It's always good to go back to the basics.
From Sept. 28 to Oct. 5, Transat hosted an educational FAM for 28 travel advisors from Quebec and Ontario, starting in Varadero and ending in Havana, to visit 10 resorts dotted along the Cuban peninsula, including Paradisus Princessa del Mar, Muthu Paya Varadero, Melia International, Iberostar Bella Vista, Ocean Vista Azul and Ocean Varadero El Patriarca.
"Cuba, and especially Varadero, has undergone many hotel renovations in recent years. With the country's planned opening to Americans and the passage of Hurricane Irma, a lot of investment has been made in infrastructure. We wanted to show agents all these changes in the hotels, so that they can truly be up to date and thus better advise the destination," said Nicolas Detournay Tiefry, coordinator for group submissions at Transat.
Changes in Varadero?
Despite the popular image of Cuba that some travellers hold on to, the country continues to change, evolve, and modernize.
Melia International is certainly the most striking example, with the integration of new technologies. This hotel, the oldest hotel in Varadero dating back to 1957, was completely demolished and rebuilt, before opening in February 2019.
The establishment features a sleek and modern design. The rooms are equipped with trendy LED lights, and there are screens in the bars and in the lobby.
"The Varadero resorts want to open up more and more to the American and Canadian market by introducing technological elements to make the experience easier and more enjoyable for these customers," Detournay Tiéfry said.
On the food side, Cuba is also evolving and improving in order to offer higher quality options.
"It is a destination that is trying to significantly increase its culinary experience and reach the level of other popular destinations, despite the limitations that are still present in Cuba," he said.
An example, perhaps anecdotal, but one that demonstrates this gastronomic evolution is the 3 ½-star Muthu Playa Varadero, formerly known as "Playa de Oro", which currently has three restaurants: an Italian, a Cuban and a international.
In 2020, the resort will open an Indian restaurant, the only one in Varadero!
The renovated hotel complexes have diversified their product offerings in an attempt to attract more than one type of customer, whether that's families, honeymooners, couples, or even group weddings. Most of the establishments have also proposed an "exclusive" section or a "privilege" class which allows guests to enjoy a more luxurious, intimate setting.
Other resorts that caught our eye are include:
Ocean Vista Azul
The Privilege section of Ocean Vista Azul
- 4.5 stars
- 501 rooms
- Six restaurants and eight bars
- Two beaches, three swimming pools, one infinity, on the seafront, just after the lobby
Iberostar Bella Vista
Iberostar Bella Vista
- Open (and new) in 2017
- 4.5 stars
- 827 rooms, including 44 family rooms and 18 swim-up rooms
- Incredible view of the restaurant terrace, 9th floor of the main building
The Melia Peninsula
- 4 stars. Exclusive resort in Transat
- 591 rooms spread over 20 buildings, including 5 exclusively for families or groups
- Six restaurants
- Two pools, one for children
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