What a wonderful vacation! My husband and I visited Excellence El Carmen February 12th to 19th. We are a couple in our late 30's and early 40's with 2 children that we left at home, we live in Manitoba, Canada. This was our first trip to the Dominican Republic. We've been to Mexico and Cuba multiple times on all-inclusive vacations, with and without the kids.
The Punta Cana Airport: I was warned that the immigration line-up could be terrible, but I didn't realize HOW bad it would be. We waited in line with HUNDREDS of other people for 1.5 hours. It really was a super huge disappointment. We didn't make it to our resort until almost 6:00. Which meant we really didn't have much sun left for the day. I would 100% prebook VIP at the airport next time if I could. The transfer to the hotel was fairly quick, only about 40 mins with 1 drop off on the way.
Once we arrived at the resort we were very warmly welcomed "HOME" by Edwin. Cool cloth to freshen up, glass of champagne, and a lovely walk through the lobby to the concierge who checked us in quickly and offered treats from the excellence club lounge from their chocolate party. We were then taken to our room which was fabulous!
The room: Excellence Club Swimout suite. 5051 (5A). We were the first room on the corner. We were welcomed with fresh flowers, petit fours, and a bottle of sparking wine. We were also left with a full minibar and 4 bottles of premium liquor. The walk-in closet was so awesome for all of our stuff. I really appreciated having space to lay out our clothes without having to keep them in the suitcase. We were given bath robes and slippers to use during our stay. The bathroom was my only complaint about the room. It just wasn't private enough. The bathroom needs a separation. The toilet had a separate door, but it still didn't feel very private. I was always worried, cleaning staff, or anyone else would walk in while I was in the shower or something. You could actually see through the patio doors into the mirror where you could fully see a person in the shower. So I was always careful to make sure the curtains were totally closed. But it also meant that anytime anyone got up early in the morning or in the middle of the night to use the washroom, you woke up your partner. The bed was fine, totally comfortable, clean. The cleaning staff always made it up nice during the day, and we had turn down service in the evening. We were often in our room during turn down so didn't always get it. The swim up patio was hands down the best thing I've ever experienced at a resort! I LOVED having a little pool and a patio to hang out at. We could hear the ocean from our patio. It was lovely. I did find the main pool to be somewhat loud in the afternoons if I wanted to relax and read my book. But often we were at the main pool during the afternoons to enjoy the activities. The swim up pool was colder than the main pool but I enjoyed it, it was refreshing. I enjoyed being able to float and relax. Our room was on the A side and found it didn't get sun until around 12:00 and was gone by 5:30 - 6:00. It seemed as though the B side had sun the whole day.
Main pool: lots of fun activities at the main pool where the swim-up bar is. We really enjoyed pool bingo and meeting new people. The drinks at this bar seemed to be VERY strong (or i just had too many ;). I believe the bartender here was Julio Caesar who was always helpful. The main pool closes at 6. So it felt a little early as we were really enjoying hanging out with people we met. This pool was quite warm!
Restaurants: We went to Magna our first night as we were pretty tired from travelling all day and just wanted to eat and go to bed. The service was amazing, the food was delicious, portions were perfect (not too big). We booked the cooking show at Spice, you are supposed to call between 5 and 6 and then they give you a time slot. Ours wasn't until 9:00 but we were fine with that. We had a snack at the sportsbar and hung out with Felix for a bit. The cooking show was ok, Marcellano was our cook. He was friendly and the food was delicious. I think we had a quiet group, so it wasn't spectacular. The Lobster House for breakfast was delicious. It was so wonderful not to have to eat Buffet food all week. I loved that you could order what you wanted. We ordered room service for lunch one day because we just wanted to relax by our pool. Room service is awesome! We also ordered for dinner because after hanging out at the main pool we were exhausted. It was quick and delicious. We went to the grill one night. Super good! The bread with dips they give you when you arrive is delicious. We did have to wait about 30 mins when we went, I think we just went at the busiest time. We had the most amazing Valentine's Day dinner. It was outside the middle of the resort. They worked all day setting it up. They had an amazing saxophone player, a dominican band, and dancers. It was beautiful. The dinner was soooooooo delicious, the best I had all week. We enjoyed Chez Isabelle on our last night. We went with two other couples and it was SO lovely. Carlos was our server, and he always made sure our wine glasses were full ;). We decided to try the lunch buffet for a quick lunch, honestly, best buffet I've seen! There was so many options and the food was delicious. We tried Oregano for lunch as well, so nice to be in the open air by the ocean.
The beach: so perfect. Soft clean sand. No rocks. The excellence club area on the beach was great. David would remember us by name and bring us to a lounge chair or bali bed and set up our towels for us. We felt so very well taken care of. Carmen would remember what we were drinking and bring them to us without us even asking.
Excursions: We weren't going to bother this time around but a couple we met invited us on a boat trip. It was called happy Fish. They picked us up at 1:00 and brought us to a beach closer to downtown punta cana. It was a small-ish boat with only 11 passengers so it was nice! The tour guides were Daniel, Franky, and Rafael. They were so much fun and took great care of us! We went to a snorkelling area, and then a natural swimming pool area. They brought out a floating bar and served us drinks in the water! There was even a slide on the boat which was fun! We returned to the hotel around 6:00. It was a perfect day!
Spa: this spa was so luxurious! The hydrotherapy was so awesome. It was such a refreshing circuit. We had a couples massage after and it was so lovely and relaxing. I also added the lifting facial mask. Absolutely no complaints. They do have daily specials so we did that.
Entertainment: So fun! The Dominican band was great, they played at the plaza a few nights, then the shows at the theatre were fun to watch. Great dancing. Very entertaining!
Staff: BEST STAFF I'VE EVER EXPERIENCED! I don't know if this is because we've never been to DR or because of the resort. Either way, I loved the staff here and had many great conversations with them. Alvin at the Martini Bar was one of my favourites, along with Joan who made sure making drinks looked fun! Yireny would come to our pool and ask if we wanted drinks and was always smiling! Jensel was a server at Magna, he was so friendly, polite, and took great care of us. Black Coffee and Spaghetti sure made sure that the guests were all having fun! The ladies at the coffee shop... Leocaria, Joandry, and a few others I can't remember! They made some pretty amazing coffee, love that this was available. Yanet was the concierge at building 5. She was always making sure we were happy. When we were sadly having to leave, Hector made sure our stuff was safe and that we didn't have to lift a thing. Happy Jaun made us want to stay forever!
Very long review: I know there is so much more that I could add! It was overall the best vacation I've ever been on. Not having to fight for towels, chairs, or reservations at a la carte restaurants. Having a swim out room is the best. Staff was incredible.