November 6 – 13, 2004 We flew Air Transat out of Toronto. We purchased the Club Transat upgrade, and it is well worth it. The upgrade gives you big seats, with a separate checkin at both airports. Your luggage is given priority, first off the plane. You are allowed twice the baggage allowance as well! Whereas with the cutbacks regular passengers are just given a sandwich, and you have to pay for snacks and anything you want to drink except water, tea and coffee, with Club Transat you have unlimited drinks, a menu with 4 dinner choices, free snacks, free headphones, etc. The flight staff were excellent. I only wish they had better flight times to Punta Cana. We didn’t leave until 4 in the afternoon, making for a late arrival in Punta Cana, and the return flight didn’t leave until 10:30 at night, getting us into Toronto around 2 a.m. (although our return flight did leave half an hour early). A long day, particularly if you can’t get late checkout at your hotel.
We arrived in Punta Cana in a thunderstorm, and had to circle for about 15 minutes before being able to land, then wait for them to bring a shuttle out to the plane to take us to the terminal. When we got to the terminal building there were, as usual, two girls and a photographer waiting to take your picture. We “by-passed” this, as did many others, and went quickly through customs. Our luggage was first off and we were out of the airport in 15 minutes. There are porters waiting to take your baggage as you exit the airport, it is easiest to just let them take it and give them a few dollars. A $24.00 U.S. cab ride and we arrived at Bahia Principe Punta Cana. It is about half an hour from Punta Cana Airport.
Rooms: This resort is all junior suites, in 2 and 3-storey buildings (no elevators). Due to the layout of the resort, few rooms appeared to have an actual full ocean view. We were in building 5, a 2-storey building, in Room 5208, and if we looked to the right from our balcony we could see the ocean in the distance. It was actually a pretty good location. All the rooms are the same. The Club Golden upgrade puts you in a section closer to the beach, but the room is the same as the others. Rooms are large and nicely decorated, and have two double or 1 king-size bed, and a seating area with couch, table and chairs. Rooms have a telephone, coffee-maker, clock-radio with alarm, satellite TV (19”) with a lot of English stations (network channel NBC, cartoon channels, CNN, movie channels, sports channels, etc.) and balcony or patio. There is a full bathroom with Jacuzzi tub and shower, hairdryer, and makeup mirror. You also get a few extra goodies like razors and toothbrushes in the basket of amenities, as well as shampoo, bath gel, body lotion, shower cap, etc. There is a mini fridge stocked daily with 2 bottles of water, 2 Pepsi, 2 Seven-up, 1 Diet Pepsi, some apple juice, and 2 Presidente beer. If you want more of something, leave a note and a tip in the fridge, and you’ll get whatever you want. We always asked for extra water, as it is impossible to get bottled water elsewhere in the resort unless you buy it. If you ask for it at a bar, they give it to you in a glass. In the Club Golden rooms you also have two beach towels, you can use your towel cards to get 2 more if you want them. There are also bathrobes, and an umbrella. There was no iron in the room, but you can request one from housekeeping. I take my own travel iron with me, that way I don’t have to worry about tracking one down if I need it. With the humidity down there, things don’t get that wrinkled anyway – just hang them up for a while. Electricity in the DR is the same as North America, and our plugs fit the outlets just fine. I believe turn-down service at night is another feature of Club Golden, but we only received this on the last night. Perhaps we had the Do Not Disturb sign out when they had come other nights? Maximum occupancy in the rooms is 3 adults or 2 adults and 2 children. Rooms with connecting doors to the next room are available. They also have some handicap rooms available, as well as highchairs and cribs for children. If you’re traveling with small children I would suggest you bring a stroller. Maid service was very good, our room was always cleaned by noon. Suggest you pack a washcloth or two, we had them most days, but sometimes the maid didn’t leave any. We left a $2 tip each day for the maid. The whole resort is spotless! The air-conditioning went out on Thursday, and was out for two days. To fix it they had to dig up the area in front of the hotel entrance, and seemed to be working pretty much around the clock to fix the problem, lots of heavy equipment and noise. Because the weather was overcast and not really hot, it wasn’t any particular hardship not having air conditioning, at least in my opinion. I didn’t even really notice it wasn’t working until Thursday night.
Staff here is very friendly, always ready with an “Hola” as they pass you. Key employees all speak excellent English, some of the staff do not speak much English. Remember you are in a Spanish-speaking country and take the time to learn a few phrases in Spanish, they appreciate it.
Bars and Drinks: Pat is not a drinker, and I drink mostly white wine. I didn’t find their house wine too bad. I tried a few daiquiris which were pretty good, except they were never the same twice. They seem to have some international liquors available in the all-inclusive, others such as Beefeater gin, Canadian Club, Chivas, Black Label, Absolut vodka, Bailey’s, Grand Marnier, etc. are available at an extra cost of between 140 and 300 pesos ($5 to $10) – pretty pricey. Presidente beer is the only beer they have. The a la carte restaurants also have a wine list if you want to purchase a bottle of wine with your meal.
All restaurants (except for the beach snack bar) are air-conditioned and non-smoking. Men must wear long pants in the a la carte restaurants at dinner, they can wear shorts to the buffet. If you are in Club Golden, you can make 4 reservations at a la carte restaurants during the week. Otherwise you can only make 3 reservations for the week. We chose to make reservations at the Japanese Restaurant, Italian Restaurant, Grill Restaurant, and Gourmet Restaurant. There is also a Mexican restaurant and Seafood restaurant we did not try.
There is a main buffet restaurant in the lobby area, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
It is open from 7 to 10:30 a.m. for breakfast, 1 – 3:30 p.m. for lunch, and 7 – 10 p.m. for dinner. (would have been nice if it opened a little earlier for lunch and dinner. 7 p.m. is late for some, especially those with small children). A smaller buffet for breakfast and lunch is also served in the Seafood Restaurant near the pool and beach. Food here is the same as what is served in the main buffet restaurant, just on a smaller scale (ie. At breakfast it is all buffet, they do not have a cook there to make eggs, etc. for you). We ate breakfast here a few days, but usually went to the main buffet for the freshly-cooked eggs. The pre-made scrambled and fried eggs tended to be cool in both restaurants, as were the hash-browns. The Seafood restaurant was our favourite place for lunch. Overall, I thought the buffet food was excellent. There was a large choice and always something I liked, and things I hadn’t previously seen at buffets, like Caesar salad and fajitas. They also had my favourite, fried eggplant. And my favourite desert here, oddly enough, was Jello! And of course, pineapple. Cheesecake was good too.
There is also a snack bar with tables and wait service for drinks located by the pool, where they serve hamburgers, hotdogs, French fries, nachos and cheese, chicken, pizza, etc. This is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There is a limited room service menu. We didn’t try this. It is available from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.