The key to understanding reviews of this resort is that V.I.P. members get a very different experience than do V.I.P. guests or renters. Guests are marked with a "blue" VIP wrist band and members with Gold or Black wrist bands. None of this is defined on the resort website. Furthermore, members and their guests are treated differently depending on the membership level - and it is this differrence which results in members saying things like "i can't understand how anyone can say anything bad about this resort" while some guests reviews report some very bad experiences - and for both to be accurate. Our group of 5 couples with "blue bands", as guests of a premium member, had some very bad and some very good experiences. Resort policies differentiating between members and guests are meant to reward current members, and to attract guests to sign up for membership. However, these policies result in some terrible experiences for blue band guests, and negatively impact the resort and members in the long run, so the tactic backfires. The fact that the overall rating of this resort was in the 30's for Puerto Plata Resorts seems to validate this. Management should consider other ways to reward members that don't significantly detract from the guest experience.
We planned our trip a year in advance and had an e-mail from the member explaining what to expect, but much of it turned out to be contrary to resort policy. Check-in took a long time as we realized that we would not be getting what was stated in the e-mail from the member. Starting with airport arrival here are some highlight and lowlight experiences:
- Gold members (GM) are picked up in a beautiful stretch limo; we were picked up in two mini vans, with broken windshields, a shattered side window, no seatbelts, and no A/C.
- We expected a new 5 or 6 room Villa. Policy is these villas are only for members. As Blue Band VIP guests (BG), we were split up into two older adjacent 3 bedroom villas. This was a huge Villa with with 2 private pools, and an annex that included a large covered outside "hangout" area - kept very clean and two additional bedrooms. Only the bedrooms have A/C in these older Villa's. There were several maintenance problems but all were resolved very quickly (A/C not working in two bedrooms, shower head clogged, drain clogged, etc). For about 5 hours each day, we had an attendant cleaning our villa, others would show up to clean the pools daily, deliver soda, water and beer, etc.
- BG's get to go to the VIP Gourmet restaurant once during their stay. Service is impeccable here and food is very good. The backlit menu's are a nice feature and top shelf drinks are very good. As BG's this is typically your only dinner in an air conditioned inside restaurant and your only dinner with top shelf drinks.
- One of our big let downs was being unable to go out as a group and get some good tropical drinks as most restaurants and bars for BG's do not serve top shelf liquer. It is important not to misinterpret this - like you may have read on other reviews, i am not saying that the wine was not to our liking - the wine served to BG's has a funky taste and is simply not drinkable, and the same is true for many of the tropical drinks. We talked with many other guests that had similar opinions. Near the end of our trip, we learned that even BG's can get good drinks at a few locations including the Sports Bar , the Bar at Jazz, and VIP beach bar - there could be others. Also near the end of our trip, we found a couple recognizable bottles of wine for sale at the shop and we purchased them to bring to the BG restaurant's (about $30 for a $10 bottle of wine). Resort management should fix this situation and members should encourage them to fix it. Resort Membership is sold on the basis of members being able to "rent" Villa's to friends/others. Blue wrist band guests should be able to enjoy a good tropical beverage or glass of wine while on vacation - especially if they pay the same VIP daily food and beverage charge as members.
- Exploring the resort our first night, we came across "Blue Lagoon Seafood restaurant". It was a members only night so despite lot's of available seating, we could not get in for dinner that night - a reasonalbe policy to have members only nights. So we booked Blue Lagoon for another night. On BG night at Blue Lagoon, the inside restaurant is not open, so we ate mediocre food outsiide with the heat and the insects and could not enjoy a good tropical drink or glass of wine with dinner.
- BG's are encouraged to eat at the outside "Buffet" restaurant "Casablanca". We were told this at check in and again at the Blue Lagoon on our first night. On our first night, we did end up getting a late seating at the mexican restaurant. they had a covered outside area and an uncovered outside area,nothing inside. Workers are trained to spot the blue bands so despite lot's of open space in the covered area, we were taken to the uncovered area (presumably just in case a large group with gold bands show up). We were just happy to not have to go to the buffet - but this changed quickly. We had a great Sangria at the registration desk upon arrival, so we ordered Sangria. Here, the Sangria was virtually undrinkable. The margarita's were undrinkable. About half of our group had an "ok" dinner and about half could not even eat what they ordered. To be clear, this is not a complaint that food was not prepared to our liking, but rather much of the food at this restaurant had a funky, terrible taste to it and was honestly not edible. Fortunately there is a store right next the the mexican restaurant where i was able to purchase a can of Planters Cashews and a bottle of sparkling water for $20. The servers at this restaurant did everything they could to try to please us and seemed upset that some did not eat or drink what we ordered. We gave them a good tip for thier efforts.
- On day two, we had breakfast at our villa. A nice touch and while many in our group ate the eggs, they had a differrent taste to them. 12 packs of mini boxes of cereal were also provided at our villa and sustained me for breakfast. By midway thru the trip, 4 of 10 in our group had severe diaherra, 4 more had lesser cases and only my wife and i were not impacted at all (thanks perhaps to cashews and sparkling water). One couple ended up departing a couple days early after not being able to leave the villa due to illness. Two others stayed but could not leave the Villa for very long to enjoy some of the other features (like Ocean World). As we talked to many people, we found out that others did get diaherra. The resort tracks reported illnesses but most cases go unreported so the data is not meaningful.
- Azul is a fantastic restaurant and is available to BG's for $79 per person (in addition to your daily VIP charge). I believe GM's pay the same daily VIP rate but they can go to Azul for no extra charge. We came across Jazz which is a beautiful New Orleans themed restaurant with a nice menu, but BG's cannot eat here for dinner. BG's can eat lunch at Jazz but only outside and with a small menu. We did eat lunch here and it was good, but i was turned off at the dozens of tiny insects on the table and especially under the placematts. When in a tropical island, with the only A/C in your villa being in the bedroom, it is nice to have a relaxing dinner/meal in an air conditioned restaurant with a good tropical drink. GM's have many opportunities for this but under the currrent policy, i reemphasize that BG's typically do not get this basic need during their vacation except one night at VIP gourmet.
- Sunday evening is the VIP Party where GM and BG's are treated the same. This was a well organized, fun event with good entertainment, dancing, fireworks, great drinks and an incredible variety of international food, most of it good to very good (Swordfish, Sushi, Filet Mignon, Roast Pig, Tempura vegatables, pasta, salads, etc). Over 1000 people attended - very impressive.
- BG's also get to enjoy Ocean World day time and the Party at the Casino at night - both were excellent! In Ocean World daytime, the shark, dolphin, bird and sealion shows were fun to watch; there were no big crowds and plenty of seats in the shade for the show. The bars sell top shelf and a large variety of beverages. For the evening at Ocean World, BG's should arrive early as you can enjoy a live band, top shelf drinks and great service prior to the Bravissimo show. The show itself was terrific. However, best to wait in line early to get into the show to get good seats as the stage is surrounded by 4 x 4 feet pillars. Our view was obstructed so we only got to enjoy the left side of the show and could not see the middle or right side of the stage.
- GM's staying in Villa's get golf carts to travel around the resort. Since we were BG of a premium member, we did get a golf cart. If you are a BG of a non premium guest, you do not get the cart. The golf cart is great but the resort is also great about sending a van to pick you up and take you where you want to go, so it is not a necessity.
- Also as BG of a premium member, we were able to have a BBQ at our villa one night. They set up a grille, serving table with tablecloth and serving trays and send over a cook and server. They prepare and serve fish, steak, pork, salads, vegetables, drinks, dessert. Everything was great and it was a fun night.
A resort exective visited us at our Villa two days prior to our last day when she learned about the couple that departed early due to illness. She was very interested in our constructive feedback and genuinely concerned about some of our experiences. We were appreciative of her taking the time to talk to us. She said she will investigate some of our issues and she took a couple immediate steps to ensure that our last couple days were great.
- If resort management and resort members want to turn around the signficant negative reviews, they should clarify policy regarding entitlements for different levels of members and guests. They should also recognize that the ability of members to rent or have guests stay at the resort is critical to success and they should eliminate the basic things that prevent guests from a good experience. They can do this while still preserving some perks for members.
This resort provides lot's of jobs for locals. Virtually every Dominican staff member and worker that we came across was friendly, hard working and seemed appreciative of the opportunity for tourism to bring jobs to the region. The level of service was exceptional. At VIP Gorrmet, we had 4 great people attend to us constantly (Francisco, Pedro, Rita Christina, and Nicolas were all amazing). Our terrific VIP reps Madaline and Indiana stopped by daily to talk to us and see what else they can do. Our room attendant (Bolena) worked so hard to keep our rooms clean and was so plesant. When our golf cart died one day, the first staff member that passed us stopped and said he would get us help. A moment later, 2 people arrived and fixed the electrical connection that vibrated loose and we were quickly back on our way. If you walked down the road, staff in golf carts would ask if you want a ride.
Overall the resort was beautiful and we can see why many members enjoy this resort. As blue wrist band guests, for too much of our vacation, we felt like Very Unimportant People (V.U.P.'s) . Had we been able to enjoy good meals and drinks every night like members, we might have a very different opinion. However, with the current policies, we would never return and would never recommend anyone go to this resort as guests, unless the member was with you and you got member treatment. We gave good tips to all the workers in appreciation for their service and we hope this resort can resolve the issues so it can continue to provide jobs for the locals while treating both members and guests to a great vacation experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Set within the sprawling Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Resort, The Tropical offers a classic hotel vacation experience set within quaint, two- and threestory, Mediterranean-style buildings. The mood is laid-back and distinctively Caribbean. Guest enjoy all resort facilities and amenities (excluding the V.I.P areas) including swimming pools, a choice of excellent restaurants, exercise rooms, tennis courts, windsurfing and so much more. The Lifestyle Tropical is Ideal for couples seeking a private island hide-away with all the advantages of a world-class resort. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Lifestyle Tropical Beach Hotel Puerto Plata
- Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort And Spa
- Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort Spa
- Hacienda Tropical
- Hotel Lifestyle Tropical Beach
- The Tropical At Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Resort Dominican Republic/Puerto Plata