We just spent a week at Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda in the Dominican Republic and some of you have asked for a full review so here it is!
Michès is actually 1.5 hours away from the Punta Cana Airport (PUJ) so we had pre-booked the transportation with the resort with a cost of ~$300 CAD. If you book your flight with them too as a package, it basically waives the airport transfer fee but we wanted to book our flight separately as it gave us more flexibility in case of changes/cancellation. The transport went quite smoothly. As soon as we arrived, we headed over to the Club Med counter and they took our bags and brought us to the front waiting area. We hardly waited a few minutes before our driver showed up in a passenger vehicle. I had expected a hotel shuttle of some sort and was pleasantly surprised since they even provided a convertible car seat for us! I was dreading a 1.5 hour ride with a toddler but it wasn’t too bad, as we alternated between toys, her favourite music and lots and lots of snacks. On our return trip though, we were transported back in a hotel shuttle which the toddler seemed to like more anyway as she got to take a nice nap on me.
At the resort, we were greeted by the front desk manager where she offered us hand towels, welcome drinks and provided us with our bracelets (i.e. keys) for our stay. You could set up an account with your credit card to pay for any extras you get during your stay. She then walked us to our room and answered any questions we had. We particularly wanted to find out about how to get a stroller for our stay and how food allergies were handled. She said we could borrow a stroller direct from the kids club and for allergies we can just notify the chefs at the buffet as well as the staff at the kids club.
This resort is split up into various areas, which each having a different feel and meant for different travellers. We booked a family room in the “Explorer Cove”/family area of the resort. Our area was close to the main amenities, family beach and kids club. When we had booked, we thought that our room was considered a suite option and had access to premium wifi and the family pool/bar area. We were later told that this is not the case and we had to book in the premium “La Perla” section of “Explorer Cove” in order to access these perks. Aaron was a bit bummed but it’s ok, now we know for next time. Our room was still amazing. We had picked this resort because they offered a family room with 2 separate bedrooms which worked well for those whose little ones sleep better in their own space. They also had 2 bathrooms (one with a shower and a bathtub and the other with just a shower) and one powder room with a second toilet in the entryway area. In the children’s room was also a crib as well as a step stool and potty.
The cons to our particular room was that we had booked and “ocean view” room but our room did not have much of a view as it was in a corner with lots of trees in front of it. It was also very terribly to the bar so it was quite noisy at night between 10:30pm-12am when they had their nightly parties.
As we are quite the foodies, this is very important for us. The food was actually above average compared to other all-inclusive resorts we have been to. The restaurants choices are limited (usually only the main buffet +/- the other a la carte restaurant which is not opened everyday for dinner). There is also a coffee shop that you can pick up a few snacks from (e.g. Oreos, M&Ms, small sandwiches and bagels.)
The first night we arrived, we showed up at the buffet at 6:30pm (their opening time for dinner) and it was quite overwhelming. As there wasn’t anyone to really explain the process to us or seat us, we had to kind of fend for ourselves. It was especially anxiety-provoking for us because our toddler had food allergies. Luckily, compared to other buffets, there was a chef at each of the buffet stations so we could ask about the ingredients of the dishes. Most of the dishes were already pre-plated by the chefs so it limits cross contamination from guests. I brought along translated allergy alert cards in Spanish and French which were helpful as there could be language barriers depending on the chef. There was also a baby corner at the main restaurant with a blender, microwave, sterilizer, plastic utensils and plate as well as milk and jarred food options. As the days went on, we discovered there was a section in the front of the restaurant where all of the evening’s dishes were on display. This helps as you do not need to do your usual round to the different stations to decide on what to eat. There was a usually a fish/meat station, rice/mash/fries/veggies/grill station, pizza/pasta station, Japanese/Asian food station, salad bar, fresh fruits bar, and of course a dessert/ice cream station. For breakfast, there was a pastries station, yogurt bar, smoothie bar, fresh fruits station, cereal bar, bread/bagels/french toast/crepes station, an oatmeal/rice porridge station, and an eggs/bacon/sausage/hashbrown/potatoes station.
We didn’t visit the a la carte restaurant (Coco Plum) until a few days into the trip. It was a bit further away for us but we found out later that it was closer if we walked along the beach (past the adults-only section). They also had a small buffet section with salads, ceviche, fruits and bread you can pick up on your own. Their menu was pretty concise, they had a burger with fries, fish tacos, calamari. They also had steak, catch of the day, chicken and a chef’s daily special. We tried the burger which was excellent, calamari was also good, the fish was nice a simple meal for the baby and their steak was also tasty. They were open for dinner only 3 days a week here and they recommended making a reservation but when we tried to online, bookings were not available and we were put on a waitlist. We have been advised to showed up anyway and they had no problem fitting us in so their online booking system does not appear to be very effective.
Actually their app in general needs some major fixing as it was not very good especially given how much they strongly promoted it. They didn’t even have a site map on there who you would expect and we were not able to add activities that you would like to do from the program as they seemed to imply as a function of the app. But I digress.
There was also a steakhouse (at extra cost) that we didn’t get the chance to visit. With an active toddler, we did not think this would be the most enjoyable option so we will wait until future trips here.
Their room service was limited to a continental breakfast so we didn’t use it at all during our time there. I was hoping it will be all day room service like when we were at Secrets Silversands in Mexico for our wedding. That would have been very nice with a kiddo since some days she just wasn’t having a good time at the restaurant. It looks like they did have a takeaway option though as I saw some people just packing up takeaway containers to go eat in their rooms, but we never really found out how that worked.
In terms of allergies and food sensitivities, they did have some gluten free options that I found. There was only one day where they labelled something as “vegan”. For milk alternatives, this was available most of the time, but sometimes I would not be able to find non-cow’s milk options in the baby’s area and would have to ask them to look throughout the kitchen to find something for us. There were 2 close calls where mistakes were made. Once when the baby was served mashed potatoes which we were pretty sure was made with butter on a dish which was said to have no milk. There was also one time when we were given cow’s milk for the baby instead of soy milk but luckily, I usually did a smell and visual test so caught it before the toddler drank it.
I was actually disappointed by the service initially. Compared to other resorts we stayed at, the people did not seem very friendly. As mentioned above, on our first night at the buffet, I felt there needed to be more guidance. However, as our stay went on, the staff got to know us and they became super warm and helpful. They even remembered to bring us soy milk as soon as we sat down for dinner because they remembered about our toddler’s allergies. They gave us a whole box of soy milk to take back to the room in case they were low again (one night they had to run around for a while to find soy milk). Once caveat is that we tipped even though we read that it wasn’t part of the culture, so I am not sure if that played a part in the service quality changing.
Something interesting about the Club Med culture is that certain staff would mingle with the guests at meal times. This happened to us a few days into our trip and they would sit down and join us for lunch/dinner. It was quite interesting and could be a pro or con depending on if you enjoy socializing. As an introvert, sometimes I would prefer to just do my own thing especially when the toddler was being difficult but I did enjoy seeing familiar faces around the resort to chit chat with.
Housekeeping did a good job keeping our room cleaned and they came every morning. There was one day we were still in the room and they came in anyway so we had to rush out as there was a language barrier and we couldn’t ask them to come back later. Turn down was not as consistent. We only had it twice during our stay. Aaron did leave the do not disturb sign out some nights but there was a night or two that he didn’t and we didn’t have turn down. We were actually quite surprised to have that on one of our last nights there as we didn’t know it was a thing. It wasn’t a big deal though, I just wish I knew which nights they would come and which nights they wouldn’t.
Internet was not good. If you wanted to pay extra for the premium wifi, perhaps it would be better but we were still salty from our expectations of having access to this but actually not having access so we didn’t get it. If you wanted to access social media and watch a few YouTube videos, it’s not a problem but if you need to do anything more like streaming or doing any kind of work it will not be possible. Actually, I tried to access their website and tried looking into booking another vacation and it wouldn’t even load properly. So joke’s on them.
There was a shop on site to buy any necessities and merch. The front displays were changed daily to reflect the dress code for the day (to entice you to buy some clothes to fit the theme). The prices were definitely not cheap though so shoppers beware. We ended up having to buy a pack of 32 baby wipes and it costed a whooping ~$12 CAD just to give you as sense of the mark-up.
One of the reasons we decided on this resort was because they had a childcare service on site. For those with little ones > 4 years old, it was included in their stay but since our toddler was not quite 4, it was at an extra cost, which makes sense since their stay is free. They had a Baby Club for those < 2 years old and Petit Club for those 2-3 years old. They had a schedule of pre-planned activities depending on the age group each day which seemed fun. We had the option to pre-book this service at the time of booking our stay which would have costed us about $300 CAD for the entire stay. We opted out of this because we wanted to see how it worked first before deciding on this. The pricing on site was more expensive than if we pre-booked (~$40 USD for half day and $100 USD for full day). They had an information night where booths were set up to answer questions so we decided to register our toddler the next day and brought her in for a half-day session the day after. Their afternoon drop off was at 2:30-3pm and we had dropped off our toddler a little past 3pm after her nap. They double checked if we brought everything for her including swimsuits, water bottle, etc. but they kept asking if we had brought a “doudou” for her. My French is not great and I had thought they meant pacifier which she doesn’t use. I later found it was meant blankie or lovey. I later came to regret not bring her favourite panda with her as we had left her for the first time in her life with a daycare service without any sort of comfort object. They had a family activity planned at 4:30pm so we only left her there for 1.5 hours but when we came back we were told she cried the whole time she was there. We weren’t even able to complete the family activity as it was cancelled due to no other participants. We did not see any other babies there either during drop off (they were napping) or pick up so perhaps their childcare service is more popular with older kids. We felt so bad we decided not to send her there again for the rest of our stay. It would have perhaps been a good option for those whose toddlers/babies are more used to daycare/baby-sitting services and maybe those who are older.
The entertainment was ok, but to be honest, we did not get to catch many shows since most were at 9:30pm when we had to be back in our room already due to baby’s bedtime. There were some nights it was at 7:30pm, so we were able to catch it during or after dinner. We recognized that the performers were actually staff from other departments – like the daycare supervisor. I guess they hired a multi-talented staff team. Baby seemed to enjoy some of the music and dancing.
We enjoyed the beach BBQ events, in which there were 2 while we were there for the week. The food was usually excellent and the vibe was really good.
Aside from the usual pool and beach, one of my favourite things about all-inclusive are the organized activities. I enjoy looking through the schedule everyone and see what I can join in. Of course, this time around, we had limitations on how many activities we could do since we spent most of our time as a family but most of them were only 30mins so we managed to step away for a bit at a time while the other watched the baby. I tried the Aerial Yoga, Zumba and Aquagym classes. I particularly enjoyed the Aquagym class in the ocean and it was a great setup for the beach BBQ party that day so the host of the party and staff joined at the end and we did some more dancing in the water. It was a shame that their Zumba and Latin Dance classes were not as well attended. There only usually only a few people in the class so it wasn’t as fun. If I had more time and if the weather cooperated more (it rained 2 afternoons we were there), I would have liked to join the sunset yoga and sunset kayak class as well as the flying trapeze class which seemed like quite a unique experience. Aaron wanted to try the archery class but did not get the chance to.
They also had sports equipment to borrow. I tried stand up paddle boarding one afternoon but the currents were a bit too strong so it wasn’t as enjoy as I had hoped. I wish I had time to also try what appeared to be an elliptical on water.
For little ones, there was a water park, a playground and ropes course close to the kids club area. There were sand toys you can purchase from the shop or borrow from the kids club. There are also floaties and pool toys you can purchase or sometimes there are some left behind from previous families at the pool.
Overall, we had a great stay here. It was very family friendly and the food was above average with relatively good awareness with regards to food allergies. Things that would have made our stay more enjoyable would have been a room further away from the partying at night, more consistent service from day one, more reliable internet and maybe one or two more restaurants to choose from. Good thing about Club Med is that they have locations around the world so we assume people keep returning to different Club Meds because they know what to expect. I would definitely consider going to another Club Med in the future, perhaps when the toddler is a little older, to be able to take advantage of their Mini Club option!
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