The quality of a resort, or of any product for that matter, is not measured by when things go right, but rather when things go wrong. When things go right, Paradisus Punta Cana is pretty decent. It occupies a large property and the guests are housed in two-storey apartment blocks, which has two immediate results: you do a lot of walking to get from one place to another and the beach isn’t as crowded as many other resorts we’ve seen. The property is beautiful and well-maintained, the staff is very friendly and helpful, the food is respectable but not spectacular (though if you want to go to any of the theme restaurants you should be there as soon as they open for dinner as the alternative is a one- to two-hour wait).
Things started to go wrong for us almost as soon as we arrived.
Your Arrival: Of the crowd that got off our bus, we and a few other couples were singled out as targets for up selling to a “vacation package”. Flustered from our trip and somewhat confused about the offer of a better understanding of the resort, we agreed to meet our concierge for breakfast the next day. At breakfast, once it became clear that we were being asked to do a 90-minute tour to discuss a vacation package, we declined and said that if they wanted to sell us on it they would start first with the price, not the amenities. After a couple days of back-and-forth on this whenever we saw the concierge in passing, one of the sales reps sat down with us and laid out the price: $40,000 for one week per year for 50 years. Save yourself the 90 minutes and decline any offer of a tour of the “preferred guest” accommodations. When we got to the room, we found that the plug in the bathroom sink was broken and the back door leading to the patio would unlock just by shaking the door. Maintenance arrived in fairly short order but the results were less than stellar: the plug in the bathroom sink closed but wouldn’t seal and the patio door still wouldn’t stay locked. We decided to live with the plug problem but it took three attempts and a little bit of shouting over the next two days to get the door fixed. Thankfully, we’re not paranoid about security. One thing we had forgotten to pack was dish soap for the baby bottles. I called and asked for some and was promised immediate delivery. Several phone calls, a couple visits to reception, and two days later we finally got some dish soap.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: The babysitting service was pretty good; certainly, the night time babysitter we had arrived on time and was very good with the kids. On the day we were scheduled to go on a dive trip, my wife came down sick and was unable to go. In hindsight, that was actually a good thing. We had scheduled a babysitter to come that morning well before the dive trip bus was supposed to pick us up. The babysitter was so late that we would have missed the bus. The agreement was that the babysitter would watch the kids for a couple hours and then take them to the kids’ play zone for the day, something we obviously didn’t need. My wife turned the babysitter away but ultimately decided that she wanted a day to herself anyway and took the kids to the kids’ zone shortly after they opened. That’s when she learned that the kids’ zone requires that parents take care of the lunches; the staff won’t take the kids to the restaurants or bring food in. If you want to do any kind of day trip without the kids, forget it. The shop at the resort is decently stocked with most of the vacation amenities (t-shirts, toys, sunscreen, snacks, etc.) but I was very surprised to find that they didn’t carry baby formula. We can’t have been the first parents to run out of the stuff on vacation; I took a walk into town with my rudimentary high school Spanish and was able to find some, but I should have been able to find it at the resort. While at the shop, I bought a flotation toy for our baby son, only to find that the valves would open themselves after only a couple minutes of use. Since we didn’t relish the idea of playing Titanic with our son, I took it back to the store for an exchange, only to find that all of them suffered from the same problem. When I asked for a refund, they pointed me to a sign stating their “no refunds” policy. I told them that I have a policy of not buying defective merchandise, but to no avail. I eventually walked out of the store, leaving both defective toys (the original and the replacement) on the counter. Even upper level hotel management was unable to do anything for me (apparently because the store is not owned and run by the resort) though they sympathized (sympathy doesn’t mean much to me when I’m out of pocket). Memo to customer service personnel: if you’re going to annoy a customer, make sure you do it over something more worthwhile than an $8 plastic toy.
Other Comments: Since we had skipped the tour operator’s welcome meeting on first morning of our stay, we apparently missed the instructions for the bus to the airport. Crucial information like that should be included in the handout you are given on arrival (it wasn’t; we checked) and not left to the chance that regular resort-goers like ourselves will pass on the sweetness and sunshine dished out at these presentations and instead spend the time more productively on the beach. This shouldn’t be a big deal, we thought, so while I was in reception towards the end of our stay I asked the concierge at the desk what to do about transportation to the airport. He ask what time our flight was and told us that all we needed to do was be at the front of the resort three hours prior to our flight and we could catch the next bus. It doesn’t work that way. Every bus is there for a specific list of passengers and there was simply no way to get to the airport except by taxi as our bus had left half an hour or so earlier. Arguably the $35 we spent is our own fault for having missed The Briefing, but the concierge should have known better. We’ve been to many resorts that had the “any bus will get you there” setup and reasonably expected that the concierge would know what he was talking about. Finally, there was the Internet. For $15 a day, you can rent a wireless network card that will get you online through the local cellular provider. Everything worked perfectly; the setup instructions were almost idiot-proof and we were able to catch up with email (we each run our own businesses) in the evenings after the kids were asleep. As we had to leave early Friday morning and the business centre wasn’t open, I returned the wireless card to the reception desk when we checked out. Imagine my surprise to find a charge for $120 on my credit card a couple weeks after we got home. It took a week of calling to get a vague statement that the wireless card was damaged on return and a month of calls after that to get someone at the management level to contact me. They were adamant that a card that was working perfectly for me Thursday night was broken on return to them Friday morning; they further insisted that I should have returned the card to the business centre rather than the reception desk (something I couldn’t have done without forfeiting a day of the service I paid for because of their hours) and they have refused to refund the damage deposit. When I then said that the card was now my property and that I would appreciate it being shipped to me, they agreed, as long as I paid the shipping charges. Why exactly they still had possession of a card six weeks after declaring it damaged is beyond me; I guess it wasn’t so broken after all. We will never again stay at Paradisus Punta Cana and will never again visit a Sol Melia resort. You’d be well advised to do the same.