While the all-inclusive concept is not very appealing to us, my spouse and I decided to visit Mexico as a quick and inexpensive beach getaway. We selected the Barcelo due to its overall positive reviews. In retrospect, I wished I would have read the reviews more carefully.
Depending on the type of traveler you are, the interests you have, and your previous travel experiences, you will either truly enjoy the Barcelo, or never plan to return. As such, I have broken this reviews in several sections to make it easier to find the information that is most pertinent to you.
The bedroom was what one would expect at a beach resort. The bed was quite firm and uncomfortable to me, but the pillows were plentiful, fluffy, and nicer than what I have usually encountered in other Latin American countries.
The beach is nice and clean with plenty of jack fish swimming alongside the bathers. The Beach/Caribe side of the Resort seems nicer with less rocks, but the Beach bar plays obnoxious loud music all day starting at around 10:00 am. I personally just want peace and quiet while at the beach, but I am assuming most of the other guests did not mind the music, and took it as part of the Caribbean/tropical ambiance.
There are several beach activities such as kayaks, sailing, jet skiing, and snorkeling. I recommend snorkeling or swimming by the pier if you want to be around plenty of fishes. It was fun and refreshing. Finally, the resort was not very full, and finding lounge chairs at the beach or by the pool was never a problem.
The beach bars only had one bar tender while we were there. Thus, it could take a minute to get drinks, and I can imagine it would take much longer if the hotel was busier. The bars had special drinks everyday, and we tried one each day. The drinks were fairly weak, with basic ingredients. Definitely not premium liqueur, but if you are not particular about your drinks, this should not be a problem.
My main complaint about this resort was its horrible bland and cold food. If you consider yourself a foodie do not go to this resort. Food quantity is not the problem, as there was an overabundance of food, and plenty of options, but don't expect to have an amazing meal while staying here. It is all about quantity rather than quality.
After our first meal there we were unsure how we would be able to stay for 5 days with such sub-par dining options. This review may sound overly critical by some, but food is an essential component of my travels. I seek exotic and gourmet food both at home and abroad, so the food at the Barcelo was disappointing and unsatisfying to say the least. That being said, the food on the beach grills, were warmer, and better seasoned than in the main buffets.
While the food was pretty bland with no hints of the local cuisine. The food would have been more palatable, if it was kept appropriately warm. However, the majority of the dishes are kept under warming lamps, which are inadequate to maintain the temperature. Why not invest on chafers for all the warm dishes? It seems like a pretty easy solution.
If you cannot stomach cold food, I would suggest relying on the pasta station where your dish can be prepared to order. Another option is to eat something from the grill, if you can ask for a freshly grilled burger rather than the several pre-cooked patties that I saw sitting under the heating lamps. The soups also seemed to be warm, as they had appropriate electric tureens.
However, if you are an easy eater, and not overly concerned with seasoning anf temperature, you will probably be very happy at the Barcelo. I effect, most children are likely to have no problem at all with the food.
Finally, of all the meals, breakfast was certainly the least offensive. The refried beans in particular was nice and warm, and had a modicum of seasoning (but not as rich and spicy as refried beans you will find outside the resort). Luckily, we had a chance to have a meal outside of the resort while visiting Tulum, which was delicious. I just hope that most guests don't think that the food here is a good representation of authentic Mexican food.
We ate at the Spanish and Mexican restaurants. While the food was better than the buffets, it was nothing to write home about. The food in both restaurants was appropriately warm, which was a vast improvement than the food served in the buffets, but I have eaten better Spanish and Mexican food before. Heck, I have eaten better "Mexican" food in Tokyo.
The staff was great. Nothing to complain here. They were friendly and attentive, and no one ever gave any outward indications of wanting tips. However tips are certainly appreciated.
There are a lot of children in this resort. If the idea of screaming children bothers you, you would do better at an adult-only resort. While there were plenty of couples there, I could not imagine the place as a romantic getaway. Again, it all depends on your level of tolerance.
Travel representatives, and a car rental agency can be found in the same area as the main concierge. These travel representatives are not associated with the resort, but I thought I would share our experience trying to book a visit to Chichen Itza and Tulum.
We were quoted an astronomical price for both tours, as such I told our representative I would check on the prices for a rental car to compare costs. He tried to dissuade us from renting a car, implying on the possibility of highjacking as tourists are easily recognizable by “crooks.”
Okay, last time I checked I was visiting the Yucatan peninsula and not Juarez! Have had driven before in Brazil and in Israel, I was not overly concerned about driving in Mexico. The drive was super easy: the road to Chichen is well maintained and you just need to follow the signs. Just be in the lookout for the speed bumps, because they come out of nowhere : )
The resort has no free wireless -- not even in the lobby. Furthermore, the wireless code only works in one device at a time. If you have multiple users in your party, you either have to buy several access cards, or take turn using the service. In this day and age, this type of wireless service is outdated and quite annoying.
A quick test to see if the Barcelo would be a good option for you (in my humble opinion):
Is gourmet food a big part of your life?
Are you able to and/or enjoy identifying the different ingredients in your meals?
Do you like your food to be warm?
Do you favor premium liqueurs and wine?
Do you like to explore the country you are visiting and to observe the locals in their daily lives?
Do you mind children screaming on the hotel hallways until about 10:00pm in the evenings?
If you answered Yes to at least 3 of this questions the Barcelo is probably not for you. STAY AWAY!
Is your main vacation goal to lounge at the beach or the pool?
Are you traveling with children?
Are you an easy eater with no food restrictions?
Do you have basic requirements for libations and spirits?
Do you prefer staying in a resort throughout your visit than exploring the countryside and mingling with locals outside the hotel?
If you answered Yes to at least 3 of this questions, you will have a ball at the Barcelo. Have fun!