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Reviewed November 24, 2008

Just returned from the El Portillo Bahia Pricipe Samana. We were a party of 4 and I have to say we had a blast.

Everything went smoothly from our small bus ride from the airport through the mountains & country side to the check in. One small glitch our room key did not work 2 times had to go to lobby to get fixed. But not a huge problem.

(Tip # 1 - ask the guy at the airport if there is a smaller bus in addition to the large bus that transports you to the hotel - the smaller one has a faster ride and the scenery is awesome)

We arrived to find the hotel full with rich locals, spending their long weekend at the resort, there was some prefferential treament on occasion, but once they left, my group had prefferential treatment. Im sorry to say that the people complaining about bad service, and theft, etc. Makes me wonder how they treat the staff around them, we are quite friendly with alot of the staff from the head bartenders, to the cleaning staff, entertainment staff and even our Rep - Princess Madina. And we also speak some spanglish, enough to get by.! We joined in any event the animation staff asked us to and had fun. The staff enjoyed hanging out with us around the pool & the disco, often asking if we would mind getting them a drink. Hahaha! Crazy bunch and real funny.

(Tip #2 - lobby bar MAKE CONTACT WITH THE HEAD BARTENDER - sorry if i butcher his name Useberio - he speaks English very well and makes real good drinks.)

For the most part the A la Carte restaurants were ok, the Oriental being the worst, sweet & sour anything means watery ketchup and something else mixed in. Not bad , but not what your expecting. The Pescatora (Fish) was great, and i dont eat fish but tasted everyone elses, and i was amazed. The steakhouse ,my fav, was awesome from soup to dessert. Yum.
Buffets, average, you wont go hungry, but breakfast ICKY!!!, raw bacon undercooked sausage, but lots of other stuff. (Who needs breakfast anyway - bar opens at 10:00am. LOL

The grounds are clean, well manacured, and beautiful. Beach nice too, vendors there to sell some carvings etc. A little annoying but you can always say no thanks not today. The rooms were comfty, jacuzzi tubs rock!!!!!

(Tips #3- the vendors that are allowed to come on the resort say they are only there that day - not true they were there 3 out of the 7 days and the prices are way to high. Take a cab into Las Terranes to shop, its an experience in itself. The ab will drop you off for $10.00 each way, and you jsut tell them when you want tot return and they meet back at a designated spot.) Make sure to but some BRUGEL RUM.

The night shows are horrible, but what the heck, its something to do before the disco opens, however the 1 show i did enjoy was the comedy night,its was funny as hell. Santos one of the entertainment staff is a riot and a half.

Samana is a jewel, i preferr it to Puerto Plata, and Punta Cana. Its not that developed and the country side is magnificent. I doubt that it will stay that way.

If you are physically fit, do the horse back ride & hike into El Limon, very demanding but the end result when you actual get down to the waterfall is worth every effort.

We also did the Los Haitesis tour into the the caves witht the Taino paintings, ending with lunch on Barcardi island, upon seeing barcardi island where Bahia Principe Laventado is located, i would not hesitate to stay at that resort as well.

All in all it was a great vacation, just remeber the locals that work at the resort, see how they live, take into account how much money they make and the hours they work, a little bit of patience and a little bit of getting to know them is all that is required to get good service. Plus your in a beautiful place, being waited on, and there is no SNOW!!!

(Last Tip - bugs bugs bugs- sandflies to be exact - they come out at dawn & dusk , no bug repelent stops them, cover up and keep your skin oiled at all times if possible. Use baby oil, suntan oil, massage oil, but using oil may aide in keeping them from biting alot.)
Anyway, ill be adding photos soon, any questions, im available, send me an email.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled with friends
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7  Thank Tryxxie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 23, 2008

Just got back from 7 days at the GBP El Portillo in Samana D.R. Stay was 15-22 Nov 08
Departed from Toronto our Tour operator was Conquest travel. The flights were on Can Jet. This is our first time on a Can Jet flight. When ones talks of a no frills flight they must have flown on a Can Jet flight. They offer no entertainment. This proved to be painful as the numerous small children on the flight had nothing to keep them preoccupied, other than run the aisle. This made the 4 hour plus flights seem that much longer. I must say that the flight crew were very friendly and did a good job of providing the food and beverages.

The resort is sold as a 5 STAR resort. It is not. I would rate it as a 4 STAR.

There was nothing to raise it above an average resort.
That being said we received value for what we paid.

As mentioned in many past reviews, the road and trip to the resort is not for the weak of heart. The road is very very rough in many places (almost nonexistent) and winding. The trip is approx 1.5 hours.

Check-in on the bus was painless. We found we had been booked into a standard room when we had paid for a junior suite. This was quickly corrected upon our arrival.
Upon arrival we reported that we had no water and that the fridge had not been stocked. The reply was, “give me 15 minutes and I’ll have it taken care of”. This was at 6pm. At 7pm we went to dinner, on our way back to the room approx 7:45pm we stopped at the front desk to also mention that we had no TV reception in addition to the previous report deficiency. The same phrase “give me 15 minutes” was used again. Repairman came to the room and found what I had discovered that the satellite cable has missing. While he was there I mentioned the bar. He phoned a number and I spoke with that person who advised it would be taken care of right away. He called at 8:30pm to verify if the fridge and water had been stocked. I told him no and within 5 minutes someone from the front lobby delivered the items. After this the junior suite (25105) was great!
Our maid, Maria kept the place spotless.
Our other complaint about service or lack of was when we attempted to obtain an umbrella while we were in the main lobby. There was not one in the room and it was pouring out. The front desk informed us that housekeeping would deliver it to the room. I questioned that would not keep us dry in the mean while. This happened at noon on the 20th. We never did get an umbrella despite the rain was continuous for our last 3 days.

The main buffet was what we used while at the resort so I can’t comment on the ala carte facilities. The Las Dalias in our opinion was small and the food serving area would not work well in the peak season. It seemed congested at times and that was with small numbers of people in the resorts.
The food was good, but nothing special. The selection also seemed very limited compared to other resorts we have stayed at.
The dining room staff was very efficient and friendly.
The dress code was a complete joke! Outside the restaurant was a photo of the acceptable dress. It looked like something that you would see on Holland America cruise.
People wore shorts, sleeveless t-shirts for dinner.
I also noted on the bulletin board outside the restaurant that a gourmet breakfast was available for $30 US per person. A gourmet lobster dinner is available for $32 us per kg.
What happened to all inclusive?
The grounds are beautiful and well kept. The beach was cleaned very morning of seaweed and debris. The beach is small and at times it was lounge to lounge. This would not be pretty in the peak season. The pool was for the most part deserted.

Bottom line is we were glad that we had the chance to experience the El Portillo in the off season. It is not likely that we will return to this resort, mainly due to the distance and road conditions from the airport.

Note: The day the attached photos were taken the beach had not been cleaned as the storm lasted 3 days. The photos were taken during a break in the weather.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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2  Thank doneworken
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 17, 2008

we did the roulett through conquest and ended up at the portillio all the food was great nice rooms staff was good small portions at the oriental resturant, book your ala cart reservations quick. our big complaint was the matteress was like sleeping on straw and all-inclusive dosen't include JD or Baileys bring a travel mug and bug spray for the sand fleas some guests got eaten alive!
we would rate it 4 star theres only one pool and no swim up bar good entertainment\day trips close by 1hr 45min from Samana airport take the small bus if offered cause the big one won't stop for beer!

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Thank strathvegas
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 16, 2008

Just returned from a week in the Dominican. Travelled with Conquest Vacations from Nov 8- Nov 15th 2008. We did not know which hotel we would be staying at, i had hoped it would have been the Gran Bahia Prinicpe Cayacoa, Samana as the pics looked much nicer, but we ended up at the Gran Bahia Prinicipe El Portillo, Samana. After talking to the other travellers, i discovered that those who paid more, ended up staying at the Cayacoa. We had booked last minute thru our travel agent at a cheaper costs for 2 adults and 1 12yr old. Upon arrival, we were handed our welcome packages on the coach to the hotel. The ride to the hotel was approx 1hr 40mins and very bumpy. Becareful of looking out the window, if you see how close to the edge of the mountains you are, you will feel sick. As soon as we reached the hotel, we were welcomed with a fruit drink. We went to the concession stand and received our 3 tickets for the beach towels and then headed over to our villa #9, which was far away from the beach. The next day we asked to be moved closer to the beach and was able to move into villa 5 immediately. The maids would not accept the gifts i left for them and would leave them on the dresser. The second morning we left some US dollars and found some swan made up towels on our beds. They obviously prefer the cash more. We rented the safe in our room, it costs 130RD per day, well worth the money. Nothing was ever taken from our rooms or by the beach or pool. The second day we met our representative Medina who gave his orientation about being there for us and tried to gain our respect and trust, because when you really need him, he is nowhere! I paid a childs airfare for my son, he was given a childs wristband to wear around the resort, yet Medina charged me an adult fare for him to participate in any of the excursions. When i questioned this, he had no answer to give. I wanted my son to experience these excursions, so i had no choice but to pay the adult rate for my 12yr old. Remember, these reps work on commission! Wednesday Medina did not even show up at the resort. I had the front desk call him and he said he would be there @11am, instead of 10am which was his scheduled time. I had them call him back @12 noon and he said he would be at the resort tomorrow. The rep should be there daily. How else are visitors able to book their excursions and voice their concerns?We took a taxi into Las Terrenas.A town which was 10mins away. It costs $10US for the 3 of us each way. The driver let us walk around on our own for 2 hours. but you really need more than 2 hrs, 4 would have been better. The front desk calls the taxi for you, but i was upset that they did not tell us the shops would be closed down between 1-4pm for thier siesta time. Part of the reason to go into town was to shop. The front desk knew we were all visitors and should have informed us of this, as this was a wasted trip into town. If you need to change money, the rates at the front desk change daily, you are better off changing your currency at the "Popular" bank while in this little town before heading back to the resort.
Different excursions are offered daily, so depending on what day you arrive/depart, you may not be able to participate in some. I noticed some other visitors trying to negotiate their excursions thru some of the other reps as some of the trips are slightly different. This should be ok to do, the reps can always split their commissions, so check out all of the other excursions and not only those offered by your guide.
Here are some of the prices for the excursions.
Jeep Safari wed adult $79 child$59
-way made thru mountains and villages, guide informs on history , culture and geography. includes trip to local house, school, waterfall, drinks and lunch.
Playa Rinconvip thurs adult $85 child $64.00
-day spent at isolated beach, guide informs you of history and geography while travelling thru mountains and villages.includes a trip to a local house,school, drinks and lunch.
Samana tour fri adult$30 child$22 4hr tour into the town of Samana, stops at a cigar factory along the way. You are able to shop, this is probaly where you will do most of your shopping. The resort has 2 gift shops (which dont have enough various sizes in tshirts), 1 jewelly store and 1 photo store, all $ I booked the Samana tour, but was feeling sick , so on the first stop, i took a taxi back to the resort, costs $15US for the 8min ride back to the hotel. I spend a total of $45US for a trip i did not attend. Later that evening, we called Medina to inform him that i would like a refund as i did not attend the tour and was told that i would need a doctors note and that he had to check with the office. The next day which was departure day, he showed up at the resort to accompany everyone back to the airport. I heard one visitor telling him that he overcharged them for their trip, so be sure to calculate the conversion rate and double check his calculations on your reciept! He told me to go get a doctors note from the doctor on the resort which is available 24/7. I walked over there and they said they would have to do a full evaluation and it would costs $65US. I did not bother doing this, why pay 65US for 30US refund? Another traveller said i should have gotten the note as my insurance would have covered the $65US. I told Medina i was not pleased about this and i am sure visitors get sick all the time and have to cancell their trips and that i would be writing a letter to Conquestvacations. He told me he would reimburse me the $30US from his own pocket and i told him no, i did not want that. So beware of this and check out what the policy is before you book any trips in case you get sick and need to cancell.
The pool and jacuzzi were not heated, as well as not having any solar blankets, the water was always tepid and full of mosquitos. We had a junior suite, the room was sufficient, bathrooms were very modern with seperate shower stalls, bathtub and toilet area. Greetings to Sugar, Stefania, Carlito, Dario and Santos, some of the performers in the dance troupe. They really tried hard to put on a good show and please everyone. There are 4 a la carte restaurants, we ate at each one. Food and service was lovely at each one. I noticed very very few guests tipping at the restaurants and one guest even walked into the restaurant with his own bottle of wine. I was not crazy for thier red/white wines or champagne. They were all made in the Dominican. Each nite a different restaurant was opened, so we basically saw the same visitors and the manager Dario in each one nightly. Remember to book your dinners at the guest house upon arrival at the resort. They open at 9am. There were a few topless women on the beach, which did not bother us much, just look the other way! Having a naked man enter the jacuzzi one day while in there, bothered me much more! Only the porters who put our luggage unto and off of the buses asked for tips, as well as the tour guides for the excursions, no one else. There were no tip jars at any of the bars. Drinks were fine, not watered down. I used the tap water to brush my teeth, had no problems. It would be wise to take many $1US bills if you plan on tipping. Becareful of the children, at some of the excursion stops, they are quick to swarm around and welcome you by putting a leaf made wrist band around your wrists, or handing you a leaf made flower to hold, but then they ask for $1 for each of these items! They also hold you hands to guide you as you are walking thru the mountains to the falls and then ask for a dollar. If you dont mind tipping for these, it is best not to make any contact with them from the start and just say no thank you. I took pencils/pens to hand out to the school children and walked with them everywhere. There are locals selling items on the beach which could be bothersome at times. I saw straw hats,tshirts. paintings, cigarettes and cigars, hair braiding, massages and the usual island jewellry. These vendors all wear the same grey tshirts with a different number on each one, so it appears they have permission to sell these crafts/services on the beach. It is cheaper to buy the art work in town than on the beach. If purchased, they just remove it off of the canvas and roll for you to travel with. There is a spa on the resort, but very $$$$.
I would go back to the Dominican, but will choose either Punta Cana or Puerto Plata to stay. This was an excellent time to visit Samana as it now being commercialized. One realtor in town gave me some info on the houses that are being bullt. They start at $300 000.00US. According to her,there are 3 types of people buying. Those who will live there year round, those who will live there 6mths and return to thier country for the other 6 and then those who will buy to rent out. She is focusing on the Montreal area in Canada as french is spoken and dominicans speak mostly spanish and french.
Be sure to return your beach towels at the end of your stay, otherwise they costs $20US each. Ours remained safe at the beach and at poolside. There was always an abundance of beach loungers available.Take advantage of the activities offered and check the activity board daily, but remember they are subject to change if they dont get enough response. If you dont participate in the activites, you will feel bored as not much else to do at times besides the beach and pool. I noticed some guests leave their reading materials behind at the beach towel stall for others to enjoy. There was quite a collections in foreign languages. Try to book your dinners for 8 or 8:30pm, so that you can attend the nightly show right after which starts @10pm. After show, disco is opened at 11pm till 2am nightly. Many of the entertainment staff go right over to the disco. On our last nite, we distributed gifts to many staff who were all very appreciative. Avon products are fancied there.
Overall we had a wonderful time and would recommend this resort to others who are looking for a relaxing vacation, just remember to ask many questions as they volunteer minimum information and dont forget to take your sunscreen, mosquito repellant as well as your usual medicine.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Check in / front desk
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    • Cleanliness
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    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
2  Thank Travellingduo092
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 10, 2008

We just came back from El Portillo (Nov 1-Nov 8).We booked our vacation on selloffvacations.com for Bahia Principe Roulette.

Everything was great: the beach, weather, food, and people.

We were called at home the night before leaving and told that our hotel is Cayacoa but when we got in Samana we were on the list for El Portillo. We weren't checked-in at the airport as other people suggested it happened to them. We went to the hotel and we got the room in 10 min.
The transfer to hotel takes 1 hr 15 min. The road is narrow and bumpy but the driver was very cautious.
The hotel staff is very nice and polite and I didn't feel like there're waiting for tips (as it happened to me in Cuba).

We stayed in villa 8 on the 3rd floor and from our balcony we could see (through the palm trees) the sea.
We had a Junior suite .It was very clean. The bathroom has a shower and a bath tub separately. The towels were changed daily and the room cleaned daily, no issues there. The mattress was firm and the sheets clean.
We asked for an extra bed for our daughter and we got it fast.

The first day we arrived we booked the 4 restaurants(Orchidea-gourmet, Pescador-seafood, Oriental, Portofino-italian).We enjoyed mostly the Pescador.

The only complaint we have is that the minibar wasn't filled in when we arrived and it took 2 days to get something. We had only 1 bottle of water. The tap water is not safe. We also had coffee maker and plenty of tea to choose from.

We were also bitten by some bugs and it was itchy, we assume it was on the beach in the evening. We couldn't see or hear any mosquitoes.

We didn't go on trips because they looked expensive for what they offer. For El Limon waterfall(10 min drive), half a day 45$ / person.
For Los Haitises 90$/person one day.

The food is good and fresh. Also every day they have a different theme so you get to try lots of dishes. We liked the "Dominican day". We also enjoyed the grill on the beach. Too bad they weren’t grilling fish, only pork, chicken and burgers.
I liked the fresh fruit juices in the morning but I disliked the cakes. They are too sweet and very syrupy in my opinion. Only few cakes I liked so I didn't bother with them; plenty of fresh fruit to enjoy though. I also got to try some vegetables I have never heard of so it was an interesting experience.

The vendors on the beach are annoying but as I understood the beaches are public so the hotel cannot stop them from walking there.

Take with you underwater camera. There are lots of spots for snorkeling along the shore. You can feed the fish and they swim around you.

The shops inside the hotel sell in US $ and they're expensive. The closest village is Las Terrenas but we didn't go there. You get to see it on the way from/to the airport and it didn’t inspire me to go on a shopping trip there.

It also helps to speak Spanish. Some of the waiters cannot understand what you're asking for but it was fun to try bits and pieces of broken Spanish/English. In the end I got what I wanted.

The pool looked small to me but we never stay at the pool when a beach is around the corner so we didn't care about it.

We didn't use the hotel beach towels-we had ours.
They provide daily aerobic(1/2 hr) at noon on the beach and in the afternoon at the pool. After that you can learn dancing. The shows at night are ok; nothing special.

We also paid for the safe (around 30$/week). No stuff went missing from our rooms or from the beach.

It was a great vacation and we would go back anytime to this hotel.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Check in / front desk
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
3  Thank cocobird
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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