Good resort for the price, but not a five star as stated on their website. 3+ at the most.
Your Arrival: Our vacation was booked thru Sunwing directly as we had a person travelling from Toronto and our family flying out of Ottawa. The bus ride can be a bit hairy as those hotels don’t seem to be able to accomadate a hugh bus, so there was a lot of backing up and 7 point turns. Once at the Resort, we were greeted by a hotel rep, who explained our check-in procedures and gave us the wrist bands. I will say this: if you treat the hotel staff with respect and consideration, you will be rewarded with great service. An example was that a woman in our group thought it wasn’t nessacary to pay attention and she started to walk away toward the check in desk, she was asked very kindly by the hotel rep to come back as he was explaining important info. She rolled her eyes and looked pained as she listened. The hotel reps have information that is important to your well being and safety at the resort, it is a good idea to listen. :). We were very attentive and instead of having to wait in line, the same hotel rep opened up his computer and took my family right away. No problemo! I overheard many our groups (meaning the bus, not my family) rooms weren’t ready. We had two rooms, and one was ready and one wasn’t. Not a big deal. Try to remember that they are a very laid back culture. You are in their country and their time frames to get things done is VERY different from ours.
Rooms: Here is one of the areas where we were slightly disappointed. We were traveling with our family of 4 + my SIL. We had two rooms, so my hubby, myself and our son(11) was in one, and to cut the single occupancy rate, my daughter and SIL in another. There were two "double" beds plus a single sofa/day bed in each room. I quoted the "double" cause calling those beds a double would be very generous. I would say a super-single would be more accurate. Very hard for two adults to sleep comfortabley in one of those beds. The rooms are very dated, but our rooms were always clean and we had plently of towels. The TV worked, but had only about 5-6 english channels. Our airconditioning worked all the time. The bathroom was clean, with the toilet separate(in a separate little room)from the bath and sink. There isn’t a bathroom exhust fan, so modesty from normal bodily sounds takes a backseat. 🙂 The rooms were damp, but your by the ocean so really, that is unavoidable. The beds were comfy and pillows were okay. We had extra fuzzy blankets which helped at night, as the blankets on the bed were thin. Our safe was included in our vacation fees, otherwise you had to pay $24 US for a week. I would strongly suggest using the safe. We never had any problems nor did we hear of anyone having items/money stolen, but better to be safe (no pun intened) then sorry. The locks on the doors were nothing more than our normal bathroom door locks. Very easy to jimmy open. We used the chain locks every night on both the room door and balcony door. One night, my hubby woke up and the door was open as far as the chain allowed, and we got a little freaked out, but then figured out our son didn’t shut the door properly.
We did lose water pressure for a couple of hours one day, and then the electricity went another, but it was for the whole hotel, not just our room.
Restaurants and Bars: There is one main dining buffet and 3 ala carte restaurants (steak, italian and seafood) and a restaurant down by the pool/beach plus at least 6 bars in various locations. We dined most times at the main buffet, but did try the Italian (La Gondilla) and the Steak House (Media Luna). The breakfasts at the main buffet were the same everyday. Now, I had originally thought that there needed to be more variety at the breakfast buffet, but now that I think about it, there was tons of variety. My daughter got sick on the Tuesday, and we weren’t sure if it was because she had a fried egg, that wasn’t really cooked throughly or if it was sunstroke. Maybe both. But she was better in less than 24 hours. Lunches were standard. Hamburgers, hotdogs, fries, deli meats, tacos. Lots of local foods. All very delicious. Dinners at the main buffet were based on themes. The Italian ala cart restaurant was so-so. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a lot of pasta dishes. I had the chicken. It was stuffed with prosciutto and provolone. It was really good, but it was served with mash potatoes, which unfortunatly were quite gross. Very dry and there was some kind of weird spice (I think nutmeg) was added. I had one taste of the potato and that was enough. The service was okay and you have to like your wine glass filled after each sip (or so it seemed). We also ate at the Steak ala carte. The service here was much better, though it took longer to get our meal. Again, bottomless wine glass is a good thing. There is a good variety of meals to choose from. Obviously steak (rib-eye and tenderloin), plus fajitas, ribs and chicken wings. Here you got to choose your appitizers and main meal. We had the potato skins (plate was freakin’hot, but the potatos were only just warm) and we all had the tenderloin and my daughter had the fajitas. Note: ask for your steak WELL DONE, even if you don’t like it well done. We had ours done medium and it was just about raw. My son had his well done, and he ate all of his, and ours were not ediable once you got to the thicker portions. Bars were good. Never had to wait. And the drinks were always cold. They certainly aren’t stingey on the alcohol. Our sunwing rep had warned us about having too many drinks with coconut, as it is a natural laxative. We had maybe one pina colada, and then switched back to the sourballs. No problems. I was disappointed with the swim-up bar. It is completely covered and doesn’t get any sun no matter what time of day.
The water was fine to drink coming from the restaurants or bars. DON’T DRINK THE WATER FROM THE BATHROOMS IN YOUR ROOMS. Use the bottled water to brush your teeth. Common sense, but some people don’t know that.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: This is the absolute best part of the resort!!!! The hotel grounds-keeping crew kept the grounds impeciably clean. If you have seen pictures of the resort, you will know that it very natural. Lots of grassy areas, man-made ponds and bridges that connect the paths to various areas. There are ducks, geese, egrets, flamingos, turtles, peacocks and so many other animals just hanging around. The pool is a nice size. It was never crowded. BUT trying to get chairs around the pool was difficult. My major complaint with this that people would leave their towels over the pool chairs and then bugger off to do something else, and people were literally gone for hours. My daughter went down to the pool while we were playing cards in the bar overlooking the pool. She got a chair which she assumed was empty (there was actually flipflops underneath the chair). She was in the chair for well over an hour. When we went to get her, the chair people came at the same time, and said that they had their stuff there and that was there chairs. They weren’t rude, just polite in pointing out the fact that their stuff was there. My daughter was mistaken and we got up to leave. Well no more than 5 minutes later, they were gone again, and no word of a lie, those chairs sat empty for at least another hour. There should be a time limit!@! We didn’t have any problems finding chairs at the beach. Finding an empty palapa(sp) was a bit harder, though if you stood at the beach and walked to to the right close to the end of the hotel property, there was plenty of palapas. The downfall was it was further to walk to the beach bar. The beach itself was excellent. Always cleaned. The sea grass that washed up was raked daily, sometimes more depending on the amount. The resort as roped off areas where you can swim in the ocean. Take note: DO NOT SWIM/SNORKEL OUTSIDE OF THE ROPED AREA OR YOU WILL GET HIT BY A BOAT!!!! Seriously, people would snorkel outside of the roped areas and the beach lifeguard would whistle at them and tell them to get on the right side of the rope. And no more than 5 minutes later a motor boat would go racing by at least 2-3 feet by the rope. A couple of times the boat drivers would actually slow down and yell at anyone who was on the outside of the rope. There are reasons why these things are in place, it is for the safety of the resort guests and they need to be respected!!
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: The nightly entertainment was good. There was a different show theme every night. And the entertainers do work hard and try to put on a good show. My complaint with the entertainment though, is that the MC’s or hosts were always in the spotlight. If they had a group of guests up on stage, the guests were pushed back and the hosts were centerstage. I think it should be the other way around, or at least have the hosts intermingle with the group. It just seemed to us that it was more about the hosts than the guests at some points. For other activities, there was a list of daily activities listed by the pools, but we never knew where they were taking place nor did we see the hotel staff actively looking or recruiting people. We were disappointed in that regard. We had stayed at the Barcelo Bavaro Beach resort in 2003 and there was designated areas for beach volleyball and dancing lessons. Here, we didn’t see areas for sports, or other activities. But each night, before the show they had winners for the various events, so I guess we either missed the announcements or were in the wrong place to participate in them (not that we really cared either way). You could book different excursions thru the resort or travel rep. Lots of different things to do from scuba dives, to zip lines to shopping and segway trips. We booked a shopping trip (free) and were quite disappointed with it. We thought we were going to be going to different shops or markets, but instead we were bused to one building which was two levels. There first floor had jewellery with SET prices. Silver, gold, larimar and amber. A bit better quality than what you would find at the beach/market vendors. Upstairs was a cigar outlet and other touristy items. Again, SET prices. If you don’t like barttering(sp) then this is a good place, but very limited in selection and a little more high end. Another downfall, is that you have to wait for the same people who you took the bus with to finish shopping. We had to wait 30 minutes for another couple who were just wandering around looking at the stuff. They weren’t willing to call another bus for them as ourselves and another family (traveling with a small child) were done and wanting to get back to the resort. Some of the excursions were a bit pricey. We were warned at the beginning by our travel rep that some of the excursions didn’t have insurance so you needed to be careful who you booked with. I think you were pretty safe if you booked thru a travel rep or the hotel. On the beach there were always guys trying to sell snorkeling trips or segway tours. Some were reasonably priced. We saw segway tours almost everyday, so I think they were quite popular.
There is a games room where you can play pool or pingpong, but everytime we went the attendant was sleeping or on his cellphone. We tried to rent bikes one day and they didn’t have any bikes for kids and they weren’t really in the best of shape.
Other Comments: Our complaints were few and minor compared others we had read/heard. I think the main thing to keep in mind is that it is a very laid back atmosphere. They run things on Dominican Time, not Canadian or American Time. Like I said before, if you treat the with respect and are pleasent, they are really a nice people who work hard to make your time there as best as it can be. Tip when you feel you had good service. We tipped the maid daily (we didn’t bother with those little trinkets from the $1 store) we gave her a couple bucks each day and got excellent service. We tipped the buffet waiters/waitress who we were served by oftened. They remember you and treat you better, believe me. On the hotel in general, it was surprisingly nice and we were pleased. It is dated, but the grounds and beach make up for any shortcomings. How much time do you spend in your room when you think about it. Would I go there again, yes, as a last minute deal, but probably wouldn’t choose this resort if given other options (depending on the options & prices). We paid just over $4000 for the four of us. We thought it was a fair price for what we got.
Vendors in the Hotel: We had one very bad incident that I will mention. On Tuesdays and Thursdays the hotel brings in different vendors to sell their goods. On the Thursday we went down to have a peek at what they offered. I wanted a necklace and we were going to pick up some other things depending on the prices. We went to a table and a vendor named "Tony Montana"(character from Scarface) helped us out. He was very friendly. We picked out some necklaces and he gave us a price (heavily inflated) and we went back and forth for a bit. I told him that we would be back as the necklace that I wanted was at a different table and he didn’t sell it. So he was a bit upset but I promised we would be back. I bought my necklace and a bracelet from another vendor and went back as promised to Tony. My SIL and daughter picked out what they wanted and put it in the "shopping basket" and waited as Tony was with another customer. His face lit up when he saw us and told the other vendors to leave us alone as he helped us first. Fair enough. Anyway, I guess something happened with his current customers and his boss (every sale has to be approved by the boss) and Tony became quite upset at his boss or the customers (don’t know as I am limited in my spanish). Tony came over mumbling and we said "hey. we came back, no worries!" He saw what we wanted and gave me a price of $25 US. I hand over the money and get our necklaces. So we start walking away. We got around the corner and Tony comes up to us and takes the envelope and takes out my daughters necklace and puts the other one back in the envelope. He says "Just say you bought this one at another vendor and you bought only one from me" and takes off. Well Boss-man comes running after us. Yelling "What did you buy"?? I told the truth, I bought two necklaces from Tony. "How much you pay??!!!" he asked, so again, I told him $25 US. He says that I bought both for $5. I said No way, I paid $25. He asks me to go back to the table. He gets Tony and me and says basically that he only got $5 for both, and that I was given the wrong price and to cough up the $20. I told him that what I paid. Boss-man than tries to take my other purchase from the other vendor but I pulled it out of reach and stuffed it in my pocket. So thinking that it was over with I go back to my family and again head toward the stairs. Next thing I knew Boss-man is back yelling at me that I ripped him off and that he would never sell necklaces both for $5. I said I paid TWENTY FIVE He asks me again to come back to the table, so off I go again. He says he could sell one for $5 no problemo but other one, no way. I say fine, take back the necklaces and give me my money back. He hands me the $5. I say no I paid $25!!!! Meanwhile Tony stands between us with his back to his boss, and gives me the $20 THAT HE HAD POCKETED!!!!! He was the one that ripped of his boss!!!