Stayed at the Barcelo Punta Cana with my husband and 19 year-old daughter from February 18th - February 25th, 2012. Had a "tropical" suite with Transat Holidays Prestige Class Inclusions, at a cost of $1500. per person. This was our first visit to the Dominican Republic. We were there for some R & R and to look at a property where we could bring the rest of our family (twelve people including adults and small children) next year.
First the good - this is a nice property with lovely grounds, great pools (we only frequented the "quiet" one) and beach. The staff was very friendly and did their best to accommodate our needs. Concierge service, bathrobes, slippers, beach towels and daily replenishment of the mini bar are good features of the Prestige Class.
Now the bad - unfortunately, the Barcelo Punta Cana falls far short of delivering the luxury and services touted by Transat Holidays as per our experiences outlined below:
- Although there is a separate check-in for Prestige Class clientele and we were the only ones in the queue, regular guests were actually being processed quicker. It took at least a half hour for us to be checked in. As well, it would be in much better taste to leave the welcome letter and bottle of rum in the room than to hand it to guests at the front desk, a rather gauche practice.
- Prestige Class offers dedicated room location, however, our first room was a Tropical Suite located in building five, one of the older buildings. The room was fine but is tired and dull looking and we soon discovered that there was no hot water in either of the bathrooms. We were unable to change rooms because the hotel was full, we were unable to transfer to another hotel (at an additional cost to us) because there was no availability and the hotel was unable to rectify the problem except for a short period of time on Sunday night when we had luke-warm water. (By the way, although we apprised the Transat Holidays representative of the problem, he never got back to us during the remainder of our stay to verify if the situation had been taken care of - so much for customer service!) My first bath in two days was followed by a flood from the bathtub pipes that we had to mop up with bath towels, and although we alerted the front desk to the problem, it was only much later in the evening when we once again spoke to them that someone from maintenance was sent to the room to investigate. We were still without hot water on Monday so after lunch I stood my ground with front desk and guest services personnel and insisted on meeting with the General Manager. She met us at the suite and discovered for herself that indeed, we were without hot water. This resulted in our being transferred to one of the hotel's Presidential suites. This is a huge, well appointed suite with magnificent views of the ocean. Her intervention certainly saved the day and for this we are very grateful.
- One of the two elevators in building three was out of order intermittently during our stay. As a matter of fact, we got stuck in it for a couple of minutes with the guest relations employee who was taking us to view our new room.
- Pre-arranged dinner reservations in the a-la-carte- restaurants are acceptable only if one has the flexibility to change the timing of these dinners. We were given reservations for 6:00 p.m. every night and when we told the front desk personnel that these were not suitable for us (we do not eat dinner at home that early and we certainly do not expect to be dictated to when on holiday), we were told that nothing could be done until the following day. At that point, one of the front desk employees was able to change our reservation for Sunday night and then we waited for an hour and a half while one of the tireless guest services employees worked on changing our reservations to more reasonable times ranging from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Curiously, regardless of the time we went to the restaurants, they were only ever three-quarters to half full.
- The noise from wedding parties, other revelers and music echoed throughout the hotel way past all reasonable hours. While we understand that people are on vacation and wish to enjoy themselves, it is unfair to keep other guests up until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and even later. Several people we encountered during our stay described this hotel as a "party hotel". Had we only known.........
- There is a dearth of umbrellas at the pools. After having been kept awake every night by loud music and partying one had to be up, dressed and downstairs no later than 6:45 a.m. in order to secure a prime spot under an umbrella or palapa. It became a race against time!
- There is a marked discrepancy between the food in the a-la-carte restaurants and the food at the buffets which for the most part, although plentiful, was inedible. (We have been on two school trips with our daughter when she was in high school to Greece and Spain, and the food provided on those trips was far better than that at this hotel's lunch and dinner buffet.) Most dishes were swimming in sauce, unpalatable and lacking any visual appeal. Ordinary items such as orange juice and skim milk were only available at the Prestige Internet Lounge. The Pizzeria (where the very personable Nilson was on duty) and El Mirador were good alternatives to the lunch buffets. The food in the a-la-carte restaurants we frequented was comparable to that found at the Iberostar and Grand Palladium resorts we have stayed at in other countries, however, the buffet food is way below the standards of these other properties.
- Smoking is allowed throughout the hotel, in all public areas such as the lobby, lobby bars and sitting areas, hallways, etc. In this day and age, one would think there would be designated smoking areas. For example, one bar and sitting area for smokers, the other for non-smokers.
We have travelled to various countries in the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe and this is the first time we have encountered so many issues with a property. We are not so naive as to expect that a 4 1/2 star resort in the Dominican Republic will compare with a 4 1/2 star in New York, but we do expect it to be well maintained, offer good food and comfort to all guests. We acknowledge the fact that all-inclusive resorts must cater to a broad range of tastes and clientele, however, we feel the Barcelo Punta Cana did not meet the standards we were expecting. Since our return home, our research indicates that complaints about the plumbing (problems with both hot and cold water, leaks, etc.), the food, the rooms, etc. go back several years and seem to be ongoing. We witnessed a number of angry and disgruntled hotel guests venting their frustration at the front desk and guest services counter during our sojourn at the hotel.
Although the room we were eventually moved to was great and the employees hard-working and eager to please, this property just has too many negatives to consider a return visit. When one comes home more tired and stressed out than when one left for a holiday, it cannot be deemed a success. We will definitely not be returning to the Barcelo Punta Cana.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC