My boyfriend and I spent five nights at the Grand Bavaro in mid-January. I booked the trip for us and selected the Grand Bavaro based solely on the impressive reviews on tripadvisor. Overall, we both had a fantastic time -- the resort is beautiful, the pools are fabulous (clean, not crowded, prompt waiter service and easy access to swim-up bar and restaurants nearby, plus great view of the ocean), and the food was pretty good (though not amazing). Also, our room (an oceanview suite) was lovely -- very comfortable, great porch with table and sofa, and a glitzy bathroom. Since there are lots of other great reviews on tripadvisor, I'll highlight a few "cons" based on our experience. Note that my review is based on the resort rating (5 star) and nightly cost; I've stayed at other hotels in Central America that make this place feel like Heaven on Earth!
First, I was seriously under-impressed by the quality of service at this resort. Overall, I thought the service was mediocre at best for a five-star resort. On the first day, we met our butler (and also tipped him $20, as some departing visitors had suggested to us as we checked in) but we NEVER saw him again. I was disappointed because other guests kept talking about their butlers and how attentive they were, but ours didn't seem even a little bit interested in how we were doing. Whenever we called the dedicated butler hotline, the phone usually rang and rang until I would hang up and dial again. Usually I had to call twice to speak to a person, and our butler was never around (so they sent a different butler). It was awkward because we weren't sure whether to tip this replacement butler -- it felt appropriate, but it was also irritating because we'd already tipped our butler $20. In any case, I made a few initial requests on our first afternoon -- including to re-stock our mini-bar -- it was half-empty with open soda bottles on our first day, so it hadn't been re-stocked since the prior guests departed, and to provide us with pillows from the "pillow menu" that was advertised (note that our king size bed only had TWO pillows when we arrived, so this wasn't as indulgent a request as it sounds)-- but after several hours, our requests still had not been taken care of. I caught a butler in the hallway that evening and explained the situation, and he immediately returned with the pillows I requested and re-stocked the mini bar. He was very helpful, but I was still disappointed by the quality of the service. We stayed five nights, and there was a second day where I had to call and request that they re-stock the mini bar. Normally I wouldn't mind, but the mini-bar is your only source of drinking water in the room, so I found it a little bit annoying that they didn't automatically re-stock it.
It was also VERY difficult to speak to the concierge team (they also had a dedicated hotline but it would ring 5-6 times and disconnect most of the time that I called it). When we finally spoke to a concierge our first evening, she told us all the restaurants were booked for the duration of our stay (except for a 10 pm seating one night). I explained to her that this was our first day and asked how we were supposed to get reservations if everything was already booked, but she didn't seem too concerned. At one point, she said she would speak to her boss and call me back, but she never did. This was unfortunate and part of the reason why I think the service at the resort was only mediocre -- we never felt like anyone was invested in helping us or following-up on our concerns. I felt like we had to chase people down if we had any issues (which we did), and even then, we usually had to follow-up a second time! Fortunately, when we called the concierge again 2 days later, we were able to get the reservations we wanted. I guess they hold certain spots, but I don't really understand the process -- if it's not to serve the guests arriving on a particular day (like us on our first day), I don't know why they hold and later release reservation spots. I also don't know why the concierge would find it acceptable to tell guests on their first day that all the a la carte restaurants are booked solid for the rest of their stay! It was especially odd because every night at dinner there were TONS of empty seats at all the restaurants, so they definitely weren't booked.
On our second to last day we spoke with a member of the concierge team who asked how our visit was going. She was very polite and offered to send us a bottle of champagne (which we eagerly accepted). We appreciated the gesture, but I would have preferred better service from the start, rather than having to call the butler team and concierge on a daily basis for things as simple as pillows or water. I still don't really understand the value of the butler concept. Frankly, I would prefer a less luxurious (yet hopefully more reliable) "guest services" option, since there doesn't appear to be any guarantee that your particular butler will check in with you each day and personally respond to your concerns.
My second major complaint was that I booked a massage and facial but was not given the option of an oceanfront massage room. When I arrived, there were several other women who got massages in large, open-air, ocean front rooms and I was really disappointed that I had a closed-air room to the back overlooking the pool (with the curtains drawn). If I had known the oceanfront room was an option, I would have asked for it (and paid extra), but the spa staff never mentioned it to me. I don't think it was a matter of availability, because when I called, they asked when I wanted to come in and said all times were available. Plus, the doors to the oceanfront massage rooms were open when I left (which is how I saw them), so I think they were available. I still regret this - I think it would have been a really relaxing experience and I'm annoyed that I didn't even KNOW it was an option! So, if you get a massage -- be sure to ask for an oceanfront room!! The massage was very nice, but it wasn't the most luxurious experience. I wasn't offered water (I had to ask for it after 90 minutes) and there were maintenance men fixing things loudly in the hallway outside my massage room.
A third and final complaint was the check-out process. I had requested a 12:30 checkout (which is considered a "late" checkout), but our keys stopped functioning exactly at 12:00 pm. We had just returned to the room to pack up and change out of our swimsuits, but we had to trek back down to the lobby, explain the situation, get the front door staff to reactive our cards, and THEN return to our rooms (at this point it was 12:20!). We were not charged for a late check-out, fortunately, but the process was inconvenient to say the least. It felt like another example where the quality of our stay wasn't really a priority to anyone.
I should add that the wait staff and activities staff were GREAT (unlike the members of the butler and concierge teams). I loved interacting with them at the restaurants, by the pool and in the lobby bar, and we started to recognize them after the first day. We only had one bad cocktail waitress who literally stopped taking our drink orders. She did the same thing to several tables sitting outside the lobby bar one evening, because there was another, larger table that I think was tipping her more $$. That was a little bit irritating (at least to me, because part of the appeal of the all-inclusive is not having to worry about money all the time!), but it was also the only bad experience we had with any of the wait staff.
Overall, I would highly recommend this resort to water- and sun-loving couples looking for a relaxing, restful vacation. Be prepared, however, to place several daily phone calls to the concierge or butler team to perfect your stay, and don't expect any personalized service. I think you really have to be proactive to get your money's worth and to get the most out of your stay at this resort.
I would most likely stay here again, but I would also research nearby resorts (including elsewhere in the Caribbean) and weigh our other options first.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Report response as inappropriate
In the name of Mr. Stefano Baratelli, hotel Manager, we thank you for posting a review about your experience at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro and for choosing our premises for your holidays.
We are very happy to acknowledge that you enjoyed a pleasant stay despite the inconveniences when dealing with our Butler and Concierge teams, for which we extend our apologies. In Iberostar we aim to provide the best service and an excellent cuisine to our beloved “Stars”. We appreciate your positive valuation in this areas, especially from our Bar and Restaurant staff.
Once again, we extend our apologies for the breakdown of the Concierge, Butler and Spa service. We would like to reassure you however that this is not a true depiction of our standards of operation here at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro. We have shared your concerns, suggestions and comments with the corresponding departmental heads so we can do our best not to have a reoccurrence of the situations mentioned.
We will be glad to welcome you back and show you our improvements and remain at your entire disposition for further assistance prior your next visit.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.