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 tried the "todo incluido" or "all inclusive" formulas. I had never stayed in a big hotel standardized to western standards on a tropical beach... Now I know, and this kind of thing, even with stars, is not for me.
When I say "it's not for me", I mean for my "real" trips. The ones I normally make during my vacations, on my savings, with my good old bag and in total independence...
Mind you, I'm not complaining about being invited to starred hotels in the Caribbean! That would be downright indecent...
No, it's just that it's the first time that I discover, very concretely, the tourism industry in all its "splendor". That I am enjoying a stay that does not look like the ones I usually plan.
It's a shock, necessarily ... ????
1. The bracelet
First, there's the wristband trick. It is adjusted around your wrist at check-in.
This precious sesame gives you complete freedom inside the golden cage and allows you to enjoy unlimited meals and drinks. A 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 put on four bracelets in one week! We changed hotel 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 could have done without this kind of ornament. I don't like to be tagged, and even less during a time dedicated to relaxation, carefree, forgetfulness, far from the usual shackles...
2. The colonial helmet
When a chisel finally freed me from the said bracelet, at check-out time, in the lobby of one of those big hotels, I couldn't help but scream: "I'm free!!! Liberada!!!" This made the wearers of the inevitable colonial helmet laugh.
By the way, is that damn colonial helmet really necessary? I guess so, it must be something that appeals to the customers, some kind of exotic fantasy. In all the resorts we visited, the guys in charge of the luggage were wearing one...
Well. The bracelet, the helmet, still pass... But there is not only that.
3. Huge resorts... way too big!
In fact, what I don't like at all in all these huge resorts is that it takes a long time to go from your room to the reception, from the reception to the bar, from the bar to the beach, from the beach to the restaurant.
They even give you a map, at check-in, to help you find your way around, it's so big.
With each new hotel, I got lost. Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds of rooms in different buildings, several restaurants and bars, conference and show rooms, up to three or four swimming pools, even two receptions, boutiques, not to mention the possible spa, casino, lounge, discotheque, etc.
In short, it is better not to forget something in his room. It takes at least ten minutes to find your way back, plus another ten minutes to retrace your steps. And a good five minutes more, if you have missed the reception or the restaurant, compared to the scheduled 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 walked in one day, without even moving from the hotel.
Well, OK, it's too big. Still pass...
4. Artificial decoration
The other thing is that it lacks authenticity, necessarily. Everything is artificial, built to meet the western taste.
There is a very American Disneyland feel, with the themed restaurants (Italian, Asian, romantic with red hearts everywhere), the "dream" decor, the activities and entertainment organized on the beach. Not to mention, of course, the indispensable television in the room, equipped with all the comforts.
There is even more "romantic and exotic" for lovers: the wedding on the beach…
All these resorts are legion in the Dominican Republic. They look like small secured residences, enclosed in edge of beach. The atmosphere is quite fake.
Around, in the field of vision of the bracelet wearers, the environment is also well looked after. White sandy beach with uniformed guards, well disinfected blue pools, sumptuous gardens with exuberant vegetation, sometimes with a pink flamingo pool.
Every morning, employees climb trees to prune branches and coconuts that could injure someone in their fall. Others line up bags on the sand, picking up plant debris and other trash deposited by the tide, in order to deliver a clean, pristine 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 thing, in my eyes, is that in this type of establishment, you stay between yourself. You don't have any contact with the locals, apart from the staff. In short, you only meet other Westerners in search of sun and blue sea.
Of course, I am part of it. And I savored without sulking the happiness of lying there, on one of these superb beaches, facing the waves of the Caribbean or the Atlantic... I would have a bad grace to pretend that I did not appreciate it. On the contrary!!!
But, how can I put it... When it comes to sun and tropical exoticism, I'm a bit of a spoiled child. All this, thanks to my favorite formula: dry flight + backpack or roller bag, far from the "all inclusive".
I've been to many deserted beaches in Asia and I don't spend a year without seeing coconut trees. During my vacations, I often manage to find modest but quiet bungalows with a sea view and almost nobody around. Have a look at Islander Paradise on the island of Siquijor in the Philippines, or in Island Retreat on the Togian Islands in Sulawesi.
So, of course, I have a very relative taste for the charm of a beach full of deckchairs and red people glistening with sun cream, where you can't even hear the surf anymore because of the noisy sound of an aqua-gym class or the roar of a speedboat with a parasail...
6. I want wifi!!
To continue on the mode Smurf and spoiled child, my worst nightmare in all these sumptuous hotels, it was the internet. Despite the supposed luxury of the facade, only one of the four offered self-service wifi in the lobby. For the others, I struggled between connection code to buy at an exorbitant price, computers configured with an impossible home browser, mandatory ethernet connection when I had forgotten my cable ...
And as all these hotels are often out of the way, and we are supposed to find everything we need without having to go out, it's hard to escape to the next town to find an internet center...
Yes. I've been through some tough times, haven't I?
Okay, come on. I'll stop being a bad person. I admit, I had a great week. Now that I'm back in the Breton winter grey, I realize that...
So, all-inclusive or not?
In short, the joys and sorrows of "todo incluido" will be experienced differently depending on your temperament, depending on what you expect from your vacation...
The formula will suit well 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 relaxation!
As for those who appreciate independence, like me, and who wish to go and meet more of the country and its inhabitants, they will have to organize themselves, by privileging small pensions and family hotels.