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.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Improved security and food options at Marea resort

 This is a review I wrote for posting on, following my visit to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, Cuba, April 7-21, 2011.

I’ve just returned from my fifth visit to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, in Cuba’s Granma region, and I am pleased to report there have been some significant improvements in two key areas: security and food.

Over the past few years, there have been some concerns with security at this small, off-the-beaten-track resort. Problems have been reported on numerous travel review sites but, after my last visit, I feel confident that this issue has been resolved, thanks to an innovative solution by the hotel management team.

Economic restructuring is occurring across Cuba; the impact is being felt everywhere, including at the Club Amigo Marea del Portillo/Farallon del Caribe facility. Nation-wide employment cutbacks have meant that many good people have been laid off or had their hours cut at this resort, which is the single largest employer of the area.

When security and theft problems at the Marea/Farallon complex recently came to a head – a guard was caught red-handed in a guest’s room – action had to be taken. The creative resolution to this issue is one that first-time guests would not likely even notice. Repeat visitors, however, will observe that there are no longer any brown-clad guards patrolling around the grounds. Instead, security service is now being provided by long-time employees of the resort who were laid off from other departments.

This elegant solution serves several needs. First, the resort saves money by not having to bring in guards from other areas, as was the case when security was provided through a contract with a national company. Second, it keeps more local people employed. Third, these people are familiar commodities; they are known to the management, they know the facility and they have a vested interest in keeping it running smoothly.

My hat is off to Sunwing rep Elena de Moya and the entire resort staff team for implementing such an excellent win-win solution! Although I did not feel unsafe in any way during my previous visits, I did have some concerns about potential theft. Now, I no longer do.

Now, I feel even more comfortable at this lovely place, which I think of as “the little resort that could.” Unfortunately, on this last visit, I did have one problem – I ate too much!

Food at Marea del Portillo has been another issue that’s loomed large in many visitors’ reviews. However, I feel this is being addressed as much as is possible, given the logistical problems associated with getting supplies in this rather isolated region.

In my observation, there were a few different items on the buffet and the outdoor grill adjacent to the dining room was operating much more regularly. This grill is where you go for customized omelets at breakfast or freshly prepared meats and vegetables at lunch or dinner. You may have to stand in line but it is well worth the wait! For instance, I had some of the best pork I’ve ever eaten at this grill – very tender and perfectly seasoned, thanks to Chicone’s skillful preparation.

On the buffet, I noticed rabbit (maybe I shouldn’t mention that, since I’m writing this on Easter weekend) and, since it’s not something I normally eat at home, I was happy to have the chance to try it. As well, I’ve eaten deliciously prepared sheep (not to be confused with lamb, mutton or goat) several times in the Marea dining room. And, as always, there were heaps of fresh vegetables and a nice array of fruit every day.

For me, food variety and security have been the only concerns I have ever had at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo; everything else is close enough to perfection that I have no complaints. I could rave about the polite and professional service, the cleanliness or the high caliber of staff in every department but I don’t need to because so many other reviewers do that already!

Would I go back? You betcha, baby! I’ve begun going twice a year, and organizing small groups to join me, mainly my friends and their friends or relatives. On this last trip, I was accompanied by 17 people, all of whom had a wonderful time. Many said they would like to visit my “happy place” again and, hopefully, stay for two weeks instead of just one.

I’m already planning my next two trips, in October and April. Whenever I visit, I know I’ll be warmly welcomed, and will likely strain my cheek muscles by smiling so hard.

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