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Back from Melia Cayo Santa Maria

Had a terrific week at CSM! Great windy weather for sailing, plus a couple of calm days for snorkelling…paradise! For those interested, the new Barcelo is not open yet…guests who were to go there were rerouted to Melia Las Dunas. They are working very hard at Barcelo and I suppose it is possible they will open by Christmas, but they certainly don’t look ready at this point.

MCSM is still, IMHO, the best resort I have stayed at in Cuba, although I do prefer Sol next door for the privacy and atmosphere. Melia has great service with terrific staff. The only negative comment I have is that the a la cartes were not as good as last year…maybe the hurricanes have affected produce, but there was not the variety, both there and at the buffet, that I have come to expect…but the biggest downside was no entertainment at either a la carte, and they used to be excellent in this respect. Other than that…everything was as good or better than last year.

I will be writing a review and putting pictures on line. I have already posted a few of snorkelling (more interesting and important to me than other things!) Here’s the link…check back, there will be more…
http://s11.photobucket.com/albums/a179/eeeefarm/Melia%20Cayo%20Santa%20Maria%2008/

:slight_smile: Welcome back! Glad you enjoyed your vacation. We’ve been tossing around going back to this resort as it’s been one of the best ones we’ve visited also.

I think you may have something there when you talk about the hurricanes affecting the produce. Folks we know had the same sort of experience at the RHE.

Thanks for sharing your pics with us yet again! :-*

Great pics eeeefarm…awesome jelly fish pic with the camera just under the surface of the water, great effect. Look forward to seeing some more !!

Wossa… ;D

Welcome back eeeefarm!

I was wondering where you were? Seems like you were leaving for Cuba as we were returning to Canada.

Love the jellyfish photo!!!

Great pictures–this is one resort that we didn’t get to snorkle at because a tropical storm has passed thru the week before we were there and the water was too rough. Even on the catamaran tour the water was too churned up to see anything—maybe next time

:slight_smile: eeeefarm - did you take those photos while snorkelling off the beach? :-*

Yes. Most were taken between the island at the west end of the beach and the shore. This was the first time I had snorkelled there, since it is fairly far from the resort and I am usually alone…this time one of my friends from the Nautical centre went with me, and I’m glad he did! The jellyfish in the water would have scared me away, but he went first and cleared a path for me, so I got the chance to see what was there. Good snorkelling area! I am putting more pictures up that were taken by the rocks just off shore in front of Sol and also just past the point. The Porcupine fish was about 15 feet off shore in the rocks. I always see lots of Barracuda at CSM…in fact, it is rare to snorkel and not see them…

A little more information from my trip…the bad: They are going to build another resort west of Sol…past the point and near the end of the beach. The ugly: I saw an unusual looking boat and asked my friend what it was. His reply, “A Dolphin catching boat”. How very sad. So more Dolphins will suffer captivity (and likely many will die, as usually happens when they are captured) to satisfy people who want to swim with Dolphins. Please folks, if you really do love them don’t support this activity. It is cruel. They are “affectionate” and “play” with you because if they don’t they won’t be fed. Ask a Dolphin trainer if he can get his Dolphins to perform when they aren’t hungry…if he is honest, he will say “no”.

BTW, again our tour guide on the bus solicited Canadian “toonies and loonies”. First at Holguin last month, now at Santa Clara. This trend is definitely catching on…I had previously never heard any Cuban specifically ask for Canadian coins, but they sure do now. Time to stop blaming the tourists for this.

:)Thanks for the info, eeeefarm. We, too, had snorkelled out to that little island and Beau saw some really unsual things in the water. I was just excited to have snorkelled that far (I’m a snorkelling dweeb ::)) that I wasn’t really paying attention to what was under water. Since then, I’ve snorkelled a little bit more so I might be feeling a little more confident next time. :wink:

As for the dolphin things - I thought I had read at one time that there were plans for a dolphin captivity centre in this area - perhaps closer to the Royal Hideaway or by the overpass?

I can’t believe that’s the same beach by the Barcelo that we walked to when we were there. It was pristine - no seaweed of any kind on shore.

I think we’ll have to make a return trip - perhaps to the Sol. The Melia CSM is a beautiful resort but I really liked the look of the Sol’s pool with all the palm trees around it. :-*

[quote=@shirleyujest]
I can’t believe that’s the same beach by the Barcelo that we walked to when we were there. It was pristine - no seaweed of any kind on shore.

I think we’ll have to make a return trip - perhaps to the Sol. The Melia CSM is a beautiful resort but I really liked the look of the Sol’s pool with all the palm trees around it. :-*[/quote]
The day I took that picture was shortly after a cold front had passed…a lot of seaweed was washing up all over. A few days later things looked a lot better.

I prefer the Sol myself, partially because of the accommodation. The rooms are smaller, it’s true, but only a maximum of 4 units…2 up 2 down…that are immediately next to you (8 units in all, but separated by stairs and space) and if you get the one storey units close to the beach, only one neighbour to contend with. Better, IMHO, than the 8 up, 8 down configuration at Melia. Sol just feels more private to me. But since Melia folks can use Sol facilities, I tend to hang out at the Sol pool and read (when I feel I need a break from the sun and the beach). BTW, Los Flamencos bar at Sol has been undergoing renovations…hopefully it will be open by Christmas…and Los Cocos is also closed for some reason. Sol was very quiet while I was at Melia. I get over there a lot, as I know the pianist and tend to shuttle back and forth between piano bars at night…

:slight_smile: Hmmm, very tempting, eeeefarm! :wink: :smiley: :-*

[quote=@eeeefarm]

BTW, again our tour guide on the bus solicited Canadian "toonies and loonies". First at Holguin last month, now at Santa Clara. This trend is definitely catching on…I had previously never heard any Cuban specifically ask for Canadian coins, but they sure do now. Time to stop blaming the tourists for this. [/quote]

I am curious: why do the Cubans want our coins?? What can they do with them? ???

P.S. You sure get around, eeeefarm! ;D

Northgal :sunglasses:

[quote=@northgal][quote=@eeeefarm]

BTW, again our tour guide on the bus solicited Canadian "toonies and loonies". First at Holguin last month, now at Santa Clara. This trend is definitely catching on…I had previously never heard any Cuban specifically ask for Canadian coins, but they sure do now. Time to stop blaming the tourists for this. [/quote]

I am curious: why do the Cubans want our coins?? What can they do with them? ???

P.S. You sure get around, eeeefarm! ;D

Northgal 8-)[/quote]
Cubans don’t want our coins in preference to their own currency, but are happy to accept them if there is no alternative. We were told by the tour guides on both occasions that if all we had was Canadian coins, they would be most happy to accept them as tips. Trust me, they have no problem getting them changed to CUCs. This appears to be a growing little industry…ask anyone who has been approached at the airport (or the resort) and asked to exchange money. The main disservice you do by tipping with Canadian coins is to your fellow tourists who will be pestered to change them for CUCs. (I am in no way encouraging people to tip with Canadian coins, just noting that Cubans are now explicitly requesting the coins if tourists don’t have any Cuban currency to tip with)

Yes, I have been getting around rather a lot this year…hurricanes do that for you. :smiley: I’ve also experienced my shortest Cuba trip on record, courtesy of Hurricane Paloma. I’m done travelling for 2008, but I’ll be off again in January 2009…Cayo Largo this time. Glad to get back there after far too long away…

:slight_smile: eeeefarm - maybe you could ohld off and push your CL trip to April and meet us there! Or, why not go in January AND April! :wink: :-*

[quote=@shirleyujest] :slight_smile: eeeefarm - maybe you could hld off and push your CL trip to April and meet us there! Or, why not go in January AND April! :wink: :-*[/quote] Love to! A return in April is definitely a possibility if I catch a good last minute deal!! My average trip price to date is around $700, taxes and single supplement in. Would be lower except Cayo Largo put a huge upward dent in it!! They have the most atrocious single supplements!!!

“… I am curious: why do the Cubans want our coins?? What can they do with them?..”

Northgal, it is no problems for Cubans who work in the tourist industry to find Canadian tourists to exchange the Loonies/Toonies into CUC, and usually make a tidy commission as well. No big deal.

Using foreign coins (of any kind) off the resort when dealing with “normal” Cubans is (as always) really dumb, naive behavior. (And that’s putting it mildly.)

[quote=@martian]
Using foreign coins (of any kind) off the resort when dealing with “normal” Cubans is (as always) really dumb, naive behavior. (And that’s putting it mildly.)[/quote]Martian, you’ve made this point a couple of times and it always makes me scratch my head in puzzlement. Two questions: why would you want to give Canadian coins to Cubans off resort (tip them for what, exactly??) and how often does the normal (naive) tourist get anywhere in Cuba that is not somehow connected with resorts/tourism??? (people who think they make “friends” with “normal” Cubans by riding a motorscooter a few miles from a resort are just kidding themselves, IMHO. All Cubans within easy access of a resort are part of the tourist trade…and they know exactly how to “play the game”)

I’ve met many Cubans well away from the tour buses who’ve been stuck with Canadian coins. It’s been an issue for years, and that’s why I’ve always said to please leave your foreign coins at home.

I’ve bought Loonies from the ladies at the restaurant at Mural de la Prehistoria, the elevator attendant to the rooftop look-out at Camera Obscura overlooking Plaza Vieja, the Dive Master at Maria la Gorda, even the poor ferry operators between Havana Vieja and Regla. These are hardly tourist centres with a constant steam of captive, approachable Canadians. (At the rodeo in Lenin Park south of Havana I met a kid who had been holding onto 3 Loonies for (he claimed) years when someone threw them at him from a bus way out in the campo.)

Well meaning but naive tourists think they’re doing someone a favour, when in fact they’re giving these people bits of metal with irritating promise - but utterly useless until another Canadian happens to stumble across them.

[quote=@martian]I’ve met many Cubans well away from the tour buses who’ve been stuck with Canadian coins…Well meaning but naive tourists think they’re doing someone a favour, when in fact they’re giving these people bits of metal with irritating promise - but utterly useless until another Canadian happens to stumble across them. [/quote]Ah, but the thing I find fascinating here is that they do hold onto them…and like the junk collectors that sometimes hit it big on “Antiques Roadshow”, sometimes that patience pays off. Interesting…things that we truly believe are worthless, we toss. I agree entirely that it’s probably unfair to burden people away from resorts with this money exchange problem, but on the other hand it’s interesting that Cubans are resourceful and patient enough to make lemonade out of the lemons…

…on another note, my review of Melia is now posted…

“… Ah, but the thing I find fascinating here is that they do hold onto them…”

Of course they hold on to them! Why would someone so poor throw anything away that might turn into something in the future?!

That still doesn’t change the fact that it’s an ignorant thing for a well meaning tourist to do; giving something away that’s utterly useless until a Good Samaritan happens to stumble across the poor soul clutching a coin like it’s a lottery ticket.

You’re a guest in a foreign country. I don’t see the big deal about leaving your foreign coins at home and I’m amazed that such a simple thing always generates so much discussion…

[quote=@martian]You’re a guest in a foreign country. I don’t see the big deal about leaving your foreign coins at home and I’m amazed that such a simple thing always generates so much discussion…[/quote]Oh, so am I. (look at us discussing it…who’s the fool here? Got a mirror handy? I do!) Personally I always have Canadian coins with me in Cuba because I need them for the phone when I get back to Pearson. Doesn’t mean I am going to give them to anyone, even when they do ask. I still wonder what the guy with the “coin collection” did with the nickel, dime and quarter he got from me…not the toonie or loonie he was hoping for. ;D Seriously, I don’t see this as a life changing problem for anyone, and I only mentioned the “solicitation” because so many folks get on the forum and rail against their “ignorant” fellow tourists, who in turn are only complying with what they have been requested to do. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a matter of extremely little importance…but to a Cuban if the choice is no tip or a loonie, I think it’s their prerogative to decide if they want to carry the coin around till they can find someone to change it for them. Basically, none of my business. :smiley: