Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Vacation of Jan 4-11, 2002


From a lot of research (Debbie's site provided a wealth of information with its reviews), we selected Fiesta Palace (since then has changed to Grand Palladium Palace Resort) (all inclusive 4+ star resort in Punta Cana, DR.), for a relaxing holiday in anticipation of an upcoming heavy year of work (and also needing to do something special for Paula's birthday). The holiday was one of the best ever and we can highly recommend the resort.

I took a lot of stereo photos in preparation for the development of a 3D presentation system. Pictures where taken with a twinned digital Casio QV-2800UX storing images onto a portable hard drive (Digital Wallet). For this web, I took some of the shots, compressed and reduced them to 800x600 to show here as single views (non-3D). Click the thumbnail to open an enlarged view in a new window which can then also be clicked to slideshow through the pictures.

International airport looks like
a thatched hut
Part of the resort lobby Walk through resort grounds Room is in two story construction
with about 2 dozen rooms each
At the pool bar with friends Pool view   Proof that I was there
 
I tried this, it was actually very
easy to do
If you ever wonder what a
banana boat is
Resort had activities
throughout the day
Local shop on the beach
(outside the resort area)
Resort beach view Now this is a beach Look at the odd palm tree! Beach Volleyball
 
Sunrise Yes, classic pictures like this
are there for the taking
Another classic picture Sunset

2002 All rights reserved, pictures can not be copied or used without permission.


How we pick the place

For those interested in the details, we were looking for somewhere warm with a direct flight from Vancouver on an approximate budget of 3k (Canadian for two). With our taste for higher end accommodations and meals, the US was too expensive (including of course Hawaii and Palm Springs). Concerns of becoming sick had us stay away from Mexico (only later did we learn DR has similar water problems). That left Cuba and DR, DR won on a coin toss. Then beaches led us to Punta Cana and the resort was selected from our travel agents recommendation and Debbie's reviews on the web. It ended up at $3.5k (World of Vacations offering). Adding in taxes and miscellaneous of cabs to/from Vancouver airport, DR entry/exit fees, duty free booze and so forth gave us a vacation costing well under $4k for two.

What we thought

We can highly recommend this resort.

Paula's health concerns where completely alleviated the first day when we saw the resort's attitude to our well being and their food handling. We ate everything served on the buffets without fear (salads, fish, ...) and did not get sick. Bottled water was readily available everywhere and encouraged (we brushed our teeth with it and kept our mouths closed in the shower). We took their advice of drinking lots of water and not over-indulging with food and drink (well, we did eat and drink quite a bit).

The resort is five star in all the ways that count (food, service, location, ambiance) and four plus star in areas of less importance (Paula hated the coffee - we're taking Starbucks with us next time, no flamingos in the pond, English was not  understood - "red wine" led to a blank stare, local booze was an experience - only rum tasted great). The staff all looked very happy to be there and where very friendly (oddly like Disney World). This was our first experience with an all inclusive vacation and we really enjoyed it.

For activities, we spent most of the time reading, swimming, drinking, eating and taking long walks along the surf. I also did some snorkeling (nothing really to see), briefly tried wind surfing and sailed a catamaran. Paula was more energetic as she took part in a number of group activities (organized by some great "Fun Staff") including archery, boules, games, water exercise and more. We left land tour adventures for our next visit.

The resort area was large and beautifully kept with lots of vegetation that made exploring walks a pleasure. The beach front is massive and spacious, we had no difficulty in finding lounge chairs. The sand was swept of debris every day, the surf small and fun. Beach sand (powder white coral sand) was always cool to walk on. The pool area is gorgeous with the swim up bar being a great place to meet people.

Fiesta Palace resort caters to a predominately European cliental. English was in the minority, we heard French, German, Italian and of course Spanish. There were no hotdogs or ketchup by the pool, food stayed in the dining areas (including one that overlooked the pool area). Evening meals required long pants for men and many women did dress up a bit (including putting on heels). The buffets changed every day and where large and extensive (Friday even offered barbequed lobster). Even with the changing variety, the buffets became tiring (I guess just being in the same room). So we had several evening meals at resort sit-down restaurants which required a reservation the day ahead. We did have a concern that Fiesta Palace allowed for only one sit-down meal per week visit but with our visit this was not enforced as the resort was not fill to capacity.

Punta Cana is really a resort only area of DR where the resorts line the beach next to each other. I wondered about the differences between the various priced vacation packages. Having strolled the beach of some of the resorts and having experienced the offering of Fiesta, I can guess what the extra dollars bring. Spacious beach front, quality and variety food offerings, less crowds. In selecting resorts, beware they target specific markets with some (of no interest to us) oriented towards lower cost (there are plenty of vacation deals), children (great to see a few children) or a party crowd (we heard of one that had discos with laser light shows around their pool). For us, Fiesta Palace was just the right match giving good value for the dollar.

Links

Fiesta Palace reviews on Debbies site

Fiesta Hotels a very poor site, Fiesta still needs to learn that web sites are as important a brochures

Dominican Republic Web  good site including current events/news in DR

Spanish Phrases  a fun site to learn some key tourist Spanish phrases

DR Webcam  the only web cam I found