Date of visit: June 18 – 25
My husband and I chose the Ambar to celebrate our anniversary this year, and this was our first time in the D.R. We’re normally Mexico people, but decided to switch it up. We also usually don’t travel until November/December… so there was a couple ‘firsts’ here.
We knew going in it was the beginning of their rainy season, but the weather was absolutely horrid. Though obviously no fault of the hotel, it did set the tone for our vacation when it rained every single day and we found ourselves spending more time inside the resort (rather than on the beach) than we normally do on a vacation.
My reviews tend to be quite comprehensive, and this is will be no exception, so I’ll start with the good stuff.
I sent two emails to the resort a week prior to our arrival. One was to request a room, and another to book our a la carte restaurants for the week. I requested a corner room in building 64 (the middle of the 3 buildings closest to the beach), and on arrival I was pleased that request was honoured. I’ll address the 2nd email later…
The property is undeniably gorgeous. The grounds are beautifully manicured, lots of greenery and pretty flowers everywhere, walkways are kept clean of debris, well lit at night, and it’s just a very serene, peaceful atmosphere.
The beach is amazing. Picture postcard perfect. Really.
I’m not a pool person so I can’t say, but we heard from other guests the pool is fantastic. Water is nice and warm, very clean, etc.
The rooms are spacious and immaculately clean. Having a corner room, we had a nice big balcony with a great view of the pool and the ocean (through the trees as we were only on the 2nd floor). The A/C in the room worked GREAT and actually found myself a little chilly at night. With the extreme heat/humidity during the day, being chilly was a welcome thing ;)
The maid service was fantastic. She was consistent and thorough. Because of the constant rain, we left our room at different times each day.. but it didn’t matter what time we left or came back, we just put out our ‘clean me’ sign on the door, and our room was done when we got back. Even if we were only gone an hour. That’s always a big plus for us.
The staff for the most part was friendly and eager to please. We found the overall demeanor of the people different than in Mexico, I can’t really define it.. not quite stand-offish, but maybe a little less ‘warm’ and eager to converse? We’re pretty generous tippers and tip everyone we come in contact with around the resort, and it didn’t seem to make a difference.. so it’s probably just a cultural thing.
Now for the not-so-good stuff. There are a few things that (in my opinion) prevent this resort from being a 5-star property.
If you’re traveling in ‘low season’, as we did, you could find yourself very hungry between the hours of 10:30am – 12:00pm, and 3:30pm - 7:00pm. There is nothing open between these times, and although the literature says the snack bar (Las Brisas) is open from 10am to 10pm, this isn’t the case. They do serve an early morning buffet though, which I think is the best kept secret on the resort because it’s always quite empty. Due to our room practically overlooking the snack bar, I just happened to notice people eating in there one morning and we figured it out. The buffet doesn’t re-open for lunch until 1pm and dinner until 7:00pm, and the snack bar is about the same timeline. So, unless you have a reservation at an a la carte, or feel like wandering around the sister properties looking for food, don’t plan to eat before 7:00pm.
We’re not particularly fussy eaters at all-inclusives, but we do know good from bad, and the food in both the main buffet and snack bar was mediocre at best. Of particular concern is the preparation of the food. On 2 different occasions I bit into chicken that was pink in the middle, and meatballs that were practically raw in the middle. For the first time on a vacation, both my husband and I got sick (food sick, not cold/flu sick)… and we were sick for 3 days. Not pleasant.
The a la cart restaurants… lol, where do I begin. So the 2nd email I mentioned sending prior to our arrival was to pre-book our a la carte meals for the week. Not a fan of the reservation system at the best of times, but this takes it to a different level. So I received an acknowledgement of that email, stating they received my requests, and as soon as the schedule came out for the week they would book them. I never received a subsequent email with reservation numbers, so I wasn’t hopeful. The day after we arrived, we went down to Guest Services to confirm what I had booked in the email, and of course we weren’t booked for any, nor did they have any record of my email. I showed them the email on my cellphone and got the ‘blank stare’. So, the restaurants I wanted, on the days I wanted, and the times I wanted were not available, and we basically had to take whatever was available for the week. For the record, I really don’t enjoy eating dinner at 9:00pm.
We ate at El Olivo twice, Don Pablo once, and El Charro (TexMex) on the Bavaro side once. They were all pretty good, with Don Pablo probably being the best meal we had all week. Husband had the lobster and I had the filet mignon, both prepared quite well, nice presentation, etc.
I feel they are being unnecessarily pretentious with the whole a la carte reservation thing, making a big deal about availability, when the restaurants were never more than half full on any of the times we went. Our 2nd trip to El Olivo, she even had to do our reservation in 2 parts (1 person at 7:45 and 1 person at 8:00) because they were just THAT packed. We arrived together at the same time (8:00) and of course there was 20 empty tables. Pretty funny, really.
A few other items that put this just outside the 5-star category is;
No beach butler service
No in-room wifi (lobby bar only)
No in-room iPod docking station
A couple airplane-sized bottles of liquor in the minibar rather than the cabinet system.
Minibar ‘snacks’ consist of one daily bag of potato chips
No nightly turndown service. We did get turndown service one night, but we weren’t even expecting it.. so we didn’t leave a tip out or ‘pre-tidy’ up or anything. That was kinda weird.
If you have lots of things to plug in, you might want to bring one of those multiple-outlet plug adapters. There’s ONE outlet (not even the 2-plug type, just one) in the bathroom, and ONE outlet bedside, which the alarm clock is plugged into. My husband has obstructive sleep apnea and uses a CPAP mask which needs to be plugged in, so we went without a clock radio all week. There’s another outlet in the corner of the room that the floor lamp plugs into. That’s it!
Also, the lighting in the room is very week, I think they use like 20-watt bulbs so if you like to read at night, bring a battery-operated reading lamp… or a miner’s hat ;)
So in all, notwithstanding the crummy weather and mystery illness, it was a good value for the money. I wouldn’t go with the expectations of being a luxury 5-star resort, as I see it listed as on travel sites.. and considering this trip cost about a quarter of what we normally spend for a week I’m not too disappointed. If you want a beautiful, clean resort with a nice beach and aren’t overly picky about food, it’s a good deal :)