UPDATE: Go Travel South is bankrupt and only 3 days after we get back. That was close.
We decided to do a trip down south in the sun during February for our honeymoon. Jodi and I invited some friends to come along for what would turn out to be a great trip. After deciding on the week, location (punta cana) and the star rating of the trip we now just had to select a resort.
This is where Go Travel South (GTS) came in. With GTS they have deals which only fly from Halifax and Ottawa called Wild Card deals. Wild Cards are where you pick the location (city), date and star rating and they choose the resort for you. So we went with the 4+* for Punta Cana for seven days, leaving Ottawa on February 13, 2010. The rate was $999.00 ($699 + $300 tax) per person which fell nicely within our budget.
The only worry with this, was that we would not find out what resort we would be at until we landed in Punta Cana so it limits the research you can do to find out information about the resort. Once we landed in Punta Cana we went to the GTS booth and were handed our package telling us the resort and what bus number to get on out side.
All photos are available for viewing in the gallery - View here
You have to remember you are in a 3rd world country and you will not get all of the food to be what you like.
We ate at the buffet every breakfast, lunch and five dinners. Though I tried many different items off of the buffet, I tended to stick to main items in which I knew were good and I liked. Remember to book your restaurant as soon as you arrive. They will book up fast and you may not get in or you may not get in one you would like to.
Breakfast: I would get a fresh omelet made to order with 4 eggs, onions, tomatoes, cheese, bacon and two slices of french toast and a bole of fruit loops.
Lunch: I would get fries, nachos, cheese and chili.
Dinner: I would try the fresh made item each night and they were always good, with soup and some bread rolls.
The two other nights we ate at the Dominican restaurant and the Italian restaurant.
Dominican: This food was better than the buffet. I had a salad for a starter with a honey glaze sauce. Crab balls for a warm starter (I did not like these at all) and for a main I had a steak (its a small fast fry steak but good), rice and veggies.
Italian: This was by far the best food I had all week and we only got to eat there about two hours before leaving (again book your restaurants early). Here I had a selection of cold starters of cheese, bread, and cold cuts. Tomatoes soup for the warm starter and the chicken parmigiana. It all tasted like authentic Italian and was very delicious.
There are many different activities to do on the resort and many of them being free.
Free activities include:
- Water boards
Some on resort paid activities include:
- Power water rentals
- Scuba diving
- para sailing
You can also elect to travel off of the resort to do other activities at a cost. We went off site one day to go dune bugging. This was fun but we should have looked at others who provided this service. Our dune buggies were 150cc engines and it cost $90 U.S. per buggies (seats two people). Our buggies seem to be slow and some got stuck in the sand. They took us on a quicker and not has elaborate trip as was described.
The main thing to remember with off site activities is to research to find the best of them all for the best price.
Dominican Peso or United States Dollar Accepted. At the time, one U.S. dollar was worth 36 Dominican Peso's.
I brought about $300 U.S. cash with me and spent most on the plane ride there on drinks. You will need cash to do any of the outside activities or if you want to buy stuff such as American snacks at the gift shop.
There is a bank machine there where I was able to take out peso's. 5000 peso's was about $145 Canadian.
When I travel again I will be bringing about $500 U.S. and it will be in all small bills with nothing larger than $20's. It is difficult to get change there and smaller bills help when haggling for deals.
There is not much shopping on the resort except for the gift shop and a cigar shop and these places can be quite expensive. A bottle of sun screen at the gift shop was going for $30 - $40 U.S. (make sure you bring lots of sun screen).
Just outside of the resort (walking distance) to the left there was a flea market with about 30 shops run out of small garages. The shop keepers can be quite pushy and you will hear words like "no pressure", "looky looky" and "cheepy cheepy" its entertaining in the beginning but gets old quick. Make sure you haggle, I cannot say that enough haggle. Pick out the items you like and want and have a price in your head to pay and lower that price by about 50% and start. They will give in to your price and it not the next store will have the exact same items. You can get nice large oil paintings for about $12 U.S. each, bottles of rum for $5 and key chains for about $1 each.
We got a standard room with two double beds. The rooms are clean and cozy. Our bathroom was a bit to be desired. The faucet for the tub came off but you could still use the shower. The soap holder on the wall in the shower fell off but again not a big deal.
The fridge was stocked daily with 2 cokes, 2 sprites and a 4L of water. The room has a safe but you will have to rent the lock for $20 U.S. per week (worth the money in my mind).
The other couples that were with us both had cockroaches in their rooms but they lived with them. The second day we were there we were asked to be out at 9:30 am the next morning so they could fumigate the building.
Note that we stayed in the older beach section of the resort. The newer section which was further from the beach seemed to be nicer from what we heard including having plasma tv's.
The beach was long and covered in nice white soft sand. It was cleaned nightly and there was not much kelp in the water only after some rain we got.
You have to be up and at the beach early in the morning if you want a chair and a good spot. A couple of days we had to look for a while to gather 6 chairs and to find a good spot to place them.
The resort is a family resort but the beach seemed to be topless at times. Some ladies did go topless though some should have not gone topless. But overall the beach and water was clean and warm.
There was always something to do each and every night. Every night there was a live show in the theater with dancers and performers. This show changed nightly and they often included audience members to participate.
The Crazy Moon Disco was a regular dance club that was open until 3am daily. There was a 24 hour sports bar with some games in it and showing mainly soccer (foot ball) on the tv's. Each night there was a beach party on the beach near the beach bar. And there was a casino with machines and some tables.
Note that night clubs there are prostitute clubs. A night club that you are used to is a disco.
95% of the staff are wonderful and most speak Spanish mainly but can get by with English and french. Tips are greatly welcome by them since they get paid a very minimal salary. One bar tender we came to know told us he makes $200 U.S. a month and works 12 days on and 3 days off. Tips become their main source of income and you will receive better quicker service by tipping small ($1 U.S.) for each drink or large ($20 - $30 U.S.) once you know a bartender or maid and they will be their for the remainder of your trip.
One worker I noticed on my last day there was a gardener who only used a machete to do all of the gardening and yard work. I took notice that he worked all day from early morning till late in the day with out any breaks and no one noticing him. So I offered him a bottle of water which he was greatly appreciative of. Later I gave him my bubba keg to keep filled it with water and a bag of clothes and Jake gave him a pack of cigarettes and 500 peso's. We had to write him a note saying we gave him all of it so he would not be accused of stealing. The smile on his face of how happy he was made us certain his day was made. Since no one ever notices the workers in the background who make these resorts look so beautiful.
Over all I would recommend this resort and travel agency to anyone. The service we received and the price per person cannot be beat for such a great time on the beach in February. Just make sure you keep $20 U.S. per person for the departure fee from the airport.