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Southgate, Canada

Great Christmas vacation - some minor annoyances

4.0 of 5 bubblesReviewed 29 Dec 2015
We are experienced travelers and have been to many, many Cuban resorts ranging from 2-5 *. Our rating is based on our own personal experience and we can usually see why many people have completely different experiences at the same resort during the same week just based on expectations and the little things that happen on every trip, good and bad.

1st time at Valentin Perla Blanca Dec 19-26, although we have stayed at numerous other CSM resorts. We chose this one primarily for being Adults Only and also the Privilege Option that would give us some of the upgrades we like. Booked with Sunwing based on the Paraiso section and their specific inclusions as well as the flight times having us travelling later in the day.

1st issue was Sunwing changing our flight times from late afternoon to first thing in the morning. So much for paying a little extra to get a more convenient flight time. Leaving early Saturday morning, Dec 19, for Christmas meant the usual airport chaos. We had the Sunwing Elite upgrade so managed to miss most of the winding line up. We usually go to the Premium lounge but it’s not worth it for morning flights. Flight was comfortable and no issues.

Getting through the airport in Santa Clara was a breeze and we were on to the bus headed to the resort. It’s about 1.5 hrs for the trip but extended when they have to hit multiple resorts and we were the last for drop off. They sold beer on the bus, 2 for $5 Canadian.

Arrived at the resort and were greeted by Alysia for the Privilege check in which allowed us to avoid the line up at the front desk. She took us into the Privilege lounge where we had our first of many drinks served by the always friendly and efficient Eduardo. Completed the paperwork and Alysia gave us a run down on the hotel and inclusions we were entitled too, as well as booking all of a la carte reservations……great start. Hopped on a golf cart and were taken to our room in the Paraiso section in block 33. We had requested an upper/top floor room and were ok with the 2nd floor they gave us. Very nice modern room and very spacious. Checked the A/C, fridge (already stocked), water flow, toilet, etc. Everything was working so we hopped back on the cart and headed straight to the buffet for lunch.

Here’s the breakdown on our experience at the resort:
The resort itself is very modern and looks very clean. The landscape is not mature yet but it is far from sparse. The layout is well planned, divided into 2 sections with each having numerous pools, beach access, restaurants and snack bars. The lobby, theater, buffet and most restaurants are centrally located. It’s a pretty big resort but nothing is really far and the walk from end to end is helpful for those that don’t do much else. They do have golf carts whipping around to transport people as needed. The Paraiso section is a little smaller and quieter and is primarily for Sunwing.

The lobby area is huge and has all kinds of furniture to sit and relax. The main issue here is it would get very busy at night and was thick with smoke. We spent most evenings in the Privilege lounge to avoid the smoke.

The pools are quite spectacular. Plenty of seating, lots of shade, multiple places to get food and drink. There were always wait staff roaming around to take drink orders. The Paraiso pool is much quieter than the larger section where they have the blasting music and activities.

The beach is interesting. First glance and it does not look particularly good since it is very narrow and you can’t walk from end to end without climbing over rocks. You get to appreciate it very quickly with the way they have set up multiple areas for lounging with shade and taken advantage of the little coves in the rocks to create more private areas. The guys at the beach will put the beds wherever you want them and they continuously have people taking drink orders. The water is shallow for quite a way and it has many areas that are just sand making it easy to get in and out. Could do without the Kite Surfers that can’t seem to stay away from the swimming areas, especially the ones that can’t handle the kite. The service in the privilege section was no better than anywhere else on the beach.

The main buffet has a Privilege section with more comfortable seating and they also serve better wine with the meals. Service was always great, drinks were always taken care of and nothing was too much trouble. The buffet food was pretty good, with a decent selection and usually well prepared. It could have been hotter so we often had our food heated up on the grill. Jorge made the best eggs every morning, always with a smile and chatting while you waited. Never a long wait to get good food.

Italian a la carte was the best we tried. The service was excellent, the food was well cooked and they made sure we had our favorite wine. Jorge (the Manager) made sure we were well taken care of when we had our 2nd dinner there too. Nice atmosphere.

The Spanish a la carte had a great atmosphere and our favorite waiter, Erik. We spent a lot of time talking with Erik during dinner and even after they closed the restaurant. The musicians on the restaurant were great and even played our requests when everyone else had left. They also used the Spanish restaurant for the special lobster dinner, although we had had steak and a different fish instead of the lobster.

The French a la carte was a little disappointing. Not the best food.

The Mexican a la carte was the most disappointing. Great location in the restaurant down by the beach but the food was terrible and the service was not great either. We couldn’t even get decent wine at this one.

The Ranchon was our favorite place for lunch down by the beach. The staff there were fantastic and we usually closed the place down each day talking with the wait staff. Reydel was really entertaining and we had a blast when he was working. Our little preggie waitress kept us entertained and Danaikys took great care of us when the others weren’t around. Special thanks to Jesus (Manager) for going out of his way with the wine and food. Great pork and shrimp.

All of the bars had great service and nothing was too much trouble. Biggest issue is that you can only get the Privilege wine at the restaurants and the Privilege lounge. There’s no reason they couldn’t stock a few bottles in the other bars. We can usually drink the Soroa when we have to but the stuff they served across the resort seemed to have been watered down. They also ran out of the Paseo De Tango wine during the week and switched to Rocobar which is nowhere near as good. We had some great staff who hunted down the remaining good wine and then the Fontera as an option.

Resort Issues:
Our A/C broke 2 each of the 1st 2 days. They were very quick to fix it each time but 2 days of disruption.
Our room had no hot water for 2 days and we had to fight to get moved to another room. We reported to the front desk, customer service and the Privilege concierge. It was an unpleasant fight to get them to move us when it should have been a simple request to address. From this we also lost our room location in the Paraiso section and they kept forgetting to stock the fridge.
Towels were in short supply. They would pick up dirty towels and hang them back up. We all know this is a major problem with CSM.
Lack of decent wine outside of the Privilege lounge.
Thick wall of smoke in the lobby. Smoking around the open eating areas.
People who take their own music systems and play them without headphones around the pool.

Overall, a great vacation in a very nice resort. Minor issues that should be easy enough to fix but they can be annoying. The staff are as good as at any other resort, maybe trying to be a little more professional so you don’t always get the informal interaction. Put a little effort and time into talking with them and they will be very friendly. I didn’t see anyone get bad service for not tipping but tips are appreciated.

We will consider going back, mainly because of the great staff and the experience they gave us.
Date of stay: December 2015
Trip type: Travelled as a couple
4.0 of 5 bubblesRooms
5.0 of 5 bubblesService
4.0 of 5 bubblesSleep Quality
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      2,370 - 2,375 of 5,750 reviews
      Reviewed 29 December 2015

      Returned yeasterday from a very disappointing vacation.
      Resort itslef, not bad. Room Ok and most staff very kind.
      I am not much of a eater , but I have my limits. Food was horrible.
      Presentation and quality. This resort is not a 4 and 1 half star.
      Barely a 2 in my opinion. I was giving Cuba a second chance, and boy am i never returning.
      Skip this place and spend a few extra bucks and go to the Dominican Rep where the food and service is a lot better and you don not feel like you have to tip all the time.
      I spent 1800 for the week + atleast 500 USD in tips....for 2k
      I could have been in a real 4 stars in ether mexico or DR....I would have spent in the end the same money but gotten a much better vacation.

      Date of stay: December 2015
      • Trip type: Travelled with friends
        • Value
        • Cleanliness
        • Service
      2  Thank mikecm2013
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
      Reviewed 28 December 2015

      It was my first time in Cuba and I enjoyed it thoroughly! We spent the week Dec 15 to 22, and we had a wonderful time! Here are a couple of my impressions!

      The hotel is quite far from the hotel, about 1 hour 45 minutes bus, but we get to see 3 small towns which is interesting!
      We arrived very late at the hotel, I was surprised with the rapidity of the check-in, in less than 20 minutes we were in our room!

      The rooms are nice and clean, very modern! We had some trouble locking and unlocking the balcony door, but once get the twist it's alright, nothing to worry about really.
      A point I disliked about the room is the "window" in the shower, although it is frosted we still see through it which is kinda weird when travelling with anyone else than a significant other...

      The site in general is very nice and modern, at night however it gets pretty dark, bring a flashlight, there is not much light on the site!

      We had a great service throughout our stay, never missed anything! They come pretty late to replenish the fridge but if you call service or ask someone in the hallway they will send someone right away! However they seem to be a bit slow with the cart service... we waited for 20 minutes a couple times for a cart to get us at our room. Sure you can walk to your destination easily, but it is still a service they offer and they should improve that.
      Everyone in the hotel is very friendly! There is even a guy on the beach that comes directly at your chair to offer you some snacks (cheeseburgers are awesome btw)!!!

      The beach is beautiful, white sand, etc. There is plenty of room for everyone, you can walk for 1 hour and you're still gonna see some chairs right there on the beach! I suggest you go on the left side, the beach is wider! I haven't seen any jellyfish during my stay, so I guess it depends of the season or weather?

      As for the food, I was expecting worse than that. It was okay, not excellent but nothing disgusting! However I have to admit they have some issue with the temperature of the food, it is true that some things are cold. The donuts at the buffet are definitely the best thing ever, with a Cuban coffee it is amazing! The French restaurant was the worst of the à la carte in my opinion.

      In general this is a very good hotel, they have some stuff to improve, but nothing that ruined our vacation! We had an excellent stay and hope to go back soon!

      PS: There were 2 power outage during our stay, nothing more than 30 minutes each, calm down, take a cuba libre and enjoy the sun!!

      Room tip: Ocean view is totally worth it!
      Date of stay: December 2015
      • Trip type: Travelled with family
        • Location
        • Sleep Quality
        • Service
      26  Thank SabrinaPoe
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
      Reviewed 28 December 2015 via mobile

      Grounds are great. Rooms are new and modern. Service is poor, you get what you tip. Inconsistent service all across the board. Al a cart restaurants are terrible seafood was fishy. We're not picky eaters and we had trouble finding good stuff. In the end we were eating chicken fingers. Would not recommend or come back

      Date of stay: December 2015
      Trip type: Travelled as a couple
      2  Thank Medo J
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
      Reviewed 26 December 2015

      Let's start with the misses :
      - No electricity in my room for 12 hours.
      - No water 1 night around 6pm.
      - The toilet in my room didn't flush for 2 days.
      - The food at the buffet is cold for hot food and hot for cold food.
      - The 1 hour wifi card that is actually more like 40 mins
      Enough to ruin a vacation??? Totally not

      Now the Hits :
      - Eduardo at the privilege bar ( if you are a rum drinker, the upgrade is totally worth it)
      - A la carte restaurant were up to par with most Cuban resort, best steak in Cuba ever
      - The animation team : always the but never pushy to do the activities if you didn't feel like it
      - The room is nice and spacious
      - All of the staff, even if some had language barriers, they always went out of their way to get you what you wanted.
      - the beach was great you have the options of wider sandy area and narrower rocky but pitoresque places to relax

      I was staying in building 20 and it was close to the pool and main building, so no walking issue for me.

      Would I go back to this resort, probably not since it was a solo trip choice, but if you can get it for the right price ( no more than 1100$) then I would suggest it, it is still a new resort and I am sure they will get better and better in time.

      And yes there was mosquitos, but probably so does the other resort in the area. And yes the bus ride is long just like the other resort in the area.

      Date of stay: December 2015
      • Trip type: Travelled solo
        • Value
        • Rooms
        • Service
      10  Thank SebnVero
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
      Reviewed 25 December 2015

      Spent a week, Dec 9 to 16th, and had a great time. This resort is located at the eastern end of Cayo Santa Maria, and has the added bonus of 3 distinct beautiful beaches. Stayed in building 38, which was conveniently located close to one pool, the Italian restaurant, the lobby, buffets, etc... Service was great and the staff were very accomodating. Learn some Spanish before you go, it makes a world of difference. Although the buffet food was somewhat repetitive, the rice dishes were very tasty. Breakfasts were good, and the papaya was something to look forward to. Highly recommend the Spanish restaurant! The coffee bar makes grest mojitos and Spanish coffees. The lobby band played salsa music to get you feeling good, and the nightly entertainment was worth it.
      Take the double decker bus at night and you will see an amazing display of stars and shooting stars.
      Overall this new hotel is for some reason under rated, which certainly is not warranted.
      This was my 3rd trip to Cuba, and I was very pleased with my choice. Beyond the beautiful beaches, and people with hearts of gold, Cuba is an experience that will change
      your life. So disconnect and enjoy!

      Date of stay: December 2015
      • Trip type: Travelled solo
        • Rooms
        • Cleanliness
        • Service
      10  Thank Bruce G
      This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.
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