Is a 5-star Cuban Hotel Really a 5-star Hotel?

In the next 2 years alone, thousands of new 4- or 5-star hotel rooms will open in Havana, Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco and Holguin. This winter, new upscale offerings include the 1,176-room Meliá Jardines del Rey.

Is a 5-star Cuban Hotel Really a 5-star Hotel?

Cuba Has Come a Long Way In Delivering A 5‑Star Product
Is a 5-star Cuban hotel really a 5-star hotel?

In the past, that was definitely a valid question. But of those who have had the pleasure, few would dispute that the Caribbean’s largest nation is closer than ever to delivering an upscale vacation experience that meets international standards.

The newest 5-star rated beach resorts have all the amenities you’d expect in such properties. Service by Cuban staff has always been an asset, and cuisine is taking big strides, despite the logistical difficulties in acquiring ingredients in the face of a U.S. economic blockade.

Each fresh visit to Havana reveals new pleasures, from thoroughly modern brew-pubs to boutique coffee shops and intriguing, diverse restaurants - many of them privately operated. Most stunning to visitors are the faded, crumbling jewels of Habana Vieja, once mansions and palaces, painstakingly restored to new life as exquisite boutique hotels.

Cuba tourism is definitely on the move. It’s moving inland, to colonial cities, rural spaces and places of natural beauty. It’s moving on to the water, with new cruise ports and new marinas catering to sailors and yachters. But most of all, Cuba tourism is moving up.

MINTUR, Cuba’s tourism ministry, says the key goal is to improve the quality of its tourism offerings and to diversify them, taking advantage of all the attributes and strengths the country has to offer.

Current plans for tourism infrastructure development include 7 new international marinas, 3 cruise terminals, 10 international airports and 338 hotels containing more than 60,000 rooms, -- 2/3 of them in the 4- and 5-star categories.

In the next 2 years alone, 10,000 new 4- or 5-star hotel rooms will open in Havana, Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria, Cayo Coco and Holguin. Around 13,000 rooms will add to the supply in Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Lucia, Cobarrubias and Guardalavaca. This winter, new upscale offerings include the 1,176-room Meliá Jardines del Rey.

As well as familiar hotel management companies like Meliá, which manages 27 properties on the island, some of the brands coming to Cuba are clear indicators of the upscale direction. According to Gina Mallamo, the Montreal-based representative of Meliá International’s Cuba division, it’s time for the many people who question Cuba’s ability to deliver a high-end experience to take a fresh look.

Meliá is clearly a believer in Cuba’s ability to deliver a quality tourism experience. A demonstration of this faith is the fact that of the 7 properties in the Caribbean carrying Meliá’s 5-star Paradisus brand, 3 of them are in Cuba – 2 in Varadero and 1 in Holguin.

“These properties have helped put Cuba on the map for higher-end tourism,” says Mallamo, pointing to extravagances like the swim-up junior suites at Paradisus Princesa del Mar, the only such accommodations on the island.

“While Cuba has its special challenges, we have been able to maintain our brand integrity and deliver a product at a very high level. Consistently positive reviews are evidence of that,” Mallamo adds.

For true lovers of luxury, Meliá’s Cuban Paradisus properties and several others under the Meliá Hotels & Resorts brand offer hotel-within-a-hotel facilities and service under the ‘Royal Service’ and ‘The Level’ descriptors. 

The top floors of Meliá-branded hotels in Cuba are reserved for The Level, a concept consisting of superior accommodation, exclusive facilities and sophisticated features, from VIP check-in at The Level Loung to personalized concierge service, privacy and an attractive range of cuisine from breakfast through to dinner.

Royal Service is offered at the three Paradisus properties in Cuba, as well as Meliá Buenavista, the only Meliá resort to offer Royal Service throughout the property. For a quite reasonable upcharge, guests enjoy a truly elevated experience, with private pool and beach areas featuring concierge service, three a la carte meals offered daily at a private restaurant, butler service, 24-hour room service, free Wi-Fi and much more.

These upgraded products promise to change the minds of anyone who questions Cuba’s ability to deliver a high standard.


Meliá Jardines del Rey

Open Jaw learned this during a stay at Meliá Buenavista, (pictured above) the 100-room adults-only property on Cayo Santa Maria. From the quality and variety of food to the luxurious accommodations and superior butler service, the experience was 5-star all the way.

A self-confessed ‘spa fanatic,’ Mallamo says the spas in top Cuban hotels rank up there with anywhere she’s travelled. As an example, she points to the YHI Spa at the Meliá Marina Gaviota Varadero, with its infinity edge pool and treatments inspired by and infused with native Cuban ingredients and aromas.

“The fact is, Canadians love the experience of Cuba, and now they’re enjoying that experience without any compromise on service and quality. It’s a very exciting time to be working with Cuba.”

Getting back to the question posed at the outset of this story -- Is a 5-star Cuban hotel really a 5-star hotel? – a very recent TripAdvisor review from a Belgian guest at Meliá Marina Varadero used this headline: “Excellent quality: It’s worth every star!”

- Open Jaw Report

I want to go to Havan



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