Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
"Better than ever"
Posted by: don on Feb 18, 2014
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At Excellence Punta Cana, all-inclusive luxury is more than a label, and excellence more than a goal. It's who we are, every day, every night, for every guest. Come see what it really means to get away from it all —at Excellence Punta Cana, the all-inclusive luxury resort and spa.
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"Even Better Than We Expected!"
Posted by: Elizabeth Carlton
on Jan 11, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) United States of America
Visited on: Jan, 2010 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
949 people found this review helpful
When planning this trip, I used this site quite a bit. I will try to give as detailed a review as possible, in the hopes that this review will be as helpful to other travelers as the reviews I saw were to me.
This was the best resort I've been to. And I have been to over 50 countries, including beach resorts in Puerto Rico, Thailand, Barbados, Bermuda, Egypt, St. Thomas, Grenada, and The Dominican Republic.
The mood of the resort is laid back and elegant. You won't find a whole lot of partying and spring break type activities here, although the disco and casino can get quite crowded and fun. There is plenty of drinking and having fun, but not in a loud, obnoxious way. Think large dinner party with close friends, as opposed to fraternity party. Because this is a smaller resort, it is easy to meet people and everyone tends to get friendly with each other. The guests are mostly couples, though we did see quite a few family groups. The average age is probably mid to late 30s, but there are many 20-somethings and quite a few people who looked like they were in their 50s.
The bus ride to the resort takes about 1 hour, depending on how many other hotels you stop at first. We enjoyed the ride because it gave us a chance to see some of the countryside and small towns of the D.R. It also gave us a chance to talk to our driver and get his opinions of the various resorts. He told us that he thinks Excellence is the nicest in Punta Cana. And he has seen them all. When we arrived at the resort at around 3 pm we were immediately taken to the check-in area and given a cold towel and a glass of champagne. We had booked an Excellence Club room, and were immediately taken to the club lounge. In the lounge, we were told about the resort, given a map, and had a short tour of the club area. The club rooms are in a separate area of the resort and are supposedly nicer than the "regular" rooms. They have nicer toiletries, an expanded mini bar, and flat screen tvs. If you stay in a club room, you also have access to the club lounge, which looks kind of like a gentleman's club. It's dark, very well air conditioned, and has large chairs and sofas and a very large flat screen tv. It also has 4 computers that are free to use (including free internet) and food. The food is in buffet form and is pretty extensive. You could easily have all of your meals here.
We were in building 10, garden view room. Building 10 is attached to the club lounge, but is a bit farther from the restaurants and lobby than I would have liked. We were on the 3rd floor, which meant that we had vaulted ceilings. The room is quite large, with a canopied king sized bed, a small sofa and chair and coffee table, a dresser, 2 closets, a min-bar area, and a jacuzzi that easily fit 2 (very tall) people. It also had a marble bathroom with a separate room for the toilet and shower. The jacuzzi and sink area of the bathroom are open to the rest of the room, while the toilet and shower are separated. All of the rooms have either patios or balconies, large enough for a small table and 2 chairs. The rooms on the ground floor also have hammocks right outside the sliding glass doors. The view was called "Garden View". In many hotels, this means a view of the hotel roof or parking lot. Here, however, it really was a view of lovely gardens with trees and grass and a small pond. You could also see the mountains in the distance. Don't be afraid to get a garden view room! The view is great. Some of the swim-up rooms looked great, but they lack privacy. The patios for these rooms face right onto either the main pool or the smaller cascade pool. They do have the advantage of being only steps from the pool, however. I should mention, though, that if you're not into wildlife, you might want to avoid the swim up rooms. There are numerous ducks and doves and peacocks around the resort, and some of them hang out and even make their nests right outside of the swim up rooms. For an animal lover like me, this would be great. But some people might not love stepping outside onto the patio and running right into a group of birds. Some reviews have said that the rooms have a musty smell. Ours didn't, but when swimming by an open swim up room, I noticed that it did. That may be because it is on the ground floor and doesn't have the vaulted ceilings. I would highly recommend getting a room on the 3rd floor. The high ceilings made an already beautiful room even better!
Restaurants and Bars:
At other resorts I've been to, the restaurants can be far from the beach, so there is no view while you are eating. Because Excellence is set up parallel, rather than perpendicular, to the beach, there is much more access to a view. All of the restaurants are either right over the pool, overlooking the beach, or have a great view of the water. And that is, after all, why we went on this vacation -- to be near the water! There are 8 restaurants at the resort. We went to 6. In general, the food is better than the average all inclusive. That said, don't expect the kind of food you would get at a high end restaurant in a major city. Some of the dishes aren't exactly as advertised. For example, the Pad Thai at the Asian restaurant, Spice, wasn't like any Pad Thai I've ever seen. But it was quite good! Our favorite restaurant was the French, Chez Isabelle. Try the Chateaubriand. It is really, REALLY good. Our least favorite was The Lobster House. Not terrible, but not the lobster most North Americans are used to. There are no buffets for dinner (yay!) but Toscana has a breakfast and lunch buffet. Both were very good. We went to Oregano several times. It is the only restaurant that is open past 11 pm. The pizza (and the pizza all over the resort) is EXCELLENT. As was the lasagna. At all of the restaurants, you can order special wines. They charge ridiculous prices for these. The "house" wines, which are part of the all-inclusive package, were fine for us. I don't know anything about wine, but my boyfriend does and he said that the house wines were decent to pretty good. I loved the house champagne, but I'm clueless about champagnes! There are also beach nights, when the staff sets up elaborate dinners on the beach. During the day, you can either get lunch in one of the restaurants, or eat on the beach. Pizza and hamburgers are always available on the beach, plus a special of the day, like seafood paella. The special beach lunch is excellent. There are something like 10 bars scattered throughout the resort. At all of them, I tried the tropical drinks and loved almost all of them. Every day, there is a new drink of the day. Try them! There is also the local beer, Presidente, which I didn't drink. My boyfriend liked it and said it is fairly light, sort of like Rolling Rock. There is also a small casino at the resort, where we went every night. It is really small: 4 blackjack tables, 1 Caribbean poker table, 1 Texas Hold 'em table, 2 roulette tables, and a bunch of slot machines. The fact that the casino is small makes it easier to get to know the dealers and the other "regulars" who like to gamble. We made lots of friends at the casino and had a wonderful time. When the shows let out at 11:00, the casino can get crowded, but we rarely had to wait for a place at a table. The minimum bets start at $5, which was great for a conservative bettor like me.
One of my favorite parts about the grounds at Excellence is that, in front, there is a nature reserve, with ducks, peacocks, turtles, and doves. There are boxes of stale bread to feed them with. Throughout the resort, you will find animals -- a cage with cockatoos, parrots, ponds in the lobby with turtles, peacocks roaming around, a ducks that occasionally take a dip in the pools. If being around animals enhances your vacation experience, you will love it here. The grounds are incredible. Just beautiful. I can't say enough about them. From many vantage points around the grounds, you can't tell you are at a resort -- the foliage is so lush that you feel like you are in a jungle. The main pool runs the length of the resort, in a river style. Scattered throughout are little islands with trees planted on them. There is also the cascade pool, which is hidden in a courtyard and has a waterfall. The main pool has a swim up bar and water rafts scattered around, for floating. The rafts can be in high demand, but we always found one when we looked. Poolside has many, many lounges, as well as sunbeds, which are like double beds with latticed coverings over them. They are heaven. We went to Excellence at the beginning of the busy season (early January) and didn't have too much trouble getting lounges or beds. There are fewer beds, so they go first, but we never, ever had trouble finding lounge chairs. If you are staying in a club room, you get beach towels in your room. Otherwise, you get towels from little huts scattered around the pool. I don't think you have to get a card and make sure you return them at the end of the day. We saw lots of towels just left on loungers. The beach is gorgeous! One of the things I like best about it is that, because Excellence is a bit farther out, there are no other hotels around. When you look up and down the beach, all you see are Excellence guests and palm trees farther down the beach. In the more crowded area of Punta Cana, as you walk down the beach, you see hotel after hotel after hotel. At Excellence, it feels as though you are on a deserted island. The sand is tan, rather than white. And there are waves here. If you have ever been to the Jersey Shore or The Hamptons, the waves are similar. My boyfriend and I are both fairly strong swimmers, and we got a little worn out in the water, because of the waves. If you want still water, turn right on the beach and walk about 1/8 of a mile, and the water is perfectly calm. There are lifeguards along the beach, and they will make you get out of the water if they think it's too rough. If you aren't a confident swimmer, you probably don't want to go too far out into the ocean in front of the hotel. If you like boogie boarding, though, you will love it.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We didn't go off the resort, and didn't do any special activities. A 30 minute horse ride is included with your stay. They ride along the beach on horses that look like they've seen better days. They look very tame and probably would be fine for inexperienced riders. There is also snorkeling equipment (the water is too rough to see anything, though) and scuba gear, parasailing equipment, etc. It is very easy to set up excursions off the resort for party boats, snorkeling trips, swimming with sharks, etc. We only went to one show and it was, in a word, bad. Just...bad. But we heard that the circus show and the Michael Jackson show are quite good. We just came at the wrong part of the week to see them.
You MUST bring bug spray. We brought Off Deep Woods, which is the kind that has DEET, and that pretty much did the trick. The resort sprays for bugs, but they are still abundant and they will bite you! The hotel has a few overpriced shops and a spa, which is lovely to look at, but a bit overpriced as well. Look for the spa special of the day for discounts. Or...go to Nancy's. If you turn left on the beach, just a few yards away is a group of shops where you can buy anything they sell in the hotel shops for literally less than half the price. You can also get a massage at one of these shops, called Nancy's. $45 for 70 minutes. And while the setting isn't as elegant as in the spa, the massage was MUCH better. You are in a little hut overlooking the beach while having a massage. You can get a massage alone or a couples massage. I am not sure that the club rooms are worth the price. You do have a private concierge who is dedicated to only club members, and you get upgraded liquors, if that's your thing. There is also a special club area of the beach, but nobody really pays attention to the ropes they've set up, and the club area is pretty much the same as the rest of the beach. There are waiters taking drink orders all over the beach and resort, not just in the club area. I guess it would depend on how much extra you have to pay for a club room. But, to me, it wouldn't be worth more than about $100. Some reviewers have mentioned the lack of English at this resort. Well...yeah...you're not in an English speaking country! The staff speaks enough English so that you can manage, even if you don't know Spanish. As long as you're not aiming to have a conversation about the meaning of life, you can make yourself understood. And the staff is so wonderfully friendly and helpful that communicating shouldn't be a problem.
"Sit back and relax knowing you have chosen a great resort"
Jana from Ottawa on Jan 10, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Dec, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
512 people found this review helpful
My husband and I, both in our early 30's just returned from Excellence Punta Cana. We were there from Dec 4 to 11. We have been to about 10 all-inclusives and were looking for a low key, relaxing holiday, without our 3 yr old. We did A LOT of research before we booked and read tons of reviews and were thrilled that we made the right decision with this resort. To sum up our holiday in a few words fantastic, perfect, excellent, and breathtaking.
For those who want a more detailed reviewhere it goes, and it may be a long one.
Our flight, airport experience, and trip to the resort were all as we expected. The bus ride was just over an hour with two stops and wasn't nearly as bad as other reviewers had said. The only thing we didn't like is that we didn't get to see much scenery because we were travelling so late at night. We got to the resort around midnight greeted by our champagne. It was a speedy check-in and went right to our rooms (Basic Jr. Suite, 2nd Floor, building 7, garden view). The building was perfect for us and was close to everything we wanted access to. We were hungry and tired, and immediately found a perfect table in the outdoor courtyard of Oregano and had some beer and pizza. It was perfect, especially for two tired travelers. I was so impressed to find a good place to eat still open at 12:30 at night.
We were very impressed with the food at Excellence. We aren't too picky and didn't have a meal that we didn't enjoy. Everything was great, beyond great. For busy parents on holidays who didn't have to make their own meals it was paradise. We loved that we didn't have to make any reservations for any of the restaurants and could eat where and when we wanted. There was never a restaurant wait that a glass of wine couldn't solve. For dinners we ate at Asian x2, Mexican, Italian, The Grill, and the French. We loved all of our meals and the service at every restaurant was outstanding!!! Our only complaints would be that a few of the restaurants are open air, which makes it very hot on the evenings with no breeze. Our last night we really wanted to eat at the Lobster house, but the air was so still and it was way too hot to eat outside, so we had to give up having lobster. Breakfasts were great. We always ate at Toscana for the main buffet. Everything was great and you could literally have anything your heart could desire. Every day they had champagne and OJ as well as Bloody Marys. Absolutely no complaints about breakfast. Lunch was also great. We ate at Toscana for the main buffet a few times (fav's being sushi, nacho's, fantastic arrangement of salads, grilled fish and meat), we ate at the Grill for a-la-carte once, had pizza around the pool a couple of times (awesome nothing like eating pizza in the pool) and at the beach grill once. You will never go hungry at this place and there is literally food avail 24 hours.
Extra's loved the self-serve soft serve ice-cream machine at café café bar and the hard serve ice-cream at the sports bar. The also had appetizer snacks at the sports bar for Monday night football.
The room was good, for the small amount of time that we actually spent there. It was slightly outdated as other reviews had mentioned, but nothing that really bothered us at all. There was also a slightly musty smell, but you will get that anywhere you go in the Caribbean. The jetted tub had seen better days, but it was very clean, even though you could see water stains in the tub. The bed was great and we had very good restful sleeps. The maid service was great and very responsive. We had asked for a few things (I brought a Spanish dictionary and wrote our requests in Spanish for our maid) and our requests were immediately granted. They came to our room 2x a day and always had fresh towels, restocked mini-bar, and turned down sheets wonderful service.
We tended to spend more time around the pool as we love to be in the water, and the pool was amazing. It was very clean and maintained. Picturesque!!! The bar service around the pool was fast and they are very responsive, always aiming to please. The chairs had great pads to make them nice and comfy and towels were plenty and easy to come by. Never really had to play the towel game as there was always tons of chairs to find at least in the sun, where we preferred. I loved the floating pads to lay around in the pool and, believe it or not, most people were generous and shared them. There were some who hoarded them, which is totally rude, but most were good about sharing. The large pool was definitely the one with more action and where most of the games and activities took place but even at that, it wasn't too busy or crazy loud. It was definitely a bit busier around the swim up bar but that's to be expected. If you are looking for a more fast paced, fun day, try to find some of the groups who are there for a wedding, they are usually more outgoing groups and fun to party with during the day.
We spent one day at the cascade pool which is definitely beautiful, but it was just a bit too quite there for us. We like being close when a volleyball game broke out, or when some pool games where happening. My hubby loved the crazy games and came home with 4 bottles of rum from winning so many games.
the beach was definitely wavy, but stunningly beautiful. The sand was soft and warm, there were tons of chairs to be found, there was great waitress/waiter drink service, wonderful pizza delivery and the grill was accessible for food. We love our daily walks along the beach, and you can literally walk for miles without seeing another resort. The walks were our favourite part.
We went to the spa a couple of times. The first was just to enjoy their hydrotherapy pools, sauna and steam room (which is a great way to spend an overcast or rainy morning) and the second time was for a couples massage. We got a gift certificate to use the hydrotherapy pools etc when my hubby won a crazy game but otherwise I think you have to pay to just use the hydrotherapy. It does, however, come free when you book a treatment. The massages were great and definitely worth the money. We got champagne and choc. covered strawberries at the end nice touch.
We loved that we could get all of our favourite top name-brand alcohol. All you had to do was ask. We didn't find the drinks to be watered down at all. If you wanted more alcohol in them, just ask, they would be happy to do it for you. Martini's was the perfect lobby bar and the drinks were great. The best thing to do if you don't know what drink to order is to ask around, see what everyone else is drinking and what they recommend. You don't have to drink just from their drink menu get creative and try something new. We loved the dirty monkeys, banana mamma's and I added a bit of lemonade to my beer for a nice citrus twist. The will make whatever you desire; just tell them what you want in it and they'll do it for you. The bartenders are fantastic. Their house wines were also good and had a few different types and brands to choose from. Try them all and see what one you like the best that's what we did.
The resort itself is beautiful and well maintained. It isn't a huge resort, and has a bit more intimate setting. We usually travel to very large expansive resorts so this was a nice change for us. Everything was constantly cleaned and there was staff everywhere keeping things beautiful.
We have been to tons of all inclusive resorts, and although we prefer to try a different one each time, we would definitely consider going to this one again. So it must be fantastic for us to break our pattern. We have travelled extensively in the Mayan Riviera, but will definitely go back to Punta Cana for the fabulous weather in December. Major bonus's for us: adults only, quiet if you want quiet but you can definitely find some action if you want it, no towel cards, no resort bracelets that make you feel like a prisoner, the awesome pizza service, excellent bar service, no limitations or reservations at restaurants, excellent food and restaurant choices, 24 hour great room service, slippers and robes in the room, turn down maid service, high end alcohol, free internet, excellent staff service everywhere, and most importantly, we didn't get sick or have any sign of ill effects from contaminated food for water.
Anyone who had chosen to go to this resort will not be disappointed. Sit back and relax knowing you have chosen a great resort. And remember while you are there you are on holidays in another country take each day as it comes and appreciate the scenery and company. Don't sweat the small stuff and enjoy yourself. Before you know it you will be home again, and dreaming you were still there.
"You dont get bored even if you dont go on any excursions"
Laura from Vancouver on Jan 10, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Nov, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
617 people found this review helpful
arrival was fine- i didnt mind the bus ride there or back because it was interesting to watch the scenery go by and see some parts of small towns.
Well, this was the worst part.We noticed our room was musty when we entered, but didnt think we really had to request another room. We should have, because when we returned home, ALL of our belongings had been permeated with a terrible musty smell. I tried washing stuff several times, even with bleach, and could not remove the smell. We had to throw away everything we brought;suitcases, swimsuits, clothes,shoes,jacket,underwear, bras,cosmetic bag, a pillow, book, everything. I was really quite upset about that, but im trying to just forget about it. I also didnt like the maid service... they would move my suitcase from where i wanted it to be, and remove my magazine from the bathroom, and take the shower gel out of the shower... it was annoying! They also didnt leave enough water so we had to ask for more.
Restaurants and Bars::
We found the bars to be fine. Most of the restaurants were fine enough.There was a buffet every breakfast and lunch, with a huge variety of foods. I especially enjoyed the fresh squeezed passion fruit juice, and also the bread pudding with warm vanilla sauce.Lunch included an array of desserts,which were really good, including cakes and parfaits.The atmosphere in all of the restaurants was picturesque and elegant. You could order champagne or anything you wanted. The service was always fine. On the downside, i didnt like the chairs: they wouldnt fit under the tables at all, so you couldnt move close to the table, Compounding this, the tables were large and long for 2 people, so you were forced to be uncomfortably far away from your partner. All the restaurants were like this. Also, for breakfast and lunch there were tons of flies:you just gave up swishing them away from your food. The worst thing was that they have this bizarre practice where they force the woman to walk arm in arm with the hostess to the table for every meal. Its just me,but i HATED it beyond words! The rooms are equipped with a scale so you can watch your weight go up from 2 smorgs and 1 full meal a day, plus drinks and desserts. Amazingly, my husband and I spent so much time walking on the beach (several times a day) that we didnt gain weight! Most of the food was good, but we really didnt like what we had at the Mexican restaurant.I dont know what was in that chimichanga, but i sure dont want to taste it again! However, the chocolate mousse at Barcelona was delicious, and so was the key lime pie and baked alaska at Oregano.
We loved the beach! The beach was beautiful. We spent a lot of time walking along the beach, leaving our resort area. We also went in the water, which was warm and fun. At night, we spent more time at the beach (instead of the shows) and lay on the beds on the beach, listening to the wind and the surf, looking at the stars and the waves and swaying palm trees. It was still warm at the beach at night. The rest of the grounds are beautiful and nice to walk around, and look at the pool. I never swam in the pool, because it was always straight to the beach for me, but my husband did and he said it was nice.
we got bitten by mosquitos, but not tons of times. Repellent DIDNT deter them whatsoever. We didnt take malaria pills, so, i hope we didnt get malaria! The locals selling stuff are so aggressive that you just have to ignore them.Its unfotunate because i actually wanted to look in the makeshift kmart and sears outlet but i couldnt even go in because they are so aggressive! Overall, the resort is beautiful, and you dont get bored even if you dont go on any excursions if you enjoy walking around and eating. Just make sure you get another room if yours is musty (from what ive heard, most are not) because all your stuff will be musty when you get home. It was fun dressing up every night for dinner in a pretty restaurant (no flies at night) and then walking around the pretty grounds and beach all in nice warmth.
"Outstanding customer service and very quickly responded to every request"
Kevin from Ellicott City, Maryland on Jan 9, 2010 >
1 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Oct, 2009 | Leisure | With Spouse/Partner
357 people found this review helpful
The name speaks for itself, this is an excellent resort. Definitely book a room in the Excellence Club, the service was outstanding and you have access to your own buffet for breakfast, internet access and a private beach.
Loved our room! We had a swim-up room which turned out to be an excellent choice. Normally, I like to be up high to have nice view of the ocean, but it was even better to be on the ground level, with the same view, but being literally steps from the pool. We frequently sat on our shaded patio and lounged or jumped in the pool to cool off.
Restaurants and Bars::
We visited all the restaurants and each was good, there is a nice variety. The buffet was very good too. Even though every restaurant wasn't open every night, there was still enough variety.
Very nice, especially the pool. The staff cleans it every morning and keeps it immaculate. The grounds are beautiful, make sure to arrange for a photographer to take pictures on the beach, ours looked great.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel::
We went on the day trip to the Carribean side of the island, via speed boat over and catamaran/booze cruise back. This was a fun trip, with just the right amount of relaxation time mixed in with lunch and leisurely trip back. I don't remember the name of the destination, but the front desk personnel can tell you.
A special thanks to the staff in the Excellence Club, all gave outstanding customer service and very quickly responded to every request. They were also extremely friendly and courteous.
"Great but I kind of like a little more Dominican in my stay."
Kelly on Mar 1, 2009 >
3 contribution(s) Canada
Visited on: Mar, 2009
326 people found this review helpful
Arrival: Mar 1 - 7
we took a taxi from a week at the palladium palace .Didn't know that the roads could get worse than the airport to the palladium.Also didn't know it is on the atlantic side of the island and near mountains.
We were given the furthest rooms from the lobby on the resort,and it was great.The rooms are very nice and eventually we even got our luggage.4 hours later they tracked them down,in the wrong room.They appologized but it was no big deal.
Restaurants and Bars
Wow,wow is all i can say.What a nice resort.The restaurants were wonderful and the bar liquids and people were unbelievable.The only thing wrong with restaurants was the cuts of meat,not really medalians or fillet men...You know. Although very tasty just not what you ordered.
Beach was not really nice, darker sand,couldn't swim in most of ocean because of strong undertow.Never seen more than 10 people in the ocean at once.Loved the big waves where you were aloud to swim.It is so windy on the beach you could only stay so long , seemed to drive you nuts,the wind and sand in your face.Pools were really nice and well maintained and cleaned . You had to get to the pool chairs before 7:00 to get under a palupa or bed with a lid on it.Grounds were very well looked after.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel
Never left the resort,Don't know if you would want to .A long ride to do anything off of the resort.This resort is out in cattle country and a long way from towns .
If this resort was on the carribean side of the island you would have to book 2 years in advance to get a room.If you like the beach and swimming in the ocean , this resort is not for you.Too windy and you could wear a jacket and pants at nite .This resort is very american like, booze,food,music.I really enjoyed that but i kind of like a little more Dominican in my stay.I speak fairly good spanish and i listen to a lot of music from santa domingo.I would highly recommend this hotel otherwise,the staff speak better english than some people from canada and the usa.Have never seen staff look after you like they do at the Excellence hotel.Unbelievable!