A resort vacation isn’t real travel — at least, not for me. But I still try to take such a vacation fairly regularly, because it’s a fail proof way to force myself to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Mom has been hospitalized for nearly four months now, and so last month’s vacation in Varadero, Cuba was more than a little necessary. It was hard to leave her for a week, but the trip had been booked back in December and I was close to burnout. (I still am. Hello, month four.) If I didn’t go, I’d lose $1,500 and my friends would be stranded.
Wait, why am I trying to justify this? Fuck that. I needed a trip.
I travelled with two of my best friends, Lesley and Ashley, and Ashley’s friend Sam. My last few trips down south were for big weddings, so it was fun to be travelling with a smaller group this time. Plus we were all really good together. I was so lame most of the time, but no one cared about me being boring. And no one tried to force me to do things I didn’t want to do. I partied for one night, and the rest of the week I was in bed by 10pm every night. I was zonked.
The Iberostar Bella Vista is pretty new, so the entire building is pristine. The resort’s modern design and decor was refreshing — all bright pops of colour and spacious rooms and endless chairs. On only one day did we have to wrestle a bunch of old people for their sun loungers.
The a la carte restaurants were great. We signed up for the Cuban restaurant, the Italian, and the Japanese. We were all pretty shittered at the Japanese restaurant, but sitting around a grill with a bunch of Quebecois tourists is always a good time. I enjoyed the food there, even if I don’t remember what I ate. Rice, maybe. Sushi? I think so.
The best restaurant, however, was the Panorama Bar at the very top floor of the resort. It’s not included in the all-inclusive package, so you have to pay $30+ for a meal. But we befriended the friendly chef at the pool one day, and he invited us to join him for an epic four-course meal. He served us a spicy soup, lobster and steak, bread with dipping sauce, and dessert. It was by far the best meal we had in Cuba, and one of my most memorable meals period. The panoramic view is seriously beautiful up there, with a view over the entire resort and the ocean. The servers were also not stingy with the bubbly at all.
The snack bar was good, too. I hate eating Canadian/American food when I’m travelling, but I didn’t have a whole lot of choice sometimes. The burgers at this spot were decent. My stomach was a constant gurgling mess, anyway.
The service was quick and super friendly. Compared to my resort experience in Jamaica last year, the service at the Iberostar Bella Vista was top notch.
I loved the size of the resort. This was one of the smaller resorts I’ve been to, with just one buffet, a snack bar, one swim-up bar, and no discotheque. But I loved that it was always easy to find my friends, and it was easy to meet other people too. We often congregated at the lobby bar in the evenings before going out into town.
The catamaran excursion was awesome. No matter what resort I’m on, I always book a catamaran tour. This one was oddly low-key until we hit Cayo Blanco. We were served a lobster dinner and I drank rum out of a pineapple. Enough said.
It’s super close to bars and restaurants in Varadero. I didn’t mind not having a disco at the resort, because Varadero’s awesome bars were all just a quick ride away. On my first night into town, we spent a fair amount of time at the awesome Beatles Bar (an outdoors rock music venue). My friends continued their bar crawl long after I went home. (Like I said, I was lame.)
The swim-up bar is where it’s at. Usually when I’m on vacation, I spend all my time at the beach. The beach at the Iberostar Bella Vista was epic, but really, really quiet. We spent one day there before relegating ourselves to the pool bar for the rest of the trip. We met all kinds of fun people there and hosted our own dance parties. We were probably obnoxious, I dunno. No one seemed to mind.
We picked a perfect time to be there. We stayed at the Iberostar Bella Vista from April 7-14, one week after Easter vacation. Prices were good, there weren’t too many small kids around, and the weather was perfect. It didn’t rain at all during our trip.
Our room setup was totally weird. We had asked for a room with two beds, which obviously should indicate that Lesley and I weren’t travelling as a couple — but the bathroom’s shower had a glass wall facing outward into the room. And it wasn’t frosted glass, so Lesley and I could literally see each other showering. Like, who designed that?
This is a ridiculous complaint, but the swim-up bar closed too damned early every night. Our welcome package told us the bar would be open until 6, but the staff closed it at 5 nearly every day. One day, we were still hanging out at the pool, and the maintenance guys came along and poured buckets of chlorine into the water…WHILE WE WERE STILL IN IT. THANKS FOR THE CANCER.
The buffet’s food was almost unbearable. I mean, I know that resort food doesn’t really do a country justice, but this was extreme. Most of the time I didn’t know what I was eating, or I went hungry because my stomach couldn’t tolerate anything. By the end of the trip, I was suffering a case of Castro’s gastro that I couldn’t seem to get rid of it. It took me two weeks to recover.
Finally, and this is the worst part — their towel service scheme is awful and I don’t really understand it. Me and Lesley knew that there was a penalty involved for losing our towels, but someone literally stole ours while we were at the beach (on day two of our trip). We just did without it for the week, and kinda forgot. As we were leaving to check out of the hotel, our maid chased us down the hallway wondering about our beach towels. Apparently, if we lost them, SHE would have to pay for them (??!!!!!). Anyway, it was a huge fucking ordeal, and the maid had to bring us to the front desk, then to customer service, and then security was called, and I had to sign some sort of contract (??!!!!), but eventually she got those damned towels and me and Lesley didn’t have to pay. BUT WHAT IS THAT EVEN ABOUT?! Does Iberostar really penalize its maids for the GUESTS losing their towels?! Or is this all some elaborate scheme?
I am so spoiled.
Overall, a 8 out of 10. I’d go back!