Our next stop on our 8 day cruise out of Miami was La Romana, Domincan Republic. A friend of mine had vacationed in the DR for a week about a year ago and had a fabulous time, so I could NOT wait! This was probably the one port I was looking most forward to.
I was a little shocked when we pulled up. I am sure in several years this will be beautiful... right now. Ehh.. Not so much. I was still excited. My research this time led me to book with Seavis Bayahibe. We booked the Saona Special which was to take us by speed boat to an island for lunch, through the mangroves, and then to a beach where we could hold starfish. It did include a free buffet lunch and alcoholic drinks. Price was $70 for adults and $45 for children.
My emails to the company were all answered in a timely manner and we were provided with a 3 page confirmation and instruction sheet. I realized once reading the confirmation that they would not be at the port to pick us up, but instead we would have to take a taxi to them. In our instructions we were told to use “Taxi Casa De Campo” (an independent taxi company) and our rates had been negotiated for $15 per adult and $8 per child. This was a round trip price.
Cool. I had my money... separated in my little envelopes, we packed our backpacks and headed out.
Now guys… I research tons before I book a private excursion. I read hundreds of reviews. I look on Trip Adviser. I go on Cruise Critic to read reviews and ask questions. I ask in Facebook Groups. I check out websites and Facebook Pages of the company. It takes me weeks, sometimes months to agree to book something. Rarely … well, I take that back. Never before, have I felt I was misinformed… until this day.
Once we got out of the cruise terminal it was chaos. There were tons of the taxi vans lined up and not one sign that said “Taxi Casa De Campo.” I stopped and asked several people where this taxi service was and each time I was literally “pushed” towards these waiting vans with no logo on them. A man took hold of my arm and asked how many in our party. I said 4 and he started insisting we get in his van that was already full. I kept trying to ask if he was “Taxi Casa De Campo” and he said yes, then started trying to re-arrange the people in his van to accommodate us. I said “Wait a minute… you don’t even know where we want to go!” He still insisted it was ok. He would take us where we wanted to go. Trenton and I reluctantly got in and made room for Mark to sit beside us. Mark was still standing there holding the door with a shocked look on his face. Mom went ahead and got in the front seat. Ok. Fine. They the driver says “Wait…. 3 more.” There was NO physical way that was going to happen. People were literally already sitting on top of each other. I made the remark that there was NO WAY and the driver says “Oh yes”, and he pushes another person in the front seat with Mom and tries to put Trenton up in the front seat too …on the stranger's lap, with no seat belt…. It was out of hand! Mark, for lack of a better term, loses his shit outside the taxi and I started grabbing our bags and crawling over people to get out. The guy did not want us to go and there was a mild scene.
At this point I had just decided, we’ll get back on the boat. There are a lot of political issues in the Dominican right now and I did not have a good feeling about this process. Finally other drivers came over to see what the commotion was. We stated our issue, that we could not find this specific taxi we needed to take and that we were not going if we could not go in a safe manner. One guy led us to a taxi van, It had 5 people in it and he assured us he would not add anymore. Everyone would have a place to sit with a seatbelt. Once again I said... "Don't you want to know where we are going?!" He finally stopped long enough to listen to me and said "Yes, that is where we are going." The other family in the van told me that was where they were going too, so we climbed in.
Maybe everyone goes to the same place?? The taxi drivers just seemed to want to push as many people in their van as they could and they would figure out the logistics later.
It seemed to be about a 20 minute ride? I think. I was still trying to calm down and not freak out because things felt very out of control. I am such an OCD perfectionist and this process just wasn’t working for me. If you tell me to take a certain taxi, I expect to find a sign with that taxi name on it and SOMEONE who knows what is going on. I also expect a safe means of travel for my family. Call me crazy…
So we arrived at Bayahibe and were directed to go check in. It was a sandy beach area with plenty of places to sit.
I went to check in. THIS seemed to be an orderly process. They found our reservation, I paid and they gave us a placard for a boat number. …. And then we waited. There was a guy walking around letting you take pictures with iguanas so we killed some time doing that.
… And then we waited. More taxi vans kept arriving and boat placards were being handed out … And we still waited. Finally, someone asked what it was we were waiting for. They said 2 more people had been assigned to our boat and they were waiting to see if they showed up….I said they probably refused to get in the taxi and went back on the ship! As people started to grumble, they finally let us on the boat and off we went.
Everyone must wear a life jacket on the speedboat… which made for a funny picture and of course after the taxi incident, I was all for safety precautions. The speedboat was fun and the views were amazing! ... Not being sarcastic. The views out the sides of the speed boat were amazing... the view down the center aisle of the boat was just funny :)
That is the center aisle you are looking at :) The seats are bench seats designed for 2 people... however, unless you are really, really small be prepared for the person on the end to have 1 butt cheek hanging off. The first island we arrived at was nice. It had lots of chairs and picnic tables in the shade. A big pavilion for lunch that they were actually preparing the food on the grills when we showed up. It smelled amazing! There was a little boat trailer like thing on land that they were using as a bar to serve drinks out of.
Apparently this summer there was a massive seaweed invasion in the Caribbean and unfortunately today... it invaded this island. The water was almost black in areas with tons of seaweed and little seeds everywhere. They had snorkeling availabale, but you had to make your way through a ton of seaweed to get out to the old pier where they said snorkeling was good. We chose not to do this … as did most people agreed with us. There were a few who braved it, but didn’t seem too impressed. We did find a cleaner spot and went swimming for a while. The guides assured us, this was normally the prettiest, bluest water. I take their word for it. It seemed like all around, this was just an “off” day.
After swimming they announced lunch was ready. It was really good. It was buffet style and served outside. We had plenty of time to enjoy it before it was time to head to our next stop.
Next we got back on the boat… donned our life jackets and took off to the mangroves. They were really pretty. Obviously, you cannot get out of the boat there, but they drove around plenty so we could see everything and provided a very good education of the area.
Then we were off to our final destination…. The starfish. The way it was initially described was a beach where the starfish came up so I thought Mom would be able to do it… as she doesn’t get in the water. Instead, it was more like a sandbar… kind of like the stingrays in Grand Caymen. We got out and the guides brought up lots of starfish for us to hold and educated us on the correct way to do this to keep the starfish safe. The guides were also walking around with Rum Punch and fruit punch. This was the absolute best part of the excursion. We had so much fun and there were tons of starfish…. And the water was beautiful.
We were completely worn out on the ride back… Trenton took a nap :) A speedboat nap.. Who would have ever thought that would be comfortable. If I slept like this I probably could not move my neck for week!
When we got back to Bayahibe our taxi was waiting for us and took us back to the port. Once again… the taxi drama ensued. The dude drove like a bat out of hell on the way back and more than once I thought he was going to wreck. What took us 20 minutes to get to where we were going… literally probably took 10 minutes to get back. It was that bad. So when I climbed out of the van and resisted the urge to fall to my knees and kiss the dirty ground…. I just handed the guy $55. That paid for 3 adults and 1 child and gave the dude a $2 tip for showing up to work today. He decided that I had only paid for 3 people (Trenton as an adult) and given him a $10 tip on top so he stopped Mom and would not let her go. He was demanding she give him more money. Trenton, Mark and I had already walked off when I realized Mom wasn't with us. I went back to see what the problem was and he was yelling that she didn’t pay. He spoke perfect English by the way so there was no language negotiation and since no one else had exited the van yet… he still had my money in his hand. When I insisted I had paid for 4 people, he kept insisting Trenton was an adult. When I pulled out my paperwork to specifically show him I had paid the right amount of money he got furious and started yelling at us so I just grabbed Mom and walked away and left him screaming in the parking lot. Taxi scene #2.
Geez! So…. There you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Did we enjoy the excursion… Yes. The speedboat was fun, the lunch was good, the starfish were amazing. The transportation arrangements… Sucked. Were the staff at the excursion good… Yes. We tipped them very well. Should the taxi drivers jump off a cliff… Yes. I am not sure I would take taxi transportation in the Dominican Republic ever again. In fact…. If we ever go there again, I will probably stick to a ship sponsored excursion or just stay on the boat. It left that bad of a taste in my mouth. If anyone from Seavis Tours wants to take my suggestion… You have a wonderful excursion and awesome staff… even with the seaweed invasion. I would rather pay you the extra taxi money to transport me safely than to leave me in the hands of these idiots. It isn’t safe for your guests.