Viva Dominica Palace distinguishes itself from the all-inclusive formula

By: Darrel Lippman

LA ROMANA-BAYAHIBE, Dominican Republic All-inclusive resorts, by their very nature, can seem familiar similar buffets, similar activities, similar services.

At the Viva Dominicus Palace here, however, the all-inclusive concept has a lot of attractive differences.

Located along the southeast coast of the Dominican Republic, the 332-room Dominicus Palace is an expansive resort that will surely impress your clients. With a multitude of activities from archery lessons and bocce ball on the sand to poolside merengue lessons and an ambitious lineup of alternative dining options this is a well-rounded all-inclusive property.

Even as I lazed on a chaise longue on Day 4 of my visit, it occurred to me that I didn’t feel as though I had covered the 4-year-old resort. And I never had the urge to leave the property (Santo Domingo, the nearest tourist destination, is 90 minutes away). In fact, I never felt like moving from the beach, where palms provided much-needed shade from the midday heat (the average temperature is 77 degrees.)

But on most evenings, my wife and I did walk next door to the resort’s sister property, the 530-room Viva Dominicus Beach, which has three more pools, more bars, additional restaurant choices and lighted tennis courts, among other activities.

Dominicus Palace guests may use Dominicus Beach amenities, but not vice versa (a wristband system is used).

At night, the action was at Dominicus Beach. A short walk past its beachfront bungalows led us to a piazza where a deejay was spinning dance music and guests of various nationalities were sipping cappuccinos.

Two weeks before Christmas, the resort was at 95 percent occupancy, but only a few guests were U.S. and Canadian vacationers. (Viva Resorts is a privately held, Italian-owned company with three properties in Mexico and one in the Bahamas.)

Guests certainly won’t lack entertainment. Both resorts offer commendable live musical productions and cabaret shows. We caught an entertaining Michael Jackson tribute at the Dominicus Beach’s 1,000-seat theater one evening and a Moulin Rouge-themed performance on another night at the Dominicus Palace’s open-air venue. There’s also a free-standing, air-conditioned disco.

In addition to the daily breakfast, lunch and dinner seatings at the La Yuca buffet restaurant, Viva Dominicus Palace offers three other international eateries.

We enjoyed a four-course Italian meal at La Scala and fajitas and flaming coffee drinks at Viva Mexico, but the best dinner experience was Bambu, the resort’s newest restaurant, which serves Asian cuisine.

Guests may also book a table at La Roca, the waterfront grill at Dominicus Beach.

Reservations are required for all restaurants.

For late-night snacks, we tried a tuna-topped pizza at La Pizzeria. There are 168 superior garden-view rooms, 92 superior oceanfront rooms and 72 junior suites in a series of connecting three-story buildings. The rooms, which feature two queen-size or one king-size bed, have balconies, satellite TV, mini bars, safes and hair dryers.

The package includes meals, a room-service option for continental breakfast, snacks, alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, motorized sports, activities, the Viva Kid’s Club, taxes and tips.

The resort spa, Metamorphosis, offers a variety of treatments at an additional cost.

As one Canadian woman lounging on the beach put it: “You can do as much or as little as you want, day or night.”

Hotel Review

Hits: The grounds, beach areas and energetic staff in charge of the daily activities and nightly entertainment.

Misses: Rigid rules for returning/exchanging beach towels.

Be Aware: Use the 2-year-old La Romana Airport, a 15-minute drive from the resort. In contrast, Punta Cana Airport is approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes away.

Rates: From $76 to $241 per person, per night. Children 3 to 12 are free, if they share a room with two adults.