Sunday 28 June 2015

CHIC Punta Cana Trip

This post is a few months late (and back dated) because just thinking about my trip experience has a tendency to make me sick. Toward the start of summer, Brian and I decided to go away for a few days. We considered going to the US for an extended weekend and considered some places like the Pocono Mountains, Niagara Falls, Michigan etc. However when I looked in prices these places were the same price level as an week-long all inclusive vacation. Likely due to summer vacation and the fact that many people prefer island destination travel to take place in the winter and not the summer. It seemed silly to only go for a few days and have nothing included when we could go for a week and be in a tropical paradise with all our meals, drinks, included.
So I booked with the "Sunwing Surprise Escapes" which ensured a stay at one of four "five star" resorts. That promotion should have been called "Chic Escape" as pretty much anyone I talked to online or on the plane was heading to Chic. Which makes sense since Sunwing has ownership in it, so I wasn't too surprised that of the four choices it turned out to be the cheaper "budget luxury" brand. When we arrived it looked amazing - beautiful lobby, gorgeous decor. There were cold towels being handed out as well as some pesto-bismol looking cocktail rimmed with colored candy. You could see the palm trees and glimpses of the ocean in the distance. So it seemed like the trip was going to be as amazing as we planned. 

Check in went okay. They tried to up-sell us to diamond which would have been over $1000.00 more for the added benefit of a private lounge, private beach area, butler service, better liquor, a nicer bracelet and a better room. Maybe for a few hundred more I could see the value but not for that much more. Plus all the diamond rooms are right by the pool and either facing the pool or an active construction site which I had read was very loud. I wanted a quiet room so we stuck with what we booked and were at one of the buildings behind the reception. These buildings seem like an after thought and are clearly separate from anything diamond related. It was like they wanted to ensure we knew that our second-class place on the resort. 

Our first room was in building 6 on the main floor. While the decor was nice and the room spacious the smell of mildew was overwhelming. We tried airing out the room and stayed there for about 25 minutes but the smell was awful and making us gag. Considering the resort is less then a year old I was shocked at how repugnant this room smelt. We went back to the lobby and were able to switch rooms - this time to building 7 on the third floor. This room looked the exact same in terms of decor and still had a slight moldy/mildew smell but was much less overpowering and easy to deal with. We found that keeping the AC on high and opening the balcony doors helped limit the smell. The AC would shut off the second the door opened so we made sure we were in the room when we did this so it didn't get too hot. If we left and didn't have the AC on the room became an oven by the time we got back - likely due to the June heat.

It was after 3:00 by this time and everything but the snack bar - Munchies - was closed for food so we went there. My husband ordered a burger which was slider size and when he bit into it, found a piece of bone inside. I had nachos which I ultimately passed on eating as they were covered with this awful fake cheese sauce, think much lower quality then movie theaters. 

The pool area was beautiful - lots of pool chairs, a few umbrellas, a large spacious pool area and shallow areas where lounge chairs could be placed right inside the water. There wasn't really anything shaded (the umbrellas didn't even provide much shade) so my husband knew he wouldn't be outside between 11:30-1:30 each day. One thing I was surprised to notice was the Diamond Club swim out rooms. If I had paid the extra 1000.00+ for this room I would have been very disappointed. The impression I had gotten and the way most swim out rooms are, is that you can leave your room and be directly in the pool. Usually it's done lazy river style which then takes you to the main pool area. That wasn't the case here. The swim out rooms were just rooms with a square shaped small mini pool area attached. There were two chairs in the water and a small area that you could sit, stand, semi-float in. There were all attached in a row but there were walls between each room so you were confined to your space. They backed onto the pool area but the wall was high so you couldn't get to the main pool from your swim out pool without going into the room and leaving from the front door. A few times the waiters were serving people in their room pools but for the most part they weren't in use during the day. I think it was something that people used more at night more and hung out at the main pool during the day. Honestly it seemed like a huge waste of money and something I am glad I didn't upgrade to.

That night we went to the Italian restaurant for diner which again was beautifully decorated with a decent menu. The food was okay - probably the best food of the trip when you look at the overall picture but that isn’t saying much. I had pizza which was decent and Brian had lamb. By this point we were both thinking the resort had some pros and cons, but it was going to be a great vacation.

The next day we went over to meet with the excursion people which was a disappointment. The options were more limited then I had expected and the prices insane. We decided to go into a shopping area later in the week but not bother with any of the tours and just save the money. Breakfast was laughable – I have never encountered such a horrible buffet. The food looked like it had been sitting for days and the overall facility just looked dirty and didn’t make me want to eat anything from them (I opted for a box of dry fruit loops). Same for lunch – everything just looked old, and about to go bad. The pool area was amazing – very beautiful, truth be told any positive experiences I had at this resort were at the pool. But again due to the lack of shade, I was here alone. Brian would have burnt to a crisp if he tried to sit outside with me. Still I spent most of the time here – reading, swimming and trying to make the best of it all. 

One of the absolute worst aspects was the “concierge” of our building. You are led to think he’s there to make sure your stay goes as planned, but really it’s a timeshare ploy. We went to the “information session about the resort” after asking 5 times if this was about timeshare and being assured it wasn’t. Yet when we get there we learn it is indeed about Timeshare. Then when we walk out – as we have Timeshare elsewhere – the concierge treats us horribly for the rest of the day/trip. Not very comforting as he is able to get in and out of our room and knows when we have left to go to dinner etc.

We ate at the Steakhouse one night which was just okay. The best part was when I ordered a non-alcoholic drink, and the waiter gave me something with Blue Curacao and told me that wasn’t alcoholic… Yup, the staff were that knowledgeable! The Sushi place was probably the best restaurant in terms of taste and quality, but the Moroccan I don’t even want to think about. After eating there I got so incredibly sick – sicker then I have ever been in my life. Maybe it was the food there (you never know for sure) or maybe it was the bottled water (which never seemed sealed and to which I saw a maid refill from the tap which they tell you not to use). Regardless as careful as I was (only eating fruit you can peel, staying away from produce, cheese and anything else that can go bad, and not drinking anything but water I could tell was sealed) I was violently ill. 

A few days before leaving I had found out I was pregnant (which had nothing to do with how sick I got, a doctors visit home and testing proved I ate something at the resort which caused it). But anyways, because I was newly pregnant I didn’t want to risk staying there and being that sick. I had heard horror stories about medical care in Dominican, so at an added cost to us (since Sunwing wouldn’t let us swap flights and wanted another $1000.00 to get us home) Brian and I left. The trip ended up being a disaster and a complete waste of money – but we got home safely and thankfully the baby wasn’t impacted by the illness.

Below is my Trip Advisor Review of Chic Punta Cana:

I am still amazed at how awful my trip here was. The resort has put all its money into make sure everything looks beautiful - the lobby, the restaurants, the decor, the rooms, the pool, etc. Any photo will make you fall in love with this resort - but photos don't tell the whole story.

Check in - they tried to upgrade up to a diamond room for an extra $1000.00+ which didn't make sense given the limited benefits. We stuck with what we booked and our room was way at the back --- making sure we knew our place as second class citizens in the resort hierarchy (trust me - we were treated accordingly).

Rooms - first room had an overpowering smell of mildew which made us gag. Second room still had it but to a lesser degree.

Food - was simply horrendous. I stayed elsewhere in Punta Cana a few months earlier, spent less and had much better food. The quality was questionable - bones in a burger, rancid cheese, a buffet that looked like it was seeing the same food from days earlier. The Italian was prob the only edible restaurant and even then it wasn't good. Room service was laughable. Watch out for the bottled water as hardly any of the seals were intact and I actually saw the maid refilling my bottled room in the room.

Staff - some were friendly, others clueless. The worst was when I ordered a non-alcoholic drink and got one with blue curaƧao. The waiter told me that isn't alcohol just a coloring product. Then came back 45 mins later to tell me he was wrong and it was alcoholic (which I figured).

The pool was great - but you have to get there early for a chair. The beach was okay - as a lot of Dominican there is a lot of seaweed and such which is to be expected.

Honestly I feel sick thinking about this trip. I got sick four days in and had to leave early - despite the high cost to get home I was glad to leave.

The value isn't there. Considering it's a new resort the facilities look better then they actually are. And the restaurants need a massive overhaul. If you are heading to Punta Cana look into Punta Cana Princess - I had a much better trip there.

So needless to say I don’t recommend this vacation spot!