Live where?: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When traveled?: December 24th through December 31st.
My husband and I booked our vacation through our local travel agent (Signature Vacation) after speaking to him few times about few conditions we need to have met to book the resort. We wanted the resort to be close to the airport. (I have heard horror stories of resorts being 1 hour to 2 hours away, and we did not want to travel that far from the airport.) We also wanted a resort that was quiet and low keyed and possibly close to a golf course. So, after some searching, we found the Victoria Resort. Unfortunately, the resort was closed all of the summer and was being reopened in mid December 2005. They were going through massive renovation. At first, we did not think twice, but after we booked, it dawned on us that Dominican Republic is a developing country, and things may take longer than usual to “reopen”. However, we were booked and whether the resort was ready for us or not, we were going there in December 2005. As time came nearer to our departure date, we asked our travel agent if he had any news of the resort, whether they will open on time and if everything was fine. We were told that everything was going according to plans and the resort was going to open for December 15th, 2005. Day came and went, and it was only few days before our departure, and our travel agent assured us the resort was open and in full operation. When we checked in on December 24th, 2005, to much of our surprise, the resort only opened the day before and had few guests. We noticed that they probably had less then 100 guests in total. HOWEVER, I MUST POINT OUT THAT WE HAD NO PROBLEMS WHATSOEVER. NOW FOR THE REVIEW.
Departure: Got to the Pearson International Airport about two and a half hours prior to departure time, only a minor delay, so we landed at Puerto Plata around 11:00 a.m.
On arrival at Puerto Plata (airport): Immigration at the airport was not quick. The Tourist Visa Card that came with our travel package had changed all of a sudden, and we had to line up in two different places to get a replacement and fill it out and go through immigration. They say they were doing to this in order to eliminate corruption, however, with a bit of frustration and confusion, we got through the immigration, claimed our luggage and passed through customs and then on our bus. There were Signature Vacation representatives at the airport with buses to take us to our resorts. Please note that the representatives are not out right by the airport exit/entrance. There are tax drivers by the airport exit/entrance, so be aware. Just walk to your left as you come out, and they are by the parking lot diagonal to the airport exit/entrance. The Signature Vacation rep briefed us while we were driving to the resort with information of what to expect when we are dropped off at the resort. It took us about 15 minutes to the Victoria Resort from the airport.
Arrival at Victoria Resort: When we got to the reception desk, we were greeted by few staff members who were trying their best to get us checked in as soon as possible. Luckily, there was one other family who was checking in. They spoke well and also there was a Canadian behind the desk who was overseeing the whole reception desk. So check in was a breeze. We rented the safe since the safe was not included in our package. It cost us US$13.00 for the whole week and they taught us how to use it. (Please note that some guests were having trouble opening the safe once they punched in their pass numbers, so make sure you test the safe, i.e. don’t put valuables first, try closing and opening few times before putting your valuables. We, however, did not have trouble using the safe). They gave as a key card for our room, which also doubles us a key to turn on electricity in your room and remote for the TV. They also gave us a two page information sheet about the hotel and its amenities, when things were open, etc. It was quite helpful.
They informed us that we were too early and the room was not ready for us, so they suggested that we should take lunch and that our luggage will be delivered to our room by bell boy soon. So, we went to the restaurant, El Lago, which is just beside the reception/lobby. It is an international buffet style and had lunch.
The Room: Our Room was a junior suite located away from the reception/lobby area, closer to the street. Our room was 1612 and it faced Hole No. 10 of the Playa Dorada Golf Course. Because the resort is small enough, it took us mere few minutes to work up to the reception/main area, restaurants and bars. If you do not want to walk, you can call reception to ask to be picked up and a shuttle cart will come to pick you up. We hardly used this service.
We were located on the first floor, which was good, as there are no elevators. The suite was very spacious. As you entered, the washroom, shower, bathroom facility was in one room to your left, and another small room that had a walk-in closet and safe. Across from the walk-in closet, is the kitchenette, which has a sink and a coffee maker, few glasses, coffee cups and saucers and a mini fridge that has your water, soft drinks and beer. Initially, the fridge only had a bottle of water and some soft drinks, however, when we informed the reception desk that we had no beer, there were two bottles of beer by the evening. Then you have your seating and bedroom area all in one. It is very spacious. I think four adults will be happy and not feel crammed in it. A family of two parents and two children can also be accommodated without space problem, I don’t think. There was a bureau with a chair, the bed was a king size bed with night tables on each side of the bed, and a sitting area that had two chairs. No table, yet, so we had to use one of the night tables as a table, which was fine. There was also an entertainment cabinet that had a TV in it, which stood in front of the bed. The only thing that was lacking, and I am sure which will be corrected when all rooms are ready for guests, is mirrors. You only have one mirror in the bathroom, so when you had to put on make up or make sure your underwear was not pinched to your pants, etc. you had to check yourself out in the bathroom mirror. We had plenty of towels, face towels, bathroom towels, in between size towel, etc. The beach towels (green) were also in your room in the bathroom, as they have not had them set up to be distributed by the pool area. The system they have now is, if you needed your beach towels changed for clean ones, all you had to do was put up the maid service tag on your room door between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and the chambermaid will exchange the dirty ones for the clean ones. We did put up the sign on our door many nights, and sure enough, when we returned to our room after dinner, the beach towels were changed for the new ones.
Room/Maid Service: Excellent! Everything was spotlessly cleaned every time when we returned from after sun bathing in the late afternoon. Towels and mini bar were restocked as well. They even replenished shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap, in the middle of the week for us. Ladies were very nice and accommodating. When we asked for extra things, like extra beach towels, towels and coffee, etc. they obliged.
After middle of our stay, we noticed that our night standard had a menu that had room service items on them. The menu included sandwiches and snacks and would be delivered to your room for a charge of $5.00 (US). Now, I do not think this is all that bad, if you are hungry and do not want to go out to eat at the restaurants.
Buffet restaurant – El Lago: There is one buffet restaurant called El Lago, which serves breakfast (7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.), lunch (12:30 p.m. – 2: 30 p.m.), and dinner (6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.) Dress Code is in effect, which means no bathing suits, wet clothes or bare feet. They will quietly and gently ask you to put on something appropriate, and we saw all guests obliged to the request. El Lago is next to the reception/lobby area. They serve three meals a day buffet style. They have variety of different kinds of food, something for everyone. We really enjoyed eating there. Service was excellent and friendly.
We did notice that because they just opened, many of the food had no labels on them, so sometimes if you were not sure, you had to ask the staff behind the counter, and they tried their best to explain what they were serving. By the end of the week, we saw them setting up labels more prominently. Food was always fresh. For lunch and dinner, they always had a featured roast of some sort. We had turkey, suckling pig, roasted chicken, lamb, beef, etc. which was sliced in front of you, as you liked. For breakfast they had omelets/pancake standard where a chef made the omelets as you desired. They also made pancakes/crepes for you instantly as you liked. They had fresh juice centres where a chef will blend different fruits for you. I would give the food 4 stars out of 5 stars and service 5 stars.
A La Carte: There are three a la carte restaurants—Pizzeria Mozzarella, Beach Club and Jardin Victoria Restaurant. (i) Pizzeria Mozzarella: This restaurant is located by the main pool area, just around the corner from the El Lago Restaurant. This was a popular spot. They served individual pizzas cooked in the stone oven. You can make your own pizzas as well. The restaurant is only open for dinner from 6:30 mp. to 9:30 p.m. You do not have to make a reservation. If the seats are all taken, you just wait your turn. The hotel information sheets told us that it was open every night, however, we did find it was closed one evening. My husband really enjoyed the pizzas here. I give the food 4 stars and service 5 stars.
(ii) Beach Club: Located at the beach area. They are open from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Please note that they are usually closed when it rains. We only experienced one day of rain out of the whole week). You do not have to make reservation for this restaurant as well. It if first come first serve like Pizzeria Mozzarella. They serve Mexican and hamburgers. We loved the food here. Sometime the service can be a bit slow, as there are too many guests and not enough staff to cook and serve the food, however, we really enjoyed the food. Do try the hamburger and the nachos. I would rate the food 4.5 and service 4.
(iii) Jardin Victoria Restaurant: This is located on the second floor of the main reception/lobby area. It is a formal dining. You need to make reservations at the reception desk usually on the evening you want to attend. They take reservations between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. They are only open for dinner between 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. There were couple of evenings where it was not open. Usually, it meant that the El Lago restaurant had a featured dinner special. For instance, it was closed on December 24th, as El Lago served a Christmas dinner.
We were told by our vacation rep that we were allowed to go there once a week, however, when we asked the hotel staff, they told us we can go as much as we wanted to, so we went there twice the week we were there. They serve mostly Italian cuisine. I could not believe that it was so good. They really know how to cook pasta. We really enjoyed the two dinners we had there. I would rate the food 5 and service 5 as well. Please note that the second last page of the menu at Jardin Victoria Restaurant is not included in your all inclusive package. If you order from it, you will be charged. You will know because the rest of the menu does not contain $ symbols, except the second last page. Our vacation rep was kind enough to inform us of this during our welcoming briefing, so we were not alarmed when we saw it. They did have some interesting stuff on it, but nothing out of the ordinary to order for extra costs.
Bars: There are four bars at Victoria. (i) Beach Bar: This bar is located at the beach and is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. everyday except when it rains.
We had few drinks from this bar. There is no place to stand and drink. You just order your drink and take it down to the beach area or sit at the Beach Club (a la carte restaurant). (ii) Lotus Bar: This bar is located on the second floor adjacent to the Jardin Victoria Restaurant. Elegantly set up and is open from 6:30 p.m. to midnight. We also had few drinks at this bar. There is a recreation room where people played billiards. (iii) Pool Bar: This bar is located by the El Lago Restaurant and the main pool. This bar is open from 10:00 a.m. to midnight. It serves guests at the main pool, the guests dining at the El Lago Restaurant as well as the Pizzeria Mozzarella. Very busy bar and the most fun. You get to sit around the bar and meet other guests. We were lucky to meet few guests and also get to know two bartenders, who were very nice to us. They were very interesting people. We were sorry to leave and I think they were sad that we were leaving as well. We would go to this bar every evening before and after our dinner and sit and talk to the bartenders. We had a great time. Although at times we did not understand each other, however, we really enjoyed each other’s company. Even one of the bartenders gave us a gift of two CD’s that contained merangue and salsa music, which we are listening to in our car. He also had his mother make us Dominican fudge (I forgot the name in Spanish), which we really enjoyed. They are the most sweet and caring people we have ever met. (iv) Bar Cascada: This is located by the Cascade Pool (Quiet Pool) which is exclusively adult use only. This bar is opened from 10:00 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. We spent our days by this pool area and we loved the bartender we met. She was really sweet and nice and always paid attention to what we drank. Near the end, she even blended a cocktail that was her creation and presented to us.
The Beach: The beach is located few seconds away by a beach shuttle. If you walked, it will take you five minutes or so. We did walk few times to the beach. When we compared the beach with the beach at Punta Cana, we think we like the beach at Punta Cana better, so we opted to stay at the Quiet Pool the whole week. The beach was quite busy with people coming and going. There were vendors walking and soliciting you, however, simple “we are not interested” or “no” stopped them from coming over to sell. Many guests enjoyed the beach, however, we just wanted to relax and lay somewhere quiet, so we opted for the Quiet Pool.
Entertainment: Because the resort was only just opened, they had two staff members that took care of guests’ entertainment needs. They had salsa dancing lessons in the evenings by the pool, karaoke in the Lotus Bar one evening, Disco dancing in the Lotus Bar another evening. So, if you wanted to join, they were ready to get you involved. Very pleasant young men who tried their best to involve guests.
Gifts: We took some items from Canada for the staff, and they loved them. We had them circulated around so whoever wanted something, they were welcome to take them. We took samples of perfume, lipsticks, hair clips, key chains, toiletries, children’s stuff.
If you have some room in your luggage, please do take some things for your chambermaids, bell boys, waiters/waitresses, bartenders, etc. They appreciate anything you can give. We were happy to provide them with little something from Canada. We did also tip them but also left little something from Canada which they really appreciated.
Departure from the Resort: Our bus was coming at 9:15 a.m. to pick us up for the airport, so we checked out at around 8:30 a.m. The check out was a breeze. The normal check out at Victoria is at 1:00 p.m. Smooth ride to the airport and check in at the airport went without a glitch. Custom/immigration was also fine, and our flight was only delayed by 10 minutes or so.
Please remember you have to pay your departure tax at the gate area. There is a desk at the gate area that says Departure Tax. They will stamp your boarding pass once you pay the departure tax and when you are boarding the plane, they will check to see if you paid. Please do take bottled water from your resort with you to the airport. If you can grab something to eat before you leave, is also recommended. If you can take some munchies with you will also help. They have everything inside the airport, but very expensive. My husband wanted a bottle of coke, and they charged us US$3.00.
Overall: We both had an excellent time!!! We are hoping that we can go back to the same resort come this fall, when we have our 5th wedding anniversary. This time we are aiming for two weeks. The staff was friendly and very efficient. They were also very helpful and made us feel like we were home. We felt we were their guests in their homes and not just guests at a resort.
We loved the fact that Victoria Resort was a smaller resort that catered to individuals. We also found the resort to be quiet and low keyed, which is what we wanted. I think this resort is more for adults who want to relax during their holidays. If you love the beach and want to be by the beach, this is not the resort, as you need to walk or take the shuttle bus.
We will definitely go back to Victoria. Thank you for a wonderful vacation, Victoria! For those of you who want to inquire about this resort, please contact me at email@example.com, and please indicate on the re line Victoria. P.S. They also have gym facility which was being worked on while we were there. However who needs the gym when you are there on a vacation!!!