Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Golf & Casino Resort Reviews – Dominican Republic Hotels – Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Golf & Casino Resort

Arrival: January 18th through 24th:
We arrived in Punta Cana on January 18th. When we left Chicago, the temperature was zero degrees (F) and there was a foot of snow in our yard, so when we stepped off the plane into the Punta Cana sunshine it was quite an eye-opener. Otherwise, the arrival at Punta Cana airport was fairly uneventful. We each paid our $10 entrance fee, were each given a card and then took a few steps and promptly handed the cards to another person. This is a business I wish I would have thought of starting years ago. As for getting to the Catalonia, thanks to information on this board we chose IBK Servicios and we’re glad we did. Even though he was a few minutes late picking us up, we were finally on our way to fun in the sun. Check-in was relatively quick, although the desk clerk said he wanted to check with housekeeping to see if the room was ready, so we went to the bar for a Presidente or two. As it turned out, this would be the first of many Presidentes. Upon arriving in our room we noticed that we were not given a lock and key to the safe and the rules sheet said that if the lock and key were not returned at check-out we would be charged $50.00. Since I had better use for my $50, I went to the front desk to ask for a lock and key but was told I would have to return the next morning at around noon, since we could get one from someone who was checking out. This same scenario repeated itself the next couple of days as locks and keys never seemed to be available until our third day there. I suppose I can’t be too upset about this situation because the first two days we were there we somehow managed to lose our room key…twice. A new key was given to us each time with no questions asked, which come to think of it may or may not be a good thing, since I could have said I lost my key to any other room and would have been handed one to someone else’s room…twice. Oh well…

Rooms::
We were in Villa 24 on the second floor. We had e-mailed the resort a couple weeks earlier asking for something close to the beach, non-smoking and on the second or third floor. Well, one out of three wasn’t bad, I suppose, as the only request that they honored was the second floor. It’s a good thing we weren’t on the first floor as the lock on our patio door was broken, but being on the second floor we felt reasonably certain nobody would be climbing the wall to get into our room to steal our dirty underwear. It turns out that Villa 24 was perfectly situated in the middle of the resort, so walking to and from the beach…and to and from the activity areas (main bar, main buffet, shops, etc.) was easier than being on one end or the other. The room was pretty much how most people described it. A bit dark, a bit old, but not too bad. The soaking tub was huge…the shower wasn’t. Actually, the shower was an okay size, assuming we had hot water, which was probably only about 70% of the time. But since the shower curtain left a gap of about eight inches at the bottom, keeping water inside the shower became almost impossible. Extra towels were needed to mop up the floor following every shower. A couple times the power went out and not only was the room dark at night, but the toilet wouldn’t flush and the water wouldn’t run. I was shocked that the electric would affect the water like that, but I guess that’s how it’s set up. In the bathroom there always were a number of tiny, almost microscopic ants scurrying across the vanity top and in the sink. It became sport to see how many I could kill with one tissue…I think my record was 57. Other than the ants, there were no other bugs in the room (that we could detect, anyway). The beds were sort of an adventure. I have read reviews where people said their beds were soft. We must have been staying at another resort because our bed was not soft…far from it. It was almost rock hard and slanted to one side. I’d say the pillows were a joke, but they weren’t funny…they were just lumpy and small and extremely uncomfortable and nearly non-functional. Our maid did a decent job…we tipped her a couple of bucks every day and she did the towel creature thing and generally cleaned pretty well. She did have a habit of barging right into the room every day around 3:00 to replenish the water bottle supply, which was just about the time we got back from the beach each day. A couple of times we were in the shower, napping or in various stages of undress, but she seemed to think nothing of it. I guess when you’re a maid in Punta Cana you’ve seen it all.

Restaurants and Bars::
The food was one of the things we were most looking forward to, but ended up being disappointed by the most. The buffets were generally mediocre. Breakfast was pretty bad, as the bacon was barely cooked, the pancakes and french toast were sitting in bins and both were always cold and dry. Getting coffee was hit and miss…some days they were right there with coffee, other days you could sit for 15 minutes or more waiting. And some days the coffee was hot, others not. We did think the selection of bread was outstanding, particularly the many loaves of french bread, which usually was my standard breakfast along with a chocolate croissant and some yogurt. Lunch was usually a trip to the pizza and chicken stand by the pool. The pizza was okay, but the way some people have raved about it I was expecting the best pizza in the world. The chicken was good and the self-serve Presidente poured into our insulated mugs was a bonus. Dinner in the buffet was only slightly better. The selection of food was large enough, but much of it wasn’t the most appetizing stuff. Although, the grilled shrimp was outstanding. Not so outstanding was the fact that the girl who was grilling the chicken and beef would use a set of tongs to pick up the raw chicken and beef and then immediately grab a grilled piece of chicken or beef and put it on some unsuspecting person’s plate. I’m thinking this may be the source of so much illness I’ve read about in recent reviews of the Catalonia on Trip Advisor. Another may be the numerous birds who fly through the buffet area and land on tables to consume bits of leftover food. They really need to consider putting up netting (or something) to keep those birds out, as they also carry disease. Luckily, the only illness we suffered was self-induced after a long afternoon at the pool bar with multiple Presidentes and "mucho rum"…a phrase coined by fellow Debbie’s poster Geronamo, who as luck would have it, ended up right next to us at the pool bar one fateful afternoon. It was a fun afternoon, followed by a not-so-fun evening…I’ll spare you the gruesome details. But Martin, the pool bartender was great…he kept the drinks flowing with a smile on his face. We didn’t have smiles on our faces later that night, but as I said, I’ll spare you the details. One hint…when sitting at the pool bar with your back to the sun, be sure to put on sunscreen. Yours truly didn’t heed that advice and I’m still paying the price. Another bit of advice, when ordering a slushy drink from the machine, they have no alcohol in them. Be sure to say "with rum" if you are so inclined. A number of reviewers have said that they felt short-changed since they didn’t think there was much alcohol in those drinks…turns out they were right. As for the ala cartes, we only tried the Japanese (which was generally pretty good) and the Mexican (which was generally "okay"…although the tequila shrimp was excellent). Also, the margarita in the Mexican restaurant was far superior to any we had in the main bar…mainly because the main bar didn’t put ice in theirs. A warm margarita is not too tasty. Although, that was fixed by a trip to the bar for a cup of ice. One pleasant surprise in the main bar was the popcorn machine, which served as an adequate appetizer on more that one night. One night we went to the Creperie for dessert and it was okay, but the requirement for long pants in the evening is ridiculous in a Creperie/Ice Cream parlor, for gosh sakes. I didn’t see the dress code actually enforced in the Creperie, but in the handout you are given at check-in, it clearly states that long pants are to be worn in the Creperie in the evening. They’ve got to be kidding. We also went to the beach party on Tuesday night, and it was okay.

Again, most of the food was merely passable, but they sure did go to a lot of effort to set up that whole event. People who had been there before knew how to circumvent standing in line and would grab plates and cut in front of people who had waited for 20 minutes in line. These people are probably the same people who are chair hogs (see below).

Beach/Pools/Grounds:

The grounds were impeccably kept. Lots of palm trees, shrubs, plants, flowers, ponds, etc., all in beautiful shape. I wish my yard looked one tenth as nice. The beach was also beautiful with the numerous palm trees. We never had a problem getting a palapa. In fact, most days we were able to get the same one, arriving around 8:30 each morning. But the reports of chair/towel hogs are not an exaggeration. Upon arriving at the beach, it’s towels as far as the eyes can see. People? Not so much…they’re all off doing whatever chair hogs do while their precious chair sits unoccupied (other than by a towel) for hours at a time. There was one group of Japanese tourists who came to the beach one day about the same time we did, took a palapa and put four white room towels across the chairs and then left. By the time we left at 3:00 they still had not returned. The next day the same thing happened. The following day we noticed the white towel thing happening again and nobody occupying the palapa until about 10:00, when only one woman of their group finally came and sat there for most of the rest of the day by herself, texting her buddies back in Tokyo. It’s people like this who ruin it for everyone else. The ocean water wasn’t quite the crystal blue that you see in other places like Playa del Carmen or Jamaica, but it certainly looked a lot nicer than Lake Michigan. As for seaweed, it’s true that there is seaweed that washes up onto the beach, but they generally do a pretty good job of keeping up with it. Although one day there was a particularly huge amount of seaweed both on the beach and in the water. It may be due to a rainstorm that happened overnight, but the seaweed was especially bad that day. Walking along the beach that day wasn’t too pleasant…although most other days it was fine. Speaking of rain, we were lucky in that regard as the rain generally only came overnight (with the exception of one early afternoon where it may have rained for about 15 minutes, if that). People on this board say to bring bug repellent for mosquitoes. We can say we did not see one mosquito. What we did see were wasps…they seem to love the beach. One comment about the beach restroom: There was always a woman in there cleaning up the place and placing flowers on all the sinks. I found it odd that they had women cleaning the men’s restroom and men were going into the women’s restroom to stock the toilet paper and towels. It first it was strange standing there peeing in front of a woman, but when you gotta go, you gotta go. Of course, there’s always the ocean…not that anyone would ever do that, would they?? We walked over to the "Royal" side of the beach and honestly it was very small…nowhere near the size of the huge "regular" beach. It also seemed dreary and kind of gloomy, like nobody there was having a very good time. Other than escaping kids (which there really weren’t that many on the "regular" side when we were there) I can’t see paying extra for the Royal side. Being from the U.S., it’s kind of funny to be in a place where Americans are a minority. The bulk of the people were from Europe or Canada and you heard a whole United Nations of languages everywhere you went. I also noticed that the vast majority of guests were smokers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but living in Illinois where smoking in public places is now illegal, it caught us a bit off-guard.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:: We stayed on the resort the entire time…didn’t do a tour. Our plan was to lay on the beach for a week and in the immortal words of George Bush, "Mission Accomplished".

Other Comments:

Check out took about 10 seconds. When we got into the IBK van for the ride back to the airport, one of the security guards came after us wanting to see our check-out ticket. Nobody told us we needed to show it to anybody before we could leave. I almost threw it out…good thing I didn’t or we would probably still be there trying to get home. As for the airport, we realize that airport food is generally high-priced, but almost $10.00 for a value meal from the airport Wendy’s was a little much. Also, they never did post our flight at our departure gate…they only had a flight to Montreal listed, so a number of us who were trying to get to Chicago where just a little confused. But we eventually worked it out and were soon winging our way back to the frozen tundra. All in all, the trip was a nice getaway to a warm climate, with the chance to lay on the beach. Would we go back to the Dominican Republic? Possibly. Would we go back to the Catalonia? Probably not. It’s a decent place, at a good price, but you really do get what you pay for. We’re really not all that fussy when it comes to food, but there would have to be some major improvements in that department before we could ever consider returning.

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