Friday, December 10, 2010

Hotel La Castellana, Lima, Peru

We stayed at Hotel La Castellana in Lima for 3 nights, on the first night and on the last two nights of our 3-week trip in Peru. It was a quiet, no-frills hotel, perfect for a short stay in Lima.

The room was large, and the bed was really just HUGE, as you can see.

We got a room with a balcony overlooking the hotel's courtyard, because the hotel was not too full at the time.

The washroom was nice as well, looked like it was renovated pretty recently, and very clean too.

The breakfast at the hotel was very good, and included boiled or scrambled eggs (unlike most others hotels we stayed at, where that was not available).
We would definitely recommend this hotel for a short stay. It is conveniently located in a central location. The main road is about a 2 minute walk from the hotel, from where you can take public transport and find many shops/restaurants/casinos/internet cafes and anything else you might be looking for. You can take the road down to the sea, leading you to the Miraflores Shopping centre overlooking the sea.

Please feel free to ask me any questions!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Brisas Santa Lucia, Camaguey, Cuba

Have you visited Brisas Santa Lucia?

We traveled to Cuba and stayed on an all-inclusive vacation at Brisas Santa Lucia in Camaguey, for 7 days. We booked with Nolitours, for just under $1000 including tax in the peak December holiday season.
The evening flight went smoothly, leaving and arriving on time. It took a while to get through customs and get everyone organized to take the bus. The bus ride from the airport to the hotel was very bumpy, but fun!
When we arrived at the hotel, we were welcomed by the entertainment crew, who were dancing and singing and serving welcome drinks. The check-in went pretty smoothly, no major delays. One of the hotel workers led us to our room and helped us with our luggage, showed us the room, and ensured the TV was working. We got a room on the ground floor, which had 2 double beds - we went back to the reception and asked for a King-sized bed, but were told that it was not possible to fulfill our request. The room itself was large with a nice bathroom with tub. It was in an excellent location, we were at one of the buildings closest to the beach. After getting settled, we went to the buffet for a late dinner - suprisingly, there was plenty of food, and a good variety too.

View from our room at Brisas Santa Lucia

During our stay we were taking advantage of the wonderful weather, we had sunshine almost always. Never rain, but cloudy on a few occassions. Hanging out by the pool was always fun - the pool is large and has a swim-up bar, and there is some entertainment going on in the pool area, so the pool is definetely a place to relax during the day.

Pool with swim-up bar at Brisas Santa Lucia

We also used many of the different non-motorized water sports available at the hotel. We went kayaking and used the pedal-boats from which we got a chance to snorkel in deeper water, where we got to see plenty of starfish. There is some sort of a reef situated right off the beach of the hotel. Even when we snorkelled right off the beach, there were always some interesting corals and fishes around.

The hotel advertised that it had wind-surfing, but at the time we were there, the only wind-surf at the hotel was broken, so we were directed to the next hotel to use theirs, which worked out just fine.

The food at the hotel was very good. As I said, there was always a lot of variety in the buffet. For breakfast there was always an option of getting scrambeled eggs with your choice of vegetables and other add-ons. For lunch and dinner there were a few meat dishes, as well as sides and a salad bar, and also a pizza bar where you could get a personal pizza, made-to-order with your choice of toppings. At all meals there were always fresh fruit available (papaya, bananas, mango, etc.), and you could get shakes made out of those as well.
We attended the Christmas Gala dinner (on December 24) which was wonderful! There was a lot more variety and special dishes than on the regular days, and a holiday atmosphere was truly created.

One of the unique meals at the Christmas Gala Dinner

There is also a beach bar at the hotel which offers hot-dogs, burgers, and fries. That was also a delicious option, especially when you want to stay around the beach for lunch.

Typical meal at the Beach Bar

There are 3 a-la-carte restaurants at the hotel: Italian, Cuban, and Seafood. We made reservations for all three, and they were all great. There were also live bands playing in those restaurants.
All the drinks at the hotel were good too. The alcohol was cheap like everywhere else in Cuba, so you cannot expect high quality, but the coctails still turn out good. Pina colada and sex-on-the-beach seemed like everyone's favourites there - they were delicious.
The hotel staff was great, always happy to help. There was nightly entertainment shows on the designated entertainment stage, each night with some different kind of show - some were very very good, some involved audience interaction as well. There were usually parties at the disco after the nightly entertainment too.

We took a trip for an extra cost to visit a crocodile farm nearby. About 7 people in total went on the trip that day, and we were taken in a mini-van, which had no seat-belts, but did its job. On the way to the crocodile farm, we visited a Violin factory and actually saw the artists making the violins (very neat work!). We also visited an old non-functional sugar-mill factory. At the crocodile farm, everybody got a chance to hold a baby-crocodile, and walk through a space surrounded by tens of crocodiles (which was pretty horrifying at first). To add to the thrill, you could get a chance to touch or sit on one of the crocodiles (the workers there basically tie up the jaw of the crocodile and hold it in place.

Crocodile at the farm, ready to be approached by tourists

We also went on a snorkelling trip which was included through Nolitours in the package. We visited a coral reef, which was pretty shallow, and saw many different corals and sealife. It was very nice and worthwhile.
On our last night at the hotel, there was a small "goodbye" get-together on the beach for our group. The entertainment staff made a special good-bye show, and to everyone's surprise - they even had fireworks going off - from the ocean water (a few meters off the shore), just to say good-bye!

Overall, I can say that staying at Brisas Santa Lucia was definetely a positive experience for us. We loved the resort and everything about our vacation. We hope to go back one day, and strongly recommend anyone looking for a great vacation to consider this resort! you will not regret it!

Feel free to post any questions about the resort here, and share your experience!