This was our tenth Iberostar vacation, and the sixth Iberostar resort, so we are what may be called veteran Iberostar guests. While it would not be fair to compare the Cuban locations to the other Caribbean locations, I will try to keep this review without unfair comparisons.
Lets start with check-in...... we arrived very early and were extremely tired after being awake for over 24 hours. Checkin, while admittedly was outside regular business hours, was somewhat slow and disappointing on a number of points. A welcome drink or even a glass of water would have been nice to have while waiting our turn to register. Thankfully one of the bellhops was able to get a glass of water for my wife. We were finally registered and checked in about an hour after arrival. Unfortunately, we were the last to register and all the bellhops were otherwise occupied with the other guests, so we had to lug our luggage ourselves to the room.
Upon arriving at our room, we were very pleased with the room, the furnishings, the bathroom and of course the view were far more than we were expecting. Our room was on the upper floor overlooking the pool bar area. I being 6'5" tall, appreciated the King bed and the large corner-style soaker tub with the hand-showerhead mount installed as high as possible on the wall. Over our 2 week stay, our chambermaid Ana Margarita did an outstanding job cleaning the room, changing the bed, and included towel art and personal messages daily. Any issues we had were addressed quickly. We like to have a coffee maker in the room, and were told that they were available upon request only. That being said, ours was in the room within 30 minutes of the request. A faulty hairdryer took a bit longer but was replaced within a day.
The resort as a whole was very impressive, we were pleasantly surprised as to the overall appearance and maintenance of the property. The pool areas were immaculate and there were ample chaises available as well as shaded areas for those times when we had too much of the warm Cuban sun ! It would not be possible to praise too much the wait staff that worked the pool areas making sure the guests did not have their glasses go dry ! Of particular note, Kensi's smile and attention, not to mention his impeccable memory, made our pool time memorable. Ernesto was an amazing pool bartender who never kept us waiting long for refreshments, or fail to amuse us with his antics. The animation team, the Star Friends, also did an admirable job poolside with exercises, dance lessons, games, and music. For those days when a bit of solitude was needed, the resort had additional pools on the backside of the main buildings that offered a quieter experience, with all the amenities of the main pool on a smaller scale.
Dining at the buffet was somewhat repetitive, but there was always something to please most tastes. Morning omelets and French toast are always pleasing ! For dinner, the grills were used to cook pork and beef medallions as well as shrimp. Several varieties of pasta were always there with a variety of sauces. Custom orders of pizza were popular as well. On a negative note, the noise level in the buffet was high most of the time, and during peak times it was difficult to get coffee or drinks, due to the sheer number of guests.
The ala cartes were Japanese, Italian, International (Romantica), and Cuban. As we were here for two weeks, we were able to attend all of the venues and were treated to exceptional service at all of them. Menu items were all good and portion size was good. The Cuban chicken meal could likely feed two or even three adults!
The resort had a Guest Appreciation reception poolside that was very well attended and appreciated. Food, entertainment, musicians and dancers all added to the festivities. The entire management team were in attendance to ensure the guests were able to discuss their experiences with them. The hotel did an amazing job of putting this together and hopefully it will become a regular occurrence.
Building maintenance was very good, one would easily forget they were in Cuba ! The only issue of note we had were the restrooms by the main pool being closed our entire stay.
The beach area was mechanically groomed and worked extensively since our stay last year. The beach are was widened considerably and was much more impressive than we experienced last year. I rated the beach in 2016 as a 3 - this year I would give it a solid 8 (Punta Cana is still the gold-standard in our books !). Barefoot walks on the beach were a highlight of our holiday this year.
Other staff members that deserve special mention are: Reiner the Room Manager, Dania with Customer Relations, and Pavel the bartender in the Cigar Lounge. All of the Iberostar staff were exceptional and always were in good moods with ever-present smiles, unfortunately my memory of names leaves much to be desired and I know that there are at least a dozen more that deserve special recognition.