Bayahibe, La Romana. Dominican Republic
"internet was the only problem"
Posted by: zita on Oct 4, 2014
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Day and night, the fun never stops for families, singles and couples. The beach, pools, manicured gardens, and warm tropical breezes, fabulous a la carte restaurants and tropical drinks are all part of your escape because Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa is an All-Inclusive beachfront resort.
Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa official website
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"We had a few ‘niggles’, but nothing major. "
Janet from Staffordshire on Feb 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) United Kingdom
Visited on: Feb, 2009
319 people found this review helpful
We have just got back from a wonderful fortnight at Dreams La Romana. This was our first visit to the Dominican Republic. We are already looking into booking the same hotel for next year. This review is long (sorry!), but I hope it’s informative…especially for those people who are a rare breed – vegetarian and teetotal. I hope this review can show that it’s very easy to have a great time at this hotel, seeking out the quieter corners and lesser-used facilities. We had a few ‘niggles’, but nothing major. It was a great holiday, and we can’t wait to go back!
We flew from Manchester with Thomas Cook Airlines. The flight was about an hour late taking off, due to fog in London (our flight had started from Gatwick, so was already half full when it reached Manchester). We made up that time during the flight, though, and arrived exactly at the time we expected. In-flight meals were good for the money (we both had vegetarian meals). Didn’t bother watching the films.
Arrival & departure:
Punta Cana Airport was a bit chaotic, both ways. The Thomas Cook rep didn’t make himself very noticeable, so we missed him at first, so we were unable to find the correct transfer coach easily. Eventually we located him. By then, it was dark (8pm) and raining. The transfer time was about an hour and a half, and uneventful (by Dominican standards!). Going back, we had one Gate number printed on our Boarding Passes, and a different Gate number showing on the screens – then, a third Gate number was announced in a garbled message over the PA system.
Arrival at the hotel was nice – staff waiting with orange juice and towels on hand, lots of bellhops ready to take the luggage up to the rooms immediately. Our luggage got to our room almost before we did, as we got lost (giving guests a map would be good, but apparently they are ‘between maps’ right now, due to the renovations making the old maps obsolete). We had brought two suitcases of charity donations with us, and we needed to sort out where to leave these (we didn’t want them taken to our room, which bemused the bellhops at first ). Eventually, we left the suitcases for Kerry to deal with the next morning, which she did.
Our room was in Building 5, on the top floor (of three). We were so tired and disoriented by then, and it was dark, so we couldn’t work out which direction our room faced. When we opened the curtains in the morning, we were really pleased to discover that we had a great view overlooking the main pool, looking through the trees to the beach and the sea. As this view was so nice (and, incidentally, looked onto where the evening shows are temporarily being held), we often used our balcony. If we couldn’t be bothered to walk down to watch the shows close-up, we just sat out on the balcony instead. We felt this was a plus! By 4th February 2009, apparently, the new theatre building near the World Café will be finished, so most of the shows will no longer take place outdoors.
The room was almost identical to the one shown in The Thomas Cook brochure (for a ‘De-Luxe Room’). The furnishings were very nice and modern, the bed very comfortable, the bathroom was large, and clean. We had a walk-in shower, but no bath (not a problem, though). Some people have said in reviews that they never use the toiletries provided by hotels, but I do – I found these ones to be very good quality, especially the shower gel. As others have noted, though, face flannels are rarely provided. We had no face flannels left for us for the first few days, and then, after the maid changed, we had some put in the bathroom, but as we had brought our own, we didn’t use them. Three days later, they disappeared, still unused! Towels were plentiful, and changed often. Twice we left notes in Spanish asking for items in particular, and they were supplied.
Restaurants & bars:
We are both vegetarian, and, having asked around on various forums before we went, were not very hopeful about finding a great choice of things to eat. However, we were pleasantly surprised by how much was available. The World Café (buffet) was where we ate the most. The breakfast selection was wonderful – 7 or 8 fruit juices to choose from, many types of bread or rolls, fresh fruit (pineapple was gorgeous), omelettes made to order, cereals, yoghurt, pancakes, scrambled egg, French toast, doughnuts, Danish pastries and muffins. Meat-eaters could have bacon, sausage and some unidentifiable stuff, too!! We got in the habit of taking a couple of muffins from breakfast back to our room to eat in the afternoon, as Dominicans don’t seem to have the concept of ‘afternoon tea and cake’ like the English do!
The one thing that was a problem at breakfast was that the buffet staff do not understand that not everyone drinks coffee. They would offer us coffee as soon as we sat down, but when we asked for tea, they often looked blankly at us. They’d first bring a saucer of herbal tea sachets. We learnt, then, to ask for ‘Liptons tea, with milk please’, instead. They’d then try to put hot water AND MILK in the cups together, and leave us with a teabag each. The waiter called Jeisy (who works in the Japanese restaurant in the evenings) was the only one who got it right during our two weeks there, and it earned him a tip. We mentioned this issue about tea to Jesus in Guest Services towards the end of our holiday, and he said he would see if he could get them a bit better trained!
Lunch at the resort for vegetarians was a bit more limited than for meat-eaters, but not a problem, either. The pizzeria by the main pool had four kinds of freshly cooked pizza each day, and two of these were meat-free. The World Café buffet always had salad, rolls, sometimes a ‘main meal’ which was meat-free. The barbecue stand on the beach, however was a totally no-go area for us, but very popular with those who like meat with their meat. A short way away from the barbecue was the ‘fruit boat’ where fresh (VERY fresh) fruit is cut up for you as you watch.
One lunchtime we went to the Seaside Grill, where they had a spaghetti dish (with side salad), which was available without meat if required.
We tried only one of the A La Carte restaurants – the Bordeaux. The staff were rather bemused by the idea that we are vegetarian, but our waiter was very helpful in suggesting what we could have from the menu . He spoke with the chef, and came back to explain that the chef would make us up a dish from the vegetables that they were using that evening for the various dishes available from the usual menu, which worked out great. However, if we had wanted to go there for a second evening, we would have had to have the same thing again. The next evening, we spent some time visiting all of the A La Cartes, to speak with the staff about what each of them MIGHT be able to offer if we were to go there on another night – all of them had the same reply, really – they would make us up a special, but there wasn’t anything specifically ‘vegetarian’ on any menu. What they tended to CALL vegetarian, was really ‘vegetable accompaniments’, to be chosen to go alongside the meat options.
Most evenings, then, we went to the World Café buffet. Some reviewers have criticised the World Café as having little variety. We found it to be very varied, and it was always possible to find something yummy. I eat some fish, although my husband doesn’t – so, some evenings I ate grouper fish, or salmon, or a lovely smoked fish fillet which I didn’t find out the name of. The range of sweets and cakes, at both lunchtime and in the evenings, was huge. There was always a selection of ice-cream, too. The buffet has a different theme each evening (on a 7 day rotation). As vegetarians, we found the ‘Dominican night’ the hardest one for us, as Dominicans eat so much meat, and there was little else.
For meat-eaters, if you can’t find loads to eat at every restaurant, every night, then you simply aren’t trying! The food was always plentiful and clean. Even just before closing time at the buffet, the serving platters would be re-filled so that the choice looked fresh. I noticed that gateaux, for instance, were always replaced with a whole new one when they were three-quarters gone, not completely gone. The salad, etc., is washed in purified water, so is safe to eat – I had no problems, and I ate some every day.
One night each week there was a ‘pool party’, when the buffet was closed, and it was set up around the main pool instead. This took the staff an enormous amount of work, but was very impressive. They had to start setting up the tables from lunchtime, so it disrupted those sitting around the pool a bit. The range of cakes at this event was stunning – one cake measured about four feet by two, with national flags iced on the top, so that you could eat a ‘relevant’ piece from it, depending where you came from! As the food was more ‘special’ at this meal, though, as vegetarians we found that that meant extra meat dishes, and not much choice for us. After the pool party the first week we were there, we learnt from that, and the following week it happened we made sure that we ate a lot at lunchtime, so that we didn’t need to find much in the evening.
Previous reviewers recently have mentioned that, due to the renovations at this hotel, some of the A La Cartes HAD BEEN closed some evenings, so that, despite advertising that there were six or seven restaurants to choose from, most evenings only a couple were actually open to eat in. By the time we were there, though, ALL the restaurants were open every night.
Neither my husband nor I drink alcohol, so the bars were not really of interest to us. We could get an orange juice when we wanted one, but as so many people wanted cocktails, each of those takes a long time to prepare, so we found it took quite a time to get served. Annoyingly, non-alcoholic cocktails are listed on a separate menu called ‘Children’s Cocktails’, which put us off from even trying them.
The beach at Dreams La Romana is gorgeous. Soft sand, clear water, lots of shade under palm tress and what we referred to as ‘hairy umbrellas’ (most appeared to be very newly built). Plenty of sun loungers everywhere. My husband did some snorkelling and saw a few fish near the beach, but nothing like as many as some others have reported. The area around the volleyball and lunchtime barbecue stand was quite a noisy place to sit. The aerobics takes place there, accompanied by very loud music. The area near to the small pier was quieter – where many people read. The quietest, though, seemed to be at the end of the beach nearest to the watersports area. Beyond the pier towards Building 7 was always virtually deserted (including the jacuzzi overlooking the sea).
The watersports equipment was a bit of a disappointment. The glass-bottomed boats are no longer there. The catamarans, the pedaloes and a Sunfish dinghy were all in a dilapidated condition. Last year, guests could have an hour per day free use of all non-motorised equipment, but now it is just half an hour. Also, despite being ‘non-motorised’, we had to pay 15 US dollars per hour to use the Sunfish. We raised these points with Guest Services, and were told that in May 2009, the contract for the watersports centre will change hands to another business, and then the facilities will improve. Despite this, we used the kayaks, catamarans, pedaloes and Sunfish several times. Booking is necessary, but there’s often only half an hour’s wait.
Both the main pool and infinity pool are lovely. The infinity pool got quite busy, mainly with people at the swim-up bar end. Loungers became ‘saved’ with towels from quite early in the morning here, despite guests being asked on noticeboards not to do this. We didn’t see any staff removing towels from loungers. The main pool was much quieter, except for late afternoon, when the step aerobics, with loud music, takes place by the pizzeria. Hardly anyone ventured into the pool itself – I got the feeling that if you did, you became the ‘entertainment’ for those sitting around the edge.
The new pool between Buildings 5 and 7 is surprisingly small when seen ‘in the flesh’. It is supposed to be for the sole use of Preferred Club guests. I don’t see how staff can monitor that, as this hotel doesn’t operate a wristband system. The pool seemed a bit too overlooked for my liking, but it’s a good design. There is a bar near the pool.
The pools have new, wooden sun-loungers (the ones on the beach are blue plastic). These wooden ones look good, but are only a few weeks old and are already going mouldy in the seamlines, from when they get wet. They don’t drain as well as the plastic ones. But they do look better.
The grounds are beautiful and mature. Staff work constantly on them. They seem to only use their hands, or a machete, to do the weeding! It’s worth seeking out the garden alongside the Spa, as it is very peaceful and well-designed. There is a small labyrinth/maze, pools and fountains, hammocks and stone benches, and a lot of wildlife. It’s also hardly used, so we found it a good place to go for some peace and quiet.
Activities on & off resort/hotel:
The Animation Team work very hard on the activities such as volleyball, dancing classes, water aerobics, etc. In the evenings, they take part in the shows. Some of the shows were fantastic, such as the ‘Taino Show’ (brilliant dancing) and the circus show (wonderful acrobatics, fire displays, trapeze). At the weekend, Saturday night is a live band. The first week, it rained after they had only performed two songs, unfortunately, so that they had to stop as the electrics would have got wet. The second week, they performed their full set, and were very good – first half was ‘pop hits’, and the second half was Dominican-inspired dance music. Sunday night was karaoke. Obviously, this varies from week to week, depending on the guests’ skills. We didn’t go to this show, but could hear it from our room – one man was a brilliant ‘Tom Jones’, and one woman crucified ‘I will survive’ with a tone-deaf rendition.
If you aren’t the ‘joining in’ type, the Animation Team learn very quickly to leave you alone. Those who want a lively week will find that these staff can provide it for you.
Excursions Our Thomas Cook rep suggested several excursions. We only went on one – to Saona Island. It cost us 85 US dollars each. It was a great day, and well worth doing. We were taken by taxi to Bayahibe harbour first. We could have easily walked this (along the beach), but the rep told us that a taxi was easier, as people didn’t always know where to meet up. It was a bit chaotic, as guests from various hotels meet to go out to the catamarans here. We tagged along with a group from the Iberostar, who fortunately had a rep who went with them and spoke four languages. A speedboat took us out to a huge catamaran, and we transferred onto it. I was wary of this bit, as I can’t swim, but the speedboat is tied to the catamaran in two places, and a staff member stands either side of the steps, helping you across a gap of about a foot. Children are carried across. On the catamaran, we were offered coke or rum. The journey out to the island was lovely, and took about an hour and a quarter. Bob Marley music, then merengue, played the whole time, and the staff tried to get anyone reasonably willing to dance.
We transferred to speedboats again to get onto the beach. Saona’s beach is beautiful – very soft, white sand – paler than Dreams La Romana’s. A buffet lunch was provided in the cost of the excursion. There were basic toilet facilities on the island. There were quite a few vendors where we were first dropped off at the beach, and they quickly approached us with the ‘looky looky, cheapy cheapy’ catchphrase that we’d been told about. We managed to get rid of them quite simply by saying ‘we’re English, and we’ve got no money’. The first one went back and told the others, and after that they left us alone.
We had three hours on the island – enough time to walk along the beach further than anyone else, so that for a while we could see no other people. It was lovely - a real tropical island feeling. The sea was very clear, with WAVES (which you hardly ever get at the beach at Dreams hotel itself).
We joined the speedboat again (and had to wear lifejackets this time), and were taken, at speed, to the ‘natural pool’. This is a sandbank, formed by a hurricane in 1998 just off the coast, which makes the sea about three feet deep, even though you are about a quarter of a mile out to sea – very bizarre. We had 20 minutes here, splashing about and drinking coke or rum whilst standing in incredibly clear waters. There were a few large starfish to see, and some VERY posh yachts moored nearby. We then raced back in the speedboats, alongside another one (we won). It was an exciting, bumpy ride, but safe. Lots of fun. When we got back to the harbour, the taxi should have been waiting for us, but it wasn’t there, so we walked back along the beach. We told the rep the next morning that the taxi hadn’t shown up, and he seemed unsurprised, saying ‘yes, most people walk back’. We felt this was a bit poor, as we had presumably paid for that, and while we’d been waiting for the taxi, we’d been pestered by vendors (one a child), who were quite intimidating and made us feel uncomfortable. We felt that this excursion was well worth the money, though.
The staff at Dreams are wonderful. They are the friendliest people we have ever come across. Going from your hotel room to breakfast, you could easily come across a dozen staff, and all of them would say ‘hola’ to you. Maids, bellhops, gardeners – everyone. The staff in the restaurants work very hard, and almost all of them worked fast. Most speak only a little English, but between their limited English and our limited Spanish, it wasn’t a problem. Maria and Carol (two of the ‘welcomers’ in the buffet) were particularly friendly. The staff seemed to enjoy working with each other, which seemed a good sign, to us.
We had two different maids cleaning our room, during our stay. The first one was more cursory than the other. The second one knew more English. We worked out that there is no point mentioning to a maid if, for instance, you need more water in the minifridge, as that kind of information isn’t passed on to the person who refills the fridge. You need to leave notes, preferably in Spanish, then the relevant person will respond. The hotel seems to have hordes of staff doing the rounds of the rooms all day, but each doing only their specific job. So, if you wanted a day in your room, you’d have to use the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, or you would get interrupted several times.
Two days before we left, we bumped into ‘our’ maid in the hallway, and she told us that the next day was her day off, so she wouldn’t see us before we left. We fell for it, and gave her a ‘final’ tip. But we only had two dollars on us at the time, as we’d just come back from the beach. The next day, we saw her working in the hallway, as usual, and worked out that she’d been angling for her tip a bit too early. We’d intended to tip her more as we left, but as we felt she’d been a bit cheeky, we didn’t leave her anything else.
The staff who filled the minifridge remembered our particular needs, so we always had plenty, refilled daily. Each evening, someone slipped a programme for the following day’s events under our door, at around 9pm.
The staff at the Front Desk were polite and courteous. Check-in and Check-out were quick and painless. Their English was pretty good.
The staff at Guest Services were great. However much Jesus gets paid, it’s not enough! That man can sort out any problem with a smile, in fluent English. He listened to our (few) complaints about our room – such as, we had no bathrobes when we arrived, and no coffee cups, and he got it sorted. There was one slightly more serious issue which he sorted for us, and the next day we had a bottle of wine and a fruit platter delivered to our room while we were on the beach, to compensate.
Apparently, there used to be an ice-cream machine in the buffet, but it has been removed. We suggested that a machine on the beach would be a good idea, and were told that other guests had requested that too, so they’d look into it.
We talked to Jesus in Guest Services about the vegetarian food that the hotel offers. In the UK, about 10% of people are vegetarian. In the Dominican Republic, it’s probably less than 1%. We explained the problems we had had on some evenings when choice was limited. He came back to us after a few days and said that the chef in charge of the World Café buffet was finalising a selection of items to have in a ‘vegetarian corner’ that they were going to start in the next few weeks (March 2009?), so that vegetarians would not only have something to choose from if they hunted through the whole buffet, but have a dedicated place that they knew they could go to each meal.
Dreams La Romana is advertised as an all-inclusive ‘resort and spa’. However, if you want to have any of the spa treatments, they have to be paid for as extras…and they are EXPENSIVE – about twice the cost of the same thing in the UK. If the watersports, entertainment, food and drink are included, why not the spa? The hotel was marketing the spa hard whilst we were there, but seemed to have few takers. I got the price guide in English, and felt it was let down badly by the bad spelling – surely, that should have been checked before going to print? Some items listed were strange – you could have a hair treatment called an ‘Up do’, for instance!
There is a second spa and garden on the resort (beyond Building 7), but this was closed for renovations while we were there.
Our Thomas Cook rep seemed a bit too passive for our liking. He was pleasant, but not too keen on the La Romana area (he’s based somewhere around the Bavarro area, I think, and is only at the hotel for a couple of hours, three times a week). We got the chance to sit in on the welcome meeting for a group of Americans whose rep was from Apple Vacations, who is called Katie Barlow. She is from Hertfordshire. She’s really nice, is based at Dreams La Romana full-time (except Weds), and said she’s always willing to help any English guests, as ‘we all need to stick together’! Her introductory chat was very informative and really enthusiastic.
Vendors are allowed onto the resort on alternate evenings, and set up temporary stalls around the main pool, selling souvenirs like cigars, clothes and jewellery. We found that they weren’t a problem at all if we started off politely but firmly showing no interest whatsoever. After that, they left us alone.
Any of the ‘niggles’ I’ve mentioned above were small ones – we’d go back in an instant. We took 1400 photos altogether, and will be showing them to anyone daft enough to ask us if we had a good holiday!
"The restaurants were simply excellent."
Jo-Ann from Ottawa on Jan 1, 2009 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Jan, 2009
322 people found this review helpful
Arrival: Jan 5, 2009 - Jan 12, 2009
Arrival at the hotel was very smooth. We were shuttled there from the airport and our bags were taken immediately to our room. Seamless.
Our room was clean and nicely decorated. King bed, nice bathroom with shower, very nice.
Restaurants and Bars:
***** The restaurants were simply excellent. There were I think 5 a la cartes open at the resort plus the buffet and snack bars etc. YOU DID NOT HAVE TO BOOK THE A LA CARTES...just walk up to the one you want, when you want, and there was NEVER a line...and they were VERY classy, excellent decor and even better food...We absolutely never had a bad meal. We loved the Italian, French and Mexican. We didn't do the grill (cause we have that food at home) and the Oceana Seafood restaurant was excellent too. The buffet food was always fresh and top quality..and never lines for pasta station etc.
There were bbq's on the beach making delicious hamburgers with all the fixins..and a banana boat on the beach featuring fresh fruit every day..
The grounds were gorgeous - everything well layed out, pools were second to none..and the beach was very nice. The sand is as white and fine as flour - which made the water a little cloudy for snorkelling BUT that having been said..the snorkelling was excellent. We swam with schools of sardines and watched the tuna come in and round them up then dart in to grab them..we fed tropical fish with bananas...very beautiful...
Palms line the beach which I love to look at..and there was always an activity going on down on the beach..everything from cooking lessons to water aerobics..
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
As I mentioned there were daily activities - cooking lessons on the beach, water aerobics in the ocean, step aerobics by the pool, movie nights on the beach for the kids, nightly entertainment by the pool, dance lessons etc
We are well travelled, heading to the caribbean once or twice a year...This is a very good resort for the money...would I go back...ya..if I got an amazing deal...however our thing is that we like to try new resorts and places all of the time...PS...I never saw any construction going on except at the far east side of the resort where they were working on an ocean side wedding chapel..