Port of La Romana (Casa de Campo)
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The 7,000-acre resort village of Casa de Campo, which is like a town itself, is located in La Romana and features lots for cruise passengers to do and see. It's definitely the main draw during a day in port. Most of the more interesting options (particularly golf, tennis, skeet-shooting and horseback-riding) are available only through ship excursions, and a limited range of activities exist for independent-minded visitors. In addition, some ships don't even call on this port until mid-afternoon or later, which limits outdoor activities.
With a couple of exceptions, passengers who want to venture out on their own are limited to exploring the area's nouvelle villages, such as The Marina (which is meant to replicate Portofino) and the more charming Altos de Chavon (which was designed to resemble an old Spanish town). Both have a handful of restaurants and shops, which are pricey and designed to appeal more to Europeans than to Americans.
Top La Romana (Casa de Campo) Itineraries
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Where You're Docked
There is, technically, no "cruise terminal"; instead, ships dock at an informal facility -- one dock on either side of a small river that's between the sugar cane town of La Romana and the chi-chi resort village of Casa de Campo. There are no services (unless you count a Coke machine).
Casa de Campo is the main event, but you'll have to take a cab or shuttle bus to get there. There are really no facilities in the immediate vicinity of the dock.
Good to Know
The Dominican Republic has a reputation for crime. Always be aware of your surroundings, stay in groups, and don't venture to out-of-the-way places when not on an organized tour or with a reputable guide. As a general rule, leave all jewelry and valuables onboard in your cabin safe, and carry only as much cash as you think you'll need. We recommend a money belt to keep your cash and room key safe while you're ashore.
Also be sure to pack bug spray; you won't have much of a problem outdoors, but you might use some restroom facilities (particularly if you're headed to the beach) without air-conditioning, making them perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes -- and they're vicious.
By Shuttle: Major attractions -- in particular, Casa de Campo -- are not accessible on foot. Cruise lines often organize shuttle transportation from the ship to the resort; typically, shuttles take travelers on a 15-minute ride to either the Marina or Altos de Chavon sections. The shuttles run every 30 minutes.
By Taxi: Taxis line up at the dock. To travel the 6-kilometer distance to Casa de Campo, plan to negotiate cab fare before you get in; haggling is OK.
Renting a Car: Travelers must take a taxi or shuttle to Casa de Campo's main area, where there is a National Car Rental agency. However, we don't recommend this option unless you know where you're going. Traffic can be a headache, and all signs are in Spanish.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The official currency is the Dominican Republic Peso (check www.xe.com for current exchange rates), but it is rarely a problem to use American dollars. ATMs are available throughout La Romana and inside Casa de Campo; they will dispense money in pesos.
Dominicans speak Spanish as their primary language. Some, particularly those who work in tourism areas, speak English. That said, communication can be a problem, so either carry a pocket dictionary, or bone up on basic phrases like hola (hello), buenos dias (good day), por favor (please), gracias (thank you), cuanto cuesta? (how much does it cost?) and donde esta el bano? (where is the bathroom?).
Food and Drink
Authentic Dominican food is generally locally grown and produced. You'll find there's an emphasis on chicken and freshly caught fish, rice and beans, and fruits like coconuts and plantains. Many residents operate stands that offer homemade items like bread and empanadas. Drinks native to the area include fresh fruit juices, Dominican coffee and hot chocolate, Kola Real soda and -- for those looking for a bit of an alcoholic kick -- Mama Juana, Presidente beer and local rum. There also seems to be a surplus of Italian fare in the DR.
La Cacita: This little place, located in the town of La Romana (and not to be confused with La Casita, located inside Casa de Campo), offers friendly service by English-speaking waiters and delicious Italian fare, including caprese salad, chicken croquettes, fettuccine carbonara, angus skirt steak and several dessert options. (57 Calle Francisco Richiez; 809-556-5932; open Wednesday to Monday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
Lago Grill. Grab a bite here, at Teeth of the Dog golf course in Casa de Campo. This restaurant offers more casual fare that's great for those just coming in off the links. (Open noon to 3 p.m. daily.)
The Marina This area of Casa de Campo offers the most selection, featuring Italian pizzerias, fish restaurants and coffee bars, all open throughout the day.
The Dominican Republic is known for Larimar, a cloudy, pale-blue stone that is only mined on the island of Hispaniola. It's difficult to fake, so chances are good that you'll be snagging the real thing, but don't be afraid to bargain; sellers are used to it, and they often jack up prices with the expectation that haggling will occur. Amber and black coral are also popular, but they're easier to fabricate.
If jewelry isn't your thing, consider Dominican-made cigars and items made from coconut, and natural cocoa or chocolate, but avoid purchasing woven palm hats. They're considered live plants, and they'll be confiscated when you return to your ship.
While you're in town, be sure to try some Mama Juana. Made by combining red wine, rum and honey with the fermented roots of the Mama Juana tree, it gives off a strong red wine taste with a spicy cinnamon finish. If you're not a wine aficionado, go for Barcelo or Brugal local rum with Coca-Cola, or Presidente beer, which is super refreshing when the weather gets unbearably hot. (You'll also want to pick up some sugar cane juice, which is locally made and a great hangover remedy.)