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-   -   Great Stay at Amanera (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/luxury-hotels-travel/1843180-great-stay-amanera.html)

FlyingDoctorwu May 17, 17 9:21 pm

Great Stay at Amanera
 
Pre-Arrival/Booking I've had my eye on Amanera for a while since they've opened... after my visit to Amanzoe last fall; when it came time to plan our next trip I really wanted to stay close and beachy... I contacted the GM of Amanjena, Nicolas who put me in touch with a reservations manager at Amanera. He did mention that they were in transition between GMs and would try to put me in touch with the new GM when he started, which must have (understandably) slipped his mind because it was several months later when Xavier Moulin finally started. Nonetheless, the reservation manager that I dealt with, Flora was excellent. She sent over a list of rates and inclusions for a package (Romance at Amanera) that I was interested in. Furthermore, she offerred a one level upgrade at booking if I booked a Hill Casita to aPool Casita. In addition, I was also able to book via the Citi Prestige Conceirge as well to capture additional savings. The package I ended up booking included:Daily Breakfast Welcome bottle of wine and petal turndown One romantic bath during stayMerengue/Bachata Couple's Dance Session once per stay60-minute Couple Massage with Palo Santo Blessing once per stayOne Amanera Candlelit dinner once per stayRomantic sunset cocktails at hole 17 once per stayFurthermore the rate also included roundtrip transfers/VIP immigration at Puerta Plata airport. Note that the terms called for a 3 night deposit with a 3% cancellation fee; with the balance charged 14 days prior to arrival; however I was not charged a deposit (and the entire balace was indeed charged 14 days prior to arrival). I did ask if I could pay to upgrade the 60 minute massage in the package to a 90 minute, which they did complimentary which was nice.About one month prior to arrival, Flora contacted me and informed me that the golf course was deemed unplayable and had to close for emergency repairs. I inquired about any possible alternatives, which apparently the nearest appropriate course is in Punta Cana, which wasn't feasible. I was definitenly disappointed because my wife had considered perhaps taking a lesson that that was no longer an option. I didn't press too much but did get the feeling that they would have been willing to waive the cancellation fee if I had chose to go elsewhere... given that our primary goal was R&R we kept our reservation.One week prior to arrival I was contacted and offered the following transportation options (by a different agent). Transportation to and from Puerto Plata and Samaná Airport is $250 +18% each wayTransportation to and from Santiago International Airport is $350 +18% each wayTransportation to and from Santo Domingo Airport is $450 +18% each way ·Transportation to and from Punta Cana International Airport is $650 +18% each wayAs well as the following helicopter option:I expressed my confusion to the agent because I had thought that our package included transfers from POP... she replied back immediately saying yes it did and apologized. Furthermore Flora emailed me the next day apologizing that she had been out of the office and for the confusion. Arrival/Checkin We arrived via Jet Blue from JFK and were met at the gate by an airport agent with our names who whisked us to immigration. Afterwhich we were offered the choice to wait in the lounge while they gathered our luggage or wait at the belt. Waiting at the belt, our luggage arrived and our VIP escort completely bypassed the customs line where everyone was getting their bags scanned. He escorted us straight to the waiting Amanera Mercedez GL, driven by Emmanuel (who would come to drive us a number of times during our stay). We were offerred cold towels and welcome water for our 1 hr 20 minute transfer to Amanera. Furthermore they had two different snacks (nuts and dried fruit), an iPad loaded with resort info, and a mobile hotspot. It was a very well equipped transfer and quite comfortable indeed (we may or may not have soozed part of the way). On arrival our luggage was transferred directly to our villa while we were given a welcome drink (Amanera Sunrise) and a tour of the property.It was delicious and refreshing. Some combination of pineapple juice, grenadine, and some sort of carbonated beverage (sprite maybe?) My wife proclaimed it her favorite Aman welcome drink and would go on to order it later on in our stay. During our arrival process we met Mark (whose last name I don't know and whose postion I did not get) but he had come over from Amanyara to help with the transition and Ray (F and B manager) who also came over from Amanyara. We did not meet the GM; nor did we ever see him. It was very reminiscent of Amanyara/Amangiri where the GMs weren't out and about... must be a North American Aman thing... Nonetheless, we had a quick tour of the property and were brought to our villa for the remainder of our checkin (which merely involved signing two pieces of paper and having our passports scanned). Waiting for us in our villa was a bottle of Champagne, some plantain chips and two welcome letters, one of which would prove to be our only interaction with the GM... Room Loved the villa. Probably almost my favorite Aman room. They had upgraded us again one more level to a Bay View Pool Casita, which was great. So Hill Casita booked but room type ended up being a Bay View Pool. In terms of amentities though almost all the casitas are the same, save the presence of a pool and the view. But, back to the casita. One feature I was super glad to see was the ability to actually close the living room off from the bedroom. Therotically, if I so desired, I could bring my kids here (but I wouldnt want to inflict that on anyone or myself). It really was a true suite. Very comfortable room, great view. Pool was great. Great size, much wider than the one of Amanzoe. One minor drawback was that their wasn't a ton of privacy in the outdoor space. They put up a bit of a bamboo screen, but it was only partial... Hopefully as the vegetation matures that'll improve but some of the casitas/pools were very exposed. I think actually our Bay View Pool casita was the most private, but it still had some exposure.. Bathroom was very functional; would have loved to have seen a Toto toilet like at Amanzoe though. I actualy thought Amanzoe's his and her toilets was a bit over the top so I'm glad Dolphin toned it down a bit here... Loved the included mini bar that seemed to be constantly refreshed. Three snacks were offerred; the cheese sticks were amazing... Dining The food ended up being better than I expected. Breakfast was tasty each morning with our favorite items being the avocado toast and the ham and cheese sandwich. Simple stuff but tasty. We had breakfast each morning in the room (well on our patio), which was a delight.. one morning our eggs weren't as warm as I would have liked but for the most part eerything was great... I'm a huge mango fan and each morning enjoyed a plate of it. Do note that they charge a tray charge for room service, even though breakfast is included...We typically ate lunch every day at the Beach Club, except for one day where we ate at the other end of Playa Grande. The Beach Club lunches were our favorites... with a special love for the ceviche (thanks Besvisor for the rec) and the prawn tempura tacoes. Special shout out to the salads here.. very solid. very fresh. Loved the use of avocodoes.. ACtually loved all the avocado action we got here.. amazing...Dinners were a mixed bag. Honestly, nothing stood out as exception. Executive chef is Italian and the Italian dishes were solid. Also liked octopus we got one night. The empanadas were good, but those are pretty hard to screw up. We ate at the beach club one night (it was only open one night we were there) and they had an Asian theme. That was quite disappointing unfortuantely.. Should have known better to eat Asian in the Dominican...I will say that while we didn't have a ton of dessert, the carmelized bananna ice cream was incredible.. Did I mention incredible... I also got a cake on my birthday that was solid but did I mention the caremelized bananna ice cream was incredible? Activities Favorite activity: Sitting on the beachSecond favorite activity: sitting by the pool (either own or resort)That's what you do here. That and long walks on the beach. There's a little public beach area at the entire opposite end.. takes about 15-20 minutes to walk there.. we ate there one day and it was pretty good.. definitely cheaper than Amanera and I felt that we were getting the you are staying at Amanera rip off menu pricing....We also went on a stand up paddle boarding trip that was a complete bust... we had booked the excursion prior to arriving.. the day before we spent some time at the beach and inquired about paddle boarding; when was the best time (apparently morning) and the beach boy apparently took that as meaning we wanted to paddle board on the beach the next day. So somehow our trip got canceled, which was awkward when I called to inquire about dry bags 15 minutes before our trip time.. they managed to get things organized and we departed on our trip 30 minutes later than planned... it was an ok trip; little rough to start as you start in the ocean.. once you get into the laguna it's a lot easier. However, it was billed as a 2.5 hour roundtrip excursion and we were roundtrip in about 1 hr 15 minutes. I complained to Mark, who waived the charge completely which I felt like was appropriate...We had the dance lesson with Teiolo which was um very difficult for me; though not my wife... it was basically an hour of me looking confused and shuffling my feet around aimlessly.. I guess if you're into that sort of thing... Spa/fitness The Spa is located about 7-8 minutes away and they take you by car. I think when the golf course is open it'll be possible to walk or take a golf cart there.. there might have been something lost in translation but I think that they definitely said something like don't walk on the golf course; they used chemicals to burn the grass off....But I digress.. Spa treatments were excellent.. excellent.. I got two massages (same therapist) and loved it (and I typcially get massages about once a month from the same therapist who knows my body). My wife got a massage and also did a rituatl (scrub, wrap and massage) and also felt that the treatmetns were top notch.. definitely far superior to the ones we got at Amanyara...Before I arrived, I was under the impression that the facilities were temporary and that they would be builidng a formal spa (and that still might be the case).. nonetheless I love the casa; it had a great Dominican feel and the rooms were quite comfortable.. no steam/sauna/watsu pool thoug....They definitely tried to recognize my birthday! The Fitness room had my personal favorite machines, Life Fitness.. however I didn't use any of them once I'm happy to say! Service Ahh here's what everyone's been waiting for... for the most part it was well intentioned and good.. I liked how most of the employees were Dominican (versus at Amanyara there were a lot of SE Asian imports)... As I said before we never say the GM... and I'll get it out of the way- we were asked for our casita number... 3 times.. I nearly died... but in the end these two non-Aman issues really didn't affect our stay... I've just gotten to a point where need to get over that sort of stuff and enjoy the stay. Definite highlights were Mark- great face for the resort; though he's heading back to Amanyara soon so I don't know who's going to take his place... and Emmanual (driver)- definitely a young guy but very eager. I do think that English may be a bit of a barrier with some interactions (and Mark did ackowledge that)... we had solid service by the pool and by the beach.. someone alway was there with water and service.. when we would go for a walk, someone would greet us with cold towels and water as well.. Restaurant service was solid; our favorite water learned our water preference pretty quickly.. housekeeping was for the most part invisible; however, I think we threw them off by not leaving at convenient times... but they kept the casita very very clean... we got our little gifts each night (which are our faorite) and also got romantic turn down/bubble bath on two nights... I already mentioned the whole paddle boarding issue and I was happy with the way they resolved things.. all and all it was good, very warm but I wouldn't say it was super polished... for the most part I would say it ranked above Amanyara, Amangiri and Amanjena but below the SE Asian Amans and probably equal to Amanzoe.. (though front office at Amanjena was awesome)It was my birthday during my stay and I think they hotel did a good job of ackowleding it..I will say we did encounter a drone, which was flown from Amanera property.. complained to someone and they shut it down quickly... turns out they were scouting for a famous singers next video... Checkout/Departure They offered to come to the casita to finalize the check out but I prefered to do it in the office. The folio was correct which was nice. Our bags were tagged and we were offered a little to go box of treats. We left the resort at 11 AM for a 120 PM flight which was more then enough time with VIP departure service as well. As customary, we were seen off by a good number of the team... Overall Great stay. Very relaxing.. probably my favorite North American Aman. Would definitely return.. I'll leave you with some more pictures of the resort...

nmuva98 May 18, 17 1:02 am

Excellent review!

Thanks much for posting. Amanera is definitely high on my to-do list :)

KatW May 18, 17 1:03 am

Nice photos.

LM225 May 18, 17 5:32 am

Wow, you got this one up fast. Thanks for the detailed review and all the pics, glad you had a great time.

Both the breakfast shots and the views make me want to go...

DSI May 18, 17 6:21 am

Thank you very much, and it looks like a great place. Where's the upload of you dancing, though?

bearbrick May 18, 17 7:34 am

Great photos . Is there a " lobby" arrival area ?
The place looked deserted , were you the only guests ?

����

Kagehitokiri May 18, 17 10:09 am


Originally Posted by LM225 (Post 28327333)
Wow, you got this one up fast. Thanks for the detailed review and all the pics, glad you had a great time.

breakfast shots

indeed, greatly appreciated. i think its the first full report here.

aa213bb May 18, 17 12:53 pm

YES!!! I've been waiting for this, as we're considering going in a couple weeks. This all but confirms we will.

A big and hearty "THANK YOU", Flying!

callmedtop May 18, 17 12:58 pm

Great review - seems like they're definitely doing something right over there!
Also curious about occupancy - it seems eerily empty / quiet.

FlyingDoctorwu May 18, 17 1:30 pm


Originally Posted by nmuva98 (Post 28326745)
Excellent review!

Thanks much for posting. Amanera is definitely high on my to-do list :)

Thank you very much. It had been on my to do list since they opened and I'm glad that I made it


Originally Posted by KatW (Post 28326749)
Nice photos.

Thanks


Originally Posted by LM225 (Post 28327333)
Wow, you got this one up fast. Thanks for the detailed review and all the pics, glad you had a great time.

Both the breakfast shots and the views make me want to go...

Yeah usually I procrastinate for a while but I got in a groove last night and started writing.. however, as you can probably tell I kind of pooped out in the end. I mean look at that overall... that's the mark of someone who just wanted to be done.. I'll probably come up with some more thoughts in the next couple of days though....

Favorite part of my day was eating breakfast on our patio every day and finishing my last cup of coffee in the pool.. we spent a lot of time in there.. forgot to mention but we did use the Bowers and Wilkins bluetooth speaker they had in the rom a lot...


Originally Posted by DSI (Post 28327481)
Thank you very much, and it looks like a great place. Where's the upload of you dancing, though?

We had a great time... no such upload exists because thankfully the alcohol prices prohibited me from achieving such state..


Originally Posted by bearbrick (Post 28327780)
Great photos . Is there a " lobby" arrival area ?
The place looked deserted , were you the only guests ?
����

There's a portico for arrival next to the front office which is staffed 24 hours a day.. I'll try to find a picture of it..


Originally Posted by callmedtop (Post 28329438)
Great review - seems like they're definitely doing something right over there!
Also curious about occupancy - it seems eerily empty / quiet.

I did try to just take pictures when nobody else was around but yes it is indeed quiet.. I think it's a bit of a shoulder season.. while we were there they had 7/25 villas occupied... though the week later they were 100% full I think.. I very much love the low occupancy as I tend to hate people for the most part... Sorry DSI, you'd probably hate it... i think the busiest the beach ever got was a total of 4 couples...


Originally Posted by Kagehitokiri (Post 28328554)
indeed, greatly appreciated. i think its the first full report here.

thanks!


Originally Posted by aa213bb (Post 28329413)
YES!!! I've been waiting for this, as we're considering going in a couple weeks. This all but confirms we will.

A big and hearty "THANK YOU", Flying!

Glad to be of help. hope you guys have fun...


One thing I think I didn't really make clear was how rough the ocean was; and I think that this was really not the roughest season.. we only went in twice... definitely not a great place for water sports (and I don't think the surfing is that good because the break isn't very long)... the beach is just for sitting... for this reason I think our next trip would be Amanyara before, just because we loved; absolutely loved the beach and ocean... so calm and relaxing...

Another thing is weather- prior to leaving the forecast was awful- rain and thuderstorms every day. Thankfully our days were for the most part clear (though you can see the clouds in some of the pictures). we did have a really spectacular storm one night though.

Also after checkin they asked if we needed anything and I mentioned that we liked tea- they send us quite a spectacular amount of tea and a kettle very quickly...

I'm sure I'll come up with more stuff...

FDW

bhrubin May 18, 17 1:54 pm

Thanks so much! Great review! So glad you had a nice time.

My impression is that Amanera is a very impressive looking beach resort with amazing villas/casitas and with good--but not superb--service and average to good food/beverage.

After our most recent stay at Amanbagh with a similarly amazing villa in a beautifully amazing setting but average to mediocre food/beverage ethos, I am less drawn to Amanera than I was even before. Amanbagh even had a higher service standard...and I still would not crave to return as so many others seem to.

Amanera is unquestionably beautiful but seems to lack the soft product strengths that matter most to us. Believe it or not, I think returning to Mukul (with its fantastic food/beverage and excellent service) would be preferable for us.

I'd return to Amangiri in a heartbeat, however...as there is no other Aman or comparable luxury resort like it anywhere in the world.

FlyingDoctorwu May 18, 17 2:34 pm


Originally Posted by bhrubin (Post 28329687)
Thanks so much! Great review! So glad you had a nice time.

My impression is that Amanera is a very impressive looking beach resort with amazing villas/casitas and with good--but not superb--service and average to good food/beverage.

After our most recent stay at Amanbagh with a similarly amazing villa in a beautifully amazing setting but average to mediocre food/beverage ethos, I am less drawn to Amanera than I was even before. Amanbagh even had a higher service standard...and I still would not crave to return as so many others seem to.

Amanera is unquestionably beautifu but seems to lack the soft product strengths that matter most to us. Believe it or not, I think returning to Mukul (with its fantastic food/beverage and excellent service) would be preferable for us.

I'd return to Amangiri in a heartbeat, however...as there is no other Aman or comparable luxury resort like it anywhere in the world.

You make fair points, but I think Amanera comes much closer to the experiences we had in SE Asia than the other North American Amans... I really would describe the service as genuine and warm... I really liked how everyone seemed mostly to be a local citizen as well because i think that that's what Aman has always done well- incorporate locals into the resort and build a sense of home.. Those feelings were definitely absent at Aamngiri and Amanyara.. i do think it will get there and I know we have had different experiences at Amangiri but i found the food and service to be way ahead of Amangiri as well.. I honetly also can't think of a Carribean based resort that really excels on service and food..

I think the biggest wild card here is management... I didn't really see their involvement beyond Mark, and he's heading back to Amanyara soon.... I just think that this is going to be the wave of the future unfortunately and just a "enhancement" that we will have to deal with...

I really would love to try Mukul at some point.. looks like an awesome resort as well.. and if service and food is as good as you say it is; then sounds like it can't be beat in this hemisphere..

I did think of you while I was at Amanera (creepy I know)... almost everytime I looked at the thermostat.. I wanted to crank it down and see how things went but my wife was already cold as it was at 21 celsius....

Sorry!
FDW

offerendum May 18, 17 3:24 pm

Thanks a lot! Hotel shares a typical Aman-problem, not all villas offers a pool.

aa213bb May 18, 17 4:44 pm

Thank you for the beach/water update. That does put a bit of a damper on things. We LOVED Amanyara (I think we had far better service than others), in particular location - that beach and water are just lovely.

Although now bhrubin has me wondering about Mukul ... decisions, decisions.

callmedtop May 18, 17 4:57 pm

Don't want to de-rail the thread but how did you compare the "crowding" of Amanera versus Amanyara? We, like DSI, get a little sad when the only people we see at the resort for days at a time are each other.


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