Just now back from the Barcelo Palace late June 2013. Very high marks to the Barcelo. Here are some points for forum browsers:
Overall: Resort is highly comparable to Palladium and Iberostar properties, if that helps. More like IB in that there are 5 resorts spread into three “levels” – (basic, Delux, and Palace) , but more like the palladium in the uniform similarity of these levels. If you like either of those you will like the Barcelo. There are a lot of children here, so make sure that you are OK with that. We are childless and were fine.
Grounds are truly beautiful. Some of the nicest we have seen resort-wide. The architecture over at the Palace is different, but the grounds are similarly lovely. The beach is fantastic.
As I noted yesterday, as of right now the Maya Beach Hotel is closed. Thus booking the Caribe may lessen your experience, as those folks do not have privs at the more expensive properties. Guests of the Col / Trop / and especially Palace will not notice a thing.
Unlike some other posters, I think it is critical to book the Palace (if you have the cash) for the full resort experience. Here is why:
Palace – fantastic, large, and lively lobby bar area (air conditioned). Aesthetics and layout which are significantly different from the rest of the resort. Buffet has better offerings – better food offerings all around. Liquor has better choices if you care about that. (Only two beers to be found though – corona and negra modelo on draft. Whole resort. ) Main Pool is enormous, awesome, and adult pool is chill. Yes, there IS drink service at the main pool, none at the beach. There are also bars everywhere you turn.
Towel game in full force at the main pool. We never played and always found a place. Shady palms everywhere on the beach. Plenty of shade at the pool as well. Soapbox: Do not play the towel game. If you do, you are part of the problem. Do not rationalize it! By the way we were so much luckier with the weather than the crew from a couple of weeks ago. 5 sunny (1 super windy) 2 rainy. Rainy days during our excursions into Playa and Valladolid.
The two-in-one buffets at the palace maintain one as the “Mexican” and the other as the rotating theme. They are connected. Supposedly air conditioned but they could get super hot when busy. I still think the Iberostar buffets are better. If you have kids, you will like this place, because there are more childrens’ offerings at the Barcelo than many other resorts. A la cartes were uniformly excellent resort-wide, with the Spanish (Caribe) being our least favorite by a wide margin. The French Brasserie was outstanding, and that’s not even our thing. My wife had a PERFECT tenderloin at the Brazillian – full steakhouse quality.
There were no kiosks selling food – to dispel that rumor – it is possible to buy addl snacks at the coco bar, or the adult pool cielo bar. Most would find that simply unnecessary.
The biggest issue here is back to front, where water = front. Our room (8571) was perfect – the closest non club premium room to the activity areas (Oaxaca bldg.) If you are in the 84XX (Michoacan) or the 89XX (Oaxaca) blocks – those are a long way back. Prepare to walk a lot. We were assigned 8972, and were unhappy with the bedding , so requested a change to a single king. Little did we know how much of a difference the location would make to our water-based lifestyle. Rooms have a mini bar inside what appears to be a fridge, but it does not function as a fridge, so you have to get ice to chill your beverage. We complained that our fridge was broken, and were told that none of the fridges worked as such (?) There is a drying rack outside, but not a bathroom clothesline so bring your own. Bathrooms are functional and more private than at the Palladium. Rooms are actually very nice overall with minimal décor and a generally modern sense.
The front desk was fine – the attitudes were good and the staff was hard working. The issue is that it takes them SO LONG to do everything, because they always have to disappear around back to figure something out with a supervisor. Seems inefficient.
Anyway – lemmee know what else you want answered! I will modify this for a review shortly.