We enjoyed Cartegena, the people, the hotel & food and the Baru beach. We felt pestered too much on the public beach but overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend this hotel for families & couples who aren’t seeking peace & quiet.
We saw a last minute deal pop up for this hotel and after reading the mostly positive reviews on Debbie’s site – we booked it. We paid $900.00 Canadian per person including all taxes, flights, hotel & food & bev. (except the $37.00 p.p. departure tax) . Overall, we were very pleased with our holiday. We had 5 sunny, hot days (it’s humid there but not at all unbearable!) and two very cloudy days with lots of wind, which made it unsuitable for sunbathing or swimming for the most part. The hotel workers were friendly, helpful and cheerful to a fault. The activity staff took a personal interest in my daughter, 18, and I (her mom, 45) and they helped us in any way they could – such as offering an extra aerobic class. The restaurant staff were helpful in translating the menus into English where required.
The room was very small with it’s two single beds and ensuite shower, but it had a nice little balcony facing the ocean and we didn’t spend much time in our room, so it didn’t bother us. It was clean and well maintained by the maid each day. The hotel will send up a hair dryer or iron upon request. Be warned that it’s better to call collect to Canada for a flat hotel fee of $3.50 U.S. per call (plus long distance charges to pay at home). I made four of these calls. My daughter called her boyfriend direct as his cell phone wouldn’t accept a collect call and at his home the answering machine kicked in. Her 8 minute call cost almost $10.00 U.S. A safe deposit box rental in the room is $14.00 for the week and I do advise using it
We liked the seafood restaurant (especially the fish fillet on the grill, which is Dorado fish & v. tasty) and the San Pedro (in the old city) restaurant. You can go to San Pedro once per 7 days, but we found that an extra visit was okay if they had room. We were able to go once to the international side (we had a lovely Thai dish) and once to the Japanese side (a meal cooked in front of us on a large grill – consisting of Oriental style veggies, chicken, beef & rice). I suggest booking your San Pedro visits at 7 a.m. when the booking desk opens and as early in your trip as possible, to make sure that you get to go. The food overall was plentiful, varied and tasty. We have no complaints there at all.
Pool and beach:
The pool was clean and the only drawback is that you get sun on one side in the AM and on another side in the PM with total shade at times due to the high rise structure of both the Decameron and the neighbouring properties. Most afternoons, loud music was played and activities went on at the poolside stage. The activity staff had a habit of yelling everything (in Spanish) at the top of their lungs, so if you crave peace & quiet poolside, this is not the place for you. For the most part, we enjoyed the fun & games and I did 3 aerobic classes which were very enjoyable, as they were done poolside in the fresh air. The local beach is blackish sand, but clean. The worst thing of all at the beach are the numerous pushy vendors and we just stopped interacting with them but for the briefest "Non gracias!" as we were constantly interrupted and pestered and it was spoiling our relaxation. We just resorted to lying in the sun with our eyes closed and leaving all our valuables back in the hotel safe. I did agree to an on the beach massage of my feet and back and it cost about $8.00 U.S. for a very nice 15-20 mins massage. Our Conquest tour rep had advised us to pay no more than 50% of the initial offer from the vendors and that seemed to work well for the few bits & pieces that we did buy.
Tours: The Decameron offered boat trips with meals included to the white sand beach of Baru. In the brochure they were $12.50 U.S. per person per day, but we paid $17.00 each as port taxes were not included after all. It was well worth it on the sunny day we had there. We did snorkeling and wind sailing and enjoyed the beautiful sand and clear waters. It took 90 mins each way on a sturdy boat that doesn’t let you feel too much of the ocean, which is good because in a smaller craft, I would have been seasick on the way back, which is a rougher ride. We all felt that 4 hours on the island wasn’t enough though – 6 hrs. per visit would have been better value for our money and better use of our time when you consider it’s a 3 hour round trip! The 2nd visit, unfortunately, was spoiled by cloud cover until it was almost time to leave which left me wishing I’d checked the weather before booking. It is possible to book this trip just before it departs at 7:15 AM so check the weather report. The boat ride was fun because we had dancing and games to entertain us.
We did the old city bus/walking tour and it was interesting and well done. There’s a lot of walking – be warned – much of it is uphill! Beware the men who ask you if you’d like to hold their sloth and take your photo with it, with your own camera, as after you have, they will insist on payment. They wanted $5.00 but we paid $3.00. Other tours were offered, but we wanted to spend a lot of time at the beach and pool so didn’t do any more. At the docks, the price for some of the tours is better than it is by booking at the hotel. You can get a taxi ride for a flat $2.00 U.S. so that may be a better way to do it. We were happy to be with our fellow Canadians so we didn’t mind paying a bit more to travel with our new friends from the hotel.
We enjoyed Cartegena, the people, the hotel & food and the Baru beach. We felt pestered too much on the public beach but overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend this hotel for families & couples who aren’t seeking peace & quiet. Be aware that customs officers search everyone’s luggage and are very suspicious. My heated rollers got a lot of suspicion and debate and it was somewhat disconcerting to be suspected of hiding drugs in my hot rollers. Apparently everyone is under suspicion though, so just grin & bear it and don’t pack anything you wouldn’t want the rest of your co-travellers to see!