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thomasjsgirl Dreams PC wedding (Nov 24/08)

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Hi! I figured it was about time to sit myself down and write my wedding review, before I forget everything (that happens with age, LOL). We chose Dreams Punta Cana on the recommendation of a travel agent I didn’t seriously look into other hotels as it looked fairly decent on the website, the reviews on Tripadvisor were mixed, but mostly good, and the price was right. This was also the second time around for DH and I, so a destination wedding was the perfect choice as we didn’t want anything extravagant and if we stayed home and had something small, we would never have heard the end of it from all the relatives we DIDN’T invite! In total, 40 guests joined us. So here goes:


Sunwing Airlines: A

We flew with Sunwing Airlines out of Toronto, Ontario. They were positively wonderful to deal with, both on the ground and in the air. I dealt with two reps (the first left to have a baby) during the planning process and they were both responsive and helpful and patiently answered my gazillion questions. At the airport, the check-in people were also great and although they couldn’t do anything about the fees I had to pay for extra luggage weight ($20 per kilo which totalled $680! OUCH), they were cheerful and understanding when I explained we were getting married and had to carry our wedding extras with us. The flight crew was competent and cheerful. This outfit practices the lost art of good customer service – it was much, much appreciated. The food was typical airline food (eat first, if you can) and they played a movie onboard. There is no closet to hang your dress, but there is enough room in the overhead bins to lay it out on top of the carry-on luggage. Coming home, we had issues with the Sunwing counter people at the Punta Cana airport. Many of our guests were told that their luggage was over the limit and were required to pay (see above), even though they were well under on the flight out of Toronto. They were able to transfer items into other family member’s luggage, but only after arguing and having to insist that we all knew each other and were not transferring to strangers’ bags. This is quite evidently a scam, so if you or your guests get caught in it, don’t give in to them, and when you get back, make sure you let your carrier know what’s going on. In addition to this issue, we also were required to pay the US$10 per person tourist fee upon landing. When we booked our tickets, I was told this fee was included in the ticket price, which is what I in turn told my group. Many were not prepared and had to borrow money to cover it. (This, I totally don’t get – even though you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, you still need to bring SOME cash with you for unexpected events (like this one), for tipping and excursions, don’t you?) Anyway, I sent an email to Sunwing and they advised that they don’t cover the tourist fee. I then flipped them the email from one of the reps (that I had luckily saved) stating that it was included. Within 2 days I received another response from them saying they would refund the tourist fee amount to everyone, and attached personalized letters for each family. I thought that was a class act! Any Canadian brides on here will well understand that Air Canada would never have responded in this way. They also confirmed that they were already looking into issues at the airport (without acknowledging which issues they were referring to). Hopefully they, and other carriers, will be able to put some pressure on the Dominican government to investigate the overweight luggage matter and if what we suspect is true, make sure it stops.


Wedding Coordinator (Maria Carbrera): A

Maria was the third wedding coordinator I dealt with. The first was Juliana and the second was Miguelina. Maria was much better at responding to my emails than the first two. Occasionally more than a week or two would go by, but she would always respond if I followed-up. Sometimes she would only answer one question, or give an incomplete answer, but again, I followed-up and she would respond. If she didn’t know the answer to a question, she would find out (this would usually take a little longer). We met with her the day after we arrived and I was surprised that she was so young! Her English was very good too. We chose a menu, flowers, cake and settled on the rest of the details including hair appointments and arranging to have my dress steamed. Then she showed us where the wedding would take place (The Gazebo). The weather was not so nice, and hadn’t been since we landed. It was rainy and the wind was very, very strong. Maria confirmed that if it rained on our wedding day (2 days later), she would move the ceremony and reception indoors. She should us the two rooms just off the terrace of the Japanese restaurant (Himitsu). They were windowless conference rooms, but at least they had a Plan B. The next day we dropped off our ceremony and reception items and then didn’t see her again until the morning of the wedding. Maria was actually quite competent, and nice to work with. She worked really hard to make our day special and I will always be grateful to her for that.


Hotel: B

The ride to the hotel is almost an hour. It’s a bit bumpy, but not nearly as bad as I’ve read about on Tripadvisor. Because of the size of our group, Sunwing arranged to have our own bus pick us up (and bring us back to the airport). This meant we didn’t have to share the bus with travellers going to other hotels too, and having to stop at each one as we make our way to the very last hotel on the beach, you got it, that’s Dreams. Dreams is at the eastern tip of the island, which is where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. The water here is rougher and is not the pretty blue you usually see in the Carribbean. For our group though, we had fun playing in the waves, and the pool is fantastic, so we didn’t mind so much. The hotel itself is very nice; it’s big, but not too big. When we arrived, we were greeted with cold champagne, which was nice. Check-in was a little stressful as many of our guests did not receive the rooms they wanted. This despite ordering them months ago. They did try to accommodate, but we were still left with some disappointed guests. DH and I were told our room would be ready in 1/2 an hour. After two hours of waiting, DH got fed up and demanded to know why our room was still not ready. The clerk sent someone up to check the room and lo and behold, it was ready. The maid had forgotten to put the tag on the door that says the room had been cleaned.


The room was fantastic. We stayed in the honeymoon suite which has a sitting area, dressing area and a hot-tub on the balcony. The maids kept it very clean and our fridge was restocked every day. We rarely saw them, so if I needed something, I would leave a note and she would make sure I got it. The English-Spanish dictionary from my OOT bag came in handy here. She probably howled at how I massacred the language, but at least she understood me! The bed was a little hard, but if it really bothers you, the hotel has foam egg crates – just request one and they will bring it to you. Except for a few ant problems, the guests were happy their rooms too.


The restaurants are not bad (well, the Mexican one was kind of bad), and you will always find something to eat at the buffet. I’m still trying to figure out why my omelettes don’t taste as good as theirs. The drinks were great and plentiful and there was always something to do. The grounds are beautifully maintained and the pool is huge and clean. It’s shallow (no deep end) and set out in obvious sections (kids, lounging, snuggling in a corner with your FI, and of course the pool bar!!). I loved the pink flamingos in the pond and the exotic birds in the trees. The staff were always smiling, and although a lot didn’t speak English, if you needed something, they would find someone who did. The spa was great. Hubby and I booked the couples massage and it was soooooooo nice. You also get to use the spa’s hot tub, sauna, etc. for an hour beforehand at no extra cost. Every other night they allow outside vendors to come in and try to sell you souvenirs. They’re pushy and aggressive, but if you’re not interested, just say no thank you and keep walking. Many of our guests did buy jewellery and other items from them, so if you are interested, just remember to bargain with them. Even the Sunwing rep at the hotel told us that this is expected in the Dominican (everywhere but in the hotel stores!) and to barter down to roughly half of the initial asking price. There is a small market down the road (10 minute walk from the resort) and many of the items are available there as well.


Unfortunately, there was an incident one night when two locals knocked on my mother’s door in the middle of the night, and she opened it!!!!!!!! She was groggy and thought my daughter had somehow locked herself out of the room. They tried to coax her to come out and one grabbed her arm, but luckily he let go when she waved him off and she was able to close and lock the door. When my sister told security what happened, they asked if anybody was hurt, but weren’t too concerned about it. Thank God nothing serious happened, but my mother, and the rest of us, where quite shaken by it. The hotel said they couldn’t do anything about it as local guests had the same right as foreign guests to stay at the hotel. Yeah, nice. May-be we should have insisted they call the police, but at this point my mom just wanted to put it behind her.


Some of our guests were sick, but only for 1-2 days and not too severely. DR, like many other up and coming Caribbean destinations, really need to work on their food preparation and handling standards. We heard stories of others coming down with food poisoning, not simply Montezuma’s revenge. My 7 year old nephew developed an ear infection and it was touch and go whether he could fly home. The doctor on the resort who treated him was wonderful and he was able to fly home with the rest of group.


Also of note, the pool bars don’t automatically add liquor to your drinks. If you’re having the fancy ones (daiquiris, Sammy Sosas, etc.), you can’t always tell if liquor has been added, so remember to ASK for it if that’s what you want.


Hair / Wedding / Reception: B-

The wedding party met with Maria at 10:00 am for the rehearsal. Maria walked everybody through it and showed them where to go if it started raining. Our wedding was at 4:00 pm, and my daughter and I went off to get my hair done around 1:00 pm. If you forget your hair pics (perish the thought), they have books with plenty of styles to pick from. The women who did our hair spoke very little English, so communication was a little difficult, and it took a couple of tries before they got our hair “close-enough” to what we wanted. My sister’s hair came out OK, but again, not without retries. My best friend’s hair – she hated it. We tried to fix it when she got back to my room, but we were running out of time. My daughter did my make-up and we got dressed. While I was getting ready, Maria phoned and asked if I had noticed the weather was turning, and not for the better. We discussed moving the wedding indoors and decided we didn’t really have much choice. It was also very, very, very windy. Knock you on your ass windy. Misti, our photographer, showed up and we took some shots. Maria was to come and get me at 3:45, but was delayed because she was moving our guests to the conference room. Dreams has made arrangements for the local justice-of-the-peace to perform weddings at 7:00 pm. We didn’t want to get married at night (the sun sets around 6:30 pm in November), so Maria performed the ceremony and the JOP legalized the marriage when he arrived that evening. Right after the ceremony we sent the guests off to enjoy the appetizers and we attempted to take some pictures. We managed to get a few in before the skies opened up – no sunset pictures for us *sniff*. Maria had done a nice job of setting up the room. We rented speakers and used our iPod for music. Maria stayed close most of the evening to ensure things were running smoothly. The food was good, except that I had substituted the soup course for a platter of mixed seafood on each table. They brought seafood salad (!?) instead. (TIP: be very specific when you ask for something and spell it out if you have to!). I heard the cake was really good – wish I’d tasted it! I was so busy having fun I forgot to sit down and eat mine, LOL. We stayed till about 10:30 and those who wanted to continue the party, met at the disco and had some more fun! It dawned on me 2 days later, with the sun shining hot and bright – we could easily have rescheduled the whole wedding for a better day. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before – bummer. (TIP: check the forecast when you leave and/or when you get there. If rain is predicted for your day, make arrangements to move your date, if it’s possible. Sure, the date won’t be the same as the favour tags, but who cares? The whole point of having a destination wedding is to be married under the tropical sun, not in a windowless conference room.)


Photographer: A

DH and I shared our photographer, Misti Abner, with Chika (Shelley & David) who were married the day after us. Chika responded to my post about sharing a photographer and she gets the credit for finding her. I met with Misti on Sunday evening and went over what we wanted. She was professional, unobtrusive, and she made it fun! We can’t wait to see the pictures. We had booked a TTD with her 2 days after the wedding, and because we had so few pictures taken with the wedding party on the day of, she suggested they all get re-dressed and join us for the beginning of the session. This turned out to be a great idea, because they jumped into the water too! Our crazy friends and family followed us around during this time taking pictures right along with her. They kind of distracted us (in a nice way though) and I don’t think we got many pictures of just DH and I alone. It all goes by in such a blur, so if you have a picture wish list, make sure you give a copy not only to your photographer, but also to someone else in your group who can show the photographer which poses haven’t been taken yet. My brother-in-law videotaped the ceremony and reception for us. We don’t have a professional video, but we aren’t too concerned. DH is pretty techie, so he’ll figure out to edit it so we have a “professional-looking” memory of our day.


Summary: A

Despite the hiccups, our wedding trip was by far one of the best experiences of my life. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but at the end of the day, the good things outweighed the bad. We really did have a great time with our friends and family and I loved the intimacy of a small, informal wedding. If minute details are important to you, you will have to be extremely organised in order to pull off the destination wedding of your dreams. If you are little more laid back and don’t sweat the small stuff, sit back and enjoy! I recommend it 100%.


Thanks for looking!

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Great review!! I'm so glad your Mom was ok despite that strange incident. That is awful that the resort staff seemed so unconcerned about it, and they really shoulda done more, but thankfully she wasn't hurt. hug2.gif I can't wait to see your pics, your TTD session with your bridal party sounds so fabulously fun ~ what a great idea by Misti to include them at the beginning cheesy.gif Congrats cheers.gif

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Originally Posted by MarieSam View Post
Great review!! I'm so glad your Mom was ok despite that strange incident. That is awful that the resort staff seemed so unconcerned about it, and they really shoulda done more, but thankfully she wasn't hurt. hug2.gif I can't wait to see your pics, your TTD session with your bridal party sounds so fabulously fun ~ what a great idea by Misti to include them at the beginning cheesy.gif Congrats cheers.gif
Hi Mariesam, I included the incident in my review not to scare anyone, but just so that we remember to stay vigilant. Any time we travel we have to be careful because tourists are sometimes considered easy prey. Law enforcement standards are usually quite different in foreign jurisdictions than what we experience at home, so often we're disappointed by their lack of empathy. This is not unique to DR (Mexico is another prime example of this). I hope this doesn't change anyone's mind about chosing Dreams for their DW, because other than that one unfortunate incident, everything else was great.

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Great review Lucy! I still need to get mine up, now that we have photos to back it up!


What an unsettling story about your mother's experience in the middle of the night. It is true that often when we travel to a resort we neglect the normal safety rules we follow when travelling, even in our own country. I know I quite often would leave my stuff unattended, and walk alone at night, on the resort because I naively felt safe. It is a good reminder that just because its a resort doesn't mean that crazy people aren't staying there too! Just like anywhere.


Congratulations again Lucy, and thanks for sharing Misti with me! I love your photos.

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Hi Shelley!! Your siggy pic looks great! Thank YOU for finding Misti!


KDB: I have some non-pro pictures in the pictures thread in this section. I'll be posting some pro-pics within the next few days.

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