Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brisas Covarrubias, Puedro Padre, Cuba

We traveled to Brisas Covarrubias in December 2010, over the Christmas Holidays. Found an awesome deal, from Montreal, at just $600 CAD including tax. The tour operator was HolaSun, and it was our first experience with them. The flight left with about an hour delay, in the afternoon.

The flight was pretty bumpy due to strong winds, and we arrived in Holguin airport at around 8PM, later than expected. The checks at Holguin airport went by quickly, but once loaded on the bus to the hotel, we had to wait quite a while for all passengers to get on the bus. We finally left the airport for a long ride, just under 2.5 hours, to Brisas Covarrubias. The way was really dark so we didn't really see much - but the road was extremely bumpy at times, but bearable.

When we got to the hotel at about 11:30PM, nothing was going on to welcome the new guests. In the lobby there were only a few hotel workers and there was only one worker in the front desk to check everyone in. Our bus was full, so check-in took over an hour. Once we got the keys to our room, we were walked there (in the dark, no real lighting at some areas of the hotel) by a worker. Once we arrived at our room, which was at the back end of the hotel, we realized that the magnetic keys did not work. The worker said he cannot do anything, and told us to take the keys back to the reception. We went back and asked them to fix our keys, but they said the keys were fine, and that the problem was in the door lock itself. They promised to send someone to fix it. We waited in the lobby, it looked like nobody was coming. After arguing with the guy at the front desk for about an hour, he finally asked a worker to fix our door. We were finally let into our room, and the lock was fixed. Now, it was almost 1AM, and since the restaurant closes there at 9PM, only the snack bar was open. They served some pineapple and oranges, and small sandwiches. Nothing impressive, nobody really ate anything, just took a few drinks and went to bed.

All the rooms of the hotel are situated in 2-storey buildings. To our surprise, we got an ocean-view room on the second floor, at the back end of the hotel. The room was very spacious, and seemed in pretty good condition. There was a large balcony with an ocean-view. You could actually hear the waves at night.

The room also had a mini-fridge, which was equipped only with a 1.5L water bottle upon arrival, which was never restocked. Our room also had 2 double beds instead of a king bed, and every time we requested the change, the front desk worker told us that many excuses about why he cannot change our room, each time a different excuse, so we didn't bother. The only downside in the room was that it was not cleaned well (upon our arrival), stains and dust everywhere, especially on the bathroom and sink. The rest of the week the room didn't seem to get any cleaner (despite tips/gifts).

Another important point about this hotel is that because it is isolated, the water containers are transported by trucks to the hotel. The hotel is not connected to a water system. So, at some times, the water either runs out or the hotel turns it off in order to save the water, and you are left with no water whatsoever in the room/lobby. So many complaints were reported to the management regarding the water, but nobody seemed to care - not sure if they had any control over it.

The food at the main restaurant was pretty good. Sometimes they ran out of some fruits (guava and papaya mostly) but there was always something to eat. Breakfast consisted of a made-to-order eggs (with toppings), fresh bread, a narrow selection of cereal, yogurt, juice, fruit, and desserts. A simple salad bar (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, spinach) with a variety of dressings, a few choices for a meat/fish (chicken/pork/lamb/swordfish/etc.), rice, etc. There was usually pizza (one sort) for lunch, and there was always pasta for dinner (make-to-order with your choice of toppings) and usually one kind of soup too. The food was generally very filling and pretty delicious for Cuba. It got a bit repetitive though. One downside about the restaurant is that it isn't large enough to accommodate all the people at the hotel at the same time, so even though the hotel was not full when we were there, they locked the restaurant when it got full during dinner, and people had to form a lineup outside, by the locked restaurant door, waiting for tables to get free to get in.

The snack bar which is open 24 hours serves hot dogs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and fries. It was really good. The pool bar right beside it is open 24 hours as well. The only down side to the bar is that they do not make pina colada from scratch - they use the pre-made slushie instead and just add the rum and liquor to it. The espressos and cappuccinos at the pool bar were great as well! There's also a swim-up bar in the pool, which was not crowded at all, nobody really swam in the pool - everyone preferred the ocean.

The beach bar is open for lunch from noon to 3, and has a small a-la-carte lunch menu, which includes soup, hotdogs, hamburgers, fries, salad, and fruit. It's open-air, practically on the beach, and really is a pleasant place to eat if the weather's nice. The drinks at the beach bar are the same as at the lobby/pool bar, except they do not serve espressos or cappuccinos there.

The a-la-carte restaurant is located by the beach bar. Most people get 1 dinner per stay, but you could reserve another dinner if there is availability. Each night there's a different theme (alternates between italian and seafood). We went for the seafood dinner which was pretty good, a 3-course meal, but most of the food at the a-la-carte is exactly the same as in the main restaurant, but with a smaller selection. Anyhow it's a nice change!

The hotel has a beautiful, white sand beach. On one side of the beach there's a lagoon with mangroves. You could go on adventures there too (by foot or by boat, we did both).

The hotel offers non-motorized water sports: kayaks and pedal boats. Also catamaran in included in the all-inclusive stay, just ask one of the lifeguards and they'll take you on a short trip.

You could basically go walking either way from the hotel, it's really secluded, there's nothing surrounding it, just one road that runs parallel to the beach, and you could just walk on the white sandy beaches that get rocky in times, for however long you like.

Activities at the hotel included stretching at the beach, bingo at around 3PM, archery (which was really fun!), dance lessons, "silly" games, Spanish lessons, and activities for kids. There weren't many participants for most activities, so that made them a bit less exciting. The entertainment team is pretty small, and not exceptional (compared to an entertainment team like the one in Brisas Santa Lucia which is just fabulous!). But they do their job!

You can get a beach towel for free (and replace it whenever you like) from a designated spot, which also provides chess, dominoes, tennis rackets (pretty bad condition), ping pong rackets, and a basketball. There are very outdated basketball and tennis courts, but they do their job.

There's also a disco with drinks included, located right by the mangroves, which opens at 10PM every night. Not many people went there during our stay.

This is a great hotel if you're looking for relaxation. There isn't much going on, but you will definitely enjoy your time there if you know what to expect. Also the service is anywhere close to 5* or even a 4* but if that's not the most important aspect for you then you will just ignore the service and focus on better things that this hotel has to offer!

Please ask if you have any questions or if you'd just like to hear more about anything about the hotel!