All-Inclusives for Families
When a friend who’s in no rush to settle down and raise a family boasted about dancing with SpongeBob SquarePants at Nickelodeon Resort Punta Cana, his joy reminded me of how much fun family-friendly resorts can be, even for grown-ups. Of course, families are the prime focus, so companies keep renovating and opening new ones. Here’s what’s new with some major all-inclusive brands:
AMResorts has opened three family-friendly resorts in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: two Sunscapes and a Now. The Sunscapes may remind you of two other AMResorts hotels, the two Sunscapes in Montego Bay, because they abut each other, they share facilities, and one is quieter while the other has more action.
The 452-room/suite Sunscape Bavaro Beach Punta Cana is the action side of the Sunscapes duo. Like other Sunscapes, its “Unlimited-Fun for the kid in everyone” includes meals (there are roughly 20 restaurants and bars), 24-hour service at the Coco Cafe, games and activities, a disco and theater, sports, and a spa (extra charge). The Explorers Club, for kids ages 3-12, serves dinner to children whose parents need a date night. The Core Zone Teens Club (ages 13-17) offers social events, a “bar,” and Xbox 360, Wii and Play Station as well as outdoor activities, and it stays open until 10 p.m. Not included: wrist bands and the need to reserve a table at the restaurants, and I’ve never met a guest who misses them.
At press time, a Deluxe Tropical View room (344-410 sq. ft.) costs $371 a night, or $2,597 a week, for two adults and two children ages 3 to 10, July 22-29; children under 3 stay free. Upgrading to Sun Club gets guests a larger room, Internet, a Sun Club lounge and bars, Sun Club pool, cartoons and snacks for kids, room service until 11 p.m., and other perks; a Sun Club Deluxe Double Tropical View with Jacuzzi (452 sq. ft.) would cost $467 ($3,269
Sunscape Dominican Beach Punta Cana, the quieter sibling, even has a quiet pool. A Deluxe Tropical View room here costs the same as it would at Bavaro Beach. A Sun
Club Deluxe Jacuzzi Ocean Front costs less than Bavaro Beach’s Tropical View—$443
($3,101 a week)—and ranges from 422 up to 519 sq. ft.
For AMResorts’ Now brand, the slogan Luxury-Included replaces Fun-Included. At Now Onyx Punta Cana, an all-suite resort, all guests get 24-hour room service, complimentary WiFi and phone calls to North America, access to nine restaurants, 10 bars, five swimming pools, sports (including tennis), a spa/fitness center, entertainment, kids clubs, etc. Adult guests may also use the facilities next door at Breathless. Aside from being more luxurious than the Sunscape resorts, the Now brand appeals to multi-gen groups with its connecting rooms and activities for all ages.
The smallest room, a 603-sq.-ft. Junior Suite Garden View with a whirlpool on the balcony, costs $508 ($3,556 a week) in July for our family of four. A connecting room for Grandma and Grandpa would be $374 ($2,618 a week). A Junior Suite Swim-Up would cost $563 ($3,941 a week) for the foursome, $429 ($3,003) for the extra room. Preferred Club guests enjoy a Club lounge, two Preferred Club pools (one for adults only) with bar services, two Preferred Club bars and one restaurant (breakfast and lunch), in-room WiFi, and other extras. The least costly Preferred Club suite costs $602 ($4,214) for the family, $468 ($3,276) for two.
In the Bahamas, the Melia Nassau Beach – All Inclusive’s prom date seemed to have abandoned it when the rest of Baha Mar spent much of 2015 and 2016 in limbo. Nevertheless, the Melia went ahead with renovations, from heating three pools to giving public spaces and guestrooms an overhaul. At press time, most of the room renovations were complete, and The Level accommodations, in particular, are beauties, with hypoallergenic flooring, ergonomic seating, new mattresses, a pillow menu, 50-inch smart TVs, and new patio furniture. Also, the kids club hours have been expanded from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. to 9 a.m.-9 p.m. so parents can enjoy a romantic dinner or an evening at Baha Mar’s casino.
Summer rates for our family of four in a Classic Room Island View (355 sq. ft) start at $451, or $3,160 a week. A 950 sq.-ft. 1-bedroom is $1,035 ($7,248).
Having opened Royalton Blue Waters Montego Bay in fall 2016 (click here for an onsite review), Royalton is about to add two other new all-inclusives: one this month in Saint Lucia and then another in Negril.
Royalton Negril Resort & Spa has three components. The Hideaway at Royalton Negril is adults only, but the main resort and the Diamond Club court kids as well as couples. Aside from Negril Beach, there’s a kids club that treats 4- to 12-year-old children to games, costumed characters, a playground, and visits to the splash pad. The teens club (ages 13-17) has video games, pool tables, ping pong, and counselors who help newcomers feel welcome. There’s plenty families can do together, too—swim, play games, take island tours, enjoy concerts— not to mention enjoying superior restaurants (mostly a la carte), reliable WiFi, and free calls to the grandparents back home.
Alternatively, bring the grandparents along, because Diamond Club lodgings range up to a 4-bedroom suite. But even without the multi-gen gang, the Diamond Club offers plenty of perks: the lounge, the Diamond Club beach, the ocean and sunset views, the eager-to-serve butlers….
A Luxury Junior Suite with Jacuzzi would cost our family $655 in summer, or $4,588 a week. A Luxury Junior Suite Ocean View Diamond Club would be $762 a night, or $5,334 a week. Step up to a true 1-bedroom, and it’s $896 a night, or $6,268.50.
The 352-room Royalton Saint Lucia Resort & Spa will have the same three sections as the Negril property, programs for kids and teens, and Diamond Club goodies. Ocean View or Swim-Out suites? That’s a matter of choice, as is the decision of which nine restaurants and two food trucks to pick for the next meal.
Summer rates for our quartet start at $555, or $3,882 a week. A Luxury Junior Suite Ocean View Diamond Club at press time was $716, or $5,014.
The 395-room Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino in St. Maarten recently debuted a new Maho Bungalow Kids Club & Aqua Park. It features an outdoor playground and a water park with several slides and the only dedicated kids pool in St. Maarten. The kids club also has an indoor slide, games, arts and crafts, dance classes, and counselors who take children out for treasure hunts, contests, and splashing around.
The resort also completed renovations that make guestrooms more family-friendly than ever, with new furnishings and decor, pull-out sofa beds for kids, and the availability of connecting rooms. Advance Purchase Discount summer rates for our family in a 480-sq.-ft. room start at $271, or $1,899 a week plus $399 tax. A Deluxe One Bedroom Apartment would be $400 APD, or $2,801 a night, plus $588 tax.
At press time this Sonesta was also offering a Single Parent Package that allowed kids 12 and under to stay free, and 13-17 year-olds were charged only the preteen rate of $45 per night. Let’s hope we see more catering to this demographic in the travel industry.
Melia Nassau Beach – All-Inclusive: melia.com
Now Onyx Punta Cana: nowresorts.com
Royalton Resorts: royaltonresorts.com
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino: sonesta.com
Sunscape Bavaro Beach Punta Cana: sunscaperesorts.com