We booked through Transat Holidays and flew on CanJet out of Halifax. Arrived late on the 13th to join the rest of the guests who had already arrived a couple days earlier. Check-in was smooth and quick – less than 5 minutes! Now, this may be due to our late arrival and the fact we arrived in our own transportation (IBK Servicios – which I highly recommend) because I did see line-up’s at other times of the days. Our bags were put on a cart and we followed along to oceanview Room 2301 (building 2, 3rd floor, room 01). The Transat package was for Prestige Class, Deluxe Room, so we knew we were getting a renovated room. The renovated rooms are found in building/sections 1, 2 and 3. Buildings/section 4, 5, 6 and 7 are not renovated and unless you book a DELUXE room you will be in one of those sections. The unrenovated rooms aren’t as bad as some people say, but not quite as nice as the renovated, no.
Rooms: The room was large and really nice. Sandy made sure we got our oceanview room on a higher floor as I had requested. Very clean, and the maids did a great job everyday keeping it that way. We left $2US per day for the maids, and $1US for the guy who stocks the fridge. We left notes if we wanted anything particular, like extra towels or more Sprite, and we got what we asked for every time! (we wrote the notes in Spanish as the maids generally don’t speak much English, but they certainly appreciated a ‘hola’ or ‘gracias’ as you passed them in the hallway. Our room looked out over the ‘quiet’ pool and the gorgeous ocean. We could hear the waves rolling in and could see the view right from our bed! Only saw three tiny ants the entire vacation, so don’t worry about bugs – though my brother-in-law left the patio door open one night and did have a few more ants that we attracted to some candy he had left out). The king bed was comfy and they left six pillows! No complaints there. We watched a little t.v. before going to bed each night and while there is mainly Spanish-speaking channels (obviously), we did find lots of English ones as well. There is also a great alarm clock (which wasn’t set on the right time when we arrived, oops), and it has an iPod dock if you want to listen to your own music. We used the safe to store our passports and money and never had an issue. My partner used a lock to secure his laptop to the bedframe, and again, no issues. The air-conditioner worked perfect the entire vacation, maybe a little too perfect – it made the room so cold sometimes that I had to turn it off or go out on the patio to warm up, lol. We also had a great ceiling fan so we could forgo the A/C if too cold, or add extra coolness on those days when it was swelteringly hot. It was also great to turn the fan on to help dry swimsuits. The bathroom was large with a huge shower with a glass half-wall – looks nice, but if you don’t put a towel down on the floor there may be a puddle when you step out! The toilet clogged on a couple occassions, but we figured out pretty quick that if you don’t put toilet paper in that you won’t have this issue 🙂
Restaurants and Bars: We mainly used the two lobby bars, which are open until 11 p.m. The bartenders are great, and a little tip every now and then never hurts 😉 I’m a daiquiri fan, but these weren’t some of the best – it was a strawberry sirup, very sweet, but not horrible – I did manage to drink my fair share without complaining too much, lol. The beer was always cold and there are lots of other alcohol choices – I didn’t really hear any of our group complaining. We brought our Bubba Kegs to keep our drinks cold and to save on all those plastic cups. Food/Restaurants/Buffet: Main Buffet – pretty typical of any other AI buffet I’ve ever been. Lots of different ‘stations’ with different choices. We all found something to eat. Breakfast was the best – I love the fried cheese! lol Pool Buffet (lunch) – again, pretty much the same, but smaller and less choices. Everyone fought over getting the last piece of pizza, lol. There is also a hot dog/hamburger hut right next to it. French (Paris) – while the presentation was nice, the food was mediocre at best. This seemed to be the general consensus among our group. Italian (Roma) – we ate here for my sister’s wedding dinner. It was supposed to be booked off as a private party for one hour, but 20 minutes in they started letting other guests in. It wasn’t too bad as they were quiet, but still not what we were promised. The food was better than the French, but still not what I would call ‘great’. Lots of pasta choices. Tex-Mex – I quite enjoyed my meal here, but my mother didn’t – I ended up eating hers as well, lol. I think most people enjoyed their meal, though. Dominican (Conuco) – again, an ok meal. Not as many ‘traditional’ Dominican choices as I would have liked, but nevertheless pretty nice. The traditional musical trio from the wedding night showed up here and played for tips – thankfully they’re not as annoying as the mariachis in Mexico! Marlin – we only ate here for lunch, but again, it was ok. We sat outside so we could get the breeze. The banana splits are pretty good – they use a rum-flavoured ice cream as well as chocolate. Japanese (Tokyo) – probably the most entertaining meal of the trip. Everyone sits around the grill while the chef puts on a show. The food was alright, but I found I smelt like greasy, smoky food after sitting so close to the grill. When you arrive you are given reservations – and if you want to change them you have to line up early in the morning at Guest Services and hope they can accommodate your request. We saw a lot of angry people in this line-up. It wasn’t that big of a deal for us. We were supposed to have all the same reservations as the rest of the group, but somehow they forgot us. It eventually got fixed up and all was fine.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The hotel building and grounds are kept pretty much spotless. They are constantly sweeping and cleaning and watering, and the grounds are lush. Yes, the hotel could use a little paint here and there as it is peeling in spots (you are by the ocean and salt and humidity can do that) and some tiles are cracked, but are you buying the place?! lol Nothing that will interfere with your vacation, I promise! 😉 The building is open to the outside so you will find little birdies flying about, but it just makes things more airy and cool to have the breeze blowing through. The hotel is quite large, with over 500 rooms, but it is all contained to one building. There aren’t many elevators, but this really isn’t an issue. Most things are within a few minute walk. Pools: We actually only swam in the ‘quiet’ pool as I found the other pool (with swim-up bar) a little more crowded, and, well, noisy! lol That’s where you’ll find the entertainment team blasting music and playing games. I prefer floating around and lounging in the sun in peace. The kids pool looked awesome, and I kinda wish I was a kid again! It is shallow and has great water slides and activities. Pools were always super clean, and they close at 7 p.m. every night for even more cleaning. My only gripe around the pool is the people who leave their towels on the loungers all day ‘reserving’ the chair when they don’t return ALL DAY. I have no problem, though, removing the towel and taking the lounger if I haven’t seen you there for more than an hour! lol Also, please don’t smoke in the pool, or waste your drink if you must have it in there – this is gross and tacky. Beach: The beach was the 2nd best I’ve ever seen (after Tulum, Mexico). Powdery white sand for miles. Lots of loungers to be found, but minimal shade. The waves can get quite big here and you can see them breaking on the reef in the distance. I’m not a big swimmer (in the ocean), but my partner loved jumping in the waves and said the bottom is sandy with no rocks – I’d be more hesitant to let a child out there as it looked rough at times, though. There are lots of motorized and non-motorized sports to try out – we saw people parasailing, kayaking, on banana-boat, etc. Non-motorized sports are included in the AI price, but motorized sports are extra. You can also catch fishing boats from this location. As well, along the beach there is a hut offering massages on the beach (for a fee), as well as hair braiding, henna tattoos, etc. They greatest part of the beach was that there are no vendors harrassing you, like in other locations!
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: Nightly Shows: We only caught the Saturday Night Fever show, and it’s because of that show that we didn’t go back. Extremely loud (the acoustics in the building are horrible) and the show wasn’t the least bit entertaining for us. We did come across people who said the other shows were better, but I didn’t care to return. The bartenders there, however, were great, and they have late night snacks, like chicken wings (which we lovingly called Flamingo wings due to the size). Wedding: My sisters wedding was on the 15th and held near the ‘quiet’ pool at the archway leading to the beach. It was decorated quite nice with white flowing fabric and accented in her fuscia pink colours. The flowers were a few minutes late getting to us, so the wedding didn’t start right on time – but you have to remember, this is Dominican time, lol. The ceremony was quick, maybe 15 minutes, and was officiated by a judge in Spanish. The wedding coordinator, Arianna, translated and everything went off without a hitch. A little champagne, and some photos, and it was all over until dinner. Everyone was happy with the wedding and I recommend the location!
Other Comments: Problems/Issues – mostly resolved: My aunt & uncle who were part of the wedding group (but booked separately from the initial group) got bumped to the Hard Rock Hotel next door because the hotel had overbooked by 40+ guests. This was initially a big upset, but once they arrived and saw how much better the Hard Rock was they weren’t too upset, especially since Sandy (the manager) arranged for them to have free bracelets/passes to the Barcelo for their entire stay so they could still come back and forth to spend time with family. Crisis averted. That said, the problem of overbooking continued all week, with all of us getting offers to get bumped to the Bahia Principe, or to take a 3-day trip to Santo Domingo and La Romana for free, including AI hotel at their sister properties, tours, transportation, etc. No one took them up on the offer from our group, though my partner and I seriously considered the Santo Domingo option, but decided against since we only had the week with family. Also, this resort is quite a ways away from ‘town’ or real shopping. While there is a small shopping area outside the resort gate, you really need to go into El Cortecito, Bavaro or Punta Cana, and you’re looking at a minimum $20US taxi each way – this can get costly! Check-out/Departure: Check-out was at noon, and luckily we could use my sisters room to store our bags as out flight wasn’t leaving until 11:20 p.m. Check-out was a breeze again, but be forewarned – even local calls (ie. to the resort next door where my aunt & uncle were bumped) costs money and you will be charged at check-out. In our case it only cost $1, but others had to pay upwards of $20 that they weren’t expecting. We had the entire day to lounge around before our private transfer (IBK Servicios) picked us up at 8:30 p.m. to bring us to the airport. The ride was smooth (well, as smooth as driving in the Dominican can be), and we arrived on time to check in for an uneventful flight home. All in all a pretty great trip. Would I go back? Maybe, if the price was right…but I prefer to try somewhere new each time. Do I recommend it? Yes! But only if you do your research and have REALISTIC expectations – this is a 3 1/2 star resort at best, which we knew going in. The star rating system is NOT the same as in Canada, US or Europe. Please feel free to message me with any questions about the resort/trip. Enjoy!