Wedding at Iberostar Laguna Azul in Varadero, Cuba
Posted 22 July 2010 - 02:25 PM
26 of us departed on July 2nd with Sunwing and I must say that Sunwing is outstanding compared to Air Canada, West Jet and most US airlines. I have travelled the world and the service with Sunwing is topnotch! I will definitely be booking our honeymoon with them!
We arrived at the airport and the bus to the airport was only a 15 minute wait.
We were the second or third stop and arrived by 10pm at the Iberostar Laguna Azul. Upon arriving we couldn't believe how beautiful our hotel was, especially after seeing the others on the way. It is beautiful and inside it looks like a palace.
We all lined up to check-in and the wait was long but we were fine with that as a few of us went to the lobby bar and brought back mojitos for everyone. There were a few mix ups for some of our guests...some got two double beds when they requested a king (when the flight was booked). Unfortunately the hotel was busy and every room was spoken for but they did promise to switch the rooms within a day or two which they did.
The rooms were beautiful, clean, and fairly new. A few of our guests had minor issues with the rooms but the problems were fixed pretty quickly. We saw complaints on tripadvisor about the air conditioning but I have to say that I found the rooms very cold, we adjusted at night and it worked well. All of our guests felt the same way so I don't know what that complaint really referred to. Every morning the maid would leave us a nice design either in a shape of a heart or swan with fresh flowers. It was a nice touch. The rooms were always cleaned and fresh clean towels provided. Water, beer etc is stocked every other day but you can request it for everyday if you wish. The safes work well and we left our passports, rings etc with no issues.
We read a lot of complaints about food and were a little worried. This was my first time to Varadero, but third time to Cuba and traditional Cuban food is delicious but you must leave the resort to experience it. The food at the buffet's isn't cuban food. The Cuban's try very hard to replicate food that they think foreigners are used to. With that being said, our group didn't complain about the food. Yeah it is buffet and yeah there is a lot of the same things day to day, but that is what a buffet is. If I were to go to a buffet everyday in my hometown, what more should I expect? Some people are just so critical!!! There are some fruit flies and houseflies all over the food, but we have this problem in Canada so I don't understand why people would be so petty and complain about this. It is life and it is summer, bugs are to be expected. I am probably one of the pickiest eaters because I have food allergies and I am a vegan. I found enough food choices and I never got sick of it.
The ala cartes are amazing. I highly recommend these and the line up to book is well worth it. We went to the Japanese, Cuban, and Del Chef and the food was delicious. The Japanese was really cool and I think the food was much better than when I have had it back at home in Toronto. It is fun and the chefs put on a little show for you. This is a must and again there is something for everyone. Because I don't eat meat or egg, the chef prepared mine separately.
The best drinks are at the lobby bar and the cigar bar. The mojitos and pina colodas are delicious. We found the drinks that were served at the pool and beach were warm and watered down, they were still good but strong. We often took turns going to the lobby to get our drinks while on the beach.
In July, it is hot hot hot, but we love the heat. While we were there, we had one overcast day which we loved because we needed a break from the sun. Everyday except for our wedding day it rained. A storm would come in at around 5 and would last about 2 hours.
The beach is absolutely gorgeous and spaceous. There are a ton of chairs and lots of shade. You do have to claim a shady spot early in the morning (before 9) but most times the shady spots free up in the early afternoon.
The sand isn't powdery white but it is still beautiful. The water was clear and the beach was clean. We rarely saw seaweed washed up on the shore and we saw people in the morning cleaning the area. There are catamarans,and snorkelling. For $15CUC/person you can go out in a catamaran for an hour and snorkel. My bridesmaid and I did this one morning and it was fun.
The pools are very nice and clean. The main pool was always busy. We didn't spend much time at the pools as we prefer the ocean. The only time we used the pools were at night to cool off. We found during the day that the pool water was too warm and not refreshing. In July, it is extremely humid. The week we were there the humidity was 99%. We saw workers cleaning the pools every morning so the comments on tripadvisor about the pools being dirty are false. The rocks around the pool and the waterfall are really pretty. There is a hot tub at the top of the main pool overlooking it but we never used it.
For our third day there, we organized a bus for the 26 of us to go to Havana with sunwing. It was awesome as it was only our group and it was a blast. The day trip to Havana is a must. Havana is beautiful and you get to see so many wonderful historic sites. We went for lunch at a traditional cuban restaurant and it was delicious.
The day before our wedding we took the double decker bus to Varadero City. For 5 CUC you can get on and off. We decided to take the horse and buggy to take us around as it was an extremely hot and humid day. We went to the markets, a mall, the bank, and around some of the residential areas. If you need to change your money, we recommend that you take a trip to the bank in Varadero City as the rate was much better than at the hotel.
We did the Catamaran snorkelling excursion the day after the wedding and it was super. They take you to see dolphins, then you go for a yummy lunch on this island, and then you have free time to swim, snorkel or whatever on the beach. The beach was so beautiful as the sand was white and powdery. A few of us decided to snorkel and we snorkeled for about an hour and we saw a lot of cool fish and coral.
We provided 1 bag/couple and all singles and kids got their own. To be honest, these were a complete waste of time. Other than the bags and hand sanitizer being used, most of our guests forgot about them. We put all kinds of goodies in there and because everyone was so busy with the beach and everything else, no one really cared about the stuff. We saw the kids using the playing cards on the last day, but really, we could have saved the money and done without. My recommendation would be to for go the oot bags altogether.
We met Yahimara the day after we arrived. She is such a sweetheart. She is super busy but not once did she seem stressed and I know that there were several weddings planned for the week we were there. She took us around to show us the different options for the ceremony. We decided on the terrace on the 5th floor because it was too hot and humid (and the sand would be unbearable for the feet) and we weren't sure if it was going to rain or not. Yahimara showed us another room that is used if the terrace cannot be used. Sometimes if the rain is coming down hard the terrace can't be used because it is all open. We were praying that we wouldn't be stuck in the room. It was a nice room but we really wanted our ceremony on the terrace.
On the day of the wedding, the girls went to get there hair done at the hairdresser. I was a little worried as I read comments from other brides from other resorts but the hairdresser is amazing. Because it was so hot and humid, I had to wear my hair up. She did an amazing updo and put flowers that I bought in. It was gorgeous. Just a FYI though that the cost is 50CUC. I was under the impression that it was free and when I left she wrote out a bill for my girls and for mine she didn't put a total. She doesn't speak english well so when I asked her about it, she gestured no charge. So I thought it was free so I tipped her 25CUC. On the day we checked out, we were charged for it and when we questioned it, Yahimara came out to speak to us and explained that it is charged (nothing is free), that she charges it separately. The process is screwed up and I explained that they should fix it so that this doesn't happen to anyone else. I wouldn't have tipped so much. Yahimara was kind enough to apologize and offered us a time extension on our check out of our room, but because we packed everything and put it into our brother-in laws room, we didn't take it. She then said that if we ever come back, to get in touch with her and she will give us a free upgrade to a honeymoon suite.
On the big day, that morning I brought down all of my favours, place cards, music etc to Yahimara. She brought the bouquets by 11am to my room. All of us were ready by noon and went for pictures with my photographer. We brought our own photographer and Yahimara was ok with this.
Just before 4, Yahimara picked all of us up at my room. She brought us to the 5th floor terrace. There was no rehearsal so everything we were doing was on a whim. For my music I chose 7 songs from the Vitamin String Quartet. The song I was walking down the aisle to was Everything I do by Bryan Adams. My flower girls walked first and were allowed to throw down fake petals. My dad walked me down the aisle and I almost lost it. I fought back the tears as I know if I cried, my make-up would run and ruin pictures. As my dad walked me up, the decorations and everything was beautiful. There was a slight breeze with the sun shining and the sky was clear and blue. We had a symbolic ceremony although we planned it so that no one would know. The Cuban stuff that Yahimara reads is pretty legal so we were happy that we had our own vows. We also had a sand ceremony. After the kiss, the cuban trio band plans and Yahimara asks if we want to have our first dance. So we did and it was really cool. The champagne started and everyone came up for pictures with us. The entire ceremony was a dream come true. It was so romantic and beautiful. So many of our guests commented on how beautiful it was and that if they could do it all over again,they would get married the way we did.
For 60CUC we took an old fashion car and went to a mansion at the Varadero golf club for pictures. We had about an hour. It was really pretty and the mansion overlooks the beach.
Our dinner was at the Cuban restaurant and it is open but the breeze was so nice that we were glad we had it there. We had a section blocked off for us and it was decorated nicely. The lobster dinner was delicious and well worth the additional 18 CUC. The service was outstanding. We forgot to bring music, but Yahimara had it there for us and it was a mix of 80's and 90's love songs, it was super. After dinner the cake arrived and it was really nice tasting cake. It wasn't overly sweet. Because the meal was so delicious, there was a lot of cake left over. After dinner, we had our first dance, then danced with parents etc. We went over the time we were supposed to be there but not once did the staff try to rush us out. Some of the staff joined us on the dance floor. It was a lot of fun.
After that we headed to the disco. We were the last to arrive and when we walked in, everyone stopped and cheered for us as we entered. We felt like celebreties. We stayed at the disco for about an hour but because of the humidity, we decided to go for a late night swim. We went back to our room to change, and when we arrived, the maids had decorated our rooms and left us champagne (2 bottles). We grabbed the one bottle and took it down to the pool and shared it with everyone.
It was a super day and I will never forget the memories created. I wouldn't have changed a thing if I had to do it all over again.
Yahimara is truly wonderful and a hard worker. She seeked me out the next morning to ask me if I was happy with the way everything turned out. She is awesome at her job.
It isn't expected but appreciated. We tipped a lot of the time but the times we didn't, we weren't met with any rude staff. The staff at the hotel is lovely. Just remember that customer service isn't the same all over the world.
For the wedding, we tipped Yahimara 100CUC, the trio band 30CUC, and the servers 50CUC (there were 5 of them).
I am so happy that I got married in Cuba. The Iberostar Laguna Azul exceeded my expectations. It is a 5 star resort and this is coming from someone that is well-travelled and has stayed in many places all over the world.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:33 AM
Wow! Now that is a story and review all in one... good job! All tho... I still perfer Westjet. haha
Best of luck with everyting.
ps - Where are the pictures?
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Posted 24 September 2010 - 06:42 AM
It isn't expected but appreciated.
To be fair, I'd say they DO expect a tip. This is why they work hard. They won't be rude to you if you don't tip,but you wouldn't get the same service.
Posted 31 March 2011 - 01:04 PM
I just have three questions: is the beach there long enough to take long walks on from the hotel, is snorkelling nice right in front of the hotel and is it a good place for kids (6 and 8), thanks a lot
Posted 16 July 2013 - 11:23 AM
This was soo helpful, my fiance and I are thinking about this resort for our wedding. Just a few questions. What did you think of the flower options for the bouquet and boutenirs? How much did it cost to bring your own photographer? Are there many options for color of the decor or should I bring my own?
Thanks for all of you advice and reviews on this hotel.
Posted 09 October 2013 - 04:17 AM
Hey Jennifer, I don't know if you're still planning on getting married at this resort, but there is an ILA brides 2013-2014 that's very active. I don't think it costs anything to the hotel to bring your own photographer, its just a matter of what your photographer will charge you. And they have some d©cor and lots of colours for chair sashes, but if you have a specific vision of what you'd like then definitely you need to bring it. Also there is a fb group that has a ton of info and photos that is really helpful!
This was soo helpful, my fiance and I are thinking about this resort for our wedding. Just a few questions. What did you think of the flower options for the bouquet and boutenirs? How much did it cost to bring your own photographer? Are there many options for color of the decor or should I bring my own? Thanks for all of you advice and reviews on this hotel. Jennifer
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