]. He is an incredible tour guide. Studied to be a professor back when Castro was getting the whole country university educated. Obviously loves promoting Cuba! The trip for the 7 of us was 36 pesos each as opposed to 80 pesos on the bus. We had several people with leg injuries (snorkelling mishaps, age related weaknesses) and simply adjusted the tour to avoid excessive walking - impossible to do on the bus tour. Had a great Cuban meal in a restaurant in old Havana. Best part of our trip in many ways!
The 50's cabs are the most fun way to travel although we never did the double decker buses -they were always too full and the cars were way more cool, especially for those of us who cruised the streets in them in the 60's!
Very little worth buying in the markets from what we saw but to be fair none of us are avid shoppers. Cigars, rum and coffee - get what Cuba is famous for:)
We booked a deep sea fishing excursion - only downside of our trip. Fishing is very poor at this time of year. Neither of the 2 boats that went out got a bite. Our crew was definitely not interested in our fishing success, especially after we said we did not want the 15 peso per person lunch they offered. We wanted to fish not eat but after we refused, they went up top and we never saw them again til they pulled up the jigs and lures that were so full of weeds we could have trolled in circles for days without a bite. That trip was 70 pesos each but was not associated with the resort.
The pools are great. Relax if you want or engage in some of the many offered activities.
Love Cuba and love this resort. Highly recommend it!

  • Stayed March 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Barbara M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Ajax
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 March 2012

Heard a lot of stories about food not being good etc., but we were pleasantly surprised. The only thing they have a problem with is the steak, which is always a bit tough. The pork, fish, chicken - veggies, salads and fruit were fabulous. Imagine having fresh apricots almost every day!

The elevators were all working when we were there and very clean.

Be warned, the voltage is 220 - so take an adapter with you if you're going from Canada.

We were impressed by the cleanliness of the whole resort, including the outdoors washrooms, which they seem to scrub down almost hourly. The staff were helpful, friendly and just overall nice.

The dancers were fabulous. They put all their energy into the shows they put on!

The resort is quite large with stuff going on at the beach, at the pool at the lobby - it's hard to keep track of what's happening where. There is a board in the main lobby that gives times but I couldn't see any locations of events. They have a shooting competition; archery competition and all the usual water sports and beach sports.

The t-making facilities in the room is a one-cup machine and they are lax in replenishing supplies. If you like strong tea, take the t-bags with you. They only seem to have herb teas or green tea. The coffee is great. You can always get sugar but milk is a problem, so take powdered creamer with you - and cookies!

Rum and cigars are a good price at the airport but if you want t-shirts and canvas bags etc., get them at the Varadero markets - they are a better price than the airport.

The double-decker bus stops 100 yards from the hotel lobby - it's the best way to go into Varadero. (Keep your ticket - don't hand it into the driver or conducter - it's good for the day)

Room Tip: Saw into several "rooms" and they all looked alike - only suites were different. Wouldn...
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  • Stayed February 2012, travelled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank Patinajax
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Director A, General Manager at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, responded to this review, 12 March 2012
Dear "Patinajax"

First of all we would like to thank you for choosing Iberostar Laguna Azul for your so valuable vacations.

Thank you very much for your good comments and reviews about the hotel, staff and services, opinions like yours are very important to keep working every day to exceed the expectations of our customers and achieve ever greater improvement of our staff.

Hoping that you do decide to visit us in the future please accept our best regards

Carefully

Management.
Iberostar Laguna Azul
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
32 reviews
17 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 March 2012

We loved every single minute of our holiday at the Laguna Azul. I cannot recommend this hotel highly enough; it's a wonderful place to stay and the staff are so very friendly they make it a pleasure to stay here. Service is excellent and wherever we were seated, whether it be by the pool, in the lobby, bar or dining room we were served quickly, and always with a smile. We speak only a little Spanish but we preferred to converse in Spanish with the staff as much as we could. However, although English is spoken by all to a very high standard, it was a shame that hardly any holidaymakers made an effort to speak Spanish.

Our room was lovely and spacious; we had a great view of the pool and the beautufully maintained gardens. The large bathroom was equipped with toiletries, as well as a hairdryer. The room was cleaned every day and towels were replenished whenever we requested them. The maid treated us to some beautiful towel sculptures and even left a couple of fresh flowers in the room on an almost daily basis.

The food was excellent; plenty of choice and vairety. The main dining room offered a huge selection of pizza & pasta, cuban dishes, fish, salads, fruits, cakes, pastries, breads etc. The eating places around the pools catered for a smaller crowd and so had a smaller selection of good food. The beach bar, Ranchon, also offered burgers, hot dogs and a selection of bbq'd meats. Our 10 night stay enabled us to make three reservations at the specialised restaurants and we chose the Tex Mex, the Italian and the Romantica. All were excellent - the food, the wine and the service. My personal favourite was the Italian, but that's only because it's my prefered type of food.

Service around the pool (we were in building number 17, so we went to that pool) was fantastic; Kensy, Yema and all the staff in the eating place there were so friendly and looked after us really well; their pool-side service was absolutely faultless. The two pool guys worked hard supplying everyone with a lounger mattress should they want one, and keeping the pool, and the pool area, clean and tidy. We enjoyed chatting with Gustav whenever he had a few minutes to spare and when he didn't, he always offered a smile and a wave as he passed by. The other pool guy too, although his name escapes me now. Our days at the pool were made all the better because of the wonderful people who work there. To be honest, it was like spending time with friends. What a great team they made!

As for the beach, we didn't spend a lot of time there, although it was a lovely beach. We enjoyed early morning or late afternoon walks along the lovely white sands when it was a little more peaceful.

All in all the Laguna Azul is a great place to stay and seems to cater for every age group. If you want peace and quiet you can find it, if you want to be entertained there is plenty going on. We would highly recommend this hotel and we would love to returnn some day :-)

The only thing which marred our stay slightly (and had nothing to do with the hotel itself) was the noise that some other guests made in the corridors, late at night. A little bit of respect towards fellow guests at such a late/early hour would make all the difference.

I feel I must say something about some of the other reviews which have surprised me a little, and have left me feeling that some people will complain about anything.

*Things are different in a foreign country; accept the difference rather than complain about it.
*Cuba is a Caribbean island with a different culture, offering different types of food. The hotel has done an excellent job in providing so many different types of food for so many different nationalities.
*Why complain that the cups are too small for drinks? You can have more than one drink, so just fill your cup twice.
*In an all-inclusive resort why do you need to have extra beer in your fridge, and why request it by writing a note which says "mucho cerveza"?
*The staff do not appear as if they expect a tip; they are always very polite and will thank you for whatever you give.
*Someone spoke about the local people and said that they (presumably the hotel) "should not allow these people on the beach" They live in Cuba, they have more right to the beach than tourists have. They are only trying to sell what they have - be it shells, wooden goods, crochet clothing. Every beach resort in the world has people trying to sell souvenirs to the tourists.
*Sheets with a damp feel can be dried out by switching the air conditioning on and removing the humidity from the air.
*The pool water temperature is fine; initially it takes a few minutes for your body to adjust to the sudden change in temperature between the hot sun and the cool water. I saw plenty of people swimming.
*Also, when people say they "reserved" a sun lounger what they actually mean is they go to the beach or the pool early, leave their towel on a lounger and go away and do something else. This takes the lounger out of action for anyone else until they decide they are ready to use it - which could be a while. We actually saw a couple with FOUR loungers. Yes, they lay on two and kept their things on another two in a different part of the pool. Presumably so they could have a choice - two in the shade, two in the sun.

  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
8 Thank Senga_Glen
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Director A, General Manager at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, responded to this review, 12 March 2012
Dear "La_burgena"

First of all we would like to thank you for choosing Iberostar Laguna Azul for your so valuable vacations.

Thank you very much for your good comments and reviews about the hotel, staff and services, opinions like yours are very important to keep working every day to exceed the expectations of our customers and achieve ever greater improvement of our staff.

Hoping that you do decide to visit us in the future please accept our best regards

Carefully

Management
Iberostar Laguna azul
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 8 March 2012

best holiday ever! Best staff ever. Great food, wide variety. best servers ever.

staff in cigar bar, the best 10/10

servers in lobby... one stands out.. Arianna.. what a wonderful ambassador for the hotel! She is a keeper...

One bit of advice..use the private drivers, more fun, less money and you are not crowded on a bus with time restrictions. Our driver was Yadir Conde, but goes but "just Bob". He and his driver are fabulous! Ask for him at the hotel desk. We saw areas that the tour buses don't go. And, just Bob speaks English and French.. such a treat for a family from Quebec we introduced him to...

Again, great hotel, great holiday, hi to Arianna and cigar staff.

Room Tip: depends on your age group. there is an area suited for all decades.
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  • Stayed February 2012, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank angela s
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Director A, Manager at IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul, responded to this review, 12 March 2012
Dear "angela s"

First of all we would like to thank you for choosing Iberostar Laguna Azul for your so valuable vacations.

Thank you very much for your good comments and reviews about the hotel, staff and services, opinions like yours are very important to keep working every day to exceed the expectations of our customers and achieve ever greater improvement of our staff.

Hoping that you do decide to visit us in the future please accept our best regards

Carefully

Management
Iberostar Laguna Azul
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul

Property: IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul
Address: Autopista Sur Km 17 | Punta Hicacos, Varadero 42200, Cuba
Region: Caribbean > Cuba > Matanzas Province > Varadero
Amenities:
Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
#2 Business Hotel in Varadero
#7 Family Hotel in Varadero
#8 Romantic Hotel in Varadero
#22 Luxury Hotel in Varadero
Price range (per night): ₹ 9,244 - ₹ 22,497
Hotel Class:5 star — IBEROSTAR Laguna Azul 5*
Number of rooms: 814
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located on a beautiful stretch of Varadero's Beach. Approximately 160 km from Havana and 20 min. from downtown Varadero. 814 rooms allocated in different buildings, 24 are suites and 8 are for handicapped. Reception 24 hrs. open, currency exchange, internet 24 hrs. Buffet restaurant with show cooking and 4 a la carte restaurants and Ranchón near the beach. Lobby bar, Cigar bar, aqua-bar, and 2 snacks bars at the pool. Conference rooms, SPA, gym, and beauty salon, 2 tennis and paddle court. Ice cream saloon, animation theatre and disco. 5 outdoor swimming pools. Miniclub (4-12 years). ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Iberostar Laguna Azul Hotel Varadero

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