One Week in Paradise
A Recap of My Caribbean All-Inclusive (All Expenses Paid for with Points) Vacation
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It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from an incredible week in the Caribbean. I wanted to share details about my trip and my thought process during the planning and booking.
As always, I didn’t spend a penny out of pocket on Uber, airport food/drinks, hotel, meals, plane tickets, and more.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Going to the Caribbean in December has turned out to be a BowTiedBum family tradition. “Christmas in the Caribbean.” My wife certainly isn’t complaining…
We chose Punta Cana for a few reasons:
They have several Hyatt all-inclusive properties, and we were dead set on going to an all-inclusive.
They have numerous properties 30 minutes or less from the airport.
We took our 2yo daughter, so we were looking for a nice resort where we could stay on property and we were not planning on doing any excursions.
It’s generally one of the cheaper Caribbean islands and there are a lot of options with Hyatt and the Chase Portal
Dreams Royal Beach
We settled on Dreams Royal Beach Punta Cana, a 5-star Caribbean all-inclusive hotel owned by Hyatt.
Note that this wasn’t our first or even second choice. We were looking to stay at Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana which was completely sold out during that week (for award booking or cash booking) and Hyatt Zoetry Agua Punta Cana, but the points needed to book were just too high, and didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
I’ll get into a full review of the property, but I first wanted to cover the booking process.
The Booking Process
We’ve developed a rule when it comes to family vacations.
If we need to pay out of pocket we don’t go.
***Spoiler Alert*** We go on a s***ton of vacations and max out our PTO on mostly international trips
Once we had the dates locked in, our initial focus was booking the hotel. Dreams Royal Beach Punta Cana got unbelievable reviews on TripAdvisor, so we decided to book. Each night cost approximately 30,000 Hyatt points for the three of us (me, my wife, and my daughter) for one room.
The process was quite simple. I have a ton of Chase UR points that I mostly earn through my CIC’s. I immediately transfer to my Chase Sapphire Reserve after each statement for more flexibility.
I transferred the points from my Chase Sapphire Reserve to my Hyatt account. It took roughly 5 minutes for my points to show up in my Hyatt account.
The standard rooms (even cheaper) were not available for reward nights, so we had a “preferred guest” room. More on this later! During peak December (when we stayed) the cash price would have been roughly $650-$700 a night, so 30,000 points a night was a pretty good use of my Hyatt points, but certainly nothing Earth shattering.
We flew JetBlue. I found an award flight for roughly 20,000 points for each passenger, round trip, with some additional fees and tax. I ended up transferring half of the points from Citi to JetBlue and the other half from Amex to JetBlue. The whole process took roughly 30 minutes, and we were all set with a direct flight to Punta Cana.
The hotel did not have a shuttle, so I did a bit of research on TripAdvisor and settled on DAT (Domincan Airport Transfers). The trip cost $35 each way, and they were the #1 rated shuttle service on TripAdvisor with tons of 5 star reviews, so I went ahead and booked them. They met us right by the baggage claim and walked us to the nearby van, where they offered us cold bottled water.
They also were early for our pickup back to the airport when we returned. I highly recommend going with DAT if you’re visiting Punta Cana. The entire process could not have been easier.
Dreams Royal Beach Review
We arrived at the resort and got to check in in a special area reserved for those with Hyatt status. The staff tagged all of our luggage and set it aside to bring to our room. As we sat down to check in, we were greeted with fresh scented wash cloths and two glasses of champagne as the server said “welcome home!”
Immediately felt the 5-star luxury vibe.
Unbeknownst to me, we discovered we were going to have a personal butler assigned to us for our stay. My wife wasn’t objecting.
Our butler gave us a 5 minute tour of the property.
The pool that snaked around the property looked absolutely stunning. The grass was perfectly manicured…And there was friendly staff everywhere you looked. No shortage of employees here. The other guests all seemed to have big smiles on their faces, so clearly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
As you can see below, the room was big and luxurious. This picture only shows half the room.
The room included a king bed, mini fridge that was restocked everyday with water, beer, soda, and juice. As well as a private jacuzzi on the balcony. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time in the room, but it was big enough for my daughter to run around and play.
Overall, I was very satisfied with the room. Only complaint is that you could hear people in the hallway returning back to their rooms late at night, but I guess that’s typical at any all-inclusive resort.
Our room included free room service throughout the entire stay! We did not use this once, as we spent little time in the room.
The service here was phenomenal for the most part. When we were at the pool there would always be staff asking for our drink orders. Same on the beach. This resort was full of friendly staff always willing to help with a smile. At the restaurants, the service was slightly slow, but that’s fairly typical for a Caribbean island. They operate on island time.
They cleaned the room multiple times each day, which I’ve never seen before. If we took a nap with my daughter mid-day, they would clean the room in the morning and again in the afternoon. Really excellent service.
Tipping wasn’t always expected, as there were many Europeans there that weren’t as used to tipping culture. I brought a lot of $1s, $5s, and $10s. The staff was extremely receptive to my tips, and I believe that really helped me get stellar service. If you’re going to go to all-inclusives I highly recommend tipping when you receive good service to build rapport with the staff and get treated like royalty.
We did not expect a butler, but it certainly was nice to have. We were assigned a personal butler that we could ping whenever we wanted on WhatsApp. He immediately responded everytime and was super helpful. He even suprised us by bringing champagne and fresh fruit to the room when we we’re at the beach.
He also offered to help book any excursions and answer any of our questions. We ended up staying on property the entire time, so didn’t even need to use him for a whole lot, but it was certainly nice knowing that we had access to them if needed.
I wouldn’t pay extra for a room with a butler, but it was certainly nice to have.
The grounds were stunning. The grass was perfectly manicured, the bathrooms were squeaky clean, the whole place looked swanky. The small bridges over the lazy river, the palm trees, everything had a nice touch. Definitely a 5 star feel.
The pool was picturesque, and the way it lit up at night was absolutely stunning.
There were four different pool areas:
The main pool is a lazy river style pool that wraps around the whole property. We had an room on the third floor that included a jacuzzi, but if you had a room on the ground floor you had swim up access. The nice thing about this pool is that you could always find a private area where you could relax by yourself and avoid the crowds.
Swim up bar (by the beach). This was the rowdy swim up bar. The kind where they had some party games and some people would literally sit in the pool drinking the entire day. I did not spend much time here as I was with my wife and young daughter.
Swim up bar (by the lobby). This was a fantastic quiet swim up bar that was much more relaxed than the one by the beach. My wife and I enjoyed a glass of champagne, and they also brought a mocktail for my 2yo daughter in a champagne glass. Really nice touch.
Kiddie pool. They had a very shallow pool for toddlers and young kids. We spend a good amount of time here with my daughter and got to meet other families with young kids. This was a great way to meet other parents and we made quite a few friends that we were sad to say goodbye to, when we had to leave.
The beach was great, and as preferred guests, we had a private area where we could hang out. The staff came by to check on us often, and we were always able to find chairs in the shade. The beach itself was located in a big resort area, so you got to check out other resorts as you walked along the beach.
There were multiple security guards equipped with walkie talkies that were constantly monitoring the vendors and ensuring that all the resort guests were safe.
We thought that was a nice touch, and we were not concerned with our safety at any point throughout the trip.
Like most all-inclusives you can barely walk 100 feet without running into a bar. The drinks were made with mid-shelf liquor and they served Presidente beer (“Dominican Water”) on tap everywhere. No complaints here as we mostly just had the staff serve us drinks at the pool/beach, so didn’t spend a whole lot of time at the bars. They also had an indoor sports bar in case you wanted to catch a game. While the drinks were good, the wine at the restaurants was pretty bad (I’m a bit of a wine snob) but to be expected at these kinds of resorts.
The food was the only real disappointment here. Had the food been good, we’d probably come here once a year. Breakfast was fine. We ate at the beach front restaurant (that was exclusively for preferred guests) and had omelettes. We had lunch on the beach at the “Tides Grill” and usually just had a burger. The dinner was the big let down. Despite having several restaurants to choose from, the food was definitely subpar…Even for this caliber of all-inclusives.
Funny enough? Other people we met raved about the food, and said that was a big reason they came here multiple times. Maybe we’re just snobs. But I’ve certainly had better food at most of the other all-inclusives that I’ve gone to.
Really the only disappointing aspect of the trip, yet a pretty big one.
General Thoughts and Closing Remarks
Overall, this very a very solid use of Hyatt points and a fantastic trip. We felt like VIPs from the moment we stepped foot on the property. If you’re looking for a relaxing Caribbean vacation with excellent service, this is a great choice. As long as you manage your expectations with the food, you can’t go wrong.
I’m looking forward to coming back here at some point, but I’ll explore other resorts for my next few trips.
If you’re looking to book a similar trip with your points, please reach out in the Slack Group for help and suggestions.
Disclaimer: None of this is to be deemed legal or financial advice of any kind.