PRIOR TO ARRIVAL: We used our Privilege Club membership week at Cayo Levantado from May 21 to May 28, 2016. Two weeks prior to our arrival, the Privilege Club concierge (Guero) emailed us to see what our room preferences were, which a-la-carte restaurants we wanted to reserve, and to get our info so that our reservation card would be pre-filled out to make check-in quicker. We had stated we’d like to be on the north side of the island (facing the mainland and Samana Bay if the room type for our membership allowed it), and that we would like an upper floor, with the most important criteria being a great view of the water. I also made a list of the restaurants we wanted to go to on each night. We did not receive any feedback (prior to arrival) on where our room was going to be located or what our restaurant reservations were. Other Bahia Principe resorts generally at least send out the list of restaurant reservations the week before, which is nice.
TRAVEL: We flew direct from Moncton, NB, Canada to Samana airport, which is a 1 hour drive from Cayo Levantado. We chose “Dominican Shuttles” for our transfer to and from the hotel from the airport. Booking the transfer online was easy, cost was competitive at US $169 (for the return trip), and communication with the company was efficient via email. The driver from the airport to...PRIOR TO ARRIVAL: We used our Privilege Club membership week at Cayo Levantado from May 21 to May 28, 2016. Two weeks prior to our arrival, the Privilege Club concierge (Guero) emailed us to see what our room preferences were, which a-la-carte restaurants we wanted to reserve, and to get our info so that our reservation card would be pre-filled out to make check-in quicker. We had stated we’d like to be on the north side of the island (facing the mainland and Samana Bay if the room type for our membership allowed it), and that we would like an upper floor, with the most important criteria being a great view of the water. I also made a list of the restaurants we wanted to go to on each night. We did not receive any feedback (prior to arrival) on where our room was going to be located or what our restaurant reservations were. Other Bahia Principe resorts generally at least send out the list of restaurant reservations the week before, which is nice.
TRAVEL: We flew direct from Moncton, NB, Canada to Samana airport, which is a 1 hour drive from Cayo Levantado. We chose “Dominican Shuttles” for our transfer to and from the hotel from the airport. Booking the transfer online was easy, cost was competitive at US $169 (for the return trip), and communication with the company was efficient via email. The driver from the airport to the hotel did not speak English, but he spoke Spanish and French (we’re bilingual, so that was fine with us). We had an older minivan for that trip. Although that was fine for us, for the drive back from the hotel to the airport, we were in a new Mercedes Benz. That was much nicer.
ARRIVAL AT SIMI BIAZ DOCK: The overall experience when we arrived was good. The staff looked after our bags from the time we stepped out of the car (they brought it straight to our room for us). We were offered a cold bottle of water, and we reviewed our pre-filled out reservation card (some of the info required minor correction). The ferry to Cayo Levantado was on time leaving. It’s a 5-10 minute ferry ride to the island.
CHECK-IN: The hotel knew we were arriving on the ferry. There were welcome drinks ready for us and for another couple with Privilege Club membership. We were taken to couches in the lobby, where we sat and had our drink while the Privilege Club concierge (Guero) looked after our check-in with us. Guero was very pleasant, and spoke Spanish, French, and English. He gave us our room keys, and also our restaurant reservation slips for the whole week at that time.
When he gave us the room number, I recognized right away that it was a south facing Villa (opposite side of the island I had asked for). When I mentioned it to him, he said: “You told me the most important criteria was a beautiful ocean view. The north side villas have trees obstructing the view in many cases. Trust me… you will love your view. If not, let me know and we will move you to the north side.” We then met Gabriel (the manager of the Butler department), who took us to see our room.
ROOM: Well… Guero was right! The view from our room (4201, which is villa 4, 2nd floor, room #01) was spectacular. The room we had was a junior suite superior (standard for Privilege Club members here). It was a large, beautiful room, with a large balcony with nice wicker furniture. The Butler service in the room was good. We ordered Jacuzzi prep on 3 or 4 evenings (they fill the tub, add bubbles, rose petals, and candles), and room scent (you chose scent from a list, and they bring a small scent burner to the room). There is also a pillow menu, describing the different style pillows that are available for the bed. The ones on the bed were perfectly fine for us, so we didn’t ask for any different ones. There is an electronic safe in the room that allows you to pick your own combination, which is nice. When you enter your room, there is a slot on the wall in which you have to place one of your room key cards. This activates your room electricity (including the air conditioner). Only one of our two room keys worked in this slot. We left that key in the slot all the time in order to keep our room cool (to keep the air conditioner on). On many occasions, the housekeeping staff would shut off the air conditioner. On one occasion, we arrived in the room, and the key card was missing (so no electricity, and the room was hot). I called the concierge and butler phone numbers, and both said they would have another card brought to the room. 45 minutes later, no card had been brought to the room, so I went outside and found some of the housekeeping staff cleaning nearby rooms. After a few minutes of trying to make her understand (she only spoke Spanish), she realized that she had forgotten to put our room card back in the slot after cleaning our room (not sure why she removed it in the first place, but she gave it back and it worked). The only part of the room my wife didn’t like is the conditioner that they give in the room isn’t very good. She wishes she had brought her own from home.
BARS / POOLS / BEACH: There are three pools: A small Jacuzzi pool, with self-serve juice/pop, a large quiet pool at the middle of the island (bar right next to it), and a large pool near the beach (music playing there, and bars nearby). It is very hot (no breeze) at the Jacuzzi pool and quiet pool. The beach pool has a bit of a breeze, but it’s harder to get chairs at that pool. We didn’t really spend much time at the pools, as we preferred the nice breeze at the beach.
There are essentially three beach areas. On the west end of the island, is the public beach (visitors not staying at the resort can come to the island to use this beach). We did not spend any time there (the bar is not all-inclusive here during the day, although I think it is on some evenings that they have beach parties here after the beach closes to the public). There are vendor shops here, where you can buy souvenirs. Most of the vendors are a bit pushy (Come into my store… buy my stuff, etc…, although a firm “No thank you” is all that is needed to get them to stop). We got to know Alberto, at the shop called “Mambo #5”. He is very kind, he wanted to get to know us, he was not pushy, and when we were walking by after the shops were all closed in the early evening, he offered to re-open his shop to let us look at what he had to sell. He had a nice selection of paintings, some clothing, and lots of local made jewelry. We bought most of our souvenirs from him. Don’t forget that they are willing to bargain. You don’t have to pay full “advertised” price at these shops.
At the south east corner of the island, there are two beaches (the smaller windy beach faces east, and the calm beach faces west). We spent our week at the top of the ridge that divides the two beaches, and chose to face east, into the wind. It was perfect there… even though it was 30+ degrees C, the constant breeze made it very bearable. We preferred swimming on the calm side of the beach though, as there are less waves there.
The service at the bars was ok, but the taste of the drinks was not consistent, and they do not use real fruit there in the drinks like they do in some of the other Bahia Principe hotels. Instead, they use flavoured syrups, so the drinks aren’t as good. In the evening, the lobby bar has bowls of chips and peanuts available, although sometimes you have to go ask for them. The lobby bar is the best place to get consistent tasty drinks.
RESTAURANTS: There are two buffets available for breakfast (The Orquidea buffet restaurant in the main building, and also a smaller buffet at the Rodizio restaurant.) The overall selection of food was smaller than what I’m used to seeing, and the food was not overly hot, but it was good. There was lots of selection of fruits, although not all types of fruit were available each day (for example, when they had pineapple, they didn’t have mango, and vice-versa). The dishes were topped up regularly. Orquidea has a larger buffet, and also has an omelette station, where you can get a made-to-order omelette or fried eggs. For the lunch buffets (available at Orquidea restaurant, as well as down by the beach at the Portofino & Mediterranean restaurants), the selection was also a bit small, but the salads and fruits were good, and there was always something that we liked from the hot food sections.
The Rodizio restaurant is nice for dinner. The salad buffet selection is limited, but good. Service at this restaurant was very fast (they bring around 12 or 13 different types of meat on skewers, which they serve at the table). They also bring fries and grilled vegetables to the table. The meats were mostly all very good, although some were a bit dry. The dessert here is awesome. They bring warm grilled pineapple (coated in cinnamon and sugar) to the table. This was delicious. There is also a dessert buffet if you’re still hungry.
The Mediterranean restaurant was pretty good. Drinks came very quickly after we arrived, and we ordered our food soon after. It took 20 minutes to get our first course, but then service was fast for remainder of meal. Both of the soups we tried were tasty. The seafood cocktail app was good, but there was a lot of water at the bottom (from the lettuce, maybe?) that diluted the dressing. The Angus beef main course that I had was delicious (cooked perfectly). My wife did not like her chicken (too many dates in it, and it wasn’t very hot).
The Portofino restaurant was ok. I had some pasta with beef, and my wife had pasta with spinach. Both were good, but there was a distinct taste of flour noticeable in the pasta.
Our favorite restaurant was the Don Pablo restaurant. We both had the crab soup (excellent), then the lobster cannelloni (delicious). I had the Prince and Princess (steak and lobster), and my wife had the salmon and lobster. We thoroughly enjoyed all of it (although the second time we ate there, and ordered the exact same thing, my steak wasn’t quite as good as the first time). The apple / caramel dessert was also delicious. This was our favorite restaurant.
On Thursday night, we went to the Gala night buffet (at the Orquidea restaurant). It is a seafood buffet that is not to be missed (large crab legs, shrimp, lobster, etc…)
PHOTO SHOOT: We chose to get a photo shoot with the hotel photographer (Calvin Klein photography). Overall, the experience was excellent. We booked our time. The photographer was on time, and is very good at what he does. It would have been better if he had an assistant to hold the sun reflectors for him, as sometimes, he had to get some of the locals, or hotel workers to help him a bit. He was with us for a couple of hours, and took a couple hundred photos in several different locations on the resort, including some beach shots at the public beach. The photo packages are very expensive as advertised. We negotiated, and ended up with a CD containing 63 awesome photos for a reasonable price. They try to sell the top end packages with photo albums, slideshows, etc… but we really just wanted to buy the pictures. Listen to what they offer, then ask for only what you want. They will negotiate and build a custom package that works for you.
PEOPLE THAT IMPRESSED US MOST: The staff here are all very good, and they all work hard. The ones that impressed us the most were: Gabriel from the Butler team – you made this trip so enjoyable for us. We could tell that you genuinely cared and wanted us to have a wonderful vacation. Thank you so much. Guery (Privilege Club Concierge) – you made it a point to remember our names, and always did your best to respond to our requests. Calvin Klein (photographer) – Thanks for the great photos. We received many compliments. The guy that worked the Omelette station at the Orquidea buffet (we didn’t catch his name, but my wife ordered omelettes there every morning, and he was always very pleasant). Yamilet (hostess at Orquidea breakfast buffet) and Yomairo (front desk) – These two girls were always so pleasant and helpful.
MISCELLANEOUS: Just to note, the weather during the week we were there (late may) was mostly beautiful (28 to 30+ degrees C). We had one heavy rain storm that started around 3pm, and lasted into the evening, and it also rained on a few occasions at night, but everything was always dry by the time we finished breakfast and went to the beach. The one thing that disappointed us was that the internet on the lobby computers and the phone that can be used by Privilege Club members to call Canada for free were only working for half the week. This made it hard for us to communicate with our young kids back home. WIFI in the room was a bit slow, and sometimes the connection would be dropped, but it was adequate for keeping up with emails. With this being an expensive, adults only resort, the crowd here is older than at some of the other resorts. We are in our late thirties, and people were mostly our age or older, although there were still quite a few people in their 20’s. The fitness centre is ok, but small, and the week we were there, only 2 of 4 cardio machines were working. Overall, this was the most quiet, peaceful vacation week we ever had. We will be returning in the future for sure.More
- Free Wifi
- Free parking