from Long Island, New York
Submitted on 17-07-2016
My wife and I have been members (we purchased a time share) of the Viva Vacation Club for close to twenty years. We have our "home" resort in the Bahamas, but over the years have also visited their two all inclusive sister resorts in Playa del Carmen Mexico called Viva Maya and Viva Azteca, the resort on the north coast of the Dominican Republic in Cabarete called Tangerine, and this past month finally got a chance to stay at their two side by side resorts in Hibaque, Dominican Republic called ...
My wife and I have been members (we purchased a time share) of the Viva Vacation Club for close to twenty years. We have our "home" resort in the Bahamas, but over the years have also visited their two all inclusive sister resorts in Playa del Carmen Mexico called Viva Maya and Viva Azteca, the resort on the north coast of the Dominican Republic in Cabarete called Tangerine, and this past month finally got a chance to stay at their two side by side resorts in Hibaque, Dominican Republic called Dominicus Beach and Dominicus Palace. For years whenever we were at any of the other resorts, we would hear people talking about these two places and there was never a bad word said about either one, so we were especially excited to finally get a chance to try them out.
The all inclusive resorts in Hibaque are open to anyone that wants to stay and you don't have to be a member of the Viva Vacation Club in order to get accommodations. Most people that have visited places like this are probably familiar with the concept. You get a wrist band that indicated to the staff that you are a guest and are entitled to whatever amenities the place offers without having to pay extra for anything. Now, first off, I have to say that because we are members and not simply vacationers we were treated a bit better than just your average guest that books a stay here. From the start, upon check-in we were given wristbands of a different color, that said VIP on them. Our room had a bottle of wine and fruit platter waiting for us, we had complementary water and drinks in a mini fridge in our room that were restocked daily and the resorts had special areas of the beach, and dining areas cordoned off for VIPs that were attended to by waiters that would offer to bring you drinks and make sure we were happy with our stay. Usually, on our stays at other Viva resorts, my wife and I, our kids, and any guests that would be visiting with us normally take part in the active goings on around the pools and interact all day with the 'animators' that work there and organize games and entertainment. This trip my wife and I came by ourselves and we were ready for some quiet R&R and felt that our usual activities with aqua-cize classes and volleyball and water games would have to wait for other trips. And with the VIP areas of the beach further away from the hustle and bustle of the pool areas, this worked out perfectly. These areas were far enough from the active zones to be much quieter. The music and public announcements playing over the loudspeakers could be heard, but they were in the distance. The gentle sound of the constant breezes and the small but breaking waves provided heavenly background for lounging on very comfortable chaises under the thatch covered umbrellas or fabric covered outdoor beds all sheltered by the gorgeous palms overhead. Every so often a waitress would come by to ask if we wanted anything to drink. We did not have a care in the world except to decide on the type of drink to have, whether to go for a dip in the ocean, or decide where to have a meal.
As stated earlier, there are two resorts here. On some of the travel sites we had read that the Dominicus Beach was newer, larger, a bit livelier and anyone that likes to party would most likely like it there. The Dominicus Palace, according to some reviews was a bit more dated, smaller, a tad more intimate, and was more conducive to a quieter stay. Thinking we would like a newer place, we tried to book a room at the Beach resort only to be told that it was all sold out and the only rooms available were at the Palace. Having now stayed there, we were very happy it worked out that way, because the Palace did end up being a little more sedate and relaxing. The reviews stating that it was dated were completely unfounded and the grounds of both resorts were absolutely stunning with an abundance of greenery, flowers and interesting landscaping everywhere you looked. Food served buffet style at either of the hotel's dining halls was available to us as well as the three or four main outdoor bars and snack shacks that served pizza, hot dogs, and fries. A comment about the food; Having read many internet reviews of the Viva all inclusive resorts that complained about the quality of the food and then having personally experienced the fact that most of their resorts serve good, nutritious and varied food but perhaps not prepared to a five star quality, we were a bit nervous as to what to expect here. Our first meal on our day of arrival had us very disappointed in the Mahi-Mahi which was overcooked to the point of being almost inedible. We looked at each other and said that hopefully this was a one-time exception prepared badly and not indicative of what we could expect at every meal for the next seven days. Luckily, we were relieved that it had been our only bad meal experience the entire time we were there. We alternated between the two resort dining areas, and found the varieties of meats, fish, vegetables and drinks to be very well prepared and extremely tasty. We were never at a loss as to what to choose to eat because there were many, many choices of entrees, side dishes and desserts. The fresh pineapple and mango were to die for. Usually, the Beach property had a bit more in the way of choices offered probably due to the fact that at twice the size of the Palace (over 600 rooms vs over 300), and twice the number of people they felt that a greater amount of variety would work better. The dining halls in both places are very airy, but the Palace hall is practically outdoors and has completely open exterior walls that are covered with bird netting, while the Beach hall is larger, contains large windows that are permanently open with bird netting over them, so the air doesn't move around the space quite as freely as at the Palace. Personally, I liked the Palace vs my wife who preferred the Beach which basically tells you that it's a toss-up.
Both resorts in addition to the buffet style dining areas had multiple "restaurants" that the guests could frequent simply by going to the front desk and putting in a reservation for a particular meal. These had tables where one would sit and be served by a waiter or waitress rather than helping themselves at a buffet and seemed fairly well frequented. There were restaurants that served Mexican dishes, Asian fare, Continental Cuisine as well as Italian. We did not try any of them for one reason only and that was that both my wife and I prefer to pick and choose our meals from a buffet so that we can try many different items at each meal and take less or more of whatever we choose. At a restaurant, we figured once you ordered a particular dish, you were stuck with it whether it ended up being to your taste or not. So I cannot testify to the quality and flavor of the foods served at these places.
Having stayed at other Viva resorts, we have also come to enjoy the "shows" that the animators (staff) put on for the hotel guests each evening. The Palace, despite also having a fairly good sized stage did not offer any live evening entertainment, but all the staff efforts went into a nightly show at the Beach resort. So guests from both resorts would gather for a nightly 9:45 show at the Beach resort theater which probably sits some 600 or more people, is equipped with the latest in audio visual aids and the large stage is backed by a tremendous Jumbotron LED display that is used to great effect in the production of the various skits, dance numbers and productions. These kids work all day at making sure the guests are entertained with Bingo and beach games, sports activities and then at night put on fabulous song and dance routines that they have practiced. The level of talent perhaps is not up to Broadway standards, but consists of many very talented people that try extremely hard to keep everyone in the audience laughing and applauding. One young entertainer put on a show that was a tribute to Michael Jackson that in my opinion was as close as anyone will come to seeing the real King of Pop! Fabulous!
Because both resorts get visitors from all over the world, we were amazed at how many languages a lot of these animators spoke. The MC one night exhibited working knowledge of Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, and Portuguese. All of the staff at the hotel speak Spanish, that being the language of the Dominican Republic, but we were amazed at how many spoke English and other languages as well. And speaking of multi-nationality, we were surprised at how few US visitors there were at both hotels compared with some of the other Viva places we have stayed. Perhaps it was just a coincidence to the time of year, or perhaps both Dominicus resorts advertise more heavily in Europe than in the US, but Americans were certainly in a very small minority here. Mostly Italians, Germans, Dutch, and Spanish. Yet with Americans being so few in number, we were very deeply touched by the attention the 4th of July (being US's Independence Day) received from the staff. They played the National Anthem over the loudspeakers in the morning, while raising the American flag along with the Dominican flag and had all sorts of activities during the day commemorating the US holiday. That evening, they put out a huge American flag near the main swimming pool along with large sculpture of the letters U.S.A. and an eagle painted in red, white and blue. With so much anti-American sentiment being displayed in many parts of the world it was nice to see Dominicans alongside so many foreign visitors cheering the US flag and holiday. Not something we expected.
The beaches at both the Palace and the Beach resorts were lovely. The water, crystal clear and warm. One could literally stay in all day if it were not for the danger of sun-burn. On our previous visits to other Viva resorts, we had only to stop by the beach sports shack to borrow free masks, snorkels and fins for peaking at the local fish and coral, but were disappointed to find that those items were not available for borrowing at these two resorts. I happened to bring my own mask and snorkel figuring I'd use the hotel fins, was out of luck and had to snorkel without fins. All that equipment is available of course for the side excursions that were available to guests for a fee, where they would take snorkelers and scuba divers out to specific areas to dive including a number of ship wrecks, but snorkeling off the beach was not available. And in truth, compared to say the Viva resort in the Bahamas, where there is a true coral reef within swimming distance of the shore and perfect for snorkeling, there was no such reef in the Dominicus area and about all I saw with my own equipment was a few fish and a young Moray eel hiding in a small, solitary outcrop of rocks.
A note about internet, Wifi. Wifi is available throughout the two resorts. It was free for us but from what I was told non VIP guests must pay for the service. From what I could observe during our week there, most people must have paid for wifi because everywhere we looked, in every possible place throughout the resorts, people had their noses stuck in their I phones and tablets. It was laughable to see two people sitting at a dining room table, not speaking to each other because each was pre-occupied with their phone. Entire families of six or seven people all immersed in their phones at meals without a single word being spoken. During the evening shows, some people did not even watch what was happening on stage because they were too busy recording the live show with their phone or tablet. Even in the ocean, you didn't have to wait more than a minute to see someone with a selfie stick or with their arm stretched out taking photos of themselves. I could not help but shake my head at such hypnotic enchantment with this technology. Each to his own, but to be sitting watching a beautiful sun set over the water in the peacefulness of the evening and look around to see person after person walk to the water's edge, turn their back to the stunning view and do the selfie salute is in my opinion a little odd.
Overall, we had a wonderful time, can't wait to go back and are looking forward to visiting this lovely place again with friends and family. The hotel desk staff was extremely friendly and helpful, the maintenance people always had a smile, and although we saw numerous groups of visitors being taken on a tour of the hotels with the obvious goal of selling them time shares, we were never bothered or approached by reps trying to get us to upgrade or extend our ownership. This may have been due to our different colored VIP wrist bands but the push to sell seemed genuinely more low key here than what we have experienced at some of the other all-inclusives. This place definitely gets two big thumbs up from us!