The title of my review says it all - if this place wasn't awesome I wouldn't go back, theres plenty of other resorts in the area that you could visit but hopefully I can enlighten you on why Occidental is, and always has been my number 1! I really hope you take what people say on this site with a grain of salt, the bad and maybe even the good. Last time I visited Occidental was on spring break and the resort was pre-selected so I didn't know what I was getting into but if I was booking it myself a lot of what people say on here would scare me away, but I can assure you I have never heard of half the problems people on here mentioned, and guests at the resort do talk about their issues with anyone that will listen. So do not let it scare you at all!
A bit about myself - I am a student who mystery shops part time (so I am aware of what good service entails) and I fall into the 18-24 age category, I also work in the hospitality and tourism industry. I travelled with my boyfriend for this trip. I absolutely LOVE the Occidental so if you have any questions after reading my (long) review then please send me a message! We booked our vacation through BookIt.com and I have nothing but great things to say about them!
We flew from Ottawa on American Airlines (it was half the price of flying WestJet or any Canadian airline), only downfall of this half price deal was that going there we had a 16 hour flight and coming home it was 12 hours, in the end we lost two days at the resort which I am upset about now since you really need a full seven days to appreciate this place!
We got to the hotel at 11:30ish our flight landed at about 9:45 - we sat waiting in the VIP transfer shuttle for approximately an hour waiting for other people in neighbouring hotels to clear customs and get their luggage. We were delayed so we ended up landing at the same time as 2 other planes coming from Europe so it was absolute chaos. The line was all because you have to pay a 10$ tourist fee and they only had one agent working - next time they should think ahead and sell it on the plane, I know last time I had bought mine on board.
Once we got to the hotel the check-in was super fast, nobody in line ahead of us at all. The only reason it was a little bit slow is because we had been upgraded to Royal Club privileges with a regular building room and the front desk didn't know that since each place deals with their own stuff, luckily I printed the emails saying we had been upgraded or it would have been confusing! Once we were checked in the golf cart took us to the Royal Club to get our bracelets, I felt horrible cause the poor girl was supposed to be off at 11:00 but had to wait for us to get there. We stayed in building 13 in room (13-)107, this is a ground floor ocean view room and it was absolutely superb, there was a fruit basket, towel animals, bathrobes and slippers, everything you'd want to see after a long day of travelling. We didn't get to fully appreciate the view until the next morning when we could actually see the ocean in daylight!
We were absolutely starving so we headed up to the Pizzeria (love that it is open all night but having it 24 hours could be something to look into), this place makes the GREATEST pizza I have ever tasted, and this says a lot since in high school I worked at a pizza place. Besides the pizza place the resort has a lot of a la cartes (steakhouse, italian, mexican, chinese), we made reservations at the mexican (which we slept through so didn't get to go), the italian (which was decent but nothing outstanding- see for yourself I suppose) and the steakhouse which we didn't end up going to since we were just exhausted. Besides the a la cartes theres buffets, snack bars and then the royal club restaurant. You should know that I am arguably one of the pickiest eaters in the world, I will not try new things, I only eat specific foods and only if they're cooked a specific way. I did NOT starve at the Occidental, in fact at the breakfast buffet I found myself getting a second helping since the food was to die for. Breakfast has a omelette and crepe station (both made to order) and they are amazing. I had omelettes daily and never once was I let down! The donuts the resort makes too are amazing. We went to the lunch buffet once, we usually opted for the snack bar and kept our big meals for breakfast and dinner - the snack bar though was fantastic! One downfall of the resort though I will admit is that dinner starts too late, to me 6:30 is late, I eat dinner at home at 5:00 so waiting that long for me was tough but when you get there its worth it! Buffet is good, but in all honesty this hotels best kept secret is the pizza and taco bar upstairs. Like I said before the pizza was to die for but the tacos were a whole other level, I usually don't like tacos but we met some friends over our sub-par Italian meal that encouraged me to try them (chicken flautas to be specific) and wow am I glad I did! Around 6:30 when it opens (and don't go at 6:25 because they will point to the click and remind you that 6:30 is in five minutes) you sit at the tables outside and someone serves you which is also a nice touch, you order off a menu and theres plenty of options for both the tacos and pizza. David is a master chef, he usually works the pizza place but Monday night it was closed (not sure why but that was awful since it was our last night) so they had him on the taco station, he made me the best cheese quesadilla I have ever tasted in my life. Please tip this man because he earns it! Usually we had Frena serving us upstairs, she is a sweet dominican woman who struggles with her english but is so determined to help you, she was the absolute best, by the end of the week shed see us coming and knew what we wanted. What really upset me is that people would come and have her serve them and not tip. Yes you are at an all-inclusive but you're also in a third world country, a dollar to these people is the equivalent of you or I finding 100$ on the floor, it is a BIG deal. That being said please tip more than a dollar, she really deserves it, all of the staff here do! My theory the entire week was if I am sitting down, being brought a menu and someone is writing down what I want they deserve money, but I also tipped people who brought me drinks at the pool or bartenders who went above and beyond (muchos gracias to Eyo, Chanel and Alexander in the lobby bar and Luis Antonio at the Royal Club). I would also like to shout out to Samuel a server at the Royal Club - he is easily one of the hardest working men I have ever seen.
Nothing really changed since I last was here in 2010 - my room was a lot better then I remember it being back then (a king size bed instead of two doubles) but maybe that was because I was ocean view this time, not too sure. Although I will say the friends we met from the US had a timeshare through RCI and they were in building 18 and their room was easily nicer than most North American hotels I have ever stayed at, and I travel, a lot. 2 rooms, 2 bathrooms, 2 balconies, what more could you want? We thought our room was awesome but when we saw that one we got quite envious and almost considered doing the Occidental Vacation Club (timeshare program) which they REALLY push on you, kind of annoying but they probably get good commission, it would be appealing if it wasn't for the 17,000$ price tag and of course if we weren't still students which our rep didn't seem to understand when we kindly declined our tour. He said "Well can you not get a job?"; I think a lot of these people think that North Americans are a lot richer than we are!
Richness doesn't just come through money though - I brought old clothes with me, lip chap, flip flops (only the rich people in Dominican can afford shoes - I bought 2 pairs for 6$ at Old Navy). I gave my housekeeper Carmen a bunch of old clothes and she nearly cried, she appreciated it so much more than the 3$ I left her every other day- to me these clothes have been sitting in my drawer unworn for ages so what do I care? It was SO nice to see how much she appreciated it! I also brought mini hand sanitizers since sometimes in town it can be quite dirty, some homes don't even have running water, I gave a bunch to the girl working the gift shop right outside the hotel, she was so grateful, her eyes went so wide and said "all of this for me?!" and she had the biggest smile, she even proceeded to take 5$ off my order and give me a keychain, I would say we both won! I always say this before I go and always forget to do it, bringing little dollarama toys for the kids you see if you go on excursions is great!
In terms of excursions we did two - Adventure Boogies and Dolphin Explorer. I will start with my boyfriends choice which was obviously the boogies:
We paid 55$ USD each to sit in the same car and go on the boogies. Our travel rep from VIP, Jerry explained it that it would be a fun journey through the mountains off roading on our boogies (for the record boogies in Dominican are dune buggys), this was not at all the case, we started driving on the main Dominican road/highway with the crazy Dominican drivers, not on a mountain and not really off-road at all. This excursion is the ULTIMATE tourist trap. You are told you are going to a picturesque beach to swim and cool off, yes the beach is stunning (there are no resorts on it at all) but it is full of vendors just waiting to attack you - I didn't even get to go in the water since we didn't feel safe about leaving our bag with towels and cameras on the beach unattended. Good thing I brought money (in the event we wanted to buy photos - which for the record is 35$ for the DVD) so I was able to leave a few dollars to the Dominican Children who told me that if I didn't help them they would never be able to go to school. Way to make you feel awkward and obligated! We eventually got out of there and drove to our next tourist trap which was actually better since it was raining and we were frozen and muddy and they were sampling free coffee and hot chocolate. I bought a thing of Dominican Cocoa (6$) since the hot chocolate was honestly phenomenal. From there we headed out to our final tourist trap which was a cave swim, lots of fun but again where do you leave your bags? As soon as you exit the boogie there are atleast 50 vendors swarming you saying come to my store, looky looky, I will sell cheapy cheapy. Fortunately both my boyfriend and I were able to enjoy the cave swim since we took turns with another couple watching the bags. This excursion is not for people who don't like to get dirty - I have never felt so disgusting in my life, I guess if you did it on a sunny day it would be different but for us it poured. When you finally get back to the boogies main place you're soaked and covered in mud and sand, luckily they have little outdoor showers for you to rinse off in. We took the shuttle back (which on the way there was extremely disorganized, and took about an hour and a half since neither of the two shuttles knew which hotel the other should go to) and met other Canadians who told us that one of the vendors at the Dominican Walmart and Caribbean Costco (those are the real names) had the nerve to tell them if they didn't buy stuff from his store his family wouldn't be able to eat. I really hope the adventure boogie people are making commission off of all of this otherwise nobody is gaining. I was SO happy to get back to the hotel, I would never do this again unless it was for sure off road! My boyfriend although loved it, I guess just because he got to drive a dune buggy, the stuff in between didn't matter to him!
Onto my excursion - Dolphin Explorer (Funtastic). Dolphin Explorer was FANTASTIC, unbelievably organized and just a great day overall. My only regret is that we believed our tour operator when he told us the Funtastic was a great tour since we SWAM with the dolphins for 30 minutes. Again not the case, we stood on a platform in the water and each took turns kissing the dolphin, making it dance and getting it to jump over a pole. The Funtastic is the cheapest of the tours, really makes me wish I splurged since the people in the group beside us who were one step above us were riding on the dolphins back and having it fly over their heads, looked amazing! This is not to the fault of Dolphin Explorer, this is an issue through our VIP Rep. We each paid 105$ USD but despite not doing what I anticipated it was worth every penny, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Included with the swim you also get to see siberian tigers (and get a photo taken in front of a glass wall with their camera which is 10$ to buy), have a photo with parrots (with your own camera which is great) as well as get a kiss from a sea lion (their camera but my boyfriend and I took turns so we managed to get it on our own camera) and a sea lion show (like sea world or marine land) which was absolutely precious and well choreographed! I laughed for sure. You cannot bring cameras to the dolphin swim so if you want a photo you need to buy theirs, unless someone in your group doesn't swim with the dolphins and just pays the 35$ to see the park, they can sit on a ledge from afar and take all the photos they want! Overall fantastic excursion and I highly recommend this one - they do not sell it in the hotel lobby you need to go to the excursions desk near the casino and find out about it or ask your tour rep. There are plenty of other ones Manati Park or Dolphin Island but this one just seemed better suited since you're in the dolphins natural habitat where I believe Manati Park is in a pool and Dolphin Island was more expensive! Definitely worth checking in to!
We were fortunate to be upgraded to royal club privileges - I would never not upgrade myself now to be honest. Free wifi, separate pool, restaurant and beach section. It seemed to be a lot more money but if you want to relax like we did it is worth it! No vendors are allowed to come into the section of the beach where you are so it is nice not hearing "cigar cigar? jewellery?" every 5 seconds. The Royal Club restaurant is also absolutely phenomenal - best chicken I have ever had! They change the menu daily, it features a lot of exotic things like squid so it wasn't always for me but when they had chicken I was there! You also get free premium alcohol so brands that we have heard of before are included :)
The bars at this resort are all also great - I highly recommend trying each bartenders "especiale" which is their signature drink, not only do they get super excited that you actually value their opinion but you start a friendly competition between bartenders which is what we did in the lobby bar one afternoon while it rained, lots of fun! They do not cheap out on alcohol at all, in fact most of my drinks would be 3 parts rum to 1 part coke, they are great!
One complaint I did have this time, but they did this more frequently last time I visited the resort so it has obviously scaled down, is the night they let the local vendors onto the property to sell their goods (for us it was Sunday). You are constantly harassed and being offered free gifts to look, they line the entire main strip of pathway so you cannot get around them unless you take an extra 10 minute walk. They are in front of the staircases to the pizza and tacos, as well as by the main buffet so you really can't escape no matter what although we got pretty good at hiding from them!
The grounds at the hotel are immaculate - you see the young men out working from sunrise to sunset cutting grass, trimming trees and raking the beach. They work SO hard. One even climbed a tree for me to cut me down a coconut, he was awesome!
I really hope you go into your vacation with an open-mind and an understanding you're in a third world country, Punta Cana relies heavily on their tourism industry so without us going to visit they wouldn't have jobs. Despite their poor work standards (one employee told me he will have six days off this month, all back to back so he can travel the 4 hours to visit his wife and children) they are ALWAYS smiling. I do not know how they do it - must be the dominican cappuccinos (which you have to try) in all honesty their life is HARD, the good servers work from 5:30 in the morning until 11:30 at night. Then most have a long commute home on top of that. Like I said earlier I travel, a lot, and going to Occidental is always refreshing since the staff genuinely want you to have a great time, they literally will do anything for you and they are the nicest people I have met, they try so hard to impress you and they definitely do. Please enjoy your vacation for me and have a cerveza by the pool - I will definitely be heading back within the next twelve months for sure, hopefully next time for 2 weeks since the week (or 5 days in my case) goes by too fast!
- Also Known As:
- Occidental Grand Flamenco Punta Cana Hotel
- Occidental Grand Flamenco Punta Cana Hotel Punta Cana
- Occidental Flamenco
- Occidental Grand Flamenco Punta Cana
- Grand Flamenco Punta Cana
- Occidental Punta Cana
- Flamenco Punta Cana
- Grand Flamenco Occidental Punta Cana
- Punta Cana Occidental Grand Flamenco
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