Firstly, I have been to various parts of the Dominican roughly 10 times and have stayed in everything from 3.5 star to 5 star so my review is based on things that meet, exceed and fall short of this hotel's 4 star rating. It is not in my nature to criticize unfairly.
Check in - quick and painless. Our room wasn't ready til 3:30 but was no big deal since the bar was a welcome respite from our journey
Tips: ABSOLUTELY pay for a safe key. I think it was $25 for the week...small price for peace of mind. I wasn't overly worried about being robbed, but I'm not overly worried about car accidents either, but still carry insurance. Consider this 'insurance' for your valuables.
Room - due to several suggestions here, we requested building 11 2nd floor by email the day before and were given what we asked for. The room was great, no issues at all. We were greeted to bath robes, slippers, rum, a stocked fridge and a fruit plate. We stayed in 11-204 and had some view of the pool.
Tips: Unless you plan to be back and forth to the beach all day, any of buildings 10, 11 or 12 will suit you fine.
Food - First the good: the buffet had a great variety and there was very little I tried that I didn't like. This buffet rivals ones at higher class hotels IMHO.
Tips: At first I wasn't pleased they didn't seem to replenish the table settings very quickly but we learned if you drop your bag at an 'empty' table and go get your food, the place settings will likely be there by the time you get back.
Now the bad: The a la carte restaurants were a dismal disappointment. Granted we only tried the Mexican and Steakhouse, but there was little ambience/theme (no music? really?) and the food choices were limited and bland. We should have just eaten at the buffet every night (see above)
Grounds - Well maintained but a little 'plain' compared to others I've stayed at. The only 'complaint' I have is the ridiculous waterfall they have cascading over the pool bar, rendering it somewhat useless to anything but ordering drinks and moving on. We rarely saw anyone willing to stand/sit at the bar and deal with the constant waterfall. The beach is great but there an incredible lack of chairs. We weren't willing to do the 7am 'towel on a chair' game so as a result we only managed to get a chair once during our week.
Animation team - This is the first time I've been to a resort of any class that didn't have a team that was actively getting people to participate in fun pool games and the like. The only activity we saw in the main pool area was 4 of the staff doing a dance (once) and looking entirely disinterested, and water aerobics. There wasn't even a water volleyball game in action until the 2nd last day and I think they were all travelling together. There are some games played on the beach but they are not well advertised except on the daily activities board.
Shows - I am always reluctant to criticize considering I know how hard they work. Some shows were good (broadway) and some were boring (ok...most). The Emcee is incredibly difficult to understand, the choreography isn't great and their syncronicity needs work but hey, it's not times square!
Bar staff - All were great but some were real stand outs for us: Franklin @ Transat beach bar, Alexander/Jose Miguel @ lobby bar, Freddy @ pool bar, Aneury @ theatre bar
Tips: tips are not expected and I don't know if they help but I'm sure they are appreciated occasionally
General staff - Always pleasant and quick with an "Ola". The service at this resort was beyond their rating to me
Internet - I did buy the $60/week wifi so I could check on my business from our room and it worked fine.
Tips: I do believe the $25/25 hour deal is not just 1 clock day but 25 hours of online usage, so if you just need to logon, check email etc, go with that deal, just remember to logoff at the end of each session and it should last you the week.
Tours - The only one we went on was the "Sailing adventure". We paid $125/person from the Air Transat rep, and it included a catamaran ride, about 30 mins of snorkeling, about an hour at a sandbar where you play water basketball, and a wonderful thai lunch when you get back.
We had a wonderful time and the boat staff were a hoot!
Tips: We did talk to people who had bought a $45 version from vendors on the beach that seemed to include most of what we got except for the lunch at the end. Bang for the buck this might be the way to go.
- If you want a meal out of the resort, we enjoyed going to "Captain Cook" which is right on the beach and is about a 15 minute walk down the beach to the south, or a $12 cab ride. The meal was quite good, we had what I would say is a 16 oz steak for $15. NOTE: this is totally my fault but I asked for a wine list, the waiter brought me 5 bottles on a tray and I selected the 2008 Marques De Caceres rioja expecting it to be $30-$40. The bill came and they charged us almost $65. I know this wine..no way it is worth that even at resort restaurant prices, so just make sure you get the price before you commit! We had also received a recommendation from an expat from Hawaii for a restaurant called "Citrus" but never got there.
- Get off the resort and walk around! We found it totally safe and enjoyed a couple beers at Steve's bar watching the locals go about their daily lives (some is quite interesting...young dominican girls with older caucasian men lol). Beer is cheap there (about $3 for Corona...less for others) and you can watch NFL and other sports I'm sure. You can't miss it, it's the first business you'll see once you exit the front gate
- The coffee at the lobby bar is better than anywhere else on the resort
- The bathrooms in the lobby are horrid - most toilets are 'out of order' and I won't go into details lol, and when you do find one it can take 5 flushes to get it to work
- Many of the sofas/chairs in the lobby are dire need of replacement
- The tile floors are absolute treacherous in flip flops if they are wet so please be careful!!!!!
- Everyone complained about the time share people but we really didn't see much of it. Yes, the 'concierge' in your building will try to get you to go to a meeting but we just found if we entered the building thru the side entrances we never had to deal with him. I'm sure the concierge is helpful for other things, we just didn't want to be bothered by the alterior motives. The only other "hasslers" are the ones standing on the paths trying to sell dune buggy trips etc but they do respect a firm 'no gracias'
In summary, I really have to say after much careful consideration, this property really is a 3.5 star but with some updates to the animation team (and overall getting people to participate), general repairs and improvements to the ala carte experience, that they could be a legitimate 4 star but are simply not there at this time. We absolutely had a wonderful time mostly due to the wonderful people we met and the wonderful staff but really can't attribute our good time to the hotel itself, save for the buffet quality.
Building 10-11-12 unless you can afford to upgrade to Royal
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.