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Dominican Republic Getaway – Day One

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Guys. I work hard. I sit at my computer for 8 hours a day hunched over, straining my eyes, ruining my posture…you know the drill. You probably do too.


And I am a vacation girl. Not that this surprises anyone. But I mean, I am not the type to have left over days off at the end of the year – unless I am specifically planning for a big vacation.


But I also know some of you are not like that. Some of you actually LOSE vacation time because you don’t use it. I completely understand if you can’t get away for a big trip, but take care of yourself and take a day off now and then. The work will still be there when you get back. Trust me.


I know your reasons. I’ve heard them all…no one else can do my job, there would be too much work when I get back, I just can’t leave right now. Bullshit. Even if any of those reasons are true, is any of that worth potentially working yourself into an early grave?


TAKE. A. DAY. OFF.


I’ll hop off my soapbox now. I just love you and I want all of us to grow very old together. I vote when the time comes we all move into the same retirement community together.


So, since I work hard and I believe in taking my EARNED vacations (yeah, you EARN them people!), I decided to add a couple of days to the Presidents Day weekend and take a vacation with my boyfriend.


Sidebar: Sorry, looks like there was one last step on that soapbox.


Additional sidebar: it still feels really weird to say boyfriend. I feel like I’m back in middle school and I’m writing his name in hearts all over my notebooks.


As I mentioned before – I think I mentioned before – my initial vacation search was for places I could use my Southwest credit that expires by the end of May (from my cancelled New York trip). But I couldn’t find an affordable, all—inclusive resort that fit within Rob’s preferred budget. And then I stumbled upon this too good to be true deal on Groupon.


The important thing to note there is “too good to be true”.


I found an all-inclusive vacation package – air, hotel, drinks, food, beach – and with taxes, airport shuttles, and baggage fees, our total per person was $728. I read the reviews on Groupon and they were good, we discussed it, and I booked it.


It’ll be an adventure we said.


Look – we knew we were not booking a 5 star resort. But the airline was Spirit – so that definitely reduced the cost – and figured maybe it was because it was the off season (not that I know or even looked up when the off season might be). Or maybe because it was so close to Valentine’s they were desperate to fill the rooms.


I would also like to state for the record that I know I am spoiled. I’ve taken some pretty fucking amazing vacations the last 10 years. But I also still remember when Motel 6 was fancy to me so I can deal with sub-par accommodations. Not to mention the notorious Motel Dixianna (that’s for Julie and Mia).


The first bad sign was when I asked our shuttle driver if our resort was nice and his response was “mas o menos (more or less)”. Ok. Ouch.


Then we turn down this road with crumbling buildings and trash everywhere and it doesn’t feel like we are anywhere near the beach.


We pull into the resort – it’s gated, which is good considering the neighborhood – and the place is gorgeous. I mean really quite lovely and I think, ok – this isn’t bad. We can do this.


The staff wasn’t overly friendly but again, not expecting 5 star service.


Sidebar #3: Planning a trip to the Dominican Republic? Brush up on your Spanish because English is not readily spoken here. Which is totally acceptable and fine, I just am so used to there being people that can speak English (hello American white privilege) – even when visiting foreign countries – that it never occurred to me that it might be otherwise here. Neither Rob nor I really speak Spanish.


So that was fun.


Even though we arrived around 3:00 our room wasn’t ready yet. But that’s fine…point us to food and the bar.


The restaurant is closed but there is a “snack bar” and bar at the pool. Sounds good, so we head over. The drinks were good and strong. The food was our choice of overcooked hot dogs or undercooked meat patties. I say meat because although it was called a hamburger, it was definitely not beef. Nor do we think it was ham.


But the drinks were good and strong and we can just wait until dinner to eat. We were too late in arriving to make reservations at a restaurant (I think there were 3) but the buffet would be open for dinner at 6:30.


We explored the property a little. The pool wasn’t the cleanest ever and I swear it looked like it had plywood patches but we would spend most of our time at the beach anyway so who cares. Right?


We finally get in our room. OK – here’s where the review really starts.


It looks nice. On the surface. We have a lovely balcony overlooking the lush property and we are near the pool but not so close as to be noisy. So far, so good.


You'll have to trust that's the beach behind us in the first pic.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like living out of a suitcase. If I am able, I will unpack even if I am only staying one night. So I did. The drawers were very difficult to open but I got there. Closet had plenty of hangers. Again, we are not staying at the Ritz but it’s acceptable.


Then we see my favorite in-room amenity. The in-room safe. To keep your valuables safe. I’m not sure if you can tell by my photo but the safe is missing an essential piece. The LOCK.


I decide to lie down and rest for a minute, make sure the mystery meat is going to stay, before heading out to find the beach. I think the best way to describe the bed is two box springs on top of one another. It was that comfortable. Maybe you know, maybe you don’t, but I like a plush bed. I prefer a pillow top. I don’t expect it on vacation but that is my preference. So if you know this about me, you may be thinking I’m exaggerating.


I’m not. I’ve slept on floors that were cushier than that bed.


So now we have switched into shorts and head over to the beach before dinner. We cross the public street but we are still on hotel property. There is a lovely path. At the first bend of the path we see an armed security guard. I don’t mean pistol. He had a rifle sitting across his lap. Okaaay. That does not give me the warm and fuzzies.


But we keep going. We need to see the beach. We cross the pedestrian bridge looking down on what is clearly not the nicest part of town. Also this might be a good place to mention our “resort” wasn’t in Santo Domingo as originally believed, but Boca Chica. To be honest it would have made little difference to me when I booked - how would I know the difference? But this will come in handy later.


Finally – we see the beach! It’s been a 5 minute walk and aside from the scenery outside the walls and the armed guard it’s not bad. We even stop to take a photo. And then we get down to the sand.


More armed guards. I mean, I guess that’s good but also scary.


As we get closer to the water, I notice it isn’t that beautiful aqua color. And then we realize our “beach” is an industrial bay. Think Galveston cruise port but not that nice. I’m still a little concerned that I actually put my feet in the water.


We linger for a few minutes and talk about yeah this isn’t what we hoped for but maybe dinner will be better and we can always find a better beach off site.


Walking back over to our part of the property and I realize the wall surrounding the property is also topped with razor wire. Again with the warm and fuzzies.


It took us a hot minute to find the buffet. Partly because it was now dark but also because the signs are not as obvious as one would like. But we found it. And while looking around we passed a "sweet" little kitty that growled at us before jumping in a nearby trash can.


I cannot make this stuff up.


Things are not looking good.


There’s a large cold cut section, but there’s a girl – maybe 8 years old? – literally touching every piece of meat before deciding which one she wants. With her bare hands. Where are her parents??


There’s fresh fruit – that looks good. Keeping that in mind.


I go over to the hot foods – I’m just checking out what’s available still. Mind you very few things are actually labeled so there is a degree of guess work involved. But my favorite side dish had to have been the mashed potatoes with cheese. There were slices of American cheese on top of the mashed potatoes.


So far, my elementary lunch room food looks better than this.


Then I see the carving station. There is beef tenderloin and roasted turkey. I had to wait a few minutes while he went to grab a few more turkeys, no problem. I don’t mind waiting. He slices off a few pieces of the beef for me, I add some beans and rice, grab a beer and sit down.


The beef was cold. That’s fine. Whatever. One slice wasn’t half bad. The next slice was a bit more rare than I prefer but I can deal. The third slice was raw. I don’t mean rare. I mean raw.

We make a mental note to be sure to make dinner reservations early for the next night. We definitely don't want to eat at the buffet again. But I'm not holding out high hopes at the other restaurants either at this point.


Back in our room and maybe we should shower. Wash off the long day of travel and bad food. Too bad there was no hot water. And the bathtub was disgusting. And the ceiling was literally falling down.


Down at the beach we had discussed maybe trying to find another resort for our final night. But now? Now we both just wanted to get the fuck out of there.


So at 10:00 at night, on February 13th, we started searching for a new place to stay. I found the Occidental Caribe in Punta Cana for an unbelievably low price and it was available. So we booked it for the remainder of our stay.(And yes, we read a LOT of reviews first)


Yep. After less than 8 hours on the property we decided we were better off walking away, even though it was non-refundable. It was that bad.


This post has been long enough, so I’ll post Day Two tomorrow. The adventure continues…


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