We travelled to the Bahia Gran Principe Ambar on November 17, and stayed until December 1. I’ll try to help out with the areas of query that we had that other reviewers may not have addressed, giving fact where possible as opposed to mere opinion. The photos I’ve included are not of the rooms, etc, as I found previously posted photos were very accurate. Instead this review will address real concerns that would affect someone trying to make booking decisions at this resort.
It is indeed a huge resort, as my aerial shot will show. I have a bad knee, so my travel agent requested a ground floor room. This room was beautiful, not noisy, nor musty smelling, as other reviews cited, and very accessible. There really are no direct to the beach views...maybe the corner rooms can see the beach from their balcony. Check out my aerial photo for an idea of this, (taken on my free helicopter ride). The Ambar, The Bavaro, and The Esmeralda all have some rooms that will be close to the beach. The Punta Cana, and other facets of this resort do not, and are in fact a long distance from the ocean. Most of the Bavaro is also far from the ocean. The Ambar consists of 11 room complexes, with 60,61,64,67 & 68 being a reasonable walk to the beach. It is really only 3 complexes deep to walk to the lobby, and you can literally walk all the hallways of each building to get to the main lobby. We did this in the rain a few times, as this does seem to be somewhat of a rainy season, and on the last walk asked where everyone was getting their umbrellas. We then found out they are to be in your closet, so if you don’t have one on arrival, ask your maid for it.
As previous reviews all said, the Ambar lobby does close early, like 11:00, but let me assure you, we were not once shooed out as indicated in some reviews. We were offered drinks right up to close, and given ample time to finish them. The lights were mostly turned out to be sure, but we still had lights left on for us. These people work long hours, and while it does seem ridiculous to have an early lights out policy at an adulat resort, simply move on down to another lobby which will be happy to serve you till all hours of the morning. These lobbies are all a short shuttle ride away. If you wish to visit quietly, this is also the lobby that would likely give you the best opportunity for that. It should be recognized that not everyone enjoys loud entertainment.
The pool security is something that I feel this resort should address. They DO NOT speak English, and should you have a concern to bring up to them, forget it, or learn Spanish. The DO NOT reserve a lounge chair rule is something that they should either enforce completely, or throw out the window. We had read that if you were on your lounge chair till 8a.m., then it was yours for the day. Countless mornings we went out to sit on our loungers and read till breakfast, and most of the chairs had already been staked out by 6:30 to 7:00, by a piece of clothing, a single shoe, or a book. Deciding I would go shoot some sunrise pictures prior to 8a.m., I left my towel and book, and invited my husband along. A security guard showed up, and started to rip a strip off of us in Spanish, and so we simply left for the beach, personal belongings in tow. From then on until the end of our holiday, the loungers that were reserved had people in them. So, we were just confused, and I imagine, they let this rule slide as often as they enforce it. We found there was usually no shortage of loungers in the shade on the beach, and this was nice and quiet anyhow, so we did just this for the remainder of our time there.
So many of the reviews put the food down, but I feel food is a personal thing. There was never a lack of anything tasteful and flavorful to eat; the question would be, is this food to your liking? It was always well prepared, and with tons of variety. I even found all the same things that I cook at home – just not every day. I simply don’t like a lot of the foods that were prepared, so chose instead to eat a salad, or some of their delicious soups. Their deserts were also full of variety. I also had a –BQ steak at the beach restaurant that compared to an Alberta Grade A steak. Best meal of the whole trip. (Just watch for the smoke from the -BQ to find out where they're -BQing that day). I unfortunately found all of the fish that I tried to be very ‘ fishy’. You are never limited to the number of times you can book at a certain a’lacarte restaurant, so if you find one you like, you can book there every night if you desire. (Lobster every night at Don Pablo if you desire). If you try to make a reservation, and they’re full, ask them to check cancellations. These people found us a place to eat that very night every time we asked. You only have to be time flexible. And you’re on a vacation, so why wouldn’t your schedule be a little flexible? All the rave reviews were Don Pablo, and maybe I’m not classy enough to enjoy only this, but I found most all of the restaurants enjoyable. Don Pablo, everything is off the menu, most others have a buffet salad and dessert bar. So perhaps instead of complaining about the food, find yourself a different place to eat. There is no shortage here with 11 a la cartes, and as many or more buffets.
When I say this resort is big, that is somewhat of an understatement, with 3000 rooms, and a population of 7000 guests. That said, we were never in a situation where we felt crowded. They have enough pools, buffets, restaurants, lobbies, etc. to keep everyone satisfied. If you don’t like the situation where you are, go somewhere else in this resort. If you’re in the Ambar, you have that choice! If you’re into walking, then do that, but take good shoes, as the paths are cobblestone effect, and tough in stilettos, (as witnessed). It could be distressing to some that due to the high amount of traffic from shuttles and resort vehicles, there is a lingering smell of exhaust on the connecting driveways. If exhaust smell bothers you, this could be a drawback, as with the humidity and high temps, the smell does hang in the air.
This beach is cited as one of the most beautiful in the world, and I do understand why. It is not made up of only sand as such, but crushed shells as well, and so it doesn’t grit or irritate you when it’s in your bathing suit or when stuck to your skin. It is the most amazing white sand beach anywhere. No matter how far you go into the ocean, there are no rocks under your feet, and the beach is so soft to walk on in bare feet. Seaweed of course washes up occasionally, but rest assured, these people are up before dark clearing it. Some had complained about the waves this time of year, and that can’t be denied, but we made the best of the situation, and bought a float tube for 15.00 beside the pool, and used it in the ocean. It was great fun. It was even more fun to pass it on to a family with children who were staying two weeks longer. Easy to find, if you just walk down to the Bavaro section of the beach, as that is where the families are.
If every tourist could be educated, every resort could have 5 star potential. I was told this by a guy leaving the resort. It was indeed sad to see how many people use the beach as an ashtray, or rubbish box. Rest assured, the staff work continually cleaning up behind these less than well mannered citizens. Even the boardwalk down to the beach is swept three times a day. The vendors don’t bug you if you don’t give them your attention. Go for the free helicopter ride. It really is free, and it’s fabulous. Book your tours through your tour operator, as you don’t actually have insurance through the resort. Swim with the dolphins through Dolphin Explorer if this is on your bucket list of things to do, or even if it’s not. My husband didn’t plan to go, but had a fabulous time, and is so happy he went. 45 minutes in the ocean dolphin enclosure! Just make sure you take your camera, (a cheap one if you can), to leave in their deck box, so you can take dolphin pictures after your swim. No one told us this, so we missed out. Our camera was locked in the locker they gave us, with no chance to go back for it.
We never did find this butler some reviewers talk about, but our friends did. Regardless, our service was still great. Our mini bar was stocked every day, sheets changed every day, and the cleaning was very good, without them infringing on your personal belongings. It must be a hard decision to know what to move when cleaning up behind someone. I would say to lock up your valuables, as when the maids are cleaning, it is possible that someone could whip in and out of your room, and gain access to valuables lying around. Someone apparently lost a camera in this manner while we were there. We read that the safes are dark, and they are, so we took a small flashlight and used it just for that. The safe really is free, so this is a great plus. In Cuba we paid around 30.00$ for a safe.
Use the pillow menu, and make sure to order yourself a new pillow every day before going out to dinner. They collect them daily to refresh them, so don’t hide them as one reviewer stated. This just makes their job difficult. Just remember to order early enough. The room service here is also lovely, and very prompt as far as room service goes. Remember that they don’t know what in your room is not working unless you let them know. If you have something broken, fill out the form and hang it on your door. Our balcony light was out, but how would they know, if we didn’t tell them? November seems to be a rainy season, as we had light rain most days, but when it’s 30 degrees, how can you complain? We played scrabble on our deck on one particularly rainy day; it was great!(Or, you could sit in the lobby, or play in the pool, etc. Use your imagination..it's can rain on every holiday!) The free internet in the lobby is provided on three computers, and if you wait in line, most people are good about keeping to a short time limit. Have a drink while you wait :) You are also welcome to bring your own wifi if you consider this a holiday must.
As far as clothing goes, I wish I had known that men MUST wear sleeves for every meal. Short pants are allowed, and you must wear shoes in all restaurants except the beach snacks, where bathing suits only and bare feet are allowed. (and don’t try to take the food from the restaurant, ever! We saw this several times; bad idea, security stops you!) In Cuba,and Jamaica, we dressed for all meals, so didn’t realize we could dress so casually here during the day. So men, don’t bother with sleeveless attire, and women can take a nice beach cover-up, and pop on your bathing suit first thing in the morning. We saw all kinds of attire for dinner, from glitter and rhinestones, to very simple casual, and men in short pants. So we took too many clothes. Make your load light…unless you’re travelling with friends, no one will see you twice in this large place. They also dish out hand sanitizer at each meal place. This is a nice touch, as you know where your hands have been, but what about everyone else’s? Gives you a little peace of mind.
The beds are fine, but take some Deet along, as little mosquitos get in if you use your patio door at all, and we did. My husband got bit a lot while sleeping, and they definitely were not bed bugs, but mosquitoes.
As far as snorkeling here goes, there is apparently some to the left of the complex, closer to the Colonial Majestic, which is a 10 minute walk down the beach. The water was very rough, so we didn't take out our snorkel gear, so can't confirm this, except what one couple told us.
If you’re planning a wedding, and there are several here each day, I would say you should directly inquire with someone who’s gotten married here as to the satisfaction of their wedding day. The wedding place is directly on the beach, roped off for guests, however, at any given time, expect at least 300 tourists in swim attire to be watching, photographing, and videotaping your wedding. It is a very public affair at this resort. Our daughter got married at the Iberostar Daiquiri in Cuba 3 years ago, and I must say, hers was a beautiful, semi-private wedding, on an isolated part of the beach, surrounded by palms. The choice ultimately has to be yours. Wherever you get married tropically, your wedding is going to be windy. The wind always blows in these Caribbean countries. Makes for challenging, but pretty pictures. The photographer at this resort by the way is fabulous. As a photographer myself who had the resort photographer do portraits of my husband and me, I can speak from experience.
As far as the complaints about language go,(and oh some people do have lots to say about this), if you try to have a conversation with the workers at the resort, and they don’t know your language, remember, you have come to their country…if this bothers you, learn some Spanish. Don’t be cruel to them. You have the money to come to this resort. Some of them have little enough money for food, let alone to learn another language.
It's hard not to give this resort a full 5 stars, as it really has everything you could want for a great holiday. (That said, I'm going for 4 1/2 Stars here, but can't do that with the green buttons on this page) The little things you don't like are made up for by other things that are fabulous at this place. For me a 5 star rating comes from the overall experience, and is not ruined by little things that happen incidentally. I truly prefer a small intimate resort, but this is sure to suit anyone used to living in a city or larger town, and if there wasn’t so many places in the world I want to check out, I’d come back here.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Facilities and services 2 pool Sun terrace with sun umbrellas and loungers Relaxation zone with Bali beds Outdoor Jacuzzi BAHIA SPA (additional charge) Sports facilities: gym, 3 tennis courts, multi-sports court Water activity centre Motorised water sports (additionalcharge) WiFi access in the lobby (free) and in rooms (free) Entertainment amphitheatre Wedding gazebo 1 buffetrestaurant 3 speciality restaurants 4 bars 1 snack- bar Gazebo de bodas Smokers' lounge with bar service (cigar menu with additional charge) Punta Blanca Golf Club: 18 hole Punta Blanca Golf Club, designed by Nick Price (additional charge) Pueblo Principe: Shopping and Leisure Mall with local craft stores, live music, shows, stores, bars, karaoke, disco and casino. Rooms 528 Deluxe Junior Suites Room facilities: King size bed or two full size beds Ceiling fan Air conditioning Sitting area with sofa Terrace Fully-equipped bathroom with hydromassage bath tub and separate shower, hair dryer Bathrobe and slippers Don Pablo Collection amenities Direct phone line (additional charge for external calls) Alarm clock with iPod docking station Flat screen TV Coffee-making machine Minibar Safe Butler service 24 hour room service Evening turndown service Pillow menu 2 disabled rooms for a maximum of 3 adults Prime location right on the sea front Exclusive lake-style pool Aroma menu WiFi (free) Other services Medical service (additional charge) Pharmacy (additional charge) Specialised service for organising weddings, incentive trips, events and anniversaries Personalised menus (for celiacs, diabetics, etc.) Available on request ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Gran Bahia Principe Ambar Hotel Punta Cana