Hard Rock All Inclusive, Punta Cana (Dominican Republic) April 28 – May 2, 2013

I hate when I have a con list slightly larger than a Pro list…overall we give this resort a 3/5, we enjoyed the relaxation we experienced and are thankful to have gotten to see a new resort, the Hard Rock brand and the Punta Cana area of the Domincan Republic. That being said, I would try another Hard Rock but I prefer Mexico over the DR anyday!

– Thanks to being “VIP’d” check-in was quick and easy, done and on our way to our room in less than five minutes

– Large rooms, we were in their lead-in room category: Caribbean Suite, while we didn’t have a view (it looked out onto some gardens) the room size was more than adequate…and since we’ve traveled to several all inclusive resorts a large room is very important to us, space to spread out!

– The balconies are angled and large with comfortable seating an outlet if you wanted to bring your music or laptop out! We really liked the position of the balcony as it allowed for some privacy.

– The bathroom is also very nicely sized, huge shower with double vanity. My negative to this would be the lack of natural light and the use of dark colors. This is where I also felt some touch up work needed to be done, tiling/paint

– We had very low expectations of the food, as the DR is not known for their cuisine. We gave it a 3/5, we were both pleasantly surprised and thankful that it was better than expected although nothing to write home about.  Our personal favorites were Ipanema and the Pizza shop. We also loved the coffee served in Isla in the morning, but thought it was odd that the coffee in Torro was disgusting. Room service was quick and on par with the rest of the food.

– Blue Transfer company. I’m listing them first because they were truly the biggest downside to the trip. This is the company that Hard Rock themselves contracts with, for my clients, I would use a company called VIP.
As a travel professional, I know the important of the transfer, it’s the first taste and last taste of a vacation you get. Upon arrival, it was easy to find them but then they proceeded to drag us to several different waiting spots until he could figure out who was taking us to the resort. We also sat in the vehicle with the driver for about fifteen minutes until suddenly we left – we were the only people on the transfer?
On the return, I instill in my clients that they need to be at the airport three hours prior to a flight, I do not care if you’re sitting around for two or more, you’re there! Our flight was at 1:30PM, our transfer pick up time was 10:15. We walked outside to find the Blue Transfer representative around 9:55, as I would prefer to leave earlier since it’s about a half hour drive to the airport. He insisted we wait until 10:15. We watched that specific rep drive off in a shuttle about five minutes later.
There were two Blue transfer vehicles in the lot, but no one was claiming them, so to speak, the Hard Rock employees did try to assist us but had no answers themselves as to where our driver was come 10:25. Finally, a Blue Representative that had just been standing around decided to tell five of us to get on a motorcoach where we proceeded to wait another fifteen minutes before driving off at about 10:55. I was not a happy camper. We, of course, made the flight just fine with plenty of time to spare but when I send clients to an island, especially if they are new travelers this can be a serious point of stress for them. Unnecessary stress. My husband and I joke around a lot that transfers are the worst part of a vacation, this unfortunately continued to be true in the DR.

– We tipped our maid the first morning and had planned to on the last morning…but we never received shampoo until day 4, we never received washcloths, and while she wasn’t the one stocking the mini-bar, having it restocked was hit or miss. We also only received the daily newsletter once in our 5 day stay – this would have helped us be aware that Isla was going to be closing for four days. I also besides receiving it that they would include what pools would be having private events the following day.

– We expect the sewer smell in the Caribbean and Mexico, it’s not uncommon and we just make a running joke of it.  The issue in this case though was the overwhelming smell of ‘dirty water’ in the main building when they were mopping the floors. It’s the best way I can think to describe it…we started avoiding the main building as much as possible to avoid the smell. The Sun Lounge also had a distinct, not nice odor about it. I am pregnant currently which doesn’t help the situation when it comes to smells but even my husband noticed it off the bat.

– Service: Overall I would give them a 3/5. We really try to always keep in mind the destination and not compare it to another because the people are not going to be the same. I just couldn’t shake how not unfriendly they were but just how indifferent they were. If you weren’t the one to initiate an HOLA as you passed by, they surely weren’t going to. We met two waiters that we really enjoyed and were sure to tip them to make sure they knew how much we appreciated that. Juan, a server at Isla all day, learned how we liked our coffee after the first morning and was quick to ensure it was perfect. Management must know that if their employees are unhappy, it does affect the experience for the guests. And that’s what I came away with feeling…that management is lacking there because of the size, I’m assuming?

– Extra costs. So we’re on the same page: I used free travel agent nights I earned for selling Hard Rock Resorts to pay for our stay. This means that we were not entitled to the resort credit they are currently offering, which we have no problem with whatsoever! What was a problem was the high cost of the activities that you could use a resort credit or pay out of pocket for. Specifically finding out that mini-golf is not included and is $41 PER PERSON with tax. Um that’s a big fat NO.

I want to mention the pools without putting them in a plus or minus category, as there are 10+ of them!
We really enjoyed the smaller pools, Bongo and Sax but what got old fast was the fact that there were private events at the Sax pool two days in a row, not allowing us to use it. Like I mentioned there are more than enough but you know how it is, you tend to find one or two that you really prefer over others and it gets old when you get there and find out oh private party that day. I’m wondering how often that happens during high season and how frustrating that would get.

I would easily recommend this resort for a group because of the amount of space to spread out, the restaurants being able to accommodate everyone and the amount of activities available.
I would not want this for my honeymoon personally, unless casinos and Las Vegas was my style (Oh at the bar in the casino – it’s cash bar, your wristband is good for nothing!).

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