Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

The joys and the pangs of "todo incluido"

  Dominican Republic - January 2009

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, click on the French flag below to access the original text:

Before this press trip to the Dominican Republic, I had never tested the formulas called "todo incluido" or "all inclusive" or "all inclusive". I had never stayed in a large, standardized Western standard hotel on a tropical beach ... Now, I know, and that kind of thing, even stuffed with stars, that's not for me.

Star Hotels

Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

When I say "it's not for me", I mean by that for my "real" trips. Those I normally do during my holidays, on my savings, with my good old bag and in complete independence ...

Attention, huh, I'm not complaining about being invited to star hotels in the Caribbean! It would be downright indecent ...

No, it's just that this is the first time that I have discovered, very concretely, the tourism industry in all its "splendor". That I enjoy a stay that does not resemble those I usually concoct.

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 full freedom inside the golden cage and allows you to enjoy meals and drinks at will. The dream ? Not necessarily.

Between "continental" buffets and Italian restaurants, it's difficult to eat "local" in these hotels. It was not until the end of my stay that I managed to taste the lobster I dreamed of ...

Yes, I put four bracelets in a week! We changed hotels every two days ... My preference is the Barbie style fluorescent pink plastic, very flattering on the end of stay tan, and 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 chisel finally delivered me from the bracelet, at the check-out time, in the hall of one of these big hotels, I could not help but scream: "I'm free! ! ! Liberada! ! ! " This made the wearers weary of the inevitable colonial helmet.

Besides, is this damn colonial helmet really necessary? It must believe that yes, it must be something that pleases customers, a kind of exotic fantasy. In all the resorts where we went, the guys in charge of the luggage were wearing ...

The bearers of a big hotel pose for me, all smiles, in their colonial uniform. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
The bearers of a big hotel pose for me, all smiles, in their colonial uniform. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

Good. The bracelet, the helmet, passes again ... But it's not just that.

3. Huge resorts ... way 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.

Large 4-star hotel in Bayahibe. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 4-star hotel in Bayahibe. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Large 5-star hotel in Punta Cana. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

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 is a Disneyland side very amloque, with themed restaurants (Italian, Asian, romantic with red hearts everywhere), the decor "dream" landscaped, activities and entertainment organized on the beach. Without forgetting, it goes without saying, the indispensable television in the room, provided with all the comfort.

There is even more "romantic and exotic" for lovers: the wedding on the beach

Everything is ready for the newlyweds who have chosen to say yes on a Caribbean beach. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Everything is ready for the newlyweds who have chosen to say yes on a Caribbean beach. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

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.

Flamingo pond, in a big hotel. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Flamingo pond, in a big hotel. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Pruning branches and coconut. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Pruning branches and coconut. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Every morning, the beach is cleaned of plant debris and other waste deposited by the tide. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Every morning, the beach is cleaned of plant debris and other waste deposited by the tide. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

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 part of it. And I savored without blinking the happiness of lying there, on one of these beautiful beaches, facing the waves of the Caribbean or the Atlantic ... I have a very bad grace to claim that I did not appreciate. On the contrary! ! !

Beach of a big hotel, on the Samana peninsula, near Las Terrenas. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Beach of a big hotel, on the Samana peninsula, near Las Terrenas. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

But, how to say ... Question sun and tropical exoticism, I am a little spoiled child. All this, thanks to my favorite formula: dry flight + backpack or on wheels, far from the "all inclusive".

I have surveyed heaps of almost deserted beaches in Asia and I do not spend a year without seeing coconut palms. During my holidays, I often manage to find modest, but painstaking bungalows, with "sea view" and almost nobody around. Have a look on 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 ...

Beach of a big hotel in Punta Cana ... Not the kind of beach "dream" according to my criteria. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)
Beach of a big hotel in Punta Cana ... Not the kind of beach "dream" according to my criteria. (Dominican Republic, January 2009)

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 ...

Yes. I had a hard time, did not 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, choose the "all inclusive" or not?

In short, the pangs and joys of "todo incluido" will be experienced differently depending on the temperament, according to what is expected of his vacation ...

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 relaxation!

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.

Finally, to continue in the same vein, I invite you to (re) read my interview with the sociologist Rodolphe Christin: Did tourism kill the spirit of the trip?

????

  Dominican Republic - January 2009

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