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Reviewed 9 January 2012

Upon the death of my grandmother at age 97 my father decided to use some of his inheritance to take my brother, my sisters and all of the grandchildren to Cofresi Palm resort. He had been to other resorts in the Dominican Republic many times and wanted to expose the entire family, 16 in all, to the great tourist atmosphere he had always experienced. Cofresi Palm failed miserably to measure up to what my father hoped for.

The rooms were pitiful – small, dingy, and poorly lit. We had 5 rooms in the 200 building and one in the 500. Each room was supposed to have a stocked refrigerator. One was empty. One didn’t work at all and another was not very cold and ran very noisily. The thermostat in my room was nonfunctional. There were only sheets on our beds – no blankets. My wife, daughter and I froze the entire 1st night. There were no box springs under the mattress. I did not sleep well the entire week. My sister and her family of 4 were assigned a room with 1 bed. They called the front desk to change rooms and were told they would be called back. They never were. It was 10:30 pm when we checked in. They finally switched rooms with my Father. They were tired and wanted to get their 3 year old son and 6 year old daughter to sleep. There was a ribbon of lights which lined the bottom of the beds. There was no switch to turn it off. They found a custodian walking by about 11:45 pm and asked him how to turn it off. He could not figure it out. He got help from 2 other staff members and around 12:15 am they pulled the bed away from the wall and unplugged the light. They noticed a sewer like odor intermittently. The next morning we could see that there room drained to a septic tank. Every time anyone in the 200 building used enough water the odor would be stirred up in room 20213.

The next morning we attended the orientation meeting. Dominique from Nolitours was pleasant and informative. Following the presentation a few of us spoke to her. She had to give another talk and referred us to her partner in the tour office. Another patron spoke to her first complaining about the quality of her rooms. She stated the advertised 4.5 star rooms did not even qualify for 2 star, due to among other things, a musty odor and dirty curtains. She was told to come back at 3pm for a possible room change. When it was my turn I agreed with most of the previous complaints and told her of my freezing night in the tropics with no blanket and a non-functioning thermostat as well as the malfunctioning and under stocked refrigerators. She told me that the resort was under new management as of a month ago and carefully recorded my complaints. I asked her where I could get drinking water being in an all inclusive package. She asked if we received bottles of water in our room refrigerators. I responded that we did receive 2 bottles in some of the rooms but hardly enough for an entire week. She looked me straight in the eye and asked “Can’t you take the empty bottles to the bar to be refilled.” It was then I understood what we would have to deal with for the remainder of the week. She also suggested we come back at 3:00 to see if different rooms were available. My sister-in-law and I decided against this as not to make my father feel bad.

There was a small army of men in white shirts offering a tour of the Crown Villa area. My father took a ride with Hector who told him an immediate upgrade was available for our group with a purchase of a time-share for an additional $10,000. These men pestered us every day of the trip. Had they been used instead to staff the hotel I believe we could have had a wonderful time as the facilities have the potential to be high-class

Of the 6 or 7 bars in Cofresi palm never were more than 2 open at once for our package often staffed by only 1 bartender. There was a pool bar close to my fathers room that remained closed the entire week. The buffet was very limited and some of the selections were handed out in small portions by the staff. 4 in our group lost a day to illness likely caused by this food. The best meal we had that week we paid for at a nice restaurant a short walk from the resort. The last day we had breakfast at the Cassiblanca. The food was just as bad. The birds who kept stealing pastries from the didn't seem to mind. I guess the food was for the birds!

Restaurant reservations were clearly rationed. We were not allowed to make reservations until 9:00 am the day of service. Each day there was a long line at guest services at this time. Owing to the fact that I could not sleep due to my uncomfortable bed I decided on Wednesday to line up early. I was 1st in line around 8:15am. A pleasant young lady named Indiana opened the door around 8:20 and took my request for internet access for the 1 computer that worked in the room and casino vouchers. She explained to me that she could not take dining reservations until 9:00am as the computers would not accept them until that time. I said that was fine and waited with some other guests who were lining up for reservations. We all commiserated our similar stories of inadequate service. Around 8:50 am after a line behind me stretched through most of the lobby, Indiana said she was ready to take dining requests. My 1st 2 choices of restaurants were closed that evening. I chose the Italian restaurant and she informed me that there were not enough tables and I would be put on a waiting list. Unsurprised at this point I requested 7 chairs which she informed me would be verified between 4:00 & 6:00pm. She did not enter this information into a computer. She recorded it on a paper list. It is clear that she is to wait for a long line to form in the lobby in order to discourage patrons from eating at the restaurants. When she does begin taking reservations there are none to be had even for the 1st in line. Around 5:45 p.m. a voucher for 4 seats was slipped under the door of my room. I was 1st in line and only received a portion of seats I had asked for. These went unused only because my sister after requesting a room change due to the odor and high traffic was offered a room across the hall which represented little improvement. After multiple meetings with hotel staff she was left in tears in front of many of them. They did make an effort to offer some preference by giving our group the reservations I was unable to secure.

The staff was courteous, worked hard and was always quick to answer questions and send you on your way. Occasionally they even gave you a correct answer. I give them a lot of credit for attempting to keep up with the demand. None of the staff we had spoken to had worked at Cofresi for more than a few weeks. It was becoming clear they were thrown into a situation with inadequate resources and knowledge of their surroundings in a blatant attempt to offer poor service as an alternative to better service offered for people who bought into the time-share program. The previous staff had been purged. They might have actually been able to take care of us. When went to the Crown Villa complex we had to avoid being run over by the VIP’s in golf carts. I also tried the beer in 3 different Crown Villa bars. Something was not right about it as it tasted as it had been diluted with seawater.

When my father spoke to the tour rep at the end of the week she believed we supposed to have been housed in the 300 or 400 buildings which are newer and larger. She wondered if the staff had made an error checking us in. It seems more likely that this was Intentional. We heard that the 200 buildings had just recently been re-opened after not being used for some time.

I have read some reviews of Cofresi on Trip Advisor. Many of them were very satisfied owing to the fact that they had paid as little as $11 per night for a room. For what we received, I would say that is a fair price. That, however, is not what my father paid out of my Grandmother’s life savings. Nolitours and Cofresi Palm did NOT provide the service that my father purchased. I complained via email to the hotel and the tour operator and received no response.

This place is a trap. Do not waist your money here. Do not deal with Nolitours. We talked to some guest that had returned here because they had a wonderful time at a wedding here a few months ago. The new management has destroyed this beautiful resort in an effort to sell time shares. They will not last long. There will be no repeat customers. There are many other fine resorts in this beautiful country worthy of your money.

Room Tip: 400 building
  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled with family
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4  Thank mike m
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 January 2012

Just returned home from a 1 week stay at Cofresi Palm Beach and Spa Resort. First of all, there is a class system. Gold bracelets (time share), 2 bracelets (upgrade or something) and Chameleon (3rd class) (* no staff member of the resort will explain to you what the difference is, you have to find out on your own*). When we booked our trip, our travel agent had told us that this was an excellent all inclusive resort. We made sure we had access to everything the resort had to offer, and we also had this confirmed, or so we thought. We ended up with the Chameleon bracelets, which allowed us access to only a small % of the resort. There were beaches we were not allowed on and restaurants and bars we were restricted from. The rooms were terrible. Broken fridges, mould, bugs, terrible service (with the exception of the restaurant and cleaning staff) We were also told that we could have as many a la cartes as possible. Wrong. Guests who did not have "VIP" (gold bracelet) status, were forced to line up every morning at 8 a.m at the Guest Services office to have their names put down on a WAITING LIST, with the small chance of actually getting a good meal. The alternative?, a sub-par buffet that served the same food every night. Watch your step!!!!!, the entire resort features path ways, patios and stairways made out of limestone and cheap tile which when wet turn into slip and slide nightmares. Numerous people were walking around the resort with bruises, cuts and even crutches after suffering serious falls. A member of our group slipped walking down a stairway, hurting their leg pretty badly and the staff didnt even make an effort to help.

Deffinitly not worth the money spent. The Dominican Republic is a beautiful place to visit, the excursions are a blast, and the culture is very eye opening and inspiring. But save yourself a huge headache and do your research before you plan anything. Im sure if you want to spend the money to be VIP then the experience would be different. But why be forced to have a vacation that is limited because of a class system? AVOID!!!!!!!!!

Room Tip: Spend the extra money and get at least a Junior Suite.
  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled with friends
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6  Thank J P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 January 2012

January 8, 2012

RE: Vacation December 30, 2011 – January 6, 2012, Grand Ambar Puerto Plata

Dear Nolitours,

The purpose of this letter is twofold. First and foremost it is a formal complaint of the vacation service you provided us. Second, it will act as a review, which will be posted in as many travel forums as I can find to warn travellers of this resort and Nolitours service. We were a group of 5 – my sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and myself.

First of all, this resort is not called Grand Ambar by Lifestyle; it is called Cofresi Palm Beach Resort and Spa, and is part of a huge complex called Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Club (LHVC); much more on LHVC to come. Nowhere on this resort is there any indication that the resort is called Grand Ambar by Lifestyles, I have no idea why Nolitours continues to call it by an incorrect name.

This resort is not a 4.5 star resort as classified by Nolitours. Based on the poor service and plethora of issues I cannot recommend this resort to anyone. Please head my advice and save your hard-working money for a different place. I must also warn you to stay clear of Nolitours. Our problems at this resort started the second we entered the lobby. We arrived at 10:30 p.m. and just anted to get to our rooms to freshen up and get some rest after a long day of travel. We entered into one of two lines, 30 people deep, to check-in. When we got to the desk we received our room key cards. I asked to purchase safe keys and was told I had to see the cashier. The cashier was the guy to the right who was currently checking people in and had a line of 30 people deep. I said I just waited 40 minutes to check in and now I have to get in that long line to get a safe key?” The response was yes. I waited another 40 minutes to buy our safe keys.

Getting to our rooms 1.5 hours after arriving we were appalled. We had two rooms and they were right beside each other. I contacted the hotel directly myself a month prior to ask for our rooms to be close. I also noted that we required two double beds in each room and I was assured that this was booked. Upon arriving to our room building, we had to go downstairs – yes, our rooms were in a basement! There was a massive pool of water in the hall and it was seeping under both doors. We entered our rooms and there was considerable amounts of water on the floors of both rooms. One of our rooms had one bed only. We were supposed to have beach towels in the rooms upon arrival – there were none. We were supposed to have welcome bottles of alcohol in the rooms – there were none. One room had only one bath towel (for 3 people). The same room had no toilet paper, the toilet bowl was tapped together, and the sink had a hole in it – water leaked to the floor when you turned on the faucet. One room was so very musty and moldy smelling. Both rooms had no tv remotes (needed to operate tv), no irons or ironing boards. We called the front desk and demanded to be moved right away, as our rooms were not acceptable. We were told that this was impossible because the entire resort was full and not one room was available. We were told we had to stay there the night and we might be able to move in the morning. We were told our bath towels, beach towels, remotes would be sent down, a maid would come and clean up the massive amount of water, and a new bed would be brought down right away. An hour later a single mattress came and was jammed into the room directly on the floor. Nothing else came and the water was never cleaned. After three more phone calls of complaints we decided to just get some sleep and get everything else sorted in the morning.

We awoke in the morning and called reception right away to remind them that none of our problems had been sorted and that we needed to change rooms. We were told we would not know anything until at the earliest 4 pm. We had showers in cold water (no hot all week) and three people used the same bath towel to dry. Yes people, three people had to use the same bath towel at a 4.5 star resort! After breakfast we went back to the room to pick up our beach towels – they still had not arrived. I went to the beach towel hut and asked for 5 towels, I was told I could only get beach towels by exchanging old ones or submitting towel cards. I told him I have nether – towels denied. I went to reception and waited in line for 30 minutes and asked for my towel cards. I was told the towels are left in the rooms. I explained that we did not receive beach towels and that I had already called 4 times to get them. I was told that they would be delivered to my room and I had to wait. I lost it and told the guy I wanted my towels now. To avoid any further scene he handed me over 5 towel cards. At least now we could go to the beach and enjoy the day before hopefully being moved.

We went to the Nolitours welcome meeting and met our Rep. named Dominique. She was the most brutal tour representative we had ever experienced. We explained all of our issues and she told us to complain to Nolitours, and not to her! I was absolutely dumbfounded at this response. She also explained that it was New Years Eve and that she was leaving early to party and we should not expect much Nolitour service that day or the next. She was a complete joke!

We went back to reception around 3 pm and we could move in an hour. We went to our dungeon rooms and packed all or belongings. Reception gave us our new room keys and off we went to the other side of the resort. Upon entering our new rooms we had one bed in each! Are you freaking kidding me? What part of two beds don’t you understand? We moved again to two different buildings and were finally in two rooms with two double beds each. This was 8pm on New Years Eve! Our safe locks did not work in the new rooms as they were a different size – we had to get that sorted. It was one complaint after another, waiting after waiting, and being treated poorly during our entire week at this resort.

Other notable issues:

• Had hot water one day only and it was luke warm at best (and it was at 10 pm in the evening). We never had hot water for morning or dinner preparation showers.
• Never received our welcome alcohol bottles.
• Mini fridge was only refilled once. Only had bottled water twice during the entire week.
• Never received irons in our rooms.
• Our room was never cleaned prior to 5pm. On most occasions the maid was attempting to clean our rooms while we were getting ready for dinner. In most cases we used dirty towels to dry. As a result our rooms were never really fully cleaned. We complained about the late cleanings every day – it was never resolved except for the day of checkout when they wanted to kick us out of our rooms right away.
• Two power outages during the week for several hours each. One at 8 in the morning while getting ready to leave for the day. We inquired about each outage and were told that they are doing repairs at the resort. If you planned the outages for repairs why did you not inform guests so that they could plan around this?
• I have had better buffets at 3 star resorts. Very limited selection and limited wait staff.
• Unable to book A la cartes all week. Told to come back at 9 every morning to book. We did this every day and were told they same thing each day: “all full.”
• Nolitours states that you have a separate check-in as being a part of their Cameleon Gold Club – not true! This resort is Nolitours exclusive only. No other tour companies go there.
• Nolitours says you get $50 in free Casino money with no restrictions. You actually get only $50 per room, and can only get $10 per day – so you have to go back 5 times, 5 different days to get the full $50. You also have to take a taxi to the casino as the resort will not shuttle you there and the ride costs you $7. Once at the casino you can only use the $10 on a limited number of tables and slot machines. What a complete Joke!
• The line for guest services was at least 40 people deep every day. Every person we spoke to had a complaint about many different things. When we got on the best to go back to the airport on our last day the tour guy asked how we enjoyed our trip – the entire bus booed!
• We booked the Paradise Island Catamaran trip. My niece and nephew were so looking forward to this. We were to be in the hotel loppy for 8:15 am as the bus left at 8:20. At 9:20, Dominique (Nolitours rep) comes in and says its cancelled for the day. Our trip will be postponed until tomorrow. We go back on Thursday morning and wait at 8:15 am. At 9:30, Dominique comes in and says, it’s cancelled – 6 feet high waves today! Trip postponed until tomorrow. We are leaving the next day so ask for a refund. The family goes down to the pool and my sister waits in line for 45 minutes to get refund. Dominique comes running back and says the trip is on and the bus is here. I thought there was 6 meter waives today? She tells my sister to go get everyone. She says no and waits 30 minutes more for the refund.

As I stated earlier, this resort is a part of a much larger complex called Lifestyle Holiday Vacation Club (LHVC). This is basically a vacation club and you must pay considerable money to become a member. In addition to the Cofresi Palm beach Resort and Spa, the complex has another resort right beside it called The Tropical, and we were allowed to use this resort as well (bars, restaurants). The rest of the complex is villas, presidential suites, junior suites and other LVHC member residences. Basically this company uses the Cofresi Palm and The Tropical as people factories – once you are at one of those resorts they attempt to sell you a membership package so that you can use the rest of the complex – what they consider the VIP areas of the complex. The VIP areas are everywhere and you can only use them if you become a member. At the Cofresi Palm there were VIP pools, VIP restaurants and bars, and even VIP areas on the beach. No one can use these unless you are a member. This complex has a two-tier level of service – one for regular users and one for VIP members. If you are a VIP member (and have the VIP gold glitter wrist band on) you are treated like royalty and go anywhere, if not, you get second class service.

The LVHC sales people are like sharks all over the resort and they hound you every single day! From the moment you enter the lobby to the minute you lave they will be pitching they virtues of VIP Membership and trying to get you to go on a 4 hour sales tour and meeting (they say its only 20 minutes). You can become a member by paying $60, 000 down, which allows you to become a villa member for life (40 years). This means you can rent a villa (3 bedroom house) as many weeks as you want for $999 each week. You must also pay $60 per day, per person, for the all-inclusive package – without this you do not eat or drink. It also gives you access to the VIP areas of the resort. The sales people where white shirts that say “Only tell your best friends about us” on the back. Stay away from them and do not speak to them. They will hound you in the lobby, it from of the buffet, in the buffet, at the bars, at the pools, on the beach. They will try to talk to you and sell you 50 times a day! Shame on Nolitours for being the exclusive tour operator at sales factory!

This was the worst vacation of my life. I was only relaxed when I finally got home. Our week was filled with complaining and waiting and moving and complaining and waiting. It was the most stressful and un-relaxing week of our lives. I hate this resort and want to warn everyone about going there. Again, save you hard-earning dollars and please go somewhere else. Shame on Nolitours for advertising this dump as a 4.5 star resort!

Lastly, I would like to ask Nolitours how they are going to rectify all these problems for me and my family? We work hard all year to spend a considerable amount of money on a vacation that does not meet advertised expectations and even satisfactory levels of service.

I eagerly await your direct response.

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled with family
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4  Thank bizeducator
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 January 2012

There are three classes here. Gold bracelet [time share] 2 bracelets [upgrade] Chameleon bracelet [Lowest class]. We were 3rd class. You get the oldest smallest rooms[smelly].You can not get into the a la cartes even after standing in line to book. The wine for us came in a 4 litre jug and was not drinkable but gold members had wine from bottles. Our drinks were in plastic glasses where gold had glass, when I asked for glass they said we don't have any and it was right there. You are constantly harrassed to buy time shares. If you have trouble with stairs look out. Breakfast and lunch were okay, supper was horrible. It was not a good experience. The two other couples we went with felt the same. The place is under staffed. Our Nolitour rep said she was getting lots of complaints about the place.The pools and beach were good.That was the only positive. Would we come back here? NEVER AGAIN.

  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled with friends
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8  Thank Maggieaggie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 January 2012

First of all the review below from Toronto is pretty much right on. Me and my husband have never gone through Nolitours and will never do it again because their rating systems needs some serious attention. We travel all over the world and this hotel and it's services/rooms that were offered to us we're not 4.5 star. Maybe 3 although our original room and other services were a 2. So do not overpay just do your research and book a real 4.5. Even the Nolitours rep in quite a rude manner recommended the Iberostar to other travelers in a way that made the rep unapproachable and completely unhelpful. Cameleon Gold basically means you will be treated like a poorly at the resort! Be aware--Noli will not provide the supposed cameleon gold services we were supposed to get. By poorly I right away am telling you that the hotel runs on a three tier system: nolitours (biege bracelets at the bottom of bucket), VIP-better atlests you get the better drinks and food at restaurants, and shareholders who are treated like gold, if you arent VIP or a shareholder expect to be treated really badly because you aren't part of the "family of lifestyles". Here are a few things to watch out for if you decide to book this (which I hope you haven't yet). 1. Restaurants have VIP nights which you can't book....even the chefs think this us unfair since they are not even half full at those times. The restaurant booking system goes like this: stand in line at 8:30 (Normal standards for most resorts) but here is the kicker...you will not get a time or a reservation yet. You get put on a waiting list and if you are lucky you will win the lottery and by 4pm get the ticket in your room with a time slot they give you., 2. The room we got the first day which was a "superior room" was disgusting (I will post pictures later to show you what to expect). I cried my way out of the room which I could barely sleep in and couldn't shower in as there was no hot water and it was like a one star dirty room. They moved us to a different room but hot water was rare and the AC was broken but at least we had cleaner (not clean) sheets and a bathroom that was durable. 3. You may have to ask for towels etc...you may not have them in your room. 4. If you want go to the "Nolitours special BBQ" however, just know that we didn't want to do this and I tried to book a restaurant and was lied to twice by guest services saying restaurants are closed (they weren't this one one instance during which we were lied to due to our bracelet colour). The BBQ is aweful and it's all based on a contract Nolitours has with the resort. The line up was huge and we left it and fought our way into an a la carte. 5. Time share is what VIP means so if you want SOME better services be ready to open your wallet and commit to years of using the "lifestyle" family services. Not to mention the time share guy that approached us once was really nasty to us trying to tell us that If we don't do the tour he doesn't get the ten dollars to feed his baby. (I would rather give him my ten bucks than thousands). They also called us mean when we walked away saying no thank you. 6. The buffet in Cofresi is garbage--go to Casablanca in the Tropicana resort but get there early. They regularly run out of food, cutlery, and seats. 7. If you like wine buy your own and bring it. My husband who normally doesn't drink wine tried it and laughed calling it air conditioner coolant lol. The chef we befriended said he wouldn't even cook with it lol. As for us we found a store and bought wine regularly to go with dinner. 8. Drinks-Nolitours claims international and domestic-try worse than any alcohol you will ever consume. Seriously, there is good booze but again buy your time share to try to get it. 9. The nice beaches you see in pictures with pretty beds etc-again time share VIP only. 10. Just about everything at this resort was about a 2.5-3 star so if you are looking for a nice hotel with good service and that is actually a 4.5 or higher pay the hundred bucks extra and go to the Blu Hotels area or the Bahia or Iberostar. This place is a just lacking. Through all our travels through Cuba, DR in past, Mexico, Costa Rica, and even around the world this place is a joke. Never again Nolitours and in the lifestyles saying "tell it only to your best friends" I'm telling you even though you aren't my best friends-go somewhere else-trust us. I'm not trying to be mean or nasty...I actually haven't mentioned MANY other issues because they are similar to the previous post but just trust the bad reviews. We have never seen so many unhappy people with us at a resort and I hope more people post their opinions because it would be unfortunate for more people to get a vacation like this.

  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled as a couple
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7  Thank Blawatka
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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