We had another wonderful vacation at the Riu Palace Macao, 12 - 22 August 2012. It was our 6th trip and our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. I’m going to divide this review into renovations (by area), food, entertainment and service.
Renovations: We noticed the renovations right away as we drove up. The entrance sign had changed to large, dark granite slabs with the Riu Palace Macao name and 5 stars beneath the name. There was a large white pineapple statue (traditional sign of hospitality) in the circular driveway. The foliage up the driveway and in front of the resort had been “thinned out”, leaving a cleaner look. Gone is the dingy paint on the exterior of the resort. Everything is now a blindingly bright white, with the turrets topped with gold finials.
As we pulled up, we were greeted by bellman David (pronounced Da veed’ by the new German female manager, whose name I can’t recall). He instantly remembered us from our previous trips and gave me a big hug. The staff at the desk welcomed us home and before we could even start filling out the paperwork, our welcome drinks had arrived. In addition to the new manager, there is a new assistant manager, David, who seems very involved in the food aspect of the resort.
The main lobby has been redecorated, but not substantially changed. Gone are the chandeliers and wall sconces. The ceiling fans and lighting are now the modern brushed nickel finish and are of a more modern look (cylindrical rather than the ornate chandeliers). The walls are white instead of the creamy tan color. The lobby furniture is of a lighter color (but sturdier and larger) wicker with solid cushions. No more chasing the pillows. The open air courtyard between the main lobby and the buffet and lobby bar area has also been landscaped, with gravel, rocks and new statues.
The lobby bar itself has been redecorated with new furniture, lighting fixtures and décor. The furniture is more comfortable than before. The lobby bar also seems to actually stay open until 0700, unlike in the past. Before, if there were no patrons, the bartender could not be found. Now, no problem! We were able to get a fresh ground coffee and a margarita at 0530 the morning of our departure.
The Salon where they have bingo and the shows has also been redecorated. It’s sort of hard to tell, since the chairs are the same style (just a different shade of blue) and the carpet is very similar (dark blue with spots). The best thing is that the horrible musty, mildew smell is gone and it is a no smoking area. The casino has been expanded and has a lot of slot machines, some card tables and roulette wheels. We could only find two video poker machines in the place, which is the extent of our gambling.
The Main Buffet has changed quite a bit. The entrance area (where you used to make ala carte reservations) has been walled off. That unused area was basically turned into the Patisserie. The buffet chairs now have shorter backs and have the brushed nickel finish, as do the ceiling fans. Some of the food stations have changed, but I’ll address that in the food section. Another row of tables has been added to the patio outside the buffet, so there was never any waiting for an outdoor table for breakfast. That means no more people sitting on the wall, watching and waiting like vultures for your table while you eat! You now make your reservations for the ala carte restaurants at a table in front of the Japanese restaurant. Reservations are still made in the morning.
The Patisserie had coffees and cappuccinos available, as well as some snack items and drinks in a cooler, muffins and nacho chips and cheese. It also has some seating inside. It opens at 10am. That’s not our kind of thing, so I can’t speak about the quality of the food.
The patio outside the lobby bar has also been renovated. Gone are the small, rounded wicker chairs, wall sconces and earth-tone table lamps. There are now larger, sturdier wicker chairs with the single cushions, brushed nickel ceiling fans and nickel cylindrical wall sconces. There are also skylights in the ceiling.
We have debated back and forth about this, but we’ve decided that the roofline across the patio, or at least portions of it, has been extended a bit. The bushes along the patio have been removed (which means no more feeding bacon to the cats in the morning!) and the palm trees that used to actually grow up through the roof are gone. In fact, the garden area between the patio and the pool area has been re-done to remove all of the bushes and add some (I think) yucca plants and other foliage. It looks very clean and open.
To the left of the pool area (looking toward the ocean) is the renovated pool buffet. It doesn’t look like a thatched hut anymore, rather a tinted glass and open air building in much in the same configuration as it was before. However, the restrooms have moved from the middle of the building to the left side of the building. They are nice, modern and air conditioned, so that’s very nice. The sides of the building are still open and it’s nice to sit in the breeze on the ocean side. There are skylights over the buffets, which I’ll talk about more in the food section.
The sidewalk between the pool buffet and the Krystal restaurant has had all the bushes removed and other things planted that are small and still growing. The Krystal restaurant building doesn’t seem to be changed a bit. The bathrooms are still the same.
The pool area has been completely changed. The old pool with the fountains is gone, as is the little round “kiddie pool”. In its place is a rectangular pool that has lounging beds “in” the pool. There are new, comfortable loungers around the pool, beneath an awning that can be pulled open and closed. There’s a second row of loungers around the pool that have umbrellas. At either end of the pool is a row of eight canopy beds.
The old pool bar with the wicker chairs and ice cream machine is gone and in its place is a new towel shack and a swim up pool bar with loungers in it and canopy beds around it. Also new is a pool bar with chairs, tables and couches on the back side of the swim up bar. It’s open on the ocean side and has about a six foot wide by one foot deep pool on three sides of the bar. There are also skylights in the bar.
The tiled sidewalk from the pool to the ocean sidewalk is gone, as is the mermaid statue. It’s all sand now. The coconut grove has been cleaned up of small clumps of foliage and seems a bit more open. Of course, the tree crew was at work while we were there, trimming the coconut trees. What’s missing is the beach bar. The shack and stone stools are completely gone, without a trace. We’re not down by the beach very much, but the shower heads and changing stalls seem to have vanished.
Also gone is the wooden, three table massage shack. It’s been replaced by a two table massage tent that’s much closer to the Krystal restaurant and much nicer, in my opinion. However, we had an issue booking massages. Our travel package included a 15% discount at Eternal Spa, which used to do the massages at the Macao and have a spa on Caribbean Street. Not so anymore. Eternal Spa only serves the Riu Palace Punta Cana and the Riu Bambu. The Renova Spa serves the Riu Palace Bavaro and the Riu Palace Macao. In order to book several massages and pay by credit card, we had to go to the Palace Bavaro. Not a long walk, just out the front of the Macao and across Caribbean Street and follow the sidewalk to enter the Palace Bavaro. The spa is right there. However, we didn’t figure this all out until late on the third day of our visit, after a lot of running around and question asking. So, there’s the spa tip.
We stayed in a Superior room (3232). It has a nice view of the garden and pool areas and the ocean. Gone is the dark wood and yellow and tan colors, lamp-shaped wall sconces and narrow, slippery bathtub. The rooms now sport bright white furniture, walls and linens, fuchsia accents and chairs, a large flat screen TV, white plastic deck chairs on the balcony and an electronic safe. I kind of miss the rocking chairs, but the plastic chairs are sturdy and comfortable. A bit more hygienic, I would think.
The bathrooms are the best part of the room makeover. The large closet that existed along one wall is now smaller and has been moved to the hallway to accommodate the shower. The party shower. The “larger than the elevator” shower. It has a detachable hand-held shower head and also a large fixed shower head hanging from the ceiling. There’s a glass block wall between the shower and the bedroom. With both lights on in the bathroom, it can be a bit bright into the bedroom at night. With just the shower light on, it makes a good nightlight when you wake up at 3am and want to be able to see when you come in from a smoke on the balcony.
There are dual sinks. They are bowl-shaped and sit on the vanity. The bidet is gone and there is just a toilet. I wish they had invested in a comfort height toilet, but it’s still very low to the ground.
The beds are typical Riu beds – pretty darn firm. However, we thought that these new beds were just a *tad* more comfortable than previously. But, we like a firm mattress so others might not care for them.
Food: In the Main Buffet, they have moved the traditional salad fixings to the small bar to the right as you enter, where ice cream used to be. The first island that used to hold the salad bar and appetizers now holds a huge variety of appetizers. They have gone upscale here, too. You can find martini glasses with mussels and tempura prawns, small individual dishes with sushi-style appetizers and tree-shaped wooden holders with curved spoons containing appetizers stuck into it. The appetizer bar still has the large variety of seafood salads, cheeses and meats as before. Every evening brings a variety of different types of appetizers in a variety of different presentation styles. Very lovely and all that I tried (which were many!) were very tasty.
The food at the main entrée area is pretty much the same as always, with a lot of variety in the side dishes, etc. The best is always the beef and fish dishes. I must mention that the shrimp (no matter what dish it was in) was so much better cooked than in previous years. Not mushy at all. Hopefully, their lobster will follow suit.
The dessert bar has changed *so* much! Instead of large cakes, pies or containers of dessert in which you hack off the desired amount that leaves the dessert in a mess, each portion of dessert is served on its own tiny individual dish. Other desserts are in shot glasses, like the milk and white chocolate pudding dessert with a milk and white chocolate straw. The variety of the desserts is just amazing and so are the sugar sculptures that are made. And of course, there is always fruit, cheese and ice cream at the bar along the wall, near the waiter’s entrance to the Japanese restaurant. The last night we were there, there were three chefs working the sugar and they invited a guest to assist them. He got a great kick out of it and many of the patrons wandered over to watch. It was very entertaining.
The carving station at the rear of the buffet has the usual haunch of roasted meat that they carve, or made to order pasta. During breakfast, this station now has pancakes, waffles, puffed, fried bread and the like.
The new steak house, Pancho, is one half of the pool buffet in the evening. Nice ambiance but the food needs a bit of work. The menu had changed from last year. The seafood appetizer (raw salmon, shrimp and mussels) was pretty good and quite filling. Follow that with the chicken Caesar salad (passable) and we were already satisfied. We tried both entrees, the surf and turf and the ribeye steak. Both were served with a foil wrapped baked potato and a large elevated dish of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. The steaks and potatoes were pretty good, but the lobster tail was mushy. The vegetables were not extremely overcooked, which was a nice change of pace. All in all, a decent enough meal but not of the quality I had hoped.
The other restaurant in the pool buffet building is the Ita ‘Liano, which obviously serves Italian cuisine. We didn’t have a chance to eat there, but were not really impressed with the set up. The appetizers and desserts were on a buffet bar in the main part of the restaurant. So it was pretty much self serve, except for the entrée. We wanted to try the restaurant, but by the time we got around to making reservations, it was “closed for the weekend”, the weekend being Sunday and Monday. The steakhouse was closed on Tuesday night, so I’m not sure what the definition of “weekend” is. I won’t pass judgment on food that I haven’t actually eaten. However, the appetizers and desserts that we saw on the Italian side buffet when we went to the Steak house showed up on the lunch buffet the next day.
That brings up another issue for me. The new pool restaurant with its skylights is a problem. Two of the food buffets are right underneath the skylights. I’ve never gotten ill before from the food while staying here, but there’s always a first time. During lunch, you could feel the heat radiating down onto the buffet (both ends only) and I told myself that eating some of the food in that area was probably not smart, especially since it was the seafood and cold salad type of stuff. Enough said and I didn’t eat anything from under the skylights again. Under those skylights, you could see the chocolate desserts and the cheeses melting. I know of a couple of other guests who mentioned that bad placement to management, too. Caveat Emptor.
We didn’t eat at the Japanese restaurant this trip. We have eaten there the past couple of trips and have always found it to be very tasty and a good experience. Can’t speak about the Krystal restaurant. We have never tried it as the menu doesn’t appeal to us.
Entertainment: As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t think the Animation Team was on par this year. I will admit that I didn’t participate in the games much this year, but that is mostly due to the fact that we were in the coconut grove and couldn’t hear the announcements very well from the pool area. By the time I was aware that there was an activity going on, it was already underway. The AT didn’t seem to follow the schedule posted in the lobby as closely as they have in the past. Additionally, the AT didn’t interact very often with folks who weren’t at the pool. I don’t think I once saw them cross the sidewalk onto the beach proper to talk to / engage with people. I could be wrong, of course. We had one nice lady (can’t remember her name) talk to us a couple of times; Jhon, Alex and “Little” Juan conversed with us while we were in the coconut grove.
It just seemed like there was some dissention in the ranks of the AT. The other three ladies we saw all week weren’t friendly *at all*. Didn’t really see them engaging with patrons, just kind of going through the motions. In fact, you could see them mocking Juan while he was running bingo. A couple of the guys did the same the thing, so I think there are some personality issues among the AT. That’s a real shame, as in the past we have really enjoyed the AT. We only saw one show while we were there, as we are used to retiring early and rising early.
Service: Well, we really can’t say enough about the quality of service. Excellent as always, from the front desk staff to the bartenders, waiters and the cleaning staff and drinks guy. When we went up to the pool bar, our drinks were quickly refreshed. Sitting on the lobby patio and in the Salon, just as the drinks were starting to hit bottom, here arrived a refill. Special shout outs to Juan, Antonito and Miguel in the Pool Bar, Wandy and Suero in the Salon Bar, Eusabio, Octavio, and Roberto in the Main Buffett and David in the Lobby.
Pros: Updated nearly everything
More variety and presentation in the food
Most of the staff returned to continue to provide great service
Cons: No beach bar or beach drink service
Animation Team a bit lacking
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on Arena Gorda Beach in Punta Cana. Complimentary sun loungers on the beach. Within the Riu Resort, along with the Riu Palace Punta Cana, Riu Taino, Riu Naiboa hotels and the ClubHotel Riu Bambu. 3-storey building. Colonial style architecture. Surrounded by 30,000 m2 / 36,000 sq. yards of palm groves alongside the beach. 50 km / 31 miles from Higey. 200 m / 660 ft. from Caribbean Street. 30 km / 19 miles from Punta Cana Int'l. Airport. Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard, Amex. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riu Palace Macao Hotel Punta Cana
- Riu Palace Macao Punta Cana
- Riu Palace Punta Cana
- Rui Palace Punta Cana