This years summer holiday was booked a year ago. We decided on Punta Cana, after the anxious Virgo in me had googled ‘safest places for family travel 2019’.
We had originally booked a different resort to the one we ended up at, however the sensational news stories and bad publicity led to a change of heart, and we cancelled the first booking, in favour of The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real.
We generally tend to book our flights and hotel separately which meant that there was no huge change to the holiday plans, although we did lose a deposit which we had paid to our agent for the first booking.
I’m going to start at the beginning, and take you right through the whole experience, so if you’re interested, read on-it’s probably going to be a lengthy one!
Our flights were from Gatwick, and I haven’t flown from here since I was a child, so it felt very unfamiliar. As we were flying with British Airways, our flights were from the South Terminal, and the long stay car-park was pretty close-by. We had checked in on-line, and had priority queue access as we were flying in Club World, so bag drop was a breeze, as was security. I explained that I’m a nervous flyer and the check-in agent was kind enough to provide a hidden disability lanyard, which lets security staff know that you may need to get through the queue system quicker than other passengers. My daughters were travelling with us, so security was very quick anyway- I think Gatwick are particularly good with families.
Once through, we had a little peruse in Duty Free, and then headed to the lounge. I had been led to believe that the lounge at Gatwick isn’t as impressive or well-stocked as the ones at Heathrow- however I found this to be inaccurate and really enjoyed the time in the lounge, and the views of the runway.
The flight itself was really good, and I think that British Airways sometimes gets a bad rap, but they were brilliant. We were lucky to be travelling in Business Class which meant I could get the girls comfortable and settled, with plenty to watch and lots to eat. It was a daytime flight, and none of us slept, but it didn’t feel too long and before we knew it, we had touched down at PUJ.
The heat hit me immediately as we exited the aircraft into the jetty. getting through the passport control was quick as they took us a through a fast-track lane for families with young children. Once through, and baggage collected, we went through a customs check – again very quick, and out to the transfer reservations desk. we were escorted to our vehicle by the friendly agent for Transfers.do and once we were all strapped in and luggage loaded, we made the 10-15 minute drive to the resort.
Pulling up to The Grand Reserve, I remember thinking it looked just as beautiful as it did online, and in the various youtube vlogs I had watched before we left.
The check in-process was quick and friendly, and they upgraded us to a swim-up suite. The upgrade was a nice touch and the room itself was spacious, clean, airy and furnished in a nice modern style. It also smelled amazing, and I immediately slipped into holiday mode. It was already the evening by now, so we all showered and got changed, and headed to Dominicana the buffet restaurant for dinner. This is one of the two places that doesn’t require reservations at the resort, the other being Rubi Rocks, the sports bar.
After dinner we were all quite exhausted, so it was an early night in prep for the next day.
We took breakfast in Dominicana everyday- the only other breakfast option was Mangu-the poolside restaurant or room service.
We had booked an all-inclusive package so all our meals were included, as well as a fully stocked mini bar and 24 hour room service (with a very limited menu).
Every group booking or room type gets assigned a concierge, who handles all your needs whilst at the resort and makes your dinner reservations for your stay. We had to cancel/change a few of ours as two people in our group were vegetarian and some of the A’la carte restaurants offered no vegetarian options at all! The concierge is a bit of a faff and to be honest we could have done without her. She was nice enough, but her English was pretty bad and she didnt really serve a purpose.
Our days were mostly spent in the pools (beautiful), and on the beach, which was a short buggy ride from the main lobby and worth it. The sand is beautiful in Punta Cana, soft and white and perfect. Its a shame the same cant be said of the sea- sea weed galore, and lots of annoying ‘salespeople’ on the beachfront selling various things from parasailing to drugs!
The drinks were plentiful and although we don’t really drink alcohol, they made nice mock-tails and the diet coke is strangely delicious in DR. I had to keep checking that it really was diet!
I think the issues with food hygiene are across the board in DR as all 7 of us were unwell at some point during the trip, and the food just didn’t look or taste as fresh as we would have liked. I think the food and the service were definitely the biggest let downs of the trip.
The Grand Reserve is a Melia group of hotels and they do invite you to a special ‘breakfast presentation’ where they try to sell you a time-share time infinite vacation scheme. Avoid this at all costs! The whole meeting can very quickly turn nasty when they think that you’re losing interest.
The resort was gorgeous and the beaches really are lovely, but I think DR has a long way to go before they achieve that luxury destination status that they are trying so hard get to.
In short-would I visit again? Not a chance I’m afraid. I think other destinations in the Caribbean have a lot more to offer.
The flight back was really good, and being a night flight the girls made full use of BA Club world flatbeds, and slept for most of the way back. I was glad to be home, and I’m looking forward to my next trip-wherever it may be, but DR- been there, done that.