Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
Before this press trip to the Dominican Republic, I had never before tested the so-called "todo incluido" or "all inclusive" formulas. Nor had I ever stayed in a large, standard western-style hotel on a tropical beach... Now I know, and this kind of thing, even star-ridden, is not for me.
When I say "it's not for me", I mean for my "real" travels. The ones I normally do during my holidays, on my savings, with my good old bag and in complete independence...
Careful, eh, I'm not complaining about being invited to star hotels in the Caribbean! That would be downright indecent...
No, it's just that it's the first time I've discovered, very concretely, the tourism industry in all its "splendour". That I'm enjoying a stay that doesn't resemble the ones I usually prepare for myself.
It's a shock, necessarily ... ????
1. The bracelet
First, there is the blow of the bracelet. You are adjusted around the wrist at the check-in.
This precious sesame gives complete freedom inside the gilded cage and allows you to enjoy meals and drinks at will. The dream? Not necessarily.
Between the "continental" buffets and the Italian restaurants, it is difficult to eat "local" in these hotels. It was only at the very end of my stay that I managed to taste the lobster I was dreaming of...
Yes, I've worn four bracelets in one week! We changed hotels every two days... My preference goes to the Barbie style in fluorescent pink plastic, very flattering on the tan at the end of the stay, and to the ethnic look with string and wooden medallion.
But to tell the truth, I would have done well of this kind of ornament. I do not like being badged, stuck, and even less during a time dedicated in principle to relaxation, carelessness, oblivion, far from the usual shackles ...
2. The colonial helmet
When a scissor stroke finally delivered me from the bracelet, at check-out time, in the lobby of one of those big hotels, I couldn't help screaming: "I'm free!!! Liberada!!!!" This made the wearers weary of the inevitable colonial helmet.
By the way, is this damn colonial helmet really necessary? I guess so, it must be something the customers like, some kind of exotic fantasy. At every resort we've been to, the luggage guys were wearing one...
Good. The bracelet, the helmet, passes again ... But it's not just that.
3. Huge resorts... far too big!
In fact, what I do not like at all these huge resorts is that it takes a lot of time to get from your room to the reception, from the reception to the bar, from the bar to the beach, from the beach to the restaurant.
We even give you a map, at the time of check-in, to help you find your way, so it's great.
At each new hotel, I got lost. Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds of rooms in different buildings, several restaurants and bars, conference and entertainment rooms, up to three-four pools, or even two receptions, shops, not to mention any spa , casino, lounge, disco, etc.
In short, better not to forget something in his room. It takes at least ten minutes to find the path, plus another ten minutes to retrace his steps. And five good extra minutes, if we planted reception or restaurant, compared to the appointment.
One of the journalists in our group had a pedometer. I would have to ask her if she took the time to calculate how many kilometers she did in a day, without even moving from the hotel.
OK, OK, it's too big. Pass again ...
4. Artificial decoration
The other thing is that it lacks authenticity, necessarily. Everything is artificial, built to suit Western tastes.
There's a very American side to Disneyland, with the themed restaurants (Italian, Asian, romantic with red hearts everywhere), the "dream" décor, the activities and entertainment organised on the beach. Not forgetting, of course, the indispensable television in the room, equipped with all the comforts.
There is even more "romantic and exotic" for lovers: marriage. on the beach…
All these resorts are legion in the Dominican Republic. They look like small, secure residences, surrounded by beaches. The atmosphere is quite fake.
Around, in the field of vision of bracelets wearers, the environment is also treated. White sand beach with guard in uniform, well blue pools well disinfected, sumptuous gardens with exuberant vegetation, sometimes with a flamingo basin.
Every morning, employees climb trees prune branches and coconuts that could hurt someone in their fall. Others line bags on the sand, where they pick up debris and other debris from the tide to deliver a clean, immaculate beach to customers.
Okay, the coconut palms and the beach are domesticated. Pass again ...
5. Tourist enclaves cut off from local life
But the most annoying, in my eyes, is that in this type of establishment, we stay between each other. We do not have contact with the locals, other than the staff. In short, we only frequent other Westerners in need of sun and azure sea.
Of course I'm in. And I enjoyed without sulking the happiness of lying there, on one of those superb beaches, facing the waves of the Caribbean or the Atlantic... I would have the bad grace to pretend that I didn't enjoy it. On the contrary!!!!
But, how can I put it... When it comes to sunshine and tropical exoticism, I'm a bit of a spoiled brat. All this, thanks to my favourite formula: dry flight + backpack or wheeled bag, far from the "all inclusive".
I've walked on a lot of almost deserted beaches in Asia and I don't go a year without seeing coconut trees. During my holidays, I often manage to find modest, but comfortable bungalows, with "sea view" and almost nobody around. Take a look at Islander Paradise on the island of Siquijor in the Philippines, or Island Retreat on the Togian Islands in Sulawesi.
So, inevitably, I taste in a very relative way the charm of a beach full of deckchairs and red people shining with sunscreen, where we can not even hear the surf because of the noisy sound of an aquagym class or the roar of a parasailing outboard ...
6. I want wifi!!
To continue on the Schtroumphf grogon and spoiled child mode, my worst nightmare in all these sumptuous hotels was the internet. Despite the so-called luxury of facade, only one out of four offered the wifi self-service in the lobby. For others, I struggled between connection code to buy at an exorbitant price, computers configured with an impossible home browser, mandatory Ethernet connection while I forgot my cable ...
And as all these hotels are often eccentric, we are supposed to find everything we need without the need to go out, difficult to escape to make a trip to the neighboring country to find an internet center ...
Yeah. I've been through a lot, haven't I?
Good go. I stop doing the wrong thing. I admit, I had a wonderful week. Now that I'm back in the winter greyness of Brittany, I realize it well ...
So, all-inclusive or not?
In short, the torments and joys of "todo incluido" will be experienced differently depending on your temperament, depending on what you expect from your holidays...
The formula will suit those who just need a break in the sun, without having to worry about anything, and who do not aspire to anything else. Comfort and idleness!
As for those who appreciate independence, like me, and who wish to go more to meet the country and its inhabitants, they will have every interest in organizing themselves, by focusing on small pensions and family hotels.