I consider myself a seasoned veteran of the all inclusive concept and I love Mexico and Riviera Maya. Barcelo Maya Palace was exactly as I expected it. No place is perfect and there are some areas that can be improved but overall if I weigh in the price I paid and what Barcelo offers this is a great place to visit. The Barcelo resort consists of five properties. The Palace being their top billing. Rooms are junior suites which allows for 5 people in the room (reason why we chose this specific property within Barcelo resort). We traveled with a large group of friends and family and for the most part all had similar experiences.
When choosing any type of a resort the first thing I look at is the beach. You go to the Caribbean to enjoy the beautiful color water and the beach. if the beach sucks it doesn't matter how great the other areas of the resort are you will not have a complete vacation. Barcelo resort complex is built on one of the best beaches in the Riviera Maya. It is lined with palm trees providing natural shade and the water is crystal clear with no sea weed and soft sand. As an added bonus the reef provides great snorkeling off the beach with turtles, rays and plenty of fish to feast your eyes on. The water is very calm with no waves which makes swimming perfect for all. The size of the property is so large that it would be impossible for them to run out of room so it was great not to have to worry about reserving seats.
The second most important thing to have a nice vacation is the accommodations. The Palace rooms are junior suites which provides plenty of space. We are a family of five and we felt very comfortable in the room. Two double beds or a king bed plus two day beds. A very large area balcony adds to the feeling of spaciousness. The bathroom is large with a separate toilet area, double sinks, tub with shower and a separate rain shower. A minor observation is that the sliding door to the toilet room does not close and there is no curtain or door in the shower so a bit of a privacy issue there. Plenty of closet space. Our room was on the third floor in the Michoacán (sp?) building. This is a building closer to the lobby. Our room was in the mid section and the walk to the beach, or restaurants was 5 minutes long with three kids so really not an issue. Some in our party had rooms in the last section and that added another 5 minutes of walking for them so really not a big issue at all in my opinion as some other travelers complained. Having said that I do believe it is more convenient to stay in the first or second section which you can request ahead of time as we did and they will try to accommodate it.
Everything else falls in its place in Barcelo. The pool is very large and beautiful. We did not use it much because the water was a bit cold and when there is such an awesome beach who wants to swim in chlorine water? The water park for the kids is amazing. if you see the pictures on the internet it is just as great when you get there. Kids had a blast in the water park. If you have older kids in your party have them go to the one in the Tropical/Colonial resort. For the smaller kids use the one in the Palace. If your kids like rock climbing or bungee walk over to the Caribe/Beach resort area along the beach. Call them ahead of time to check the time when they run it. The kids club is not the best I've seen but it is good enough if you need some time alone. Plenty of organized activities during the day. The grounds are ideally kept, very clean and beautiful. The open air inner corridors of the building with the fountains and greenery provides a very relaxing and tropical feel. Barcelo Palace has a very modern feel to it but the other resorts have more of a Caribbean feel to them. The entertainment is the usual all inclusive type of shows. I would recommend going to the theater at the Tropical/Colonial resort. It is open air vs. the indoor theater at the Palace.
The food is plenty and good. The buffet offers a lot of variety and the a la cart selection is very good. We ate at French, Brazilian, Carib, Steak and Japanese and we generally liked all of them.
The check in / checkout process for us was pretty smooth. If you come alone in a van you will spend 10 minutes checking in but if you come on a bus with 20 other people and there are 20 people already checking in or out you will spend 40 minutes in line. it all depends on the individual situation. No issues with storing and delivery of luggage both in and out easy process. The rooms are ready at around 3 pm so if you come earlier than that it won’t be ready so be prepared. Have a change of clothes easily accessible and start enjoying yourself.
A few useful tips are:
-Ask for a room in the first or second section of either building.
-Read the fine print on the coupons they give you. The coupons are great if you follow the instructions. If you don't read the fine print you can end up regretting using the coupon at the end. For example they offer a 35 dollar coupon for pictures but the fine print clearly says you need to spend 250 to get it. Or a 10/20 dollars off on wine requires a purchase of a 40/80 dollar bottle. My wife went to the spa twice and was able to use the coupons both times.
-See all of the other properties. Each one is different.
-The segway tour offered is awesome. it’s an hour drive through the resort and allows you to see the entire Barcelo complex.
-Upgrade to the club premium is not necessary in my opinion. One couple in our group did it and the amount they paid for the upgrade vs. the benefits received I am not sure is worth it. You do get internet included though with this upgrade so for some that alone might make it worth the price.
-Take a trip to swim with the dolphins. It is a great fun for all ages. We did Dolphin Discovery which had two big pluses. It was 5 minutes away transfer from the hotel and it has a encounter program geared specifically for kids 5 and under who are free with paid adult. Some in our group did a trip to Delphinus park which was also very close and offered a 4 hour program.
-We used Apple Vacations to book our stay and the good thing about Apple and why I always go with them is that transfers are included which eliminates the chaos of the arrival (and it is very chaotic in Cancun with all the timeshare salespeople at the exit and confusing taxi lines and prices). An additional benefit of booking with Apple was that when we got to the check in counter they told us we will not need any towel cards and can just get and return towels as we please.
So with all the nice things I wrote why a four star rating? As I said no one is perfect and the one thing that struck me in this resort is that while generally nice the staff did not want to go the extra mile to please. This has always been a staple of service in Mexico. Here in Barcelo Palace I just did not feel it. some of the examples are:
- On two days our room was not cleaned before we brought the kids for the afternoon nap. We would be out of the room every day from 8:30 to about 2:30. Never before have I had an issue with the room not getting cleaned in that much time. In fact everywhere I travelled before the staff usually knows your moving patterns by day 2. Here it did not happen which was odd.
- On more than one occasion when asking to move tables together at the buffet to make room for more people to sit together we were told no which again was unusual for me.
- A small child in our group fell asleep during dinner and when we asked for her nuggets to take with us we were told no. I am still not sure I understand why is there such policy.
- All three times that I had to call the front desk for something required multiple call backs as nothing was getting done.
The reason I saved these for the end is because none of my complains ruined our fabulous vacation. I think there is definitely room to improve the customer service a little to make it an even better place but again I do think the price to value ratio was very good. All in all thumbs up for Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe.