More about Occidental Royal Hideaway Ensenachos
Truly a hideaway!
My husband, brother and sister-in-law and I were at the Royal Hideaway from December 8-15 and we were all impressed for the most part. The least impressive part of our trip was our arrival in Santa Clara. The airport is the size of a cardboard box and is run rather halfhazardly. The officials did a "random" search on the four of us, which held up the bus 1 1/2 hrs to the annoyance of our fellow travellers. After a thorough search of our bags from socks and undies to shampoo and shaving cream, doing drug tests on the lint in our pockets, multivitamins and tylenol, to being meticulously sniffed by their "guard dog", we were finally given the ok to continue onto the bus. Rather humiliating to say the least, but off we went for a 90 min bus ride to the resort. We were greeted at the resort with champagne and a quick check-in.
The service in the restaurants, by the pool and by the beach was impeccable. The beach and pool boys layed out your towel for you and were eager to wait hand and foot. The a-la-cartes were all fine dining with interesting selections to choose from. We found the buffet restaurant lacked selection and the quality varied day to day. The fruit was a disappointment. It wasn't fresh and most was from a can, but probably not in season. The grill at the beach is where we ate our lunches, they had great hotdogs and sandwiches. Our conceirge left something to be desired, but we did ok without him. He made 3 reservations for us, but other than that, we couldn't figure out where he was or what he did all day. The rooms were straightened daily and turned down each evening, cleanliness was never an issue.
The beach is absolutely beautiful, white sand, blue water - gorgeous. Same with the pool. Both were never crowded or noisy. You have to be prepared to do a bit of walking if you go to this resort as everything is spread out. However, there are bellboys driving golf carts if you needed a lift for a change.
Another disappointment for us was the lack of entertainment. Our ages ranged from 22-24 and this resort is not really aimed at meeting the needs of this age group. The disco was dull and played mostly cuban music. One evening there was a cuban dance show and another an orchestra played in the lobby, but other than that, you had to find your own nightly entertainment! We ended up playing cards and pool most nights and still had a great time, but would consider going elsewhere next time for better nightlife.
Other than that we had an incredibly relaxing, enjoyable vacation and were treated very well at the Royal Hideaway!
"I like. It's nice."
I visited Royal Hideaway Ensenachos in Santa Clara from Dec. 15 – Dec. 22, 2006. I am 26 yrs old, and was vacationing with my boyfriend (28), and 2 close friends (also a couple – 25 & 27). This is a great place to relax, unwind, and have lots of fun while you’re at it. I have also been to the Bahia Principe in Punta Cana, and El Senador in Cayo Coco, Cuba (both gorgeous resorts), and I think Royal Hideaway ranks above both.
I did not receive the room requests that I had made to Air Transat in advance of the vacation and, as a result, ran into some trouble at the beginning of the trip trying to get the right room (one that didn’t have an ant farm & other assorted insects parked outside the room door). After much back & forth, and a considerable amount of our vacation time wasted, we ended up with a 2-storey suite, which more than made up for the initial disappointment.
Bungalow 42 is a great spot because it’s near both the beach & pool, but far from the lobby. The suite was gorgeous, with a living room, bathroom & large veranda downstairs, and the standard bedroom, large bathroom, walk-in-closet & large veranda upstairs. Everything was clean. Bathroom is all marble. There’s a CD player, so bring romantic music to set the mood! They don’t refill the soaps & shampoos until you completely finish the opened ones, so if you need more shampoo, make sure to hide your bottle.
I am not a picky eater, and I therefore have less complaints about the food than many others might. I have been to El Senador in Cayo Coco, and I found the food at Royal Hideaway to be MUCH better. The only complaint I have here is that there was not much restaurant selection, since the Gourmet restaurant is open only to Villa guests, and the Seafood restaurant was only open 2 nights.
I ate here twice. The first time I ordered the Chef’s special (a medley of seafoods), and didn’t like it much, other than the lobster. The 2nd time I requested my own, off-the-menu creation of steak & lobster. The chef at the Tepanyaki table was happy to make that for me, and it was delicious! Also, get multiple orders of the spring rolls, because they taste great, but only 2 come on a plate.
The food here was tasty, and presentation & service were excellent (the food is literally served to you on a silver platter). I was also impressed with the décor at both the Italian and Asian restaurants. Also, the wine served at Royal Hideaway was a pleasant surprise – it was actually decent Chilean and Spanish wine, unlike other Cuban resorts, where the wine looks and tastes as if it comes from a homemade jug. They’re not stingy with the wine, either – if you ask for a glass, they bring you the whole bottle.
The seafood restaurant was closed when we visited, so I can’t comment on the décor/ service, but the seafood menu was offered at the pool bar. This was my least favourite restaurant. The flaming shrimps tasted like zambuca/ black licorice - not very tasty. The chicken & lobster came in a not-so-delicious tomato sauce.
The service at this place is excellent, until you have a problem. Then it’s one complication after another. However, everyone tries really hard to please you, so you have to give them an A for effort.
One great feature of this resort was that you could call any time for a cart to pick you up & chauffeur you around the resort. This is particularly important because there are no maps, and the resort is large & spread out.
The 24 hr room service was another nice perk, although most foods were not offered in the middle of the night - mainly only French fries & ham sandwiches.
There were nightly shows (Cuban dancers, fashion show, orchestra) at the indoor auditorium and lobby. The lobby bar is large, but service can be slow because it’s not that well staffed. If it’s your first time in Cuba, make sure to order a ‘Havana Special’ – it’s a classic.
The disco was my favourite nighttime spot. The bartenders are very friendly, and the DJ accommodates all music requests (and I made many!). Cuban dancers also got everyone doing some Spanish dance steps.
If you’re looking for a rowdy time, this is not the place. Not many singles, and occupancy was low (although this may have been because it was a week before Christmas). I really enjoyed the emptiness of the resort, however, because it meant NO waking up at the crack of dawn to reserve chairs, etc.
The Swedish massage was ok, but not great. Better to go with the deep tissue, unless you want to feel like someone is rubbing lotion on your back for an hour. You can have a massage in the same room as a partner/ friend, which is fun. The spa is also very nicely decorated, and the prices are reasonable.
I was disappointed with the shopping. The only things to buy were from the cigar store, or booze from the general store. The coral jewellery was too expensive (and not much selection). Cuban craftsmen came by one night, but nothing great was offered, and they were not very willing to bargain. There is better shopping at the Melia (a 10 min cab ride away).
Beware that the concierge will go through your room before you are able to check out & do a towel count. If anything is missing (whether you took it or not), you will be expected to pay up.
The one major problem I had at this place was that at the very end of the trip, my travelling companions and I were falsely accused of causing a disturbance, and threatened with the police & immigration if we did not pay for damages that we did NOT cause. Our explanations & defences fell on deaf ears. That was, as you can imagine, very unsettling, however even despite that debacle, I have great reviews of this resort (goes to show you how great it was!)
This place put El Senador (which I still think is one of the best resorts in Cuba) to shame. I enjoyed my stay VERY much, and would recommend this place to anyone! I may even consider going back.
Could be perfect with a bit of work
Royal Hideaway, Ensenachos
Santa Clara, Cuba
Travel dates, Dec 15-22 2006
We are from Toronto, ON
Sean and Dara
My wife and I arrived at 9:30 pm and the check-in procedure was fast and took place in the lobby. The buffet restaurant was still open and we opted to have a snack before finding our room. Because the next nearest resort was 4 km distant, we were not required to wear plastic id bracelets. The hotel appeared to us to be about 50% occupied: this fact added positively to our overall experience of the resort.
The room. Spacious and luxuriously appointed with marble floors throughout. Our ‘room’ was a suite on the 2nd floor. There was a large bathroom with separate bathtub and glass-walled shower, and the toilet was located in an adjoined cubicle. There was a separate ante-room and an oversize walk-in closet. The quality of the bed, bedding, and towels was unusually good for this type of resort. The fixtures were new and everything functioned properly. Compared with the Riu Palace in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this accommodation was superior in every respect. Additionally, the suite was thoroughly cleaned daily with an eye for detail seldom seen in North American hotels. We are not much into watching TV but the television was small: there was a DVD player and surround sound system which we did not use. There was a large wrap-around balcony that overlooked the gardens and ocean in the distance.
The beach. One of the best we have ever experienced! The water was crystal clear over white sand. The depth was only 3 meters, 1000 meters offshore. The entire Ensenachos beach is protected by a coral reef that almost completely encloses it. We experienced several windy days and even then the water remained relatively calm. There were plenty of palapas and the main beach was never crowded. The more private beach to the West of the resort was usually deserted: this was very beautiful but there was no shelter from the sun and no beach chairs. There were a few jelly fish on one of the six days of our vacation. An absence of power boats and jet skis also contributed to making this a wonderful beach. The water temperature in both the swimming pools and ocean was cool on first entry but we found we adjusted quickly: we spent most of our time swimming in the ocean.
The food. The food was adequate but falls short of what you would expect at a resort of this caliber. The selection of fresh fruit at breakfast was poor: you had to be careful, because the buffet fruit was often allowed to spoil before it was replenished or replaced. There was a meager selection of packaged cereals, local versions of popular supermarket brands. If your preference is for fried cooked breakfasts or European cold cuts you would probably be happy and there was usually good quality, fresh baked bread available. For lunch and dinner, the food was best if you selected it and had it cooked in front of you. I recommend the calamari. It helps if you enjoy eating fish. There were several types of fresh fish that regularly appeared and Caribbean lobster was served once: this generated much excitement and line-ups in the buffet, but was mediocre. In my opinion, Caribbean lobster rates a poor second to its New England and Canadian East coast relatives.
The drinks. Good quality liquor and wine was available in the bars and restaurants. The liquor was never watered down as it is in many Mexican and Dominican resorts. The house wines were no-name, Chilean from Maipo Valley – both the red and white were of above average quality. Lesser quality Spanish table wines were served at lunch. Neither my wife or I are big drinkers – but those who are can drink Black Label scotch all day. But getting a bottle of water ……???
Water. The water in the rooms is potable, they are quick to point this out. But the reason Canadians drink bottled water has less to do with safety than convenience and the fact it is neutral in taste – but while guests can drink as much beer, wine, and costly imported liquor as they run through their livers, acquiring bottled water requires overcoming a real reluctance to dispense it on the part of the staff. This is a common problem in most ‘all-inclusive’ resorts and I find it irritating. An all-inclusive resort that rations bottled water to those of its patrons who happen not to be boozers is somehow missing the point. While working out in the gym, the only way I could obtain water was to walk to the bar, where they would dispense water into 5 ounce plastic cups.
Specialty restaurants. These were exquisitely furnished, had an authentic ambience, and the table service was great. But the food was far from authentic and was often pre-cooked hours ahead, or over-cooked. Avoid them. The food in the buffet is better. Get your fill of Japanese and Italian food in Toronto.
Service. There is still a certain naïveté about the service attitude in this resort and this was refreshing – the smiles were genuine seldom obsequious. The level of service conforms to that you would expect in a 5-star rated resort. Nevertheless, it is inevitably driven to some extent by tipping. Interestingly, we ate one dinner rather later than usual, just at the time some of the hotel management entered the buffet to eat. They sat in a group at a single table of eight. This event so intimidated the table wait staff, that service to the hotel guests was all but abandoned and so that their attentions could be entirely devoted to those that really mattered – their managers. And I would guess that is exactly the way this group of middle managers wanted things – their senior managers might have found it interesting to observe the scene.
Watersports. This was a real negative. The resort had six 15’ Hobie cats but usually only 3 were rigged at any one time. This is because you don’t get to use them. At least not without a ‘guide’. The Hobie cats here were primarily used as a mechanism for the ‘guides’ to solicit tips. Only one of the ‘guides’ (a teenage kid) had any real understanding of how to sail a catamaran and only demonstrated this when he was sailing alone. This is such a shame. The conditions for sailing are about as safe and perfect as you will find anywhere in the world: generally good wind, low chop, and almost no ocean swell. There was one sailboat that could be taken out solo, a sort of Italian version of a laser called an X-14: those who know something about sailing will know that this is a much more difficult craft to sail than any type of leisure catamaran. It was fun sailing this little boat. That is, until the wind speed exceeded 25 km (about 15 mph), when every sailboat was de-rigged and the ‘guides’ put their feet up for an all day siesta. Too dangerous! Explaining to them that sailing might be at its best when there was a bit of wind was not an argument they found convincing. So for two of the six days we were at the resort there were no beach sports. If you like sailing on vacation, don’t go to this resort!
The concierge and maids. Never did quite figure out the role of the concierge. There is one per 10-room bungalow complex. You are supposed to check in and check out with her. She books the specialty restaurants for you – in theory, that is. We found that ours kept putting up barriers – this may have been due to our ignorance – were we supposed to be lavishing her with tips?? When we found that booking ourselves into the Asian restaurant through our concierge problematic, (our choice of day or time was never right - we did not want to eat at 9 pm, etc), we went ourselves to check out the restaurant - they immediately booked us in giving us the choice of any day, any time we chose. The concierge was the controller of the bottled water supply in the rooms – this seemed to be handled separately from the replenishing of beer, juice and soda – and we did get our ration of 2 bottles a day replenished. We tipped $2 CUC daily for the maids in the morning and $1 CUC for the evening service. The maids were delightful and left notes in both Spanish and English along with some exotic towel sculpture.
Tipping. The tourist economy is so out of whack with the real economy of Cuba that it is really difficult to know how to tip. The CUC exchange rate controlled by the Cuban government is designed to gouge as much foreign currency as possible into the country. When informed that $1 CUC is equivalent to one tenth of the MONTHLY salary of a Cuban blue collar worker, it does make you think. We refused to dwell on the ramifications of over-tipping – when the service was good and the smiles friendly, we tipped. In the restaurants there was some evidence of tip sharing which we hoped was the case everywhere on the resort. We were least inclined to tip for unsolicited interventional services – such as a beach attendant running up and dusting sand off a beach chair before you could sit down.
The landscaping. The gardens were impressive and meticulously nurtured – and considering the resort has only been in existence for a year, they were well developed. The thought put into the layout of the resort will ensure that its beauty will increase as it ages. Plenty of walking is required, the only caution is the speed at which the staff ride around the resort in their golf carts – the truly indolent can hitch rides on these golf carts.
The gym. This facility is well equipped with brand new equipment and free weights mostly manufactured by European companies – functionally, it is less sophisticated than what you would find in a well equipped Canadian fitness room, but there is a ConceptII rowing machine, some treadmills and plenty of workout space. Drinking water was NOT available. Nor in the adjacent spa facility. For a 5 ounce cup of water, you must walk to the bar.
Music. We frequented the piano bar before and after dinner and attended the evening music shows in the auditorium. The standard of musicianship in all the live music was remarkable for its excellence whether it was the orchestra in the lobby, the Guayaco bands in the auditorium, or the pianist. The only dud was a dance show in the auditorium in which the ‘origins and history of the Cuban revolution’ were the theme – this was naïve propagandist faire at its worst, nevertheless a reminder of the gulf between tourist Cuba and the people’s Cuba.
Overall In all, the resort was good value for money. The biggest negative was the tour operator, Air Transat. We had managed to avoid traveling Air Transat for a number of years but the Royal Hideaway was their exclusive so we had no choice. Passenger handling for this operator is about all about logistics with no thought given to customer service or comfort. We booked this vacation in part because of an early morning departure – this was arbitrarily changed by Air Transat two weeks before actual departure so that we left 10 hours later than originally scheduled – the return flight was left unchanged so we were essentially cheated of a day’s vacation. We arrived at Pearson 3 hours ahead of departure – and it took one hour and five minutes in the lineup to check-in. In Toronto, there were insufficient check-in counters open and the staff appeared overworked and disgruntled. The Cuban staff were pleasant in the Santa Clara airport, the line-ups processed quickly – but the logistics of the departure meant that we waited 2 ½ hours with 250 passengers in a tiny departure lounge equipped for 150 passengers. The aircraft both ways was an A310 widebody with cramped, 9-across seating – the washrooms on this plane were disgustingly filthy, testament to a bumpy flight. But the cabin crew after racing through the meal (a soggy, day-old Subway sandwich) and duty free service, retreated to a lounge located between the rear washrooms for the remainder of the flight – and probably fancy themselves a station or two above cleaning a washroom.
A Very Nice Place
My husband and I had an excellent time at the Royal Hideaway. The best thing we experienced was the pleasant service. We were really taken care of like royalty.
The resort was always clean and we had morning and evening maids to fix the rooms. The waiters/waitresses were incredibly nice; they were really appreciative of any tip that was given to them. We encourage travelers to tip these poor people as their wages are very low compared to their working hours.
Be prepared to walk to the beach, but the boardwalk was very romantic. The resort is humungous and there are little golf cars with bell boys that are always circulating around to take you from one place to another in the resort.
Take some pens, pencils, notepads, and baseball caps to give out to your concierge, the maids, and the restaurants staff.
The food at the resort was good. Try all the restaurants; they are all nice and elegant.
The entertainment at the resort was good, but not the best. The night club rarely had anyone there which discouraged us from going. Some of the shows in the auditorium were nice, but others were repetitive.
This is an adults only resort, so it was relatively a quiet place, perfect for honeymooners!!
The beach was amazing! Powder white sand, and turquoise water. Again, not many people at the beach. The drinks at the beach bar were the best!
The main swimming pool was amazing! The swim-up bar was just excellent! The swimming pool however lacked water activities. They had a pool basketball net, but when we asked for a ball, they didn't have any. So, take a little beach ball if you have one. The weather was a bit too windy which made the water temperature cool. They needed to heat the swimming pool water; it was too cold to swim in.
This is an excellent resort if you don't like noise and you are there to truly relax.
Please remember that a $1 tip can go a long way!
We stayed at this resort from Dec. 8 to Dec. 22. This was our fifth time to Cuba but the first to RHE.
Flight/Arrival: The flight from Toronto to Santa Clara airport was on time and a smooth flight. Santa Clara airport is very small so when a plane of about 240 people lands there is a bit of a lineup, however security and immigration went reasonably quick. It was about a 90 minute bus ride to the resort. The bus was air conditioned and had comfortable seats but since we landed in the evening you could not see much on the ride to the resort. When we returned we left in the morning so you could see the countryside and the three towns that you pass through.
When we reached the resort it was beautifully lit up with Christmas trees and lights. Check-in was quick and well organized. We got our room keys and the bell boys took us to our room. Just after getting to our room the power went out and we were left in the dark trying to find our way around. The blackout only lasted about five minutes but this could happen a couple of times a day. It really wasn't a problem unless you were in the shower, a small flashlight is handy to bring along.
Room: Rooms are arranged in two storey bungalows with about a dozen rooms at each bungalow. Our room was near the pool with an access to the beach just a little bit away. We had a beautiful room, king size bed, mini bar, TV, stereo/DVD player, large closet and plenty of drawers. A large bathroom, all tiled in marble, with a separate shower and bathtub. The maids always kept the room amazingly clean and tidy. They would leave towels on the bed every day twisted into sculputes of birds and fish. The evening maids would turn down the bed, straighten up the room and towels and leave a couple of chocolates and poems. Each bungalow had a concierge during the day that would take care of any of your requests. They made restaurant reservations for you, made sure your mini bar was stocked or help with any questions you had. Our concierge was fantastic, he made sure everyone in our bungalow got to each restaurant, and made a special dinner request for us on a birthday. All something you would expect from a five star resort.
Around the resort: The resort is huge. Its located along a penninsula strip of land so the resort is maybe a half kilometer from the front gate to the beach but from one end to the other is at least five kilometers. The resort has several sections, the Spa section to the east side of the resort, the lobby/buffet/ main building, the Royal Hideaway section and the Royal Suites at the far west of the resort. The resort is beautiful, the lobby, main hallways and room are all tiled in marble. The gardeners do a great job, everyday they were putting in more plants and flowers. The paint was peeling around some of the fountains but they were getting to it.
The pool areas are beautiful with winding free form pools that give plenty of privacy from other guests.
Staff and service: The staff were amazing, everyone was always friendly and helpful. The staff would go out of their way to do things for you. We always received the best service, at the restaurants the waiters would pull out the chair for you every time you got up or at the buffet they would carry your plate to your table for you. We tipped fairly often and gave small gifts we brought with us but even when we didn't we still received excellent service with a smile and a thank you. Just what you expect from a classy resort. At the beach waiters would bring drinks or sandwiches to your chair. During our stay the General Manager for Occidental resorts arrived and he would always take the time to talk with guests. On several evenings he was at the cigar lounge talking with guests and even seving them drinks.
Food/Restaurants: Before we arrived we had read reviews about RHE and all of them seemed to have the same negative, that being the food. We thought the food was exceptional. We always got hot food that was properly prepared and well cooked.
The beach bar had decent burgers and sandwiches. The snack bar at the pool was more like a restaurant. There was a full menu you could order from. The calamari was to die for, the burgers were good, the fish and seafood was excellent, the pizza is a little different then what you expect, it was more like a pita with salsa rather than tomatoe sauce but there were many different toppings you could get and it was still very tasty.
The a la carte restaurants were wonderful. The Italian restaurant was very elegant with a very good fillet mignon, but the portions seemed a little small to me. The Asian restaurant was excellent and a lot of fun sitting at the table were the chef prepares your meal in front of you. The seafood restaurant was excellent as well. Other guests had told us that the food there was undercooked but when we went the food was perfect. The gourmet restaurant in the Royal Suites section was incredible with a great selection of food. For myself though I liked the Buffet the best. There was always a good selection of fish, beef, chicken. Many types of mixed vegetables and pasta dishes. There was a pasta section were they would cook your choice of pasta and sauce. Cheese and coldcuts, a small salad bar, breads and buns and a small choice of desserts, this was the only thing that needs improving (I have a sweet tooth). The food was well prepared and all tasty, no one we talked to said they got ill from the food. Go to the buffet fairly early otherwise some of the dishes sit for awhile and get overcooked under the heating trays. Monday was lobster night at the buffet, this was incredible, all you could eat. The only problem was not with the food but with some of the guests, some people would get four our five lobsters at one time forcing other guests to wait in line until more were cooked. Its a buffet, you can go back and always get more but some people just seemed to be a little selfish. The resort expects you to dress properly for the restaurants so don't forget to bring some appropriate evening clothes and maybe a sweater, the nights can get cool in Dec.
Beach: This is the whole reason for coming here. The beach is just amazing, tourquoise blue water, brilliant white soft sand, a large beach that you can walk for a long ways. There are plenty of beach chairs and palapas, very little seaweed (that they would rake up in the early morning) lots of small fish and starfish in the water, good for snorkeling. There were paddle boats, kayaks, windsurfers and catamarans that you could take out. The beach is in a small bay so it is protected a bit and the water is shallow and calm.
Being winter the weather was cloudy and windy for the first three days of our trip, but turned sunny and wonderfully hot later on. The second week was a mix of sunny days and cloudy days with rain a couple of evenings.
The resort sprayed for mosquitos in the evening just before dinner, so we were not bitten much at all, but bring some repellant anyway. The mosquitos were the worst at dawn and at dusk, and they are a lot smaller than in Canada so you don't even notice that they bit you untill its too late.
This is a classy resort and we had hoped that the guests it attracted would be the same. The majority of the guests were from the Toronto and Montreal area (the resort was only about 40 precent full) unfortunately the French Canadian guests complained about the food, or the service, or the weather, or the drinks not strong enough, or having to wait at the airport and we were not the only people we talked to that made this comment.
The resort is truely beautiful, relax and enjoy it. The staff makes this place first class but if you don't treat them with respect don't expect them to treat you as royalty. You don't always have to tip and Please, Thank you and a smile go a long way.
Overall we had a great relaxing vacation. If the weather was a little better it would have been perfect. We have been to several other resorts in Cuba and this resort is certainly the best. We will definitely be going back, the sooner the better.
My husband and I (age 29 & 30) travelled to RHE from Dec. 9-15/06. There were about 200-250 guests at the resort that week and everything was open, staff was happy and so were the guests. In talking to some staff, they did say they were overwhelmed in earlier weeks, when they had over 400 people for the first time (after weeks of 60-100 people).
This was our second trip to Cuba and on every level it surpassed the Princesa del mar in Varadero. The rooms were beutiful and clean with a walk-in closet, shower and tub, massive balcony, friendly maids, well-stocked fridge.
The pools were great and the pool bar staff went along with every guests request. We stayed on the Spa Side, and enjoyed the atmosphere at that main pool far more than the one on the hideaway side. The set up allowed it to feel very initimate and although there might have been 50 people at the pool you could never see more than 10, thanks to all the landscaping.
The food was, for Cuba, amazing. Great calamari, great pizza at the Hideaway snack restaurant, a decent buffet (really how much more do you need). The dinner buffet was fine, the Italian restaurant and seafood were good and the Japanese was great fun. We dined there twice in the private tatami rooms, sitting on the floor!
Service at all of the restaurants was exceptional
Room service was prompt, but the sandwiches were terrible.
Our concierge was very helpful to us, athough others in our building did complain. We had no problems getting dinner reservations, or extra beer in the fridge. We tipped her only at the end of the week, so that didn't make the difference in the service we received.
We tipped a peso at meals and spent a few pesos each day on the bartenders and beach/pool guys. There was never anyone waiting for a handout and service was good regardlesss of tipping.
Every evening was spent in the cigar bar, relaxing in a big leather chair, enjoying truly top shelf liquors (15 year Havana Club Reserve, Cardhu, etc) and there were never more than 10 guests in that bar! The general manager was even in pouring drinks one evening.
The best part of this resort, by far, was the beach. On a calm day there wasn't a ripple on the water, it was warm and shallow and full of fish. The most beuatiful beach I have ever seen - and it came complete with drink and lunch service right to your chair.
Bring an insulated mug though (it doesn't need tobe a giant Bubba Keg, just your commuter coffee cup so you get more than a two sip drink!)
We went for a quiet relaxing time and had just that! Other than a little rain, the week was as close to perfect as a holiday can be.
Bring a flashlight....
My husband and I stayed at this resort for our Honeymoon from December 8 - 15, 2006.
Here is an overview of our trip which we hope will be helpful to others who are planning to visit this resort:
ARRIVAL: We booked through Transat Holidays... and the airplane that takes you into Santa Clara holds over 225 people. However, the airport in Santa Clara is the size of my house. No kidding. It is a tiny little airport with 1 runway and very few staff. The lineup to check through immigration spilled outside of the actual airport building, and took us over 1 hour to get through. Just horrible!
The bus ride to the resort was about 90 minutes... it was not too bad, the bus had air conditioning and big seats. The only downfall was that we had to do the entire drive at night in the dark, so we could not see much. The drive back was during the daytime.... and it was a very interesting drive as you go through 3 main villages and see the way that the Cuban people really live. It is quite an experience.
Finally we reached the Resort, which was beautifully lit up with Christmas lights and chandeliers........ until, BANG, the entire resort lost all power and all the lights went out. Immediately we were like, "what the heck is going on". The resort staff did nhot seem surprised by this at all. This is only a prelude to what would occur over the next week of our visit.
ACCOMODATION: We were put in what I believe was a "royal suite", which was a very large unit in bulgalow #41. The suite had two floors... the first floor was a living area, dining table, bathroom and terrace. There was a wooden staircase leading up to the second floor, which had 1 king size bed, TV, "mini-bar", stereo/DVD, large balcony with chairs, large bathroom, closet with robes and a safe. The room was very clean, but the wooden stairs smelled very musty. There was also a big hole in the wall by the stairs. A couple of tiny bugs here and there... nothing major. The bed was quite comfortable, just a bit springy. Overall, it was a nice room and what we expected for this resort. The maids did a great job of keeping it clean and tidy.
GROUNDS: There is no doubt that this resort is absolutely beautiful... from the wonderful marble lobby to the lush gardens and landscaping. The gardeners do a great job with the plants and flowers... and is definitely up to par with what you would expect for a '5-star' resort. The only part that needs some serious touch up is the fountain area at the back of the lobby... the fountains outside need a new paint job as they are very much erroding and peeling.
SERVICE: The service was phenomenal at this resort...... we only received the best service possible throughout our entire stay. Everyone is extremely friendly, and goes out of there way to serve. At times it was almost annoying... as at every single restaurant the waiters would have to pull and push in your chair for you everytime you stood up. A little excessive. And people were friendly whether or not you tipped. We could not afford to be tipping every single person/service throughout our stay (as you will see....... there are many, MANY people who serve you, it would get very expensive to tip every single time) --- but people were just as helpful each and every time.
POOL: The pool was absolutely stunning.... beautiful palms around the area, two little island areas inside the pool, very clean, various shallow and slightly deeper areas, and a great swim up bar. Chairs very comfortable and lots of umbrellas. Pool guys are always around to bring you chair "mattresses". No complaints at all here.
FOOD: This is where this resort is definitely lacking.... the food was just bizarre and limited. Now... we do understand that this is Cuba and their access to fresh fruits/veggies is limited... but some of the strange cooking methods and menu items left us shaking our heads. The buffet was OK... breakfast was quite simple and I usually got by with some croissants, fruit and maybe a hard boiled egg.
The so-called "snack bar" at the pool was really a full scale restaurant... and there menu was just awful. I ordered the grilled chicken breast sandwich twice, and the first time the chicken was completely shriveled up and waaaaay overcooked, no lettuce or tomato with it........ the second time the bread/bun was so incredibly hard that I couldn't even bite into it. The hubby had pizza there one day, which is best described as a pita topped with salsa and some cheese. Yuck!
The "salad" throughout the resort is not lettuce..... they use some kind of strange green leaf chopped up finely, tasted nothing like the lettuce that we have up here. Very strange. The dinner buffet was full of very odd mixed dishes and weird food items thrown together... like pasta tossed with mayo, ham, egg, raisins, cabbage, etc ----- gross! It was very hard to have just a 'normal meal'.
We had the Italian restaurant one night..... which was just horrible... we both ordered what was described on the menu as "chicken breast stuffed with spinach and cheese"..... except when we got it, it was really chicken thighs/drumsticks rolled up and breaded.... on top of what I think was mashed potatoes except it tasted like pureed onions... and some frozen peas/carrots. I ate the veggies and left the rest. I attempted the dessert... which was also described as a "crepe topped with vanilla and chocolate ice cream, and fresh fruit". When I got it: a crepe topped with orange ice cream and canned fruit cocktail. ???? I still ate it, I was starving.
One positive note: They are very, very clean with the food preparation and everything we had was properly cooked. I did not get even remotely sick at all, and that is a very good sign. Even at the bars when they put a straw in your drink, they use tongs instead of their hands.
AND THE LIGHTS GO OUT.... : One of the biggest complaints that we have about the resort was the ongoing power outages. The resort was unable to keep up with the power demand during the first 3 days of our visit... and there were continued rolling blackouts throughout the day. This prooved to be very annoying and dangerous. Quite literally, there was one night where all the power went out approx 10 - 20 times in one day.... and sometimes lasting up to 15 minutes or so. The worst was when it happened at night when you were back in your room.... when the lights went out, you could not see ANYTHING AT ALL.... complete and total darkness. This was very dangerous as my husband nearly fell down the stairs in our suite as he couldn't see where he was going at all. It was also very dangerous if you were walking along the pathways outside.... as the path lights would also go out and you couldn't see anything at all in front of you. Just horrible. By the third day everyone was very annoyed and we think that they brought in a backup generator, as we heard some loud humming on the grounds.
THE BEACH: Now this is truly the reason why people go through all of this hell to get here.... the beach was just stunning. We had bad weather for the first 4 days, but the last 3 days once the sun came out and the winds stopped... the beach truly shined. Very calm water, no waves... crystal clear water and powdery white sand. There were also these really cute tropical fish that would come right to your legs in groups and swim around you... so nice! We found starfish very close to the shore --- sea cucumber, and other larger fish (although they never came very close to the swimmers). The very last day of our vacation there were jellyfish which came ashore, which we were told is not normal for that beach. So not many people were on the beach this day. We took out the paddle boats one day (they have about 4 of them to take out for free) which was very nice. The only odd thing about the beach is that the water is not very warm... in fact we found the water to be quite cold for a southern beach. Ohwell.
Overall the resort itself it beautiful, the beach is beautiful, but the airport experience is very frustrating, the blackouts were very annoying, and the crappy food put a damper on everything. Would I go back? No.... only because there are so many other wonderful places to visit in the Carribbean. What do I suggest if you go: bring a flashlight, pack some food and snacks from home, and bring some sweaters (the weather was fairly chilly the first few days/nights).
Can't wait to go back
Just returned from RHE. Could not have had a better vacation. I would return anytime. As for all the negative reviews all I can say is, "what drugs were you on". This hotel in truly is 5 star and + hotel. I would return anytime. The staff there gave excellent service. Any little problem is taken care of immediately. The security on the island is unbelievable. From the start when you arrive at the cosway there is a security station set up so no one can go to the island except the tourist busses and the employees. If that's not all there are security staff standing along all the walkways at night as well as in the daytime. When you arrive at the hotel the first view is awesome. The first thing I thought was, "Wow, and we paid how much to stay here, unbelievable!". The main hotel as you arrive is the most luxurious I have seen by far, and I have seen some beautiful hotels. The minute we got off the bus the bell boys where there waiting to help. They took our luggage on these so called golf carts and we were told to make our way to the reception desk. Not did they only come to our service immediately but we were welcomed with a glass of champagneand a hot face cloth. I would say inside the ten minutes we spent at the reception a bell boy took us with our luggage to our room. Our room was quite luxurious. Marble floors, walk-in closet, king bed, marble washroom with separate water closet, walk-in ceramic shower, tub and large marble vanity and very clean. We were on the main level so we had a cozy furnished patio for two that was well landscaped for privacy. The restaurants are lavishly decorated as in any I have seen in Canada or the United States. The italian has excellent filet mignon, as do the others when it is available. The asian restaurant was like being transported to another country and had private cubicles for romantic evenings. The service is excellent in all restaurants. All the champagne, wine (Chili or Spanish) you can want. The main dinning area is buffet style like most all inclusives except the decor is more luxurious and the service is impeccable. The food there was a very good choice not like most cuban hotels. It was a touch above. Check for the Seafood night buffet when you arrive. It was fantastic! We didn't get to go the the Mediteranian restaurant for there was an electrical problem to be remidied for Xmas. Now if your going, make sure you bring some bug spray. Some people were annoyed buy them, (little no see-ims) called hahen in Cuban it seemed they were especially attracted to females, the doctor told me. Bring Benadryl or another antihistamine with you, for some womens' bites turned to blisters from a allergic reaction. They do sell bug spray in the main lobby, but no antihistamine and a visit to the doctor costs you 25 pesos. Be aware of the perfume store, my selection was switched to a sample bottle with no cellaphane wrapping. The beach is by far the best I have seen so far. I've been on many carribean islands ,as well as in Mexico and the states and haven't seen better. There are no waves, for the beach is in a bay. You can walk for 3 km, the water is shallow and clear, with little fish that come to you if you bring bread to nibble on. Poncho will give you a free ride on his katamaran. Some people can enjoy going to more private parts of the beach for nude sun bathing. If you are going to meet some singles, it's not the place to go at this time. The resort is for people who like a quiet relaxed place in a luxurious setting. The airport service and the travel representatives are very efficiant. Mine was with air transat . They were very professionel. There are a few excursions that you can go on and leave the island but it takes 1-1/2hours to cross the cosway. I cannot comment on them but \i was told by others that except for the Havana trip they found the execursions interesting but they would not go again. The nite life is mostly spent in the bars. There is a good disco, which gets off quite late, but is alot of fun. There are spanish lessons by the pool at 3 o'clock with Haviere. There are yoga classes and Taichi as well.
One day a week they have a fashion show with the local vendors which was quite spetacular. There are orchestra nites in the main lobby and entertainment at the lobby bar on some evenings. The theatre has some cultural entertainment on certain nites. Check for info at the main lobby bar. You can visit the private villas if you ask your concierge and if you tell him it's your anniversary they may let you dine at the private Gourmet restaurant. Tips are welcome everywhere of course, but service is always with a smile. Get to know the staffs names and they will appreciated you more. Lester in the main dinning was a great server. Try the cappucino anytime of day. It's a must! And the chili wine and champagne, fantastic. Don't forget the Mojito(Mohito) and have a great time.
We spent a week in RHCE, from Dec 15-22, 2006. 5 star Cuba resort, very close. My wife and I had a great vacation, to relax with no telephone ringing.
People who complain usually have not experienced a real 5 star hotel/resort in the real world, which you would have to pay at the minimum $ 300.00 USD per a night without any meals, European Plan. Please think about how much you had to pay for your trip before you start to complain.
1) Staff worked very hard to please and were great, always smiling.
2) 5 out of 7 dinners had lobsters at no additonal cost. Yes, the buffet had recycled food, but how could you waste good food, while a few kilometers away, Cubans have little food. How many overly obese Cubans did you see on your trip?
3) Clean rooms and facilities.
The Beach is one of the best beaches we have been to, white and fine sands. Other great beaches are found in Aruba, Bermuda, Varadero (Cuba), and Mayan Riveria (Mexico.)
4) Yes, airport was small, relative in size. They are expanding it as the resort area is expanding, eventually 5000 rooms, now about 1500 rooms. Next year it will be completed in the departure section; arrival section is already completed. On the day of our departure, we were about 1 hour delayed from the scheduled departure time because couple guests were still at the hotel. However, we still arrived on time in Toronto, Canada, because we did not have to taxi for 30 minutes in a bigger airport as our plane was ready take off immediately.
5) We donated some mediaction (pain-killers) to the on-site doctor, which was much appreicated. Never got sick. Chlorinated tap water.
6) Peaceful, clean resort to relax. There were no clocks in the room.
If you want a peaceful, relaxing week of vacation, this is the place to go.
This resort is not catered to younger vacationers. We saw a couple of families with teeagers (14 to 16 range) (minimum 13 years old at resort) who were bored from their body language.
Enjoy, you will not be disappointed.
Cuba, fascinating for its people, music & ambience
"Best beaches, snorkelling & diving Cuba I"
Most of all northern keys (Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo & Cayo Santa Maria) including Varadero, are prepared for large scale tourism, are exclusive tourist resorts and are worlds on their own seperated from the Cuban feeling.
Of the northern keys, Cayo las Brujas is a lovely & intimate setting of wooden houses on a key with a small beach and a harbour from which you can undertake many activities on sea, from sailing with a catamaran, diving, snorkeling, sunset tours, deep sea fishing & sea kayaking. The neighbouring island Cayo Ensenachos is the most sophisticated and quiet beach resort of all northern keys, but it has its price.
Playa Santa Lucia is worth visiting for the individual traveler (situated above Camaguey, central Cuba), looking for beautiful beaches and away from the large tourist resorts. Santa Lucia offers excellent diving locations (with diving even among sharks) and nice hotels. Dolphins have been spotted here regularly.
Cayo Setia (near Holguin) offers an idyllic beach holiday on a small exclusive island with abundant sealife & coral reefs, beautiful beaches, forests and wildlife spotting.
Cayo Levisa is the most quiet and intact key so far of the northwestern coast. Cayo Paraiso is a an inhabited key close to Cayo Levisa. You can visit this key with a special boat excursion leaving from Cayo Levisa. The ferry times are: 09:00 hrs departure from Cayo Levisa to mainland; 10:00 hrs from mainlaind to Cayo Levisa; 17:00 hrs from Cayo Levisa to mainland and at 18:00 hrs from mainland to Cayo Levisa.
The best area for scuba diving & snorkelling on Cuba are the coral reefs outside the coast of Maria la Gorda, Isla de Juventud, Cienfuegos, Cayo Largo del Sur, Jardines de la Reina & in Pigs Bay (Bahia Cochinos). The coral reefs of Maria la Gorda are noted as the fourth best place for diving in Latin America, Maria la Gorda is regarded as the best international diving center of Cuba, but the diving sites at Isla de Juventud are less known and may compete for the same or even a better ranking.
Trinidad with the quiet beach playa Ancon, is together with the salsa & colonial feeling of Trinidad, natural attractions in the surroundings, like horseback riding in Valle Ingenios, catamaran excursions to Cayo Leguano (Cayo Macho) & Cayo Blanco, and 1-3 days hiking in the mountains of Sierra Escambray, one of the most attractive places within Cuba to visit. For those interested both in culture and nature experience. Trinidad has been declared by Unesco a World Heritage site of Mankind. Playa Ancon, which is half an hour away from Trinidad, has 3 relative small scale beach resorts, a beautiful beach, and has also quiet & remote stretches along the bay from which snorkeling excursions to closeby coral reefs with local guides or on your own can be made.
Alternatives for beach resorts on Playa Ancon (Hotel Ancon -Trinidad Brisas del Mar): rent a private house / casa particular in Trinidad downtown, in village Puerta Boca near the open sea, or stay in Iberostar Grand Hotel downtown (colonial style 4 stars).
The catamaran excursions from Trinidad to the coral islands of Cayo Leguano & Cayo Blanco offer good snorkelling possibilities for people with some experience. See videos on Youtube.
One of the best places for snorkelling directly accessible from land is the Bahia Cochinos (Pigs Bay). An often used coral plateau to depart from is opposite to the entrance of Cueva de los Pesces, on the way to Playa Giron. Here you find also a seventy metre deep cave connected to the sea & a rental shop for snorkeling equipment.
At Cayo Largo del Sur you can relax, enjoy the enormous white beaches, snorkel in turqoise blue waters and learn diving as on many other dive centers spread over Cuba. You arrive here with a short domestic flight from Havana.
"Best beaches, snorkelling & diving Cuba II"
The best beach resorts near Santiago de Cuba are Santiago Sierra del Mar & Los Galeones, 70 km west along the idyllic coastline. To the east of Santiago you find lovely small beaches in the National Park of Baconao. Playa Cazonal is one of the furthest and ideal for a quiet day tour combining cultural stops and beachtime.
For swimming with dolphins, catamaran excursions are organized leaving from Varadero to an inhabited key with dolphins in a natural setting. However the quality of the living conditions of the dolphins are under discussion.
Best alternative for Varadero: rent a private house / casa particular in Guanabo, and explore by rental car all the different beaches east of Havana (Playas del Este).
One of the best areas for a feeling of remoteness and paradise is among others the south coast of East Cuba, & the northeast coast, beaches and mountains of Baracoa.
The mountains of Baracoa, which means in the indigeneous language " existence of water " have to offer several interesting full dayprograms for hiking in the tropical mountains, visiting Cuban schools & cacoa plantations, combined with swimming in the sweet water rivers, kayaking and relaxing at the beach.
If you have further tips about beaches, diving & snorkeling on Cuba you are very welcome to let me know !
When you are looking for homestay tips & Cuba itineraries, contact me directly through my external homepage.
Santa Clara theatre
je recherche une Map où carte du site de l'hôtel Royal hideway Ensenachos.Pour pouvoir me situer et savoir où ce trouve les restorants et les chambre les plus près de la mer
RE: RE: Recherche Map
Bon jour... Vous pouvez voir beacoup choses dans le web officiel du hotel: