Monday, January 31, 2011

MORE Punta Cana: Part 2 @ Dreams Palm Beach

The grilled mixed meat platter at The Seaside Grill
"Ok, but how was the food?"
This the first question I am ever asked when I tell people about my recent trip to Dreams Palm Beach, an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic.  God forbid you are stuck eating terrible meals three times a day on a vacation you paid a lot of money for.  The food is actually good as long as you know that it will have a bit of a Dominican twist and of course not identical to what you might get in North America.  Which being in the Dominican Republic and all, makes a lot of sense.  
Sushi & Teppenyaki at Himitsu Restaurant
The resort offers a collection of five a la carte restaurants, a coffee bar, beach BBQ station and a huge buffet.  The buffet can get a bit repetitive as it is the top choice for breakfast and lunch.  So it's a good idea to break things up a bit and visit a different a la carte restaurant for dinner and maybe one or two BBQ lunches for burgers and hot dogs at The Barefoot Grill by the beach.  However, do check out the buffet for dinner as it is the only place that does juicy grilled lobster tails.  If you're a seafood lover, you'll be in all-you-can eat heaven.  The buffet offers a fantastic selection of tropical fruits like guava, sugar cane, passion fruit and papaya.  So make sure you try them all.  The most popular restaurant at the resort was really a dinner and show at Himitsu.  This teppanyaki grill is reminiscent of the culinary show you would get at a Benihana.  The chef is flipping utensils, throwing eggs and playing/performing with your food.  Dinner consisted of sushi, grilled chicken, beef, shrimp, vegetables, fried rice and dessert!  It was hard not to walk away stuffed or even walk away at all.

Fruit selection inside the World Cafe Buffet Restaurant
The other a la carte restaurants included Bordeaux for French cuisine (adults-only), Portofino served Italian and El Patio offered up some delicious Mexican food.  Long pants for men are required at all the a la carte restaurants, so pack extra.  Sales Director, Gabriel Riera notes that, "Dreams Resorts stand by the no wristbands (soooo Spring Break) and no reservations policy".  Which means it's first-come, first served.  Our group of seven rarely had any issues and our longest wait was probably 45 minutes for Himitsu, which is the most popular restaurant.  Other times, we were seated right away.  Riera also mentions that there are no restrictions on any of the restaurants.  So if you want to eat lobster or at the Mexican restaurant every night, you are free to do so.  Other all-inclusives can limit you to just one steak or lobster dinner.  Dreams wants you to eat what you please - and we do!
The grand buffet (above) changes up their food stations daily, which included an ice cream & sundae bar, chocolate fondue station, cold cuts & cheese, salads, fruit, Mexican station, a carvery and grilled meats.  The resort has an osmosis filtration system on-site and bottled water is available everywhere and filtered water is served in the restaurants.  I had no problems brushing my teeth with the water out of the tap.  Before entering the buffet, each person is given a pump of hand sanitizer to reduce the spread of germs between guests.  Which is great preventative measure, given the 1000+ guests staying at the resort.
The Coco Cafe is like your own personal Starbucks, except you don't have to pay for anything.  Our very pregnant friend could not squeeze herself away from their banana bread.  We think she craved it a couple times a day!  Luckily, we were at an all-inclusive and she could indulge all her pregnancy cravings.  The cafe even does frozen frappucinos, hot espressos, regular coffees and offers a large selection of teas.  The dark Dominican coffee is not to be missed.
The spa had a small gym with decent cardio equipment, a few machines and some free weights.  Most of the time it was empty, except for a few guilt-ridden people like myself.  The spa offers a full menu of massages and treatments along with a jacuzzi, steam room and sauna.
For those travelling with children, The Explorer's Club caters to ages 3-12 will a full day program of activities.  The kids have their own little clubhouse, stocked with slushies, snacks and games.  The outdoor area even included a treehouse, splash pad, playground and basketball court.  The Core Zone is a clubhouse and activity program geared towards teens ages 13+ and decked out with pool tables, table soccer and TVs.  Parents are given a pager and a chance to enjoy a little time alone.
We had a really great time at Dreams Palm Beach and it seems like they work very hard to maintain the quality of their brand throughout the resort.  The staff are incredibly friendly and it was a nice mix of couples and families.  All-inclusive packages for Dreams Palm Beach is your best bet.  They include a flight + vacation package + transfers and will run you around $1500 with taxes from Toronto.  To read more about our trip to Punta Cana, check out part one here.
Dreams Palm Beach, Punta Cana.

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