This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We all loved it - I'd go back in a heartbeat!

The following is a review I wrote and posted on in October 2009, after spending a wonderful week with some of my favorite friends.


We all loved it - I'd go back in a heartbeat!

I visited Marea del Portillo for the first time in April 2009, with one gal-pal, and we both had a very good time. Because of my enjoyable experience, three different girlfriends decided to join me for a trip in late October 2009. (My arm was easily twisted to go again!)

My personal assessment, combined with the photos I took on my first trip, helped my friends to feel confident about going to this Club Amigo resort, despite some negative reviews (many of which contain outdated information). Two of my friends have significant physical challenges, so knowing that they would feel safe and comfortable was key. They had a wonderful time, as we all did!

We particularly appreciated the gracious, courteous staff who were ready to assist at any time, even late at night when one friend was locked out of her room. They quite literally leaped to our aid - one brave fellow leaped from my upper cabana balcony to my friend's, when we noticed that her balcony door was ajar. This gave her access to her cabana room without waiting for someone to arrive with a key.

It was very gallant of him but not recommended to anyone except Spiderman! Even the maid, who was also trying to assist, shook her head at him for attempting such a risky feat - thankfully, he didn't slip. If you look at any photos of the cabanas, you'll see that they are staggered and there is quite a daunting distance from one railing top to the next.

You will note that I've rated the resort "Excellent" in all categories. That doesn't mean everything was absolutely perfect - what place ever is? - but it was perfectly wonderful. My review was bumped into "Excellent" by the people, both the resort staff and the local villagers we encountered during our stay. I have never felt so warmly welcomed in any place I've visited, internationally or at home in Canada.

Since I live in Muskoka, I've seen tourism from both sides of the cloud and I can tell you it's not easy to maintain the genuine warmth and helpfulness that the people of Marea del Portillo consistently demonstrated. With respect to the resort, I would guess that attitude is due to the management, at least in part.

Elena, the unflaggingly patient Sunwing on-site representative, works hard to keep guests smiling, and seems to do quite well in accomplishing this. She repeatedly encourages visitors to tell her if there is any problem, no matter how small, and she will do whatever she can to resolve it. She means it.

During the October trip, many people felt the buffet was looking a bit tired, even in the first part of the week. Some long-time repeat customers said the food service seemed to have taken a nose-dive, and they told Elena. She spoke to the management and the kitchen staff promptly pulled up their socks, so to speak. There was a marked improvement in the buffet offerings for the remainder of the week.

The "let's fix it" attitude at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo is part of what makes it a truly excellent place to stay. Combine that with the scenic beauty of the setting, the relaxed, laid-back style of the resort itself and the interesting, quirky "wildlife" (random goats, pigs and horses sometimes stroll about the grounds) and I think it's a hands-down winner.

It's not a five-star resort but, to me, it's better. If you enjoy making personal contact with people - local residents as well as other tourists - this is a great place to do so. And, you can't beat the magnificent scenery - the majestic Sierra Maestra mountains flank a picturesque horseshoe bay with gently sloping beaches and palms waving "Hola!"

I will definitely return, with the same and/or other friends, hopefully for longer than one too-short week.


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