Arrival: June 2009 The Flight – flew with Thomson from Gatwick and was very good. Boarded and took off on time which always helps. Good choice of films with seat back TVs, although the films play on loops so if you start watching one which is longer than other, when you want to watch the next one it will have already started so worth paying £5 each to upgrade your tv set. Food was great, although the snack meal before you land was a bit disappointing. Arrival – Punta Cana airport is very quaint it has a thatched roof and operated pretty smoothly. The coach was full of people going to the grand palladium, so the journey only took about 40 mins in total. Check in was very quick, although if a large group were to check in at once, it could be quiet slow. The Punta Cana reception was less grand than that of the Bavaro, but still very nice.
Room – We stayed in room 4116, and I had requested a room in block 4000 as having read reviews this seemed to be the nicer block. Which was very true the room was spotless and pretty large. There was a huge king size bed and large bath in the main room, with separate shower and toilet room. Mini bar was stocked with beer, water and soft drinks and was restocked daily. We had nice views over a garden area and could see the sea. We did not over look the pool which meant that this was one of the quieter rooms. Although at night, when people were coming back to their rooms, the corridor outside our room did end up quiet noisy, so if you are a light sleeper, may be worth paying a little more for a villa style room (blocks of 6/8 apartments).
Restaurants and Bars:
Food – Breakfast: We tended to eat most breakfast times in the large buffet by the Palace reception Las Torres. It had a much wider selection than the other breakfast buffets and was open most days. All breakfast buffets had fantastic freshly squeezed juices! Lunch – We had a mix of the snack bar food and buffet food for lunch, and each restaurant offered a different menu half the time. It was hard to tell whether a restaurant was going to be a snack bar one day or a lunch buffet. The lunch buffet was generally very nice and offered similar food to the evening buffets, although less variety.
Evening meal – we ate in almost all restaurants for the evenings. We ate in the buffets a couple of times and were impressed with the variety they have themed nights and some are much better than others. All restaurants typically offer you water/wine with your meal. You can ask for a soft drink, but do not expect cocktails with your meal! We tried the Asian, Mexican, Spanish, steak and seafood and Italian a la cartes. All offered a buffet, starter, main and dessert, although portion sizes were huge so we found it hard to eat the main course. All of the restaurants were very nice, although our favourite was the Mexican.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Pools – we tried most of the pools on the resort, but tended to favour the one by La Uva buffet. You could get a sun bed at any time of day around any of the pools or beach, so do not panic about the other reviews if you are going in the low season May August. This pool had a great swim up bar and waiters coming around the sun beds taking your order. This pool seemed to be shallower than the others, so if you plan on just lazing it was great. We did not spend much time on the beach, but it was very picturesque. There was no snorkelling to be done just off of the beach, however organised trips could be done. One negative thing even around the pools there were sales people trying to constantly sell you trips and water sports. I was under the impression from the holiday brochure that all of the water sports were included in the holiday, however it was very unclear when you got there what was included as most things seemed to have sales people. These people would give up after a while, and we learnt it was best to shoot them down right from the start.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Trips – We did a number of trips, organised through Thomson. The first was to the Island of Saona. This was sold to us as a relaxing boat trip to a paradise island, where you can have lunch, relax and snorkel. In fact after the 3 hour journey, it is simple a booze cruise so be warned. The second trip was on the reef Explorer where you go out to a floating island and swim with rays and sharks. This was a great trip and well worth the money. The sharks and rays are great and are in enclosed areas so your remain quite safe. The third trip was on the Tropical Storm catamaran. Again this was a good trip with lots of snorkelling. Although there was lots of alcohol flowing, if this is not your thing don’t worry as the snorkelling and views along the coast make up for it.
Weather – Was very hot and humid, with rain on occasion. At no point did we end up in the room all day because of the rain. The map of the hotel makes it seem huge, but in actual fact it is quite small. The Punta Cana and Palace sections are all very close together and right by the pools and beach. The Bavaro reception is further away, but a train does run every 20 mins which takes you up there.