Trip Date: December 2009
Location: Punta Cana, Domincan Republic
Beach Junkies Rating: (based on 5 stars)
Beach: 5 / Food: 4 / Rooms: 5 / Pools: 5 / Snorkeling: N/A
We went to NH Real Arena from December 18-25, 2009. Yes, we saw all the negative reviews but it did not stop us from booking this resort. Prior to us leaving Toronto, we emailed Roberto and asked him for a top floor, ocean view room with a king size bed. We flew with Air Transat (happy that they now serve hot meals) and arrived on time to a beautiful sunny Punta Cana. A good thing about this resort is that it's only a 20 minute ride from the airport.
Because we had booked a Mirage Deluxe room with Transat Holidays, we were check in privately. Surprisingly at 12:30 pm, our room was ready. We were given a map, keys and coupons, and were told to see the bell boy to bring us to our room. We had asked about a la carte reservations, they showed us where the desk was and since there wasn't a line up, we booked two of our five a la cartes. We were then brought by a golf cart to our building which was a 60 seconds away from the lobby.
Our room (#2441) was in building 2 (I think it's the Punta Cana building) on the top (4th) floor. To figure out where your room is located, follow this: 1st number represents which building you are in, 2nd number represents what floor you are on and the last two numbers is which room you are in. The rooms are very spacious. You have a closet with bathrobes, slippers, iron & board and a safe (you program the code yourself). There is a bathroom with a toilet and shower, the doors are made of frosted glass, some toiletries and a jacuzzi tub. There is a big hole in the wall but that didn't bother us. It's where my husband put his luggage. We had a king size bed. The sheets and duvet are comfy, the bed is on the hard side and the pillows were nice and fluffy but we could have used more than three. There is a fridge (stocked with coke, sprite, water and beer), coffee maker and ice bucket. Also in the room is a flat screen TV, a desk (but no paper or pen to be found), a chair, table and a pull out sofa. The balcony is great. If you are in building 2 and the last digit of your room number is an odd number, then you will have a great view of the pool. If you are on the 4th floor, you will also have a view of the ocean. The rooms are immaculately clean. There was a slight odor near the toilet but we just sprayed with febreeze and it was fine.
For breakfast, we only ate at the buffet once and ordered room service twice. Room service is much better. I had read in so many reviews about Felix who makes the best eggs. When we went to the buffet, we didn't see him, probably his day off. For lunch we ate at the poolside grill for most days. Some things to eat - salsa, chips & guacamole, rotisserie chicken, pasta, grilled chicken and fish, hot dogs, hamburger, french fries and paella. Each day there was something new to eat. At Festival Buffet (main buffet), there was pizza, pasta, rice, potatoes, the usual but it was much nicer to eat at the grill where you have a view of the ocean and pool. We ate at the main buffet for the Mexican and Spanish themed nights. I wasn't that impressed, their buffet is smaller than other resort buffets. At the Mexican night, we discovered the beef fajitas. They were delicious. It's too bad that we found them after we had already eaten a lot. We ate at all four a la carte restaurants:
Senses (French) - This was our favorite restaurant. We had a gin mojito granita, a tuna carpaccio salad, red snapper/lobster main entree and a chocolate dessert. This is the restaurant decorated in all red. The service was quite fast.
Shore Grill (American/Surf & Turf) - This restaurant looks like a saloon and is more casual than the others. We had an appetizer platter of nachos & cheese and really yummy wings. After was caesar salad on bread (we thought this was odd but it tasted delicious). My husband had the rib-eye and I got the garlic shrimp. I have to say that I was really disappointed with my shrimp dish. All the resorts I have been to in the past have served jumbo shrimp. This is the first time I received small "cocktail" shrimp. For dessert was cheesecake and a brownie.
Cinque Terre (Italian) - This was our least favorite restaurant. I believe we started off with a soup, then an arugula salad, two pastas (the mushroom fettuccine one was amazing and the olive tomato penne was okay). The mains were seafood gratin or beef encrusted in herbs. The service here was extremely slow. So slow that we didn't even wait for our dessert. We just left.
Asian (name speaks for itself) - Teppanyaki is usually a fun meal with the chef entertaining you. Our chef just did his job, he cooked, served us our food and left. Before having our meal of cooked beef, chicken and shrimp with vegetables and fried rice, we had miso soup, tempura and some sushi. All were very good. After we had fried ice cream for dessert.
Christmas Eve Gala at Shore Grill - For Christmas Eve dinner, the resort was serving the same meal at all the a la carte restaurants and I think they had an elaborate buffet at Festival. We chose to eat at Shore Grill (this is before we knew what any of the restaurants looked like). The dinner was six courses and took us over two hours to eat. Our waitress kept the champagne flowing. Our glasses were never empty. We ate liver pate (I will admit that I would never eat pate, let alone liver pate but I tried it and it was delicious. I ate the whole thing), lobster salad, fish in a pastry puff, gin mojito granita, beef fillet and a double chocolate cheesecake for dessert. We were stuffed.
There are many bars located around the resort - Alisios Bar in the lobby (never went), Arenas Sports Bar (never went), Olas Bar (good to get limonata- frozen limeade), Wet Bar (we are not pool bar people) and Tanhtra Rooftop Bar. When you are in the courtyard watching the show, the resort has makeshift bars around the perimeter but there are servers taking drink orders. We didn't drink much during the day except for beer at lunch. At dinner, it's either a beer or wine. Their red house wine is better than the white. I also like drinking champagne in the evening while watching the shows. Another good drink is the mojito at the pool bar, it's made with the lime slushie.
The beach is gorgeous and no seaweed to be found on the shoreline. The beach chairs are quite different from the usual ones you see at the resort. They are plastic wicker-looking chairs. It makes the resort look modern and classy. They are not that comfortable but I am not going to complain about it. There are plenty of palapas with chairs and tables but you will find that the one closer to the water are taken early in the morning. Don't worry, all those taken spots will be evacuated by 2 pm when everyone leaves for lunch. The activities that I have seen are volleyball and aerobics. When you are facing the water, towel and water activities hut is to your right and to the left is the massage hut. Past the massage hut is a quieter area but you do get the yelling from the vendors asking you to come see what they are selling. But don't worry, there is a security guard there and an invisible line they can not cross.
There is a large pool where all the activities take place and the pool bar, and a smaller pool where most people go to relax and read. The water in the pool looks green because the tiles are green, not the usual blue. We like this look of the pool, it makes for a unique quality that the other resorts don't have. The same type of wicker furniture surrounds the pool. I must say that this is the first resort that provides tables beside every two chairs.
Most shows take place at NH Plaza or in Tanhtra Bar. Both the circus show and the white party are fantastic. Be sure to catch these when they are on. You can check the activities board by the main buffet to see what the nightly entertainment is. Before the main show in the plaza square, there will be some musical act or a giant inflatable screen playing a music concert. On the 24th, a booklet describing their Christmas program was left in our room (along with a little Christmas gift). They had a great program for the holidays (Dec 24-Jan 5) but unfortunately it started on our last day at the resort.
The staff are great and very hard working especially when on our last day there was a torrential downpour. All hotel staff were either mopping up water, towelling down the 1st floor rooms, evaluating the pool, etc. Yes, many of them only speak Spanish, but I find that if you try to speak Spanish, they will try and speak English. Please be respectful and learn a few key phrases before you head down. It will impress them. Some of our favorite staff are Ronaldo at the Mirage Concierge, Mirabel at Shore Grill, Henry at Shore Grill/main buffet and Ronald from Senses/Shore Grill. Another person who was extremely helpful was Roberto, who fulfilled our room request. Danny, our rep from Air Transat doesn't work for the resort but he lives there, has to be hands-down the best rep we have ever had.
Check out was simple as ever. We checked out at the front desk and then hung out at Mirage Concierge to enjoy the TV and free wifi, along with those delicious mini donuts and Dasani water.
I would definitely recommend this resort to others. I would like to try staying at NH Royal one day (but only if there is another operator offering it besides Sunwing), although I like the pools better at Real Arena. Guests at NH Royal have access to everything at Real Arena. I don't know why people complain about this resort. There is honestly nothing to complain about. I love the modern look of the entire resort and the staff are fantastic. You won't be disappointed. Click here to check out more photos we took at the resort.
Still not convinced? See what others think here
Still not convinced? See what others think here