This was our third visit to a Paradisus in the DR and our second to the Paradisus Punta Cana. We enjoyed our last visit in 2009 so much that we actually rescheduled our flight this year when we were notified that the resort would be closed for renovations during our original planned stay. We were offered alternate accommodations at the Paradisus Palma Real but much preferred this resort.
I read the complaints from this summer with interest. The Paradisus PC underwent a management change this year and has been in a state of flux. The new management appears to be cutting some corners. We noted that the full-sized and well-stocked refrigerators in the rooms have been replaced with mini-fridges. That's a drag, but not really a big deal if you're on the all-inclusive plan, as most guests are. Why would you want to cook in your room when you have 10 restaurants on property?
We stayed in the Reserve section, which I highly recommend. It has its own very large pool and a nice bar and restaurant. The walk to the beach is about five minutes longer than it is for guests in the general hotel area, but the crowds are smaller and the accommodations more elegant. The Reserve pool is amazingly large, and there's also a well-equipped kids area.
The Paradisus PC grounds are exceptional. Landscaping such a large facility can't be easy or cheap, but the staff manages to make it work. Walking the paths to the beach is like strolling through a tropical garden.
We had a couple of horrible experiences this trip, but on the whole we were again quite pleased with our two-week stay. On the negative side, the laid-back island culture can be frustrating at times. Reservations don't matter for much, and the staff can overlook details that aggravate guests who are accustomed to European-like efficiency. If you can take these shortcomings in stride, however, you can have a terrific time. Patience is a virtue.
The best feature of the Paradisus PC is the staff. The people are unceasingly friendly and accommodating. Nearly every staff member greets guest with a cheery "Ola!" and we were constantly amazed at the willingness of wait staff to go out of their way to make our meals special. Our beach waiter, Maiker Ramirez, was so exceptional during our last stay that we returned in part just to see him again. Fortunately, he's still employed there. If you can grab some sand in the Reserve section on the beach, ask for Maiker. He will treat you like royalty, and he's a hoot to talk to.
Best restaurants, in our experience: The Grille, Vento and the Japanese Sakura. Worst was Aqua. The names are all changing, so our recommendations may be out of date. The two Gabi buffet restaurants are mediocre but reliable if you're in a hurry.
The resort is technically a no-tipping deal, and a service charge is added to your bill when you check out. Our experience has been that tips enhance the experience a good deal, however. You don't need to be extravagant; bring a wad of $5 and $1 bills with you and distribute them liberally. A $10 tip to the bartender will keep your drinks heavy for at least a couple of days, and $5 to the waiter at dinner will give you exceptional service. We noticed a dramatic improvement in chambermaid service after we started leaving 100 pesos (about $2.50) as a tip every day.
Don't shop at the resort store unless you really need to. The town of Bavaro is just outside the gates, and you can find nearly anything you need there at about one-third the price. There's a supermercado on Avenue Espana - about a 20-minute walk - that's a particularly good deal. Bavaro also has several good cigar shops. Don't buy cigars from the guys who sell them on the beach. They're mostly crap. There are cigar stores a couple of blocks from the front gates where you can watch them hand-rolling the product. At least you know what you're buying.
Also, don't exchange money at the usurous money-changing booths. You're better off using your debit card in the Banco Popular machine in the lobby. The exchange rates are much better.