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“Beautiful resort, needs more action”

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Sanctuary Cap Cana by Playa Hotels & Resorts
Ranked #30 of 112 Hotels in Punta Cana
Reviewed November 8, 2012

We reserved the Fishing Lodge but were moved to Sanctuary - we were told that the amenities were not all available at Fishing Lodge....We found out from a wedding planner that Fishing Lodge was being sold on October 1st(which I overheard some of the negotiations being done on the grounds during our stay :( ) When we arrived, reception told us what room we were in and I asked for anything closer to the ocean. I was told all other areas closer were full.....with maybe 35 people staying there....not accurate and disappointing. We got to our room and it was very nice except the toilet broken several times in the first two days, you couldn't watch tv from bed because of a post blocking the view so again asked to be moved and sorry no other rooms available. The grounds were beautiful but the beach area was always full of seagrass and many rocks which made swimming less than fun. The pool area was the only area that we saw a few people other than the Blue Marlin for meals. We asked about the other restaurants and was told that there would be some menu items from the other restaurants included at the Blue Marlin nightly. Not the same as having options to really enjoy the variety. I even missed the buffet option for dinner from past trips, not always the best seasoned, but you have more choices to enjoy what you really want.

We have traveled extensively thru the Caribbean, stayed at many all inclusive resorts and this was the first one that even the beauty just wasn't enough. There were no activities since there were very few guests BAD IDEA TO NOT KEEP THE PEOPLE THERE HAPPY. The staff in charge of the activities during the day just sat around since there wasn't anyone to join in their games/activities. The bartenders at the main pool were awesome and alot of fun.

We walked around one day to see the castle and to try to walk over to Juanillo Beach, well we started walking through the Castle building and found dead crabs on the floor, doors that were open and very hard to navigate - and no security to find us....

One day we decided to take a shuttle to Fishing Lodge to see why we were switched to Sanctuary and it was a ghost town other than the reception desk, the pool had some locals swimming and one restaurant. Very interesting layout and beautiful pools and grounds....

The resort was gorgeous, the weather was perfect, some of the staff were great others just walked around without greeting or eye contact. Would we go back, probably not. There was nothing to do and with more people there, that may improve. But you still need the restaurants open, honest staff and all inclusive should not be what they want, we pay for the benefit, it should be there with or without full capacity.....

  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank becometheboss
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed November 8, 2012

This was our first visit, but it will not be our last. We stayed October 21st thru October 25th and we knew going in that we were off season. We booked a honeymoon suite for our 20th anniversary with the all inclusive package. The resort is beyond beautiful, impeccably up kept. Our suite was gorgeous, with our own small pool. We ate at just about every restaurant there on different nights, and we were not disappointed in any meal. Room service was good. Butler service lacked a bit, but overall ok. All the bars (2) were great...top shelf liquor, and the bartenders were the best employees there. Very personable, very happy. All of the staff was very courteous. Yes, the beach is not the best in the world, but it was beautiful, and relaxing. The many pools at Sanctuary are gorgeous, not too hot, not too cold. We fell in love with Sanctuary, and hope to return every year.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank BakerBoysGirl
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 2, 2012

This was our second stay at the Sanctuary in Cap Cana. My wife and I came here for her birthday in January and we absolutely loved it. However I decided to try something different and we booked into the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for our anniversary this October. That was a big mistake and if you want the story you can read it in my review for the Hard Rock. To make a long story short after the first night at the Hard Rock I called the reservations desk at Sanctuary and booked a room for the remainder of our stay in Punta Cana.
My wife and I love this resort; the staff is very friendly and helpful. The rooms are spacious and the grounds are beautiful and immaculate. One of our favorite things about this resort is that most of the rooms have an ocean view with the reminder having either a swim out pool or a true garden view. This resort will always be our first choice when we visit the DR.
The room we had for this visit was one of the Royalty Villas. Calling these villas a room or a suite is not an accurate description as we had two bedrooms, 2 ½ baths, a living room and a huge deck with a private pool.
We ate in three of the restaurants during our stay; The Casa Bella for breakfast, the Blue Marlin for lunch and dinner as well as Capriccio Restaurant for dinner. The meals in all three restaurants were well prepared and beautifully presented. The atmosphere in all three restaurants is intimate and the service is excellent.
When you first arrive at the resort the attendant will greet you by saying “Welcome Home”; this is more than a corny greeting, it is true. If you stay here you will not want to leave and I am sure you will want to return.

Room Tip: The Beachfront Junior suites and Monarch Ocean Villas are a good value and you can walk straight to...
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  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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5  Thank DrinkMoreWine
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 30, 2012

Altough it rained all but the day was arived and the day we left from mean Sandy we had a relaxing honeymoon. The saff was friendly and were ready to make our stay enjoyable. Our room was beautiful! We stayed in the castle jr suite ocean frount and it really was ocean frount. We had a deck that went out to a grassed beach with lounge day beds right outside. Beach was rocky but the one beach by the main pool was nice! There were no water sport items avaliable that we came accross but again in was storming and in the middle of hurricane season. Food was o.k. and we were glad to try all the food we could since we had the all inclusive package. The Steak House resraurant was terrible! I couldnt find anything that looked appatizing, the meat was fatty and the catch of the day was over cooked. The Italian resraurant and Blue Marlin were fabulous and were our favorites as well as the room service food. Pool bar staff was amazing! Loved Bernardo, the swim up bartender. He made the best drinks and was so funny. We enjoyed the property and took long walks on the ground...found little spots that took our breath away. There was a private pool on top of the castle with a bar called "Ocean Lounge", it had the best selection of alcohol and beer as well as a very cool pool. I would say that we were very happy with our stay and would return agian.

Room Tip: Keep one key in the power unit next to the door to keep your room cool and refrigerator cold. Roo...
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  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Katie C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 28, 2012

We have recently returned from a 21 night multi-resort trip to Punta Cana where we spent 6 nights at Excellence Punta Cana, 3 nights at Zoetry, 6 nights at Secrets Royal Beach and 6 nights a Sanctuary Cap Cana. We also had a look at Paradisus Palma Real, The Reserve and Eden Roc at Cap Cana

This was our 30th trip to the Caribbean and our 11th trip to Dominican Republic. We have stayed in the North of the island twice and this was our 9th trip to the South having stayed at numerous top end resorts such as Excellence, Zoetry, Sanctuary Cap Cana, etc so we like to think that we have a fairly good well calibrated holiday measuring stick

In the lead up to this trip which was to be our third stay at Sanctuary we were rather apprehensive as we had read on TripAdvisor about very low occupancy, restaurant closures etc. We had booked a corner Honeymoon Suite in the Fortress and were disappointed to learn prior to our trip that this had been closed and would not reopen until after our stay. As part of this trip we had also intended to spend three nights at The Fishing Lodge before our arrival at Sanctuary but as the occupancy levels there were even lower than at Sanctuary we cancelled and stayed at Zoetry instead and we are really glad we did

Whilst on the island in the lead up to our stay at Sanctuary, we also heard certain rumours about changes at The Fishing Lodge and Sanctuary and noticed certain changes to their Facebook page and the Salamander website. On contacting Salamander we were assured that all would be well, it would not impact on our trip and they were all looking forward to seeing us again when we would be updated on the recent changes

Our transfer from Secrets Royal Beach took about 40 minutes and was again seamless as on this occasion Sanctuary had sent one of their drivers to pick us up. On our arrival we were met by Hendrick and his team who welcomed us back home to the property and he told us that occupancy was around 20%

We were also greeted by the delightful Jarlin whom we first met in 2010. Last year when we left Sanctuary I promised we would come back and see her on her birthday and true to our word we did as when we arrived on the 5th October for our six night stay she excitedly told us about all of the surprises Salamander had given her for her birthday that morning

After a big hug Jarlin whisked us off in a golf cart to be checked-in at our villa which turned out to one of their prime Royalty Villas which as you will see from the photos certainly has the WOW factor. We felt very lucky and privileged people indeed- a very big THANK YOU to Salamander for their generosity

As many regular readers of TripAdvisor will know we are lucky enough to travel a lot and are very well treated by the resorts we stay at. As I have said on many previous occasions such generous upgrades do not influence what I write or comment upon as my integrity over the years on TripAdvisor has been built upon my being honest and unbiased and all resorts know this and appreciate it

During our stay we talked with many other couples who had booked to stay in the Fortress and they too had been allocated an upgraded room categories

Reviews are but one person’s opinion of their trip and this is ours. Will it vary from other people’s experience – of course it will as we all have different expectations and holiday measuring sticks. Ours is fairly sophisticated as we are lucky enough to travel a lot and seems to match a lot of what other people who read TripAdvisor are looking for

The villa we were allocated is as I have said out of this world, to us anyway. We have been lucky enough to have stayed in some lovely properties over the years including another Royalty Villa at Sanctuary on our last two trips but this one blew us away and I defy anyone not to go WOW when they look at the photos

As you enter the villa you come into a small courtyard with a garden area to the right. Ahead of you is a covered area under where you have a large table and chairs for al fresco dining. To the right you have a three sided full length glassed lounge area with breath-taking views of the ocean. From the lounge you then enter the double bedroom and huge bathroom area which has a ginormous sunken Jacuzzi with octagonal windowed views over the ocean – rather like an aquarium! On the other side of the courtyard you have a second part of the villa which has a self contained double bedroom with queen sized beds, wardrobes and a bathroom suite

The villa has a huge wooden deck with a large sunken infinity food, tables, chairs, a large bali type palapa, umbrella and four loungers. You also have a small beachfront garden area which has direct access to the beach cove

The villa has stunning views out to sea with the Blue Marlin and beach to the left of you – just amazing

As you will see from the photos the villa was beautifully presented on our arrival and it stayed that way throughout out stay; the maid service was truly exceptional

After lunch in our outside dining area with a bottle of wine we were totally mesmerised by the ocean and the whole villa. Certainly the ocean was the best we have ever seen it – azure blue and clear enough on a couple of days for us to be lucky enough to see some manta rays feed and swim past very close to our villa

After lunch we ventured out and met up with Raul in the Blue Marlin who had looked after us so well on our last two trips. When we last saw him Raul had to rush off as his wife had just given birth so it was nice to be able to see the photos of his new baby

Whilst we walked around the resort our first impressions were that the resort and gardens were in a much improved state of repair than last year when it had certainly been in need of attention. We had a look at Trump Beach as that was one of the areas that disappointed us most last year as it had so much weed and rubbish piled up on it. This year however it looked much, much better

Our only option for evening dining apart from room service was the Blue Marlin so we went and had a great meal there where we met Raul again and a few other staff we knew from previous trips. Afterwards we ventured up to the Love Bar to find both the bar and the terraces on either side empty – so, so different from previous years

So we could do some dining planning I got a copy of the restaurant rota for the week and was amazed to see that on every single day the Blue Marlin was the only restaurant open for breakfast even though we had been told prior to our stay that the Casa Bella would be open. For lunch there was the option of the Blue Marlin and the Freshco Pool Bar which we knew was going to be the case. In the evening we knew that due to occupancy levels they would be alternating between the Blue Marlin and the Steakhouse but hoped to be able to venture down to The Fishing Lodge for some added variety

When we asked if this was possible we were informed that guests staying at Sanctuary could no longer dine at The Fishing Lodge unless they paid. It was then we noticed that the restaurant rota for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday with the exception of the Sunday evening the only restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner was the Blue Marlin

At this point an unsuspecting Hendrick appeared out of the darkness and emptiness of the Love Bar to ask us how we were and was shocked to hear that we were considering checking out and wanted to know why. We advised him that we were vastly disappointed with the restaurant rota and that in our opinion they should not be treating their guests in this way

After giving him some suggestions on how he could improve things he said he would like to arrange a meeting with us for the next morning where we could link up with Prem the President of Salamander in the US who we had spoken to during our last stay and also a few times over the past year

He invited us to stay to watch a group they were auditioning in the Love Bar. With a lot of effort on our part we managed to pull some fellow guests into the Love Bar and jump start the evening – the two animators were so pleased to see some people in and having fun (quite what they thought they were meant to be doing there is anyone’s guess)

After our telephone conference the next morning during which we had a very frank and open discussion with the President of Salamander they said they had taken on board our opinions and assured us that if we gave them 24 hours they would action some of the points we had put forward. True to their word a day later the Casa Bella was open for an a la carte breakfast and the following day we also had the option of a small buffet. In the evenings the dining options still alternated between the Blue Marlin and Steak House but on our last evening they also added into the rota the option of the full Capriccio menu in the Casa Bella

It was during our discussions that Prem explained that by mutual agreement Salamander and the owners had agreed that they should hand back the management of The Fishing Lodge as of 1st October and they would do likewise with Sanctuary as of 10th January 2013

My main point as expressed to Salamander management is that it should not be up to a guest, albeit a very experienced traveller, to tell them that they were doing their full paying guests a disservice by simply assuming that they would concur with what was on offer – not just the restaurant rota but also the lack of information made available for guests who have already made reservations for the rest of the year. Their restaurant rota was just an example of this and all the guests we had talked agreed but did not wish to say anything. After the changes in the restaurants the people we talked with seemed a little happier with their choice of resort – BUT!

As reported in my live from thread the Love Bar continued to be a shadow of its former self and people simply avoided it. What did not help was that sometimes what was advertised did not happen – one night it was meant to be karaoke when in fact they had a live group on. Another night it should have been bingo (at a 5* resort?) which thankfully turned into dance music tracks and we got the party going again!

On a far lighter note the food we had was excellent and the best we had during our stay on the island. For breakfast we ate on the terrace at Casa Bella on four mornings with room service on the other two. For lunch we ate in the Blue Marlin on three occasions and had room service three times as our villa was just so suited to having al fresco meals. On one other occasion we were lucky enough to be treated to lunch at Eden Roc as part of our tour of the property

In the evenings we had three meals at the Blue Marlin and one of these was a special meal prepared for us by Livio their new chef who is a very talented guy indeed; we have a lot of time for Livio and hope he prospers there. As a big surprise our meal was served to us at a special table Raul had set up for us out on the outer deck of the Blue Marlin. Like Pascal, who used to be the Executive Chef, he very much believes in using as many local ingredients as possible and in his new menus he is introducing some well known Caribbean dishes with a very modern twist. His attention to detail in presentation is stunning as you will see from some of the photos

For our other evening meals we ate once from the full Capriccio menu on the Casa Bella terrace and on our other two nights we ate in the Steak House. On our last two trips this was our least favourite restaurant - but this time round turned out to be so much better. On one evening at our suggestion Livio cooked us a taster menu which included many of the new dishes he was developing for the resort – truly outstanding food with great service provided by Francisco & William

Available at each restaurant which is open in the evening is an extremely reduced version of the menus which were previously offered at the WOK and Capriccio

As I said in my life from thread we began to spot things that needed attention – all little minor things but they all add up in the end. Our major disappointment was the beach cove which had suffered erosion with many more rocks visible towards the Blue Marlin. During our stay due to the movement of the tide and slightly higher winds much more seagrass came ashore which is not the fault of the resort as it is just Mother Nature. However, what I did take issue with is that after the gardeners had gathered up the seagrass they left it in a large heap on the beach in front of the Monarch villas. Although they did have a small truck and took some of the seagrass away they left a large pile next to some rocks for the days on end – this should not happen at a resort of this supposed class

We did talk with some fellow guests whose villas faced directly onto the smelly seagrass and although they were very unhappy about it they had not complained – never ceases to amaze me why guests will not try and resolve things they are unhappy with

Even with everything taken into consideration we had a wonderful stay at Sanctuary and we take away so many happy memories. However, we also take away so many sad ones as well as we felt on this trip that the heart and soul had been ripped out of the place. All we kept saying to each other was “what a shame”

We feel so sad for the staff who will now have to go through yet another transition. We got the impression rightly or wrongly that Salamander have given up – we personally never saw any of the top team walking about talking with guests to learn their opinions. Any guests we talked with had never met any of the management which speaks for itself

The majority of the people we met were also not aware prior to arriving that the Fortress and Spa were closed although there is a temporary spa in one of the Royalty Villas. Everyone was making the best of it and having a good time but there was always a big BUT – very sad as you should not treat guests who have spent their hard earned money on a trip to your property in that way

Sanctuary and The Fishing Lodge are both totally unique properties with so much potential. We know from talking with senior people at the resorts we stayed at or have visited that many are of the opinion that Cap Cana must succeed as the island needs its’ calibre to ensure that other resorts raise their standards and hence the profile of the island. The Dominican Republic has the chance and the potential to move into another phase in its development. It is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean and in our opinion the main problem is that people do not expect to find properties of the type that are in Cap Cana as many people still view it as being a cheap, fun in the sun, AI holiday destination.

I would encourage all the regulars who go to Punta Cana to have a look at the Cap Cana area as it is a totally different world with quality accommodation

Will we return – YES, in a flash but very much dependent upon who the new management company is and we see what their plans are. Overall we had a great time at Sanctuary in our fabulous villa with its magnificent view. The food was as I have said was the best of all the resorts we stayed at this trip as far as a la carte is concerned. However, as I have said the resort has a very different vibe to it compared to our previous two trips of which our first in 2010 was certainly the best. Because of this we have only been able to give in 3 stars this time round

On the flipflop_man 360 holiday scoring matrix which measures 14 different parameters which are important to us Sanctuary Cap Cana scored 276 which very sadly is 40 down on last year

Should you be interested in seeing some photos of the Sanctuary Cap Cana please click on the link below to my new preferred online photo sharing website - SlickPic:

http://www.slickpic.com/u/flipflopman/SanctuaryCapCana/photo?play#2218080

Best viewed in full screen slideshow format as this way you will be able to see the title labels

For photos and videos of other trips we have made feel free to check out

http://www.slickpic.com/u/flipflopman

Please note that any time you enter the happy world of flipflop_man’s magic moments and memories it is always wise to have a drink in hand as there are always a lot of them to see – we are very lucky people.

As always I am happy to answer any questions

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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21  Thank flipflop_man
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 27, 2012

We had a great time. It was a perfect balance of relaxation and activities during the day. The facility is large enough that you can be more isolated and private. We loved the pool with the swim-up bar, with perfect water temperature.

The food was average, nothing spectacular, but you made up with your bar service, it was overall very good.
The staff was wonderful always very friendly and helpful. A big plus goes to your manager "Yllian" we looked forward every morning to see her for breakfast. Our room was outstanding, and we would definitely recommend Sanctuary Cap Cana to all our friends.

Thank you for a lovely vacation,
Peter and Barbel

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Barbel T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 26, 2012

I never written a review of any of my vacation but The Sanctuary is worth the time. My Room was the best part of the day viewing the beatitul ocean.the service offered by the staff speccially the Concierge departament who provided me assistant with excursions and Activities during my 10 days at the Resort. All my love to everyone and hope to see you soon

  • Stayed: August 2012
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2  Thank lorie p
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Sanctuary Cap Cana by Playa Hotels & Resorts

Address: Boulevard Zona Hotelera, Playa Juanillo, Punta Cana 0809, Dominican Republic (Formerly Sanctuary Cap Cana by AlSol)
Location: Caribbean > Dominican Republic > La Altagracia Province > Punta Cana
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#13 Romantic Hotel in Punta Cana
#27 Spa Hotel in Punta Cana
#28 On the Beach Hotel in Punta Cana
#29 Luxury Hotel in Punta Cana
Price Range: $315 - $666 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — Sanctuary Cap Cana by Playa Hotels & Resorts 5*
Number of rooms: 174
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Its inspired design combines the charm of a Spanish colonial village with the laid-back sensuality of the Caribbean and the stylish sophistication of streamlined, modern design accents. Bougainvillea-lined pathways lead guests through the resort grounds to 176 expansive, private suites housed in replicas of a tower, colonial buildings and fortress. Within the resort are 5 exceptional restaurants, 5 bars, an elegant casino, a half-mile private beach with sugar-white sand, and meeting space for up to 500 guests, while just minutes away lie all the world-class recreational appeals of Cap Cana. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Sanctuary Cap Cana Hotel Punta Cana
Sanctuary Cap Cana Resort

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