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I’m glad to report that despite my previous article about someone finding a tarantula in a Dominican Republic hotel room (not this hotel), I encountered very few bugs (beginning of March). I did find two really small cockroaches in my room and had to close the terrace doors of an evening to keep out mosquitoes. We were able to have lunch outside all week without many bugs bothering us and sit outside in the evenings without being bitten. I’ve heard reports of sand fleas on Caribbean beaches, but found nothing on the hotel beach.

The Spanish Barceló hotel chain (I think based or originated in Mallorca) is huge. They offer a wide range of properties, many all-inclusive, some branded as ‘Premium’. The Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe Hotel is all-inclusive and ‘Premium’. ‘Premium’ hotels also have a ‘Club Premium’ that provides a separate guest lounge, high-end drinks, free use of the al la carte restaurants and some other benefits.

We booked five nights, all-inclusive, Ocean Front Junior Suite with Club Premium so expectations were high.

After the chaos at Punta Cana airport, we were found by the hotel rep who took us to our pre-booked minibus ride. We were the only passengers and it took a short 20 minutes to get to the hotel.

There was a security barrier at the entrance and then another two-minute drive to the main hotel entrance. The entrance lobby was impressive. A porter took our bags, but we almost went to the regular check in desk by mistake until I noticed the Club Premium sign further back into the lobby. The Club Premium check in was within the Club Premium air-conditioned lounge. We sat at a table with sparkling wine, while (I think it was) Muriel took our details and arranged evening restaurant bookings. Club Premium includes all the al la carte restaurants, including the one in the adults-only resort, so it makes sense to book a different restaurant every night and have buffet lunches. More about the restaurants and which to choose later. Muriel was really helpful and we had good reservation times for each evening – Club Premium also has priority when making reservations.

After check in, a porter took us and our bags to our room 5370. That’s block 5, third floor room 70. I’m always a little stressed when arriving at a new hotel as I have no idea if the room is in a good or bad position and I really don’t want to go back to check in and ask to change. After a few days, we decided that our room was perfectly located. The Barceló Bávaro Palace Deluxe and the Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort are really one large hotel complex that stretches along a 2km beach. The Barceló Bávaro Beach Resort is adults only, but all the facilities are shared between hotels. Even though we were just a couple travelling without children, I’d still prefer to be in this location as the beach is better – the adults-only hotel beach is next to what looks like a public beach or at best another hotel’s beach. There were two mornings when we could hear some kids upstairs, running around in their room. So maybe 5470 is a better choice – although I have a feeling that it’s a full suite and more expensive.

The suite was large, clean, well-maintained, with a large balcony, with Jacuzzi, overlooking the beach. A bottle of sparkling wine, ice bucket and two flute glasses were left on the table, together with a nicely-boxed bottle of Rum. The mini-bar was stocked (daily) with water, soft drinks and beer. The bathroom was open, with only doors to the shower and toilet. So for those who would like more bathroom privacy, this suite isn’t for you.

The beach was clean, )we saw hotel staff cleaning the beach each day) the sea was warm and calm. There were almost no fish – so snorkelling was pointless. We did encounter some large harmless starfish, laying on the sea bed. We walked away from the hotel (turning right with the sea in front) and the beach was classic desert island stuff, with palm trees extending down to the sea’s edge. There were signs to say that you are leaving the hotel secure area, but there was nobody around except other hotel guests. After maybe a kilometre there was another sign – this one stressed the fact that you would now be leaving the secure area and there was also a security guard wandering around there. We turned back, but only because we didn’t want to walk further, as the continuing beach seemed as safe and peaceful as the one we just walked along.

Our first dinner was in the Seafood restaurant. There were tables outside but were all full. Inside was a little too bright. The main course was à la carte, but the starters and deserts were buffet style. Water and house wine, by the glass, were served at our table. The seafood buffet was extensive and really good quality. The main course also good. The house wine was okay but not anything special. We were happy at the time, but I probably wouldn’t choose this restaurant again as subsequently found that some others are better.

Breakfast, for Club Premium, is served at a small buffet in the Club Premium lounge. There were only a few tables but it was never busy. The food quality was very good. Sparkling wine and various quality juices were also available. The toilets were well-maintained, but the light timer meant that you were left in complete darkness if you weren’t quick with your ablutions. Take your mobile to find your way out!

We took out two kayaks for a paddle around the sea. The kayak seats didn’t have any back support and so it was quite a workout sitting upright and kayaking around.

Lunch is served buffet style for all guests. The main restaurant was big and busy, although the food looked good. We found a smaller buffet of really good quality at the adults-only resort in a restaurant called La Brisa. There were plenty of seats outside, table service for all drinks and no kids running around.

The laundry service had an offer; $70 for unlimited laundry. It wasn’t quite clear if that meant, one large bag, or laundry for the entire stay. After checking, it is entire stay (maybe up to 21 days) and so we laundered everything we needed for $70. Laundry was returned each morning. My only complaint is that every item has at least seven plastic tags attached and you need to fiddle about cutting these off. But I’d rather that then them lose my clothes.

The swimming pools were clean, warm, with a good bar service. I could see sunbeds reserved with towels, but we don’t really hang around on a sunbed all day and so it didn’t matter to us.

Dinner 2 was the La Comedie French restaurant (exclusively for Club Premium guests). This was small, perfectly themed and the entire menu was à la carte. There was a little more expectation that we would order wine from the wine list, but no complaints when we continued with the inclusive house wine. It’s a pity that this is always by the glass rather than bottle, but the refills were frequent enough. The food was good quality and a good attempt at French cooking.

We watched the Michael Jackson show in the hotel’s main theatre. This was the best performance of the week and was almost as good as a professional stage show.

We tried the mini-golf. The course was large, well-maintained and fun to play. We had another round a few days later. The mini-golf is also close to the waterpark (free to Club Premium guests), the park had a few slides and would appeal to kids, but I’m not sure I would pay for entrance – there is an excellent kids pool nearby, that has similar slides for free.

Dinner 3 was La Dolce Vita Italian restaurant. Another small, nicely-themed restaurant. The antipasto buffet was excellent – as good as you would find anywhere. The primo à la carte pasta was a little too thick, but really these meals were so much better than we expected and I’m struggling to find anything to criticise. Secondo, I think I had a steak, was delicious.

We tried the casino (roulette) – free entry for Club Premium. There were two US-style double zero tables operating with a $5 minimum (total $5 inside and $5 outside). The table was a bit more easy going than those in Vegas; you could place and collect bets during payout. I prefer that and most punters know that they shouldn’t bet near the marker (dolly) during payout. The tables weren’t so busy and the spins were a bit too fast for my preference as it was a bit of a rush to figure out my bets. There is also a nightclub, also free to Club Premium, but we never made it in there.

We tried a pedalo. We managed to pedal all the way out to a small man-made island, maybe 700 metres from the beach. Here, although we weren’t able to disembark, it appeared that large fish were held in a large pen so that tourists could snorkel with them. I’m not sure who owns this island. There didn’t seem to be any mistreatment, but it seems a shame that snorkelling tours are arranged in captivity, rather than just in the open sea, It took over an hour to pedal to the island and back.

Dinner 4 was the Kyoto Japanese restaurant & sushi bar. Here guests sit around teppanyaki tables, each seating around 12 people maximum, while a well-trained chef entertains everyone with cooking skills and encourages interaction. The food was good, although this restaurant is all about the show.

We watched the Magic show in the adults-only theatre. It was entertaining with some classic tricks, although not lavish.

Dinner 5 was the Santa Fe Steak House restaurant. This was large and noisy. There was a large, good quality buffet and we found that we could also navigate our way through to the Seafood Restaurant buffet. The steaks were good, but I probably wouldn’t choose this restaurant again as the Italian, French and Japanese were better. I would have liked to try the Mexico Lindo Mexican restaurant, La Fuente Spanish restaurant & tapas bar and maybe the al la carte restaurant in the adults-only resort as they all looked smaller and maybe offered a similar experience to the French or Italian – sadly our five nights of dining were over.

We watched part of a celebration of musicals style show in the hotel’s main theatre, but didn’t stay as I’m not really a fan of musicals. If you are then it probably wouldn’t disappoint.

So my recommendation for restaurant reservations is; French, Italian, Japanese, then, although I haven’t tried, Mexican, Spanish and the adults-only al la carte. Then even if you are staying for longer, just repeat at least the French and Italian. It was difficult to know how much to tip in the restaurants and it looked like many people didn’t leave a tip due to the all-inclusive nature of the place. I left $5 each evening and they seemed happy with that. At the bars and theatre I’d tip the waitress $1 each visit and $1 at the bar every now and again.

There were Russians at the resort; typified by stunningly-attractive women and bulky mafia-style men, but they weren’t really rude like we’ve found in other hotels.

We arranged a few hours late checkout and then left in the pre-arranged minibus to the airport. This time there were a few more passengers.

Leaving the resort, we realised that we’d never been outside and that’s something we’ve never done while all-inclusive. But with only five nights and the Barceló so perfect  we didn’t want to leave. I’d thoroughly recommend this hotel, particularly Club Premium and I’m hoping to be back there soon.

http://www.barcelo.com/BarceloHotels/en_GB/hotels/Dominican-Republic/Punta-Cana-Beach-Bavaro/hotel-barcelo-bavaro-palace-deluxe/

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