We looked forward to this six-night getaway (May 18-24) for months and, for the most part, were not disappointed. In fact, some of my expectations were exceeded. The Riu is a first-class resort in Punta Cana – fancy, clean, picturesque, a wonderful and cooperative staff – everything a beach vacationer who enjoys the all-inclusive experience could want. My only reason for not giving the Riu Palace Macao HOTEL a perfect 5-out-of-5 score is the truly terrible Riu Palace Macao CASINO, which I have reviewed separately (1 out of 5) on its own specific Trip Advisor page. ( http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g147288-d1019356-r161879759-Riu_Palace_Macao_Casino-Dominican_Republic.html )
Here are some key points of what I thought of the otherwise tremendous Rio Palace Macao HOTEL:
Accommodations: Superb. We upgraded after two nights because my wife enjoys a bathtub while on vacation. Know in advance that the standard or so-called superior rooms do not have tubs — a fine-and-dandy shower, but no tub. Superior, in fact, is pretty much a standard room with a slightly better view. Nice, as hotel rooms go, but not nearly as spectacular as our junior suite was – spend the extra and get the junior suite. By "spend the extra," I mean either book the suite in advance, or (a tip here) perhaps even better, work out some kind of one-on-one deal with the manager(s) once you get there. Special thanks to Widney and Leo, always aiming-to-please at the front desk, for being overly accommodating with every request we made throughout our trip. Our suite had two balconies, Jacuzzi jets in the tub, two TVs, a separate living room, comfortable king-size bedding, two ceiling fans and the A/C worked fine, a bidet as well as a toilet ... the works. The daily towel sculptures you're used to seeing on cruises are here, too, and they made a bunch of them on our Sunday there because the front desk knew it was my wife's birthday. Every room here, even the standard, has in-room liquor dispensers and a stocked mini-fridge with whatever you request, even just bottled water or orange soda in addition to beer (Presidente).
Beach and pools: Gorgeous. From the in-pool slabs or outer-pool beds you can spread out on, to the shaded areas you can have or create, to the around-the-pool activities offered (swim races, dance lessons, mini-golf, coconut parties), to the palm trees, sandy beaches, and relaxing ocean waves, it is picture-postcard material. The swim-up bar is a great place to meet new people and learn about the many other Americans, Canadians, Brits, and other Europeans who are also on vacation with you. The Riu Palace Macao is adults only, which does not mean anything untoward whatsoever, but a number of women, mostly Europeans, go topless. I, as a juvenile and immature American man, enjoyed spotting them when I could. ;-) But if this makes you in any way uncomfortable, then try one of the other three Riu hotels within this giant four-hotel complex. Also, I had read beforehand that the seaweed on the beach might be a problem -- while we did see it, and some occasional driftwood, too, neither hindered our delightful ocean swims or long or short walks on the beach. By the way, pack the best (like 100+ SPF) sun-tan lotion you can find.
Food and Booze: My wife and I slightly disagree on the dining quality. We both thought the buffet has something for everyone, though the mysterious cold cuts on the salad bar were a bit of a turn-off. Breakfasts here were great ... because of our suite with the balconies, when we woke up we threw on shorts, a shirt and our flip-flops and went downstairs, grabbed a pot of coffee, and filled up a couple of plates with morning eats (the omelet station was my favorite), then retreated with everything to our room to enjoy it there. We tried all four specialty restaurants and rate them in this order: 1) Fusion (it’s something different from home, so you’re not sure what to expect from this gourmet menu, but everything was tasty and plentiful); 2) Japanese (they went above and beyond for my wife’s birthday, including balloon decorations and her own special dessert cake, and again, the meals were prepared well); 3) Steak House (the appetizers were better than the dinner, and the supposed lobster with the surf-and-turf was more in the langostino domain than authentic lobster); and 4) Italian (I guess you shouldn’t expect great Italian food in the Caribbean, and this was only fair -- I did not find anything at the salad bar worth trying, and my wife compared her lasagna to a frozen dinner). Over all, my wife said the food quality was often no better than one of our local diners back in New Jersey, though I think that’s a bit harsh. I actually felt as if I was being treated somewhat special with each meal, and I especially looked forward to stopping by the number of nearby "snack" places and grabbing a chicken wing or a cookie if the hunger urge struck my fancy. As for drinking, we’re red wine folks, and the vino is not good here – those who have compared it with kerosene aren’t far off. We stuck to the house champagne for our beverage with dinners, which was O.K., and did the fruity drinks poolside and at the bars. Tip: Be specific when you order, and if you see a bottle of vodka or rum you know you like at a bar, ask them to start pouring the drink with that liquor in your glass. I always ordered the orangy frozen drink (which already had a little bit of alcohol in it) at the swim-up bar, but requested that the bartender start it by pouring a shot-and-a-half of Stoli vodka in the glass. Kept me quite mellow and smiling throughout the week.
Extras: Don't worry about spending a lot of money here, because the shopping is pretty much the same cheap junk (T-shirts, beach wear, jewelry, art) you can find at your local Wal-Mart for half the price. We didn't take advantage of the scuba, windsurfing, or fishing excursions, as we were here strictly for rest-and-relaxation, but if any of those is your thing, it's available and affordable. We did spend a little bit of time in the spa at one of the adjoining Riu hotels, and we found this to be much like going to an American salon -- like paying about $50 for a pedicure, or a little more for various kinds of massages. The Riu Palace Macao sometimes has shows and usually has free nightly entertainment, so you can dance to a live band (both Caribbean music and American pop hits) up until about 11 o'clock at night off the lobby bar. Hotel staff members try their best to help you have fun, going up to people of all ages at random and asking them to dance.
Staff: All personnel went above and beyond, from the front desk to the entertainment and housekeeping staff to the bartenders. I had to literally and jokingly argue with one of the breakfast waiters, in my limited Spanish, who kept insisting to me that I was on vacation and that he should carry my pot of coffee back to my room for me (I said: "Gracias, pero yo lo tengo" -- "Thank you, but really, I got it."). I thought this all-inclusive might be a place where I’d have to hand out dollar bills continually as gratuities, but it wasn’t that way at all. Nobody has their hand out here, though they’re all eternally grateful when you do slip them some cash for top-notch service. We needed our in-room safe looked at a few times ... the same guy was promptly there each time and, after his quick fix and resetting of the combination lock, he would be on his way leaving for his next assignment before I'd have to run up to catch him to give him a $1 bill. He was quite pleased with that. Interestingly, that same safe-fixing guy also did the job of hacking up the coconuts at the late-afternoon pool party! Fun.
Now, if only the Punta Cana or Riu powers-that-be could fix and improve that [--] casino.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- * Located on Arena Gorda Beach in Punta Cana. * Complimentary sun loungers on the beach. * Within the Riu Resort, along with the Riu Palace Punta Cana, Riu Palace Bavaro, Riu Naiboa and the ClubHotel Riu Bambu. * The Splash Water World will be opened from 1st November 2016 * 3-storey building. Colonial style architecture. * Surrounded by 30,000 m2 / 36,000 sq. yards of palm groves alongside the beach. 50 km / 31 miles from Higey. 200 m / 660 ft. from Caribbean Street. 30 km / 19 miles from Punta Cana Int'l. Airport. * Credit cards accepted: Visa, MasterCard ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Riu Palace Macao Hotel Punta Cana
- Riu Palace Macao Punta Cana
- Riu Palace Punta Cana
- Rui Palace Punta Cana