“How much did those cost”? The woman, about twenty-five, is pointing at a set of trophy breasts that Suzie, another young, yet somehow supple and immodest girl, is sporting at the swim-up pool bar.
Suzie brightens considerably as she puffs up her ample assets with obvious pride, which threatens to rend the thin fabric of her bikini top. “$7400” she says with a smile.
“Really? They’re beautiful. Can I touch them?” That gets everyone’s attention, mine included, and soon, there is a group of 4 women forming a tight circle in the pool comparing, poking, and prodding each other’s boobs like they were discussing some new kind of consumer item, which, in a way, they are. Soon, Suzie’s the rock star of the resort, and her admirers are saying things like “They’re so soft!” and “very natural”.
Gee, we’re not in Florida anymore, are we?
No, we’re in the Dominican Republic at the Blue Bay Resort, an adults-only all-inclusive in Puerto Plata, and hedonism is the name of the game here. Suzie is a gorgeous Asian girl from New Jersey, and she’s here to get away from either the cold or New Jersey, or both. Her new friends also hail from the Great White Northern climates, places of cruel and foreboding icy legend: Michigan, Toronto, New York, and Nova Scotia. Like the Buffett song says, they just “hope to see the sun again”, and they’ve found it here, along with free drinks, sandy beaches, and uninhibited debauchery.
I am always struck by the way women can objectively and frankly discuss their anatomy in a way that men never do, and go into the most intimate details with someone they just met 5 minutes ago, while I’ve known guys for years that never even noticed when I shaved my beard. But the babes are standing in waist deep pool water, exploring each other’s bodies like this is the opening scene for “Debbie Does Dominica Part LXIX”.
The swim-up pool bar is Mecca here. Couples, mostly, from Germany, Ukraine, and Great Britain flock here as well as the Norde Americanos, and, starting around noon, they sidle up to the underwater stools and stay there most of the day, getting hammered into brainless, painless oblivion on Pina Coladas, beer, and Mamaguana.
Mamaguana is an herbal concoction through which you filter your booze, mostly rum, and is rumored to be an aphrodisiac, though I’m pretty sure that is a story foisted on impotent, yet desperately inebriated, gringos. All I can say for sure is that what’s in the weed-choked bottle looks like swamp water and tastes like high-fructose gasoline, and there’s probably a good reason that it can’t pass FDA regulations for import into the States.
Since the wine tastes like Gallo Lite and the local beer is a watery but tasteless pilsner, the beverage of choice is Brugal, which, being good quality rum, is perfect for “that frozen concoction that helps you hang on”. Jimmy knew what he was talking about.
So there I am, sipping a Pina Colada and talking to a retired Canadian dentist who is telling me in precise detail about the best places to go when the lights go down on Dorada Beach, when a woman falls off her perch next to me, which is not easy to do, since we are hovering nearly weightless in the water, but she somehow manages the feat, and is rescued by her newlywed husband, a beer distributor from Michigan. There are lots of newlyweds, gays, and repeat customers as well. I talked to one couple that’s been coming to this same resort annually for 7 years. Based on my own observation, I don’t think most of them ever ventured into the wilds of the DR beyond the resort’s guarded gate, but then, I guess the idea is to escape from reality, whereas a stroll into nearby downtown Sosua on a Saturday night is a descent into a post-colonial version of one of Dante’s nine circles of Hell, which is more reality than most of us can handle, so I guess I can’t blame them.
The beach is wide and equipped with a tiki bar (of course) and a more than adequate supply of sun beds and loungers. You can take out a kayak, sailboat, snorkel gear, or sailboard for no charge, but you must pay for the motor sports and, in the case of the dentist from Toronto, the women as well. It strikes me how few guests there actually are at this place. It’s small to begin with, but at times it’s a little like walking in an Old West ghost town, except that I don’t think that Wyatt Earp ever saw a grown man running naked across the sand screaming unintelligibly until he disappeared into the dark waves of the ocean, as I did coming back from dinner one night, and for no extra charge. All-inclusive, indeed.
The water is warm and dead calm but choked with seaweed, which washes up unto a wide sandy beach the color of dirt. Coconut trees gently sway in the gentle breezes, and under them you can get a respite from the thermonuclear sun if you care to brave the vendors who wander unimpeded among the cabanas, and who are amazed when you refuse not only a catamaran booze cruise to a nearby spit of sand, but also the thrill of being photographed with a live gibbon on your bare shoulder. If your shopping needs include a life-sized hand-carved replica of a baby giraffe, this is the place to go, but I have to wonder how easy it is for anyone to tuck that masterpiece under their arm along with their other sunbathing necessities, not to mention jam it into the overhead bin on the airplane.
The rooms are large and clean, if somewhat Spartan, and the décor evokes memories from the early Americana era, circa 1970. In keeping with that theme, there is a tube TV that rivals my laptop for size, if not resolution, and which features the Playboy channel’s Greatest Hits collection, wherein the “oohs” and “ahhs” of the soundtrack, like an old Bruce Lee movie, never seem to match the action. However, there is a 3X4 mirror strategically posted on the wall across from a bed the size of a mesa, so who needs TV after all? Not my neighbors, who unintentionally shared their most intimate moments with me through the paper-thin walls. The bathroom features granite walls and a large shower, but, curiously, there is no potable water in the room, so it makes me wander why a coffeemaker is included. Does the brewing process kill the harmful bacteria? I don’t know or want to venture to try, though the presence of a nearby 24-hour clinic leads me to believe that other souls, more brave or foolish than I, imbibed of the café’ loco and spent the remainder of their vacation swallowing pills and viewing the Dominican Republic through the bathroom door.
Garden sculptures and fountains line the walkways, which are well lit and patrolled at night, so you feel perfectly safe here, but so do the no-see-ums. It’s all tastefully done outside with Spanish adobe style apartments in blocks of two or four connected by pleasant paths that meander to the cafés, the beach, and the spa, which is quite nice. The gym, however, is about what I started out with in my garage at home 30 years ago. They nailed most of the details precisely, even down to the lack of air conditioning. Come to think of it, I did sell all that equipment. I thought it looked familiar.
This is a timeshare residence as well as a resort, yet I have not once been pressured into any kind of presentation. Front desk staff will lament that they haven’t had enough rubes-I mean, people, buying into these quasi-fraudulent vehicles lately and admit they’ve had to cut back on amenities as a result.
I find this honesty refreshing. It’s too bad the management isn’t as transparent. They advertise, for example, WiFi included, which it is-if you fork over $10 an hour. To my mind at least, that stretches the meaning of the term “included” into the area of “lying”. Fortunately I find out through the grapevine that if you position yourself on the beach close enough to the real resort next door you can use their WiFi signal, but don’t forget to return your towel when you come back or they bang you for $25. The food is as bland as Minnesota and doesn’t quite rise to the level of a good cruise ship. More on that later.
As befits an organization of this caliber, customer service is hit- and-miss. The valet is a huge surly beast in a suit that scowls throughout the baggage handling process even as he extends his hand out for a tip. When asked a question, he nearly sneers out a reflexive “no” in a practiced fashion that I think secretly gives him his greatest joy in life. The bartenders can be indifferent, although if you engage them in the only language they know they seem friendly enough. I guess I’ll have to learn Spanish before I come back. The concierge, especially Judith, was fantastic, and so were the other staff.
So there you have it. Blue Bay is a little gem of a resort with a lot of flaws, but most guests don’t seem to mind. People on vacation want to have fun and focus on the positive I suppose, but it seems the secret to success for all-inclusives is simple. First, put a hotel right on a nice sandy beach on a tropical island. Second, provide all the food and booze you can handle in a safe, clean environment at one fixed reasonable price. Third, give them more liquor. They won’t remember the food or the entertainment so much as the people they met at the bar, and what fun they had with their partner.
You may be wondering why I am here. After all, I don’t fit the demographic. I’m single and not gay. I’m 57 and alone and not looking for a quickie or hookup with anyone. And I’m from Florida, which the Quebecois, at least, already find tropical enough. Fair enough. On one level, I’m in the country on a kind of business trip and need a cheap and enjoyable place to stay for a week while some paper work gets sorted out in the capital. On another, I like to travel and I’ve never been to the Dominican Republic. These places are wildly popular, and I’m curious to see why. In fact, I’m checking out another such place (Breathless) in two weeks and I want see how much more luxury I can buy for 3 times my money. If you check back later you’ll get my full review.
In the meantime, I’ll be having fun here. And yes, it is fun! I will be updating the blog on featured shows and restaurants as I experience them. Please stay tuned.