Old Reviews – Natura Park Beach Eco-Resort & Spa

BobFromCanada is one of our hard working moderators on Dominican Republic Travel Forum Blau Natura Park Resort / Signature Vacations / Skyservice Airlines

Trip Date: 2008/12/04 to 2008/12/18 (by BobFromCanada)

We visited this resort in 2001 and enjoyed it, so we decided to give it a try again. Overall, we enjoyed the trip and would return, but ….. They’ve got all the major bases covered, but it’s the little things that get you. And let’s just say there were a LOT of little things. Most were just annoyances, but not all. With a little effort and not much expense, most of these would be easy to eliminate. This place could easily be 4.5 stars. WARNING WARNING WARNING. The edges on the steps on the stairs leading to the pool bar and to the rooms are not well defined. There is no contrast. Even worse, they are not lit at night. My wife thought she had the edge pegged, but missed a step and took a tumble. Fortunately she recovered and with the exception of a wrenched shoulder and a bruise where she bounced off the railing, no serious damage was done. I met three other people who stumbled on the same stairs. It would be so easy to conceal subtle lighting in the hand rail so that this wouldn’t be an issue. Oh yeah, I seem to recall complaining about the same thing in 2001 ….. OK, on to the review. Signature Vacations rates the property as a 4 star and Debbie’s rates it 4.5 stars. The general consensus from the group I hung with was that it was a 4 star property, but just barely. It was certainly better than a 3.5 star property but it ‘just’ made it to 4 stars. Sure, it’s still a very nice property, but there are issues. Most were pretty minor, but it was the sheer number of them that bothered me.

SKYSERVICE: Check in was pleasant and efficient at both ends. The advice to arrive 3 hours before departure works well for a 6 am flight. For an afternoon flight, it’s another story entirely. We arrived at Pearson over three hours in advance of the flight, only to be greeted by a rather lengthy line. This however moved pretty quickly. At the Punta Cana end we were late arriving at the airport due to a group of 15 golfers, none of whom were ready for their scheduled hotel pick up. Not only that, the bus was totally inadequate to carry them and their equipment. It might have been a surprise for Signature when that group arrived from Toronto, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise for the return trip to the airport. As a result, we got split up on the flight home. Also, our baggage looked like it had been towed behind the plane. Signature/Skyservice will hear about that …..

GENERAL: It’s a smallish resort and as a result, after a few days you tended to recognize people and meet them over and over. The walk from the beach to the lobby was a mere 5 minutes leisurely walk. The grounds are very lush and tropical and the beach is superb. There’s a small army of gardeners to keep it that way. There’s lots of wildlife around. That includes geese, ducks, flamingoes, peacocks, egrets (actually a large white heron) and fish. The hotel provides boxes with stale bread chunks to feed the fish. I did notice that the egret was more interested in the fish than the bread …. The hotel was running about 55% occupancy when we arrived and got noticeably more people as Christmas got closer.

CLIENT MIX: A virtual United Nations. We met English Canadians, Quebecois, people from France, Germany, Russia, Poland, Switzerland, Austria and the US. Curiously absent were people from the UK. The resort was very European, which means that tops were in short supply on the beach. Most ladies wore tops around the pool, with the exception of a very few.

DRESS CODE: They were quite stringent about long pants and a decent shirt in the specialty restaurants. The shoes and shirt rule (open toed sandals seemed OK) was enforced in the buffet and I saw a few ladies turned away to get cover-ups. The beach buffet at lunch seemed pretty much anything goes.

RECEPTION: The lobby and reception area is very attractive. We arrived quite late at night, about 11:00 PM, but check-in was rather painless. Even though they were expecting us (Blau Plus repeater’s club), they had the wrong package ready and had to go back inside to find our package. They quickly found the right one and escorted us to our room. Since my wife has a sun allergy, I’d requested a seaview room through the repeater’s club and this was provided. Thanks to the hotel for that.

BEACH: The beach was fine white powder sand. There was some seaweed but it was raked several times per day. It was somewhat breezy while we were there and the surf was breaking over the reef most days, so some seaweed was washed in. There wasn’t any growing there; it was just pretty well washed in by the waves and the tide. This was raked up and got carted away by the truck load. Despite the windy conditions, the reef kept the big waves away, so most days it was quite suitable for swimming. There was a small but well supplied beach bar conveniently located right on the beach. Service here was excellent. The towel game was alive and well. However, with 55% occupancy, palapas seemed relatively easy to get and there were tons of loungers. When the hotel is full this might be a different story. There also appeared to be a changeover of palapas at lunchtime as people relinquished ‘their’ claim and went to lunch.

POOL: The pool is small by current hotel standards, but it’s quite nice and appeared to be clean and well maintained. That’s the important part. The swim up bar was in the pool bar building and was behind a small waterfall. There was minor water damage apparent in the ceiling that should be attended to. It was quite cool in that area and I didn’t see many people using it. Curiously, the first week they didn’t have a beer tap, but the second week they did. The first week they tapped bottled beer into a plastic cup.

FOOD: This was the one area that most disappointed us. Not that it was bad or anything like that, but they kept running out of stuff. You name it; Knives, forks, spoons, plates, trays of food, the list goes on and on. One night they had an excellent roast pork on the carvery. Really good. When I went back for a second helping the roast pork had been replaced with some kind of a manufactured ham (tasted like Spam) that wasn’t very good to say the least. On another occasion, they ran out of roast turkey. This got replaced with chicken and when that ran out, it was replaced with ribs. They did say that more turkey was coming in 25 minutes, but the promised turkey never appeared while I was there. Also we noticed that their hot food system didn’t keep the food very hot. Not that it was particularly hot when it arrived from the kitchen. I have to give top marks to the morning omelets and the smoothies. Can’t say the same about the pancakes. Very dangerous if I threw one at you and hit you with it, if you get my drift. Also top marks to the beach BBQ. I got a very nice piece of steak there one day. My only complaint was that they didn’t do it enough. Somedays the beach BBQ consisted of seafood paella.

SPECIALITY RESTAURANTS: Steak, seafood and Italian. We ate at each of them and they were all pretty good. The steak one seemed to get the best reviews from people I talked to. The Italian, while good, was disappointing. The menu listed appetizer, pasta dishes and main course sections. However you were only allowed to choose between the appetizer and the pasta, NOT both. Ditto when it came to dessert. I was offered cake, ice cream and a few other things, so I asked for cake and ice cream. Simple, right? Oh no, you could have cake OR ice cream, but not both. So I ordered the cake and went to the buffet for some ice cream ….

SERVICE: I found service at all the bars friendly and excellent. The table service at the specialty restaurants also seemed quite good. As for the buffet restaurants, service seemed spotty at best. Some days it was really good and other days it was non-existent. Wine service in the evening was good. It was especially hard to get hot coffee and milk in the morning. There were supposed to be carafes on each table, but usually they were empty or contained tepid coffee at best. Some days they were right there and other days they’d make eye contact and then just walk on by. Funny, they were always around at tip time though.

COMMON AREAS: The common areas, bars and restaurants are quite nice but there are some issues. The washrooms in the lobby and main buffet area are quite good, but there’s a real shortage around the pool and the beach. I’ll swear there were washrooms in the beach buffet building the last time we were at the resort. The sign directing you to them is still there, but the washrooms aren’t. There’s one set of newer washrooms just off to the side near the pool. Those washrooms got closed down for two days while they re-thatched the roof. The next nearest washrooms were a bit of a hike, so that made things awkward for a few days. Also, one urinal in the men’s was plugged and overflowing. Although that should have been corrected immediately, it took several days before that issue was resolved. And one toilet was constantly running on in the lower lobby washroom. That’s a lot of water going down the drain in a hotel that rates themselves as eco conscious.

ROOMS: The rooms were a good size, clean and relatively well equipped. We had a king size bed (rock hard and I mean ROCK hard), a desk, table, TV, room safe and a balcony with a table and nice wicker chairs (not plastic). The lighting is quite attractive, but totally useless when you are trying to see something. There are ceiling mounted quartz halogen lights that are pretty, but they don’t throw much light and that light is not diffuse. The table lamps have very small bulbs, typically 40W so they’re not good for reading either. TV reception was poor. Every time I checked we had a different channel selection, still fuzzy, so it appeared they were working on it, but not having a whole lot of success. We had a coffeemaker, a hairdryer and since we had a suite, a bidet. My wife reports that the hairdryer was slightly underpowered. The room also needed some minor maintenance. The sliding door at the toilet was off the track,as was the one in the room next door. I had to rescue the lady occupant. She got the door closed and couldn’t open it again. BFC to the rescue! The bolts holding the bidet were missing, and the bar fridge was just slightly cooler than the room temperature, which is to say, warm. When we arrived, the air conditioning was pretty well non-functional, so we reported that. Maintenance came within 24 hours to correct it. It was better, but it was still pretty anemic. Common room complaints we heard were about bar fridges and air conditioning. Our bar fridge looked like one of the originals and it appeared to be well past its retirement date. It was trying, but not very hard. As far as I could tell, all the rooms had an interlock so that the air conditioning wouldn’t run if the patio door was open. No issue with this. Some rooms had the system where you inserted your key fob in a slot to enable the power, but our room had a more ‘sophisticated’ system. Instead of the key fob, the room had a door sensor and motion detectors in the room. This worked well 98% of the time. When you walked in the power came on as you opened the door and stayed on when the detector sensed that someone was there. When you left, the power went off about 4 seconds after you closed the door behind you. As I said, the system worked 98% of the time, but it was a pain the other 2% of the time. For example, when it didn’t work was the time my wife wanted to retire early and I took her to the room so I could take the one and only room key they provided us. She went to the washroom and I left for the bar. You guessed it. Four seconds after I left the power went out, leaving her in the dark since no motion was detected ……

INTERNET: One word – expensive. Posted rates were $3 for 15 minutes, $6 for 30 minutes and $10 for an hour, all using their equipment. They also had wireless so you could use your own laptop. My jaw just about hit the floor when I asked about the rate. $30 for one day, $60 for two days and $100 for a week. I’m not sure if the wireless covered the entire resort or just the lobby area.

Normally I have a lengthy "meet & greet" list. This time, with the exception of a planned Debbie’s get together at a local watering hole, I had no list. Due to tire issues we didn’t get to this planned event. In fact we ran into very few people that had even heard of Debbie’s. We changed that, so now we have some new friends. Hopefully they’ll join our forums. We also made some potential new friends for Beyond The Beach. Unfortunately, I only gave out one email address to people I met and was planning to use ‘Reply To’. It turned out that my email had failed while we were away and anything directed to that address bounced, so I’m wondering how many people thought I gave them a dud email address ….

General comments (in no particular order):

– The serving arrangements in the buffet seemed pretty well thought out. – The room had both 220V and 110V outlets (unusual). – I had no need for my ‘modified’ extension cord. – Take your own washcloths. – The room key has your room number engraved on it. I saw people with their safe key clipped to the room key. If lost, when someone finds it, they have ALL they need to clean out the safe. – Presidente beer WAS served in the bars. Bohemia in the bar fridge. – They seem to have to mosquito control thing down pat. Hardly saw any.

WHAT WE LIKED:

– Nice property. – Very lush tropical vegetation and landscaping. – Property was beachfront. – All the common facilities are in two spots. (either by the pool/beach or the lobby). – Food was acceptable. (I had some minor issues, but never went hungry). – Rooms are somewhat basic but for the most part, acceptable. – Nice pool. – Very nice beach. – Nice facilities. (bars, restaurants, lobby, pool, grounds). – No time share / vacation club salesmen. – Very few vendors on the beach. – Eco conscious armbands. (very discrete). – Red wine was from Italy and was reasonably potable, except when you got one of the bad batches. Actually you could see it, as it was quite fizzy around the top. I think the winery may have had a bottling issue and bottled up a batch or two that was still fermenting. I also think they knew about it, but couldn’t identify the bad batch until the bottles were opened and served. They were quick to replace it when you pointed it out to them. I didn’t try the white but I hear it was OK too. – Brugal / Barcelo rum, Presidente beer. Classic liqueurs. (OK). – Some top shelf liquors. (example Canadian Club, J&B, Jim Bean). – Candles on the tables at specialty restaurants. – Hardly saw a mosquito. We were on the ground floor. Some bugs entered via the gap under the door. – The beach BBQ. Only problem is that they don’t do it often enough.

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE:

– Only one room key. – Every one we associated with hit the immodium at least once during the two weeks. No common element, different times and/or food items. – No face cloths. This is not unusual for the DR. – We had an issue with a plugged toilet in our room. It took THREE calls to reception before someone from maintenance showed up to repair it. The promised housekeeping service to clean up the mess never showed up. – Maintainance on public facilities took too long. It took 5 days before a plugged urinal in the men’s washroom (at the beach) was corrected. A running toilet in the lobby washroom was never corrected during the two weeks we were there. One towel dispenser in the men’s washroom was NEVER filled. – No soap trays in the shower. – You can’t get a liqueur with your evening coffee in the restaurant. For that matter, it was difficult to get a coffee. Guess they don’t normally drink coffee with dinner. – There seemed to be a lack of public washrooms at the beach/pool area. – No real fruit juice, with the exception of the smoothies. – Bacon was rare in the morning. I saw it 5 times in the two weeks. – I definitely didn’t like the motion detector based power interlock in our room. This was a royal pain in the butt. I also noticed that despite the fact that we manually turned everything off when we left the room, the maid had turned most of it back on when she cleaned the room. – WATCH THOSE UNLIT STAIRS AT NIGHT ….. SUMMARY: Pretty nice place overall. Nice property. Friendly. Good food, not bad service (buffets are the exception) Nice accommodations. Not gourmet. A few warts, not 4 star, but a good solid 3.5 +++ star. We would go back without much hesitation. It is a great place to meet people and chat. Overall, we liked it. Unless you are truly looking for 4 star or better accommodation, we recommend it. There were things wrong that shouldn’t have been. Most would be very easy to remedy. The place has the potential to be a 4.5 + star property. Links to photos and a video slide show (with sound) are on my website

see http://www.bobfromcanada.com/

The photos may also be found at

http://www.worldisround.com/home/dungan/index.html

The slide show requires the Photodex presenter application which is a free download from Photodex.com corporation. There is a link provided.

EMAIL: I’ll be glad to answer any questions I can. There is a link on my website (antispam – you will be challenged to read and enter numbers that are not machine readable).

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