Karen's Dreams Puerto Vallarta Review ~ 5.29.10 (long & pic heavy)
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:20 PM
~ Travel ~
~ Travel agent ~ Teresa Stauring at Vacations4Less ~ A-
We were referred to Teresa through BDW and although I didnâ€™t quite believe we could get better rates through a travel agent than, say, Expedia or Travelocity, Teresa proved me wrong! We did hit a snag about a year ago when the company servers went down & they lost all of our group information. We were pretty upset about that, but after I got in touch with Teresa & reminded her she really came through for everyone. She was helpful, quick to respond and renegotiated prices with Dreams to get us better rates. Overall I would recommend Teresa & V4L and will most likely use her services again.
~ Airline ~ Continental ~ A
We flew Continental from LaGuardia to PV with a short layover in Houston. Very smooth flights with no delays. On both legs of the trip, flight attendants were more than happy to let me hang my dress in the first class closet.
On the way back home we were stuck in Houston for 26 hours b/c the airport shut down due to impending storms & we missed our connection. Nothing we could do about it so we checked into a hotel, went to a movie and extended the honeymoon an extra day. The only bad thing (which isnâ€™t specific to Continental) is that airlines donâ€™t give hotel vouchers when flights are cancelled/delayed because of weather. Ah well, at least we made it home safely.
On the way
~ Customs ~ A
Pressed the game-show style button & we both got green so we sailed right on through with 4 checked bags & 4 carry-ons! Total relief!
~ Transfer from PVR to Dreams ~ Tukari Travel ~ A
After navigating â€œthe shark tankâ€ of time-share people, we immediately saw our amigo, Alejandro, from Tukari holding up a sign with our names. He grabbed our bags, loaded up the van & we took off to Dreams. The next day at Dreams, we met with Alejandro to go over our return trip info & some of the excursions they offer. He was really helpful â€“ not pushy at all & had a lot of good info to share.
~ Dreams ~ A+
We could not have been happier with Dreams as a resort for our weddingmoon! It is set in a cove along Bahia de Banderas, about 10 minutes south of downtown Puerto Vallarta, and the property is beautiful. The size of the hotel is perfect â€“ small enough to be able to run into everyone from your group, but big enough to have privacy & let people do their own thing.
Although Dreams is all-inclusive, the hotel is annoying-AI-bracelet-free! It was the first AI for most of our guests and they all were thrilled!
Check-in was a breeze. We stepped out of our shuttle & were greeted by cool towels & champagne and then whisked over to the Preferred Tower lobby for more champagne & check-in.
Dreams doesnâ€™t seem to give upgrades and they do fill up to capacity so future brides/grooms should book the room class they want from the beginning. Since they were full the week of our wedding, many room requests (bed sizes) werenâ€™t met. My parents had requested a king bed, but were given 2 doubles and several other couples had the same set-up. Everyone understood & no one complained, but it wouldâ€™ve been nice to be able to honor the room requests for the parents.
We had about half the guests staying in the Dreams Tower (hasnâ€™t been renovated yet). No one had any complaints as far as mold, comfort or anything, but there is definitely a difference between the Dreams & Preferred towers. One couple actually upgraded to the Preferred Tower for the last few days of their trip & they were extremely happy they decided to.
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:22 PM
We stayed in a Dreams Suite (2152) in the Preferred Tower. All I can say is wow: 2 stories of luxury. 1st floor had a half bath, living room & terrace complete with pool (like 4â€™x6â€™). Tiny, but definitely great to cool off in. 2nd floor had the bedroom, dressing area, full bathroom and another terrace. And both floors had mini-bars - so nice to have that much water & cerveza!
Our housekeeper, Esperanza, was nothing short of a rockstar. We had her the whole 10 days so we kept leaving each other little notes. She was super friendly and somehow was able to clean despite the fact that it looked like a wedding tornado had hit our room. We gave her an OOT bag and all of the leftover goodies we had.
The wedding night they put a honeymooners banner on our door & flower petals on the bed (they do this for everyone), a little cheesy but fun.
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:24 PM
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:26 PM
~ Beach ~ A
Because Dreams is farther South than the hotel district, and is set in a cove, it has its own private beach, which is just wonderful! The water is warm, waves are great for body surfing (though there is a strong under-tow) & there were always plenty of palapas & beach chairs. And all the wait staff were super friendly & attentive.
~ Pools ~ B
There are 3 pools at Dreams & while theyâ€™re not huge, I think theyâ€™re fine (but I definitely prefer the beach). The main pool is a decent size & has a swim-up bar, jacuzzi & kids pool. We didnâ€™t really spend any time there, but I hung out with our niece & nephews by the kiddie area for a bit.
Edge of main pool w/ swim-up bar (taken from the lobby)
I actually really liked the infinity/relaxation pool by the Preferred Tower. Itâ€™s smaller, so gets crowded easily, but has a jacuzzi & concrete â€œlounge chairsâ€ in the shallow part of the water, which were really nice to lay on while enjoying a frosty beverage.
~ Food ~ A
Dreams has typically received great reviews of their food & totally lived up to the reviews. Everyone kept commenting on how terrific everything was. The restaurants donâ€™t take reservations, but in the odd event of a wait some of them had pagers. The decorations in Portofino & El Patio are pretty cheesy, but they have to cater to a wide range of people so I understand the themey-ness of the restaurants. And the service in all of the restaurants was wonderful. The staff work so hard & are incredibly friendly & helpful to everyone. We made sure to tip several dollars at each meal & the servers seemed to really appreciate it.
We went to the World Caf©/buffet for breakfast every day & it has a great selection of traditional Mexican & American/European options. The only thing I missed for breakfast was churros, but we got them at the Fiesta Night so I was happy.
We loved the Barefoot Grill, down by the Dreams Tower, for snacking on the beach. You walk up & order quesadillas, nachos, burgers & fries & eat under your palapa. What could be better?
Portofino (Italian) was surprisingly good and we ate there a couple times. The last night everyone was there we reserved the private wine cellar inside to have dinner with both sets of parents & some of DHâ€™s siblings. You have to order a bottle of wine or 2 to reserve that table (which costs extra), and I think it only seats up to 12, but it was totally worth it. We had our own private room & had the music turned off so we could all talk. We were able to show our families the slideshow our photographer put together for us and had a great last meal together.
El Patio was probably our favorite restaurant. Really good food and drinks (Mexican is our favorite though).
DHâ€™s sisters & mom also threw a bridal brunch the day before the wedding at El Patio. It was a private event and the menu consisted of mimosas, an omelet station, fresh fruit, breakfast meats, potatoes, & breads. I knew we were having a ladies brunch, but it was such a nice surprise to have it at El Patio (theyâ€™re not open for breakfast).
Seaside Grill was also great & had my favorite ambiance; casually elegant open-air with great views of the beach & sunsets. Our last night at Dreams it rained and a wedding party had to be moved from the Las Palmas Terrace to Seaside Grill. We walked by & it was set up beautifully. Definitely would be a great back-up plan for future brides/grooms.
We didnâ€™t get to eat at Oceana b/c it was under construction the last 2 nights we were there (when we had planned to finally go), but most everyone else in our party had the chance to eat there & all said it was really good.
We ordered room service for breakfast the morning of the wedding & the day after. It takes about ½ hour to arrive, but the food was really good & still warm. Some of our friends had a pizza party in one of the rooms late Fri night & they said it was pretty good & they loved being able to order pizzas to the room. Unfortunately, one of my friends got sick one day & room service brought up a bunch of chicken soup & crackers for her even though itâ€™s not on the menu. Once again, just great service!
~ Main Bars ~ A
Rendezvous (open til 1am)
We enjoyed the lobby bar every night we were there. We had welcome cocktails on Wed & Thurs nights at 8:00 and it was the perfect meet-up spot before and/or after dinner. We had three children under 7 with us and it wasnâ€™t a problem to have them in the bar with us. Itâ€™s more of a lounge with lots of tables & is open-air on 2 sides.
Desires (the sports/dance bar, open til 2am)
We only went there after the wedding reception, but it was great to extend our party. We brought ipods, used the barâ€™s ipod hookup to choose our own music and had a blast dancing the night away. Another wedding party that came back from Las Caletas joined us there around midnight or so and that was fun too. Apparently the other bridal party had the same bridesmaid dresses in one of the colors I used (pool blue) so one of my BMâ€™s was adopted by the family & friends of the other wedding. Pretty funny.
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:29 PM
Instead of having a rehearsal dinner we decided to have a bonfire at 8:30 the night before the wedding. Friday nights are the Mexican Fiesta night at the main pool so pretty much everyone went there for dinner. We were all spread out, depending on what time people went to eat, but we all ran into each other. The food that night was our absolute favorite. Awesome tacos al pastor (pork tacos cut from the spit with grilled pineapple & cilantro on top. YUM) & TONS of other Mexican delights.
OK, back to the bonfire!
We paid extra for this and it was one of the best decisions we made. Everyone loved it & it was a great way to relax & enjoy hanging out & talking with everyone there. The staff set up about 20 beach chairs (& we dragged over more) and had chocolate dipping sauce & ginormous marshmallows on skewers. We brought graham crackers from home & went to Wal-mart in PV to buy chocolate to make sâ€™mores. We also had our own waiter from the bar.
~ Toyaâ€™s Salon ~ A
Amapas 129, just North of Pulpito in the zona romantica.
The day before the wedding (after our bridal brunch), I brought our moms, my aunt & 2 of my bridesmaids to Toyaâ€™s for manicures (thanks, Jess, for the recommendation!!). Rebeca (Dreamsâ€™ wedding coordinator) made the appointments for us about a week in advance, which was really helpful. Toya and the 2 other women working were just lovely and did a great job. Manicures were like $10 and my aunt got a pedicure for $15. They donâ€™t have a ton of polish colors to choose from, but we all found something we liked and we were so happy to go into town together to a local salon.
Cute aside â€“ our moms & my aunt went on a walk together to a boutique Toya recommended while the BMâ€™s & I had our nails done. They all found cute sun hats and had a great time exploring a little.
~ Wedding Coordinator ~ Rebeca Gonzalez ~ A+
Rebeca was just awesome. She & I communicated via email over the last year and it was so great to finally meet her. Rebeca is so super friendly & helpful and really took care of us. She is extremely busy & works long hours, but she always had plenty of time for us & made sure everything got done perfectly. She is really organized & had everything in a file for us at the meeting. We gave her our decorations (votive holders, sand ceremony vase, place cards & table #â€™s, and shoes optional sign/brushes/mat), went over the menu choices, decided on flowers & the chuppah, picked the cake and talked about a general timeline. We also gave Rebeca our OOT bags to be delivered to the rooms and she made sure each guest received theirs (we also gave one to her).
I know some people use outside wedding planners/coordinators, but for those who donâ€™t have the $ to hire one or just donâ€™t feel the need, I just want to say that we couldnâ€™t have been happier with Rebeca or with how everything went. She brought to life the ideas I had, better than I even imagined, and really exceeded our expectations to make our day truly special.
~ Spa ~ A+ / B+
Hair & make-up were included in the Ultimate wedding package. Bianca did both for me & she was great â€“ super friendly & talented! I brought inspiration pics of how I wanted my hair & make-up to look, which was really helpful. My 3 bridesmaids all had their make-up done as well and one had her hair done. My appointment was at 2 starting with hair, which lasted about an hour, & then make-up, which took about 45 minutes. My sis-in-law bridesmaid started at 2 with me (for both hair & make-up) and the other two started at 3 and 4 (make-up only). Each girl was really happy with her make-up (& hair) and they all looked gorgeous!
~ Massages ~ B+
We also had a couples massage outside overlooking the beach a couple of days after the wedding. My massage was pretty good, but DH wasnâ€™t a big fan of his. I had a male masseuse & DH had a woman and I guess she hardly used any pressure. It was still relaxing (& it was raining out so it was a good use of time) and since it was included in our wedding package we really had no complaints. Other people in our group had massages and all of them said they were wonderful so perhaps ours werenâ€™t the norm.
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:32 PM
Overall our wedding at Dreams was nothing short of fabulous! We kept saying that it exceeded all of our expectations and we were so so so happy we decided to have it there.
Rebeca had my dress & Pâ€™s suit picked up on Friday to be steamed/pressed. They did a great job & delivered them Saturday while I was getting my hair done.
~ Flowers ~ A+
I brought pics of some bouquets for inspiration and we went with tropical flowers with orchids, roses & Gerbera Daisies (my fav) wrapped with banana leaf. We werenâ€™t going to have floral centerpieces, but during the meeting with Rebeca we decided to go for it. 2 or 3 were already included in our package so I think the extras came out to around $100 or so. We also decided to have rose petals on the runner.
~ Ceremony ~ A+
We had our ceremony on the Oceana beach at 6:00.
Rebeca & her crew set up our chuppah beautifully with the capiz shell curtains we had sent in advance. We also bought a Talavera vase in town to use in our sand ceremony. Rebeca set that up on a table under the chuppah along with 2 bud vases filled with sand. We had just asked to use beach sand, but Rebeca filled the 2nd vase with aqua sand to go with our colors. The girl is good.
Lucie was our officiant and did an absolutely perfect job! We had emailed our ceremony script to Rebeca a week or so in advance and then we also printed it out on nice paper to give to Lucie for the ceremony.
Mid-way through setting up
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:37 PM
We had the Mexican Trio play and they were wonderful! Everyone loved them and it really helped give our wedding a little authentic Mexican feel. For appetizers, we had the mini tamales, guacamole, salsa & chips, sopes with chorizo, Acapulco shrimp ceviche on tartlets & chicken fingers for the kids.
~ Reception ~ A+
Our reception (including cocktail hour) was on the Las Palmas Terrace and it was the perfect location. Although itâ€™s pretty much in the middle of the resort, it felt secluded. There were no issues with the resort entertainment or sound and, other than a few onlookers looking down from their rooms, we felt like we were the only people around. It was great!
For dinner we had the poblano soup, which was excellent & received rave reviews from everyone, and the steak & chicken (together on the plate) with pepper sauce, mashed potatoes & steamed vegetables. We had vanilla wedding cake for dessert, with a layer of strawberries & whipped cream frosting and it was excellent!
The wait staff for the reception was great. They worked really hard & were great about making sure everyone was happy. At the beginning of the reception, DH noticed we were missing a couple of chairs so he mentioned it to the head waiter and he ran to get them immediately.
We didnâ€™t have extra lighting, but Rebeca set up little luminaries around the pool, which were really pretty.
Rebeca did a great job with the centerpieces & arranging everything.
She also announced our cake cutting & first dance and we were really happy she did. She really helped make the whole day flow seamlessly!
~ DJ ~ B
We gave the DJ all of the music burned to a CD and had emailed our playlist in advance to Rebeca to give to him. For the ceremony, I think he played the prelude music (though Iâ€™m not totally sure) and I know he played my processional, but I think he may have skipped the bridesmaidsâ€™ song. No big deal; my song was over 5 min long so there was plenty of music to share & we all made it down the aisle with music playing.
He played our dinner music, cake-cutting & first dance songs perfectly, but then he didn't play like any of our reception/dance songs. We spent so long making a play list & the cd for him, & he didn't even use it! I was kind of annoyed by that, but whatever. He did a good job with his own music, but I really wanted to hear some of those songs. And I had made a point of including our parentsâ€™ â€œsongsâ€ and the first-dance songs of our siblings as slow songs, but none of those were played either, which I wasnâ€™t thrilled about. But he did, for the most part, succeed in keeping people dancing the whole time and if that was the biggest complaint of our entire day (and week, actually) then I donâ€™t have much to complain about!
~ Photography ~ Fer Juaristi ~ A++++++
I wrote a separate review for Fer because heâ€™s just that good! After choosing to have a destination wedding, hiring Fer was the best decision we made about the entire wedding.
Fer Juaristi - the rockstar photographer strikes again!
The only thing we didnâ€™t get to do during our week was the baby sea turtle release, which I was pretty sad about cuz it was one of the many reasons I was excited about Dreams. I asked the entertainment staff and they said we were a couple weeks too early. I guess theyâ€™re not really in season until later in the summer & fall.
Posted 16 June 2010 - 09:39 PM
Los Veranos Canopy Tour ~ A
This was the only excursion we had time for, but Iâ€™m so glad we did it! It was seriously some of the most fun weâ€™ve ever had. I went upside down with no hands twice!
DH also went deep-sea fishing with a friend of his. It was a 12-hour day (which is why I opted out) and they had a blast! They caught marlin & sailfish, but had to throw them back.
OK, I think thatâ€™s it - sorry for the novella. Thanks for reading & let me know if you have any questions!
Posted 17 June 2010 - 01:15 AM
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