Rooms – Decent, needing uf a good cleaning and upgrade. It was very pretty, nice layout, but some things left me uneasy. I just didn’t have the feeling like it was always very clean. They did a good job, but (being the slight germ-o-phob that I am) I noticed minor mold issues, stains, etc. I felt uncomfortable not wearing flip-flops while walking around, that might just be me though. We initially had some issues with the toilet. It wouldn’t flush. But, after having maintenance come and fussing with it ourselves, we realized that it just didn’t have enough water in the tank- something we fixed on our own. Our water pressure wasn’t too bad, nothing that impeded on my getting ready! We did give our maid a nice tip at the end of the week to show our appreciation for her hard work ($10-15 I believe).
Restaurants – Still up for debate. We tried out every restaurant except for the French one and the Chinese one. My favorite as far as consistency and choices is La Hispanola- the buffet in the main building. The Argentinean steak house was our first dinner and to be quite honest, the steak was awful (thin, fatty, no edible pieces). Everything but the steak was great: appetizer, salad, bread, and dessert. El Pescador was good as far as the food is concerned, but like other people have said, don’t go there expecting any service or on an empty stomach. Sakura/the Japanese restaurant was nice. The chef was wonderful and gave us a lot of attention. Our waiter though forgot some of our orders (apps/deserts) and was just trying to get us out; we were the last table of the night. The Italian restaurant was fine, nothing special. I got the mushroom risotto and really liked it but couldn’t eat more than 1/4 of it because I was stuffed from everything else they gave us. As far as breakfast and lunch went I had a VERY hard time finding anything that looked/tasted good. I always had more luck at La Hispanola than the buffet near the beach. By Monday morning of our trip (we arrived Friday) I had come down with an awful stomach pain. I did not actually "get" sick, however I had this terrible burning feeling until Thursday/Friday and even didn’t feel too well after I got home. Some people on our trip had more "symptoms" than I had, but mine lasted longer and the burning feeling came and went every 10-30 minutes or so and I just wanted to crawl up and sleep to avoid it. I’m not sure if it was related to the food we ate, but I tried not to let it take away from my experience or live on bread all week. Bars – Good. They were surely plentiful. I lived on the yummy mojitos. For the most part the bartenders were attentive and timely in getting to everyone, sometimes it did take a while- but that comes with every bar.
Beach and Pools – The beach was very nice, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen!!! There were always tons of chairs open (some days were busier than others). There were people that went up and down the beach trying to sell various items (jewelry, hats, etc.), if you tell them you’re not interested or just don’t pay them much attention- they leave you alone and keep to themselves. I did like that this resort had a volleyball net and other activities to do, as well as it being right near the pool, buffet and bar!
Grounds – Very nicely landscaped, there are tons of guys working very hard to keep it nice for visitors and it shows. There is this one walkway on the resort that must be right over/next to the sewer lines because it smelled absolutely awful- that was the one area I had to run through and really was unpleasant.
Activities – I didn’t take part in going to the casino or disco. We did go across the street to go shopping once. That was quite an experience, but just be ready to bargain and know that they operate very differntly than in the US, etc. so try not to get overwhelmed or frustrated with their tactics! The last night of our stay the resort had an open market" which had many local vendors set up in an organized way and was a great opportunity to see what the area has to offer and a perfect time for souvenir shopping!
Entertainment: I have never seen a group of young people work SO hard in my life! They were on the beach in the morning teaching yoga/salsa, by the pool in the afternoon teaching water aerobics, on the main stage later in the evening putting on their nightly show and then mingling with everyone afterwards (still teaching more salsa!!)- there were often many more things they did throughout the day as well! I would see these guys (& gals) everywhere. That being said- I did think that some of the shows were a bit cheesy and some of the classes were weird and like nothing I have ever done in a "gym" before. Their enthusiasm and attitude were hard to beat and really got people to forget about the cheesiness of it all.
Tours – Excursions: you’re choice, but be informed! We went on 2 excursions while on our vacation. The first was to Saona Island. We were told it would take 30-45 minutes to get there. It actually took MUCH longer. The bus left at 7:45ish and we didn’t get to the island until around 12/12:30. There was about an hour catamaran ride included in that time. If I had known the duration of the travel time, I would have opted to stay on our own beach for the day. The island was beautiful, but not worth the time it took to get there. We also went on a ½ day excursion to swim with nurse sharks and manarays. This was really neat and I am glad I did it. However, they were netted up (in a make-shift pool in the water). People kept bumping into each other and the water wasn’t super clear. Don’t get me wrong, this was a very neat experience, but not what I was expecting.
Conclusion – Overall, our trip was very nice and memorable but I wish I had done a bit more research. I do want to go back to the Dominican, but next time I will be willing to shuck out a little bit more money to for a truly 5-star resort and maybe check out a different part of the island besides Bavaro Beach.