Having stayed at the Grand Bahia Esmeralda in Punta Canta last year we were expecting an equal experience. This is a review from this perspective.
Flight inbound was with Canjet on what I will call an older model plane with a Claustrophobic seat pitch. While this might be legal, it should never have been permitted by Transat! From the seat back on my elbow I could not fully extend the fingers in my hand without touching the old worn uncomfortable seat in front. With the reclined seat in front, it was only 2 inched from my face, ridiculous! We were ordered to upright the seats so we could put down the trays for food service. On the return trip there was a reasonable 4 plus inches of space between the ends of my finger to the seat in front. If you are average size or up, beware! FYI the attendants were good, not their fault at all.
Arrival at the Airport – not busy at all compared to PC. Buses easy to find. The ride to the resort was very scenic, have your cameras ready! And a short 45 mins away. During the trip you are given your room assignments, ID bands, and information packets.
We were welcomed to the EL Portillo with fanfare of music, dancing and cool refreshments. It did not take too long to get your room keys and PAY for your safe. We purchase a “Royal Golden Junior Suite” package.
About the Royal Golden, we asked for and not given a suite with a King bed. We were accommodated by a very helpful staff and moved into a regular (I think) room with a King bed the next day. Only a minimal inconvenience. My issue is with this I booked end of October 2012, requested a King bed, wrote 2 emails and then end up here. I can book into any 2, 3 4, or 4 star hotel in NA any time in the next year and get what I paid for, I do not accept “subject to availability”. This is merely and excuse for a poor booking service. Of all the issues I would of expected better, none took much from a good vacation. First issue is the “Royal Golden”. Best put, not as advertised. No evidence of a “special section of rooms” (all over the resort), premium international drinks - seems the same for everybody, No one could tell me the phone number of the direct line to the concierge service. You will have to judge for yourself if the extra $$$ is worth a robe, slippers and beach towels in your room. I would suggest that between the resort and Transat they figure this out and how to make Royal Golden more visible.
The rooms were good but for again a few issues, hot water and water pressure, and minor state of repair. Minor easy fixes like a door to the mini-fridge went unrepaired yet obviously broke. Minor but this is stated as a 5 star resort. The last night we returned to our room, door open, but nothing missing EXCEPT (as we didn’t discover until the morning) all of the towels were gone. I guess that the turn down service, took the towels and forgot to return, leaving the door wide open. Mistakes happen but security related issues are not to be taken lightly. The mini-bar? Two cans of beer and sodas. NOT an mini-bar at all. FYI Last year, we did have a mini bar with all the necessities.
The resort grounds and facilities are quite beautiful. This is not a large resort. The beach is one of the best (including Cuba) that we have been to, the pools a little smallish but very nice. The tourists are not respectful of others when the put towels on chairs at the pool and beach (yes I saw it) and leave for hours on end. Please enforce a 1 hour or your stuff is gone policy! LOL we got up early 6:30 am to ready for an excursion, to find people scurrying around like little rats putting towels on chairs, way too funny. We never got up too early and were always able to find somewhere to sit.
We did not find the vendors at the beach too aggressive, say hello have a chat, they then to remember you and leave to your space.
We took maybe 5 minutes with the Privilege guys, case closed, no aggressive approaches afterword’s, they seem to remember.
The food was the biggest let down. If we could have had the food from last year GB here this would of been a stay. The buffet is too small and not of the 5 star quality we expected. How many ways can you serve cold cuts and hot dogs? Buffet was smoky, poor ventilation and never enough silverware, glasses etc. Having wrote this we did find things to eat. I anticipate a response of “busiest time of year” to that I respond, you should not over book then.
The specialty restaurants two were excellent one the seafood was poor. Others had told us the opposite so hit and miss?
Lobby Bar service was odd. Sometimes it was very good other wondering if you are at a 3 star. They ran out of Pepsi, glasses, liquor, (except the cheap local stuff). Seems at busy times the just are not equipped to handle the crowds. Again not a big deal, I had nowhere to be.
Check out day came too soon, bell hop never answered the phone rang for 15 plus minutes before I gave up. Checking out was fine. The staff gave a great farewell offering of dancers and music!
Ride back to the airport was very nice. The check in there, well be patient it is going to be an hour or so, just a small airport, not a lot of staff.
Summing this up, it is a 4 star resort, perhaps we where spoiled but last year’s excellence. This was a very good vacation with minor inconveniences. We have a good time, enjoyed our stay. The staff was excellent, kind, always trying. If GB make a few minor changes they will deserve a 5 star rating. Do not worry about your trip here, if you are flexible, enjoy!