We just recently returned from our fun vacation to the Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Sunscape Casa del Mar La Romana, an “all-inclusive” resort, and celebrated our second anniversary.
(Our feet…on vacation)
This was our first time trying the “all-inclusive” (meaning drinks, dining, and activities included) type of resort. We’ve avoided them mainly because (1) we haven’t been to that many resorts; and (2) when we do go to a resort, it’s usually to a place that has a surrounding city, where food and activities are more available. We like to venture out most of the time and take our chances in the “free market”, so to speak.
The Resort and All-Inclusive Features
The resort grounds and connecting beach (as seen in the photo above) were beautiful and well maintained. The Dominican Republic has lots of natural beauty, including some of the blue-est water you’ll see. Also the pools were large, cool, and clean.
Rooms– We decided to upgrade from the basic room to one with a bed spread “without all the crazy carribean prints”, as Mrs. PT likes to call them. The room had a great A/C and nice tall ceilings (top floor). The mini fridge was filled everyday with bottled water (crucial) and cokes of all kinds (part of the all-inclusive…very nice). All the other basics were there: tv, safe, iron, hair dryer. Overall I’d say the room felt very basic. Slightly dingy walls though, and the tile floor didn’t help the slightly dirty feel. Nothing special or particularly awful about it though. We decided that wasn’t why we were there anyway. Although it did rain quite a bit so we were in the room more than we wanted. Grade: B
Food– The food was by far the least awesome part of the trip. The resort had one main buffet with cafeteria-style food, at best (Mrs. PT said she’d rather be at Luby’s). As for the other restaurants: They were primarily open at night and either none or 1 at a time (our anniversary night we were forced to eat at the buffet). While some of the restaurants had some decent options, overall the food just left us unsatisfied. Lots of wasted calories. Oh, and some people reported stomach problems caused by the food, if you know what I mean. Grade: D
Drinks– We’re not big drinkers, but we did partake in the occasional drink. Like most all-inclusive resorts, the beers and wines are limited to local options (Presidente for beer…not bad), and the focus is on the mixed fruity drinks. I thought they were great. Most of the bars had name-brand liquors. Oh, and no wristbands either like other resorts require. Grade: A-
Activities– They had several free options to choose from and we tried to make the most of them. We took the catamaran (sail boat) out a couple of times and briefly tried the kayak and snorkeling. We felt we made up a lot of the money we lost on food quality by getting to do the activities for free. Grade: A
Service – There were several excellent staff members and at times we were treated great. However, the service people overall acted like they were tired and we were bothering them. Lots of exasperation in their faces when you asked for a drink, or when making a request for something extra. We had been told by the travel agent that the service was annoying because of how attentive they were. We found the opposite to be true. I got the feeling that we needed to speak more Spanish and hand out more dollars to get quality service. Grade: C-
Is All-Inclusive a Better Value?
In my opinion, this is really how the “all-inclusive” resort should be judged monetarily speaking. Not “was it cheap?” or “less expensive?” because most of them, I suspect, would fit that description. But was this particular resort a better value than paying “A la carte”? I’d have to say no.
If you break down the cost of the trip, factoring in the average price of airfare to the island along with 5 nights hotel there, we basically got the food and activities for free. Which is good because that’s about what the food was worth. 🙂 The food was so bad overall, and the selections so limited that it rendered the whole “all-inclusive” experience useless. Put another way, had there been other restaurants near the resort, we would have gone and paid extra for a meal there.
Did we manage to have fun despite that? Sure we did. It has to be a pretty sad situation to keep Mrs. PT and I from having a good time and laughing it up. Like I said above, the place was beautiful and we were able to really unwind.
Edit note: I forgot to mention that even though our experience was bad with the food, I’m sure there are excellent all-inclusives out there with awesome food. We simply didn’t research this one thoroughly.
Related Articles: Zen Personal Finance’s All-Inclusive Review
Have you done an all-inclusive resort before? What was your experience like? Do you think they are a good value?