We flew with Signature, Skyservice. We did not pre-book seats, but this is one flight where you probably should pre-book if you want to be assured of sitting together. There were only a small number of seats on the plane that were available for passengers to Samana. Most seats were designated for Puerto Plata passengers, and the Samana seats were not all together. There were only 38 passengers on our plane who were continuing to Samana. The flight was fine, and had more leg room than some of the other charters we’ve been on. We arrived in Puerto Plata and had to get off the plane with our carry-on, so they could clean the plane. We were aware of this stop before we left Canada. It was a bit disorganized at Puerto Plata and we weren’t really sure which way to go, or what to do. We had our carry-on bags re-checked by security, and we waited in the departure lounge with the passengers leaving to return to Canada from Puerto Plata. We were on the ground for about an hour. Once we re-boarded, the flight to Samana was only 15 minutes. The Samana airport was big, new and empty. We were the only flight at arrivals, and with only 38 passengers, it was a very quick process. Our rep was right there to meet us. We were put on a small bus, with our luggage in the rear seats. ( If the luggage has to go in the cart behind the bus, you have to take a longer, less steep route around the mountain). We were told that they used to have one large bus to all the Samana hotels, and it took a long time to drop everyone off. The trip to the hotel was great! We went from one side to the other side of the Samana peninsula, crossed through the mountains, and saw the most amazing scenery. It was like having a free excursion. The road was narrow, and full of trucks and motorcycles, but our driver was careful.
Check in was good. We were greeted with nice smiles and rum punch. Our rooms were not ready yet when we arrived, so they sent us to the buffet for lunch. When we returned, our rooms were ready. Without our asking, they upgraded us to two family rooms. The rooms were gigantic! There were two double beds downstairs, with a set of stairs up to another room with a king (or two twin) upstairs. We were given two of these family rooms. We had booked 2 regular rooms for 7 people, and ended up with enough beds for each of us to have our own, plus an extra. Unfortunately, there was only one key per room, which was a real pain for us. Each room had a free safe. There are two 3 story buildings, with regular hotel rooms. There are twelve family rooms, in another block. There were also some nice one story villas facing the beach. We didn’t go in any of the other rooms, but the villas looked very nice, with big porches facing the ocean. Our rooms were “tired”. They were very clean, but were in need of an update. The family rooms used to be self catering, and have a counter, sink and small fridge…but these are all in poor repair. The sheets were changed daily and the linens were clean. Our maid was very friendly and did lots of little extras for us. The water took a long time to get hot, but it did eventually. The water would cycle between hot and cold so showers were interesting! We had no other plumbing problems. The shower was large and clean. There were little ants if you left anything sweet around, and we saw a couple bugs….but that’s part of being in the tropics. The resort itself is older, with many things replaced and updated, but not everything. The grounds were beautiful. There were lots of landscapers working constantly to maintain the flower beds and grass. There was a nice new pool with lots of chairs.
The buffet was not great. There was plenty of food, but the overall presentation and quality was not the best. Having said this, we could always find something to eat, and no one went hungry. The pasta bar was especially good. It was best to go early to the meals. The food was hot, and looked nicer than later on, when it tended to be “warm” and a bit dried out. The a la carte restaurants were good. You were allowed one meal in each restaurant per week. The service in both restaurants was excellent. We were very happy with the service at the bars as well. We did not have to wait long, and they made lots of different mixed drinks. We found there was excellent service with or without a tip. There was a coffee area at pool bar where they made excellent cappuccino. Each afternoon (in between meals) there were cookies and muffins available, and they came around with fresh fruit.
The animation team worked long hours and they tried very hard. There were activities on the beach every day, and the “usual” Spanish lessons, Bingo, etc. The team worked hard to get everyone involved. They were even at the disco at night. The same team put on the shows at night. The dancing shows were great…some of the others were not so great. There was a covered theater with a large stage and lighting. The theater did have a musty odour, but nothing that was unbearable.
There were very few Canadians (and no Americans) at the resort. The vast majority of people were European. All announcements were made in French, English, German, Italian and Spanish….although sometimes it was hard to distinguish which language was being spoken! Many of the hotel staff spoke at least a little of each of these languages. We did not find this to be a barrier, but saw it as an opportunity. We managed to make ourselves understood, and so did they. There was definitely a European flair on the beach where there were a number of topless bathers. There were groups arriving and leaving every day. At the beginning of the week, it was an “older” crowd, with a lot of seniors. Later in the week, more people in their 20’s and 30’s came…mostly couples. There were not many teens or children, although there is a kids club available. It was generally a quiet place, with no music playing at the pool, and some music at the beach in the afternoons. There was a disco at night, but overall it wasn’t really a “party” place. Having said this, our five 17 year olds had a great time.
The beach is definitely the star of this resort. It is the most amazing beach we’ve ever seen. There is beautiful light sand on the beach, with palms right up to the water’s edge. There were plenty of lounge chairs, even if you went mid-day. There were a few vendors on the beach but they left immediately if you said “no thank you”. You could walk for many kilometers in either direction from the hotel, and it was beach, beach and more beach. Once you walked off the hotel property, the beaches were almost deserted. It was a true tropical paradise.
The resort is a bit isolated. (…which has its advantages) Las Terrenas is the nearest town, but you can’t walk there by road. It’s not just the distance, it’s really unsafe to walk on the road. The road is narrow, winding, and in some places unpaved…and there are lots of trucks, ATVs and motorcycles going as fast as they can. Apparently you can walk to Las Terrenas via the beach but it would be a long walk. There is a shuttle to Las Terranas twice per day that costs $7US per person. Some people took motoconchos (motorcycle taxis) that were quite inexpensive, but risky. We found the town was very noisy and smelled of exhaust fumes, with lots of motorcycles whipping through the streets. The people were very nice, and there were a surprising number of people speaking French. Some of our group took the half day trip to El Limon and loved it. They take you on horses through a mountain path leading to a beautiful waterfall. Our teenagers loved the “extreme” horseback riding, including steep mountain paths, riding on the edge of cliffs, mud and riding through water. There are not a lot of excursions to choose from, since tourism is quite new in this area.
While we were there, my son got sick ( No one else in our group became ill, nor did we meet anyone else who was sick) The Doctor on site was great. He came right to the room several times, and was very thorough. We were expecting a large bill with visits, medications, etc. but we were pleasantly surprised by the cost. Even this set-back didn’t ruin our holiday.
Overall we REALLY enjoyed our time at Viva Windham Samana. It was not a top quality 4 star hotel, but for the price we paid, it was a good, clean, friendly place to stay. I think it would be best suited for beach lovers, and couples.