Old Reviews – Catalonia Gran Dominicus

We selected this resort because we wanted to return to the Dominican Republic, but wanted to visit someplace that had white sand and long beaches, other than Punta Cana. We have travelled to Punta Cana 3 times (staying at the Riu Bambu, and the Bavaro Princess), and to Cuba 3 times (staying in Cayo Coco, Holguin, and Cayo Santa Maria). The La Romana area of the Dominican Republic is located on the south coast of the island, on the Caribbean Sea. The area is relatively undeveloped in comparison to Punta Cana. We were told that there are only 7 resorts in this area. When selecting the resort that we were planning to travel to, we looked at Debbies to see if we could find any reviews. There were none of this resort, but we managed to find a limited number of reviews elsewhere. Few of the reviews were written by Canadians, and even fewer were recent. The Gran Dominicus was listed in some reviews and on some websites as the "Venta Club Gran Dominicus", and in others as the "Catalonia Gran Dominicus". When we arrived and spoke with the Sunwing tour rep, he explained that Venta Club was the previous Italian owner of the resort property, and that Catalonia (a Spanish resort company) had just recently acquired it. When the resort was owned and operated by Venta Club, it was exclusively marketed to Italians. Now that Catalonia has taken it over, they have started marketing it more broadly, and Sunwing has picked it up in Canada. The vast majority of the resort guests are Italian (about 95%). We found only about a dozen Canadians on the resort while we were there. As a result, you will hear mostly Italian being spoken by the resort staff, and the guests.

Flight / Airport: Sunwing Airlines seems to be in a good competition for service with Westjet. There customer service is good, even though there are too many seats on the plane. They served hot meals on the morning flight down, and on the afternoon flight home. The breakfast meal included hot, moist towels, and cold champagne. The La Romana airport is small, and relatively new looking. Everything ran efficiently, and arrival and departure went smoothly. (The staff working in the duty free shop were telling Canadians that the Customs rules had changed, and that you could now bring home 2.0 litres of alcohol. As a result, many people on our flight home bought 2 litres of alcohol per person, and found out on the flight that only 1.14 litres is permitted.)

Resort: When we found the tour rep at the airport (upon arrival) we were guided to a small bus. A total of 9 people (including us) got onto the bus, and were taken straight to the resort. When we arrived at the resort, we noticed that the lobby is small and dark, and was not part of any activities of the resort. Check in went very smoothly, and even though we arrived at the resort around 11:30 a.m., our room was ready.

Rooms: The rooms are smaller than most that we have enjoyed at other resorts, but not unlike most business class (Holiday Inn) type rooms. There were two (small) double beds, with hard mattresses and flat pillows. The bathroom had a shower only (large enough for two people), a small sink, and a toilet in a separate room. We are only about 5’6" tall, but the toilet room was so small that if you shut the door, our knees would hit the door (almost). Great water pressure in the shower, and lots of hot water (except on our last day). No bugs in the room, and the maids were always done their cleaning every day by noon. There was a small bar fridge that was stocked every day with lots of fresh bottled water and pop (no beer). The T.V. had very limited choice in channels, but we don’t watch T.V. while at this type of resort. The balcony was large enough, and quiet.

Beach: The beach is made of soft white sand, and is lined with both large and small palm trees. There are lots of palapas and trees for shade if you want it. The depth of the beach (from the high water mark to the palm trees), is not a great as Punta Cana, but is large enought to fit lots of people, while still having room to walk. The beach slopes more steeply that other areas that we have been too, and as a result, long distance walking gives your legs (shins and ankles) a workout. The water was clear and great for swimming. The beach does not get the kind of winds that you find in Punta Cana, so the waves are smaller and less fun to body surf in (but safer for children). We were told that the entire beach was wiped out about 2 years ago by a large hurricane. The resorts in the area, have taken steps to rebuild the beach, by placing "reef balls" parallel to the shoreline, out about 100 metres from the beach. These "reef balls" are large concrete balls (about 1.0 metres in diametre), that look like large practice golf balls. Marine life is already forming on them, and many fish live in amongst them. You can easily snorkle around them.

The marine traffic in the area is much less than in Punta Cana. Very few motorized boats go by, and we only saw one or two parasailers the whole week that we were there. Instead, there were the typical kayaks, Hobie Cats, and large catamarans, sailing by. There is a large, undeveloped stretch of beach to the northeast of the resort, that is a national park. It is approximately a 15 minute walk along the beach to reach it. There you will find some old reef shorelines, caves, untouched forest / jungle etc. Very few people came out this way, and if you’re looking for a good quiet place, it is worth the walk. The resort patrons all seem to line themselves up every day facing east, like parallel lines of sardines. Nobody really changes this pattern, and it looks a little funny. There were always a large number of people talking or text messaging on their cell phones while on the beach, around the pool, or anywhere else on the resort. It must be an Italian thing to do!

Resort Staff: This resort probably had the best animation staff that we’d ever seen anywhere. They were on the go from 10:00 a.m. to after midnight every day. They were very friendly and good at involving as many people as possible. Although we did not travel with kids, we noticed that the kids club was the most heavily used of any kids club that we’ve ever seen. The kids seem to enjoy themselves too. Most of the staff spoke Spanish, Italian, English and French. Many of the activity staff were Italian.

Food and Drink: Because of the Italian ownership of the resort, and the Italian clientelle, most of the food had an Italian flare to it. Fantastic bruschetta at every dinner, good selection of international cheeses (at every dinner), good proscuito, etc. Great pizzas, cooked in a wood fired pizza oven too. There was plenty of local fuits, and the standard Dominican fare too, but the food was definitely influenced by Italian cuisine. No complaints about the food. It was as good as any other place (if not better) that we have been too. There is only one a la carte restaurant that you can book at, but you must pay $35.00 per person to eat there as they only serve lobster for dinner. We didn’t try that one, but it is the beach grill dressed up a little.

There is one main bar by the pook that is the centre of attention on the resort. There is no swim up bar. Intitially, we thought that was a little odd, but after the first few hours, we didn’t miss the swim up bar at all. The main bar was lively, and all the drinks were good. Try the "cold coffee with rum". They also make really good (authentic) cappucinos and espressos. The main bar offers only domestic drinks, but there is a small bar at the cigar lounge that offers brand name (superior) alcohols and wines for a cost. The restaurants all offer bottled water and pop on tap, and beer and wine on tap. Those are all available as self serve in each of the restaurants. Because of the Italians (we believe) each restaurant also offers a wide selection of good quality (international) wines for sale.

Overall Rating and Comments: We found the resort to be smaller than the others that we have been to, but the size made for a very comfortable stay. Great resort, with a friendly feel, that appeared to be really good for kids. The beach has everything that you’d like to see on a beach, and the water is great for swimming in. We would return to this resort again.

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