I have such a love/hate relationship with trip advisor; I drive myself crazy every year planning our spring break trip! The reviews are all over the place -- I can usually weed through and figure out what I need to know. That said, our original reservation was at a resort about an hour from the airport, but the reviews were almost all bad, so Amex Travel was able to change us at the last minute. I'm going to try to be specific because I couldn't find the answers I was looking for when I looked up this resort. Our visit was March 31-April 6, 2013.
The Reserve is a separate section of a much larger resort, the Paradisus. There is a very large pool and a baby pool, but the beach is NOT CLOSE. It's not far, but we've gotten used to walking from our room and being on the beach in a few steps. We walked every day instead of waiting for the tram and it was about 10 minutes from room to beach. If you're traveling with any older family members, I'd stay at the Paradisus.
We checked in on Sunday about 3:00 and there were no problems. Very nice concierge area. Our reservation was for a 2Br suite and it was still being cleaned, so we changed and grabbed a late lunch. The room was really two adjoining rooms, one king and two queens. Both had living area with sofa and tv, but the queen room was huge! Large dining room and living area as well as large bathroom. Unfortunately, my teenage boys had this room and my husband and I were in an equally beautiful king room with a weird layout. The bedroom and bathroom were both very cramped. My husband and I are average size and we really had a hard time moving around. Beware of the marble floors and stairways throughout -- especially after rain.
We eat out a lot at home, so we're not looking for gourmet meals when we travel. All-inclusives are notorious for buffets and there was a lot of repetition. I'm very picky and most days I had fruit and bread! There's lot of fish and salads. If you're adventurous, the food is fine. Thank goodness there was a grill that served burgers and pizza every day, but even the pizza was just fair. The majority of the specialty restaurants (dinner only, I believe) are at the Paradisus, so you will travel back and forth a lot, but realize you need reservations at many of them and you should make the reservations at check-in or as soon as possible. We were only able to get into three of the restaurants and had buffets for the rest of our dinners. We were very happy at the Italian restaurant and Aqua, which is at the Reserve. Skip Melo (mexican)!
The Reserve guests have a special area at the beach and there is a guard watching the area. It is next to the area for Royal Service, which is adults only, so you should be prepared for topless bathing. We didn't get the Family Concierge package, but my husband is an early riser and goes down to the beach early to get our chairs. Unfortunately, many people will put their things out at the pool and beach and you never see them use them. We stayed at the beach most of the trip and had no trouble finding a spot if we got there by 9. The first two rows are reserved for the Family Concierge guests, but if no one shows up by 10:30ish, the beach staff will let you move into their spot. The set up is beautiful with the straw hut umbrella and double lounge beds.
By mid-week, after walking back and forth to the beach, I announced I wouldn't have chosen the Reserve if I had known it wasn't beachfront. That changed when we decided to have lunch at one of the Paradisus buffets. It was packed. At all the buffets there is a chef making some things to order, but there were so many people rushing to get to the food we left. This alone was enough to change my mind about the Reserve. You pay a little more, but it is a quieter, less crowded experience.
My kids usually disappear on vacation and we have to make them check in, but they were bored here. There doesn't seem to be an "activities organizer" or maybe we just didn't see one at the Reserve. Even on the days we spent at the beach and ventured away from the Reserve's private area, we didn't see any activities so the kids were never able to meet anyone. Other resorts we've visited have had someone at the pool area getting kids involved and planning teen activities (boat cruises, games, etc.), but we didn't see anything like this.
A sales pitch was mentioned to us early in the week! It was going to be 90 minutes. My husband even told them we weren't buying anything, no matter what, and they said their pay was based on the pitch, but we were able to avoid it!
Few more things. Drinking age is 18. Loud, obnoxious teens (with parents!) with free alcohol spoiled one evening at casino. In the evening, the Reserve is dead. Paradisus has shows, entertainment, etc. Casino (small-15 slots, 6 blackjack tables, roulette) stays open until 3 am. One bar is 24 hours. We did one excursion, the dune buggys/ATVs. Lots of fun. VERY MUDDY. Husband golfed twice. He's played all over, including Ireland. Played at La Cana. He is still raving about it. Service was fine. Bartenders were all very nice. Beach waiters were great. We were a little surprised that quite a few staff members didn't understand or speak English, but it wasn't a big deal.
We've been to just about every island that offers all-inclusive properties. Beaches Turks was our favorite, but this is a close second. Beach was beautiful and property is very nice. Just wish it was closer to the beach!!! I know I've left something out -- just send me an email!
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