In October of 2015, Carnival Corp. opened Amber Cove as their newest cruise port. The 35-acre site was developed by Carnival and the Rannik Family of Grupo B&R. Costing $85 million, it represents the largest cruise industry investment, ever, into the Dominican Republic.
Near Puerto Plata, Amber Cove is a beautiful and lush area you wouldn’t recognize, but served as a location for the original Jurrasic Park.
So, why oh why, after investing all that money into the island, would Carnival do such a poor job marketing it?
As I was looking through the excursions on the Carnival site a few weeks before we left, I couldn’t find anything to “do” in Amber Cove. The excursions were minimal and most had very poor reviews. I kept seeing assorted cabana rentals, but had no idea what location they were in. There was a grand cabana, a pool cabana, some ocean cabanas, yet I had no idea what these were for. The descriptions were definitely bare bones.
Here is the quick description, and picture, for the “Poolside Cabana” excursion on Carnival.com.
“Enjoy the ultimate in luxury during your stay Amber Cove with the use of your own private cabana.”
I had no idea where this pool was and why I would want a Cabana there. Was it part of another excursion? The main Amber Cove destination page didn’t give any information so I wasn’t about to drop $300 on a Cabana in the middle of nowhere.
Boy, did I wish I had booked that Cabana when I got there!
Amber Cove is a massive resort-style development right next to the port. It is so close, this is what the boat looks like from the pool area.
Outside of the pool area there are some shops including Diamonds International. (Need wifi? Go into one of their two shops and just ask for the wifi password.) A lot of the spaces are still empty, but there is the obligatory giant liquor/perfume/tobacco store you have to walk through. They give rum samples. Stop there first.
To get to the pool area you head to the right after exiting the big shop. The pool area is huge. The pool itself is 300,000 gallons and divided into areas that all connect through a lazy river-type passage. There is a swim up bar with tons of cool concrete stools. There are two-person hammocks. There is a zip line. There is a water toy rental area. There are the cabanas (I totally had cabana envy). There is a delicious restaurant. There are a million beach chairs. In short, it’s the most beautiful FREE resort I have ever been to.
Yes, it’s free. No need to book an excursion here unless you want to do something more interesting than have a relaxing day in paradise. I wish Carnival had been a little more explanatory in their description of Amber Cove, but I am so glad we stopped there. I thought we’d walk around the port for an hour then go back to the boat. Instead, it was one of them most enjoyable cruise ports I have ever been to. My husband even ranked it in the top three, and I agree.
Since there are really no pictures out there yet about Amber Cove, I took a bunch.
One of the first things you’ll see is the swim up bar. When we got there, they had a bunch of salsa dancer performing right next to the bar. The music was great, but it’s loud, so this is not a “quiet” area.
The local beer is Presidente and it’s $5 a can. Not cheap, but not bad either. It tastes like any American light beer. You can get a bucket of 6 of them for around $24.
Here is another view of the pool as well as a sign depicting the different areas of the resort. In the pool picture you can see the water slide and also the zip line hut to the left of the top of the water slide.
The ocean is close to the pool although there is no proper beach. They do rent water toys like paddle boards and water bikes. This area is where you can also purchase a zip line pass and wifi for the day. You can see the prices for everything below.
Tucked away behind the rentals, you’ll find a little hidden gem. There are four 2-person hammocks. No one had found these yet and we had already been there an hour or so. The little people you see in them are my kids. They were so excited to find actual, empty, hammocks.
The restaurant/bar has seating outside and also inside a covered area. The service is horrifically slow. Like I could have hunted and cooked my own food, slow. The food itself, however, is delicious. Try the Chicharron Sampler and the Churrasco Steak Satai.
If you like shots, there is a way to save a little money. The first shot is $8 and you get a shot glass you get to keep. If you ask for refills on that shot glass, each subsequent shot is $5.
Overall, we had a wonderful time in Amber Cove. Everything is new, neat and clean. The zip line, usually something I have nightmares about, looked like it was built solidly and the safety equipment looked new and actually safe. I cringe when my kids ask me if they can ride a zip line, and until this excrusion had always said no. I said yes on this one with no hesitation.
The locals were friendly and seemed happy to have new job opportunities in the area. A waitress at the restaurant told me Carnival runs a shuttle to and from Puerto Plata (about half and hour away) to get them to and from work.
We were blown away by this place and can’t wait to go back. I hope the years are kind to this port and Carnival keeps up the good work.