Most people have heard the quote “You had me at hello” from the popular movie “Jerry McQuire.” Well, I can say with heartfelt sincerity that the Excellence Resort Punta Cana had me at “hello” or “hola” from the moment I arrived. And not with just one single “hello,” but with many “hellos” sprinkled throughout my entire visit.
It may sound like an exaggeration, but I promise you it is not… I was greeted with a smile, nod, and/or friendly word of acknowledgment whenever - and wherever - I came in contact with a member of the resort’s congenial staff. Each and every employee was pleasant, welcoming, accommodating, and gracious. They all deserved awards of recognition in customer service, from the service manager Roberto... to Jeffrey at the front desk... to the young men and women who helped me find a comfortable place to settle on the beach...to the wait staff serving my meals... to the housekeepers who kept my suite tidy.
I decided to give Excellence Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic a try after receiving recommendations from Seasoned Times visitors who described the resort as a “5-star beachfront paradise” that also happened to be “budget-friendly.” I heard raves about the beach, the food, the staff, and an assortment of free activities well-suited to those of us in our “seasoned" years, including fun stage shows… bingo and other games… dance, cooking, and scuba classes… mini golf… horseback riding on the beach… beach and pool volleyball… and even an authentic Dominican beach party.
* Just one "seasoned" traveler's observations. Not to be considered a review or endorsement by Seasoned Times.
The place sounded almost too perfect to be so affordable. Even so… I thought…”why not give it a try?” After all, I stayed at another Excellence Resort (located in Playa Mujeres, Mexico) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience… even when a Category 2 hurricane happened to skirt the shoreline while I was there.
I knew the Excellence Punta Cana site is older than the Playa Mujeres site so I wondered if it would be of lesser quality. No need for concern, however, because both resorts exceeded my expectations. Yes, my suite at Excellence Punta Cana was a bit dated and showed a little wear and tear, as did some of the resort's buildings. But any signs of age quickly became insignificant and irrelevant, because everything across the resort is kept clean, well-maintained, and freshly painted. Obviously, a lot of thought, effort, care… and, yes, love… is put into creating a setting that will please guests and keep them returning year after year.
Excellence Punta Cana is an adults-only, all-inclusive, all-suite resort set on a spacious site spread out along a seemingly endless stretch of tranquil coastline of soft, golden sand and rolling blue waves. A large swimming pool snakes along the ocean side of the resort and provides plenty of sunny and shady spots to sit, along with submerged lounge chairs and a swim up bar. Another pool offers a quiet waterfall as its focal point. Picturesque views abound in every direction. Beautiful walkways, palm groves, and tropical gardens dot the entire site. Restaurants and bars abound. The resort even offers a world-class spa and a small casino.
Although occupancy at the resort was close to 100 percent during my stay, the venue did not seem crowded. Sure, there were plenty of people at the beach, pool, and restaurants… but none of the areas ever felt uncomfortably congested. I never needed a reservation to dine at any restaurant of my choice. The amount of walking that is necessary when staying at the resort really depends on where your suite is located. I often walked leisurely around the grounds and found secluded spots where I could sit peacefully enjoying the tropical gardens and expertly designed landscape. The vibrant colors were breathtaking and the lovely scents enveloped me. In the sunlight, everything seemed to sparkle.
The beach is also beautiful, and often "picture perfect." The resort is tenacious about keeping the beach free of seaweed and debris. Following one somewhat stormy evening, I saw a team of white-clad resort workers out bright and early the next morning cleaning up any trace of what the turbulent sea may have deposited on land during the squall. Soon there was nothing left to look at but sand and surf. The sand on the beach is soft, but it provides more support than some beaches where the sand is difficult to walk on because it is so fine. The surf can get quite strong and the waves rather large, which is fun for folks like me who enjoy playing in the shallows... but the conditions are probably not so great for avid swimmers. Lifeguards patrol the beach to make sure guests do not head out too far from shore or become exposed to the dangers of an undertow.
As much as I relished being outdoors during my visit, I also enjoyed time spent in my suite. Sitting on the private balcony was a favorite pastime. The view was spectacular. My balcony faced a quaint gazebo surrounded by flowers, greenery, and a pond, and to the right I could see the beach and ocean. I watched incredible sunsets that looked like brilliant golds and pinks had been painted across the sky along the horizon. Inside my suite, I slept in a comfortable king bed with marshmallow-like pillows. Other amenities included a sitting area, whirlpool bathtub, double vanity, and mini bar… just to mention a few. There was a large, flat screen TV as well, but I never bothered to turn it on.
During my stay, I did take advantage of an upgrade called the “Excellence Club,” which the resort offers for an additional charge. As a club member, I had access to a variety of perks, such as the amenities of a private “club house” where exclusive services and conveniences were available. In addition, I was also able to use a private beach area with concierge service. I enjoyed the perks, but I spoke with many very happy resort guests who did not opt for the Excellence Club. Their glowing opinions of their overall Excellence Punta Cana experience were equal to mine.
A second Excellence Resort will soon open in the Dominican Republic. Excellence El Carmen will begin welcoming guests in September 2016. The new resort has already made its way to the top of my list of desired vacation destinations. I can’t help but wonder, however, if the new resort can possibly live up to the outstanding level of high quality I have come to expect from an Excellence Resort. There is only one way to find out for sure … I will have to stop by to say “hello.”