Tuesday, September 6 – Saturday, September 10, 2011
Yes, we know. We have a pretty spectacular life. We were fortunate enough to be able to give up our jobs for this cruising lifestyle, and obviously don’t have the same pressures as someone with a 9-to-5 job back home. Still, that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy a few days away from the boat sometimes!
Our Luperon friends who’ve spent a year or more in the DR have been telling us about an all-inclusive resort near Puerto Plata that often offers super deals during the low season…as in “$10, $20, or $30 per person per night” type of deals. The first time the resort offered $10 pp/pn deals, ten cruisers went. The second time it happened, the group got up to 14 people. This time, the offer was $19 if you booked early enough, $29 if you waited. We ended up with 19 people in our group - 17 cruisers, plus two friends of Deana's and Troy's from Houston. Just think of it…for under $160, Rene and I were able to enjoy as much air conditioning, hot showers, a “real” bed, food, and drinks as we wanted…for FOUR DAYS! It was incredible. Seven members of our group took the motorcycles to the resort (a 45-minute ride), and the others squished into a van with all of the luggage. We arrived at the resort around noon, were greeted by froo-froo drinks at the bar, and got our white wrist-bands that allowed us to enjoy the all-inclusive part of the vacation. From there, the group split into those who wanted the full buffet lunch, and those who wanted to try the sushi at the VIP beach. Big surprise, we went with the latter. We hadn’t had sushi since our Houston trip in December; this wasn’t as good as Redfish in Houston, but it wasn’t bad!
Lunch was followed by a lounge on one of the beds and a dip in a hot tub at the VIP beach. Picture this: over fifty beds arranged in the sand on a spot above the beach – some stationary on stilts, some swinging from cables – all complete with white canopies and curtains on all four sides to block out the sun as needed. Amidst the beds were unheated Jacuzzi tubs where you could cool off while sipping on a drink brought to you by one of the many waiters milling around. Hungry? If you didn’t want to leave your bed to go to the sushi bar or the buffet, you could order a sandwich, burger, salad, or chicken wings and have lunch right in your beachside bed. This was the sort of place we’d only seen in magazines. It was amazing to experience it in person!
So how many of you figure there must have been some kind of a catch to such a terrific deal? Well, you were right. Lifestyles, besides being a luxury resort, is a timeshare property. Our friends who had been here before warned us to beware of the runners in white shirts and radios poised on their hips. These were the guys who would shanghai you after breakfast and escort you to the timeshare office, where you would then be turned over to one of the turquoise-shirted sales staff. We’d heard timeshare-presentation horror stories from friends on other vacations, and dreaded the thought of losing half of a beach day sitting in a conference room listening to the spiel. Us? Skeptical? You’d better believe it. Still, we figured we could be polite, especially when our salesman-slash-tour-guide, Harold, introduced himself and led us to a golf cart for a tour around the property. We got to play “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, as we were shown one of the four-bedroom villas (complete with chef and private pool), a presidential suite, the super-exclusive “Serenity Beach” (complete with hammocks, 10’ canopied, pillow-strewn beds, and a slew of cute wait staff), along with a bar and restaurant for members only. We had to admit, while we certainly didn’t consider ourselves resort or timeshare people, we were curious. At the end of the property tour, Harold asked us if we wanted to talk more about it or be on our way with a polite “no”. To our surprise, we found ourselves following him back to the office for a chat. We talked about the different options, and realized that their program might actually be something from which we could benefit. There was no “one or two week per year” restriction, no tie to a single property, and no annual maintenance fees. Pay one start-up fee, and use it as much or as little as you wanted to at any of their 4500 destinations. You’d pay when you used a property – the equivalent of one to two nights’ rental for a week at the property – and that was it. Now you all know how analytical Rene’s mind is; he crunched numbers and looked for any possible downside. We even walked away for 24 hours to talk more and think about it. In the end, we decided that it was a great fit for us. With so many properties in the Caribbean, our families and friends could come down to visit us and not be restricted to the boat. We’re all too aware what hotels cost down-island, and this offered a much more affordable alternative. And when we give up the boat someday to RV around Europe and the US? More places to stay! Bottom line, consider this an invitation. We keep telling everyone to come visit us, and now we have an option for those of you who aren’t comfortable staying on a boat. No more excuses! :-)
So we only thought we were getting royally spoiled before we signed the papers. Once we became official members, they cut off our white bracelets and gave us gold VIP bracelets that let us into the restricted-access beaches, pools, bars, and restaurants. Better yet? They upgraded us to the two-bedroom presidential suite and gave us a golf cart to get back to the rest of our group. We even got two extra gold bracelets so we could bring another couple with us to share the suite. Decisions, decisions… We knew that Deana and Troy wouldn’t want to leave their friends who were visiting from Houston, so Pat and Lucy from Illusions moved over with us. What a blast! We checked out the local pool and private beach, and toured around on the golf cart before joining the rest of the group at the VIP beach. Dinner that night at the Mexican restaurant was so-so, but our dinner at Simply Gourmet the next evening was fantastic. There's already talk of trying to get a bunch of couples into a villa for a few days. We are soooo coming back to this resort next month!
Enjoy pictures here.