I kicked off my first trip of the year by heading to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic with a handful of great friends. Sounds like the perfect trip to escape the could northeast winter, right? Well, that’s what we thought. But unfortunately, besides the warm weather, there was nothing perfect (or even particularly great) about our trip to the Occidental Caribe in Punta Cana.
To start things off, we check in and our rooms aren’t next to each other as requested. Now, I know what you may be thinking. That is an optional perk that you can hope for when booking your rooms, but typically isn’t guaranteed. I get it. But when booking our rooms we specifically asked for all of the rooms to at least be close to one another, since we were traveling with my brother who is still a minor and therefore needed a guardian for our trip. Fast forward to check in: not only is one room in a totally different building across the resort, it also happened to be my room, making me super far from my little brother. I asked them to at least put us in the same building, but they insisted it was impossible until I refused to back down and they found us a room right above them.
As if that wasn’t a headache enough, our rooms weren’t even ready! We were checking in well after 3pm (check in was at 3), and only one of our 3 rooms was ready. That was ridiculous. After a long day of travel they insisted we give them another hour, so we had to cram in all our belongings in our of our friends’ room and all change and freshen up so we could go grab a late lunch on the resort. During this, I changed in a closet. A CLOSET. Because there were 7 of us who were hangry and wanted to get to a restaurant (and unlimited drinks) as quick as possible.
When we finally got our rooms, neither of our keys worked. We had to get a new set of keys and I found that a teeny bit ridiculous. Pair that with the fact that the numeration of rooms and layout of the resort didn’t make sense, and you have a whole bunch of us (highly educated, pretty bright) traveling to a resort that confused us and made us lost multiple times.
Now. Food and drinks. Food was the worst of any resort I’ve ever been to. EVER. Let’s put it this way: the Mexican resort on the resort didn’t even have Mexican food. (Since when is a tuna sandwich Mexican cuisine?) There were 5 restaurants on the resort and only one of them didn’t require a reservation: the nasty buffet. I’ve been to resorts where one or two of the restaurants require reservations as they are more upscale and/or a la carte plated meals, but never have I experienced such a frenzy for reservations. The restaurants were super small and they did reservations in half hour increments. I’d say that each restaurant could do no more than 200 covers a night, which is nothing considering that I know multiple thousand people stayed on our resort.
The drinks were watery, in the smallest plastic cups ever, and the bartenders didn’t know how to make any classic drinks (even when we asked in Spanish). I knew this wasn’t going to be a 5 star resort so I didn’t expect the luxury I experienced at Secrets Wild Orchid in Jamaica, for example, but this was straight up like the Motel 8 of resorts. Our toilet broke every single day, and not be all TMI, but it broke with just #1 in the toilet. Like what kind of nonsense is that?
Many people spoke very little English and essentially only the front desk people weren’t fluent just conversational. Luckily I can speak conversational Spanish to get by, as could a couple others in our group. If there weren’t those of us who can speak and understand fairly easily, we wouldn’t have even be able to order our meals at most of the restaurants. Speaking of which, some restaurant employees weren’t even informed; in one restaurant, the waitress couldn’t even tell us what time the restaurant closed!
Other complaints? Room service had a fee (unlike other all-inclusive resorts I’ve stayed at). Our tub was dirty upon our arrival. There was only one ATM at the resort and it was broken the entire time we were there. (We ended up having to pay major $$$ fees in the form of cash advances at the casino which was open limited hours.) There were multiple broken slots at the casino. Entire hotel was counterintuitive and layout made no sense (e.g. one of the restaurants was right across from hotel rooms). The channels on the TV said they were in English but they were in Spanish. (We were able to watch Judge Judy in English one day though.) Only one device per wifi. What if you have your laptop and phone? You paid $12 a day and it didn’t even work. You had to log back in every 5 minutes. Luckily, I had an international phone plan so I didn’t have to bother, but some of my friends did and were disappointed with the fee, one-device rule, and constant timing out.
The balcony attached to our room was broken. BROKEN. One of our friends was swinging it one night and I got a video of how badly it was broken and how much of a safety hazard it was. We were on the third floor!!! That could have been a tragic accident for someone who had one too many drinks.
But here comes the worst part: my tummy was bothering me on our last morning and I was curled up in bed while some friends enjoyed their last morning on the beach. Check out was at noon, but at 10am two men walked into our rooms! Yes, used their hotel keys and just walked in. So not only did the front desk check them in 5 HOURS before they should have, they also gave the room away while it was still being inhabited. It was scary, gross, and a total shock that solidified our horrible experiences.
Meanwhile, when our friends were checking out a receptionist told them “I won’t let you go home” when they were missing a room key. Like what?!?!?! So the moral of the story? If you’re going to Punta Cana, don’t stay at Occidental Caribe.
(Bob has stayed at other lovely resorts in the country as one of some other family members, so if anyone is looking for recommendations, I’m happy to pass some on through their word of mouth.)