Arrival: The usual deal with Punta Cana – get off plane, walk to the main hangar, avoid the photographer that wants to sell you the photo of you after you spent several uncomfortable hours on plane, wait for luggage, scramble to pay your 10$ each to customs, avoid the throngs of taxi drivers and get on bus to the resort.
Check in started off on the wrong foot as we were in the Reserve, but brought to the main hotel and were bounced around several different receptions for about 45 mins.
Am deathly afraid of bugs, so the room at first given to us on the first floor, with direct access to the pool, didn’t thrill. They were more or less easy in trying to give us what we wanted, and wound up letting us have a choice of 3 different rooms to pick from. The rooms at the Reserve are truly beautiful, as is the entire resort. Huge, granite and mahogany. Amazing shower. Great balcony with a jacuzzi and couch and chairs – like a second living room. All the rooms we looked at smelled of mold, and we had to dryclean most of our clothes to get rid of the smell on the way back. Maids clean room daily and there is a turndown service, but on the "face" only. Tons of dirt/dust in corners – found out when trying to reach an item that rolled under couch. Probably contributes to musty smell.
Restaurants and Bars:
Beautiful restaurant decor, inedible food. In the lounge of the Reserve, there were usually snacks/coffee/cool drinks provided. It all looked gorgeous. However the food was completely inedible. Blocked the names of the restaurants but with the exception of Gabi Beach, nothing was good. Dont bother with breakfast at the Reserve – 20 minute wait for coffee. Breakfast generally was the high point meal wise, and service was very good in the main restaurant, friendly and quick. Do try the many fresh fruit juices – another high point. If you just want a cup of coffee and juice or fruit for breakfast, go in, get your cup and sit at one of the tables that front the beach – they will not like it, and only "allow" it to spanish speaking families, but once you brazen them out once, they will accept that they’ll have to clean there as well. The smallish outdoor restaurant with columns between the manl large one and the "family concierge" pool was mostly decent for lunch. The Japanese Grill at the Reserve was disgusting. So was one of the reservation restaurants by the fountains on the main walkway. Got room service once – came an hour late, brought shrimp cocktail instead of a club sandwich, shrimp texture gave us the heebeejeebies. Went down to the Reserve buffet,which turns into a reservation only wait for service forever place at night. Pointed at stomachs, made faces, and walked out with a tray of plain pasta and bottle of wine to take up to the room. Followed by yearning glances of everyone languishing for service there.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: Beautiful grounds. Cleaned constantly. The pace of the main hotel was somewhat frenetic – way too many people at the pool and by beach.The main pool was very good architecturally. The ugliest area is the "family concierge" pool. Concrete and pounding sunshine. Dont agree with poster saying not to stay in Reserve. True its a 5 minute walk to the beach, but its worth it in complete tranquility you gain, the quiet pool that meanders around the property and is a welcome respite at the end of the day after spending time on the beach. The kiddie pool at the Reserve looked amazing, and so did the inside area for kids (mine are much older, so didnt use the facility itself, just an outside observation). The main pool next to the bar was fun for a post-beach, pre-get ready for dinner hour.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
The staff at the water activity hut very friendly, and windsurf instructors great. Didnt do any trips since its not our first time to Punta Cana, and all we wanted was a relaxing beach vacation.
All in all, the concept of the hotel, especially the Reserve is great. Visually pleasing. Actually whoever was the decorator is a true master. Even the uniforms of waiters at Gabi Beach were perfect. However, it all seems lost 1) on most of the crowd, 2) because of the surly service from most staff 3) terrible food.