This was our 8th visit to an all-inclusive resort in the Mayan Riviera and our 3rd visit to the Barcelo Maya. Our other two Barcelo trips were to the Tropical but we decided to “downgrade” to the Caribe for this trip because of the price difference and the fact that we were paying for 2 room. We were traveling with our son and his wife and our two grandkids – 6 year old girl and 4 year old boy.
We made our reservations through Frontier Airlines Vacations. Our flight was on time, was non-stop from Denver, had no charge for luggage, free Direct TV, and free chocolate chip cookies. We got through customs and immigration in 30 minutes, found our USA Transfers guy and were on the van and gone in 10 more minutes, and were at the Barcelo 75 minutes later. This was the first time we used USA Transfers and were pleased with their service. A bellman at the resort checked his roster to see if our names were on it before he would let our luggage off the van – our names were on it.
We were the only ones at check in and the clerk was very friendly and efficient. He acknowledged that we were returning guests and noted that we got the rooms we requested by email – nonsmoking, 3rd floor, close to one another, and with a king bed in one and 2 doubles in another. While we were checking in, a waitress came around with some mango drinks for all of us. We went to our rooms and our luggage was delivered soon afterwards.
We then went to the concierge to make reservations for our 3 a la carte restaurants. The Spanish restaurant was wide open but we had a little trouble getting our times and days for the sea food and steak hours – but we still got reservations. The steak house and sea food restaurant are in the beach grills on the Caribe/Beach side and are only open 3 days a week. We could have picked the Mexican restaurant as one of our 3 choices.
We were very impressed with our rooms. Although they were a little smaller than those at the Tropical, we preferred them. There was a large wide-screen TV on the wall, a very comfortable bed, a big shower head in the shower, the fridge was cold, and the AC worked just fine. The crown molding along the ceiling was a nice touch. The couch was about 6 foot in length and we had it made into a bed so the grandkids could have an overnighter with us if they wanted.
Maid service was good; our room was made up by noon every day. On two nights, we had evening maid service where the towels were changed out and chocolates were placed on our pillows. The contents of our fridge were replaced every day. However, the only snacks we received were two small bags of peanuts daily. On our last visit, our snacks included a much larger variety. Also, we did not receive any welcome goodies such as a fruit basket or bottle of liquor as we had in the past.
The resort did not seem at all full during the 7 days we were there. It was always easy to find a lounger or hammock. The majority of people appeared to be from Italy and Spain and we could walk around all day without hearing anyone speak English. There were quite a few shapely ladies on the beach wearing one-piece European-style bathing suits. Unlike previous experiences, we did not notice a lot of smokers, nor did we notice aggressive behaviors in the buffet.
Food was a mixed bag. We went to three a la carte restaurants and really liked them. The lamb chops and tenderloin with cheese sauce at the Spanish restaurant were great. The filet and rib eye at the steak house (Rancho Grande) were also good but the appetizer bar/salad bar was a real disappointment. The sea food restaurant (Captain Morgan) had an okay lobster tail but we really liked the large shrimp and cold crab claws on the appetizer bar. Service in all 3 restaurants was good. Although the steak house and sea food restaurant were open-air, they were close to the beach and had a nice breeze blowing through. Also, men are not required to wear long pants in these 2 restaurants. Breakfast in the Caribe buffet was usually good. I normally went to the Mexican food area and had refried beans and whatever else they had that day in that section (barbacoa, diced pork in green chili sauce, empanadas, etc.) I also had a lot of papaya/orange juice drinks and wonderful pineapple. The temperature in the non-air-conditioned buffet was usually tolerable at breakfast. Service ranged from excellent to non-existent. For lunch, we ate at one of the beach grills and they all seemed to have the same kinds of food. The hamburgers and grilled flank steaks were excellent but none of them had a taco bar like the ones we saw on our previous trips. Service in all the beach grills was excellent – much better than in the main buffet. Eating dinner in the Caribe buffet was not a pleasant experience. The heat and humidity were unbearable and there was no breeze at all even though the ceiling had a lot of fans. We were drenched in sweat and the kids were irritable. The food was okay but nothing special. One of the fond memories I have about our prior trips to the Barcelo was the wonderful coconut ice cream. And there was coconut ice cream at the Caribe buffet but it and all the other ice cream was liquid – not just soft but totally melted. Service again ranged from good to non-existent. We finally decided to pay an extra $5 each and eat dinner at the Tropical/Colonial buffet. It was money well spent - great service, a much better variety of food, and air conditioning. And the ice cream was solid but there was no coconut ice cream in this buffet when we were there.
We were pleasantly surprised at the bars and drinks during this trip. We never waited more than a few seconds for a drink at any of the bars. The pool/beach bars were always well staffed but they no longer had working self service beer taps. We were very surprised that there was drink service around the pools – we never saw this on our last trips. The beach grills had self serve beer, wine and liquors as well as bartenders to make whatever you wanted. There were usually no other customers at the Caribe lobby bar and we normally had the bartender to ourselves. I once asked the bartender for a glass full of rum so we could have rum and cokes in our room. He emptied a water bottle, filled it with rum, and gave it to me. The theater bars seemed to have a better selection of liquor than the other bars and the bartenders were super. I ordered a lot of mojitos and the bars usually had mint available, unlike our last trips. All bars had both Corona and Negro Modelo on tap. Drinks seemed very consistent as well – my mojitos and margaritas were identical no matter where I got them. The wine seemed a little worse (and nearly undrinkable) than on our last trips, especially the white. The Spanish restaurant had very good sangria for no extra charge.
Our grandkids spent a lot of time at the Colonial’s water park and loved the splash pad at the Caribe. Combined with hours of building sandcastles and bobbing around in the ocean on their floaties, they were happy. They also went to the mini-disco at the Colonial/Tropical theater a couple of times and liked it but the heat and humidity were intense. We went to the Circus show in the theater one night but the kids wanted to leave as soon as they figured out there were no elephants or clowns (we loved the show). The kids also liked the activities at the shopping center during Mexican Fiesta night.
The sea was very calm and crystal clear on most days but on one day, it was very murky and full of sea weed. I only went snorkeling once near the pier and saw a huge variety of fish I had not seen before. We also spent a lot of time in the Caribe, Beach, and Colonial pools – they were very clean. We enjoyed our night swims in the Caribe pool – the pools are beautifully lit and virtually empty at night – staff will ask you to leave at 10:00 so they can start adding chemicals.
We did not see any mammals on the grounds during this trip but did see lots of iguanas, small lizards, and frogs. As usual, the resort was full of beautiful birds. This was the first time we saw snakes at the Barcelo – to the south of Captain Morgan. I have no idea what kind they were – they were dark gray, about 3 feet long, and about an inch in diameter.
We saw a lot of sting rays near shore past the southern boundary of the resort, but did not see any in the swimming areas around the Beach or Caribe sides. We saw no jellyfish and did not see any mosquitos. However, we all had a few small bites on our bodies toward the end of our stay.
On our last day, we checked out at noon and spent the next hour in the lobby drinking beer while waiting for our 1:00 USA Transfers pick up. At exactly 1:00, the van pulled up and we were at the airport in a little over an hour. Note: If you drink a few beers before getting on the van, your ride to the airport will be miserable.
The main thing we love about the Barcelo is that you can camp out for the day and be just steps away from either a pool or the beach. And the place is incredibly beautiful and has as nice of a beach as any I’ve seen. We will return to the Barcelo Maya but not in August (who would have thought that it would be hot in Mexico in August?) and not to the Caribe or Beach. We would rather spend a little extra and go to one of the other sections that would give us better dining experiences.