Great Place and Good Time was had by all
by Lou Johnston
6 of us spent 6/1/2011 - 6/5/2011 at the Excellence in Punta Cana and all of us had a great time. This is not a perfect place but it is a great place to relax and gave a good vacation.
We flew with Spirit Airlines which was a HUGE mistake, unless you like being packed like a sardine. Will never fly with them ever again! Better to fly with someone else spend a few extra bucks to get a little more leg room. Spirit charges you for everything as an add-on.
Arrival in Punta Cana was good on a Sunday. Went through customs, paid our via fee of $10/pp, got bags, and got on our pre-purchased transportation to the hotel, and were off in less then 30 minutes. Excellence is about 1.5 hours away and we were lucky since we only stopped at 1 other resort. Our flight landed as 1:00 pm and we were at the bar in Excellence by 3:00.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with champagne and wet towels to wash our face and hands. Our luggage was whisked away and delivered to our before we got there! Check-in was pretty easy and took less than 15 minutes.
Excellence is a very pretty place with wonderful grounds, palm trees, fountains, gardens, and you feel like your in the Caribbean. It is also very clean and well maintained. I'm pretty picky when it comes to how a place looks and how clean the grounds are. They do a great job.
All of us had a "garden view" room (we stayed in building 9) with a balcony overlooking a topical setting with palm trees, small pond, and water fountains. Room was also very nice pleasant and had all the amenities, including a jacuzzi. Bed was big and comfortable (but definitely not the lush comfortable beds you'll find in Vegas). The mini-bar was stocked with cold drinks and beer. The only thing that we didn't like is that Punta Cana is a humid place and all of our rooms had a musty smell.
We headed to the beach and pool. Since we got there around 3pm, all the lounge chairs around the pools were "taken". As in all hotels and cruise ships, the "chair hogs" grab the lounges early in the morning, throw their towels on, with a token magazine, and claim them for the day. (Advice: stake out your lounges and pool side shady hut before 9:00). We managed to find a couple of lounges and a waitress quickly came over to get us drinks. Very friendly with a warm smile and an "hola". After a few "beverages" we relaxed and explored the pools. Swim-up pool was great. They allow "European style" on the resort.
There are two huge pools in Excellence that stretch across the entire resort area. You can grab a float and float around with a drink in your hand. Seemed like everyone was doing this. Pool area is also very pretty and well designed. At night it's nice just to stroll around since they are lit-up softly.
Excellence has a long beach and sandy beach with plenty of lounges and shaded huts. Cleaned daily. BUT THERE IS ONE SLIGHT PROBLEM: You can not swim or even go up to your waist in the ocean. The waves and under-tow it treacherous. I love the ocean and this was the worst thing about Excellence. Can't use the nice warm ocean water. We spent all of our time at the pools and just walked the beach.
The food: They have 8 different restaurants, with different food options: French, Asian, Mexican, steak, lobsters, Italian, Mediterranean, and buffet. All in all the food quality and choices are far above many on the all-inclusive hotels or some of the cruise. We had some real good meals and some OK meals but none of us complained about the food. We loved the table presentation, table cloths, and atmosphere in all of them. Most of them had great service and we never waited for more than 5 minutes to get a table for 6. It was very nice when the hostess who seated elegantly took the ladies arms and walked them to out table and pulled the chair out for the ladies to seat them.
We also enjoyed the morning and lunch buffet. They had a good selection of different food options and choices. No complaints from any of us.
Bars and "beverages": Great service at the bars with very friendly folks. The will gladly customize your "beverage" based on your preference in terms of how much alcohol you want in your drink. Portion control is optional when they pour a drink. A $20 tip to your bartender in the morning will keep you happy all day. While they do not carry the high-end top shelf liquor (such as Cabo Wabo, Grey Goose which happen to be my preferences), they do have good quality liquor options. Just ask for it and they'll use it.
BUT, every good side, has a bad side- IF YOU LOVE BEER, there's only two choices- Presidente or Miller Gold. That's it.
Entertainment: They have nightly shows. Mostly good. Don't expect to find Vegas style shows but their comparable to some of the shows you'll find on a cruise ship. Disco is small but very nice. We made two visits. First one was great since it was a Disco (80's) night and we fit that age bracket. We started the party and the place eventually filled-in with a nice mix folks with different ages. Second visit was a "dud", hip-hop night, with a few people, most people walked in, stayed 10 minutes and left. No-one wants to hang out in a place with 6 people. The casino is small with about 15 slots machine that pay a little but take your money eventually. A few tables available. However, not sure how the action was on them.
Over all, Excellence is a very nice place where you can have fun, relax, and forget about home wherever you live. Good food and drinks. Good Service for the folks. Good mix of tourists of all ages to make friends with. (And yes, no kids. I've raised a couple of my own and it was nice not hearing "Marco Polo" in the pool area.)
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