As Patrick Lagreid mentioned yesterday, Monday started out in a Dominican night club called Coco Bongo, which apparently is a chain—learn something new everyday.
After some much needed rest, my Monday resumed with a hangover. After a bit of work, Patrick and I headed to the pizza place in the resort, which wasn’t that bad. I must say, if you removed the Spanish language and added a more integrated casino, you would have a hard time telling me this isn’t Las Vegas. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed at a non-Vegas resort-style hotel that is this large and between the near-2,000 rooms and endless amenities, this feels very much like Vegas—perhaps even more Vegas than the Westgate where I stayed last month.
A few things about the Hard Rock Punta Cana:
- Size — There are benefits to having a dozen or so restaurants, tons of bars and pools, but my room is around a 10 minute walk to the beach, which is quite different than any other Dominican hotel I’ve ever stayed out.
- Value — From what I gather, everyone that is here from Procigar is staying in a room with a hot tub in the living room. The shower could hold five people without anyone touching one another and the outdoor deck is nice. It’s a $227 per night, per person room that includes as much food and alcohol you can fit into your body. While I’m not sure what the rates are for families—or additional guests for that matter—it seems like a pretty good deal if your intent is to eat, drink and sleep—or something in that order.
- Staff — Outside of a mess at check in, the staff has been incredibly friendly and attentive. It’s not the nicest resort in Punta Cana, but the service has been great and much appreciated.
After eating our pizzas—Tex Mex and Indian for those wondering—we wandered off to one of two planned activities for the day. Tabacalera de García, the largest cigar factory in the world, hosted a rolling seminar.
Tabacalera de García is the reason why Procigar kicks off on this side of the island, the factory—which produces Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and others for Altadis U.S.A.—is based out here and hosts the guests that come out for the first two days. It’s a small group, probably 40-50 people, but I’ve always found it to be enjoyable to visit the factory and relax for a day and worth the five-hour bus ride that is tomorrow.
The rolling seminar included some of Tabacalera de García’s top level rollers. I’m sure Patrick will explain this more tomorrow, but the factory has a program where rollers can receive certifications that come with both prestige and financial incentives. The rollers also get to attend events like this, as well as around the world in places like Dubai, Germany, Spain and the United States.
Attendees were invited to roll cigars of their own, with help of some of these rollers. After seven years of learning, I’m confident that I cannot roll a cigar, but I’d say half the attendees of the seminar tried it and received a certificate acknowledging their accomplishments.
Afterwards we had a few hours to kill and sat outside on a rooftop deck drinking, smoking and taking pictures of random things like the sculpture above. Don’t worry Brooks, neither Patrick nor I are quitting our day jobs anytime soon.
At 8 p.m. we headed to dinner, hosted at the Toro Terrace in the resort. Interestingly, while it was a different building, the terrace and restaurant below seemed identical in layout to where we had the rolling seminar. Tabacalera de García was once again the host and after the dinner they had a longest ash competition. I was a bit surprised given last year’s Procigar longest ash competition, but it didn’t appear anyone was close to getting sick this year. Patrick Lagreid was one of six winners and took home a Romeo y Julieta grill set and some ROMEO by Romeo y Julieta cigars.
Towards the end of the evening came Dominican dancers and eventually rain, which forced us back to the main building and we found ourselves on the rooftop deck—under some covering—with cigars and Ron Barceló, a Dominican rum brand, until we called it a night and I started writing this post.
Tomorrow we leave at 9 a.m. for the short ride to La Romana to visit Tabacalera de García, then we will make the 4-5 hour trek to Santiago to join the rest of the festival.
If you haven’t been to Procigar, I’d certainly recommend doing this part of the tour at least once. Tabacalera de García in and of itself is a worthwhile visit. It’s truly the most unique cigar factory I’ve ever been in and Altadis U.S.A. goes all out hosting the guests here. This is my third consecutive year on this part of the tour and I have no plans to skip it next year. I think more than anything, the intimate nature of this portion means you get to meet a lot of the attendees—essentially all of the people on this leg of the tour—and it’s a nice way to build up for the remainder of the week.