A few things about all-inclusive vacations
Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer
We chose the Barceló Bávaro Beach Deluxe in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, a new resort perched on the beautiful, aqua Caribbean. The Palace Deluxe was one of three Barceló resorts clustered in a compound. Our hotel offered about 1,400 rooms of various sizes and prices. Their website advertised Bávaro beach as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. My only goal for the vacation was to read one novel a day, sitting by the sea. The ocean was glorious, with wide, white sand beaches — perfect for novice snorkelers, even though they weren’t many fish that close to shore.
As you consider this kind of vacation, there are a few things to keep in mind. If you like the idea of a cruise ship that doesn’t move, choose a hotel of this size. Thousands of people will be sharing your vacation with you, fighting for the same beach chairs, trying to make reservations at the same 11 restaurants. I’d pick a smaller resort next time.
Also, pay attention the airfare cost before you book a resort. Flights to the Dominican Republic averaged $1,000 per person. The cost of the airfare turned what seemed like a good deal — $300 per night for the room, all meals, beverages and activities for two — into an expensive vacation. Hidden costs were an issue as well. For example, our transfer from the airport at $30 per person round trip.
A benefit was the huge range of food choices, including a gigantic daily buffet. If you wanted Japanese, Italian, Mexican, French, seafood or a steak house, getting a table before 10:30 p.m. was difficult. When we arrived at any restaurants, at least one third of the tables were empty, being held for the “premium guests.” At a hotel this size, during high season, paying extra for premium status might be a good idea.
We had our best meal in one of the two wine cellars — a private meal for eight of us. We ended dinner at 11 p.m. just as the disco opened for the evening. A quick tour of the casino and then the disco was enough for us oldsters.
All-inclusive was not exactly true. We paid a supplement for the cellar dinner, extra to rent a cabana at the pool, extra for decent wine. The basics are covered with more food and alcohol than you could reasonably need, but read the fine print to make sure you don’t charge up a big extra bill.
Our large room was nicely outfitted with a flat-screen TV. You could see the ocean if you hung off the railing. A hot tub for two was located on the balcony with a privacy screen. Soaking in the tub while sipping a cold, local Presidente beer was heavenly.
Ultimately, I reached my goal of vacation reading, soaked up some lovely sunshine and paddled around in the aquamarine water. All-inclusive resorts may not be my preferred lodging, but it was worth the exploration.