Wow, I can hardly believe that it’s been almost 7 months since our family vacation. After the longest year of our life between difficult challenges, we were graciously invited on a vacation with my parents, my siblings and my niece. The offer was simply amazing and we fully deserved a much needed vacation from our everyday life.
We planned this vacation for 11 people within a couple of months. We knew it couldn’t be planned to early as there was a very real risk that neither my husband nor my daughter would be medically cleared to leave the Country. So we waited, and prayed for the all-clear and as soon as it arrived I took to the internet like a mad woman, researching our options and mapping out the prices.
Planning and Travel Agency
After weeks and weeks of research, I got in contact with Elaine at Algonquin Travel and Cruise Center TravelPlus for her expertise and experience. I wanted this vacation to be absolutely amazing. We quickly discussed options, our price range and what type of vacation we wanted. In a matter of days, Elaine got back to me with wonderful options. Elaine was super sweet and she was amazing, she used her talents to find us the best deal. We could never thank her enough for her assistance in booking this vacation. I highly recommend that everyone seek assistance from a travel agent, they really do know best when it comes to finding great deals within your budget while still aiming to have the most amazing vacation adventure possible. Did I mention that there are no costs to use a travel agency and she found us the vacation of a life time? I really could go on and on about Elaine. We ended up booking with Sunwing and the total cost including airfare and flight was $10,911.00 for all 11 people. (Children under 12 were discounted to $611 per child)
Flight and Arrival in Punta Cana
Fast forward to a few weeks later and we’re all packed and ready to head to the airport. Our flight was scheduled for take-off at approx. 9:10 am on April 1, 2016. I made it very clear to my children that we had breakfast and I packed snacks for the flight, I was not going to be purchasing any on board food – its crazy expensive and I wasn’t doing it. An hour or so into the flight, I was napping like a baby when I heard my daughter talking to the flight crew, they were serving food and Kira was announcing to the world that I’m cheap and told her I wasn’t buying any food on the plan. The flight staff chuckled and proceeded to tell her that the food on board was free and that she could have a sandwich if she wanted one. Kira glanced at me and after confirming it was free, we all grabbed some food. I was really impressed with the flight, no delays, free food and the flight itself was pretty uneventful.
We landed in the sun at approximately 1:45pm, along with 6 other flights, so you can imagine our group of 11 that included 3 hot and fussy children as we waited in line to claim our tourist card and proceed to the arranged resort shuttle. I have never in my life stood in a line for that long, I swear it took approximately 90 minutes – I guess in the long scheme of things, it wasn’t that bad.
We proceeded to the shuttle and arrived at the Be Live Punta Cana Resort somewhere around 4:30PM. From the first moments of our arrival, I was surprised with the atmosphere. I had never travelled to this part of the world and had myself psyched out from online reviews. I was impressed, the place was very clean and the staff seemed super friendly. Our good vibes stopped right there as we proceeded to VIP Check In, it took an hour and a half to get to the counter, where I was told that our rooms were not close in proximity to one another and in fact was scattered across the resort. After a few minutes, we got key cards and proceeded to our rooms. We were hot, tired and hungry. We had booked 5 rooms, 3 rooms had no issues, 1 room had another family sitting in it and the third room had no AC – I guess it could have been worse. I headed back to the front desk where it took several staff and more than 40 minutes to find an additional room and place a work order for the air conditioning.
The rooms itself were clean and for the most part kept at a cool temperature. I found the beds to be extremely comfortable and I loved all the pillows. Some people from our group found the beds hard and didn’t enjoy sleeping on them at all. Each room came complete with a television and a stocked mini fridge. All in all I was happy with the rooms and for the price we paid, it was decent. If you’re wondering what happened to that work order for the air conditioning, well nothing happened with it, and the next day those guests were moved to a bigger room on the other side of the resort.
Now let’s talk about the food. The resort had a buffet style for most meals, I personally didn’t have issues with the food. It was hit or miss, some days the food was hot and some it was cold, but over all there was enough variety for everyone to find something to feed their tummies. When I say variety, don’t be fooled the buffet had the same foods day in and day out. The pool side restaurant wasn’t my favorite, but it was decent. The resort featured several restaurants. I won’t go into details about them because we didn’t use all of them. I can tell you that we did make a reservation for the Brazilian restaurant and it was my absolute favorite. Your best bet is to make a reservation for the restaurants early to avoid disappointment and for quality food. I think I forgot to mention that this was an all-inclusive resort, so the flow of drinks kept us pretty happy and the kids loved all the fruit drinks without alcohol of course.
One thing I really enjoyed at this resort was the entertainment. Each day there was always something going on from daily dart tournaments, a foam pool party and nightly shows. My husband and I participated in the Newlywed Game and it was such a riot, we really had a great time. While on vacation we also watched a circus show, a magic show and a Michael Jackson Tribute. I cannot say this enough, always watch the Michael Jackson Tribute – it was amazing.
Oh right, how could I forget the beach? The beach was beautiful. The resort backed onto a public beach and there was a lot of vendors. Rude vendors too. One man even tried to hustle my daughter, he asked her if she wanted a coconut, told her it was free and then tried to have my husband pay $10.00 UDS. I was later told that this particular vendor always approaches children to force parents to pay for the items. I did not pay, he threatened to call the police to which I smiled and replied, I’ll be here all day. The police were never called. Due to the vendors, we did spend most of our resort time in the pool area, the kids loved every minute of the swim-up bar.
Sunwing and Excursions
We didn’t have much interaction with Sunwing prior to our arrival in Punta Cana. We were invited to attend a meeting with the Sunwing Representative where she clued us in on some tips about the resort that we may not have known about such as the locks for the safe and the pool towel card. The reps also talked to us about local excursions and what the island had to offer. They were also able to offer us some exclusive prices on the excursions. I’d recommend that you do not book your excursions until you arrive – you can get much best deals.
We choose Saona Island and the Safari as our adventures. We split them between the remaining days, opting to visit Saona Island on day 3 and venturing into the safari on day 6. Of these two, I would recommend that you visit Saona Island if given the opportunity.
Adventure 1 – Saona Island
The day started out very early, around 8am I think. We ate breakfast and then met with the Sunwing Rep in the lobby. From there we loaded into a shuttle that would take us to the buses. After an hour and half, we were then loaded back onto a bus and made our way to the sail boat – catamaran style. I had never been on a boat like this before and was super exited. Things were not great for all of us. Just as we were about to board the boat my son announced that he didn’t feel good. Unfortunately, there was nothing that we could do but to wait it out. Shortly into the boat escapade he was sick all over the place. I was embarrassed for him, everyone was looking at us, but the boat crew were amazing. They quickly came to my rescue, helped clean up my son and sat us down in the shade with water. Shortly, after my son was feeling better. The crew checked on us during the entire boat ride that took two hours. Once we arrived at Saona Island, it was a brief walk across the island to a private beach where we were treated with a magnitude of great food and the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. After grabbing some lunch, we applied sunscreen and spent the rest of the time in the water. After a few hours it was time to make our way back to the resorts. The transportation provided was a speed boat. We all loved this part. We stopped in the middle of the ocean on a sand bar to find star fish – it was breath-taking and a wonderful experience.
Adventure 2 – Safari
This adventure was off to a bad start when more than half the group woke up with a stomach bug. It was too late in our vacation to reschedule so we opted to head out anyways. I do not recommend this, we were miserable and we didn’t enjoy this adventure as much as we could have. We boarded a safari truck and headed to a nearby village where we toured a typical house in the Dominican, toured the fields, tried the beans, learned about chocolate. The tour was much too long for those that were under the weather. We then boarded the truck, and stopped at a beach for about 45 minutes before heading back to the resort. I can’t say much about this adventure because I was not feeling good and just wanted to get back to the resort to sleep.
Finally, it was time to pack up and head home. We didn’t have much issues here. The kids were sad to leave, but we vowed for another vacation soon and that seemed to cheer them up in the moment. We checked out, grabbed some lunch and then boarded the buses to head to the airport. Our flight was delayed an hour from the start. Once we boarded, I realized that I forgot my engagement ring in the safe and immediately contacted the resort. This was difficult and at the end of it they told me the ring was not there. It was brand new and was now lost forever. (If anyone has found a diamond engagement ring, please be kind and return it immediately, these are precious items that people may never be able to afford to replace).
All in all, after everything was said and done I rated this vacation an 8 out of 10. There wasn’t too much to complain about and aside from the resort issues on check in and the lost engagement ring we all really had a fantastic time.
Here is the breakdown of ratings:
Now we are on the lookout for another vacation in 2018. Have you taken any family vacations? Share your stories with us. Please comment below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org