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Fish pedicure an unusual spa experience

- December 4th, 2011

If you’re looking for an off-resort excursion at your all-inclusive in Punta Cana that doesn’t involve swimming with dolphins or a drive-by tour of the area, what about one that promises relaxation and rejuvenation — and involves dozens of tiny garra rufa fish picking dead skin off your feet?

The very unusual fish pedicure was just one of several treatments we had during our three hour cruise on the Dr. Fish Spa Boat, led by Ocean Adventures tours of Punta Cana.

After boarding the spa boat and setting sail on the blue, breezy Atlantic, we rotated in groups through five treatments. First, some light yoga on the deck followed by a dip in the “ocean Jacuzzi.”

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Waiting to board the Dr. Fish Spa Boat with Ocean Adventures.

For this, we descended from the boat by ladder and settled onto a floating mattress in the ocean. We were pulled on our individual mattresses to a line of rope and attached in a line beside others in our group, left to float under the warm Caribbean sun as the gentle waves of the ocean circulated refreshing salt water over our bodies.

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Relaxing in the Atlantic.

Back on the boat, we moved on to massages, followed by a detox therapy meant to remove toxins from our bodies. Finally, it was time for the Dr. Fish signature treatment: fish pedicures.

We disembarked on a small dock and sat side-by-side on benches with boxes of water at our feet. In the wooden boxes: dozens of small, grey garra rufa fish.

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Small garra rufa fish pick the dead skin off the feet of tourists. (Ocean Adventures photo)

These toothless fish are imported from Turkey and the Middle East, where for centuries they have been used to help those who suffer from psoriasis with their skin ailments.

The fish only eat dead skin from the body, and by the way they latched onto our feet once we lowered them into the water, I’d say they were mighty hungry. Dozens of the fish, ranging in size from an inch to more than four, lunged at my feet, tickled my toes and sent a sudden wave of queasiness over me.

Watching and feeling the fish nibble at my skin, especially so when there were multiples of the little guys latching on at once, was an odd sensation that took some getting used to.

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A guests receives a fish pedicure with the Dr. Fish Spa Boat. (Ocean Adventures photo)

I pulled my feet back out of the water more than once to give my nerves a break. But, over the course of the 10-minute treatment, the urge to squirm or shriek when tickled subsided and was replaced by pure awe at how amazing the treatment actually was.

My feet certainly were smoother after the fish pedicure, though I didn’t find the treatment to have the lasting effects a traditional foot exfoliation at a spa offers. Still, sitting on a dock in the Atlantic, a breeze blowing over my shoulders and dozens of small fish pecking away gently at my heels, I knew this truly unique spa treatment was one I would always remember.

What a perfect way to end our trip to the Dominican Republic.

For more information on the Dr. Fish Spa Boat excursion, visit oceanadventures-puntacana.com.

Plan your vacation to Punta Cana with Transat Holidays. Transat offers packages that include accommodations, flights and transfers from the airport to more than 20 sun destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico, making vacation planning beyond simple. Transat Holidays also offers packages for more than 150 different cruises. Visit transatholidays.com to start planning your warm-weather escape.

For more images from this press trip, visit canoe.ca/puntacana

Five-star luxury at Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro

- December 2nd, 2011

After spending just one full day at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro, I saw why this Punta Cana- area property was named as one of TripAdvisor’s top all-inclusive resorts of 2011.

Any traveller who has had the pleasure to stay at the Grand Hotel Bavaro knows the service and accommodations at this resort really are worthy of their five-star rating. As one of the hotel’s butlers told us, we are kings and queens when staying at an Iberostar.

The lavish Grand Hotel Bavaro features 274 well-appointed rooms, arranged in a U-shape around a lush courtyard dotted with palm trees and filled with pools of water that leads down to the famed white-sand beach of Bavaro. The full-scale ship docked in one of the courtyard’s pools doubles as a disco at night.

All rooms are equipped with stocked mini bars, iPod connections, LCD televisions and offer 24-hour complimentary room service. Treat yourself and upgrade to a suite with a Jacuzzi – which personal butlers will turn into a romantic bubble bath on request – or a suite with a walk-in, private swimming pool just outside your patio doors.

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Private pool suite at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro.

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Butlers at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro will create a romantic bubble bath in your room’s Jacuzzi on request.

Our first order of business after waking on our first morning was making dinner reservations at one of the hotel’s four a la carte restaurants. No problem – a simple call to our personal butler and he made reservations for the evening at the Japanese restaurant and reservations at the Italian eatery the following night. The resort also offers French gourmet and surf n’ turf dining spots, as well as a casual dinner buffet.

Next, we were off to breakfast. The breakfast buffet offers an array of meal choices, perfect for anyone who has a picky eater in the family. Warm crepes, custom-made omelets and a cold cuts selection were among the offerings at the morning’s sitting.

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Shellfish at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro dinner buffet.

We skipped coffee to indulge in glasses of the Dominican Republic’s national beverage – mamajuana. Spicy and cinnamon-scented, this unique drink is made from a collection of local herbs and bark left to soak in alcohol. Mamajuana was even used to add a kick of flavour to our chicken fried rice at dinner in the Japanese restaurant. The locals are proud of their beverage and applauded us and even broke into song every time we ordered a glass.

Lunch was also buffet-style, with a mix of hot and cold entrees, including Dominican wheat croquets, and a diverse salad bar. The quality and diversity of the food impressed.

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Couples massage room at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro spa.

While waiting for a couples massage in the spa, we whiled away the afternoon swimming and lounging in one of the curtained cabanas in the pool area. The well-manicured grounds and the light breeze blowing over the resort from the Atlantic added to the sense of paradise we felt we had discovered at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro.

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Poolside at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro.

For more information on the more than 100 global Iberostar properties, visit iberostar.com.

Book your stay at the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro as part of an all-inclusive holiday package with Transat Holidays. Transat also offers worry-free flight and hotel packages to 20 other sun destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico. Visit transatholidays.com for more information on these and other Transat vacation packages world-wide.

TOMORROW: An off-resort excursion aboard the Dr. Fish Spa Boat.

For more images from this press trip, visit canoe.ca/puntacana

Making holidays simple with Transat

- December 1st, 2011

Greetings from Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic!

My boyfriend and I just arrived at the adults-only Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro, the luxurious, five-star resort we’ll call home for the duration of our Transat Holidays press getaway.

The Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro is one of many sun destination hotels Transat Holidays offers as part of their all-inclusive vacation packages.

Located on the famed white sand shores of Punta Cana, the Iberostar is the ultimate all-inclusive couples retreat, complete with a disco on board a docked ship, four gourmet a la carte restaurants available for dinner and romantic bubble baths prepared on request.

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Arrival in the lobby of the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro.

We flew aboard Transat Holiday’s own Air Transat and were delighted with the extra leg room, attentive service and delicious food – our menu included teriyaki beef and butternut squash ravioli – in Club Class. If you can afford to treat yourself on vacation, Club Class is a must.

We were welcomed aboard with mimosas, complimentary ear buds and blankets and fun trivia on the in-flight screens (one question asked what salsa dance burnt the most calories. Air Transat’s answer: Who cares? You’re on holiday!)

We tracked our flight’s progress on the live map displayed on the screens. The map was intermixed with cartoon graphics of our plane in transit. Speech bubbles popped up from time-to-time above the cartoon plane, keeping passengers amused with captions like “Giddy up!” appearing before takeoff and “He flies better than he drives” after landing.

After arriving in Punta Cana, we were whisked away by private transit for the short 20 minute drive to the Iberostar.

While we’re looking forward to a quiet couples retreat, the array of passengers on our flight – from a family with a small baby to larger groups of friends – proves just how diverse Transat’s vacation portfolio is.

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Ship – which moonlights at a disco –  in the courtyard of the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro.

The travel company offers an array of ready-made getaway packages that take the worry out of vacation planning. Their roster includes sun destinations like Aruba, Martinique and St. Lucia, family-friendly spots like Walt Disney World and cultural favourites like Vienna, Rome and Lisbon.

Make family vacations even more memorable for little ones with the Air Transat Kids Club. Available to children ages two to 11, kids receive a welcome kit when boarding that includes headphones and games, advance boarding, entrance into annual draws for trips to Disney World and more.

For more on all of Transat Holidays’ vacation packages - including their 175 sun destinations and 150 cruises, – visit transatholidays.com.

TOMORROW: All about the Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro in Punta Cana.

For more images from this press trip, visit canoe.ca/puntacana