Date of visit: Dec 1-15/08 We had read many of the reviews prior to departing for the resort, and thank the authors very much for their contributions. Despite the, by definition, subjective views of each of the reviews, it is FAR better to go prepared, than to run across something that someone else had found long ago, but which was not reported. And better to hear that the food is bad, from a few, and to find out it met our palette very nicely, than the reverse … With that in mind, then we offer our own personal comments about the Royal Decameron, and the support services offered through our local booking agent, Nolitours, and Ait Transat. Briefly, to deal with all of those before commenting on the resort itself:
* our local booking agent was in fact an online travel service, and I think we got the best rate possible. It was less than Nolitours itself offered, and what I got by calling was better than what they offered on their website â€¦Â so, don’t always believe anything that folks say â€“ it does not hurt to check a 1-800 number if they have it
*Nolitours: “ trying to book with them in advance, by internet, and then by phone, was exactly what they said on the website â€“ might have done with them had we not first checked out the other one noted above (but heck, the price difference was only $30 per person, so no great shakes either way.)Â At the resort, we found that the Nolitours folks were always available â€“ they could not make miracles happen, but it was apparent that they were there to help when required and feasible (eg., a French-speaking person needed help at the medical centre with the doctors who could not speak French).Â (One additional note that does not quite fit here, but we found out too late:Â it appears that if you want to do the two-hotel split [more details later], it needs to be done in advance, and I believe only possible through Nolitours directly â€“ we tried to do this while there, and there was no possibility.)
* Air Transat: A good-enough airline, full plane, normal airline service (ie., these days, ie., nothing special, nothing tragic) â€“ staff were friendly enough, check-in was painless enough. Only anomaly of note was that the check-in to return found our bags to be in total 3 kilos over the limit (and which would have been an additional $30) â€“ we found this odd, due to the fact that such was not the case on departing, and our â€œleaving behindâ€ weight was almost equivalent to our â€œgoing home weightâ€Â [suitcases, I mean â€“ body weight was somewhat different].Â So, we quickly removed a couple of items from the suitcases, and they got down to proper weight .. but that would have been an unplanned expense â€“ making the few souvenirs very expensive.
As to the resort â€“ and to simply comment on issues raised previously, and not to re-do the well-done explanations provided already by others:
*the food was exceptional, to our mind, at all restaurants and buffets.Â There was continuous variety, it was well-cooked, eye-appealing, in sufficient quantity (ie., at the restaurants), etc.Â I know some have complained about the food, but this was NOT an issue at all for us (and we are very fussy about our home-cooked meals)â€¦Â The only point with which we concur with some of the reviews in this regard is that the beef (and specifically, steaks) are not to be ordered. The chopped beef in the buffets was not too bad (when simmered), but not what we’d classify as recommendable.Â However, that is not a problem.Â Virtually every menu in every restaurant has chicken, most have some form of seafood (which is delicious), pork and lamb are available quite often, etc.Â In summary, go there because of the food (and other things)!
*The grounds:Â beautiful, well-maintained, generally in spotless shape (except when there’s been a lot of â€œmessy peopleâ€ around an area (and it’s amazing how many there are â€“ cannot believe they’d live like that at home!).Â Not a fault of the resort, and not something that is going to be fixed easily.Â But generally, the groundskeepers were able to keep pretty much on top of it, by the end of the day.Â But bring your own large drink cup, and avoid using their little flimsy plastic cups â€“ that is what is all over the place after a few hours.
*The heavily used areas:Â very well maintained:Â for example, there is a bar at the beach about centre of the resort, with washrooms, pool nearby, shower, etc.Â It’s a very popular area, near to one of the buffet restaurant for lunch..Â There was 1 person constantly cleaning in that area, as the washrooms were heavily used, the outdoor shower was constantly getting overloaded with sand (obviously â€“ that’s why it is there), etc.Â That person daily was very vigilant to the needs to keep the washrooms looking reasonable, and dodging the charges of those who spent too much time at the bar.
*Bars and eating places: you are NEVER far from food or drink!!Â And the quality is virtually the same at every location.Â (eg., food:Â many of the restaurants are serviced from the 2-3 central kitchens).Â The bars are overly-generous with liquor (even when one asks for less â€“ but that can be solved by ordering another non-alcoholic drink and â€œwatering it downâ€ oneself).Â Plus they have some weird drinks: one I loved (but stayed away from as much as I could) contained 7 liquors (and not small doses).Â Even if the liquor coming out of the bottle is watered down (not sure, as I saw bottles going into the bar, and they looked like they had secure caps), but I cannot see how they could not be â€“ I could never normally consume a glass of 7 liquors!
*Wine:Â it is Argentinian â€“ I asked for the containers to verify.Â At each bar, they open tetra-paks and empty the 1-litre contents into the caraffes.Â I forget the name of the wine â€¦ but it is FORGETABLE!Â Unfortunate â€“ even if they got a good deal on it;Â but the red is undrinkable, and the white, when very cold, is not too bad â€“ when warmed up in the weather there, it approaches undrinkable.Â But the servers in the restaurants will refill your glasses as many times as you want.Â Alternatively, you can buy a bottle of Chilean wine at one of the boutique stores for $10USD, and bring that to any restaurant.Â And one or two actually sell that wine there (but the price is considerably higher – $19USD).Â That wine sold for $6 in the supermarket that we visited, and sells at LCBO for about $18.Â Despite my comments, we normally had a glass of beer for lunch (very good, not unlike US beer), and white wine for dinner.
*The rooms: all tiled, no rugs, large bathrooms, everything functional but not spiffy!Â If you don’t like these types of rooms, then the whole place is too mundane for you (as simple tile floors, and few accouterments is the norm).
*The pools:Â Â MANY.Â In total, they are never too-full (one may be for a short while, but there is another not far away).Â Clean and well-done.Â All pools are 1.3m deep, except for the wading â€œpoolsâ€ which are 0.3mÂ – these are for small kids, or more generally for sitting in a lounge chair in the water.
*The age of the population:Â THIS was the surprising thing:Â for most of our two-weeks there (which was school break down south), the place was overflowing with younger people â€“ at least 30% of the total population was less than 20yrs, with another 10-15% in the 20-30 year bracket (visual guesstimates only).Â And that includes MANY children not long out of the womb, many in strollers , etc â€¦Â To my mind, not a place to go with children (aside from beach and pools, not a great to do), but they paid the price so they can go.Â It was not generally disruptive to others, though (eg., the pools were not teeming with young kids except for short periods of time.Â AND, with the younger [population, one must also note:Â those bodies looked incredible in the string bikinis â€“ never seen so much skin in my life!
This is probably enough. For pictures, you can go to http://picasaweb.google.ca/doug.drou Or, if you have any specific questions that are not answered by fellow travelers or myself, you can email to: firstname.lastname@example.org Finally, is it a place to RECOMMEND to others without question, it is an excellent place to spend a couple of weeks.Â (And do go for 2-weeks â€“ the marginal cost for the 2ndÂ week is almost nothing!) We did a few tours about the area, and they were interesting, but NOT nearly as much as the literature would have you believe.Â Except for a couple of places.
BUT, and I hinted at this earlier, reserving to go to the Decapolis Hotel in downtown Panama for 3-days at the end has its pros and cons.Â If you want to do it, you must do so before you leave.Â Others before us said you could make the switch once there (ie, give up 3-days at the reosrt for a switch to downtown), but that is generally not possible anymore.Â Downtown Panama is not a place to do much strolling, though the Decapolis is right across the street from a large shopping centre (also owned by Decameron Corp).Â There are advantages, in that one can do the Panama Canal stuff much easier.Â But really, there’s only so much of value in seeing a canal (and in Canada we have quite a few, and it’s not much different).Â However, to take the train to Colon, to visit Portobello and Gamboa Resort, etc â€“ these all require more time than is available on a day-trip from the Royal Dec resort.Â Personally, I’d suggest that it is not worth the effort to do the switch â€“ the return procedure from the resort is well-done, and it is the least-amount of inconvenience we have ever had after a trip (eg., you bag at the foot of the stairs of your building by 08:30, if you are returning to Toronto with Nolitours/Transat â€“ a little earlier if returning to Montreal).Â And the day-trip from the resort to Panama City is an all-day affair, leaving at 8am, returning at 6pm, with lunch in Panama City, for $70 [and the lunch we had was very good] â€“ so, that was good value, and it included entry to the Canal property as well, plus the guided tour of the old-city, etc.