Hotel Review: Westin Punta Cana, A Marriott Property
Max and I have been in the Dominican Republic for about two months. Before we jump into the review, I wanted to be very clear that while we are traveling during COVID and are lucky to have the experiences we do, we take our position very seriously and wear masks in all public places, including restaurants. We also did quarantine ourselves for two weeks prior to entering into a number of media related activities back in July when we first arrived in the country. Times have changed and hospitality looks very different now. We urge you to travel cautiously and only when you can be sure you are not ill. Please be aware of all state or local regulations for any destination prior to travel.
Ok, onto the good stuff! As mentioned above, Max and I have been all around the Dominican Republic in the last few months. We drove down to Punta Cana a few weekends ago to exchange a rental car at the airport and therefore decided to spend a few days at the Westin Punta Cana, using our Chase Sapphire Reserve Ultimate Rewards Points. We wanted something clean, simple and guaranteed to take COVID seriously. Nothing is more reliable in my opinion than a Westin and it’s exactly what we thought it would be.
The Westin Punta Cana is located inside the Punta Cana Resort & Club complex, literally, feet from the airport roundabout. The location is incredibly easy for travelers flying into Punta Cana Airport and yet feels very secluded. Within the complex, there are residences, The Westin, Tortuga Bay, a Six Senses Spa and more. Due to the Westin’s location inside the complex, the whole complex made the decision to add the barrier in the ocean that keeps the Sargassum at bay. This is unfortunately hugely necessary and really did an effective job at keeping the seaweed mostly clear. Due to this, the location is exceptional. The beachfront is expansive with white sand and teal water.
Lobby & Check in experience: 4/5
The Westin has a nice, open-air lobby with multiple check in desks and a lobby bar. It’s simple and overlooks the pool area of the hotel and the ocean beyond. The bell staff were helpful and very quick to assist us with our luggage and car. Due to our travel during COVID, the Westin sent multiple emails with information about the hotel and did ask for passports and information prior to arriving at the hotel to minimize contact during the check in process. This was appreciated and we were quickly checked in. We are Marriott Gold and did not receive an upgrade, despite the hotel not being very full.
We did, however, get to check in at 11am, which was much appreciated. We were quickly sent off with the bellman to find our room.
We booked an Ocean View Premium Room, but we did not quite have a view of the ocean due to being on the 1st floor. I was really surprised that they classified the room as ocean view, because that was a huge stretch. As Marriott Gold, you’re typically entitled to an upgrade to a better room, or at least a good room within the category you booked. Regardless, the room was a nice 635 square feet, with a large Westin Heavenly King Bed, desk with seating for 2 and a chaise lounge. The one thing I love about Westin is that it’s incredibly reliable. The toiletries, bedding and overall room comfort are always the same. The bathroom was an odd design, and quite dark, but had a double vanity and large shower. There are no stocked minibars anymore at most major chains, but you can request minibar packages for purchase. Also, in the welcome email we received, we were told to request items they have removed due to COVID, such as a coffee maker, robes and slippers. We did request these items and they were waiting for us upon our arrival.
Overall, the room was very comfortable. Given our lack of view, I would just book the standard room next time as I did not see much value in the upgrade.
The Westin is part of the Punta Cana Resort & Club complex, allowing guests to explore a safe, lush complex with multiple hotels and restaurants. The beachfront is spectacular, with limited sargassum thanks to the extensive barrier around the entire complex. The Westin has a nice pool area with ample seating as well as ample beach seating. Guests have free access to the lagoons and cave-like formations at a facility inside the complex, however, we did not get to try it due to some confusion around the opening and closing times. The spa is inside the greater complex as well, at the Six Senses Spa, and the hotel will drive you to the spa and pick you up.
Overall, the facilities are excellent and due to the convenience of the location and access to amenities of the complex, guests will be in great hands.
The dining at the Westin was ok – not bad, but not great either. Their appetizers at dinner were good, but the entrees themselves were cold and not particularly great. The breakfast was, again, ok. Not great, not terrible. If you are on a breakfast plan, keep in mind that the “speciality” juice is an extra $7.20 USD.
The cocktails were great at dinner and the food was hit or miss. On our second night, we decided to go to Jumbo and buy some charcuterie to enjoy in our room so we did not have to deal with the service issues we experienced on our first night. If we had stayed longer, we would have tried one of the other restaurants in the complex. Guests can easily walk to a number of restaurants, both next door or at the other hotels. Prices are fairly standard US hotel prices for food and since the property is not all-inclusive, guests have some flexibility in terms of what and where you can go.
While Max and I have been particularly kind in recent months due to COVID and the massive changes hotels have to make to their systems and protocols, I simply did not find their service to be good enough to warrant higher than 3 stars, particularly when it comes to food and beverage. The front desk agent who checked us in was kind enough, but it often felt like the front desk staff had NO idea what facilities they had, what hours things were open and even what restaurants on property were available. Housekeeping was probably to only department I have nothing bad to say about: they were efficient, came on time and did a great job.
Food & beverage is really where it all fell apart. The service was so incredibly bad that they forgot about our dinner entirely. There were not many people dining at the restaurant, so it was pretty surprising. When we inquired about what was taking so long, they became defensive and rude. The food was cold that eventually came out and when we asked about that, the manager told us it was our fault because we were sitting outside. He told us that the extra 20 feet they had to walk to get to our table is why the food came out an hour later and was cold. They offered seating outside so I find it odd to blame us for choosing to sit there. The most tragic part about all of it was the meager 20% discount we received for the “trouble”. Regardless, it was an unfortunate situation that left a sour taste in our mouth.
The style was exactly what we were expected and what we wanted for the Westin. The rooms are clean, simple and thoughtfully considered for what guests need and want. The bedding is comfortable, fluffy and true to the Westin Heavenly Bed standard. The rooms are simple, but refreshed and have exactly what you need to work, relax and enjoy the property. The rest of the property felt very much the same: simple, clean and nicely refurbished. If you close the blinds, you could be anywhere and that’s exactly what makes the Westin consistent anywhere you go in the world. You won’t find avant-gard decor here, it’s just simple…the Westin.
Overall, we chose the Westin for our quick trip because we knew exactly what we would get: clean, COVID-friendly and comfortable and that’s exactly what we got. If you love the Westin brand, you will find everything you are accustomed to in a beautiful setting. We would 100% return for a great price and simply choose to dine off property.
COVID-19 Safety Rating: 4.5/5
We chose the Westin because of the policies stated on their website and based on our knowledge of the Marriott brand’s commitment to COVID safety precautions. We were not disappointed by what we experienced. The hotel required masks in public spaces and all staff wore masks and many had face shields as well. Before arriving to the property, we received multiple emails asking for information, including a copy of our passports and a request to sign a form before arriving to minimize contact at the front desk. All public spaces were sanitized constantly and guests were asked to use hand sanitizer upon entering the restaurants. Our guest room was thoroughly cleaned prior to our arrival and included the “sanitized” label on the door to indicate no on had entered the room.
In the room, they had removed all the high-tough items such as coffee machines, etc. However, in the email they sent before our arrival, we were able to request any of these items in the room and they were waiting for us upon arrival. There were slight discrepancies in service that we are chalking up to training and changes in process. For example, staff were not allowed to enter the room, however, one of the agents did enter our room to help us open a bottle of wine. Not a big deal, but it’s worth mentioning. Overall, we were really impressed by the changes they have made and how safe we felt overall.