Sandals Princesa del Mar Resort & Spa Hotel

Auropista Sur, Ctra. Las Morlas, KM 19 1/2, Varadero, Cuba
6  / 10
Average rating (16 reviews)

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Traveller reviews

1 / 10
awful food poisioning, equally awful service from Thomas Cook

"PROS and many CONS

Beautiful hotel, nice pool, friendly staff who were even nicer if you tipped them well! Rooms basic but large. Mini bar occassionaly re-stocked. Towels were often not in rooms and requests for new ones were frequently ignored.Beds were hard.

Restaurants (al-a-carte for Cuba) were average, nothing special. Had to be booked in advance, only go to each restaurant once per week. Buffet which you needed to ise for breakfast, lunch and those nights where you could nt get into an "al-a-carte" restaurant was an absolute disagrace. VERY hot, no air con, plates were dirty,

hundreds of flies on tables, plates, cutlery, and worse of all on the food. Birds (at least 20) flying low, sitting on your table, chair, helping themselves to your food and in and on buffet food. There was birds mess on tables and chairs and even saw them do their business on a poor unsuspecting woman who was eating her lunch. This terrible lack of hygiene ot approx 8 of the 10 days we were there we had horrendous stomach cramps and upset stomach. We complained to THOMAS COOK who did..... nothing. I would not go to this hotel again and I will never travel with Thomas Cook again.

  • Holiday details: Aug 2009, All Inclusive, Booked Independently
  • Advice: did nt see any of it because the hotel gave us food poisoning.

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1 / 10
What an absolute disgrace from start...

"What an absolute disgrace from start to finish for £4,000.00 and our wedding anniversary. The upgraded room we paid £600 for was a complete con. We looked at fellow travelers rooms who had not paid for the upgrade and they were identical.

The room on arrival had previous occupants refuse in bin. There was hair (of every revolting kind in the shower) and hair on the floor next to the scales. I observed it stayed for the entire duration of our trip... I left it just to see how often they cleaned. They didn’t! The floors were dirty, sticky cup marks on all the furniture in rooms and all areas of hotels. Extra paid for mini bar upgrade, which was done once in 11 days with one item we requested. Staff were told, but didn’t care whatsoever.

The food was abysmal, recycled over 3-4 days (plates were marked by myself) reheated chicken and fish. Birds feasting on the buffet and pooping on the tables while the staff watched and chatted. No clean crockery/tables/cutlery. Member of staff told me they had run out of bottled water and filled the bottles from the tap, and everyone we spoke to got ill. We believe there was watered down spirits in the bars. No poolside service, no exchange rates shown at bureau de change, and point blank refusal to do so when asked, along with receipts for anything else. Why? I wonder? Staff avoided you if you requested assistance with problems, and the rep plain dismissive.

Staff always around though when they harassed you for a tip, which was annoying. Both got food poisoning and tried to escape early but no luck. Now trading as Paradsius Princesa de Mar. Avoid like the plague! New name maybe, but same system. You have been warned.

  • Holiday details: Dec 2006, All Inclusive, booked with Thomas Cook

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2 / 10
I just returned from a week at the...

"I just returned from a week at the Princessa Del Mar Resort in Cuba, sadly it was our honeymoon. We were there from Sept 16-Sept 22nd. Thanks to Sandals, our honeymoon was ruined. Here is a brief list of complaints at this resort;

-Our room on the main level stank of mildew, there was mould growing on the couch. Our towels were not cleaned on a regular basis, our floor was never cleaned even though there was obvious sand and dirt on it.

-Your staff members were constantly looking for tips even though we though tipping should be included at an all inclusive. We were approached for tips from one of the landscapers, from the bellboy. etc.

-We were invited to one Management dinner where beef was served and made us both sick. We found out there were other special dinners we were not being invited to (we found out from other guests), we were not even invited to the honeymoon dinner when we were on our honeymoon. They did nothing special at all for our honeymoon, not even a room upgrade when the resort was only 25% occupied?! We learned by meeting other couples at the resort that they too were not pleased with their experience there.

-The staff made it seem like it was an effort to serve us, they were not willing to put extra ice in our drinks or make blender drinks that seemed to be a huge effort for them.

-The staff did not understand English very well even though your client base at that resort must be 80-90% English speaking??

-The restaurants offered a very limited menu and the food quality was very poor, at one restaurant, out of 4 appetizer selections on the menu they only had one available. We often left our meals at these restaurants feeling like we only had appetizers the portions were so small.

In addition to all of this, we were not warned about the huge infestation of sand flies at the resort. I returned home with numerous sand fly bites, a fever and upset stomach. All of this for a supposed 5 star resort?! I have been to your Beaches resort at the Turks and Cacios Islands and had a wonderful experience. Based on this experience and the fact we do not even feel like we have been on a honeymoon and we will tell everyone we know about our experience and we will never book another Sandals resort in the future. If we do not even receive a courteous response from your organization, we may go so far as to bring this experience to the attention of our local media so others do not have to endure the same dreadful experience on their honeymoon.

  • Holiday details: Sep 2006, All Inclusive, booked with Maritime Travel

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3 / 10
This resort is not of Sandals...

"This resort is not of Sandals quality... paid nearly £6,000 for a Concierge Suite and ended up moving rooms three times. The service is dreadful, the food is poor and the management ignore or avoid you.

Don't bother going here if you expect a Sandals experience... It is nowhere even remotely near a top class resort.

The rooms are ok, so if you do want to go here pay for a basic package and upgrade when you get there for a tenth of the price, especially if you go between July & August as this is their quieter time so upgrading wouldn't be a problem.

But personally I could find nothing to recommend this resort.

  • Holiday details: Jul 2006, All Inclusive, booked with Tradewinds

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8 / 10
The resort itself is wonderful, I...

"The resort itself is wonderful, I enjoyed sitting in the many jacuzzis and pools scattered around the resort day and night!

The beach is lovely but beware not all water sports are directly on the beach as advertised. If you want to Waterski or go on a Bananna boat ride then you will have to walk quite a way down the beach to another hotel.

The best restaurant by far is the Japanese, I would rate this 10/10 and went there twice during my stay. The Italian was lovely but did not vary the menu much.

The French was fantastic, although I only sampled a Honeymooners special menu but it was mouth watering. The buffet was in my opinion poor, there was plenty of choice but if you did not get there early enough it was cold.

The bars are great, my husband loved the cigar bar were he puffed away at many Cuban Specialities! The piano bar had a lovely ambience and the Piano Entertainer was brilliant.

Captain Morgan’s nightclub was dead, after midnight it is empty except with a few barman and cleaners scattered around. So if you want to dance the night away you will be disappointed.

The spa is wonderful and I highly advise you to book the couples full body massage, its romantic and so relaxing. The main thing that lets this Hotel down is its staff.

Some are brilliant but we had to ask 6 times for batteries for our television remote and we still never received this.

Sandals is a tipping free hotel, but the Canadians tip and if you do not, you will be the last person served and it can be a long wait at the bar!

If you can stretch the pennies to book a Concierge class room I would. I was in standard and our friends in Concierge and they get such a better service, an extra pool and jacuzzis and an exclusive restaurant and they have unlimited reservations at any other restaurant on the resort.

Last words of advice are - do not expect 5 star service, and try and avoid the buffet, unless you can get there early!

  • Holiday details: Mar 2006, All Inclusive, booked with MyTravelTradewinds

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9 / 10
Great hotel, very good facilities....

"Great hotel, very good facilities. Food was exceptionally good for all inclusive hotel, we even had grilled lobster on the menu and it helped that we had choice of several restaurants.

Facilities included everything from fully equipped gym to tennis lessons, golf lessons, great bars, night club on the premises. Staff were very polite, helpful and always smiling. Night entertainment was of a high standard and we really enjoyed magician night and circus performance. I would give this hotel 10 out of 10, however there was one thing which I believe is common in all Varadero resorts.

The swimming pool wasn't heated and therefore impossible to swim in. It might be OK during the Cuban summer when the air temperature is much warmer, but winter time is no, no. However, if you pay extra and stay in Concierge suites I believe they have heated pool up there.

  • Holiday details: Feb 2006, All Inclusive, booked with Kuoni

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10 / 10
What a great resort!

"I was just at Sandals Princesa Del Mar from Jan 10-17 and I had a great time. Alot of people have been saying some negative things, but I am not sure what they were looking for when going to Cuba.

Resort: Beautiful! Everything was new and clean and so spacious. The resort was full, but you did not feel that is was overcrowed because everything was spread out. Our room was one of the best that we have stayed in all of our travels. We have travelled throughout the Caribbean, Mexico & Southeast Asia and not come across many rooms that could compare.

Food: The buffet was not as wonderful as some of the places we have gone to, but there was still lots to choose from! You need to go to the stations where they are cooking up items fresh: omelettes, hamburgers, chicken, seafood, pizza. This was all very good! Also, all the staff never touches anything with their hands, even straws (they use tongs) so I felt this was very hygenic. I did not get sick the whole week either.

All the restaurants were really good. The french and italian were fabulous! The chinese was fine, but order the beef and brocolli instead of the chicken. Some people also ordered 2 entrees as they were still hungry.

Because it was so busy, they opend the Rock House Steak Restaurant. The first night was not the greatest, but we went 2 nights later & it was fabulous.

People talk about lining up for 1 hour to reserve the restauants. We did not line up this long. We went at about 9:30 in the morning after the big rush was done, so we waited about 10 minutes. We went to a restaurant every night except one, so we were happy.

Alcohol: The drinks were better than Mexico resorts. I am not a big drinker, but when I have gone to mexico I could drink many pina coladas and not feel a thing as they are so watered down. At Princesa they are very generous with the rum. Try a drink called the Catalena in the Piano Bar. It is a liquer like Baileys and it was very good!

Weather: We had a good week of weather, but January is very unpredictable. All week it was high 20's and then it rained on Friday for 2 hours. The weather from Jan 16 and all week was is to be around 21 C and windy. It is chilly when that wind picks up. If you want hot hot weather go in the Summer. I came home with a great tan though!

Activities: It is a little quiet in this department. The pool is not as lively as it could be & the nightly show is not so great. We spent most evenings in the piano bar or at the disco.

Beach: Everyone complains about little shells in the sand, but I thought the beach was great! The sand was nice and soft and there were many shaded palms all along the beach. There is a person that helps pull your chairs out on the beach as well. We went in the ocean many times and it was great. The water was warm & the waves were alot of fun!

The begining of the week had a few hiccups, but they sure adjusted to the little quirks quickly. This has been a hotel that has been very empty up to a week ago, so they are adjusting accordingly. The staff is friendly and very helpful. Just remember that you are on vacation & everything does not to be done asap. Relax and enjoy the fact that you are away from the kids/work. I would reccomend this resort to anyone.

  • Holiday details: Jan 2005

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8 / 10
Enjoy It While It's Affordable

"We just got back Jan 16th from a week at the Sandals Princesa Del Mar. Upon arrival at the resort at approximately 12:30 pm we were able to get our room by 2:30 pm. Others we traveled with had to wait until after 5:00 pm for "unknown reasons". As we later learned this week and the week before were the first "full occupancy" weeks they had experienced. The buffet the first night was disappointing as most items were picked over. This along with the fact we could not book an a la carte restaurant because they were all full left us with an unimpressed first evening. Just an FYI booking for the a la carte's go from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm each day, hint get there before 8:00 am as there will be a line up. As the week went on all service related issues seemed to go away, we learned the manager was visited by the Sandals owner early in the week. The buffet improved 100%, for example lobster 2 nights in a row. The a la carte restaurants are quite good with the French being our favorite. The facilities are excellent, rooms clean, beach well maintained and bars stocked nicely( some even had Bailey's). If I were thinking of Cuba this year I would definitely look at this resort as next year I'm sure the prices will rise to true Sandals standards."

  • Holiday details: Jan 2005

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6 / 10
Sandals with kids ?

"Jan 2-9, 2005.

We enjoyed our vacation at this resort. There were a lot of good things, but also many not so good. The food was okay, with some exceptions (the Hilltop and French restaurants were excellent, and the Japanese was good). The rooms, facilities and grounds were nice. Staff were friendly and appeared to be trying to please guests, but they consistently failed. In most cases their failure appeared to be the result of too few staff available for the number of guests present.

Most disappointing in addition to the poor service, was the fact that children were staying at the resort !

Good things:

- nice grounds

- lobby bar service

- clean spacious rooms

- nice pool, good tennis courts, fitness facility was great

- piano bar player

- entertainment staff were friendly

- Hilltop, French and Japanese restaurants

Bad things:

- Communications with front desk staff - different information from every person we spoke to

- 90 minute wait in line for dinner reservations, with bookings allowed for 2 nights only. Later in the week the line-ups got shorter.

- Beach volleyball - more sand is needed in the court area as there is not enough sand to prevent injuries. The area surrounding the court is difficult to walk in due to brush and prickly grass.

- Consistently long wait for drinks at all of the bars except the lobby bar

- Slow service at most of the restaurants

- a 2-3 year old toddler and several 8-10 year olds at this adults only resort

- not enough umbrellas around the pool - had to "reserve" chairs with a towel early in the morning

- beach always very windy (maybe not always the case)

- beach sand was coarse and with crushed shells - not as nice as the main beach in Varadero (near the other Sandals)

- beach bar (and beach volleyball) not on the beach

In a year this might be a five star resort, if they work out the staffing/service issues.

  • Holiday details: Jan 2005

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4 / 10
Service? What service?

"We were at the hotel for one week early January. The grounds are wonderful; rooms - tastefully furnished, clean; lots of activities possible. Food was pretty good, got better. A la carte restaurants - loved the French one (beautiful everything), the Bamboo (oriental) served Thai/Indian style food, not real chinese. Wasn't as impressed by the Japanese restaurant. Fancy presentation - they sit you around a teppanyaki table and do some cooking in front of you, but if you are used going to sushi places, you will be greatl disappointed. The miso soup is a soy concotion, the tempura is not crispy, 4 makis in total and only one with salmon.

Now on to the bad stuff: the non-extistent service. You will be ignored, made to wait for prolonged periods, shrugged at and even lied at at your various encounters with the stuff. Not everybody of course - our maid was, the bar tenders at the disco, the waiters at the a la carte restaurants were all excellent. Then again: check in was disaster, every communication with the reception resulted in 20 minutes waits while (as somebody else pointed out) 3 people at a time were trying to serve one client. In the Racket Club or the buffet you are pretty much on your own - either you will have to be really pushy in order to attract (and keep) their attention or you will be left to idle around with no seervice. Especially in the buffet restaurant waiters were moving around in a zombie like manner, no clue of organization, people standing in line while tables were uncleaned promptly or not ever being attended to. It was a complete disaster, by the end of our stay we would self-serve from the bar things like water or coffee... There was no motivation whatsoever, tipping or no tipping. There was rarely a smile either. And there was lots of forgetting, you may have to repeat 2-3 times what you wanted, only to run out of patience and leave (happened to lot of people, especially at the Racket Club) or just do the job yourself.

On several occasions we couldn't exchange towels, because (supposedly) they have ran out of fresh ones and were told to come the day after. In the meantime, stacks of fresh towels, in transparent plastic wraps were to be seen in the towels-exchange room!! To be more annoying, this happened in the early afternoon, so for the rest of the day you are stuck with a soaking towel.

The so called "included" activities such as scuba diving, banana boat, hobbie cat, etc. were the disgrace of the whole service thing. The gang at the water house, responsible for the banana boat, the water ski, hobbie cat, snorkeling, and catamaran were closed 6 days out of seven. In fact we saw them open only on one afternoon and the next morning, after an array of angry people confronted them. No matter whather the flag was green or yellow, their answer was that the water is not fit for any activities. This also was the answer when we tried getting just a snorkeling mask for one hour, since the ocean was way too salty and hurts your eyes. (take either goggles or a mask from home) Making an appointment for any of the above mentioned activities in the morning for the same afternoon, did not prevent them from telling you that they are closed when you go at the appointed time in the afternoon. It was a disaster. I did complain at the front desk, but they just shrugged...

The biggest fraud of the whole resort was the scuba diving instructor and his companions. The guys are simply running a lucrative business of their own on the expense of the hotel. The usual comment of this person once you have taken the lesson required to scuba dive is to come for another one. Most of the people would of course give up at that point, since after all you are there to relax. If you do come out for another one and if you are still way to go until the last 24h of your stay, once you come for the scuba dive (on a green flag day, no wind ) he will tell you that the waters are rough for beginners and smilingly will just leave you there. However he did mention that we could get a private dive for $35 per person!!! At the same time we were later told that the people that have gone to dive have gotten the answer that there are too few and no dive either. One of the reason to go to that paricular place was the scuba diving and we were looking forward to it, being dragged all week with phony excuses and lies around was way too much really. Of course if we would have paid the $35 per person (which btw for a 45 min dive is quite an hourly wage even for Canada) we would have been able to go. However all guests HAVE PAID that money in their all inclusive package. Only few of them would go and even less apparently would be able to enjoy diving, due to the private business that Jamie, the diving insructor and his buddies have organized for themselves with the hotel equipment and the guests money.

After all it is the service and thus the possibility (or lack thereof when it came to Princesa del Mar) to unwind in a relaxed atmosphere, that sets apart a 5* hotel. We have seen far better service at other places in Cuba, so we will be returning to Cuba, but not to Princesa.

  • Holiday details: Jan 2005

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8 / 10
A Pretty Good 4 Star Resort

"We just got back from the Princesa Del Mar Jan 15, 2005 after spending the week there. It started on the wrong foot right at check-in. There are two ladies in the reception that kind of herd you to their tables to check you in, a very confusing process. What is worse is that they ask you to give up your passport until the next morning so they can process it. I don't know about anyone else but I do not give my passport to anyone other than customs agents. Even the Canadian Government warns about securing it as it is a very vital document. I gave the lady a really hard time, but in the end I had no choice as they were not going to check us in. All of the other resorts that we have been to in Cuba (8 of them) ask to write down your passport number and then process it to the Cuban autorities based on what you have given them. I am definitely going to write Sandals head office about that.

We would agree with the other reviews in that the facilitites are exceptional, well maintained, and the rooms are large and always kept clean. However, we do disagree with respect to the negative food comments. We found the buffet restaurant to have good quality food, ie. freshly cooked eggs as you like them, pasta, fish, and even lobster tails 3 or 4 times during the week. We have been to Cuba 8 times and find this resort to have the best quality in food. Stay away from the Chinese a la carte restaurant. The Japanese is a must, excellent- so are the French and Italian.

The buffet is majorly understaffed. I think that they gave us lobster because of all of the complaining that people did about the poor, and I mean poor, service that we received. It got better later in the week as someone from Sandals head office was at the resort and gave the management and staff a lashing. We saw it. If you go to the buffet do not sit in the middle tables as you will have entered the Service Twilight Zone. They will not give you water, nor any service whatsoever, not even take away plates as you finished a course. One night we had salad and main meal plates stacked on our 2 person table. We were running out of room and I was tempted to push my plates off just to get some attention. Stay to the outer edge of tables, max 3rd row in. The service is much better there, not exceptional, but at least you get served.

Other minor frustrations include paying attention to small details in the buffet restaurant. This includes having dips and sauces with no serving spoons. I had to go back to my table and get a knife so I could put mustard on my bread. Having the bread out with no butter until either someone complains or they remember, more often too late. Having no vinegar and oil close to the salads. goes on and on. Small stuff, but very frustrating when you have to spend a lot of time looking for items that should be there.

There are no signs posted outside the main buffet informing us of their hours, including no information package in the room. What is worse is the a la carte restaurant reservation process. You have to line up for an hour just to find out they are all booked for the next 3 to 4 days. Using a telephone in this modern world would be a lot more efficient. Besides the irony was that the restaurants were half full every night. Don't get it, how can they be half full and fully reserved. Again, need to look at this process as Sandals should not be telling you that they are full if they are not.

Language is a major issue at this resort. Staff understand basic words ie "finish" to ask if they can take your plate away, "drink". We saw one guest ask what time the buffet was to open for lunch and they were told 1:30, someone was told 12:30, when really they opened at 1pm to serve lunch. Very frustrating. All of the resorts that we have been to in Cuba have serving staff speaking relatively good Enlish, they can hold a basic conversation. At this resort they appear lost after "ola, how are you".

Leaving the resort to the airport was also memerable. Don't know who is at fault, the resort or ConQuest Vacations but they send two small buses. The situation was very confusing and people that missed the earlier bus got onto ours. Well, that started a comedy routine with the driver and hotel staff not allowing us to leave the resort as we had 2 more people on the bus than were on the "official list". We had a laugh with that one but had to wait for the driver to call for authorization. We waited for over half an hour for approval.

Sandals purchased this resort in Novermber and are attempting to change and improve the resort. I know you can't change everything in one night but this resort has the potential to be great (even in Cuba). They have to work on the little things as the big items are in place.

Given some time this resort will be an exeptional place to go. It really is a beautiful resort.

  • Holiday details: Jan 2005

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2 / 10
huge dissapointment

"We stayed here the first week of january and were hugely dissappointed.Bad experience from arrival til departure.We have been to many other resorts including to Cuba and never had worse food or service.As pointed out by other reviews the resort is understaffed and uncapable of handling high occupancy.Sorry to dissapoint those that have booked this property-but this is not a 5* resort as it is currently being managed.

The resort has lots of potential.However if you expect to be pampered and dine on fine cuisine you will also be dissappointed .Coincidentally we met 'grandmasathomewith5kids' at plaza Las Americas during our stay and wish we had demanded to be moved to another resort in an attempt to save our dream.

Surpringsly the staff at the resort; while not really being rude certainly weren't very interested in catering to anyone.They did seem to congregate amongst themselves and intentionally ignore people on many occasions-although this seems to be a common complaint from many visitors to Varadero on this forum- this week. Yes I have found Cuban people very warm and pleasant in the past- MAYBE EVERYONE WAS HAVING A BAD WEEK!-not just us.Not trying to knock Varadero or Sandals but would not recommend Princesa Del Mar to anyone unless they just want to lay around a nice pool for their stay.

  • Holiday details: Jan 2005

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Sandals Princesa del Mar Resort & Spa Hotel is also called:

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  • paradisus princesa del mar hotel
  • paradisus princesa del mar resort & spa
  • paradisus princesa del mar varadero
  • paradisus princesa varadero

Address: Auropista Sur, Ctra. Las Morlas, KM 19 1/2, Varadero, Cuba