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Monday, May 28, 2018

Family trip to Punta Cana, The Dominican Republic

Shortly after dad's funeral, mom decided that this year instead of our normal North Carolina beach trip in May, she wanted to do something different and something all-inclusive, so we didn't have to worry about anything. She, Dad, and I had gone to Punta Cana in 2011 and she had always wanted to go back.  I called Delta Vacations and we made arrangements to go.

When the time came, I flew back to NC so we could all fly together as a family. I flew in on May 18, rented a car, and mom and I drove back to the airport on May 19 to fly to Punta Cana, back through Atlanta. We met Chris, Angela, Carrie and Catherine at the airport, checked in their bags since I got four free bags, and we were on our way. Since we got to the airport early, we had plenty of time to watch the Royal Wedding -- Prince Harry marrying Meghan Markle.

Mom and I had gotten upgraded to Economy Comfort from Raleigh to Atlanta, but then from Atlanta to Punta Cana we got upgraded to First Class. (We weren't sitting all together on these legs anyway, so I didn't feel too bad. We did arrange to all sit in row 18 for the trip home from Punta Cana, and I declined any upgrades for that leg.)

First Class!

The Camerons arrive in Punta Cana

There was about a half hour drive to our resort, the Riu Palace Bavaro.

Riu Palace Bavaro
Saturday night we had dinner at the Steakhouse (I had the lobster), followed by the show which had a circus theme. We were all exhausted that night, so we didn't stay long for the show.

Sunday and Monday were beach and pool days.

Sunday night, we had dinner in the Italian restaurant, La Bambola, followed by a magic show. Angela was asked to come onstage to assist. Before the magic show, there was dancing, and Angela and I shagged to Stand By Me.

On Monday, while we were at the beach, guy came by with parrots and an iguana to take pictures. We all took pictures. While I was taking mine, the parrot decided to attack the iguana, but not before we got the picture.

Monday night, Chris, mama, and I had dinner at Geisha, the Japanese restaurant. Monday night's show, I ordered an espresso martini and a chocolate martini for mom. The chocolate martini would become one of our most ordered drinks, particularly by the pool in a cup with ice! Monday night's show was a burlesque show. Before the burlesque show, an older guy played violin. He played several times over the week - he was really good, particularly when he played Patsy Cline's Crazy. Chris, mom, and I stayed for the burlesque show. The burlesque show was more "show tunes" than burlesque, but still really fun.

On Tuesday morning, we went to Dolphin Discovery in downtown Punta Cana where Angela and the girls got to swim with the dolphins. Mom, Chris and I watched. It was so fun to see how excited the girls were with their dolphin experience.

Angela and Nimbe the Dolphin 
Tuesday night we all had dinner at the main buffet restaurant, Montecristo.

Delicious fruits in the Montecristo! 
Tuesday night's show we thought was going to be "Latin Night" but it turned out to be more like a "Legends" show where the the they lip synched as famous performers while the back up dancers danced. Mom, Angela, and I stayed for that show.

Wednesday was our big day out and about. We met our tour ("Caribbean VIP Safari") at 7:30 am. We drove out to a "typical house" -- a woman named Maria who with her husband had raised five kids. We got to tour their house and see how they lived - supporting themselves with the crops they grew on their land -- coffee, cocoa, vanilla, pineapples, and bananas.

Inside Maria's house
Mama and Maria 

Our guide Samuel shows us how to tell when bananas can be harvested. 


Cacao Beans -- like this, they taste kind of like mango 
After leaving the house and farm, we drove to a sugar cane field to see learn about sugar cane, how it is processed into sugar and rum, and its importance to the Dominican Republic.

Mom in the sugar cane
Then, we saw how cigars are made:

Leaving there, we drove to the Chavon River to get on a barge to enjoy a river cruise and a lobster (or chicken) lunch and a little dancing.

Our ride for the afternoon 

Family Cruising down the river


On the way back to our resort we drove through Higüey, the capital of the province. There, we stopped to visit the Cathedral, Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia.

On Wednesday night, the show was an acrobatics show. Carrie really loved it.

Thursday and Friday were both pool and beach days, with really fun times at the pool. Late afternoons, the Riu's entertainment team always had pool entertainment, ranging from bubbles in the pool to outrageous skits to contests. We made pool friends with Jared and Jeff from Canada, Prince and Fausel from Belgium, and "Uncle Jules" and Sophia from New York. On Thursday, I competed in one of the contests with Jules and Prince. We had to swim across the pool, do 10 pushups, 5 jumping jacks, swim back, chug a beer, and say "Hakuna Matata." I messed up because I forgot to stop doing jumping jacks and kept going to 10.

Bubble Party in the Pool (Sunday)

Thursday night, mom and I had dinner at Krystal. She said it was the best meal she had - her steak came under a glass dome, filled with smoke. The server uncovered it and the smoke went everywhere. The meat had the great smoky flavor.
At dinner at Krystal 
The show Thursday night was "the sorriest," mama said, though it was entertaining. They basically brought men on stage after four women went out and had to find men to give them their shirts. Then all the shirtless men came onstage and had to compete against one another in silly games and contests.

Friday was the last full day to enjoy so mama, Chris and I went for Blood Marys in the Sports Bar after breakfast. When we went down to the beach, mom and I decided to go for a walk up the beach. We walked up to some cute little shops where mom bought lots of souvenirs. Later in the afternoon, mom decided she wanted some braids.

Shops on the Beach
Monkeying Around
Edwin, who managed the pool bar and perfected the chocolate martini
The Friday afternoon pool show included acrobatics.

The last night, we all had dinner together at Steakhouse. The Friday show was the Dominican Show.

Just before dinner on the last night
Saturday we had our final big breakfast and got picked up at 10:00 to go to the airport.

Hating to leave

We were all in Row 18 going from Punta Cana to Detroit. (Mama got first class on the way home from Detroit to Raleigh-Durham).

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