Check-in: one word, confusion. We started out in the wrong lineup, the AlaCart lineup. Without signs, who would know? We were then directed to the front desk lineup, this looks right. Wrong. You have to go around the back to another desk, without a sign, to register. These fellows are friendly and checked us in but we then had to go back to the front desk to be assigned a room. Ok we now killed an hour in lineups, but we are on vacation, right? No rooms until noon we are told, go enjoy yourself and come back. We came back at 12, 1, 2 and then 3 pm. I am now tired of lineups, but we are on vacation, be happy. Sorry, no rooms with king sized beds, only double beds. I’m worn out, any bed will work.
Rooms: Finally we are wisked away in a stylish golf cart and two fellows huff our bags to the 3rd floor, building 10, room 18 away from the stage, overlooking the basketball court. Nice rooms, old but clean. A/C works, ceiling fan works, bed is firm, balcony nice, bathroom is huge, hair dryer, multi-plug for Europeans, lots of towels, lots of closet, room safe, remote for TV, new clock radio, nice phone system, bar fridge with 2 beer, 2 coke, 2 sprite, 3 water. Something is missing, the beach towels, robes and slippers, welcome fruit tray, bottle of rum and personal concierge. The fruit, rum, chocolate bar, chips and towels show up at 7 pm. Turns out the maids work late into the night, they earn their 2 dollar pillow tips. At 10 pm our beds are magically turned down before we returned to the room. Nice, but how many people are in our room to make all this happen? We leave a do not disturb sign on the door after the maid makes the bed next day. My wife ran into the turn down service maids at our door the next night, at 10 pm, they looked truly disappointed.
There are two maids per 7 day stay, a fellow who mops your floor, turn down service maids and perhaps a 7th person in the mix. Geeze, I feel guilty since we only paid $820 plus tax for everything. The room is quiet after 11 pm and the TV works ok with several English channels. We had lots of hot water except for one night. Showers were brisk, soap and shampoo supplied. We brought face towels, but not needed, they are supplied. We want for nothing. The Star rating Frequent travelers in North American will be expecting a 4 star to look like a Quality Inn or Hojo’s with perfect rooms, perfect bathrooms, perfect TV’s etc. The 4 star Dominican is based more on food, facilities etc and less on room appearance. This hotel is a 4.0 star Dominican. Frequent Dominican travelers will know what that means.
Building and Ants : Well, this building is a beautiful work of architecture. The huge atrium separates all 3 floors, no elevators. The air conditioners hum outside each internal pod and are cleverly hidden by massive beams, nice. Workers are always mopping and cleaning and painting. There are several large cactus gardens on the 3rd floor and one happens to be beside our room. It’s a beautiful place for plants and ants.
I made the mistake one night of squishing a small bug in the bathroom and not cleaning it up. An hour later we had hundreds of tiny red ants mounding over the bug and carrying it off to their nest, via a tiny crack in the molding by the door. By placing a penny in the path, it stopped the flow and we cleaned up the remaining soldiers and their prey. Lesson: there are scout ants everywhere in the Caribbean, no matter how clean the room is. If you leave a drop of food, soda, sugar, crumb or crushed bug, the scouts smell this a mile away and move in. Don’t eat or drink in your room or you will have ants. After this incident, the penny guarded the crack and we ate in the restaurants.
Restaurants: I gained 7 pounds. The food is outstanding. The food is 5 star. The buffet is smaller than most and could use layout redesign, however what is contained in the buffet is the most important. Because of the variety of places to eat at night we only had supper here once! For the travelers that frequent Tavern on the Green, Peter Lugars or Sardi’s you may be disappointed. For the rest of us the food is outstanding. The complex has 7 different places to eat, we enjoyed the beach club after 7 pm and the brick oven thin crust pizzeria most. Others were outstanding but my personal tastes are skewed towards atmosphere, variety and desire for instant service. I must say the most memorable meal was the oriental night at the buffet and the chicken skewers bar b q ed with a honey glaze (memories of Fun Royal beach club sauce). Bring long pants for the ala carts. The pool restaurant is open in the day for tasty snack food and drinks, at night it becomes a Mexican restaurant, the beach club has the same snacks in the day and becomes a gourmet meal at night (recommended). I could go on and on about the food. Lots of fresh fish lots of meat, lots of variety. Yum.
Pools: The main pool is the nicest I’ve ever seen. A gentle slope going in allows the most feeble to inch in as well as allowing you to lie in the water at the edge. The pool is huge, water is warm, with a waterfalls from the restaurant above a swim up bar and a deep end. It has a small island in the middle with a healthy ant population who look forward to an empty beer glass or cola. Lots of fun to watch on a lazy afternoon. I brought my floaty chair, which allows you to sit up, sip your drink and float around. Highly recommended. Over by building 3 is another pool with whirlpool jets. Made for socializing and finding pressure points. Hello to CC, Kim, Rene and Linn, who helped pass an afternoon with great conversation. There are 2 other pools that are less amusing but good for quiet relaxation.
Massage My wife had the massage and it revitalized her. She recommends the ½ hour at $30. The background of the waves and birds adds to the ambience.
Beach Very nice. Brown sand, no rocks, tiny bits of coral, no weeds, warm water. Each morning at 6 am a parade of beach lounger fanatics make the pilgrimage to the beach to place a towel on a chair. Similar to the sea turtles of Galapagos Islands, who come in at 2 am to lay their eggs and they disappear, these people appear before sunrise, select their chair, lay their towel and never appear again until the next morning to repeat the process. My friends Ray and Colleen witnessed this strange behavior one morning after several days of being lounger-less. I wished we could have taken pictures.
Ray and I took out the Hobie Cat sailboat on Monday, expecting lessons. The teacher asked if we sailed before, Ray has when he was younger, that made us qualified; we took off at a great pace, flipped the boat trying to turn it around. We managed to get it over, I was traumatized, Ray laughed, he went off later to snorkel and found a lot of fish just a few 100 feet off shore. I recovered and returned to my floaty chair. The beach rental booth has lots of free items to loan you for an hour. Banana boats are $10, parasailing is $45. A 30-minute walk to the left will get you to the orange market, some good wall art for $10 to $20.
Security These guys are dressed in uniforms and equipped with clubs. They guard the premises day and night with one exception, the disco. The disco is open to the beach and anyone can wander by and join in. I was concerned with this due to the young age of the attendees. The security guard was very concerned when informed and advised they will respond immediately if there is an issue. I wish there was a spot check every hour to thin out the locals from the guests.
Entertainment Every night except Sunday there is a show. A beautiful wooden ceiling covers the stage and seating area. 5 horns, 3 singers, drummer, guitar. Wow. The shows are OK, some are spectular, but wait now, I paid $820 including the flight. A nightly show with 25 people is a bonus, if it isn’t Broadway quality that’s ok. Who can fault these entertainers who work 14-hour shifts for one missed dance step. Daily poolside entertainment is fun, the usual games; I wish the entertainers were less interested in the young ladies and more interested in their job.
Other There is a mini shopping plaza on site with a few jewelry stores, grocery stores, convience stores. You don’t need to leave the resort. The shopping plaza is next door for booking trips and shopping for other items. We found Simon (See Mon) an English speaking older Dominican gentleman who waits outside for tourists who want a specialized tour. He took us to the fort, downtown P.plata, Amber museum, Neptune statue, and up the cable car to see the Jesus statue and Botanical gardens for $12 each. This includes the taxi, driver, 5 passengers and him! Geepers how can this be? A 5-hour tour. He did a great job and we tipped him well. As well we took an ATV tour from Marytour in the plaza. Tiny villages, remote beaches, rough terrain, sugar cane fields etc. $35 each.
Summary This is a 4.5 star resort. Every room needs minor maintenance: new light switches, ac outlets, plumbing help and tile work. Facilities are clean and well maintained, food is great. Highly recommended.