With having traveled every year for the past 2 decades, I know what to expect, what to deal with, and what to look for when picking a vacation spot. This resort is nice, but thought I would share my experiences and call it like I see it, so that others can make up their own mind when traveling. The Dominican will always be one of the first choices for travelers looking for a lower budget-all inclusive get-away from your hectic life at home….and that’s exactly what you get. What you make of your get-away is totally up to you. The Occidental Grand, (formerly Flamenco), is a well rounded resort with it’s problems just like any other resort. People who share their horror stories, or their wow factor moments, made their vacation that way……NOT the resort. Once you realize that other countries standards and way of life is much different than ours, you melt into their way and enjoy a different culture, a different way of life, a different experience. Lets face it….that is what you want the vacation for anyway. To delve into a different life and forget your own. A little piece of paradise, and some relaxation. Please read on to find out the particulars on what the Occidental Grand is really all about.
Arrival: My husband and I, were in the preferred club. This is offered through Air Transat/Nolitours bookings. Once we arrived at the Punta Cana airport, and got on our bus to transfer us to the hotel, we were booked into the hotel in the bus. The tour representative put our bracelets on us, and gave us our room keys, and our room number. All we had to do when we arrived at the resort, was take our luggage and go to our room. We didn’t even have to approach the front desk…unless we wanted a safe key. The in-room safes are older…taking a heavy key and lock. This costs you $25 non-refundable, and if the key is lost, it will cost $75. It is a smaller key, and if I knew ahead of time, I would have brought a key chain of sorts to put it on. I would recommend this. The buildings all look the same and the building numbers are hidden on a marble tablet on the ground near the entrances, making finding your building tricky.
Because we were in the preferred club, our beach towels were already in the room, so no need to take your card and hunt out the towel guy. Although, you can find him easily as he is located by the pool in front of the beach grill, right out front building #25
Rooms: The room was a nice size with a sitting area consisting of 2 chairs, table, and t.v. unit. We had a king size bed, and the bathroom is nice and large with a tub, shower, and medium size counter. Hair dryer fixed to the wall, and a magnifying mirror on hinges. The shower is a handheld shower head which is great for rinsing off sand. The mini-bar fridge and coffee maker is inside a closet with a light. The mini-bar was cold, and they stock it with 2 sprite, 2 pepsi, 2 beer, and 2 bottles of 1.5 litre water daily. My suggestion is that if you drink half of a bottle…don’t put it back in the fridge…they count that as 1 bottle and only leave 1. We brought Tim Horton coffee, sugar, and whitener along with small coffee filters in order to have lots of coffee. This is highly recommended if you are a coffee lover, as they only leave a few packets of sugar and 1 pouch of coffee a day which makes 2 cups.
The room was clean with a nice double sliding door to a large patio with a table and 2 chairs. The t.v. gets 91 stations and is clear satellite reception. The air conditioning worked extremely well. The pillows were kinda lumpy and thick, and the bed a bit hard…but comfy after a long hot day of drinking.
Restaurants and Bars: One downfall of this resort is there was no consistency with their drink making abilities. Each bar, whether it was the lobby bar, pool bar, beach bar, grill bar…..no one was consistent in how to make a drink. I must have tried 18 different variations of a coco-loco. They also had non bartenders making the drinks if they were busy. Many times, after ordering a drink…the person had no clue what went into the drink and had to ask another person what to do. I also saw the other travelers trying to explain the contents of a drink to the so called bartenders on many occasions. And I’m sorry…If you have a special "Dominican Flag" drink…you should know how to make it. This resort does not believe in straws. They say the owner does not believe in buying things to throw away…..therefore no straws. Bummer. Especially when trying to drink a slushy Banana Mama from a tall skinny glass. I highly recommend bring your own straws…..you will thank me for it. I always carry straws on me…. (long story), so I had 2 straws, which I had to guard with my life and wash daily to last me the whole week. And they did!!!!! The food is very good. We did not book any a la carte dinners because we like to do things on our on time…so the buffet was it. The beach buffet is o.k. It is open for lunch 12 to 4. Not a wide variety, and no pride into the quality….but it was food. The snack bar above the swim-up bar is good for a quick burger/fries/fruit. They call it a sports bar…but that’s only because the televisions have football or soccer playing.
The dinner main buffet in the lobby has "specialty" nights, but pay no attention….there is such a wide variety that you can not tell what "special" night it is anyway. The seafood night….had 2 seafood dishes. So don’t worry, and the food is great. Just don’t expect a good dessert…countries like this don’t do desserts like us…just have the rice pudding or the ice cream and call it a night.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Not much to say about the beach, because that is what everyone already knows about anyway. Yes there is sand and water. When we went down, the waves were large and hard to swim…but it made it fun jumping over the waves. Watch out when you go to check if the beach is flagged…green is a go…yellow is big waves, undertow, red is don’t go in if you want to come out. There was lots of chairs and a moderate amount of palapas. The pictures you see, is exactly what it looks like, so enjoy.
The pools are clean and large with lots of chairs. The swim-up bar pool only goes about 5 feet deep and is the center of activity with loud music, volley ball and drinking. The other pool that runs through the building area is at deepest point 3 feet deep. Great for just sitting in and chilling, or for kids. It always seemed quiet with no one around it. A nice book reading spot and tanning area. No bar there.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: The resort is close to a local market area, if you walk straight out of the complex, you enter barter city. A 10 minute walk, if that. It is safe for tourists, however they see you coming and they are ready, so have your game face on. You can get lots of bargains, but know what you want and what you are willing to pay. The resort itself has a few gift stores…but the prices are higher and not a good selection. If you walk down the beach 30 minutes…there is another market, and a good hair braiding spot. My hair is down to my mid back, I got my full head braided..and it was 80$. The resort has vendors come in twice a week and they are pushy. If you look interested in cigars…you will 100% be asked if you need any marajuana or cocaine so beware. The jewellery is not always real, so know what you want. Your tour operator offers a wide selection of excursions and there is also people on the beach offering parasailing/speedboat etc…watch who you book with.
If you gamble, there is a small casino on site in the lobby. Not a lot of winnings….but fun none the less.
Other Comments: All in all, the resort serves its purpose. It is clean, you can eat, the food is good, the alcohol is free, there is a beach, you have air conditioning, the t.v. works, and there are places to shop. Sure the bathtubs are outdated, and the water is not always hot. The drinks are not consistent with no straws in sight, but we had a blast. Word to the wise…..there is no welcome gift. No there is not anything for free. There are people on the resort trying to sell you time shares into the vacation club, and lour you with the thought of free things…no don’t book dinners at the a la carte restaurants with them…you will get to the restaurant and they don’t know what your talking about. They call themselves "concierge". They wear beige. Beware of the beige. Smile and walk by..or catch yourself in a full day tour/meetings…all for a "free hat"????….. Just know what you want from your vacation and stick by your guns, enjoy your time away, and take the good with the bad. Don’t try to compare…..just try to relax. Everywhere offers something different, and even if you visited the same resort 5 times….each time your experience will be different.
The Occidental Grand is no different. A good resort…awaiting your arrival.