I have no idea how to relax. To me, relaxing while traveling is sitting for five minutes to enjoy a view I just climbed up a giant hill to see. I think that’s the difference between vacationing and traveling. I never vacation; I don’t know how. When I was presented with the idea of a weekend at the Paradisus Palma Real Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, I decided I deserved a weekend in paradise. I’d never stayed at an all-inclusive before, but this looked so luxurious, even my non-vacationing self couldn’t resist. Here’s what I learned from my first all-inclusive experience.
I Don’t Know How to Relax.
We’ve already addressed this, and I guess it makes sense since I’m a native New Yorker. But when met with with days in paradise where my activity options were limited to relaxing and eating, I still made myself a to-do list of all the places I wanted to do those things. I wanted to try every pool, every type of chair, every spot on the beach, every breakfast buffet, every swim-up bar. In the beginning, each spot was allotted one hour of enjoying, until I finally realized I was being ridiculous and just stopped. Literally. That’s when the real relaxing began. After two hours of that, I thought, “Maybe the resort has snorkel gear for guests…” Here we go again…
All is Included!
That’s what “all-inclusive” means. It only took me asking my butler (yes, I had a butler, I’ll get to that!) “What isn’t included?” five times to understand that everything at this resort was up for grabs. I just couldn’t comprehend it.
Everyone Deserves to Have Butler, at Least Once.
The butler service at the resort might have been the best part, and while it would be completely unrealistic to have one in real life, everyone deserves a butler for a weekend one time in their lives. Even if I barely utilized the services, I felt so special knowing he was there.
Baths Are So Much Better When Drawn for You.
Having never had a butler before, I had no idea how to utilize mine. He mentioned that he would set up the in-room Jacuzzi for me if I wanted to use it, so I went with that. I love baths, but my impatient self usually hops in before the tub is even full. I returned to my room after he had left to find a bubbling tub adorned with flower petals and candles. My thought was, “What did I do to deserve this?!” Absolutely nothing. That’s the beauty of it.
Champagne in a Paper Cup is Perfectly Acceptable.
Of course the Palma Real had a bar set up on the beach, but they don’t use glassware (probably safer that way). I sipped my champagne out of a paper cup, no shame. Somewhere out there, a Real Housewife is hyperventilating.
Food is Fashion:
Amidst the sea of sarongs and cover-ups, there isn’t much style-watching to be done when at a resort like this. That is, until night falls. For those of us who can’t go a week without whipping out the heels and are a little sick of buffets (although…I never get sick of buffets), most resorts have at least one upscale restaurant, and they go all out. We know, you totally thought all-inclusive meant all-tacky food, but resorts are stepping up their game. The resort I stayed at boasts the gorgeous Passion by Martin Berasategui, a michelin star chef. Guests don’t have to wear ball gowns, but this is the time to put on the one fancy dress you packed (if you want to). However, that’s not where the fashion comes in. Between the beautifully decorated restaurant and the artistically presented dishes (seriously, they use tweezers to make sure just the right amount of lettuce goes on each plate), dining at Passion was like attending a fashion show. Each plate was a model and the food was the clothing. The best part was at the end of the meal, the entire kitchen staff (including Chef Berasategui) came out and took bows – just like at a real fashion show! I had never experienced dining like this, and I highly recommend it.
A Tan Back is Overrated.
Usually when I’m laying poolside, it isn’t relaxing because I am busy timing how long I’ve been tanning this side. This time, I would not let myself worry. I lay face-up all weekend and loved every minute of it, pale back and all. Who’s looking at my back and saying, “OMG, you’re SO tan!”? No one.
All-Inclusive Resorts Are Like Cities.
As a newbie, I thought if I needed something, I’d have to run to a bodega. That was until I took a tour of the property. They have everything, but you probably already knew that, since I seem to be the only person who doesn’t understand “all-inclusive.” This resort even had a main-square-esque area pulled straight out of Europe, street musicians and all. At one point, walking around the resort with my paper cup of champagne, I thought, “Wait, am I allowed to drink on the streets in the Dominican? Oh, I’m still on the resort’s property.” Silly me.
Laughter Makes People Look Young.
What I love about the Paradisus resorts is that they are filled with all types of vacationers, so everyone feels comfortable. Newlyweds, families, young groups of partying friends, old groups of partying friends, etc. On my first day there, I was sitting on the side of the pool watching a group of people my age drinking at the swim-up bar and laughing. I thought, I want to be friends with them. When I swam a little closer, I realized they were at least twice my age, which obviously didn’t matter, but their vivacious energy totally un-aged them, and everyone at the resort for that matter. We were all stripped of our outside-resort selves and just let loose. I wonder if it’s like that at all resorts… I might have to do it again just to find out…
Featured image the Paradisus website