March 3, 2014 at 7:38 am
Check out my first day in Punta Cana here if you missed it.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana is a nicer joint than I typically patronize. I knew it when I saw the telephone in the bathroom, and I knew it for sure when it took me several minutes to figure out the high-tech light switches. They’re really into the rock-n-roll theme too. Sometimes it’s almost cute, like when the do-not-disturb sign has lyrics from the Elvis Presley song of the same name on it. Other times it seems ill-advised, like how the mirrors over the double beds had this lyric engraved on them: It’s just another day in paradise / As you stumble to your bed (…so far so good…) You’d give anything to silence / Those voices ringing in your head Um, what? Do they think their visitors are schizophrenic? The only voices that were ringing in my head during this trip were from the Kaspersky conference’s karaoke event which was held outside our balcony. (I really, really hope the people of Kaspersky are better at internet security than they are at “singing” I Shot the Sherriff.)
Even the ironing board was not immune to the rock star treatment. Leopard skin, baby!
The resort is rather large, but all you really need to know is that the beach is on the east end and the building housing most of the shops and restaurants is on the west end. Everything in between is mostly hotel rooms, decorative pools, or areas where private events are held. There are also a couple of restaurants near the beach, as well as a swim-up bar or two. (I don’t want to know how much alcohol this place goes through in a month.) The Dominican Republic’s alcoholic beverage of choice is called Mama Juana, and believe me, they will not shut up about it. As Wikipedia says, it’s “concocted by allowing rum, red wine, and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs.”
We were only there for two full days, so we weren’t able to check out all the restaurants, but I liked the ones we did. We had a fun night at Zen, the Japanese restaurant where our meal was cooked Benihana style in front of us. There were four groups of people at our table and I don’t think any of us spoke the same language, which made things interesting. Our cook’s name was Jesus, so when he was tossing knives around like a juggler I had to tell myself to trust in Jesus. We had dinner at a buffet place another night, or rather my brother had dinner and I had six different desserts because calories don’t count when you’re on vacation! (The watermelon gelato was soooo delish.) We had lunch at the open-air Caribbean restaurant the second day, and the breeze from the ocean was just as nice as the food. I also enjoyed watching the clever little black birds swoop down to nibble on abandoned plates after the breakfast buffet. My brother ordered room service once during the trip, but wasn’t impressed, so I’d recommend you leave your room to eat if you find yourself there. You’ll get to admire the Big Ass Fans in the restaurants. No, seriously, that’s what they’re called.
You really do need Big Ass Fans because the weather is hot and humid. Every time I went outside I felt like I needed to take a shower when I came back inside. I found myself wishing I’d brought more clothing with me because it got sweaty pretty quickly.
The beach at Punta Cana is absolutely gorgeous and nearly pristine. You can tell that humans work very, very hard to make it look like humans haven’t been here.
We are fair-skinned Germanic people, so my brother and I thoroughly slathered every inch of exposed skin with sun block before heading to the beach. I’d only been able to find SPF 30 in the travel size, so I reapplied it often and liberally. For some reason I thought lying around on the beach would be boring, but it wasn’t. It was a nice change from lying around on my couch.
When I went out to wade in the water for awhile, my brother got into a conversation with a resort salesman who was walking the beach selling trinkets from a pack. At first I thought he’d be annoyed, but then I realized my brother was actually enjoying haggling with the guy, which is probably a character trait that helped him become a top salesman and win this trip to begin with.
I also braved my fears and walked around in a swimsuit in public. I figured I’d never see any of these people again anyway, so who cares what they thought of me? The resort had umpteen pools, most of them by the beach, so you could swim in safety while still being able to hear the ocean. Because there were so many, none of them were overly crowded, which I thought was good planning on the resort’s part.
As part of our package we got $500 in resort credit which is somewhat deceptive. Resort credit can be spent on things like spa services or at the Resort Credit Shop. The catch is that 1) You have to pay a 20% tax on items you purchase, so it’s more like you’re getting at 80% discount and 2) The prices are marked way, way, WAY up to account for that. This is the reason they can charge $100 for a pair of flip-flops without decorating them in diamonds. They actually cost $20 after the resort credit and tax are applied, which still seems a bit much for flip-flops, but what was I going to do after mine broke? It’s amazing how quickly a flip-flop becomes a total flop once the string breaks. Hypothetically you can leave the resort, but it’s a bit of an ordeal, which is why they can get away with charging you $17 for a razor.
Which is not to say I didn’t get sucked in when I saw these:
That’s right, they had Candy Crush Saga candies at the candy store!! I have been wanting to try these for awhile, but the shipping price online was totally outrageous, whereas the price at the resort store was only insane.
The candies were good, but unfortunately eating two of them together did not clear all the items off my gameboard. I didn’t play Candy Crush Saga at all during the trip because I kept my phone off to avoid being charged astronomical international fees. My brother kept his phone in airplane mode which turns off the voice service and wifi, but allows you to keep using the camera. At different times during the trip I found myself wanting to reach for my phone to check Twitter or crunch candies and was slightly unnerved that I couldn’t. I think it was good for me though. Why should I distract myself with real life on vacation when the vacation itself is a distraction from real life?
Coming soon, the third and final part of my Punta Cana adventure. It involves chocolate, cigars and a shotgun.