Reviews – Restaurants & Hotels

Majestic Colonial Punta Cana – a Parents Review

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Majestic Colonial Punta Cana – Abreu and Paez Family Reunion 2014

 

My husband, two kids and myself spent 5 days in beautiful Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  We flew in from Fort Lauderdale on JetBlue on a quick 2 and a half hour plane ride.  With two little inpatient children, the TV per seat on JetBlue is so appreciated.  Just bring your headphones or earpieces and you can be sure they will be quiet in their seats.  The fact that JetBlue allows you to bring one free bag along with the one carry-on is a plus for us as well.  Once we arrived it was time to find a taxi, it was pretty simple since we speak Spanish, but even if you didn’t there were taxis being offered to almost everyone.  $40 dollars from airport to hotel.  When we got to the hotels entrance, it was an open space like many of the hotels on islands and they greeted us with drinks.  Check in was pretty simple, we were taken to our room and it was impressive, Jacuzzi in the middle of the room, towels cutely shaped into swans, flower petals and nice cool AC.  Each room has a deck with two chairs and a Jacuzzi.  The closet space was very spacious, there was a mini fridge with waters and two sodas and two presidente beers, each replaced daily, included with the room.

A few hours after arriving we met up with my dear friend Lucy and her family.  Her husband and two kids and my husband and two kids quickly flocked to one another.  It was awesome to be reunited after 3 years.  We ate at the buffet, and since it was our first meal, we were starving.  The food was good at that moment, the kids ate rice, chicken and fries.  Then it was on to the beach.  A lovely blue wavy ocean with palm trees growing in the sand, tikki umbrellas and lounge chairs everywhere.  We got in the water immediately since it was at a great temperature.  The waves were stronger than what we were used to, as we usually go to Sanibel or Fort Myers beach where the waves are almost non existent off of the Gulf.  We decided to go check out the pool because my kids began feeling itchy, maybe jellyfish, not sure.  The pool was ginormous, as long as the hotel grounds.  There was a swim up bar right in the middle and a giant Jacuzzi open to the pool so it was easy to get in.  The drinks were decent, they were yummy, my favorite was amaretto sour and pina coladas.

 

Entertainment at the hotel was awesome, great music, and karaoke night, in which my daughter sang Wide Awake by Katy Perry in front of over a hundred people.  One night they had a Michael Jackson show and wow, I truly felt like I was at a real concert, dope dancing, amazing choreography and nothing could beat the zombies in the crowd during Thriller.  They have a small casino onsite, we played roulette one evening and had fun, not because we won but because it is such an exciting game.  The slot machines looked a bit corny but if that’s your thing, then rest assured it’s available.  They have a kids pool area called kids splash and offer babysitting for $15 an hour per child.  The two ladies that were there seemed friendly and pleasant and definitely good with kids but we did not use the services.  This pool area was a bit aways from the regular pool but we did spend an hour or so there.  The kids didn’t mind hanging at the big pool at all.

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Kids Pool area and play room, Majestic Colonial

We went on two excursions, snorkeling and ATV Riding.  I think the snorkeling was overpriced at $140 for a family of 4.  It was a 30 minute boat ride to a coral reef area where there were a lot of other boats and many people snorkeling around the same area.  In that sense it felt safe, though you had to be very careful not to cut yourself on the reef in some of the more shallow parts. My friends husbands knee was bleeding after he scraped it swimming by.  My 4 year old did amazingly well, probably the best snorkeler out of all 8 of us.  I was doing more looking around for dangerous fish (aka sharks) rather than admiring the cute tropical fish near us.  Kids enjoyed it and it was an unforgettable experience for them so that’s all that matters.  My son fed the fish bread and the fish swarmed to us giving them an even more up close and personal experience.  Once back on the boat, the driver took us to see a sunken ship, which was not part of the tour, but he was being nice, I could have done without it, because he had to slow down and the smell of the gas and the waves pushing us up and down got me sea sick.  Once back at the hotel it took a few minutes for me to feel better.

 

The first night there we went to eat at the Chinese restaurant and it was thee worst of all the places they had, and so we didn’t eat well that evening.  The next night we had Japanese/Hibachi and this food was good.  It didn’t taste 100% Japanese but it was good nonetheless with much flavor.  The next few days we had buffet from the two different buffet locations they had for breakfast lunch and dinner and it was not so good.  For us adults, we could deal, there was something we could find to satisfy our hunger, but for my picky children, it was basically rice, chicken and fries daily ;(  .  The cereals were not fresh, they seemed very old and not even generic quality.  The French toast was thicker than a tire wheel (ok exaggerating) but still, eggs that were pre cooked looked crazy old, sandwich breads were stale, and so for my kids, it was the same thing every day and that was not cool.  I had bought one pack of ritz crackers and would have brought more but the hubby told me it was dumb to bring food to an all inclusive, I should of followed my mothers instincts.  I also brought two small yogurt hard snacks (luckily) and they were gone by day 2.  I brought two ensures for kids and wish I had bought more.  So if you are travelling with picky eaters, pack a few snacks, don’t go crazy, but bring stuff that will satisfy their cravings when there may not be enough variety.  My kids are used to having milk at night and I asked the bar for milk which they provided but it tasted more like creamer, either way my youngest drank it and didn’t have any stomach issues so that was good.  My kids favorite drink is lemonade but it was mega sugary so I made sure my kiddos drank as much water as possible.

Okay so ATV riding was $55 per person for what was supposed to be 4 hours, but it was 3 hours.  They told us it included water and chips neither of which we received, so that was jacked up.  So it was fun, something cool for kids to experience and here are my thoughts on this excursion:

  • The black seats of the buggy rides were HOT, like burning like a motha flower HOT, and they were wet, so yeah yuck and ouch.
  • They sell bandanas for good reason, you will get mud in your mouth, your eyes, your nostrils, everywhere, come prepared.
  • Wear clothes that you are okay throwing out because it is possible that you will get sooo muddy you can’t even clean it off.
  • The vendors you see on this little tour are expensive as hell!  Dayam, I mean ridiculous, I understand they are trying to survive but uh uh!
  • The beach they take you to, Bavaro, is so amazingly beautiful and breathtaking, I wish they gave us an hour there, which SHOULD have been included since it was supposed to be 4 hours, but we were rushed back to the ATVs after maybe 10/15 minutes. Shame.
  • At the first stop there were children offering us flowers in exchange for a dollar, now this tugged at my heart and I was happy my children got to see this.  One little girl had holes in her shirt so we gave her the extra shirt I brought along for Addison, the look on her face was priceless 🙂
  • If you bring kids, cover them up well, I think this long time in the sun is where my daughter got Sick from too much sun exposure, I wish I had another layer on her, that’s all.
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Bavaro Beach Paradise
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ATV and Buggy Ride

So the trip was overall a success, amazing customer service, great workers and lovely grounds.  My only complaint would be the quality of the food, maybe they need new chefs but other than that, it was fine.  On the very last day I explored over to the hotel next door since they were connected by a walkway which I did not know about and found stores on their side that sold Doritos, candies, and other chips.  I bought my kids a bag of Doritos for 3 dollars and it was not as cheesy, so I think products are just made differently there.  When it was time to get a taxi to the airport, we realized we needed more cash.  We took out 300 Dominican pesos from the ATM which was only about 7 American dollars because we totally miscalculated.  It was 43 per dollar so we needed $1,700 Dominican Pesos to pay the cab.  The ATM wouldn’t let us take out more money because we did not tell our bank we were traveling.  We had to stop at a bank and use my card, but luckily we got the money we needed.  When we got to the Punta Cana airport we were so happy to see Wendys, we rushed to get the kids food, yummyyy lol.  Needless to say, while it was a lovely vacation, we were happy to get back to our home sweet home.  If you have any questions or would like more info, please let me know.

 

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Majestic Colonial Punta Cana
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Fire Juggler at Beach Party
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Little Chapel in Majestic Colonial
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The long pool at Majestic Colonial

 

 

 

 

Salado Pedros – Cantina at Gulf Coast Town Center

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Salado Pedros Menu

 

My sister in law organizes couples dinners for her neighbors from the lovely gated community of Sandoval in Cape Coral.  While a few of us do not live in the community, they’ve opened up the invite to us.  It’s always a roaring good time.  A few hours away from the kids, an adult play date if you will, is anxiously awaited by all.  Two weekends ago we rolled in deep (20 couples) to Salado Pedros, a Mexican Cantina, at Gulf Coast Town Center in Fort Myers, FL.  The food was good, the waitresses were friendly and the drinks were awesome.  I had the Taco de Carnitas, Ceviche and the Guacamole, all were great.  My husband had the Molcajete surf and turf and loves it.  You are given chips and dip when seated and you can order the guacamole to go with it.

Taco de Carnita Salado Pedros Molcajete Surf and Turf

I’ve read some reviews where people are saying it’s not a true Mexican dining experience.  It’s not a hole in a wall, it’s one of those experience restaurants that entices you with its décor and tequila on taps.  They truly have great drinks, any margarita is good, and you can try hundreds of different Tequila options.   You may not feel like you are having homemade Mexican food, but it is delicious and the atmosphere is great.  Our first experience at Salado Pedro’s was on March 15th, 6 weeks before the group dinner we recently had.  The waitress that evening ignored us, was rude and seemed annoyed whenever we asked her for something.  That will bring a place down fast.  But we spoke to the manager, Ryan, who apologized for this and because of him, we decided to give this place another chance.  Our waitress(es), this time were fantastic, and that will usually break or make the entire dining experience.  The manager, Ryan, took care of our requests, like changing the tv channels and making sure we had enough waiters/waitresses for our group.

We would totally recommend this restaurant and surely you will enjoy your time there. The house tequila, Maestro Doble, is smooth and was a hit with everyone.

Boricua at Salado Pedros    Salado Pedros shots

 

Salado Pedros Cafe  And after  all that smooth tequila, you can get a coffee to help you recover.

 

SaladoPedros is right on the corner across from Dunkins Diamonds on the same street as PF Changs.  Having a group of friends here, is always going to be fun, because you can’t beat a good time, tequila and chips.  If you are looking for a great place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, this is your place.  Just make sure you have a designated driver, they can try the tequila the next time you visit

http://www.saladopedros.com/

 

The Ladys of Sandoval at Salado Pedros

The table at salado pedros

Phensri Thai, North Fort Myers, FL – Restaurant Review

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Phensri Thai

If you are a Thai Food Fan, you will surely enjoy Phensri-Thai in North Fort Myers.  We have lived less than a mile from this Thai restaurant for years and yet never noticed it until recently.  A  typical hole in the wall that was not typical at all.  You can’t see inside the restaurant from the outside.  Windows are tinted and have blinds.  It’s dark and all you see is the neon sign with it’s name.  The restaurant is in the Orange Grove Plaza near Publix and it blends in almost too well.  As we stepped in, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually packed.  Not line waiting packed, but full.  It was like a secret club inside, everyone was in on it, except us.  Our waiter had a smile on his face the entire time and was very pleasant and willing to answer our questions about the menu.  We are not Thai Food Fans but are foodies and the food was oh so yummy.  The customer service was on point, setting was cultural, cute small bamboo bar and a built in wall display that resembled an altar or ode to the Thai culture.

We played it safe and had the Thai Fried Rice.  A little sweeter than regular fried rice.  The chicken soup with rice noodles is a must try.  The chicken satay with peanut butter sauce was very filling.  We will be a bit more adventurous next time because we will most definetly visit Phensri-Thai again.

20140328_195707  Thai Chicken Soup

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El Gaucho Inca – Restaurant Review (Fort Myers, FL)

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We stumbled upon this restaurant as we drove by coming off of I-75.  The name caught our attention and lucky for us, we stopped in.  As soon as you step into El Gaucho Inca, you feel transported to another place, not Fort Myers.  You first see a wall full of wines, beautifully organized into a custom built wine holder.  There are two barrels of wines with counter tops, which serve as a seating area if they have a wait.  The attention they’ve put towards decorating makes this place unique.  There is a cute cozy white couch in the back area to have drinks it seems.  Very chic.  There is a cozy indented wall with a lovely seating arrangement for two.  The rest of the place has booths and tables but lovely nonetheless.  Everywhere you look there is an item relevant to the theme of the restaurant, Peruvian (Inca), Argentinian (Gaucho) and Italian.  It is owned by Chef Mariano Maldonado and his wife, business woman Rocio Navarrete.  They’ve already been awarded Best Restaurant, Best Business and Best of the Gulfshore.  The ceviche is delicious, the steaks AMAzing!  They offer everything from salads to steaks, see their menu here, http://elgauchoinca.com/menu.htm

If you are looking for quick service, this may not be it, but that’s not always a bad thing.  You want to enjoy this cuisine and savor the foods.  While we took pictures of our steak, ceviche and wine, my pics do them no justice.  Check out their fabulous website with picture, menus and the story about how El Gaucho Inca came to be, and boy are we glad they did.  http://elgauchoinca.com/index.html

Definition:

gau•cho [pronounced gou-choh;]  a native cowboy of the South American pampas, usually of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry.

In•ca  [Pronounced ing-kuh]  a member of any of the dominant groups of South American Indian peoples who established an empire in Peru prior to the Spanish conquest.

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Review – Chen’s China Bistro

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We had a quick lunch at Chen’s China Bistro at 1242 SW Pine Island Rd, Cape Coral, FL.  I saw the restaurant while driving down that road and told my husband we had to check it out.  It did not look like your usual take out Chinese restaurant, the windows were tinted, it looked like a sit down place, the kind I hadn’t seen in the Cape yet.  We had many of these in NJ and NY and I was excited that this would be similar to those.

We stopped in with just 30 minutes to spare.  As I walked in, I said ooooohh, aaaahhh, not because it was out of this world, but because it was out of the normal “Cape” world.  Finally, I thought, a nice Chinese sit down restaurant.  They smiled at us, they asked where we would want to sit, a booth or a table.  We asked for a booth.

They offer bubble tea but we didn’t try it this time.  We ordered lunch specials, which to my surprise they had even on a Sunday.  Boneless spare ribs and Chicken Lo Mein.  The meals were priced modestly.  We had the usual choice of either soup or egg roll.  We both ordered Wonton Soup and it was delicious.  They brought out those little strips, don’t know the name, that you dip in duck sauce, YUM!

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Our meals came out and they were smaller than what we are used to.  Not your typical Chinese food portion nor restaurant size but they were still probably more than what a normal serving should be.  I’ve noticed this more and more with restaurants and their serving smaller portions.   My husband thought  the rice was brown rice but it was fried rice just almost like it was healthier.  They were fast and friendly.  The atmosphere was very pleasant, lovely Asian decorations inside.  My only complaint would be that the backing of the booth seats were loose and so if the people on either side of us moved too hard, we’d feel the push.  I’m not sure if this was the case at all booths, but it was on the one we sat, but not a biggie.

We totally recommend this place, it’s a must go!

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Customer Service is a Dying Art Form

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How many times do you walk into a store and immediately think to yourself, “ILK, these workers are rude.”  Some places truly know how to make you feel welcomed into their retail space while others leave you feeling that they truly do not care about your dollar or loyalty.  There are certain stores that I frequent.  I’d say I have 5 top places that I do my usual shopping at for clothes, food and misc supplies.  If one person that works there makes a real connection with you, with a simple honest ” Hello, how can I help you?” or a short conversation about your needs that day, this can make you return time and time again.  There are places that I refuse to go to because the customer service simply sucks!

Some big retail stores take customer service very seriously, because these companies understand that this dying art form is the key to their success.  Take Bed Bath and Beyond for example, their associates will bend over backwards to keep you as a customer.  At least here in South West Florida they do.  They treat customers like royalty and provide you with a pleasant shopping experience.

I do recognize that there are nasty shoppers/customers out there who make it difficult for some people to provide wonderful customer service, but that’s another topic for another time.

Tip to employees working in retail:  Remember that the bottom line of the business is to make a profit, you make more profit by keeping customers and making new loyal ones.  Yes you do deal with a lot of BS at times, but don’t let one mean customer sway you from the art form of Customer Service, let’s keep it alive!