It is not often that we vacation in Punta Cana, because for us the area can be beyond our budget. But it has been said “when you find a price & place that fits your budget, book it”. That is exactly what we did for our 2013 winter vacation, although we ended up booking 6 ½ months out. Flight: Our travel arrangements were with Transat Vacations, departing from Toronto Airport. We chose Transat due to it’s pricing/early booking bonus, flight time & the availability of Club Class. Departure was a humane 8:00am, which meant that we would get into Punta Cana just after 12:00noon & have time to relax and adjust in our “home away from home” for the next 2 weeks. We had an excellent flight, enjoying all that was available to us in Club Class…wider seats, lots of leg room, hot meal, champagne & orange juice, individual viewing screens with a selection of music, movies & sports & lots of attention by the Flight Crew. Immigration paperwork & Tourist Cards were passed out on the flight & we had plenty of time to get them ready for landing. Airport Arrival: A pleasant flight found us arriving at PUJ Airport at 12:53pm. We were off the plane & walking into the Arrivals area within a matter of minutes. D.R. Immigration and luggage unloading was quick and we were outside looking for our transfer bus inside of 30minutes. We were on the smaller of 2 buses & arrived at our resort by 2:30pm.
Arrival: Resort Arrival: This was a very disorganized ordeal. There were only 2 staff members on the Reception Desk to look after the group that arrived. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, we were given our bracelets, an information packet & then told to come back in 30 minutes…no room was ready for us. After changing into more comfortable attire & ordering a drink from the bar, we went back to Reception a few more times, still, with no room available for us. Finally, 2 ½ hours after arrival we have a room….and a room upgrade! Our original booking was a “Deluxe Imperial Garden View” & our upgrade was a Junior Suite with Garden View. We are driven to our room & a very capable Porter handles our luggage. Our room is beautiful, but we need to get lights working first. Our Porter goes back & forth to Reception for us to get the proper card for the “wall reader”, but for some odd reason nothing seems to work. He finally has Maintenance come and in a short time, the proper card is found, inserted and we have lights !!
Rooms: Rooms:As I mentioned, our room was upgraded to a new renovated Junior Suite. We are in Villa 18…a building that holds 8 rooms. We’re on the second floor, room # 1185 & our balcony faces the inner garden area. According to the resort map, we’re not far from the beach & the pool, about a 5 minute walk to the beach & 5 minute stroll back to the main Lobby & Reception. Our room consisted of a full King-size bed with 2 bedside tables, a pullout couch for additional sleeping space if needed. A credenza held a mini bar, with 2 pull out drawers for coffee supplies & an ice bucket and on top of the credenza was a new flat screen tv. To the left of the credenza was a desk with I-pod docking station & coffee maker. There is a full wall of wardrobe space, but unfortunately the wardrobe didn’t have enough drawers or shelf space for your clothing. Hangers were available, but I brought extras with me to supplement. Iron & ironing board were stored in the wardrobe, and robes & slippers were available for use too. Two things that I liked about the wardrobe space…1) under the lowest shelf, there was space big enough to store your suitcase, so it was out of the way for the duration & 2) the safe was located in the wardrobe, at the right height so that you weren’t a contortionist when you used it AND it was electronic !! (cost of the safe was included in our room package). The bathroom was roomy…a deep Jacuzzi tub, a glassed in stand-alone shower stall, & enough counter space around the sink to hold our essentials. Also provided & replenished daily was a basket of shampoos, lotions & shower gels. We had no problem with water pressure or hot water for the shower, but had to be careful on where the shower head was positioned, as water could leak out and puddle on the floor, causing a hazard if not noticed. The bed was comfortable, but the pillows were something to be desired ! We knew this before arriving & each brought a pillow of our own, as we were not about to pay for pillow selection!! The mini bar holds water, pop & beer and is replenished daily. We left a tip and note for the “water guy” requesting the amount of water needed and we never ran dry that is for sure !!
Our maid did a fantastic job with our room, although it was almost 3:30/4:00pm in the afternoon before our room was made up. A couple of times we came back early, only to sit on the balcony when she was ready to tidy up. Rosa made towel sculptures for us a few times & our maid in the evening, when doing the “evening turn down ser
Restaurants and Bars: Food/Restaurants: We had no problem with food during our 2-week stay. There was always something to tempt the taste buds & keep the pangs of hunger at bay. Theme nights kept things interesting: Sunday: American; Monday: Mexican; Tuesday: Oriental; Wednesday: Italian; Thursday: Dominican; Friday: Gala; & Saturday: Spanish. The main dining room was open in the morning for breakfast from 7am – 10am & had a wide variety of foods….eggs, pancakes, French toast, fruit, breads, meats, smoothies, juices, cheese, cereal…anything your heart desired, it was available. For those who are bacon lovers, there was no shortage of bacon in the mornings !! The dining room was closed at lunch & the beach restaurant La Arrecife was open from 12:00-4pm. At times, this restaurant was very busy & you had to lineup just to get seated at a table! The wait-staff really hustled in order to keep tables cleaned & set & serve the hungry beach goers! Food was plentiful…hot was hot, cold was cold, all so delicious. We had the opportunity to eat at the beach/poolside restaurants of the GPPunta Cana & the The Palace & I think our favourite place to be was la Behique Restaurant in the Punta Cana section. There were 5 restaurants & 8 a la carte restaurants available to us. We checked out 5 a la cartes (Mexican, Asian, Spanish, Japanese & Brazilian) & of these, our favourite was the Japanese. The Palladium has a great system for marking tables, which other resorts should take into consideration. On the table is a card – green on one side for Vacant, & red on the other side for Occupied. As people went around the dining room seeking a table, if the red card was showing, there was no chance of someone else taking a table that you had picked out for yourself ! Also during the lunch hour, if you were eating at a poolside restaurant, your bathing suit must be covered & you had to be dry. Evening Entertainment: We had the chance to see a few good shows in the Sunset Theatre, but our favourite entertainment was the pianist at Hemingway’s. Hemingway’s is open nightly 5pm to 12midnight, & is a great place to meet friends, play cards or sit and relax.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The Resort & Grounds: The Grand Palladium Bavaro is within a complex of 3 other resorts…the GPPunta Cana, GPPalace & The Royal Suites by Turquesa. When staying at the Palladium, you have the use of all the facilities at the other resorts EXCEPT the RST….you can visit, but not par-take. It is advised that upon your arrival, grab a map of the complex, a drink from the bar & hop on the “people mover train” for a leisurely ride around the resorts…that way you will have a better idea as to where everything is located. The gardens & grounds of the Bavaro section are fabulous…well groomed, lots of color and an abundance of flowers. There are quite a few “Lagos” or ponds in the garden areas, filled with fish, ducks, flowers, fountains & the odd Egret or two. The walkways are cobblestone & are sheltered with thatched roofs…keeps the sun and/or the rain at bay as you make your way to your Villa or to the Lobby. We found some areas at night, to be low lite, especially some of the short-cut paths that were between the Villas. It’s a good idea to carry a small LED flashlight with you…it sure comes in handy! Pool: The pool was a nice area to be, but at the time of our stay, it didn’t seem to be overly busy. There were plenty of loungers & palapas around the pool area and while there, we didn’t see too much of “the towel game” being played. The swimup bar & the pool bar diverse clientele during the day time hours. The Beach: This is one of the nicest sections of Bavaro beach & it’s walkable in both directions. There were plenty of loungers & palapas on the beach, along with palm trees along the edges making for a nice shady spot. The one main problem that I had with the beach area at the GPBavaro, is that there were no actual chairs available on the beach for sitting. Even the Bar Kiosks didn’t have seating available. For those who have problems getting in & out of a lounger, chairs would have been much better. So we were quite pleased to find a nice patio area at the GPPunta Cana, just across from the beach snack bar….tables & chairs in a lovely shaded area, that we could sit and watch all the activity on the beach, in the water & in the air!
Other Comments: Going Home: As they say, “all good things must come to an end” and so it was with our vacation. Our return to the Airport was quick, with no stops at other resorts …our bus was full. The Departure area of Punta Cana Airport has changed quite a bit since the last time we used it & unfortunately we didn’t find any great deals at the Duty Free this time around. We had an excellent flight home to Toronto, getting in on time and having a chilly awakening to the return of winter weather. A wonderful holiday in a beautiful part of Punta Cana. Would we recommend this resort? Definitely! Would we return to the Grand Palladium? If the price was right, yes!!
Lobby/Reception/Lobby Bar: A huge area that is a bee-hive of activity for all things: arrivals, departures, Orientation meetings, Tour Operators, computer desks, Library exchange, Guest Services, Palladium Travel Club & of course, the Lobby Bar. In the centre of the Lobby is a Lago/pond with 2 fountain type columns, 2 huge Coy fish and a group of turtles. In the evenings, a “live” dance band performs bringing excitement up a notch or two! The staff who work Reception speak reasonably good English, enough to get their point & message across…and if you can speak a little Spanish, they appreciate it very much. Just off the Lobby by the Bar is a lovely Courtyard, complete with tables & comfortable chairs and palapas big enough to keep you dry if it decides to rain! Directly across from the entrance to the main Lobby, are the shops & the Sports Bar. Prices foritems in the shops were not bad, & others were outrageous. The Sports Bar was a happening place…food available all day & night and the best place to get a “grilled chicken panini sandwich” ….so good ! Three (3) t.v.’s were mounted on the walls & could be watched from all angles of the room. A couple of pool tables were down at the back & seemed to be widely used.