Check-in: The whole idea of Tortuga Bay is to give you not a hotel room, but a vacation home experience. Therefore you'll find no large, dramatic lobby; you arrive straight from the airport to a small reception building, from which you're immediately taken to your room in a villa by golf cart. Your villa manager shows you around the roomours was 6183, a second floor king room with ocean viewand introduces you to features like the cell phone that speed dials back to her in case you need anything and the in-room ice maker (which uses safe-to-drink filtered water).
She'll give you a moment to drink in the view from the private terrace, and answer any questions in perfectly fluent English, before taking you back downstairs to hand over the keys to the private golf cart you get to use during your stay.
Room: There are no large buildings at Tortuga Bay, just a neighborhood of sunshine-yellow villas, most containing only three room suites. We stayed in 6183with a king bed, large bathroom, kitchenette, private terrace and ocean view. It was the entire second floor of the villa. However, we saw another room with a king bed, two bathrooms, a kitchenette and a garden-view terrace. Room arrangements in other villas are unique, so we only wonder how former President Clinton's staff bunks up when they're in town, even though the Clintons themselves hunker down in de la Renta's own nearby mansion. And you can bet that Oscar's celebrity friends love to drop in for a vacation at Tortuga whenever as well.
The highlight of the room, aside from a very welcome fruit plate and an impressive handmade bed canopy, was the terrace. Exiting through your choice of any of the triple French doors, you enter into the open air, at level with the coconuts in the palm trees. Beyond a manicured front yard is the private beach, and we can understand why so many young families choose to come here with their toddlers; it's extremely easy to enjoy yourself right out in front of your villa by picnicking or playing with your children.
Amenities: Tortuga Bay has Bamboo as well, its own Oscar de la Renta-designed restaurant, which sits alongside a quiet pool and a hot tub tucked back beneath a flower-covered garden trellis. There's even a small wading pool for children and a waterfall to add some pleasant water background noise.
But you'll soon find the golf cart and the cell phone to the villa manager to be the best amenities. Tortuga Bay is the upscale portion of what is a larger resort, simply called PUNTACANA Resort. In your cart, you can visit their large lobby, huge pool, more beaches, more restaurants, and even drive through some of the private residential community to reach La Yola, a thatched-roof restaurant built out over the water, all the way down by a marina.
What's more is if you're a Tortuga Bay guest, you can also go up to the PUNTACANA Clubhouse, where members of the residential community have a lunch restaurant option, a Six Senses spa, another pool, another private beach, and meeting rooms. Beyond that is Corales golf course managed by Jay Overton, with a smaller pro shop and 18-seat lunch restaurant set overlooking the green and some ocean cliffs. The Corales golf club only has 18 members, but Tortuga guests can contact their villa manager for a tee time.
But don't you worry; we'll have more on all this and a full photo gallery on the amenities tomorrow.
Internet Connect: FREE WIFI (and corded, if you need). We were able to access the wifi on both our laptop and iPhone in our room, by the pool and even down at the beach. They even offer laptop rental.
The airport experience: Let us say this first: The owners of Tortuga Bay also built and own the airport. In fact, the money from the airport gave them the means to build this resort, so you know that what you find at the airport as a guest of Tortuga Bay will be special. When you arrive to Punta Cana, they pick you up at the plane in a private golf cart, whisk you through passport check and customs, and then it's off to your villa.
On the return, when you must leave Punta Cana, you park in a VIP spot at the terminal, and there is an assistant at your side, as well as a porter to carry all of your bags. Your assistant holds onto and deals with your passport, fills out your customs forms, and puts you at the front of all lines before they deposit you in the private lounge, which is air-conditioned with free drinks and little bites to eat. When it is time to board your flight, your assistant returns to walk you to the gate, to the front of the line, and out onto the tarmac to a waiting private golf cart. You can sit on your golf cart at the foot of the plane's boarding stairs then until the flight is ready to welcome you on. It is white glove service to the umpteenth power.
Who stays here: While we saw many European guests down at the lower-priced PUNTACANA Resort, Tortuga Bay seemed to draw in the moneyed (but friendly) Americans, Argentinians, Puerto Ricans and Spanish. Because it is a quiet place, older couples or families with young children will get quality time out of it.
Rates: Low season for a garden-view room in a villa begins at $495, $695 for oceanview. It includes a buffet-style continental breakfast in the Bamboo restaurant, and all amenities talked about above. During high season, rates can go as high as $2,000 per night for a whole villa; did someone say starlet and her entourage?
Check back tomorrow for more on Tortuga Bay's Oscar de la Renta-designed restaurant, the pool, La Yola restaurant, Corales golf course and the Clubhouse!
Full Disclosure: We were in the DR thanks to Jetblue and the Dominican Republic Board of Tourism. But rest assured that we worked more than swam, and all views expressed here are our own.
[All photos: HotelChatter]