Old Reviews – Bahia Principe San Juan

Our visit to the Bahia Principe San Juan exceeded all of our expectations. We were extremely impressed with practically everything about this resort during our stay from February 20th until March 5th..

First of all, Air Canada was superb. We left Halifax late, but still got to Puerta Plata on time. Customs and luggage were fast and our 90 minute bus ride to the resort was exciting as we passed through Sosua and Cabarete. The Air Canada reps on our bus transfers were very well informed, provided important information, and did not waste our time with sales pitches or pleas for tips, such as in Cuba. There was also a rep office at the resort, and he was usually there.

Checkin was fast. Our requests were honored. We were assigned three rooms beside each other on the third (top) floor of building D-4. It was just a leisurely two minute walk to the lobby, pool, beach, and the Italian buffet where we ate most of our breakfasts and lunches.

We lucked out on the weather. Although there were several early morning rain showers, we had sunshine EVERY day, with the temperature in the low 30’s. Coupled with the ocean breeze, it was perfect.

The rooms were similar to Cuba…..hard beds, small pillows….but we expected that. However, the bonus is the bathroom, where there was always hot water with good pressure most of the time.

The maid kept the room impeccably clean. Most days, our room was cleaned by 10. She even folded any clothes we had left lying on chairs, and left them neatly piled. Her cleaning was thorough, to the extent where it was obvious on a couple of occasions that she had scrubbed the floors with Javex. That was just one example of the resort’s committment to good hygiene.

Although the brochures said we would receive a bottle of water, two pop and two beer in our room fridge daily, that’s not the case. They will leave as much as you want! We attached a sticky note to our fridge each morning, along with a $1 tip, and when we returned mid afternoon, it was fully stocked. We got up to 4 bottles of water, six pop, and 8 beer per day.

I am an early riser, and strolled to the Italian buffet around 5:30 each morning. It doesn’t open until 7, but, there is always hot coffee anytime after 5.

Food was always good. I think there was only one evening that I found it difficult, and that was my own fault because I made poor choices at the buffet. Breakfast choice was great with tons of bacon and eggs, as well as pancakes, french toast, sausages, fruits, warm donuts and churros, and surprises. Several mornings they had delicious crab cakes and, one morning, they even had chicken wings. Too bad they didn’t offer them at lunch time!

Lunch was most often at the same buffet which offered superb pasta dishes as well as other fare. On several occasions, we ate lunch on the beach where they had roast chicken as well as hot dogs, burgers and tons of fries.

The food highlight for me was the soup. It was available every lunch time at both locations and it was to die-for. It was made in an incredible broth with tons of vegetables and either chicken, beef or seafood.

Evening meals were in the main buffet which always had something for everyone from melt-in-your-mouth roast beef to onion rings and everything in between. We never went hungry.

Although we were entitled to six a la cartes, we only used four; twice each in the Italian and the Mexican, where meals were superb.

The beach was great! It is very sandy and massive, stretching several kilometres. At either end of the hotel property, there is a security guard who makes you sign out if you go beyond the limits. There was always a great availability of loungers, both at the beach and at the pool. The water was crystal clear. Some spoke of its murkiness, but it is only cloudy at the point where the water laps on the shore because of the sand it stirs up. We were in the ocean a minimum of four times a day; most often more.

We only went in the pool once, and it was pleasant warm water, with a maximum depth of about four feet at its deepest. The pool is for teens; we stuck to the beach.

There are no hustlers on the beach. The hotel has space set aside at one end of the property where the locals sell their goods from their little huts. While they are persistent, they were never aggressive. They were not allowed to solicit on the beach. The hotel has franchised about 20 other shops, which are located on their property, but beautifully line the long driveway into the resort. Prices were firm, but very reasonable, and their quality of products is good.

That same area is where the night life is. Everynight, they line the street with tables and chairs, crank up the music and pour the booze. The nice thing is, it is just far enough away that you can’t hear the noise in your rooms, which is a good things, because we are all early-to-bed people. The only problem is the noise the young people make returning to their rooms at 3 and 4 in the morning. There were even some fights. That was my only complaint to the hotel’s service manager during one of our conversations. I suggested the security guards should be patrolling the walkways when the party shuts down to make sure the party-goers keep the noise down. He said he would pass my suggestion on to the night manager and, sure enough, the noise came to an end.

We got to know the service manager just by chance early one morning at the Italian buffet when he came in for his daily inspection of the setup. He was hired by Bahia after their four-month shutdown last August-November to help the resort acquire and maintain a healthy atmosphere and good customer relations. He was genuinely interested in our comments and often stopped by our lounge table to see how we were doing.

We told him how impressed we were with not only the food and the staff, but especially the cleanliness. Some examples of that include the nightly washing of EVERY walkway (and it’s a massive complex). As I made my early morning stroll for coffee, I would always pass the overnight workers who were literally scrubbing the walkways with water and Javex. In the bar areas, there is always someone sweeping and mopping up cigarette ashes. In the lobby, there is a little old lady with a mop who follows you into the mens’ room to mop up in case you get sloppy at the urinal. Every morning, workers are IN the pools with huge scrub brushes, scrubbing the pool’s sides before the public is allowed to get in.

Perhaps the most impressive hygiene is in the dining areas. At the entrance to every dining room (as well as all washrooms and other locations), there are hand sanitizer dispensers. You are REQUIRED to use them or you are not permitted in the dining area. One evening, we saw three older British ladies arguing with the dining room receptionist that they had just washed their hands in their room and would not use that "smelly" stuff on their hands. The receptionist then told them they would not be dining there. The ladies said they would take their complaint to the manager, to which the employee said "If you wish….but he is the one who insists you use it". We were very impressed.

There was another interesting thing at eating areas. For the first time at an all-inclusive, we were always asked for our room number when we arrived. After several days, I clued in and asked the service manager if I was right. He congratulated me for figuring it out. The resort is not doing inventory; they are following your eating habits in case you get sick. They know which restaurant I ate lunch in on February 23rd. Every night, the numbers are punched into the computer. If you didn’t eat dinner on a particular night, the resort assumes you ate somewhere off their property, and it is not their fault.

In addition, if you go into the resort gift shop and purchase anything dealing with indigestion or diarrhea, the clerk is required to take your room number and it then goes in to the computer. We were very impressed.

We were actually thrilled to be wakened by an earthquake. Monday morning (March 3) shortly before 3 AM, a loud rumble woke us up…and then the bed shook. Later that day, I was visiting in a nearby town and saw on CNN that a tremor had been felt in the Dominican and Puerto Rico. It was actually exciting for us; but scared many, including a group of British who were evacuated from their rooms following a similar quake at the resort several years ago.

Finally, the drinking water. Exceptional and available everywhere. While you are told to avoid the tap water, the resort makes sure there is cold distilled water available everywhere, from the a la cartes to the beaches. Even the bars had self-serve water coolers….and the water is as clear and good as you have tasted anywhere.

Checkout was also quick, although you have to be careful someone hasn’t given your room number for something they purchased. In my case, there was an extra charge for a bottle of Bordeaux wine in the Mediterranen dining room. I never even ate there. Giving someone else’s room number for such purchases appears to be common. I had to sign a note stating it was not inccurred by me, and there were no further questions. Others were also billed for long distance calls they never made. Although I was the only one in our group to be questioned, we heard numerous others arguing at the desk that they were being billed for services they never used.

The ride back to the airport was on a luxury bus, which was a good thing because we got stopped at an accident scene in the middle of Cabarete for more than half an hour. Checkin at the airport was easy; security was good; and the lounge area was fun as we waited for our delayed flight. The departure was spectacular, the flight was smooth, and the landing was hair-raising as we fought with gusting winds in Halifax.

But, we made it home after our best southern vacation ever! We will go back to that resort.

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