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Reviewed 14 May 2005

This is a very short review of our experience April to May 2004 which is why we are re-visiting this year for 3 weeks.
Our operator was Thomson and we flew from Gatwick into Puerto Plata.
Flight - no probs.
Tourist Cards - buy them in adavance from the Dom Rep consulate and fill them in before you go or you will have to buy and fill them in when you land. It took me ages with 6 cards to fill in and the heat did not help.
Hotel - Was dissapointed to start with as it was raining when we arrived. Check in was very quick, was taken to our rooms. Very happy with them, they overlooked the hotel gardens. I chanced my luck in the 2nd week asking for 2 Poolside rooms and they happily moved us.
We found the Restaurants relaxing (emphasis on not being hurried to eat up), and food was never a problem either by choice or health. The waiting staff were so friendly.
The Hotel grounds were well kept.
The Beach had been attacked by a storm and we were told it would build itself back up again, do not know if it has or not?
We were advised by the tour reps it was safer to stay inside the hotel complex. What a load of rubbish. Crafty way of taking your money i'd say. We have 4 children and took them around the town and had no problems that we felt threatened by.
Enjoy this hotel, go with the right attitude and be polite and you will have a fantastic holiday.

  • Stayed: April 2004
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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24  Thank 01152013f
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
owen sound , ontario
115
Reviewed 13 May 2005

My husband and I stayed at the Casa Marina Beach...loved every minute of it!...Great food, great people and the hotel was everything the reveiws said it was...(positive reveiws), true about the basic rooms, and also true about the wonderful character of the resort. I loved the fact that the resort is in the middle of the town of Sosua...we stopped by the Playa Dorada to pick up fellow tour goers and I noticed the lack of character. It felt like it was a huge complex.. Casa Marina, feels like a private dwelling and the attention is more personal. OUr room was way at the back , overlooking the street /sports bar. Some people might not find that to their liking, but we found it added to the flavour of the atmosphere. A chance to see how the people of the island reallly live. The grounds were immaculate, and the staff were wonderful. Even though we didnt' bring our children, I noticed the staff kept children busy and happy...I will definatly take my kids back there. The shows were incredible,, the young people are beautiful and all very talented performers...I cant' think of anything negative to say...and I think that if you are so concerned about missing American Food, maybe you should go to Florida!...

  • Stayed: April 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
15  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
Boston, MA
114
Reviewed 9 May 2005

We have just returned from a 6 day stay at the Casa Marina Beach Club. I thought I did my homework in reading a lot of reviews regarding this resort but not one review mentioned the entrance to the resort. When we came up on the gates to the entrance I thought we were in the wrong place. I had read past reviews in which a writer stated not to get a room under the 1000 numbers. Boy were they right! We checked in and was given room 143 which was on the 4th floor. It was like being in a dark closet. Very basic room. The problem I had with this was that it was so close the the street that I heard the stray neighborhood dogs barking all night as well as people making noise outside of the building. We requested a room change first thing the following morning and even offered to pay for an upgrade. The guy at the front desk told me to come back at 2PM with our luggage. When we did this we were told to sit and wait because there were people in front of us. NOTE: If you speak spanish you'll be all set. I noticed a lot of the spanish speaking guests were cutting in front of people who didn't speak the language and it was really irritating. After sitting there for almost an hour I went back over to the guy I originally spoke to and he didn't even remember that he had just talked to me about changing rooms and then told me there were no rooms available!!! There is a girl at the front desk who is totally rude and I was tempted to tell her off but it seems that if you make any waves at this place they hold it against you. I found the front desk initially to be ok but as problems came up they couldn't care less what you wanted and acted as if you were putting them out by asking for anything. We were eventually moved to another room after much discussion that was on the ground floor and opened to the middle pool which was a much better room but our slider never locked and that was another nightmare trying to relate the problems to the front desk. They sent someone in to fix it but we realized the following morning at 5:30AM when we heard a bang and someone had opened our slider thinking they were going into their own room. We couldn't even make them understand what had happened. Basically we kept anything valuable with us because we knew anyone could just open the slider and come in to the room.

Also, bring your own wash cloths. They don't supply them there and hopefully you don't really care about shower pressure because there is none. I basically took a couple of showers outside at the pool area because it would have taken me about an hour just to wash my hair inside. Before we went out to the beach one day we left the empty toilet paper roll on top of the closed toilet seat so the housekeeping staff could see we had NO TOILET PAPER. When we came back after being out all day the beds were made, there were clean towels and the EMPTY TOILET PAPER ROLL was still sitting on the closed lid. I couldn't believe it. We had to steal a roll of toilet paper from one of the bathrooms and then call the front desk (again) to ask for toilet paper. It just seemed like it was one thing after another. We had no water jugs in our room and when we asked at the front desk (again) we were told to either buy our own water or go to one of the restaurants or bars and ask for a gallon which we then had to lug around with us.

The food is very basic. This was the first trip that I actually went on that I didn't gain any weight when I came home because the food was just so so. We didn't have any problems booking the restaurants. I thought the mexican restaurant was good and well as the italian restaurant.

Alcohol is soooooo watered down. The wine is like drinking water. I've been to other all-inclusives and usually this is the case but not as bad as this. We were ordering drinks for the first couple of days before we realized we had to ask for rum to be added to the drinks!

The pools, landscaping and ocean are the saving grace of this resort. Once you left your room and started going toward the reef side, it was like being in another resort. Thank god for that. There is another beach to the far left when you are facing the water. Its beautiful and very few people are at this beach probably because the stairs leading down to the beach are very steep and you need to be extremely careful in going down and up but its worth it. The spa tubs are awesome but I saw some people letting their kids bring floats in to them once or twice during the week I was there. Not enought room for that.

This is definately a 3* resort but I guess I didn't expect the service and rooms to be in as rough shape as they were. Would definately pay the difference and stay in a nicer place next time. The reefs, spas and pools and general view was 4*. Very beautiful.

If you are expecting helpful service and nice rooms you need to go somewhere else. The people working in the restaurants and bars were ok but the front desk was ridiculous!! Wouldn't rush back to the dominican republic.

  • Stayed: May 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
14  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 May 2005

Ok...I went with a group of friends (23-30 years old) for spring break this year because we are grad students and wanted something quieter than most spring break locales. We booked the hotel after much examination of this website and others, so we were at least a little worried. We could not, however, have been any happier. It is not a 5 star resort, but for the money, we sure did not feel as though it were a two star. This resort was well located in the Sosua area, it was full of great people, and the food was great also. We never had to wait over a few minutes in any of the bars.
A couple of "heads up" things, though, (1) the staff is courteous, but can sometimes be argumentative. This was where we primarily felt as though the resort could use improvement. Again, though, what do you want for the price? Besides, a firm tone will get you what you want. (2) Remember that the waves at the beach are a bit dangerous! I am a muscular, young 23 year old, and they were knocking me over regularly. (3) As far as tours, don’t do the "Mels" or the ones that are inside the resort, unless you want to do something like the monster safari, etc. A group of 6 of us basically took the itinerary from one of these places to the cab stand in Sosua and hired a cab driver to shuttle us around all day to the places for what it would have cost for just one of us to have done the "tour." Plus, if you want to leave early or do something else, you have that flexibility. (4) Take some Imodium. It didn’t hit me until the 4th day or so, but when it did, it was bad...so always be prepared, and remember that the food isn’t the culprit, it’s just your sensitive stomach.
One more thing, arguably the most important. If you do go into Sosua, and how could you not, go by the karaoke bar on the corner and ask for Fred. He is the nicest gentleman (American, too!) in Sosua, and he will set you up well. Even if you don’t like karaoke, he will take care of you and he is a real treat just to talk to. Also, eat at La Puntilla de Pergiorgino. It is pricey, but great for your last night. Ask for Buffalo Bill and his special desert drink. You wont be disappointed.

  • Stayed: March 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
8  Thank emeade1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
A TripAdvisor Member
New York, NY
118
Reviewed 4 May 2005

After reading all of the Internet reviews about Casa Marina Reef/Beach, my friend and I arrived in the Dominican Republic in April '05 expecting to have a wonderful week. We were really surprised at what we found. To start with, our room was a real dump (we were on the Beach side). It smelled musty, had peeling paint and there had obviously been no basic maintenance done on it for a long time. There were cigarette burns in the bedspreads, the towels were torn and looked like rags, the air conditioner didn't always work, and if we wanted to take a shower (forget about taking a bath in that tub!), we had to turn on the hot water at least a half hour ahead of time - and even then it was only lukewarm sometimes. The door to the room was extremely hard to close, and the door to the terrace sometimes stuck when we tried to open it, and yet the locks on both doors were disconcertingly flimsy.

It had been raining for several days when we got there, and the place has no covered lounges or places to hang out when it rains (as most resorts do). We met several very unhappy people who told us that since there was no place to go when it rains, they had been in their rooms reading or watching TV for several days. One British man commented: "This has been the worst holiday of my life."

Reception: we found the staff at the reception area to be indifferent, unresponsive to questions and complaints, and extremely unhelpful. There was no orientation of the place, not even a map to tell you where various facilities were. Despite a sign claiming they exchanged currency, the reception staff was at a loss when we paid the $15 (U.S.) cost to get a key for the safe in our room with a $20 (U.S.) bill. They couldn't make change.

The food: Well, actually I wouldn't call it food - it was often inedible, the kind of "mystery" food that they serve in public school and hospital cafeterias. Quantity never makes up for quality. Everything is cooked with lots and lots of oil and is very greasy. And one morning they even ran out of milk! In the 2 buffet restaurants, even though there are lots of servers around, we usually had to scrounge up our own coffee cups, silverware and water glasses (that is, after you found out where they were kept). Some of the male staff -- waiters and a time-share salesman -- really overstepped the line. It became quite comical in the mornings, as we responded to come-on lines with remarks like: "Thank you, but I'd like some leche for my café."

We ate at the resort's Mexican restaurant one night and I am still searching for a word to describe how horrible the food was. We didn't have the guts to try the other restaurants - why bother? (And, by the way, getting reservations at the Mexican restaurant wasn't easy. Although we had been told that you had to make restaurant reservations for the evening between 9:30 and 11:30 of that same morning, our alleged concierge told us the restaurant was booked solid for the next two days. We couldn't resist walking by that night to check out the situation -- it was far from full.)

Water: The tap water isn't safe to drink, but it was not easy to obtain bottled water. None is supplied anywhere near the rooms - you need to have your own large bottle, and keep going to the bars to fill it up. When we first checked in, we asked about the water and were told by a man at the hotel's reception/main desk we could get it at the bars or we could buy a gallon at the little gift shop. I guess he saw the appalled looks on our faces when he said we would have to buy our own water, because he then gave us 2 gallons (which we had to lug around to keep filling up). "Are you happy now?" he asked us -- as if we were making his life unbearably difficult.

Excursions: Again, given the reviews we had read on the Internet, we had booked several excursions with Martin Espinal of Isaira Tours. We really enjoyed Ocean World (swimming with the dolphins was great, and the sea lion encounter was very popular) and climbing the Damajagua waterfalls. However, our guide for the Puerto Plata tour and the waterfalls was so-so, and neither he nor Martin bothered to tell us that at the waterfalls you have to be escorted/helped up the waterfalls by a separate guide, who of course expected to be well-tipped. The brochure said "some swimming skills are advantageous," but never indicated that you needed to swim pretty well to make it from cavern to cavern, and also should be wearing a bathing suit and water shoes. Many tourists came unprepared and opted to wait at the start of the waterfalls because they just weren't physically able to climb the falls or didn't have the proper shoes or a bathing suit.

We also chose to do the Gri-Gri Lagoon/ Playa Grande tour. However, on the day we were to go, there was some big government-tour guide meeting, so Martin said he would send us with one of his drivers, but not a guide. And, in addition to paying the cost of the tour, we would have to pay for the boat at the lagoon and for lunch (both are included in the usual tour). Martin said that the lagoon was really nice, so we figured as long as we were there, we should do it. Big mistake. First the driver took us to a "fruit plantation" that is part of the tour - this was really a little farm with a few fruit trees. And then of course there was a store where it seemed we were expected to buy something. The Gri-Gri lagoon cost us 800 pesos for the boat and it was quite a rip-off. You go through some mangroves for a few minutes, and then into the open sea to the "Cave of the Swallows" - it barely lasted 20 minutes, not the "hour trip" as described in Martin's brochure. While there is the opportunity to swim, that of course would have cost extra. After the lagoon, we went to Playa Grande, which was beautiful, exactly as we had envisioned beaches in the Dominican Republic to be (the beach at Casa Marina is not very nice, although the resort's pools are clean and attractive). Martin's driver arranged lunch, but as we did not expect to get ripped off, we did not ask the price beforehand. Well, we should have - they charged us $32 for 4 baby lobsters (with one bite of meat on each one) and a fish. We wanted to pay part of the cost in dollars and they made up their own exchange rate (advantageous to them, of course)! When I told Martin about our disappointment at the excursion, he just blamed us and seemed disinterested. Given the amount of money we had paid him for our various excursions, we were very surprised at his attitude and feel that we were taken advantage of. Then he wanted to charge us $25 to take us from the hotel to the airport. When I told him that the hotel only charges $20, he told me that the hotel would put us in a big van. But this was not true - the hotel just ordered one of the taxis that sit outside the hotel.

Casa Marina Reef is located in the city of Sosua, and we did walk into town a few times on our own. We were harassed by the local gift shop owners, who are incredibly aggressive, and some of the locals made sexually suggestive comments. However, we found a very nice jewelry store, Patrick's Silversmithery, which has amber and larimar at very reasonable prices. (If you're interested in jewelry, the Amber Museum in Puerta Plata has some nice stuff, although some of it is overpriced.) But the vendors who set up tables at the resort were so aggressive and obnoxious that we stayed away from them as much as we could. They accost all passers-by, which can be something of an ordeal if you're not thick-skinned.

Overall, Casa Marina Reef is not a place that we would ever go to again, or recommend. I have no doubt that there are wonderful resorts in the Dominican Republic where you could have a wonderful vacation, but it is definitely not here.

18  Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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