Coming from a travel background in Mexico 35 years ago, sleeping in hammocks on the beach or staying in small, inexpensive hotels, it was certainly an experience spending a week at this resort. Our first time at an all-inclusive. I can honestly say I was completely overwhelmed by the extravagance of the Barcelo and was in shock for my first two days here. Nothing I had seen or read before going could prepare me for this place. We came for a family wedding, which was a great excuse to get back to Mexico after many years. It was a perfect venue for a family get-together where many idle hours spent in the shade by the pool made for great conversations and getting reacquainted with little-seen family. I’m glad we went, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wouldn’t repeat. You really need to check your social conscience at the door when you realize what you paid to spend a week in this place compared with the $7/day that the bartenders earn. Also coming from B.C., Canada where smoking is not allowed in public places, it was a shock to be bombarded with smoke at every turn. The staff were friendly and so helpful. I speak some Spanish which makes quite a difference. Many of the staff only have a very small amount of English so they were very receptive to anyone who could converse in their language.
We arrived at 9pm so check-in was a breeze. My brother greeted us with two cold beer which were gratefully accepted after a very long day of travel. One room wasn’t ready so our bags were left with the bellboy while we went for a bite to eat. The reception staff were very efficient. All of us on the bride’s side had booked into the Beach. The reservation system appears to be very fluid with some of us ending up in the Caribe while one family of 4 were upgraded to the Tropical at no extra charge. The groom’s family all stayed in the Palace where the bride and groom were.
The rooms at the Caribe were very comfortable and identical to the Beach. They were all re-done in 2009 and every comfort was taken into consideration. We had a king-size bed with a pillow-top mattress. It was very comfortable. A veritable army of staff kept things orderly. You could choose to have your sheets and towels changed every day or not. Our room was on the 3rd floor in the middle of the building. It could be quite noisy with the staff working all day to clean up rooms, people coming and going until the wee hours of the morning, doors slamming, chairs scraping on tile floors. There was no going to sleep before 11pm when the show at the nearby theatre ended. A solid night’s sleep was not in the cards for me. Those of our party who were on the first floor at the end of the building found it very quiet. We loved having a coffee on our balcony every morning before going for breakfast. At this time of year the air conditioning was more than adequate. We often had only the ceiling fan on at night. We did leave one bathroom light on at night as it’s so very, very dark once our balcony light went out.
Restaurants and Bars:
We enjoyed the buffets at the Beach and the Caribe for 7 of the 8 nights we were there. The one night "out" was the wedding reception dinner at the Palace. We were 33 people in all so trying to book into one of the a la carte restaurants was a head-ache. We found it so easy to have one of the buffet staff organize tables for us that we didn’t bother with any other arrangements. I came to Mexico to enjoy Mexican food so didn’t really care about going to an Italian restaurant, for example. Each night the buffet had a different theme for the food – French, Spanish, seafood, Chinese, Mexican, etc., etc. Most of us never tired of eating at the buffets as the variety was endless and the food almost always delicious. Even with the theme nights, there was always a good variety of other foods for those who wanted something different. One couple wanted to try the Mexican restaurant but couldn’t get a reservation before 9:30pm. They decided to wander over about 7:30 and had no trouble getting a seat. So do make your reservation for whatever time is available and then see if they can accommodate you earlier.
The lush landscaping is something to drool over. The grounds were immaculate and beautiful beyond words. They were beautifully lit at night. Our first few nights there they had thousands and thousands of white LED lights strung around the trunks of the palm trees – part of the Christmas season decor. Absolutely spectacular! It is extremely dark at night so even with the path-side lights it could be a bit disorienting wandering down the paths on our way home. The pools were gorgeous. We spent most of our time at the Caribe pool as it was the quietest with no pounding disco music and no activities. The pool shady areas were great as I’m very fair skinned. Hanging out on the beach under a palm tree for shade is very dicey. There were a couple of great windy days that saw many of us in the waves body-surfing. The pools aren’t heated but very refreshing on a hot day. We all found them perfect. The ocean was about the same temperature as the pools.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
I can’t comment on the activities as we came for the wedding and some badly-needed R&R. Other than a trip to Playa del Carmen for shopping on a rainy day, we did not leave the resort. We found that the prices at the resort shopping plaza were somewhat better than Playa del Carmen and that the shop-keepers were much more likely to barter.
A funny note about electricity conservation: I can only speak for the lobby washrooms at the Beach and Caribe. The lights are on a motion detector which turns them off after so many seconds without movement in the room. When you enter the empty washroom, the lights come on – but not for long! You do not have enough time to "do your thing" before they go off again if no one else enters the washroom. Be forewarned to orient yourself in the cubicle as to where the door latch and toilet paper roll are situated! One fellow mentioned swaying back and forth at the urinal to keep them from going off. It was all good and made for some hilarious stories. The wedding venue on the cliff above the water at the Palace was by far the nicest. We had seen two beach weddings near the Caribe. I didn’t see anything quiet or romantic about it with hundreds of sunbathers standing by and watching the proceedings. There were still some on-lookers at the Palace when my niece was married, but it was much more intimate.