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Author Topic: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana  (Read 23796 times)

Offline Milli

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Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo- Samana- March 11-18, 2010


I had started a Trip Review but have decided to simply give my general impressions since I can really add nothing to all the positive trip reviews on TA and we did not encounter any of the negatives.

Air Canada Vacations lists this resort as a 4-4.5 star resort.  According to their ratings a 4 star is:
ďA superior property with many facilities, amenities and services.Ē GB El Portillo in my opinion is a very solid 4 star resort and  what constitutes a half star is probably open to interpretation.  Compared to the adult only 5 * GBP Ambar it was not quite as upscale in the eating areas and there were no butlers but in our opinion it is a true GEM!

The things we really liked about the resort were the beach and being able to swim and snorkel to our heartís content, the smiles and friendliness of the staff and their willingness at all levels to go out of their way for you, the cleanliness,  the food (varied and tasty and with breads to die for!!), the size (just over 400 rooms), the miles of beach on either side of the resort, and the fact that it is the only resort in the immediate area.  There were no walls of tourists on the beaches.  All this plus probably more we could enjoy amidst the backdrop of the mountains, lush vegetation, and absolute peacefulness.

The animacion staff are very outgoing and warm and work hard all day mingling with the guests but never pressure you to join activities.  This resort is relaxing and laid back but definitely not boring.  
 There were lots of loungers, palapas, trees and palms and if you arrived at the beach between 8:30 and 9 AM you could find a place centrally located.  So there was no getting up at 6 AM on vacation!!!  

Things that might deter some:  The 1.5 hour bus trip.  If there are not many going to this resort the trip might be 45 min in a van going directly through the mountains.  For the longer trip you might want to consider Gravol if you get car sick!!  Our ACV representative gave us an excellent and clearly heard ongoing commentary as we travelled and prepared us well for our stay.  We also did our check in on the bus so the hour and half was put to good use.  I have to say that Joel, our rep, was definitely the best we have ever encountered and seemed to be always available (if not in person then by cell phone).  He is a Canadian  who has lived in the DR for the past 20 years and  a virtual fountain of information.  He works very hard to make your trip a success.

There are no resorts on either side so apart from the guests at El Portillo this is it!!!  (unless you go for the taxi trip into the town of Las Terrenas which I would definitely recommend for the experience).  There is a condo complex being built on one side of the resort by the former resort owner (doesnít look like it will be finished any time soon)   and on the other side are some private homes and villas where you would occasionally see workers out raking the beach.

There is no swim up bar and no server on the beach.
 
The beaches are not inches deep in superfine white sand.  The sand is courser and  where the water has been on it is a light golden tan in color.  It is very easy to walk or run on though.  One couple walked back from their trip to Las Terrenas along the beach in about an hour and half.

                          For us, this resort was a true gem in paradise.

Things to clarify for those travelling with ACV to this resort:  the price of the safe is included in your package as are the entrance card and exit fee of $20.  As well, we had turn down service at night, slippers, bathrobes and beach towels in room.

We booked this room as the Gran Bahia Samana Roulette which could put you either in this resort or the Cayacoa on the other side of the Peninsula.  We found out approximately a week before departure that we were going to the El Portillo.  I know of 4 couples who booked the Roulette and we all ended up at the El Portillo.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2010, 07:55:05 PM by Milli »
Melia Las Americas  '05,'12,'12
Iberostar Varadero '06
Paradisius Rio de Oro '06
Sandals Royal Hicacos '07
Playa Pesquero '07 '11
R. Hideaway Ensenachos'08
GBP Ambar '08 '09
GBP El Portillo '10 
GBP Cayo Leventado'10

Offline travelchick

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2010, 07:24:05 PM »
Wonderful review, Milli.  I don't know why I missed seeing it this past week!  Thanks for the write-up.  It sounds like this resort will be placed on some 7Dayers' Lists. :grin: I like that it is relatively small and there is great swimming and snorkeling at the beach.  I'm glad you had a great holiday!  TC  :grin:

Offline Milli

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2010, 10:04:26 AM »
 :sunny: Thanks TC.  We really did have a great holiday.  This place would not be everyone's "cup of tea"  but for us it was perfect on so many levels!
Melia Las Americas  '05,'12,'12
Iberostar Varadero '06
Paradisius Rio de Oro '06
Sandals Royal Hicacos '07
Playa Pesquero '07 '11
R. Hideaway Ensenachos'08
GBP Ambar '08 '09
GBP El Portillo '10 
GBP Cayo Leventado'10

Offline bmnichol

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2010, 10:43:26 AM »
1.5 hours bus ride equals a free excursion  :laughing7:  We are used that that now, some of the resort on the Mayan Riviera take that long with stops.

I think we would also like this resort.   :grin:
35th Anniversary and Birthdays trip - Oct 27-Nov 3. Grand Sirenis, Akumal MX

Offline Milli

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2010, 03:50:00 PM »
 It was bound to happen sometime!  I was looking through the most recent pictures of El Portillo on Trip Advisor and was surprised to see "me" looking back at me! :laughing7: I guess what "happens" in DR, or Cuba, or Anywhere doesn't always stay there!!
Melia Las Americas  '05,'12,'12
Iberostar Varadero '06
Paradisius Rio de Oro '06
Sandals Royal Hicacos '07
Playa Pesquero '07 '11
R. Hideaway Ensenachos'08
GBP Ambar '08 '09
GBP El Portillo '10 
GBP Cayo Leventado'10

Offline flopnfly

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2010, 07:25:16 PM »
Oh my   :confused2:   that's always been my biggest fear   :grin:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Offline Bebbie

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My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2010, 08:49:56 PM »
   Thanks Milli.  I just saw this now.

   Was considering going somewhere different next year and this sounds pretty promising.  Need to ask what you meant by "this place would not
   be everyone's cup of tea"? 

   Laughed out loud when I read you were surprised to see yourself looking back at yourself in a picture at Tripadvisor. 

Offline travelchick

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2010, 10:07:31 PM »
Oh my   :confused2:   that's always been my biggest fear   :grin:

I agree, fnf.  I wouldn't like it either.  TC  :grin:

Offline Bebbie

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My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2010, 11:12:46 PM »
BUMP


   Thanks Milli.  I just saw this now.

   Was considering going somewhere different next year and this sounds pretty promising.  Need to ask what you meant by "this place would not
   be everyone's cup of tea"? 

   Laughed out loud when I read you were surprised to see yourself looking back at yourself in a picture at Tripadvisor. 

Offline Milli

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2010, 08:40:16 AM »
Sorry I did not reply sooner Bebbie- I am back on babysitting duty and limited to my I touch!  I'll clarify that when I am not limited to this tiny keyboard! :grin:
Melia Las Americas  '05,'12,'12
Iberostar Varadero '06
Paradisius Rio de Oro '06
Sandals Royal Hicacos '07
Playa Pesquero '07 '11
R. Hideaway Ensenachos'08
GBP Ambar '08 '09
GBP El Portillo '10 
GBP Cayo Leventado'10

Offline Bebbie

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My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #10 on: April 29, 2010, 10:18:09 AM »
  Thanks Milli.  I will wait until you have the time.

Offline Milli

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Re: My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2010, 07:30:16 PM »
 Bebbie:  I mentioned that it might not be everyone's "cup of tea" as we had such a fantastic week and the resort was just what I have been looking for and if I were to write a review it would be the overly positive kind that I can fully understand readers tossing out to get an accurate view of the resort. LOL  Does that make sense!

Some things that I mentioned previously that might not be to everyone's liking:

The resort is not adult only or couples only and there were indeed quite a number of children. 

The bus trip is an hour and a half and can be jerky in places and half of it is through the mountains.  I know what it is like to get car sick and for those who do so easily or have children that are affected it might be a turn off.

There are not a lot of other tourists around since this is the only resort in this area.  There are some nice (from what I am reading on TA) Hotels in Las Torrenas but for those who like big resorts or stay at one play at several other resorts to keep from being bored this is definitely not the place.

This is not a party resort.

It is a bit remote..... not that there aren't people living there and there are small towns like Los Torrenas and Samana but if you like the idea of having a larger urban center nearby for health centers, museums, etc..... it is remote!

There is no swimup bar nor wait service on the beach if those things are important to your enjoying  your vacation.

There are no trapeezes, rock climbing walls, waterslides for the children  if they really look forward to those activities.
Melia Las Americas  '05,'12,'12
Iberostar Varadero '06
Paradisius Rio de Oro '06
Sandals Royal Hicacos '07
Playa Pesquero '07 '11
R. Hideaway Ensenachos'08
GBP Ambar '08 '09
GBP El Portillo '10 
GBP Cayo Leventado'10

Offline Bebbie

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My General Impressions of the Gran Bahia Principe El Portillo, Samana
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2010, 02:50:33 PM »
  Thanks for the information. 

  Not really looking for an adult only resort, even though it would be nice.  I babysit our grandson full time, so the idea of no children for a week
  or two would be heavenly. 

  BTW - would you recommend this resort for two weeks?  Seems like the majority of people that go to DR, go for one week only. 

  Bus trip would not bother me.  The resorts we have been going to in Central America, we've had to travel that long to get to them.  Don't mind
  too much as long as we aren't traveling at night.  Like to see some of the countryside on our way to the destination.  Not prone to motion sickness.

  Like the idea of being at a remote resort, not having to share it.  One of the reasons we aren't so interested in going to San Andres. 

  Is it safe to walk outside of the resort?  Is there a nearby village to walk to?

  Definitely not interested in swim up bars.  Seen with my own eyes people that stay there all day long drinking.  You know they are using the pool as
  a toilet when nature calls.  NO THANK YOU!!!!

  Never been to a resort where there is service on the beach.  So we wouldn't miss that.

  The only other concern is - what would the weather be like in January - end of January.  We went to Puerto Plata the first two weeks in January and
  it rained everyday.  I guess the first clue should of been the umbrella in our room. 

 

   

Offline Milli

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  Not really looking for an adult only resort, even though it would be nice.  I babysit our grandson full time, so the idea of no children for a week
  or two would be heavenly. 

  BTW - would you recommend this resort for two weeks?  Seems like the majority of people that go to DR, go for one week only. 

 

When we were there it was March Break in both Ontario and Nova Scotia.  Quite truthfully, we spent our days at the beach and rarely saw many children.  On the resort we saw quite a number of small children in strollers but they were just plain cute.  One night in the buffet we noticed a mom sitting at the next table with two small twin boys.  I would say they were either German or Finnish.  Both little boys had their heads on the table and were clutching little stuffed bears.  Both were sound asleep and stayed that way until their parents had eaten and exited carrying the little guys still sound asleep!!  It was too cute.

Two weeks :dontknow: I don't know if I would like two weeks at any resort quite truthfully but I would like to find out :grin: We really hated leaving on Day 7.  One reason we did not do the excursion that Fred and Tracie had the not so great experience on was that we could only fit it in on our last full day there.  With two weeks you would have more leeway to go on an excursion or two.  I would also have liked to have gone into Las Torrenas one more time just to explore.  The snorkelling so close to shore was almost addictive and I hated leaving that. We met a couple from N.B. who had arrived the week before us and were there for two weeks and they absolutely loved being there for 14 days.

I do know that the whale watching tours start in January and if I were there at that time I would definitely go on one.  One woman we met did get a tour in before they ended and they saw lots of whales.

The food was very good and I don't think that would have been a problem for 2 weeks.

 
  Is it safe to walk outside of the resort?  Is there a nearby village to walk to?

   

When you leave the beach on both sides of the resort there is a security man who will take your roomnumber.  They don't take it coming back????  The beach to the left runs almost parallet to the road to Los Terranas.  For the first while there are privately owned villas.  After that there are homes that would be between the road and the beach.  This was supposed to be the safer area to walk in off resort.  In the other direction they warn you to be careful--no jewelery or cameras.  I was a bit leery and felt safer when there were other people walking there.  I think it would be the same for Punta Cana or most places for that matter.  Some people do walk to and from Los Terranas. ( about 1.5 hours)  I felt as safe walking in Las Terranas as I would in any busy town.


    The only other concern is - what would the weather be like in January - end of January.  We went to Puerto Plata the first two weeks in January and
  it rained everyday.  I guess the first clue should of been the umbrella in our room. 

 

   

We had 30 degrees and sunshine on all but one morning of our 7 days in Samana but this was in March.  My only source of Info is the forum on TA and I found:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g259440-i2457-k3309731-l23636423-Weather_January_11_18th_cloudy_and_rain-Las_Terrenas_Samana_Peninsula_Dominican_Republic.html#23636423
The second poster lives in DR I believe.


http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147294-i1628-k1642708-l10010296-Weather_in_Samana_in_January-Samana_Peninsula_Dominican_Republic.html#10010296

And yes, there were big umbrellas in the room!

One other thing.  When we were there we were with 36 other Maritimers.  There were a number from a Transat flight from Ontario who came in and left on Thursday and Monday.  These were the only English speaking guests with the majority being French Canadian and many Spanish and also German and Finnish.  Our trips do not start until late February or they didn't this year. 

Melia Las Americas  '05,'12,'12
Iberostar Varadero '06
Paradisius Rio de Oro '06
Sandals Royal Hicacos '07
Playa Pesquero '07 '11
R. Hideaway Ensenachos'08
GBP Ambar '08 '09
GBP El Portillo '10 
GBP Cayo Leventado'10

Offline Bebbie

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Thank you very much for the information.  This is a resort that I will definitely consider going to, but at a different time
of year.  Think we would be taking a chance going as early as January, weather wise.