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Excellence Punta Cana
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Reviewed June 23, 2007

We celebrated our anniversary at Excellence Punta Cana, after staying at the Riviera Maya location last year. This resort is as wonderful as most people here has said it is. Without restating what everyone has already said, here are the main highlights:

The staff are all very hard-workers, are incredibly friendly, and very pleasant to be around. They try to get people involved in all of the daily activities, but do not pressure you if you just want to lounge by the pool/beach.

The rooms are very comfortable, clean (yes, there may be some bugs in the room, but this is the tropics - you have to expect that!), and the maid service is very thorough. Overall the food is excellent (maybe not 5 star quality, but excellent for an all-inclusive resort). The best restaurant is Chez Isabelle (the French restaurant - the Chateaubriand is superb). The waiters/waitresses are friendly, and most speak english very well - if you have any special requests which they don't understand, they always find another employee that can help.

The pools and beach are fabulous. The beach is well-maintained and extremely clean. During lunchtime, the staff would come around with pizza, and there was always some BBQ going at the beach. Perfect since we did not want to get up and go to a restaurant for lunch.

As mentioned in prior reviews, if you want any souvenirs, go directly to Nancy at hut #6. No haggling, she is incredibly nice with no sales pitch, and she will give you the best price. Everyone else - be prepared to haggle and be harrassed with cheezy sales lines (seriously, most of these vendors, or sharks, are a hundred times worse than used car salesmen!).

Now to dispel a few myths which some people have written:
1. The ride from the airport to the resort is not nearly as bad as some people have stated. Yes, it is a long ride (about 1 hour if no stops are made; going to the resort, they dropped off one couple at another resort which added 15 minuted to the trip). But the roads are not that bumpy - it may not be perefctly smoothe, but it really isn't a bad ride - very comfortable and relaxing; enjoy the countryside. Seriously, coming from NYC, some of the roads here, such as the BQE and Belt parkway, have more bumps and potholes than there were on the way to the resort.

2. The beach is not nearly as rough as what's been mentioned. There are waves (the resort is on the Atlantic Ocean, not the Carribbean Sea), but the waves are not that rough and there was never a problem going relatively far into the waters. Again, I'm used to the Jersey shore and the South shore of Long Island - the waves and the currents there are much stronger than the beach at the resort. But if you do want an even more tranquil beach experience, just walk a few minutes to the right of the resort (facing the ocean) - this takes to even more calm waters as you will get closer to the Carribbean Sea.

One last thing: Every night in the plaza, there is a saxophone player named DOMINGO - HE IS A MUST SEE!!! HIS SAX PLAYING IS MAGNIFICENT AND VERY RELAXING! Plus, he is very friendly and personable. We made it a point to listen to him every night, and before we left we bought his CD! We listen to it often - there is great music on it, and it helps us reminisce of our wonderful vacation.

To Domingo: Thanks for the great music - we love it! From your friends, Ricardo & Eileen.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me: rls4094@hotmail.com.

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
15  Thank Richard S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 22, 2007

For my 50th my husband treated me to a stay at Excellence Punta Cana June 11-16. As so many before me have said, this resort truly lives up to it's name. We have been to Sandals a couple times in Jamaica and truly enjoyed our stays, but I would have to say Excellence was better.

Our trip from the airport was not bad at all. Bus had fully functional AC and was reasonably clean and NOT a scary driver. I've had a few of those on other trips and appreciated not having an anxiety attack en route to resort.

On arrival we were greeted with cool cloths and champagne and check in couldn't have been easier or quicker. We had room 11104 toward the end of the complex 2nd floor ocean view. It was very nice. Clean and cheerfully decorated with a well stocked fridge. The in room whirlpool was most welcome as was coming in to find the towels bedecked with fresh flowers each day. Although we had a balcony facing the ocean, in honesty, it was so hot I wasn't able to enjoy sitting out there as I normally would tend to do. That being the case and assuming hubby paid an upgrade for ocean view I might consider saving a few bucks and go for the garden view next time. Gardens and grounds were lovely and with the heat outside, I wasn't able to leave the door to the outside open to hear the surf anyway.

Speaking of the gardens, do take a chance to stroll around the property early in the AM and enjoy the beauty of the grounds. I'm an animal lover and especially enjoyed chatting with the macaws each morning. They are quite friendly and let you know when they want to be picked up by reaching toward you with one claw. DO NOT pick them up if you have a necklace or earrings on. Also they sometimes climb right up to your head so if you're not comfortable with a very large bird preening you best leave them be. Also, although they are fine with being held they don't like being stroked. I also enjoyed feeding the flamingos just across the way. On leaving I heard there were some actual trails to explore that I never found on my own. If I were to have one small complaint, it would be that I would have appreciated an orientation tour of the resort.

Food was absolutely delicious and service wonderful. I only had to wait for dinner one night and that wasn't more than 10 minutes. Went to order a margarita and a table was ready. I didn't try Toscana or the Lobster House. I would have loved to go there but being in a mixed marriage-- shellfish lover/fish lover it didn't work out since all dishes include lobster. It would have been nice if the menu was a little bigger to accomodate families like mine...we can't be the only ones with a lobster lover/hater combo. Fantastic meals at Chez Isabelle and Spice. And...much to my surprise, the Grill. I'm not a big meat eater and went there for my husband's choice only to find it delicious! Try the mixed grill BUT make sure you bring your appetite. Only problem with this restaurant is that it's open air, which I normally love but it was hot even at night. The second time we ate here we had the balcony seat and that was better. Breakfast and lunch buffets were also wonderful. And I really enjoyed the cooking class on the beach. This is where we got some real caribbean food. Even the pizza's delivered (unrequested...they just come around and bring them to you) to the beach were yummy.

The hotel staff couldn't have been nicer. I especially enjoyed Antonia who was our breakfast server and Francisco who led the Spanish classes.

I don't know that I've ever seen a more beautiful beach. Clean and clear..not crowded and sand like soft powder under your feet. This is one of those smart places with the no-building- higher-than-a-palm-tree rule and boy does that make it nice. Even with this huge complex it looks very natural thanks to the palms and plantings. It is the rainy season, but frankly, the clouds in the afternoon were a nice break from the sun and posed no problem.Good news for my fellow red heads...plenty of shade both at beach and pool. Also, much to my delight after reading numerous reviews here, I didn't see a single mosquito or biting fly the whole time I was there. And we went for a stroll each night after dinner (had to do something after those delicious meals). I'd still bring my bug juice to be safe.

We really needed to destress and that's just what we did. I normally like to go diving or sight seeing but it was so beautiful and relaxing I never did anything more taxing than borrowing a boogie board. Didn't even try the spa because I was just so relaxed and happy on the beach or in the pool afterwards.

A word on tipping: it's an all inclusive and so theoretically not necessary but these people work so hard and are so nice why not? I wanted to bring gifts as some people here suggested but ran out of time so I stopped at the bank for a pack of ones and a pack of fives and just spread them around freely. I don't think it bought us better service because the service is just great anyway. But I felt better sharing and a little goes a long way here.

Well, I seem to be getting long winded here so to sum up: SUPER place, SUPER setting, SUPER staff. For a relaxing, wonderful time in a beautiful spot book this place. You won't be disappointed!

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
8  Thank JerseyTracyJean
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 22, 2007

After a long and crazy day of traveling, the calm and serenity of Excellence was overwhelming. Our trip was amazing...a real treat.

After being delayed out of Detroit that morning and navigating the amazing un-organization of Miami International we arrived in Punta Cana for the ride of our lives. Thanks to other Trip Advisors we were ready for the $10 entry card charge and had mentally prepared ourselves for the adventurous ride out to Excellence.

We booked through American Airlines Vacations and found it to be a good choice. Not only did they offer one of the best prices, but we felt comfortable with their longstanding reputation as a corporation not just some cheap online agency that might have saved us a little bit of money. American works with Prieto Tours and they had nice shuttles. The bus we took upon arrival was clean but smaller. It sat about 12 people with 2 seats on one side and singles on the other. They all have armrests...you will want them!

The ride took about an hour and 15 minutes after stopping at 3 other properties. Kinda neat to get a peek at other places though. The road was narrow and winding with "vehicles" passing on all sides. Mopeds, semis, horses, we were all one on that road. Luckily we never got too close to anyone! Appreciate all you have in your life as you view Dominican life for many of them.

Arrival was as promised, cool towels, champagne, and easy check-in. Our room wasn't ready so we waited a few extra minutes before being given a different one. The only annoyance was that we had to bug the desk about how long it was taking for our bags to arrive. It probably seemed longer because we were so hungry! With that out of the way, we proceeded to have a great time.

Food: Beef is always a good bet. Tenderloin in Barcelona, Chateaubriand in Chez Isabelle (order one step rarer than you like) were great. Carib. Shrimp and the Grouper Sandwich for lunch at the Grill might be two of the best items they do. Overall, the highlight of the stay was the Tuesday Night Dominican Beach Party. Great food, music, and a cool breeze made it a memorable night. Good company also from the friends we made from SE Texas and Harrisburg. A couple of mornings the breakfast buffet was stiflingly stuffy. We had room service breakfast the next day and it rocked! The last day, the air was cranked.

Service: Everyone we encountered was working hard to ensure a great stay. They were smiling and light-hearted, and it really seemed genuine. We tipped a couple of bucks here and there and it was appreciated. I found that speaking Spanish with the staff went a long way as well. It seemed to acknowledge that they were people too and that we were in their country. Another idea we got from TA was to bring toys for the local kids. We talked to our 4 year-old daughter about how poor the kids are in the DR so she weeded out a bunch of small items that we brought down in 2 big ziplock bags. We asked our housekeeper if she had a family and she went nuts when she saw what we had brought. We wrote a note stating it was okay for her to take the toys off property. She said hers kids were "locos" when she brought them home.

Pools and Beach: Follow the breeze. If you go in the summer, the breeze is the only savior. We would do pool early and beach later. I have been boogie boarding for 20 years, and had one of the best times ever in the waves on the beach. WARNING: Don't wear you new Timex Expedition with easy close Velcro band out there. It will end up like mine at the bottom. The boards they lend are pretty good quality. Also take the life vest, just leave it on the beach. They make you take it. The kid running the hut is great.

Casino: Hot, smokey, and a dump. Old machines, bad odds (Super Keno) and high minimums. I love playing craps, but not at $10 a roll and in a tub. No wonder nobody was throwing the bones. Seriously, it was like taking the casino out of the Bellagio in Vegas and replacing it with Slots-A-Fun. In Excellence's defense, it is operated by a Carib. gaming outlet independently of the resort. It I were Excellence, I would just yank it.

Activities: Always something happening at the pool or on the beach, both athletic and non-athletic. Water polo was a lot of fun. Julio and Francisco do a great job. We were only there 4 nights and didn't do any excursions. We felt though that if we were staying any longer, we would have done something off property. The 1/2 day deep sea fishing trip for mahi-mahi and wahoo sounded like a good deal for $95. Complimentary horseback riding was okay. Some of the horses seemed quite old, but for the most part well cared for.

Shopping: Find Nancy to the left of the resort. I bought a Presidente shirt from her for 1/2 of what they wanted in the gift shop. Larimar is the national stone found in the DR. We bought a necklace and bracelet when the vendors came to the resort on Tues. night. All in all, not a lot of stuff we found excited us much.

Room: Beautiful! great coffee. Fridge was constantly stocked with beer, pop, and water. Our all time favorite room from a vacation was a honeymoon suite at the Rio in Vegas. The standard Excellence room was better. We emailed a week early requesting a 3rd floor room. Ours overlooked the cascade pool. Couldn't have been happier.

Overall, we loved everything. For the ride back, Prieto brought a great big tour bus. It felt a lot safer and relaxed a lot more on the way to the airport.

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
8  Thank GrouperSandwich94
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 22, 2007

Flew with Thompson, upgraded to Premium, Best Premium in the world, worth every penny of £150
Fantastic Resort, Clean Pool, Room, Beach, Facilities.
Took Helicopter too resort worth every penny. (Did seem strange no one to meet us???)As we booked with Hotel, Got to reception everyone ultra friendly, Got talked into upgrade $100 per night for 1 bowl fruit that rotted and 1 bowl flowers that wilted. Free internet and an annoying concierge that rang every time you were about to siesta, IT’S A RIP OFF, Most of the other rooms are the same.
The room was kept immaculate, flowers on towels etc.
Drink, all you can and top premium Brands, 5 star.
Wine with meals Ok but a bit slow!
Breakfast Ok, Buffet, lack of fruits got board after 4 days, 4 star.
Lunch Ok, Buffet was best, lack of salads 3.5 star
Dinner Poor, French poor, Italian poor, Mediterranean Poor, Mexican OK, Lobster (Stank) did not try! Spice did not fancy. In all took, 1 hour between courses, This is the only reason that stops me ringing Thompson and booking for next year. The quality of the food.
Overall rating 4 stars, If you have booked, enjoy, you will be made welcome, the location and the resort is good, but the dinner is poor.

  • Stayed: June 2007, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
2  Thank derekshf
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 21, 2007

Me and my longtime boyfriend stayed at the Excellence Resort, in Punta Cana for 7 days. As soon we got there we noticed the beautiful ambiance from the eco-park to the shopping stores, and an inviting lobby with waterscapes and tropical flower arrangements throughout. We stayed in one of the garden suites and the room had a beautiful layout with a jacuzzi surrounded by columns, marbel flooring, stand-up marbel shower with glass double-doors, his/hers sinks, patio with stone walkway surrounded by flowers. All rooms are only a short walk to the beach,because of the layout or the hotel. In terms of night life, they have a jazz band that plays every night in the lounge area, a latin band that plays in the patio, a main performance every night in the theatre that were all spectacular, and they have a night club that plays an array of music. They also have a casino thats open until late every night. The majority of our time was spent on the beautiful beach, where there was a lot to do. The staff which was great, would have all sorts of events ranging from dancing, volleyball, excersise, and even cooking lessons on the beach. They were very experienced and proffesional specifically Isabel and Julio, who were in charge of the beach activities and where very friendly and helpful. The food was delicious, and with 8 restaurants, 7 of them open at a time the selection was great. we would recomend this hotel to any couple looking to get away and relax without your kids, or for a romantic getaway to tropical paradise.

6  Thank magneto901
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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