We travelled here when the resort opened, fully understanding how difficult life had been, due to the airports being closed since March, the lack of main imported supplies and then a pandemic on top of it.
We were reassured, many times, we would have everything the brochure listed and promised, before we travelled.
Lets start with what there wasn't.
No piano lounge
No public transport
Restrictions on which provinces you could travel to. Varadero is 80kms away and their were no taxis to take you.
Havana has no offical excursions. We booked a taxi from a Facebook page.
Jacuzzis not working (controls broken) and generally scruffy.
One restaurant open at night.
Menu always the same and portions small, due to food supply issues
Vegetarian options were non existent. Brocoli Carrots and rice where plentiful. We found chicken and pork in two vegetarian dishes.
The lobby bar was the only one open at night and the drinks got smaller as the day went on.
The bar ran out of a variety of premium drinks and liqueurs to make the signature cocktails. This wasn't due to it being drunk by guests, it was due, like the food, to the lack of supplies arriving on resort, that the management had ordered.
The rooms were damp and musty. We regularly had small frogs in our bathroom.... But they controlled the tiny ants we had everywhere.
There is no iron or ironing board and there are no drawers in some rooms just a wardrobe.
The beach was scruffy and we were amazed that there hadn't been a litter pick before guests arrived, having been shut for so long. There was plastic, broken glass and sharp broken cans strewn around, with a lot in the foliage down in diamond club.
We'd regularly pick up rubbish daily and bin it.
The reef wasn't as pretty as we imagined. It was very sparse and naked for the 1st 75 feet. There were a few fish and lobster. The current was too strong to go out to the reef edge, where we were assured it looked better. The hurricane of 2017, I'm sure must have damaged the coral, plus we saw people standing on it to fish.
The hotel uses throw away, little plastic party cups, around the pool and beach. They always supply plastic straws with every drink. These, sadly ended up in the sea and blown around the beach. There is a lot of rubbish just off the shore line, seen when snorkelling. Wear protective water shoes.
Your nasal swab (only) covid test result takes 24 hours. You cannot leave the resort until that's through. Security stopped people going past to the next beach, which we found out was a different hotel (so we understood why).
You can only change cash at the reception desk. Take plenty as with the inability to go out, you cannot use an atm or a bank.
The entertainment finishes by 11 so staff can catch the hotel staff bus. There is nothing after that.
The evening entertainment, in bad weather, is held on the walkway outside the access to the lobby bar. The floor is tiled and its hardly safe for professional dancers and acrobats. In addition the view is obscured by the raised flower beds and stairs. It's really not ideal nor safe.
The same area has many plants. Many mosquitoes nibble on you there, at night. Take plenty of spray, antihistamines and bite cream.
The food by the pool is very limited and again the already restricted menu gets smaller, as the day continues.
No French fries on resort at all. Potatoes are few.
Rancheros does a lunch grill of chicken and fish daily with a couple of boiled wedged potatoes on the side, or burgers. Again, limited to a cheese slice roll for a vegetarian, with onions if they have any.
They advertised prawn salad daily, but never had them.
The 24 deli bar serves toasted chicken mayo or tuna mayo sandwiches only with cheese, if you are lucky. That's it, so if you miss your supper, there is nothing much to munch on. Occasionally there were some pastries, that looked like they had been left from breakfast.
Communication with guests was appalling. Guests were frightened during the 1st week during extreme conditions and bad weather. Beach furniture was moved as were the boats and watersport equipment. Rancheros was closed and the furniture moved. Any items on the floor in ground floor rooms was put up high by the maids. Yet when everyone started to get worried, we were told nothing. We had no idea what to do if the surge they expected happened. We got a message via the app, saying we should stay indoors and follow staff instructions. But there was no information posted anywhere, informing us what to do. British people don't have hurricaines, so it was quite disconcerting, as we were near the beach, ground floor.
Report any complaints immediately to your rep and get a reference number. Then report it again via your travel app to say you've spoken to him and screenshot the message. The Tui rep does not log the complaints, as many have found out on their return, we have discovered. Learn from their trusting mistakes. You must (under your Ts and Cs report it to the Rep 1st)
The Best Bits
The Amazing Staff could do no wrong. They tried so very hard to provide their guests with a holiday, that they had spent their hard earned money on.
The staff were always friendly, chatty and behind their masks, smiling. They were so glad to be back working. It's one big family with many working there for over 20 years since it opened. They knew their job inside out and worked there socks off, as with few guests, many staff were furloughed in the 2nd week. That's when things deteriorated sadly.
As I said before the Entertainment was superb and the team of animators made the day happier. We were lucky because, being few, we learned so much. Marcus loves his job and his country and we asked so many questions for him to share his knowledge. He's a fantastic ambassador for the hotel.
The pool looked lovely, but was cold. Again, many tiny, tiny ants about. The sunbeds were in good repair.
There were no tables for drinks though, between sunbeds. Maybe that's why the ants came, as drinks were on the floor.
The presentation of the food, that was supplied, was 1st class.
The grounds of the hotel were well kept and the gardeners were lovely to chat to, too.
Cuban Day, was the best day we had there. The staff joined in and the atmosphere was buzzing. Everything was great, it just didn't last long enough as the outside table and chairs, they provided, were packed away as did the band.
I think the hotel miss a trick there. Keep the tables out and play music over a speaker if the band have to go. The party just starts warming up, with pins Coladas flowing, and it stops at 2pm.
The hobie cat was fun and the dive centre staff were very gracious with their time.
Covid ruined to much. If you can't do it in the UK, you probably can't do it here either.
Masks must be worn outside at all times, out of resort, if walking. The staff always wear theirs 100% of the time
Zara was excellent every night. Macia was excellent every morning.
Jamiee cleaned our room daily and it was spotless.... But the frogs and ants still returned.
The entertainment was exceptional. The dancers worked hard all day, practicing in the heat, on the outside stage. The rain stopped them using the stage though, sadly.
The pool acrobatic show was not so good, as the pool is shallow. Their coach got quite angry with them, in front of the guests.
Diamond Club was hit and miss.
The 1st week was okay, the 2nd it was indistinguishable. When working, I'd say its probably worth some of the service. The mini bar drinks we gave to the behind scenes staff, daily. Bless them, as they are often forgotten.
So, sadly the holiday was not a success due to the hotel just not being ready for guests, having just opened and the supply restrictions. We relied on the comparisons made by two Canadians who go their frequently and said they couldnt believe the resort had been allowed to open with so much closed. They described the buffet food displays, as we'd seen in photos and plentiful drinks. But they said it was nothing like we were experiencing and it was these two that informed us that only 30% of what the hotel ordered from the suppliers, arrived. So the menus had to be adapted and often you wouldn't get what you wanted.
The reception showed a video reel of the Memories Standard, constantly. It rubbed salt in the wound as we didn't get that, sadly.
The wonderful management of Kiki, Sarah and the temporary Hotel manager Luz, checked in on their guests daily and they were the perfect hosts.
We had an amazing candlelight lobster dinner on the beach. Yes lobster! That whole evening extended the Cuban Day, for us, and was perfect.
As I said before, communication about daily changes and the hurricane safety, was our only criticism of them, and that could have been much better, via a notice board or two, but they listened to that suggestion and it may be in place now.
The managers really wanted to show you how it should have been. They couldn't supply their guests with their own expectations, knowing how good it could be, but we tried to reassure them we understood and it was the travel company at fault. The management had written to the travel company to explain the difficulties and restrictions, before guests arrived, hoping that guests would be made aware. We were not. The hotel tried and get 9/10 for their efforts.
Remember, if you have room I your cases for extra soap, toothpaste, shampoo, hair serum, children's vitamins, razors, shaving foam and face cream they woukd be gratefully received. I'd suggest give them to the managers to distribute to those most in need.
If you tip, it's not shared. So if you have a good meal, tipping the kitchen staff is a great gesture and the musicians too.
The gratitude from a tip, to those least expecting, all around the resort, is priceless.
Their salary, per month, is about £26 or less.
If you want value for your money, and the real Memories Jibacoa, wait to go in a year to two years, (their own management stated) when hopefully the countries recovery will be well and truly on its way.
We will return, in the future, to experience the 'Party' we missed this time.
My reviews are always long and I make no apology. I always try to be fair. I understand the loyalty of guests, (pre covid and the hotels closure), but unless you have been since, you really cannot understand how more difficult it is, even though it was possibly hard times before, but you deal with it.
It wasn't a personal choice to travel, when we did. The travel company assured us everything was in place, without restriction, so had no reason to cancel us, which meant refunding our money.
We are grateful to the UK MJ Guest, Facebook page for the hotel, for all the accurate friendly information, compared with the bias and sometimes nasty comments of some others. Although, again, having not travelled recently, some information can only be sought from your own travel agent directly, or write to the hotel, with any concerns. The hotel will be more than happy to help, of this I'm sure.
Again, any complaints on resort, get a reference and a copy of the complaint from Frank, the rep. Insist that it's logged, for when you get back.