My apologies as this review is really late and it is a long review.
We were a party of 4 that travelled to the Gran Bahia Principe Ambar in beautiful Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. This was our second visit to this lovely resort (first visit was April 2008).
DEPARTURE: Off we went to Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto on April 16, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. for our Air Transat flight to Punta Cana. The Air Transat personnel were checking in people when we arrived that apparently were sitting in economy (a party of 8) in the “priority boarding” line, so we had to wait longer than we normally do (hubby was a little annoyed, as were another couple behind us). Reason I am mentioning this is that is supposed to be one of the perks of booking Club Class, priority check-in. Once we were on board the flight, it was lovely as usual. The choice of food, wine, beer, etc. is well worth the money that you pay for the little extras. The flight crew were nothing short of amazing round trip, another “Best Crew” award to Air Transat. You can be sure we will always book Club Class seats again whenever we travel. As a rule we always use Nolitours or Transat Holidays for our vacation. Woooo hoooo, on our way to Punta Cana for 14 days of much deserved R&R.
ARRIVAL IN PUNTA CANA: Arrival at Punta Cana International Airport was perfect and immigration was quick and efficient. We arrived on time, went through immigration with no problems and picked up the luggage, which, I might add, was the first off the flight (part of the Club Class extras).
TRANSPORTATION TO RESORT: We booked private transportation through IBK Servicios (we had booked them last year) and our driver was there waiting for us with the sign with our name on it. Once we loaded up the van with our luggage, we were off to the Ambar. Wonderful and courteous driver, would highly recommend this company.
CHECK-IN: We arrived at the Punta Cana lobby at approximately 9:10 p.m. We were then shuttled over to the Ambar section. Check-in was a breeze as we were the only ones there as we had arrived ahead of the tour bus to the resort. We were put in Villa 60 (see below). Staff at check-in had a bit of an attitude (and if any of them are reading this, never speak Spanish in front of people, as you never know what languages they speak), but we asked to deal with the manager the next day and it was perfect.
ROOMS: We given a room in Villa 60 and it had an extremely bad smell of mildew...we spent one night in the room and then spoke to the Manager and he arranged another room for us. Don’t get me wrong, I like the smell of the south, and as a rule it doesn’t bother me at all, but this was so bad that we couldn’t breathe the next morning. We were both stuffed up. We changed rooms around 1:30 p.m. the next day and then we unpacked and settled in (Room 60105). The rooms are large with a very nice sitting area (the corner rooms are much larger as that is what we had last year). We had a king size bed and a beautiful view of the pool. Couldn’t see the ocean very well as we were on the first floor, would have preferred second or third, but that was fine with us as we don’t spend much time in the room anyway. The beds were not as comfortable as I remember from last year, but it was o.k. We felt it was the perfect location to the pool, pool bar and beach. It was less than a 5 minute walk to the Ambar lobby and the buffet. They have two beach buffets, tried both and preferred the Las Brisas vs. the Las Olas. We ordered two types of speciality pillows and decided to keep the ones originally given to us in the room. We also had turn down service most nights and chocolates left on our pillows and fresh towels left. Our butler service was fantastic and they did everything they possibly could for us (we had 2 butlers).
GETTING AROUND THE RESORT: I do not understand what people are complaining about, the trams are everywhere and they run every few minutes. Beware of the tram you get on though, it may not be going to the lobby you want, but it is only a few minutes’ walk to the other lobby. Most of the time we just walked from the Ambar as it was not that far to the Bavaro/Punta Cana lobbies. The trams are wonderful and always stop along the way to drop off/pick up guests. We never had a problem with them. I truly cannot believe people complain about the tram system at the Bahia and obviously a 2-3 minute wait is too long for them.
CLEANING OF ROOMS: During our stay the maid did a fabulous job. We only had 2 days of towel art which I found unusual as the Bahia in Mexico does it on a daily basis, but it was no big deal. Our maid was a warm and wonderful person. As for the others in our traveling party, they reported that their chambermaid was excellent as well. We left US $2-3 per day, plus little gifts I had brought from home. It was all so appreciated.
BARS AND SERVICE: Well what can we say, the bars were great, but service was a little inconsistent at the main bar (note: a very small complaint) and I do realize that the Ambar is still a relatively new section and the kinks have to be ironed out. Sometimes we just got up and went to the bar to get our own drink, no big deal. The pool and beach bars were very good with the service. The owner was in a few times and service picked up that day and night, but service was still a little inconsistent after that (only at the Ambar main bar). We had no problem with the pool bar filling our 20 oz. insulated mugs.
WEATHER: The weather was absolutely perfect, 14 days of solid sunshine. Most days it was a bit windy, but a welcome relief from the heat. If it wasn’t for the wind, it no doubt would have been too hot to handle. A few days it was pretty muggy, but we just jumped in the water (beach or pool) to cool off.
BEACH/WATER: WOW, again what an awesome beach, I can never get enough of it. You can walk for miles and the best thing was that you don’t have to wear water shoes (unlike the Bahia in Mexico). I would compare Bavaro beach to that of Negril in Jamaica. There is the sunken ship (Astron) that seems to be deteriorating more every year. The water was, however, a little chilly getting in, but once you were in, it was lovely! Love those warm and cool currents.
AMBAR POOL: Now here is where I found this to be a little crazy. While we were walking to the beach to see the sun rise and secure our palapa and loungers (approx. 6:00 a.m. and, as I always say, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em), people were actually sitting underneath a palapa waiting to secure their palapa(s) at the pool for the day. They were not allowed to leave the lounges until around 7:50ish. Security the first day was very strict with this rule, but after a few days, the rules relaxed and people would just drop their towels, books, etc. and go back to bed. The days we were at the pool, we were down there at 6:00 most mornings and was getting a little ticked that we sat there and waited (as did others as well), and watched people come down, drop their stuff and go back to bed. Security said that if someone complained, he would have to remove their things and then give the palapa to the person complaining. Apparently it did happen a couple of times where security removed things from underneath a palapa because people were not sitting on the chairs and when the people came back (about 4 hours later) fireworks happened. They were told about the rules, but they still continued to drop and run. Some people are pretty unbelievable.
PUNTA CANA/BAVARO POOLS: We took a walk to the pool on the Bavaro and Punta Cana side and it was extremely busy with children and parents (happy screaming children I might add). It was extremely loud so we hurried back over to the quiet Ambar side. We all agree that we love the Ambar side. The first week we were there, it was extremely quiet at the pool, but the second week, they started to implement water aerobics, ice/fruit carving, dance lessons, etc. I think the pool area needs to be a bit livelier so it was nice to hear some music.
RESERVATION SYSTEM FOR BOOKING ALA CARTES: We had pre-booked from Canada. When we got there we wound up with 25 ala carte reservations…actually it was pretty ridiculous as we kept getting more reservation tickets under our door. So one morning we sat there with Public Relations and got it all sorted out. We felt it wasn’t fair that we had all these reservations as people were being turned away from certain ala cartes because they were booked, so hence us sorting it all out.
Ambar Buffet: In a word…AWESOME! Again, I do not know what people are complaining about. The food was always fresh and there was always something for everyone. The Prosciutto (Italian smoked ham) was amazing at breakfast and lunch, I had that most days. The salads were always fresh, the OJ in the morning was the best, eggs, bacon, etc., everything was wonderful. The made to order stations were excellent. At lunch and dinner they had strip loin steaks, beef tenderloin, shrimp, calamari, etc. We ate at the Ambar buffet the first week for lunch and then the beach bar the second week. The Las Brisas beach buffet had amazing chicken, salads, french fries, etc. at lunch and then we would go up to the Ambar buffet for dinner.
Don Pablo: I have to stay the service was perfecto at this ala carte. The food, however, was not our favourite. Both my girlfriend and I ordered shrimp soup and it was more like fish soup, nothing shrimpy tasting about it. Our hubbys had salad. The lobster, well, it was overcooked and while tasty, not big enough. The steak was very tender, but the bacon around it should have been cooked a lot more (actually I don’t think it was cooked at all!).
Garden Grill: We had the steaks and they were excellent. Ours were a little well done (we asked for medium, should have asked for medium rare), but very good nonetheless. Service was amazing here as were the soups and salads.
Japanese: We ate here once. Presentation was excellent and the food was good. Service again was wonderful.
El Olivo: This was excellent as far as I was concerned regarding food and service.
Portofino: Would NOT recommend this one. Service was absolutely horrible as was the food. My girlfriend and I ordered lasagna and I have never tasted anything so salty in our lives. It was terrible, as were the other meals our hubbys ordered. Our salad plates were not removed when the main meal came and after we had finished the main meal, the dishes just sat on our table. We left without having dessert or coffee.
This is just my own opinion folks on the ala cartes. Personally, I found the ala cartes to be far more superior at the Bahia in Mexico.
SHOPPING: We were there to relax on the beach and around the pool and that’s exactly what we did for 14 days, go for a walk on the beach, go for a swim, etc. We did however, go to Caribbean Street and the market at the end of the beach, they had some nice things, but most of it was all the same. We preferred Caribbean Street as they had quite a few artisan shops which were excellent. We shopped at the Pueblo quite a bit and the prices were pretty good. Of course, we also shopped at Harrison’s at the Pueblo.
Always makes me very sad when leaving the any beautiful country, but as my hubby says, there is always next year. Since our flight was leaving at 5:50 p.m., we didn’t arrange for a late check-out. We had our showers and we waited in the Ambar lobby for a while, had a drink and then went up to the Punta Cana lobby. We decided that we were going to arrange for private transportation for our return trip. Best decision, gave us a few more minutes at the resort...well, at least until our hubbies decided that we were to leave the hotel around 1:00 just in case of traffic, so in their wisdom, we were on our way back to Punta Cana International and it took approximately 37 minutes. We arrived at the airport and the Air Transat booths were NOT open. Needless to say it was a very long wait at the airport. You can be sure we will never listen to our hubbies again, will remind them of the 4 hour wait at the Punta Cana airport. The flight to Toronto left on time and we were on our way back home. Club Class on the way home was just as good as the way down. Definitely a more relaxed way to travel.
If I had to dig real deep (besides the service being a little inconsistent), was that the food wasn’t as hot (temperature) in the ala cartes as we would like, just a personal preference.
COMPARISON BETWEEN THE BAHIA MEXICO AND THE BAHIA PUNTA CANA
(Please note that we have been to the Bahia in Mexico quite a few times (and we always travel 2 weeks each time), so hence the comparison)
Beach: Punta Cana hands down – no comparison
Food: Punta Cana buffet was much better (the Ambar side only) while the ala cartes are far much better in Mexico
Service: It’s a toss up
Rooms: Punta Cana hands down (Ambar side)
Customer Service: Punta Cana and Mexico both have excellent customer service
Spa: Punta Cana has a better set up, but both Spas are amazing
Bars: Mexico has much faster service (and more choice for premium drinks without charge) and more staff on hand
Shopping: Mexico hands down, only because Playa del Carmen has so many shops and things to see and do, whereas Punta Cana, doesn’t really have as much
So having said all that, would we go back to the Ambar…yes, in a heartbeat! It truly is a beautiful resort and the people of the Dominican Republic are warm and wonderful.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facilities and services 2 pool Sun terrace with sun umbrellas and loungers Relaxation zone with Bali beds Outdoor Jacuzzi BAHIA SPA (additional charge) Sports facilities: gym, 3 tennis courts, multi-sports court Water activity centre Motorised water sports (additionalcharge) WiFi access in the lobby (free) and in rooms (free) Entertainment amphitheatre Wedding gazebo 1 buffetrestaurant 3 speciality restaurants 4 bars 1 snack- bar Gazebo de bodas Smokers' lounge with bar service (cigar menu with additional charge) Punta Blanca Golf Club: 18 hole Punta Blanca Golf Club, designed by Nick Price (additional charge) Pueblo Principe: Shopping and Leisure Mall with local craft stores, live music, shows, stores, bars, karaoke, disco and casino. Rooms 528 Deluxe Junior Suites Room facilities: King size bed or two full size beds Ceiling fan Air conditioning Sitting area with sofa Terrace Fully-equipped bathroom with hydromassage bath tub and separate shower, hair dryer Bathrobe and slippers Don Pablo Collection amenities Direct phone line (additional charge for external calls) Alarm clock with iPod docking station Flat screen TV Coffee-making machine Minibar Safe Butler service 24 hour room service Evening turndown service Pillow menu 2 disabled rooms for a maximum of 3 adults Prime location right on the sea front Exclusive lake-style pool Aroma menu WiFi (free) Other services Medical service (additional charge) Pharmacy (additional charge) Specialised service for organising weddings, incentive trips, events and anniversaries Personalised menus (for celiacs, diabetics, etc.) Available on request ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Bahia Principe Ambar Hotel Punta Cana