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“jewel in the rough”

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Occidental Cartagena
Ranked #45 of 153 Hotels in Cartagena
Barrie, Canada
Level Contributor
30 reviews
18 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 30 helpful votes
“jewel in the rough”
Reviewed January 7, 2012

We stayed here Dec22-29th. It is a small resort, very clean and quiet, not much action.Flew with Can-Jet (5 hrs) very good service. Airport at Cartagena(customs) was slow, everyone gets fingerprinted.It is also under construction, so no duty-free on return.
Buses waiting for the ride to the resort (25min) Check-in at resort was very quick, rooms were ready,probably because we were the first plane to arrive from Canada. Resort has 3 buildings, 5 floors high and elevators. Rooms were very modern and clean, stocked fridge, and safe in room (free) free wi-fi, walk in shower. If you want oceanview you need to be on 3rd floor or higher. Food was good lots of variety, but not very hot, it has 1 a'la carte, which you can book every night. It also has a grill and pizzeria, both being outside. They did a wonderful Christmas dinner .
Shuttles run into town during the day starting at 8.00 a,m, you have to sign up for them.No store on the resort for essentials, so bring lots of sunscreen and bug spray, they came out after 6 p.m
Excursion are few, we did the city tour (50.00) very interesting, but a lot of walking and climbing.
The resort needs to work on their service and language, they try very hard and are very friendly.
Overall: great vacation, lots of relaxation, quiet and would not hesitate to go back, it is a jewl in the rough.
Hi to Wanda and Jamie, Annette, Henry and kids. it was nice getting to know you
T & L from Barrie
1406

Room Tip: Building 1 does not get sun at all during the day
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
18 Thank trudi3156
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Toronto
Level Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed January 7, 2012

no money exchange at hotel
no stores at resort
beaches could be nicer
water is grayish...not the nice blue expected from the caribbean
restaurant service is slow
lack luster lobby
resort is maybe a 3 star
far from everything...need transport everywhere 30 min from town...free shuttles running but taking a $20 USD taxi ride is quicker
only the "tourist" stores in the old town will except USD
suites have nice kitchens but no coffee makers...also..your glasses will be picked up only if in sink
lost hot water...no notification until we called..we will let you know when it's back...never got a call...was frustrating as we had made dinner reservations at the a la carte rest.
next door...to the east...a farmer burns garbage every morning...smell blows into resort
apparently the beach is also his cow crossing.
very little shade...2 days in a row...they even took the umbrellas away..quite windy (locals say it will be windy from Jan-Mar)
not enough lounge chairs for everybody..constant fight to get one...some guests even stealing chairs
from sunset for 60-90 min a lot of mosquitos and sand flies on beach
after 5 pm only one bar open to serve whole hotel...usually 1-2 bartenders...causes long delays waiting for a drink

They really need to work out some details before expecting a better rating

PS...airport is under construction until 2013...cant purchase any booze past security...so u have to buy in advance and pack in checked luggage

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
8 Thank Richard B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ontario
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed January 4, 2012

Just returned from this property we travelled from Dec 26 to Jan 2 we are both experienced travelers, and don't expect the world when travelling. The hotel is new so going in we expected some glitches. The check in was terrible very unorganizied with only a couple of girls working to process a plane load of tired people. They had chairs set up in the check in room, and people where suppose to sit and wait for thier names to be called. If people had listened to the hotel staff it would have gone a lot smoother, but people don't like to listen!! Once we checked in our rooms where ready which was great as we where very tired. The room that we had was not big but ok. They put us in an adjoining room which didn't seem to be a problem until the neighbours arrived. The sound proofing around the door was terrilble and might as well been no door as you could make out everything that was going on including the guy puking in his toilet. They seem to have a problem with the air conditioning as it is very cool through the daytime but at night warms up to about 23 degrees which made it a little un-comfortable for sleeping.They also ran out of water on two occasions so noooo showers. The hotel is not huge and thats why we decided to go with it as we have been to the large ones, its easy to get around with two good sized pools one for adults only. They had a problem with chairs as there was never enough for everyone including the beach. We found the beach great! if you don't mind the dark sand never to rough but some good waves for the boogie boards. The food was ok with a pretty good assortment for everyone, the biggest problem we found was that the staff didn't monitor the food enough, and things where always running out, and not refilled, this was an ongoing problem. The day before New Years there was alot of management around, and things ran a lot better. Even in the restaurants that you have to book they would run out of food, we booked the Mexican one night as we where all craving nachos, and they ran out of them. It got to be a bit of a joke by the end of the trip! The staff where always around to offer you coffee in the morning, and wine at night but just
could'nt seem to keep the food going. The drinks where not good at all!! we actually mixed our own as they didn't have a clue how to make a drink. There was a huge language barrier as well with very little of the staff being able to speak english, we tried our best with Spanish but became very annoying after a week.The town of Cartegena is very beautiful and should be seen by all, we had no problems in town, and people where very nice we went out to La Longasta for a lobster dinner one night which was very good. So over all we enjoyed our holiday in Colombia, but will probably not rerturn in the near future.

Room Tip: Avoid adjoining rooms unless you have to very loud
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank storminOntario
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Ajax
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
Reviewed December 31, 2011

We arrived December 22nd and left December 29th and by the end of our vacation we wished we had booked for two weeks. We loved the fact it was a smaller resort when full it held around 320 people, being a smaller resort it made it easier to meet people even if it was just a friendly hello at breakfast.

The staff are exceptionally great, we had a junior suite ocean view our room was like a condo the fridge was always well stocked and always clean.

We did go to the restaurant for several dinners and the food was always hot and delicious. The main buffet had many foods to choose from but sometimes not as hot as I would liked, but I believe this will be looked after. The grill is wonderful where you can order your food and be served lots of choices steak, salmon.

Breakfast was great, we also asked for a coffee craft which my husband would go down and have filled with coffee every morning.

They didn't have a store when we were there but you will soon see one that will sell sun screen and bug spray. My husband and I were not bothered by insects but we didn't visit the beach due to the fact it wasn't the white sand but we knew that before we went.

We used the free shuttle into Town and it was great, Nolitours offered many tours and people were booking them and seemed to be happy.

We noticed the service everyday got better, being a new resort with new staff who were eager to help this resort will not be as reasonable in the future.

My husband and I really enjoyed our stay very relaxing it was a perfect spot for us we really loved it. Our room we originally booked was the deluxe hot tub room but when we arrived it was not ocean view and on the main floor, we ask to be changed to a ocean view room and they gave us a Junior Suite Room with ocean view room 1301 but this type of room is not offered by Nolitours but it made our holiday.

Room Tip: Corner Room Ocean view have a rap around balcony they are suites
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
27 Thank Wanda D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Toronto, Canada
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
Reviewed December 29, 2011

Exceptionally great staff, gem of a property, very clean and architecturally pleasing.
Delicious food and attentive waiters.
Rooms awesome, Pools big and clean.
Almost deserted beach,not white sand, but great nonetheless.
Needs more entertainment at night as there is NOTHNG close to the resort.
Far from old town, but not a problem as there are plenty of free shuttles all day long.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
23 Thank 1a2s3d4f
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Windsor ON
Level Contributor
27 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
Reviewed December 29, 2011

I found the review by kevenv of Moncton quite detailed and accurate, and I will just add my own personal flavour and some extras to my review.
My most important warning is that all rooms have connecting doors that allow most sounds( TV, music,crying,conversations) to travel between the rooms. If you are unfortunate enough to have a noisy neighbor, like we had during our first 3 nights, then you will loose sleep and have a non-relaxing experience during your stay. On the other hand if you have a quiet Canadian traveler next to you (which we had during our last 4 nights) or are immune to noises waking you up at night then you will probably write a good review of the rooms and sleep quality. However no matter who your neighbors are you will hear the barrage of banging doors in the morning due to the poor quality fit of the room entrance doors .
The two queen bed room itself was of average quality but not deserving of a 4.5 star rating. The brick flooring is a nice touch but don't trust it to be clean. Another room warning is that the maids are good at removing dirty towels but not replacing them with clean ones.
The next warning I have has to do with the number of restaurants; despite what the travel company sites say there are only two eating areas. An a la carte restaurant in a building that has a different theme each night and a open air restaurant where you can eat buffet style or order food from a pizzeria or a grill (see pictures). That said, the food itself is very good and getting an a la carte reservation each night was obtainable if you are persistent.
Although management is friendly and cooperative it is not very organized, especially when it come to providing information on booking (e.g. how to and when to book the shuttle bus or a la carte) For now the best advice is to keep asking different staff/managers until you get what you want since each one has a different interpretation of the "rules"
My last major warning is a repeat of what others have said; the beach is not only dark sand but also dark mud and you do have to worry about sand fleas. The water was cloudy with 2-3 foot waves but still nice to do activities in (until something rubs against you and you can't see what is was, seaweed? harmless fish? jellyfish?)
The hotel pools where great especially the no children quiet pool .
I consider the location of the hotel a plus since it allows you to experience the Columbia countryside and is great for walking around to see the flora and fauna , something you don't get with the central located hotels.
Other travel notes: No shopping store at hotel. Very few tours from the hotel. Hotel does not cash travelers cheques but you can use them to pay for trips. Hotel's horseback riding tour was good but the guide only speaks English. Best to use pesos rather then US$ and buy them at the airport or bank in old city. Check the history of people who give this hotel an excellent rating ( some have never been to a hotel that was less then excellent( ie. no room for improvement).
In summery then, this resort is a good value if you get it at a reduced price,you are expecting a 3.5-4 star resort and you are willing to take a chance of getting a good room neighbor.

Room Tip: Try to pair up with another quiet traveler through the blogs to be your connecting door neighbor , t...
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
5 Thank TropicalSerenity
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Keswick, Canada
Level Contributor
8 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 22 helpful votes
Reviewed December 29, 2011

A lovely new facility, with the most friendly, happy staff but I can't say that the experience is one I would recommend. Maybe in a few months or a year when the hotel has worked out the kinks. The first thing you need to know is that getting into the country takes a long time as they check everyone's finger prints. Our plane took close to 2 hours to get through immigation and that was with most of the the boothes open. Not a great way to start after a 5 hour plane ride.
This was the first time that this hotel had been open to Canadians and without boring you with all the details what you need to know is that the staff do not appear to have been given clear direction/training about any number of things. The other problem is the fact that most staff have very limited English and our Spanish is equally as bad, so communiating what we wanted was very difficult as was getting questions answered.
The description of the restaurants that I saw did not suggest that the Grill/Steakhouse was just a side patio of the buffet. The same for the pizza place which was only open from 6:30 until 10 pm.
The a la carte restaurant was in an air conditioned building with 20 tables. They changed the theme every night but it was basicly the same food with a different spice used. The food was usually good and it was served hot. The other eating choice was the buffet where the food was lukewarm if you were lucky. There was a nice variety but not as big as many buffets I have seen.
If you are an early riser, it is a challenge to get coffee before 7 as there are no coffee makers in the room nor a coffee stand that guests can access. If you can find staff they will get some for you but you do have to get dressed and go to the restaurant area. There is no room service.
Housekeeping was also a problem in our experience. Most days the bed was made up and our towels folded, but floors were not swept, nor tabletops dusted or the toilet bowl cleaned.
Even though I knew the sand would not be white and the water would not be aqua coloured, I was still disappointed, especially since the beach had garbage strewn about. We also discovered that there was probably sand fleas as many who walked the beach ended up badly biten. When we were there the on-site store was not open, so be sure to take lots of antihistamines, after bite and calamine lotion. Even if the fleas don't bother you the misquitoes will.
You can dull the pain with the alcohol as they serve very generous drinks, but you never know if what you want will be available. Some days we couldn't get light beer, diet coke and even red wine. Other days they served real Bailey's.
We didn't pay top dollar for this trip, and we got what we paid for so maybe we learned a lesson.
If I had only one word to sum up our experieince - it would be inconsistent.

Room Tip: they couldn't accomodate the request we made for a ground or second floor room -
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
19 Thank LynneA297
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Occidental Cartagena

Property: Occidental Cartagena
Address: Anillo Vial Via Manzanillo del mar Km. 4 | No. 9-85, Cartagena 985, Colombia (Formerly Estelar Grand Playa Manzanillo)
Phone Number:
Location: Colombia > Bolivar Department > Cartagena District > Cartagena
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#14 Spa Hotel in Cartagena
#15 On the Beach Hotel in Cartagena
#21 Family Hotel in Cartagena
#37 Romantic Hotel in Cartagena
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Occidental Cartagena 3.5*
Number of rooms: 190
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Occidental Grand Cartagena Resort***** hotel's objective is to provide luxury, all-inclusive services on the seafront on the beautiful beaches of Manzanillo Bay. It is close to the cosmopolitan city of Cartagena de Indias. It has a contemporary design and a very calm ambience, and our guests' first impression is of an idyllic resort to relax and unwind in. Have a dip in the pool, stroll around the beautiful lush gardens or enjoy the 24-hour drink and snack service. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Occidental Grand Cartagena Hotel Cartagena

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