Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GREAT WINTER ESCAPE PRIZE OPTION #2: Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort

Rest, relaxation and a little revolution

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REST, relaxation and romance are guaranteed for the lucky reader who chooses the 4-1/2 star Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort as their prize package.

Located on the north shore of Cuba, Cayo Santa Maria is part of a group of keys known as Cayos de La Herradura. With more than 500 small islands and sand bars surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise water, the area is a feast for the eyes and ideal for anyone in search of the Three Rs.

This prize package includes return airfare from Winnipeg to Santa Clara, transfers between the airport and hotel, 7 nights' all-inclusive accommodation in a Prestige Class junior suite at Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort and departure taxes. If the winner is a six-day Winnipeg Free Press home subscriber, he or she will also win $200 in spending money, courtesy of Winnipeg's Ixtapa Travel.

Cayo Santa Maria is a new destination from Winnipeg for Transat Holidays, although this resort area has been offered for many years on flights from Toronto and Montreal.

"We think the area is so unique and offers such great value that it's a perfect choice for Manitobans," says Corwin Kostenchuk, general manager of Ixtapa Travel.

"Driving over the 45-kilometre causeway to get to the keys is breathtaking as you travel on a long roadway built right over the sea. Once on Cayo Santa Maria, you have 10 kilometres of unspoiled beaches and a few low-key, but definitely upscale hotels."

The Barcelo Cayo Santa Maria Beach Resort is a large but unassuming complex with 1,308 rooms in 21 three-storey buildings. There are two lobby areas separated by a small shopping area/village that is not part of the complex. This area, called Pueblo Las Estrellas, features stores, restaurants and a disco that is open until 5 a.m.

The Prestige Class junior suite has a balcony or terrace, one king-size or two three-quarter beds, hair dryer, CD player, coffee-maker and iron. As part of Transat Holidays Prestige Class, guests are provided with separate check-in, beach towels, bathrobe and slippers in the room upon arrival, a mini-bar stocked with water, soft drinks and beer, VIP room amenities (soaps and lotions), turn-down service, welcome gift, distinct identification bracelet, unlimited selected international drinks and a one-hour introduction to scuba diving in the pool.

The beach and large pool are the main attractions at the resort but there are many activities to keep guests entertained, including windsurfing, kayaking and tennis. The resort offers premium brand drinks, room-service plus a choice of four à la carte restaurants (Italian, Seafood, Spanish and Cuban).

If relaxing in the sun isn't enough, Transat Holidays offers a wide choice of excursions (extra charge) that depart directly from the resort. Popular ones include the Catamaran tour, d lobster lunch, and a jeep safari tour that takes you through the back roads of the Santa Clara region.

"The culture, history and beauty of the area are all unique and really impressive," says Kostenchuk.

"You can stay in luxury accommodation, enjoy the services of a top-rated Barcelo resort and yet walk for miles on a beach and never see another person. Then you head inland to a typical Cuban city, full of historical significance far removed from the regular tourist attractions. What a great way to unwind."

Barcelo Resorts is owned by the Barcelo family with headquarters in Spain. It is one of the world's leading hotel chains with 186 hotels in 17 countries and specializes in providing affordable accommodation, superior service and quality food and entertainment. Direct flights depart Fridays with Transat Holidays.

Visit winnipegfreepress.com/escape to enter the Great Winter Escape Contest.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 15, 2011 E6

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