Grounds – we understand they are still completing the resort so nothing bothered us about any unfinished items – only the far east section is really still under construction. The casino was not yet completed but this was perfect in our book. Overall the resort was gorgeous. Where we stayed and walked was excellent. It will be great when the map and info stands around the resort are completed. They were very clean. The landscaping is outstanding. The lighting so beautiful at night. It is such a gorgeous resort. Staff – overall everyone was so friendly! No matter what their role/job was everyone we passed and met was very nice. The service at all of the dining areas was essentially perfect. It was very nice that most everyone spoke enough English to make us comfortable. We tried to speak as much basic Spanish as possible. The way you are training your staff to treat your guests could not be better it is the most successful! 5-star service. I could say that at every meal, every person who served us was so friendly and nice. We were really impressed by how well the staff spoke English, how much they cared and how professional they were. Other Guests – unlike some other Bavaro beach resorts, this place really caters well to North Americans. I would say 80-85% of the people were such. The rest from Central or South America (lots of Colombians!). Not once in 11 days did I see anyone get beligerant, overtly drunk, etc. People were very friendly and we met some great people from all over the Western Hemishpere. The atmosphere there sort of breeds that happiness too. We did not see any topless sun bathers. Lots of honeymoon couples. We did not see any groups of ‘spring breakers’ (You know what I mean). It was essentially all families and couples. Again, the staff spoke English really well. I suspect in July and August the European guest population might go up quite a bit. Our girls met lots of friends and were never bored or without other kids to splash around with. Beach – The resort was not crowded (friends and family who saw our pictures commented we had the resort to ourselves) and there were plenty of palapas and longers but I suspect that when they really start to pack the resort in they will need more at the beach (was incredibly clean and beautiful). Having the lifeguard towers was awesome – not all resorts have them and this was great. The net is great, and the beach activities were sufficient. Gorgeous beach.
Pools – Outstanding! We loved the way each pool had a different shape, amount of shade, different loungers, yes/no swim-up bar at different pools, jets, etc. The pools at the very center of the resort seemed quite vacant. We would move between the 3 pools between Marina Grill and building 4. The pool in front of building 4 seemed the most popular since it had the swim up bar, jets, and live music. We enjoyed most the pool next to it, next to the wedding gazeebo in front of the made to order grill. It was perfect. Really liked the shelf around the inside of the pools where we could put our loungers. Having small short tables spaced amongst the loungers would be so excellent – we had no-where to put our drinks or food when not holding them. The pools and the beach all had service. Unlike other resorts we’ve stayed at such as Bahia, you DO NOT need to play the save-lounger game here. Always plenty of loungers free all day and in prime spots too.
Food – Outstanding! We enjoyed breakfast the most at Marina Grill close to the beach – it was nice and open. The food always was fresh and sufficiently varied. We ate at the Marina Grill for Breakfast and Lunch several times, but not dinner (when it is the seafood restaurant) so I cannot comment on that. We did not go to the Steakhouse. Spaggo (Italian) was outstanding. Besides Tao (Tepenyaki) it was our favorite dining experience. Everyone was so nice and served us so well and so elegantly. We went twice. We went to Gallos (Spanish) once – it was excellent. The guacamole was so fresh and the girls had all kinds of appetizers to munch on. The kabobs were so good. We went to Tao twice – it was also outstanding. Once we had a to wait a bit at the bar which was perfectly fine, the bartender was very nice and made great drinks. He even taught us a little Spanish. Pizzetta (sp?) was fine. It is so open that we noticed it was not very occupied most of the time. We tried it to see anyways. The food was good. I think we were encouraged to order too much food! We only ate about half of what was suggested. Cafettos was great. One does not appreciate all it has to offer until you see the menu or sit down. For a few days we thought it was a bar and coffee lounge. The breakfast is so excellent, we ate there 3 times. It was like a hidden gem. Nice to be served at breakfast sometimes. We went for dessert once. Lucca’s (main international buffet) was perfectly fine for breakfast and we enjoyed the Asian, Spanish, and Dominican nights. The Spanish night was our favorite, it was perfect. Overall we thought the food quality and variety was excellent everywhere we went. I like the way the buffet items are replentished even when the older pan is half full yet. The banana bread is perhaps the best I have ever had. Ice cream shop – a great idea! It’s texture and flavor was different than what we are used to in the States, but it was good. My daughters loved the donut and cake shop – every night we stopped for goodies for the morning. The cookies in the other bakery across from the ice cream were a bit stale when we got them twice, but it was late in the day so maybe that was why. We saw someone order a sandwich and then she made it fresh at the donut/deli shop in the lobby. We did not order room service. It was very good to know it was there, essential for the high class status, but it is not a novelty for us and we only use it when we are simply unable to go out and dine (which was never the case). We saw a lot of people had as we walked the hall. I just cannot comment as we did not use it. The made to order grill next to building 4 was a God-send on many an afternoon. Those folks work so hard all day in all that heat. The food was always fresh and hot. The burgers are oustanding, especially the BBQ and French Onion ones. I believe the only restaurant not yet open was ‘Samba’. Bars – Outstanding!!! Top shelf liquors all the way. You see it, you call it, they make it. Plenty of bars all around the lobby and pools. Really liked the drink of the day thing and glad they opened not too early (we were ready by 10am for a ‘refreshment’). I cannot stress enough how impressed I was with the quality of the spirits and beer. The quality of the drinks was excellent, never weak at all and always tasty. We did not use the 2 large bars at the lobby. Having the self serve soda/ice station was really nice. And the never ending supply of Dasani bottled water was top-class. For a barfly like me, I was totally impressed and delighted with the bars, service and drinks.
Safety – we always felt very safe and secure in the hotel. We did not worry a bit about anything being stolen from the room. The security guards around the resort and beach are a nice feature.
Tours – it is quite a plus that they offer some complimentary spaces on those 3 tours (safari, snorkeling, animal park). We did discuss the safari tour with an agent there, only the zipline and ATV were extra (which was ok, understandable). We booked a full day safari trip from a fellow on the beach, that was similar to what they offered (school, typical house, typical town, plantation, cigar, gift shop, lunch, beach and pool) only it included horseback riding and ATV as well. We paid $75 pp. I think if I added zipline and ATV to their it would have been about that pp, but the girls wanted horseback riding instead so we chose the other. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would have gone with their tour! We were not satisfied/pleased with the quality of that tour other (Rancho Mar Taina). The ‘truck’ was quite shoddy (we had to stop at a garage on the way home), the horseback rides and ATV excursion were too short, and the gift shop they took us to was occupied by a very ill-mannered seller. The ranch and beach was outstanding though. We make the most of everything and had a great time, but I would stick to the resort-approved tours. Gym – Outstanding! We could not believe how nice and complete the gym is. People will universally be really impressed. The guys there (we were always there 7-8AM) were very nice and took care of us. The equipment is outstanding. The bathrooms adjacent to the gym were not complete though which was less than ideal. Gift Shop – Outstanding! Great selection, very nice and open, very nice staff, and surprisingly good prices. We were perfectly pleased with what we bought and how much we paid. A lot of items were cheaper than the village/town shop. And everything goes on the card on deposit for your room – you need no cash handy. We did not use the beauty salon, spa, or the two lotion/bathing suit shops. If you did the sales presentation (we already own vacation packages) I think you got $400 in vouchers for the spa. The ATM worked very well and it was simple to use. I needed cash only for the extra tour we booked on the beach. It dispenses $DR in 500s. $5 ATM fee. Operator – always courteous and spoke excellent English. She even called back to make sure our bathroom got unlocked (kids). It was excellent service. Activities – The painting on the beach was so cool, the kids loved it. They liked the sand castles and water volleyball. My wife liked the beach volleyball and painting. The activities staff were very friendly. The band that would come and play in the afternoon was great and we really enjoyed listening to them. My girls (10 and 12) only visited the Space Kids once to see a friend in it. Space Kids is a place where you can bring your children from morning to night (it seemed) for structured and supervised activities. They put on a talent show that was awesome!
Shows – For the most part outstanding. The talent show was great! We enjoyed the Michael Jackson show although the circumstances were somber (we saw it June 25th), the MC handled it respectfully and very well. We really enjoyed the magic and circus shows – they were so excellent! The Starz show left a bit to be desired. There should be something somewhere suggesting that that show may not be appropriate for children. At one point a rap ‘star’ hops on stage and briefly mimics sex with a bent-over scantily clad dancer. That’s when we got up and left along with several other parents with younger children. Maybe there was some indication that it was meant for adult audiences and we missed it. Aside from that, the other shows were awesome and we enjoyed them.
Checkout – very smooth. The bellboy was there immediately and had our bags waiting when we arrived to meet the bus. I errored in that I waited until the last night to change my transfer back the next morning. You should confirm your return transfer soon after arriving. The room charges were clearly shown. The process was fairly quick and pleasant.
Satisfaction – We had not stayed at a Palace Resort but always wanted to. We chose them because all the other Palace resorts get such good ratings. While we enjoyed Iberostar and Bahia Principe before, we wanted to experience something more. We looked at almost every resort in Bavaro and decided to trust the Palace reputation more and commit to a resort that was opening the day we booked Jan 10th (not like us at all!) I was never worried for a moment that by June they would have it all great and I trusted we would have a great time. We had the time of our lives. If we come back to the DR we will surely stay there again.