Arrival: We arrive at the Gran Ventana at 11:05pm and our check-in was smooth as silk. A request for a bottom floor room with king size bed & ocean view was emailed to the resort 5days before our arrival. Two out of the 3 requests were met…we were in ground floor room #1139 in Saona Bldg & we had a king size bed. Out on the patio in the morning, we could just see the waves on the ocean if we stood on tippy toes!!
The Gran Ventana, located in the Playa Dorada complex, is a nice intimate & compact resort…having some of the best staff & food that we have encountered in our 6 trips to the Dominican Republic. The grounds were immaculate, the rooms spotless, the staff very efficient & happy to be working at the GV. Of course we observed things that could be changed or improved upon to make the stay even better:
The Rooms: Were spacious, with comfortable beds. Yes, the bathrooms were a bit dated & needed a bit of a spruce up, but that was being worked on while we were there.
Cleaning Staff: What can I say…they were always busy. Our room was spotless and there was always some new towel decoration waiting for our return. Even though we did not find out our maids’ name, I had a gift bag of necessities for her, with a note written in Spanish & English thanking her for all that she had done for us. A tip of $2/day was left for her, as she did the filling of the mini fridge too.
Room Safe: RD$700 for 2weeks (about $22.50US)
Laundry Service: was very reasonable. To have 16pieces of clothing washed & pressed cost us RD$680 or $20US. Cheaper than a dry-cleaners here at home
Food: The food in the buffet restaurant was plentiful, pleasing to the eye & absolutely wonderful. There was always something there even for the most choosy of eaters. My favourites were the homemade soups & the rice pudding. We ate at 2 of the a la carte restaurants – The Italian & The Octopus. Both were excellent meals.
The Dining Room Wait Staff: too few people doing too many things, therefore you didn’t have a chance to get to know any one waiter. They were more intent on clearing tables than assisting you with your needs. Don’t get me wrong, some one was there to pour water & wine, but that was about it.
Bell-hop/Porters: very rarely saw a Porter assisting a vacationer with their luggage
Front Desk: had no problems with anyone on Front Desk. All spoke English very well, but found room directions that they gave were very vague & a lot of vacationers were in a daze as to where their rooms were located.
The Managers: Lots of them wandering around the resort, but no one wanted to stop & chat….how else are you suppose to learn about the resort? We did manage to talk with Max who is the new Beverage Manager….he has only been there for 5 months, having worked at Jack Tar for 16years. He told us about his job & how he managed to come work for the GV
The Bar Staff: We met Jacquie at the Tikki bar & she is quite the character. If you needed a good laugh all you had to do was find Jacquie & you would feel much better….a drink or two helped too. Our other favourite person was Claritza, who served in the Lobby area during the evenings. By the 4th day at the GV, Claritza would watch for us & our favourite drinks would appear on the table as we sat down to relax after dinner.
Public Washrooms: Those off the Lobby were kept pristine, while the one at the beach was a little to be desired.
The Beach: A beautiful beach!! The governments’ beach restoration project was a huge success and the sand is just perfect. The only thing that we didn’t like were the vendors that were allowed on the beach to ply their wares. A "no gracias" didn’t cut it! We couldn’t just lounge around & read or watch the water without being bothered every 5 minutes to buy something. What we should have had was a big printed sign posted at the end of our lounger that said "no gracias"…maybe that would have worked? .
Internet Service: 750 pesos or $3 US for 30 minutes. The internet café was upstairs from the Lobby & there were 4 computers available when all of them worked.
Off the resort: As soon as you step outside the GV gatehouse, you are bothered by taxi drivers & Vacation Club personnel from the Occidental chain…these too were a pain. Going to the plaza, all the tour operators are trying to get your business….just reading all the different brochures tells you how much of a markup there is with the excursions. Please be careful & choose your tour operator carefully…make sure that they have insurance & they show you their papers. Then when you leave the plaza area, you get hit upon by other taxi drivers, horse buggy drivers & Time Share people. AAAAHHHHH!
The weather was not one of the best. I think we had 6 complete days of sunshine out of the 14 that we were away. But the temp managed to stay around 82F even when we had rain. It wasn’t whole days of solid rain, but 5-10 minutes at a time, 4 or 5 times in a day. And when it rained, it poured….big puddles in our courtyard at the Saona bldg.
Excursions We did 3 excursions while away, using the facilities of Martin Espinal of Isaira Tours. We did a day trip to Ocean World taking in the sights of birds, tigers, sharks, fish etc & the antics of the sea lions. No we didn’t swim with the dolphins as we thought it too expensive but we found a vantage point from which to sit and watch everyone else having their encounter. Our 2nd excursion was a (private) shopping trip to Santiago…driving Hwy 16 thru the mountains…now that was an experience, especially with the rain storm that we encountered on our return to the resort. The Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración (Restoration’s Heroes’ Monument) and the history attached to it is quite interesting…the panoramic view of the city is breath-taking. While in Santiago we went to a ceramics factory where we could watch the clay being mixed & formed. The bowls, pottery urns, plates, trays were all fashioned, finished & painted, ready to be sold. We shopped for our rum at the Supermarcado in downtown Santiago and this is where things got a bit interesting….the Supermarcado did not accept US dollars at the checkout. Our driver/guide figured out the exchange & then went to the Western Union Kiosk in the store to change money for us. The exchange rate that day was 33.20 to 1. 40oz bottle of Brugal cost RD$209.95 or $6.36 US, & a 40oz bottle of Baileys was RD$499.95 or $15.00 US. Our 3rd trip to Puerta Plata/Sosua was also a private trip, where we went up the mountain in the Cable car. We did as was suggested & arrived early in the morning in order to get the benefit of the scenery. The sun was shining when we got in the Car and the view was spectacular as we ascended. But when we got to the top the view was obscured by a rain cloud and it poured for 20minutes plus. Descending the mountain, we came out of the cloud and could locate all points of interest that we had been to. We had, in the past, been to the Brugal Factory 3 times, so we decided to by-pass that stop & go directly to Sosua to see Mark & Colleen at Checkpoint Bar.
Departure: Thursday January 18 & we decide to take a 6:35pm taxi ride to the airport for our evening departure of 10:35pm. Cost of the taxi was $25US + tip. There is only one other couple in line with us at 7pm when Sky Service opens their queue and we are able to get our emergency row seating. Our plane was delayed and does not arrive in POP until 10:10pm. They do a quick turn around to get the plane cleaned up and loaded for the return flight to Ottawa. By 11pm we are taxiing down the runway on our way home and arrive in Ottawa at 2:10am. Luggage is retrieved and Immigration is just a straight thru procedure, taking all of 35minutes.
All in all, it was a good trip. Lots of time to read, people watch and just plain relax. Would we go back to the Gran Ventana? I don’t know. But for the money that we paid at the time, it was excellent value.
If you wish any further information please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org or send a private message to mra on the travel board.