Old Reviews – Punta Cana Princess All-Suites & Spa

We just returned from Punta Cana Princess where we spent 7 nights (May 24 – May 31). This was our first trip to the Dominican Republic.

Flights: We traveled on American Airlines from STL to MIA to PUJ and reversed to come home. The flight down was fine, although Miami Airport is not very smoker friendly. *NOTE – AA is very strictly enforcing their 50 lb. weight limit on each checked bag. Whether this is something new, I don’t know because I usually fly charter. The lady at the check in desk at STL was very nice and allowed us to rearrange items in our baggage to get under the 50 lb. limit. The flight home was a nightmare. We arrived about 2 hours and 20 minutes before our scheduled departure. We waited in line at check in for probably half an hour and then had our baggage pulled for inspection. When we finally got to the ticket counter, the lady checked all of our light bags through first and took the heaviest one last. Luckily, she was not paying attention when she weighed it (or she took pity on us) because it was 3 lbs overweight. Most of the people around us had to pay extra for their overweight luggage. OK, finally got our baggage check and then had to rush to our gate. BTW, most of PUJ airport is open air and not air conditioned, so be prepared to sweat. Flight to Miami was pretty turbulent, although on time. We get to Miami and were informed that because Miami has no waiting area for international travelers, we had to go through immigration, reclaim our checked baggage, go through customs and then re-check our baggage all before our connecting flight boards. Immigration was like a one mile walk from the gate we disembarked from, so we ran to immigration. *NOTE – immigration is much quicker with a Passport than other ID. Got through immigration and ran to reclaim our luggage. We waited over an hour for our luggage before AA discovered that they had routed our luggage to the wrong carousel. Rather than tell us which carousel our luggage was on, they were going to hand truck all of our luggage to the carousel we were at, which meant that they were bringing about 10 bags every 10 minutes. We finally got smart and followed one of the hand trucks to the other carousel, reclaimed our bags and set out running (with all luggage in tow) to customs. We were fortunate, because our connecting flight was later than most, and a gentleman who worked for the airport took pity on us and rushed us through customs and baggage check in, otherwise we would have missed our flight, as I am sure many other passengers did. As it was, we barely made it to our gate (which was about a mile and a half from customs) in time to catch our connecting flight to STL. From now on, I am flying charter or no way at all.

Check-In: We arrived at the resort around 3:30 in the afternoon. Check-in was a bit disappointing. Our reservations were for 3 adults (myself (age 35), my husband (age 45) and his brother (age 40)) for one room. This seemed to baffle the clerk. They had only prepared our key cards and towel cards for two people and did not have any of our freebie coupons (for our VIP package) ready when we arrived. Finally, they gave us an extra towel card, but said that we would have to return the next day for another key card because their machine was out of order and that we would have to return at 6:00 PM to pick up our freebie cards. We had to ask for the drinks that we were supposed to receive on arrival. They were also visibly upset by the number of bags that we arrived with (7 total – 5 checked bags and 2 carry-ons for 3 people). *NOTE: The front desk and guest service people speak barely enough English to get by, so be prepared to have to spend a little time there if you don’t speak Spanish. We finally got to our room at around 4:20 PM and our bags arrived about 20 minutes later. We decided to relax in the room until time to go back to get our freebie cards and dinner. When we returned to the lobby to get the freebie cards, they once again had only prepared for 2 people and proceeded to argue with us that we were not entitled to cards for 3 people. We finally prevailed but were told to pick up the cards the following morning. We then went to the main buffet for dinner. This was really disappointing. While they have a large selection of food, most of it appeared to have been setting out for quite a while (i.e. quesadillas that were just tortillas because all of the cheese and filling had melted out). They have the makings for a salad, but these are sparse and the dressings are kind of scary (either very runny or very lumpy). The desserts are phenomenal and there is always a selection of ice creams as well. I returned to the guest service desk the next morning to get our freebie cards and they were still not ready. I did finally get them at around 1:00 PM the second day of our stay. At that time I also booked our first a la carte reservation. I requested the Tex Mex restaurant, which I was informed, was closed that night. Wound up at the Italian restaurant at 9:00 PM. From what I could tell, they only book like 2-3 tables per half hour reservation slot, which baffled me because there is like 30 tables in each restaurant and plenty of staff, so make your reservations early. If you have the VIP package, you can make your reservations anytime and if you want, you can book for your whole stay at one time. Also note that you have to take the card that they give you to the restaurant with you or they will not seat you and don’t be late or they won’t seat you.

Breakfast: I’m not big on buffet breakfasts, so I only ate breakfast twice during our stay. Breakfast is a buffet, and is edible. They have a wide variety including sausage, eggs, bacon, French toast, pancakes, and many native dishes. They will also custom prepare omelets. They also have bread and a toaster available. There is a large variety of juices. My husband and his brother were very satisfied with the breakfast. However, I will repeat that this food sets out for long periods of time so don’t expect anything spectacular.

Lunch: We did not eat at the main buffet for lunch so I cannot comment on that. We did eat at the beach buffet (Mare Nostrum) and ordered room service a couple of times. Mare Nostrum has better food than the main buffet, although there is less selection. However, they do have pizzas and freshly grilled foods. This food was edible but nothing spectacular. Room service was decent. We had burgers and "fried potatoes" (French fries) and a Caesar salad. The burgers were pretty good although the buns were twice as big as the burgers. Fries were good. The Caesar salad was made with regular iceberg lettuce that was wilted and drowned in dressing, but had a good flavor. They always seemed to forget the cole slaw that was supposed to accompany the burgers.

Dinner: Once again, I repeat that the main buffet is somewhat disappointing. The food sits out for long periods of time. I will say that they do have a variety (theme nights). They did Mexican, Italian, and Oriental on the nights that we went to the buffet. The food is edible. The A La Carte restaurants are a different story. We went to the Italian and Tex Mex restaurants and both were excellent. The guys also used our freebie cards at El Pescador (seafood). They were not impressed with the food there. We also went to the beach party at Mare Nostrum one night. This was probably the best buffet food we had the whole time we were there.

*NOTE: My husband and I both got sick during our stay (him for 2 days and me for 4 days with terrible stomach cramps) and all 3 of us had diarrhea. We were very careful not to drink the tap water not even to brush our teeth. We are pretty diverse eaters, but we finally decided that the sickness was due to the oils that they prepare their food in. We had taken Pepto Bismal with us as well as antibiotics from our doctor, but neither of these seemed to do much good. When I got home a friend who travels a great deal informed me that "Airborne" is what we should have taken. It is like an Alka Seltzer that you take once a day and you can buy it at Wal-Mart, so I would highly recommend this. My friend said to start taking it the day before you depart.

Resort: The resort is beautifully landscaped, although some of the flower beds around the rooms were a bit overgrown with weeds. The cleaning crews are out early (around 6:00 am), but they didn’t disturb me at all. I usually slept until 8 or 9 am. They are all very friendly but most don’t speak English. There are a few "creepy crawlies" around, mostly ants but some centipedes and lizards. I would not want to be on the ground floor and I think that the 3rd floor rooms have the best views. Although it is no fun hiking the stairs all the time, it is definitely worth the view and then the only critters that you have to worry about are the ants.

Room: The rooms are the best part of this resort. We were in room 4211. In some other reviews, it was stated that the 5000 building was the best, but I thought the view from our room was great. We had a great view of the pool with the ocean behind it. The rooms are very spacious with plenty of drawer space. The lighting is kind of poor, even in the bathroom. They have these great magnifying mirrors in the bathrooms, but it is too dimly lit to use them. Our room had 2 double beds and a sofa/daybed thing that also had a trundle bed that pulled out. There is a phone by the beds and also one in the bathroom. The maid arrived at the room later in the evening for turn down service, to replenish bath towels and to restock the mini fridge (VIP perk). The maid service was excellent here. I took along some coloring books, crayons and candy from Dollar General, which I left for her each day along with $2 USD. The room was always immaculate, she stocked the fridge and replenished coffee in whatever quantities I requested, and always came by in the evening to restock the fridge and towels. She also left pretty flowers in the bathroom and on the pillows everyday. Most of the maids speak little to no English so I went prepared with appropriate Spanish phrases for the things that I needed to request. A word of warning, I have some pretty serious back problems and I had a back ache the entire time I was there. The mattresses are VERY firm on the beds, the "daybed" has a covered foam pad on it that is about 2 inches thick that sits on a solid board and the trundle bed is just a VERY firm mattress on a frame. The patio/ balcony chairs are resin with no pads and the chairs at all of the buffets / restaurants had with very thin pads (if any). Basically, I’m saying that if you can’t handle some pretty uncomfortable sitting/sleeping arrangements, keep looking. Also, take an expired credit card or some kind of card with a magnetic strip, because there are these little readers just inside your door that you are supposed to put your key card in to activate the electricity in your room. Without it, you come back to a HOT room. We were fortunate enough that someone left their key card in our slot and we never took it out during our entire stay.

Pool & Beach: The pool appeared to be the largest of the three sister resorts (Tropical Princess and Caribe Club) and it was very well kept. Always clean and there is a "pool boy" who works on the pool all day long. The beach is nice as well, although on this particular stretch of beach there are these pine needle like things that wash up on the beach all day long. They rake them up every morning, but they continue to wash up all day. There was a breeze that blew through all day and night during our entire stay which helped to cool us off from the 90+ degree weather. It rained 3 times during our stay, each time lasting less than one hour. Beach towels are kind of a pain in the rear end. They give you these cards that you have to take out to the beach to get your towels (each person gets one). With the VIP package we also had 2 additional beach towels in our room. The towels are pretty threadbare, but don’t loose them because for each one that you don’t turn in, they charge you $15 USD. To get your card back, you have to go back to the beach between 7 am and 5 PM, but the pool doesn’t close until 7 PM, so we had to take wet towels back to our room every night and then exchange them in the morning. Also, in my opinion, the lounge chairs at the pool and the beach have to be the most uncomfortable that I have ever lain in. They are these resin things with canvas pulled over them and the cross braces are in all the wrong places and about half of them are broke. However, the resort was not anywhere near capacity at this time of year so we did not have to "reserve" lounges the way some people had complained of.

Activities: The "animacion" staff was great at activities all day long and was very friendly. I’m not much of a joiner but my husband and his brother took part in many of the activities, such as pool volleyball, beach volleyball, bocce ball, dance lessons, etc.. In terms of other activities, Punta Cana Princess doesn’t really have any, however, we did find that the sister resorts (which we had sharing privileges at) have a game room, pool tables, shuffleboard, miniature golf, etc.. My husband went to the gym and the spa and said that they are very nice. I had my free 20 minute massage by the beach and it was wonderful. The hot tub is also located in the beach spa area, but we didn’t try it (it was too hot outside to get in a hot tub). My brother-in-law used his free motorized water sport ticket on a banana boat ride which he said was a lot of fun, but they were not offering any other kind of motorized water sports at our resort (or so they said). He also went to many of the evening activities that they had (i.e. Kareoke, comedy shows, movies, etc.) and had a lot of fun at those.

Shuttles: These run pretty regularly between the resorts and to the Casino. NOTE: The blue topped shuttles run between resorts, red topped ones go to the Casino.

Shopping: Only 3 shops on this resort – Tobacco and Jewelry, Crafts and Art, and Mini Market. There are more shops on the sister resorts, however, and the shuttle takes you almost right to them. Beware of the "street vendors" that the resort allows to come on grounds sometimes in the evenings. They will definitely try to gouge you. And always remember to bargain and be prepared to walk away. They will follow and come back with a better price. Also, shop around before you buy anything. Also, the vendors and store clerks speak better English that anyone.

Casino: The shuttle ride is a little intimidating since you go off the resort to get there. When we arrived, there was a guy standing in the parking lot toting a shot gun which was a little scary, but I think he was security. If you play in USD, you win USD, but if you play in RDP, you win RDP. The casino is open from 5 PM until 5 am. Most of the dealers, floor people, and waitresses speak little to no English. And be sure to take your ID with you if you intend to cash traveler’s cheques. They will cash traveler’s cheques for USD at the cashier cage at the back of the casino. Pretty nice casino though pretty small with maybe 20 tables and around 100 slots.

Nightclub: I didn’t go, but my brother in law did. Drinks are free from 11 PM until midnight. After midnight, it is $5 USD for national beer and $10 USD for mixed drinks. They also allow the locals to enter the club, so definitely don’t go it alone. It gets pretty wild there as well from what my brother in law told me.

Security: There is always an abundance of security people roaming around the grounds and if you don’t have your wristband, you don’t get on the grounds. Don’t loose your wristband, because they will attempt to make you leave the grounds if they find you without it. Security people are always carrying their night sticks at the ready and they are NOT friendly at all. Also, these people speak NO English.

Check-out: This was disastrous. We were sent a slip by our shuttle service stating to be in the lobby at 12:50 PM to meet our shuttle. When we arrived at 12:45, we were told that the shuttle was to leave our resort at 12:50 PM. I still had to check out. The desk clerk was rude, in my opinion. I owed for some phone calls that I made from the room, $14 USD. I handed the clerk $20 USD and he insisted that I pay with exact change. Well, I thought he said $15 USD (I remind you that most people here don’t speak much English and I speak no Spanish) so I handed him a $10 and a $5. While holding onto my $35 he wanted to know if he could give me $1 in RDP. After a bit of discussion, I finally realized that he said $14 so I handed him $4 in ones. He gave me back the $5 but kept the $20, $10, and $4. When I asked him for my $20 back he handed it to me and said "Have a nice life".

Overall: I would give this resort a B-. It is beautiful and most people are friendly. Food at the a la carte’s is good on the whole, but the buffets are definitely lacking. Comfort is lacking as well, in terms of seating and sleeping. Also, activities are somewhat lacking at this resort, but you can also hop over to one of the sister resorts. I felt very safe at this resort and there is a safe in your closet. I had a relaxing vacation here, but it could have been better. I doubt we will return to Punta Cana, because there are so many more places to explore, but if I did, I will probably try one of the other resorts. My husband, however, disagrees and says that he would return to the Princess again.

If you have any questions about this resort, please feel free to email me at dmparker89@msn.com.

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