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“Great Place To Visit, But Not A 4+ Star Facility” 3 of 5 stars
Review of Occidental Grand Cartagena

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Occidental Grand Cartagena
3.5 of 5 Hotel   |   Anillo Vial Via Manzanillo del mar Km. 4, Cartagena 985, Colombia   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #63 of 118 Hotels in Cartagena
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
1 review
12 helpful votes 12 helpful votes
“Great Place To Visit, But Not A 4+ Star Facility”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 29, 2013


Our Trip: March 8 – 15/13

This is a very well appointed all inclusive facility, especially for this area of the world. Considering the newness of this property, the mostly inexperienced management staff and the predominantly ‘On the Job’ training mode of serving and hotel staff, that ANY form of quality expectations can be derived at all.

In discussions with upper management on site, it quickly became apparent that they were aware of the varying deficiencies from the travel packages being advertised and the actual package being provided (based on the tools, staffing and supplies they had available at a particular time or day) But, that they would do the best that they could do and to please just ask for anything and they would try.

And asked (unfortunately without much success), regardless of the issues the staff really engaged themselves. It got to the point that some humour had to prevail, the Resort Reservations Manager; Rafael Uribe – there was nothing that he did not do to try and assist the resort guests, whither it was under his responsibility or not – Kudos and thank you very much Rafael.

The front desk 4 Amigos; Ronny, Jefferson, Francesco and William and their amiga Jennifer, all of you always managed to remain calm with the guests (despite the volatility of the moment) and offer them the best applicable advise – thank you all for your assistance

The bar staff, who try very hard to serve all the different cultural requests with enthusiasm, they are only just beginning to understand signature drinks, even when they do they are too shy to tell the customer. Omar, often at the pool or beach bar, developed a refreshing drink with a twist - Omar’s Blue Kiss. Once some guests (waiting to order drinks) heard a request for his drink and sampled a taste, it was almost the only drink ordered for the next hour – Smooth Omar; I’ll make some here in Canada

To Note:

My family and I have been to many resorts through Cuba, the Caribbean and Mexico from 3 to mostly 4-5 star resorts for over 20 years, including the Occidental in the Dominican Republic and the Occidental Grand Xcaret in Mexico (it’s FANTASTIC). Though Occidental Hotels web site for the ‘Occidental Experience’ has a lot of verbiage - the Organization obviously missed the boat here.

Nolitours’ brochure infers the quality of a 4.5 star rating, but cannot provide any info about the property other than what is in their brochure or possibly the Occidental web site not even the room styles, amenities or positioning (for adjourning rooms, though when we arrived we found out probably 50% of the units were adjourned) and when we returned it was yada- yada – send us a letter with your concerns – and we’re not even looking for compensation.

Really, there is not much the staff can change when Nolitours; http://www.nolitours.com/en/Cartagena/Occidental-Grand-Cartagena?ID=22155&tmpl=DO and Occidental Hotels; http://en.occidentalhotels.com/grand/Cartagena.asp offers levels of quality that do not exist.

- A Kids Club: ????? - If that’s what you call it, I don’t think so.
- Restaurants: Whither its 4 or 5 restaurants – 1 adjacent to the kitchen, the buffet area at the bottom of the stairs and 2 adjacent patios that change their names at different points of the day – in my book it only works out to maybe 2-3 restaurants and additional patio areas, at best.
- Currency Exchange: It is indicated that the resort has a Currency Exchange – NO, NONE AT ALL, in fact the staff are reluctant to even make change for Colombian Pesos.
- Resort Information: Easily available information about themes, dinners or activities can only be accessed by asking hotel area staff (if your Spanish is up to par) who only second guess, but your supposed to be all smiles when you discover your Columbian Theme dinner reservation advisement is now quasi North American and no one has any idea what the selections will END UP being (inconvenient, especially if someone does not eat fish).
- Note: I’ve never been to a rated hotel that did not have some type of convenience or tuck shop selling whatever, local handicrafts and/or tobacco – NOT HERE.
- Note: It only continues to hurt when even the Nolitour rep (who tried to the best of his source info) cannot provide simple basic and accurate cultural information on banking, shopping or services available at the airport.

In a nutshell (in my opinion) the infrastructure for this resort could be a 4-5 star category, but with the amenities and services currently available would only generate a 2 star rating.

Would we go back ?
YES, it’s a beautiful country with very friendly people and potentially a great resort , but Now – reservedly, OR we could just wait and see what develops in the future.

There is no point in an on-going tirade; the issues are well represented in the other postings under this resort. I am sure the experienced Hotel Operators, Tour Organization Operators and Travellers are aware of the issues and deficiencies for this resort property – but then why do they allow their reputations to be tarnished by the unhappy customers - profit??

I hope not, as that would be short sighted. There is a whole new generation who are now travelling and will only deal with reputable travel professional that provide the engaged service with extras. And then there are the BABY BOOMERS who seldom provide a second opportunity for much of anything when it has already generated negative results – THEY JUST FIND A MORE RELIABLE OPPORTUNITY WITH ANOTHER TOUR COMPANY AND/OR HOTEL – RESORT CORPORATION.

Hopefully someone finds this helpful or at least informative.

(To the corporations; if only just an acknowledgement; or if you don’t talk to me now – you won’t talk to me later . . . )

  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with family
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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470 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Sleep Quality
    4 of 5 stars
  • Location
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (104)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Portuguese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Toronto, Canada
Top Contributor
125 reviews 125 reviews
25 hotel reviews
Reviews in 31 cities Reviews in 31 cities
119 helpful votes 119 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 27, 2013

Due to mixed news coming out of Columbia for some time but positive news from the Canadian Government's Country Reports indicating Cartagena to be 94% safe, we dared to look and found an excellent deal for the period Dec. 17-26, 2011 and undertook our trip to Columbia.
All along we were going to Occidental Grand Cartagena, only to find that it was ESTELAR Grand Playa Manzanillo ( the company that was supplying the catering).
Welcome was quite unusual and impressive, Colombian singer and dancer to receive us as we reported to the Reception.
Being a new Resort, everything was impressive, nice buildings overlooking the garden and a pool for the seniors, beautiful landscaped grounds in U shape and facing the sea beyond.
Rooms overlooking the central garden and the sea were spacious except that the beds were made of solid cement block with well padded mattresses, first time ever to see this, most likely due to humidity and insects (climatic necessity with minimum use of AC)
Walkways were covered, winding through the gardens, passing Reception, pools, dinning hall, bar and the beach, were all nicely laid out.
Dinning hall under a huge canopy was an open concept with minimum AC, fresh breeze from all sides. The buffet food was very low quality, salads and cut fruit were presented only enough for 3-4 persons at a time, the rest to wait for the next refills (may be stored in fridge for health reasons). There were lots of dishes with pork or ham, not popular with everyone, but there was abundance of wine (3-4 servers going around) at every meal. Once discovered that there is a grill, life became easier. Serving staff was predominantly Spanish speaking but courteous. Specialty Restaurant was not much different except for service and better quality drinks.
Every evening there was a music concert and on Christmas Eve, there was a huge dinner with famous Colombian singer and musicians, real memorable event.
The Resort being away from Cartagena, there was a shuttle service but not enough for a big group. Cartagena city itself is a beauty of Old Spanish Colonial town well preserved and restored. It is something to remember for a long time.
We did not come across any incidence of drug pushing but it was there on the public beaches, perhaps. Strongly recommend at least one visit to Cartagena, you will love it.

Room Tip: Don't venture into unknown areas with no security. Think of your own safety and security first.
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ottawa, Canada
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
11 helpful votes 11 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 23, 2013

We were here in March for our Honeymoon.

We found the hotel to be very nice and were very happy with basically every aspect of our stay there, with a few critiques that we'll note below.

First, the staff at the hotel was extremely friendly and accommodating. English is not very widespread, so learning even a little of the local language (Spanish) will go a long way. The staff that did speak English, made a good effort.

We got a room with a Jacuzzi. We highly recommend this. The room was huge and comfortable.

We are vegetarians and the staff was extremely accommodating to our dietary needs, but there were not many veggie options otherwise. There were salads at meals, but the "snacks" consisted of hotdogs, hamburgers and usually some other deep fried meat. More veggie options would have been nice. That said, we still ate well. Be careful though, ham and poultry are not necessarily considered to be inconsistent with a veggie diet. A friend of ours, a professional chef in Montreal, was at the resort with us and his comments on the food at the a la carte restaurant was that "the chef has clearly studied" and he was impressed.

It's also worth noting that if you're looking for a beach vacation, this may not be the best place. The beach is nice enough, but not the best, also the hotel is a bit removed from the beach, and even the ocean view rooms are not directly on the water, but a few hundred meters away.

The pools, however, were great. They were both clean and had a bar at each as well as lifeguards supervising. One has music and activities going for much of the day and is a bit more lively, while the other is more tranquil and known as the "quiet" pool. While the former is larger, the later is quite relaxing. We also made use of the gym which had all the basic equipment you would expect (treadmills, elliptical, stationary bikes, free-weights and weight machines) and was very nicely air-conditioned.

We liked being able to have access to free shuttles into the town, which we really enjoyed seeing. We went every day and ate very well in town too. Our only suggestion would be that the hotel run more shuttles to and from the city, especially in the evening. This was not a major problem for us, but a very minor inconvenience.

If we were to go back to Cartagena, we may choose to stay somewhere closer to the city, because that's more our style. Still, though, we would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone looking for clean, comfortable accommodations, with good food and attentive staff.

Re: some of the negative comments: There does appear to be a farm on either side of the hotel, this did not cause any problems at all. You only knew they were there if you drove by them on the way to town. Also, the area seems to be developing to tourism very rapidly. In one week we were able to notice major changes in the surrounding infrastructure. Security is also quite high, with a police patrol permanently stationed at the intersection of the main road and the road where the hotel is. There also happens to be a battalion of Marine Infantry stationed nearby. Security was never a worry.

Room Tip: As for a room with a Jacuzzi and don't expect too much from an "ocean view" room.
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Belleville, Canada
Senior Contributor
22 reviews 22 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
32 helpful votes 32 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 22, 2013

Check in was very easy. We were traveling with another couple and had requested adjoining or at least rooms that were near each other. We were told the resort was very busy and to check tomorrow morning... We soon learned that that was the token response consistently given by the front desk. Our rooms were on separate floors. All guests at check in we're served an icy drink, which was welcomed.

The rooms were clean. The fridge was empty, save one diet coke. The water at the resort undrinkable so bottled water is necessary. The beds were comfortable, with plenty of squishy pillows. Maid service was reliable, but don't expect any cool towel animals.

The beach is unremarkable. No clear water as a river flows into the ocean nearby. Security shuts the beach down at 5pm everyday.

The food was unremarkable. A la carte restaurants were not bad as long as you order the few things that were tasty. We recommend the beef rib at Nativo, and the beef skewer at the Grille. Any steak we ordered was very tough, even when cooked to our liking. Baked potatoes were nice, corn was horrendous. The buffet served edible food but nothing that you'd write home about. We found ourselves eating a lot of pizza, which they make with a nice thin crust- to order. Fresh fruit was always available.

Bar drinks were tasty and seemed to be made with care.

Pool staff were great but there was little variety from day to day.

During our stay a large corporate group showed up and threw a huge beach party, which regular guests were not allowed to attend. This made a lot of people angry.

Evening entertainment was limited. Dancing outside, or a band usually wrapped up by 11pm. There is no disco here. If you want any nightlife, you need to go to cartegena.

Other than the front desk staff, everyone was pleasant and helpful. Most do not speak English. 50% of the guests here are from South America and speak Spanish.

We would not return to this area, or this hotel.

  • Stayed February 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 2 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cambridge ONT
4 reviews 4 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 4 cities Reviews in 4 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2013

I actually won this trip off a radio station so I was thrilled to be going anywhere. I had never been to South America. We usually frequent the Carribbean. We stayed at the Estelar by Occidental in Cartegena. It was about 15-20 min from the airport. It is quite small (only 194 rooms) but it was nice because you could make friends very easily. They have 3 a la cartes but only one is actually indoors. The Nativo has a different theme every night and they do not put any restrictions on how many times you can go there. There is also The Grill and a Pizzeria. The pizza is homemade to order and is fabulous. We weren't keen on the chicken at The Grill so mostly ate at the Nativo. There isn't much nightlife. They had live entertainment until 10pm but that was it. No disco...just a bar to hang out at. It was ok with me because that sun really wears you out! It is very hot in Cartagena but there is always a breeze which stops you from melting! The ocean was extremely warm but the sand gets super hot. The breeze continued into the evening which I didn't really like because it blew my hair around and anyone wearing a dress had to be careful :) There is one main bar which is open 8am till 1am. There is also a pool side bar during the day and also one the beach. As this resort is less than 2 years old, it is in very good shape. The rooms were nice and clean and everything worked perfectly. The fridge is stocked daily with cream soda, Coca Cola Light, Coke, Columbian beer and bottled water. They have free shuttles into downtown Cartagena. The run all day and evening. I highly recommend checking this out in the day and night time. It is very safe and police are everywhere as tourism is their number one concern. I guess the only downfall is that we found not a lot of Columbians speak any English - even at the resort. As we are the foreigners, I decided that it's my new goal to learn conversational Spanish. It's my old fault for not knowing more of their language. Peso to US dollar conversion is 1750 but they seem to take American everywhere so don't worry about exchanging money. I did at the bank and was fingerprinted! All in all, a wonderful trip and I would go back in a heartbeat.

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 9
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Ontario
13 reviews 13 reviews
12 hotel reviews
Reviews in 12 cities Reviews in 12 cities
83 helpful votes 83 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 20, 2013

Our biggest expectation for this trip was to enjoy the incredible historical aspects of this amazing city, the walled city! It is truly a gem! I never tired of walking through those gorgeous cobblestone streets and gazing up at those flower laden balconies, churches, squares. It is truly magical, day or night! As such, the free shuttle was an economical and convenient option. It is 20-25 minutes away. We once went into the city twice in the same day.

If you want to have a typical resort vacation, you will be sorely disappointed because as many have already stated on this forum, the beach is very wide, but not a fine white sand and it does not have blue translucent water. I used the beach to walk on for my morning exercise and took a dip for a few minutes, once only. Also the entertainment was very lacking, but in all fairness participation was very low. The only show that looked worthwhile was the Folklore one as we were walking in but we couldn't really enjoy it because we wanted to access the buffet before it was closed. The weather was FANTASTIC! Warm moderate mornings, progressing to hot into the afternoon. Breezy late afternoons and evenings.

The rooms were small but modern and clean. Water pressure could have been better when you're trying to rinse shampoo from long hair, but really you can't take notice to all these trivial things when you're on vacation. We're getting extremely spoiled aren't we?? Listening to all these people go on and on about the suites makes me wonder it may have been worth it to spend a little more, but in all reality, we hit the city every chance we got. Didn't spend a lot of time in the room. The night life in the city was amazing! We danced many nights away and if we got carried away and missed the shuttle, it cost us 20-25$ US to return to the hotel. It is not cheap in town though. Prices for drinks and dinner in moderate to fancy clubs are comparable to fancy upscale places in North America. We had one typical Colombian lunch in a working class place in Bocagrande that was 8-9$ and I'm sure that's because they realized we were tourists. After clubbing one night, we also ventured to Bocagrande for great stuffed Arepas at a fast food Arepa place which was very cheap. Lunch in Getsemani (which felt like I was in New Orleans, just outside the walled city-a must) was amazing, offering upscale Colombian Cuisine, affordable, but not cheap. Anything in the walled city is pricey. Had amazing ice cream in tropical flavours that was to die for. Wish I kept the name to give this place a plug because most of the fancy ice cream places are Gelati types and carry mostly European flavours, whereas, this one had the tropical fruit flavours, Coco, Marañon, Mamey, Zapote, Tamarindo, delicious!!

The food in the resort was very good if you are open to trying some of the local fare, otherwise you will find it limited. A delicious soup at every meal, even breakfast (the hangover soup in keeping with Latin customs, hahaha). Ceviche every lunch and dinner, excellent salads and a good variety of tropical fruit. Lovely breads and baked goods, cakes etc. I really enjoyed the food but it is not an expansive buffet because it is a smaller resort and many people seem to leave the premises to venture out. In my opinion, the buffet provides more than adequate variety and quality of food.The a-la-cartes were just ok for me, nothing special at all. Almost the same food as the buffet just fancier presentation. Self serve salad bar and dessert bar. There was a snack bar that provided the typical hamburgers, hot dogs and fries, as well as, Colombian Empanadas, Buñuelos, but the fresh made to order Pizzas and Calzones were the best to go foods!

I would go back for sure, but the attraction to this destination for me, is Cartagena!

  • Stayed February 2013, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
2 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
7 helpful votes 7 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed March 17, 2013

This hotel is only 2 years and as you would expect it is very nice and everything is well maintained. We upgraded to the deluxe room with a jacuzzi on the patio, the room was very large with separate living space and bedroom.
One of the nice things about this hotel is they have 2 swimming pools one being what is described as a quite pool, this pool is situated amongst the 3 buildings housing the rooms, very nice to sit on your patio and look out to it.
The larger pool is where they hold all the aerobics and games during the day, loud music and constant shouting in Spanish to try and get you involved with the activities, not a problem for us as this is normal in the Caribbean and does add fun to your stay.
The hotel only as one bar which is quite small and can become very busy at times and service is quite slow, you will not find premium drinks as stated in the description by the hotel.
The restaurant buffet offers a variety of choices for meals, we found the lunch menu to be much better than the evening choices, if the choices are not to your liking there is a grill next to the buffet serving hamburgers and hot dogs, also in the evening you can order a selection of pasta dishes and pizza, you will need to ask for the menu as they do not advertise this option (we found out about this on our last night by accident).

Very nice clean hotel
Staff are friendly
The free shuttle service to the walled city is excellent and the guide on the bus gives you an historical overview of the city

The maid service is very poor, they basically just make the bed, towels, toilet paper etc are not replaced and you need to call the front desk to get them which does not mean it will happen.
There are no coffee makers in the rooms, they will supply one but again they do not replenish the coffee after the first time.
Our room was missing most of the items that the hotel boast of on their web site, I:e ironing board, microwave.
The nightly entertainment is substandard (mostly karaoke) compared to other hotels we have stayed at.

Room Tip: Upgrade to the deluxe room as the standard rooms are very small
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  • Stayed March 2013, traveled with friends
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Occidental Grand Cartagena

Address: Anillo Vial Via Manzanillo del mar Km. 4, Cartagena 985, Colombia
Location: Colombia > Bolivar Department > Cartagena District > Cartagena
Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Children Activities ( Kid / Family Friendly ) Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#19 On the Beach Hotel in Cartagena
#27 Family Hotel in Cartagena
#48 Romantic Hotel in Cartagena
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Occidental Grand Cartagena 3.5*
Number of rooms: 192
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