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Travel to the Dominican Republic, Cigar Country

Visiting the Dominican Republic
Michael Frank
From the Print Edition:
George Burns, Winter 94/95

(continued from page 3)

Bets are limited to $200, although $1,000 is sometimes allowed for bigger fish. Ramon Perez Santos, the manager of the casino, says that Americans are the biggest gamblers, but they only come in the wintertime. As is the case with most of the larger casinos here, better customers (those who gamble heavily) are given better treatment. It's not unusual for big spenders to be treated to meals at Elaine's (a high-quality French restaurant hidden behind the slots and gaming tables) or receive free cab rides or special rooms at the casino's hotel (the Jack Tar).

The casino also has a sports book with a Vegas line and no minimums or maximums--although there's no betting on NHL hockey. "Nobody here understands the game," says Perez.

SANTO DOMINGO

If you've come to the capital for a tropical getaway, you will be disappointed. Santo Domingo is a huge city with a population greater than 2 million and growing. And though the city seems much smaller than that, human and industrial waste has made the beach off the Malecon--the avenue where most major hotels are located--unsafe for swimming. There is also more evidence of poverty here, and the people are a bit more tourist-savvy and also less friendly. The hum and pulse of a major city give the hotel managers incentive to perform, and service, as well as the quality of everything from the food to the tap water, is better than in the rest of the country. Also, there are plenty of places to shop, and the capital is loaded with some of the oldest architecture in the hemisphere. A good guidebook (Foeder's guide to the Caribbean is recommended) will help you with navigation, and knowing where you are going will help prevent any "misunderstandings" between you and your taxi driver.

It is best to take in the sights in pieces, stopping at one of the many cafes to rest and to adjust to the pace of life here. Even if you're traveling at half speed, you'll still be moving faster than most of the people in the country.

There are several dozen fine restaurants in town, though at least half of them border on kitsch. Those which do not don't necessarily have anything special to offer. A few places--Cafe Capri, Exquisito and La Terezana--are more authentically Dominican, and there is more attention to the food than at other restaurants.

Hotel V Centenario
Avenida George Washington 218, Santo Domingo, RD
Phone: (809) 221-0000
Fax: (809) 221-2020
Room rates: single and double: $155 to $190; suite: $255
Three restaurants, two bars, pool, shops, casino, one tennis and two squash courts, sauna, gym, parking

 

A perfect example of what has happened in recent years to the hotel industry in Dominicana is the V Centenario. A two-year-old hotel, the V Centenario has already changed management. Despite this, it remains the best-looking property on the Malecon, mostly because it is modern and less careworn than the others. It borders on feeling a bit cold, but the 16-story, 200-room hotel is by far the most professionally run property and it manages to meet the expectations of an Intercontinental chain hotel. It is also the only hotel on the Malecon which plans on holding cigar dinners in 1995.

On the new executive floor there is a separate dining room and concierge desk with private check-in, and all rooms feature access to fax and copy facilities.


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