Barceló deserves loud applause for the incredible face-lift that has totally transformed this property from an aging, middle-of-the-road has-been to a glamorous complex worthy of gushing praise. On verdant grounds brushing up against a luscious beach, this expansive, always-bustling compound now boasts a gorgeous new clubhouse, called Casa Club, which showcases a jaw-dropping spa and fitness center, high-tech kids' clubs, shops, two large swimming pools, dual lobbies, a game room, Internet café, 10 handsomely decorated restaurants, a piano bar, theater and casino. There are now two distinct resorts to meet various budgets and preferences. The family-friendly Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe is the top of the line. The Barceló Bávaro Beach and Convention Center is adults-only, and in addition to the clubhouse dining rooms, it has its own fine buffet and a French restaurant. All resort guests get a half-price discount at the 18-hole golf course. Among the diversions are horseback riding; and the new themed weeks, like culinary week. A mega-resort, the constant shuttle is a necessity.
Aug 13, 2013
I just got back from the Barcelo Bavaro Palace Deluxe in the Dominican Republic and here’s what you need to know before booking this hotel… The Beach: One of the most beautiful beaches I have ever visited. The sand is white, the water is a clear, light blue, and the palm trees are plentiful almost all the way to the water’s edge. There is plenty of water movement, but no big waves here, and the water temp in August is perfection. There
is seaweed continuously washing up on the beach, but it is also continuously being maintained by the hotel staff… They have a machine sweeping it off the beach in the early morning and then individuals can be found sweeping it away throughout the day. I thought the seaweed might be a big drawback when I read about it in previous reviews, but it was not a big deal at all. This is a long stretch of beach, shared by both the Barcelo Palace and the Barcelo Beach Adults Only Hotel, so there are plenty of empty sunbeds to be found, no matter what time of day. However, be warned, there is no beach service for food and/or drinks and the spots closest to the Barcelo Palace’s main area—where the pools, bars, and restaurants are located—are taken early in the morning and stay that way during peak hours (9am to 3pm). This means that when you’re ready for another frosty beverage—adult or otherwise—you will have a fairly long trek ahead of you. You should know also that the cups they give you are small and made of a very thin plastic, so by the time you arrive back at your beach sunbed, your drink has melted and is growing warm. To solve this problem, we found souvenir mugs in one of the hotel gift shops, and had the bartenders put our drinks in those instead. I highly recommend doing this if you plan to drink at all while out and about during the day at this hotel. The Hotel: In two words, beautiful and massive. The hotel is open-air throughout, with the exception of the indoor restaurants, shops and bars, which are almost all centrally located, and there are plenty of places to sit and relax in every area of the hotel. The pools are beautiful and quite large, and one features a swim-up bar (however it stays so busy, it’s often hard to get a drink). The grounds are gorgeous—full of greenery and well maintained. The golf course is nice and green—lots of water hazards. The open-air theater is quite large and seating is available both upstairs and down—The shows are okay, nothing earth shattering. The casino is bigger than expected, but not large. There is even an open-air church overlooking a small body of water near the golf course. There is a trolley available throughout the day that will take you to all the different areas of the Barcelo property if you don’t want to walk. The check-in lobby is upstairs, and therefore not on beach level, which means no coastal breeze to cool things off, so prepare yourself for a hot and sweaty wait at check-in. The rooms are nice—probably a bit nicer than the average hotel room—and very clean. Each type of room has it’s own section of the hotel and my husband and I, along with two other couples, stayed in a Junior Suite Deluxe. These rooms are housed within four separate buildings that line the beach. Building 4 starts just north of the pool area, and Building 1 is directly next to the Barcelo Adults Only Hotel. After exploring the rest of the hotel, you’ll definitely want to pay a bit extra for one of these rooms (unless you are bringing children, in which case, there is a family section of the hotel for that.) The Junior Suites Deluxe rooms are worth it because of their location—the only thing separating them from the beach is a sidewalk. As for what you get with your Junior Suite Deluxe, it’s nothing special, other than a terrace with a Jacuzzi for two. Other than that, it’s pretty basic stuff—a flat screen TV, a small fridge stocked with a couple of beers, a few juices and carbonated beverages, an alarm clock/ipod dock, etc. The room is not stocked with liquor as in many other all-inclusive hotels. I wouldn’t bother paying extra for an ocean front room as these seem to have less privacy than others, and also you are able to see the ocean from the other rooms. If you don’t want a long walk to and from the main area of the hotel each day (or a trolley ride), you’ll want to request building 3 or 4. Otherwise you’ll be closer to the Barcelo Adults Only, and your all-inclusive package does not include anything at that hotel. We stayed in building 1, and after our long, hot wait at check-in and long, hot walk to our rooms, we followed the sidewalk from our room, which led directly into a bar/restaurant within the Barcelo Adults Only, and were quite frustrated to learn they could not serve us and we would have to walk all the way back to the main area of our hotel for food or beverage of any kind. Oddly enough, if we had stayed at the Barcelo Adult’s Only—which was less expensive—we would have been able to enjoy service at both hotels. Had we known this, we would have booked there instead. The Adults Only hotel is much smaller, but also much quieter, with no children and less people overall. So if you’re looking for a quiet vacation, you’ll want to stay there. The Barcelo Palace, while nicer than the Adults Only, is literally swarming with people at all times. But on the upside, there are always plenty of fun things to do if you would rather not just lie on the beach or lounge in the pool—karaoke, dancing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boating, etc. Not sure if these same activities are available at the Adults Only hotel. The Service: If you look for warmth and friendliness from your hotel staff while on vacation, DO NOT STAY AT THIS HOTEL. I’ve never stayed elsewhere in the Dominican, so I don’t know if the people staffing this hotel are representative of all Dominicans. I really, truly hope not because I fell in love with Bavaro Beach and would love to return there in the near future. However, I am not willing to take a nearly five hour plane ride again, nor pay this much money again, to be treated with barely masked disdain or ignored completely. I cannot speak for the Adult Only hotel, as we could not be served there, but the Barcelo Palace has much to learn in the way of hospitality and common courtesy. Which is such a shame, because if it weren’t for that, I might return to this beautiful hotel again. As it is however, I will never stay in the Barcelo Palace in Punta Cana again. In fact, I seriously doubt I will ever stay at another Barcelo property, period. Vacations are too short and too costly to spend them being treated poorly. Do not bother springing for the Club Premium upgrade. We found those unlucky souls were treated with the same contempt as the regular guests. And do not bother tipping—it will get you nowhere. I cannot begin to imagine why. It does not matter how friendly, or gracious, or polite you are, your good manners will not be reciprocated. And if you can avoid it, do not use the restroom facilities unless you are in your own room, as you will be watched like a common criminal while you relieve yourself and wash and dry your hands. Again, I cannot begin to fathom why. As I mentioned before, check-in was awful. There are two long desks, each able to accommodate at least six staff members to check you in, and yet, though there are at least 12-15 staff members running around, only two or three of them are actually helping out with this. And though you are waiting patiently in the line, many of the hotel guests will go straight to the desk instead of the getting in line behind you, and the staff will accommodate them before you instead of asking them to wait their turn. Do not bother trying to use any of the ‘credits’ you may have received when booking. They are useless everywhere, except maybe the golf course (and even there, you still must pay to rent clubs and a cart). Even with a $200 credit for room upgrade, they were going to charge us $700 for 4 nights for the exact same room, just more of an ocean view. It’s the same at the spa, with an $80 credit, a massage will still cost over $100 (I was amazed to learn it cost that much when I realized a relaxing outdoor massage is in full view of everyone in the pool and is accompanied by the sounds of thumping club music.) As for dining out at night, we were told the restaurants fill quickly, and to make our reservations upon arrival, and so we did. However, after waiting in the long check-in line, and then waiting in another line to speak to someone in guest services to make our reservations, the only times available at any of the seven restaurants were for 10:45 at night, and some had no availability at all. So if you don’t enjoy eating your main course at midnight, plan on getting very familiar with the buffets. If you are able to get into any of the restaurants, the steakhouse and seafood were the best. Don’t bother with the Italian—blech! For lunch and breakfast, most guests frequent the buffets located near the pool, and for breakfast, they have some okay options here. But we did not really enjoy the lunch buffet as much, so we ate in the sports bar most days, which was better. However, on our last day there, we found the 19th Hole restaurant and had we known about it earlier, we would have eaten there every day. It is the only sit-down restaurant available during lunch hours—it was quieter there than in other parts of the hotel and it was delicious! It said ‘Club Premium’ when we walked into the restaurant, but we asked and the staff assured us it was for regular guests too. To sum up, if you have not booked your hotel yet, DO NOT book here. I’ve stayed at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, which were less and expensive and just as beautiful, and I’ve yet to have a bad experience. If this is your first time going all-inclusive, do not be discouraged—The Barcelo Palace experience is not what the all-inclusive vacation was meant to be. If you are unfortunate enough to have already paid for reservations here, prepare yourself for disappointment—mostly with the fact that such a beautiful paradise is completely ruined by rudeness. And maybe brush up on your Spanish in case you feel the need to forget your manners for a moment, in which case you’ll want them to understand what you’re saying.