This is a review of the Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Casino & Golf Resort, Dominican Republic. We chose this resort after reading many reviews on Trip Advisor. Here is my review.
Okay, it’s time to set the story straight on this wonderful resort. Let me start be saying that one of the reasons we chose this resort was the large number of positive reviews versus the other resorts that seemed to have about a 50/50 split. Now that I have been there, I want to comment not only on our trip but I will try to give you a set of pointers to help you have a great trip here as well. I truly believe that many of the small number of negative comments could have been overcome if people had more information before they go.
I think it goes almost without saying that we had a GREAT “holiday”. We went with a very open mind. We have traveled to several other islands and have always enjoyed ourselves in Jamaica. This time, it was a last-minute thing and we just tried the best sounding resort and the best price. Because of some other great reviews, we were ready for several things but many things were not commented on.
Several people suggested that we should try to get villa 1 or 2, but we ended up in villa 20. Don’t be as concerned about this. Most, if not all, of the villas that will be available are great and none of the people we met there had any complaints about their rooms. They are adding some new rooms so try to get rooms towards the beach or on any of the inside rows. I would avoid the rooms on the left away from the beach as these, I would guess, might get some of the sound from the nightly shows. Villa 20 is closest to the beach on the inside row on the right hand side. So, it is just before the pool. We never heard a sound from our room and had great sleeps every night.
As you can guess, when we checked in, I was trying to get villa 2 (based on other reviews)and when I heard we were in villa 20, I spent a few minutes at the desk as the very friendly staff tried to see if they could accommodate our request. Suggestion: If there is any delay at the front desk and you want a good drink after a long day of travel, just have the person you’re traveling with walk 20 feet to the left and get yourselves a couple of cold refreshing drinks. Don’t worry about carrying the glasses out of that area and to the front desk, it is fine. The cocktail was fine, but a nice tropical drink that we took with us to our room was great.
I really don’t understand the need for the colored band they put on your wrist when you check in, but all the resorts do this. Now, I am not saying to do this … but, friends that we met at the pool said theirs “accidentally” broke as they scratched an itch and it was not long after that, that our’s somehow “accidentally” broke and then many of the others in the group of people we met there all had the same accident. We did carry them in our bag, but we were never once, asked to see them. So … hint, hint.
If you arrive in the evening, like we did, remember that the buffet area by the beach is only open in the day time, not at night. In the evening, it is 2 of the specialty restaurants, and you need a reservation. So, remember to either head back to the lobby area for dinner or just send your bags on ahead of you and grab a bite right there.
Although the staff are very friendly and most know enough English to get the job done, please remember that this is a Spanish-speaking country. I found many smiles from the staffs faces as we tried to use their language. They would help me pronounce the words correctly and the instant friendly attitude was there all week. I think many of the complaints about the staff are unfounded. My wife and I found ALL the staff to be extremely friendly, but we treated them as friends as well. The most common but still rare comment I heard about the staff was something like “The staff is not friendly, They don’t even speak English” Well, there were many people at the resort that were from France, Italy, Spain as well as French people from Quebec here in Canada. I think it would be hard to find a large number of waiters and other staff in a Spanish-speaking country that can speak 5 or more languages, right. So I think that if you give the staff a little honour and allow them to take pride in their language, you will have a wonderful experience.
Now while we are on the topic of staff, I want to cover another 2 areas that will greatly help you in you positive vacation experience. We did two things every day that made our experience there like flying first class.
1.We brought gift packs of shampoo, specialty soups, and small things like pencils and candy for kids. We got most of these things with one trip to the dollar store so it was not expensive. We just quickly made up 7 packet’s in sealable baggies and left one each day with $5 for the house cleaner. We had the opportunity to meet the house cleaner and found out she had 3 small children and she was delighted with the gifts. Everyday, we ended up with extra water, beer, towels in many different shapes and fresh flowers everywhere. However, the smile on her face was a treat in itself.
2.At the main pool bar, which was the area that we spent most of our time at, I made sure to know the name of the bartender and slipped him $5 every day. That and my wife gave him a flashing pin of a parrot and other pins that he really liked. In fact the pins were a hit and other staff wanted one. We just stuck with the one fellow and I could not get my glass or our friends glasses empty. He always had a smile and was extremely friendly.
Do you have to tip? Of course not. I truly believe that you would get great friendly service anyway. But, All I am suggesting is this: If you were not at an all-inclusive and you went for drinks or dinner, you would, most likely, tip the staff when you paid your bill, right? Well here, you do not have a bill, but you still have staff that, in my opinion, deserves a tip, and with the huge majority of the guests not tipping, you will stand out to them as someone to give special service to.
Several people reported in their reviews that there were a lot of kids at the resort. Well, this is correct, but only for one day. It seems that the staff are allowed to bring family in to the pool area for the 1/2 day on Sunday. I don’t think that this is every Sunday, but the Sunday we were there, they were highly visible. Note, this was the ONLY day we saw a lot of kids that went around together like they were very knowledgeable of the area. All other days, we only saw a few kids with their parents (guests with kids). We just went with the flow and still had a great day, but here is a suggestion, if you are concerned that this will make an unpleasant day for you then, just book one of the great excursions that are available and be out of the resort area for the Sunday morning. I highly recommend the Safari Tour that takes you out into the countryside and the off shore snorkeling – you can actually swim with sharks (remember to bring a disposable underwater camera). Personal tip. If you want to try the snorkeling, I like to pop down to Wal-Mart and pick up a low-cost mask and snorkel kit. I think it is sort of nice to have my own snorkel 🙂 We left ours in the room for the house cleaners kids. Remember for any items like that, leave a note stating that these items are for the house cleaner and you’re giving permission for them to have them.
Now while I mentioned the Safari tour, This is a great way to see the “real” country. You will be visiting places that show the different things in the country. We bought cigars at the cigar factory, pure vanilla at the plantation and a lot of other things. They offer you hats and shirts at the sugarcane area and 85% of the money spent for these items goes to a local school that they support. (Yes, it does go to the school) Another Tip: Schools are provided only until grade 4. the schools are in need of supplies and although it might sound silly to us, it is a great blessing if you bring supplies to give to the school. We brought pencils but we discovered that scribblers/writing pads/books (or even just paper) are in great need. To see these kids is a little heart breaking, but you will leave with a great feeling. As well, a lot of people brought candy to give to kids along the way, but what really got to me was that they all asked for water!!! That was the big treat for them. So, be kind to your maid, ask for extra water. Of course you will not hear them say water, but you will hear them ask for “Agua” (Pronounced A-gua.)
Here is another tip that we discovered as we came back to our country and came through customs. If you bring back the honey or other things that are not labeled, they may not make it through customs. Wood products are iffy but we made it through with the carvings and things like that. Now, on the tour, they will talk about something called Mama-Guana. It is a drink that they take once a day for good health. However you can buy the bottle with 9 different kinds of wood in side ready for the liquid ingredients. We just liked the look of the bottle with the wood inside so we bought it. At the border, it was taken because of the wood. However, they told us that if we had of filled it with the honey and rum, the alcohol would have made sure the wood was clean and we would have been able to keep it, So, if you like this, buy the honey there and mix it back at the resort with free rum before coming home. I can’t say you will pass with success, but I can say that the wood will not make it on it’s own so … with free rum, you have little to lose.
I mentioned that we have been to Jamaica before and we thought we were ready for the sun here. I am not sure what the difference is, but the sun seemed to be more intense. I brought factor 15 with the intent on quickly going to 8 and then a 4, but we ended up buying a factor 30 to protect our shoulders. We still tanned even with the factor 30 on, so, considering the expensive price on the resort stores, be sure to bring some with you.
Here is a quick check list of things to bring.
1.LARGE Insulated coffee mugs (to keep your drinks cold at the pool or on the beach)
2.Disposable underwater camera – hint, even at the beach at the resort, you can snorkel. Take along a few crunched up bread rolls for the fish and take some great pic’s
3.Water shoes – useful for going out beyond the roped area where there is some rock bottom.
4.Inflatable water raft (Buy 2 or more so you will have a spare and leave them with a newly met friends that is staying later then you.)
All in all we:
1.had great weather
2.met new great friends
3.had great service
4.went on a great excursion
5.ate at great restaurants
6.had a great time
We highly recommend this resort.
We kept in touch with MiMi and if you are doing this tour, we recommend asking for him.
We always meet new friends. Break out and start talking. It makes for some fun times. I think we were up to 12 by the end of the week.