SOOPOO
SOOPOO
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April 13th, 2018 at 5:20:33 AM permalink
I just booked a trip to Hard Rock Punta Cana early May. The weather should be great there while here in Buffalo you never know..... so it's a good time of year to go. Direct flights via charter is what sealed the deal. Trip Advisor reviews seem highly positive. We are going with another couple, and they received $3000 in some sort of 'resort credit'. That seemed ridiculously high for an all inclusive resort, until I found out that they signed up for a three hour couples massage which costs $1700! The fine print says they have to basically leave a 20% tip so the free massage will cost $340! My package says we will we get $1500. It is possible it is double that. Has anyone been there? Any special restaurant or excursion recommended? What to do with the free 'fake' money? I will at least walk into the casino but don't plan on playing unless the other couple we are with wants to. As best I can tell from the website there is no Pai Gow which is what I generally like to play.

This eliminates me from WoV meet-up in May.....

Edit.... By the way, I called to ask a lot of questions, and was given a quote, which was $60 higher than the one I was looking at on line. The nice guy I was speaking with freely admitted that that $60 was the fee for telephone booking and most people just go buy it online after talking with him.
Wizard
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Wizard
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April 13th, 2018 at 6:29:13 AM permalink
I've been there. In my more financially-endowed days, Bovada invited me to a vacation there. You'll have a great time. However, you won't see the real country. Except for the staff, you'll see nothing but other gringos. If you walk down the beach, you'll just get to another all-inclusive resorts. However, I'm sure there are excursions you could do. I did went that was like a golf course but skeet shooting at every stop. Others in my group did a fishing trip and got horribly sea sick.

About this resort credit, it is kind of a scam. Let's say you spent all of it. I think the spa would let you continue to have services for "free" if you continued to pay the tip. I blew all my credit in the jewelry store, where the guest had to just pay some percentage like 20%. I overshot my credit and suggested I come back because I knew my friends wouldn't use all theirs. The store manager "Just pay whatever the percentage is of the asking price and you can buy as much as you want. No vouchers needed." In other words they quintuple the price of everything from a reasonable price and then give you an 80% discount but dress it up like you're getting something of value.

Speaking of the jewelry store, the Dominican Republic is one of the few places in the world to buy larimar, which looks like a bright turquoise. I think it is quite beautiful. Load up on it as gifts for your friends back home. In my recent pai gow videos I'm wearing my larimar bracelet from that jewelry store.

The casino there I believe is the second largest in the Caribbean, behind Paradise Island in the Bahamas. I think it is independently managed from the rest of the property. The staff in the casino I thought was a little rude, aside from a manager I met in the high-limit room who was very patient with all my questions. I think he knew who I was.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
billryan
billryan
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April 13th, 2018 at 9:19:33 AM permalink
Never been there myself, but know dozens of people who went there. Once. Don't know anyone who returned. The biggest complaint was the food, which ranged from horrible to awful. Many people ended up on an ice cream sundae diet for the week.
Wizard
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Wizard
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April 13th, 2018 at 10:59:13 AM permalink
Quote: billryan

Never been there myself, but know dozens of people who went there. Once. Don't know anyone who returned. The biggest complaint was the food, which ranged from horrible to awful. Many people ended up on an ice cream sundae diet for the week.



I thought the food was good. I would highly recommend making reservations every night at one of the specialty restaurants. The alternative is the buffet, which is just average. I will complain about the beverages. Very watery with cheap ingredients. I suspect the bartenders would give you the good stuff if you tipped.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
SM777
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April 13th, 2018 at 11:12:55 AM permalink
It's a great facility. If you don't enjoy yourself, it's something you did wrong.
Wizard
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Wizard
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April 13th, 2018 at 11:17:10 AM permalink
Quote: SM777

It's a great facility. If you don't enjoy yourself, it's something you did wrong.



I'm not saying I didn't like it, but I wouldn't go back. I prefer something more adventurous in my vacations, preferably with physical challenges of some kind. I had a much more interesting and memorable time in Santo Domingo. The story is too good to make public.

The beach at the Hard Rock is not that great. The waves break right by the shore so it isn't safe for swimming. The blazing hot Caribbean sun is a little too strong to just bake. Not much shade. As for the eye candy factor -- it's very low. You'll mainly see old fat rich people from the east coast. There is a topless pool but, of course, it was mostly men there and what little fruit was exposed was way past being ripe.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
SOOPOO
SOOPOO
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April 13th, 2018 at 11:25:51 AM permalink
Quote: Wizard

I prefer something more adventurous in my vacations, preferably with physical challenges of some kind. I had a much more interesting and memorable time in Santo Domingo. The story is too good to make public.



I also like to have something to 'do', but my girl works very hard and looks forward to doing nothing but sitting by the pool with a margarita in her hand. And a nice dinner. And no alarm clock. And most importantly warm weather. We are doing a 'do' vacation by cruising from Amsterdam to Basel in July, which will not be anything physically difficult but will be mostly sightseeing nonetheless.
SOOPOO
SOOPOO
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Romes
May 14th, 2018 at 6:29:24 AM permalink
Boring trip report time.

Stayed a Monday through Sunday at Hard Rock Punta Cana.

Trip occurred when we found out friends were going and I was already scheduled for vacation but had no plans. My girl was able to get the week off so we booked it. Company called Vacation Express with direct charter flights from Buffalo with VERY low prices. Hard Rock was the MOST expensive option in Punta Cana but was only $2800 for the two of us including airfare and transfers and all you can eat and drink. The other couple booked an ocean view room which was an extra $100 a night, but we just booked standard room which looked very nice on the website (in room jacuzzi, full bar, spacious).

Flight- nothing beats direct.... movies on flight, good service, airline was called "Miami Air" which I had never heard of.

Transfer- Bad decision. We made it to a bus where we sat for 45 minutes until it was loaded and left for a string of hotels, which ours was the last stop. It cost $10 per person per transfer. So the 30 minute drive ended up taking around an hour. So a taxi would have saved well over an hour, probably an hour and a half. Since there were four of us and a taxi was $50 we took a taxi on the way back.

Check in- Really well done. Instead of waiting on a line at arrival we are brought over to a nice room with a bar and snacks and sit with a man at his desk where he goes over everything. I asked if he was able to put us in two rooms near each other, and he said unfortunately not because the class of room we booked was not in the same building as our friends' upgraded room. He asked us if we would like a complimentary upgrade but in a different building. Sure...

Our room was a GIGANTIC suite. You enter and a full bath/shower is on the left. You then make it to the kitchen with fridge and coffee maker. Attached is the dining room. Then the 'small bedroom' with two full beds. To the right is the master bedroom with its own large bathroom with double sinks and double shower. Between the bedroom and the patio/deck was our own jacuzzi. There was a fully stocked bar in the room with rum/gin/vodka/scotch.... Good internet, two big flat screen TV's, good air conditioning. The best part was there were two separate air conditioning controls so one room I could keep at 68 (me) and the other at 74 (girl). It apparently was called a 'family suite'.
SOOPOO
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Romes
May 14th, 2018 at 6:52:19 AM permalink
Now the bad part.... on our third or night a family occupied the suite next door to us, and they were LOUD. I fell asleep but I heard my girl on the phone at 1:30am calling security to ask them to get them to quiet down. I asked her if she wanted to switch rooms the next day but she didn't want to pack so each day and night it was LOUD. It was mostly kids aged 8-14 just being LOUD. On the night before checkout we saw a bellman bringing luggage TO the room, and looked inside at what looked like a large refugee family that must have crammed a dozen into the room.

The food was very good. I'd say each restaurant was just a half notch below what the equivalent style restaurant in a nice area of the USA would be.
Toro- steakhouse--- girl really liked her filet, I liked skirt steak, shrimp cocktail was a D. Way too SMALL shrimp to be served as a cocktail. Super amazing airy cheesecake.
Ipanema- like "Texas de Brazil" Salad bar was great, meats very good.
Ciao- I loved all 3 courses, bean soup, antipasto plate, mushroom ravioli. The bean soup was laced with what I can call "bacon dust" and I wanted 20 bowls.
Mexican- Don't remember the name but it was good, but to me Mexican food has a low ceiling and a high floor.
Zen- "Shogun" style Hibachi I'd say above average for that genre. I also ordered sushi and the waiter clearly did not understand English as well as he should have for being at a resort that caters to Americans. There were 4 types of "sashimi" listed, and I asked for one of each. I had to point to the menu. I also tried to order two 'rolls'. The sushi took so long he brings it after the entire rest of the meal was done (at least before desert). He puts in front of me 4 separate orders of 3 types of sashimi, missing one entirely. And 3 rolls, not 2, and not the ones I ordered. It was also pretty mediocre. Oh well. That's what I get for ordering sushi in the DR

Breakfasts were uniformly excellent. Dozens of cheeses choices, carpaccios, sausages, omelet stations, fruits, veggies, etc....

Did not go to a 'restaurant' for lunch, but rather, grazed at the pool or beach. As soon as you sat at a pool a waitress would come over and be your server until you left. Grilled sausage, burgers, fried chicken, pizza, whatever you want... The pools were always crystal clear. The beach was immaculate. Always enough chairs in or out of the sun. One topless pool, only two women were self exposing. Some of the pools had LOUD music, others were pretty quiet.
SOOPOO
SOOPOO
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Romes
May 14th, 2018 at 7:10:31 AM permalink
Golf- In the bizarre way they give away "Resort Credits", golf was "free" for me. I just had to use $200 in RC's (my room came with $3000 in RC's) and pay the "fee" of $40. I was aware of this before we booked the trip. So I golfed twice in what a gentleman I met called "millionaire's golf". I went out at 7:50am and was supposed to be paired with another single and a twosome. They were no shows so I went out by myself. I played a two ball scramble, never seeing anyone in front nor behind me, except for the half dozen security guards they had every few holes and the hundred or so workers manicuring the course. They did have a 'cart guy' bringing around complimentary beverages. The course was very wide open, but was so fast that if you hook or slice there is no rough to save your ball from being lost in the brush.
If you wanted to rent clubs it was $25 per set. I enjoyed the course a lot.

Girl got a $210 hour massage which really costs $42. We also rented a "Bali Bed" for the day at a pool for $400 (really $80). It came with a waitress who continuously stocked a cooler with water/soda/beer. Plus a bottle of champagne. Plus she'd bring unlimited mixed drinks. Other than tips that is all the money I spent there.

Tips- You are told it is a non tipping property. Nothing is farther from the truth. As those who have read some of my posts are aware I HATE tipping. I would much rather that tips be included. I don't mind supporting the worker but I HATE trying to guess what is appropriate. Soooooo..... when we were together as a foursome the other girl always did the tipping. I handed her $100 on day two and told her if that runs out I will give her more.

Casino- Supposedly largest in the Caribbean. I did bring money to gamble but was only willing to play Pai Gow if they had it or craps if the other couple we were with wanted to. The casino had BJ (3-2), and a ton of Carney games (UTH, 3CP, Caribbean Stud, LIR), manned and unmanned roulette. Yes, I saw someone playing double zero with an empty single zero wheel open.... Craps, that sigma derby knock off, Casino war, Big Wheel,etc... No Pai Gow. Tons of slots of course.
The sports book looked like a Vegas Book. But the took more vig. Instead of an even money bet being -110, both sides would be -115.

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