El Portillo Samana DR We bought the Bahia Routlette and stayed at the El Portillo in Las Terrenas from Feb 25th to March 4th
Your Arrival: ARRIVAL We flew with Air Canada Vacations and the flight was OK. Personally, I would suggest that Air Canada Vacations find another food supplier than Quiznos, as the food is not worth the money you have to spend on it. That is when they have enough to go around. They ran out of sandwiches by the time they got to our row, so we were offered breakfast sandwiches instead. We had to pay for them but I heard some others on board made a fuss and got them free. Anyway, enough about that, as it’s a moot point. They will not change this service as long as they make money from it. We arrived at the El Catey airport and were whisked right through immigration and right onto the bus. No beer to buy, no time to go to the bathroom, no downtime at all for people getting off a 4 ½ hour flight before putting us on a bus for another 1 ½ drive. (In reality it is actually closer to 2 hours) Our bus didn’t have a good working air conditioner so the bus drive was very long and hot.. now, an addendum to this comment.. some of our friends went on the “small” bus and their trip only took 45 minutes as they went up over the mountains directly, whereas we on the “big” bus had to go all the way down to Samana then back up to Las Terrenas as the direct roads could not accommodate the larger bus.. they didn’t mind the drive at all. It was a deal breaker for me and although the resort was mostly wonderful (as described below), I won’t subject myself to that bus ride again. My hubby was in complete agreement, as were many others we spoke with. Check in was done on the bus, so that was a plus. (Although if I were working at the front desk I would not want to deal with people getting off that bus ride either! )
One thing we did notice was the fact that our plane was the only “English” speaking plane at the resort. There was a plane load from Helsinki also, but most of the guests at this resort seem to hail from French speaking Canada. Apparently they don’t teach manners where these people come from, and they certainly don’t teach them to their children. I don’t normally have issues with others but I can honestly say that I have never witnessed more disrespectful behaviour with a distinct lack of common courtesy to others around them, in both the children and the adults.
Rooms: ROOMS We went directly to our room, which was in building 18 and was on the 2nd floor in room 204. This suited us perfectly. It was a standard room, but was nice and roomy, had a king sized bed, a balcony, a decent bathroom with a jet tub (unfortunately our plug would not work so I couldn’t make use of the tub) a shower, satellite TV and bathrobes to wear during your stay. Nice touch. We did have to have our room sprayed as I was getting bit at night by mozzies or no-see-ums.. we had both in the room. I mostly got bit on parts that would stick out of the blankets at night.. it got better once the room had been sprayed, but I started wearing bug spray to bed and then daily around the resort as I was getting bit quite a lot.. I saw others with many bites too..
Restaurants and Bars: BARS The main bar is in the same building with the lobby, but occupies the back half of the large facility. There is “veranda” seating in a triangle pattern around an open “garden” and one large section is smoking whereas the two smaller sections are non-smoking areas, although smoking is permitted at the bar which is located in the same section as non-smoking seating. The pool bar was open daily (weather permitting) from 10 am to 6 pm and Augustin and Joel were the main purveyors of fine beverage at this locale. They were exceptional every time we stopped by. We did not get up to the bar at the quiet pool so I can’t comment on the service there. The beach bar was open daily (weather permitting) and Justino was the main man here.. The Beach grill and bar was another option. All of the bars were consistent in the drinks they made and the service they provided. When it rained the only bar opened was the lobby bar, which was staffed with Augustin and Joel as well as the main staff from this bar. RESTAURANTS The buffet was more than adequate and most nights the food was better than what we either ate at the a la cartes or our friends ate at the a la cartes.. Weather permitting, outside every night, Nicolas runs the BBQ. That man grills the best steak I have ever eaten in the Caribbean.. No skirt steaks there.. better grade cuts grilled to perfection every time. Although my hubby, who is a bit more of a steak connoisseur than I, said he figured they were marinated. They were “cut with a fork” tender every time. We ate in the Seafood restaurant. I had salmon cooked to perfection on rice, hubby had a tough as shoe leather steak served on ice cold potatoes.. I would have preferred with dinner veggies but they weren’t offered. Our waiter Anthoni was very good however, and deserved every bit of the tip we left him. The other restaurant we ate at was the Gourmet Restaurant. While the food was good for the most part (my pork medallions were anything but tender) the service was crap, as our waiter “forgot” we were sitting there and we waited for almost 45 minutes for him to come take our order. The people that came in behind us were already on dessert by the time we got our orders taken. I could understand if it was busy, but we were one of only three tables in his section.. needless to say, his tip was much smaller.. We did not eat at the other two a la cartes but our friends did. They enjoyed the Italian very much, but said the service at the Oriental is very slow. Their reservation was for 6:30 and they didn’t get out of the restaurant until after 9:30. Oriental does not mean Chinese only as most people expected. They serve sushi, and various traditional dishes from several Asian countries. They set up a sushi bar at the beach one day. I was in heaven. It was very good. What a nice treat.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: BEACH The beach was wonderful. White powdered sand which turns to tan colored down by the water. Yes, I have been to Punta Cana, so yes, I can compare it to there.. there are very close similarities. Punta Cana is a bit softer and whiter, but this isn’t anything to complain about.. it’s a gorgeous beach.. The towel game is in full play, but it seems some people play by different rules.. (see above for referrals to who I mean). The beach is great to walk, but at the resort boundaries, be aware of the man with the big shot gun. He won’t let you go out alone if you are a single female, and even if you are a couple, he may make you sign out when you leave the property.. Do partake in the weekly Beach Party on Wednesday night. It’s a blast! Also.. sand fleas are alive and hungry. I had to wear Off on my ankles on the beach or I got bit.. POOLS We only spent time at the main pool one day, but found that parents would rather let their children run, scream, and splash and generally make life unbearable for others trying to enjoy the pool. We did not get to the quiet pool but our friends said they enjoyed it very much when there weren’t kids there.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: BAHIA SPA We booked the couples massage for $70 per person. With that you got 15 minutes in the hot tub and a 50 minute massage side by side. It was first class pampering from the minute you walked in the door until you walked out feeling like a million dollars.. I could have spent all my money on their other services too.. highly recommended EXCURSIONS We did the whale watch. It was great. I have one point of suggestion.. when you see the boat staff standing there with a bucket of Dramamine TAKE ONE! Or two.. They aren’t pushing drugs on you.. they aren’t standing there offering them for the good of their health.. they are doing it for your own good.. most people took advantage. One mother made a comment about how she wasn’t putting those “third world” drugs in her 3 sons bodies.. bet when the three were heaving ho over the side she wished she had rethought her logic.. Some of our friends did the catamaran. They weren’t overly impressed. They have done catamarans everywhere they’ve gone, so they have something to compare to. Only rum and cokes or water to drink on the boat and then they put you on the island for 3 hours where you have to pay for drinks (at $4.50 US per) $1 to sit on a plastic chair and $3 to sit on a cushioned lounger. Food was available to be cooked for them.. lobster was $20 for a small one and $40 for a larger one. Fish was chosen from fish hanging from a tree.. they would have gone for that but when they noticed the flies were already relaxing on the fish they opted out of the food.. Our other friend did the El Limon waterfalls. She loved it. But she was very stiff and sore the next day from both the horse back ride and the climb down to the falls.
Other Comments: STAFF The staff was great! No complaints there. Our favourite waitress was Yahaira (Ja-High-ra) who was from Haiti. She went through a world of tragedy with the earthquake and still has a smile and a sense of humour that lights up the room. She waitresses the lobby bar and we often went there just so she would serve us. She has a 6 year old boy and she is working hard 9 ½ hours from home to help her husband afford to rebuild their house so their little boy can stop sleeping on the street. Her 27th birthday is March 21st. Wish her happy birthday if you see her on that day. Ask her to do her Michael Jackson impression.. it’s a hoot! The Animacion team was terrific.. Luis, Santo (Tobi) Carlos (Hot Chocolate), Enimencio (Eminem), Ana (Ana Banana).. they were all great. Everyday was a new costume and a new way to make people smile.. They put in long days and still manage to smile. Maxi and the photog staff were great too. I can honestly say that the whole staff, from the maids who always smiled and said “hola” to the front desk staff and everyone in between, were simply a joy to deal with on a daily basis. We gave Simon, who works in the Tours office a bag of baseballs and gloves and hats to take to his home in Las Terrenas and give to the kids there. They have a baseball school, and the equipment was gladly received. You would have thought we had given him a million dollars. We wished we could have. PUBLIC AREAS The lobby was big open and very clean. The marble floors were polished to a mirror finish. Beautiful but dangerous when wet.. as were the ceramic tiles on the pool deck. One elderly lady slipped and fell and hit her head on our way to the info session, as it was raining that day. To the left of the front desk is the internet “café” which consisted of two lap top computers which did not always work properly. The cost was $12US per hour to use. Next to those computers was the guest services desk where you booked the a la cartes. We booked 2 rather than the 4 we could have done, but more about those later. One other thing I must comment on is the automatic lights in the public bathrooms. I LOVE the idea. When you walk in the room the lights come on with motion sensor. They shut off after a preset time of no motion, say 5 minutes. Great energy saving idea! Directly right of the front desk was the Lobby Shop. You could buy just about anything there from beer, souvenirs and snacks to decongestant. The Tour Desks were located to the right of the shop, but down a hallway. There was also an ATM, which we used with no problem. It offers service in English and Spanish, but pays out in Dominican Pesos. SUMMARY All in all this is a fantastic resort, despite the rude guests, the horrific bus ride and the 2 ½ days of rain, (which is no one’s fault). Would I recommend it? Definitely. Would I go back? Probably not.. unless the price was “really” right.. or I could be guaranteed to go on the “small” bus!
Photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=151156&id=704699012&l=ef120f65f8; http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=151107&id=704699012&l=440988e3a9