As I read the reviews on Debbies Dominican Travel page before heading on my trip to Ocean Blue and Sands, I thought I’d offer my experiences for the next traveler. My wife and I booked our room thru RCI exchange – so paid the $189 exchange fee and then for the all inclusive for my wife and I. That was $73/person/day, so just over $1000 for the week (Sat to Sat). We found out later that folks who booked thru Apple Vacations got better rooms for about $1400/person in total for the week, from Chicago. As we used Frequent Flyer miles, we went the route we did, as total $ was less. The day before our trip, I called the hotel to confirm our reservation, and also inquired about transportation to the hotel. They don’t have shuttle service, but they booked a cab for me with my name on it. I think it was one of the wisest decisions. Upon passing customs, I was easily able to avoid the ruckus @ the airport, with the hawkers, etc. Cab cost $40, plus I tipped $3. I’ll be taking a cab back to the airport at the end of trip as well. Folks thru Apple or other had either free bus transfers or for a nominal fee ($20 RT for 2).
Airport, they make each person pay $10 to enter the country. You get a travel card for your $10, and you’d think you’d get to keep that as a souvenir. But no – you have to return it like 30 feet later. Free money for them. They did have live musicians playing for tips @ the airport as well.
Check-in:: Around 3pm on any given day is probably one of the worst times to check in as that’s the time that rooms are avail generally. We wound up waiting for ½ hr on line, then after getting to an agent, we were told, as we were RCI members, that our check-in was across the hall. That check-in facility was about a 5 min wait. And nice air conditioning, free internet just there, top shelf alcohol (Johnny Walker Black, Baileys). Found out later that premium service is for Privileged members only (and all RCI folks just checking in), so take advantage during checkin. Also, as a member of RCI, they give you 1 dinner (for 2) at one of the non-all inclusive restaurants for 1 night. I thought that was cool – as I felt entitled to all access @ $146/day for food/drinks! As RCI members, they target you for their H10 premium VIP service – time share. I could write about what the offer was, but felt I would present a biased opinion. We opted not to buy in as it wasn’t for us. As a gift for listening to their 90 min presentation, they gave us 3 choices – a couples massage (value $110), a gift basket of Dominican goods, or $100 credit for excursions. I chose the latter, but as I hadn’t booked anything yet, they wound up just given me a $100 bill.
I found them all really friendly, and engaging. From front desk, to guest services, maitre de, bar staff, housekeeping, etc. Really nice folks.
When I booked thru RCI, it came as a reservation of a hotel room. But when you look at the website, it only has junior, deluxe, etc suites. BTW, you *NEED* to print out the RCI confirmation email and give to check-in person. When I showed up to check-in, they said that the ‘hotel room’ was actually a junior suite, and as an RCI member, they automatically upgraded us to a deluxe suite. It’s really just a nice sized hotel room – ours was 2 double beds, and had a Jacuzzi, and a small sofa. Lots of space for 2 people. Room amnesties come w/ a comb, unlimited free bottle water, etc; of course, I forgot my toothbrush. They did finally get me a toothbrush, but it took several calls, they said they didn’t have one, then later said that they did, etc – but @ the end, I finally did get one. Backup plan was to buy one at the onsite gift shop. Villa 10 is where all the “Privileged” folks stay, so if you can score a room there, that’s would rock. Villa 6 is next to the Ocean, so that’s also a good one. Also, you may want to request a ground floor room, as the 3 story floors don’t have elevators.
Restaurants:: Everyone asks, of all the restaurants, which is the best? I think it comes down to personal preference. We’ve met folks that swore by Mexican, others that swore that the Caribbean place, etc. For us, my favorites were: The Dominican Buffet at the El Carey restaurant, the Surf/Turf @ the El Bodegon, and the goat @ La Casa de mi Abuela. My wife loved El Bodegon first, and the Spinach main dish @ the Italian place best. Please note that some DO have dress codes – El Bodegon (steakhouse that’s not included in the all-inclusive), as well as 2 regular restaurants – La Casa de Mi Abuela (Dominican), and I Marcherati di Venezia. Dress code simply means shirts with sleeves (even short sleeves), Long pants, and closed shoes. We did see a few folks that had on shorts, so don’t know how strict they are. Restaurant menus do not change – we wished they had a weekly plan, but same menu every day. In general, we felt that the wait staff was quite slow. The Mexican restaurant tended to have a 15-40 min wait, and unfortunately, only reservations can be made at the 2 not-included restaurants. Our quoted 10-15 min wound up being 5 min, so that was cool. La Casa de mi Abuela – the goat dish was delicious; so was the fish in garlic. Bucareno (seafood by the beach, non included in AI) – the soup was okay, the crab/mango dish was delicious, and dinner – my oh my – the plates were huge!!! It was so sad that we couldn’t finish the food – all the seafood there is grilled; I had the Lobster and shrimp – and they gave like 4 lobster tails and many shrimp – I did the most damage I could, but couldn’t eat the last lobster tail. I think I like Maine lobster better than Caribbean lobster (disliked the lobster in Cancun when I was there a few years ago). My wife got the surf/turf – but as the lobster was cut in ½, full body, it was unappetizing to her, and I ate that ½, she barely made a dent in the other. The steak was a bit sweet- I’m an Outback steak kind of guy, so wasn’t for me. Mexican – we weren’t impressed w/ the food. We get better Mexican back the states. The open appetizer bar was nice though. Fajitas were bland. We did all our breakfasts/lunches at the El Carey restaurant – lots of choices in the buffet. Omelets were great, enjoyed eating Chorizo sausage every morning, as well as melon/watermelon/peach juice, and papaya, mango pieces (unfortunately, the mango pieces tended to be a bit on the tart side).
Bar service – a few of the other reviews seemed to suggest that the service was slow – I did not have that experience- they were as fast as they could be – and each and every station. They were friendly; some wanted to know your name, etc. I personally, was on a quest for Mojitos, and that was a bit hard to find – no bar offered it except the lobby bar, and they made it quite good (until they ran out of mint).
Pool/Beach:: Pool was lovely, you should consider bringing a towel and reserving a chair under an umbrella on your way to breakfast, so you have a spot to relax in. The beach, the waves were mild during the week, the sand was fantastic, the only con was that there was more seaweed than I would have liked.
We went to the Showtime facility ever night – from Broadway type line dances 1 night to latino dancing another to magic show 1 night and a circus one night – they make an effort to entertain. We saw Grease one night, Copacabana one night. The 1 night we decided to bail due to all the MJ post-death info in the news (Michael Jackson show), we regret – we found out later that it was the best show they have, and the whole audience loved it. Bowling- they give us a voucher for just 1 free game (per person) – they punch a hole your wristband after you finish your free game. Extra bowling games are $15/game
I found that the guy in the hotel lobby offered rates a bit on the higher side. I wound up doing the Discover Scuba excursion – resort dive where they teach you how to use the gear, and go down to a wreck. The group I used to book was called Pelicano- they are PADI certified, and they have a facility on the resort site, on the beach, that they rent out from Ocean Blue. They were wonderful people to work with. As I loved to snorkel, I thought I’d try this once. They also offer a 1 week vacation cert course where after you get certified, you can go to any resort and dive. I had some challenges when I went to the ocean my time that I went there– my ears never quite equalized, but lots of folks had a great time. I’m going to stick to snorkeling in the future. One thing to note – the ocean to me felt choppy – several (not just a few) folks got seasick on each of my water excursions – but the staff and other guests said that those waters were like “Club Med” – meaning, that was normal for ocean. I guess I just wasn’t used to it. Just to the north of the resort on the beach , there’s another excursion company that was cheaper – for example, deep sea fishing @ the Ocean Lobby was list price $119, but was giving to me for $105; Pelicano’s rate was $99, and the rate for the stall is $75. I need to be sure to ask that they have 1 rod per person, let us use the rods (diff. rate to be just watching vs. actually fishing), etc. I still may pay the $99 b/c I liked the Pelicano staff, went on 1 excursion w/ them already, and if I get over the choppiness of the ocean water. http://www.pelicanosport.com Alert: DO buy Dramamine to help reduce motion sickness – easier and cheaper to buy from the states; if you forget (as I did), you can buy them from the gift shop @ the resort – $5 for 10 pills.
Casino – on site casino is quite lame – I’m used to Vegas and AC, so it was disappointing to see just 2 Blackjack tables, several slots, roulette, and 3 card poker. But only a handful of folks are ever playing – easy to get a seat, most tables empty. Those that do play though lose money, as tourists don’t really know how to play BJ right. Staff were very friendly though. I heard from the staff that there was a bigger casino about 10 minutes away, called Princess Casino, that provides free shuttles back/forth – I went there one night, and it was a bit larger (just 1 large room), but not to the same scale as any Casino in the US. They did have 1 table for Texas Hold’em, and the rest of the games were the same.
After Hours:: Most of the teens go to the teen club (ends @ 1:30am nitely), and seem to have a good time. The adults go to the After Hour Sports Bar, and hang out, drink, play pool, and just chat it up with folks from all over the world. That closes @ 6am, and has wings, burgers, hot dogs, etc all nite. (only the wings looked really pallettable). Internet – it’s only free WIFI in the lobby. You can buy 1 time access for 15 min for 4 hrs, or in your room for multiple access – $25 for 25 hrs (valid 6 days), or all week for $60 unlimited access. I thought about the $25, but wound up lugging the laptop to the lobby every other day just to check in w/ email. That was a big flop – the ‘free wi-fi’ was unfortunately down more often than not, and the times it was up, had to walk around to get the best signal strength (found it to be the OB2 connection next to the regular reception, where the tour travel desks are, across from the restrooms.) Bugs: not really a problem – you’ll see a random mosquito, bee, or roach. I did get bitten a couple of times by mosquitos.
Weather: The forecast was for rain every day this week – however, it just rained in small splotches and stopped; rained a lot in the middle of the night, so didn’t impact us much.
On the trip, I met many folks that have come back a few times, saying this was one of the best resorts on the beach, so that was good to know. Will I come back? If I were to come back to DR, this would be definitely up there. I’ve also been to many places in the Caribbean thru several cruises and destination packages, and I would like to see some more new islands, before coming back. For example, I LOVED Costa Rica, would love to go back, but would like to check out Guatamala, etc, first. To sum it up, Ocean Blue and Sands was great, repeat travelers come back, and was a refreshing vacation.