Overall: Dreams Palm Beach is a friendly, clean resort with a few warts. Despite my overall 3-star rating, I would stay here again knowing what I know now. Now onto the detail:
Staff: This is really the main reason I'd consider coming back. Nearly all of the staff here are friendly, warm and genuinely seem to care about you having a good time. A lot of them make an effort to remember you and go above and beyond to make your stay great. Again, can't say enough about the staff.
Rooms: We originally checked into a tropical view, non-preferred room, with a view toward upgrading if the room wasn't that great. We chose to do so after checking into the room. We paid a bit extra to get into a honeymoon, ocean-view "Preferred Club" suite. It was very much worth it. You should note the difference between ocean-view and ocean-front (more on that later).
The rooms are generally clean and well-appointed, although our non-Preferred Club room was a bit dated and shoddy in some aspects—notably the mini-bar fridge, the face of which badly rusted over. The suite we upgraded to was very nice, although the ceiling in the bathroom was slowly crumbling during our stay. Housekeeping was spotty, with our room being cleaned around 5pm and turned over only about an hour or two later. Not entirely ideal, but not a big deal.
Preferred Club (PC) privileges: I echo everyone else in saying that these are definitely worth it. The PC lounge is a nice amenity, with extra beers available and snacks available all day long. The Seaside Grill serves a sit-down waitered (non-buffet) breakfast and lunch, which isn't available otherwise.
The privileges are worth it for, if anything, the free WiFi. If you don't get PC, you're required to go to the internet center to buy codes, which run on a timed system. So if you pay for five-hours of internet, and forget to log out at the end of your session, you may end up basically blowing through that cap and have to buy a new one (which isn't cheap). With PC, you get unlimited free codes, although over the course of a week-long stay you may end up having to ask for codes many times (especially if you have multiple devices, since the codes are limited to one device).
Don't upgrade to PC for the "upgraded mini bar" -- the only difference that I saw was that the PC minibar had juice boxes (no wine or liquor present in the minibar). Also the "luxury bath amenities" were exactly the same as in the non-PC room. Also, I don't believe we ever received the complimentary newspaper.
Food and alcohol: About what'd you expect from an all-inclusive. The hibachi and Italian dinner spots were pretty good. Seaside Grill were great for breakfast and lunch. The red wine was pretty odd in that it had almost a carbonated quality to it. It wasn't good, but not terrible either. The liquor on the other hand seemed to be watered-down – I drank maybe about 10 cocktails a day without really ever feeling a buzz. Go for the "mama juana" liquor which seemed to be most effective (although it is touted as an aphrodisiac, so be careful!) The buffet serves pretty much the same things every day and was okay.
So onto the warts.
Upgrade shenanigans: so immediately after checking in, we decided to upgrade. I was shown an ocean-front room on the 2nd floor with beautiful panoramic ocean views, and told the upgrade would be $x/day (for an equivalent room, not that same room). The price was a fraction of what we would have paid if it was booked ahead of time, so I thought it was a no-brainer. I was told to check back in the next day to see what was available. I then learned that another guest had secured a similar upgrade (albeit a room with a lesser view of the ocean) at half the price I was quoted, so the next day I tried to negotiate the price down, and was quoted $50 less per night (still a lot more than what the other guest had paid), and was asked to check back in a few hours after people had checked-out and rooms had been cleaned.
When I returned to the desk, I was told that the only suite available was on the first floor, with barely any ocean view at the same amount of $x/day (without the $50/night discount). Not surprisingly, I declined the deal. After about 5-10 minutes of working the computer screen the desk agent came back with a suite on the third floor, which I clearly understood to mean the third floor of the two rooms I had looked at earlier (which was ocean-FRONT) with the $50/night discount. I thought it was a great deal, so I charged the extra amount. When the porter came to move our luggage and show the new room, however, I learned that the suite was in a different building, with a much more limited view of the ocean. Not really wanting to cause a stressful fuss on vacation, I let it go. I figured something got lost because of the language barrier. In the end, it was still a fair deal, but I don't think I was completely honestly dealt with.
Sales presentation: if you're approached in the lobby to have breakfast at one of the sister resorts, be warned that it is a sales presentation for a loyalty program that takes 2+ hours of your day. I was expecting a nice breakfast on the beach or something similar, but it was just a buffet breakfast pretty much comparable to the one at the resort. The problem is that you're not told outright when you agree to go that it's a sales presentation. I figure we should have known better, but again, not very forthright. It's only when you get there that they tell you. Granted, they explicitly give you the warning before the pitch, but we had already taken a 10+ minute taxi ride there so we just obliged. They lead you on a tour of the properties, never really quite revealing what they are pitching to you, and when you get to the finish line, it turns out what they're selling you is literally thousands of dollars of commitment. No thanks.
Casino: be careful when you play blackjack. They deal fast and furious here. Mistakes are made and you have to be on your toes. For example, if dealer is showing an Ace, they are not asking you if you want insurance. If you wave no, they will assume you are refusing a hit (not sure why anyone would stay on a 12 against a dealer ace).
Next time around I'd like to think we'd be more informed guests and avoid these problems. Live and learn! With all that said, knowing what I know now, I would definitely stay here again.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facing the Caribbean Sea, white sand beach and lush gardens, Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana boasts 500 spacious rooms and ample suites surrounded by swaying palm trees and views of endless blue waters stretching to the horizon - the perfect setting in paradise. Take advantage of all the unlimited luxury activities Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana has to offer. Swim, sail, snorkel or windsurf in the turquoise Caribbean, enjoy fine a-la-carte dining, sip favorite cocktails at one of our bars. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana Hotel Punta Cana
- Occidental Punta Cana
- Occidental Allegro Punta Cana
- Punta Cana Occidental
- Sunscape Punta Cana
- Punta Cana Dreams Palm Beach
- Punta Cana Allegro