|Gran Bahia Principe Ambar Punta Cana||Milli||November 15-22/08|
Gran Bahia Principe Ambar – November 15-22/08
PUG airport- deceivably “quaint” with its Polynesian roofs and low rise buildings. This airport was very busy upon our arrival. At the entrance, as you come off the tarmac, the new pack of visitors is greeted by two women dressed in Caribbean style dresses. You can get your pictures taken with them and then when you return to go home the pictures are posted in the Departure area under the travel company names and you can pay for and retrieve your picture. This creates congestion entering the building but we slid by the women and proceeded to the customs area. Although the arrivals area was quite congested everything moved along quickly and we were soon out and waiting to see if our luggage had made the trip with us after being loaded in Fredericton! When we were on the flight we were given a tourist card to fill out plus a white form and a white ticket. The white ticket is your entrance fee ($ included in pkg) and you pass this in with your tourist card at customs. The other form is only necessary if you are stopped as you leave the airport for a baggage search or check. Outside we were met by a rep holding up an ACV sign and told which bus to use. There was a line of buses, mini buses, vans, and taxis waiting. Two buses filled with guests going to Gran Bahia Principe Punta Cana and Ambar.
Our rep on the bus gave us another form to fill out and then gave us an envelope containing our room keys, a map and some other paperwork. She also applied our clear bracelets and gathered our resort vouchers.
We were all dropped off at the entrance to the Bavaro Lobby and greeted with a cool fruit drink. Two busloads of people created quite a bit of confusion but there were a number of employees who were very pleasant and attentive and they had you ID your luggage so that they could tag it.. They really do know what they are doing and had us sorted out quite quickly. They then loaded us on trolleys and off we went to the Ambar. At the Ambar reception we were told to go to our rooms and wait about 15 min for our luggage. The resort is so compact that this was not as daunting as it sounds and our luggage arrived shortly after we had checked out our room. I had made one request—a room on the second floor and that was honoured plus we were given a King bed and our room overlooked the pool and pool bar with the ocean in the background. I loved the room.
We had a junior suite facing the pool. The furniture is dark wood and very solid. The king sized 4 poster canopy bed was very comfortable. There was a large solid dresser with 4 large and deep drawers plus a door which revealed the bar fridge when opened. The fridge was stocked with a small Pringles canister, pop, 2 Presidente beer, 2 Mickey’s, a large water, small water, and soda water. The fridge was replenished daily. We could also call express service and order from a choice of pillows. You had to do this early in the day for availability.. I ordered on two occasions and the second time (our last night) the pillows did not arrive.
There was also a large couch and two wicker chairs with a glass topped table.
The deck was ample sized with a square table and two wrought iron chairs with waterproof cushions.
The double closet contained about a dozen hangars, large umbrella, iron, ironing board, 2 robes and 2 pairs of slippers. The closet also contained 2 or 3 large shelves, one of which held the ample sized safe which you keyed your 4 numeral code into. It was nice to have brought small flashlight, not much light in closet where the safe is.
The bathroom was a very good size with a full sized whirlpool tub with hand held shower. The separate tiled shower had a large rain shower head as well as a hand held wand shower attachment. The water pressure was excellent and there was lots of hot water. There was also a large vanity, towels, 2 facecloths and an excellent hand held dryer. We had turn down service with our ACV package and all wet towels left on the floor and the bath mat were replaced by the evening maid.
Electricity was 110 volt, 60 mhz, same as Canada. Electricity and air conditioning required the the swipe card be left in the slot. We tried using another "rewards" card and it did not work. The AC is very good!
Our beach towels were on one of the shelves in the closet.
There are three rows of buildings and no one is more than a 2 or 3 minute walk from anywhere. Building 67 is as close as you can get to the pool, beach, beach buffet, Italian and Mediterranean a la cartes.
There are lots of palm trees, flowers and interesting planter displays set in the lush and thick green grass. I think it is the abundance of greenery and plants that make you forget that you are sharing this small space with probably 800 other guests!
The main buffet is off to the right when you enter the lobby. Service was excellent! The staff is so polite and friendly. The buffet itself is well displayed and even when the resort was very busy during the week there were no long waits and you could get through quite easily. There was a large variety of foods and excellent desserts and breads. Each night had a different theme. There was a station with appetizers very creatively presented. (and good to eat as well) There was no coffee served in the buffet after supper. This was my first trip to the Dominican and I was not putting a lot of hope into having a good cup of coffee but the Santa Domingo coffee that they serve in the restaurants and bars and sell at the stores is very good indeed! This buffet is enclosed and is air conditioned as are the three Ambar a la cartes.
We had three prebooked reservations in the Ambar’s a la cartes. Our first was the evening following our arrival and took us to the gourmet restaurant Don Pablo. The service, food, and atmosphere were excellent.
The dinner reservations alternated with the Evening buffet (Palmyra) and should that not be to our liking we could have booked at any of the a la cartes in the Bahia complex. We decided to stay where we were for our meals. The Mediterranean Restaurant, El Olivo was our least favourite. The food was good but we found that as the meal went on service became a bit disorganized. We enjoyed our meal at the Italian restaurant, Portofino. Food, service, food presentation was very good. At both the El Olivo and Portofino there is a buffet of foods to choose from to enjoy before your meal. All in all I would have been perfectly happy dining at the Buffet restaurant for the 7 days that we were there. We ate most of our lunches at the 2 beach buffets Los Olas and found the food to be good. Breakfasts were enjoyed at either the main buffet or at Los Olas on the beach. It is really relaxing sitting in the fresh air looking out over the pool and ocean as you enjoy your first meal of the day. The only reason we ventured up to the main buffet some of the mornings was so my husband could get his fresh omelet which you could not get at the beach buffet.
We really liked the Ambar’s Lobby bar. There are lots of seat arrangements consisting of 2 comfortable wicker chairs and a table. As you move to the other side of the lobby there are deep upholstered chairs. In the evening a man plays piano and sings. Some couples were dancing. Each day the bar serves the “daily special”. The drink service was very good.
The only other bar (besides pool) that we visited was the beach bar. It is bar service only and Wilkins, the bar tender, provided excellent service. There is a washroom here as well.
Public washrooms: Very+ clean and well stocked with soap, paper towels and hand driers.
Pool and Pool Bar:
There is only one very large pool for the Ambar and it gets busy. The water was warm and I believe 5 feet in the deepest area. There were no floaties. If you wanted a palapa or shaded area you had to have your towel out early or wait til later in the afternoon. We only went here in the afternoon the first couple of days when the ocean was rougher.
Soft white sand and if you like to go on long walks this is the place to do it. The beach area is very deep. Although I had read in reviews that there is no problem getting loungers under palapas at the Ambar beach we found that not to be the case if you wanted the area closest to the ocean. These were claimed very early! We tended to sit a bit further back where there was more shade and very close to the Beach bar/washrooms and our building. The palapas are mostly lower set than what we are used to and very thickly thatched so that you could find a good one and sit out most of the day out of the sun if you wished
We had about 3 days where I felt comfortable going into the ocean due to the waves. The bottom is sandy but gets deep quite quickly. (similar to that at Luna Y Mares) There are buoys to mark the safer swimming areas. The water was refreshingly warm. Every morning we would go on an hour’s walk in either direction. There are lots of walkers! The beach in front of the Ambar is very quiet but as you approach the rest of the Bahia it becomes a sea of blue loungers. We were never bothered by vendors though we occasionally saw them around.
The Dive shop and water sports center is next to the Beach Bar. You can take a Hobie cat out by yourself which I found surprising with the rougher seas. There were snorkeling trips and one fellow we met went scuba diving near the submerged ship in front of the resort. We didn’t didn’t participate in any of these offerings.
There is a huge entertainment area between the Bavaro and Punta Cana lobbies. The seats are placed in arcing rows and around the circumference are tables and chairs. There is good drink service considering the size of the place and a bar is situated at the back of the theater. There are 2 nightly shows which are identical. They are very well attended! We saw three shows. I fell asleep in the first one which was the evening we arrived and the next was the Tropicana type show which was good. The third show we stumbled upon was the circus. We had gone to the area of shops and vendors to buy a t-shirt for my grandson and noticed that the circus show was going on. It seemed really good but we arrived as it was ending so we enjoyed a drink and waited for the next show. It was worth waiting for. There is an area containing lots of little shops, most of which contain the same merchandise. There is a jewelry shop as well and in the center court are quite a number of friendly but fairly aggressive vendors. This area is also home to the disco which I believe became lively around midnight. There are lots of things to see and do here but it is nice to get back to the peace and quiet of the Ambar after small doses of it. The Bavaro lobby is massive and very nice but filled with people and is very noisy in the evening.
There is a very large open area where the shops, Casino, etc are located. It is filled with tables and chairs. It was always empty when we were by but we were told by one of the guests that at 11:00 PM there are bands and singing and that it becomes quite lively. At midnight the fun continues into the Discotheque.
We noticed them fogging for mosquitoes one evening. I don’t recall seeing any mosquitoes. I do have 2 tiny insect bites on my legs but other than that bugs were a non issue. Apart from that I saw a couple of anoles and that was it for wild life except for the parrots that you could have your picture taken with.
The Ambar guests have 15 free minutes a day. The computers are to the right of the main desk in the lobby and believe me 2 computers for that number of guests added up to line ups! The staff at main desk, log you on for 15 min. I did find that one evening I used the computer around 11 PM, as the lobby was closing and there were no line ups and the computer did not log off and on. I don’t know if that was a “fluke” or something they do in quiet times. The other big problem here is that the people behind in line can read everything on the monitor you are using. If I had to depend on using some uninterrupted computer time I would head up to the area beside the Bavaro lobby where there is a Computer room where you can buy time.
I felt very secure on this resort. There were security guards walking around the palapas and we felt as secure as anywhere in leaving our backpacks under our loungers when we were away. Of course there was never anything of value in them. Even when we walked the beach to the undeveloped areas and where they were building the new resort there were always a number of walkers. There were lots of people about the main resort and I felt perfectly safe by myself there. I did not feel secure going off the resort by the roadway at this time, mainly because I don’t know the area.
We loved the Ambar because you could enjoy the best of both worlds. The other sections of the Bahia seemed lively and where the action is and the Ambar was purely relaxing and peaceful. As for my impression of Punta Cana…...we never really got off the resort except for our walks along the beach. The nearest area of shops, restaurants, bars was a $20 US taxi trip away ($40 round trip). The half hour to 45 min bus trip to and from the airport revealed narrow roads which were often lined with litter. If I were returning, but not to the Ambar, I think I would look for a resort closer to Bavaro so we could go exploring. (needs more research!) But for now I will enjoy my memories of a wonderful week away from the snow and cold where the hospitality was as warm as the Caribbean sun.