Old Reviews – Grand Palladium Punta Cana Resort & SPA

A long review, I have tried to put things under headings. We stayed at the Grand Palladium Punta Cana from the 12th to the 26th November 2007. Our room was in villa 75, centrally located near the ‘quiet’ pool at the Punta Cana and only steps from the activity pool. The room was very nice with a bathtub and sink in the main room area and the toilet and shower in a separate space. The safe was the type in which you input your own combination and there was no charge. The bed was fine, and the pillows flat. Air conditioning worked reasonably well. There is no way to hang wet clothes, though we had brought clothes pins and were able to secure items on the balcony. Everything was in good working order, though one day the lights didn’t come on when the key was inserted in the slot. I spoke with the chambermaid and she had already notified maintenance and they fixed it before we returned to the room. The room had universal electrical plugs and we were able to charge our cell phones and use appliances with no difficulty (no need for the extension cord someone had suggested … we left it for the maid). The room is equipped with a hair dryer and comes with a remote for the TV (no need to request it at the front desk). We were very close to the lobby and it’s bar, the El Behique Restaurant, La Uva Restaurant and one of the closest villas to the beach. The 2000, 3000 and 4000 buildings are closer to the beach, when I peeked into those rooms, they look a little bigger and have the bathtubs in the bathroom. Check in was quick and painless. I had expected to be in the longer buildings and mentioned something to that effect (as we were given a villa), the front desk worker instantly offered to try and get me a room in the longer buildings if I came back the next day. As it turns out we were pleased with both location and the room. The size of the resort can be quite daunting, especially if you travel around the resort on the tram. It appears much larger on the tram because it takes perimeter roads. If you walk from the Punta Cana lobby to the Bavaro lobby, it is about 7 minutes. Waiting for the train can take 15 minutes or longer (and if it is dinner time or raining, the tram will arrive full) and then maybe a 5 minute ride to the lobby. The walkways are seldom straight and so somewhat confusing until you get the hang of it. Both the Punta Cana and Palace lobbies are close to the beach and close to each other. There are 2 a la carte restaurants and 3 buffet restaurants, the casino and a shopping area in the lobby areas. The Bavaro lobby (which has one of the theatres, the disco, the sports bar, some shops, three a la cartes and the Cathedral buffet) is at the back end of the resort (farther from the beach). The Bavaro also has Hemmingways (a lovely bar with air conditioning as well as a patio) and the El Arrecife a la carte seafood restaurant, which are both closer to the beach. All three lobbies are comfortable with nice furniture and lovely drinks.

Staff – if you smile that them or say “Ola”, you always get a big smile and friendly “Ola” back. It seems there are many visitors there who don’t do either of those things and appear to be unhappy/grumpy. Oh well … their loss.

Other guests – There are mostly Europeans at this resort and very few English speakers, either American, English or Canadian. There seems to be a ‘thing’ with some guests to see if they can get you to move from the walkways so they can walk two or three abreast. These people were exclusively Europeans (from what we could tell by listening to them speak). Eventually we stopped moving one behind the other and braced our shoulders for impact … it never happened, but they didn’t move until the last minute. Clearly not all Europeans are this ignorant, but combine the walk-ways adventures with the pushing and shoving at the buffet (you would think that there wasn’t going to be enough food) it was hard to understand. The place is so lovely and relaxing, I don’t understand the nastiness.

Live music – the Bavaro lobby had a wonderful band with about 6 members, lovely singers, dance and relaxing music. The Palace lobby had a very nice 3 member band, didn’t notice singing or any dancing. The Punta Cana lobby had a one man band which was great for socializing in the lobby or lobby bar.

Food – the food was different than what North Americans may expect, but there was great variety and lots of options. We did find the pushing and rude behaviour at the buffets to be a bit trying but found that by eating at the a la cartes nightly kept our stress level down. I don’t think the food at the a la cartes was vastly different, but being served and taking time over dinner was very pleasant. We ate in the a la cartes 11 out of 14 nights. Our least favourite was the El Arrecife (alternately called a seafood or an international restaurant). We had shrimp dinners there that were mushy … not very appetizing. We also found the meat quite tasty but with lots of gristle – but we found that throughout the resort. On another night, the wedding we attended hosted their dinner at the El Arrecife and it was a fixed menu with chicken as the main course and that was good. At the beginning of our trip we ordered and appetizer, dinner and desert, once the meal was ordered we were invited to go to the salad bar. We soon learned that we were ordering TOO much food and became more judicious, sharing appetizers and taking less from the salad bar. We ate at the Bambu (Asian food, Japanese, Chinese and Indian) 3 times, the Gran Cantina (Mexican) and the Mare Nostrum (Italian) twice and La Uva (Dominican) and Don Quixote (Spanish) once. We would have returned to all of them, except the El Arrecife, we just ran out of time. We ate at the buffets for breakfast and lunch and occasionally ventured over to the Sports Bar and the beach snack bars. We found the burgers often came red on the inside, but if you request well done, it wasn’t a problem. If you aren’t ready for breakfast until after 10:00, the hotel offers a late breakfast at La Uva (near the beach in the Punta Cana). La Uva has a different schedule from most other restaurants offering a light breakfast or a snack (made to order sandwiches) from 10:00 to about 12:00, buffet lunch from 12:00 – 15:00, snacks (made to order sandwiches) from 15:00 – 17:00 and a la carte dinner from 19:00 – 22:00.

Sun loungers – We had no problem getting chairs as long as we were there by 9am. Choice spots were gone by 7:00 or 7:30 am.

Beach – gorgeous of course. There are no lifeguards at either the pool or the beach and the waves at the beach are a fairly large. There are vendors, but they weren’t too bothersome, a ‘no gracias’ always did the trick.

Theatres/Entertainment – We attended two shows. We enjoyed the Dominican Show as it gave you a flavour of the music and dance. All in all though, we preferred the bars and socializing. Other members of our group went to the shows nightly and loved them. There are two theatres. Both at the back of the resort (farther from the beach). The animation team were friendly and actively tried to get people to participate, though were ok if you just wanted to laze. If you don’t want them to bother you, pick a place on the beach farther away from them.

Courtesy Rooms – There are courtesy rooms available at all three resorts. A handy thing to know if there are 25 people trying to use the showers in one place. The Punta Cana has courtesy rooms available behind the reception area of the lobby. The Palace (very close to the Punta Cana) has courtesy rooms available across the hall from the public restrooms in the lobby. The Bavaro has courtesy rooms available in the building near the pool, on the Hemmingways side of the restroom building. All were clean and tidy whenever I checked them out. The Bavaro area didn’t seem to provide blue beach towels for use but the Punta Cana and Palace had fresh towels for use and all three provided shampoo, shower caps and shower gel.

Sports Centre – We played mini-golf several times and it was fun. The facility could use a little TLC, but was good fun none the less. We wanted to try archery, were too late once and on two other occasions it just didn’t start up (maybe no one had signed up).

Sky Service – On departure from Calgary (we arrived two and ½ hours before departure time at check-in) our pre-purchased seat selection were not honoured. Meals were not provided for all passengers. The flight attendants served from the front and the back. Finally there was a bit of a cluster fluster and the few remaining meals were Frisbee tossed out to the ‘lucky’ passengers in the middle of the plane. Some didn’t get meals and some got sandwiches but no niceties like napkins. On departure from Punta Cana, there were two line ups. We got into the wrong one (not a surprise). Our line took at least twice as long as the other. The main problem was the Signature rep (the boss in Punta Cana) took a group of 6 people to the front of our line up. When we asked the rep from our bus, he had us speak with the ‘boss’. She informed us that there was a ‘medical emergency’ and that is why the group of 6 went to the front of our line. Clearly, there was a gentleman in a wheel chair and none of us had a problem with him getting priority clearance. We did have a problem with 5 able bodies people riding his coat tails. 1 or 2 people to accompany him would have been sufficient. Clearly the gentleman required assistance, but what kind of emergency is it when he is riding on the same plane as us and arriving the same time as us.

Signature – the rep at our hotel was good. He gave us an orientation the day after we arrived (we arrived at 9 pm or so at the hotel) and was available during the hours listed. We were told to check the Signature binder to ensure that the flight was still on schedule. We did so the morning of our departure and again at 2 pm. There were no notes in the binder. At 4:15 were had showered and were waiting in the lobby with our carry-ons. A woman came by in a wrap and asked if we had heard any further information about our flight status. We had heard nothing, let alone further information. Turns out she was in the lobby in the morning and ran into our rep who informed her that the flight would be delayed by 2 hours. When the rep arrived he didn’t make an announcement, we had to approach him to ask what was happening. Once we found out we went to the sports bar for some early dinner.

Airport – Upon arrival the truck with the stairs is pulled up to the plane, a line of passengers disembarks and heads in a line up towards a quick photo with 2 Dominican ladies in costume. We found ourselves at the back of a line and dodged out to get into a different (shorter) line. It was a fairly quick process. Departure was fine, though my boyfriend asked if he could have a lighter and, of course, he couldn’t. Many others just took their lighters with them … not the most comprehensive security. There are two departure areas. The first one is not air conditioned and there were a lot more people there than in the second area located past the food court, which is air conditioned. The extra space and air conditioning were both very welcome. There isn’t much to buy at the duty free or shops, and the rum is more expensive than ‘in town’ or at the resorts. Though if you purchase at duty free you aren’t required to pack it in your luggage.

Shopping – Before you buy take some time to check out the shops at Bavaro and the Palace. It will give you a good idea on what you should spend. The vendors that came on site Thursday and Friday night wanted an outrageous amount of money. I had chosen a picture frame, a small drum, a small shell encrusted box, a key chain and another little trinket. The guy punched up his calculator, handed it to me and it said $78. What a joke. I told him not to worry, we were so far apart that there was no point. He hounded me to put what it was worth in the calculator. I entered $20 and handed it back. He was appropriately offended. I told him that the same sized drum would be $8 or $11 at the resort, the picture fame no more than $10 and the other stuff no more than $3. We finally settled on $25, which I think was reasonable. Didn’t make it to the market by the hotel, but walked by a few times, lots of requests but easy enough to turn down. The market in town (about a 15 minute walk from the lobby at Bavaro to the end of the resort property and then another 10 minutes to the little town area) was ok. It was a rainy day and very quiet, though some people still wouldn’t barter much. Lots of requests to come to their shops but nothing as tough as Jamaica. Many of the prices are very high. I know that in Canada I wouldn’t pay more than $20 or $25 for a wrap, they were asking double. We walked away from one place and got a few cute things at prices that would be reasonable in Canada. There is a more conventional mall ($13 taxi ride from the Palladium) with a Hardrock Café in it. They had a nice jewellery store (though the one our Signature rep hooked up with was a better deal and they came to get us and drove us home), some nice clothes shops, cigar stores and a Brugal rum shop. I didn’t think I would enjoy paying for alcohol while staying at an all-inclusive. We had a great time at the Hardrock! The drinks and service were excellent (there is something to be said for good alcohol!) and the snacks were tasty (we really enjoyed the Heinz ketchup!). Two or three drinks and we were all giggling and having a great time!

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