Impressions of Jamaica

Pano-view of the main Sandals South Coast pool

 

This was our second trip to the beautiful island of Jamaica.  Our first was full 32+ years ago, in October 1985, on our honeymoon.  For that memorable experience we luxuriated at a resort then known as EDEN II in Ocho Rios on the north shore of the island.  Unconfirmed rumor had EDEN II (which we honeymooners were told stood for Every Day Every Night Twice) destroyed during Hurricane Gilbert. Further research – however – showed it had been a Sandals resort (Dunns River), then was renovated and reopened as Jewel Dunns River Resort & Spa (Hilton Hotels and Resorts).

A return trip to Ocho Rios would have been nice, and maybe someday we will.  But for this trip, a birthday excursion for two women who are very close friends, the group decided on a Sandals resort in Whitehouse (Sandals South Coast).  It couldn’t have been a better choice … with the exception of a little weather.

The Jamaicans were all too willing to admit that their wet, rainy season runs roughly from mid-April to mid-June.  It was apparent that we skirted a potential washout of a vacation (Dates of stay: May 1- 8, 2018), but we lucked out.  We experienced only one washout day during our 7-night stay and one very wet evening.  Not bad really since the rest of our time there was sunny and humid with occasional dark clouds that did not always produce rain.  Truly minor inconveniences that gave us the opportunity to work on our bar tans!

We did everything we wanted to (or not), and received all the sun we could handle.

The Sandals South Coast resort is phenomenal, although I imagine during the height of tourism season it could feel a bit crowded.  Our stay was considered “off-season”.

The Sandals property is not big enough to require motor transit (as we experienced at Barceló’s Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic).  Small enough to walk comfortably anywhere, the South Coast was an exceptional experience.  Nine restaurants, seven full-service bars (one out over the ocean), two swim-up bars (always a Big Plus!), four pools, unlimited water sports, top-shelf liquor, on-site spa, and shopping plaza.

img_0226For me, a man of modest needs and even modest-er desires to spend a vacation being active and adventuresome, Sandals was a perfect environment!  Extremely relaxing, plenty of space (at least during off-season) to enjoy the sun (Recommend early as possible poolside lounge chair claims!), adequate bar capacity and locations, excellent food (only one meal of questionable quality … Make sure you hit The Jerk Shack for lunch!), wonderful and friendly hosts, excellent spa (Red Lane), and well-appointed rooms.

Downers:  One disappointment was that our “beachfront room” was a beach/pool view, which did not front on any beach.  Quality of evening entertainment (We were told new acts were being broken in.), although the Silver Birds steel drum band is an act you absolutely MUST SEE!  Room service is reserved for only the top-shelf (i.e. $$$$$) accommodations.  The quality of meal with the special beach-side romantic dinner was not worth the price, though the service was excellent.  Make sure that “beach front” room you reserve is an actual beach-front room.

We left Jamaica with varying impressions on our second trip to the island.

People:  Definitely my most favorite part of vacationing in Jamaica (besides the beauty and wealth of adult libations) were the Jamaicans themselves. It’s practically impossible to walk past a Jamaican without expecting some sort of genuine “I love Life” encounter or leaving their presence without a smile or a laugh.  Almost everyone seems happy, content, and more than willing to spread the cheer around!  Given that Tourism is a crucial column in the Jamaican economy and in the quality-of-life, so the people you encounter tend to grasp the importance of being welcoming and accommodating.  Yet the genuine reactions and positive attitudes gives one the impression that tropical living promotes a most agreeable mindset in those who live there.

 

Peaceful waters and verdant hills

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Beauty:  I imagine somewhere I have yet to visit rivals Jamaica for its verdant scenery and peaceful beaches.  I found that I can stare endlessly at the Jamaican countryside … the mountains, blue-green water, vegetation, people, beaches, etc. … in complete bliss.  The mountains in particular provide a rich colorful background to everything on the island.

chinese-jamaicaRoads:  Our trip over the mountains from Montego Bay to Whitehouse made the Spring roads in my little slice of eastern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania appear merely “blemished” in comparison.  Hard to believe that such a warm, welcoming climate can create so many potholes and road canyons!  However, it was an eye-opener to learn that the Chinese are making HUGE infrastructure investment in Jamaica.  The one major highway project we saw was being financed completely by China who apparently employed contractors from neighboring Korea to manage construction!

Economics:  Cursory observation indicates that Jamaicans are probably better off economically that say those in the Dominican Republic, which we visited in October 2016.  The DR seemed much more impoverished in larger swaths than those in the part of Jamaica we saw.  Certainly, you do see some blight and destitute conditions, but it doesn’t seem nearly as prevalent as I observed in the Punta Cana area of the DR.

Drug Wars:  On our first trip to Jamaica in 1985, one of the first things we noticed on our two-hour trip from Montego Bay to Ocho Rios were the presence of telephone poles planted at angles to the ground on any field of reasonable size.  We were told those poles were intended to prevent the landing of drug-smuggling planes, looking to load up before heading to destinations to the north.  Thirty years later, and I saw none anywhere.  In 2015 Jamaica legalized medical marijuana with a bill so vague it has resulted in de facto legalization.  Naturally, it also eliminated much of the criminal element – and the crime – from marijuana cultivation and distribution.

In the end, I enjoyed my second trip to Jamaica almost as much as the first.  Remember though, we were honeymooning the first time (*wink wink*)!  I would not hesitate to take another Jamaican vacation, and Sandals would certainly be a short-list option.  Between north coast Jamaica and south coast, I would have a very difficult time picking one over the other.

If you get the chance, enjoy Jamaica wherever you decide to go!

Our poolside room view was supposed to be “beachfront” (-10).

Couples Massage Redux, Mon!

Our first experience in the stately art of the Couples Massage was a happening just 18 months ago during a memorable trip to Punta Cana in the beautiful Dominican Republic.  We so thoroughly enjoyed that initial experience, we made a point of scheduling one for our most recent trip to Sandals South Coast at Whitehouse, Jamaica!

This trip intended to celebrate milestone birthdays for Carol and her BFF.  And no, I will not be revealing the specific milestone in the desire to preserve my physical and mental health!

For this Couples Experience we would be in the good … uh … hands of the fine people of Jamaica.  No problems, mon!

As with any comparison, there are obvious and subtle differences, which can render comparisons somewhat unfair.  The most obvious differences were as follows:

  • Sandals SC:  a verdant and fragrant bungalow-type structure in a quiet section of the resort ;  Barceló PC: a somewhat sterile looking storefront in a large retail and restaurant complex in the middle of the resort
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    Red Lane Spa at Sandals South Coast (Jamaica)

  • Sandals SC:  common area in a centralized court for post-massage libations and quiet time and communal Jacuzzi and shock pool available for use any time; Barceló PC:  secluded private personal courtyard with bottle champagne and shock pool (i.e. shock as in damn cold!) with communal Jacuzzi, shock pools, swim pool and shade pool available for use any time
  • Atmosphere:  Advantage Sandals SC; Post-massage amenities: Advantage Barceló PC

As for me, I took a significantly different approach to my second couples experience.  The first time, I opted for Modesty, keeping my bathing suit on for our massage.  I was glad I did since my male counterpart was politely requested to don a “banana hammock” when he went au naturel!

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Red Lane treatment room similar to ours

My curiosity in this regard would give any cat a case of the heebee-jeebees. And yet I decided to go the Full Monty, arriving in nothing but the simple, yet comfortable robe provided.  I was relieved when I was not asked to “hammock up”!  Relieved because I doubt the massage would have been as enjoyable with Carol’s hysterical laughing.

Carol was a bit surprised to see me sans all Decorative Trappings of Modest Society.  But at least she held her laughter.  On the other hand I was a bit perplexed by her decision to retain a strategic piece of undergarment.

My Jamaican masseuse – on the other hand – did not skip a beat, although she discreetly conducted a tactile “undies check” through the sheet that was thinly covering my caboose.  During the massage, she ensured continued discretion through the strategic use of sheeting whenever she asked me to reposition.

Too be honest, I was a bit surprised at how things progressed once my lack of drapery was noted. I was betting on the area just south of the equator being completely avoided.

Boy, was I wrong!

The Jamaicans are nothing if not prepared for anything.

Instead of the entire Equator being tactfully avoided, only the Bermuda Triangle and Death Valley ended up being “no fly zones”!

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The central courtyard where post-massage recovery is fragrance-filled.

Afterwards we were provided with privacy and the chance to use a rather large and roomy shower.  Then it was out to the central courtyard where fragrant flowers, muted sunlight, and comfortable benches awaited.  Adult libations were served in the form of fruit-blended champagne.  The environment was heavenly.

To say the entire experience was enjoyable and relaxing is a gross understatement.  Although the exfoliation of the feet and lower legs – included at Barceló PC – was not part of the Sandals SC treatment, our Jamaican couple’s massage was slightly more enjoyable. (This is my own personal opinion, likely the result of surface area covered by the Hands of Jamaica!)

Differences in facilities and the extent of treatments are to be expected.  The important constant is the pleasure and relaxing nature of enjoying a sensuous massage with your significant other.

Don’t miss out should you have the opportunity!

Home Sweet … OH C’MON!!

anger-management-1058x426Have I mentioned I don’t like to travel???

I enjoy the “being there” part and the “being back” part, although that depends on where the “being there” was.  Down the Shore is a good “being there”.  So are places like Punta Cana.  Certainly our latest “being there” in Southern California for two-plus glorious, temps-above-average weeks was way up on the Being There list!

My problem is the Coming and Going parts.  Let’s face it.  They are too stress-laden to be enjoyable.  I look at the comings and goings as akin to being forced to into temporary displacement with everything you own – minus all your normal creature comforts – strapped to your back.

The stress is magnified if you travel with a Type A spouse, where packing and the priority-laden questions resemble D-Day invasion planning, where the pace turns frenetic in the 4-5 days prior to H-Hour, and nerves are Type-A frayed.

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I warned you!

Add small children for Volcano Effect!

The “being back” part is almost always good …

Almost always …

Anyways … Our California trip was a blast.  Organized around the wedding of a West Coast nephew to a very lovely girl in the vineyard country of Temecula, California.  More on this in later posts …

Great time, incredible weather, quality family opportunities, plenty to see and do!  And then – inevitably – the Being There runs it course; and it’s time to be back.

More stress …

Our travel West went surprisingly well, including an LAX pickup one native described as, “The smoothest EVER!”  (Sorry about the “native” reference, Pat.  But I’m on a roll …)

No way the trip back East could go that well, right?

  • 0700  Airport commute in the Los Angeles area?  A little slow, but anticipated.
  • Check-in at LAX: Perfect (Southwest Airlines has excellent curbside check-in staff and get the TSA pre-check)
  • Gate Pushback:  On-time
  • Plane change at Midway Airport, Chicago:  Also on-time and smooth
  • Arrival at PHL:  Also on-time and COLD!
  • Parking Shuttle Pick-up:  Stunningly well-timed (like walking-out-of-the-terminal-and-here-we-are well-timed!)
  • Personal auto parked for two weeks outside a Sheraton?  Started like a champ!
  • Ride home:  Piece of cake
  • Walk into the House … IT’S FREEZING FREAKIN’ COLD!!  50° in-house temp!  Not a single burp out of the heater …

How is that possible?!?  Four-year old gas-heated, blown air unit with nary a problem.

Did I mention it was 80° when we left California??

Couple shivering with broken furnace

Ever get home from a Being There wanting to do nothing more than tossing your bags at the bottom of the steps and watching TV before going to bed??  Ever lived with a Type A personality, who was tired, stressed, AND COLD all at the same time?!?  Not fun …

Took me until 1600 hrs the next day to get professional help (the heater kind, not the mental kind) after spending the morning replacing the thermostat, which only partially worked.

And you wonder why I don’t like to travel.

 

Generation CPAP

cpap-benefitsI have finally given in.

After years of pain and discomfort (Carol’s pain and discomfort, not mine) I was finally convinced by my bed co-inhabitant to seek the help SHE needed!  The dreaded CPAP

OK … Sleep Apnea is not really a funny issue, unless you try to make it one.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a serious issue.  For most people it can manifest in a number of ways that most people might assume result from just a poor night’s sleep.  Sleepiness during the day, irritability, morning headaches, even frequent bedtime trips to the bathroom are some of the innocuous signs that something is messing with your sleep.

But it can be much, much more dangerous, as sleep apnea is also capable of triggering strokes and cardiac arrest.  In the worst cases, it can even cause death!

Interestingly enough, my symptoms included one not listed in most information on the condition.  I would constantly be jarred awake by sharp, stabbing pains in my ribs.

Carol has Gary Dornhoefer elbows!

Simmonds style best exemplifies Gary Dornhoefer

Flyers great Gary Dornhoefer

And those occurrences are perhaps the biggest reason to seek treatment.  No one looks forward to the constant … uh … verbal encouragements of one’s wife … Constant, persistent, never-ending encouragements to get something done.  Yet I was remarkably resilient in resisting those provocations!

I was NOT going to be wearing one of those obnoxious, intrusive facemasks and try to sleep while connected by tubes to a loud screeching machine!  Not me …

And so Life and wife have a way of “encouraging” compromises.

The Light came on for me when I noticed an increased difficulty in staying sufficiently alert during the day, despite my daily lunchtime catnap habit.  The Light became a glaring accusation once I found myself nodding off driving home from work.

The first step in resolving a problem is recognizing you have one … or actually listening to the one constantly, persistently trying to convince you that you have one.

So what I learned was both interesting and frightening.  My at-home testing revealed that I was experiencing an apnea episode, where breathing is obstructed by the throat’s soft palate,  7-8 times an HOUR!  And that – I was assured – was not nearly as bad as the worst cases, which can occur up to 30 times or more an hour!

The really scary part is that you can actually stop breathing.  Carol would tell me of listening to me stop breathing for seemingly long stretches and then convulsing in fits of guttural hacking.  Of course I challenged her to show me.

25758101Sleep apnea tends to occur in adults who are overweight (check … but only slightly!).  But it can occur in anyone, at any age … even children can develop it.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and the one for which I am being treated.  Central Sleep Apnea is neurological in nature, where the brain fails to send correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Although I have no data to back this up, I was also told that a high percentage of men with necks requiring shirt collars sized 17 and up are more susceptible to obstructive sleep apnea.  In addition, a large percentage of unwitting sufferers with partners possessing sharp pointy elbows are more likely to seek treatment, if – for no other reason – than ending that constant, persistent spousal “encouragement”.

Anatomy-of-Obstructive-Sleep-Apnea

What most surprised me was the effectiveness and relative unobtrusive nature of CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) treatments.  The machine I was provided (ResMed AirSense 10 … roughly $190. co-pay from my healthcare planMarried-Sleeping-Concept-300x300) is much quieter than I expected, having heard nightmare about noisy contraptions rivaling window air conditioners in ruling the nighttime environment.  The masks used to provide the CPAP benefit come in three styles ranging from full mouth and nose cover to simple nasal pillows (the ones I use) that nestle snuggly against the nostrils.  No need to be limited to full, intrusive face masks!

After three months of use, I have to admit I am sleeping better; maintaining wakefulness longer; and making fewer trips to the bathroom at night.

Now everyone is happier, and my bruised ribs are finally healing!

 

 

 

 

The Problem with Women in Medicine

B2GjpG6CQAATYc7Now before the Politically Correct legions on the internet break out the Tar & Feathers, I am not suggesting that women are necessarily bad for the American Health System.  On the other hand, recent experiences suggest that women seem to have a YUGE gap in one aspect of practicing medicine in a society where – last time I checked – males comprise roughly half the patient population.

Now this problem likely will not manifest should you be a male below the age of 10 or should you suffer from chronic or debilitative disease.  No, the problem is much more pronounced if you are a relatively healthy male simply in need of temporary care for any number of Life’s more manageable maladies.

The problem?  A significant deficit in Compassion!

Allow me to demonstrate with a few recent examples.

Over a recent stretch of 7-10 days I was afflicted with an annoying – but manageable – sinus infection.  No big deal, right?  But I just could not get rid of it.  So after missing a day of work due to lack of sleep from a nagging, hacking cough, I decided to seek the assistance of the American Health System.

After making an afternoon appointment, I announced to my wife of 31 … oops … 32 years of my desire to make a doctor’s appointment .  Carol – a Neonatal nurse for years and years – helpfully offered to accompany me.  Despite my selfless insistence that her presence was not necessary, I acquiesced to her rather persistent interest in my well-being.

That was Mistake #1 …

Nurse-PractitionersDue to the immediacy of my condition, I was unable to see my regular physician – a male, I might add – but was completely satisfied with being place in the care of a Nurse Practitioner.  When admitted to your typical patient treatment room, we were joined by the NP (whose name will be protected regardless of her crappy bedside manner) followed by her shadowing medical student … also female, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As I launched into a brief synopsis of my symptoms and answering a few pertinent questions specific to the outbreak, my lovely wife felt compelled to add a rather over-dramatized version of my more audible coughing plus her preliminary diagnosis (“just a cold”), along with a completely unnecessary portrayal of my “needy behavior” during the peak of my critical debilitation.  That’s when the NP turned to Carol and said, “Oh … He has the Man flu!”

home-postThe room broke down into spasms of hilarity.  Well, most of it anyway …

I was hardly amused …  And though I will credit the med student for breaking a noticeable sweat trying to contain her female guffaws, the complete lack of medical decorum was alarming.  So once the laughter died down, I stared down the NP and mentioned that her remark lacked a certain sense of Compassion.  She was almost able to wipe the smile off her face.

Then she turned to female medical student and told her, “Yeah … Don’t do that. It’s not nice … or professional.”  At which point she looked at Carol, who was still doubled over in laughter, and broke out in tee-hees and titters all over again.  By this time said female medical student was losing her battle with Propriety and was turning six shades of red.

Aside from the ruthlessly snide anti-Man remarks and goofy sick voices (I know I don’t really sound like that!), I was half expecting them to drag out the contraction demonstration belt in which so many women seem to take perverse pleasure in!

I felt lonely and minimalized.

Flash back roughly 23 years ago … After siring three sons, it was time for me to do my part to belay Carol’s stress over future pregnancies by doing the only manly thing I could, sacrificing my own mechanism of fertility to the wonders of Modern Medicine!

As I walked into my urologist’s office, accompanied by the ever “sympathetic” Carol, I was met with so many smiling (female) faces that I immediately relaxed as my stress over the impending procedure melted away.

Then the jokes started.

imagesI will spare you the offensive images and suggestions that were rained upon my delicate mental state.  But the psychological impact was demoralizing … even if I managed a nervous laugh here and there.

I was so unsettled I decided to take the issue up with my urologist … pre-sterilization.  But when I mentioned that his female office staff could use a few reminders on Compassion and Empathy, Dr. HedgeClippers looked at me and said, “I can’t say anything.  They scare me!”

It’s tough being a Man in a Woman’s world …

 

 

 

 

Experience the Couples Massage!

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Not us pictured … Divorce might result if it was!

Hope you enjoy this very carefully, very tastefully written review of our first couples massage experience.  Hopefully I will not end up sleeping on the couch … again, when the incredibly lovely Carol stumbles across this post and discovers I shared an semi-intimate moment solely as a way to promote tourism to the Dominican Republic.

OK … and for the laughs.

As I see it … at my age … any day that starts off with me in a pool with a naked female is a Very, Very Good Day!

When it comes to the massage, one must acknowledge that the ability to render a proper massage is an Art!  The techniques are to be admired and enjoyed, but require training and experience.  Although many an intimate couple will play at the Art of Massage, without the proper knowledge and experience, the massage is just a means to an end.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that ….

I will be the first to admit my skills at massage never advanced beyond the clumsy basics.  After this experience while in Punta Cana, I can honestly state that I had no idea just how inexperienced I was.

The Couples Massage package was an extra to the all-inclusive concept at Barceló Bávaro Beach.  But it’s worth every penny!  The spa is located within the Palace Deluxe Hotel complex. and is accessible at any time by Premium Club members.  Besides the quiet, fragrant massage rooms, the spa includes a large outdoor pool and jacuzzi, indoor jacuzzi and small pool, but no drink service.  (You can bring in adult libations if you so desire.)

The experience begins in the gender-specific locker rooms where one can shed all the decorative physical trappings of modest society … at least on the female side.  The men however were encouraged to keep their swimsuits or shorts on …

Bummer … Completely understandable, I guess … Still a bummer …

car-dominicanrepublic-puntacana-barcelobavaropalacedeluxe

Draperies are closed to enhance the romantic mood, and were opened only after the massage was completed.

Once ensconced in a fluffy terry cloth robe, Carol and I met up in the couples suite.  Quiet, dimly lit by candles, with a romantic arrangement of towels in the shape of a heart and two obviously smitten terrycloth swans, richly appointed with fragrant flower petals.  The atmosphere exudes everything you need to slowly slip into a coma of complete relaxation.

What caught me off guard was finding Carol sans ALL Decorative Trappings of Modest Society, while I was still in a swimsuit.  WT … ?!?

But I guess the presence of two female masseuse explains the discrimination to which I was unexposed.  Not that I’m complaining …  At least one of us was completely stripped of all Decorative Trappings of Modest Society!

Even funnier was the experience of the gentleman in the couple who accompanied us to the DR.  He was instructed to shed his swimwear and sling his … uh … male-hood in a “banana hammock”!

When I heard of this AFTER our massage, I was relieved I wasn’t required to sling The Hammock!  Otherwise Carol would have been laughing throughout the entire massage experience!

The massage itself starts with an exfoliation, cleaning and massage of the lower legs and feet while reclining peacefully and blindfolded, which simply makes the experience a bit more mysteriously unsettling.

“What the heck is she doing?  What’s that stuff??  Oh, that’s nice …”

Next comes the main massage event, complete with security-inducing sheet and coverlet on the traditional massage table.  It was during this transition that I noticed Carol and I were differently dressed.

Have I mentioned that already???

To make a long post shorter, I will not go into a detailed playback of the massage itself.  Rest assured it was expertly applied and deeply relaxing.  This being my first professional massage experience, I can say without reservation that the good masseur at Barceló know what they are doing!

champagnesetup02Once the experts were done, the drapes to our private couples room were thrown open to reveal a small pool set off in an equally private walled-off courtyard.  And when we slipped out the door, we were surprised by the presence of two lounge chairs, a bottle of champagne and two glasses!

As one masseuse bid us farewell and drew closed the drapery, she made a very clear pronouncement, “I will be back in 20 minutes!”

That’s when the light went on!

Hmmmm … Carol still au naturel … champagne … massage oils … a pool and complete privacy … for 20 minutes!?!

Well, I appreciated the optimism, especially as to my personal stamina, but that presumption was a bridge too far.  We did however enjoy the personal intimacy of being secluded in an extremely relaxed state in a very cold pool, and enough bubbly to liberate one’s inhibitions.

But that water might have been a bit too cold …

As it turned out, it was one of the best days of the vacation.  The couples massage is definitely worth the price of admission, assuming of course you get a masseuse who knows what they’re doing!

For me … I hit the daily Double the next day with ANOTHER naked female in the pool.  But it was a dolphin …

Travel: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

dominican-republic-fact-fil-578x298I 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.

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Barcelo Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana

 

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.

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View outside our room

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.

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Carol & I … pre-drowning attempt on snorkeling/booze cruise

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!

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Pool at Barcelo Bavarro Beach