This review of the Secrets Royal Beach Resort in The Bavaro area of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic may surprise as many other reviews have been quite positive. Our experience was not entirely satisfactory
We had high expectations upon arriving as the all-inclusive Secrets Royal Beach as it is an adults only resort but it adjoins the NOW Larimar resort, which is a family friendly resort targeting families with tweens and teens. Secrets Royal Beach guests can use all the NOW. facilities ( restaurants, pools, bars, evening activities) but the NOW guests and their youngsters must remain in their own resort.
We chose this location to use three nights of our “free premiere week” in particular because we wanted to compare two different brands in the AMResorts family during a single trip to gauge whether it made sense to upgrade our membership in the Unlimited Vacation Club (more on that AM Resorts membership program at a later time in a separate review).
We were greeted cordially and treated very professionally upon our arrival at the front desk where we were immediately escorted to a special members greeting/check in area manned by Fernanda and Lucia who were lovely, and given a tasty fruit punch We were early and our room wasn’t available yet so I requested one with a king sized bed. (At the time I made the reservation, only a room with two beds was available. I had called the resort directly the week before to make an initial request for a king room.) Fernanda and Lucia sent us for a walk down by beach to come back around 2:30 when our room would be ready. To clarify, almost all of the rooms here are junior suites, identical in size and layout differing only in location on the property, building view and whether or not the have direct pool access. With the exception of the oceanfront, preferred rooms were also the same size. A quick glance into a preferred room hinted at a more upscale furniture style though the same layout.
Our first room #5103 was on the first floor building 5 close to the lobby. We were allegedly upgraded to a better room but an upgrade is clearly in the eyes of the beholder. Our “upgrade” was simply from a room with two beds to one with a King sized bed. Our “garden view” was of the back side of the raised concrete entertainment plaza. Because it was the first floor there was room on the grass, such as it was, for two loungers outside of our lanai which was furnished with a small table and two chairs along with the outdoor jacuzzi tub. The room furnishings and layout were average with a curiously small television in the sleeping area and not the suite “living” area containing the settee and minibar. Draperies don’t have have the plastic pull rod to draw them back consequently part of ours were off the track requiring a visit from housekeeping to fix. The handy mini bar was amply stocked with fruit juice, beer water. The room smelled musty which might be why incense was provided. The bathroom was the best part of the room with dual sinks, a spacious shower stall and a tiny but separated WC with bidet. Bathrobes were included but we found no slippers.
With a service closet one door down, the noisiest ice machine I have ever heard in my life and in the highest trafficked area of the resort between the lobby and the restaurants, this had to be the second worst room in the resort. With marble floors, concrete walls and ceiling this building has a hallway better described as an acoustic nightmare. Every little noise, from normal conversation to the wheels of housekeeping and room service carts was hugely amplified in the virtual echo chamber halls affecting all rooms on these hallways. Solid wood doors did absolutely nothing to muffle the sound of what at times sounded like a subway right outside the room. The first floor has to be the worst. I recommend rejecting any room assignment in the 51xx range.
After one night we begged to be moved, which we were, allegedly “upgraded several categories” to an identical room in the same poorly designed building but on the third floor #5351. The view of the serpentine swim up pool below was much nicer but the described “partial ocean view” must have existed when the palm trees were shorter. Acoustics were just as bad but much less guest traffic made the noise tolerable. Building 4 is a much better choice for accommodations as a single row of rooms adjacent to an open air covered walkway eliminates the echo chamber effect of building 5. Building 3 houses NOW guests and preferred quests of both resorts.
A nice surprise when returning from trip to lobby to make dinner reservations was a bottle of iced champagne and fresh fruit platter. Not sure if everyone gets one, or if its related to UVC membership. We indulged gratefully.
Evening entertainment on the first night was passable but not a great. Warm up events included mixup of acrobatics, poorly synchronized but high spirited dancing and live music to a curious backdrop of a random singer projected on screen rather than the actual performers, pretty odd. The main act was an acapella group allegedly from vegas. Wouldn’t pass as an opening act in sin city. They might have been decent but sound levels and speaker placement wasn’t good. Background vocals were barely audible and lead vocal not much better. In acapella voices serve as the instruments and in this case the “music” was barely discernible undermining what could have been an entertaining experience. We left Secrets and went to the adjacent NOW Larimar and enjoyed a high quality circus act.
We had our first dinner at the Japanese restaurant for tenpanyaki style dinner experience (reservations required) . Chef Orlando did a good job preparing flat top grilled fried rice, chicken, beef, grouper, vegetables and shrimp. Even though warned about food allergies, he was not consistently attentive enough so beware. The food was served with choice of red or white wine though when dinner companion requested salad, it arrived quickly. The grilled meal was prepared with copious amounts of soy sauce, oil, broth and butter-not a diet option for sure. Front ended with Udon soup and wrapped up with wonton wrapped and friend banana with cream. A nice meal and atmosphere. The second night we ate aka carte at NOW’s French restaurant Mercure. It was better than average with a more private and elegant feel and good service. Night three at Secrets Portofino was also better than average as was the service. Buffet style meals at the Riviera (Secrets) and Carnivale (NOW) offered a robust assortment of choices, running the gamut from inedible to good, and were replenished regularly. Cooked to order breakfast items were the best in quality and flavor along with baked goods. Occasionally unfamiliar food items were unlabeled resulting in being passed over. For those unfamiliar, it is wise for ladies to bring a dressier outfit (close toed shoes, slacks and collars for men) if you want to dine in the nicer restaurants.
The grounds were lovely and well maintained as were the beach and pools with an overall adequate combined seating capacity but as an all to common, and annoying behavior, early birds rise and claim prime poolside, and palapa seating by leaving towels and belongings. Floats for the lazy river were hard to come by and generally hoarded. One of ours was stolen during a brief absence. Very disappointing. Packing a small inflatable ring or noodle is smart but they are also available for purchase in the retail store. Bar service on the palapa beach was frequent and friendly. Cocktails seemed overly sweet and weak so order accordingly. Beer and wine being reliable options.
The Beach was wide with a nice fine grain white sand, but very busy, Numerous boats passed by continuously and helicopters frequently passed overhead. For a fee water sports were available along with free kayaks and small hobie sailing crafts. All-inclusive really doesn’t mean all-inclusive like in the old Club Med sense. Kayak and small catamaran free for 30 minutes, parasail, snorkeling extra charge.
The spa and gym facilities, located between the two properties, were adequate though a landscape blower disturbed the reverie of the outdoor serenity area during our visit. (Members are advised to bring membership cards to ensure discounts are applied as they were not automatic for our visit.)
In spite of the initial yet enduring negative impression associated with our first room, our overall experience was positive because of the service and the ambiance. Having access to both resorts was an added bonus we enjoyed being able to take advantage of. We did not like the idea of being excluded from “preferred” areas (one restaurant, a bar, private pool, small Lounge) and did not see justification for the added membership expense here but non members might enjoy the upgrade if the room rate differential is not too great. We were told, off the record, that this Secrets resort was ranked #15 out of 16 so maybe it is not a good overall example of preferred status. With so many other options available in the AM Resort family, we are unlikely to return to Secrets Royal Beach although the adults only atmosphere was delightful.
We will be writing more about the Unlimited Vacation Club program at a later time and we will link to it from this page in the future.
Review Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana
Visited: March 11-14, 2017
Note: One kind UVC member is graciously gifting us with one of their “soon to expire” VIP weeks so we can (pay the fixed rate to) visit and review another Secrets resort for this, our new travel website. We will happily accept additional VIP/Premiere week gifts if you are unable to use all of yours. We appreciate your support for our work!