We stayed at the Blau Costa Verde with First Choice all inclusive for 7 days in mid November 2007.
Weather: Perfect. 28 degrees, sunny, light breeze.
Condition: The only complaint other travellers seemed to have in other reviews was the paint – well, you’ll be pleased to hear that whilst we were there they were repainting the exterior. Bit by bit of course.
Staff: very friendly, professional, helpful, positive, attentive, always smiling and a no problem attitude.
Cleanliness: bathroom gets 4 out of 5, otherwise all good.
Room: We booked the VIP package with an ocean view room. It was awesome, really big, with a balcony. The furniture was old but perfectly acceptable.
It’s Cuba, and people there repair things instead of throwing them out (there’s limited supply of and resource for new stuff), so don’t expect a luxury style hotel. The bathroom was really big too. Enough space to unpack completely. Air con was great too. All in all, really nice.
TV: many American channels (HBO, CNN, TNT, TBS, etc), Italian channel, Spanish, German, Chinese channels, music channels, kids, etc.
Pool: Beautiful pool. Big enough, not crowded, there are always enough sun chairs available.
Beach: Possibly the best thing of the whole trip. Fine white sand, trees, enough loungers for everyone, enough shade too if you want, the water is lovely, clear blue and warm.
Overall resort: Excellent. Everything’s spread out so it never feels crowded, lots of green, superb pool, lovely beach, it is really awesome.
VIP package included: ocean view room, a bottle of rum and a cigar on arrival, the room was cleaned/beds were made 3 times a day if necessary, we got extra desserts to our room every night, a half hour massage at the health centre, a free trip to Guardalavaca Beach (market), a gala dinner with lobster in an a la carte restaurant of our choice, additional reservations in the a la carte restaurants (you usually have only one).
Sports and activities: water sports were great, we did snorkelling, kayak, pedal boat – all great. We also did rifle shooting and archery, which was lots of fun. The animation people are good fun.
Guests: Most tourists seem to be Canadians, English, and some Germans and Swiss. We met lots of nice people and I can’t confirm the “chav problem” that someone else mentioned. It’s a great mix of young and old, families and couples, not many kids.
1 buffet restaurant and 2 a la carte restaurants. One beach restaurant. The latter one was not good. Too much fried stuff and no variety. Not healthy. The a la carte restaurants were nice, beautifully decorated and the food was good. Desserts, well, let’s say that’s not a Cuban specialty. The buffet restaurant is ok, there are healthy options which is good, but all in all it’s always the same more or less. Don’t get me wrong, the food is fine and perfectly edible, but lacks variety so if you’re a gourmet, this isn’t for you.
Trips: We booked the Holguin Combo tour and the Sun Cruise.
Sun Cruise: I highly recommend that one, it was the most brilliant day we had on our holiday. The bus picked us up, after a 15 min drive we reached the marina, got on a 80-people catamaran (we were 40 people altogether). After an hour at sea they stopped and we had 1 hour for snorkelling at the reef (beautiful), and then we sailed some more and reached the dolphinarium later, where we swam with dolphins for 30 mins, which was amazing. You can also have more exercises with the dolphins on your own but that costs extra. Lunch was included at the restaurant at the dolphinarium (choice of chicken or lobster. take the lobster – the chicken was awful). Then we went back to the catamaran and sailed some more. It was a fantastic trip, you meet many nice people, snorkel, swim, have drinks on board (it’s not a booze cruise though!!), lie in the sun, etc. Perfect day.
Holguin Combo: Well, I wouldn’t recommend that one, but it depends on what you want to see. The steam train ride through sugar cane fields was a joke. It seemed more like a trip for a retirement home and it is so made for tourists that you don’t really see anything but some fields. Pointless. Then, the bus takes you to a hill overlooking the city of Holguin – you get a nice view from there. The cigar factory was interesting, especially if you speak a little Spanish and talk to the workers directly. The lunch at the restaurant on a hilltop was awful. Food was not good, and you were treated like a walking wallet by the band. Way too touristic. I think the only good thing about the trip (apart from the cigar factory) was the free time we had in the afternoon. the bus stops at the central square and you can wander about for an hour and a half. This was most interesting as you see the real Cuba and Cubans. Good for taking pictures and talking to the real people. Careful though because they obviously see you are a tourist and that you have money so they might try to sell aggressively, or maybe there’s pickpocketing etc. But really that’s common sense isn’t it. All in all, people seemed curious about us and friendly.
Time of year: This is after the hurricane season, and off season. Weather is not too hot (28 degrees), and the hotel is not full which was really pleasant.
Health: There’s a doctor at the resort if you need one. Take enough sun cream with you as the one you get in the hotel shop is max spf 15, and imported products such as piz buin can cost up to 18 CUCs (i.e. insanely expensive). A good aftersun product or cream for sunburns is highly recommended as the sun is really fierce. Also take lots of insect repellent and anti-itch cream for the bites. On our first day I went to the beach in the evening at around 6 o’clock and had 34 bites from sand flies in only 10 minutes! And they were REALLY itchy and big and red!
Travelling with First Choice:
Our rep in the hotel was fantastic, just like the hotel staff. However, the flight with First Choice was not so grand – the service was terrible, I wouldn’t even call it service. Probably the worst airline I’ve ever flown with in terms of staff and service. Sure, the planes are new, safe and relatively clean, but you may expect from a 10 hour flight that at least water would be served for free and in abundance (there is somewhere a regulation for flights over 2 hours that airlines have to serve drinks, not sure where to find it. Any clue?). Instead drinks come to an addtional expensive cost, the on-board entertainment is miserable and some additional movies are only accessible to an additional cost. The service and the staff seem to be either seriously underpaid or overpaid because they seem to find pleasure in making sure you feel like cattle in a heavily undercooled cargo container. During both flights we were freeying and despite requesting the heating turned on or at least less cold air being pumped from everywhere not only no one took care of anything, we were arrogantly neglected. Flights were relatively on time and no problems with baggage or planes, but the service was just offensively appauling.
If you want to thank or help people in Cuba, bring some additional toiletries with you such as shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, toot brushes, tooth paste etc, but also stuff for kids such as crayons, paper, etc. These items are rationed per person per month but the ration only lasts for half of the month, and the rest they need to buy, and it’s extremely expensive or hard to come by.