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Package-Holiday Hell

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic – It looks great from the outside, but watch out! We booked a week at Breeze’s Resort, Spa and Casino in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic in june 2003. This was to be a great vacation including sand, sun and total relaxation.”FORGET ABOUT IT!”

We decided to leave from our home airport, Elmira,New York. Arriving at the airport at 5:15 a.m. for our 6:00a.m. flight to Pittsburg, we were prepared for what we thought would be an extensive security check. Much to our surprise, we were through security  quickly. Un fortunately, the readio did not work on the U.S.Air flight and we were asked to de-plane. So, at 6:30 a.m. we were on the ground in Elmira. For the following hour U.S.Air personnel tried , in vain, to hook us up with new connecting flights. When the air attendant asked where the Dominican Republic was, I knew we were in trouble.

$25.00 ( cab fare) later, we were back home, scheduled to depart at 6:00a.m. the next day. Security, the next day, was a nightmare. Not only did they go through our bags,with a fine tooth comb but they even confiscated a pair of mini scissors(while leaving a sharp nail file in place). All this for a flight taking 10 passengers.

The flight down was long but relatively uneventful. The return trip was definitely an adventure but for now lests concentrate on the “FUN” part. We had pre-paid for an ocean front room , meals and drinks included.

Doesn’t look like the hotel from hell…

$2800 didn’t sound like a bad deal! The room was on the second floor and faced the swimming pool where a band was knocking out what was billed as Latin Sounds, sounding more like a guitar with a broken string.  It smelled like one of those places that rent rooms by the 1/2 hour! When I demanded a new room, it caused a great deal of consternation among the hotel employees due to the fact that they did not have any rooms available with what they called the “VISTA”. I carefulley explained that I did not care about the “VISTA”.

Our new room was on the 4th floor, much cleaner and it did not smell. However, I discovered that all the rooms were exactly the same. The bed was like a concrete slab and there was no room in the two drawer dresser to place our clothes. We lived out of the suitcases.

The pre-paid booze became a key factor. Cocktails began at 10:30a.m. and continued until 9:30p.m. most days. The beach, ocean and weather were fantastic! That would have been enough except that this particular hotel was populated with an over abundance of tesosterone and tattooed women. That and the fact that it was isolated, 1and 1/2 hour from the neartest city  didn’t help. Apparently, one’s safety cannot be guaranteed outside of the Hotel compound.

The travel agency that we booked through is affiliated with a local agency, which provided transportation to and from the airport and also provided “adventures” for a price. The one that sticks out in my mind was for a mere $85.00 per person. That included free falling into a cave at the end of a rope! We decided to stay on the beach.

Plenty of pool…

Getting out of the Dominican Republuic proved to be an exercise in practicing what I call ACUTE Patience. First, we pased through Customs, then Immigration, then the local Policia, and last but not least the Army. My wife later quipped,”I’ve never had so many men handle my underwear”! All this to sit in a sweltering 90 degree heat in an open airport awaiting our flight to Puerto Rico. Once on board, the flight took 30 minutes, but we were held on the runway because the policia in Puerto Rico  wanted to use their drug dog to sniff the carry on luggage. They didn’t find any drugs.

We de-planed only to find out  that we then had to make our way to the opposite end of the terminal to catch our connection to Philadelphia. But before we could do that, we had to wit in line and pass through U.S.Customs. At that point we had 30 min utes to catch our flight. We had to claoim our lugage and then the FUN started.

Somehow, we manged to convince the U.S.Air agent to call the departure gate and they agreed to hold the flight. Now the problem of navigating SECURITY. The first checkpoint let us through quickly. Checkpoint no.2 allowed us to come to the head of the line but then made us take off our shoes, go through our carry ons etc., etc. Once through this point I literally ran bags and baggage with my poor wife trying desperately to keep up to the U.S.Air gate arriving just as the ticket clerk, who seemed annoyed at waiting, sarcastically  inquired as to our whereabouts.

We boarded, at last, to discover that we had been bumped out of first class, obviously because the airline overbooked.  Aside from ny smelling like someone who lives in a cardboard box due to my excessive sweating, we made it to Philadelphia in record time. Then we circled the airport for an hour, presumably due to the weather. Upon landing the plane, we sat on the runway for another 30 minutes. Once again, upon de-planing, we discovered that our connecting flight was at the opposite end of the airport. As we rushed off the plane, I encountered a U.S.Air employee sitting in a shuttle vehicle. I desperately asked for assistance to reach our connecting flight, to which she replied..”Go to a ticket desk..They will help you”. The gentleman at the first ticket desk advised us that our connecting flight had departed ..5 minutes earlier than scheduled. At that point, the shuttle lady came by with tow young men from our flight who had been sitting in first class!

We went to the main ticket desk for some kind of asistance. There were no les than seven ticket agents standing around talking to each other. My wife and I were the only passengers there. As we sttod in front of the desk, no one would wait on us! Finally, having suffered just about enough, I asked a rather portly individual with food stains on his white shirt if he could help us. After explaining that we had missed our flight and needed  assistance, we were told, and not so nicely , that the airline would give us a voucher for $69 toward our stay at a local hotel and re-book us forr the next days flight.It was up to us to get there and back.

…and quite a lot of beach

We declined and immediately went to the car rental shuttle. Now it was pouring rain and as we boarded the Hertz shuttle bus I discovered that there was a hole in the roof  and the water was pouring in upon me. Everyone on the bus was watching and waiting to see what would happen. I sat down, took a deep breath and muttered the words..”never again”.

Eventually, we made it back to Elmira via rental car and U.S.Air re-imbursed us for the flight from Philadelphia to Elmira along with a voucher for some future flight.

Would I do it again? Not in the near future! Air travel is a travesty. Not only is security a colosal joke,but the airlines personnel, at least in Philadelphia, are rude, obnoxious and don’t seem to care about customer service.

Would I go to the Dominican Republic again? Not likely…I didn’t much like being referred to by the local travel guide as a “Gringo”. But I guess that says it all…They want the money, but not necessarily you and me. Not to mention your personal safety which they wouldn’t guarantee outside of the hotel compound.

The Moral of the Story….Home never looked so good!!!!

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