The excitement grows as we approach Punta Cana. We’re about to spend five days at the Caribbean’s biggest on-site water park and our plane is descending over kilometres of pristine white sand and turquoise waters at the far eastern end of the Dominican Republic. We’re with our daughter Laura, her husband Dan and our three granddaughters aged 7, 9 and 11. We’re as excited as the kids since we also love water parks and the chance to spend quality time with our daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.
As we travel more we’re finding that three-generation families are becoming quite common. We often see happy grandparents accompanying their children and grandchildren on cruises and at all-inclusive resorts. It’s a wonderful trend.
Our home this time was Memories Splash Resort, a Canadian-owned 525 room all-inclusive property a half hour ride from the busy Punta Cana airport. The spacious and well-groomed tropical resort has five pools, an extensive buffet, three a la carte restaurants and, most important to kids, endless ice cream.
Laura, Dan and the children had two adjoining rooms just one floor below us. It was an ideal arrangement.
The highlight was the water park. With seven monster slides, a wave pool and several smaller slides for the younger ones, the Memories Splash water park was truly impressive. Our family immediately chose favourite slides. There’s a high, four lane one that’s great fun together and an even higher, narrow one called Kamikaze that plummets almost straight down. A couple of slides use inflatable rafts including The Black Hole where the grandchildren dared John to join them. Sitting in tandem with 11 year old Eva on the raft, the ride has many sharp turns and takes place totally in the dark before the tunnel ends and the raft splashes loudly into a pool. The children thought their grandfather was very brave.
Our family also loves the beach and Memories guests have free access to its sister property, the Royalton Punta Cana. This slightly more upscale 485 room resort sits directly on 10 kilometre long Bavaro Beach, one of the most glorious stretches of sand in the Caribbean. On the beach there are plenty of beach loungers, servers come by regularly offering drinks and, best of all, the free wi-fi works very well under an umbrella.
We were particularly impressed with the technology leadership at Memories and Royalton. In addition to the free wi-fi, phone calls to Canada and the US (plus some European countries) are complementary and there’s Bluetooth connectivity in all rooms. Even the room keys are innovative. Instead of a card key, the fashionable wrist bands include a chip that activates the door lock. Never again do you misplace your room key! We suspect other resorts will soon copy this great idea.
Food is always important at an all-inclusive resort and we took advantage of the great variety available at both properties. Each restaurant has an appealing, distinctive design. The beef was always excellent and the buffet usually had plenty of shrimp, crab and Caribbean lobster. We were hoping there’d be more fresh, locally caught fish (like snapper and grouper) but management admitted that it’s difficult to get a steady supply of local seafood. But tasty local fruit and fresh juices were always available. The Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant was a special treat with excellent chicken, beef and shrimp. On our last night, before a superb show in the large theatre (the Circus acts were awesome), we ate at the Hunter Steakhouse at Royalton and it became our favourite restaurant.
The resorts attract a large number of Canadians and Americans but also many Europeans and South Americans. The three-generation families were from all three continents. The manager at Royalton told us that resorts are a great way to bring families together because there’s always so much to do for all age groups. As Eva, our oldest granddaughter observed, “I give thumbs up to travelling with grandparents. More family means more fun.”
John and Sandra Nowlan are travel writers based in Halifax.