We stayed in this hotel, the ROYAL one, from Dec.17th to Dec. 26th, so we just went back.
We really liked the experience, and I would REALLY recommend to anyone to go to the royal (not to the sister property not ROYAL). However, there are a few things about the location you must consider. At the same time, I am not sure whether there is a better alternative for the same amount of money. It goes without saying that there is a better one if you pay more!
My suggestion to the hotel would be to try and cut any links to the non royal catalonia, especially developing their own entertainment, because guests from the Royal are forced to go to the other side for this and it is not the same standard, and this surely affects the prestige of the Royal.
Our trip was very smooth, and we arrived early to the hotel, transfer was very quick and effective. Big kudos to Westjet Vacation (from Canada). We were welcomed with a cold towel and a non alcoholic drink. Despite early in the day, the personnel at the front desk after a few minutes of wait (not the most loving person but it worked) gave us a room in villa 42.
Make sure you get beach towel cards when you check in, as we were assured we had towels in the room (not true), and then the guy at the beach was making a fuss about it, giving us a lecture on why and how we did not have the cards and threatening to call the reception to charge us. Generally I would suggest the management to keep those guys handling towels both beach and pool under control because they are not polite to the guests and too much concerned about their Dolphins Trip sale.
At the beginning we were not exactly sure whether we liked it or not, as it is quite a walk from the beach, but just in front of the pool and close to Thalassa restaurant (breakfast) and reception. Also the door was not moving smoothly and yes I felt the moldy smell, but no big deal (it's a tropical place, I smelled the same in many other locations around the world).
So we decided to stay and we enjoyed our room the whole vacation period.
The hotel, having the non-royal sister property, requires a bit of walk, you will see what I mean if you go from the beach to the Thalassa restaurant, and if you walk around the sister property. At the same time, I liked it because I read about hotels in the same area having shuttles and buses to go from one place to the other, also because of the number of guests they have, and I cannot believe this really exists.
The reception area is very nice, sometimes someone plays a piano, and it is very cool and with WI-Fi working just fine. Actually from the Thalassa restaurant and the pool you can still connect to the internet.
The pool area is also very nice, the bulk of the people are there but - believe me - we never had to fight for a chair or a spot, neither at the pool nor at the beach, the impression was the hotel is always empty, or is such a small property that it feels there is lot of space for each guest.
Big compliments to Carlos and to the lady at the pool bar - always very smiling and courteous and making very good drinks and cocktails. My favourite bar.
Going down to the beach, there is the boutique, like many others of the reviewers I would suggest not to bother. Not a great selection either. Unless you need an alarm clock to bring home.
Then there is the Spa Alegria. Did not try.
Then you will see the area of the fountain, that works some evenings.
Then there is the CataTapa Restaurant. We had there our Christmas dinner and another dinner before, and I must say it was a great experience. Really great food and great service. I wish we had more dinners there (but we did not lack any pleasure - keep reading).
Then there is on the left side (going down towards the beach) the Sea Blue restaurant. By far my wife's favourite restaurant, for lunch and dinner. If you like seafood, please go there. The menu is not so wide, so you might end up ordering twice the same thing. Very good gazpacho and clam chowder for lunch, unbelievable the lobster in the evening! We had there lobster at least three times! One night it was not good (dry) but all the other times very good. The very first night was really crowded so not so good service, but other days pretty empty. So please do yourself a favour and eat lobster there.
I am not a fan of barbeques on the beach during lunch time, so we were going either to the sea blue or to the thalassa for lunch. But there is this possibility if you like, actually if you miss your American food you can have the barbeque on the beach, stuff yourself, so that the guest that really know how to enjoy can go to Sea Blue or Thalassa. Why did you go to DR if you dont like fish? If you are allergic, I feel for you.
Let's talk about the bars at the beach. The one serving alcohol is good but the location is not the best. Just average.
The one I really liked and discovered too late is the one doing smoothies with fruit. Really liked although I dont eat melon and so my choices are limited.
The beach: this is kind of troubled point. If you are a fanatic of the beach and snorkeling, having seen in my life beautiful places, perhaps Punta Cana/ Bavaro (nothing to do with the hotel) is not the place for you. There is a lot of sea weed. No matter what the personnel does, there will be always in the water, and coming to beach. The water is not transparent. It is pretty windy all the time, so if it is around 29 degrees C, like for us, it is not really pleasant, and you dont feel like to bathe. There are lots of very tall palms, very nice to see, but these will cover the sun, and no suntan! On the non-royal side, the beach is wider and somewhat more open to the sun, but you will have kids around you! The things I liked of the beach are that is very quiet, no fights to have a spot and an umbrella, no other properties besides the non-royal catalonia, so you can walk as much as you want. One thing to say, there is on one side (right facing the sea) a small settlement of people selling souvenirs, they will bother you if you reach to them, if you want to shop there, good luck, most likely you will get a bad deal after an excruciating negotiation. Unless you perceive your purchase as a charitable donation. Not recommended - keep reading for advices on souvenirs.
Let's talk about the sister property - the non royal catalonia. Unfortunately, you will have to interact with it, because it is much bigger and all the entertainment is there, and some of the restaurants are located there. It is not a good level of service. Like some other reviewers said, there is lots of food, but not good quality. Generally, when there is a buffet, you should be worried, as you will end up eating a lot, but you wont remember what did you eat. Much better to order a la carte if you have the choice. We went two times to the Gran Caribe restaurant, mainly to try and if we had not enough food elsewhere and I would advise not to bother.
Around the pool area of the non royal catalonia, there is a snack bar that I read a lot about. Why you even bother going there? It is clear it is not good food. Same for the Paloma or whatever is the name of the other buffet.
We tried the barbeque organized for Xmas Eve at noon. As I said, why to bother with American food in DR? It was not good, I did not eat anything and my wife got a piece of raw chicken.
Let's talk about entertainment. There is a bunch of guys with a red shirt "Lookea" trying to do some entertainment. First of all, it's just a bunch of teenagers, so what do you expect? Second, they speak only French, and this is a bad thing, because the bulk of the tourists are actually Russian. A black girl was even picking on a boy while playing volleyball repeating continuously two words in Russian she heard. Not nice.
Generally they were doing very limited and in French only. Volleyball was starting with no schedule but spontaneously so for us was impossible to be there in time. Many times we were joining just 2 minutes before the match finishing and everyone leaving.
The evening entertainment, generally disappointing. Heavily relying on tourists and children, it was not interesting most of the time. Low points when one of the staff, a strong lady with a strange hair, started to beat another staff guy (as part of the play) and I can tell you that she was seriously beating the guy, as we were close enough to hear the noise. If this makes you laugh, you are in the right place. Otherwise, very repetitive shows, even did not bother to do something special for Xmas Eve, just doing AGAIN the Saturday Night Fever show. Low budget.
The bars at the Non Royal Catalonya are HORRIBLE. I am sure they water down the rum in the bottles. There is no way to get a nice drink over there.
The restaurants a la carte: we did not try Mexican or American. We did try the Italian - ok nothing special, and the Japanese - sorry, it is more a show than anything else. Food is not good and I dont blame the chefs - just wrong side of the world.
In the main square, sometimes the hotel allows external souvenirs guys to come to sell their stuff. Not sure why they do that (in reality I know), but it is quite a painful experience as you have to shake hands, bargain, answer to questions, etc.
If you want to buy souvenirs, just go to the gift shop, to the tobacco shop, and to the minimarket, that are in between the royal side and the non royal side. Prices are labelled and like other people said it is better than the airport. Also, the advice is to buy rum and liquid stuff there, as there is no difference virtually in price and at the airport they do not have sealed bags so you will be forced to take your luggage and put the bottles into it if you happen to have a stopover. If not, then you can buy at the airport duty free rum and liquours, but buy souvenirs and paintings and mamajuanas at the gift shop.
Other things in general:
- we did two excursions, one Catalina, really worth it, as they bring you to the area of La Romana, then on a catamaran, then on an island, you have lobster, and then on a river and then to visit a town in Mediterranean style in Casa De Campo. Google for more info.
The other excursion is Outback Safary it is more instructive about DR and history and stuff also because we had George as guide, really a great guy with a lot of humour. You will see the countryside and how people live, agriculture and stuff.
Tips: we gave always something to the maid, and sometimes when service was good to waiters and bell boys. Speaking about maid, not sure why they come twice a day but that is.
- I did not see any mosquitoes, my wife did, but no big deal unlike some other reviewers
- The suites with the private infinity pool are really impressive from outside, if you have the money go for it
- No issues with safety, I always keep luggages closed though and stuff in the safe.
Thank you for reading. Enjoy your vacation at ROYAL Catalonia.
It depends whether you want to be, close to pool/restaurant or to the beach. Then ask about it.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.