I recently came back from Bahia Principe Esmeralda in DR. This wasn't my first DR visit, but I certainly had higher expectations after many reviews and pictures. I booked my trip with cheapcaribbean, and on arrival there was some confusion with transfer to the hotel (can't blame this on Esmeralda). BTW, DR collects $10 per person at the airport, therefore bring cash. After waiting for about 30 min, we were on our way to the quick getaway. Hotel is located about 30 minutes from the airport. There were frequent road works and detours, so the hotel might even be closer than 30 min.
One must understand that Esmeralda is a part of a cluster of hotels - Gran Bahia, one of the nicest, along with Amber. The property is huge! If you stay at Esmeralda, everything is a walking distance: pools, buffets, beach, however staying at some other resorts like Punta Cana, one might have to ride one of those carts to the beach. Our bus dropped us of at Punta Cana resort, and then we had to take a shuttle to Esmeralda. At the front desk, we were given a welcome drink, along with a travel package and a key. No explanation of where anything is, simply were told – everything is in the package, therefore my first impression was slightly disappointing. Didn’t seem welcomed, very impersonal. Then we had to take our own luggage to the room, because I didn’t want to wait for it to be delivered. Btw, it took us quite some time to find where we had to go, because as I mentioned earlier, no one even pointed out where our building was, luckily some workers on the property were very helpful, and not only showed us were to go but also assisted us with the bags. I’m not going to describe the resort, as pictures can tell the story itself. If you want to be close to the beach, lobby – do not stay at building 97.
Very spacious, clean. A welcoming gift which included bottled rum and 2 t-shirts – very nice touch. Shortly after, someone arrived with neatly packaged fruit basket. In the closet we found 2 pairs of slippers and 2 robes. Otherwise, everything seems standard. Bathroom had a Jacuzzi, which we never used. Shower stall, with a glass door that would not close, therefore towel had to be placed on the floor to absorb water. 2 sinks. Plenty of little bottles with shampoo/conditioner, shower gel, bath sponge, etc. To use the light in the room, the key must be inserted in the controller box by the door, therefore make sure to ask for 2 keys.
One of the most important things for me! Disappointing. It wasn’t bad or limited selection, don’t get me wrong, I just expected better quality. It was mediocre. I never wanted to go back for seconds. Out resort had 2 buffet, but I think they serve the same food, one just smaller. With Esmeralda wrist bands we could dine at any buffet, except Amber.
The food presentation was impressive, especially for dessert and appetizers, but it just didn’t taste amazing. Many options to choose from, including soups (they always had gazpacho among other options), kids section, vegetarian, pasta, meats, fish, salads and make your own salad section, and melted chocolate tower. One of my expectations was shrimp and possibly a lobster night. In the 5 day that I was there, seafood (besides fish) never made it to the buffet. I also made sure to check out the buffet, even if we had reservation to the alacarte restaurant (I did mention food is very important to me). Plenty of fruit – including cantaloupe, melon, watermelon, papaya, passion fruit. I loved the papaya, present almost during every meal. Occasional mango
2 restaurants on the property – Italian and Asian. We were able to get a reservation at the Italian restaurant. The buffet bar is similar to the usual buffet, but the entrees were actually delicious. We ordered steak, stuffed chicken, and even asked to split a third entrée (lobster pasta) – all 3 were delicious.
A la carte restaurants
Italian – see above
Le gourmet – French – located at Bavaro or Punta Cana resort – therefore you’d have to take a cart, make sure to ask where you have to wait for that cart, as pick up is not at the lobby (Note for the management) – food was good there as well – We had lamb, steak, and fish – never asked for a third entrée, but very nice gesture There was no buffet at this restaurant, as everything was a la carte
Mediterranean – la pescatoire? – I wanted to go to the main Mediterranean restaurant, but unfortunately it wasn’t available during out short stay. This was my least favorite. Lobster dish was decent. Steak was good. Seeing a cockroach crawling near out table, which was situated near the buffet section kind of killed my appetite. When the attention was brought to the waiter, he simply walked away. Another waiter acted like it was no big deal, and simply kicked it off the wall. God knows where that bug went.
Also disappointing. My favorite was passion fruit margarita, which was served few times in the main lobby, near the buffet restaurant. Most of the cocktails I’ve tried were too sweet, too much syrup used. Even mojito didn’t taste good, because they don’t use real juice, they use frozen lemonade. I’m not a big drinker, but I’ve noticed that at Esmeralda you can get drinks like shots of tequila, baileys, kahlua, frangelico, while at Punta Cana resort those drinks are at the extra cost.
The resort also had a coffee machine with multiple choices such American, latte, cappuccino, mocha, etc
It’s free at Esmeralda, and only works at the lobby. Most of the time, it would take me 10 minutes to log in, especially in the evening. When asked for help (Carlos at the front desk), he just said, try again later. Not very helpful. At Punta Cana resort – internet is only 60 minutes per day.
Amazing. Plenty of chairs and huts available. I’d get to the beach by 10 am, and there are still few huts available, to be close to the water, one must wake up before the break of dawn. People still reserved seats, but it’s hard not to. You’re not going to pick up your belongings if you are walking away for 30 minutes to grab a quick lunch. It’s quite possible that some reserved the seats early morning, and probably went back to sleep. Lol By the pool, lounge chairs are always available. Beach itself was very clean, water was clear too, for the most part, although after rain, it’s expected to have some debris. No seaweed in the water, therefore no water shoes needed.
Non motorized sport I think is included. Parasailing is $100 for 2 (rip off). They also have a banana boat, but I never asked for the price.
Not sure if food is allowed at the beach, as I’ve never seen people bring plates from the nearby café. I guess its close enough to eat and come back.
Entertainment at night
Nothing at Esmeralda. 2 theaters located at Punta Cana resort, so you must take a shuttle there. Tropicana Theater features musical shows, presentations at 915, followed by audience based shows at the other theater, close to casino at 1030, which features the usual Miss Bahia, Best Couples, etc – pretty entertaining, at least we got lucky with some funny drunk contestants.
Reception service is the worst! No assistance on arrival, but not a big deal. Departure was the worst. Check out is at 12. After reading few post, I learned that it’s possible to extend the check out to 1 pm at no cost. The workers will give you hard time, but we were still able to extend it. Maria, Laura and Carlos were useless. Very rude. Not helpful. Maria didn’t even speak English. No help with finding out the pickup time to the airport. Usually, the resort would post a table which would show the pickup time based on the departure flight. Nothing like that existed at Esmeralda. All 3 workers, mentioned above, simply told me to go to Punta Cana resort to figure it out. They wouldn’t even offer to call the desk there. After I suggested it, they did manage to call for us, unfortunately nobody pick up on the other side. So I had to rush to another resort, which in total wasted 40 minutes, only to realize there is no one at the desk at Punta Cana, and to hear that I had to go to Bavaro resort to speak to someone there. How is that convenient? I don’t even know where that resort is. No map provided. No shuttle service. Not even help with directions. Eventually, we were able to figure out how to get in touch with a representative at Bavaro to figure out the time. This experience really left a sour taste in my mouth, not to mention the stress I had to encounter and loss of time at the beach.
Management – please have a talk with Carlos. He could benefit from a hospitality class, as he has no manners. His attitude is not appreciated.
I forgot the name of one of the workers, I think he’s name was Hector, he wears a beige uniform, with a hat, and helps with luggage and shuttle services. He was very helpful, sincere and genuinely nice.
BEWARE – this resort offers timeshare like presentation. Do not waste your time, unless you’re planning to invest in the vacation package. It might be worth it to some. We got tricked into attending. David, the young fellow worked at Esmeralda, mentioned that he has a presentation that we have to attend. Never mentioned it’s a promotional sale. Simply said that we need to show up, and we will get gift (choices included beach bag with hats, towel and 2 t-shirt, coffee and liquor package, and 1 week of free internet). Someone, neither of us realized what we got sucked into until we arrived at the presentation center. We should’ve just asked to be taken back to our resort, but we didn’t want to be rude. Still should’ve left, as the presentation didn’t take 60 min as promised (more like 1.5 hrs) and the gift wasn’t even worth it. Also sorry we wasted Olga (the presentation lady) time, she seemed very nice and sweet, and did a great job explaining everything. David also told us to lie during the presentation, so he could get some points. Now I wish I didn’t. I genuinely wanted to help the guy out (he told us a sad story about working hard, and collecting enough points can get him a day off), but if I wish he’d told us it was a sales promotion. Wasted 2 hours, that could’ve been spent at the beach.
Overall, I’d probably never stay at Esmeralda again. The resort itself is very nice, it’s the service at the reception that ruined my experience. I probably would check out other Bahia resorts. If you booked a trip to Esmeralda, don’t let anything negative in my review ruin your vacation. Just avoid the reception service, and you’ll have a great time.