The trip from Santo Domingo took us 4 hours including a stop allowing for a coffee and a piece of fried chicken. I travel with my chauffer Miguel who, as some kind of father, drops me off at the entrance of Grand Paradise Playa Dorada. La Reina (the queen) has arrived in Puerto Plata for a 3-night stay.
Hotel:: Check in: Upon arrival I am being courteous greeted by bellboy Sandy who takes my suitcase and sets it aside. I walk to the front desk to hand over my reservation, passport and business card. After some undefined “behind the counter” action I am handed my documents and being accompanied, by a friendly female member of staff, to an office behind a glass wall. I am kindly offered a seat and a drink. A different lady, who looks more likes a “jefe”, asks me for my documents and leaves. I feel that something is up. It does not take long before the lady returns with some kind of fill-in form and a silver wristband, which I surely will need to eat, drink and enjoy the other All-inclusive services. It is only 2.15 in the afternoon, meaning that I arrived early. My room will be available in about an hour and the first lady takes me to the restaurants, which are located near the beach and where, according to her knowledge, free Wi-Fi internet access is being offered. Not so! More about this later.
While walking back to the reception to see if my room is ready, I notice that most of the guest are walking around with a red wristband and not a silver one like mine! At the reception I quietly ask what the difference might be between the two. It turns out that silver means VIP. Now I realized why the first part of the check-in procedure felt so different.
Room:: Sandy, the friendly and laughing bellboy, accompanies me to my room# 9201 and tells me that it is excellent. He is right! The white/beige/turquoise-decorated room on the first floor with an ocean view turns out to be more like an apartment. A living area, a dining table for two persons, a kitchenette and a refrigerator below the kitchens counter, which is stocked with a Coke, Sprite, a large bottle of water and holds an ice cube tray. A door connects this room with the one next door, a really nice feature for parents traveling with kids. The separate bedroom has a huge king-size bed and as usual I conduct my “how clean is this room test” and conclude that the maid also cleans underneath the bed. The balcony looks out over the beach and the turquoise sea, has an area with a table and two chairs and is also super clean. Too bad: the balcony door cannot be locked. I will mention this to the reception. Bathrooms always are prone to problems and I wonder myself: “who is actually taking a bath while on vacation?” The modern walk-in showers, which take up less space give the bathrooms a much cleaner look and make them look less dated. Anyway, this bathroom has a tub with a shower curtain that hangs slightly uneasy over the edge. The camarera found a creative solution by folding the shower curtain in a way she also does occasionally with the toilet paper or towels. Although this should not be necessary in the year 2010, I do appreciate the effort. The hose of the shower itself is kind of short and the water flow is being hampered once you take the shower of the wall in order to use it by hand.
All in all the most important thing is that the bathroom is clean and large enough for one person.
Service:: Soon after checking out my room and taking some pictures, someone knocks on the door. It turns out to be a visit by the room service department. A lady carries an extra large plate with a variety of fresh fruits while the gentleman holds two plates and silverware. She put the surprise on the table and whispers to her colleague that I am here by myself and therefore just need one plate. As soon as the friendly people leave the room I “attack” the succulent precut pieces of melon. Delicious! This should not come as a big surprise knowing that every seed you drop in the fertile tropical soil of the DR will grow into a tree.
I walk to the reception to tell them my balcony door does not closes. The door has been fixed during my stay.
Internet:: Always a challenge … It is too bad that in nearly every resort I visit, I have to search for a quiet spot WITH a Wi-Fi Internet connection, let alone a power outlet for recharging my laptop battery. In this regard there is a lot left to be done for the hotel chains anno 2010, the year where everyone, young and old, walks around with Iphones and blackberries. In contradiction to what the lady at the reception desk told me, it seems to me that guests at the Grand Paradise Playa Dorada do need to pay for Internet, which I believe is a bad thing. A self-respecting hotel should offer Internet as a free service.
A Colombian staff member who sees me getting irritate while walking around trying to find Wi-Fi, tells me that normally the costs for Internet are 3 USD for 30 minutes. I say normally because it turns out that there are two available WiFi connections named GPSD and GParadise. The latest you can find near the lobby and shop and…. surprise, surprise, this connection is free and super fast! It did cost me two hours to be able to get to work. Unfortunately the next day the Internet in the whole region was down.
The hotel rooms are located in one of approximately 15 white buildings, all with four floors and positioned around the pool. They are connected by perfectly maintained walkways cutting through beautiful gardens. The beach, or rather the two beaches of Grand Paradise Playa Dorada are gorgeous, overlooking a bay with again abundant vegetation. I spot various type of birds, even a hummingbird!
Restaurants: Drinks: Paradise Playa Dorada also waters down the white wine, which is being confirmed by various staff members after I make a joke about it. Watering down wine is becoming a trend in all-inclusive resorts. You are better off drinking vino tinto, which is not bad at all. The choice of national brand drinks is sufficient. The resort only has one bar on the beach, Sinners, if you want a coffee you need to go to the restaurant. Restaurants: I have been able to discover three restaurants in Grand Paradise Playa Dorada. The buffet restaurant, the grill restaurant on the beach and the Italian restaurant with air co near the pool. During my stay only one of the two restaurants opened. One day the grill, the other day the Italian restaurant. The available choices at the buffet restaurant are ample. Everything looks fresh and both breakfast and dinner tasted fine.
It is a shame that the buffet staff does not change the table clothes more often. I have to put my plate on top of the food stains of my predecessors.
The best prices on excursions you will find with Carlos, on the Grand Paradise Playa Dorada beach. Carlos is being mentioned in various reviews and I have met some of his very satisfied customers. For more “tailor-made” tours and transfers I recommend Asaira Tours operated by the very dependable Martin Espinal: www.isairatours.com
An excellent hotel with a very friendly and accommodating staff. I can recommend it!