- Can’t flush the toilet paper -- unlike at most resorts
- Limited, poor-quality food on-site
- No gym
- No spa
- No water sports
The drive into Celuisma, tucked away in an enclave of boarded-up resorts just east of Cabarete, can feel like entering the abyss -- like Martin Sheen in the opening scene of "Apocalypse Now." Unlike the gated, village-like resorts along much of the north coast in Puerto Plata, Celuisma Paraiso Tropical is just a small cluster of buildings wedged between some sugar cane fields and a dilapidated neighborhood. Celuisma's grammatically challenged Web site claims: "Lush trees, wide and beautiful beaches with coconut palms what creates the unique environment of this area.” Apparently one man's "lush" is another man's thicket of overgrown plants.
Smaller and quieter than most all-inclusives, the Celuisma lacks the bustling pool scene or late-night dancing at the disco. There’s barely any evening entertainment -- just some basic dance performances by the staff -- and most guests are comparatively listless. Guests can be seen slowly sauntering around the pool area and lingering over dinner. They play mellow rounds of billiards and pac themselves on a mixture of Sprite and beer. As with most Dominican resorts, the crowd is a mix of Europeans (Germans, mostly) and North Americans (Canadians, mostly).
There's not much to do in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, located just few yards down a turnoff from a local highway, where motoconchos, cars, and trucks buzz by.
Fortunately, Cabarete is nearby -- it typically takes just 10 minutes to get there by taxi.
Soft sand and blue water are nice, but the beach is short and often empty -- in a deserted way, not a secluded, luxurious way.
Not all guests seemed bothered, but some were slightly distressed by a pair of aggressive stray dogs who kept them company as they strolled along the beach. Beside them, a woman tried to sell guests hair braids while she talked loudly on her cell phone.
After closing for renovations in 2010, bare-bones rooms are somewhat approved upon first glance, but still have some issues.
The rooms’ high ceilings and lack of furniture make them feel spacious, but not always in a good way. The rooms lack several basic amenities, including phones. The ancient TVs function with a cable box repaired with Scotch tape, the closet doors are missing handles, and the rickety ceiling fan give its bolts a run for their money. But, hey! Who would notice any of that with such stunning towel art on the bed?
Thanks to a 2010 renovation, during which the hotel was closed, rooms are now slightly improved. New furniture and white-washed walls (the only pops of color come from a few choice throw pillows in red and pink hues) have brightened the space, if not made them particularly stylish. The space is less dingy, but just as basic and still features the old tube TVs.
The bathroom is equally bleak. A sign over the toilet indicates that guests can’t flush their toilet paper. (This is standard in the D.R., but virtually all resorts have their own septic systems to handle tissue waste.) The toiletry set consists of two soap bars awkwardly placed around the sink. The showerhead uncontrollably sprayed water in every conceivable direction. The only features were hot water and a drain on the floor, next to the toilet.
The balcony, unfortunately, is hardly a reprieve. Two plastic chairs are squeezed onto the small balcony, which overlook untamed vegetation.
This is a bare-bones resort. It feels almost like a youth hostel. A smattering of activity posters crowds the notice board in the lobby, but teen-like cliques of travelers mostly cluster around the pool table, bars, and evening entertainment. Still, some guests noted that they chose this resort primarily for the cheap all-inclusive rates. They planned to spend most of their days outside the resort, either on hotel-planned excursions or exploring the North Coast on their own.
The very small pool is uninspiring, to say the least. Not many opt to actually swim, but a few people lay out to tan. The evening entertainment, on a stage near the pool, and the pool tables, also nearby, drew more guests to the area than the pool itself. A second pool, while just as small, features Balinese beds after the 2010 renovation.
Evening entertainment is the main activity at the resort. A couple of entertainment staff began "rallying" guests at the end of dinner to move toward the stage, where a mellow dance performance ensued.
Nightlife here will disappoint any hard-core partiers. The resort quiets down after dinner, and significantly so by about 11 p.m.
Adults-only resort, leave the kiddies at home!
The hotel reopened in 2010 as an adults-only property. Children under 18 are not allowed.
An old property scrubbed clean, the property shows signs of wear and tear: Scotch tape holds together the cable box. Uncovered cookies in the hallway, while nice in theory, invite bugs to the guest buildings.
There's no question that the Celuisma's facilities are old. The walls, doors, and floors all seem past their prime, wavy with years of extreme Dominican humidity. Thanks to a 2010 renovation, during which the hotel was closed, rooms and public spaces have received a recent refresher. The improvements are notable, but not overly extensive.
And so for the most part, however, Celuisma tries to keep the resort clean. Between mealtimes, staff is busy resetting tables and wiping down surfaces. Room are kept surprisingly clean and free of insects.
Snacks in the hallway of each building are a nice thought, but, this is the D.R., and pests are known to wander about food stations. The rabbit hopping around the lobby without explanation is charming, but again, I got to thinking -- where had that rabbit been, and what was it carrying in that cute fuzz that might be cause for concern?
Bread and butter are the bread and butter of the Celuisma's El Caney buffet. The safest options are pastries and bread out of the Celuisma's small, bland spread. Fish is also prepared, but is was far less popular. Two weeks of this food might be enough to drive someone crazy, which is presumably where the Thai and Mexican restaurants come in to provide some relief.
Mealtimes are strictly observed, but there is a consistent mess of teatime “snacks” at the bottom of the stairwell in each building. The cookies are meant to be covered by plastic wrap and decorative cloth napkins to keep out the bugs, but by about midmorning the tables looked like they'd been attacked by hungover guests.
Free drinks made from cheap, unknown liquor.
Like at many low-budget, all-inclusive resorts, drinks are weak and are made from cheap, generic brands of liquor. You'll get in plenty of face time with the bartenders as you frequently ask for refills. The giant tip box is two feet away and in plain sight on the bar counter. Plan on sipping syrupy cocktails and watery beer out of the same small plastic cups found in public school lunch lines. For real, name-brand booze, consider the Iberostar, Grand Oasis Marien, and Lifestyle resorts (or virtually anywhere in Punta Cana).
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