My parents celebrated their 50th anniversary back in late 2013. To mark the occasion, the family went to the Dominican Republic, specifically to the all-inclusive, adults-only Excellence resort in Punta Cana. I wasn’t sure what to expect on this vacation as all the trip reviews I perused leading up to it ranged from utterly abysmal accounts to effusive ones. I’m fairly certain I can say that our experience was much closer to the effusive reviews.
While waiting at the airport for all of our group (12 total) to arrive and get luggage through customs, who walks by close enough for me to reach out and touch? None other than Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr.! Some people call him Snoop Dogg or I think he went by Snoop Lion at that time. We later learned that he was there for a Rhianaa concert at the Hard Rock resort.
It was finally time to hit the road and the first lesson we learned on our trek to the resort was things like speed limits, road signs, traffic lights, lanes, and vehicle passenger limits are more like suggestions rather than laws or rules. A five-way intersection with no signs, lights, or police officer and everyone feeling they have the right of way made for a dicey situation. Small, two-stroke motorcycles carrying three or four people darting out in front of anyone made it interesting too. Oh yes, there were also potholes the size of VW Beetles. Seriously. There was plenty of swearing from those driving.
Upon arrival at the Excellence, however, all tension was wiped away. We were greeted with glasses of champagne as our bags were carted off to our rooms and we headed through the main entrance. This large open air area was graced with colored marble floors and columns surrounding an atrium where the turtles (pictured above) resided. The main entrance also consisted of multiple bars, a stage and seating area where nightly performances were held, and led to two restaurants or the beach entrance. We spent time at the check-in counter as they explained the remaining layout of the resort and repeated how essentially everything onsite was free.
The weather was everything you’d expect from a tropical paradise – mid-80’s, humid, and sunny all but a day and a half of our trip. Beach chairs and mattresses (yes, you read that right) lined the beach if you didn’t want to partake in any of the available water sports – wake boards, fins, masks, snorkels, kayaks, and even a sailboat were all available to check out for free. Or, as some of our party opted, the swim-up bar was also available. The rooms and a few restaurants were air conditioned if you needed to escape the heat.
Speaking of the restaurants, the meals were delectable. They weren’t all perfect as some were better than others. The fresh seafood was by far my favorite and I had it at least once a day. The bar/restaurant on the beach often had cooking lessons for the fresh fare they served for lunch. They also hosted special dinner events several nights during our stay. I only wish we’d known the first one was open to everyone and not just the wedding party in attendance.
The staff at the Excellence was, well, excellent. By the second day, they knew our names and where we were from. If someone didn’t make it to a meal, the server would mention that person by name and ask if they would eventually be joining the group. While walking through the beach entrance, one of the bar waiters noticed me passing by and called me by name to stop me and hand me a beer. I don’t know that anyone in our group ever lacked for a drink (or anything else) if they wanted something.
We left the resort twice – once to meet my dad’s work associate and once to enjoy a snorkel trip. Pictures seven and eight above are from the first venture. Atop some cliffs on another section of the island rests the Restaurante Farallon. We didn’t dine there, but did accept the shot of fresh-squeezed pineapple juice they offered us. The view from the restaurant property was as lush as you’d imagine – deep green vegetation and the chromatic blue of the ocean. Pictures three and ten are from the snorkeling trip on another part of the island. This excursion was the only part of the trip that cost extra as we commandeered a party boat just for our group. Once again, the captain, our host, and our liaison were all as friendly and accommodating as you’d hope. Beyond ensuring everyone’s safety, they also served snacks and drinks and filmed the event (for an additional fee naturally).
The other pictures:
1. The view from my room – the infinity pool
2. This is the beach entrance by Water Sports where we spent a good deal of time (also the image used on the left)
4. This giant chess set was nestled by the volleyball pool
5. The macaws were fairly friendly, unless you ignored the signs and wore something shiny. One woman lost a button when the red macaw snatched it from her shirt.
I can’t recommend the Excellence any higher and hope to one day return. Next time I will ensure that I have more than my phone’s camera to take pics.