Please excuse the lengthy review. Like many other reviewers, this was our first time at an all-inclusive resort, as well as our first time in the Dominican Republic. Based on the vast majority of the reviews, we decided that Excellence was a very low-risk choice for our holiday. We were right.
First of all, the ride from the airport did take about an hour and 20 minutes, but it was neither hairy nor scary. It was in an air-conditioned 12 seater "Volkswagen Bus" type vehicle, with a driver and a tour representative. The first thing they did was offer to stop for a few minutes if we'd like to pick up a beer or a beverage for the trip. Naturally we did. Once we ventured outside of the built up areas near the airport, its fair to say the roads deteriorated and there were pot holes. We dropped off 2 couples at a resort along the way, and that's it.
Upon arrival at the hotel (paradise on earth is an apt description), we were greeted by a Bellman with cool towels, a "welcome home", given tags for our luggage and asked to go to the lobby to register. There was basically no line-up and we were immediately offered a glass of champagne. The hotel representative, upon seeing that we had chosen to stay in the "Excellence Club" section, asked us to sit down on a sofa in the lobby, and told us that a concierge would be with us shortly. In less than 5 minutes, we were taken to the Excellence Club office for check in, and advised that our luggage would be sent directly to the room. Check-in took a few minutes, after which the concierge showed us upstairs to the club facilities (bar, TV, internet stations, buffet, expresso, capuccino etc) and then to our room. Luggage arrived promptly. Checkout was equally painless, via the concierge.
The room was a Junior Suite, "as advertized", complete with kingsize bed and jacuzzi. (Room was 7209). Separate area for shower and toilet. Very clean. Room was complete with flowers and fruit plate. Fruit plate was replaced 3 times during our stay of 1 week. We had a small balcony with a couple of chairs and a table overlooking a garden. Very nice.
The liquor cabinet was stocked with glasses, ice bucket, 4 bottles of premium liquor to start of with, including JW Black. We also had a coffee maker and a couple of "pouches" of good Dominican coffee. (Given that my wife enjoyed Bailey's, we asked our concierge at the "club" for a bottle to be delivered. We had it next day). The mini-fridge contained a selection of beers (Presidente, Bud and Bud light), as well as Coke, diet coke, waters, juices etc plus a "kit kat" bar. With a little communication with your mini-bar re-stocker, you could easily modify your beverages. Note that the chambermaid does NOT re-stock the mini-bar or coffee. That is done by another gentleman. This is important to know. Best way to communicate with him? Leave a tip inside the mini-bar fridge (a buck or two) along with a note of what you would like. I, for example, only wanted Presidente beers. My wife wanted more waters. If you can manage to write a few words in Spanish, that's good. If not, the staff at the lobby can help you. Believe me, we were stocked very well, every day.
Ice is located right beside the elevators on the ground floor. Note that not every ice machine worked; Ours broke down, but was fixed and working 2 days later. There are many machines close by, or call room service. A note to attest to service levels: upon seeing I was looking for ice and that the machine was empty, an employee walking by immediately offered to get me some. I did not have to ask, he just did it.
We ate in 5 of the 7 restaurants. Service was excellent. Enjoyed the fact the the staff dressed to the nines in the air-conditioned ones. Added a lot of class. Loved the French one (great Coquilles St. Jacques, Chateaubriand and French Onion Soup); very much enjoyed the Lobster House and the Spanish restaurant (very good lamb and great portobello salad). I have seen some negative comments about the lobster house, but rest assured, on the nights we were there (2 times), the food was fine. Spice (Japanese) was also good. Our only disappointment, if you could call it that, was in the Grill. My wife had the baby back ribs and I had the T bone - average; I heard excellent comments about their fillets and skirt steak on several occasions. I do suggest that if you like your meat 'medium', try ordering 'medium rare'. I would also say that regardless of restaurant, they do season their food well. Taste before adding salt. All house wines (6) were good (Chilean and Argentinian). Breakfasts were great at the buffet, with several stations fixing eggs, pancakes, French toast, omelettes, you name it. Lots of meats and cheeses as well. Great fresh fruit, juices and smoothies - made while you wait. My wife loved the fresh watermellon juice. We also very much enjoyed the Dominican custom, whereby the hostess takes the lady by the arm and leads the couple to their table.
The evening entertainment was generally good: Belly dancers, Michael Jackson impersonator, boxing matches (real ones, including a female bout), and local Dominican folk dancers.
The patio beside the Kafe Cafe always had entertainment at night, and, as you have already read, great sax music. Bars were fine and plentiful. Liked the Martini bar and the swim-up, among others. Premium liquors available everywhere. Beer limited to those noted above, plus Miller G.D. Could have used a Heineken or Beck's to augment their selection, but that's it.
The grounds were immaculate. Staff always cleaning and tending (flowers, shrubs, walks). Pool areas were our favourite hang out. Beach was fine as well. Waiters serviced both areas (drinks and snacks). Yes, the surf is high....always. We liked to go in waist high or so. Much fun.
A few parting words: We booked Excellence Club as part of our trip. Incremental cost was about $150 per person, CDN. I heard they charge much more than that if you try to upgrade on site. Our feeling was it was well worth the price. Bring dollar bills to tip. The wonderful staff deserve it - but do not expect it. A buck or two goes a long way. We tipped our chambermaid ($2 under the pillow each day), the mini-bar guy, every time we were served, and even at the buffet. Spent about $140 this way, and felt great about it. Bring insulated tumblers or cup holders - the heat will reduce those frosty drinks to water in minutes. Bring sunscreen, lots of it. We saw so many people burned to a crisp. It costs $18 at the local hotel store. Some 8 local shacks/stores for tourist purchases available by the extreme left side of the beach front, just off the resort property. Yes, we stopped in to see Nancy. Charming lady. Asked us to pass along a request for travellers to bring school supplies if they can. We brought bug spray. Never used it. I saw two (2) mosquitoes in the week. Other reviewers say they were bitten bloody - go figure. That said, there are definately 'no-seeums' at the beach in the sand. Deet may be helpful in that respect for legs and arms.
The bottom line: By Caribbean standards, this is a gem. I have recommended it to friends and family. Last, but not least, our tab on check-out? $0.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- This quaint, colonial-style resort is the ideal destination for couples seeking secluded romantic getaways. Nestled among palms on a perfect white-sand beach on a remote stretch of Punta Cana's Caribbean shoreline, Excellence Punta Cana provides the perfect All-Inclusive playground for adults only and is also home to a world-class spa, state-of-the-art fitness center and an exceptional range of activities and services. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Secrets Excellence Punta Cana
- Excellence Resort Punta Cana
- Excellence Punta Cana Resort
- Secrets Punta Cana
- Excellence Punta Cana Dominican Republic
- Excellence Dominican Republic
- Punta Cana Excellence Hotel
- Excellence Punta Cana Hotel
- Secret Excellence Resort Punta Cana
- Punta Cana Secrets Excellence