Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Reviews

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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo  

Ctra las Terrenas-El Limón Km.4. PO Box: 646 Las Terrenas – Samaná. Dominican Republic.

"Leonardito and Principe at GBP. El Portillo."
Posted by: leonardito  on Jun 9, 2014
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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Reviews
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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Las Terrenas Dominican Republic

#1
of 29 Hotels in Las Terrenas

User rating 4.3

Based on 21 reviews

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Information


On the exclusive beach of "El Portillo", this idyllic resort, Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo is located a few minutes from the village of Las Terrenas, surrounded by spectacular nature that will please the most demanding customers.

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Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Reviews

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.3 of 5 21 reviews
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"Leonardito and Principe at GBP. El Portillo."

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  leonardito  on Jun 9, 2014  >  17 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jun, 2014 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
44 people found this review helpful

We have spent 2 weeks at Grand Bahia Principe El Portillo, Las Terrenas, Samaná. The Resort had the usual beautiful Grand Bahia Principe style. One large main A/C buffet, Dalia, 3 a la carte restaurants. Orquidea was the gourmet, El Pescador was the seafood and Portofino was the Italian. All were with A/C. There was also a nice open air buffet at the beach. The food was delicious in all the a la carte restaurants and in the buffet. Lots of choice of fresh food. You could find everything and the red wine Baron de Valac (french) was also very pleasant. The Pueblo Principe, where the nightlife was taking place was a good place to meet people. The grounds were well kept and everything was spotless. This Resort is the cleanest place that we have ever visited.
The beach had golden sand and turquoise clear water. The ocean was very calm and very safe for swimming. The main pool was kept very clean. It was surrounded by lovely trees. We appreciated the lounges at the pool with their thick and comfortable mattresses. There was also a quiet pool for peaceful reading or relaxing.
Our Junior Suite Superior was very centrally located in building 7. It was quite large and everything worked very well. Good A/C, plenty of hot water, comfortable bed, mini bar replenished each day etc.The food. Buffet had an excellent choice of everything and was open morning, lunch and at night for dinner. We did enjoyed our breakfast and lunch at the buffet. At night, the A La Carte Restaurants were also very good and a pleasant change from the buffet. Orquidea, the Gourmet Restaurant, had a very helpful Hostess, Ysabel, who was always pleasant and took good care of the guests. We did not have a favorite restaurant as they all had something delicious that we enjoyed.
The service everywhere was super. All the staff were helpful and pleasant. They really worked hard to please you. We met the Resident Manager, Carlos, who was always around making sure that all the guests were happy. He is a big asset to the resort. Amilcar was also very helpful if you needed anything. We also had the pleasure of meeting the beautiful Dianellys, who takes good care of the guests emails and add comments on the TripAdvisor reviews. The Hotel Manager Sigi is doing a wonderful job of managing the Resort. She is always walking around ready to hear the clients suggestions.
We must say that the Bahia Principe El Portillo is the best Resort from all the Bahias we have visited. All our needs were met and it even exceeded our expectations. We would recommend this resort to anyone who wishes to have a good relaxing vacation. Hasta Pronto. We will certainly return.
For pictures see: http://leonardito.com/bahportillo1405n/bahport1405.php

Room Number:
7306

Room Block:
7

Photos: http://leonardito.com/bahportillo1405n/bahport1405.php

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"Nice people, good food, amazing beach!"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Ariela  on Jul 25, 2012  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jul, 2012 | Leisure | Family and Kids
380 people found this review helpful

Room Number:
3106

Room Block:
building 3

Arrival:
Arrived to Samana from Toronto via West Jet. Booked a private transfer with Tour Samana with Terry as we were travelling with a 22-month-old and did not want the long treck on the cliff tops. Worth the money and Terry & Elesio are amazing people! The driving was fantastic, in an air conditioned van, with a car seat and of course, some great music.

We arrived to the hotel on a Saturday, around 4 pm. It was very busy & loud, and from our understanding, many locals stay there on the weekends as a getaway. Usually this doesn't bother us at all, but it felt as though they felt they were superior to other guests. Once Monday came along, the atmosphere was very different - quieter and more relaxing.

Another thing to watch out for is the "privilege club" people. They work for the hotel and hang out in the lobby. They are trying to sell you timeshares. They hassled us every single day (sometimes 2-3 times per day). I think saying "no thanks" once should be enough, and I really didn't like that they were Bahia employees, as I wasn't there to be hassled about time shares; I was there to relax.

Rooms:
Originally we were booked into room 7108, building 7. The bellboy acted a bit surprised by this, but assured us it was a good room. STAY AWAY FROM ROOM 7108!!! Bathroom light didn't work, phone didn't work, we had no towels, bath tub was dirty, and it was infested by mosquitos (we were afraid of opening the bathroom doors as they all seemed to hang out in there). It was also an adjoining room, next to very loud people. We spoke with the reception manager and were moved the next day (as they were full that night).

Once we were moved to building 3, room 3106, we were very happy. Both rooms are ground floor (as per request-easier with toddler). Our 2nd room was much cleaner, no mosquitos, all amenities working. It was kept clean all week. Both were junior suites - very spacious and comfortable. The only thing I would change is to add more lighting. Buildings 1,3,5 are the best locations for sure!

Restaurants and Bars:
We ate at the buffet every morning & lunch and 4 evenings. breakfast & lunch is the same everyday, lots of variety and very delicious. We checked out the lunch grill at the beach, but due to our picky toddler, we felt the buffet would suit us better as it had more choice. For dinner, we did the Oriental restaurant once. It was ok. Nothing special, but a very nice atmosphere. We went to the Italian restaurant twice (once for hubby's bday). Very nice atmosphere, great food, and wonderful service. I did have the white wine and was surprised to find out that it was quite drinkable (I usually hate resort wines). The rest of the week, we ate at the buffet for dinner.

Overall, the food was great! We definitely didn't go hungry! My only complaints about the restaurants is the times they are open. lunch starts at 1 (at buffet - beach grill is 11 I think) and dinners start at 7 pm. I would move both start times back by an hour (so 12 and 6) to make it more convenient for families with younger kids. Also, the AC in the restaurants (especially the buffet) should be stronger. It's nice to be able to get away from the heat while you are eating, but that didn't happen here.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Grounds: The same as other Bahias; exactly what we expected. Nice greenery & some flowers, well taken care of. Lobby is also the same concept as other Bahias, nice atmosphere. No AC anywhere in the lobby/hallways and no breeze. There are ceiling fans, but they do not do much.

Pool was ok. Small, and water didn't feel so clean, but it's a nice little area with music playing. The beach loungers are comfy, but did have an odor. We only spent 1 morning at the pool as we are beach people.

Beach: Amazing! Nice sand, always a lounger available. No big waves, water was calm, clean & crystal clear. Water was warm and had reefs right by the shore, which was nice as you can see many fish swimming around... the closer you get to the reef, the better the fish are!

The vendors on the beach really do harass you EVERY 5 minutes ALL week long. It got quite annoying, but it is what it is.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We didn't do much in terms of activities as we were with a toddler and we like to sit back and relax. The animation staff was great though-really friendly, not pushy and fun. We saw a few "kids shows" (same music/songs every night) and our daughter loved them. We didn't stay for the show as it was too late for our little one. The staff all around are great - waiters, reception, animation, bar tenders, everyone was super friendly!

They do have music in the lobby every so often which was nice - people were dancing and it was nice to just hang out and listen to the music.

Other Comments:
Overall, this was a solid resort. More of a 3.5 star in my books. I think the business on the weekend, the crappy room we got at first, beach vendors and time share people brought it down from a 4 star for me.

With that said, it's a nice, smaller resort that has great food and really nice staff with an amazing beach. I don't regret going there, but I have been to better all around resorts. If you love a beautiful beach though, this resort is definitely one to consider.

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"Great Resort"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Danielle  on Feb 9, 2012  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2012 | Leisure | Family and Kids
505 people found this review helpful

My husband and I along with our son and daughter in law stayed for a 10 vacation and thoroughly enjoyed it. The resort was very clean, well layed out and the service was excellent. Although there isn't a view of the beach from most of the rooms, we had our own smaller pool at building 11 and spent a few of the days there away from the busier main pool and beach area. The long beaches were beautiful and you could walk for hours. Food was very good with loads of selection at the main buffets for breakfast and lunch with different continental themes each night for dinner. Our only complaint was that the A La Carte restaurants lacked the selection we were looking for as a break from the buffets, and there was too many seafood selections. Also, for some reason the A La Carte entrees were so salty that we hardly ate any of them. Buffet was better. The junior suites that we booked were very nice with huge spacious bathrooms, king size bed and large balcony for privacy. Took a couple of excursions which were also great. The drive to and from the airport was very long and winding but you get to see some beautiful scenery. Not much shopping but we were there to relax and enjoy the company and take advantage of the great weather. I'd definately recommend this, and wouldn't hesitate to go back.

Room Number:
11309

Room Block:
building 11

Arrival:
check in was very fast and easy.

Rooms:
rooms were nice and clean. used the air conditioning a few times but didn't really need it. Could never predict when they'd be there to make up the room though which made it difficult to plan a siesta.

Restaurants and Bars:
Buffet was great. A La Carte restaurants were disappointing. not much selection and food was VERY salty. Nice decor though. Snack bar by the beach had great hot lunch fare. Lounge had great servers but got sick of listening to Kenny G!

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
nice clean beach. Pool was small but we had our own small one at building 11. gardens were beautiful and very well kept. gorgeous palms and flowers.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
ATV excursion was really fun, with a trip to Ricon Beach which is worth seeing. Stopped at a local Dominican home and got some helpful history and tour of their agricultural industy. Guide spoke good english, but most of the hotel staff had very limited English. Good to know some Spanish phrases before you go.

Other Comments:
10 days was perfect - not too long, not too short.

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"Fantastic Resort"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Shayna  on Nov 30, 2011  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2011 | Leisure | Family and Kids
630 people found this review helpful

This was our first time in Samana. This resort came highly recommended from a friend who had been there previously. I have severe osteoarthritis in my knees and this resort was perfect. Because of the small size of the resort, I was able to walk everywhere. There are also golf carts available for those who need them

Room Number:
3103

Room Block:
Villa 3

Arrival:
We stayed from November 21st to November 28th. The drive from the airport takes 1 1/2 hours. apparently there is anew highway that takes much less time but costs $50 so it is not used very much. We had a great time.the staff was very friendly, the rooms clean and the food was good. I had emailed in advance to say that it was our 30th anniversary. We were provided with a fruit platter in our room upon arrival and free resort t-shirts. we were also given a bottle of champagne at our first a la carte restaurant.

Reception: Could have been more organized. We arrived at about 9 p.m. Everyone just gathered at the front desk to register. Roped off lines would have been much more organized. We were taken with our luggage to our rooms by golf cart.

Rooms:
Room: We were registered in the Royal Golden Club and had a Junior Suite in Villa 3. It is well worth the extra cost. The room is very large with a big bathroom that included a Jacuzzi tub, separate toilet and stall shower all in marble. Amenities were provided such as a comb, 2 disposable razors with shave cream and 2 toothbrushes with mini toothpaste. Each room has a safe. Spend the extra $4 per day to use it. It is well worth it so that you don't have to worry about your valuables. the bar fridge is stocked with Pepsi, Pepsi Light, 7-Up, Fanta Orange and Brahma beer. Take a pass on the beer and get yours at the bars. It is El Presidente and much better.

Housekeeping: The rooms were kept spotless. We had towel animals on our bed each day. part of our package included turn down service each night. Tt was missed for 2 nights in a row but was corrected immediately once we spoke to the management.

Restaurants and Bars:
Food: We found the food very tasty. Breakfast had made to order omelettes every day. Lunch and dinner in the buffet was a different theme every day and included made to order pasta. We tried all four of the A la carte restaurants (Italian, Gourmet, Oriental and Seafood.) We had good meals in each one.

Bars: Augustin at the pool bar was great. After the first day he knew that we wanted our water bottle filled with ice and immediately accommodated us. A couple of dollars on the first day does wanders. The Banana mama was our favourite drink. the frozen blended mixed drinks are better at the lobby bar, which is also steps from the pool. They are made fresh there, while at the pool bar they are pre-mixed. They don't scrimp on the alcohol as we have found at many resorts.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Beach: A beautiful beach that is only for this resort. Since it was the end of the rainy season it was a bit windy and the ocean was somewhat rough most of the time. The last day the red flag was up meaning you could not swim in the ocean. Make sure you have a massage on the beach. they start at $30 for an hour. My husband paid $20 and said it was worth every cent.

Pool: The main pool is nice, lots of very comfortable chairs and the water was great. There is a 2nd pool but it is hard to find, near the front of the resort and far from the main part of the resort.

Grounds; the grounds are very beautiful with lots of palm trees and flowering bushes. the grounds are kept immaculately clean.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Entertainment (Anamacion team): There was a different show each night. A little mediocre but quite common in these resorts. Make sure you see the "Ideal Couple" show. It was absolutely hysterical. If you don't want to be chosen to participate in any of the shows, sit in the back. They usually get all the volunteers by the time they get halfway back in the audience.

Town: We took a taxi into Las Terrenas one morning. The taxi from the hotel is $10 each way. The driver gives you 2 hours to shop and meets you back at the place he drops you. Make sure you pay at the end. Try and get a few couples to go into town with you. the cab is a flat rate and you can share. We had a van and went with 3 other couples. It cost us $6 a couple including a tip for the driver. It is a cute little town with lots of shops. This is where you get your best deals because the merchants with all bargain back and forth. If you are looking for Dominican vanilla, the grocery store sells a 1 litre bottle for about 35 pesos ($1 U.S.) They also have clear vanilla which is hard to get in Canada.

Excursions: We took one excursion - Samana Runners. We were picked up at 8:15 a.m. in a typical Domincan jeep and dropped back at the hotel at 5 p.m. We visited a typical Dominican 2 room home where we were educated in local fruits and vegetables. We sampled cocoa, bananas, pineapple, rum, papaya and Mama Juana. Mama Juana is a drink from the Dominican Republic that is concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. We were able to buy blocks of cocoa (you grate it to use) and fresh bottled pure vanilla. We were taken to a local school and on to Lulu Waterfall. the walk in and out to the falls is a little strenuous but there are teenaged girls there who hold your hand and help you walk when needed. the falls are small but beautiful. we were then taken to an outdoor restaurant for a typical Domincan lunch. there were 2 salads, rice and beans, chicken and fish, and fried plantain. Dessert was fresh pineapple, coconut and rum, of course. Our last stop stop was the cigar factory where we saw how the cigars are rolled and cigars are available to sample. There is a small shop where you can purchase cigars.

Other Comments:
All in all, we had a fantastic time. If you are looking for a smaller resort in a very quiet area, this is the place for you. November is a great time as it is low season. The resort was not too busy and there were very few children.

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"relaxing no worries"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  keith  on Jun 17, 2011  >  1 contribution(s) United States of America
Visited on: Jun, 2011 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
796 people found this review helpful

this place is great. the staff is friendly and willing to make your stay an enjoyable one. most spoke english. the ride from the airport was 2 1/2-3 hours but the view on the way was beautiful. we arrived early our room wasnt ready but they accommidated us til it was. the rooms were clean. cant see the beach but its so close it didnt matter. the food was excellent. the beach was clean, the drinks were good. vendors walk up and down the beach so you dont even have to leave the beach to go shopping.(ha)

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"Renew Vows with family and friends"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  wallace  on Mar 3, 2011  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2011 | Leisure | With Group
731 people found this review helpful

First for the people who found this place bad ---were ya awake ? This place was just great . we had our family and friends for a total of 14 people and I can say we were treated like kings and queens . The place is awsome . The pool is a bit small but who cares the beach more than makes up for it. Food was the best I have had anywhere in the carib and I have been there a total of 11 times . The staff were friendly and always wanting to make your stay perfect . Air Canada rep Maude was awsome . People if you go here you will enjoy yourself .

Room Number:
23203

Room Block:
23

Arrival:
No problem , we arrived at 2:30 pm and got the driver to stop for beer and snacks and we got our rooms on the bus so all we had to do was give the porter our bags and go for our first beverage at the bar . the drive was beautiful and no problem

Rooms:
Not the best we ever had but nice . Hot water all the time no concerns

Restaurants and Bars:
Food Food Food -- if ya can`t find anything to eat here then you should not go south . Drinks were very good . the frozen ones were done to perfection

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Pool is small but good . the beach is great . We spent hours each day snorkling and saw some amazing fish .

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
we did the ATV tour to Rubacon beach where we saw them setting up for the next suvivor show . Great ride . Also the natioal park tour which was fun too.

Other Comments:
We loved it here and will come back . Go into the small town to the left of the beach it has alot to offer and remember you are on vacation in a sunny place so relax and enjoy ." It is all Good "

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"Place to relax"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Jeane  on Jan 12, 2011  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2011 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
785 people found this review helpful

We arrived at night and was wondering where we were going for an hour through the mountain, but interesting ride. When we did arrive we received our room quickly. The room was very clean and cleaned daily. Of all of the 12 resorts I have been to this is the quietest one. The beach area was clean, quiet and soothing. I felt safe and very happy with our choice. If you are a Pool area person they only have on and it is way too small and very echo..too busy for me, but then again we don't do Pools. The grounds are beautified with vegitation and continuously manicured..not much flowers but still gorgeous grenery.
Our only regret is we did not bring snorkeling gear but will for sure next time.
We tipped when we wanted and was still well served without it. I also found the wine and the food very tasty and such a variety. Due to the fact I do not eat much meat I ususally eat bland foods but it was great compared to Mexico, Punta Cana and Cuba. We only ate from the buffet. What is really nice is you can eat all meals outside.
There are ramps everywhere for wheelchairs and strollers.
We did not go off the resort so I cannot comment on the surrounding towns but I can say we will gladly, return with Air Canada....

Room Number:
4102

Room Block:
4

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"Terrible resort! Don't waste your money."

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 1.0 of 5

Posted by:  Zoé  on Aug 11, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Aug, 2010 | Leisure | With friend
822 people found this review helpful

1. Do not waste your money coming to this resort! It's the worst resort I've ever been to. This was not even close to being a 4.5 star. Perhaps a 3.5 or 4 star instead.
2. If you must go and you book with Air Canada, make sure you go to the morning briefing with Joel (the AC rep). He provided excellent tidbits about what to do, not to do, where to buy things, how to barter, where to exchange money, etc.
3. If you didn't have money in your hand, you didn't get service (bars, restaurants, buffet, etc.)
4. On Wednesday, they gave out comment cards to fill out in the main buffet. All of a sudden, we had 3 waiters/waitresses waiting on us. They were extremely unprofessional and looked over our shoulder and even commented while we filled out the questionnaire. That's unacceptable!
5. Energy efficient: They try, but it makes them look cheep.
a) In order to get the A/C working in your room, you need to put your room card in a slot inside your front door. The first night, we left a key in the slot and went for supper. When we came back, the key was gone. We had to pay off the maid (which comes 2-3 times a day so don't leave any valuables in your room at any time.) to get a 3rd key which we left in the slot all week. No wonder some rooms smell mouldy!
b) They only turned on the ceiling fans in the lobby and common areas in the evening, which made it very uncomfortable to spend any time there during the day.
c) The lights in the public washrooms turn on when you enter. Unfortunately, they turn off when you're on the toilet! It was very annoying!

For my first trip to a Bahia Principe Resort, I am extremely disappointed. I'm a huge fan of Iberostar and have only heard great things about all their resorts. I have been going to the same Iberostar resort on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico for 4 years and thought I'd try someting new including the Bahia Principe resort chain. I picked the wrong resort. If you must do a Gran Bahia, stick to a 5 star - nothing less.

I can't wait to go back to Iberostar!

Arrival:
Air Canada flight down. No delays, cleared customs quickly and then directed to the bus. The drive to the hotel was 1.5 hours through beautiful mountain terrain. There is no way the trip to the resort can be done in 30 minutes (as
mentioned on the Bahia Principe website)! We left Ottawa (via Toronto) at 6:00 and were at the resort by 3:30 p.m. It was a very long day!

Rooms:
Avoid dealing with Wendy from reception! She's a liar or just lazy and gives you the run around.

Initially we were put in block 20. Since I had read reviews from other travellers saying to avoid that block, I asked for a different room. As it turns out, by the end of the week, block 20 got a cochroach infestation! Wendy lie#1: Wendy, at reception, told me they were overbooked and that I should come back the next day (they were only 60% booked!). We went to the room and it was aweful! It smelled moldy and had the view over the construction happening over the fence next door and noisy from the road and staff parking lot. Also, there was only one bed when I had requested two. I went back to reception and told Wendy I needed two beds. Wendy lie #2: She said: "Ah well, then come back at 5:30 and ask for Denny." An hour and a half later I return and ask for Denny. The gentleman there asked me if he could help me. When I told him, he said he could (and wondered why I was told to ask for Denny). We got upgraded to a beautiful Junior suite in block 11 overlooking the quiet pool. Unfortunately, the safe didn't work and the shower door didn't close. Later that evening I went back to reception and told Wendy. Wendy lie #3: Wendy said she'd send someone for the safe right away. Well guess what, he never came. The next day, I told her and she said: "Were you in your room?" I said "You never told me that" and she walked away. The same gentlemen helped me out and when I asked if I needed to be in the room he looked at me like it was a dumb question and said of course not.

Restaurants and Bars:
We tried 2 à la carte restaurants (Pescadoro and Gourmet). Nothing special. The buffet was acceptable. The rice pudding was great.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Although we spent most of our time at the quiet pool, both pools are very small. Unfortunately, the water temperature of both pools must have been 35 degrees celcius. They were like hot tubs! The only way to cool down was in the shower next to the pool. This caused health issues: people were lined up at the resort doctor's office complaining of ear infections. The doctor said it was caused by the hot pool water. My guess is that she never told the hotel to pump in cold water (which I saw them do for 15 minutes one afternoon).

The beach was lovely. The ocean water was also very, very warm. Some people reported seeing and being stung by jelly fish. I did some snorkeling. It was nice.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We did the trip to the national park. We really liked it. 45 min bus ride to Samana. Hop on a jet boat to cross the bay (about 35 minutes). Zipping around the small islands, seeing the pelicans, walking in 2 caves. Then lunch and swimming on a small island where the 5 star Cayo Levantado Gran Bahia is.

We met a very nice family and shared a cab ride (4kms) to Las Terrenas. We really enjoyed that. The taxi waited for us and picked us up 2 hours later.

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"Just what the doctor ordered!"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 5.0 of 5

Posted by:  Carleen  on Apr 1, 2010  >  4 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2010 | Leisure | Family and Kids
924 people found this review helpful

My husband surprised us at Christmas time with a trip to the Domincan Republic; it was a much needed respite for March break especially after volunteering at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver for 16 days. So the rest, relaxation, wonderful resort and overall ambiance of the Gran Bahia Principe in Samana was just what the doctor ordered!

Your Arrival:
Arrival could not have been more perfect. Our luggage arrived promptly and we were escorted to the bus where we met the Air Canada representative Joel. The 90 minute bus ride was very scenic and Joel kept up a running and amusing commentary orienting us to the DR and Samana. At the hotel, our bags were brought to our rooms and the beach towels were already in the room, so what else could we do but head right out to the pool and beach! This was the smoothest arrival I've had at any resort in the Caribbean.

Rooms:
Our room was quite large; it is very modern - jet tub, separate shower. Bed were very comfortable; everything was extremely clean. Your room key turns on the air conditioning but as the hotel is trying to be as green as possible you can't use your second room key to keep the air running all day - the staff will take it to ensure the air is turned off. However, it's not a big deal - the room gets cool quite quickly. Towel service was excellent and there is turn down service for Air Canada guests but we were missed a few times - out of six days we had turn down on half. There are nice bath robes and slippers in the room, lots of supplies (shampoo, etc); and a mini bar - which has two beers in it and some pop. Although we tipped the staff, only once did we get more than two beers in the fridge.

Restaurants and Bars:
You can eat and drink almost 24-7. The pool bar is very busy and there is a bar out by the grill which is excellent - and the beer is colder than at the pool bar. There is also a beach bar and a bar near the hot tub. Food was excellent - lots of choice at the main buffet and the grill; I loved the rice and beans - could not get enough, and fresh tomatoes in March -fabulous. There are four a la carte restaurants and you can make reservations at each one, once. We only went to three, the Italian, the fish restaurant (pescadoro) and the gourmet. I wouldn't recommend the Italian (and why you would even eat Italian in the Dominican is beyond me - but my kids wanted it). However, the fish and gourmet were outstanding - anything with fish is great as its local. However, my husband had steak at the gourmet and it was outstanding. No complaints at all about either of these restaurants - the room ambiance is lovely, the service very attentive and overall just a really nice meal. At an all inclusive the meals make it or break it for me so this was truly delightful. Service at the large buffet restaurant can be a bit inattentive, however, it was March break and very, very busy. House wines are very nice. At nice, in addition to the main lobby bar there would be several stations - one had any kind of coffee you might like (Irish, Spanish, cappucino, etc), another station would have exotic cocktails like Kir Royale, Mimosa, etc; One night in the main buffet they also had a rum tasting - it was terrific!

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Pool is quite big and even though there were a lot of families and kids, there were still plenty of chairs with umbrellas and room to swim; you do have to get out early though to nab your spot. The beach is beautiful and there is a huge coral reef for snorkeling which we did a lot of. You can walk quite a bit and go off grounds although you are advised to do so in a group. My youngest and I walked quite a bit on the beach and really enjoyed the beautiful sand and vistas. The beach is very clean, there are a lot of lounges and umbrellas with hooks to hang up your beach bags. My son said he was bitten a bit by either sand flies or something - but I was never bothered. You really need to be conscious of using lots of sunscreen because it is extremely hot; especially when you are snorkelling and not thinking of the sun on your back. There are some vendors who will come by while you are on the beach but they don't pester you. You can just say no thanks and they will leave you alone. There is no topless bathing at the pool and I saw very little of it on the beach (a bit of a relief with a 15 year old boy).

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
There were four tours that Joel, our rep from Air Canada told us about - we went on the boat ride to the national park where you can go into a cave and see some cave drawings from the original Indians, as well as going through some mangroves and then off to a private beach for a Domican lunch. It was a full day excursion and well worth it. Other excursions were a jeep tour which took you to a coffee plant, a horse back riding tour to Limone Falls and a catamaran tour. As we only planned to take the one tour we wanted to see the national park. Samana is just becoming a tourist resort and it is an ecologically protected area. One thing to be careful of - we wanted to go whale watching but Joel advised us it was not worth it because the whales are done mating in March and the males have left; the females are waiting with the babies until they are old enough to migrate. One family we met did go whale watching and said it was a big waste of money as they saw nothing - so make sure it really is whale season if you want to watch whales.

Other Comments:
The staff are great; the resort is very clean. You can take a quick trip into town to buy cigars, rum, vanilla, and coffee which the area is known for - Domincan coffee is excellent and they drink it con leche (half hot milk, half coffee). The Gran Bahia Principe is a very relaxing resort - you can take part in what the animation group offers (salsa dancing, sports, spanish lessons,etc) or you can thoroughly relax with a book. This resort is not party central -there are no Americans (American airlines do not go to that area), there weren't any university students acting unruly, and there was lot of older people or families - my two boys made tons of friends who they still speak with on MSN. You may see a few too many speedos but hey, relax, you're in the Domincan.

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"Loved the resort, but the bus ride was the deal breaker for me"

Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo
User Rating:  Gran Bahia Príncipe El Portillo Review: 4.0 of 5

Posted by:  Tanya  on Mar 5, 2010  >  1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Feb, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
882 people found this review helpful

El Portillo
Samana DR

We bought the Bahia Routlette and stayed at the El Portillo in Las Terrenas from Feb 25th to March 4th

Your Arrival:
ARRIVAL
We flew with Air Canada Vacations and the flight was OK. Personally, I would suggest that Air Canada Vacations find another food supplier than Quiznos, as the food is not worth the money you have to spend on it. That is when they have enough to go around. They ran out of sandwiches by the time they got to our row, so we were offered breakfast sandwiches instead. We had to pay for them but I heard some others on board made a fuss and got them free. Anyway, enough about that, as it’s a moot point. They will not change this service as long as they make money from it.

We arrived at the El Catey airport and were whisked right through immigration and right onto the bus. No beer to buy, no time to go to the bathroom, no downtime at all for people getting off a 4 ½ hour flight before putting us on a bus for another 1 ½ drive. (In reality it is actually closer to 2 hours) Our bus didn’t have a good working air conditioner so the bus drive was very long and hot.. now, an addendum to this comment.. some of our friends went on the “small” bus and their trip only took 45 minutes as they went up over the mountains directly, whereas we on the “big” bus had to go all the way down to Samana then back up to Las Terrenas as the direct roads could not accommodate the larger bus.. they didn’t mind the drive at all. It was a deal breaker for me and although the resort was mostly wonderful (as described below), I won’t subject myself to that bus ride again. My hubby was in complete agreement, as were many others we spoke with.
Check in was done on the bus, so that was a plus. (Although if I were working at the front desk I would not want to deal with people getting off that bus ride either! )

One thing we did notice was the fact that our plane was the only “English” speaking plane at the resort. There was a plane load from Helsinki also, but most of the guests at this resort seem to hail from French speaking Canada. Apparently they don’t teach manners where these people come from, and they certainly don’t teach them to their children. I don't normally have issues with others but I can honestly say that I have never witnessed more disrespectful behaviour with a distinct lack of common courtesy to others around them, in both the children and the adults.

Rooms:
ROOMS
We went directly to our room, which was in building 18 and was on the 2nd floor in room 204. This suited us perfectly. It was a standard room, but was nice and roomy, had a king sized bed, a balcony, a decent bathroom with a jet tub (unfortunately our plug would not work so I couldn’t make use of the tub) a shower, satellite TV and bathrobes to wear during your stay. Nice touch. We did have to have our room sprayed as I was getting bit at night by mozzies or no-see-ums.. we had both in the room. I mostly got bit on parts that would stick out of the blankets at night.. it got better once the room had been sprayed, but I started wearing bug spray to bed and then daily around the resort as I was getting bit quite a lot.. I saw others with many bites too..

Restaurants and Bars:
BARS
The main bar is in the same building with the lobby, but occupies the back half of the large facility. There is “veranda” seating in a triangle pattern around an open “garden” and one large section is smoking whereas the two smaller sections are non-smoking areas, although smoking is permitted at the bar which is located in the same section as non-smoking seating.

The pool bar was open daily (weather permitting) from 10 am to 6 pm and Augustin and Joel were the main purveyors of fine beverage at this locale. They were exceptional every time we stopped by.
We did not get up to the bar at the quiet pool so I can’t comment on the service there.

The beach bar was open daily (weather permitting) and Justino was the main man here..

The Beach grill and bar was another option. All of the bars were consistent in the drinks they made and the service they provided. When it rained the only bar opened was the lobby bar, which was staffed with Augustin and Joel as well as the main staff from this bar.

RESTAURANTS
The buffet was more than adequate and most nights the food was better than what we either ate at the a la cartes or our friends ate at the a la cartes.. Weather permitting, outside every night, Nicolas runs the BBQ. That man grills the best steak I have ever eaten in the Caribbean.. No skirt steaks there.. better grade cuts grilled to perfection every time. Although my hubby, who is a bit more of a steak connoisseur than I, said he figured they were marinated. They were “cut with a fork” tender every time.

We ate in the Seafood restaurant. I had salmon cooked to perfection on rice, hubby had a tough as shoe leather steak served on ice cold potatoes.. I would have preferred with dinner veggies but they weren’t offered. Our waiter Anthoni was very good however, and deserved every bit of the tip we left him.

The other restaurant we ate at was the Gourmet Restaurant. While the food was good for the most part (my pork medallions were anything but tender) the service was crap, as our waiter “forgot” we were sitting there and we waited for almost 45 minutes for him to come take our order. The people that came in behind us were already on dessert by the time we got our orders taken. I could understand if it was busy, but we were one of only three tables in his section.. needless to say, his tip was much smaller..

We did not eat at the other two a la cartes but our friends did. They enjoyed the Italian very much, but said the service at the Oriental is very slow. Their reservation was for 6:30 and they didn’t get out of the restaurant until after 9:30. Oriental does not mean Chinese only as most people expected. They serve sushi, and various traditional dishes from several Asian countries.

They set up a sushi bar at the beach one day. I was in heaven. It was very good. What a nice treat.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
BEACH
The beach was wonderful. White powdered sand which turns to tan colored down by the water. Yes, I have been to Punta Cana, so yes, I can compare it to there.. there are very close similarities. Punta Cana is a bit softer and whiter, but this isn’t anything to complain about.. it’s a gorgeous beach.. The towel game is in full play, but it seems some people play by different rules.. (see above for referrals to who I mean). The beach is great to walk, but at the resort boundaries, be aware of the man with the big shot gun. He won’t let you go out alone if you are a single female, and even if you are a couple, he may make you sign out when you leave the property..

Do partake in the weekly Beach Party on Wednesday night. It’s a blast!

Also.. sand fleas are alive and hungry. I had to wear Off on my ankles on the beach or I got bit..

POOLS
We only spent time at the main pool one day, but found that parents would rather let their children run, scream, and splash and generally make life unbearable for others trying to enjoy the pool. We did not get to the quiet pool but our friends said they enjoyed it very much when there weren’t kids there.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
BAHIA SPA
We booked the couples massage for $70 per person. With that you got 15 minutes in the hot tub and a 50 minute massage side by side. It was first class pampering from the minute you walked in the door until you walked out feeling like a million dollars.. I could have spent all my money on their other services too.. highly recommended

EXCURSIONS
We did the whale watch. It was great. I have one point of suggestion.. when you see the boat staff standing there with a bucket of Dramamine TAKE ONE! Or two.. They aren’t pushing drugs on you.. they aren’t standing there offering them for the good of their health.. they are doing it for your own good.. most people took advantage. One mother made a comment about how she wasn’t putting those “third world” drugs in her 3 sons bodies.. bet when the three were heaving ho over the side she wished she had rethought her logic..

Some of our friends did the catamaran. They weren’t overly impressed. They have done catamarans everywhere they’ve gone, so they have something to compare to. Only rum and cokes or water to drink on the boat and then they put you on the island for 3 hours where you have to pay for drinks (at $4.50 US per) $1 to sit on a plastic chair and $3 to sit on a cushioned lounger. Food was available to be cooked for them.. lobster was $20 for a small one and $40 for a larger one. Fish was chosen from fish hanging from a tree.. they would have gone for that but when they noticed the flies were already relaxing on the fish they opted out of the food..
Our other friend did the El Limon waterfalls. She loved it. But she was very stiff and sore the next day from both the horse back ride and the climb down to the falls.

Other Comments:
STAFF
The staff was great! No complaints there. Our favourite waitress was Yahaira (Ja-High-ra) who was from Haiti. She went through a world of tragedy with the earthquake and still has a smile and a sense of humour that lights up the room. She waitresses the lobby bar and we often went there just so she would serve us. She has a 6 year old boy and she is working hard 9 ½ hours from home to help her husband afford to rebuild their house so their little boy can stop sleeping on the street. Her 27th birthday is March 21st. Wish her happy birthday if you see her on that day. Ask her to do her Michael Jackson impression.. it’s a hoot!

The Animacion team was terrific.. Luis, Santo (Tobi) Carlos (Hot Chocolate), Enimencio (Eminem), Ana (Ana Banana).. they were all great. Everyday was a new costume and a new way to make people smile.. They put in long days and still manage to smile. Maxi and the photog staff were great too. I can honestly say that the whole staff, from the maids who always smiled and said “hola” to the front desk staff and everyone in between, were simply a joy to deal with on a daily basis. We gave Simon, who works in the Tours office a bag of baseballs and gloves and hats to take to his home in Las Terrenas and give to the kids there. They have a baseball school, and the equipment was gladly received. You would have thought we had given him a million dollars. We wished we could have.

PUBLIC AREAS
The lobby was big open and very clean. The marble floors were polished to a mirror finish. Beautiful but dangerous when wet.. as were the ceramic tiles on the pool deck. One elderly lady slipped and fell and hit her head on our way to the info session, as it was raining that day. To the left of the front desk is the internet “café” which consisted of two lap top computers which did not always work properly. The cost was $12US per hour to use. Next to those computers was the guest services desk where you booked the a la cartes. We booked 2 rather than the 4 we could have done, but more about those later.

One other thing I must comment on is the automatic lights in the public bathrooms. I LOVE the idea. When you walk in the room the lights come on with motion sensor. They shut off after a preset time of no motion, say 5 minutes. Great energy saving idea!

Directly right of the front desk was the Lobby Shop. You could buy just about anything there from beer, souvenirs and snacks to decongestant. The Tour Desks were located to the right of the shop, but down a hallway. There was also an ATM, which we used with no problem. It offers service in English and Spanish, but pays out in Dominican Pesos.

SUMMARY
All in all this is a fantastic resort, despite the rude guests, the horrific bus ride and the 2 ½ days of rain, (which is no one’s fault). Would I recommend it? Definitely. Would I go back? Probably not.. unless the price was “really” right.. or I could be guaranteed to go on the “small” bus!

Photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=151156&id=704699012&l=ef120f65f8; http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=151107&id=704699012&l=440988e3a9

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