The Dominican Republic: Virgin Mudslides and Montezuma’s Revenge: Part 2

Where did I leave off yesterday? Oh that’s right, we had just gotten to our hotel in the Dominican Republic. First off, have any of you guys ever been to the Caribbean? I went down through several different islands (St. Thomas, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Dominica) on a cruise a few years back, and while I always thought the resort areas were nice, beyond their borders the poverty levels were shocking. I guess white sand beaches are only important if you can, y’know, feed your family.

Anyway, this time around I was totally sure that it would be 100% different and everything would be nice and beautiful because…optimism. I think you guys can see where this is going. Turns out the Dominican Republic is just as poor as everyone else! But that’s ok, because we drove straight through it without stopping on the way to our lovely all-inclusive resort.

Enough about the plight of others. What, do you think this is a blog about humanity? Nope! Our resort, which was called “Lifestyle Tropical Resort,” was a huge, sprawling mass that encompassed 10 other, smaller resorts. I guess the Lifestyle brand is worldwide, which was fairly obvious considering most of the guests there were from the far reaches of the world: Australia, Ecuador, Canada, etc etc.

The resort gave us each a wrist band, which seemed really cool to begin with, since they were marked with a large VIP and clearly meant we were something special. Then, a friendly Dominican guide showed us to our room, which was decent, something I’d expect from a 3 star hotel in the Dominican Republic.

However, we soon came to find out that these wristbands were not quite as special as we had thought, and that actually being marked VIP denoted us as the lowest tier of guests on property. What did this mean?

NO ACCESS TO THE ICE CREAM SHOP. WE WERE REBUFFED FROM THE CREPE STAND. AND- WORST OF ALL- WE WEREN’T ALLOWED INTO THE SPECIALTY WHISKEY BAR. David returned to our room, crying.

Seriously, though. While being at an all-inclusive resort was nice, having different levels of access certainly made us feel…less than. Guests would be hanging out with each other, making small talk, while trying to glance surreptitiously at each other’s wrists to see what level of membership each person had. (The people who owned timeshares within the resort were obviously the highest tier) It was like a caste system at an all-inclusive resort, and we were at the bottom.

I know, these problems are so first world.

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David suffering his life away

So what’s the point of being at an all-inclusive resort? Obviously, to eat and drink as much as humanly possible. You guys will then be disappointed to know that I was on antibiotics and thus prevented from drinking alcohol. David, however, suffered from no such compunction and managed to drink enough for the both of us. The resort is littered with bars and filled with generous bartenders who, I kid you not, straight dump liquor into your glass while winking knowingly at you.

So it was with great confusion that David ordered a “virgin mudslide.” The conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’d like a superextrastrongalcoholic drink and one virgin mudslide.”
*pause for a beat*
Server: “a what?”
David: “yeah, a virgin mudslide.”
Server: “…you mean a chocolate frosty?”
David: *shamefully* “…yeah.”

That’s how you know a man loves you. Let me tell you, I slurped those things down like there was no tomorrow. They were delicious!

We didn’t do much during our time there, so there isn’t much to write about. However, we did get to try some awesome food at dinner time, and we spend a significant amount of time in the cabanas at the beach. Those were awesome.

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So tilt. So art. So cabana.

But did you guys know that November is the rainy season in the DR? Us either, which meant that 3/4 days we were there, it poured off and on all day. That meant the cabanas were frequently soggy (no one else minded because they were all plastered).

And! One day we got stuck in a rainstorm on the way to dinner at the *authentic* Dominican food restaurant. The whole resort was flooded, and remember how I said it was totally sprawled out? Well, you have to use their resort shuttle system to get around, but the water was too high to get through. I mean, the cars in the parking lot were under almost 3 feet of water. We did manage to flag down a delivery van, and crawled into the open back (no seats, just a metal floor) despite the driver’s protests. Then about 8 other people saw what we were doing and climbed in too, including a very drunk, very old woman who didn’t realize I wasn’t her granddaughter until 20 minutes in. I’ve never been held so lovingly by a 90 year I didn’t know.

Ok, one last story from the resort and I’ll finish up with this part, because seriously guys WHAT THE HELL. Have you guys ever heard of a huntsman spider? I hadn’t either. Here’s a photo of it:

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Shortly before this man died a tragic, spidery, death

Well, on our last night at the resort, we were eating at an open air Mexican restaurant (the food throughout the resort was actually really good), when all of a sudden, the couple at the table next to us stood up, freaking out. We were waiting on our dessert to be served, and I turned to ask the girl what was going on.

“There’s a spider!” she shrieked, pointing wildly in the direction of her table. Now, I would just like to pause here and note that I am not afraid of spiders. David is, and I have to crush them all around the house because he flails like a big baby at them.

But then I saw this spider. It was finished with their table, and instead ran over to ours, skittering across the tabletop like a huge, hairy omen of death.

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THIS WAS BASICALLY US

It was at this point that I got on my chair and started shouting. David, frozen with fear, gaped at the spider and refused to move. A waitress came rushing over, and when I hysterically described the spider to her, she shook the tablecloth a few times before declaring that the spider was gone.

Besides, she said, “it’s harmless, like a big kitty. ”

She then brought me a jack and coke, to calm my nerves.
Thanks, Dominican Republic.
-Carissa who is miraculously still alive

The Dominican Republic: Virgin Mudslides and Montezuma’s Revenge: Part 1

Time for another trip review! Today we’re going to talk about our jaunt over to the Dominican Republic, what went wrong, what went right, and how to do it better next time.

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The idea for the trip started like many of my others. There I was, innocently scrolling through my Facebook feed, looking for videos of baby kittens when- what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a travel pirates post with the deal of the year!

So of course I had to get it. What was it, you ask? Oh, no big deal, just a four night stay at an all-inclusive resort for $88. No, not per person. Just $88. Who wouldn’t buy that?

David always knows when I’m booking travel because I’ll always call him up all innocently, like:

“Hey David, what’s your passport number?”
“Why?”
“Oh, you know, just…wondering.”

For some reason he doesn’t believe me. Anyway, I booked the hotel and then set about looking for ways to get to down to the Dominican Republic for free. I mean, I didn’t want to spoil my $88 vacation rate by purchasing airfare.

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It turns out that flights down to the Dominican Republic cost an arm and a leg, but luckily, I had some reward redemption tricks up my sleeve to keep costs low (free).

Since the vacation started right after Thanksgiving, David and I were going to be up in D.C., so rather than flying all the way back to Augusta, we stopped off in Atlanta for the night before hopping rewards flights down to Miami and then across to the DR.

Atlanta happens to be one of those cities where even the expensive things are cheap in comparison to the rest of the country. This is evidenced by the fact that staying in even the nicest hotels, such as the Ritz-Carlton, will only set you back $150/night.

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Photo of the year award right here

Now, another perk that the American Express Business Platinum (and regular platinum) have is something called the ‘Fine Hotels and Resorts’ program, where you book through Amex’s travel portal and receive extra goodies, such as 12pm check in, 4pm check out, room upgrades, free breakfast and a $100 credit for food and beverage (or a spa, if your hotel has one.) The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta qualifies for this program, so I went ahead and booked through American Express’ portal in order to get those awesome benefits. Since our flight was super early the next morning, I opted to have room service delivered to the room for our breakfast. The free breakfast credit covered up to $60 worth of food.

Those savvy readers here will see that, very quickly, my $150/night hotel was actually costing me negative money to stay. I got the room upgrade, checked in at 10am, and spent a wonderful evening with David eating steak at their super fancy restaurant. All told, it cost me -$10 plus whatever you value all the upgrades and stuff at. (Since they gave me $160 worth of free food and drinks). Not a bad start to the week!

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Our 5am spread

I then spent 15k Delta miles each for David and I to fly round-trip to Miami. After taxes, our flight cost was $22. (We used miles earned from the American Express Delta Platinum card, whose sign up bonus is currently 50,000 miles). When looking to book those flights at cash value, the cost was around $500/person.

We rose early the next morning, caught our flight, and landed in Miami with several hours to spare. We used those extra hours to head to the American Express Centurion Lounge (more on that later) for free food, drinks, and massages. After that, we boarded our flights to Puerto Plata, using reward redemptions from British Airways (earned using Chase’s British Airways Visa card, whose sign up bonus is currently 50,000 points). In total, it cost us 15k points each and $200 for taxes and fees. The cash value of these flights was around $700/person.

So! After an early flight and many hours in the airport, we finally arrived to our hotel. It seemed fairly nice from the offset, not super extravagant, but I figured for $88 there wasn’t anything that could be too awful.

Foreshadowing.

-Carissa the Ridiculously Tanned in Winter