Well, well, well. It’s certainly been a while, huh? I’ve decided to come back to blogging and vlogging. For one reason only: I’ve missed it so much! Hopefully you’re happy to see me and this article is useful or interesting for you…
We went to Tui Senatori Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic over the new year for 10 nights. We’ve never been on an all inclusive holiday before, nor to the Caribbean so please don’t think this was a ‘ten a penny’ holiday for us. This was the biggest holiday (in every sense) we’ve ever been on.
Was it worth it? In a nutshell, YES.
After a couple of stressful holidays with 3 kids – one glamping in France, one visiting family in Ireland (both had tons of lovely moments but were exhausting) we felt we needed a total chill holiday. We’d stayed in a half board package holiday in Greece when I was pregnant and I wanted something like that – where I didn’t have to cook or clean basically. However, Adam is allergic to package anything – he’s a seasoned traveller that’s backpaked around India and lived in Australia for a year in his heyday – but, as we all know, when you have kids, especially 3, you need to shelve those ideas and just make easy decisions if you want to relax and enjoy yourself at all.
We all loved it – me more so than Adam who definitely did find it a bit ‘packagey’ (he once said it was a bit like being on holiday at the Trafford Centre which made me lol) however even he admitted it was the easiest and most chill holiday we’ve ever had. It’s definitely a learning curve holiday – by the end of it you feel like you have finally clicked into the vibe and now if we go to one again, which I would love to, we’ll definitely take advantage of things quicker and with less confusion.
This post wasn’t planned – I wasn’t blogging when we went – so apologies there aren’t more photos of the food etc and these are only iPhone snaps – but better to share than not, right? I know these honest reviews are useful especially since it’s such a big outlay for a holiday like this.
Here are my top tips for making the most out of a Tui Sensatori holiday in Punta Cana.
1. Go premium
I’ll be honest, I had no idea I’d even booked us as Premium guests but I’m glad I did – you get access to the Bali beds on the beach which have butler service, a better check in at the hotel, and access to Premium only pool areas. You also get premium concierge (where you book meals).
2. Book meals a few days ahead
As it happens we mainly eat at the buffet (called Sugarcane) which we all really liked a lot as there was so much choice and it varied slightly each night, so we didn’t get bored. Also you can eat outside here, which meant we could eat and then when the kids were finished they could dart about in the courtyard area, chasing after Stan where we could see them.
With a little one in tow (Stan was 16 months when we went) we didn’t fancy sitting around in ‘proper’ restaurants waiting to be served whilst he refused to sit in a high chair! That said, many parents do take their little ones to the ‘proper’ restaurants so don’t be put off. One thing we did do was ask for a table outside of the Chinese restaurant, Wok Wok, one night so we could let the kids ‘off leash’ and run around in the courtyard area whilst we had a drink and waited for our food. (Terrible photo above but it was on the occasion where we did this).
Meals are booked in concierge huts which are dotted about – do it a couple of days in advance to get in when you want.
3. Take plenty of nappies and wipes
We tried to pack light so stupidly didn’t take many of these – and they are VERY expensive at the resort shop. However don’t worry too much about sunscreen as you can borrow it from the concierge huts!
4. Get down to the sunbeds early!
Yes, everyone on these holidays does the classic, slightly hilarious thing of putting their towels down at 7.30am so they get the pitch they want! That said, you’ll still get one later but maybe not in the pitch you want around the main pool. The beds around the other pools are often free but many are for Premium guests only. If you are Premier then book the Bali beds first thing for the next day at the towel hut.
5. Nickelodeon is half price on Tuesdays
Tui Sensatori Punta Cana is adjoined to the Nickelodeon resort. It is across the road from the water park and part of the same resort – they share restaurants, pool etc. It is much cheaper to book Tui than Nickelodeon, although you have to pay to access the park and the character breakfasts etc. In my opinion it isn’t worth getting that excited about the Nick water park. It’s fine, but definitely better for younger kids up to age 7 or 8 and very pricey for what it is (we paid about £120 for 5 of us for one day – not a Tuesday!) – and adults can’t go on slides, which I discovered embarrassingly as a lifeguard had to whistle at me. So definitely do go on a Tuesday. The fried chicken in the cafe there is really good so go for it (it’s all included in the price). The fruit salad is lovely too. In fact I’d say eat and drink as much as you can as it’s so pricey you want to get your money’s worth!
6. Make the most of the food and drink
We got milk from the cafes and restaurants, we got pack ups for days out (see below) from the coffee shop, I packed up pastries at breakfast for mid morning munchies… without being ridiculous, I really made the most of the excellent food. I know it’s obvious, but you’re paying for it, so take advantage. It was so nice to be able to chill and let everyone have whatever they wanted whenever they wanted it.
7. Do book excursions
Punta Cana ia basically a strip with not much else there. The main city is 2 1/2 hours away so unless you book on excursions (or hire a cab and do stuff yourself) you won’t see much of the Dominican.
After a chat with the lovely Rep, we decided on two excursions, one with all of us and one with just Ad and the older two.
We all did the pirate trip as the rep said it was best for kids. We really loved it – lots of fun and entertaining for all. You get the bus to nearby beach and board a pirate boat, go out into the sea to snorkel and then see dolphins, sharks and stingrays. The pirates put on a show and provide lunch and rum and cokes for parents. (Dancing with the handsome pirates after several rum and cokes was a highlight for me!) The kids loved snorkelling (not that much fish activity but still, it was an experience) and seeing dolphins, holding a stingray – Daddy even swam with sharks – I hated that bit and got out after a few minutes. Plenty of memories made.
Adam also took the older two kids on a trip driving a buggy off road to see how locals lived. He said he found it a but cheesy but Arthur danced with locals and they saw real Dominican housing and local kids. I liked the sound of it as I wanted the kids to see how other people lived but still on a safe and stress free trip which by the sounds of it, it was.
You do pay extra for excursions and they aren’t cheap – think we paid a few hundred for these two, but they are worthwhile I’d say.
8. Download the Tui Sensatori app!
Not the Tui app – the Tui Sensatori one. This is a separate app. This should be number one really. It’s absolutely essential to the holiday. They have an ‘opt in’ approach at Tui Sensatori – which means they let you know what’s on, but they don’t fuss about you to get involved. So by booking on this using the app, or scrolling through the days’ activities over breakfast you can plan your day a bit. For example, there are sporty things for adults, kids’ activities, cocktail making, then a theatre show. To be totally honest my lot didn’t want to partake in much. But next time I think we would do more as Stan will be older and more up for things.
9. Make the most of kids’ club (we didn’t)
Our youngest was too young – they take them at 2 here. There was a stay and play that parents could attend with them but I never made it. I think if yours are about 3-7 then the kids’ club is great. My older boy wasn’t into it, and he was happier making friends with other lads his own age and hanging out. That said, there were some football things on at the Nick park which some of Arthur’s new friends attended, and some Nintendo Switch things that he was tempted by. My daughter felt shy to go on her own, but I know she would’ve loved the crafty things. Ours didn’t go once to the kids’ club so I would say right from the outset try to get them to try it, then it’ll be part of their holiday. They even offer supervised movie clubs so you can have a date in one of the posher restaurants!
10. Be smart when it comes to drinks : )
As regular readers will know, I’ve been off and on booze more times that I can count. I did drink on holiday (and I am drinking sometimes now – more on that in another blog post). Suffice to say on this all inclusive, sticking to the local drinks is your best bet. The beer isn’t great. The wine OK. Cocktails are pretty weak but that’s probably a good thing. It’s ever so odd, but no one (me included!) was drunk on this holiday – maybe it’s the family vibe or the sheer amount of food you are consuming, but it’s a lovely chilled atmosphere. Yes, the best drink going in the Dominican is rum – and also the best cocktails by a mile are in the James Bond Bar in the lobby! Another tip is to ask for branded gin etc “Tanqueray and tonic”. That way you know it’s decent quality.
Overall it’s a holiday I would definitely go on again. We noticed many families there with 3 kids. That’s because it’s an easy holiday. If you want to chill, with options there to do more – yoga, kids’ club, gym, shows – or just do nothing apart from sunbathe, eat and drink, this is a great option. Highlights were the high quality of food; the extreme cleanliness; the lovely staff who were amazing; the incredible climate; wonderful beach.
Have you been to a Tui Sensatori? Would you go again? I’m thinking of Mexico next time…