I like to do a fairly detailed review which will take some time, and TA takes about a week to post it. So this is a quick one. If you want my relative perspective on other resorts, click on my sign in name, and you can compare. The previous resort we stayed at was the Majestic Colonial in Punta Cana. Both the Majestic and this Azul are rated at 4.5 stars by TripCentra.ca. However there is absolutely no comparison. I gave the Majestic a 4, and this will probably be a 2 when I get to the TA review.
Is this as 5 star resort? No not a chance, and it never will be. The rooms and building construction is quite basic. Perhaps a touch up from a Super 8, but not a lot. We paid for an ocean-view balcony, and asked by e-mail for a third floor non smoking room in building 55 with a king sized bed. We got a second floor smoking room in building 61 with two three quarter beds. Humorously another couple on their honeymoon got two beds as well. It seemed it was no ones job to clean the hallways, and they were frequently a mess, with garbage bags left laying out overnight.
The resort has an underground sprinkler system, but it does not seem to be working. An older fellow worked every day around our building trying to keep the yard tidy. He got a wheelbarrow full of water from the pool shower and hand watered the few trees they have using a cut off water bottle. The flowers and planted trees are not in good shape. Kind of looks more like a desert. The rest of the trees are just jungle. Essentially the buildings have been built in clearings in the jungle.
The beach is beautiful, and really 5 star. In some areas the sand is so fine it almost feels like clay. There is some reasonable snorkeling with about 4-5 different kinds of fish at the very East end in front of building 61.
The pools are very nice and there are two swim up bars. One on each side. The Paraiso side it pretty much a mirror image of the Azul side. However, on both the beach and around the pool, the towel game is the worst I have ever seen. This is purely a guest created problem. There are lots of loungers, more than I have ever seen at any other resort. At any given time only about 1/3 of the loungers are occupied with people, just towels.
The food? I could write a novel on this one. First the buffets. The basic problem is they are overloaded with too many guests for the facilities. Most often you have to line up just to get into the buffet. They don't seem to have enough tablecloths and napkins. You are likely to have to eat on a dirty tablecloth, and have paper napkins if any at all. There is not enough good basic food out in the hot trays, so people line up for the grills. The lines are so long you cant get at the pre prepared food. People even line up to get pizza. In most resorts pizza, hot dogs, and burgers are there for the kids and are not great. Here, the pizza and burgers are pretty good. The unfortunate part is that everyone gravitates to that and the pasta counter to get decent hot food, and there are huge adult lineups for essentially junk food. Often there is no buns for the hot dogs and burgers.
There is lots of cold cuts, cheese, and seafood out, but nobody eats it (including me). The salad bar is almost non existent. The only time we got lettuce was on the catamaran tour. The food was very good there. Good salad bar including lettuce. I even burnt my fingers on the French fries! Was used to eating cold ones at the resort.
At breakfast the bacon looks very good, but does not taste nearly as good as it looks. Only tried it once. There are some fat sausages cut into short lengths. The darker colored ones are excellent, and quite spicy. The lighter colored ones are less spicy but not bad. They were my go to protein for breakfast. Preprepared eggs were not great, and nobody eats them. They all line up again for hot omelets. Suggest you look for the drier and hot (if possible) looking scrambled eggs. The same basic problem exists for breakfast. Too many guests, not enough good basic food out and ready to go, and long lineups for the fresh food. The guys cooking need to be told a pancake is not a work of art. Fill the grill and cook fast, instead of trying to make a day job of it.
I found the desserts in general to be excellent, and perhaps even the best I have seen at a resort. The bananas flambé were great. The ice cream is OK, and they have some interesting flavours. The only issue is that it tends to be very soft and about half air.
At the a la carte's they are disorganized. The matre de makes you wait until your exact time of your reservation even if there are lots of tables. So don't bother coming early. This of course creates a long lineup for the a la carte's too. Once you get in service is totally erratic. We waited up to 30 minutes to get our order taken from the time we were seated. The steak and beef in general at the resort is very poor. I like steak, and did my best to eat one, but it was just not possible. If you want to be a martyr try the sirloin, and avoid the tenderloin. It is tender only in name.
In general the food presentation at the a la carte's is excellent. Someone has obviously spent a lot of time teaching them how to serve the food. But unfortunately while the look is first class the food is not always up to the look. In general the fish was good, and pork/chicken not quite so good.
I had the chicken parmigiana at the Italian restaurant and it was excellent. The tiramasu for dessert was also excellent. Better than what I have had in the very best Italian restaurants her at home.
Bar service was totally erratic. The main lobby bar is the best. They have nice music in the evening, but the play list is very short (American lounge music), even though there are may different groups. It is too bad they wouldn't let them mix in some Cuban music. In short you have to wait right at the bar if you want to get a drink in a reasonable time. Once you get to know and tip the server they will give you good service. Unfortunately the staff changes and you are back to square one again. Similar to the buffet, the main bar is simply overloaded for the number of guests and by how much they drink!
Lineups are common theme at this resort. There only one person at the main desk, and sometimes two. They never have change for Cuban money. The currency exchange place is only open during the day, and always has a long line up. They will exchange Cuban for Cuban change at no cost, and without a passport, but you line up. A passport is needed to exchange Canadian for Cuban. As for as many ones as you can get. I managed to get 30 on my first try.
Everyone at this resort is essentially Canadian. Behaviour in lineups is at times less than courteous. Some guests may fit in better at Cancun during spring break. We met a number of very nice people there and had some good conversations. However, with the current service levels, and some guest issues, this is not an ideal resort for someone wanting a quiet upscale getaway to relax. You will probably come home frustrated with the service, and behaviour of other guests (towel games, lineup courtesy, F-Bomb language).
Hope that helps some in deciding if you should go, and how to best cope if you are committed to go. Some people are getting this resort at really cheap prices -- $500 range for a week. Others have paid three times that. I would suggest it is worth about $800 (from Edmonton), and you are overpaying above that, and there are better choices elsewhere.
In short a 5 star beach, 3 star facilities, 2 star service, and some 1 star guest behaviours.
If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them. I will give you my honest answers and opinions.