91 near beach
Arrival: Arrived at Punta Cana airport around 10:30 p.m. Surprisingly, the place was bustling with tourists (it was our first night flight). The entire operation went smoothly except that 1) the airport staff was either blasé or blatantly grumpy, yelling and whistling at us to move along. 2) The customs lady make absolutely NO eye contact with us, no smile, not even a gracias, a de nada, or a "Next", only screaming a very impatient "Vamanos" at us. I counted 13 people before us and she did not look up once from her desk. Quite the welcome committee… 3)As for the baggage pick-up, they had us running in every direction because of a mix-up of carrousels (the screens finally lit up after 20 minutes). No AIR TRANSAT rep in sight to help or direct us (nor any other employee). Then out to the busses (another slight confusion there) and finally to the hotel.
Check-in went smoothly and quickly… once we got to the desk, as we were 20 people arriving and only ONE person at the reception, hmmm. Fransisco was very professional and calm, smiling.
Rooms: Because we were celebrating our 31rst anniversary and it was our FIRST DR trip, we requested in advance a room in a building close to the beach. We were extremely pleased with room 9112, loft suite I think, next to beach. Very clean, well decorated, nice balcony view of grounds, palms and the beach. Lots of clean towels, hot water, well-stocked fridge, 2 tvs (one upstairs with the bed and one downstairs near therapeutic bath (which we did not use).
Room lady Santa was thorough and professional. Spoke very little English (and no French) so was hard to communicate…
Restaurants and Bars: The Palladium site is huuuge, with several restaurants and a buffet in each of the 3 sections (Palace, Bavaro and Punta Cana). In the Palace (quieter) section, the a la carte restaurants: Japanese, Brazilian, and Meditarranean/Italian. We tried the Japanese and the Italian. Preferred the latter. Also tried the Bamboo (Chinese) restaurant in the Bavaro section which I do NOT recommend (duck fried rice had 2 pieces -I think it was duck…- the size of my pinky nail and the sweet and sour pork loin turned out to be a very tough and grizzly pork chop deep fried in inedible salty batter, yuk!) VERY disappointing despite nice decor. Tried the GPP Buffet and the Bavaro Buffet, preferred ours, far more quiet. Our last night was "Spanish Night" with sangria, paella, the works, wonderful! Lobby bar waitresses were delightful and William at the pool bar is a hoot. Overall, though, staff does not smile much, imho. Also, many of the staff hardly spoke English, let alone French, but whatever, when in Rome… A couple of us spoke a bit of Spanish so we got by. Drinks were okay… no mojitos or other fancy drinks at beach bar, had to go to lobby for the best drinks. We brought some champagne and porto from home so that helped!
Finally got to Hemingway’s Bar at the Bavaro. Very (almost too) relaxing. A must see-HEAR is the jazz pianist there who is muy stupendo, wow!
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is undeniably breathtaking, stretching for miles on the left (on the right, about a quarter mile away were the beach boutiques and further on, a village, so we walked mostly left). Had wonderful 5-6 miles walks each day, wunnerful weather too all week! The shock for me was not the colour of the water or the waves but the thousands of people along the beach (March break), the many excursion boats going up and down the coast, the dang helicoptor over our heads every 15 minutes, and of course, the beach merchants sellings their ‘packages". Now forgive me but here’s where Cuba scores higher, just because there’s none of that (at least yet!) in Cuba, except for the odd local panhandling. I guess I’m just not used to all of that… Definitely distracting.
The pool appeared clean and well-kept. We only visited the pool each day around 5-ish for Happy Hour before we hit the showers. Uncrowded and relaxing. Dudes! Where’s the music? Snippets of a semblance around 5 at the pool where the animators (on the far side opposite to where the PEOPLE were, HELLO? is where they stationed themselves for games). Our second to last day was cloudy, so most of the patrons were at the pool. Again, practically NO MUSIC, no animators, no water volley (had to insist twice to finally get a ball; whazzup with that?), no ambience…
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: As far as the activities go, I can only speak about the beach animation, which we witnessed each day around 11. Some of the animation staff were friendly enough (Sugar, Naomi) but for some reason the PPs failed to rally many people during the week. For one thing, they’ve GOT TO CHANGE THAT DANG TECHNO music! Dudes! We get that all year long on our media, what we want is SALSA! 😀 Now THAT gets my juices flowing! lol What I noticed was that aside from scheduled activities, the PP animators were almost nowhere to be seen. Almost no mingling, ergo no ties with the clients, no conversation, no camaraderie. They could use some PR training (and English/French lessons) from people like Alexis Jimenez at the Iberostar Playa Alameda in Varadero, for example, who could rally up 30 people in 10 minutes for workout on the beach or salsa lessons (and this is a small resort). Maybe it’s the size of the Palladium? Maybe it’s a lack of experience or the age of the staff (mostly under 25)? They just seemed mostly blasé and frankly disorganized, like they had no training in ‘How to conduct a workout session" or "how to get a group to salsa/rumba/merengue" or "how to mingle". And don’t get me started again on the music…lol
The only "excursion" per se that we did was to visit the Nicole Jewelry Boutique which was 10 min off the resort, private driver to and from, beautiful high quality larimar jewelry on 1rst floor and forgettable cigar/souvenir shop on 2nd floor. The Air Transat reps (Blaise or Emily) make your reservations.
Other Comments: My deepest thanks to Damaris, my little sobrina querida, and to Mirpil at Guest Services. Very helpful, always smiling, very professional. It was a pleasure to meet you and to get to know you! Besitos muchos! Thanks to Fransisco at the Reception, very helpful and honest. Holà to Sugar and Naomi, animators, who tried their best to get (some) of us involved.
My all-around biggest complaint about this resort (and I represent the 17 other people in my group who all commented on this aspect to managers) is the no-reservation policy for the a-la-carte restaurants. GPP DIRECTORS: This system DOES NOT WORK! I mean, WHO eats at 10 p.m. when you’ve been at the beach all day??? Seriously! Heads up : If you do NOT get to the a-la-carte of your choice by 7 p.m., you could wait HOURS for a table (even if you see empty tables inside, go figure). It really is disappointing, having to check your watch and run to the shower because you’re worried about the line-ups at a particular restaurant. Mind you, this was March break, hopefully the rest of the year it’s not that bad. They DO have a pager system, which means that when u arrive at the restaurant, they take your name and give you a pager disk that lights up when a table becomes available (which could be hours and NO they cannot even give you an idea of when you will eat). Some people obviously did not mind waiting/drinking for 2 hours until they ate (I’m talking after 8 p.m….). I’d rather eat early (between 6 and 7), then relax, DIGEST, and have a drink or a walk about before retiring. Maybe I’m getting old?? lol