Our family of four just returned from a week long vacation at the Cofresi Palm Resort (or Grand Ambar by Lifestyle). We originally booked this vacation before it was taken over by Lifestyle based on the very positive reviews from previous travellers. We were very nervous about the ownership change especially considering Lifestyle is a timeshare company. For those of you who have not yet booked a vacation, I would not recommend this resort. For those who have already booked, I will include some tips which should hopefully make your vacation better than ours. (About us: we travelled from Toronto over New Years with our two young children ages 2 and 4. We enjoy good food and usually like to experience some of the local cuisine when travelling to other countries).
1) Flight and transportation: Very smooth, no delays in our flight or airport transfer to the hotel. We were booked with Nolitours and this part was just fine. The ride to the resort is not too long, even though we stopped at the Iberostar before Cofresi.
2) Check-in and Service: We arrived at lunch time and stood in line to check-in. The rooms were not ready for any of the new arrivals, so we were told to come back around 3:00pm. We have been on many all inclusive vacations before and sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't, so we weren't too upset. We came back to check the status around 2:00pm and were given a room. After seeing our wonderful view of the road, we were not too happy as we had paid extra for an ocean view junior suite. We had to walk back up to the lobby and wait in line for another 45 minutes to try and get another room. The next room was in building 43 on the 3rd floor. It had a great view of the pool. Still not what we paid for, but we realized there weren't really any rooms that had a view of the ocean in this area. We were travelling with friends of ours, another family of four who had even more trouble getting their room sorted out. (One bed for a family of four!)
The poor communication and service at the front desk really set the tone for the entire vacation because we were constantly frustrated. The mini bar in our room was empty. We had to call to have it filled and this was only done once for the entire vacation. (our package apparently didn't include refills of the minibar). We also couldn't get a crib for our baby in our room which we had requested in advance. We kept calling housekeeping and were told one would be delivered. After a couple of days we finally went back to the front desk where we were told there were none available. After tipping housekeeping, we had a crib in an hour.
When we went to get beach towels, we found out we needed a towel card. I had to head back up to the lobby and wait again, where I was given one card. Apparently one card = one towel, which I found out when I got back down the hill to the towel hut. !@# We are a family of four, so I had to go back to the front desk and get more towel cards. I'm not sure why everything we needed wasn't given out in a welcome package right from the start at check-in. At this resort you need to ask for everything, so make sure you do and save yourself a few trips to the front desk. The other mistake made was that with our package we should have been given an extra yellow wristband which lets you into another area of the beach and they didn't give us one. It was our Nolitours rep who noticed and let us know otherwise we had no idea.
3) Food: The buffet restaurants at the Cofresi Palm (The Pearl and one down by the pool) were terrible. The food was the same every day! We could always find something to eat, but after a few days it was pretty boring. (My spouse had food poisoning and was very sick in the middle of the vacation, and our kids had diarrhea.)
The a la carte reservation system was frustrating. As a previous reviewer mentioned, Nolitours is trying to give one a la carte reservation per room upon arrival so you at least get one. We did get one, but it was for 9pm which was impossible for us with two young children so we had to give it up. Our friends did not get one upon check-in, so this is not consistent. We went super early one morning and were first in line to make a reservation. They don't start taking the reservations until 9am, and we were first so I expected to be guaranteed a reservation. Instead, we were told we were first on the waiting list! How is that possible, I still don't understand. We met people who were second and third in line and they did not get a reservation. You then need to wait until much later in the day (between 6 and 6:30pm) to get an envelope under your door to know if you got the reservation and at what time or restaurant. (You can put down your choices, but you don't know what you will get). We got to try Bellini (which our kids loved) and the Mexican restaurant, which wasn't great.
Tip: on our second last day we discovered that most of the people from our end of the resort actually walked to the Tropical via the beach and ate at the Casa Blanca for all meals. The buffet here is so much better. They actually have themes and change up the food. (this is where you can get fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast etc). I would recommend going right when it opens at 6:30 for dinner because the food runs out very quickly and they are slow to replenish. The red wine was terrible in the restaurants. We found many people buying their own bottles at the liquor store in the casino or at the shops at the resort and bringing them to the restaurants. The drinks at the bar were also not great. There wasn't a huge selection of drinks like we have had at other resorts and the mixes were all way too sweet. If we requested something "fancier" we were told you had to go to one of the V.I.P. bars. Actually at the Tropical bar there was a larger selection of drinks to choose from. We enjoyed this area all around much more than the Cofresi side.
4) Which brings me to our issues with the V.I.P. system. With Lifestyle being a timeshare resort, one of the worst parts of the vacation which I'm surprised no one else has mentioned so far was the levels of access at the resort. V.I.P. guests have access to certain bars and amenities that the rest of us do not. We had originally assumed that the Chameleon club package with Nolitours was something special and we would have extra privileges at the resort. Boy was that wrong. We were the lowest "class" of guest there.We were excited to take our kids to Scoops for ice cream but found out this was only for members. Same for the tapas bar. This is the first time I have experienced this at a resort. Normally I expect when I pay for an all inclusive vacation I get to make use of all the restaurants and other amenities. Not at this resort, and it was really annoying. If dangling things in front of us that we can't have is supposed to entice me to buy a timeshare they are mistaken.
Since we had purchased the ocean view junior suite, we did have access to one of the V.I.P. beach areas with sunbeds. (far end of the beach). We enjoyed this area as they had a menu you could order food from and a place to get sushi. One time I went up to the bar to order drinks and was questioned about which wristband I had. (it wasn't one of the sparkly gold, blue or red wristbands of V.I.P. members). I explained we had access to this area, but it was embarassing because it made me feel like we weren't supposed to be there.
We had great weather and one of the things I really liked about the resort was that you could always find chairs to sit on without having to get up early and reserve them. Our room was very nice and they made a huge effort for New Years Eve, but it still doesn't make up for the bad service, drinks, food and V.I.P. attitude. We will not be returning to this resort.
- Also Known As:
- Sun Village Puerto Plata
- Sun Village Resort Spa
- Sun Village Hotel Cofresi
- Dominican Republic Sun Village
- Sun Village
- Sun Village Dominican Republic
- Sun Village Spa
- Sun Village Resort
- Sun Village Resort & Spa
- Sun Village Resort Dominican Republic
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Cofresi Palm Beach & Spa Resort – Dominican Republic is the newest jewel in the Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club. Nestled along the Cofresi beach shores, and overlooking the sparkling Caribbean sea, this resort caters to the luxurious enjoyment of both families and couples looking for that perfect getaway. With 468 well-appointed accommodations that range from Adult Only Spa Suites, to Standard family friendly rooms located in a quite setting between the ocean beach and spectacular pool, this is a paradise worthy of the Lifestyle name. The resort was created with space and comfort in mind, making Cofresi Palm a relaxing, enjoyable and satisfying experience for all guests and their families. All rooms have air conditioning, cable television, phones, and ceiling fans, while the decor has a distinctive design, featuring dark wood furnishings. Shaded patios and verandas provide a relaxing place to gather in some of the units. Providing both service and features that are standard for a Lifestyle property, the Cofresi Palm offers a unique luxury accommodations experience. Cofresi Palm provides the easy, relaxed ambiance of the Caribbean in an opulent and elegant setting. Experience the array of beauty and excitement that Cofresi Palm Beach & Spa Resort has to offer. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with BookIt.com, Caribbean Online Mgt Corp., Expedia, Travelocity, Tingo and Venere so you can book your Cofresi Palm Beach & Spa Resort reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.