In case you ever wondered why Punta Cana is the most popular destination in the Caribbean with about 2.5 million visitors a year, the four Princess resorts set the standard as to why.
The Princess Hotels and Resorts chain owns four resorts in Punta Cana on the Dominican Republic’s east coast. They are the Bavaro Princess All Suites Resort, Spa & Casino; the Punta Cana Princess All Suites Resort and Spa; and the Caribe Club Princess Beach Resort and Spa and the Tropical Princess Beach Resort and Spa.
All the resorts have nightly entertainment, discos, share a casino and all have food and drink 24 hours. All have free Wi-Fi in the lobby and a supplement of $5.00 per day in the rooms. All have mini-bars. All have butler service to serve drinks to guests on their lounges on the beach.
They all have several swimming pools, tennis courts, spa, fitness center, a scuba lesson and tennis, and, interestingly, all have archery. And can you imagine, in this day and age, the Caribe Club Princess and the Tropical Princess offer mini-golf. They have a reason for this, because it is really fun. And the whole family enjoys it.
All have a children’s club, except for the Punta Cana Princess, which is adult’s only. Two have a church with religious services and for couples wanting a traditional indoor wedding rather than one on the beach at sunrise or sunset. Because of these offerings, and additional ones mentioned below, all the resorts have a strong core of repeat business.
“Three important reasons for repeat business at our resorts is the quality of the staff, the grounds, and the rooms. We manage to have good staff because we take care of our help and treat them well,” said Gabriel Rodríguez, the North America sales director for Princess Hotels & Resorts for the Dominican Republic. “That keeps them here for years with only about a 12% annual turnover. When you keep the good ones, the service is good. The net result is happier guests.”
According to the repeat guests I met, the main reason for returning was the food. I concur.
And Now for Something Completely Different
Now get this. This is almost unbelievable: the food at the buffets is excellent. Surprisingly so. It even exceeds expectation. It is as good as you can get. Just about as good as at the a la carte restaurants—as if it were prepared individually for me.
It is all-around the best buffet food I have had at any all-inclusive, bar none. The main reason was that it is brought to the hot tables in large, porcelain serving dishes, not in grand, institutional-size, stainless steel pans, so the food came out fresh and hot. For the most part, I did not bother with the a la carte restaurants because I got what I wanted, in the amount I wanted and as quickly as I wanted. What more can you ask for?
Breakfasts usually just lie there. Usually, I have Omelettes because the eggs at the hot table are mediocre at best. Not so here, the scrambled eggs are as good as I do at home and the corn muffins were actually made from scratch, not a mix.
Whether a theme night was Chinese, Mexican (more variety of Mexican food I have seen at any buffet except in Mexico), or Dominican, there is always a pasta station and a grill station. The grill station has cooked-to-order steak (Yup, steak. Always), salmon steak and even 1/3-pound hamburgers with fries for the American children who yearn for a little bite of home.
One night I had the Pasta al Fredo. I would be hard-pressed to find better, probably because of the quality of the rich Dominican cream that comes from grass-fed cows. I can’t leave this out: on sea food night, lobster.
My take on the quality of the Princess buffets is this: they are indicative of the quality of the whole place. If they get the food right, they will get everything else right.
The Bavaro Princess has 82 junior suites, 556 bungalow suites with 2 twin beds or 1 king, and 32 bungalow honeymoon spa suites with a king bed.
Approximately 72 bungalow buildings are spread out over the property divided by winding walkways, lawns, flowering plants and hedgerows. Amidst them is a lush mangrove refuge with a raised, wood-plank walkway. In it are egrets, herons and chirping frogs in the lush canopy of a dense tropical vegetation of trees and vines. It is like being in the Amazon, without the inconvenience going there.
In addition to its main buffet, there is one beachside for breakfast and lunch. Guests can eat on the deck under palapas or in lounge chairs on the beach with feet in the sand. Heaven on earth! This spot is just like home, if you have a beach in front of your house and a small army of chefs cooking for you and you did not have a care in the world. OK, it is better than home.
More Bang for the Buck
Additionally, there are 136 platinum suites. These have a $20.00 supplement and are well worth the extra cost. They include a special lounge building with computers for emailing so guests do not have to bother bringing a computer.
Two main features of Platinum are “a stay at one and play at all four” Princesses. This means guests have a choice of 14 a la carte restaurants, 4 buffets, 1 deluxe buffet, 19 bars (2 with live music), 6 pools, 4 snack bars and 3 theatres. The real deal! The other is a private beach with private bar and deep-cushion lounges—like lying on a cloud.
Caribe Club Princess & Tropical Princess
The Caribe Club Princess & Tropical Princess share the same property. By today’s standards, both are small and intimate, so the guests you make friends with today, you will see again tomorrow.
Why have two different hotels on the same property? This is answered by Federico Espinal, the general manager of both. “Firstly, the restaurants are different. The Caribe Club Princess has more restaurants and also has 4 types of rooms; Delux Suite, Caribe Suite, Honeymoon Suite and Royal Suite, 355 rooms in all. And the rooms are more spacious than at the Tropical Princess. The latter has 310 rooms divided among superior and family rooms. Both are geared toward families.
“The Caribe Club is 4 ½ stars and is pricier than the 4 star Tropical. It also allows guests to dine at all the restaurants of the Tropical— the main buffet, the Dominican, the Brazilian, the Creperie and a snack bar.”
Although guests have to make reservations for the a la carte restaurants, there is a guest service clerk at each main building. This cuts the reservations lines down to virtually nothing, and guests can make reservations for three days in advance. Gone are the days when a guest cannot get the restaurant when they want and where they want. And for good reason: Whose vacation is this anyway?
The most popular restaurant at the Tropical is the Brazilian, serving beef sausage, fried chicken, ribs, fish and ham with a choice of sauces—BBQ, tomato, vinaigrette or pepper.
Punta Cana Princess
The Punta Cana Princess is an adults-only resort. As much as we love having the children around, let’s face it, a vacation is much different when we are with adults only. The value is being with people of our own maturity level for a break from routine. For honeymooners, the resort has a more peaceful environment. Add the outstanding food of the Princess organization, and an adult guest has a perfect vacation.
It seems that Princess managers go out of their way to dream up restaurants you won’t find at other all-inclusives. Alberto Gomez, the assistant manager, says, “Our most popular restaurant is the Swiss. People love cheese, and the aroma when a hot fondue comes to the table excites the appetite.” Add to that a glass of wine and the combined aromas and flavors is almost a uplifting spiritual experience.
The menu includes shrimp fondue: prawns cooked in spicy oil. OK, maybe better than a cheese fondue. Even good enough for breakfast. Other entrees include a fondue of emmental and gruyère made with white wine, served with mushrooms, basil and bread for dipping; Fondue Borgoñesa, a combination of cubed meat, sausage and chicken dipped in hot oil; and raclette.
Alberto adds, “We have a BBQ two times per week at the beach and on Saturday, a Beach Party. The Punta Cana Princess guests get a well-rounded food experience. It is an integral part of what brings them back for a 22% return rate.”
Other restaurants are the buffet, Italian, Mediterranean, a steak house and a snack bar.
The resort has 256 Deluxe Suites and 14 Honeymoon Suites.
For more information, contact Gabriel Rodríguez, North America sales director for Princess Hotels & Resorts for the Dominican Republic. Tel: 809 730 5001 or 809 221 2311, ext 4000.