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The truth about all inclusive Hotels in Dominican Republic

 

Recently (november 2012) we went to a hotel in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and we got to see first hand what the “all-inclusive” deals are all about. We stayed at the Sirenis Cocotal Resort, visited other hotels and compared notes with other tourists on the way out. What we found left us with a bitter sweet after taste. From arrival to departure there are mixed feelings about the “All-Inclusive” vacation deals.

 

When we arrived everything went smooth at the airport and the transition to the bus that took us to our hotel. The Blue Travel team was excellent and professional. They even stopped on the way so that we may take a break and check souvenirs at local prices. The only bad thing is that in order to get a cheap deal on the trip (under $600.00) sometimes you have to go to an airport that might be more than two hours and a half away (without traffic). The landscape is beautiful until you arrive to local towns where the traffic caos and poverty makes contrast with other realities like car dealers selling cars for three times their actual value. It is quiet scary to deal with motorcycles crossing wildly while other drivers use the highway as if there were no lanes passing each other in a frightening valet at speeds over 70MPH and inches from each other.
Cocotal Sirenis 1

When you arrive at the hotel you are greeted and attended very professionally. The check-in happens smoothly. When we got to our room we noticed quiet a difference between how beautiful the premises of the hotel looked and how basic and poorly maintained our room was. Then we went to check the rest of the hotel and scout the facilities. The Sirenis is designed to make everyone access the beach and other areas via a large trail that connects all buildings. Here is where the fun begins. It happens that almost every hotel in Dominican Republic that sustains an “all-inclusive” operation is actually a vacation villa or timeshare business. The way they sustain their amazing staff is by having them to live at the hotel, work more than 10 hours a day and sometimes perform more than one job for little pay. Dominicans are hard working, polite and professional people when it come to Tourism. On the other hand the hotels have people that get payed by a point system. Their goal is to convince you to take tours and to take the famous 90 minutes brief on the VIP vacation plan or Timeshare opportunities. Not exactly what you wanted for a vacation. Most of us go on vacation so that we won’t have to worry about daily annoying things like Telemarketers. Well, get ready because that is exactly what you will get. They will be on your case every time you move around the hotel and even when you are enjoying some quiet time at the beach, sitting under a palm tree. We got called early in the morning the second day we got there to remind us that there was a briefing the next day.

 

Another thing that you must be ready for, are the shows. This events are sometimes designed to bring randomly selected patrons and make them do ridiculous things. If you are not into being everyones’ laugh then be careful about your show choices. The entertainment off the hotel can be very expensive sometimes. In comparison with what I have experienced in Puerto Rico, diving in Dominican Republic can be extremely expensive and the bottoms are not that great. Hotel based tours can be quiet expensive as well. It is best to look for other independent tour companies.
Show Sirenis 

In the process of seeking entertainment we found the new Hard Rock Hotel. From the moment we entered the lobby we realized that this hotel set the bar really high. The hotel was not only Vegas like, it was an entire city. Compared to the Sirenis we can say that the Sirenis fits easily three times in the Hard Rock’s land. The illumination was exquisite and the environment was exactly what we were hoping for. We had the opportunity to see a full fashion show at the lobby’s hallway. The runway was set as a “T” and we still had more than enough room to walk around the show. Again! When it comes to service, Dominicans are amazing.

 

On the way back we had our near misses in the road and on the way we spoke with other tourists. They stayed at a more expensive hotel but they reported that the sales men harassment was the same. The difference was that when it came to entertainment they had more choices. The lesson for us was clear. These cheap all-inclusive vacation plans are not everything yo hope. Even though the you might save some money in the process you must be willing to put up with the harassment of the system. We learned that if you want to go through the process you might want to spend and extra couple of bucks and get a room at a top hotel. Make sure that you search for tours before you get there because hotel based services are expensive and to top it all, you might want to hide the annoying bracelets they give you to identify you as a tourist. Just because you wear them, people try to jack up the prices. It’s like a flag that says “I am a rich and dumb tourist, you may charge me as much money as you want”. Also avoid Dominican four day weekends. Some hotels make special deals and all of a sudden you may end up having a cluttered hotel. In ours we had a surge of over 2000 locals and even going to the buffet was difficult since the hotel was not ready to handle so many patrons. We learned that The staffs are made of hard working, honest professionals that are ill paid.





Salto Limón, Dominican Republic

Many Islands in the Caribbean have waterfalls and adventurous places but one worth mentioning is the Salto del Limón (Lemon Jump) Waterfall. This beautiful natural wonder is located in a mountain zone in Samaná, Dominican Republic. To get to this place you must first find a Trail Guide. Going on horseback is absolutely recommended. The ride takes you through some rough terrain and a gorgeous river crossing. Once you get to a mountaintop there is a shack with handcrafted souvenirs for sale. At this point you get the choice to look at the waterfall from the hilltop or go down the hill to get up close and personal with it. This is the point you’ll thank me for advising you to take the horse ride. The environment is refreshing once you get close to the water and the spectacle is amazing. Once back and depending on the guiding team you might enjoy a typical dinner included in the cost of your horseback trip.

Going to the Island offer a lot opportunities to experience gorgeous natural features. The Salto del Limón is a natural spring that comes from the top of the mountain where the waterfall is. One thing worth mentioning also is the fact that while you take the horse ride the Guides are on foot and they make this trip many times a day. It’s a long trip for the horse, which usually stop at the river crossing point to drink water. Now imagine the conditions these tour guides have to endure. It is a great idea to offer a tip. It will be appreciated.

Salto Limon

 

Visiting Nevis

 

Among all the islands that share the Caribbean waters there is a little island many miss while searching through the map. Nevis is the sister island to St. Kitts and it is the home to few great hotels and a lot of nice people. Among the hotels you may find the Four Seasons and a small but interesting hotel called the Mount Nevis Hotel. There are two ways to get to this land, by boat from St. Kitts or by air to Nevis airport. Either way the trip to the hotels is relatively short. If you stay in the north or west end of the island you will get to see the St. Kitts island view only three miles away. For a better sight you may hike the Nevis Mountain but be ready to find all the traits of island living along the rout. The towns are relatively small and peaceful.

During our visit we got to stay at the Mount Nevis hotel, which is conveniently located next to the airport and has an amazing view.  During our stay I was able to walk around and see landmarks and wildlife that made the short hike quite interesting. Some monkeys roamed around and some birds joined my for breakfast. Most of the vehicles and buildings are quite colorful. The Nevis Mountain is usually covered with clouds but the valleys and shoreline are usually sunny with a light see breeze.

I found that Nevis is a great place for Diving and dinning. There are several Dive Tours companies and the food is great. As a matter of fact the hotel’s chef was full of surprises. Every day I looked forward to have lunch and Dinner at the hotel since the meals were prepared with exquisite touch and grace. Between the appetizer and the main course the chef would serve a treat that got me wanting more every time.

The facilities were spacious and comfortable. I would suggest this hotel to relax, spend a honeymoon and just get away from the city life. I must thank the management of Mount Nevis Hotel for all the assistance received.

Nevis pics


Cozumel

If you are looking into visting mexico but without the city feeling this is the Island for you. Cozumel is an island that belongs to Mexico and is withing territorial waters. The main land can be seen from the shore. Although it might not look very impressive as you make your way through the town once you reach the costal are it is great. There is a main avenue where you will find everything you need to have a good time. During the day you might want to take a ride in a horse carriage or go shopping for suveneirs. There are many acuatic activities you can do. Whatever you might do during the day make sure you use sunblock and you might even consider buying one of the "sombreros". At night the mood changes into party mode. It is amazing what good tequila can do. The hotel acomodations were nice and the people are very friendly. We recommend Cozumel for single and young couples looking for a safe and fun time.

 Cozumel