PLEASE note, this review is from 2012 and is about a resort which is no longer under the Dreams flag.
Last year I was approached by AMResorts, the provider of sales, marketing and brand management services to five brands of exclusive resort properties in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, to work together in a partnership to help promote their properties. I researched the brands and decided that yes, they would be an excellent fit for my readers. The resorts are all-inclusive and appeal to a wide range of interests and budgets. My first trip to one of their properties was a few weeks ago when I traveled to the Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa. I’ve written around the edges of the trip, but now I want to write a totally honest, open review of the property and the experience.
That’s right, totally honest. This is not an advertorial or infomercial, that’s the great thing about blogs and why properties and destinations want to work with us. We provide real, honest feedback and so here’s mine. All photos are also mine.
Service and Hospitality
Dreams self-classifies as a luxury all-inclusive; a weighty claim if you really think about it. Other than being surrounded by comfort and pretty things, luxury service really depends on impeccable, near flawless service. I was skeptical that an all-inclusive resort could maintain these high levels throughout the duration of my stay, but they did. From the check-in process to being asked if I needed any help if I ever set foot in the lobby, the service was excellent. Ultimately this reflects on the great people working there and the corporate environment. If people find pride in their work and enjoy working as a team, then this flows naturally as it did at Dreams.
Notes: In this category, there aren’t any glaring problems, just nit-picky ones. They provided complementary Diet Coke in bottles, but no bottle openers to open them. I nearly smashed one in a caffeine rage.
Resorts, not unlike cruise ships, depend on quality food and beverage offerings because most guests usually stay on property for the duration of their stay. In my case downtown Puerto Vallarta was an easy cab ride away, but still most people find themselves not wanting to leave the warm cocoon of the resort. From previous all-inclusive experiences, I was prepared for the worst and by the worst, I mean endless buffets. I understand their utility when feeding a lot of people efficiently, but I don’t like them at every meal. Luckily, Dreams doesn’t have them, at least not many. The buffet is the main breakfast option, but that’s fine by me. Breakfast buffets, unlike other mealtime food melees, I love. I love being able to choose a little bit of this or that rather than a huge meal I may not want. Dreams also has a lunch buffet, but not as the only option, more as an easy choice for pool goers. Instead, several of their main restaurants are open offering individual, table side service.
What impressed me most were the dinners. Some all-inclusives I’ve visited have premium restaurants, but you had to pay more for them. At Dreams, everything is included, from the before-dinner cocktail to a meal at their best restaurant. Not only were they included, but the food was delicious. This may seem obvious, but I have stayed at other resorts where the food was fine, but not great. More of a means to an end than anything else. But I loved the choices at Dreams and really enjoyed the meals. My favorite was Portofino, one of the most popular restaurants at the resort. The setting was intimate and the Italian food exquisite. Also, as an important side note, reservations aren’t necessary at any of their restaurants. You just show up and that’s that.
A lot of people also forget that most all-inclusive resorts include free room service, something I can never get over. I feel like Charlie Bucket and resist the urge to order one of everything just to see what would happen. I used them for a dinner and breakfast to see how timely they were, and once again no problems. This is a great choice for people who just want to enjoy a quiet meal with their loved one on the balcony, watching the waves roll in.
Notes: I didn’t suffer from it, but some people I spoke with said they had to wait a few times for meals due to the no reservation system. I asked them if they would prefer to go to a more standard system and immediately their eyes lit up and they said, “Oh no, we love this.” Ok then.
Pool, beach and other relaxy, pretty things
A beach resort wouldn’t be much without a pretty as punch, jaw dropping, heart stopping view, now would it? Dreams didn’t disappoint me with their secluded, private beach that seemed to be a million miles from anything else. Better yet, every room is positioned to take advantage of this view. There’s no such thing as a room with a ‘jungle’ view, it’s all beach all the time at this resort.
There are also three pools to augment the ocean, one that I call the main pool and two other side pools. including one designated as adults only. The main pool was in the center of the resort and featured pool bars, plenty of chairs and tons of activities all day long. The other two were a little more secluded and definitely more restful. The resort isn’t huge, so it’s nice that they set up various lounge areas for all tastes. If you have kids and want to frolic and be kid-like, then the main pool is for you. If you’re slightly child phobic like me and want to rest, read a book and generally be left alone, then the adult pool is the place to be. Even given the different clientele at each pool, they’re all close to each other, all close to the beach and all close to all of the activities.
Notes: Again, not a huge one, but the adult pool is so secluded, it’s freezing for most of the day. The sun doesn’t reach it until late afternoon and the pool wasn’t heated, making every swim a polar bear plunge, at least when I was there in December.
People are of mixed minds when it comes to hotel rooms. Some profess to not care since “they’re hardly there at all.” Well, I don’t believe them. Everyone cares, whether they choose to admit to it or not. No one wants a crappy room or one that is poorly laid out, small or otherwise uncomfortable. This is where Dreams shined in my opinion.
At the Dreams Puerto Vallarta, there were basically two major room distinctions: standard and then their Preferred Club rooms. The Preferred Club rooms start with the Junior suites and move their way up to the super-duper, holy crap I can’t believe this is my room, room.
The standard rooms were comfortable, but basic. About the size of a standard hotel room and while you could open the windows, there was no true balcony. The bathrooms were beautiful though and supplemented with a generous supply of amenities.
The rooms in the executive tower were definitely a cut above the rest. Not surprisingly they were much larger, featured a spacious balcony, spacious bathroom and some of the upper level suites even have a jacuzzi tub on the balcony. Cool, no? In addition these rooms come with a wide array of benefits including: lounge with snacks and light meals, free WiFi, private concierge, upgraded amenities, and so on. They had me at free WiFi.
Regardless of which room you choose, all benefit from the same level of service and commitment to quality that marks the Dreams Resort properties. One little thing that impressed me is that after arriving, I got a call from housekeeping asking what time I’d like the room to be cleaned. Finally, no guessing and no worrying, I could actually request a specific time. This may not seem like much to some people, but I loved it. Overall, the rooms were clean, comfortable and well designed. I especially love the headboards that feature built-in night lights.
Notes: The standard rooms are in the process of being updated, but are still well designed and comfortable. Also, it’s important to note that not all Dreams Resorts have the same room distinctions. The nearby Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta is an all-suite hotel, with each featuring the spacious, modern design and balcony jacuzzi tub. Of course there are varying levels of suites, and they also offer the Preferred Club level should you choose to reserve that class of room.
Odds and Ends:
Spa – I like spas, well mostly. I like the idea of spas usually much more than the actual practice, but I couldn’t resist the luxurious spa facility at Dreams. I’m happy to say that it is now on a short list of resorts with spas where I didn’t hate my time, in fact I loved it. After a long day of travel, the simple massage I received was perfect and the entire spa setting was relaxed and tranquil. The overall spa facilities at Dreams Puerto Vallarta aren’t as robust as at some of their other locations, but still result in a great experience.
Infusion of local culture – No hotel or resort truly exists in a bubble; some accept this and some don’t. Dreams embraces this and went to some lengths to provide a better insight to the Mexican culture. Language lessons, local craftsmen and traditional dancers and singers all combined to create a feeling that you were actually, you know, in Mexico. It may seem novel, but it’s not always the case at resorts and I really appreciated it. Also, Puerto Vallarta Old Town was really just a short cab ride away and many guests took the opportunity to explore the city for its shops, culture and of course legendary nightlife.
Activities – A lot of people vacation to do nothing, or to do everything. At Dreams, there was a nice mix. I’m an active traveler, and enjoyed the opportunity to explore and take part in some resort activities, my favorite being the turtle release. I wrote about the experience here, but at Dreams Puerto Vallarta they have a full time biologist on staff who takes care of the native sea turtle population, collecting eggs from the beach and then involving guests with the release of the hatchlings. It’s truly a unique experience.
Not surprisingly, I really enjoyed my time at Dreams. But I also knew that I was there as their guest, so I went around asking random people what they thought. Believe it or not, most of the other guests were repeat customers. They have made Dreams Puerto Vallarta part of their yearly vacation tradition, a huge commitment when you have limited time off. One young couple I met actually got married at the resort a few years ago and now spend two weeks there every year. More than anything I could write, this I think speaks to the true character and appeal of not just this resort, but all Dreams properties. They’re not your average all-inclusive resort, they’re something different, something special and that is seen everywhere, from committed staff to the guests who just can’t stay away. It’s a special magic that can’t be planned, it just happens.
I think I’ve hit most of the major points of the resort, but welcome any and all questions you might have! Have you stayed with Dreams before? What did you think?