Sunday, March 25, 2012

Punta Cana

    So for March Break we did our first ever trip to a resort, and it was a fantastic time! We stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and went with our friends Bruce and Carol. It's a huge resort, with about 7500 people staying there but we were in the 'Premier' section which is smaller and has it's own area (pool, buffet, lobby, etc.) so it really didn't seem crowded at all. However the beach area was for everyone so that was pretty much wall-to-wall people. The beach was a 15 minute walk away but we usually took one of the shuttles that ran continually. Our room was just great - we were in the building closest to the lobby (and pretty much everything else then) and our balcony overlooked the pool.
    It was such a relaxing week - we'd reserve some lounge chairs by the pool early each morning and spend most days hanging out in the sun, near the water. I had lots of time for reading and listening to music. We also would play games (RummiKub, euchre, rummy, dominoes, pictionary [on the iPad!]) in our room or in one of the lounge areas. We spent some time at the beach - was surprised by the steady stream of people walking along the shoreline. We took a half-hour walk down to the flea market where I haggled a vendor to sell me a t-shirt for $15.
    One day we booked an excursion for the morning so we were picked up in an open back truck and driven to another beach area, where we got onto a flat boat to head out onto the ocean. When we got out a ways we were taken to a set of speed boats where each couple got in and we took off, following the leader. I was right behind him so that helped - you just had to hang on to the steering wheel for dear life as you whipped over the waves, and adjust the throttle to maintain an appropriate distance. It was A LOT of fun! When we finished that we headed back to the flat boat and went snuba-ing, which is underwater diving without the tank (the air is supplied through a hose attached to tanks on the surface. That really didn't go real smoothly but it was still pretty cool. I found I couldn't adjust the pressure in my ears so stayed near the surface observing the fish. Beth wasn't comfortable at first about descending though after spending some time with the apparatus she probably could've done a dive. Bruce's mask leaked because of his beard and Carol started feeling pretty seasick. After the snuba activity we were allowed to go snorkelling but none of us were really interested in that. In the end we felt it was still a great experience and worth the money.
    There was always lots of food at the resort buffet and even for a picky eater like me there was no trouble finding things I enjoyed. We went to 4 a la carte restaurants too but really my favourite meal was the buffet we ate before leaving on our last day (turkey and potatoes - yum!). A few times I took my large travel mug along and filled it with ice cream, added milk and stirred up my own milk shake - that too was very good. You could get ice and drinks all around the resort and the minibar we had in our room was always stocked with our favourite drinks.
    We were disappointed with the evening entertainment though, especially when we checked stuff out the first couple of nights. It seemed pretty unprofessional and the one time the sound system broke down completely. However later in the week we tried a different venue a couple of times and the shows were much more polished and included some pretty talented performers (dancers and a circus show).
    Overall, I think I enjoyed the resort more than the cruise we went on 2 years ago, mainly because there was just so much down time (on a cruise you usually do more excursions and walk a lot more stairs - and though the food was better, there were more extra costs [tipping, drinks]). We'd love to go back with our whole family!

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