At the start of my Dominican Republic trip, I decide to stay one night at the super sized Barcelo Palace Hotel.
My cab driver Carlo charges 1000 Dominican Peso’s ($ 28 US) for the ride from Punta Cana airport to the Barcelo Palace Hotel. One hour after landing I enter the Barcelo Palace lobby. It is the Friday before Easter and the hotel is filled up to the brim. It has not been easy to get a one-night reservation for a single room ( I am a women travelling on my own) since hotels in Punta Cana avoid this kind of bookings.
My room, # 6029, does not feature a frontal ocean view but thankfully I can see the
Ocean from my terrace on the ground floor. Very refreshing after plowing through a nasty winter. Still I cannot deny feeling slightly depressed this first night of my DR arrival. This might have something to do with my 10-hour flight or the fact that I am not a huge fan of all inclusive vacation resorts. Having said that, I always felt quite all right staying in Melia (Paradisus) resorts elsewhere. Maybe I feel this way because from the first moment onwards, the Barcelo Palace comes across like a resort where routine reigns. I suppose that to some extend this is normal, but I feel more processed rather than welcomed.
Despite it is the Easter weekend, there is only one gentleman in front of me at time of check in and after 30 minutes I am walking with a porter to my room # 29 in building six. It is not easy at all to get the porter to leave my room and although I have plenty of experience travelling in the Caribbean, I feel slightly uncomfortable with this pushy male in my room.
My room is big, has a tile floor en smells moldy. Like always I look underneath my bed, here I discover lots of piled up dust. The bathroom also looks like it has been cleaned in 30 seconds. The mattress cover and curtains don’t look fresh, towels are old, the soap dispenser is dirty and needs replacement, the poster on the wall is way to small for the size of its frame and the base of the large standing light is rusting as are the two iron chairs and table on the terrace. Time doesn’t take it easy on most of everything.
The airco also has its routine as it kicks in every half hour with a noise that in combination with the disco nearby guarantees a sleepless night. The television channels come in fuzzy and the sound of TV is almost as awful as that of the airco. I always wonder:" Why do hotel rooms always have so little outlets available for the time you want to plug in your laptop ?" Well you get it, the room is a total disaster but to be fair I have to mention it is also sunny and the water pressure of the shower is ok. The bed is also nice and big and the safety chain on the door is a feature, which I, being a woman travelling “solo”, highly appreciate.
The minibar holds two beers, Coca Cola (light and regular!), a large bottle of water and some other types of soft drinks. There is an ice bucket available but this is of no use to me since the ice compartment ironically needs to be de-iced before it can become functional again.
The wide beach is nothing less than spectacular; white powder sand, palm trees and of course a marvelous blue sea. Lots of loungers too! The surrounding grounds are kept up perfectly by gardeners who are picking up leaves, pruning trees and harvest the coconuts just before they might fall on someone’s head. I see some little birds flying up and down with twigs, building their nests high up in the palm tree. Evidently spring also has arrived here.
The pathways towards the beach, restaurants, lobby and rooms gently wind through a landscape made up by lush vegetation and a vast number of palm trees. Nicely done!
During the check-in process, I learned about the various restaurants of Barcelo Palace. One is closed which seems awkward during the busy Easter weekend. I can imagine that once you arrive for the first time in a large resort like this one, you feel kind of overwhelmed by all the (restaurants) choices, which are at your disposal; at least that happened to me. I decided therefore to hit the lobby bar first. The white wine is inelegantly poured out of an, also super sized, plastic bottle. After sitting down at one of the small tables, a friendly waitress offers me some bite size sandwiches decorated with combinations of cheese, tomato, ham, chorizo and some kind of caviar. Nicely and not so nicely dressed families pass me by on way to the restaurants which all are located nearby the pool. After my drink, I also decide to find out which restaurant can offer me a relaxed and quiet table to eat.
The French restaurant Chez Palace is non-smoking en does not look cozy at all due to way to much white light. The menu displayed at the entrance looks attractive to me but “ambience” is more important to me. I move on to the buffet, which many families with children seem to prefer and where the noise level on a scale from 1-10 is about eleven. After crossing the small bridge over the swimming pool I find a nice, small restaurant with a large number of folks waiting outside for a table. Not exactly what I planned to do so I move on to the Dominican Restaurant around the corner, which hugs the beach and offers local specialties. I like this! The restaurant is not busy at all; this might have something to do with the fact that many visitors are unfamiliar with the dishes explained on the menu and their Caribbean ingredients.
Local food is local, so I pick Yucca Soup, rice, beans in a special sauce, fried chicken pieces and fried banana. My desert consists of a popular traditional sweet made from condensed milk with a caramel topping, which is called “flan”. All in all I enjoy a great meal although I have my doubts if the red house wine has not been watered down;)
Breakfast in the buffet restaurant is just fine. Lots of choices, friendly staff, fast and good service and fresh squeezed juices made from fruits of my choice.
Because I only stay here one night and I have to confront the inevitable jetlag, I skip the evening show and go to sleep right after dinner. In the lobby I did see an activities board with lots of options and two desks with representatives where you can book off-resort excursions as well as various information desks.
Way to small! Especially when the hotel is packed!
In these modern times I think that it is a rip-off when hotels charge you for Wi-Fi. This should be a standard service! Internet costs at the Barcelo Palace run from $5 US for 15 minutes using one of the 4 PC’s in the lobby to $ 60 US for Wi-Fi, which covers the whole complex, on your laptop.
I imagined the Barcelo Palace to be much more luxurious, offering services of a much higher level. In my opinion this is a commercial tourist factory, lacking a sense of romanticism, a place where they forget to enhance the experience of staying on a truly fantastic beach. Maybe a new management with a fresh approach could bring a much-needed change and couple a brilliant location with a superb resort experience.