My husband and I just got back from a 2 week stay at the Decameron Salinitas (jan5-19/09). The Air Transat flight was uneventful except for some turbulence. The food on the flight was ok, some kind of Chinese/Thai noodles and chicken in a box. At least it’s better than the cold white bagel and pizza they last served going to Panama. Customs was quick enough except for the fact that the immigration paper was given to us at the airport, and not on flight to fill out. Don’t know why they did that, but it was an extra waste of time. Otherwise, all was quick enough to the hotel. You don’t really get to see much on the bus because it’s dark, but it was about 1.5hrs. What I didn’t like was that the flight left in the afternoon and by the time we got to the hotel it was around 11pm, too late to enjoy anything. Not to mention that they initially lost/misplaced our luggage and golf clubs at the hotel. They were eventually located that night but it was a hassle to get them to do it right away. They did switch our rooms when we complained we did not have an ocean view, but we had to insist it happen that night. In short, they are accomodating, but you have to really be insistent and persistant to get something right away. The manager at Lobby 1 was very nice, however. He spoke English and he helped us. Unfortunately, I do not know his name (but Santiago is his boss). Ok, I will start with the good points. The weather is fantastic; sunny and hot everyday, no rain (although it did rain a few times while we were sleeping (big deal!)), and not as humid as Panama. The staff are friendly, although they can’t speak English for the most part, but sign language and a few words in either Spansih, French or English usually did the trick. The tour guides were friendly and knowledgeable, especially Juan Carlos. The price of the trip was cheap ($2,600 for 2wks for two adults, including taxes). The cost of items/supplies OUTSIDE of the resort is cheap. I would not recommend buying anything at the resort, as it’s too costly. Remember to bring travel mugs, they come in handy as the bartenders pour drinks in little plastic cups at a time, and they’re expensive at the resort, like everything else.
The grounds are beautiful and very clean, although some tourists and latinos like to litter I’ve noticed. That is a pet peeve of mine, to see plastic cups, etc. on the beach, which I would sometimes pick up. I did notice the staff picking up litter, but either they failed to notice all or didn’t bother. But it was by no means dirty, it’s just that I hate to see even one plastic cup on the beach.
We only went on 2 tours (culture/crafts (40$US/per person) and the mayan route (60$US/per person). Both were good and had their individual charms. However, there were some boring spots/moments and the towns are all similar. Worst of all is the garbage strewn all over the countryside, because apparently there is no garbage pick up in the country only the capital city, so people either burn their garnage or bury it (that which cannot be burned like plastic, etc.). However, from what I saw, not too many people burn or bury their garbage and it’s EVERWHERE. Now, that alone should not impact on your trip, except for me it was an unsightly sore. If you’re going to buy things or souvenirs, the tours we went to would be the best, especialy the culture/crafts, where you wil find the cheapest stuff and coffee, and more variety. Be prepared for no lunch to be served on the culture/crafts tour. It’s from 8-2pm, so better you eat breakfast and bring some food with you on the bus. All they give you is a "snack box" with some chips, peanuts and candy, same junk they give you at the bus from the airport to the hotel. Heard the canope tour was great, but don’t know if you can buy things. The coffee is great, remember to buy some at the culture/crafts tour or the coffee tour. It’s more expensive at the resort or airport, or the mayan route tour. Don’t think it’s available at the other tours from what the tour guides said.
We met some really nice people and had fun hanging out with them. When the tide was in late morning to late afternoon, I really enjoyed lounging on the beach under a hut with palm trees and tanning/reading my book. For me, that was fantastic, because the beach is not busy and there are plenty of lounge chairs available, and the water is SO warm! That was my alone time – hubbie was playing golf . The pools are obviously busier, but you can still get lounge chairs, perhaps not in an "ideal" spot (i.e., with shade available or in a quieter spot) depending on the time of year you go and the time of day, and depending on what’s "ideal" for you. Be aware that latino schools start in mid Jan, so we had a lot of families and babies/kids the first week we were there, not to mention our own university kids because they choose to miss the first week of classes. If that matters to you, when latinos travel, they travel in families and they all had babies and kids. For me, it matters. I would like to avoid big, young, and noisy families and noisy and disrespectful university kids. They will sit anywhere, they don’t care. I would be sitting alone in a secluded spot, reading my book, and a big young family would plant themselves next to me. I didn’t appreciate that. Live and learn. I now think I know when I can travel to avoid them – from mid Jan on! February and March is not good for us because you start getting into reading week and spring break for the university crowd. We like a more older crowd, as we’re over 40.
The golf course (Las Veraneras) is about 5mins away and is an 18 hole course, not championship, but with bermuda grass. It used to be only a 9 hole course, but they have expanded it (some sites will still list it as a 9 hole course). Transportation is included, but green fees/cart are extra. You can work out package deals if you want to play several times, either at the Decameron or with the golf course itself, otherwise it was about 40$US green fees and about 20$US for the cart. Make the deal at the golf course, they have more room to negotiate than Nolitours. The guest services manager who was also the golf coordinator from Decameron, Santiago, was really good to my husband. Now with the bad. If you’re a beach person, this is probably not the place for you. The tide goes out every 6hrs and there’s no swimming in the beach when it’s out, but you can swim in the sea water pool (filled daily by the tide) or regular pools. When we had a full moon, the tide would be in late morning to late afternoon. That was the best, but that did not last for long, before it was back to its usual tide in at late afternoon. That sucked because you could only swim in the ocean in the morning (the water is cold though) or in the late afternoon/evening, which was too late for me. Remember to bring pool shoes as the beach (not the shore, but when you get into the water) is rocky and the sea water pool is very slippery. The shoes help with the above problems. The nearest town is 45 mins away and no public bus, just a taxi. We were told it would cost 50$US to get there, and we didn’t bother. I don’t know if others got a better deal. It would certainly be cheaper per person if 4 or more we’re going, but still more expensive than a public bus.
Now, with the really bad. The water is undrinkable and you can’t even brush your teeth with it. You are given only 2 bottles/day, but we tipped a buck everyday to the cleaning lady and were given 3 bottles. But that’s all you get unless you want to buy some more at 1$US/bottle or get water from the bars in small cups. It’s really hot down there, so I suggest you bring a water bottle with you for refills, or you can refill empty water bottles yourself. The staff are not allowed to refill empty water bottles because mgmt prefers you buy them, but you can get around that by refilling them yourself with the small cups they give you full of water.
The food would have been OK (nowhere as good as in Panama) were it not for the food poisoning. MANY people got sick (nausea, vomitting, diarhea) from the food and/or water. My husband and I were really sick for 3.5 days, three days into our first week. After that, we just had diarhea, but at least not uncontrollable, for the most part. There was a wedding party there of around 23 or so, and 13 of them were sick like we were. That is NOT counting all the others who were also sick, who were not part of the wedding. I would say close to half of the Canadian guests were inflicted. We went to a non English speaking nurse who of course said we over-indulged with too many things and drinks, etc., (the usual blame game), and gave us some powdered drinks and electrolites. We already had pepto bismal and immodium, none of which worked. I guess it just had to work through its cycle. Anyways, we paid about 25$US for that stuff. Personally, it should have been free. They make us sick, and then charge us to make us better?! Anyways, my husband was able to get back the 25$US by complaining to the Nolitours rep, who agreed to give him a 25$ rebate on his next golf game. This he got after much arguing and convincing, and pointing out to them that he did not bring this sickness from Canada, and that another fellow golfer complained to the Decameron head mgr, and after 1hr of arguing was able to get a golf rebate. What I noticed is that they are unwilling to refund any money unles they can apply it as a rebate elsewhere, like golf, and even then it probably won’t be a big amount. It was insulting that they blamed the guests for getting sick. We heard it all, either directly, or through other guests: we over-indulged, we brought the sickness with us from Canada, we swallowed the tap water, sea water and pool water, we drank too many pina coladas (we didn’t drink any), etc., etc. In other words, they refused to take blame for anything. Nothing was ever the Decameron’s or Nolitour’s fault.
Now, a special sour note for the head mgr at Decameron, who we never laid eyes on because he REFUSED to even speak to or see my husband. His response to us via his underling was that there would be no refund, and to go speak to Nolitours. Nolitours tried to send my husband back to Decameron to speak to them, but he wasn’t having any of that ping pong game.
The most bizarre thing that happened, was what they did to this young man we met. He got sick like almost everyone else, VERY sick, so he got to see the non English speaking "doctor". I don’t know if this was a real doctor, but he told our young new friend that his problem was that he was diabetic (he wasn’t) and that he was a cocaine addict (he wasn’t), and he showed him the sheet where he indicated that (in Spanish). He ended up giving him a shot in the rump, don’t know what it was. ANyways, when he went to complain about that whole scenario, he was intimidated and harassed by Nolitours and Decameron, and of course, ******* the mgr, and they, and the doctor DENIED it all. They told him they would never say that he was a diabetic or cocaine addict and asked him to prove it by showing them the sheet. He couldn’t because the good "doctor" never gave him that or any other sheet of paper or receipt – he just showed it to him. He was out about 100$US for the shot and meds (no receipts given as evidence of that transaction). I can’t for the life of me explain what happened to him. Maybe they picked on him because he was blonde, young with long hair and looked the California surfer type? Still no excuse for what they did. At the end they had the gall to ask him not to complain about Nolitours or the resort!
From another guest (French Canadian) we heard that they refused to exchange a small shirt purchased from the Decameron store for a medium one by his wife and daughter. Now, they weren’t even asking for their money back, they just wanted an exchange in sizes. Their response was that they did not buy that shirt from their store – amazing given that they only purchased it just 10 mins prior when they realized it was the wrong size! After much arguing, they got their medium shirt, but were banned from going to that store! It ended well for him because he was fed up with the money his wife/daughter were spending so his dream came true – his family were banned from shopping at the store! That gentleman was laughing all the way to the bank with that one, and we by the poolside who heard that story, were laughing at the outcome.
Now, for the worse of it. On Monday, Jan19 they had elections, and by law, there can be no alcohol served or drunk anywhere in the country two days before the election. Decameron had a tourist police officer on site until 4 p.m. each day (they originally thought he’d be gone by 2 p.m.) So Decameron decided to break the law and allow alcohol to be served after 5pm Saturday and Sunday. If you left the resort, and passed the police station/shack just off the resort, then my husband was told that the police would arrest you and put you in jail for having any alcohol in your system. Monday was back to normal, but Monday we were leaving! What is the sense of such a law?? In other words, our last weekend there, we had no access to alcohol until 5pm, but we had already prepaid for an all-inclusive! Many people complained. First Nolitours told us it was until 3pm, then they said they were misinformed and it was 5pm. We were all provided with only 1 hour’s notice of this "law". As for the notification that it was not 3pm, but 5pm – there was none! We found out from word of mouth or the bartenders. NOTHING from Nolitours or the Decameron. When we complained and demanded a refund for that last weekend where we could not drink, but had paid for an all inclusive and bought booze at the stores, and paid for a fridge to keep it cold, and were NOT advised of this by Nolitours in advance who admitted knowing in advance about these elections, we were told by head office Nolitours in Montreal that it’s the law and they’re not giving out refunds. In other words, get lost. Our position was that Nolitours SHOULD have posted this unique situation on the website so we all could have made an informed decision as to whether we wanted to go there or elsewhere, or they could have dropped their prices still further to account for this situation. But, no. Their response was a lot of head nodding and repeating that it’s the law and suggesting we BUY our booze at their stores. Yeah, that’s why we prepay for an all-inclusive! Funny how they did not have any response to the question as to why they did not post this situation online prior to booking. They apparently did not even care that we would be complaining about this on Trip advisor or elsewhere. They did have the gall to ask us and others to NOT complain about them or the resort. Who raised these people, and who taught them business sense?
Now, before you assume that we are lushes, let me clarify that I personally was unaffected by this dry spell, because I never drank anything other than water until about 7pm or so. My husband, on the other hand, would drink, and he was not alone. There were plenty of men and women who drank. My complaint is that because MY husband drinks, we, as a couple, were financially put out by the extra unforeseen costs of buying alcohol and renting a fridge to store it, and for tipping the bartenders extra because they conveniently took advantage of this situation to obtain tips from guests during "wet" time to overfill their mugs for future storage.
Anyways, I need to end this because I’ve written A LOT, but I thought I’d help fellow travellers, like I was helped by others. This is my first review by the way. I thought after what happened to us here, and how we were treated by Nolitours and Decameron, we SHOULD speak of it! However, we did go to the Decameron at Panama and were very well treated. I understand they’re a franchise, so the Decameron in Salvador would be different. Anyways, in conclusion, we had a very good time, despite the glitches, met nice people, had loads of laughs from stories told and experiences had, and the weather was unbeatable. We would not go back because of the food poisoning, the non beach, the treatment by Nolitours and the Decameron mgmt. After what we experienced, we will never again travel with Nolitours or stay at a Decameron. There are plenty of other resorts and travel agencies. In case you’re wondering, I did know about the lack of a proper beach, but I thought I could live with it because the price was right and my husband could golf. Now I know I cannot live without a proper beach. Live and learn.
If you’ve made it this far – congrats!