My husband and I took a delayed honeymoon this past Valentine's week. We had an amazing time at the Ambar resort. The following are some tips and reviews of our experience. I apologize for the length of this review in advance.
Airport and Transportation: We flew United and had a great flight. We were lucky enough to fly direct. We received the forms you must fill out on our plane. Bring a pen to fill out the forms. Once you get to the airport, everyone is scrambling around trying to fill them out and find pens. Also, once you are through, many people will try to take your bags for you and take you to your taxi service for a tip. We politely refused and got to our service just fine. We hired a private taxi service (Dominican Airport Transfers) for pretty cheap.to take us straight to the resort and back to the airport upon return. I hear that some other services transport multiple people and often have to stop at other resorts. Beware that they drive very aggressively in the Dominican. The drivers often go around cars using the opposite side of the road, tailgate, speed, and scooters and motorbikes weave in and out. It can be a little scary. Brace yourself. The services also drop you off at the main Bavaro lobby. You will have to get into a little resort taxi that will take you to your specific resort lobby.
Arrival and Room: Check in was quick and the service was great. Unfortunately, the hotel had run out of maps this particular week and never ended up receiving them while we were there. We managed to walk to a different lobby and get one from another resort, but everyone is helpful with giving directions and there are large scale maps around the grounds to look at. We had a nice gentleman take us to our room and take our luggage on a cart. The room was air conditioned and spotless. They provide you with a key card in your room to stick in the scanner by the door to keep your air conditioner on when you leave the room. Also, the air conditioner will turn off if you open the balcony door. It will only turn back on when it is locked and properly closed. We had a lovely King size bed (it is a firm bed, which we prefer). The mini fridge is stocked with mini bottles of rum, vodka, gin, 2 cans of Presidente local beer, a few bottles of Alaska Mineral Water, tonic, orange soda, ginger ale, pepsi, and diet pepsi, as well as a bag of Lay's potato chips. If you want extra, leave a tip and a note. We asked for more waters and beers and left a tip each day. We were always more than adequately stocked. They also provide extra large bottles of Alaska Mineral Water for the coffee machine with sugars, and powdered creamer. Our room safe did not work. We called the front desk and asked how to work the safe, but we were doing everything properly and still couldn't get it to work. We called to have someone come down, but after waiting half an hour, we decided to just use our luggage locks and keep our valuables locked in our luggage. We never felt unsafe or that anything would get taken at any time. There is a card that you can fill out to have your room cleaned at certain times. Ours was usually cleaned between 3pm and 4pm. At night, they bring you fresh towels and chocolates, as well as replace the towels whenever they clean your room. The laundry service is pretty cheap and very good. We did laundry once and the service was great, fresh, folded and pressed. We also read a tip to bring a small gift and note for the cleaning staff (they need a note or can't keep it). We brought a bag of goodies containing hair products, soaps, toiletries, makeup, and school supplies. We left a note in Spanish letting them know the gift was for their service over the week. Our room was always meticulously cleaned, stocked, and filled with fresh flowers every day. Some people said their room gets a musty smell, but we never had that problem. The only issues we had were that the shower door didn't shut properly. They came by the fix it, but it was not working right the next day. Not a huge deal. Also, there is no door separating the toilet from the rest of the bathroom.
Room Service: Room service was always very pleasant and prompt. When you are finished, just leave the plates outside your door and they will pick them up when they pass by. The menu is limited consisting of nachos, a Caesar salad, and some sandwiches with fries. The late night menu is the same, but served with chips. The Caesar dressing is not great. The club sandwich was good, but not a traditional club. It is ham, cheese, and egg salad. The burgers are awful. The grilled chicken is well seasoned and good. They bring plenty of condiments as well. There is also a dessert plate and fruit plate.
Buffet and Restaurants: The main buffet is located in the Ambar lobby. It is only open during certain times. Breakfast from 7am-10am I believe. Lunch from 1pm-3pm. Dinner from 6pm-10pm? From 3pm-6pm, you can order room service or go to the snack bar. The snack bar is right next to the pool. They serve sandwiches, salad, pizza, and pastas. The snack bar is also a buffet at breakfast time, but smaller, if you didn't want to go to the main lobby. At breakfast, there were plenty of pastries, breads, and donuts. There was a toaster, but took multiple passes to get the bread crisp. They had bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, soft boiled and hard boiled eggs, an omelet station at the main buffet, pancakes, churros, potatoes, yogurts, cereals, fruits, salad bar, fresh juices/smoothies, etc. Some of the food was left over from the night before or re purposed. They always have fresh coffee, teas, pineapple juice, orange juice, and cappuccinos, etc. We preferred the snack bar breakfast because you could eat outside near the beach. Lunch and dinner were okay. There was always pizza, french fries, hamburgers, pastas, and hot dogs. Not exactly what I wanted to see at a luxury resort, but I know they have to please the masses. They had a salad bar, fresh fruit, meats and cheeses, pastries, assorted meats, and sides. A lot of fried foods. The buffet food was typical as you would expect...over cooked, under seasoned, mostly fried, a lot of re purposing, but definitely plentiful. There were a few Dominican specialties, but for the most part, it's exactly what they think Americans eat. We heard that Friday night they had lobster, seafood, and crab legs. We went to a restaurant that night and missed it. The restaurant food was definitely a step above the buffet. You have to make your reservations as soon as you get checked in. Take whatever reservation you can get because they book up incredibly fast. This is due to the fact that they are not open every night. The staff alternates between different restaurants. Most of our reservations were for 9pm, but if you show up to the restaurant early, they will seat you early. We usually ate around 8pm. Bring the ticket with you that they will give you when you make the reservation. You can eat at any of the restaurants in the whole resort. Ambar has 3 restaurants on their grounds. The Mediterranean restaurant wasn't very Mediterranean in our opinion. You order an appetizer and entree, then you also get a buffet with an assortment of food and desserts. The food was pretty good. We had steak, a shrimp appetizer, and the buffet. There was a lamb and couscous dish that was amazing. The Italian Restaurant was not our favorite. The food was Italian themed, but the cannelloni dish we got was weird. The pasta didn't taste like it was cooked and our salmon was way overdone. The wait staff was amazing and always made sure your glasses were filled with water and wine. Don Pablo's is the gourmet restaurant and the only one that doesn't have a buffet in it. You get a soup, an appetizer, entree, and dessert. We both had the lobster bisque which was good. We had the foie gras which was amazing. The tuna tar tare was okay. We wanted steak and lobster, but it wasn't an option. We asked the waiter and he let us both get a lobster and then we split a filet. Caribbean lobster is very different than Maine. It tastes different and is more brownish. Ours was a little tough as well. It is not on the menu, but definitely order the bananas flambe. They will do it table side and it is the best thing we ate while there.
Pool: The pool is open from 8am to 6pm. We saw people swimming after 6 though. The pool bar doesn't open until 10am and closes at 5:30pm. The pool was large and beautiful. It was absolutely amazing. There is definitely a lot of the "towel game" going on there though. I burn very easily and wanted shade so I got to the pool exactly at 8am when it opens and all of the shaded umbrella seats were gone. It is very disappointing. Security is there early to remove towels that are there to reserve seats before 8, but they won't remove it if you are there with your towel. There are signs on the chairs that say you can't reserve, but no one really listens. We always got chairs, but not always under an umbrella. There is one waitress that comes around taking orders. She is great and personable, but your drinks may take a little longer than if you walked over to the bar. The bar is great. One side is the walk up part and the other side is the swim up pool bar with under water stools. The bartenders are all very friendly and quick. The pool bar menu is very limited and most of the drinks are already premade. They are also mostly sweet and tropical. The banana mammas are really good and the choco bananas, but more than one and you will get sick from the sugar. The drinks are also pretty weak, so I always ordered extra alcohol. The only beer is Presidente, which was okay. There is also wine and sangria, not the best. You can order MamaJuana. It is a specialty in the Dominican Republic. Pretty strong shot, but good. Also, the best tip I can give you is to bring your own insulated mugs. They really come in handy. Otherwise, you get these flimsy plastic cups and everything melts in seconds. They have a bunch of activities at the pool...bingo, zumba, water aerobics, etc. There is also a stand where you can switch out your blue pool and beach towels for fresh ones every day. A few days there were men walking around with lizards and monkeys that you could take pictures with.
Beach: The beach was phenomenal! So beautiful. The water was warm, crystal clear, and there was barely any seaweed. The beach was soft and the sand was very clean (no shells, rocks, seaweed). There are always plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas at the beach if you can't find one at the pool. There was a fantastic breeze as well. The weather was absolutely perfect. A bonus is that the beach is literally a few feet away from the pool. There was a man that was walking around with a wheel barrel and a machete cutting open fresh coconuts for you so you could drink the coconut water and eat the pulp. There were some men selling jewelry, paintings, and cigars, but politely refuse and they will go away. There is also a beach bar. A lifeguard is on duty and there is a colored flag that will let you know the swimming conditions. Also, you can watch people para sailing going on helicopter rides.
Lobby and Lobby Bar: The lobby bar is fantastic. There is a much better assortment of drinks there. We went after dinner almost every night. Most of the other guests gather there as well. They have great cappuccinos that they serve with little cookies and whipped cream. It's open all day and there are waitresses or you can go to the bar yourself. At night, they usually have a DJ, dancing, or karaoke. There are some hotel employees in the lobby that are trying to sell you a guest preferred program. They try to get you to go to this 30minute meeting that ends up being 2 hours to talk you into buying more vacations and such. They try to bribe you with free sunglasses, cheap necklaces, cheap watches, coupons, etc. They really hassle you no matter how many times you refuse. Beware and try not to get suckered into it. The lobby has free wifi which was nice for us to check on our kid at home.
Shopping: There are a lot of shops. The Ambar lobby has a shop, but the prices are much higher than at the main Bavaro lobby. The shops at the Bavaro can be tricky. Most of the stores do not have prices on things. If they know you are American or have credit cards, they will really try to swindle you. This guy tried to sell us 2 baseball caps and a canvas bag for $150. You can usually always talk the price down and go to different stores to compare and get the lowest price. Also, only say you have a little bit of cash. There is a flea market and you can get some stuff pretty cheap. We got a native stone kissy kissy figurine carved with our names and trip for $12 when another guy wanted $60.
Trolleys: They have these little trolley/trams that take you around the resort. Everything is a pretty quick walk, but it's nice to take them around the resort. There are a few different lines...like the blue line, green line, etc.
Activities: We didn't do any of the excursions, but there were a lot of options if you wanted. We did play tennis which was great. They provide you with any equipment you need free of charge and have water for you at the courts. There was a water park for kids. There was a theater that put on shows, a karaoke bar, and a casino. We didn't go to any of these.
1. Tip. I know it is all inclusive, but they really don't make a lot of money and when you tip, your service is extra special.
2. Learn a little Spanish. Most of the staff is bilingual, but it's still nice to know some key phrases and show some respect for the staff.
3. Say Hola to everyone and be nice. The staff works very hard and will do anything you ask, so please treat them with respect. Some guests were very rude to the staff and treated them like garbage.
4. You really don't need to change your money into pesos. They graciously accept American dollars everywhere.
5. You don't really need an International adapter. We bought one for $5 off of Amazon, but the outlets in our rooms were fine and grounded.
Overall our experience was wonderful. We were so relaxed the whole time. The weather was perfect and the staff was amazing. The grounds, building, pool, and beach were always beautiful and clean. We would definitely come back to this resort again. The food and drinks were mediocre, but we kind of expect that with a massive resort.
Try to get a room in the 64000 building. It is literally right outside the entrance to the pool and...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.