Date of Trip: March 2001
Excellence Punta Cana can be summed up with the way some people see the beach. My wife & I (older travelers) see the sand on the beach as “glistening golden”. Some of the vacationers see it as “yucky brown” — those are the types that are annoyed by everything.
We arrived at Punta Cana on Feb 10, 2007. The airport was a mess. We had to wait on the tarmac and it seemed like there were many planes unloading. (Bad sign). I don’t expect much from immigration people in the Caribbean, but being treated like cattle isn’t one of the things I enjoy. It seemed like a massive free for all. You had to buy a tourist card, but there was no organizaion, no orderly lines! It was every man for himself! I followed some guy who waved at us to follow him,(it was a false hope).
The problem was there were ONLY 4 immigration intake people, and about 600 anxious tourists in a huge cluster. Now I am resigned to nudging myself into line, without being obnoxious, and my wife is yapping in my ear, like it’s all my fault. So far we are not having fun!!
After an eternity, we finally got our bags and were quickly wisked to a regular sized bus with good air conditioning. The only thing that I was lacking was a cold beverage. We were accuratly told that the trip to the resort was about an hour. I found the somewhat bumpy ride calming. The road was flat and many pathetic looking critters were grazing in the meager grasses along the roads — goats, cows, horses. The high mountains were off in the distance, sun shining!
Arriving at the Excellence Resort, we were warmly greeted with a nice smile, cool wet towels, and a tropical drink. The desk was well staffed and NOT CROWDED! The room we are assigned wasn’t ready, so I asked to see a resort map for our room location (my wife brings 6 pair of shoes, none suitable for walking great distances). I told the clerk that I want to be near things! We declined the Excellence Club room upgrades — you’ll get a room with the pool off your patio and some other obscure amenities.
Room 6010 was in the first cluster behind the Grill restaurant, near the pool bar,and this is all the upgade I will ever need. The winding pool stretches the length of western side of the resort (a quiet waterfall pool is on the eastern side) and both pools seem to give everyone what they want: shady palms, full sun,covered full lounging beds (with full pillows) and steps off the beach.
The beach itself is on the ocean side of the island. To you landlubbers, that means waves (surf) and UNDERTOW, so be careful. The beach is just as beautiful as any you will find: waving plams, those thatched little umbrellas,and lots of activites and games for the exuberent. Everyday they have some sort of beach picnic, food cooked in some enmorous pan, or classic beach grilling of chicken, burgers & ribs. The aromas will get you away from the many beach distractions.
Excellence is an adults only resort, so topless girls are scattered about, some more eye pleasing than others (try not to stare). There is also horseback riding (included), which is great fun. The horses know the way, so all you have to do is get on and off. A nice trail ride then ride down the beach right in the surf. I lost my hat, and it was recovered by one of the caballeros. I was not about to try to stop my horse and get back on! I have other hats. They take your picture at the begining of the ride, (I did a Billy Crystal “Yahoo” raising my baseball cap in my hand) and by the time you get back, your picture is on the label of a bottle of rum, and at $15, a must have.
The rooms are great. You’ll find a large jacuzzi tub (on Valentine’s Day, the maid filled the tub with bubble bath & flower petals). The king bed seemed a bit hard for MY particular Princess. (I think they do that to increase the spa business). The spacious room had a nice wicker table, a setee, desk, mini bar etc., and opended to a patio that had REAL chickens (with baby chicks) foraging, very cute. The only drawback being so near a restaurant & pool bar, was the noise from the supply carts. They seem to roll them so early in the AM. If this bothers you, ask for a more seculded room.
There is also a combination jogging track & eco park/garden in the front of the resort. A great place to walk off a big breakfast, complete with ponds of fish, parrots, pink flamingos, peacocks, ducks, chickens (with baby chicks). You will love it. I also did the scuba, very nice coral, but SMALL boats, and some seasick divers.
Food & Drinks: Ask for your drinks to be made with the “better” brands, otherwise you will get local brands. They had very good brands, Absolut & Stoli, JD, CC, Barcardi rums,and a variety of favorite after dinner drinks, Baileys on the rocks being our particular choice.
They also have a show every night, great dancers, good singing, comedy, magic, you wont get bored. They even have a private casino.
There are so many restaurants, we couldn’t sample them all in 6 nights. We were located nearest the Grill. The filet was chewy, however we found the “T” bone tender, and cooked to order. Also, fresh, flaky, flavorful Mahi.
Next to the Grill was the Lobster House. My wife found her lobster a bit mushy, (she ordered steamed, it came grilled — but it’s the Caribbean!) I found my grilled lobster to be great. “Isabella” was the French restaurant and was reputed to be the best. I had the duck liver pate, the flavor was great, but I could feel my arteries clogging. The rack of lamb was great, my wife was disappointed with her salmon,a bit fishy tasting.
The one common theme at all the restaurants is that there seems to be a huge lag time after the appetizers & salads. There are NO reservations and the Dominican 30 minute wait is more like an hour, so prepare yourself.
“Barcelona” was like eating in an open air courtyard in Spain, (I have never done it, but I can imagine this is what it would be like) stars shining above, complete with a tableside strolling trio, singing romantic songs. If you are a fish lover, get the “salt encrusted” whole fish. The fish arrived at the table encrusted with salt as advertised, however it was headless (not a real problem for me) but I expected the head on. The server skillfully removed the crust and skin and fileted a massive amount of delicious steamy white fish on my platter, quite a show in itself. My wife had a steak in some flavorful sauce, and was equally satisfied. Sorry, but we missed the Italian restaurant and Asian restaurant so I can’t review them (not enough time).
Don’t miss the Dominican Beach Party. What a great time, roast pig, grilled steaks, grilled lobsters, Dominican stew,etc. Way too much to list.
And………… dancing on the beach under the stars….if you are in love, THIS IS FOR YOU!
We found the sevice staff to be excellent, always with a smile, ready to help.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any questions, just e-mail me!