Over the years I have had the pleasure of staying at quite a number of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and most recently I have stayed at many of the resorts in the Punta Cana, Bavaro area.
The resorts in Punta Cana/Bavaro are beautiful. The area has great beaches that are well maintained and many of the resorts are designed to showcase the natural beauty of the area. The Dominican people are extremely friendly even with a language barrier so you can always count on people greeting you and wishing you well as you travel around the resort. The area has an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables and the buffets are elaborate. The swimming pools are generally huge and they provide shaded areas to protect you from all the sun. There are always plenty of activities going on for those who want to participate and most of the resorts have kids clubs.
What always amazes me, is the differences in peoples expectations at a resort. On Trip Adivisor you will see for all the resorts varying reviews between poor and excellent for every hotel. Most often, though, the same complaints are made from hotel to hotel and they really have nothing to do with the quality of the resort. I will outline some of the common compaints and try to explain why they appear through all the resorts.
This always seems to be everyone's number one complaint. "The food is the same every day, the food was horrible, the food was tasteless, I got sick from it " etc. etc. etc. When you go to a buffet that is serving 1000 people 3 times a day, every day, the food is not going to be as nice as what you would get going to a restaurant at home. Obviously when you are cooking in bulk the flavors are going to be suitable for the general population and not specific to an individuals taste. There is going to be repetition through out the week simply because there is only so much food available. Take breakfast for example, people only like to eat certain things for breakfast such as eggs, pancakes and breads so from day to day they are going to offer pretty much the same food. Most resorts offer an area for fresh eggs and omelets to be made in the morning and fresh pasta as well as other grilled food. They are also going to provide a number of Dominican specialties which may or may not suit your tastes. There are a number of dishes made like plantain, yucca, beans batata, empanadas that should be tried at least once. Dominican food is typically plain and not spicy. Their deserts are varied but typically not as sweet as what we have at home.
The most common complaint about the rooms in the Caribbean is that the rooms smell musty. This is because it is hot here year round and the air conditioning creates a damp environment. The rooms do get run down quickly because they are occupied constantly but the resorts generally have a regular plan of maintenance. Most resorts are excellent at responding to requests for repairs however keep in mind that if they don't respond right away it could be because your request was not understood. Often times they will agree with you but not really understand what it is you asked. I do this all the time when someone speaks too fast to me in Spanish!
Many people complain about the quality of the wine or spirits at all inclusive resorts. I think it is understandable that a resort that is offering unlimited quantities of alcoholic drinks to their clients are going to use the most inexpensive house brands. The resorts all offer higher end liquor for an additional fee. Be careful when ordering your mixed drinks as the bartenders are usually quite generous with their servings. The best beer in the Dominican is Presidente but most of the resorts have Brauma on tap. Most resorts serve Brugal rum and that is a very good rum in the Dominican.
Pools and Beach
Ahh, the big fight for the lounge chairs. Every resort has this complaint that people are saving their lounge chairs and then leaving for half a day. Unfortunately this is something you just have to live with. This is not an issue that the resorts are going to get involved in. If they did, there would be a lot of bad complaints about how the resort staff dealt with them.
Just remember, your Dominican Republic vacation is going to be what you make of it. Remember you are in a poor country with different foods, different languages and that now matter how hard a resort tries, there are still going to be things going wrong. Remember you are on vacation so don't sweat the small stuff!
Next post Excursions
_Okay so you've finally arrived at the vacation of your dreams. Now all you have to do is get out of the airplane and get to the resort so you can start enjoying all that sun. Luckily, Punta Cana airport is not that large so its easy to maneuver your way through it.
When you arrive, you will be off-loaded directly either into the terminal or on to the tarmac. If to the tamac, most times they will bring a stairway to both the front and the rear sections of the plane to make it go a little quicker. You'll step out of the plane and immediately enjoy the warmth and the sun on your face. Once a fair amount of people have deplaned, one to the airport workers will lead you over to immigration.
On the plane your stewardesses will have given you forms to fill out for the immigration process. Some airlines and tour companies will also provide you with a tourist card. Check with your airline if it is supplied otherwise you will need to purchase one when you arrive at the airport or you can purchase one on-line directly through the Dominican Republic Government website for $10 US
As you arrive at immigration, if you have a tourist card go to the line that says Residents where you will hand over your tourist card if you have one, otherwise go to the other line and purchase one if you don't. A customs officer will stamp your passport and take one of your forms and then you're off to collect your luggage. There are television screens that will direct you to the correct area for your baggage. There are many porters available to help you with your luggage for a small tip and they will also help you find where to go with your tour company or to get a taxi.
You will then pass through a final check where you will hand over your second form that you received on the plane. These forms are also available as you head through customs. It is possible they will do a search of your luggage at this point but if so it is usually very quick. We frequently bring a large number of suitcases with us so we get searched quite often but I've always found the customs officers to be very friendly and polite - even if you don't speak Spanish!
So now you're finally through the airport and the taxi and tour companies are waiting directly outside with signs. If traveling with a tour company they will take care of everything for you from here. They will get you loaded into your bus and take you directly to your resort for check in. If traveling by taxi, an English speaking representative will discuss with you where you are going and give you the cost. They are pretty much standard rates from the airport to each hotel depending on the distance and non-negotiable. It can cost you anywhere from $20 for the close resorts to $80 for resorts that are further away.
All that's left to do is sit back and enjoy the scenery on your way to the hotel!
Next post - What to Expect from your Resort.
Just returned from a wonderful winter in Punta Cana. Life is so different there and I would like to share over the coming months some of the things I learned while there so maybe I can help you plan a more spectacular vacation to Punta Cana. Feedback and questions are always welcomed!
Kathy Buttigieg is the President of HorsePlay Punta Cana and HorsePlay Niagara. A former competitor and instructor she now devotes herself full time to managing HorsePlay Tours.