Our flight from Halifax was smooth and hassle-free at the Punta Cana airport. We felt very welcome. After our bus ride to the Bahia Principe, arriving at 0930, we were allowed to check into our room by noon.
Rooms: While we had booked a 2nd-floor room, the folks at reception assigned us a ground-level room just 2 minutes from the beach. This was great, and allowed us to easily get our towels onto the beach chairs by 7 a.m.
The one glitch was with the room safe. While we anticipated paying for it, the darn thing wouldn’t lock. After nagging reception a couple of times, they sent a technician who simply said there was a problem with our room key card. I don’t think he knew more than a cuple of English words. Eventually we had to walk back to reception to get a new card, and it worked. But we were delayed for over 2 hours from getting to the beach. It turned out they had incorrectly programmed the card.
Restaurants and Bars: There’s way more food than you can comfortably eat here, folks. We had something different at the buffet each meal and still did not get through all the choices by week-end. The a-la-carte restaurants were good, but not exceptional. We ate at Tex-Mex, Japanese and Mediterranean. Service was okay, depending on how busy they were. We showed up at one restaurant on the wrong night, but they sat us anyway, without any problems. Being used to Canadian beer, the watery stuff they served inclusively was simply disappointing. If you like extreme sugar highs, go for the Pina coladas, Coco-Locos, etc. Tons of sugar and hardly any alcohol.
The waitresses were friendly and prompt, except for one instance when we could not get someone to come anywhere near our table. They speak very little English, and a lot gets lost in translation.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: No complaints here. Aside from the fact that the big pool and the beach were way overcrowded, everything was clean and orderly. The most irritating activity was the "DJ" who had access to a powerful amplifier system, and used it on max! I simply turned up the volume of my iPod to drown this loathsome noise out, but I guess the dance/fitness stuff attracted a few people who were continuously berated by the DJ for whatever reason he could think of.
If you want some peace in the afternoon, go WAY up the beach.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We went on the VIP Safari, Dune Boogies and deep-sea fishing. These activities were terrific, despite being way over-priced. VIP Safari: We explored the countryside in a small open bus, visiting an organic farm (coffee, cocoa, etc), which was well worth the visit, Also stopped at a sugar cane harvesting operation and a school and cathedral in Higuay. We finished up the day with grilled lobster (quite unlike our North Atlantic, but really good). Our guide was intent on distributing beer and rum throughout the trip, spilling it everywhere when we hit bumps in the road. This, to him anyway, was really hilarious. The requisite "shopping stops" were tolerable, but just. Dune Boogies: This excursion allows teams of two to ride in each dune buggy, but follow the leader in convoy fashion. Speeds were never high, the countryside was fascinating (except for the piles of garbage everywhere). We visited Macau(?) beach, which had great rollers of surf coming in. A good spot for a swim (except for literally mounds of garbage everywhere and the usual hawkers). The cave we explored was pretty neat, located next to a mini shopping mall in the middle of nowhere. Which came first? We went for a swim in the cave, and great volumes of dirt came off everyone. Fishing: By far, the best activity of our stay, and our boat of six people landed a 60-lb and a 300-lb (!) marlin. I got a barracuda. Simply one of the best fishing trips I’ve ever been on, made possible by Gone Fishing!
Other Comments: Aside from the (preventable) safe incident on the first day, we have very few complaints. In general, staff were willing to please, although very few of them can speak more than a few sentences of English. I would definitely return to this resort. You can be as active (or inactive) as you like, and still enjoy yourself immensely.
Security was first-rate, and even after I had stumbled onto the beach late at night, a couple of security guys (I assumed they were, anyway!) got me pointed in the right direction even though they could speak no English at all.