My father-in-law recently got married at the Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa in the Dominican Republic. We’ve visited quite a few islands in the Caribbean, but never DR.
This was to be our first all-inclusive, and we were excited to see how it would compare to the cruises that we normally do. Turns out it’s a night and day difference!
Here’s how their brochure describes Dreams:
Gently kissing the palm fringed beach of Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa is the surreal turquoise sea, a gift for your senses and your heart. The warm smiles of our staff make you feel like both an old friend and an honored guest. This is truly a place of fantasy — Dreams Punta Cana. A magical experience for all.
Perfectly located on the magnificent east coast of the Dominican Republic, the natural beauty of the island and nearby coral reef nurtures an incredible number of flora and fauna — and it will nourish your spirit as well. Every detail has been selected for your complete pleasure and total relaxation. Uncrowded. Unrushed. Unequaled.
From the moment we greet your arrival, you will be delighted by your surroundings and service.
When we arrived at Dreams, it was quite a mess. For reasons unknown, we weren’t allowed to check in for OVER AN HOUR! After spending the last 6 hours travelling, the last thing I wanted to do was sit in their OUTDOOR lobby for another hour. I guess that’s what their brochure meant when they said “unrushed”.
The staff finally got everything squared away, and we went to check out our rooms.
The rooms weren’t too bad, but we were expecting something different based on the pictures on their website. It’s not false advertising, they just have a great photographer who makes everything look amazing. The bed itself was comfortable, and the shower got the job done. The Four Seasons it’s not, but we are in a third-world country after all.
After travelling all day, we wanted to eat! The resort boasts six international restaurants serving gourmet fare in “stunning outdoor and indoor settings”. Over the course of a week, we dined at all six restaurants. Unfortunately, this was the biggest disappointment of the trip, as the food was just terrible! How bad was it? 6 people got food poisoning the night we ate at their steakhouse! I had lingering stomach issues that required a round of antibiotics when I returned home. 🙁
We knew coming in that we weren’t going to get 5-star food like we’ve become accustomed to on previous cruises, but the food here was BAD. Not to mention, the service was incredibly slow, and with most of the restaurants outdoors, you were dealing with bugs, humidity, and all kinds of other things. Again, don’t just take my word for it, check out this TripAdvisor review:
The buffet was outside swarming with birds, fruit flies and flies on all the fruit, cheese and meats, if they left your plate alone. They did not even chill the milk for cereal, it was lukewarm..
Now, many people go to all-inclusive resorts for the unlimited booze. I’m not a HUGE drinker, but I did get ridiculously drunk at the “night club” on the night of the White Party. At a regular club, I would have been stuck with a $200+ bar tab, but at Dreams it was 100% free!
Another thing people want to do when they go on vacation is lay out by the pool, and Dreams has an enormous free-form pool that winds its way from the lobby all the way down to the beach area. Below you can see where the pool ends, with the beach just past the trees in the background. There’s a swim-up bar there, where you can cool off with a drink if you like. There were a lot of fun pool activities (volleyball, water polo, aerobics, etc), and it’s where we spent the majority of our time.
The beach was another story. This TripAdvisor review sums it up best:
The beach – well, about 92% of that is rocky coral and you cant go in furthur than your shin, otherwise you will need an ER and ASAP. it was full of seaweed, and no swimable unless you wanted to pack in with 50 other people in a 10×10 area. ahh no thanks.
I was looking forward to some of the ocean activities they touted in their brochure, but most of those activities (kayaking, windsurfing, etc) cost extra! The only free activity was their ocean trampoline, which was rusty, sharp, and missing half of the springs. Not cool!
Nearly 70% of our wedding party had to switch rooms sometime througout their trip because of problems in their rooms (electrical, water leaks, etc). Some people complained that their rooms had A/C problems, that their rooms were musty, dusty, etc. Management offered vouchers good for a future visit, but none of us ever plan on coming back here..
There are a lot of glowing reviews for this resort out there, and there are a lot of bad reviews as well. I don’t understand where these good reviews are coming from, as most of the bad reviews I’ve read mimic our experiences to a T. Consider yourself warned.
A Luxury Weekend Getaway At The Hershey Hotel And Spa
When I told our friends that my wife and I were going away for a luxury weekend in Hershey, PA, I got some puzzled looks. “But you don’t have kids, why are you going up there?”
Yes, unlike most of our friends, we don’t have kids, giving us the flexibility to hop on a plane and fly to Miami or Las Vegas for the weekend if we so desire. But my wife had been “strongly hinting” that she wanted to get away for awhile now, and she wanted to stay at The Hershey Hotel and get one of their spa treatments.
Since I’m a firm believer in the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” motto, I was only too happy to oblige. 🙂
Considering I spend half my life in an airport, I was happy to stay somewhat local, as Hershey is only about a 90 minute drive from South Jersey. And when I told my friends at Buick about my plans, they gave me a 2017 Buick LaCrosse AWD loaner for the drive up, which I was pretty excited to test out.
As it turns out, having the LaCrosse was an absolute godsend, as we hit some pretty RIDICULOUS traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway (and later the PA Turnpike), to the point that it took us nearly three hours to get up there! Thankfully, I decided to leave a little early “just in case”, since our spa treatments were at 2pm.
If we had taken my car, my left leg would have been fried after three hours of stop-and-go traffic, as my clutch is brutal. And my wife would have complained about how loud my car’s exhaust is.. because racecar. But the Lacrosse was great, with the Adaptive Cruise Control system automatically speeding up and slowing down to keep with the flow of traffic, and the Active Noise Cancellation system kept the cabin nice and quiet.
It’s also worth noting that the Buick is really fast (now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d be typing), with a 3.6L V6 engine that puts out 310HP and 282 lb-ft of torque. Needless to say, we were able to make up some time once traffic cleared up.
We finally arrived at The Hershey Hotel about 20 minutes before our appointments, so we made a beeline for The Chocolate Spa and let them know that we had arrived. I decided to get the Cocoa Massage (hey, we’re in Hershey after all!), while my wife got a Hot Stone Massage. The spa is just massive, spread out over three floors and 40,000 feet. Take it from me, it’s easy to get lost here.
My massage was even better than I could have hoped for, with an expert masseuse making short work of the stress I built up on the drive up and leaving me in a state of total relaxation. They used a signature chocolate scented massage oil for the treatment, and it smells amazing!
The wifey was equally impressed with her treatment. In fact, the first words out of her mouth were “OMG, that was the best Hot Stone Massage I ever had”. And coming from her, that’s really saying something! So yeah, while their treatments aren’t exactly cheap, we felt they were well worth the money.
Hankering for some chocolate afterwards, we made our way to the Quiet Room, where we proceeded to pig out on a variety of decadent chocolatey treats (including hot cocoa, double-chocolate muffins, and Hershey Kisses). Hey, don’t judge me, I’m on vacation..
The Quiet Room has a balcony with a scenic view of the gardens, and if the weather was better, we probably would have sat out there and relaxed for a bit. Unfortunately, a storm had rolled in while we were getting our massages, so we decided to get showered and dressed so that we could go and check out our room.
The Hershey Hotel is one of America’s landmark hotels, built by chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey during the Great Depression and opened in 1933. The magnificent AAA Four Diamond resort sits atop Pat’s Hill and overlooks Hershey, Pennsylvania. The design was inspired by Mediterranean trips he took with his wife.
In the hotel, historic photographs line the halls, giving guests a glimpse of what Hershey was like back in the day. It’s fascinating stuff, and one could spend quite a bit of time just taking it all in. As for the room itself, we couldn’t have been happier with it. The king size bed was really comfortable, the room was spacious, and we had a great view of the gardens.
My wife immediately donned one of the plush bathrobes, plopped down on the bed, and made herself comfy.
After taking a quick nap (those massages really relaxed us), we got dressed up for dinner and made our way to Harvest, which serves genuine American cuisine prepared with fresh local and regional ingredients. We’d heard great things about Harvest, so we were excited to check them out!
Our hostess seated us by a window, offering us some really stunning views of the golf course as the sun set. After perusing the mouth-watering menu, I decided on Groff’s Smoked Baby Back Ribs (which come with a chocolate BBQ sauce), while my wife went with a Lobster Cobb Salad.
Now I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about their chocolate BBQ sauce, but thankfully the chocolate flavor was really subtle, not overpowering at all. The ribs were cooked to perfection, with the meat falling right off the bone. I was a happy camper, and I ate every last bite! My wife really liked her salad, and as you can see from the photo, they did not skimp on the toppings one bit.
At this point, I was pretty full (eating all of those muffins at the spa sure didn’t help), but my wife was adamant about ordering dessert.. specifically, their signature peanut butter pie. She’s obsessed with peanut butter, so her wanting this decedent treat came as no surprise to me. And it was everything she could have hoped for, she was in peanut butter heaven!
Afterwards, we waddled back to our room and called it a night.
The following morning, we got up bright and early and made our way to Hershey Gardens, a botanical display garden located directly across the street from the hotel. The gardens feature spectacular seasonal flowering displays, handsome collections of specimen trees and shrubs, themed garden areas, and an award-winning Rose Garden that now includes nearly 14,000 roses and some 800 varieties.
Pictures don’t do the Gardens justice, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and I highly recommend checking it out if you are visiting Hershey. Free passes were included with our hotel package, so that was an added bonus.
In addition, they’ve got an indoor Butterfly Atrium at the gardens that has hundreds of butterflies from around the world, flying around as you walk on through. They also have platters of fruit set out, which in turn attracts the butterflies, making for some great photo opps.
On particular hot days (like when we went), the Atrium is also a nice place to cool off, as the lobby has A/C. After walking through the Gardens, that was a welcomed treat.
While we could have stayed here for hours, we had Sunday Brunch reservations at The Circular at noon, so we headed back to get changed before brunch. My wife told me that the food here was pretty legendary (and expensive, at $42.50/person), but nothing quite prepared me for this. “OMG, LOOK AT ALL THE FOOD!”
Now I’m no stranger to buffets, but this was on a whole other level, with offerings ranging widely from savory to sweet. It’s impossible to list all of the food that they serve, but this menu gives you an idea of what you can expect here. I’m a big piggy, so I tried a little bit of everything, and the food was amazing.
But make sure you save room for dessert, because as you can see from these pictures, they have got some of the most amazing sweet treats you’ve ever seen. I’m sure I probably gained 10 pounds from this one meal alone, but it was totally worth it!
And with that, it was time to say goodbye to The Hershey Hotel and head back home. Thankfully, traffic was pretty light on the way back, and we made it home in no time flat.
The 2017 Buick LaCrosse really impressed me, proving to be the perfect luxury cruiser for our little getaway, with tons of technology, a sporty yet comfortable ride, and plenty of room for me to stretch out in. And my wife was absolutely right, The Hershey Hotel proved to be an amazing destination, even without kids.
So if you’re looking to treat your better half to a luxurious weekend, definitely consider making the drive up to Hershey. You won’t be disappointed!
Review: Hotel Felix in Chicago
Last month, we flew out to Chicago for a conference and we decided to extend our stay through the weekend so we could see the sights, eat lots of deep dish pizza, and meet up with some friends who live in town.
We decided to spend the weekend at Hotel Felix, a luxury boutique hotel that’s located in Chicago’s vibrant River North neighborhood. This was my first time staying in River North, and I really dug the area. There are lots of great restaurants to choose from, the Magnificent Mile and other attractions are just a few blocks away, and the night life is pretty sweet, with plenty of clubs, bars and lounges to choose from!
When entering the Hotel Felix lobby, you’re greeted by a ceiling-high mosaic of logs, water pond, and delicate orbs floating over a fireplace. These elements not only create a calming atmosphere throughout the hotel, but they also symbolize an “earth, wind, fire, and water” theme that embodies their commitment to being green. In fact, the Felix is the first hotel in downtown Chicago to receive a Silver LEED certification.
Once checked in, we made our way to our room on the fourth floor. Now I will admit, I was a little nervous, as many of the reviews I had read online complained that the rooms here were too small (180 square feet). But I honestly didn’t see what all the fuss was about, as the room was plenty roomy in our opinion. Not huge, but large enough for a king size bed, desk, and chair, along with plenty of floor space to lay out our suitcases.
The bathroom was reasonably sized as well, with a walk-in shower (no tub) that had plenty of water pressure (despite being low-flow). The rainfall showerhead was a big plus in my book, and my wife liked the fact that they provided L’Occitane bathroom toiletries.
The bed was nice and comfy, the free WiFi was strong, and the contemporary décor was inviting. And best of all, the room was really quiet, with no street noise or anything to wake us up. What more could you ask for?
If you don’t feel like venturing out to eat, Troquet River North is a French bistro located on-site that features authentic dishes from all regions of France. While we didn’t have a chance to eat here (we already had plans with friends), everyone we talked to raved about how good the food was. Looking for something a little more low-key? There’s a Portillo’s right around the corner that has the most amazing chili cheese dogs.
Overall, we could not have been happier with our stay at Hotel Felix. The room and amenities were great, the location couldn’t be better, and with rooms starting at $129, you can’t beat the price. So if you are heading to Chicago this summer, you should definitely consider staying at the Hotel Felix!
For more information, visit www.hotelfelixchicago.com.
You Can Spend The Night In The World’s Most Luxurious Hotel.. For Free
Being broke sucks, and being rich rocks. That’s why we here at Guys Gab have figured out a way to help you spend some time at the world’s most expensive and luxurious hotel.. for free!
The Burj Al Arab in Dubai is owned by the renowned luxury hotel chain Jumeirah. This ultra-swanky hotel is only accessible by helicopter or private bridge, but you don’t have to worry about a thing, because when you stay here, you’ll be picked up at the airport via Rolls Royce or helicopter, so there’s no need to worry about transportation arrangements.
An average night at this seven-star hotel could set you back a cool $2,500 bucks a night for a standard room, while a stay in the two-story Royal Suite (complete with marble staircase) will set you back over $15,000 a night, making it one of the most expensive hotel suites in the world.
While that’s just a drop in the bucket for the 1%, the rest of us can only dream of experiencing the luxury of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. But thanks to Google and their handy-dandy 3D cameras which have mapped just about every inch of the Burj Al Arab, you’re able to take an evening stroll through its courtyard, VIP suites, and other amenities completely free of charge!
It’s a pretty remarkable use of Google’s technology, and once you start making your virtual way through this magnificent hotel, it’s easy to get lost in it and actually believe you’re there.
So if you’re ready to experience the grandeur of the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah for yourself, pour yourself a glass of bubbly and get ready to experience 360° of luxury. Click here to start your journey.