Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Photos of my Travels to Punta Cana This has been a long time coming. I should have written this while on travel so you all could get a day to day account of how great my trip to Punta Cana was. For the few who are unaware, Punta Cana is located in the Caribbean. In the Dominican Republic to be exact. I took this trip as opportunity to celebrate my birthday (9/18), to take a break from work and all that has transpired in a years time, and to do a sight visit. Though short, the trip was well worth it. To book my vacation, I used Apple Vacations. This gave me the opportunity to review Apple's current customer service and to also conduct a site visitof the Iberostar Bavaro resort. I booked an early morning direct flight from BWI airport to Punta Cana aboard Frontier Airlines. Apple Vacations provided excellent services and was very helpful in booking me the best flight that fit my preferences. The customer service rep was very eager to please and answered any questions I had. There was a slight snag though...well two. I booked ground service transportation via Super Shuttle. When we arrived to the airport, I noticed that the driver assisted the first customer out of the van but when it came to me, I was left to handle myself. I can take care of myself but service really matters in business. I thought that was very rude especially since I'd tipped the driver well when I placed the booking. When it came time to check in, the representative at the counter failed to greet me with a good morning at least and started barking orders. Well, for those who know me well, you know what I did. I paused, looked the gentleman in the eye and told him that we will start this with a good morning. I smiled and then proceeded to give him what he needed. Going through security checks at 6 am was pretty easy at BWI. That was not a hassle at all. The flight was not bad either. On both flights I had an entire row to myself. I appreciated this because the seats are kinda cramped. On the departure flight, the airline offered free TV and movies. On the return flight, that was not the case. They also offered free snacks on the departing flight but did not do so on the return. Luckily, I pack my snacks. I'm a health nut as you can see from my post on the Fit4Travel FB page. We finally landed and I felt myself getting so excited. The temperature was at 80-85 that day and humid. So it felt like a good 90-95. I didn't mind so much because I knew I would be relaxing poolside within the hour. Apple Vacations, of course, provided ground transportation. Roughly nine of us were packed into a mini van. Not so cool. The driver and the coordinator were very friendly however. It is good to note that when returning to the airport, we were carried in a airconditioned passenger bus with reclining seats. We drove through the city and then hit the resort area. For those who aren't familiar, the resort areas are located right outside of the city. You can tell that they were built to look like a completely different world absent of the hussle and bussle of city life. The hotel staff greeted me with a refreshing non-alcoholic drink and proceeded to check me in. I arrived in enough time to grab some lunch and take in the scenery. The landscape was gorgeous. The front desk staff were great. They were so inviting. We arranged for my bags and myself to be dropped off at my room after lunch. The bell man was so sweet and I definitely tipped him for his assistance on the day I arrived and left. (Note: When tipping, it is best to use USD. I ran out of dollars when I returned to the airport and only had pesos. The guy who was not necessarily hired to do so, nor did I ask to assist me with my single bag got snippy). The rooms are comfortable for a family. It is a budget friendly resort that will allow both parents and children the opportunity to relax. It is not luxury but it is not cheap as well. The rooms are due for some updates. While there I did notice that they were pulling out old fixtures and furniture in some rooms. They may be in the process of updating now. Also be mindful that critters from outside (insects) will try to find their way through the pipes. It was not grossly bad. I hate insects. For someone who can tolerate seeing one or two outsiders, you should be fine. When I arrived to my room, fruit and the staple beer was waiting for me. I'm a fruit eater. I'm not a beer drinker. The room was neat and the temperature was comfortable. It was not too hot nor was it too cold. Housekeeping kept the room clean and would visit in the evening to prepare the beds for slumber. The beach was beautiful. I found myself walking the beach daily or resting by the ocean on several occasions. The pool was nice as well. As a single parentless traveler, I will admit I spent less time away from the pool. The resort is all-inclusive. That means drinks (non-alcoholic and alcoholic) were included. The bartenders could hook up some nice beverages and were prepared to mix a special tonic if your stomach was upset. They were very friendly and very entertaining. The same can be said for those who were designated to provide games and entertainment for those staying. Children were well taken care of if parents needed a break. Evening shows were fun and the food was good. My suggestion though, for the better dining experience, would be to book at specialty restaurants. The main dining area and those that are poolside provide a buffet style selection of food. However, it is prepared for everyone. Therefore, it was less flavorful than what was offered in specialty restaurants. I'm a gym rat so you all know I did not slack on my workout routine. I was able to locate the gym. It is not the best in the world but with 80 degree temps outside and no real air conditioning inside, an hour of circuit training will get the job done. There are barbells, cardio machines, and a smith machine. I pulled it off to accomplish my fitness goals. In line with that, I was able to stick to my diet. I did splurge some. It was my birthday. ;) When departing, Apple Vacations provided enough time to arrive and get through security. That was a plus because security was not a walk in the park. It seemed as if everyone in Punta Cana decided to leave that day. My tips would be to ensure that all of your goods are packed away (liquor especially), all documents are filled out prior to going through customs, and please please please make sure your passport is valid. Moreover, if everyone on your flight has arrived prior to take off, be mindful of the possibility that you may board earlier and hit the skies earlier than expected. All in all, the trip was excellent. If you go, stay away from the local salesmen who are constantly trying to get people to purchase cheap jewelry and paintings. If you don't want it, keep it moving. They will hassle you to the point where you want to scream or find different ways to get to your room.