When two separate friends tell you a resort provided the vacation of their lifetimes you listen, right? Well, I did just that and boy, am I glad. You guys, the Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana was one of the best vacation experiences our family has ever had.
(Before I go any further – no this is not sponsored and no, it’s not directly related to food delivery in Milwaukee. But if I’m taking things off your plate by way of dinner, I can also save you the trouble of researching trips, right? 😉 )
Judged on the whole, the Nickelodeon Resort was a great place. The service was amazing, the food and drinks were decent. Everything was very clean. All the pools and waterparks were clean, fun, and safe. This resort shared most of its amenities with an adults-only resort. I would have been mad if I came here for my honeymoon and rugrats were running around, but coming at it from our angle, it was perfect! Having the adults-only part meant it wasn’t too cartoony, the food was a higher caliber and the spa, OMG, the spa… More on that later. The only bad part was that there were a couple afternoons and nights where parties from the adult side made music echo throughout the location. If your kiddos are light sleepers, naps and decent bedtimes may go out the window, but hey – you’re on vacation! Just sleep later.
Here’s the nitty-gritty.
We reserved our trip during a great Black Friday sale. This wasn’t the cheapest trip we’ve ever taken, but that definitely helped. The problem – flights out of Milwaukee for the time we picked were bonkers expensive. Instead, we ended up flying Frontier (the Greyhound of the skies – do everything you can to NOT fly this airline) out of O’Hare. The flight was really early, so we decided to start the vacation one day early in Chicago. This let us leisurely pack, wander around Millennium Park, and get a decent night’s rest at a hotel right by the airport. (Sidenote – possible best moment of the trip – watching airplanes land with my girls while eating fruit snacks. Random bliss for all of us.) We used the Park, Sleep and Fly app to reserve the hotel with parking for the whole time we were gone included. It was easier to get to and from the airport than economy parking, and wasn’t too much more expensive in the end. Moral of the story – if you need to fly out of Chicago vs. Milwaukee, it can be a fun bonus, not a headache.
Checking In/Pre-Planning/Personal Concierge
When you read reviews of this resort, they talk about how you have to jockey for restaurant reservations and special requests. We were definitely there on a quiet week, but we could have gotten into any restaurant without reservations. That said, someone emailed us about a week before arrival asking what they could set up for us. In addition to reservations, I set up a birthday cake and surprise room service breakfast on our first morning through this gal. Couldn’t have been easier!
Once on site, we breezed through check-in and were handed off to our “personal concierge,” Isa, who we met face-to-face and then communicated with via WhatsApp. Isa was very helpful with additional requests and questions, but be warned – this is the person trying to get you into the timeshare presentation. I’d still use whoever is assigned to you but just say no to the “free” character breakfast or family slime tickets.
Fact: I can say with 100% certainty we had the best room in the joint. (Proof – timeshare salespeople used the room below us to show off the joint.) Look at this view!!!
In an effort to get some time in to read a magazine or just sit instead of worrying about a child floating off, we got a Swank Plunge Pool room to let the girls swim in a relatively safe space. (Again, wait for sales!) The bathroom was amazing, the main bedroom had two walls of doors we could open (!!!) and the patio was big enough for a lounge chair, a table for four, and this 3′ deep pool. Guys, it was perfect. Seriously, request room 2302 if you go for this level of room.
(Weird things that matter now – electrical outlets are the kind we use. TV connection was spotty. The beds were stiff AF.)
I’ve only been to one other all-inclusive resort so my expectations on food were really low. Turns out, they should have been high! Well, maybe not high, but for the most part, the food was great! We loved the Wok Wok Asian joint. The Italian place was really delicious (and oh, the interior design!), but our favorites overall were the two beach restaurants – the Lighthouse and Zest. Zest had a daily risotto with grilled veggies and fresh seafood. And nachos with Cheez-wiz cheese because #vacation. It was great.
(The only food that was garbage was at the waterpark. The service was great though, so stop by and just get your calories through fruity drinks. 😉 )
Speaking of drinks, I did my research all week long (#coalmines), but I think the Cherry Colada was THE drink of the trip. The girls loved them, too! (Don’t worry, we ordered them non-alcoholic ones. Though I don’t think it mattered – lightweight Randy and I drank all day in the hot, hot sun and never felt it.) The house white wine with dinner was also pretty tasty.
Water, Water Everywhere!
As one would hope for a beach vacation, we only put on real clothes to eat dinner and to get back to the airport. The rest of the trip was just a matter of pool hopping. Most days we started in the room’s pool where both girls could touch the bottom and splash to their heart’s content. Then some days we went to the beach where you could get a small cabana to ourselves without reservations. There was a decent amount of seaweed on the beach, but that didn’t stop us. The girls loved playing in the sand and we all loved the warm waves. (Pro-tip: bring your own beach toys and floaties.)
The infinity pool was HUGE and had the best views, plus people watching. Be sure to wear your flipflops to this pool as the deck gets boiling hot.
Then there is the waterpark. Ah, the waterpark. The best way to describe this waterpark is a huge kiddie play structure with slides and a lazy river running around it. I’d love to tell you all about the structure, but my two little chickens refused to go on it. Weirdos.
They did LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this little slide. No lie, I bet they each went down it no less than 200 times during our stay. Also, the lazy river was fun with tubes or just their floaties. Additionally, there was a small area of the lazy river that was just a regular pool. The girls liked playing there and we adults could enjoy the in-water benches to hang out (with more Cherry Coladas…)
This is a Nickelodeon resort, but that’s not why we went. Besides SpongeBob, none of us could have told you who are Nick characters these days. This saved us time and money since we didn’t need spots at the character breakfast (one of the few extra charges) and we didn’t have to rush over to the waterpark for every character-based special event. If your kids are into Paw Patrol or TMNT, they will be plenty entertained, but don’t feel like you have to do TV homework before you go.
In my previous life, I was a meeting planner. One of the best parts of this job was the site visits when the hotels and resorts were trying to woo us by lavishing on special meals, spa trips, and other amenities. (Yes, I’ve had amazing jobs forever.) With that, I’ve been very fortunate to experience some of the country’s best spas. (FWIW: My three favs are Kohler Water Spa right here in our backyard, the spa at Hotel Hershey because chocolate + massage is what heaven will look like, and the spa at the Mokara Hotel on the Riverwalk in San Antonio.)
But you guys, the spa experience at the Nickelodeon Resort blew the rest out of the water. It was bonkers fantastic. Bonkers. The massage itself was done by the most professional and skilled masseuse I’ve experienced. The table was comfortable, the music wasn’t annoying rain sounds or cooing doves. Even the water tasted spa-like but better. All that to say, I would have paid the fee simply for the preamble to the treatment.
They tell you to get there 40-60 minutes before your treatment which seemed a little excessive, but next time I’d go longer. A guide picks you up from the locker room in your swimsuit (see, clothes are only needed for dinner for real) and takes you through the “water ritual” process. You start lounging in a sauna with cold washcloths on your face, then are taken to an ice-cold plunge pool to chill down. Next comes time in a steam room. From here you do stations in a gigantic pool/hot tub thingy. First up is a waterfall that magically only hits you on your shoulders and neck. Then you sit in a seat where jets pummel your calves and lower back. Then you lounge back in a recliner in a hot tub. The final station is this single serving hot tub thing where you kind of sit down and (I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to describe it), the jets massage your hips and bum. Did I mention this is all outside under the shade of a gigantic canopy??
I wish I had pictures but definitely was too in the moment. Can’t find much online, but just imagine Utopia and I think you’ve got it. In short, it was great and 75% why I would consider returning to this location for another vacation. Be sure to make time if you go.
In conclusion, this was the best trip we’ll take in 2019 and one you should start saving your pennies for now. You won’t regret it! And please tell me – where should we go in 2020? Turns out friends have the best recommendations!