Monday, March 31, 2014

Having fun at Sanctuary Cap Cana, Dominican Republic

Before we go on any trip, I always read the reviews on TripAdvisor. Which sometimes is very helpful but sometimes is pretty scary too! You never know if the bad reviews are just from a grumpy hard to please person or if their experience was really bad! Our resort in Dominican Republic, Sanctuary Cap Cana, had both good and bad reviews. After reading hundreds of reviews, I decided that the good reviews out-weighed the bad ones. It seemed the people who were giving it bad reviews were reasoning it by saying there wasn't a lot of night life, the staff spoke Spanish & the food wasn't 5 star.

Well, my hubby & I laughed about the night life because that is actually what we were most afraid of…that there would be too much night life (i.e. heavy drinking & noise). Hearing that the resort was super quiet at night pretty much sealed the deal for us!

The language thing is funny to me. People go to another country and get upset when the people who live & work in that country speak their native tongue. My family doesn't speak Spanish but we know enough to be polite and get by. Preston is in his second year of Spanish in school so he thought it was cool to be able to test his out in a real world situation.

The food was a reoccurring theme in the reviews. We have only stayed at one other all inclusive vacation and the food wasn't A-mazing there so we assumed that with all all inclusive type places, they aren't super worried about the quality as long as you can get room-service 24 hours a day. It wasn't a deal breaker for us. We aren't huge foodies (although we certainly appreciate good food) so if that was all we had to complain about, then we had definitely found our vacation spot.

Every day the entertainment board was updated so the kids would know what activities were going on and when. They favorites were horseshoes and volleyball.

The staff of the resort work for 11 days straight so they are there every day you are. You really get to know them. The kids just loved Manor, the head entertainment guy. He gathered them up each day when it was time for activities to make sure they didn't miss anything. He also was eager to work on his English so we had a lot of fun conversations getting to know about him and his family.

The reviews were right about night time. It was always quiet and peaceful. No one really walking about the property (honeymooners maybe?). Our villa had cable-Animal Planet and Cartoon Network- so while Mike and I enjoyed the sounds of the waves, the kids could relax in front of the tv at night.

As far as the food goes, there were hits and there were misses. We absolutely loved the steak house (pictured below) unfortunately we ate there on the 3rd day, after 2 days of just so-so food. The resort has this beautiful courtyard with all of the restaurants close together. We never had to make a reservation, just walked in and were seated right away. This might be because we eat early, like at 6:30 each night. If we weren't ordering room service, we were at the steak house. The filet & baby back ribs were our favorites!

There was also a great entertainment duo who came around to the restaurants at night…they were so good, we ended up buying their CD as my favorite souvenir of the trip!

Speaking of souvenirs, since we didn't venture into the city of Punta Cana, we were afraid we wouldn't be able to do any shopping for nic-nacks to bring home. Luckily some of the local vendors came into the resort on Wednesday and set up their tables around the pool area. The kids and I each picked out a bracelet, Bella and I had ours stamped with our name.

The last full day on our trip we decided to utilize the in-house photography studio and have a photographer take some photos of us. This was such a blessing for me because my kids tend to complain and fight when I am trying to take family photos! I knew they would be more willing to listen to a stranger than me! And since I am hardly in any photos on our trips, it was nice to get dressed up too…and right before the forehead and shoulder peeling began.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Punta Espada & Dolphin Explorer, Dominican Republic part 2

While we were in Dominican Republic we let the kids pick out one excursion each. They are both into different things (thanks to the 3 1/2 year age difference) so it was no surprise that they picked as opposite as things as could be and it was also no surprise that Preston picked golf and Bella picked swimming with dolphins! I was lucky that the golf course allowed Bella and I to tag along in our own cart so we could document their round. I brought my new goPro camera and attached it to the front of my cart for some cool video too…which was awesome until it fell off :( but it didn't break and impressed me with it's sturdiness!
The course they picked (there were 3 on the premises in Cap Cana) was the Punta Espada course, right on the water. It was the most beautiful place I have ever been! They had their own caddy who was a lot of fun to hang around. He spoke really good English and helped us with our Spanish. It was definitely one of those once in a lifetime courses. Even if you aren't an avid golfer, this course might change your mind.

Bella's choice suited her and her love of animals perfectly. The hotel had a shuttle take us about 20 minutes away to Dolphin Explorer. They had an exotic bird show, a sea lion show then split everyone into groups to go into the dolphin habitats. Bella got lucky, her group was just her and 2 other ladies. The other groups were 15-20 people! So she got to spend a little more one-on-one time with her dolphin.

And after her swim, we were treated to some straight off the tree coconut water! Doesn't get much fresher than this!

Tomorrow I'll finish up my DR posts with some around the resort activities & our family photo-shoot!