Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Vacation in Punta Cana

Last week Ryan and I spent a few days in Punta Cana to celebrate our second anniversary. Once we got there, we enjoyed every minute of our vacation. The trip to the Dominican Republic was another story. Tuesday morning we woke up at 3:50am in order to catch our 6:55am flight to Punta Cana with a layover in Puerto Rico. A couple of our friends were so kind and volunteered to drive us to the airport at 5:00am! I thought our airport in Greenville was small, but it's nothing compared to the one here in Grenada!

As we unloaded the car, a man met us outside and told us our flight was delayed. Apparently the air conditioning wasn't working in the plane and they were trying to get another aircraft sent over from San Juan. We sat in the waiting area by the check-in counter for about an hour. Eventually someone made the announcement that the plane was okay for travel, and they were just waiting on the pilot to give the final go-ahead. We all lined up to begin checking-in. After standing in line for quite awhile, someone else came out and said the pilot decided not to fly the plane, so we would have to wait again for another plane to arrive. The flight from San Juan is about 2 hours, so we went upstairs for breakfast while we waited. We had a delicious omelette, toast, and coffee.

Finally, we heard that they had diverted a plane from Trinidad that would come and pick us up. We headed back down to the check-in line and were happy to see the line actually moving this time. However, shortly before we made it to the front, they announced that the plane was full, since it had passengers on it from Trinidad. Furthermore, they had no other flights leaving Grenada the rest of the day (not just to San Juan, but anywhere). The best they could offer us was a seat on the flight the next day and vouchers for meals, taxi, and a hotel. By this point it was about 9:30, and we were completely exhausted, not to mention a little upset about losing the money for our resort in Punta Cana that night. But we took a taxi to the hotel and discussed our options.

We had booked our hotel with a travel agent, so I called him and explained the situation. He volunteered to call the hotel and not only let them know we would be arriving a day later, but also ask them if we could extend our vacation an extra day at no charge. Since I needed to call the airline and have them make the change as well, we decided to go back to campus where we had left our computers in our room. Back at school, I called the airline, explained the situation, and they agreed to allow us to change our flight to return home on Saturday, instead of Friday, at no charge. Our travel agent called us back and said the hotel had agreed to do the same. So thankfully, we didn't lose any money on the situation. We actually had an extra day of vacation at a free hotel with free meals. A few minutes later we took a bus back to our hotel, ate a delicious lunch on the beach, and took a nap. That evening we enjoyed a wonderful meal at the hotel's restaurant. The view from our room was breath-taking.

Wednesday morning we again woke up before 4:00am and had a quick breakfast of coffee, banana bread, and fresh fruit before our taxi brought us to the airport. This time our flight left on time, with us on it. We arrived in San Juan with plenty of time to eat lunch and catch our next flight to Punta Cana. Here is the airport in Punta Cana. The thatched roof, open-air buildings, and local musicians welcomed us to another tropical island.

It took about 5 minutes to get through customs, pick up our checked baggage, and exchange our US dollars for pesos. The travel agency we used provides free transportation to and from the airport. Our resort was about an hour from the airport, but we enjoyed our views of the Dominican countryside. We found it to be poorer than Grenada, but extremely green and lush. We passed numerous farms with hundreds of grazing cattle and row after row of banana trees.

When we arrived at our hotel, we were greeted with an ice cold drink and a cool, scented washcloth. We took a few minutes and walked around the main lobby, looking at the menus of various restaurants and deciding where we wanted to eat that night. Our room was just around the corner from the lobby, and we had time to unpack and shower before dinner.

The best part of an all-inclusive resort is the food. We had a small refrigerator in our room that was continually stocked with soda, bottled water, and fruit juice, as well as various cookies and nuts for snacking. The resort had 8 restaurants, and we tried as many of them as time allowed. Wednesday evening we visited The Grill for dinner. Since all the food is included in the price of the hotel, we enjoyed numerous appetizers and side dishes with our entree. Ryan had beef tenderloin and shrimp, while I tried the filet mignon.

After a lovely dessert of cheesecake and key lime pie, we took a walk around the resort and enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

When we arrived back in our room, we were greeted with a luxurious turn down service which included soft music playing on the TV, bottles of water and glasses next to the bed, chocolates, a small card with tomorrow's weather report, and the resort's itinerary for the next day. We felt so pampered!

Thursday morning we ordered a delicious breakfast of eggs, hashbrowns, toast, sausage, bacon, pancakes, coffee, freshly-squeezed juice, and tropical fruit in our room. (Obviously I will be working out twice a day from now on after eating all this good food!) Following breakfast, we met with our travel agency representative in the lobby to confirm the time for our transportation back to the airport on Saturday. Next we made reservations with the concierge for horseback riding on the beach later in the day. For the next few hours, we relaxed by the pool, sipped on iced cappuccinos, and read our books.

We tried one of the Italian restaurants for a late lunch and loved the huge buffet complete with salad, breads, make-your-own-pasta bar, pizza, fruit, and dessert. From there we met with our group for the horseback riding. We walked along the beach for a few minutes and came to a shaded area with about 15 horses in a corral. Our guides brought each of us a horse, helped us up, and away we went. For the next 30-40 minutes we rode slowly along the water. My horse didn't like getting wet and was constantly trying to avoid the waves as they came in. This was Ryan's first experience riding a horse, and he did great! It was such a fun experience, and I can't wait to do it again someday.

After a quick shower, we decided to visit the Asian restaurant for dinner. Again, we took full advantage of eating as much free food as possible. We had sushi, miso soup, and an Asian salad for appetizers. Ryan had the Japanese tempura shrimp and vegetables, while I tried the Pad Thai. Both were amazing! The best part of the meal, though, was our dessert. We had the most delicious profiteroles filled with vanilla ice cream and topped with a warm chocolate sauce, served with cappuccinos.

Friday morning we were finally able to sleep in, and again ordered a wonderful breakfast in our room. We spent most of the afternoon on the beach, relaxing on lounge chairs under a tiki hut. Waiters came by and served cold drinks and snacks throughout the day.

Around 4:00 we went back to our room and had a late of lunch of soup and sandwiches. Ryan went to the gym and worked out for little while and I relaxed in the room. That evening, we had dinner in the French restaurant. I had a scrumptious French onion soup, goat cheese and roasted pear salad, and quiche as appetizers. The entree was rib eye steak with garlic mashed potatoes. Ryan had a wonderful yellow-fin tuna appetizer and a glazed salmon entree. For dessert we enjoyed creme brulee and cappuccinos.

Saturday morning our bus left for the airport around 10:00am. It rained most of the morning, so we were glad it was a travel day for us. Our flight to San Juan was uneventful. We had about a 6-hour layover in San Juan, so we again had plenty of time to eat a relaxing lunch and spent most of the time reading. We arrived in Grenada about 10:30pm and took a taxi back to campus.

I'm so grateful that we were able to get away for a few days and spend some extra time together. Although we were sad to leave the luxury of the resort and the amazing food, we realized that coming home isn't so bad when "home" is also a Caribbean island!

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