Now Larimar Punta Cana (NH Real Arena) Reviews – Dominican Republic Hotels – Now Larimar Punta Cana (NH Real Arena)

November 9 to 16, 2008 We flew Air Transat Club Class to Punta Cana on November , 2008. Our first week was spent at NH Real Arena (formerly called EdenH Real Arena). Just a name change, no change in ownership or anything. This hotel is located in Bavaro, about 15 minutes from Punta Cana Airport, 50 miles from La Romana Airport, and 120 miles from Santo Domingo. The cab ride from Punta Cana Airport cost us $35.00 U.S. The hotel is located between Paradisus Palma Real and Los Corales, and is about a 20 – 30 minute walk along the beach from El Cortecito.

The resort is quite compact, and the layout makes it very easy to get around and find things. Its design reminds me of a combination of several resorts – Punta Cana Princess for the grounds, Ocean Blue for the courtyard area where the restaurants, bars, and lobby are, and Majestic Colonial for the rooms.

Check-In: Checkin is at 3 p.m., checkout is noon. Late checkout may be available depending on availability or they will provide a courtesy room where you can shower and change. We were booked into a Paradise Club Concierge room and checkin was at the Paradise Club Lounge in the lobby, opposite the front desk. Note that Transat Holidays calls the Paradise Club Concierge room Le Mirage Concierge room. I don’t know why they insist on using different names than the hotel uses, it just causes confusion in my opinion. We were provided with a welcome drink and checked in and given a pink wristband, a map of the resort, our key cards and towel cards, and a slip to fill out with time preferences for our restaurant reservations. Transat Mirage and Transat Concierge guests only are guaranteed 5 a la carte restaurant reservations . The Paradise Club lounge was also the checkin for guests that had the Mirage rooms, they were given a green wristband. The Paradise Club lounge has complimentary internet for Paradise Club guests, snacks, newspapers, a TV, coffee, drinks, and a fridge with beer, pop and bottled water. During high season Mirage room clients will be booked in at the Paradise Club lounge in the lobby, and the Paradise Club guests will be taken to the respective lounges in buildings 1 and 2 for checkin. These lounges were not in use while we were there, but will be fully staffed during high season.

We were then taken to our room with our luggage by golf cart, which was located in the Paradise Club section, on the 4th floor. Note there are elevators in all the buildings.

Rooms: The rooms are lovely – large and very bright and airy. We had a great view of the pool and beach, we were in room 1460. What was especially nice was the key cards for the door, you didn’t have to slide them, just touch them to the lock like a Paypass credit card. Apparently it will even read the card if it’s in a wallet. When you enter the room you have to place your room key in the slot by the door for the power to work. Our room had a king-size bed, 2 night tables, a desk, dresser, couch, chair, and coffee table. Note that the Paradise Club Concierge rooms do not have a tub in the room, it is out on the balcony, that was a little disappointing, but the shower is large and very nice. There are double sinks and separate toilet and shower stalls, divided from the rest of the room by a wall, so the bathroom area is more private than their regular rooms. The room also contained a 27-inch TV, telephone, coffee maker, clock radio with MP3 plugin – never did figure out how to stop the alarm from going off, it went off at 6 a.m. the first two mornings, we ended up just changed the time to a more reasonable hour. There is a minibar which is restocked daily with beer, soft drinks and water. Leave a note and tip with your preferences. Bathrobes and slippers were provided in the room as well as beach towels – we never needed to use the towel cards we had, we just exchanged the towels at the beach for clean ones when we needed them (towels are at the Watersports Centre). An iron and ironing board was provided. There is an ice bucket, and ice machines are located near the elevators. There is lots of closet space and shelves to put your stuff on and the electronic safe is included. It is large enough for most laptops, you might have to tilt it up a little to close the door. One problem we had with the room was the door banging – changes in humidity make the doors swell and shrink and it was quite breezy while we were there. We solved this by putting a small pad of paper in the door as we shut it for the night. The bathroom contained a hairdryer, makeup mirror, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, bath sponge, even a plastic brush and comb, sewing kit and makeup pads. Suggest you pack a couple of facecloths, as they are not necessarily left every day, or hide the ones they leave so they don’t take them. We started out with 2, but by the end of the week we didn’t get any. This is not unique to this hotel, happens in all the hotels we’ve stayed at. We always had good water pressure and hot water. The Jacuzzi tubs are big and take a LONG time to fill up. As we had a Paradise Club room, we only had a tub outside on the balcony, so I only used it once. We tipped the maid every day and maid service was excellent. I think this is the first hotel where we actually received turn-down service every night, and they literally did a cleanup of the whole room, ie. emptied garbage, washed dishes, left clean towels, etc. In all room categories they are available with a king-size bed or two full-size (double) beds. The rooms with double beds may have a table and chairs instead of a couch.

The regular Deluxe rooms and Mirage deluxe rooms (same as regular Deluxe rooms, just in a better location higher floors overlooking the pool and extra includes) have an open concept bathroom (no wall), but have a Jacuzzi tub in the room. They are a little smaller than the concierge rooms (495 square feet), but still a good size. These rooms have no Jacuzzi on the balcony, just inside the room.

The Le Mirage Inclusions are:: – preferred room location – Concierge service with direct phone line and private reception – Minimum 5 guaranteed reservations for a la carte dining (Transat Holidays only) – Separate checkin/checkout – 30 minutes/person/week Internet access in the business centre (must be used in one session) – Beach towels, bathrobes and slippers in room – VIP amenities – Turn-down service – Fruit basket upon arrival and distinct identification bracelet – One bottle of rum in room – 50% discount on a 20-minute massage – 15% discount on selected spa treatments

– Welcome gift in room

Air Transat inclusions for the Paradise Club rooms (Le Mirage Concierge) are the inclusions listed above, plus:: – Accommodations in more luxurious and spacious rooms (581 sq. ft.) with outside Jacuzzi and ocean or pool view, closest to the beach. – Private continental breakfast (This is at the Italian Restaurant) – VIP in-room lobster dinner (restrictions apply and this is for Transat Holidays guests only and is only available for a couple of months during high season (Dec. to Feb.) – Premium drinks – Private pool with butler service – A la carte pillow and bath products (we never saw any pillow menu, but the pillows were fine). There are about 20 larger oceanfront suites, but these are not sold through the tour operators, you would have to book these with the hotel. You can also purchase upgrades at the front desk after you arrive, subject to availability – the prices are posted. It’s probably cheaper to book the upgrade when you book your trip.

Some rooms with connecting doors are available.

Grounds, Beach and Pools: The grounds are beautiful, I love the layout of the resort and all the palm trees and fountains.. Pools run down the middle of the resort, and rooms are on each side in 4-storey buildings with elevators. There are covered walkways to protect from rain and sun. For a new resort not even open a year the landscaping is very nice. They still need some umbrellas around the pools, there isn’t much shade there and people tended to be on the beach instead. I understand they are working on that. They were experimenting with some shade cloths on the pergolas. There is a swimup bar in the pool right at the beach, the main pool, and a “relaxing” pool, as well as a kid’s pool. In addition there are two private pools for Paradise Club members at the front of each oceanfront section, complete with bar serving premium drinks. When you look at the pools you will see they are not the “pool blue” most pools are, the pools actually have brown and white tiles in them and looking at them from the room, the colour matches the colour of the ocean. The pools are open later than most resort pools, until 8:00 p.m. (bar service ends at 6 p.m.)

The beach here is spectacular, nice and wide, with lots of palapas. You can walk for miles in either direction, it’s easier walking in this section of beach, at resorts further north the sand tends to be deeper and harder to walk in.

Bars and Drinks: Lots of bars around. There’s the Alisios Bar off the lobby (large and enclosed), open from 10 a.m. to midnight – they also have live entertainment here, and Karaoke once a week. The Olas bar is at the beach restaurant, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Swimup bar – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. – the bartenders are quite entertaining – one day they were delivering drinks to guests at the pool on a bicycle while balancing the drinks on their head. Tahntra Bar is next to the casino and opens at 9 p.m. This is a very nice open-air bar, they have lots of comfortable couches and even a splash pool. Sports Bar – open from 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. – there are several pool tables in here and a bowling alley. Bowling is $10.00 an hour plus $2.00 for shoes – available from 5 p.m. to midnight. Automatic scoring, so you don’t have to keep score. You have to wear socks. Also a popcorn machine in the bar. Theatre Bar – open from 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. Paradise Club bars – there is a bar at each Paradise Club pool, open from 10:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Presidente is the main beer served at the resort, sometimes they may have Heineken, Coronna or Miller’s. I could not get a drink menu at any of the bars. The bartenders will be happy to recommend a drink. I tried the “Carlos Special”, it was very good. Mostly I just drank white wine though.

Also loved the icecream machine at the main pool bar.

Restaurants: The Festival Buffet restaurant is open for Continental breakfast from 6:30 a.m. – 7:00 a.m., Breakfast from 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m., Lunch from 12:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., and Dinner from 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. There is a small open-air section in this restaurant. They had a good selection at breakfast and I enjoyed their freshly-made smoothies and Felix’s wonderful omelettes! We ate lunch here several times, was very good, with lots of coldcuts and things for sandwiches. We ate dinner here the first two nights. Loved the food the first night, but I did not feel they had as great a selection of items as other resorts I have been to, but I had no trouble finding something to eat. I was told during high season there would be more variety available – at the time we were there occupancy was less than 50 per cent. They always have pasta and pizza available. I was a little disappointed in the deserts available, not a great selection, again likely due to the low occupancy. Service in this restaurant was good most of the time. A La Carte Restaurants All of the restaurants are located in the same area, opposite the lobby, with a central courtyard in the middle. This is where some of the entertainment takes place and they have tables and chairs where you can relax with coffee or a drink before or after dinner. They have 5 a la carte restaurants, and reservations are required. If you are in a Paradise Club room, the concierge will have you fill out a form when you check in noting your preference for dining time, and will make the reservations for you. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. We didn’t get our reservations and found out they had not been made, but another concierge looked after it for us. Later on during the week we needed to change a reservation as friends were joining us for dinner, we assumed the concierge would look after this for us, but they just told us to go see the Reservations person at the Sports Bar. For other room categories you make your restaurant reservations at the Sports Bar. Dress for the a la carte restaurants is “Casual Elegance” – long pants and collared shirt for men, no flip-flops. Asian Restaurant Open for dinner 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. This was our first reservation, on Tuesday. When we were seated we realized that there were 3 Tepanyaki tables, but we were not asked if we wanted our reservation for a Tepanyaki table or to order off a menu. We would have chosen the Tepanyaki table. Actually while we were waiting for our food I made a comment to Pat that the food they were cooking at the Tepanyaki table smelled good, and one of the servers overheard me and brought over a small plate of it for us to sample! Our food was okay, but they didn’t bring me what I had ordered, and they ran out of white wine.. Cinque Terra Italian Restaurant Open for dinner 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

We ate here on Wednesday. We had friends from Santo Domingo joining us for dinner. Service was very slow. Pat and I ordered spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce and they brought spaghetti with a different kind of sauce and no meatballs. Our friends pointed this out to the waiter and he did bring the meatballs. The thing was, our main course did not arrive until an hour after we’d had our appetizers. But, we were talking with our friends, so it wasn’t a big deal for us. We had coffee but elected to skip desert.

This restaurant is also open for a la carte breakfast for Paradise Club guests. We went there one morning, I think we were the only ones there. It was fine and service was great, but we found it just as easy to go to the buffet. American Shore Grill Restaurant Open for dinner 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. We ate here Thursday night and again on Saturday night – this was my favourite restaurant. The first time I had a salad, pumpkin soup (aka butternut squash) and beef tenderloin. Cheesecake and apple pie was on the menu for desert, but we were just too full. The second time Pat had the 24-oz. hamburger (really – that’s what it says in the menu, actually it is just a regular hamburger), and I had the “World Famous Ribs” – I actually enjoyed them very much – better than what I’ve had at our local Ribfests. Service the second time we were there was slower than the first time, but they had a couple of large groups they were serving. Senses Romantic Restaurant This restaurant is Adults Only, and is open from 6:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. The décor is all in red and white – red chandeliers, white curtains and fabric on the ceilings, roses on the chairs – kind of cheesy. But the food was good and service was excellent. Olas Beach Restaurant

Located at the beach, this restaurant is open for lunch and snacks from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It’s the only open-air restaurant, all of the others are enclosed and air-conditioned. They serve hamburgs, hotdogs, chicken, pizza, salads, French fries, nachos and cheese, a good selection. We alternated between eating lunch here and up at the main buffet.

Room Service 24 hour Room service is included for all guests. The menu is quite limited, consisting of continental breakfast items from 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and the entrees available from 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. included Chef’s Salad; Cheese, Olives & Mustard/Raspberry Vinaigrette; Beef Carpaccio of Manchego Cheese; Caprese Salad; Ceviche; Cheese platter; Club Sandwich with potato chips; or “Make your own sandwich – choice of cheese, ham, tuna, and salmon with choice of bread, and Deserts consisting of cheesecake or Tripical Fruit Selection The literature indicates an upgraded room service menu for Paradise Club guests, but I didn’t see any signs of this?

Candlelight Dinner for 2

You can make arrangements for a private dinner on the beach or other area of the resort – see guest services for details.

Lobster Dinners

The Italian and Grill restaurants offer a lobster dinner at an additional cost of $29.99 plus tax.

Daytime Activities and Sports

There is no shortage of activities here, if you want to be active. You can check the activities board near the Buffet restaurant for daily events. They have dance classes, aerobics, cocktail-making classes, weaving classes, beach games, Spanish lessons, all kinds of things. At the beach is a “coconut tree” for climbing (kind of like rock-climbing) – you get the harness from Animation. I never saw anybody doing it, but it looked interesting. They also have a bungee trampoline in this area, which is privately owned and costs $10.00 to use, again I never saw anyone using it. There is an ocean trampoline in the water for kids. The Animation hut is located next to the pool and is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., where you can get board games, books, etc.

Tennis

They have 2 clay tennis courts at the front of the resort, open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Private lessons are available for $30.00 U.S. an hour, you make your reservations with Guest Services.

Watersports

See the Watersports desk at the beach operated by Sea Pro Divers for info on catamarans, party boat cruises, parasailing, glass bottom boat rides, sport fishing, diving, snorkeling, banana boats, kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing, etc. They also have a free scuba clinic in the pool every day.

Nightly Entertainment

They have various entertainment venues in the area of the courtyard There is the Crystal Theatre where they put on song and dance type shows, some with audience participation. We’re really not into these shows, watched one for a few minutes. In the evening they have large screens up in the central courtyard and we enjoyed the music videos, ie. Frank Sinatra and Bee Gees concerts.. On Latin night they had an entertainer who put on a “fire” show. He was covered in wax and lit various parts of his body on fire. Since we get up early, we didn’t stay up for much of the evening entertainment.

Casino

There’s a small casino off the courtyard. There are 25 – 30 slot machines open from 4:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m., and poker, roulette and blackjack tables open from 8:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Internet Access

If you are in the Paradise Club, you can use one of two computer terminals in the Paradise Club lounge off the front lobby for free.

There is also a business centre where you can purchase internet time. (Mirage room guests get 30 minutes free, to be used in one session). If you have your own laptop you can purchase wireless internet access in your room for $25.00 for 24 hours of time good for 6 days.

Hotel Stores/Shopping There is a large gift shop at the hotel, and space for another store, maybe a jewellery store. Shuttle service is also available to the nearby Palma Real Shopping Centre. We meant to go and check it out, but we never got there.

Golf

Golf is available at 8 local courses. See your concierge or Guest Services in the lobby to make arrangements for any of the local courses or others located throughout the country

Spa

There is a lovely full-service spa run by Renova Spa, open from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.. I had a combination massage which was wonderful. They also have two massage palapas at the beach which are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Watch for their daily specials!

Fitness Centre

Next to the spa is the Fitness Centre. Sorry, didn’t go in

Medical Services

24 hour medical service is located next to the gym.

Kids Club

Nino’s Kids Club is located near the buffet restaurant and is for children ages 4 – 12. It’s open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. At night it is open from 8:15 p.m .until 9:30 p.m. when the kids put on their shows and parents are invited to watch. I was told that during high season they bring in kids entertainers to put on shows. The day I went in there weren’t any kids there, but I was impressed with the facilities they have. There is a full program of activities for the kids, they are divided into two groups – Cubs – ages 4 to 7, and Bears, ages 8 to 11.

Weddings

We didn’t see any weddings the week we were there. There are a number of packages available, starting from $649.00 U.S. For a description of the various packages, see our Weddings Page.

Currency

Take U.S. currency. You can pay for virtually everything in U.S. dollars, and even if you exchange your money, you will get the best rate with U.S. dollars. There is no ATM at the resort. Money can be exchanged for pesos at the front desk, or there is a bank at the Palma Real Shopping Centre.

Weather and Bugs

We had gorgeous weather during our week at this hotel, except for the last afternoon when we had some rain. It was hot during the day, but very comfortable in the evening, not humid at all. Didn’t notice any mosquitos, there were a few flies and bees around.

Meet and Greet for forum members

On Tuesday we went into El Cortecito to La Casa de Piedra with Hula and her husband and Mikefisher, and met some other forum members for a couple of drinks. These meet and greets are usually held on a weekly basis, a good way to put faces to names if you post on the forums.

Donations

If you want to bring school supplies or other donations (clothing, etc.) you can leave these items with Mike Bryant at the hotel. We had the privilege of going with Mike to a school in the barrio on his weekly trip to deliver school supplies and see firsthand the good that these donations do. The children are so excited to see him, and Magdalena is so grateful for the donations.

Summary

The staff at this hotel are great, they are always smiling and there is always an “hola” when you pass by. Service was good for the most part, but could use some improvement in the concierge area and restaurants. Quite a bit of English is spoken by the staff, the hotel provides English classes every day for its employees.. This is still a new hotel, not even a year old yet, and they are still working on making improvements in service and other areas. We really enjoyed this hotel, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us and I’ll try to answer them for you.

With special thanks to Mike Bryant, Carmen Rosa de Torres, Priscila in Guest Services and Maria in Restaurant services.

Photos: http://travel.webshots.com/album/568959423JlYNlX

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