I am not much the world traveler. When the kids were young, all our vacations were Domestically oriented. It was simpler, more affordable, easier to manage with kiddies.
That will hopefully change a bit now that Carol and I are entering (almost) Empty Nest Syndrome. My better half has the leg up so far, enjoying several south-of-the-border vacations with a friend. But if they are having this much fun, I may smarten up and start following her around more.
For our 30th anniversary (October 2015) we promised ourselves a nice tropical trip; and finally decided to book an Apple Vacation to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic with another couple with whom we have vacationed with the last few years. For me, it’s been awhile that I hit the Jamaican beaches on our honeymoon.
A long time ago … in a land far, far away …
We left in late September, returning in the first week of October. More on that experience and our closer-than-comfortable proximity to Matthew later.
Being a neophyte at international vacationing, I prefer Simple over Elaborate; so chosing an All-Inclusive route fits my emergent needs perfectly. Our choice was Barceló Bavarro Beach, an adults only all-inclusive situated within a larger, free-range resort complete with family oriented and other less-inclusive … I assume … options.
To rate the experience as one of our Best Vacations Ever is no overstatement!
The Barceló Group is a family owned Spanish tourism company founded over 85 years ago. Employing 23,000 people at 100 hotels in 19 countries and 685 travel agencies in 22 nations, they really have their act together! Despite that I had never heard of them before last week. Now they top the list as my favorite international resort. (Yes, as mentioned, it’s a small sample size.)
The accommodations were very good, given the great idea to upgrade our package to the Premium Club, that – among other benefits – gave us an ocean-front view. The upgrade allowed for dinner at all the resort’s restaurants; provided discounts on excursions; and access to other limited-access amenities.
The resort staff were nothing if not exceptionally friendly and obliging. The resort was spotless and comfortably appointed. The adult beverage stations were convenient; the service friendly, generous, and – most times – quick.
The food was good, not great; although the resort’s best restaurants (Kyoto Japanese, La Comidie French) made for memorable meal experiences. Skip México Lindo and the Sante Fe Steakhouse establishments. The El Coral Restaurant (seafood) and La Dolcé Vita (Italian) were also very good. We heard Le Fuente (Spanish menu) was excellent, but we missed that one.
The breakfast and lunch buffets were good, clean, and nourishing. But you know buffets … Timing is everything! Almost everywhere the meal wait staff was friendly and attentive.
Yet … It was a trip we almost did not make.
Attempt #1 … Scheduled for June originally, we had to push the trip back a few months due to one of our – ahem – less youthful companions ripping a vital tendon while playing power forward with “less experienced” individuals.
Attempt #2 … Scheduled for the very end of September through the first week in October (“That’s hurricane season, ya know.”, I helpfully added at the time.) drew near just as Category 1 (soon-to-be-a-4 ) Hurricane Matthew drew near to the southern Caribbean. The night before the scheduled participants (all with intact tendons) debated the Probabilities, Possible Outcomes, and Risks until eventually concluding we all really, really needed many fruity drinks in a clothing-minimizing locale and “To Hell with …” caution. (And it was going to cost too much to change!)
That evening Matthew passed to the south of the D.R., then spent a few days nagging the northern coast of South America … and growing in strength before heading north. Much more fortunately for us than the good people of Jamaica, Haiti, and Cuba, Matthew threw us nothing more than a day and a half of rain. It was not even enough to keep us from doing what activities we had already scheduled.
The excursions and packages we took advantage of were …
- Snorkeling & Booze Cruise (A+ … Look for a separate blog post later.)
- Dolphin Discovery (A)
- Couples Massage (A+++ … Will touch on this also at great personal risk.)
Of course, one does not need the expensive (but honestly well worth the price) excursions to have an entertaining time! Barceló Punta Cana has much to offer without leaving the friendly confines of the resort. There’s golf, a casino, a discotheque, a bowling alley, miniature golf, water parks for both young children and adults, several live show venues and offerings (Most of these were a bit corny and amateurish.), Dolphin Island (We chose to go off-campus for our experience.), tons of shopping opportunities, a sports bar, and daily activities on the beach and in the pools.
The beach itself is a beautiful spot, yet we only spent parts of two days there. Most of our resort “downtime” was spent in the pools, fountains, and walk-up/swim-up bars. There is plenty of shaded areas for the sun-adverse, like me. You really cannot beat the quiet relaxation of the pools on the adult-only side of the resort. And if you want more noise while enjoying the refreshing waters, head over to Barceló Palace, the center of the resort, where most of the action takes place, including the swim-up pool bar!
In my humble, inexperienced opinion, you would really have to struggle to not have a grand time at Barceló Punta Cana!