By Day 3, you will not want to drink anymore alcohol. But growing up in a Chinese household, I was taught that I shouldn’t waste anything and should always try to get my money’s worth where I can. Now, I’m pretty sure my parents were not referring to alcohol in that case, but the same logic applies here, right? If you want a pina colada in the pool, go for it! You want a bloody mary at 9 am with your ham and cheese omelette? You do you, boo. You’re on vacation! And chances are, everyone else is doing the same.
We stayed at the Bahia Principe Esmeralda, which was a 4-star hotel. What this means is that it’s better than average, but it isn’t great. If you’re willing to shell out an extra $200 or so per person, then you can get a 5-star hotel. But I wasn’t willing to do so because I was convinced that all these types of places are pretty much the same more or less. Plus, the Esmeralda was supposedly one of the nicer ones out of the Bahia Principe collection, so I was fine with that.
Here are some things you should know if you’re an all-inclusive noob, like me:
- Tips are included – but of course, it’s always nice to leave an extra tip. They accept USD at these resorts. In fact, I’m sure they probably prefer it since it’s worth more. We left a tip each night in our mini-fridge and each night when we came back, we found extra bottles of liquor and water.
- Make restaurant reservations – for Bahia Principe Esmeralda, their specialty restaurants were included in the all-inclusive price. However, you have to make a reservation. You cannot make a reservation prior to your arrival so make sure you make them once you get there, for all nights of your stay. I didn’t really understand this because for every single restaurant we went to, it was half empty. But the good thing about it was that we weren’t just limited to the restaurants at our hotel. We were able to dine at any of the restaurants at their sister hotels.
- You get a “butler” – for no extra charge. This person is basically your concierge. They can book excursions and cab rides for you. You should definitely opt for the airport ride because it’s generally cheaper than booking it on your own or calling a cab. It’s $18 per person for a round trip, vs. a $40 one way cab ride. The only annoying thing is that there are designated days/hours your shuttle representative is at your hotel. So if you can’t catch them, then you’re shit out of luck. We weren’t around when when our rep was there, and then we kind of forgot about booking a trip back to the airport. When we remembered, it was too late so we ended up having to fork out the $40 for a taxi, even though we had already paid for a round trip transfer.
- The food is just food – it’s not horrible but at some points of my stay, I felt like I was really eating just to not be hungry, and not because I actually enjoyed the food. They have a few buffets, which all serve the same food. The restaurants are a bit better but you’re limited to ordering one entree (which can be small), so we ended up ordering room service on some nights.
- Room service is included – and it’s 24 hours! Although after a certain time, you can only get certain items. Again, the food is just food, but it was a nice added service. There’s something about ordering room service that makes you feel like royalty.
- Bars and clubs are a part of all-inclusive – Ben and I went to a club for one night just to check it out and see what it was like. If you can avoid this, you should do so. Everyone is crowded around the bar, so good luck getting a drink. You have groups of guys (presumably for a bachelor party) standing awkwardly/creepily on the side. Then there’s your typical drunken bachelorette party girls dancing and falling all over the place. Plus the bathrooms are small and dirty. So really, it’s no different from any other nightclub – TERRIBLE.
When I was researching all-inclusives, I saw that some reviewers on Trip Advisor had stayed for 2 weeks. I really don’t know how they did that. What did they do for 14 days? What did they eat? Maybe they were able to venture into town, which is something that we did not get to do (but I’ll get into that later). Maybe I’m just not an all-inclusive kind of gal.