It was supposed to be our dream vacation in Punta Cana, but in the first few hours I thought we were living in a nightmare world.
Clearing customs quickly, we proceed to the tour operator check-in counter. Dreams Punta Cana I say, glancing quickly at my itinerary. We trudge our way to the waiting transportation, a mini-bus capable of holding no more than 20 people. It’s operated by an independent company that drops guests off at a number of resorts.
The bus begins to feel like an oven after three quarters of an hour as we sit waiting for the driver to get his instructions to leave.
Finally, we begin what we think will be a quick ride to our resort. A new highway running parallel to ours apparently is not yet completed, so we travel on a road that would make our spring potholes look like a silk tabletop. And our driver thinks he is a famous Nascar driver.
When we finally arrive at the resort we are met with glasses of champagne, but when I go to check in, no record of my reservation can be found. Tension splits the humid heat. As they call their sister resort I examine my itinerary more closely.
We are supposed to be at the Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana. It is located not far from the airport from whence we have just come. A taxi is summoned, the driver is friendly and cautious, and we arrive where we should have been, a few hours later than planned.
The nightmare is over. And as we enter our room we know the dream part has begun. Dreams Palm Beach is a recently renovated property, and it is clear the goal is to make it a prime 5 star attraction.
The room is fully appointed. Modern bed mattresses allow sweet dreams to enter easily after a frustrating afternoon. After a short rest a fully stocked mini-bar allows us to enjoy the balcony view with refreshment in hand, without having to call for room service.
Unlike some properties in the area, it is a short walk to the beach. And the beach, like most of those in this part of the country, shares its fine sand with stunningly beautiful blue green waters that steal, and then return, frontage every morning and evening as its tides decide how much space it desires on that given day.
This is a resort that not only recognizes how important the dining experience is to vacationers, but it places its eight restaurants within the confines of exquisitely appointed rooms designed to be welcoming while creating the ambiance conducive to the specialty international dishes you are able to select from.
There is a definite trend in many recently opened all inclusive properties to move beyond the buffet and only one or two other options for dining experiences. But this Dreams property has moved to a significantly higher level than most with quality menu selections created by a team of creative chefs in all of its dining venues.
We found ourselves in a dilemma after trying the Portofino Italian and French Bordeaux restaurants. We wanted to sample the other options but were so impressed by the first two we wanted to keep going back.
A week in some places is just not enough.
Dreams Resorts have also introduced a no reservation required policy, which means you can go back to the same restaurant more than once if you like. During prime seating hours the wait can be long if you are not there early, but the lobby lounge proved to be an excellent place to wait and meet new friends, with a bar service that was varied and quick for the most part.
The Punta Cana region is different than other holiday destinations in that there really are no large shopping communities nearby. Depending upon your resort location you can be anywhere from 50 to 160 miles to the cities that offer services that truly satisfy most tourist expectations for a shopping experience.
Perhaps it is because of these distances that so many resorts have tended to move to the 4 and 5 star plus quality.
Premium beverages are served at the bars, the grounds are immaculate, and the service on the beaches is friendly and speedy.
For the sun worshipper, there may be no better place to lie on the beach than those around Punta Cana. Its fine sands are legendary, and long walks in the morning and late afternoon seem to be the most prominent activity, notwithstanding the fact that exercise and a variety of sport facilities are readily available.
For the golf enthusiast, Punta Cana has over a dozen courses to challenge the best low handicapper, or the hacker who just wants to play a few rounds at a reasonable price.
Most of the golf courses are connected to golf resorts, but are open to the public as well. Guests of the resort get preferred pricing, but golf in Punta Cana is reasonable compared to resort areas in the United States.
Designed by P. B. Dye, the Punta Cana Resort and Club course draws visitors from most resorts. Its signature island green on the 12th hole, plus 14 ocean view and four ocean front holes that border the ocean make it a popular attraction. Even Golf magazine has declared it the number one course in the Caribbean, comparing it favourably to Pebble Beach.
The Cocotal Golf Course has been set up with 5 tee boxes at every hole to accommodate players of all levels. From the middle tee box, described as men’s white, it is a 6448 yard par 71 track with a slope rating of 126.
It is a fairly wide-open course which Golf Digest published in a review as a golf course with wide fairways and greens, all in beautiful shape on a flat terrain, making it one of the most enjoyable vacations the reviewer ever had. I can easily concur with that assessment.
The Catalonia Caribe will suit the taste of golfers who want to spend an enjoyable time on an un-crowded course that does not play with a great deal of difficulty.
Some of the hilled fairways offer an excellent view of the area, and it is moderately priced. When I was there, we were able to easily complete the round in less than 3 ½ hours.
New courses are under construction by some of the world’s best known designers. It is clear the coming years will see Punta Cana start to promote itself as a golf haven.
For today, one of its most successful growth sectors is destination weddings. These weddings, which are defined as those that take place at a location which neither the bride nor groom are from, comprise up to 25% of all seats on flights going to sun destinations.
Wedding size may vary from ten people to over a hundred guests. These weddings represent a growth industry throughout the world, but for resorts like Dreams it is a vital and important component of their marketing efforts.
The outdoor wedding chapels are gorgeous, and the wedding feast can take place in a specially created environment on the beach or in one of the banquet rooms, used more for weddings than business meetings.
We observed a number of ceremonies taking place when we were there. Temperatures are warm and consistent and the property is geared to change the venue if rain should suddenly show up on the horizon.
Dreams is perfectly planned for weddings, honeymoons, and for many second honeymoons as well.
By the end of the week we had totally forgotten the nightmare and as the flight landed in Winnipeg we hoped we would get the chance to go back again.
If you Go:
What to Do:
Golf is the activity most pursue off the resort. For a listing and description of golf courses in the area go to www.godominicanrepublic.com then follow the links to golf and then East Coast region.
Where to Stay:
While Dreams Resorts offer two locations in the area, most of the major brands are well established in the region as well, most of which carry 4 or 5 star ratings. The resorts here seem not to be crowded together. As a result you can always find reasonable quiet places to which you can escape from the throngs.
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