My wife and I just returned from 7 nights at the Barcelo Palace. Generally, I would say the Barcelo resort is similar to a large upscale well run Las Vegas style hotel (minus the gambling) in the middle of Riviera Maya in terms of accommodations, food, services and amenities. That comes with some corresponding drawbacks but overall our experience was very positive and I imagine that the Barcelo Palace would be perfect fit for a family with younger children. For the most part we only saw families or couples and no single persons or groups of single persons at the Palace. It was an excellent experience overall and I would not hesitate to recommend the Barcelo Palace for any family or couples vacation.
The Grounds and Buildings. The grounds are very well laid out and tended to by ever present grounds and maintenance crews. Overall the grounds and buildings are immaculate, beautiful and inviting with many fountains, growing and cut flowers and ocean vistas with comfortable lounge chairs. The complex is very large and spread out. While that does mean some walking or taking the trolley, it is generally acceptable. It took roughly 45 minutes (including wait time) to take the trolley from the Palace lobby to the equipment hut on the other end of the property. Walking probably would have taken 25-30 minutes. There are plenty of birds and other wildlife along the grounds but nothing threatening; I would recommend making up wildlife bingo for those long walks or rides to and from one place to another.
The Room. We stayed in a non-Club Premium junior suite on a third floor room. The rooms were spacious with a king bed, plenty of storage space, two sofa/daybeds, a balcony, a large bathroom/toilet. I think the Palace rooms are generally the same except for a few specialty rooms. The floors are marble or polished stone so you do have to be careful not to slip when the floor is wet. The balcony did have two chairs, a little table and a pull out drying rack. The hotel includes many toiletries, more than the average hotel. The quality, however, was probably fairly middling so if you are particular about your toothpaste, shampoo or shaving kit, you still should bring your own. I generally didn’t care too much but none of the included toiletries were particularly special. The included snacks were very nice though: Japanese iso-style peanuts, spicy peanuts, potato chips, chocolate wafer bars along with beer, various sodas, orange juice boxes and plenty of bottled water. My small pet peeve is that whole lots of hotels now have a flat screen tv’s, I seldom find one that includes the high definition service to go with that tv. The Olevia flat screen was ok but don’t expect the crystal clear picture of your Sony or Samsung. Still, there were plenty of tv viewing choices in multiple languages for your limited time in the room. We never did figure out how to order movies or use LodgeNet though. Overall, I think the rooms were a very good value, comfortable, spacious with plenty of extras. There would have been plenty space for two adults and two little ones. For us, we just had plenty of room to spread out. The room was simple enough not to feel too fancy for a family with little kids (e.g. not too many breakable items or attractive nuisances) and still luxurious enough to feel like upscale hotel room for adults.
The Food. Everyone’s opinion of food is very subjective so take it all the following with a grain of salt. The Palace featured two buffet restaurants, three ala carte restaurants and a grill. In principal one of the buffet restaurants would be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the grill supplementing the hours between breakfast and dinner for a snack or quick lunch and then the specialty restaurants would be open at night for a more special dinner meal. In practice (probably because of the low occupancy), one buffet was open for breakfast and dinner only with just the grill open for lunch. Generally, this was fine although you began to get tired of the more limited grill choices after a couple of days. There is no poolside or beachside grill or food service. Palace guest do, however, get to make use of the other hotel’s restaurants, including some limited reservations at the ala carte restaurants.
Breakfast probably offered the best meal choices. There were always plenty of different things for breakfast, including eggs and omelets to order, smoothies made to order, fresh doughnuts, grilled bagel sandwiches, huevos ahogados, huevos motulenos, tamales, cold cuts, fresh fruit, frosted flakes, and about one hundred other things. Lunch in the grill had a much more limited space and corresponding choices. Most people at lunch seemed to gravitate toward the burgers, steaks and fish grilled to order. There are plenty of salads and cooked vegetables along with various prepared proteins and starches. There is also a pasta station, cooked to order. Dinner was a combination of breakfast and lunch with expanded grilled to order options, teppanyaki station, sushi, and a very large variety of meats, vegetables, salads and desserts. We went to 4 ala carte restaurants: The French and Caribbean restaurants at the Palace and the Japanese teppanyaki and the seafood restaurant at the Colonial. I think for a 7 night stay you get a choice of 4 ala carte restaurants but we just happened to book 4; I think we could have book more if we wanted to because of the low occupancy. We would probably say the best two ala carte restaurants were tried were the French and Caribbean, followed by the teppanyaki and a rather unremarkable meal at the seafood restaurant.
As for the food itself, I’ll just say that (1) it really resembled an upscale casino buffet mostly and (2) it is a matter of perspective. First, the buffets were all pretty good but it did begin to get a little repetitive, especially at lunch, by the end of the week. There were certainly plenty of options at breakfast and dinner and they did sort of have a theme night, e.g. French night, Italian night, and Brazilian night. I think my only real criticism of the buffets was that I have a feeling that some of ingredients were not entirely the freshest. For example, several times the sushi, sashimi and carpaccio tasted fishy, not fresh as they should have. The grilled to order large prawns all looked nice but tasted mealy and broke apart in your mouth, probably a sign they were frozen too long or no longer fresh. The even the individual sized breakfast cereal showed an intake date from 3 months ago and an unopened box had stale Sugar Pops. But generally these problems were minor. We took a tour of the kitchens (which I highly recommend) and we very impressed at the food handling procedures in the kitchens as well what we observed in the dining room. We had no issues or fears about food safety at any time. In fact they overcooked some things probably to avoid food issues, e.g. they put out large cold poached lobsters which looked great but were devoid of any sweetness or other flavor because they were way over-poached.
Second, it is all a matter of perspective. I sort of felt that I could assign a large part of the hotel costs to lodging, facilities and entertainment options. Therefore all included food was almost a bonus. I therefore wasn’t horribly disappointed or offended by some of the less than 5 star meals. For example, whatever they presented as lobster thermidor was in no way lobster thermidor but it was rather tasty. If you were expecting the lobster thermidor like you had Le Bec Finn, you are going to be sorely disappointed. I had several ribeye steaks. If you expect thick cut dry aged prime steak ala Morton’s Steakhouse, you are going to be seriously unhappy. I was ok with the thin, slightly tough ribeye steak since they were fresh off the grill, generally seasoned well and I basically paid a Sizzler price for them.
All in all, the food was plenty adequate, even tasty, to satisfy any number of palates. I certainly have paid much more for much less. Think of the Palace buffet like a very good casino buffet, good value with some occasional terrific items but not someplace you’re just dying to eat at on a daily basis.
Service. Service was excellent, beyond reproach. Whether you tip the service people or not, they provided top notch service. Most people spoke some English or were quite willing to tolerate my poor Spanglish. I can easily see how this would be a great non-threatening place for kids; there is little to no language barrier.
Activities. We spent the first part of our trip trying out the myriad choices of things to do and then decided that the very best part of being there was to lounge around doing absolutely nothing. I’m sure the archery, mini golf, various poolside games, shopping, shows, and alike were all great but we enjoyed doing absolutely nothing. We did take in a show one night which was not very good. As I said above, I highly recommend the kitchen tour.
Beach and pools. The beach immediately in front of the Palace is indeed fairly rocky and the sand is not very soft or fine. The snorkeling is excellent though. The beaches as you progress toward the Caribe portion of the resort were increasing picture and sensitive feet perfect. At the south end of the resort the sand was powdery and just this side of heaven. Even so, I would recommend water shoes in any portion of the long beach. The palapa beds at the adult pool were a tranquil oasis which we made use of on a daily basis. The main pool also seemed perfectly great but it was occasionally filled with the cries of various drunken tourists and lacked the palapa beds. As a practical matter, I never saw anyone in any pool or the ocean after dark.
Drinks. Alcoholic drinks seemed fine but we drink only a little so the hotel probably made money on us on that. There were plenty of water, juices, sodas and non alcoholic drinks to satisfy anyone. The bartending was a little inconsistent as I never got two lemonades that tasted the same but generally it was all fine.
Spa. It was very nice and perfectly adequate. I think the new age like spas in Tulum might provide more of that mystical connection that some people want in the Yucatan and the big spa centered resorts might provide more of a luxury spa experience that others are looking for. Don't get me wrong. The spa, shared by all the hotels, was great and the prices were discounted in the low season. It was just neither the posh over the top experience nor the little palapa in the jungle with a shaman chanting over you experience.
In summary, I think the resort is perfect for any young family. We found it very family focused and kid friendly. While there are probably more romantic, adults only resorts in the area, we found perfectly acceptable for just the two of us. I would hesitate to recommend the Palace for singles as it was not particularly geared toward singles. Perhaps the Colonial, which seemed to have a younger, more active crowd, might be a better choice for the single traveler or younger unattached groups. The single largest drawback is that it is a very large complex and the food may sometimes be less than what you ideally expect and I think there are better choices for the single traveler or even the couple, but I think the Barcelo Palace is a great choice for any family or a couple in terms of accommodations, ease of use, quality of facility and activity options.
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- Also Known As:
- Barcelo Puerto Aventuras
- Barcelo Hotel Maya Beach
- Barcelo Maya Palace
- Barcelo Maya Mexico
- Barcelo Maya Resort
- Catalonia Rivera Maya
- Maya Beach Resort
- Barcelo Beach Maya Mayan Resort Riviera
- Barcelo Maya Beach Resort Cancun
- Hotel Barcelo Maya Beach Riviera Maya/Puerto Aventuras, Mexico