Being a photographer, journalist and editor at IPA is a lot of hard work. What makes it all worthwhile are the assignments that are actually fun to cover. Publishing an article on some of the 5 star hotels in Punta Cana was one of those assignments. Read this comprehensive review and enjoy the video, I am sure it will give you the information of value if you are considering a vacation, wedding or honeymoon in Punta Cana.
Note: For those interested in reading more about the benefits of IPA membership and the hard work that goes into being a travel writer and photographer, then read my article My IPA Travel Benefits • Great Job, See The World. This article will open in a new window, so you can read it first and come back here.
We were advised that there was a nice little FAM trip to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Since I had never been there, we decided to go. My son is getting married in November and decided to have a destination wedding. We thought this was a great opportunity to kill three birds with one stone. Gladys would get to see some of the wonderful 5 star hotels in Punta Cana, I would get the subject for some new reviews. We could also get some information about destination weddings for my son.
The FAM was run by Apple Vacations who is one of the larger premier tour operators specializing in the Caribbean, Mexico and Hawaii and now even Europe. They offer packages that even include the airfare which makes it easier for most of us because they are usually non-stop flights to the destination and the cost of the entire package could be less than what you might spend on the airfare alone. I understand that Apple has interests in their own charter airline and in many hotels including the Dreams Resorts and Spa. This of course is a wonderful advantage to the tourist who knows that they are not only getting the best value, but a no worry, top-notch vacation.
Our FAM was going to take us to the beautiful 5 star Dreams Resort & Spa in beautiful Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic is about the size of Switzerland and has a total population of 9.5 million people. The official language is Spanish, but most of the hotel staff also speaks English as well as many of the people dealing with tourism.
I emailed the hotel about my trip and my desire to include them in my review. Margarita Polanco the assistant to Yann Leguillou the general manager of Dreams answered my request and she couldn’t have been nicer.
I explained I wanted arrange for a tour of the facility and to see if they could make sure we had a nice room so I could photograph it for the article.
Although Dreams was heavily booked for that weekend and the better rooms were all taken, we were surprised to find that we were upgraded to their Honeymoon Suite. After 42 years of marriage our honeymoon had long past, but it was still nice to be treated like honeymooners.
We were happy to enter a gorgeous suite that included towel swan sculptures with fresh flowers, a lovely living room adjoining a fresh, clean, beautiful bedroom. The bed was one of those beautiful four poster beds and it connected to a lovely bathroom. On our patio, which faced the pool, we noticed a jacuzzi, what a great vacation this would be.
As you might imagine Dreams is a favorite resort for destination weddings and honeymoons. At times they can run four weddings in one day. They have a lovely garden location and one on the beach and we saw two weddings while we were there. Destination weddings have become a wonderful option for many couples, especially in these hard economic times. It is a very low-cost option compared to the many thousands of dollars one might spend on a traditional wedding and honeymoon.
Preparation for a traditional wedding and honeymoon can take many months and create lots of stress in the young couples lives. A destination wedding, however, is easy and the details are often handled by the hotel and their staff. The happy couple only has to send out the invitations, recommend the travel agent who will handle the bookings for their guests and the they only needs to pack their bags for their trip to an exotic location. Many couples will extend their stay and enjoy their honeymoon there as well, saving them even more money.
I believe one of the nice things about going to Dreams is that it is an all-inclusive resort. What does that mean? Well just what you think it would mean, once you pay for your vacation back home, you won’t have to pay for anything else, except any options excursions or gifts you might purchase there. Food, drinks, both soft and hard, are included. Even the contents of the mini-bar in your room, stocked with popular soft drinks and beer is part of your package.
Take a moment now to watch our video of Dreams and then continue to read my comments on this great resort.
You see that Dreams is immaculate. I mean clean, not a speck of dirt, debris, dead plant leaves, plastic water bottles or anything on the floors or grounds of the hotel. The rooms are spotless with turn down service and fresh towels in the evening. Usually when we go to any of the tropical resorts we have visited we usually found unwanted insect or lizards in our rooms or on the grounds. I can tell you there were none here. No bugs to bother you at the beach or pool. Not crawlies in the rooms either. Considering the tropical environment, we either picked the right time of the year, or Punta Cana is the ultimate destination.
I am a nut for details and I tend to notice the little things. Maybe being a photographer gives me that critical eye. Dreams pays special attention to those little details too. Sitting by the pool you will find comfortable lounge chairs and plenty of them. Their pool was voted the best pool in the Caribbean and you will understand why when you spend some time in it. The pool has a sufficient amount of inflatable and rubber floating rafts for their guests, so jump on one and simply enjoy a relaxing cool ride down the “river”. The pool is only three feet deep in all parts, so it is not meant for olympic divers or swimmers, but rather for the families, newlyweds and singles that want to relax.
Although they do have an exercise area for those that must work out each day, it is small and will cost an extra fee to join the club during your stay. Frankly, with all the other activities, I would prefer to be outside enjoying the many free water sports, archery, rifle range (they don’t use real bullets) and other activities including water and pool side aerobics.
There is always something to do at Dreams. You can eat almost non-stop here too. From the huge buffet with fresh food each day to the wonderful brick oven pizza I had almost every day at lunch time. There is something for everyone and I can assure you, you won’t go hungry. They also have four specialty restaurants, but frankly, we preferred the wide selection of foods and the quality of the food at the buffet.
For guest that love top shelf drinks from the best imported and domestic beers to fine wines and liquors, they will find the membership in their Preferred Club worth the extra cost.
You can hang out with your friends in the Preferred Clubs lounge. Take a break from the pool or beach and read your favorite newspaper or check your emails or stocks on their free computers. If you didn’t get enough to eat or just want to stop into their club for a continental breakfast, day time snack or prefer an ocean view room, they can usually satisfy you as a Preferred Club member. If you join the club during your stay, please make sure to say hello to Vanessa Disla their club manager and tell her you read our article.
I don’t drink anything other than water, iced tea or an occassional Coke Light. My wife however, enjoys a glass of wine at dinner and maybe one Mohito at the pool. So for us drinking was not really a factor anywhere we go. I am a pool guy too and sitting by the pool watching their entertainment staff do just that, entertain us, was just fine with me. We even had an opportunity to purchase some nice native goodies one day, as local vendors were invited in to show us their wares.
We also loved the ladies that would cut up fresh mangos, pineapples and other fruits for us to eat poolside or on the beach. If you like hamburgers and hot dogs and light fare for lunch, you don’t have to leave the pool or the beach, they will hook you up at either location. Still hungry? hit the buffet at almost any hour and eat some more.
Many hotels have nothing to do when the sun goes down, but at Dreams there is still plenty to do in the evening. Dreams offers their entertainment in an expansive theater, or entertainment area. From magic shows to local entertainment and of course the many shows using their guests as participants, one can spend a pleasant evening after a long day in the sun. Don’t expect multi-million dollar productions as you see on some of the cruise ships, but do expect to be entertained each evening.
Now if you miss the old drive in movies, Dreams has a nice lawn movie theater where you can sit on comfortable chairs and watch some of the latest movies on their giant projection screen and of course the bar with free drinks is right behind you.
Do you love to gamble? It is small, it is nice and it will quench your thirst to try your luck, yup it is the Dreams Casino.
I lost a few hands at Black Jack, but leave it to my wife to not only cover my losses, but even win a few bucks at roulette.
Now lets say you want to take some day adventures in Punta Cana. Well just visit any one of their day excursion desks and book the trip or activity you want. You can even do it before you go and pay for it months ahead of your trip. This is a great way to do this and you won’t have to deal with the costs while on vacation. I hate to have to keep dipping into my pocket when I go away, I want to relax and don’t want to think about what things will cost me while on vacation. So if you are like me, check with your travel agent or Apple Vacations and see what they have to offer when you first make your reservations.
If you are not sure, then wait and at the hotel there are a number of desks that offer all sorts of great excursions. If you love adventure, try the ATV (four-wheel all terrain vehicle) excursions into some of the many sugar cane fields on the island. Prefer to take a tour in a Monster Truck or Outback Safari, well they will show you around the island traveling along back country roads, crossing rivers, streams and sugar cane fields. Maybe you prefer to take a horseback ride along the beach, no problem. If you are up for it, you might enjoy the Zip Line Adventure. This tour consists of 11 platforms and 10 Zip Lines stretched across the length of the mountain range throughout 1 mile. If you have the budget, the spirit and the time, check these and other excursions available.
If you have the time and want to rent a car, you can visit another popular tourist attraction Altos de Chavon in La Romana. It is near Casa de Campo which is about an hour and a half drive from Punta Cana. Altos de Chavon is a re-creation of a medieval European village conceived from the imagination of Roberto Copa, a former Paramount Studios set designer, and Charles Bluhdorn. You can take a tour of a cigar factory, cruise down the Chavon River, or even visit the Caves of Wonder with stalagmites and stalactites surround you.
Dreams is a great choice for families too with a full Explorer’s Club dedicated to the children. Although we didn’t have an opportunity to visit the club, we did see lots of children playing on all sorts of cool equipment and they all seemed to be having a wonderful time.
I think the one thing I liked most was the people of Punta Cana and especially the staff at Dreams. As we walked through the property or through the resort itself and we passed one of their staff, we were greeted with a big Olla (the most used form of saying hello in Spanish).
The people are so friendly, will do anything to please a guest and truly are happy you are sharing some time with them.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Vanessa Disla. Vanessa was or contact and the Preferred Club manage and she and her staff helped us dine at the various restaurants on the property and helped me with the some of the information I needed for this article. Margarita and Vanessa, two great ladies, that became our friends in only a few short days.
On our last day we had an opportunity to sit with Yann Laguillou, Dreams General Manager. We have met many hotel managers, cruise ship hotel managers and other travel executives, but Mr. Laguillou impressed me. He was of course warm and friendly as were all the people we met there, but he was truly interested in what we had to say. We didn’t love their Asian restaurant and felt it just didn’t really taste like authentic Asian food, well he promised to have a meeting with this staff and fix it.
We suggested that Dreams follow the cruise lines lead and offer their guests a Gourmet Dining option at one of their restaurants. Most people don’t mind paying a small additional fee for exceptional service, atmosphere and food. After all or most of the major ships now offer this dining experience and have found that many guests love it. I know we gladly spend the $25 per person charge to enjoy a seven course gourmet meal that we rarely have an opportunity to enjoy at home. I suggested they add this gourmet meal to the Preferred Club’s list of benefits as well, thus adding extra value to the program.
Since we generally understand how to tip when we travel, we noticed many guests do not. Dreams was a good example of people not knowing what do to. We overheard some asking others…”do you leave a tip, or is it included?” If you asked the staff, they might tell you, but they get a bit embarrassed and don’t seem to know how to answer this question. We always ask the front desk on arrival what the customs are regarding tipping and usually get a straight answer. .
In America, I tip 20% on restaurant bill and in other countries, based on the economy and the customs, of that country will adjust my tips accordingly. It is important to ask what the customary tips are and then decide if you want to give more for special services you receive. On a cruise ship, they not only give you a tip guide on the last day, but even supply the envelopes.
Now the Dreams staff would never dare say anything to you about a tip, but we saw how happy the small gratuity we left at the table, made the staff feel. They couldn’t thank us enough and it made us feel really good giving them the tips.
Important Travel Tip: Go to the bank and get stack of $1 bills. This will make it so much easier to tip everyone from the red caps in the airport to the people who take care of you at a resort.
If you do go to Dreams or any resort, remember the people who take care of you and support their efforts. At Dreams we found that leaving a dollar per person for breakfast or lunch at the table was appreciated. At dinner, in one of their restaurants, we would leave $2 per person for the waiter and $1 per person for the bus person. In the Asian Restaurant we gave our Hibachi chef $3 and the waiter $4 for the two of us.
If musicians come over to play a song for you, give them $2. At the pool or on the beach if you order drinks at your chairs and expect to order more than one from the same person, give them a couple of dollars per person. Bellman and room service $1 per bag with a minimum of $3-$5 on check in or check out. Remember to leave at least $2 per night for your room service as well (family rooms with more then one bed, add to this number). For 7 nights, leave $14-$15 dollars, the maid will appreciate it.
Remember, in the United States or in other countries, the tips can be 15-20% of the value of a meal and you can average $20-$30 per day or more in tips for other services. If you do what I have suggested it cost you under $10 per day per person at Dreams.
Today the resorts and cruise ships have many similarities in their all-inclusive operations and clients. In my mind, Dreams offers better value by including drinks in their inclusive package. On a ship you will pay for your drinks and many other extras, including things you consume from the mini-bar in your stateroom. This can amount to a fifty to a hundred dollars per day per couple. Do the math yourself and compute the cost of a couple of bottles of wine at your meals, a number of mixed drinks and sodas during the day and evenings and see what number you reach.
Liquor and soft drinks are a big profit center for the cruise lines and it can easily add up at the end of a weeks cruise. Remember you also have to tip on those drinks too. Now subtract that potential cost from your stay at Dreams and you will understand the great value in staying there.
Please visit Dreams and let them know you heard about them on our website. We truly appreciate the support and courtesy they have shown us in the production of our video and this review.
If you would like to book your stay at Dreams, feel free to contact Gladys at Travel Pavilion and she can make all the arrangements for you.