We had not planned to go back to Dominican Republic again, but circumstances this winter (late booking, about 3 days before departure) meant that there was not a lot of time to plan and we tossed up between Riviera Maya (Yucatan Peninsula Mexico) or the Dominican Republic again. Dominican Republic won mainly because it did not need any research, we knew it would be ok at worst, and great at best.
Gran Bahia is better than OK, but less than great, not its fault, mainly because it is just so BIG! It comprises 4 hotels on one complex, with little trains running between blocks of rooms. A large majority of the guests seem to be Spanish -speaking, and there does seem to be a difference in the attitude of the staff to the clients they can communicate with, and those who do not speak Spanish.
The rooms are very nice, well equipped, clean and spacious. The gardens are totally immaculate, not a leaf out of place, and all insects sprayed out of existence. Every aspect of the hotel is incredibly well organised, like a well oiled food and leisure machine, and on balance there really is nothing major anyone could complain about.
Food – buffet well organised, food was generally slightly on the good side of mediocre, with a few excellent dishes and quite a few totally inedible. Service generally grudging, again very obviously better if you are a Spanish speaker. Breakfast down by the beach much more pleasant than the air conditioned, over- furnished, dark, buffet restaurant.
The a la carte restaurants varied from Mexican (inedible) to the French and Fish restaurants (excellent) and service in these was much more pleasant.
The beach is very narrow in most of the area adjoining the hotel, and consequently the sunbeds (scrum, no shade available if you go down later than 8am) are laid like sardines. However a short walk in either direction takes you to a wider beach – on one side there is just jungle behind the beach, this is not cleared by any hotels, so is wild, but much emptier. The other side is another large hotel complex, but the beach is wide and therefore not so crowded. Most days there is a wedding in the gazebo on the beach, which is always of great interest to the hotel guests, who invariably applaud the bride, but I don’t think I would have liked to have got married in a situation where I was the afternoon entertainment, no matter how scenic! Evening entertainment same as always, but more professional, very Spanish oriented, but diverting nevertheless. I always wonder why these hotels do not have an outdoor cinema, showing up to date films, as an alternative to frenetic amateurish theatre performances.
We would not go back to the main hotel, but I think we would consider the smaller, adults-only hotel, Ambar, which has its own reception, buffet, beach area and pool, and is altogether quieter and less crowded, but does still offer all the main hotel facilities if you want to use them – it means you have a choice of around 10 restaurants as well as the various buffets, which can’t be bad.
Overall the hotel is supremely well organised, spotless, and perfectly ok – there are just TOO MANY PEOPLE, which is the main thing I personally find difficult in Dom Rep. However, I have to say that by now I have learned to tune them out when I want to, and the rest of the time quite enjoy people watching. It sounds unpleasant to say that it was a problem because few of the staff were English speaking – if there was a serious problem I am sure they would have someone available, but in the restaurants or in the bars, generally it would be nice to be able to exchange more than just ‘hola’.