Cra. 1 No. 10-10, Cartagena, Colombia
"we had a wonderful time and would recommend this hotel for families"
Posted by: Donna on Feb 1, 2005
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In addition to its exclusive location and beautiful bayside balcony views, this Decameron Cartagena offers a wide variety of activities to suit all tastes. For instance, start your day with pool aerobics while the kids built sand castles, practice water sports, or simply take a trip to Baru Island and enjoy a day out with and open bar, snacks, kayaks and the many other activities Decameron can offer.
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"we had a wonderful time and would recommend this hotel for families"
Donna on Feb 1, 2005 >
8 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2005
366 people found this review helpful
We enjoyed Cartegena, the people, the hotel & food and the Baru beach. We felt pestered too much on the public beach but overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend this hotel for families & couples who aren't seeking peace & quiet.
We saw a last minute deal pop up for this hotel and after reading the mostly positive reviews on Debbie's site - we booked it. We paid $900.00 Canadian per person including all taxes, flights, hotel & food & bev. (except the $37.00 p.p. departure tax) . Overall, we were very pleased with our holiday. We had 5 sunny, hot days (it's humid there but not at all unbearable!) and two very cloudy days with lots of wind, which made it unsuitable for sunbathing or swimming for the most part. The hotel workers were friendly, helpful and cheerful to a fault. The activity staff took a personal interest in my daughter, 18, and I (her mom, 45) and they helped us in any way they could - such as offering an extra aerobic class. The restaurant staff were helpful in translating the menus into English where required.
The room was very small with it's two single beds and ensuite shower, but it had a nice little balcony facing the ocean and we didn't spend much time in our room, so it didn't bother us. It was clean and well maintained by the maid each day. The hotel will send up a hair dryer or iron upon request. Be warned that it's better to call collect to Canada for a flat hotel fee of $3.50 U.S. per call (plus long distance charges to pay at home). I made four of these calls. My daughter called her boyfriend direct as his cell phone wouldn't accept a collect call and at his home the answering machine kicked in. Her 8 minute call cost almost $10.00 U.S. A safe deposit box rental in the room is $14.00 for the week and I do advise using it
We liked the seafood restaurant (especially the fish fillet on the grill, which is Dorado fish & v. tasty) and the San Pedro (in the old city) restaurant. You can go to San Pedro once per 7 days, but we found that an extra visit was okay if they had room. We were able to go once to the international side (we had a lovely Thai dish) and once to the Japanese side (a meal cooked in front of us on a large grill - consisting of Oriental style veggies, chicken, beef & rice). I suggest booking your San Pedro visits at 7 a.m. when the booking desk opens and as early in your trip as possible, to make sure that you get to go. The food overall was plentiful, varied and tasty. We have no complaints there at all.
Pool and beach:
The pool was clean and the only drawback is that you get sun on one side in the AM and on another side in the PM with total shade at times due to the high rise structure of both the Decameron and the neighbouring properties. Most afternoons, loud music was played and activities went on at the poolside stage. The activity staff had a habit of yelling everything (in Spanish) at the top of their lungs, so if you crave peace & quiet poolside, this is not the place for you. For the most part, we enjoyed the fun & games and I did 3 aerobic classes which were very enjoyable, as they were done poolside in the fresh air. The local beach is blackish sand, but clean. The worst thing of all at the beach are the numerous pushy vendors and we just stopped interacting with them but for the briefest "Non gracias!" as we were constantly interrupted and pestered and it was spoiling our relaxation. We just resorted to lying in the sun with our eyes closed and leaving all our valuables back in the hotel safe. I did agree to an on the beach massage of my feet and back and it cost about $8.00 U.S. for a very nice 15-20 mins massage. Our Conquest tour rep had advised us to pay no more than 50% of the initial offer from the vendors and that seemed to work well for the few bits & pieces that we did buy.
The Decameron offered boat trips with meals included to the white sand beach of Baru. In the brochure they were $12.50 U.S. per person per day, but we paid $17.00 each as port taxes were not included after all. It was well worth it on the sunny day we had there. We did snorkeling and wind sailing and enjoyed the beautiful sand and clear waters. It took 90 mins each way on a sturdy boat that doesn't let you feel too much of the ocean, which is good because in a smaller craft, I would have been seasick on the way back, which is a rougher ride. We all felt that 4 hours on the island wasn't enough though - 6 hrs. per visit would have been better value for our money and better use of our time when you consider it's a 3 hour round trip! The 2nd visit, unfortunately, was spoiled by cloud cover until it was almost time to leave which left me wishing I'd checked the weather before booking. It is possible to book this trip just before it departs at 7:15 AM so check the weather report. The boat ride was fun because we had dancing and games to entertain us.
We did the old city bus/walking tour and it was interesting and well done. There's a lot of walking - be warned - much of it is uphill! Beware the men who ask you if you'd like to hold their sloth and take your photo with it, with your own camera, as after you have, they will insist on payment. They wanted $5.00 but we paid $3.00. Other tours were offered, but we wanted to spend a lot of time at the beach and pool so didn't do any more. At the docks, the price for some of the tours is better than it is by booking at the hotel. You can get a taxi ride for a flat $2.00 U.S. so that may be a better way to do it. We were happy to be with our fellow Canadians so we didn't mind paying a bit more to travel with our new friends from the hotel.
We enjoyed Cartegena, the people, the hotel & food and the Baru beach. We felt pestered too much on the public beach but overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend this hotel for families & couples who aren't seeking peace & quiet. Be aware that customs officers search everyone's luggage and are very suspicious. My heated rollers got a lot of suspicion and debate and it was somewhat disconcerting to be suspected of hiding drugs in my hot rollers. Apparently everyone is under suspicion though, so just grin & bear it and don't pack anything you wouldn't want the rest of your co-travellers to see!
"if offered again should seriously be considered"
James on Jul 1, 2003 >
6 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jul, 2003
349 people found this review helpful
One couple I spoke to who took advantage of this stated it was a great value and if offered again should seriously be considered
The Decameron is a three star all-inclusive hotel located in the "Boca Grande" district of the city. This is the new area that is home to most of the city's hotels and nightlife. The hotel is located directly across the street from the public beach and has a small secure area on the beach with security to keep vendors away from the guests, beach chairs and a small all-inclusive beach bar.
The hotel consists of 240 rooms and one-bedroom apartments. These are in three twenty-three-story towers. There is also a central main lobby area.
The lobby contains in addition to the front desk, a currency exchange, tour operators desk, dinner reservations desk, and the tour operators desks. Near the lobby there is an emerald shop and a small gift and general store with a limited selection of items.
The hotel has three bars, all all-inclusive; in fact the whole hotel operates on an all-inclusive system with an identifying wristband. This must be worn at all times.
There is the already noted beach bar, which is open from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. In addition there are the lobby piano bar open in the evenings until 12:00 pm or later, and the pool bar, which opens at 10:00 am until 11:00 or 12:00 pm depending on how the evening is going.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet style and served at a semi open dining room by the pool. There are also snacks, pizza, sandwiches and hamburgers, available in the afternoon and as a late night snack.
Dinner is served at one of five restaurants Steakhouse, Italian, Seafood, Mexican or Japanese and reservations are made for the early (6:30) or late (8:30) seating each morning, the Japanese is the most popular and tends to fill up early.
The rooms are simple with one double or two single beds and bathroom with shower. There is cable television in the rooms, and a common T.V. lounge on the twenty-third floor near the Seafood restaurant. Towels and maid service are provided daily and beach towels are available daily near the pool.
There are safety deposit boxes in each room and rental can be arranged at the front desk for $2.00 U.S. per day. Only the one-bedroom apartments have balconies but there is an open hallway balcony on each floor with views of the city and beach. All rooms are air-conditioned.
The hotel has a full selection of activities both day and night, run by an enthusiastic and youthful animation staff. During the day activities are concentrated around the pool and beach and include aerobics, Spanish and dance lessons, volleyball beach and water, water polo and numerous games and contests.
There are also activities for children on a regular basis. At night there is always entertainment at the stage near the pool, either of a musical nature or audience participation.
There is also a massage and beauty salon near the pool and a scuba shop with accessories available for sale. Free scuba lessons are available daily in the pool and scuba trips can be arranged for qualified divers.
A small casino with blackjack and other tables and slot machines is located off the main lobby; the hours of operation are posted. Incidentally the casino offers a slightly better currency exchange rate (U.S. Dollars-Colombian Pesos) than the front desk.
The hotel has a second building also located in Boca Grande and reached by regular free shuttle bus. In this small building are located the Japanese Restaurant and the hotel disco, Gallo Loco. Decameron guests are admitted free to the disco and once inside all drinks at the upstairs bar are free.
All others pay a nominal cover charge. The disco is open every night until 3:00 am. A word of caution many of the attractive and friendly Colombian woman who frequent this disco (aside from hotel guests) are "working girls".
The Tour operator in the lobby is open daily. It is run by Contactos a local tour company. From here various tours in and around the city are available for reasonable costs.
These include a half-day city tour good for initial orientation, and the nightly "chiva" or party bus tour. Day trips outside the city include an inactive volcano and mud bath, a primitive fishing village in a mangrove swamp and boat trips to the Rosario Islands for snorkelling and sightseeing. Please note the Contactos desk will take both American and Colombian currency but not credit cards.
The Decameron operates it's own private beach club on Baru Island a one hour boat ride from Cartagena which leaves daily. The cost is $12.00 U.S. and both the boat and island have a free bar. A BBQ lunch is served and a variety of activities including sailing, windsurfing, canoes and snorkelling are available. Watch your drink around the tame parrots, as they tend to steal it.
The Decameron is an older hotel and some problems do exist. The elevators are small and slow and this is especially evident at check in/out. If possible try and get a room on the third or fourth floor to avoid the wait unless you don't mind stairs.
The telephone system is antiquated and wake up calls often not received, take an alarm clock. Long distance calling is available through the main switchboard but it is a slow process and there is a service charge. It is a better idea to make any calls from the main exchange in the old city.
The hotel's security personnel are efficient and perhaps somewhat zealous in pursuit of their duties. Dependant on one's point of view this can be a plus or minus. Because of the all-inclusive policy no one without a wristband will be admitted to the hotel. If you lose yours, you will be charged for a replacement.
In addition it is almost impossible to bring a non-guest either local or other tourist into the hotel. With the exception of the front desk staff, those at the Contactos desk and the animation staff, some of who are bilingual, most of the hotel staff understand little or no English, although they are patient and eager to help.
The check in procedures are slow and bureaucratic and after a long bus ride from the airport somewhat exasperating. This can be magnified if another group of tourists arrives at the same time. The hotel tries to stagger arrival times to eliminate this but airplanes are sometimes late.
There is no off-season as such as the hotel caters to Colombians on vacation from Bogotá and Cali, mainly in the summer months, as well as Europeans, Americans, and Canadians. Sometimes this may result in temporary over bookings.
This was the case during one of my visits there and the hotel offered guests two or three days at other resorts including Isla Palmas, a five star resort in the Rosario Islands free of charge to alleviate the overcrowding. One couple I spoke to who took advantage of this stated it was a great value and if offered again should seriously be considered