FAM Trip – Dominican Republic
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional
Nothing could be more exciting for an Adventure Traveler than to go on a FAM Trip to a new destination. Especially if you are taking the trip with a great group of dive travel specialists from your industry.
On May 4, 2018 we were on our way to the Caribbean Island of Dominican Republic with twenty-two Dive Travel Specialists and Travel Staff. The familiarization trip was put together by Edward Pietersz from Aquatic Reservations Network and Debra Helms of Roatan Charter, Inc. The purpose of the FAM Trip was to introduce two Dreams Resort & Spa Destinations – Dreams La Romana and Dreams Dominicus La Romana to some of the industry’s Top Dive Travel Specialists. Part of what the Travel Division of the Dive Industry Association does is identify FAM Trip Ready Travel Buyers and invite them on a three to five day Familiarization Trip Experience at select Dive Resort Destinations.
Dominican Republic was picked as the Dive Destination for this FAM Trip for a number of reasons. Dominican Republic is not only a beautiful Caribbean Island that is easy to get to but it is a vacation and recreation location that is growing in popularity. Many of the new Resorts being built in the past few years are World-Class, all inclusive resorts. The DR has attracted a number of the best Dive Operator Companies in the World, with their new and beautiful dive boats and professionally trained dive staff. The Resorts and their Dive Operators are environmentally concerned about reef restoration and protecting the marine environment from harm. The Dominican Republic as a vacation destination is growing and getting better every year, but for now, it it still one of the best keep secrets in the diving world.
We chose Delta Airlines as our air carrier and flew from Orlando, Florida to Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic. Needles to say, since we were flying Delta Airlines, a customary stop to change planes in Atlanta, Georgia was necessary. Travel Planners make the most of this stop in Atlanta to get their travel group together and get to know each each other over snacks and a drink. On this trip, we did just that. The 3 hour and 23 minute flight to the Capital of Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo, was very enjoyable. Divers can appreciate the spectacular view of the coral reefs and small islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea from an airplane.
Our first two days of the trip was hosted by Dreams La Romana, located only 45 minutes from the Las Americas International Airport. La Romana is on the South side of Dominican Republic, facing the Caribbean Sea. The drive was pleasant and in no time, we were at our first destination. I was impressed with the personal welcome we received from the Dreams La Roman Staff. We enjoyed champagne and hor’s orves during our check in process in the Preferred Club Lounge and after a short site inspection of the property, we became the guests of Dreams Resorts at a Hosted Welcome Group Dinner.
We were scheduled to dive with Scuba Caribe for the next three days. Susann Seifert, Director of Marketing for the TCM Group, parent company to Scuba Caribe Watersports, put together a full and exciting dive schedule for our group and arranged for our Dive Boats and Dive Staff to show us the best diving in the Dominican Republic. We waited till early morning the next day to meet at the dive shop to register for diving and get our gear ready for our first adventure dives to Penon and Acuario. Our Dive Team Leader, Soledad Del Pino explained how wonderful the trip was going to be as Scuba Caribe’s new dive boat got underway. Video
Based on personal diving preferences, we broke out into two groups and we each were assigned two Divemasters per group. Soledad and her Dive Team Staff did an outstanding job at Dive Mastering our two groups. I would give the Scuba Caribe’s Dive Staff a 10+ for their professionalism, focus on safety & comfort and their understand that diving must be FUN to be enjoyed. Diving under the watchful eye of their Staff was reassuring, relaxing, and enjoyable. We got back to the dive shop at about 1:30 pm and had plenty of time to wash and stow our gear for another two days of diving with Scuba Caribe. The day ended with a site inspection of Dreams Dominicus and Dinner at one of the Resort’s ten fine restaurants and eateries.
Knowing what diving was like in Dominican Republic and feeling very comfortable with the Scuba Caribe Dive Staff, we headed out to Isla Catalina and Aquarium for our daily two-tank boat dive. Again, Soledad did not disappoint. In fact, I secretly think the dive staff rehearses at night because they seemed to have new energy, new stories and new things to entertain us with on the second day. Maybe that ‘s the way they planned it, but I think the diving on the second day was even better than the first.
After getting back to shore, we washed our gear and left it at the dive shop. Even though we were changing Resorts we still would be diving with Scuba Caribe. We packed our cloths and made the transfer to Dreams Dominicus where Patricia Alvarez-Lebron promised we would have two days of complete, unlimited-Luxury. She was right.
Dreams Dominicus immediately became my favorite resort in the DR. Our Sales Director, Patricia put the FAM Trip Group in the Preferred Club section of the Resort. The Preferred Club is an exclusive area providing exceptional services. There were so many benefits to the Preferred Club that you really have to visit their web site to see for yourself. What I liked best, beside the beautifully modern room (and Champagne) was our own pool & bar and our private restaurant for breakfast.
On the third day of the FAM Trip we enjoyed our semi-private breakfast and then headed out to the dive shop to get our gear. While most people walk the campus, we opted to ride in the golf carts ! You Divers know – dive gear and cameras are heavy !
The third day of diving was the charmer. Half of the group went on a wreck dive that blew them away and my group got some great shallow reef pictures and video. Our second dive was at the Coral Restoration site and I was totally convinced that Soledad and her Dive Team should get some kind of environmental award for what they are doing to grow the coral reef system and fish population in Dominican Republic.
After taking care of our gear for the trip home (this is the saddest part of a dive trip), we did a site inspection of Dreams Dominicus. We saw the Buildings, the Bars, the Restaurants, the Spa, and everything in between. The night concluded at our Farewell Group Dinner at Dreams Seaside Grill Restaurant. I did not want to go home the next day.
There are so many people to thank for the success of this trip. Kudos go to Edward Pietersz and Debbie Helms for putting the trip together and for its organization. Shirley Sanchez, Dreams Romana; Patricia Alverez-Lebron and Dubrasks Tifa Mauricio, Dreams Dominicus; Susann Seifert, TCM Group; Aleberto Mercedes, Soledad Del Pino and Dive Staff, Scuba Caribe; and of course all of the Dive Travel Travel Specialists who dove and partied with us. Guaranteed, we will be doing this again, many times.
FAM Trips are fun, educational and essential for Dive Travel Specialists. FAM Trips may be slightly different depending on who runs them, but my favorite trips are 5 days long. One day to get there, three days of diving and networking and one day to get home. We also like having the option for some of our Dive Travel Specialists to extend their trip for a few days to see more of the local destination. Our Association has remarkable relationships with Resort Destinations, Tourism Bureaus, Travel Wholesalers and Dive Travel Specialists Worldwide. Let us help you expand your Dive Travel Program.
To be considered for future FAM Trips by the Association, one of our Travel Wholesalers or Tourism Bureaus, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, at email@example.com