Have you ever embarked on a vacation so disappointing it left you questioning the very essence of your thought processes?
Neither had I, until just last week, when I embarked on a girls’ getaway with two dear friends. Eager to lighten our planning load, we entrusted a travel agent to explore various vacation options. Ultimately, we settled on an alluring choice: a journey to the enchanting Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa resort in the Dominican Republic, with a departure from the bustling Chicago O’Hare airport. Remarkably, the entire escapade came at a cost of just under $3,000 for the trio of budget-conscious moms, a seemingly irresistible deal.
Just remember: You get what you pay for…
Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa Basics
The resort boasts a distinctive layout, comprising multiple hotels within its expansive complex. During our stay, the Esmeralda section was in the midst of an extensive renovation.
These resorts include:
- Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa
- Bahia Principe Grand Bavaro
- Bahia Principe Luxury Ambar
- Bahia Principe Grand Aquamarine
- Bahia Principe Luxury Esmeralda
- Bahia Principe Fantasia Punta Cana
- Bahia Principe Grand Punta Cana
There wasn’t a good map of the resort and no one seemed to be able to really tell you where things were. You had to go out and explore which is fine, but annoying if you have kids or have been walking a lot already. We had several mixups trying to get to restaurants, and other hotel lobbies.
Shuttles and Transportation
We flew into the Punta Cana airport and Amstar was booked to shuttle us between the airport and the resort. While the shuttles were nice and the people helping us friendly, they missed a few upsell opportunities. Read more about that under the entertainment section.
Navigating the Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa resort was a breeze most of the time. Main roads were off-limits to cars, making it convenient for guests to explore on foot. Furthermore, golf cart shuttles were readily available, with frequent pickups at various points, making it a cinch to catch a ride whenever desired. However, you have to know where you are going to be able to get there… that was problematic a time or two.
We occupied a Junior suite at the Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa featuring two full-sized beds and an additional rolled-in twin mattress. There was nothing suite-like about this room, it was really a basic room with a little table and chairs to sit and look out the window or watch tv. To our satisfaction, none of us had any complaints about the comfort of the beds. However, the room did present a few issues. Several burnt-out light bulbs dimmed our evenings, making spending time in the room after dark less enjoyable.
Furthermore, a persistent toilet leak due to a broken seal made the bathroom slippery and required frequent adjustments to the inner workings to stop it from running. Eventually, we left the lid off so we could see when it wasn’t working right and didn’t constantly have to lift the lid to fix it. Another thing that caught some of us off guard was that they don’t want you to flush toilet paper down the toilet. This is pretty common but if you aren’t expecting it can be a little off-putting at first.
The shower setup left something to be desired; it featured a semi-concealed design with only a half wall, which often led to water spraying outside the designated area, adding to the already wet and slippery room. Additionally, the high and slippery tub made entry and exit a bit challenging.
Although we appreciated the convenience of having shampoo, conditioner, and body wash dispensers on the wall, we faced a minor inconvenience when the shampoo dispenser fell off on the second day, and housekeeping overlooked reattaching it. On a couple of occasions, they also missed replenishing our water and soda supplies from the refrigerator.
A blackout curtain adorned the sliding glass doors, a boon for ensuring uninterrupted sleep during the week. However, our enthusiasm was tempered by the resort’s failure to request that all guests close these curtains as the tropical storm approached, a simple measure that could have safeguarded the rooms against potential flying debris.
Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa Entertainment
The Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa resort catered extensively to families with a wide array of kid-friendly activities, a reflection of the numerous families vacationing there. Accessibility was superb, as everything on the resort was just a short walk or shuttle ride away and they were very accommodating for people in wheelchairs. There were certain areas, such as the water park and mini-golf, that undoubtedly held a special appeal for families, although they may not have been our primary focus.
Evenings at the Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa resort were a lively affair, with a mix of paid and complimentary activities to choose from. The nighttime entertainment featured dynamic shows, often featuring skilled dancers incorporating dazzling special effects like mesmerizing fire performances. During our stay, the resort even hosted a vibrant party in a charming town hall venue within its grounds, where the lively strains of live music echoed throughout.
Exploring foreign countries often tops travelers’ to-do lists, and excursions are typically part of the adventure. During our visit to the Dominican Republic, Amstar, our excursion provider, missed a chance to enhance our experience. Despite arriving on a sunny Monday and being aware of an approaching tropical storm on Wednesday, Amstar didn’t proactively suggest off-resort excursions until we inquired about departure pickups the day before. By then, it was too late to plan anything for Tuesday or the rainy Wednesday. This left us with just Thursday for excursions, coinciding with the only sunny day for pool and beach enjoyment, so we opted to stay at the resort for our entire trip.
Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa Food Options
Alright, let’s talk about the food options.
While I am not a foodie, I enjoy eating. I don’t expect 5-star cuisine at foreign resorts, but I do expect to have several options at the buffet that everyone can eat. In full disclosure, I also have a seafood allergy which always makes eating at resorts a little tricky. This one was no expectation. The pool bar and grill was only open for a couple of meals due to the tropical storm but it wasn’t anything special. We ate there on Monday night and no one loved their meals and we ended up at the buffet a couple hours later.
The central dining hub at the Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa resort was the buffet, where our group found pleasure in indulging in hard bread rolls with creamy butter, the tantalizing crunch of garlic butter bread, delectable blue cheese, and savory chicken wings. However, our buffet experiences weren’t without their quirks. On one occasion, the bacon had an unusual fishy taste, likely due to its cooking method and the deep fryer oil needing to be changed. We also encountered a few unsettling moments, including discovering hair in some of the dishes. On seafood night, finding alternatives beyond bread proved to be a challenge, they even had shellfish in the rice and potatoes.
We were restricted to just two reservations for the a la carte restaurants, leaving us with limited choices. Consequently, we settled on Rodizio for one evening and Mashua for the other, not necessarily because these were our top preferences, but primarily because they were the only available options.
As a Brazilian-style restaurant, if you’ve dined at a Brazilian eatery in the States, you’ll find this place quite familiar. The salad bar offered a respectable variety, and the meat selections were abundant and diverse, featuring chicken, sausage, pork, and beef prepared in various styles. To top it off, they had a delightful Rum Raisin ice cream that I savored immensely! This was probably our favorite meal of the whole trip.
Undoubtedly, this meal marked the low point of our trip. Our seating arrangement placed us beneath a fan so noisy that it hindered conversation. Adding to the discomfort, the restaurant was outdoors, granting mosquitoes an all-you-can-eat buffet that evening. The meal structure included a salad, a main course, and a dessert. The duck salad in Tamarind Sauce, regrettably, resembled dried jerky rather than the succulent dish we had hoped for. While the taste wasn’t entirely terrible, it certainly didn’t set a promising tone for the rest of the meal.
We encountered a minor hiccup in obtaining our drinks, attributable to a language barrier, which led to sparkling water instead of sparkling wine. Fortunately, our server assisted in resolving the matter. However, there was a noticeable delay in receiving service between courses, despite an apparent abundance of servers.
Subsequently, when one of us expressed interest in ordering the Mushroom Dim Sum, we were informed that none of the vegetarian dishes were currently available. To our surprise, when the second person attempted to order the Crispy Salmon and Creamy Avocado roll, they were met with the disappointing news that this choice was also unavailable. While we appreciate that restaurants may occasionally run out of specific items, it was disheartening to learn that a substantial portion of their menu was unavailable, and no substitutions were offered.
Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa Highlights
- The Lobby Coffee Machine – You can get a few different coffee or hot water options for morning beverage choices.
- Pina Coladas with Rum – You can’t really go wrong with this all-inclusive tropical drink.
- Banana Mama – Another delicious Rum drink that is pink like cotton candy!
Bahia Principe Grand Turquesa Wrap Up
While the Dominican Republic and Punta Cana seem to be beautiful places to visit, we would ask you to be cautious if you book any of these resorts. There seem to be better options within the same distance of the Punta Cana Airport. Also, check out these 5 tips to keep in mind while visiting the Dominican Republic.
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