Varadero

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#9 Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
#9 Paradisus Princesa Del Mar
Varadero
Cuba
571 reviews
A Nice Place to Visit
We spent a week at Paradisus Princesa del Mar in January of 2023. We (my wife and I) have been to Cuba a total of seven times and have wanted to try this resort as it looks like one of the nicer ones in Varadero. We had Royal Service with a Junior Suite overlooking the pool as it wasn't too much more money and most people said it was worth it in the reviews we read. We gave the resort a 4/5 star rating based on Cuban standards in the present global situation. If we were comparing it to resorts in Mexico or other similar holiday spots it would be a 3/5. We feel that how one feels about PPDM has a lot to do with the expectations you have. If you have high expectations and think this will be like a five star in Mexico or the Caribbean you will be very disappointed. If you realize that this is Cuba and not everything is going to be shiny, modern and perfect, then you will be less disappointed. We arrived at 7:30 pm and were instructed to stand in line at the main lobby desk. They took everyone's passport and started checking people in. After about 30 minutes someone came and took the Royal Service people back out of the main lobby and put us on a golf cart and took us to the Royal Service lobby which is about a two minute ride or a ten minute walk. They then started the check in procedure over again. We were offered a drink at this point which was very welcome. Check in from here was fairly smooth but everyone was frustrated that we stood in line at the main lobby for so long for no reason. We were told that our butler had made dinner reservations for us but ours expired two hours ago so we would have to find food elsewhere. We ended up at the main buffet near closing time and the food was bad. That was disappointing. It would have been nice if we just could have ate at the RS restaurant when we got checked in. We also got our internet cards at this time. Overall check in was much too long and could have been streamlined. The resort itself is divided into two distinct areas: the Royal Service area and the rest of the resort. If you pay for RS you have access to the entire resort but if not then you have to stay in your area. The entire resort is very nice looking and the groundskeepers do a good job. If you look closer you will see some signs of wear and tear but not too bad. I noticed some rotten boards with nails sticking out by the RS beach bar and some of the day beds looked pretty rough around the RS pool as examples. Mostly though the resort looks really nice. The advantages of Royal Service make it a good choice in our opinion. With RS you have access to two additional restaurants, a grill, a large beach area with bar, a lobby bar, a pool area with bar as well as a'la carte reservations every night. The food in the a'la cartes is for the most part superior to the buffets. The pool area is very nice and usually has enough chairs. Umbrellas are a bit harder to get but if you ask you will usually receive. You have a butler (not private but shared with a number of other people in RS) who will help you should you have any issues. Our butler was Ernesto. He said William was also our butler and they are there every other day. We never talked to William. He also makes all of your reservations for you which is nice. We saw Ernesto a few times but never really needed to use him. He checked in once or twice with us while we were there. The internet in Cuba is still not up to North American standards but it is much better than pre-covid. You get ten hours per person when you check in and you can get more for free. Every time you want to use it you have to log in so I would recommend putting the username somewhere on your phone where you can copy and paste it every time and memorize the password. Be sure to shut off your Wi-Fi when not using it or you will drain it. For the most part it worked pretty well but I think it is primarily just for checking email or sending messages. I wouldn't want to count on it for work. The TV in the rooms is pretty bad. Ours had a picture lag that was annoying and the channel selection was terrible for English. Download some movies on your phone if you like the watch TV. It wasn't a big deal though as I don't really go on a vacation like this to sit in the room and watch TV. It's just nice once in a while to watch a show at the end of the day or if the weather is bad. Our second floor room overlooked the pool. There are about eight or ten buildings in the RS area and they all surround the RS pool. Some buildings have balconies that face the pool and the others face the ocean. The pool facing top floors have a nice view of the pool area. Botton suites have a day bed and good access to the pool. Ocean view buildings don't have much on the ground floor except some trees to look at and a day bed. Probably private and quiet though. Our room was spacious and clean. Almost everything was good in our room and worked well except the drains in the shower and sink. They were partially plugged. There was only one USB plug and it didn't work so be sure to bring your phone charging cube or an adapter. Cuba uses 220v so some things don't plug in. There are large bottles of shampoo and body gel but my wife ended up buying some conditioner in the store. We don't check bags so we can't bring that type of thing easily from home. The king sized bed was pretty comfortable and the pillows were good. Housecleaning came every day and did a great job. A couple of beers and water were left every day if you drank what was there. I overheard some people who had issues with their rooms but I think they were looked after. The RS beach is beautiful and there are lots of chairs with palapas fairly close to the water. The water is crystal clear and easy to walk in. It doesn't get deep for quite a ways out so swimming is safe. There is very little seaweed or litter. The RS beach bar is good except for some of the floor boards have rotted. Access to the RS beach is easy to find and not very far from the main area. Money is a bit tricky in Cuba. If you stay on resort you really don't need money for anything except tipping or if you want to buy stuff in the store. If you go off resort you should have, according to our bus driver, three ways to pay: credit card, your home currency and pesos. You can get pesos from the currency exchange by the main lobby. They do not have the CUC anymore. Some places will only take one type of payment. The airport does not take pesos so get rid of them before you get there. Cigars seemed cheaper at the airport but you can only take 50 back with you to Canada and some come in packs of 100 so be advised. Tipping is highly recommended, IMO, as the Cuban people work very hard and don't get much of a wage. Inflation is huge in Cuba and your tips are very much appreciated by them. Tip what you want and in whatever currency you want. It is important to note though that they cannot accept coins so if you are using Canadian money your lowest tip is $5. We would tip $5 for a meal, daily maid service or something special. $20 a few times for something very special like a musician or group. For individual drinks we would give 50 or 100 pesos. Roughly 100 pesos is one US dollar. We brought some little gifts for the maid and she said several times how much she appreciated them. Things like over the counter pain medications, small toys, hygiene products, nylons and reading glasses to name a few. She really liked the reading glasses. Be sure to bring sun screen, medicines of all kinds, bug spray and afterbite. There are some nasty little bugs here. Some are mosquitos and some live in the sand. They tend to affect the women more than the men; especially on the legs. The bug spray won't stop them but it helps. I overheard a lady who got bitten up so much say they gave her a shot of antihistamine. Be prepared or the bugs can really put a damper on your trip. The staff here is excellent for the most part. They work really hard and are very friendly. Sometimes service can be a bit slow but that is often due to being a little short staffed at times. The staff who deserve mention are Yusmila at the RS lobby bar. So friendly and always smiling. She genuinely seems happy to see you each day. Lily at the RS beach bar was always happy and ready to chat. Marlene at the RS pool bar works very hard and always remembers your drink. If she has a second she will take a tour around the pool to see if anyone needs anything. Micheal and Blasario (sorry about spelling, pool attendants don't wear name tags) were super friendly and quick to get you an umbrella if you asked. Meidal at the Port Royal was excellent and would bring another drink before you know you needed it. My kind of guy. Finally the two ladies who kept us entertained around the pool with exercise classes and rum tasting. Marialys and Isela. I only did the rum tasting but it was not only yummy but very educational. They were excellent hosts and fun to talk to. Thanks to all of you for helping to make our trip enjoyable. There are definite shortages of many common spirits on resort. Our pool bar did not have vodka, gin, whisky or tequila. You could sometimes find these in other places but not always. Rum, scotch and beer are plentiful and are your best bets. I basically drank rum punch and beer the whole week and my wife drank mojitos or rum Collins. There is also wine. I was pleasantly surprised by the red wine. The wine all comes from Spain and it was good. Pre-covid the a'la cartes we have gone to always had a wine list for purchase but now it's just whatever they have. I never had one I didn't like though. There was also white, rose and sparkling. Drinks were usually poured well with an appropriate amount of alcohol to mix. The food is probably the most disappointing thing about our holiday. We know Cuba is not known for great food but before covid we were pretty happy with what we got. There are obvious shortages of some common foods. We never once saw chicken or potatoes, including French fries. We saw bacon twice but it was very little. Lots of eggs for omelets. Buffets are okay and if you're not too picky you can usually find something but a lot of it is just the same ingredients presented differently. Our grill had hamburgers once and they were pretty sketchy. I had pork ribs once at our grill and they were good. Hot dogs are okay. The a'la cartes had better food than the buffets typically. Desserts, however, were pretty good. They know how to do chocolate. Pork and seafood are your most common supper dishes. On Thursdays go to the Port Royal for lunch. It is Cuba days and they roast a pig and the food was probably the best we had there. The lunchtime entertainment is also fantastic there. The Japanese a'la carte was the best. I don't want to belabor the point or sound like a food snob though as I know that whatever we were being served was the best they had and probably a feast compared to what the Cuban people were eating at home. It is really important to understand however that if you are a picky eater or like a lot of food, you may be disappointed. Some general tips and random stuff. Bring a Yeti cup or similar. Their cups are small and don't get recycled. Dress code is pretty lax in the a'la cartes. I don't care personally but don't have a rule about long pants and collars if you're not going to enforce it. Leave your Bluetooth speakers in your room or at home. Get some ear buds if you don't like the pool music. At one point we could hear three different songs blasting from three different directions. Hard to relax with 80s rock, Celine Dion and Johnny Cash all playing at once. It would be nice if there was a quiet area or pool. I don't love the new beer from Spain in the smaller cans. Stick with Cristal, it's awesome. There is a book exchange on the table by the towel exchange. Great idea. Cubans can only accept the paper money from other countries and it cannot have any rips or holes. Not even tiny ones. Overall we had a good trip but not great. I wouldn't say we are foodies but when all you want is a good cheeseburger and fries and you can't get it, that's an issue for us. We have pretty good stomachs but we struggled the entire week with tummy troubles. As one fellow we talked to put it, “As far as the people and the beach go excellent, everything else problematic.” As much as we love the Cuban people and want to support them with our holiday dollars, we will likely not return to Cuba anytime soon as we assume all the resorts there struggle with the same issues.

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