Visited: 3/24/07 -04/1/07
We just returned from the RIU Taino, and wanted to give our opinion on this board, as is only fair since we read so many postings prior to making our trip.
Here is the setup and the disclaimers: There were three of us on this trip, a (gay) 30’s couple and a female (40’s) friend. This was our first trip to the DR, though our friend had summered there 20 years ago (she lived as a child in Peurto Rico), and the first experience at an all-inclusive resort for all three of us. So this review might also only be helpful to those who have not done an all-inclusive in the DR before.
We booked a package through USA 3000. There were nightmare delays on the way down which caused us to get to the USA 3000 desk less than 30 minutes prior to departure. We might have been allowed on the plane even then, except for the fact that our names weren’t on the manifest sheet. The USA 3000 representative literally said to us “I don’t know what I can do” and then walked away back to her desk. Luckily, the Apple Vacation people overheard and jumped in to help. It took a very helpful Apple Vacations rep in Detroit, (Donna) an hour to figure out that USA 3000 had booked us as a broker on an Apple Vacation, but had only sent us USA 3000 paperwork. In any case, Donna got us on the following mornings flight and the delay only cost us a night (which I doubt USA 3000 will refund, even with their screw ups).
Our flight down was further delayed due to a passenger having an apparent minor stroke, so we had a stop in Raleigh for that emergency. The passenger walked off the plane himself, so I hope and assume he’s going to be ok. Though, here’s a helpful tip to all travelers: If you’ve had 3 strokes in the past 6 months and have had surgery to implant stents into your skull, check with your doctor before you fly.
Arrival and traveling to the resort was uneventful, though let me just say here that the DR government needs to finish the new highway between the airport and the resort areas! It’s been largely cut in, but unpaved, so you end up taking some twisty, small local roads to get there. It makes the ride much longer than necessary. Maybe some portion of the $20.00 “Visitor’s Card” fee they collect at the airport can be tossed toward that project…
Check in went well and the service at the desk was very nice.
The rooms were, well, acceptable. All of the things you’d expect from a lesser resort were here: hard beds, paper-thin pillows, tired sheets and linens. I will say that the rooms were very clean, so the staff was doing the best they could with what they had. There was a musty odor, not unusual in the Caribbean, but not expected in air conditioned space. As we were to discover, the air conditioning is really evaporative cooling, so it’s cold air but not dry.
This becomes important later in the week when you discover that wet clothes hung to dry take forever, if they ever do dry at all. Our room was so far from the beach, there was no breeze to dry things on the lanai, so YMMV. Don’t forget to tip the room steward, and (counter to what so many others have suggested in other reviews here) do it in cash, not candy. They are probably supporting a family and can’t do it on tic-tacs.
The beaches: the most beautiful we’ve seen, and we’ve seen many. When you first stand on them, you will know that this is why you came.
Excursions: Not so much going on here. Snorkeling was boring (again, done a lot of this elsewhere and can say that this was probably the most disappointing. Save your money). The lack of excursions or outside activities makes this a very good vacation spot for those who intend to do a lot of laying around on the beach, or those who can adapt to a lot of laying around on the beach. If you cannot turn off your type-A personality, and don’t play volleyball, go on a cruise instead.
The Food: Buffet, Buffet, Buffet. You WILL be tired of the same food by the end of the week. You WILL yearn for fresh brewed coffee. You WILL buy dental floss if you didn’t bring it. You WILL return home with a new understanding of the word “Beef”. Do not travel to this locale for the food. If you are the sort who thinks of food as fuel for the body, you’ll be fine. If you are the sort who knows the difference between red and black caviar and has eaten enough to have a preference, you will be disappointed.
Bar Service: Good. Some of the servers are surly, but as I watched person after person make huge orders and not ever leave a tip, I certainly understand the sentiment. Ask for the good liquor and they’ll give it to you. Tip, Tip, Tip.
Entertainment: Well, they do the best they can with what they’ve got, though you do sort of suspect that the entertainers are selected because they are related to someone, and not because of any particular skill set. And what was with the lip-synced gay anthem show??? We wondered to ourselves if the dancers had any idea… Speaking of entertainment, this is a good point to mention language: If you are American and only speak English, you will soon find that communication is a little harder for you than anyone else. Probably 75% of the guests during our week were European, and the balance were mostly Canadian, with only a few U.S. residents (that we met, anyway). Maybe this changes based on the time of year or the week. At any rate, if you are uncomfortable being in a place where nearly everyone is speaking a different language, then this might not be the place for you.
MAJOR PEEVE: Where the he** is the ATM? Located up near the gate, in the middle of the worker’s housing, off the beaten path. I’m a big guy who can take care of himself (and has, on many occasions), and still the hair on my neck was standing straight out the entire trip to that machine. I can just imagine what it’s like for others. Bring lots of money in small bills and avoid going to this cash station. I’m not saying any worker would mug you, but I can’t discount my good senses either about that place.
All in all, it can be a relaxing trip if you can take it in sway, though the resort hardly lives up to the image portrayed on their website (this is just the way some Caribbean places are). Don’t go expecting too much, and you will be OK. If you are expecting Shangri-la, you are in for trouble.