This was my first trip to the DR and my first time at a Riu resort. I was nervous after reading negative reviews here on Trip Advisor, but I couldn't have been happier with this vacation.
Check in: Quick and easy. We upgraded to a VIP villa. That was easily accommodated. Front desk staff spoke good English and were very friendly. We were offered fruit punch to drink, and it was very delicious. I did not notice an upleasant odor that others have described. Although I didn't care for the decor, it was very nicely kept and clean.
Lobby bar/Coffee bar: Great service at both bars. The coffee drinks were delicious. We often had pre-dinner drinks at the lobby bar every night. It was usually very lively and busy, but we always found a place to sit and enjoy a beverage.
Room: We stayed in a ground-level VIP villa. It was definitely worth the $80/night upgrade. Our villa had a spacious patio w/a private hot tub. We used it on the evenings/afternoons when it was raining and it was so relaxing. Our room was also spacious and very clean. The air conditioning was cold!! Our room was kept clean and the mini bar was kept stocked. We read reports of the beds being too hard to sleep in. I did note that the mattress was very firm, but I slept soundly every night. We loved our room location. It was very close to the VIP pool and the beach. If it started raining, we could easily get back to our room and into the hot tub. The room safe worked perfectly, and we had nothing stolen from us.
Room Service: extremely limited menu. We tried the nachos (not good, basically what you would get at a sporting event), raspberry cheesecake (OK), and chocolate cake (really, really good).
Krystal Restaurant: we ate here twice. It was my favorite of the restaurants. Starters: mixed reviews. About half our group liked the tuna tataki. Few liked the beet gazpacho, but a couple of us (myself included) really liked it. Appetizers: soup was really good and the mini lettuce rolls were great. Entrees: the shrimp and the lamb were both really good. Desserts: the apple pie was OK, didn't care for the others.
Steakhouse: Starters were OK, but the octopus ceviche was great. Ribeye, not great; tenderloin, good; pork ribs were great. Dessert was OK.
Geisha Restaurant (Japanese): sushi was good. The restaurant was not full, so we asked if they had extra sushi platters. They did, and they brought them out. Soup was OK. I had shrimp tempura for dinner, was good. Did not care for dessert.
Italian restaurant: Starters were served buffet style. Some were good and some were not. Entrees were hit and miss. The pasta was prawns was good.
Monte Cristo buffet: overwhelming selection @all meals. Loved the sunny-side-up eggs in salsa at bkst. Other high points: croissants; pasta made to order at lunch; ice cream/gelato at lunch; pizza at lunch; great selection of colds meats and cheeses at all meals.
Overall food: I was pleased w/the food. There was a huge selection. Since most of the clientele appears to be European, the food was not highly "American". This was fine w/me, I like to try new things. I would say the food was a step above cruise ship food.
Bar service: The actual service was good. Limited beer choice, but I could live w/that b/c I am not a big beer drinker. I mainly drank pina coladas (really good), daiquiris (good), rum punch (good), and rum and coke (or in this case Pepsi). I had no complaints w/my drinks. The wines are not great, but we found one red one that we really liked. It was a cabernet savignon and the label said "Regio".
Beach: beautiful!!!!! I didn't notice a problem w/seaweed. Plenty of chairs available and plenty of palm trees and shade.
Pools: we spent most of our time at the VIP pool. I loved it there. It was quieter, but still fun. The bar staff was very nice. Plenty of seating (lounge chairs and beds) and plenty of shade (if desired).
Overall impression: I loved the Riu Palace Bavaro. I would not hesitate to come back to this facility and I would definitely go to another Riu Resort.
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