My friend and I (ages 21 and 22, both female) travelled to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic the second week of January, 2011. I had been to Jamaica (Ocho Rios) the previous January at an all-inclusive, so it wasn’t my first time down south. My friend had also been to two previous all inclusives: one in the Mayan Riviera, and one in Varadero. The flight down was uneventful. We had red-eyes both ways, something I swear to never do again. When I have to arrive/leave somewhere when it’s dark, I don’t feel like going.
The airport in Punta Cana was beautiful, nothing like the concrete jungle airport in Montego Bay. Open air everywhere, it was great. Getting our luggage was fine, everything moved quickly. We were able to easily get on the correct bus and we left almost immediately. Our resort was the last one in the lines of resorts, so the bus dropped everyone else off before us, which was fine. By the time we walked up the front steps of the Barcelo Punta Cana with our suitcases: it was about 12:30am. I was TIRED. Check in was quick for us (we booked with Nolitours, and there was a huge group getting there at the same time who booked with Sunwing, and it took them forever to check in!). I forget the name of the bell boy, but he was the most irrational idiot I think I’ve ever met. He took a look at the number on our room keys and then started pointing, explaining where we had to go. This resort is HUGE! How he expected us to find our room on our own was ridiculous. Anyways, we took off looking, going up elevators and down sets of stairs, couldn’t find anything. Finally we went to go get on another elevator and there was the bell boy with our luggage! Thank god, we thought. He kept waving his hand motioning us to follow him. So we went, waited as he dropped two different pairs of luggage off before leading us to our room. It is now 1:30am. We’ve been wandering around for an hour on our own, then after this bell boy, trying to find out room. He finds the room, and we’re surprised to see the door is WIDE OPEN and the TV is blaring! I looked down at our key card again and we were at the entire wrong side of the hotel to where our room was! The guy looked again at the number and was like ‘oh, follow me’… So another 20 minutes later and we were in our room. Tired.
Our room was nice? As nice as we could have expected. I’m not picky at all, as long as it’s clean. We spend most of our time outside anyway. I found the room extremely damp though, more so than anywhere else. The air conditionr worked great, but it still couldn’t kill the dampness coming in through the sliding patio door, obviously the seal on it was terrible, and sometimes it didn’t slide right and jammed up. We needed to get the safe re-programmed for us, so first thing the next morning someone was sent up to fix that. Great. And we wanted a mini-bar that actually worked, the one we had wasn’t cooling anything in the slightest. That same morning we had that replaced without a hitch. We didn’t watch TV much (we’re there to have a good time in the sand and sun! Not watch TV!), so I’m not sure what they had for channels. Sometimes I would turn it on, but not often. The language barrier was really hard, harder than I’d even imagined. Any time we needed to talk to someone they never let on that they could understand us! I even tried speaking French (which I am worse in), and they understood me better than in English. So if you are bilingual in English/French, try the French language when you want something, they understand it a lot more!!
Restaurants and Bars: For me, I a buffet is a buffet. They’re all the same, they all have the same food, and they’re all a little cold. Whatever! Some people complain so much, but come on, after drinking in the sun all day, anything tastes good! The little buffet closer to the beach was often where we went for lunch, just grabbed some french fries and salad while we were in our bathing suits. On the second to last day we found the CUTEST little lunch restaurant (far right side of the resort when standing on the beach). It was the complete opposite way from our room, but it was like a real restaurant with real options and a real server at lunchtime! Dessert and everything! It was amazing, we were dissappointed we hadn’t discovered it sooner, actually.
Reservations were all pre-reserved for us by Nolitours for the a-la-carts, of which there were 4. We went to ‘Tokio’ first, specializing in Japanese food. It was amazing! Grilled right in front of your table, each table had their own chef. It was delicious too! Next we were supposed to go to the French one ‘Paris’.. But this is when my friend got sick! It was the Monday morning/afternoon. She’s claiming she got sick from the water/food. I’m telling her it was most definitely the 800 or so beers we drank at the swim-up bar, ALL DAY. So we passed on the dinner that night (I was kinda bummed out about this, lol). We ordered room service though! Of course this isn’t included, and the prices were crazy, but she was so sick she couldn’t get out of bed, so this was our only option. It wasn’t good at all… And didn’t help her sickness at all. When she was feeling better we went to ‘El Conuco’, the specialized Dominican food place. I hated this. Mostly because I’m the pickiest eater ever, and if I don’t understand what’s on the menu, I’ll order it wrong… Which of course I did, and I ended up with some vey vinigarry slop, lol. The last restaurant was ‘Roma’, the Italian one, and it was WONDERFUL! I had fediccini alfredo and absolutely loved it!
The pools were amazing here, nice and clean, and they were large. Our room was very close to one of the pools. The beach is the reason that I will forever return to Punta Cana! It was great! Never a shortage of chairs and the sand was great! We loved riding the waves coming in, we’d just sit there for hours and soak it all in. The grounds were well kept. Occasionally this gross-looking garbage truck vehicle would make its rounds, it was disgusting and the fumes coming out of the back of it almost made you gag, but it wasn’t often. Very nice greenery and water fountains all over the place too.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We didn’t do too much in terms of excursions. We were scheduled to meet with our Nolitours rep the first morning we were there at 10:00am. When we had finally got settled in the night before, we knew we were going to need that alarm clock to wake us up in order to eat breakfast and make it to the meeting for 10:00am. The clock in our room was showing the wrong time, I thought nothing of it and got out my iPod to match the time with. The alarm went off the next day at 7:30am and we got up, showered, and set my friends new watch to that time before we heading out to breakfast, so we would be on time for our appointment. When we were done eating by 9:00, we were drinking waiting on our time for the meeting… We went down to see the rep at what we thought was 10:00am. Wow, we’d missed the meeting! It was in fact almost 12:30 in Dominican! The clock in our room was SLOW! When we had set it the night before it didn’t move at the right speed and went SLOW! By almost 2 and a half hours! Needless to say, we were a little bummed we had missed the meeting, but instead were able to sit down with her there and talk about some options for excursions. We ended up going on the ‘Bavaro Runners’, which was about $85 US each, and was an allday trip. Our tour guide was amazing, gave us tons of history and was fun! First we went to a sugar cane plantation, saw how that was made & cigars, then went to a coffee plantation and saw how that was made, got to try some. And from there we went to this cool hut place to have a vry Dominican style lunch. Then we were all SO tired but it still wasn’t done, though everyone wanted it to be. We went to a beach off the resort, where there were so many locals trying to sell stuff.. Finally we were brought back to our resort. I say it was worth it, only thing is by mistake we had a Russian couple on our daytrip, someone had done that by accident. Luckily the tour guide could speak Russian but unfortunately for us everything had to be repeated twice. So us English folk found it a lot longer having to listen to the same thing in a language we didn’t understand. That’s probably why we got back to the resort so late and it went longer than expected. I would reccommend it for sure, but definitely not for young kids- it wasn’t exciting so much as enlightening.
Other Comments: My biggest issue came the last day. I knew going down there that my flight didn’t leave until 11:30pm the last night, but I didn’t think it would be SO annoying to have to wait around the hotel all day to be picked up at 8:00pm. Sure, we had our bags stashed in a room which was great, but I had already thrown out all of my ‘over-weight’ stuff, like sunscreen, shampoos, soaps, etc. So when we’d put our bathing suit on to go lay by the pool: Surprise, I got sunburnt so bad I could barely walk! My own fault, obviously, but it made the plane ride home unbearable! I have red hair, fair skin, and freckles. I need SPF ginger kid to keep me white. Our flight was delayed on the way home, too, once we got to the airport, so that was annoying.
But all in all it was a GREAT trip! I would go back there for sure. I don’t think I’ll ever do the same resort twice, just because there’s SO much to see! I’m heading on February 4th to Blau Natura Park, Punta Cana, so fingers crossed that it’s just as wonderful!!