We traveled to Punta Cana on 1/16-1/20, 2010 (I was unable to change the stay date) for my brother’s wedding on the beach at the hotel. In our group was 17 adults and one 5yr. Our trip was booked through our local agent. It was through FunJet vacations. Once we got there all our arrangements were handled by VIP tours. I have been to Cancun, the Mayan Riveria, and this was my 2nd trip to the DR. All were all inclusive trips too. So I have a little something to compare this too. I was very nervous due to some reviews being not so great for this hotel, but I really think they were wrong. Or had very high expectations. You will certainly have a great time here. Other things, there are several gifts shops there. And prices are reasonable. There was also employees looking for kids to do activities and several photographers available too. So if you are planning a family portrait you can do it here. I have no idea what the print prices are though. Every bathroom I went into was very clean. There were constantly mopping floors everywhere. My brother and my new sister in law said the wedding coordinator and wedding planning itself was wonderful! They would recommend it to others too! Tipping helps with getting what you need. A couple of American dollars make employees very happy. Several of our group members did visit the casino and had fun along with the dance club. I also want to comment on the tv. On some of my other all inclusive trips the tv station selections were poor. This hotel had the best selection of television in all my travels. Many american movie channels, kids channels, weather channel, and even abc and cbs channels. Now I know you are thinking why do I care about the tv, well if you travel with children you will care. And if the weather is bad you would care. I would definately recommend this place to family and friends. Is it the Ritz Carlton, no, but it is nice for the money. We had a great time and hated to return to the weather in New York in January! We can’t wait to return again.
At the airport we got on our shuttle bus to the hotel. The bus was nice, but the constant motion of it made of few of us motion sick. There was stops at other hotels to drop off guests, and speed bumps and constant swerving to avoid others on the road. So that was a long ride, but we had all been traveling for about 12hrs at that point and were hungry, tired and had been in constant motion for about 12hrs! Because we had a group, it did take about 1/2 hr for us all to check in. A few rooms weren’t ready, but were within a 1/2 hr. The bus back to the airport was much nicer, bigger and less stops.
Before arriving I had read in other reviews that blocks 1,2, and 3 had most renovated rooms. I emailed the hotel about two weeks before our arrival that we wanted all our rooms in those blocks. They emailed me back and said it was no problem but would cost $12 a night, per person to upgrade to the deluxe room verses the standard room. I emailed back that we would upgrade and would figure it out when we got there. The night before we left I received and email saying they upgraded the entire group for free. So we were all very pleased! All our rooms were very good/great. A few didn’t have chains on the door, so they were walked in on sometimes by employees bringing towels, or drinks to the frig. Heads up if you don’t have one on your door! The room safe was very nice, the bathrooms were very nice too. OUr hair dryer seemed to be very close to catching fire. But that was the only trouble with anything in our room. Our room was VERY clean. I had to look for dirt. A few of the others said they did have a few small spiders, but that was it. The frig was stocked with coke, diet coke, water and beer. We were in room 1206 and had a view of the vacant land next to the hotel and the ocean! So no complaints here! Some of our friends were near the casino and they said those rooms were very loud. So if you get near there, you may want to change immediately. One thing I’ve learned is, you need to be your own advocate. If you don’t like the room say so immediately they seem very eager to make you happy.
Restaurants and Bars:
My daughter has celiac’s disease, the 5yr who traveled with us. So I was really nervous about food. We ate often at the main buffet, but also ate at the Marina rest. for breakfast and lunch. The food seems to be much fresher at the Marina, and hadn’t sat out as long. Also to the side of the Marina there is a little hut and a man will make your eggs to order in the morning and in the afternoon they ofter chicken breast sandwiches, hamburgs, etc. Once we discovered that place, we ate breakfast and lunch there the whole time. For dinner it was the main buffet hall (sorry can’t remember the name of it. Just to the left of the lobby) and we also ate at the Marina and French Rest. Both were very good. And other people who traveled with us ate at the Japanese Rest. and they said it was really good! Make sure you make reservations for the rest. right away as they fill up fast. Some of us did get upset tummys and were in the bathroom often. But no one was in bed sick by any means. I don’t think that the food is bad, it’s just our bodies adjusting to the different oils and ingredients used to make the food. Also I think some of the others might have had tummy troubles from the sugary drinks too. My daughter was able to eat and had no trouble at all. I had emailed the front desk letting them know we may need assistance with her Gluten free diet, but we really didn’t need any help. They returned an email and said that there chefs would be available if we needed them. We did ask at the French rest. and the waiter didn’t understand about a plate being gluten free. But it was more of a language barrier thing. Overall, I think the food was good. Not great(more because I wasn’t sure of all the ingredients), but good. There was always something to eat. They have bottles purified water everywhere for you. The only complaint we had was there was no cold milk. We got warm milk and sour milk, but never cold milk. So that was disppointing to my five yr. old.
The pools are HUGE here! There are 2 HUGE pools and then one amazing kids’ pool! Really, amazing! The pools were VERY clean. If you are up early enough in the morning you will see they come out and scrub the sides and vaccum too. Plenty of chairs to go around. It actually seems like there were more people down at the beach than by the pools during the day. The grounds are nice, there is someone constantly mowing, raking or painting there. The beach is BEAUTIFUL! You can walk for miles and miles! Not a lot of shells, if you have a kiddo looking for them, but there are a few. The waves are a little stronger than I’d like, especially traveling with a child, but they are fine. The beach is well maitained and cleaned everyday. Can’t say enough…beautiful beach and weather!!! This place is huge! Really! If we were looking for someone in our group, it could take you hours to find them! So it was a great group place, because if you wanted to plan something together you could, but if you want to be alone, you certainly can.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
This place is great. If you are coming to be active there is a lot to do. There is boating equipment down by the beach, the trapeze, and tons of activities by the pool near the Marina rest. But if you are coming to relax, you can certainly do it here too! There are many tours you can book off the resort. In our group some did ther bravo runner tour(great way to see the DR) and loved it, some snorkeled and loved it, and some parasailed. Just ask with the parasailing, they do do parasailing right in front of the hotel on the beach, but for some reason the ones in our group were picked up in a boat with about twenty other couples. And then they traveled to another area and had to wait as each couple went. The parasailing was cool, but that wasn’t what they wanted to do (all the waiting that is). So make sure you are going out in front of the hotel.
We were told by our travel agent to not bring a lot of cash, just a visa or m/c credit card. We found that our credit cards wouldn’t work often. You could get turned down, and then ten minutes later your sale would go through. We arrived days after the large earthquake in Haiti, so I’m not sure if that had anything to do with the lines being down. Also one of our members charged her parasailing to her room. On check out day the ATM wasn’t working,nor were the credit card lines. So we scrambled to come up with money for her to check out. So be aware of that. The ATM was down more than it was working. Also, my only warning about this place, which really isn’t the hotel, I’m sure it’s like this at all the resort, is calling home. Calling cards do not work. So your only other option is to use a credit card or call collect from the hotel phone. I choose using the credit card, thinking calling collect would be more. I did have a Verizon cell phone with me, but it did not work in the building, only by the pool or beach. I did make some calls home to my husband and other children from the hotel room. When I returned home I got charges on my credit card for $80 a call!!! I called the merchant 800 number on my credit card statement and complained! I was told that it is a $15 charge JUST to connect your call and $4 to $5 per minute to talk! SO beware! I told them I was under the impression it was just standard rates and they never told me otherwise. THey then told me that they are "not obligated by law to tell the rates" unless we ask. It was partially my fault for not asking, but still ridiculous. So never assume. I did get them to reduce the charges after the fact, but I just wanted to warn other travelers.