For those who don't wish to read all of my babble, in short this resort is one not to be missed. Our criticisms for the whole experience are so minimal their almost not worth mentioning. I was so nervous after reading some of the negative reviews, but I don't have a clue where they've come from! Don't listen to them! Royalton is the place to be!
I travelled alongside my friend, we both came from England and booked through Thomson. It was our first time in the Dominican, and my first time going all inclusive. Our flights ran smooth without concerns, the dream liner on the return was lovely (although I'm not sure what all the fuss is about). There's plenty of leg room in standard seats, however we were little miffed as we'd paid for extra leg room but the seats seemed the same as all the rest.
On arrival there was reps there to meet us, the transfer was quick and simple with only about a 20 minute drive from the airport. We were checked in on the coach before even arriving, and were greeted with a cocktail at reception. We found at times the swipe cards to get into our room were a bit temperamental, we were advised the magnetic field from mobiles can affect them.
Our room was absolutely beautiful. The beds were amazing! The shower is so powerful which is something very important to me. The door did leak slightly but nothing a towel on the floor couldn't fix. The maids cleaned the room from top to bottom every day (beware the floors are very slippy after mopping), and they seem to work long hours so can work around when you're free. We made good use of the 'do not disturb/please service' sign on the door and always had our needs met. We also had gorgeous robes and slippers in the room. The maids come again in the evening to turn the beds down and refresh towels. The air con is top notch, along with a ceiling fan as well. Our view was facing the main area where the restaurants and bars were which we were happy with as we'd made no special requests. I'd say everything is spaced out pretty evenly so wherever your room is you're never too far from all the facilities. By the looks of the layout there aren't too many pool/sea views so don't pin your hopes on that and I did hear that some who had paid for sea views could only see the sea if they stretched round the corner of their balcony.
There's two pools and one tiny shallow pool for kids. The pools are medium size, not enough to swim full lengths but they were never overly busy. We did find after the holiday went on that the sunbeds got very busy, and by 6am it was hard to find a spare bed, especially with shade! I've read some people saying you cannot reserve until 8am which unfortunately is no longer the case. We found some beds had towels on since 6am and weren't even being used until the afternoon. I'd say this is definitely something that needs work, as there's easily space for more. The beach however was a lot less busy....with beautiful clear white sands. The sea was a bit cold and choppy due to it being the Atlantic but all the same amazing!
The restaurants are brilliant. I highly recommend making sure you try all of them. The only restaurant we had to wait for a table was hunters, the steak restaurant. Even then our longest wait was 40 minutes, and when you're on holiday I don't see the problem with that. It's not as though you're in a rush is it?! They hand you a bleeper and you're free to go and get a drink or whatever whilst you wait. Our favourites were Hunters and Zen, and our least I'd say was under the sea and the buffet, but I'd still recommend trying them both. With Zen there is a sushi bar that you can go to whenever, it's only the live teppanyaki stations that you need to book the morning before - and if you're extra nice to the staff around the sushi bar they'll sneak you over some teppanyaki anyway. The room service is also top notch, and 24 hour which we made full use of! There's no way you can ever go hungry, there's food to meet the fussiest eaters, and those with extremely strong will power would find all types of healthy foods too. We however gained over a stone between us!
The evening entertainment was wonderful, and again I'd recommend trying to catch every performance. The only criticisms would be that most of the shows only last an hour, which isn't much in the type of resort where you can't really wander the local area. The dreams beach party is not one to be missed, a big favourite along with Michael Jackson of course. Make sure you go to all the bars and try some cocktails, they're out of this world! Although we did have to keep asking for them to be weaker as Dominican measures are very different to English!
The casino is a reasonable size but is hit and miss with busyness and atmosphere. The is also a minimum of a $20 purchase of chips at the tables. The nightclub we found to be a bit of a let down. The music seems to be the same playlist every night, the atmosphere is a bit rubbish and it was mostly almost empty. I think it's difficult to get the mix right due to there being so many nationalities wanting their own music.
I would encourage you to do shopping for gifts at the mall. There are free buses that run twice a day with a ticket from reception, it takes around 40 minutes to get there, you have two hours there and then a longer journey back due to drop offs. The mall is a lot lot cheaper than the local market, and the market stalls they have within the resort one evening. Don't be fooled....they pester and pester and make you feel you are getting a good deal when it is not the case!
Listening to reps you will be told how little money everyone earns and how grateful they are, then you'll see them with their flash watches and iPhones. As you talk to people you'll learn they don't all earn the pittance they make out, I think the lowest paid are the maids. On reading reviews we felt great pressure to tip everywhere, when in reality we found we just tipped people who we felt gave us good service. Often in the restaurants you'll be served by two or three different people who you'll only have one interaction with so we didn't feel it appropriate. We tipped the maids most days but found it made no difference to the service we received, they did the same good job every day. My rule would be don't feel pressured, if you received good service then tip, if not, don't!
Mostly everywhere accepts Pesos and American dollars, which we used both. We were told that reception exchange pounds for dollars but this is not the case, the reps will exchange it but the rate isn't brilliant, so make sure you bring enough.
Excursion wise we chose the outback safari and swimming with dolphins. Both of which were amazing and worth every penny. The outback safari at $95 for a full day of experiencing local culture and sights. We did that on our last day and it was a beautiful way to round of our trip. The dolphins we went VIP for $190 each, I think that's meant to be 2 dolphins to 6 people, however there was only me and my friend who had it so we had extra special treatment! The rep will tell you you can get one photo for $10, we did not see this option anywhere. I think it's something like $90 for a CD of photos, and $110 for photos and a DVD...but they're well worth it! Others told us that the excursion to an island (I cant remember the name) was also a brilliant trip. There's also water sport type things available on the beach which I was informed were good fun!
We went over to memories for a day for the slides. We stayed about two hours. The resort was empty as I think most people go over to Royalton. The slides were average, good fun but nothing special. Worth taking a look but don't get overly excited - however brilliant if you're taking kids. This resort is lot more family orientated with a kids and teens group.
I didn't try the spa or the gym but were told both were good. The spa staff work on commission and apparently it is possible to haggle with them to get a better price. The treatments aren't cheap but you get full access to all the facilities which are apparently top notch.
We were encouraged to give shout outs to the staff who really stood out for us. Everyone was very helpful anyway but in particular at Zen; Manuel, George and Francis really made our experience brilliant. The nightclub barman Hector was very friendly and good fun. And Alex the dancer made the beach party a brilliant night! Smiley face (god knows where she's meant to work because she's everywhere) was always good fun, an amazing dancer and my friend really enjoyed the aqua aerobics with her.
Unfortunately we'd have liked to say the Thomson rep Domingo was helpful. He was useless - which was our only real sticking point. On first impressions he's very friendly and approachable, however once he's had your money he's no use for anything. He had to chase him up many a time for things and I know other holiday makers had a lot bigger problems that he just did not sort. He likes to send you away and ask you to return the next day, my advice would be to stay and ask for him to sort whatever it is there and then, otherwise you'll be forever chasing after him.
In regards to paying extras for things I just don't think it's needed. The diamond club have a separate section of the beach, a separate beach bar, a separate bar by reception and access to the adult pool. But their facilities didn't seem much different to ours, considering how much extra they'd paid. I think opinions were mixed, some I spoke to appreciated it, however most felt it just wasn't worth it. The staff by the regular pools take your orders and bring drinks anyway, so I'm not sure the butler is that special. The service is brilliant everywhere so I see no need to pay extra. Again the swim out rooms, maybe helpful for a family with children wanted to play of an evening or whatever. But they don't actually lead to a main pool, they are separate and seem a bit pointless to me. A nice concept but a bit of a waste of money. The adult pool was just another medium sized pool. It did seem a lot less busy and have its own bar, I don't know the price for that but if you want more of a chilled holiday it might be worth it if it's not too expensive.
Overall a brilliant holiday not to be missed. Worth every penny and more. The scenery is absolutely out of this world, the beach is the best I've seen. The service is outstanding. The food is top notch.
-The sports bar do brill snacks during the day, we missed this until right near the end but definitely worth trying.
-There's a lot of branded and unbranded alcohol, if you don't ask you will get the house drinks, just ask for what you want.
- Avoid the concierge in your apartment block! They are extremely friendly and will try and convince you to come to some meeting offering free massages and all sorts, it's just a time share sale. It lasts hours and apparently they can be very pushy and funny about it.
- If you are a coffee fan, bring your own, Dominican coffee isn't all it's made out to be, however the coffee shop does better drinks than the restaurants/room service.
- Room service are very flexible. The menu is a bit confusing with the times for meals. Just ask for what you want within reason and they are more than happy to supply.
- If you have anything to celebrate whilst there let them know. There's all sorts of extras they do for stuff like that.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Royalton Punta Cana is a modern "All-In Luxury" Resort on Bavaro beach with unique all inclusive features like Reservation-Free Dining, international drinks, 24 hour room service and Dreambed. Guests can also take advantage of our All-In Connectivity exclusive features including: • Free Wi-Fi throughout the resort • Unlimited free in-room calling to North America and most of Europe • Convenient USB recharge and Bluetooth audio stations in your room • Download our free Royalton app and receive unlimited free calling plan from your mobile device while on our property, as well as unlimited free app-to-app texting. ... more less
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