Back in late April, my girlfriend Ivone and I took a trip to the Dominican Republic. We stayed at a nice resort (Lifestyle Holidays in Puerto Plata), and had a great time. For the most part.
We had never done this before, and didn’t know the drill. Now we do. I just wish that the April Me could have had a conversation with Future Me, so that I’d have the low down and know what to expect.
Perhaps something like this…
April Me: So wow, an all inclusive resort in a tropical setting. You lucky dog. I’ll bet it was great. Just check in, grab a cold drink, and relax!
Future Me: Not exactly. The check in by itself took about 30 minutes, including the 15 minutes or so the desk clerk disappeared with our passports. Why did he want our passports? He never said. Anyway we stood there in this noisy, sweltering lobby wearing our warm Northern clothes, just dying to get to our room.
AM: Yeah, but then the vacation really started! You lucky dog.
FM: Then it was a five minute trudge to our room. The resort was huge. It was a hot muggy day, and when we entered our place, it was cool and clammy. It stayed that way for the next six days.
AM: But you could turn off the air conditioner, right?
FM: I tried. But it just kept blasting, like a living thing. And the room never felt dry.
AM: Ah, but the sun. You could dry out, outside.
FM: Sort of. We did spend lots of time in the sun, except for Day 2 when it rained.
AM: So what did you do on Day 1?
FML: Settled in, went to get lunch, walked to the beach, and finally got that drink.
AM: Yay. Gin and tonic, right?
FM: You got it. But I arrived at the poolside bar just as it was closing, and the bartender wasn’t too happy about it. Also I didn’t tip him.
AM: So what? All-Inclusive! Leave your wallet at home! I’ve heard the ads.
FM: The ads are wrong. You never leave your wallet at home. Anytime someone willingly does something for you, they want a tip. They expect a tip. You have to tip. One guy told me the resort does not pay him; he lives on tips. He had a family to feed.
AM: I don’t believe it.
FM: And another guy grabbed my bag at the airport, carried it twenty feet, and stared at my hand until I gave him a small tip. The nerve.
AM: I wouldn’t have tipped.
FM: You would have. In fact, you did.
AM: Okay. Hey, those beaches looked spectacular on the website. Were they?
FM: They weren’t bad. A little narrow though, but you could walk quite a distance, and we did. Here’s the thing though – to get there you had to run an obstacle course, involving many detours and gates. You get the feeling they want you to stay off the beach.
AM: That’s crazy. Why?
FM: The resort is divided into little compounds, and the beach has access to all of them. We were considered riff raff (blue bracelets) and were not allowed into Yellow Bracelet Land. Something to do with levels of membership.
AM: That sucks. No one wants to feel like riff raff.
FM: Agreed. So we began to learn where we couldn’t go, and where we could. A stern security guard would remind us if we forgot.
AM: Were the rest of the staff friendly?
FM: Yes and no. Every day after leaving breakfast (only one way out) we ran into a wall of “concierges” – natives with khaki uniforms, clipboards and pith helmets. They approached everyone with an offer for a presentation and tour of the facilities. It sounded like a sales pitch to me, so I asked Leo, who had attached himself to us. “No, no sale pitch! Just come with me, what’s your room number?” We had nothing else planned, so we went.
AM: Let me guess. It was a sales pitch.
FM: Affirmative. The guy at the sales office was disgusted with us, since we were not willing to purchase a higher level of membership. I told him I had no intention of buying anything, in fact the whole place was starting to feel like prison to me. “If you are not ready to purchase, why did you come here?” he said, harshly. “You should have just said no to the concierge.”
AM: Wow. Doesn’t sound like first class treatment.
FM: Nope. And the lady in Guest Services was nice. But there was only one of her, and about ten people waiting for her at all times.
AM: What were they waiting for?
FM: Dinner reservations. You couldn’t just pick up the phone, you had to go through her. And every couple she spoke to required a good 5-10 minutes. Without dinner reservations, you had to use the buffet place. Not bad, but you kind of wanted to check out the various restaurants located around the resort.
AM: You lucky dog.
FM: I wish you’d stop saying that.
AM: So you have your meals, your pools, long walks on the beach, and a cold beverage whenever you want. And you never had to leave the place.
AM: Were they hard to arrange?
FM: Arrange, no. Pay for, yes. The Excursion people wanted payment up front, in cash. It was like they expected every visitor to have hundreds of dollars on them. I ended up going to a bank, using my credit card to buy pesos and then convert them to dollars. For a fee of course.
AM: What a pain. They wouldn’t just take your credit card?
FM: Don’t make me laugh. I might never stop.
AM: Our sister and her family were there the same time as us. It must have been great to see her.
FM: Oh, it was. Shame we never got to eat dinner together.
AM: What? Not once in six nights?
FM: Nope. You see, we had the blue bracelets and they had yellow bracelets…
AM: You’re kidding! What the hell…?
FM: Precisely. Just for the record though, we had a super time. The weather was mostly good, warm to hot, and sunny, like we expected. The food was awesome. My first banana daiquiri was a mind-blowing taste sensation. Our bartenders and chambermaids became our friends. The beach was the beach. Palm trees and exotic birds. The side trips we will always remember.
AM: So, you’d do it again? The whole resort thing?
FM: Get back to me…in the future.