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Chilling in the Dominican Republic

‘Excelente! Wow!’

On the day we arrived, we wanted to celebrate at dinner, so we headed to Himitsu, the resort’s Asian/hibachi-style restaurant. The chefs there engaged everyone in the room in a boisterous give-and-take as they prepared dishes on a sizzling grill. Their “Excelente! Wow!” rose from the din to become the central theme of that beverage-driven dialogue.  That became the guys’ mantra for the week whenever anything fun happened, and our wives heard it ad nauseum.

The resort featured four internationally themed evening restaurants. We had our choice of French, Italian, Asian and Mexican eateries and dined at all of them during our stay. We never had a wait, and we ate both indoors and al fresco, based on what was available at the time. We also dined poolside a couple of evenings at the dressy Oceana and the more casual Seaside Grill. Steaks and seafood were the featured entrees at those.

We agreed that the resort food was good but not five-star cuisine. Nonetheless, we all looked forward to happy hour and dinner because we went our separate ways much of the time during the day. Over the course of the week’s dinners, we laughed our way through the kinds of conversations that meals with friends inspire:  How long do we have to pay our kids’ cellphone bills?  If we lost our spouse, would we remarry, and who would have us? Why do we have retirement accounts if we don’t plan to retire? That sort of thing.

Making a Break for It

About midweek, Kim and I decided to hit pause. The idea of staying within the confines of this luxurious resort for a week without ever venturing out was more than we could handle. So after about four days, we bolted one morning for a shopping excursion in town and bought a few trinkets. When they loaded us up in the white resort van with six other guests, Kim made the comment of the week:

“I feel like we’re on work release.” All eight of us laughed. When we passed a crew of local road maintenance guys in orange vests carrying weed-eaters, it became even funnier.

We also bolted by way of a long walk on the beach after two guys at the pool told us about Little John, a wonderfully nondescript open-air cafe down the beach. It might have been half a mile away at most, and they recommended the frozen margaritas and fish tacos. We bit. We ended up going twice for lunch and loved everything about it. The food, the crowd, the servers, you name it.

The second day we went, I put our two Corona beers on the ledge with the ocean in the background and tweeted we had “found our beach.” Call it commercial, but it sure felt that way to us. To be honest, I even enjoyed paying the bill at Little John. It just felt right after all those meals at Secrets that had been paid for months earlier.

Here’s a Tip

The best advice Mark gave me before we left was to bring a couple hundred dollars or so in ones with us for small tips throughout the week. I also brought some fives and tens for larger items like meal service. I realized throughout the week that many people did not tip much, if at all. Maybe they feel like they’ve paid enough for their vacation on the front end. I disagree. The front-line service staff was wonderful, and they work hard to earn their livings.

About That Question…

So, will we do it again?  Absolutely. We’d like to do this with them every few years if they’ll have us. We had a ball, and we fell very easily into the relaxing rhythm a resort like this creates. We’ve come back from many a trip across the world less relaxed than when we left, but we’re OK with that. This was not an adventure, but it was a wonderful week with friends that we won’t forget. It’s easy to see why groups led by the readers of this magazine choose to do an all-inclusive from time to time. Relaxation is its own reward.