Jack and I recently got back from our second round of international travels together; this time took us to the Dominican Republic.
We’d heard nothing but good things about the DR, so were excited to see it for ourselves. We both came back with fond memories and intestinal parasites. I’ve doubled down by getting my second raging sinus infection in as many months, and because of this, I’m going to do this blog Jamaica-style, and just keep it simple with my top t̶e̶n̶ five takeaways, in no particular order.
1. You get what you pay for. But if you’re outside the airport waiting for your transfer and you are offered a welcome drink, you might have overpaid. You see, after our never-ending airport transfer in Jamaica, I got us a private van in Punta Cana. This in itself was a glorious option, and not much more expensive than the gianormo buses loaded to the brim, stopping at every hotel in a 20-mile radius.
While we were waiting outside with the guide who’d walked us out from the airport, a guy she seemed to know offered us drinks for the ride. In a way that made us think it was part of the transfer. Just give him a tip. I mean, yes, we’d love a rum and coke for the road and said as much. He came back with the bevvies just as our van pulled up, and then quoted us an amount that I’m too embarrassed to write down out loud, but let’s just say that it made Nashville drinks look cheap.
On a same-same-but-different vein, we stayed at Princess Punta Cana, which is a very budget-friendly all-inclusive. So many hyphens in that sentence. Compared to Jewel Runaway Bay in Jamaica, it was lacking in some areas (shows in the evening, bars with actual stools at them so you could sit and chat with people, vendors wandering all over trying to sell you bullshit or put a monkey or parrot on your head and try to insist you pay for the pleasure of its removal, etc.), but the beach was glorious, and it was about one-third of the Jamaica price, so…..can’t really be upset about it, particularly when the main point was to get away, relax a bit after a hectic summer and fall, and get some sun before the seasonal depression of the UP sets in with gusto for the next several months.
2. Take more cash.
There were times on this trip that made me scratch my head and wondered if I’ve ever damn traveled before. Clearly I’m rusty on anything international, and in fairness, before now beach vacations have never been my forte, so I’ll take those things into consideration, but there were days we were at the beach and it would start raining, and I’d say to myself, “Hey, it would have been a great idea to grab one of the MANY Ziploc bags I have in the room to put our electronics in during this passing squall,” and then not grab said Ziploc bag again the next day. Or even later that afternoon.
I digress. One of the excursions we opted for was a dune buggy ride. We can get more into my personal feelings about this outing later, but when the Rex Buggy delivered us to the point of departure, we learned that we were going to be traipsing through roads that had horse and cow shit, etc., mixed in with some, ummmm….water features, and needed to purchase neck gaiters to keep this concoction out of our noses and mouths. I mean, yes, I want to keep those things out of said orifices, and no, why would I know in advance to plan for it or bring something to use (let’s be honest, with what we’ve just talked about, I probably wouldn’t have remembered anyway, but then I could blame myself for it) when they have an overpriced shopping area for you to purchase these necessities from. We didn’t have enough cash for it, so Jack kindly used his credit card, and funnily enough, just after that purchase, which was his only DR credit card purchase, he started getting fraudulent credit card activity. Weird.
3. Timing is everything.
Back in June, we applied for Global Entry. We both like to travel, and after the ridiculous immigration line during our Jamaica trip, not to mention some security lines that have left me sprinting for a closing plane door, we decided that would be money well spent, especially since it also includes the TSA pre-check line, so even if we’re not going overseas, we’ll still get a little bonus for domestic airline travel. My application was conditionally approved (you have to schedule an interview to finish the process, or they have walk-in at-airport interview options in some of the major hubs) pretty much the next day, but Jack’s clearly shady past needed a little more investigation, so we were waiting on his conditional approval to schedule our interviews at the same time. It didn’t happen in time for this trip, but wouldn’t you know, we got the email about 2 hours after we’d cleared immigration at O’Hare, which, btws, is one of the airports we could have walked in for the interview. So we’ll be taking a little day trip to Sault Ste Marie next Monday to get ‘er done.
4. Ask more questions about any excursion you book when you are into your cups. We happened to book both of our outings at the end of the first full day, which was spent drinking tequila/soda/oj that oddly tasted like Lebkuchen to me, and playing in the water and sun. Probably not the best time to make informed decisions, and probably that’s just the way they like it.
Parasailing was muy divertido, but a very different setup than what I’ve experienced in the States. In Hawaii, there’d be a timed ticket, and you and several other people would get on a very sturdy motorboat, go out together, and everyone hung out on the boat while the various sets of people would get sent up for their time in the air. You could plan on being on the boat for probably about an hour or so.
In the DR, the guy we booked with, Alex, said to be on the beach around 11 and find him. So we did, backpack in hand (yes again full of electronics without a Ziploc bag, because I’m dumb), where he waved a little vessel, not unlike to a rowboat with a motor (all I could picture in my head is the little dragonfly from The Rescuers pushing Bianca and Bernard on a leaf over the swamp), over to us. It picked us up from shore, and delivered us (with about as much splash as we’d experienced on the Hobie Cat) to another ever-so-slightly-larger rowboat that had a parasail on the back. While you’re up in the air, the water taxi is going to fetch the next group to be delivered when they retrieve you after 10 or so minutes. It’s a very efficient way of doing things.
The second excursion we chose was the aforementioned dune buggy ride. I don’t think I’ve ever had an excursion that annoyed me and turned me into a crabby tittybaby as much as this one did. The rigs were, I’m going to guestimate, homemade. There was no suspension to speak of, and the steering was reminiscent of those old-timey car rides at theme parks, where little kids get to pretend they are driving and there’s a rail in the middle, and it doesn’t really matter where the kid is steering because that car goes where it wants to anyway. It was like that, but without the rail in the middle to keep us on track, so it was an entire crapshoot of where you were going to go. But you were definitely going to go into mud puddles up to your butt and have poo flung into your face trying to avoid the butt puddles. Though the neck gaiter kept crud out of my mouth, I’m pretty sure I have pinkeye from getting shit in my right eye.
While I didn’t love the actual dune buddy portion of the jaunt, I was looking forward to the little stops along the route. These hopes were gradually dashed when it became obvious that the guides were taking us to their friends’ various trinket shops where’d we’d stay for an unreasonable amount of time baking in the sun while they shot the shit with their pals. The irritation was ratcheted up a notch by one of the buggies breaking down approximately two dozen times (not even exaggerating this time), so we’d have to stop and sit and wait for a ‘repair’, adding an extra almost hour to the day. Then when it came time to get back on the Rex Buggies to go back to the hotel, the guides left us in this holding area trying to peddle their photos of the day on us. Even though the Rex Buggies were right around the corner and ready to go. For 45 minutes, until there was a group mob mentality about to break out and we all collectively said getusthefuckoutofherenow.
So asking more questions might have been prudent in expectation management, or at least if Alex had tried to gloss this over as a really nice day, I could go punch him in the face after with little-to-no guilt.
5. I once again cannot overstate the importance of knowing where the nearest public crappers are.
Now I didn’t do the best job of photodocumenting things on this trip, so let me do my best to verbally describe the situation at Princess Punta Cana. The rooms were basically divided into four little sections. Just inside the slider leading out to the balcony was a little couch and table, and then up a (very dangerous in the middle of the night) set of a couple stairs was the bed (which was like sleeping on a concrete floor…..holy fuck I’ve never woken up so many times a night in so many different varieties of pain, mostly shoulder and hip, but sometimes spirit (not even kidding, I had some of the weirdest and scariest nightmares ever one night – ALL night)). The headboard of the bed also served as a 2/3 divider to the next area, so right on the other side of the headboard was a jacuzzi tub. Behind the tub was a doorframe (no door, mind you) that led into the main bathroom area, which consisted of, if you’re facing into said doorframe, a sink to the direct left, and then in front of you were two stalls, one on the left being the shower, and the one on the right, directly in front of where you are standing being the shitter.
Both doors to these stalls were semi-opaque glass, and neither of them were fully enclosed. Think saloon-doors-meets-American-public-restroom style (I have to add the American, b/c in Europe, particularly in Germany, they think we’re bonkers/stupid that we have public restrooms that you can see through giants gaps into the stalls. Unless you’re at Buc-ee’s…..they had someone with common sense designing those. But in Germany, stalls are enclosed, and you're not going to accidently make eye contact with someone standing outside waiting.) I mean, your significant other could be out enjoying the sunshine on the balcony while still being able to have a proper conversation and maintaining a loving gaze, all while you’re playing your post-coffee tuba in the office.
Now imagine you’ve just had your last dinner in the DR at a fondue restaurant, and both of you are shitting your brains out about an hour later. Crucial to know where the nearest other option is.
All in all, it was a lovely trip, and we will be back to the DR in the future. With that, I will end it here so I can find an adult diaper and try to make it to work on time.