Gran Caribe Villa Coral-Soledad. January 6-13, 2012.
Tour Operator and Carrier: We booked our vacation with Nolitours Vacations, we booked for two weeks in Cayo Largo.Our first week we spent at the Gran Caribe property, which I am reviewing here, the second at the Pelicano. We flew out of Toronto on a 6:10 a.m. Canjet flight, we arrived in Cayo Largo at 10 a.m.. We were well fed and watered on a very quick and comfortable flight. We liked flying with Canjet and if the opportunity arose, would do so again. We were through the airport pretty quick and before we knew it, we were on our 10 minute bus ride to the Gran Caribe Villa Coral.
The Gran Caribe Cayo Largo Villa Coral: Is an older, smaller, compact resort. It has a very nice cozy layout of buildings, pool, and dining area. This resort is a great place for a very quiet, no frills, reasonably priced, value for money, rest and relaxation holiday. The layout of this place makes it is so easy to get around. The beaches are just wonderful and there is lots of shade palapas on the beach. We were very happy a couple of years ago when they offered this property again to the Toronto market. We were at Villa Coral last January for a week, although before that, we had frequenly vacationed at this place from 1991 until 1997. It was just wonderful to come back and stay at this property again.
Hotel Check-In: As there were only about 10 of us for this property, it was a pretty quick check-in. We had requested Villa Soledad from Nolitours as we had never stayed there before, the hotel obliged us with a beautiful ocean view room.Great service from guest relations and Nolitours.
Our Room: Wow!! When we seen it, we were ecstatic. We were 20m from the beach with great views of the ocean and sunsets. The room was quite spacious with high ceilings, It had a small, very quiet, air-conditioning unit, the AC worked very well and provided great air circulation when needed.We had a nice bathroom with shower, tub, and toilet, lots of hot water all the time. You did have to let the water run quite a while to get it hot.The wash basin and marble vanity was separately located outside of the bathroom, we really liked this. The closet was quite a good size and housed a safety deposit box, you could open the safe with your room key. The room was simply furnished with two wicker bedside tables, a small wicker table and chairs, a fridge, television, luggage bench, writing table.The room didn't have a lot of drawer space but that really didn't affect us in a negative way.There was lots of room for our suitcases in the closet. Yes, the room was very simple but very comfortable.We had good housekeeping all week long, the room was kept immaculately clean every day.
Dining: There was one buffet dining room for the Villa Coral and Villa Soledad guests.The buffet was in the Villa Coral section.We really enjoyed the homey laid-back atmosphere here. The dining room is quite small but large enough for the size of the complex.We enjoyed our simple but tasty food. We mostly enjoyed exceptional and friendly service here at the buffet.
Breakfast: You could have your eggs cooked to order and most days there was bacon, sausage, pancakes, breads, pastries, fruit, cereal. You could have a good substantial breakfast to start your day.
Lunch: Every day we chose to sit in the open air, back patio section of the buffet. What a beautiful place to have lunch, great views of the ocean and beach. Lunch was very simple with the usual choices of fish, chicken, pork, sometimes burgers, and a small variety of assorted vegetables.They served different pastas on different days, we never did see any potato dishes all week.There were salads of shredded cabbage, lettuce, shredded carrot, olives, cold beets, tomatoes.You had a choice of white or red wine or beer with your lunch. For dessert they had fresh fruit, fruit pies, a variety of sponge cakes and of course some different flavored ice creams.
Dinner: Dinner was a mirror image of lunch, the back patio was usually closed in the evening and you had to sit inside.
Snacks: There wasn't a lot of snacks available at this resort this year.Mostly it was pizza, it was mostly served in the late afternoon.We would havereally enjoyed some french fries or burgers from time to time.
Pool and Bar: The small intimate pool was quite nice.We did go for a dip a couple of times, I have to say that the pool water was more than refreshingly cool!. Despite the cool water, we enjoyed our swims anyway. The pool had a swim up bar, this bar was the only one officially available to Villa Coral guests. There was a very nice shaded seating area behind the pool bar, there you could have a wonderful cold beer or cocktail of your choice served by amiable and friendly bar staff. The bar patio was a great place to read a book or play a game of cards, or have good conversations with other guests you just met.The pool bar was open from about 7 a.m. until very late at night or early morning.It was supposed to be open 24 hours but really wasn't, well, not much before 7 a.m. anyway.
The Grounds: They are quite sparse in vegetation, a fair amount of palm trees growing, very lacking in the smaller tropical landscape shrubs though.I would say that they could do a better job on the grounds of the Villa Coral.Both the Lindamar and Isla del Sur properties, which are both run for markets other than Canadian, are really kept in far superior condition than the Villa Coral and Villa Soledad.The Villa Coral and Soledad sidewalks and some other public areas definitely need some TLC.
The Beaches: This year again, absolutely wonderful.The beaches this week were quite wide and the sand was, as always, hardpacked and easy to walk on.Our holidays here are a must do.It is here, that both Karen and I embrace our passion for walking the beautiful white pristine beaches and enjoying the wonderful warmth of the crystalline turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.
Our Holiday Overall:
Pros: We found this hotel to be a fairly good solid 2 1/2-3 star property. We loved our room at Soledad, the cabana was always delightfully cool overnight, we only had to use the air conditioner on one evening just before dinner. It was always wonderful laying there on our veranda in the afternoon sun listening our music and to the thunder of the waves on the beach, it kind of reminded us of when we used to stay just down the beach at the old Capricho property, we had that same feeling that we believe Robinson Crusoe would have had, that is, if he had an Ipod to listen to and a refreshing Mojito in his hand.
We had a room at Villa Coral last year and loved it also.The Villa Coral property is a laid-back, very quiet, relaxing place to be.It has absolutely beautiful beaches and wonderful wonderful staff. We already have plans to stay at this resort again next year.The front desk staff at the Isla del Sur, where we checked in, were very welcoming and really went out of their way to please the returning guests (which were many).
Cons: Last year in January 2011 when we visited this property we had limited use of the lobby bar at Isla del Sur, andfor lunch, the Ranchon at Lindamar. This wasn't the case in January 2012.There was no mention of these changes when we booked our vacation. We would hope that next year, when we come back to this property, that they will again include that limited use of the lobby bar at Isla del Sur and lunch snacks at the Ranchon at the Lindamar. The Ranchon at the Lindamar is such a beautiful place and it was so great to just go there for a burger and fries and a cold Cervesa and just gaze at that picture postcard ocean and beach, those small added perks are just one of the many experiences that rounded off a wonderful stay.We certainly missed that. Also, as we are early risers, having our early morning coffee at the Isla del Sur 24-hour bar was such a great way to start the day, we really missed doing that this time as well.These aren't deal breakers, but they do go a long ways toward making a nice holiday a wonderful holiday.
Our Flight Back to Toronto: After spending our second week at the Pelicano we headed back to Toronto on the 20th of January 2012.We left Cayo Largo on time, but right after takeoff, we were informed that the flap on the front door was loose or making a noise and that we would be making a landing in Varadero to look at the problem.I guess we had to burn off a little fuel before landing and circled out over the Atlantic.We got some great views of Cameleon Villa Jibacoa and a lot of the Cuban coastline.We were delayed at Varadero for two hours, but the remainder of the flight back to Toronto was uneventful. It really wasn't too bad as the time went by pretty quick.The crew of the aircraft did the best they could to keep us all happy. It was rush hour in Toronto and almost took us the same time to get home as it did to fly from Varadero to Toronto LOL.We are now looking forward to our next vacation at Villa Coral or Villa for Soledad in Cayo Largo.