Stay: April 19th – 28th, 2012
This was our first visit to the Dominican Republic and also our first stay at an Iberostar hotel. We are from California and normally travel to Mexico Cancun/Cabo and frequently stay at Excellence or Secrets resorts. We read so many great reviews about the Iberostar Grand chains we decided this was the perfect opportunity to try it out.
I had read all the reviews before going so I’m going to try and give a few tips that I wish I’d seen before going. I will start with the negative, with the caveat that we really loved the place and our stay but there were a couple of issues.
Let me first say that if you value having a good hair day, take your own blow dryer. The one that comes with the room is far and away the worst hair dryer ever. We actually called our friends to pick one up at the airport since we got there a day earlier than the rest of our group.
Also, I would suggest private transfers from the airport to the resort since it is much easier and quicker and well worth the money.
First Impressions: When you first drive up, you notice the flamingos, and having not really seen them in person, I thought that was a nice attraction. The entire place is beautiful and when you walk in and are handed the champagne, it is a welcome end to the journey – it is one hell of a trip from California. We got our little mini tour of the place and the check in was quick and painless.
Let me add right now for others reading this that are used to Mexico – there were NO mosquitoes!!! My wife usually comes home with welts all over from bites but nothing this time.
Butler Service: When we arrived we were met by our butler who showed us our room. I gave him $20 since it was my wife’s birthday during our stay and I wanted him to bring some champagne. He also got us reservations for most of our stay for the 6 of us. My wife had emailed every contact she could find at the resort and they will not confirm any reservations prior to your arrival. We were very nervous about that - I am not sure if we would have gotten all of the reservations we wanted if she hadn’t followed up with them so much and was extremely flexible with the time and restaurant selection. After receiving the reservations, we didn’t see our butler again (not a problem) until we took one of the cues from this forum about the bubble bath experience. We called and asked him to have the tub ready at 10:00 our last night with a bottle of bubbly. We got back to our room at a little after 10:00 and there was nothing so we just drew our own. Then about 10:15 we got a call from the concierge that he was waiting outside our door but we were already soaking and I was steaming. We were flexible so we could have done it at any time but they said it would be ready at 10:00. We figured that they waited for us to get back so they could get a better tip.
On another night, we wanted to do the Italian restaurant on our group’s last night but were told there were no reservations available. All three of our butlers said they couldn’t do anything but took several hours before they got back to us to let us know.
So to recap, our butler was not much help. Our concierge was not much help either - we were supposed to go through her for our golf but she screwed it all up and we ended up having to take care of all the reservations and transportation ourselves. We also asked her about dinner one night and a bath another and it was like looking at a deer in the headlights. Our group was in 3 different buildings and it was the same story in all three. And it was not a lack of communication since my wife is fluent in Spanish.
Housekeeping: Let me say that in all of the places I have been in my travels, I have never been as happy as I was with the maid and turn down service at the Iberostar Grand. She was absolutely fantastic and absolutely went above and beyond. My wife and I take a couple little stuffed animals with us for some of the silly pictures. Our maid would put them on the pillows and in funny places and just seemed to be having as much fun as we were. Also on the day we played golf, it flat out poured and we got soaked. When we got back to the room we were starving and just quickly tossed our wet clothes on the floor and headed out for lunch. When we got back, she had hung them all outside to dry for us. Like I said, she was on top of it. We tipped a couple dollars in the morning and also at turn down. Not sure if we just got the gem of the group or if it was the norm but we were VERY impressed with her.
Golf Course: We decided to rent clubs and play since it was included. The rental sets ($40 each) were flat out awful. I used some 4-5 year old Nike’s with grips so worn they were tough to hold on to. Don’t bother asking for stiff or regular shaft since the people there have no idea the difference. The odd thing is that they don’t even have a towel on the golf bag so there is nothing to wipe off the mud and it rained most of the day so they were a mess when we finished. Apparently for $65 you can get an upgraded set but that seemed a bit steep. I’m a 5 handicap but never take my own clubs out of the country and I understand you can’t expect too much from rentals but this was brutal. The course itself was excellent - especially the back 9. By all means I would take advantage of it but either bring your own clubs or spring for the better one. Maybe you’ll even get a bag with a towel attached to it. Also, bring your own balls and tees and absolutely a camera.
Beach/Pool: I was not too impressed with the beach and the water since we have stayed at some gorgeous resorts. We generally go to Cancun and stay at the Excellence or one of the Secrets resorts and the sand there is far superior to here. That being said, they have a ton of palapas and lounges so there are no worries about getting one. However, if you find one you like you should probably “reserve” it when you wake up. Otherwise you will get one that might not have as nice of a view. We generally camped out towards the right side of the beach in the front row. We would be behind a couple palm trees that I would say were the most photographed on the beach. It seems that everyone trolling the beach would stop for a picture by or on the palms. A very pretty spot, I think. The beaches here are not private like they are in Cancun so there is a steady stream of people walking along and it is not as peaceful as I prefer but in the grand scheme, I could live with it. The water was a little choppier than Cancun and not quite as clear but still very nice. Still, we loved just laying on the beach with a cocktail and the pretty view.
As far as the pool, everything you read about it is 100% true. If you are the type that likes hanging out by the pool, you need to get up early to get the good lounges or you will be out of luck. We hit the pool only a few times for the swim up bar and it was not that crowded which was nice. I suggest you get a nice palapa with a view of the ocean and then just go to the pool when you want to putz around.
Never was a problem getting a drink at the beach and everyone was great but I really thought Leandro was the best. Talk to him about baseball since he likes the Red Sox and especially local David ”Big Papi” Ortiz.
One side note is that we brought a couple of pool type floats with us and people constantly wanted to borrow them since this resort does not have any floats. They will fill yours up with air at the pool shack where you get the towels. I think it was fun floating around the ocean and riding the waves in them.
Entertainment: The music is outstanding. For some reason people seem to go to Latin countries and expect to hear American or European music and at least here they will give you a mix. The resort’s “House band” is fantastic and plays some of the best Latin music you will ever hear. One night they will play on the deck of the boat (also doubles as the disco) and then other nights they play at 10:00 in the theater – which is really a great place. Everything is very interactive and their entertainment crew is right on top of things to get people involved without being intrusive. They were all good but my favorites were easily El Gato (Juan Carlos) and Boom Boom (Ayendi). El Gato is very talented and usually ends up on stage with the band doing a song and dancing around. Sadly, this “cat” is loaded with talent and will probably end up going on to bigger and better things so he may not be there our next time back. And it is true what they say that they will remember your names. One of our group loved the beach volleyball games that were going on most of the day. The entertainment team is very engaging, but they will also respect your privacy if you tell them you are not interested in participating in any activities.
I would also say to try the exercise room if you feel the urge. They have treadmills and bikes that look out over the resort and with a gorgeous view of the ocean. They also have a spin class and aqua aerobics every day.
Bar(s): There are not enough of them. They have the lobby bar but the service is pretty slow. They do have the top shelf liquor here (as opposed to the pool bar that does not) but make sure and specify or you won’t get it. I was kind of surprised that they don’t do mango martinis since it seems to be one of the hot things now but they do make a pretty good pineapple one and make sure to get it with Grey Goose vodka. They also have one in the disco on the ship but there is not always someone there to serve you. There is a wine list that you can order from so you don’t drink the house wine. I strongly suggest you do that if you are a wine drinker.
All that being said, it is certainly not that difficult to ever get a drink anywhere with the amount of servers walking around.
Rooms: They are very nice with the most comfortable beds and pillows we have had. We never had any problem sleeping. The showers and everything else in there are more than adequate. My initial reaction was that they were not as big as what we have been accustomed to in Mexico but it had enough for us and turned out to be the perfect size. The TV did not have a lot of English speaking channels and for those that are used to Cancun TV, there are also no “adult” channels without paying extra for them. The mini bar is stocked daily and we told our guy what we wanted and didn’t need and that was all it took. We only got what we asked for and that was nice.
Food/Food Service: I wanted to save the best for last. The food is excellent but even better than the food, was the service. As I said earlier, my wife is fluent in Spanish and that made all language barriers simple to overcome. The staff really busts their butts to make you comfortable and to make sure you get exactly what you want. We ate at all restaurants twice except for the French. A brief food recap:
Italian: I had a lobster lasagna one night and another night have a fish special. Among our group, we pretty much felt that this was the best restaurant in the resort with the variety of food and also the décor. Mateo manages this restaurant and you should get to know him during breakfast or lunch since he will make sure that you have a great experience.
French: We only ate there once but it was more because they only have tables for 2 or 4 and we had a group of 6 people so we had to sit at separate tables. We had great food and the service is impeccable. It’s also has very nice décor.
Japanese: We had our best times and the most fun in this restaurant. We ate here the first night and had a great meal and great show from the chef. As near as I could tell, all the tables are the Beni Hana style hibachi tables but they do have a menu that you can also order from. But the best part was the night of my wife’s birthday. We were having breakfast and one of the waiters – Elias - from the restaurant was waiting on us in the morning and got wind that it was her birthday. He got us reservations there and really took care of us. The whole staff came out and sang happy birthday and they custom made a cake with her name on it complete with candles. So I have to say that Elias absolutely made our trip for us. Back to the food, they even put lobster on the hibachi table so you can’t go wrong. If you like it a little spicier, let him know and they will take care of it.
Steak: Let me just say that the beef in the DR is outstanding. Of our group we all liked it cooked differently and we all got them just the way we liked them. I like my filet mignon towards the well side and there was no pink and it was just as tender and juicy as my friend that likes his medium rare. Yunior is the head server there and really hustles from table to table. Get the surf and turf and you won’t be sorry.
Buffet: We obviously had the buffet for both breakfast and lunch since that was all that is available and they are excellent. On most days they BBQ Burgers outside the restaurant on the beach and they do make very tasty burgers. I pretty much had a boatload of shrimp everyday and also a lobster just because I could. We only did a dinner one night and it was for the Caribbean night so we had some of the local foods which were really good. I seriously could have eaten there all the time but when I go on vacation I do prefer to have someone bringing my meals especially at the prices we paid.
Tipping: Sadly, I do believe that this is one of the reasons we had people bending over backward to take care of us. I tipped far more on this trip than on any of the other all inclusive vacations. I think part of the reason is because we were getting the great service and everyone was so friendly. We were tipping about $30 for dinner (remember 3 couples) and sometimes more when it was outstanding which it usually was. We left between $5 & $10 for breakfast & lunch and then tipped a dollar or two for our drinks. If we got this type of service in the US, it would have cost us triple what we spent which is how I justified it.
My Biggest Gripe: It has to be the whole reservation system. This was our first Iberostar experience and they are the only place we have stayed that has this reservation system. We generally like to see how we feel and pick our dinner spot about 1/2 before we want to eat. At the Iberostar, you are not allowed to do that. We talked to people that were staying only 3 or 4 days that didn’t get to eat in any of the restaurants (other than the buffet) since there were no reservations available. There is something seriously wrong with that. However, it looks like it has been successful for the Iberostar chain so I doubt it will be changing anytime soon.
Overall: I hope I didn’t sound too negative because we really did love the place. I’m not sure we will return just because of the long flights and transfers from the west coast but I’m glad we went. Our room was on the 4th floor and had just a spectacular view of the grounds and the ocean and I can’t imagine it being any better. With the quality of food, make sure and bring some bigger clothes for the flight home. I am happy to answer any questions anyone has!
All the rooms have great views - not really worth the extra money for ocean view rooms.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
13 July 2012
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In the name of the Hotel Manager, Mr. Ricardo Dominguez, and his team, we want to thank you for writing a review about your experience in our hotel facilities and premises and for choosing us for your first holiday at the Dominican Republic.
We are very pleased to read that you have had an excellent experience during your visit to our hotel. We are also thankful for your kind words about our staff members, the cleanness of care of our beautiful grounds, and the variety and quality of our gastronomy and the activities proposed by our star Friends. In Iberostar we are committed to ensure to our guests to experience being “star during holidays”.
On the other hand, we apologize for the inconveniences regarding your butler service and our reservation system. I have sent your comments about it to our Management team so we can work on this part of our services.
We are already willing to welcome you back, please contact us to assist you for your next visit.
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC