Friday, January 8, 2010

RESORT REVIEW: Occidental Grand Flamenco Punta Cana

Trip Date: July 2004
Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Beach Junkies Rating: (based on 5 stars)
Beach: 5 / Food: 5 / Rooms: 3 / Pools: 4 / Snorkeling: n/a

miQ and Leesh on Bavaro Beach

There were four of us that went to Occidental Grand Flamenco around the ages of 25-27.  We booked a month and a half ahead with Bel Air Travel and got a great price. The one thing that disappointed me before we even left Toronto was that our flight time was changed from 7:15 am to 1:45 pm and also our airline changed from Air Transat to West Jet.  I was happy that we would be arriving early in the day to start off our vacation, but instead, we got there at night, arrived late at the Punta Cana airport and had no movie to watch on the plane.  No biggie…our vacation was just about to start.

Since we were arriving around 6 pm, we were landing during rush hour, so there was a bit of a line up because when you arrive at the airport, they take your picture.  Customs was quick but a bit of a wait to get our luggage.

There were only 4 couples that got off our bus to check into the resort.  Check in was a breeze, and of course, we were welcomed with a drink.  I had emailed the resort a week before to requested a king size bed and 3rd floor ocean view room.  Originally they booked us in a 3rd floor room (they have high ceilings) but it wasn’t ready upon our arrival.  We sent our luggage to our room and walked to the building we were staying at.

Grand Flamenco buildings

We did get a king size bed on the second floor, facing the next resort. Not a disappointment because I heard the rooms that are facing the pool and walkway was extremely hot coming in the evening because the room is facing the sun.  Since we were facing the back, some sun came into our room and the room was always cool even with the A/C off.  We were in Building 12, Room 218.  The rooms are very spacious and are equipped with all that is needed (there is even a luggage rack, it’s a good idea to keep your luggage on it so bugs can’t get in your clothes).  The safety deposit box is handy, $15 paid upon check out.  The fridge is filled with pop, beer and a large water jug.  Apparently you are not supposed to brush your teeth with tap water. There is hair dryer, iron and an alarm clock.  You use your key card that opens the room to keep the power on in the room.  In any case, you can always use another type of card or a folded up coaster from your room.  It’s not a good idea to always keep the power on all day; this method is used so that power is not being wasted.  It is always nice to leave your maid a tip or a small gift on the pillow because these woman work from very early in the morning to the evening.  We also found that in some rooms, perhaps the rooms that face the other resort, when you go onto the balcony, the sliding door locks automatically.  Be careful.

I was impressed with the food at the buffet.  I always don’t expect much at the buffet restaurants but this one had a large variety of different kinds of food.  It mostly changed each night. The waiter Domingo was very good to us and always helped us find a table during the busy breakfast and lunch rush. We tried the Steakhouse, La Reses, and had the best meal.  We tried the Lamb chops, Veal Tenderloin and Pork Fillet (this is the closest thing to a steak), it was so delicious that we ate there twice!  We also tried the Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda.  Not too impressed with the meal because the portion were too small.  The appetizer platter was very good.  The snack bar, Home Rum is good when you are craving some greasy food (hamburgers, hot dogs, bacon, fries and onion rings) as a late afternoon bite.  Joaquin, the bartender is really friendly and is willing to make special drinks.  The only problem is if you are hungry after 10:30 pm, there is no place to get some food.  If you are a late night snacker like me, I would bring some chips and cookies from home.

The lobby bar has the best bartenders, they are fast and entertaining.  There is a beach bar (left side of the beach), a bar by the theatre, a bar in the Royal Club restaurant (right side of the beach), the swim up bar and the bar in Home Rum.  The Tiki Tiki drink was the best one I tasted but I always like Lime daiquiris.

one of the free form pools

The pool is a very large free form pool.  There are busy, crowded sections, but also quiet sections closer to the beach.  There is a pool in the Royal Club area that is used for scuba lessons.  While we were there, the pool was going under renovations.  There were about 8-10 workers drilling and hammering at the pool bottom to fix it.  Our friends brought them beers since they were working so hard.  There are plenty of chairs around the pool but it’s a bit difficult to find an area with shade.

The beach is absolutely beautiful.  The sand is white and the water is always a rich turquoise colour.  I did notice that there are people who wake up at 6 am to place their towels to the beach chairs under the palapas but if you go in the afternoon, you will still be able to find some chairs.  I find that many people just leave their cups, cigarette butts and garbage lying around, so please be considerate, pick up after yourself and keep the beach clean.  There are many activities at the beach.  To the far right, you will find the water sports and the beach towel hut.  In the middle, you will find the volleyball and soccer courts, and the aerobics.  It tends to be crowded here.  This is where you can find the henna tattoos and massage hut.  To the left of the beach, near the Royal Club private beach, you will find lots of room.  It’s quieter and you are right by the bar, another massage hut and the guy that makes the rice necklaces. 

There are nightly shows that start at 10 pm.  I find that you can sit by the pool and watch the show, it’s not the best view but it is cooler with a nice breeze.  On Saturday nights, there is a beach party after the nightly show.  They bring out a bar, cook some burgers and just play music on the beach.  There is also the disco, Mangu, which really doesn’t get started until almost 1 am.  You should check it out because the top floor has low couches and tables, even swings on the dance floor.  We attended a Manager’s Cocktail reception one night; they set up in the lobby.  They were serving champagne and sushi and had a little dance number with the managers.  You will find a photographer that takes pictures of you with the dancers, a monkey or parrots; you can then purchase the photos at the lobby for $6 US.  This resort is in a great area because it’s close to the market that is located on the beach, maybe a 15 minute walk; and another market just outside of the resort.

We checked out of our room at noon.  The bad thing was that the bus wasn’t picking us up until 3:15 pm.  Along with the 3 other couples, we sat in the lobby for 3 hours, drinking and eating in the heat.  Not fun at all.  Our bus arrived on time and took us to the airport.  I was impressed with the new enclosed air conditioned section at the Punta Cana airport (there’s even a Baskin-Robbins), it was much nicer to sit in this area rather than the open air section.

Before this trip, I only heard good things about the resort and everyone was right.  It caters to both families, couples and singles, and each person can find something that they can enjoy, whether it be activities, drinks, even food.  The grounds, rooms, pool and beach are well kept.  Just remember to say Hola and Gracias, and the staff will return with a big smile because they are impressed that you are trying to speak their language.  They work hard all day to make your vacation a memorable one.  And also, tipping doesn’t hurt; a dollar out of your pocket won’t break your bank account.  It’s just a simple gesture of thanks to those who want you make your stay pleasant so that you will return.  And certainly, I will go back and will even recommend the Grand Flamenco to my friends and family. Click here for some of our photos of the resort.

Still not convinced?  See what others think here.

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