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Newsletter: Caribbean, 6/12/08

Onsite: The Dominican Republic's Maxim Bungalows


After a few schedule conflicts, we were finally able to accept an invite to Maxim Bungalows, Cofresi Beach, a new luxury resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, from Thursday to Sunday and decided it was worth the wait.

We arrived from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport via American Airlines and touched down around 6:30 p.m. Thursday night. Since the property opened about three months ago, we kept hearing about the resort’s claim to have some of the most personal and unique services offered in the Dominican Republic. We already saw evidence of that the moment we exited our plane at Santiago Airport. Maxim Bungalows’ driver Mario Susaña waited for us as we exited our plane. We were escorted to a VIP lounge where another attendant took our passport and baggage ticket, and told us to sit tight.

That’s right, they actually provide a service where you don’t need to clear customs, immigration or even claim your bag. In fact, while someone was stamping our passport, paying our entry tax of $10 and picking up our over-packed luggage, we were sipping on a Diet Pepsi and reading USA Today.

We later learned that this service is available for all Maxim guests for a fee of $35 or $60 roundtrip. It includes the $10 tax. Only two hotels do this in Puerto Plata and Maxim is the only one who does this at Santiago Airport, which is about an hour and 30 minutes from the property.

Susaña took us to the property where we were introduced to our concierge and to our room, a Maxim Bungalow King. The room was actually two rooms joined together by a connecting door, which we didn’t figure out until we missed our wake-up call for the second time (they were going to room #2036, where we placed the call and not to room #2035, where we slept). The room was enormous. It came with a Jacuzzi, a king-sized bed, two 42-inch plasma TVs and a terrace equipped with lounge chairs and sofas. The minibar was even a surprise as it was unusually cheap in comparison to other resorts we’ve stayed at. For example, a Presidente, the local beer, which is smooth and light like most Caribbean brews, could be purchased for just $3 a pop while a pack of Marlboro Lights (we didn’t indulge in case you’re reading this mom) could be bought for $6.

After a great night of sleep, Susaña picked us up at 10 a.m. on the dot as promised and took us to Cabarete, a beach village about 45 minutes away that is known for its party-like atmosphere as it is sprinkled with restaurants and beaches along the entire strip.

Before we arrived, however, we made Susaña show us a few car washes along the way since we didn’t believe his claim that the car wash in Puerto Plata is a place where locals drink, dine and dance until the sun comes up. We were wrong. It was then we realized if Dominicans could make a party out of washing a vehicle, they can make a party of out anything.

Since we arrived in the midst of a minor storm Thursday night, we were so excited to see the sun blazing Friday afternoon in Cabarete. We weren’t sure if we were going to get sun like this for the rest of the weekend, so we abandoned the sun block (not recommended). When we arrived back at the resort, we took advantage of our scheduled spa treatment. We usually prefer a good, old-fashioned, deep-tissue massage, but considering I was now lobsterman, I opted to go with the more subtle Aromatherapy Massage, which was excellent. A 25-minute session costs $60 and is enough to do the trick. We were covered in scented oils, rubbed down from head to toe and sent on our way to dinner with General Manager Jaime Basauri and Corporate Sales and Marketing Director Joaquín Dueñas at Maxim’s signature restaurant Social.

We ate everything from duck salad to lamb chops to roasted beets and goat cheese but nothing topped the pork tenderloins served with port wine sauce and mixed dried fruits. But if you are still not sure what you want from the menu, the restaurant’s General Manager Sean Mohammed, who actually prepares the recipes, is always more than happy to help.

Over the course of our meal with the executives, we learned some several newsworthy items, most of which we will share with you in our June 23 issue. For now, we can tell you about the property’s anticipated launching of a new website geared toward preferred travel agents. The program is called the Elliott Preferred Travel Agent Program or EPTA. The site,, is expected to launch sometime next week. Here, agents can register to become preferred Maxim agents and received incentives from 15 percent commissions to $100 bonuses for every booking made in the low season. Visit

Latest Turks and Caicos Property Breaks Ground

A ceremony was held last Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking of The Tanai, the latest luxury product slated to open in Turks and Caicos in 2010.

Plans for the property call for 25 three-bedroom villas, 55 one-, two- and three-bedroom residences, and 20 club suites available for purchase. Also included will be 10 one-bedroom hotel suites and 60 hotel rooms.  An adjacent 18-hole championship golf course designed by Tom Fazio is also part of the project. Visit

New Cap Juluca Owners Appoint New Management Team


Cap Juluca announced three new senior appointments Monday, which will be effective in mid-August. The announcements were made by noted travel industry executive Adam M. Aron, who has wasted no time in his efforts to upgrade Cap Juluca since acquiring the Cap Juluca resort on April 9.

The three appointments include the promotion of Hansjoerg Maissen to Cap Juluca’s new asset manager, which will entail planning the anticipated renovation and expansion of Cap Juluca. In a unique hiring move, the husband and wife team of John Vasatka and Tania Rydon will serve as co-general managers. The couple has spent the past nine years jointly managing four Aman Resorts, including the well-known Amanpuri in Phuket. Rydon, who spent three years living on Anguilla in the 90s, will also hold the position of director of sales and marketing for Cap Juluca. Visit

Grenada Resort Partners with Marine Turtle Conservation Group

Blue Horizons Garden Resort in Grenada partnered with Ocean Spirits—a local, non-profit organization focused on marine turtle conservation—to hold weekly, informative presentations and environmental discussions on the importance of preserving the island’s sea turtles and vibrant coastal waters.

The resort’s new, hands-on sea turtle experience aims to provide eco-friendly visitors with a way of understanding Grenada’s key species and rich biological diversity. The weekly sessions, which take place in the pool lounge at Blue Horizons, educate guests on the sea turtles’ environment, habits and nesting, as well as ways to prevent environmental threats facing nautical animals and ultimately protect Grenada’s rich and vibrant coastline.  Visit

Occidental Hotels & Resorts’ Summer Sale


Occidental Hotels & Resorts’ has lowered rates and extended its summer sale on Grand and Allegro vacations at resorts throughout Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Also, children ages 3 to 12 vacation for free at all Allegro resorts. That represents a savings of $53 - $73 per child, per night. Summer travelers need to book by July 1 to take advantage of these low rates for travel now through August 31. At Allegro Playa Dorada, Dominican Republic, rates start as low as $56 per night and at Occidental Grand Punta Cana, Dominical Republic rates start as low as $81 per night. Visit

Grand Cayman Resort Offers Family Package


The Coral Stone Club, an exclusive 35-unit vacation rental property on Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands announced a family package for low season.  It includes stocking the units prior to guest arrival with food items, a sixth night free and low-season rates valid from now through until December 19, including Thanksgiving. Guests save more than $800 on the free night. Each unit will be stocked with the following items: bananas, baby carrots, milk (two-percent and organic), pineapple and orange juice, cereal, bread, peanut butter and fruit spread, bottled water, yogurt, string cheese, crackers and granola bars.  Guests can choose not to have these provisions and save an additional $50 on their booking. Prices at the Coral Stone Club begin at $695 per night and all condo rentals are three bedrooms, each with attached bath. Visit

Nevis Resort Offers Free Transfers for July


The Nisbet Plantation is offering free airport transfers in July. For all Nisbet Plantation guests arriving in July and staying six or more nights, the hotel will pre-arrange free airport transfers.  Guests will receive complimentary round-trip transportation for two (per room) from either the Nevis airport or St. Kitts airport. From the Nevis airport, Nisbet is a short 10-minute taxi ride.  From St. Kitts airport (with recent new non-stops from New York and Atlanta), the primary transport is a water taxi ride. All in all, it’s about 45 minutes and a $275 value. Visit

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