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Reviewed 4 January 2008

We vacationed at the Excellence Punta cana in late November/08. We were family and friends a total of 10. The place was as the name implies: Excellence! Food, entertainment, service,casino...all were great. However, on the last day of our vacation, members of my family and a young man from England were called upon to save a young Russian woman who had been pulled out by a riptide and was clearly drowning. We received absolutely no help from any of the staff (no lifeguard on the beach) and in fact, the young woman was threatened with having to pay for the Doctor's visit who wandered down to the beach at least 15 minutes after the event only to agree that she was indeed alive!! The Englishman was offered a free massage after losing his wedding ring (they were on their honeymoon) while saving this girl. This was to leave a bad taste in our mouth after what was, until then, a fantastic
trip. Our numerous complaints finally led to the Hotel saying they would post a lifeguard on the beach and provide at least some rudimentary life-saving devices.

Imagine my surprise to see on CTV news that a young Canadian businessman is missing and presumed dead after trying to save another hotel guest from drowning. Again, no lifeguard, boats or anything.
You certainly will not be disappointed with the Hotel, but more than ten feet from the shore, you're taking your life in your own hands.

Date of stay: November 2007
  • Trip type: Travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
19  Thank stevewMontreal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 January 2008

My boyfriend and I visited the Excellence from December 26th to January 2nd, 2008. We had the Excellence Club Junior Swim-Up Suite. I typed a thorough review that I hope all those looking to visit the resort will read; we went as a very objective pair and this is simply what we found.

Trip to and From the Airport
We booked a private taxi to take from the airport. The roads really are as bad as the reviews all say, and I've traveled on some pretty bad roads in the West Indies. Both Boyfriend and I were quite nauseous by the time we pulled up to the Excellence. If you can afford it, I suspect that helicopter travel is the way to go. We considered doing that on the way back but learned too late that bags must be transferred by taxi and didn't have enough time to send them along... shame! The roads are very potholed and bumpy and, of course, the driving is crazy - but if you've been anywhere in the Caribbean, you already know that and are used to it. :) Ride back was about the same. Expect the trip to take between an hour and an hour and a half.

Arrival
Arrival was impressive, actually. The lobby area and is expansive and airy and quite beautiful. As we were in the Excellence Club, we checked in through them. It was expedient and courteous. We received cool, mint-scented towels and champagne upon arrival, which we enjoyed. We were given a quasi-tour of the Excellence Club and shown to our room rather quickly. No orientation though. No big deal, we were super tired at that point anyway. US Air managed to lose ALL of our baggage on the way down, which was slightly impressive (and certainly not the resort's fault), and the Excellence was actually quite helpful in helping us track it down.

Room
The room was a disappointment. The room had one wall painted HOT pink and the pillars and trim were the same color. Ugh! The jacuzzi in-room was cool. The room was quite small for a "suite" and not grandeur in the slightest. Our jacuzzi drain turned out to be broken and leaked at an impressive rate. It didn't stop me from taking a bath, but I had to keep my foot on the drain in order to push it in far enough. The patio door was broken and did not lock, nor did it close properly and caused the A/C to be very spotty. However, when the A/C worked, it worked! Our room remained quite cool even through all that. The bathroom was very small and the shower was exceptionally wee. The showerhead was nice, though. Our toilet refused to flush unless you held the handle down for the entire flush. The Bvlgari toiletries were a welcome surprise but we had troubles getting them restocked during our weeklong stay. Face cloths are VERY hard to come by; someone could make a fortune by starting a shop that only offered face cloths there. :) Minibar is kind of a travesty, they've got some nuts and crackers but lots of drinks. Since we were in the Excellence Club we had premium alcohol but never ended up drinking in our room. TV was medium sized and satellite was TERRIBLE... not that you go there to watch TV, necessarily, but I like to watch a bit before I go to bed. And speaking of the bed. Worst. Bed. Ever. EVER. It's like sleeping on a cement block. Wait - a cement block would be more comfortable. Both Boyfriend and I woke up our first morning there all kinds of sore and in pain. We wound up ordering 10 pillows from housekeeping to put over the mattress and sleep on. It worked out okay - bit lumpy though. :) Housekeeping was highly amused at this. Bed curtains were half on, half hanging off. No canopy on the bed which I thought looked strange. Floors got VERY VERY VERY slippery if you tracked any water in whatsoever - even be super careful just getting out of the shower. We nearly wiped it quite a few times. Also be careful when you take a warm Jacuzzi; the humidity causes the floor to dew up a bit and therefore it gets extremely slippery again. Speaking of dewy floors, the linens tended to be damp, I expect because of the humidity in the region. Still very disconcerting when you climb into a damp bed. :P Housekeeping was pretty good and did a decent job. We kept strange hours (we like to sleep late) and they worked around it pretty well. I can't say we ever once got turndown service, though. That was disappointing. I was looking forward to those towel animals. :) And we tipped generously.

We had ultra-finicky WiFi that also chose not to work 90% of the time in-room. It was okay-ish when you stepped outside, though.

Food
Not great. Not the absolute worst ever, but not great. We spent New Years Eve there and I do have to say that the meal they served for that was very good. However, we didn't have that experience anywhere else. I don't advocate ordering steak. Boyfriend and I ate at Toscana twice and both times ended up becoming ill - I was sick enough to throw up all night. Boyfriend managed to keep it down somehow. Spice was quite good though, as well as Barcelona. We ate at the Grill for lunch quite often and food is not bad there. Be warned that every version of chicken tastes exactly the same, whether you order it jerk, plain, or otherwise. One of their favorite things to say here is that reservations are not necessary. I beg to differ! Every time we went to lunch we had an hour+ wait time. Once we stood in line at the Grill for a half hour before the hostess even deigned to walk over and take down our information so we could go sit down at the bar to wait. Dinner was also an hour+. It didn't really matter what time you went to eat. They say the 'busy' times are from 7:30 to 8:30 but if we went previous to this or after it we had a long wait either way. Really annoying. Service is so-so but don't expect anything grand. Food came out slowly more than once but overall we got it somewhat quickly. We ordered room service a few times and though it was delivered expediently once or twice we wound up waiting for 2+ hours other times. NOT cool. The language barrier at the restaurants is quite interesting, because although they all speak a few words of English they will often not understand if you order something special-ish, like, say, no tomato on a sandwich. Just keep it in mind; I highly recommend learning a good bit of Spanish before you trot off on vacation here.

Drinks
Were plentiful and free-flowing. None of the all-inclusive alcohol rationing found here. Try the Bahamamamas - they are DELICIOUS - and they make a wonderful Pina Colada as well. Dirty Bananas, which are my favorite tropical drink, were really bad here, sadly. Their house white isn't too bad either. I don't drink red and neither does Boyfriend so we didn't sample that. Bar service is usually very quick and efficient. We weren't disappointed by this.

Grounds
The grounds are very beautiful and lush. They take good care of their landscape and have lots of water everywhere with animals swimming around in it - fish, turtles, etc. There are some parrots down by the spa and boutique area that are fun to sit and watch for awhile. Flamingos and other tropical birds inhabit the grounds as well. All in all it was a very beautifully kept. Lots of trees and grass and other plants and animals roaming around. The buildings themselves were not at all attractive, however, and were done in the carbon-copy pastel-y bright tropical colors, which we could all do a little less with. Be careful of the stone paths, though... they have potholes! It can be quite a minefield when walking around in heels and, I'm told by Boyfriend, in regular shoes as well. :)

Pool
The pool was very impressive, actually, and winds through most of the resort. The swim-up bar is a neat feature and there are even underwater barstools that I got a kick out of. We never had a problem getting pool floaties even with a full house of guests, but we never once were able to get towels out by the pool. Thankfully we brought our own beach towels or we would have been SOL. The lounging beds were pretty easy to get. We definitely liked the pool!

Beach
The beach itself was beautiful and seemed well kept. Lots of lounge chairs and beds out there as well. We never got a bed out there, even with the Excellence Club's 'private' (hah) beach, but never had a problem getting lounge chairs. Palms and cabanas and stuff were plentiful out there too, so there was never any issue getting shade when you needed it. We were always found by a server and asked if we wanted drinks within 5-10 minutes of laying on the beach and were always asked in a very timely manner if we wanted more. No problems there.

The ocean was another matter entirely. THE RED FLAGS REALLY MEAN DON'T SWIM, FOLKS. Anyone who was a guest there during the time we were there learned that the hard way. A man there got caught in the riptide and carried out to sea, and when another guest went to save him he was carried away by it as well and is still missing, presumed dead. The man who was originally carried to sea was brought in by the resort's version of a lifeguard (they officially do not have lifeguards) and they attempted to resuscitate him. They went to use a defibrillator on him, but it was a VERY OLD version of a defib machine and also needed to be plugged in... well out on the beach all they had was a strand of Christmas lights... and needless to say, that did not provide enough power. The man died. It was very sad... unfortunately we wound up learning the whole story through Google News, because the hotel never released any information. This caused the gossip mill to fly fast and furious around the resort. No good. We were very disappointed with the way the hotel handled that, from trying to save the poor guy's life to the silence afterward. Needless to say we stayed away from the ocean itself after that and both Boyfriend and I are very experienced swimmers; we were both competitive swimmers and Boyfriend grew up in the ocean. We went in once, the first day we were there (also a Red Flag day) and I was knocked over by the waves more than once. You could feel the undertow and it was STRONG. We were not out deep at all. PAY ATTENTION to the flags; they are NOT kidding.

Spa
Being a girl who loves spas and all things attached to them, I took advantage of the spa there. It really isn't bad. I had the Dominican Massage and the Excellence Massage, the latter of which is an excruciating experience that I do not advocate it for anyone who is unused to deep tissue massages. I'm STILL sore from it. But I asked for it and am happy with it. :) Had a mani/pedi there as well that was well done. Hydrotherapy area is quite nice and very picturesque. It's a pretty spa and they take good care of it and you. It's a bit overpriced, but hey, you're on vacation.

Stores
I suppose I'm a bit jaded on this since we had to purchase the first two days' clothing selection from the two clothing-y shops they had there. Gift shop had a pretty decent selection of stuff to wear; lots of resort white clothing, t-shirts, logo polos, that sort of thing. They had some cute sandals. The boutique next door was remarkably overpriced, but desperate times and all that. The boutique definitely caters to an older taste. Jewelry shop was okay and had some pretty Dominican stone jewelry.

Entertainment
The saxophone player really is that good and I don't even like jazz all that much. We didn't do anything by way of shows (we were either ill from dinner or too tired) but partook in some volleyball and playing around on the beach. We also went horseback riding. I must warn you that the horses are exceptionally thin. I have horses and am not used to seeing animals in such condition. They are not treated well by the resort and when I say thin I mean THIN. Bones sticking out everywhere. I felt terrible for them. If they were in the United States, Canada or Europe there would be outrage and confiscation of the animals. The ride itself was okay but I was pretty preoccupied with the condition of the horses. Really depressing.

Excellence Club
For us the Excellence Club was probably worth it, because when we inevitably got frustrated waiting for a seat at lunch we'd go up and eat. It was good for snacking and things. We got a few DVDs from them as well and caught up on CNN in the lounge. It was a nice place to escape to on occasion. Not sure if it's really worth it if you don't have extra money to throw around.

All in all the value of the resort was not worth what was paid for it. Anyone who didn't spring for the 'extras' (and that's a laugh) was probably quite pleased with their vacation. If you got the whatever view in the whatever room for $2000 for the week I'd expect you were quite happy, but with what we paid for it ($5000+) it was not. VIP treatment we certainly did not get. All of the rooms are the same, no matter what 'level' suite you get, unless you are getting the Imperial suite.

We did tip everyone; room service, waiters, barkeeps, etc. Even though we paid a ridiculous amount for this place I'm sure the service people don't see any of it.

We won't be back to the Excellence. We went really excited for it and wound up really disappointed. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Date of stay: December 2007
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
13  Thank godiva136
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 January 2008

We spent three nights at this hotel including the new year eve. The service in this hotel is not up to par with many of the Caribbean resorts we have been to in the past. The service in most of the restaurants is very slow and the food is not all that good.

The dinner at the new year eve was basically a four hour waiting game for a five course meal.

One of the Mexican restaurant called "Agave" is very good and was worth the wait.

We also opted for the executive excellence club that is suppose to provide better service. We were very disappointed by the quality and the level of service provided by the excellence club. I strongly recommend to not chose the excellence club option.

The hotel is in a secluded location and the beaches are very clean and scenic. The people working in the hotel bars were very nice.

The resort was beautiful but it has a long way to go with regards to service

Date of stay: January 2008
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
14  Thank barcadicigar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 January 2008

This was a beautiful resort; very accomadating and excellent service was provided. Considering we experienced a sub tropical storm during our stay; the beach was beautiful and a very clean atmosphere overall. The shows at night were very entertaining and the disco bar was a lot of fun. The food, especially the french restaurant was amazing, by far the best restaurant at the resort. The drinks were tasty and the best part is that you were served while on the beach without even having to get up. The Sports Bar was a lot of fun, the bar tender there was our favorite. The trip was very well priced especially with all that was provided. We highly recommed this resort as the ultimate vacation package. The atmosphere, food and entertainment are well worth the reasonable price. We will defientely go back. This was the best trip we have been on!!!!

Date of stay: December 2007
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
9  Thank KevoSomerset
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 3 January 2008

Let me start by saying that the staff is wonderful, the drinks great, and the food adequate. We had a good time and especially enjoyed the "no kids", as we were on break from our own. The earlier reviews were right about the trip from the airport being long and bumpy- we took a private taxi as some had suggested and it was much better and quicker.
The major problem that I have were the two drownings that occurred during our stay. The beach has huge gorgeous waves. It was rough the entire time we were at the resort, and locals said that this is actually the roughest beach on the island and the main reason that the resort does not allow kids. While it is impossible to prevent rip tides from forming and taking lives in even fairly calm water, I feel that there should be basic safety equipment and/or a plan in case an accident should occur. A sign saying swim at your own risk (and no lifeguards)does not cut it. They should have rescue buoys and a jet ski for rescue purposes. They should also have a direct line on the beach in case of emergencies (a security guard on the beach had only a walkie talkie with spent batteries). It took an hour for emergency response, and it was resort guests that saved one swimmer and pulled out the (sadly) drowned other swimmer. The third swimmer had yet to be found when I left. They also do not have an AED (they had a rusty antiquated and once again uncharged defibrillator that could not be used) which is not much of an expense, considering. I sure hope that they learn from their mistakes...who knows how things may have turned out differently if the resort was better prepared.
On a lighter note, I would have to say that I would have preferred a second story room over a swim up room; not really swim up and you can't see the beach. Plus no access to your back door from the outside.
Neutral on the excellence club. We did use the computers and have snacks there every day, but the staff was not very helpful (asked for basic help on several occasions and ended up having to go to the front desk concierge).

Date of stay: December 2007
  • Trip type: Travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
18  Thank meldolle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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