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First timer at Punta Cana July 19-25

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emelvee
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First timer at Punta Cana July 19-25

Post by emelvee » Mon Jul 27, 2015 1:50 pm

Just returned from our first-ever All-Inclusive, and first-ever visit to the DR. We left Charlotte on Sunday, July 19 and returned Saturday, July 25. This was to celebrate my 50th birthday. :) This was me, my wife, and our 14 year old daughter.

To sum it up, we enjoyed our trip. But I don't know if we'll return to this specific island/resort - it depends on the deal. I will say this trip was an excellent value. Our past few trips have been to the Cayman Islands, where we have a timeshare with a guaranteed oceanfront two bedroom condo. Of course, Grand Cayman is considerably more expensive to visit, so it's not exactly an apples to apples comparison. But we were up for something different, and I'm glad we tried it.

Overall
- Friendly service
- Hot and humid (duh!). It was impossible to cool down during the day if you didn't want to be in the water or in the room
- Beach was very nice. Minimal seaweed on the beach, some in the water. Plenty of loungers available, at least early in the day. LOVED hanging out on the beach after sunset. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful.
- We didn't use the pools. We have our own at home and we're spoiled.

Our Room
- We were in Villa 63 in Punta Cana section, a regular “deluxe” room downstairs, facing the kids’ pool. We tried to get an upgrade each of the first 3 days, but were told nothing was available. We were willing to pay for an upgrade, so I guess there really was nothing available. With renovations to multiple buildings, room inventory was reduced.
- Area is fairly loud during day but quiet at night when the pool is closed. Not much noise from other rooms in building.
- Room was smaller than expected, but had all the necessities. We would have been fine without the jacuzzi tub (didn't use it), and would have preferred more space in the room.
- The beds not particularly comfortable, but the pillows were fine.
- The daily flowers as decorations surrounding the tub were nice.
- The strong force of the toilet flush surprised me the first time I used it. lol
- Bath towels were good quality.
- I liked all the marble in the room.
- The shower was fine - decent water pressure except for one day where there was barely a dribble when I showered (it was ok later that day)
- Housekeeeping was very friendly and kept the room clean and tidy.
- Mini bar service was fine, though he missed one day, even after two calls.

Food
- Buffets: Our room was close to Bohique, so that was our default choice.
- Bohio was nice - we waited to get a table overlooking the beach. This was our favorite buffet.
- Ate at Las Torres once - similar food, nothing special but no complaints.
- The buffets were fine, nothing spectacular. Service was inconsistent - sometimes we would be nearly done with our meal before someone came over to offer drinks (we typically just had water). Other times, we were served almost immediately.
- A la cartes: First night (Sunday), we ate at La Parilla (steakhouse). I liked my filet, but another couple we dined with said there steaks were greatly undercooked, though they didn’t say anything. It was strange that the “salad bar” had just about everything EXCEPT lettuce.
- Monday night, we dined at Chef Rafaaelle (Italian). It was ok, nothing special. Again, the “salad bar” had NO lettuce, even though the menu listed a Caesar salad as an option. I asked this time; the person simply said they didn’t have any lettuce.
- Wednesday, we had the beach bbq (reserved in advance as required) - good meat and chicken. Still no salads, though.
- Thursday dinner was at Tapeo (Spanish tapas) and the one I was most impressed with. I was not familiar with most of the food options, but it was all very good. I believe it had been recently renovated - I liked the decor. Didn’t ask about salad this time. lol. This was our favorite a la carte.
- Friday night was at La Adelita (Tex-Mex). This was a bit more festive atmosphere, and the food was good.

Drinks
- Inconsistent service and quality.
- For service, sometimes we’d get a drink at one of the bars and wouldn’t see them again for some time; other times, they were there right as we were finishing a drink.
- We don’t drink beer, and the liquor quality was awful IMO - worse than any well drinks I’ve had in the U.S.
- The tequila shots we had Sunday night were rough - though not so bad as to not order a second later on. :)
- The rum and cokes (my standard drink) were sometimes very weak, sometimes fairly strong.
- Some drinks had a taste leftover from the previous use of the glass, sometimes a taste of soap from being cleaned.

Casino
- It REALLY needs renovations outside; it's not very inviting at all.
- Tables were from some other casino - tacky green squares of tape covered the old logo.
- Never more than one 21 table open (I went 3 times, in the evening). Twice, the roulette wheel was open. One night, poker was being played.
- Generally friendly service at the table (I just play 21).

Travel Club presentation
- Wife and I decided to attend, in exchange for a $200 spa certificate. She got an 80 minute hot stone massage (was $229; we had to pay the additional $29).
- We were picked up at our room and taken to the Royal Suites for breakfast.
- Including breakfast, it took 3 hours total
- We did NOT buy in. We would have had to be blown away to essentially prepay for 60 weeks at their resorts. I would have considered if they had offered something like a 10 weeks package.

Outside the resort
- We purchased private transportation through Vacation Express/Nexus Tours. Picked us up promptly both ways.
- PUJ was very smooth traveling through. I like the idea of PUJ being privately owned. Found it funny that you were required to walk through the duty-free shop to get to the departure gates, like many museums and attractions in the U.S. Prices for food, snacks, etc., were the same or even more than at U.S. airports.
- Rented a car (probably against most recommendations) as I get cabin fever pretty easily. Drove to Higuey to see some of the countryside - very pretty but very poor by U.S. standards of course. Drivers were a bit crazy when in towns (as expected), but I didn’t feel unsafe. I probably would have felt differently at night.
- Shopped a little at the shopping center down the road from the new “Downtown Punta Cana” area where Coco Bongo is located. No great deals, which I wasn’t too surprised at.
- Tried to find a SIM card for my tablet the first two days. I found one at a Claro shop, but I wasn’t able to buy a data plan from their website. It gave me a message to call customer service, which wouldn't have worked since I don't speak Spanish.

Odds and Ends
- Checked out the sports bar one evening - I think it had all of two tvs. Food was decent.
- Laundry - oops! I saw a price list before we left and packed lightly, planning to have the resort do laundry. I misread the prices and it was MUCH more than I expected. Paid $67 for the equivalent of 2 smallish loads at home. Next time, I’ll bring more clothes.
- Free wifi wouldn’t connect inside rooms and would disconnect frequently around the grounds. The only consistent signal was in each lobby. This wasn't a big deal for us - I just wanted to be able to get online once in a while. But our daughter hated it. lol
- Didn’t like that a “Public Relations” rep asked me if I’d write a review of the resort...he asked for my phone, and went to Trip Advisor to start a 5 Star review. I should have just refused to submit it, but I left a very short review and posted it. But I didn't care for his tactics.
- The barrage of sales of trinkets on resort grounds and at the beach was really annoying. I just want to be left alone. I don’t mind them asking me to look at whatever they’re selling, but I expect them to leave me alone when I say “no thank you.” This was one of the biggest (perhaps the biggest) turn-offs during our stay.
- I quickly learned not to step off the resort at the south end of the beach...the shopkeepers were very aggressive.

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