This is a shortened review (to make text fit Debbie’s review submission fields) Photo Set: https://www.flickr.com/photos/12759824@N02/sets/72157663908200750/ Video Slide Show with Sound: http://www.bobfromcanada.com Full Review at: http://www.bobfromcanada.com or ‘the other guys’. The property is rated at 3 to 3.5 stars and that’s about right. It could easily be 4 stars. There are a LOT of things to like about this resort and some things that are not to like. Over-all, we were pretty happy and think we got great value for our money. With a little tweaking, it could be a whole lot better. They were constantly running out of things. They would frequently run out of plates, or glasses. It took a ‘few’ minutes before replacements would appear. At least they did appear; it just took a while. They also seemed to have supply issues. For example, one afternoon, they ran out of beer, rum and vodka (resort wide, all bars). This was for an extended period. I felt sorry for the bar tenders because they were taking the heat and it wasn’t their fault. They ran out of beer briefly on three other occasions during the two weeks we were there. People tend to remember things like that and it’s not the kind of thing the resort wants you to remember. Enough said. As for the buffet, here’s where I’m coming from. I don’t expect a whole lot of service. It’s a buffet; pretty much a do-it-yourself operation. You get your own food. But, what I do expect is to have my table properly bused. What happens seems to depend on the server you get. Some were really good, others weren’t. Sometimes the table is bused, sometimes not. Once seated, we usually waited for a few minutes. If the table got bused within that time, then we were away. Otherwise we did it ourselves. No big deal! Other times someone was right there, bused the table, filled your water glass, and asked if you wanted coffee, beer or wine. Guess who got the tips …. Fortunately the positives far out-weighed the negatives and we had a great vacation. That leads to the question “Would we return?” The answer to that is YES. The property is not exceptionally large, but it is very pretty and natural. It’s a pretty quiet resort. There’s lots of trees, grass and shrubs and it’s very scenic. The groundskeepers do a good job of keeping it nicely maintained. There’s only about 400 rooms. It seemed to be pretty easy to meet, socialize and make friends here.
The age mix is tilted towards the early 50s. There weren’t many younger people there, but there were enough for them to have a good time. Good thing too. The disco is pretty small. A large crowd would overload it. Speaking of the disco, they either need a bigger amplifier and speakers or turn it down a notch. The sound system was maxed out to the point that the speaker cones were rattling against the enclosure. Loud I can live with, distortion no
Arrival: After a longish but scenic bus ride we arrived at the hotel. We wanted to get beer at the airport before we departed, but the driver/guide suggested we stop en route because it would be cheaper ($5 for a Grande versus $8 at the airport). The bus did stop for beer just after we left the airport (twice actually – the beer wasn’t cold enough at the first stop) but there were no bathroom breaks en route, even though we stopped at two other hotels to drop off passengers. The ride was about two hours including the stop-offs. To be fair, when one was in dire need, I suspect you could get off the bus to use the washroom in those hotel lobbies. That option was offered on the return trip to the airport while we were waiting for passengers. When we arrived, check-in was pretty efficient and painless. We got a welcome drink while doing the paper work. I’d requested a second key, and had been told I could get one despite the fact that it wasn’t their normal policy, but it wasn’t there and they told me to come back tomorrow. I did get it then with no issues.
Interestingly, on the second day the reservations manager (Noris Silverio) phoned the room as a follow up to my request and to make sure I had received it. Kudos to her. Nice lady; we stopped by her office to say thanks personally. I’d also requested a second floor room, but got assigned a first floor room. It turns out I liked it better and I would request the exact same room on my next trip. And there will be one. Right after check-in we were whisked off to our room. It seems that the bellhop misread our room number (upside down on the paper he was trying to read) and initially took us to the wrong building. That was quickly rectified and we found our room.
Rooms: We requested and paid for a deluxe oceanview room. We think it was worth the slight additional cost. The room we got seemed recently renovated and in pretty good repair aside from some very minor issues which I didn’t bother reporting. It had two double beds (weird dimensions 54 inches wide x 85 inches long), one bedside table between them, a set of drawers, closet, safe ($15US per week), flat screen TV (the remote was already in the room), refrigerator and a pretty nice bathroom with the usual amenities. It should be noted that they ask you not to put toilet paper down the toilet but in the waste receptacle instead. Dominican plumbing is somewhat on the anemic side. This is a minor inconvenience compared to an overflowing toilet. We heard of some people that didn’t heed the sign and paid the price. There were washcloths when we arrived but they weren’t always replaced, so we hid the ones we had. The shower head was one of those rainfall ones and it looked like the fixture and associated plumbing had been recently installed. I didn’t think I’d like the rainfall head but it turned out to be pretty nice. There was good water pressure and we always had hot water when we wanted it. The patio outside the room had a tremendous view. My wife thinks this one is the best rooms we’ve had in the last 10 trips. The only issues we had with the room were that you had to jiggle the toilet handle sometimes to stop it running and the bed side table was mounted to the wall on the headboard which had a slight warp. So, it had a small angle down and the drawer kept opening by itself. Not a big issue but just annoying. It wasn’t about to fall off or anything like that. It was just off level. We also lost the programming on the room key a ‘few’ times and had to make trips to reception to get them reprogrammed. Reception was always courteous and friendly. It should be noted that the dim room lighting is as reported in previous reviews. The bedside light is not only dim, but located such that even with a bright bulb, reading in bed would be difficult. And kudos to them for putting an energy efficient LED fixture in the bathroom. It was quite bright, but it was clearly the wrong fixture for the job. It had bare LEDs rather than a frosted tube and cast horrible shadows around the room. That one has got to go.
We were offered the VIP/Select package. I feel the deluxe oceanview was worth the extra cost, but not so the VIP package. We did see a few that went for it.
Restaurants and Bars: The food was far better than we expected. No complaints here. It was plain but there was plenty of variety and they had a different theme each night (Mexican, American, International, Seafood, Dominican, BBQ, Italian, France, Asian, Chef’s for example). Each night there was an excellent carving station. We got served baked chicken, some very nice roast beef (surprise, it was even tender), carved whole turkey, roast piglet, several varieties of fish, BBQ chicken. There were also a lot of interesting offerings in the chafing dishes as well. Sauces, where present, tasted like a light citrus base with a hint of cinnamon. I liked it. The vegetables were consistently served slightly al dente and had a nice firm texture. Sure, sometimes they were slightly on the cool side but I’d rather have that than hot, overcooked and mushy. We got potatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, pumpkin, and several varieties of beans. The breads and buns were excellent, as were the sweet rolls. They also baked a killer banana bread. The French stick was excellent too. Yum. Each night there was a good selection of salad fixings (two types of lettuce, shredded red cabbage, shredded cabbage, carrots, and two or three types of prepared salads). None had any dressing on them so you could pick your own dressings and amounts from a selection of three or four types. The lettuce was consistently crisp, but a few times some of it was frozen to the bottom of the chafing dish. There was a good selection of desserts and several nights they served ice cream. And it was good ice cream. There was pretty good variety in the buffet at lunch as well. The beach club was rather limited in choices but acceptable. It was pretty well sandwiches, burgers, fries, and something on the grill. We ate most of our lunches in the buffet because there was a much better selection. Breakfast had a pretty good selection that didn’t vary much from day to day. But bacon was a rare event. We got bacon once in the two week period. The omelette station was a pretty busy place. You could pick from ham, cheese, onion and tomato fixings, but there was nothing stopping you from chopping up other stuff (like potato or a different meat) from the chafing dishes. Surprisingly, we saw few bananas on the fruit tray but there was lots of pineapple, melon and mangoes. My wife loves mangoes. The restaurant supervisor (Victor) seemed to be there for every meal. I heard that the guy started at 5:00 am every morning and was there until after 9:00 pm. I believe it from what I saw. That’s pretty dedicated. He was always jovial and friendly and without exception greeted us with a smile and a handshake (at least after we introduced ourselves to him). We didn’t try the a la carte restaurants but it was reported that they weren’t worth the effort.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach is quite nice, but a little strange. There’s a thin strip of sand (pretty thin at high tide and slightly wider other times) with a larger bordering grassy area. Most of the loungers were situated on the grassy area. A little strange, but you got used to it quickly. The water was blue, but a little murky most days. The sand on the bottom seemed to be slightly finer than the sand on the beach (coarser) and stayed in suspension for a while after being stirred up. Overall, the bottom was sandy with a few coral patches and a few flat topped seaweed patches. There was a little, but not a lot of seaweed. The seaweed looked a lot like crabgrass leaves so it wasn’t terribly nasty. Once washed ashore, they were pretty good about cleaning it up and hauling it away. The hotel was about full up. Loungers seemed to be at a premium around midday. Unfortunately the towel game was in full play. We were never around midday anyway. Getting loungers early morning or late afternoon didn’t seem to be an issue. The better (newer) loungers were in the pool area. The ones on the beach were older and getting near the end of their service life. The sun is slowly doing them in.
There are 3 pools. None of them are large, but otherwise they are pretty nice. Two are located in the same general area and the third is out by building 5. It seemed almost like a private pool leading one to wonder if there were two separate properties at one time. They seemed well cared for and the water had a nice blue colour.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: They had the standard beach volleyball net, bocce ball, shuffleboard, archery, a hobie cat and sea kayaks. They also had a mini-golf course (sort of), but no golf equipment (???). There’s a booth on the beach selling snorkeling tours to what they refer to as a natural aquarium, a roped off enclosed area a bit off-shore. You’re not likely to wander in by accident, but they get pretty vocal if you do. We didn’t associate with the activities staff much but it appeared that they were working their butts off to keep people happy. They seemed to be enjoying themselves. We also noticed that on many occasions the activities staff joined guests for meals. We only went to one or two shows. The best one was the fire and water one staged in the pool. The rest were pretty standard fare that we’d seen before and we decided we’d rather socialize at the beach bar. Our loss (maybe). Off resort, it’s an easy and safe walk along the beach into town (Las Galeras). The walk along the beach path is an easy 5-10 minutes at a Dominican pace. It’s pretty scenic. Take your camera. Oh, if you use the road instead of the path it’s a lot longer walk and not very scenic. I was a little disappointed. The so called supermercado (we found two) had limited booze offerings on the shelf and the prices were not marked. I suspect the price varies depending on the colour of your skin. There’s probably more supermercados but we didn’t find them. Oh, and in town and along the path there’s a few watering holes where you can get a large Presidente (called a Grande) for about 150 pesos (and free wifi). Along the way, the first guy you’ll meet is Juan (who sells tours). He’s pretty personable. The next guy is Joseph, who has a small bar and the first free wifi off the resort. He seemed pretty nice too. I chatted both of them up a few times. Going the other way along the beach, there’s a few blow holes where the ocean waves surge through an underground passage and surge up through a hole in the ground. That’s a pretty easy 15 minute walk too. The road is pretty rocky so you might want sturdy sandals instead of flip-flops.
If you go a little further along a narrow path, beyond the blow holes, you can see a cliff face that looks like a dragon’s jaw, that appears to open/close as you walk along the path. There’s also a set of small caves in there. It’s worth the walk in my opinion.
Special Thanks: I don’t normally do this, but several staff made our vacation memorable. I know I’m going to miss some and misspell others. Some names were heard verbally and others were read off name tags with pretty tiny lettering. Those I do leave out, my apologies. You know who you are, but here goes. Noris Silverio – Reservations Manager (great follow-up service, before and after our trip) Joelissa – Waitress (breakfast/lunch buffet, great service) Benito – Bar Tender (pool bar, excellent) Evylyn – Bar Tender (beach club evenings, super, great gal) Fausto – Waiter (buffet dining room evenings, attentive and good service) Maribell – Our Maid (kept our room clean and supplied. Always a friendly smile, even across the resort) Caesar – Bar Tender (sports bar evenings) Victor – Restaurant Supervisor (man, this guy seemed to be around, smiling, every meal, I’m impressed)
Pros and Cons: PROS: Nice location / nice property Great food, lots of variety No one got sick except for self-inflicted (at least in the group we hung with) View from oceanview room is very nice, gardenview rooms seemed good too No time share / vacation club Nice beach CONS They seem to have supply issues Service could be better (with exceptions as noted)
Comments (part 1): There are lots of little spots to sit out, socialize and have a drink. Very convenient. There was live entertainment (OK, one guy with a band-box) outside the dining room two or three times a week. He was pretty good. By the way, that was at one of the little spots. I advise taking an extension cord with multiple outlets. The wiring in the rooms was designed and installed long before the need to charge our modern electronics. In our room there were three ac outlets. None of them were conveniently located. One was fully used up for the refrigerator and the TV. The second was inconveniently located under the bedside table and the bedside lamp was connected. Note that that one was switched on/off by a switch at the door, so you could control the bedside lamp. The third outlet was in the bathroom and one outlet was dedicated to the hair dryer. I ended up using the bathroom ac outlet because it was the least inconvenient. Note that the ac outlets were North American style type B sockets but I seriously doubt that the ground is connected and the wiring is polarized. I wouldn’t depend on any appliance that requires a ground. You need your room key to keep the ac power powered up. That includes the air conditioning. They request that you not put toilet paper in the toilet but in the waste basket beside it. This, at worst, is a minor inconvenience. Dominican plumbing is a bit anemic and paper tends to plug up the system. If and when that happens, it’s more than a minor inconvenience. The room fridges are stocked with water, Coke and Sprite. Interestingly, the hotel also has diet Coke, but wouldn’t stock the refrigerators with it. Diet Coke is only available in the bars. What appears to be the main entrance to the buffet dining room is blocked off. It appears they want you to enter via the covered archway from the lobby/reception area. I’m not sure why. At dinner, if you spot a nice chocolaty dessert, best grab it because that selection will likely be gone by the time you finish dinner and are ready for the sweet stuff. The chocolate items disappeared quickly. The better entries at dinner also disappeared within the first hour or two. The dinner period is about four hours, but the better selections got snapped up quickly. Hint: Be early. I can’t believe how many people treat the buffet like a cafeteria. Man, they’d go stock up their plates with hot food, and THEN start looking for a table (really awkward when the table hasn’t been set). It’s pretty easy: Get your table, all set up with utensils and condiments, and then go get your food. No doubt these are the same people that complain that the food is cold. And it is surprising how fast the food cools down. I’ve found serving spoons that are quite hot to handle, but found the food on the cool side when I got to the table (quickly I might add).
Comments (part 2): We met a lot of nice people from all over the world. Actually, before we even arrived, I matched up with a couple that we had met years ago at another resort. Then, lightning struck twice. I met another couple that recognized me from another resort, also years ago. What are the odds? They seem to have the bug situation under control. We didn’t see many at all. My wife reacts to insect bites and she reported getting only a few. Normally she goes home with a lot more welts. There were a few centipedes on our patio, but they were all a lot smaller than my sandals. I don’t know if they bite or not. They never got close enough. If you do decide to walk into town, and your return will be after dark, take a flashlight. The path is pitch black at night, but appears to be safe enough. We talked to several people that did it with no issues. One guy did it with the flashlight app on his cell phone. Oh, and there’s a nice pizza place with a wood fired oven that serves up great pizza. There were a lot of other nice looking restaurants as well. I heard they were pretty good. It seems to be one of the places that actually follows the sign about leaving your towels in the tub if you want them replaced and hanging them on the rack if you don’t. No issue there. I don’t need new towels every day. If you dirty the towel drying off from your shower, you likely didn’t shower properly. To be fair, once our maid got to know us, she replaced the towels daily, regardless of where they were left. The red wine at dinner is not great, but potable. The white wine is not. I made the mistake of trying it and instantly regretted it. I think I may have killed an aloa vera plant in the nearby planter. I pointed out that bacon was a rare event at breakfast. So much so that the day they did serve it, just about everyone commented on it. Interesting at lunch; the sandwich bar lists a club sandwich and the ingredients that included bacon (natch), but there was no bacon there. Sorry, but you can’t make a club sandwich without bacon. The coffee station in the buffet is very awkward, unless you are 4 ft. tall. It’s very low and you have to bend down to fill your cup. I know why though. You fill your cup from the bottom of the urn; they have to fill it from the top. And it’s a big urn. For what it’s worth, the air conditioning in our room was quieter than the bathroom fan. We had a number of 5-10 second power bumps the first week. There were none that I noticed in week two. Watch the paths at night. The lighting is somewhat lacking in spots and the path edge is uneven. Some of the interlocking stone / flagstones are also uneven in spots. Just be aware.
Comments (part 3): Beware of the edges on the patio areas in the restaurants and bars. Some have pretty sharp drop-offs at the edge and it’s pretty easy to back up your chair just a little too far if you’re not paying attention. I saw one go over (fortunately the gentleman wasn’t injured) and warned two or three others that were within ½” of doing the same. Language barrier or not, they got the message when I pointed to the chair leg. We had to have our room keys recoded several times. That seems to be a common problem. Other people were at the front desk with the same issue. My best guess is that their key writer recording heads are clogged up from writing a gazillion keys and need cleaning. The beach is quite accessible at night. This is very pleasant for watching the moon and the surf. There seems to be a wide variety of room types. Some have minor issues like fiddly plumbing controls, doors that are hard to lock, late or no towel delivery, TV not working (or missing), refrigerator that’s kaput or …. On site wifi is expensive and I hear it doesn’t work all that well. I went without internet (gasp) for the whole two weeks and lived to tell about it. The resort is very European. Surprisingly there was very little topless. When it was there, no one paid any particular attention. But I did hear reports about people changing into and out of their bathing suits on the beach. Come on! There’s a washroom only a few steps away. The guests seemed pretty good at queuing at the bars. Things seemed to go in spurts. Things would move along at a good pace and then suddenly there would be a log jam. This seemed to happen a lot in all the bars and even at the food stations in the buffet. There is a natural aquarium (extra cost) just outside the beach area. I don’t see how you would wander into it by accident, but if you did enter without paying, the proprietor got quite vocal about it. I heard him once from my spot, beachfront and he was quite some distance away. Actually, I don’t understand how he can legally do this. The ‘aquarium’ is out in the ocean, off the public beach. But there he is …. Don’t miss the walk to the blow hole / caves. It’s very pretty walk and you may encounter a horse, a bull or other livestock along the way. At the beach, facing the water, you go to the right and take the two left forks in the horse path. Going to town is the other way. Head off to your left and follow your nose. You can’t miss it. There seems to be a lot of repeaters at this resort. That speaks volumes. I think we’ll be joining them.