If you’re a Goosebumps fan, you might recognize part of the title from one of R.L. Stine’s most popular books, later turned video game and spin-off series. I have very fond memories of many a night torturing my sisters as they watch me play the ever so timeless Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland PC game (which is still excellent, by the way).
As I mentioned in our June 2019 Goals post, Brian and I decided to take on a new experience in May, which began as a neat thought to try out an all-inclusive resort. If you read our last goals post, you might remember that I alluded to a terrible trip…In case you were wondering, we absolutely did not exaggerate. It really was a Horrorland for us.
A New Adventure
Stressed and overwhelmed with contractor drama and a cluttered, unfinished home, we decided to take the plunge and book a long-discussed stay at an all-inclusive resort. The idea of an all-inclusive resort is that the food, drink, entertainment, and activities are all included in your booking.
We knew it would be a different kind of trip for us as we tend to be more independent when we travel. After consulting with Tripadvisor and our friends and family, we landed on the Majestic Mirage in Punta Cana.
When we travel, we find ourselves exploring off the beaten path. We stick to the local flavors, check out the dive bar scene, and roam around the great outdoors. We even maintain our work schedule for the most part. For this trip, we planned to just let go and try to relax: eat, sleep, and spend some time in the sun.
Having never been to the Dominican Republic, we did some research and learned that there are issues with scams and theft as a result of poverty and the constant influx of tourism. This didn’t totally phase us as this is pretty common with many other big cities out there.
What did throw us off a bit was the fact that there were quite a few reviews across a ton of Punta Cana resorts (including the one we chose) that involved the staff rummaging through personal belongings and breaking into safes.
After reading about these experiences, we opted to bring my little zipped tote to keep our electronics on us at all times. It wasn’t our favorite thing to have to keep in mind, but at least we were prepared!
While our trip was awful, our booking experience was just the opposite! Cheapcaribbean.com was able to book us a less expensive package than we would have on our own! Not only that, but when we called in to discuss the trip, the rep, Rudy was incredibly professional and friendly.
Rudy gave us a ton of transportation, safety, and overall Punta Cana travel information. He was very helpful and made sure we got all of the information we needed.
Finalizing Our Reservation
Through cheapcaribbean.com, you are able to book transportation transfers and excursions that might interest you! We skipped the excursions and just settled on the package deal with transportation transfers.
I wish I could say we waited in anticipation after we completed our booking…but alas, we were working up a sweat dealing with our cabinets, fighting with our contractors, and still trying to maneuver our way around clutter and the lack of a kitchen.
Late Night Arrival
After having been up since 5AM for work, we arrived in Punta Cana on a Wednesday night. Luckily, we booked our transportation to and from the resort. Our shuttle was convenient, safe, and efficient. We were wiped out, but excited and ready to enjoy our new adventure!
Interestingly (disturbingly?!) enough, our driver informed us straight away that we should NOT take out our credit cards for any reason at all. Apparently, credit card theft is HUGE in the Dominican Republic. He did warn us that if we really need to use our credit card, be sure that we have our credit card in view at all times. Another worrisome detail was that after every drop-off, each departing passenger turned around to tell the rest of us goodbye and to stay safe out there.
What did we get ourselves into?
It was past 10PM by the time we arrived at the Majestic Mirage. We registered that all-inclusive resorts generally have a very tip-heavy culture, which became painfully obvious to us when the concierge discovered that we only brought 1 backpack each and still very much insisted on carrying them. We refused, though made sure to express our appreciation.
Nonetheless, he walks us through much of the resort, showing us all of the restaurants and pointing out the bars, pools, and areas of entertainment. We arrive to our room and he makes sure to read through the list of menus, activities, and any other information laid out for us. Exhausted and hungry, we tipped him goodbye and ordered room service.
To sum up our late-night hunger pangs, we ended up going to sleep without much food in our system. Room service was handled by staff unfamiliar with their own menu. We gave up on it and ventured down to their “sports bar” around midnight. After ordering, we personally dealt with the waitstaff, followed by a chef who popped out from the kitchen, and then a manager who seemed confused by our order. Despite the items listed on their menu, they could not determine how to make the food and had to let us know after discussing between themselves.
We ordered wings, ate, and went to sleep…
To Our Hearts’ Content
With seven restaurants to explore, the resort makes an attempt to ensure you don’t have to go hungry!
Our first venture to the buffet resulted in a slight bit of a queasy stomach. Brian decided to eat some questionable, watery scrambled eggs. I took a quick browse and settled on a smoothie. While the smoothie was warm(??), it tasted fine and proved to settle fine. Brian, on the other hand, did not have an enjoyable morning.
Hungry and irritable, we found ourselves hoping for a better experience at the second buffet for lunch. It quickly became apparent to us that food for the masses was indeed the name of the game.
Rarely did we find find fresh food. The vegetables were lacking and the salads were wilted. The most popular stations were the fried options. While we were able to nibble, we couldn’t seem to fill ourselves up. It also did not help that this buffet was partially outdoors. Though the food was under a covered area, it was still humid and 80 degrees outside. Brian and I left hungry once more.
We tried one of their specialty restaurants for dinner, and again, we left unsatisfied. Over the course of the next few days, we agreed that while the specialty restaurants are better than the buffets, they aren’t anything like we would ordinarily eat if we were actually out on our own.
Coming to terms…
The food was seemingly very much geared to what the resort believed Americans favored – heavily salted, fried, and gimmicky. Meats were of poor quality, food was left out far too long, and many of the restaurants seemed to use the same kind of foods as the buffets.
Notably enough, we did read many reviews and met a handful of people at the resort who adamantly loved the food! I am not just saying they enjoyed it…they, in fact, went on and on about the excellent quality and quantity of all they could eat!
Brian and I were highly underwhelmed, and, if I am being honest – genuinely saddened, by the food offerings. We really did think that we would have trouble keeping the weight off of us in anticipation of the options and flavors we would get to dive into.
We had no idea we would constantly feel hungry and in serious need of crisp, fresh vegetables! The hands-down best kind of food we ate there were rice, beans, and plantains. We wish they offered more local options.
Brian and I usually don’t shy away from booze. I would say that we are pretty moderate in our drinking. We like to enjoy a drink or two, nothing crazy like how we might have been in our 20s!
You would think the staff were all part of some bizarre cult the way they push alcohol. Every single time we were out for any kind of meal or snack, we were hassled to get a drink!
They would not take no the first time and, sometimes, not even the second or third!
A constant barrage of “What would you like to get this party started?”, “Now, what can I really get you?”, “Water is all? Are you sure?” is what we we faced each time we sat down, even if it was for breakfast!
It felt really strange – No is no. We didn’t let it phase us, but it sure was disturbing.
The concept of having a butler is odd for us. If you stay at the Majestic Mirage, you are assigned your own butler. This is someone who takes care of your needs, within reason – oftentimes this includes booking your dinner reservations, seeing that you have what you need to enjoy your room or your trip, or even handling your luggage.
It was different for us in that we are used to doing things ourselves. A butler was unnecessary for us. We prefer to be left alone. We found ourselves uncomfortable with how much he appeared and engaged with us.
With no way to secure the room from the inside, we were constantly “checked-in on” by our butler and housekeeping. Not just once or twice, but 5 or 6 times throughout the day.
The staff always looked to “make your day better”. To us, though, their efforts mostly came across disingenuous. They were often looking for a tip.
We treated everyone respectfully and tipped in situations that felt right. You don’t want to rub someone the wrong way if they could possibly gain access to your room, you know?
I brought a small black clutch to test out the ‘rummaging’ theory. From reading reviews, I found many of them indicating that several guests have had their personal belongings rifled through in their rooms or when they did not have possession of their luggage. I placed my clutch in the night stand, and sure enough, it was not where I had left it before running out for dinner.
Before leaving the resort, we tried to watch one of their nightly productions. We left within 10 minutes of the show. It was a strange combination of solid efforts put on by cast members overshadowed by cheap tourism and its expectation to push for smiles upon smiles. I don’t know any other word to express how we felt other than it felt wrong being in that audience.
After talking with other guests, we found that they did not at all feel the way we felt. Many of them were very much in the “tourist” category and loved the atmosphere. They enjoyed the doting of the staff, spent the majority of their time drinking, and truly felt that they were part of a big family.
Where’s The Value?
While Brian and I learned that all-inclusive resorts are not for us, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t enjoyable or valuable to others.
Plenty of our friends and family have had a great time at these resorts. Each person we spoke to at the Majestic Mirage enjoyed themselves. People seem to like the conveniences of having everything at their fingertips.
You might enjoy the ease and simplicity of a single purchase that brings you your accommodations along with all of your meals, beverages, and activities. Perhaps you prefer to be catered to and would rather someone else do the heavy lifting. For those short on time and energy, I could absolutely understand the appeal of an all-inclusive resort.
Counting Our Lucky Stars
We arrived late on a Wednesday night and could not wait to leave by Friday morning. In full disclosure, we entered into this trip knowing that it wasn’t exactly our cup of tea, but we tried to remain as open-minded and upbeat possible.
While I addressed some of the more minor complaints, we did experience a handful of serious problems:
- The suites were not properly ventilated and smelled of mildew
- Brian suffered a bacterial eye infection
- After walking on sand for less than 10 minutes, I ended up with 16 sand flea bites that are still healing after nearly a month
- I was half-asleep on a bali bed while Brian was in the pool when a Majestic Mirage employee stroked my foot in passing
- My personal belongings were rifled through
We couldn’t wait to come home! After returning to the states, Brian went to the doctor, I treated my painful bites, and we stuffed as much salad into ourselves as we could.
In The News
Needless to say, we are so grateful that we returned home relatively safely. Two days after our homecoming, we came across a just-released story from a woman who claimed to have been beaten and left for dead at the Majestic Elegance Resort, the SISTER RESORT OF THE MAJESTIC MIRAGE located right next door!
If we had only known this information, we would have reconsidered going on this trip!
Ever since we have returned, a number of stories have been disclosed regarding dangerous situations, attacks, and deaths of American tourists in the Dominican Republic.
The most recent suspicious death of an American tourist occurred just last week. Dominican officials deny any kind of wrong-doing and are insistent that they have nothing to hide. Meanwhile, the FBI has sent in a team to assist Dominican authorities with toxicology tests.
Neither American nor Dominican officials have determined a connection in the deaths. Connected or not, many friends and family of those who have died have spoken out and confirmed that their loved ones had been in good health prior to their sudden deaths.
I could not imagine the tragedy of losing a loved one this way, especially when you believe they’re off enjoying a vacation.
It’s unnerving and completely terrifying to think that we could have been in that situation. Thank goodness we came home safely.
We tried it out. We won’t be back. Thank you for the lesson, Horrorland.