October 21 – 28, 2007
Airports and Flights: We flew Air Transat out of Toronto. We purchased the Club Transat upgrade, and it is well worth it. The upgrade gives you big seats, with a separate checkin at both airports. Your luggage is given priority, first off the plan and you are allowed twice the baggage allowance. With Club Transat you can have unlimited drinks, a menu with 4 dinner choices, free snacks, free headphones, etc. We actually had good flight times going down, leaving Toronto at 10:20 a.m. and arriving in Punta Cana at 2:30 p.m.
When we got to the terminal building there were, as usual, two girls and a photographer waiting to take pictures, which you can view and purchase when you leave. Went through customs, our luggage was first off and we were out of the airport in 15 minutes. There are porters waiting to take your baggage as you exit the airport, it is easiest to just let them take it and give them a few dollars. A $30.00 U.S. cab ride and we arrived at Grand Palladium Royal Suites. If you are planning to take a taxi to your hotel, be specific about the name of the hotel, the taxi driver confirmed with us a couple of times that it was Palladium Royal Suites we were going to – so many hotels in the area have similar names or different sections. It is about half an hour from Punta Cana Airport.
Location and overview of Grand Palladium Complex: The Grand Palladium complex is located centrally in Bavaro, with the village of El Cortecito to the right of it, and Occidental Flamenco Resort to the left of it. It has 1 kilometer of beachfront, and the resort is built on 320,000 square metres, so even if the resort is completely full it wouldn’t seem crowded. The resort was built in 1992 and was previously known as Fiesta Hotels, but in 2004 and 2005 underwent major renovations and was upgraded to their premium Palladium brand. It is comprised of 3 resorts – Grand Palladium Bavaro, Grand Palladium Punta Cana, and Grand Palladium Palace, which has the separate Adults Only (18 years and over) Royal Suites section, with its own lobby, pool and beach area. Each section has its own lobby and pool (there are two pools in the Punta Cana section). Guests staying in the Bavaro, Punta Cana, and Palace sections are free to use any of the facilities on the property, except for the Royal Suites section. Royal Suites guests can use any facilities on the property. Grand Palladium Bavaro is the largest section, with 636 rooms comprised of 349 Junior suites, 33 Romance Suites and 254 Superior rooms, in 62 2-storey bungalows of 8 rooms each and 5 two-storey villas of 28 rooms each. Grand Palladium Punta Cana is the middle section, with 451 rooms, comprised of 243 deluxe rooms and 12 junior suites in 3 buildings of 85 rooms each, and 14 loft suites (junior suites with two levels) and 182 deluxe rooms in 7 villas of 28 rooms. Grand Palladium Palace was built in 1996 and totally renovated in 2004. It consists of 504 rooms, comprised of 202 superior double rooms and 78 loft suites (24 of which are honeymoon suites), in 14 two-storey villas of 20 rooms, and 6 junior suites and 78 superior double rooms in 3 two-storey villas of 28 rooms. The Royal Suites was built in 2004 and consists of 124 junior suites, 15 honeymoon suites, and 1 Presidential suite, located in 3 three-storey buildings forming a horseshoe shape around the pool. All rooms have at least a partial view of the beach. I had the opportunity to see some of the different room types in the Palladium complex. All the rooms have been renovated in the last few years and look like new. They have some different types of rooms, ie. Loft suites in the Punta Cana or Palace sections have a second storey bedroom accessed by stairs with one king or two doubles, that is open to the entire room. On the ground floor there is a sitting area with a queen-size pullout couch, and full bathroom with jacuzzi tub. In the Bavaro section there are Junior suites that can accept a family of 5, and Junior Suites that have an adjoining deluxe room for larger families. In the Bavaro section only, pay-per-view movies, sports, and video games are available. The Bavaro section also has Romance Suites that are for adults only – they are closest to the beach and have a private outdoor shower under a thatched roof as well as a hammock for two (these rooms are gorgeous!)
All rooms are a good size. Junior suites are 47.28 m2/510 sq. ft., Loft suites are 50.96 m2/548 sq. ft., and Deluxe(Superior) rooms are 30.33 m2/326 sq. ft. Royal Junior Suites are 41.08 m2/442 sq. ft., and Royal Honeymoon Suites are 51.65 m2/556 sq. ft.
Getting around the Resort:
Depending on which section you are in and where you want to go, it could be a very long walk. They have two trams that run around the resort every 20 – 30 minutes. This is the best way to get from one place to another. It stops at all the lobbies, the casino, the spa, and several other stops along the route. You are given a map of the resort when you check in, and there are “You are Here” maps posted at various places throughout the resort. For Royal Suites guests, it is a short walk to the Royal Gourmet Restaurant, Palace Lobby, and Casino. See the Map we have posted, it was submitted previously by one of our reviewers and shows the different sections of the resort, and is still the current map.
Check-In at Royal Suites – Adults Only (18+): Although Royal Suites is considered part of the Palace, it has its own lobby. The lobby is smaller than the others and enclosed and air-conditioned. Checkin is at 3 p.m., checkout is 12 noon (late checkouts may be available at additional charge). We were given VIP wristbands (I don’t think this entitled us to any extra services, though), towel cards, a map of the resort and information sheet, and our room keys (electronic key cards). One key operates the power in the room and must be inserted in the slot inside the door. Keep your keys in the sleeve they give you and don’t put them near the TV or phone or anything magnetic. We did have some issues with our keys and sometimes it would take 5 or 6 tries to open the door. The remote for the TV is in the room. Our room was located in the same building as the lobby, we were on the third floor, in a honeymoon suite, room 5142, and our luggage was brought to our room promptly. A fruit basket and bottle of rum was in our room.
Note there are no elevators anywhere in the Palladium complex.
Room: The Honeymoon Suite was beautiful. It was on the third floor, right in the centre of the building, and we had a view of the whole Royal Suites section and the beach and ocean. It was very large, decorated in white tones, consisting of a king-size 4-poster bed, open-concept bathroom with double sinks, shower stall and toilet stall, as well as a living area with sofa, coffee table, desk, and table and chairs. There was no tub in the room, it was located out on the huge balcony – a large double Jacuzzi tub. Although we did use it a couple of times, I felt that it was not private enough, and would have rather had it in the room, or had a screen of some type on the balcony that you could pull for assurance of privacy. The room had a telephone, coffee-maker, ice-bucket, satellite TV with a lot of English stations (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN Sports, Showtime, CNN, TNT, Discovery, BBC America, Cinemax, SciFi) – unfortunately the satellite signal seemed to go out frequently, probably because of the weather, so some channels weren’t always available. There was a basket in the bathroom containing bottles of shampoo and bath gel,shower cap, bath sponge, combs, makeup removal pads, razors, toothbrushes, no body lotion though. Bars of soap were very small, I was glad I had brought my own. There is no clock in the rooms. You can leave a wakeup call if you need to, but I prefer to bring my own travel alarm clock. There is a mini fridge stocked with 2 large bottles of water, 1 bottle of Orange, Sprite, Coke, Coke light and 2 beer, one Presidente and one Bohemia. The mini fridge is restocked daily at Royal Suites, 3 times per week in the other sections of the resort. Bottled water is readily available at any of the bars, and in the Royal Suites you just have to go to the lobby and grab it out of the cooler there, which also contains pop and beer, as well as salads, fruit, and wraps if you’re looking for a late night snack. We did receive facecloths most days, a couple days we did not. I always pack a couple of my own. Another thing I took this time was a nightlight, which came in handy. There was also an ironing board and iron, bathrobes and slippers. There are no umbrellas in the rooms, which would have come in handy a couple of days we were there, but apparently they are available at reception if you ask for one. There is a combination in-room safe, at no extra charge. I had brought my laptop with me, but I could not fit it into the safe. A smaller laptop may fit though. Maid service was excellent, we tipped $3 a day and we had some wonderful towel art every day. Air-conditioning worked great, it was almost too cold sometimes and we used the blanket provided, there was also an extra pillow. There is no turn-down service provided in the evening. The regular rooms in the Royal Suites section, Royal Junior Suites, are spacious (41.08 m2/442 sq. ft.)and include a king-size or two double beds, as well as the living area with sofa, open-concept Jacuzzi tub, and shower and toilet stalls.
I didn’t get to see the Presidential suite
Currency: Take U.S. currency, cash is best. You can pay for virtually everything in U.S. dollars, and even if you exchange your money for pesos at the front desk, you will get the best rate with U.S. dollars.
Grounds, Beach and Pool
The grounds and beach of this complex are beautiful. I was told they have 70 gardeners working there. The grounds are perfectly manicured and everything is kept very clean. The beach area in front of Royal Suites is reserved exclusively for Royal Suites guests. Lots of shade on the beach, – trees and palapas – they have recently added more palapas. There was never a problem finding a place to sit, any time of the day, although Royal Suites was only at about 45% occupancy when we were there, as were the Palace and Punta Cana sections. The Bavaro section was at 89% occupancy. Lots of guests from Europe – Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Austria, not as many North Americans this time of year. Americans and Canadians are the majority during the winter season. The Royal Suites pool is in the centre of the Royal Suites section. It has a walk-in entrance and integrated Jacuzzis (cold). There is a nice swimup bar. Towels are available at the activities centre by the beach. We alternated between sitting on the beach and around the pool. Both the ocean and the pool water were warm, it was beautiful. The Royal Suites area is very quiet. There are no activities staff here, or loud music. If you want to join in activities you have to go to other areas of the resort or further down the beach. The activities staff come around once in a while to see if people are interested in joining an activity. There are listings of the activities available, with times and locations in the Royal Suites lobby. We were content to relax by the pool or beach and read a book (vacations are the only time I ever have time to read). If you run out of reading materials, there are books in the lobby that people have left, and we also left the ones we had finished with. Also available in the lobby each day are internet newspapers from various countries, they had the National Post. You can’t take it out of the lobby, for an extra charge you can have a copy delivered to your room each day. A photographer came around the pool area a couple of times to take pictures. He brought parrots the first time, and a snake the second time. I got as far away as I could. Dolin Dive Center runs the watersports at the resort. The dive center is located at the beach at Grand Palladium Bavaro Included watersports are kayaks, catamaran (lessons extra), windsurfing (lessons extra, from $40 US) (1 hour per day). Here you can also book banana boat rides, waterskiing, parasailing ($45 US for 10 minutes, $85 US for 10 minutes tandem), snorkeling trips, glass bottom boat, speedboat trips, deep sea fishing, trip to Catalina Island, and Sunset boat tours. And of course dive instruction and trips are available.
You can also book deep sea fishing trips on the beach at El Cortecito, just go down the beach to your right from Royal Suites.
Bars and Drinks: There are numerous bars throughout the complex: Bavaro Section: Lobby bar Caoba – open 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Pool bar Boca Chica with swimup bar – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Cocktail Bar Hemingway – open 6 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. – very nice – air-conditioned and comfortable seating and music. Punta Cana Section: Lobby Bar Macao – open 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Pool bar Samana with swimup bar – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pool Bar Saona – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Palace Section: Lobby Bar Guayacan – open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Pool bar Barahona with swimup bar – open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Royal Suites Section: Lobby Bar – open from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Swimup Bar at Royal Suites Pool – open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sports Bar – open 24 hours Casino bar – open 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Plus 6 Bar kiosks along the beach, and bars in the two theatres and the disco. Bars offer national drinks and some imported drinks (selection will vary from bar to bar). Beer is Presidente and Bohemia, sometimes they have Budweiser. I mostly drink white wine and found the house wine pretty good after I got used to it. Also had a few Banana Mamas which were excellent.
Royal Suites guests have pool and beach bar service, so you don’t have to move if you don’t want to.
There are a number of dining options available. Overall, I would consider the food quality and choices available to be excellent, both in the buffet restaurants and the a la carte restaurants.
Royal Gourmet Restaurant: Royal Suites guests have exclusive use of the Royal Gourmet Restaurant, which is enclosed and air-conditioned. It is all glass windows, very bright and clean-looking. In the morning watch where you sit or you may get the sun in your face. The Royal Gourmet is open for breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. It is not open at lunchtime. No reservations are required. Men must wear long pants at dinner. Note that there is no smoking in any of the enclosed restaurants on the property, only the open air restaurants have smoking areas. There is an a la carte menu for breakfast and dinner, along with buffet items. We ate breakfast here several times. We would order off the menu and then check the buffet for anything else we wanted. Everything is served piping hot and was very good.
We ate dinner here twice. The first time we had the beef tenderloin, it was okay, but not great. The other time I had Churrasco (Argentine Flank steak), and Pat had Chicken Parmesan and it was very good. On Sundays, they have Lobster as a special, but since we don’t like lobster, we opted for the buffet that night. Each day has a special listed, but most items are available every day. They had copies of the menus for each day posted in the lobby of Royal Suites, basically the same with a different special each night and a few slight changes.
Las Torres Buffet Restaurant – Palace Section: This buffet is right next to the Royal Gourmet Restaurant, and we ate dinner here a couple of times and breakfast most days. It is open from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast and 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner. It is not open at lunchtime. There was always a large selection of food and it was very good. In addition to the prepared food in the buffet, you could ask for a steak, hamburger, porkchop or hotdog and they would cook it for you. They always had several kinds of pasta, salads, rice dishes, vegetables, fish and meat, cheese and breads and deserts. Getting drinks was a little hit and miss sometimes, ie. at dinner they’d bring the wine but not the water. We enjoy a cup of coffee after our evening meal, and this seemed to be a problem in all of the restaurants. We’d ask for Café Americano or Cafe con Leche, and end up with espresso almost every time – best to stick to cerveza. The buffet restaurants have a different theme every night, ie. Sunday is Americano, Monday is Mexican, Tuesday is Oriental, Wednesday is Italian, Thursday is Dominican, etc.. This is also posted in the lobby of Royal Suites every day.
La Catedral Buffet Restaurant- Bavaro Section
Same hours as Las Torres. We did not eat here. I enquired if there was different food at the different buffets and was told it was the same at all of the buffet restaurants.
El Behique Buffet Restaurant – Punta Cana Section
Same hours as the other buffets, and is also open at lunchtime from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. We ate lunch here once, it was very nice, again lots of choice. Each section also has its own beach restaurant, located between the pool and the beach.
El Bohio Lunch Buffet – Palace Section
Open from noon to 4 p.m. for lunch. This is where we ate lunch most of the time, it is closest to Royal Suites. Good variety and service. I loved their Waldorf salad, and later in the week they had potato salad, which was excellent. Again, you could have a hamburger or hotdog or porkchop or steak cooked to order. They also had a machine for icecream cones. I thought originally that it was soft icecream but it wasn’t – it was great. A lot easier than trying to scoop out of frozen icecream containers.
La Uva Lunch Buffet – Punta Cana Section
Open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for lunch, and it is also open for continental breakfast and snacks from 10 a.m. to noon, and snacks from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We were told it was nice here, same food as other lunch buffets but a nicer atmosphere. We never got to try it though.
Arrecife – Bavaro Section
Open for lunch from noon to 4 p.m. Didn’t eat here.
A La Carte Restaurants: he hotel now has a “no reservations” system for all of the a la cartes for this season. (It’s something they are trying out to see how it works, so it is subject to change). Previously guests had to make reservations for the a la carte restaurants, and guests other than those in Royal Suites were restricted on the number of times they could eat at a la carte restaurants. Now no one needs to have a reservation, it’s first come, first served.. Royal Suites guests have the option of making a reservation at the front desk in the morning for their choice of a la carte restaurant and they will be guaranteed a table at the time they select. All a la cartes are open from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Note that if it is the Mexican theme night at the buffets, the Mexican a la carte restaurant will be closed, if it is the Italian theme night, the Italian a la carte restaurant is closed, etc.
There are 5 a la carte restaurants:
Mare Nostrum – Italian – Palace Section This restaurant is located right next to the Las Torres Buffet Restaurant. There are a number of menu choices, as well as an antipasto/salad bar. Food and service was very good. I had the veal parmesan. El Arrecife – Seafood – Bavaro Section We did not eat here as I don’t like seafood, but in looking at the menu later I saw that they do have steak, chicken and pork entrees on the menu. This restaurant is right at the beach. According to the menu, there is an extra charge for Lobster. Bamboo – Asian Restaurant – Bavaro Section This restaurant is located off the lobby of the Bavaro Section. Nice décor, lots of bamboo. The menu includes dishes from China, Japan, India and Thailand. They also have an antipasto/salad bar. We ordered our meal and because we were in Royal Service they also brought us a plate of extras. The food was very good, but we were so full when we left… El Quijote – Spanish Specialties – Bavaro Section This restaurant is also located off the lobby of the Bavaro Section. Again, this was very good. I had lamb, Pat had beef, and they also had an antipasto/salad bar. Good service. Interesting décor, chandeliers made out of bottles. La Gran Cantina Mariachi – Bavaro Section Also located off the lobby of the Bavaro Section. We ate here on our last night and it was pouring with rain. The food was good here, but service wasn’t the best as they were having issues with water leaking through the roof. I had a buffalo wing appetizer that was almost a meal in itself, and then a steak with guacamole. There was also an antipasto/salad bar, so we were stuffed when we left. House wine is included at all the restaurants; they also have a wine list if you want to purchase a bottle of wine with your meal.
Dress Code for the a la carte restaurants is long pants for men. Having said that, I did see some men in shorts in the a la carte restaurants… Dress shorts are fine for the buffet restaurants.
Room Service: Only Royal Suites guests have room service, which is available 24 hours. There is a $6.00 U.S. service charge. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., main courses from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and salads and sandwiches are available 24 hours. We never tried room service, it says to allow 20 to 30 minutes for delivery.
There are two theatres here, one at Grand Palladium Bavaro, the Sunset, and one at Grand Palladium Punta Cana, the Merengue . The shows didn’t start until 10:00 p.m., we never did make it to one. In the Royal Suites lobby they post which shows are available at which theatre. Karaoke, Michael Jackson show, Dominican Folklore, Phantasia of Horror, Gala..were a few I saw listed.
The Sunset Boulevard Disco is located across from the main lobby of the Palladium Bavaro and is open from 11:15 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. – never went in, too late for us..
The casino is located near the Palace lobby. The slot machines are open at 10 a.m. to 3 a.m., the tables don’t open until 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. We went in a couple of times and played the slot machines, didn’t win anything but they have 1 cent and 5 cent slot machines, so you can play for quite a while. Drinks are included here. Tables are Blackjack, Caribbean Poker, and Texas Holdem Poker.
There are two computers in the lobby of Royal Suites which are free for Royal Suites guests to use and are available 24 hours a day. Connections were a little intermittent, it was down the first day we were there and went out a couple of times during the week for short periods. For non-Royal Suite guests there is an internet café in the Palace area and in the Sports Bar in the Bavaro side of the complex where they charge $5 US for 30 minutes or $8 for an hour. Apparently there are plans to have wireless internet in the resort in the future.
In the Palace area you will find a gift shop, logo shop, and supermercado. I went in to buy some hairspray as I had forgotten mine, but decided that $18 US for a can of hairspray was a bit much.
The Dominican vendors also come into the resort once a week, or you can walk down the beach to the right where you will find a lot of vendors.on the beach and in El Cortecito. Be prepared to bargain, and everyone will want you to come and look at what they have for sale.
Spa: The spa at Grand Palladium Resorts is operated by Renova Spa and is currently located near the beach at Palladium Punta Cana. It is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The gym, sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi are included in the all-inclusive plan (reservations may be required). The gym is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. I went to the spa for a massage and it was wonderful. I had the 80 minute Stress Cure massage, s a combination-type massage – cost is $110.00 U.S. They have many different types of massages and body treatments available starting from $55.00 U.S., as well as manicures, pedicures, and hair salon services, There are also massages available at the beach. A large new spa is currently under construction across from the Royal Gourmet Restaurant. They are building a huge new spa scheduled to be completed in December, it will be the largest in the area.
The Sports Center is located centrally in the Punta Cana section of the resort, furthest away from the beach. (Note that sports activities organized by the animation team take place at the beach and pools.) Archery, rifle shooting, badminton, basketball and mini golf are located at the sports centre, as well as the tennis courts, and a soccer field.
Medical Services – available 24 hours.
For information on Grand Palladium Resorts wedding packages, see our Weddings Page
Tour reps have desks in the lobbies of the various sections (never saw any reps in the Royal Suites section), you can check their books and see what their hours are in the other sections, and you can see them for available tours. Also, if you have any donations of school supplies, etc. that you bring with you, Apple (Amstar) reps at the hotel will gladly accept them and see that they are distributed to those that need them.
Weather and Bugs
We were there during Tropical Storm Noel. Although it caused a lot of devastation in the southern part of the country, Punta Cana only received heavy rain for a couple of days. We arrived on a Sunday and the weather was great all week, mostly sunny with only an occasional brief shower, until Saturday, when it clouded over and rained for much of the day. We had rain all of Sunday and into Monday. As far as bugs, there weren’t any to speak of. A few flies, no problem with mosquitos at all.
As an adults only section, Royal Suites is an excellent option for those who just want to veg out and relax. At the same time, a full range of activities are also available to you. Grand Palladium Resort is a great spot for families, singles, and couples. The food everywhere at the resort is excellent, with many dining options, and service for the most part was excellent.. I’ve tried to cover the main aspects of the resort in my review – if you have any questions feel free to contact us, and I’ll try to answer them for you.
Special thanks to the staff in Royal Suites, and to Octavio Subervi for showing me around and answering all my questions.