Debbie's Dominican Travel.com Old Reviews - Excellence Punta Cana
Excellence
D & T 
Ontario
December 2008
Arrival: Dec 2008
We had a flawless early morning flight from Toronto with Skyservice. It's a bit of a ride (1 hour) to the hotel but it gives you a chance to see some countryside

Rooms:
Our room was very nice and we had an ocean view at one end of the resort. I enjoyed the walk because with all the food/drink the walking is good.

Restaurants and Bars:
We enjoyed all the restaurants. I won't go in to the detail as a previously reviewers have done so. Not everything is perfect but if you don't like your food get something else.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Very nice grounds and pools and compared to other locations well maintained.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
Most tours were expensive and involved a long ride so we opted out. After speaking to others who indulged I am gald we skipped them. I suppose if you haven't travelled much you might enjoy an excusion. We found enough to keep busy on the resort. I walked for many miles in each direction on the beach which might not be safe but I had no problems.

Other Comments:
My big complaint is the cost of goods and services on the resort. I was quite suprised when I got home to find the telephone charges to my credit card were $189 Can ($150 US) for 2 very short (poor quality) calls to our children from the resort payphone. I was actually billed for 3 because I had to call back after being cut off on one call.

Other items on the resort were also ridiculously expensive. I needed some Tums one night (too many fruit drinks)and a small package was $15 US. I also noticed sun tan lotion was about $22 US so make sure you bring your own goods.

Shopping is a just a pain. Worst I have ever seen. The resort is isolated and it's not safe to wander about on your own but there is a small market about 5 minutes by cab or you can walk on the beach to the resort border for some vendor shops.Beware, the vendors are extremely annoying. Everywhere off the resort is strewn with garbage. This was my second trip to Dom Rep and I won't likely return. They have nice resorts but the garbage and security fencing tell all. If you content to stay put for the week you will enjoy.
Excellence
B & B 
Canada
December 2008
Arrival: November 28th- December 5th
We were pleasantly surprised with the elegance of the place, everything is beautiful, it's not crowded, very clean, a lot of the staff spoke English too.
It's very very lovely!!!

Rooms:
Nice and spacious, elegantly decorated, no tacky themes which is refreshing. The third floor rooms have a really nice high cathedral ceiling, I didn't find it hot like other reviewers mentioned, it was cold most of the time so we kept the air conditioner and fan on low.
The tub was great, took a bit of time to fill up and drain which is my only complaint, the jets worked fine. Shower: Nice stall with glass doors, was overflooding when we first used it, and we heard others complain about the same thing, but after informing the front desk they had it fixed.
Toilet: also didn't flush easily and that's something we forgot to ask them to fix.
Everything is provided!! Mini toothbrushes, sewing kit, shaving kit, shampoos and shower gels, soaps, shower cap..etc. Bathrobes were provided with slippers, and enough towels, though my BF would have preferred a few more. Lots of space, hangers, big safe for things. The fridge was stocked daily with coke, sprite, fanta, beer, LOTS of water! Snacks like peanuts, mini oreos, crackers and chocolates were there too and restocked daily.

In our suite there was an iron, ironing board, extra blanket/pillow in the closet and hair drier in the bathroom, tv, dvd player (such a bonus as we brought some of our favourite DVDs to watch in the evenings)

The elevator was nice to have in the complex!!

Nothing of our things was misplaced and we did put our precious things in the safe and locked away anything else in the suitcases everytime we went out. Regardless of how good the place is we still rather be safe and I would recommend for anyone else to do that too.

We honestly loved the resort but had some issues with the bed, I felt like I got bit a few times, and once my leg totally swelled up like what I would get from flea bites. So I don't know if this was actually from the room or the gardens while walking around but I couldn't sleep comfortably because of it.

Restaurants and Bars:
They all have strict dress codes, but that was really a nice touch in my opinion because in the evenings you'll see everyone nicely dressed up for dinner and leisure in the lobby areas.

Let's talk lunch because we really enjoyed that, and wished there was a buffet for dinner! They had a good selection of dishes and a menu that changed everyday which was really nice, something for everyone really. I loved the fries, wasn't too happy with the pizzas as the sauce they used was a bit too sweet and not "tomatoey" for my liking but it was a popular item with the pizza oven and all, a lot of people ordered pizzas for room service too and snacking.

Breakfast buffet was very good too, lots to choose from and "make your own smoothies", there was a lot of baked goods, we were happy!

We tried all the restaurants except the Mexican for dinner.

French, very elegant but I was disappointed in a few things. The cheeses were not "artisan" in my opinion, the pears on my salad came dried out and not edible, too much vinaigrette and wasn't impressed, by the end of the vacation we were just wanting a good plain old salad. The steak my significant other ordered was good, he really liked it and I liked my salmon though the portion was a bit too big for me to finish, the mashed potatoes were nice.

The grill house: I was not impressed by this place at all, for lunch I enjoyed a nice battered mahi mahi on a baguette (a bit too big for my liking) but the fries were good and overall it was a nice meal. For dinner my leek and potato came with bacon (which was not mentioned on the menu) and everything I ordered seemed way too salty (and I'm not salt sensitive, I love salty things!) but this was just way too salty. The chicken was dry and mushrooms and everything else too salty, non edible.
The new york steak was fatty in my SO's opinion. He did like my potato and leek soup though and said he'd go back for that. Also I enjoyed the eggplant.

The Mediterranean was disappointing and menu was very deceiving, we ordered lamb and tabouleh and got lamb and rice, waitress could not understand or speak english to comment. The salt crusted whole fish (red snapper) was exquisite though! I would recommend you go there just for that if you're a seafood lover, hehe. They fillet it for you by your table.
Falafel was bad, soggy and totally unauthentic.
Greek salad was just small bits of veg with cubes of feta, too concentrated and salty, we heard the people on the table near us complain of the same thing. We were dissapointed.

Asian, perhaps the most dissapointing of all, though I LOVED the seafood soup my SO was not happy with his main dish because it listed udon with beef on the menu and when it arrived it was ramen with strips of beef. I enjoyed my main course of scallops and shrimp. The melon balls came in liquer but was completely devoid of sherbet which was also very disappointing.

Italian: Nothing great, the little flat breads were very nice though that we ate before the meal. The pastas were ordinary, not high quality and the waiter could not explain any of the sauses on the menu as he didn't speak english, this was a bit frustrating. Not great.

We did not try the lobster house because everything was lobster there and weren't interested in the Mexican much so can't comment on either.

Overall all the restaurants' menus are lacking, there is too little on there ..not that I like a crowded menu but it really was limited. If you're vegetarian you'll probably have a hard time finding something, and if you eat seafood then avoid the grill house at dinner as there really is only the chicken and steaks as a main course.

Waiters and waitresses speak limited english, so if you want to know more about the food or need to specify a certain diet you should probably practice some spanish before going. They also brought me coffee when I asked for tea which I found surprising.
Bottom line if I went back again I would probably avoid the a la cart restaurants and just stick with a late lunch at the buffet and breakfast easier in the day. Room service of course is a nice touch, though I found the menu limiting but it's not that bad.

Beach/Pools/Grounds:
Beach was beautiful, the water was wavy but warm, there was limited area to swim because of the choppy surf, and life guard whistled out at us a few times (not sure why as we didn't go anywhere near the limitation buoys)

Down the beach but far enough away on both sides of the resort there is a lot of garbage and things scattered around the beach which is sad but unless you take a long walk you won't see it. Beyond that is the locals beach I believe and some vendors too.

Pools were lovely, not very deep though, I'd say the deepest went up to my chin and I'm 5'6", There is a lovely pool with waterfall near the french restaurant, I enjoyed swimming there a lot.
The other pools were nice and stretched far around the resort, we kept discovering new places to swim. There is one bar in the pool in a bit of a private area.
The pools were clean, and I have nothing bad to say.
People did hog all the towels though most of the time which was disappointing, we swam between 4pm and 6pm before the pool closed and couldn't find one towel to dry off. ** Excellence club members got beach towels in their room which is a bonus!

The grounds are lovely and very clean, the staff are always nice and say hi when passing through. Watch out not to step on little lizards in the hallways of the room complexes. There are beautiful butterflies everywhere too. Down by the shops there is a Scarlet macaw couple that talk, try saying "hola" to them, hehe. Other birds on the grounds that we saw were peacocks, flamingoos, ducks, white doves.. even a cute black and white cat!

We were on our way to the lobby one night and saw a cockroach, pretty big near the excellence club, the next morning or so we saw another squished one on the way to the restaurant. I wish people avoided leaving their room service plates outside their doors as that might have attracted it as well as tons of ants.

Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel:
We mostly stayed on the resort, we enjoyed the sports centre with archery, pool, board games. There is also a basket ball court, tennis court, rifle shooting, a sports bar and in the evenings they have nachos, cheese and salsa.. it's very comfortable!
They have a soft serve ice cream machine (chocolate, vanilla, and swirled) by the cafe kafe by the beach, a lot of wasps in the area flying around though, so be careful.
Also there is a BBQ around there as well, in the afternoons and evenings, check the in room daily update sheet for info. But that was a nice touch too with burgers and fries..etc.
They did BBQ's on the beach as well, and a Dominican feast one evening when the Italian restaurant closed (everyday one restaurant closes, not sure why but that's how it works)

SPA: Very lovely, but prices are similar to any other 5 star establishment in Canada or the US for example. We did book the massage lessons though and went for the hydrotherapy one afternoon which we enjoyed very much, the saunas, steam rooms, showers, jacuzzi and ice baths. I would highly recommend it and booking a session is complementary on certain days!

Horse back riding was fun, the horses were well kept, some were older, this activity was offered by another company. We had a lot of fun and again it was complementary which was so nice! Although you may want to bring some money with you as there is a surprise/souvenir waiting at the end of the ride.

Check the activity board as there is a lot more, like dance lessons, water polo and balloon fights on the beach and the theatre at night...

Shopping at the Market on the resort is quite expensive, and there are fixed prices there so if you'd rather avoid the hassle of bargaining with vendors then that's your best bet, the resort also offers a free taxi trip there and back to the shops near by in "town" and so you could try that though we didn't.

The vendors on the right and left side of the beach as well as the ones that show up every other day near and in the lobby may hassle you, so if you're not interested in buying anything you should avoid them like the plague as they will not leave you alone!

We would highly recommend the beach shop near the excellence club side called Nancy/Chipi Charlie. The owners are very nice and don't push you, they let you have your time and offer great pricing on things. The store is big enough with a lot of variety to suite all your shopping needs.
We don't recommend the store in that area second from the last, the vendor there was very nice then became very angry and tried to rip us off with exchange rates in a very manipulative way!
Avoid buying opals as they look very fake, I'm sure they're not real. Other things like coral I can't tell you a easy way to authenticate, the one I bought appears real from a vinager test (test will destroy the sample). As for the National stone Larimar, you can ask them to take a lighter to it and if it melts it's plastic.
**NOTE** At most shops/vendors everything is ridiculously priced so try to bargain, and don't be afraid to walk away, most of the time anything less the 50% of the initial price is being taken advantage of, lower then that even is fairly common.

Other Comments:
I forgot my camera bag at breakfast one morning and was in a panic to find it, thankfully the staff from the dining room discovered it and left it with the concierge's desk, and I picked it up from there, I was very very happy with this as it was an expensive camera and all my vacation photos were on there.

The weather there is a bit humid, very hot, so bring lots of sun screen
Excellence
Paul 

September 2008
I visited Excellence Punta Cana DR, and I must comment on how great this resort is. The accomadations, amedities, food and most of all the entertainment, made this resort a return vacation in the future. I enjoyed all of the activities such as dancing, spanish lessons, aqua arobics, volleyball, and so much more. I don't think any of these activities would be possible with out the excellent entertainment staff, who went out of their way to say hello, include you in the activities, and just plain make it fun.

We booked our vacation through Netholidays.ca and I must say I was very impressed! They answered all of our questions thoroughly and we didn't feel like we were being pushed away like other online travel companies do.

At night their was alway entertainment provided. However if you werent in the mood for it, its a big enough resort you can still have a quiet drink with the show getting in your way.

We had a meal on the beach one night, and it was a beautiful night all round. There is plenty to try and this is one activity i would definatly recommend, although admittely it was not cheap (but who cares?) :)

We also went horse riding one day.......which isnt really my cup of tea, but if its your sort of thing it was good. My wife clearly enjoyed it!
There also a lovely pool, good temperture and clean, complete with bar. Again it was rarely too busy, although my scottish skin couldn't take that much sun!
In all, we had a wonderful honeymoon. Best things about the hotel was the friendly staff, the relaxed feel and the choice of activites if you want them as well. Choice of food was so large that unless your really, REALLY fussy you find plenty you will like.
Excellence
David 
USA
August 2008
If you enjoy reading reviews of other traveler’s vacations, do yourself a favor and do not read any reviews of Excellence Punta Cana from when they were under different management and were operating under the name Secret Excellence. My girlfriend and I have been to the DR 3 times in the last four years, stayed at what was purported to be Bavaro’s best, and Excellence Punta Cana blew it away.

Rooms: If there is any place Excellence may be suspect, it is the rooms. Don’t get me wrong, they are very nice, well appointed, include a Jacuzzi, are very well cared for and never smelled musty, but they do not say luxury the way they should for a Club of this quality.

***Excellence Club*** - Do not bother. At other clubs it is very beneficial to have a good concierge staff dedicated to getting you the reservations you desire. At Excellence there are no reservations required, so you don’t really need an Excellence Club room, unless you really have a need for Plasma TV and internet access.

The Grounds: Absolutely beautiful. I loved the marsh with the pink flamingos and the talking parrots, and the jogging/nature trail.

Food: Excellence has the best food I have ever had at an All-Inclusive resort. Chef Dettweiler showed us every day that he has the kind of culinary creativity to keep even the most discerning travelers happy. By the way, Chef D. did not hide out in the kitchen. He was very visible and approachable with a charming sense of humor. One day he was even making a mess of sitting people for breakfast.

***Just so we understand each other, If I were paying $100.00+ for these meals in a French Restaurant somewhere else, I would not be happy. But as part of an all-inclusive package, the food was awesome. Also, If you like the taste of all the processed farm raised beef, fish, and chicken we have here in the States, you may not like the slightly gamier taste you will be introduced too. Canadians, you will probably love it as I did. And yes, Spiny Lobster is a bit different than Maine Lobster (besides no claws), but it is still very good, and the one night I went to the Lobster House, when I finished my meal, the waitress asked me if I wanted more. Hey, all you can eat lobster…not bad!***

Beach: One day we took a walk heading north. It was totally deserted except for what appeared to be two practically vacant clubs (Sivory and Aqua). The beach was pristine for miles, and there were a lot of different water conditions to experience (shallow pools to 4 foot breaks). One day we took a picnic lunch in our resort provided beach bag and had a Robinson Crusoe experience.

*My only complaint with the DR is that these beautiful friendly people seem to have no regard for their magnificent island paradise. You could not walk a foot outside of the resort without seeing garbage lining the tree lines. Everywhere you looked there were plastic bottles that will never decompose. My advice to the President would be to empty the jails on a daily basis and let the inmates, with garbage bags in hand, clean up the mess.

Activities on the Beach: As an ex-lifeguard with ocean experience (New Jersey), I can tell you that some days the surf was extremely powerful. I enjoyed body-surfing and boogey boarding, but it may not be right for everyone.

Maybe it’s new to the DR, but I was impressed that Excellence had a lifeguard that took his job seriously. Sure, you’re on vacation and you want to swim within spitting distance of your chaise lounge, but sometimes that just isn’t safe.

The resort has one (1) Hobie Cat. (I wish they would add a few more) There was never a line to use it, and the staff that manned the Sports Hut seemed to understand that you just can’t allow anyone to use it. If you are an experienced sailor, this will challenge your skills as you will have to maneuver out in decent surf with a reef on one side and the swimming area on the other. Riding the waves is a blast on your return to port.

Snorkeling around the bend to the south was quite nice. The coral was not that colorful, but there were some beautiful fans, fish, and we did see an octopus. It was better closer to low tide.

Fitness Center: If you read the other reviews from a few years ago, it sounds like the resort had a very poor facility. This facility is awesome, and they offer a lot of daily workouts that concentrate on different body parts, including weightlifting, core, and cardiovascular sessions.

Outside the facility they have 3 tennis courts and a basketball court. On the beach there are some very spirited volleyball games, and the pool features some great water polo games for non-swimmers. There are also some great early morning pool aerobics sessions.

The Spa: The spa is beautiful and they throw in a free massage with a room upgrade.

The Casino: What can I say! If you go to the DR to beat the house, good luck.

Travel Agent: I arranged our trip through TNT Vacations in Boston and their Island partner CoCo Tours. Both did a great job, and the island crew was easily reached prior to arrival to insure all was set-up properly.

Our ride to the hotel was predictably bumpy, but it looks like they are building a new super highway. As they say in down there, “soon come!” We arrived at the hotel to cool towels and champagne. There was a brief wait for the room which gave us a few minutes to grab some food, a drink, and meet our on campus CoCo Tours Rep, Robert. Robert was awesome, and directed us to some good tours. I still regret not going on the Ray and Shark Experience. Robert, don’t say, “I told you so!” The Trimaran trip to Sanoa Island was wonderful. Wish I could have sailed her!

Closing thoughts: If you don’t enjoy your stay at Excellence you are just too picky and should stay home! The club was 75% full when we were there. There were a number of newlyweds, but there were also a number of folks our age. There were not as many Europeans as there were at the other club, so I didn’t get to practice my French. No Kids! Now I love my kids, but this was awesome. ***A note to parents who may want to bring their 16+ children, don’t! They’ll be bored and they’ll complain for the entire trip.***

By the way, the Excellence group of properties is small (3 locations with another on the way), so their reputation and guest satisfaction is everything. That’s why things get done when you ask.

I hope this helps make your decision easier.
Excellence
David 
Washington, DC suburb
April 2008
My wife and I celebrated our 42 wedding anniversary at Excellence Resort and Spa in Punta Cana and truly had a most enjoyable time with lots of good food and drink, a clean and recently refurbished room (new bedding) and a great environment with beautiful landscaped grounds and sandy beaches. We are in our late 60s and have been to this resort 3 other times when it operated as Secrets Excellence. It was overall a good experience at Secrets, but even better with Excellence new management team. We like an adult only environment and found there was a good mixture of people - from young married couples to middle age folks and more mature people like us who enjoy a children’s free environment. (Nothing against kids as we had 3 of our own and 3 grandchildren as well!)

ARRIVAL & FLIGHT
We were fortunate to have a non-stop Sat. United flight from Dulles to Punta Cana, which arrived less than 30 minutes late. After claiming our luggage (no problem and in reasonable time), we were transferred to the resort from the airport, about 1 hour, 15 minute drive. As you may have read in other reviews, the roads are not great, but having made this trip so many times, they have improved each year- somewhat! The drivers are good for the most part and are good at missing all the potholes. Check in was easy as usual and our room was ready.

ROOMS
New linens and bedding made for a special comfortable stay. Air conditioning works good (except we prefer the fresh air from opening the sliding glass door to the balcony), lots of hot water (except I think they reduce the hot water temperature midday), and no electrical outages. (I think they have their own electrical generators and water purifying equipment.) Rooms are big and quite comfortable with plenty of snacks, beverages, and TV to watch. We had a mountain view from our second floor junior suite and we spent a lot of time on the balcony overlooking the beautiful gardens and the mountains.

RESTAURANTS
Overall: Very good with 8 venues to choose from. Other than steak, which can be quite chewy, everything else was very good. I’m not big usually on buffets but the buffet in the Italian restaurant was spectacular in choice, taste, and presentation. We did not eat at the Lobster House because being originally from New England where lobster is king, I am not crazy about warmer water lobster. If you choose to dine between 7:30 – 8:30 pm, you might have to wait for a short while. Other than that, there are no wrist bands or reservations. Food, service, ambiance – Score of 1 to 10. About 8 to 9.

BARS
Plenty! Premium brands like Johnny Walker Red and Black, Absolut & Stoli Vodka. During the day, the wait staff would make sure your glass was never empty! Impossible to drink the island dry!

BEACH & POOLS
We spent most of our daylight hours on the beach watching the surf. One day about 1000 feet out, a pod of hump back whales were feeding. To see these 30 to 40 ton animals leap out of the water was one of the most spectacular sights we have ever seen! The 2 pools are fresh water and excellent. One is about 800 feet long while the other is smaller with a waterfall. We spent time in the bigger pool and in the years we been to the resort, never went into the other pool.

GROUNDS
Well kept! Pristine! The ecology garden maintained by Excellence is a wonderful place to visit.

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT
Lots to do if you want. (We don’t). The entertainment is okay.

TOURS
They are available, but we chose not to take advantage of any.

DEPARTURE & CHECK OUT
Smooth and uneventful. No hidden surprises.

CONCLUSION
We loved it! If you like a resort with a good choice of accommodations, dining venues, and space (never crowded)-then Excellence Resort could be for you. It is for us. We anticipate a return visit in 2009. One final word is on the staff. A friendly and efficient staff do a wonderful job of maintaining and operating this resort. Even though gratuities are included, we usually tipped extra, and brought with us American dollars to share.
Excellence
Gary and Jeanie 
Minneapolis, MN
February 2008
Gary and I left for a fantastic vacation at the Excellence Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic on Feb 9th, 2008. We enjoyed a pleasant, direct flight aboard Sun Country Airlines booked through Sarah from West Bend, Wisconsin Salentine Travel.

BELOW I HAVE DESCRIBED SOME OF WHAT WE FELT WERE THE HIGHLIGHTS OF EXCELLENCE:
Allow me to preface our five-star report by mentioning that the only food we found to be less than outstanding was the steak (which we feel was due to the limited availability of the same quality meat we are used to here in the states) and that due to swimmers walking around in wet swim attire at all hours of the day and evening, the floors can be slippery - so one should watch one's step in most areas.

DINING:
We dined at several of the resort restaurants during our stay at Excellence and agreed that our two top favorites for quality of cuisine were the French Restaurant and the Mediterranean Restaurant. Service at all restaurants was excellent.

RESORT STAFF:
We were to discover that people of the Dominican Republic are some of the friendliest and most accomodating that we have come across in our travels. Without fail, we were greeted with a warm smile and greeting at our every staff encounter. (One waiter in particular at the French Restaurant was very funny while photographing us and had us both laughing! I am going to try to include a photo with him since I am unable to recall his name. Very impressive gentleman.)

We were checked-into the resort without delay and in a very gracious and descriptive/helpful manner.

Room service was very prompt and food delivered to our rooms very attractive, appetizing and delicious.

Housekeeping Staff not only changed our bed linens daily and restocked our room refrigerator with whatever we liked, but each evening we returned to a room with our bed linens turned down, decorated most attractively with flowers as well as the jacuzzi filled with bubbles and flower petals sprinkled about them.

ACCOMODATIONS:

ROOM:
The jacuzzi was lovely; bed was a king-sized canopy style and very comfortable; we were supplied with several bottles of bottled water at all times; our room was spacious and kept very clean at all times. (Incidentally, we were offered the option of air-conditioning, however, due to the moderate windiness were thrilled to discover that we would not need it. Between the mesmerizing sound of the cool wind blowing through the palm trees and the splashing of the ocean waves, we were lulled softly to sleep each night with the door to our veranda kept wide-open.)

ANY POSSIBLE DIFFICULTIES:
If anything went wrong, staff was very prompt in and skilled at correcting the problem.

SERVING THE PHYSICALLY-CHALLENGED PUBLIC:
Although neither one of us experiences a disability, we couldn't help but notice the friendliness of the accomodations throughout the resort to anyone who might be physically-challenged. We noticed no resaurant, room, restroom, building nor pool nor beach that was not 100% handicapped accessible.

ACTIVITIES:
We had a wonderful Funjet hostess, Shauron, who advised us very honestly and candidly regarding the activities offered at Excellence.
The resort is very clear about the fact that they are in no way responsible for any accidents one might experience whether away from or within the resort itself. (Not uncommon in the Carribean.) Consequently, we would not recommend that anyone who over indulges in alcohol participate in activities which might include ANY kind of possible danger as medical care in the Dominican Republic is not that which one might be used to should one become injured.

Our two favorites without a doubt were The Outback Jungle Safari and The Katamaran to Saona Island. Our tour guides on The Outback Safari were Omar and Christian who we feel we cannot recommend highly enough.
They succeeded at making our jungle safari one which was both entertaining and educational. Our Katamaran Trip was headed-up by Rae who was also extremely knowledgeable about the Dominican Republic as well as a gracious entertainer on the katamaran. Both were excellent and memorable days in the sun. (I must add how glad I was that I not only heeded the advice of our Funjet hostess in taking along a plastic bag for my camera on the katamaran trip but on the jungle excursion as well!)

There were many other available activities in which we chose not to participate mostly due to time and age limitations (we are both in our 50's.)

RESORT ENVIRONMENT ATTRACTIVENESS:

OUTDOORS:
I am an avid photographing enthusiast and simply must tell you that I was able to return home with some utterly breathtakingly beautiful photographs from right there at the resort! Our veranda (located on the third and top floor) overlooked both a magnificent pool AND sea. It was apparent to us why Excellence boasts it's unusually lovely and clean pool. It winds throughout the resort and is so spotlessly clean that we were able to see even the smallest details contained within the tiny tiles lining the pool's bottom! The greenery both surrounding and throughout the resort was not just perfectly, but artfully groomed. Our surroundings were definitely a paradise in nature!

RESORT LOBBY:
Just spending time looking around and enjoying the enormity and beauty of the resort lobby building was an experience in and of itself.

ROOMS:
Ours was positively lovely with both a jacuzzi next to our bed and a shower in the bathroom.

Without any doubt, we would recommend Excellence Resort to everyone unless you are someone who would want to bring along children or adolescents, and/or would not enjoy an "Adults Only" atmosphere where a few women chose to sunbathe topless and a few same-sex couples vacation as well.

All in all it was a wonderful, relaxing, romantic and very memorable vacation that we agree we would love to repeat at sometime in the future!
Excellence
Rob & Debbie 
Calgary, Alberta
November 2007
We were at the Excellence Punta Cana from Nov 8/07 to Nov 15/07 for the first time to Punta Cana.

We flew on Air Transat, and I forgot how terrible they are to fly with. I wear a standard 38” waist pant with 32” inseam and I do not fit in an Air Transat seat. My knees are against the seat in front of me, as wide open as I can get them while holding them into my space, and my butt does not fit in the width provided between the arm rests. Poor pity the poor folks who any heavier or wider than I am! It was almost intolerable to endure 71/2 hours of that nightmare.

About Excellence Punta Cana

General
The property is outstanding and really has to be seen to be believed. However, the mosquitoes are something else and I am still scratching a week later. We met all sorts of folks down there that looked like lepers with all the bites and sores. The whole Punta Cana area was literally built in a rice paddy with all that standing water. No wonder they have mosquitoes and malaria. You must take bug spray, but you didn’t they do have it at the front desk if you ask.

Reception - Was very efficient and friendly, but they did try us on for the $100 per night upgrade to their Excellence Club, which we decided was for upgraded booze in our room. We declined.

Rooms - We had a garden view room which was very nice and was really well equipped, with everything from razors to toothpaste. The bed was very firm and pillows were very nice.

Restaurants - All seven restaurants were outstanding. You would have to go a long way to find a complaint with any one of them for the food or the service.

Bars

Service - The people are just fantastic and try to do anything you ask. Drink service is provided at the pools and on the beach continuously. The room service is outstanding and they even deliver pizza on the beach and at the pool in the afternoon.

Drinks - The drinks were outstanding in every way. If you are into single malt scotch like I am, they fell a little short on that account, but they carried Johnny Walker Red and Black, J&B etc. Again, they had more than enough selection for everyone we met.

Beach and Pools - This resort has a wonderful beach that is cared for every night. There is however a possibility of a strong rip tide (water flowing into one spot close to shore and then forming an outflow current away from shore). If you are not comfortable in the ocean and with ripe tides you will want to respect that while it is present.

Formality - This resort has dress codes, and it is so nice to be somewhere that has and demands a little more class. People act like they dress, and when they are dressed up a little, they act so much more polite and courteous. They did turn some folks away from various restaurants who were not dressed appropriately and that was appreciated. I would however like to remind the male hosers that insist on wearing their ball cap in a restaurant that a little time spent on learning basic etiquette would serve them well, and would be appreciated by those around them.

Overall - A wonderful resort! The only drawback being the mosquitoes.
Excellence
Michelle 

August 2007
I was at the Excellence Hotel in Punta Cana, DR last week. I looked at your reviews and took the advice to bring bug spray. Didn't need it. Never had any problems whatsoever. We were there during Hurricane Dean. The staff was so calm and courteous. Please let the staff know how really terrific we thought they were. Even the security guard that stood watch on the beach was very respectful and nice. They brought games out in the lobby (where everyone had congregated). There were balloon races going on, they had a movie on the big screen, and they brought out fruit trays and some incredible cookies. We weren't allowed on the beach the day of Hurricane Dean but they did allow us to get into the pools. There is a secluded pool that is sheltered by hotel buildings and then another one that is very big. The rooms were really nice and I loved the large, jacuzzi bath. The food was wonderful--especially the desserts! Despite weather challenges, I loved my trip there and hope I can someday return again.
Excellence
Susan and Greg 
Tampa, Fl
June 2007
I originally viewed your site in early 2006 prior to booking out first trip to Secrets Excellence in Punta Cana and it was your reviews that made me pick this very “Excellent” resort, now called Excellence! We just returned home from our 2nd stay there, 2 weeks ago and the resort is even better than it was in 06! The new ownership is doing a great job, they have retained the staff that Secrets had and the staff is the best anywhere! The bartenders, wait staff, entertainment staff, housekeeping etc. are wonderful! This year our best friends went with us and they also loved the place! They were amazed, as we were that many of the employees remembered us from a year ago and were so happy to see us! The first day there was like a reunion, we spent a good part of the day hugging and getting hugs from the staff members! It was great! They really made us feel special, and that is a very nice touch when on vacation! We do tip them but not extravagantly and we have noticed they are also great to the people who don’t tip them! They are a warm, friendly and happy bunch of people who seem to love their jobs! We absolutely love Benjamin, Altagracia, Jose, Kenny, Luis, Eddie (female bartender, who I call Eddie because I can’t pronounce her name) and so many more that it would take me all day to name them! The entertainment group is really good at getting people involved in the activities and they seem to have as much fun as the guests! They are multi talented and offer everything from Spanish lesions to dance lessons, volleyball, water aerobics and much more! They are fun and friendly and extremely helpful, especially Inez and Francisco! I can’t say enough about the staff and I have noticed from other posts that this is unanimous! Everyone seems to adore the staff! (We travel often and have gone to many resorts and have been on quite a few cruises too, 4 last year!)

The food is awesome! The French restaurant (Chez Isabelle) and The Grill are our favorites and our friends loved the Asian one that we did not try. They said that the Duck was the best ever! The Chateaubriand at the French one is amazing! Also my friend really loved the lobsters in the French restaurant (I am allergic to seafood)! Plan to gain a few pounds while you are there, we all did, but it was worth it!

The grounds and the rooms are absolutely beautiful! Each room has a double size Jacuzzi tub and a patio or balcony and a stocked mini bar! And everything is clean and well maintained! The housekeeping staff does a great job and when they do the rooms they leave towel art with flower accents that are such a nice touch! Makes it fun to return to your room to see what they did each day!

The beach is great! We love the waves and the water is nice and warm! They have cabañas up and down the beach so if you need to get out of the sun you can! And they have a lot of beach and pool towels! They also offer 30 minutes of horseback riding on the beach that you need to schedule in the first couple of days because they fill up fast!

The pool seems like it is a mile long and they have rafts that you can float around on! And plenty of bars close to or in the pool! And around the pool are plenty of lounge chairs and cabanas including some with big thick mattresses and pillows that look like king size canopy beds and are really comfortable! The whole place is amazing and they live up to their name!

We enjoy this resort so much that we canceled a cruise that we had booked for this November to return to Excellence instead! We had been really excited about this particular cruise, Eastern Caribbean on a bigger ship and a balcony room that we had received a substantial discount on! We loved this resort so much that we didn’t want to wait a full year to go back so we canceled the cruise and booked Excellence again in November!

There is so much to do at the resort that you never have to leave, but if you do, I highly recommend the jeep tour! You drive your own jeep and they take you up into the mountains and through sugar can and rice fields, etc. They take you to a house so you can see how the natives live and on a visit to a school. All of the schools have the same uniform so that the kid’s have no peer pressure and the government provides a meal everyday so the children have an incentive to attend school. Many of the people are very poor! We had gone to Sam’s Club before we left home and purchased several hundred tootsie roll pops that we tossed to the kids along the way on the tour. We also took crayons, pencils and colored pens that we donated to the school along with some candy for all of the kids in the class too! The colored pens were a huge hit because I guess they can’t get them there. Other people on the tour had wished that they had known they could do this and many said they would return and take the tour again so they could do the same thing! We have been told that coloring books are very expensive there so they are much appreciated as well and we plan to take some next time! For about $80.00, we probably brightened the day for several hundred kids and that was a great feeling! I am always careful when tossing the candy to throw it far enough that it doesn’t end up in the road and cause someone to get hurt and I also take extra care to toss enough for all of the kids! The jeep tour ends at a really nice beach close to Excellence (-1mile) where they have lunch and take you horseback riding! It makes for a very fun and interesting day trip! After lunch they dropped us at the resort so that we didn’t have to go back to town and return on the bus, so that was a nice touch!

I can’t say enough how much we love the area; the resort is remote and an hour from the airport, but so worth it! No all inclusive bracelets are worn at this resort because there are no resorts close by. The scenery is stunning, mountains and crystal waters and the beach is never crowded because it is so remote! There are peacocks, flamingos, chickens, turkeys, etc that roam around the resort and fun to watch! The flowers and landscaping is magnificent!

Also the resort photographer does a great job and you can spend a half hour having photo’s taken around the beach and receive about 40 5X7’s and all of them on a CD for $130.00 which makes a really nice souvenir of the trip

I was hesitant to write this because the resort could become so crowded that we will have trouble getting a room when we want one but it is absolutely the best kept secret in the Caribbean! We can’t wait to return! If you want a fun, relaxing and romantic vacation this is the place to go!

Take bug spray because the bugs are wicked, the resort sprays twice a day, but you still need “off” while you’re there. It is expensive at the pharmacy on site so pack your own! Most of the restaurants have a dress code so men need slacks for dinner in most of them! There are 11 bars and 7 restaurants offering a wide variety of food and plenty to drink! The shows are very good; the Michael Jackson one is always packed and seems to be the most popular so get a seat early! I loved the circus show and several of the others but also missed a few of the nightly shows so will need to see them on the next trip!

We can’t thank Debbie’s reviews enough for helping us find this totally wonderful resort! Hope this helps someone else to plan a truly memorable and fabulous vacation!
Excellence
Sheryl 
USA
May 2007
I appreciated all of the reviews I read before our recent trip to Excellence Punta Cana. I just wanted to add a few comments of my own.

My husband and I were there from May 13 to May 20. We had a great time. We have been to all inclusives in the Bahamas, Jamaica, and Mexico and we have always enjoyed ourselves. The water is wonderful. I would add that at the time we were there, there was a pretty serious rip current right in front of the hotel. If you walk to the right or to the left the water is calmer. The temperatures were perfect - about 90 degrees with a nice breeze.

I really enjoyed horseback riding on the beach. I did it once in the afternoon (free) and enjoyed it so much that I did it again at 6:00 the next night ($35.00). The horses do have a bit more energy during the evening ride since the temps go down. They do like to gallop at night.

There were a few down things I would like to mention.

First, Excellence is in the process of some serious renovations. While we were laying by the pool, gents were working hard shoveling rock and moving wheelbarrows back and forth right beside us. It made me feel a little bit bad to be so relaxed in front of such hard work. There was caution tape around some tables in the dining room, and some cement drilling that you have to kind of walk around so as not to inhale the cement in the air.

Second, we saw some instances of cross contamination in cooking that concerned us. My husband is in the food industry, so we notice things like that. We saw people grilling raw chicken right beside already cooked steaks, flipping the raw chicken and grabbing the steak for someone to eat with the same tongs. It may account for some of the stomach problems in addition to the water.

Third, mosquitos are a real issue. Be prepared. We had organic insect repellent with us and it didn't do a thing. I think you would need to use deet.

All in all, my husband and I decided to have a good time and we did. But we could have let these things ruin our vacation, and I think we will probably never go to the DR again.

Special applause to Rudy at the bar on the beach. What a wonderful, enthusiastic worker he is. Go see him.
Excellence
Donna 
Canada
May 2007
As I have always checked this site out before booking a vacation and have always found it very helpful (thanks guys), I thought I would give a brief review of the Excellence Punta Cana (formerly Secrets Excellence).

My husband and I were at Secrets in 2004 and were a little worried about the name/ownership change. However, we shouldn't have been. Everything was the same, if not better.

I had requested a top floor room overlooking the cascading pool. We were upgraded to a suite on the top floor of building 5. The suite has a separate bedroom but I actually liked the regular room layout better (bathroom location!).

Having been to the resort twice (so I obviously liked it), I just have a few comments/thoughts:

1. They should stop saying they have non-motorized water equipment available. I have never seen the water calm enough to use anything but the boogie boards. Red flag is always flying and there is quite an undertow.

2. Food - The upgrading of the Chinese restaurant since our first visit was great. We actually ate there 3 times (although food varied somewhat each time) and got sushi takeout at lunch sometimes. Very yummy! Need to try a little harder on consistency though. We never ate at the Lobster Shack as we are from Nova Scotia and get great lobsters and we never ate at the Agave (Mexican) as it is in the same building as the Barcelona (Mediterranean) and we found it to be too hot for our liking. There is a central courtyard but also an area around the perimeter of the courtyard and that's were we ended up! The French Restaurant was lovely (Chateaubriand done to perfection and rack of lamb approved by my husband!) The Italian Restaurant (Toscana) was okay but I find pasta just doesn't work for me in a hot climate. There used to be snacks (hot dogs, sandwiches, etc.) at the bars by the pools but this has stopped and now various types of food are "delivered" around to pools and beach. Some days it was pizza, others sandwiches. A few days there were pizza, nachos, sandwiches and hot dogs. You could just remain on your lounge and food would eventually find you!

3. As a reformed smoker I found it a bit disconcerting that smoking seems to be allowed just about everywhere, Especially coming from an area where it is totally prohibited in public spaces. More designated spots would be nice! Watching a show you could be surrounded by smokers! Not something I enjoy.

4. There is usually a steady breeze at this resort and rainy season is from May to October (with hits of rain in April). Take this into account if scheduling a wedding and attire. I saw one woman attempting to keep her veil down but finally gave up. Just too windy! There was also a fair amount of rain off and on (we were there April 23rd - April 30th).

5. If breeze does calm down, bugs come out. Be prepared. We have had our Hepatitis shots and we also took malaria prevention drugs while there. Both were recommended by our Doctor. Cost of these two things can increase the cost of your vacation by a few hundred dollars! Resort also sprays for bugs and they don't seem to care if you happen to be standing right there! That can't be healthy!

Finally, staff is as friendly as ever (except for the odd one!), rooms are nice, food is good to great, drinks are great (ask for the premium liquor if you want it), location is out of the way (perfect!), and it's Adults Only (not many in the Dominican). What more can you ask - especially if you get a deal (and you can)!

My husband and I would go back and would recommend it although I think our next trip to the Dominican will include the kids.

Feel free to ask questions if you want at donna.lugar@ns.sympatico.ca.
Excellence
Bob and Jeri 
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
April 2007
Who we are - Married couple in our 50's looking to veg out at a nice beach resort. Have been to many Carribbean islands - Antigua, Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Martinique, St. Lucia - but this was our first visit to the Dominican Republic. Also, the only all-inclusive resort we have ever been to previously was a Club Med many years ago.

Beach The hotel is the only one on a beautiful cove about a mile long. We were looking for waves, not calm, and were not disappointed. Other comments on this site had said there were big waves and some even said too rough to swim. By Caribbean standards that may be so, but we're from the East Coast. While we were there, we found the waves to be equivalent to a very mild day at Ocean City, MD or Rehoboth Beach DE. Given that, we found it amusing that they made us wear life preservers to use their boogie boards. As others have mentioned, if you walked around to the next cove to the right of the hotel, there was calmer water and some pretty good off beach snorkeling. If you walked to the next cove to the left, there was construction on a new, very fancy hotel/villas. When we were there, our hotel was about 2/3 full and there was plenty of room on the beach with no need to reserve loungers.

Grounds We though the grounds were just gorgeous. Everywhere you looked there was a pond or fountain and lots of flowers. We especially enjoyed all the "wildlife". They even have containers out so you can feed the parrots, flamingos, turtles, fish etc.

Service Excellent. Everyone was very friendly! Rooms and grounds were kept spotless. Service in restaurants was slow, but solicitous.

Food This was a little disappointing. There are several different restaurants, but we thought the food was mediocre in all the ones we tried. (Note - we are from the Washington, DC area, so are spoiled by having so many good restaurants available.) The best things were the made to order omelets at breakfast and the made to order pasta at lunch. The worst was the dessert - tried many baked goods and pastry - they all looked beautiful but tasted really bad. Your best bet - get a coco loco or frozen fruit dacri(sp?) - very yummy and they'll make it with or without alcohol. Also, during the day, there is a help yourself soft ice cream machine on the side of the main center beachfront bar. One good thing is that there was always food available. Breakfast, lunch or dinner was being served somewhere continuously from 7 am until 11 pm, so you didn't have to worry about being on a particular schedule. They also had room service, but we never tried it.

Room Our room was very nice - had a large canopy bed, couch and chairs, fridge with drinks, cable TV, safety deposit box, small balcony and, of course, the jacuzzi. They asked when we checked in if we wanted to upgrade to an oceanview room, but we declined. Since the hotel buildings are all set back quite a bit from the beach (I assume due to hurricanes), it didn't seem worth it. Everything worked fine - air conditioning, hot water, lights etc. They do have American type outlets. One night we came back to the room and the jacuzzi had been filled with hot water and bubbles - very nice touch!

Clientele This is an adults only resort, but it's really for couples. The age range was pretty wide - from 20's to 80's, but most people were probably in their 40's to 60's. Seemed like people were mostly American and Canadian, though I did hear some French and German. All told, it's a great place for a relaxing vacation for couples who love the beach.
Excellence
 
USA
February 2007
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 Feb 10 2007 the airport was a cluster f__k. We had to wait on the tarmac, it seems 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 a massive free for all, you have to buy a tourist card (no organization! no orderly lines! everyman for himself!

I follow some guy who waves 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. (I sound like the girl describing the sand. 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 get our bags and are quickly whisked to a regular sized bus, with good air conditioning. The only thing that I was lacking was a cold beverage. We were accurately 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 are 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 isn't ready, 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 tell the clerk I want to be near things! We decline the Excellence Club room upgrades, you 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,this is all the upgrade 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) 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 palms, those thatched little umbrellas,and lots of activates, and games for the exuberant. Everyday they have some sort of beach picnic, cooked in some enormous 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)great fun, the horses know the way, 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 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 beginning 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, at $15, a must have.

The rooms are great, large Jacuzzi tub(on Valentines 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 settee, desk, mini bar etc etc, and opened to a patio that had REAL chickens (with baby chicks) foraging, very cute.The only drawback being so near a restaurant & pool bar, they seem to roll the supply carts so early in the AM, if this bothers you....go to a more secluded 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, Abslut & Stoli, JD,CC,Bacardi rums,and a variety of favorite after dinner drinks,Baileys on the rocks being our particular choice.

They also have a show every, 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 {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, there seems 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 an 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 filleted 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 etc...too much to list. And............ dancing on the beach,under the stars....if you are in love, THIS IS FOR YOU!

We found the service staff to be excellent, always with a smile, ready to help. I hope this is helpful.

Yosh
Questions?? YOSHSHU@comcast.net
Excellence
Sam 

February 2007
One Week In Paradise!

We were at Secrets (now Excellence) Dec.17th-24th to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I researched the resort and area in great detail so there were not too many surprises. (Check out the East Coast Forums for endless help from other travelers.) I saw hundreds of photos prior to the trip but still they don’t show how magnificent this resort is. Where do I start?

Airport Transfers:
Small air conditioned bus. It was packed full of travelers. About two thirds for Sunscape, one third for Secrets. It took a little over an hour to get there. People do drive very differently there. Either we were passing or getting passed by scooters, buses, trucks, etc on rough narrow two lane roads. Try to not watch the road, just look out the side windows at the surroundings. I booked the helicopter for the return to the airport and we loved it.

Check In:
We were quickly checked in by Francisco and taken to our room. Didn’t notice any drinks or towels but we didn’t have to wait so I may have missed it.

The Rooms:
We started out in 6201. It was a nice 3rd(top) floor room with a vaulted ceiling, king size bed, large Jacuzzi tub, mini bar (water, soda, beer) separate shower etc… We were located behind the Seaside Grill with a slight view from our balcony of the ocean on either side and near the pool bar. After a couple of days we received a call from the Excellence Club concierge (Claudia) offering us a free upgrade to an Excellence Club room and its perks. We could stay where we were and receive the benefits or move to another room. We toured the room and Excellence Club with Claudia and said YES! We had to quickly pack then unpack again but it was worth it. Our new room 7203 was the next building down in the northerly direction. The layout was the same with a few nicer touches to the room but the view of the ocean was wonderful! I’m sure there are rooms with better views but we were very happy considering were expecting a garden view. I think the Drugdogs had something to do with the upgrade. Thanks Kevin and Shelly and of course Marco the resort manager!

The buildings are grouped generally in triangular fashion. In building 7 as an example there are 3 structures link together with common inside walkways per level with one set of stairs for all to use. I saw an elevator but I don’t think it worked or no one used them in buildings 6 & 7. This did give me some exercise I could use. The inside area of each building group is open with trees and assorted plants. All walkways are open air but covered which is nice if it rains. I think there are just 4 rooms per structure per floor. I noticed some rooms on the beach/pool side ends extended out to make some larger master and/or honeymoon suites that I think have hot tubs on the balcony.

The Grounds:
Very well maintained. I often saw plants, trees or shrubs being trimmed. There were others touching up paint, scrubbing walkways or pool chairs. There are trails to walk around with various plants to see and much wildlife. We enjoyed feeding the parrots, ducks, geese, flamingos and chickens. We also saw some rabbits and peacocks.

The Main Pool:
Huge and winding in and around the buildings. Beautiful just to look at sunrise and nicely lit after dark. (Swimming ends at 6pm.) I floated in or lounged around the pool for hours only leaving for a walk to Benjamin’s bar at one end or float up to the poolside bar in the middle to quench my thirst. It was always spotless. I saw it being cleaned early in the mornings.

The Cascade Pool:
A lovely smaller two level pool toward the SE end of the resort. The water falls down the entire wall from the upper to lower level. I wanted to but didn’t try this pool. It was on the other side of the main buildings so not as convenient from our room.

The Beach:
It is a lovely golden tan sand that is cleaned each morning. It is very wide running the length of the resort with a large amount of lounge chairs and palapas. It is on a curved area with no other resorts in view. We enjoyed sitting and watching the ocean with it beautiful surf. It was picture perfect. It may not be great for snorkeling and a little rough swimming but I have that huge pool to lounge in. I guess it is fun to boogie board on but I didn’t try.

Bugs:
We didn’t get bit once by any bug. We took sprays, lotions, wipes and candles but had no use for them. We didn’t go on the beach at night so I can’t say about that. We did take B complex vitamins two weeks before and at the resort. I heard what sounded like a sprayer going around one evening which must work. I saw a couple of flies once and found a cricket in our room but nothing else. It was never a problem.

Drinks:
Had many different types of frozen drinks available. We normally tried the drink of the day. We enjoyed the Sammy Sosa and Dirty Monkey the most. The drinks had enough alcohol in them in general. If you want it stronger just let them know and they will oblige. You just need to ask. We took a couple medium size mugs with us which were nice to use also. I liked the Presidente beer. There were small bottles in the rooms and draft at the bars. Many choices of liquor and of course local Brugal rum. The bartending staff was very good. I especially enjoyed Benjamin at his bar located just outside the theater toward the beach. There are many bars near the main pool with one at each end and a swim up near the two open air restaurants.

Food:
Bordeaux- We loved it so much we ate there three times! Yes the Chateaubriand was wonderful. My wife enjoyed the chicken. They have quite a number of wines to choose from if you would like purchase something other than their house wines. Very good deserts to choose from also.

Sea Side Grill- We had lunch and our Romantic Dinner there. It had very good steaks. Ribs for lunch were not bad. I wish I we had gone there more than once for dinner.

El Patio- We went there one evening and I liked my beef but didn’t care for the cactus appetizer. My wife didn’t really care for her pork dish.

Oceana- We had lunch there once. My wife liked her Mahi-Mahi and my shrimp was pretty good. We didn’t care for the salad bar at all.

World Café- We had breakfast there every day but one. The buffet was pretty good. My wife like the fresh cooked omelets better than the buffet eggs. Fresh fruit and juices. Often there was a pianist playing during the meals there. The Café was the location for the Da Mario and Himitsu at dinner.

Himitsu/ Da Mario/ Casabito- We did not eat at these restaurants.

There were a couple restaurants closed each evening. They would alternate them. In general I thought the food was pretty good. We didn’t care for the cheeses they served. My wife didn’t like the apparent canned ham which was served for breakfast. There salad bars I thought could have been a bit better and the dressings to be quite plain bland. I’m sure there are differences in tastes and what products are available in the DR where items are not as plentiful. We would have loved to have the choice of lobster and crab but I didn’t see it available. I understand now they do have lobster at Excellence.

Shopping:
Vendors are allowed to sell there goods every few days. They set up in the late afternoon to catch you on your way to or from dinner. Jewelry, paintings, rum, etc… You can deal with them on the prices. The resort also has some shops with nice items but you will find the prices higher. For the best prices, facing the beach, go to the left end of the resort. Just past it are small buildings with vendors very eager to sell to you. Try #6 Nancy’s to get good prices without hassle. Don’t be afraid to go back and forth between them so the compete to get better deals. Also #4 has a pretty good cigar selection. They may give you quantity discounts but try to get a fair price first. There are quite a number of duty free items to by at the airport if you so desire.

Shows:
We saw the Michael Jackson show and enjoyed it very much. He didn’t lip-sync the best but the show by the dance group was great! The Circus show with the guys on the trapeze looked entertaining but we only saw the end of it.

Excursions:
We did the free horseback ride and enjoyed it very much. So much we signed up for the sunset ride which took us to the river NW of the resort and back along much of the beach. It cost us $35 each.

We took the ATV trip at the right end of the beach.($80 per vehicle) We took the small dune buggy.(they also have a couple four wheelers) They took out into the countryside. We saw rice fields, rivers, mountains, a cave, and a small village where they stop so you can buy some souvenirs. It was very interesting to see how people live with small shacks next to new homes with fenced surroundings. We gave a couple kids along the road some dollars and then they were everywhere. We finally ran out of $1 before we ran out of children.

Some of the ATVs were in rough shape but we had fun and got a little dirty. You can take a bandana along to wear over your face or buy one there for $5 each.

After both excursions they try to sell you a bottle of rum or music CD with a picture they took of you before you started. They ask for $15 dollars but they may deal with you.

The Spa:
My wife had the seaweed wrap and massage. I had just the massage. Very relaxing!

The Casino/ Nightclub:
We never went to these.

The Weather:

Overall the weather was very nice. It rained some each day. This is normal. Usually it was early morning or overnight. Maybe for 15 minutes to an hour and then partly cloudy the rest of the day. One day it rained a several times and another was very sunny.

Illness:
I didn’t feel to well one evening after a long day in the hot sun at the pool. There were quite a number of visits to the bar which didn’t help. I didn’t get sick but took some pepto and went to bed earlier. Felt fine the next morning. Another day my wife had been in the pool to much on the rainy day and got chilled. She took a warm bath and went to sleep early and was fine the next morning. Other than those two self induced problem evenings we were fine.

Likes:
The pool, ocean view, wide beach, privacy, no kids, resort layout (close to beach), buildings and grounds, towel art with flowers, horseback rides, the pianist and Christmas music, Bordeaux & Seaside restaurants, Excellence Club, spa, the entertainment and service staff who always would smile and say Hola!

Dislikes:
No beach party, No Monday Night Football, The cheese at restaurants, The Oceana food, the travel time from the airport. (New highway should help when done.)

Improvement Suggestions:
Fix elevators and patio door slides & switches. Sporting area seems old. Fix ice makers. New cushions for some poolside lounge chairs and beds. Improve some Club room snacks. Some new linens for the beds. Improve food quality at some restaurants to be consistent with the better ones.

Special Staff / Friends:
Thanks to Tunisia, Claudia, Rosario (Concierge Desk and Excellence Concierges) Benjamin and all the others at his poolside bar. Also Kevin & Shelly Ackley (the Drugdogs) and Marco Soria (General Manager) for helping make our stay so enjoyable.
Excellence
Carol 
Canada
January 2007
We stayed at Excellence Punta Cana from Jan 14 –21. This was the most enjoyable resort we have been to in PC. I always like to know where others have stayed so I know what they are comparing to so here are the places we have been, in Punta Cana: Bahia, Palladium Palace (our old fave), Punta Cana Princess All Suites, Caribe Club Princess, Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort, Occidental Grand Flamenco and Riu Taino. We have also stayed at Sandals Royal Hicacos Varadero, El Dorado Seaside Suites Mayan Riviera, Sunscape Casa Del Mar La Romana/Bayahibe, Tryp Cayo Coco, Grand Flamenco Occidental in Puerto Plata, Sun Palace Cancun and Aventura Spa Palace Mayan Riviera. We have always said there are too many resorts to return to any one but Excellence certainly challenges that concept.

Occupancy: 75%

The weather: Perfect, this was our first time in Jan, we have always gone to PC in Feb and always have had great weather. We had even less rain this trip, about 10 min the whole week. In Feb we seemed to get a quick 10 min shower daily. It was 83 degrees daily according to the “Excellence Times” and almost everyday there was a forecast of scattered showers, so those of you searching weather prior to your trip don’t put to much weight on what is forecasted.

The Beach: This is what we come to PC for. In the past we have always been on the Bavaro Beach and I was concerned because of the remarks I was reading about the beach not being nice and to wavy. This beach was somewhat different but we still enjoyed it. The browner sand was not a problem and the waves were bigger. My husband is not a swimmer but felt comfortable playing in the waves. A little more undertow and a little more adventure but a lot of fun. We never got boogie boards as I have been whacked in the head before and figured these were the waves to do that again. There was no other water activities while we were there, the waves were to big, black flag most everyday. Walking the beach was a whole new experience. Bavaro offers resort after resort after, well you get the idea. This was quiet walking with only the odd passing of another couple. I wasn’t sure I would like walking in no man’s land but I never felt unsafe. Walking to the right (looking at the ocean) Sirenis is about 10 minutes away and Sunscape an hour. Walking the other way not much but solitude. The ocean just a few minutes away from the resort in either direction gets much calmer. In the end I preferred these quiet walks.

There are two pools. One is a smaller waterfall pool the other a huge pool that winds throughout the resort. It almost looks like a river in areas it gets very narrow in places and than opens up to large pool areas. Floats were provided and we always managed to get one when we wanted.

The chairs beach or pool all have pads. They don’t lay flat but it wasn’t as noticeable with the pads. The towels are unlimited. It was nice having an extra towel to use as a blanket for siestas on the beach and I loved not having to account for towels. The one downfall is at times it was difficult to tell which chairs were free as people were leaving towels behind with no intention of coming back. The staff put rolled towels out in the morning, a nice touch, some guests thought these chairs were being saved. Chairs were easy to find in the morning but by the time we wanted shade after lunch they were harder to come by. There would be few around the pool but we always found one on the beach.

Drinks are delivered both on the beach and at the pool. Pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos were also brought around at both areas.

The food: This in my opinion was the best dinners we have ever had for both taste and presentation. All evening meals were a la carte and we loved this. We had no problem ever getting into the restaurant we chose, we ate around 7, although we did occasionally see people waiting a little later. No pre-reservations. We had delicious duck, lamb, and tons of steak and lobster. I had an excellent New York Steak at The Grill the first night, ordered the same the last night and it wasn’t quite as good. The courses were spaced nicely, the food came hot and presented very well, the portions were just the right size. Our glasses were refilled as required and sometimes when not required, the service great. The first time we ate at the lobster restaurant they came around midway through our meal and asked if we wanted more, we said yes, it was way to much but we couldn’t stop eating it was so good. The second time they did not ask and that was fine as we found the first time way too much.

We ate buffet lunch and since we weren’t stuck with buffet suppers enjoyed the lunches. It wasn’t a very large buffet but there was always pasta, pizza and a few hot choices. We never had problems finding something to eat. The Grill was opened for ala carte lunches and often Excellence put on something special at the beach fajitas, paella etc.

Breakfast buffet was one of the smallest we have seen but had all the essentials. A grill was available for eggs and omelets. A place to get a fresh smoothie blended. We are not big breakfast eaters so it was adequate for us but we have been to places that have had a much larger selection of sweets, muffins etc. The coffee was very good and usually the service was good.

Bars: Drinks at the bars are a gamble. Usually when we watched the drink being made it was good. We had some drinks delivered that weren’t very good and some alcohol free. They did grab the cheap liquor unless you specifically requested otherwise. The wine was a Chardonnay and one of the best we have had at an all inc.

The grounds: This is one of the smallest resorts we have been to for number of rooms so it is smaller by acreage as well. We loved the grounds of the Palladium last year and enjoyed walking from end to end. We found Excellence a little confining. In the evenings we like to walk around the resort but found nowhere really to walk. At the entrance are beautiful ponds and animals but not a lot of walking area. The pool winds and the paths are quite narrow in places so also difficult for evening strolls. We thought the grounds were a little over grown looking but it is evident Excellence is working hard at restoring this resort. It looked like Secrets had really been letting things go towards the end.

The shows: On par with all the other resorts. Ok if you are bored.

Casino: Very small

Mosquitos: Midweek this became a problem for me in the evenings. Even with long pants and the resort fogging I got a ton of bites the last couple nights there, the wind had died and I am a mosquito magnet. My husband got none.

The room: I have saved this for last because this was the one disappointment I had. The room, 4007, was nice enough and spacious. We got the king bed I requested and we found it very comfortable. A view of nothing but that’s what we paid for (garden view) and we didn’t care as we spend little time in the room. Our room had next to none of the amenities it was suppose to have. It was like this room had been cleaned out to possibly stock other rooms. Our room had no iron, no DVD, no bathrobe, no slippers, no scales, no excellence stationary, no VIP toiletries, no room service menu and no pillow menu. Our alarm clock didn’t work nor our T.V. remote. For the record most of these items are not important to us but they are listed on Excellence web page and it is little extras that turn a resort from ordinary to extra ordinary. We reported this to the reception and upon our return after dinner most of this had arrived. We never did get a pillow menu or room service menu and did not pursue this issue as we don’t usually order room service. I’m sure we would have received these items had we asked. We were told the DVD’s and stationary had not arrived yet. We tipped our maid $2 everyday and never got any towel art, again not a big deal but makes a resort seem more luxurious. The room was very clean and kept clean throughout our stay which I guess is more important than towel art.(: Our fridge was stocked on arrival with pop, beer and water. We never drank anything but water and it was replenished as required. We had face cloths and always plenty of towels. The air worked fine and we always had lots of hot water for showers. The safe was included, a pet peeve of mine, paying for safes. Our room was turned down nightly. This included cleaning the sandy shower area, providing fresh towels and a sheet of info for the next day. The info sheet called The Excellence Times was a wealth of info. It tells the weather forecast, restaurants opened and closed, daily activities and the nightly show theme plus any special events such as beach party, pool party, managers cocktail etc. all for the next day. The last two nights included chocolates, a new Excellence touch.

When I started this review that got very long, I stated by saying we really enjoyed this resort. That it is adult only is such a huge plus. The atmosphere at the whole resort all the time is relaxed and calm. There were none of the little irritants we have found at other resorts like standing in line for reservations, standing in line for drinks etc. This resort had a ton of plusses and only a few minus. This is a resort that is in transition and I am sure the few minuses will be taken care of. We got this trip at an unheard of price, I never saw Secrets even close to what we paid so I just hope once Excellence has it’s reputation firmly planted they don’t price themselves out of my snack bracket. Hope in all the babbling I have given some useful information.
Excellence
Fraser 
Canada
December 2006
Vacation Dates: 17 – 31 December 2006
Number of Travelers: 2
Ages: 31, 33
Nationality: Canadian
Tour Operator: Sunwing
DR Experience: 3rd trip to the DR (once before to each Punta Cana and La Romana)

To put this in perspective, we’re both pretty well traveled (including the Middle East, Europe and most of the Caribbean Islands) and understand a 5-star resort in the DR is not the same as a 5-star resort in North America, Europe or the Middle East. As such, we’re very flexible, not fussy and get seriously annoyed by complainers. We travel to the DR because of the sheer value for the money, the excellent beaches, sun and palm trees…not so we can pretend to be travel critics.

I’ll list our opinion of the big ticket items, with our recommendations summarized at the bottom.

Airport to Hotel Transfer: No problem, the road is the typical bumpy DR road and with Secrets Excellence being about the most Northern resort from the airport, the drive took about an hour.

Check-in: We arrived at the resort around 1:30 pm. There was only 3-rooms worth of people on our transfer, so the check-in went very quickly. They asked if we wanted to upgrade our room, we declined. As is typical, our room wasn’t going to be ready until around 3:30 pm so we headed to the restaurant and the beach (we knew this would probably happen, so we had packed our beach gear in our carry-on luggage).

Room: Our room was very nice. No musty smell and excellent air conditioning. We were in room 1202, a third floor room overlooking the infinity pool with the waterfall. The room was furnished with: king size bed (firm mattress), a Jacuzzi tub, marble shower, coffee maker with coffee, bar fridge with soft drinks and beer, an ironing board and iron, safe (no charge to use), and a TV with satellite (CNN, ESPN, Discovery, etc. and….a 24/7 x-rated channel ;) ).

Grounds: Awesome. Well maintained and fun to walk around. Watch out for the killer rabbits, chickens and peacocks!

Beach: We really liked the beach. We’ve traveled to nearly every island in the Caribbean and yet still find Punta Cana’s beaches to be some of the best. The resort tractors the beachfront each morning so it’s clear of refuse or seaweed. The beach is very wide and deep, with the typical palm shades and lounge chairs. We never had an issue finding either a chair or a palm shade. If you decide to walk the beach and leave the resorts beachfront, there’s the typical washed up refuse, drift wood and a little seaweed.

Ocean: If you are a weak swimmer, have a disability or lead a sedentary life and are unfit…this ocean is probably not for you. There is undertow/riptide and waves. We’re fit, healthy and good swimmers so we made max use of the boogie boards and bodysurfed like crazy. For us, a calm ocean is boring…this one was warm, rough and fantastic!

Pools: We used both the infinity pool and the long main pool occasionally. Both were warm and clean. The blue, floating mats were abundant and we had no issues getting one when we wanted.

Bugs: There are some little black “deer-fly” like bugs that take a nice itchy chunk out of you. Insect repellent appropriate for deer-flys is recommended.

Food: Despite other reviews screaming about bad food, we found the food to be quite good. The fresh fruit was excellent, you could never go wrong with the Grouper, the omelets in the morning were nice, paella on the beach for lunch was tasty, the salsa at the buffet at lunch was spicy and really excellent. We noticed most restaurants got full at about 7:00 to 7:15 pm, so we always went to supper at 6:45 pm and never had a problem getting a table. We tried all the restaurants (most twice) and enjoyed all the food. We especially enjoyed the Asian restaurant. While their sushi wasn’t at the same level as our local sushi bar…it was still good.

Drinks: They serve Frontera wine (from Chile) in the restaurants and we enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. At the beach bar they serve beer, mixed drinks, etc in small plastic cups (for safety obviously). Bring a bigger, insulated cup – it’s perfect for taking back to your beach lounge chair with you.

Casino: The casino has 4-blackjack tables (they use 7-decks for you card counters out there), 1-Caribbean poker table, 1-craps table and 1- American roulette table….oh ya, there’s the Keno table. By all means, play Keno using the free chips they give you…but have the willpower to walk away! Everyone loses and we watched some drop thousands trying to win! The Casino was quite busy and was a lot of fun.

Shopping: 2-3 nights a week, the local vendors set up tables inside the resort to peddle their coffee, jewelry, rum, cigars, statues and paintings.

NEVER PAY THEIR ASKING PRICE, if you do...you’re getting hosed. We only bought rum and coffee at the following prices : 1 lb coffee - $ 4 USD, 1 L Brugal Superior Rum - $ 16 USD. Maybe you can do better….

Shows: Shows run 10 – 11 pm. We caught most of the shows (Michael Jackson, Karoke, Circus, Dominican, Magician, missed Tina Turner), they were all very good for all-inclusive entertainment.

Money Exchange: You can only take credit card advances in USD from the casino…they charge a whopping % 6 service charge. The front desk offers advances in Dominican Pesos…but charges % 10! The point, bring enough cash and travelers cheques to feed your shopping or gambling needs.

Excursions: As this was our third trip to the DR, we’ve done nearly everything they offer in the country. We did go to the Marinarium (swimming with nurse sharks, rays, etc). It was really enjoyable and is highly recommended. Those nurse sharks are bigger than I expected….but I wasn’t scared….honest.

Gym: Okay. Has the bare necessities. The air conditioning doesn’t really cool the place enough…so stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle (we brought our Nalgene bottles).

Spa / Nightclub: Didn’t use.

Language: It’s a Spanish country…so they have Spanish accents. It’s amazing how many complaints we overheard about the accents…give me a break. They all speak passable to excellent English…besides, the resort offers Spanish lessons at Santo Domingo Square everyday! We used our 25-word Spanish vocabulary throughout the trip and all staff members were encouraging and kind (admirable considering we were brutalizing their language).

Recommendations:
-either wear or pack bathing suit, flip-flops, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, T-shirt in carry-on bags so you can change at the airport or resort while waiting for the room to be ready during check-in; -bring deer-fly repellent; -bring an insulated drink cup; -bring enough cash/travelers cheques to get you through your vacation (avoid taking advances through the front desk or casino); -don’t get sucked into Keno; -ensure you’re a good swimmer / are fit enough to resist the ocean’s waves and currents – GO BOOGIE BOARDING!!
-go to supper at the restaurants between 6:30 and 6:45 pm…don’t wait until 7 or later, it’s busy; -stay up for the shows; -bring a water bottle (like a Nalgene); -be flexible and appreciate all the positives the resort has to offer!
Excellence
Irina 
USA
November 2006
I want to start off this review by stating that although I do expect a certain level of quality and service when traveling I am by no means a vacation snob. I am picky but not a snob. This was my second time in the DR. The first time we (hubby and I) stayed at Iberostar Bavaro in Nov 2004 and you can read our review at http://www.debbiesdominicantravel.com/travel30a.html we are the 14th review down so we had a basis of comparison and thought we knew what to expect. We stayed for 4 nights/5 days.

Overall I’m going to state right up front we thought this resort was no where near a 5 star/6 golden apple resort. After being to other 5 star resorts (Iberostar in the DR, Atlantis in the Bahamas, Aruba, etc) this is somewhere around a 3. My suggestion for anyone booked at this hotel now or looking to book is to contact your travel agent or tour rep and if you bought insurance switch! It’s free to switch and the only cost is any cost difference from your package to the one you’re switching too,since you’ve paid for a 5 star resort in most cases it will either cost the same or be just a few dollars to switch. No amount of adult only exclusiveness can cover the things that just aren’t 5 star quality and made this vacation less than enjoyable. TRUST ME SWITCH NOW!

Let me also state that I booked my travel after reading another review with Judy and Maries Travel at http://www.judyandmariastravel.com/. This was by far the best decision about this trip that we made. If you are thinking of traveling to the DR and are planning to use a travel agent I would highly recommend them,heck even if you weren’t planning on using an agent I would still recommend using them. You’ll get the same price and probably much better service at your hotel.

Drive: We got a private transfer instead of riding the bus. We figured with it already being an hour away a private van would be faster than taking the bus,we were right. The drive there was awful as our driver felt compelled to race any car/bus/truck in front of us regardless of how far away it was. Also it is very bumpy and terribly scary as there are plenty of pot holes and hills. They are building a new highway which I hope will make the drive through to the resorts more pleasant.

Check In/Out: My BIL booked a swim-out excellence room however when we booked we just paid for the regular garden view room. When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised that the manager had arranged for us to receive a free upgrade to the Excellence Club because of Maria and Judy. I had asked Maria to request a 3rd floor room as I had read those are nice and again they delivered. The only issue is that because we didn’t arrive with the other buses we had to wait about 10 minutes until an Excellence rep came to get us to walk us to the club to check in.

Excellence Club: Although a very nice touch and a great perk I would NEVER EVER pay the $70ish a day it costs to actually participate in this unless you really need internet access while on vacation.

Rooms: These were fairly nice. We were on the third floor, as requested, and I was pleased to find out that they had elevators as I sprained my ankle just before coming. Each room has a sink/dressing area, a separate water closet/shower room, and a Jacuzzi tub. The beds are definitely hard as rocks. The room was always clean, no bugs, and the maid service was very nice. We had turn down service which is a nice little extra. The only complaint here is that the minibar isn’t an actual refrigerator but more like a high end cooler. So if you opened it often by the end of the day everything would be warm. For a five star resort you would think they could get actual mini fridges. Also because we were on the third floor our room never cooled down to where we like it but it was pleasant and workable.

Resort: Beautiful grounds. They have a nice little wildlife area and amazingly enough most of the animals stayed within that area. We saw a stray chicken by the pool area where we stayed but that’s about it. We did see plenty of lizards which were cute. The best part of this resort is that there are covered walkways throughout the whole resort and you can walk around from the main lobby to your rooms and other important parts of the resort without getting wet on the few days it rained. This resort is much smaller than Iberostar but just as lovely. The bugs here however are another story and if you do come to Secrets bri ng bug spray. I sprayed daily and was fine until the last night when I ran out and the next day was scratching like crazy.

Pool: Secrets has two pools. Although we saw the cascading pool since it was on the other side of the hotel we didn’t swim there. We mostly stayed in the big pool (actually two pools since it’s cut in the middle but a little rock wall) which runs most of the way horizontally along the beach and resort. The pool is lovely and we were very pleased to see king size beds with mild cover along pool as well as chaise lounges. The pool was about 4.33 ft deep everywhere which was great for everyone except me as I’m 5 foot even and had to stay on my toes the whole time in the water. The blue floaties were hard to find midday as people stated but we got there early and stayed late so we didn’t have a problem. I must say I don’t understand why they don’t have more of them. Obviously they are at a premium and honestly for a 5 star resort they should have at least one per room available. The swim up bar was nice but we mostly stayed on the other end and just had the lovely ladies who circled the area bring us drinks. My biggest complaint about the pool is that if you are short like I am getting in and out of the pool is difficult. Stairs are located throughout the pool area but are spaced so far apart that I had to walk, on tippy toes, probably over 25 feet from where we were to the closest staircase. The only walk in access was on t he far left side of the pool. Not a big deal unless you really need to use the ladies room. This basically caused to me to stay out of the pool most of the day.

Beach: Very pretty but very rough. If you are used to the East Coast waters, like Ocean City, MD, then this is pretty similar to high tide. The only difference is that because the water is knee deep so far out the waves are breaking several times and cause a huge rip current. We are beach people and love to play in the waves but even we found it a tad rough.

Nightlife: The casino, where we spent most of our time, was probably twice the size of the Iberostar. Although it had a craps table it was never opened which disappointed my husband. We mostly played blackjack and roulette and had a very nice time. This casino got pretty busy at night and honestly was lots of fun. However as the brochure from the Hotel states beware of the Keno game. They suck you in by giving you a free turn to start but it’s a loosing game and we NEVER saw anyone leave winning at this game all 4 nights we played there but saw several people loose hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We tried to catch two shows but honestly unless you show up 30-40 minutes before the show starts you’ll never find a seat where you have a good view and can hear well. What we saw were okay and probably good given where you are. This isn’t Vegas and we never expect a Vegas show but the sound quality could be improved. Also shows starting at 10pm are a little late…just my opinion. We never went to the disco as it didn’t open till 11pm and honestly was quite a walk.

Food: The food here was just plain terrible!!! I don’t know a single person at the resort that I spoke with that thought the food was any where near a 5 star resort. My friends just got back from the Secrets in Mexico where they can’t stop raving about the restaurants and such and all I can say is that I wish there was even a McDonalds around because that would have at least been better. I’ve been to DR before and other Caribbean islands so I certain understand that we aren’t in the US but the food here was just plain BAD. Forget lack of flavor it was just poor quality. Breakfast was by far the best meal (Carlos the omelet guy was great) but in general even breakfast wasn’t that great. We tried the Italian and Steak restaurant. We wanted to try to French restaurant but there was a two hour wait the first night we tried and it was closed the second night we wanted to go and since they don’t let you know ahead of time which days it closes it’s hard to plan you time wisely. The best meal was the beach party because you could actually see them cooking the meat and try to pick out the best cuts that weren’t cooked to a crisp. The fact that you can eat at any restaurant when ever you want is a nice touch if you don’t mind waiting over an hour to eat at some of these places since they won’t take reservations. I understand the benefit of not having you HAVE to make reservations but you should be allowed to make them if you choose too,it would make dinner time more enjoyable for most people. Every day they had a special on the beach but it was located so far away from the pool that you had to get dressed to go and who wanted to be bothered,another point that bugged me,you needed to get dressed to eat lunch because all the restaurants were away from the pool and the snack shack by the pool was NASTY! I honestly could go on and on about the food but I will just say that the reason we chose to stay at Secrets this time was because when we were here two years ago people said how GREAT the food and resort was in comparison to Iberostar (and food was our only issue with Iberostar). Maybe two years ago it was but now it’s at best mediocre food. Absolutely NOT like a 5 star resort should be and unlike the Iberostar where there was plenty of decent food around just everything was bland here the food wasn’t always fresh, was not of good quality, and honestly there wasn’t a great selection.

Bar: I’m Russian and shoot Vodka frequently at family gatherings. If that was real Stoly’s they were serving out of their Stoly’s bottle I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. The drinks were either too light on the alcohol or too much alcohol and there is absolutely NO WAY you will convince me that they have top shelf alcohol in the bottles.

Service: Maid and room service were GREAT! The lady walking around the pool to get us drinks was GREAT! The wait staff in the restaurants were terrible! Ask for a Diet Coke and it’s like asking for diamonds,in fact we started asking for the bottles in addition to glasses of ice because it took over 20 minutes to get our first round of soda’s never mind a refill. When we would ask for the bottle we would get looks of sheer panic from the staff like the management would fire them for even considering giving us the bottles. It was easier to get wine but anything that had to be mixed by a bar tender or brought from the bar took forever. I think the biggest problem here is that most people we saw were tipping the staff regardless of service and tipping often. So the staff are used to the tips and honestly didn’t work to get them. We stopped tipping after the first day and the service didn’t get any worse. I know that these people are overworked. I know the long hours they put in. But I also know that I was at a different resort with the same conditions two years ago and received service that was 1000 times better than here,enough said.

Overall as I said this resort is possibly a 3 star probably less. If you’ve never been to another 5 star beach resort you might think that this was a great resort because it’s got the general feel BUT IT’S NOT! If this is your first trip out of the US and to the DR do not judge all beach vacations against this resort. For the money DR is one of the nicer islands in terms of value I’ve traveled too. The value is amazing. However I will NEVER stay at this resort again. Next time I’ll go with what I know,I’ll go back to Iberostar!

If you have any questions feel free to contact me at rinibini@aol.com. Make sure that you put "Secrets Vacation Question" in the subject line.
Excellence
Gregory 
Atlanta, Georgia
October 2006
Your web sight has been of great value to me for years. i read with great interest the comments from travellers. I do filter them through my brain for obvious prejudices, common ( I am not a good traveller syndrome ) and the occassional type that would be happy with a heart-attack.

This was a two week trip. First week at Secrets, second at the new Riu Palace Punta Cana. I will review the latter seperately under a different note. Booked through Vacation Express in Atlanta. There reps are Coco Tours in DR.
Have always had good luck with dealing with both firms.
SECRETS EXCELLENCE September 13 to September 20.

Airport arrival quite useual... always too warm on arrival. Off to Secrets which is one of the furthest hotels in Punta Cana from the airport.

Reception was excellent, cool towel and a welcome drink and a big hellow welcome back. I had requested a room close to lobby, lobby bar, main restaurant as I do walk slowly with a cane. Fabulouse corner room in building next to Quiet-infinity style pool., but still with a partial ocean view. Good show! Had extras I only expected in the pricier EXCELLENCE CLUB (slippers, robes, a welcome note, and a bouquet of flowers on the coffee table0 I have been there before, but the note from the Director was a nice touch..
After looking at the property layout map, I relalized I was in a perfevt room for me and my needs. Two minutes from most everything.
Lobby bar is smallish but nice with music (Piano and Sax every night)

RESTAURANTS: No need for reservations... no medical plasic arm bands.
First Night: Dominivcan restaurant in antique building. great lobby between it and Mexican Restaurant . It was handsome with modern Dominican art work on the walls.ere was a beautiful courtyard with tables and chairs for relaxing in front of this complex Sat down to several Tio Pepe Sherries and watched the going on.
A private patio area used for Special candlelight dinners mainly for wedding couples. THE ONE COUPLE I DID SEE MUST HAVE BEEN MORE THAN IN LOVE TO DINE IN THE SEPTEMBER HEAT IN A FULL LENGTH WEDDING DRESS AND THREE PIECE TUXEDO!
As this bar area was quiet well air-conditioned, I used it most nights for pre-lobby cocktails before the music started at 7pm.at the open air lobby bar. The staff was more than gracious to permit me in their lovely space and animated about my old man 'sthoughts about the business et.al. The principal bartender went to the disco almost every night to work that shift. Dominican restaurant was ecellent twice ( mero ala coco and chivo quisado. Good appetizers, yucca soup and a cactus salad. The traditional Dominican corn pudding and rice pudding were good, but not the same as a good Dominican mother would make. Tres leche (three milk cake was nearly perfect.

Breakfast is ether a smaller room service type or the grand assortment in World Cafe.Did both...did cafe con leche in room and grand breakfast after waking up and dressing on several occassions. The quantity and variety was good for all breakfast types. Lunch in World Cafe was quieter and nice with a pianist on several occassions. Most eat lunch at one of the beach restaurants. Being especially warm this occassion (owing to some proscribed iron pills) the air in the restaurants was wonderful.

SECOND DINNER: BORDEAUX RESTAURANT( FRENCH -CONTINENTAL WITH DOMINICAN ATTRIBUTES easily the best on the property Staff the obvious best trained of a very well trained staff in general. Hostess even remembered my name on my second and third visit and the waiter I liked so well. Lobster bisque, salad with special fancy lettuces, fresh heart of palm and a concasse of tomatoes in center. Shrrimp Diablo that evening. On subsequent visits a soup, a special salad of only beautiful heart of palm in a great vinegette and various fish or pork dishes with lovely white wine and or friuit-wine ssauces.

THIRD DINNER: MEXICAN RESTAURANT IN THE ANTIQE QUARTERS. Fine guacamole and chips, a chorizo(sausage) slices, and a cevichi to start with drinks.
A type of three bean and seafood soup (one of several offered) a great salad , and red snapper veracruzana. Flan, expresso, and a nice port.

FOURTH DINNER: BORDEAUX again.

FIFTH DINNER: DOMINICAN RESTAURANT again

SIXTH DINNER : BORDEAUX... I know when I find a winner.

SEVENTH AND FINAL; Concierge set up a special table in the all wood floor area of the Bordeaux for a dinner for three (I met a lovely Chicago couple and we ran around together. Ordered Perrier-Joquet Champagne (decent price) it was my dparted spouses favorite. We had special flowers on the table (comp from F&B Director)We were quite separate and if I do say so dressed to kill. This would have been my 37th anniversary (spent 35th at Secrets) on Sept 19. Could not have had better cimpany other than my spouse

AT night they turn the world Cafe into two restaurants. One oriental (not my favorite Caribbran type) and One Italian (no complaint., just used Bordeaux so much. On the beacg a Grill and a Sefood Restaurant. Did not try because I loved the air conditioning in the others. Good comments from others even about the oriental.

OTHER POINTS:
Secrets Excellece as you probably know will change from AMREORTS (Secrets, Dreams, and Sunscape) to a new company. The managenent is hush-hush as to whom, but I was told by several upper types that it will be maintained and possible even maide more special...We will see after the Dec change.

The hotel was exceptionally slow (98 rooms out of 492) on the day I got that info. Several times they closed all but the Bordeaux and had BBq's on the beach(not my style though I was told they had Diminican Mondongo (tripe stew) and Sancocho (Mixed meat and veggies and yucca stew) For that I would have put up with the heat.
ANIMATION TEAMS GET A BAD NAME- BUT THEY DO TRY HARDER HERE THAN AT MOST AND THE COSTUMES ARE THE BEST.

THE SHOW BAR WAS GREAT... right off the lounge and off of Santo Domingo Plaza a lovely open air patio with cool ocean breezes. Interesting note: THE tallest-biggest Dominican I have ever seen ,a light colored, but huge young man was at the Show bar every night and then went to the next door Casino to bartend and always close up. He was twice the size of the security guard at the Casino and I thought the Casino Manager had him there for obvious reasons, No problem this nice young , but oh so strong man could not handle. Good staff use. I am not a gambler at heart, but the casino had the best air and it was open late before iIreturned to my room( I closed it several noghts) WON $125 and $50 on two nights and broke even one night and lostall my grand 50 one night Always roulette...I like to watch the ball go around and I had fun talking to the manager and my giant Dominican bartenber. They let me come in any time it was open for drinks only if I wanted, because they all knew I loved the look and the air as well as enjoying most people ( not all) having fun gambling. Thank God no one looked like they were betting their rent.

Disco beautiful, but very early crowd and then not much of that. Typical of most al-inclusivr discos.

MAIN POOL IS GRAND AND ACTION PACHED... The Quiet-infinity pool had a elegant ambience and a lovely patio. I used it in the afternoon to catch up on reading and nap.

Activities were well planned though I do not go into the arobics and dance class routines

The Front desk personell and the concierges all had a Ritz-Carlton "what may I do for you Mr. Brown". Of course, it is the DR and things are not quite as quick-quick as in big city luxury hotels, but they do try...hard.

My Coco tour rep was there every day and did his job in checking on plains etc. GOOD REPRS FOR VACATION EXPRESS.

:LAST DAY: I WAS GOING ON TO THE NEW RIU PALACE PUNTA CANA>>>>MY CHICAGO friends were going on to the airport and home with regretts The day before I spoke to the concierge and sub sequently a SUB-Director. I wanted to thank this lovely couple for helping me to have an even better stay.

The hotel has a hugh black-cadillac limo. Of course the price was prohibitive, but I do have nerve. I spoke with the concierge and asked the price for me to Riu and my friends to the airport. When I got up from mu faint,she contacted the Sub-Director. He taled to me and I said I would love to use it, but the price was high. He obviously cheched with the Director and like the wizard said in the WISARD OF OZ...."times being what they were I took the job ". He offered me a great deal... I would have had to pay $40 to go to Riu by taxi or go back to the airport and pick up another tram to take me to Riu (and spend a small fortune in the only air-conditioned bar at the airport) My friends had transport by Apple Tours LAST MORNING....paid my balance. called my friends and told them to meet me in the Cafe for a final good-bye. Thry arrived and I spring my surprise just like a spider.
Two hours latter with a chilled bottle of Spanish Cave(Spanish champagne and 6 iced Presidentes we were off. The chauffer dropped me off at Riu and took my amigos to the airport. It made me feel better than I have in years. It was their first time in a limo and I felt like a old(but young at heart) father. The chauffer spoke better English than we did. He was on break from a University and was making extra money. I wasat least a tad generous and subsequently my friends let me know they had taken good care of our driver. SOUNDS LIKE A WIN-WIN TO ME.

I hope Secrets goes through its transfer as smoothly as possible. It is expensive, but quite good for the types there,,,older couples and young people having a grand fling or honeymoon.
I am always a travel agent at heart. If someone wants my opinion on Secrets or any other details about it...contact me At gwbrown1@aol.com. DEBBIE: YOU HAVE ONE OF THE BEST WEBSIGHTS IN THE WORLD AND I CHECH THEM ALL..Giid luck,,, make the Central America and Mexico sections more complete when you can.

Sincerely from a big fan
Excellence
 
USA
September 2006
We just returned from a five night trip for our anniversary. We had heard nothing but good about Secrets hotels, so that is why we chose to go here. Needless to say we were not impressed. Not only will we not patronize he Secrets resorts, we will never go back to Dominican Republic. Our previous AI experiences were with Wyndham and Barceló, so those are the experiences we have to compare them to.

Arrival
It started out really well. We were greeted with a cold drink and though the check in line was long, the bar was near there and we got another drink and someone brought out cold towels for us. We were not asked for a room upgrade and when others around us asked for room changes they were refused as the resort was “full”. I say this in quotes because the resort had to buildings that were closed for remodeling. A plus is that our rooms were ready for most of us when we checked in at noon.

The room
We were assigned to 5101. The balcony opened up to the “quiet” pool. The view was superb. At first glance you get struck by all the marble, the nice shower and the super sized Jacuzzi tub, which I used twice a day. When you look closer the ceiling was failing down, the doors to the balcony were broken both in the bedroom and living room, the A/C didn’t work in the bedroom, the fridge didn’t get very cold and half the time didn’t work. Our room was supposed to be non smoking, but was smoking and the resort was full and we could not get a non smoking room.

The mattress was Super firm, but we slept amazingly well on it. Although we tipped the maid staff well, the service was sub par. We didn’t have a coffee carafe, we only had one champagne glass, and we asked for extra towels and didn’t even get any washcloths. The mini bar in the room was only refilled on our last day.

There was a “water closet” in our bathroom that carried the conversation of the guest from room 5001. On our first night we had to listen to the woman downstairs puking her guts out. Gross!!!

Grounds
They were not very well maintained. The grass was not kept well trimmed, nor were the flower beds weeded frequently enough. We saw groundskeepers while we were there, but they just weren’t keeping up with the work.

Swimming pools were super nice, but not enough floats. And come on the pools closed at 6pm?? What the heck is that?? We never ventured away from the resort because we didn’t want to lose all the pool and beach time.

The Staff
Very rude. Nearly all of them. The only staff members that were nice were the Apple Vacation rep, the entertainment staff and the waitresses near the theater. They were super attentive!

The food
The quality of the food was good. My biggest complaint was the lack of availability. Nothing at all near the pools and who wanted to get dressed to go to the buffet and waste swimming time?? Nothing at all from 4 -6?? Come on. The room service menu was limited and we got tired of it after two days.

It also took 20 minutes to get into any of the non-buffet restaurants. The Bordeaux took two hours to eat dinner. It took exactly one hour to get our main course from the time we placed the order. The Chateau Briand was excellent.

The desserts at any of the all inclusive resorts that we’ve gone to were not up to American standards, but we found more good desserts at Secrets than the others we have been to.

Oceania was gross. The only seafood they offered was shrimp and calamari. What about clam, lobster or scallops? The seafood of the resort was definitely lacking. I can get better seafood in Ohio.

The Mexican was good and the ambiance was nice. But I didn’t like that I could not get both the Dominican and Mexican menu.

Hirimitsu – just okay

My hubbie got E coli on the trip and is now super sick. We only drank bottled water, so there really was no way to get it other than the food.

The drinks
Wow were they strong!! Thus to drinkers would be very good, but I’m a light weight!

The beach
Beautiful, but don’t expect to swim, you can only surf. Do not venture beyond the hotel property unless you want to be hassled by the locals. I had enough of the ,”You Americans, you lie” BS to last me a lifetime.

The pools were super nice and we enjoyed both, but especially enjoyed the waterfall pool. Very secluded and romantic. The bartender at this pool bar would sing to you when he made your drink. They also had some tasty cold salads and sandwiches. We did not have a hard time finding a lounger as the resort seemed deserted.

Overall
The shows were fun, but were low budget. We went to them because there was nothing else to do. Pools were closed, restaurants closed, disco not open yet. There was nothing to do after six pm as the pools closed, it also turned dark, and so you couldn’t swim in the ocean.

We hated that they had vendors in on Tuesday and Thursday. This would have been nice if you were not harassed to look and buy. Enough is enough. I went on vacation to relax, not to be hassled.

We hated the hotel and will not go back to the Dominican Republic.

If you are a non –smoker like we are, there was absolutely no respect for the non-smokers. Everyone was smoking, at the pool, at the theater, at the restaurants, except the Bordeaux, at the beach. Even our room was smoking. We were not impressed with this.

We chose Secrets resorts because we heard good things and it was adults only. Next time we will go back to Barceló in Riviera Maya. I would rate this resort as three to four stars.
Excellence
Jim 
USA
August 2006
My wife and I recently returned from a 7 day stay at this resort.

Arrival:
Check-in was smooth and quick. I was asked if I wanted to upgrade my room. I had stated it was our honeymoon in the comments section of my reservation. I declined the upgrade when asked. The receptionist left momentarily and came back and upgraded our room to one overlooking the pool and ocean free of charge. That certainly was a nice surprise. I think July is pretty slow time so I wouldn’t expect that treat during their busier season.

The Room:
We were assigned 11102 which was on the 2nd floor overlooking the large pool and ocean. I would ask for this room again. This room has a direct view to the pool and ocean so they can be seen without having to stand at the sliding door. The room was clean, nice size and very elegant with all the marble floors. Everything worked in the room and we didn’t have to ask for anything while we were there. Be careful with the floors throughout the facility because they are often wet and slick. We never used the Jacuzzi tub (have one at home), but it looked nice.

Maid Service was good. They were doing some work on the building we were in, but they never started work early and it was more of a noise issue while we lay at the pool (although we could have certainly moved if we chose to do so). If you’re picky about shampoo/conditioner, you might want to pack your own.

The mattress is very firm, but we slept very well on them. Plenty of US TV to watch.

I personally would not ask for a swim out room even if it were free. All these rooms are located on the ground floor and you walk through each building to get to the buildings further away from the main complex. The concrete and tile really makes normal conversations louder. We went to bed early each night so I feel those rooms would not have been good for us. On the flip side, you would have the same issue if you get up late. The only exception for me would be building 14 which is located at the very end so everyone wouldn’t be walking past your room.

The Grounds:
I found the grounds to be well maintained. They trimmed the hedges while we were there, but I actually preferred them in a more natural state before they were trimmed. They were also doing some painting while we were there. I assume this is a never ending process given the climate. The complex is a little older and it does show some signs of its age, but I found it to be well kept.

The food:  Don’t go for the food. I definitely have some recommendations about the food. I found it best to skip all beef items and definitely any steak. The only beef item I had that wasn’t tough was roast beef (on the carcass) served at the buffet. Chicken, pork and seafood are a safer bet. Word of caution, coke products are served when requested, but they do not taste like coke products. They were not flat, but that is what they taste like. Same problem with a Pepsi at the airport when we were leaving. Ice tea comes pre-sweetened. Desserts were hit or miss. We found the better they looked, the more bland the taste. Ice cream was always a welcomed treat. Pastries were also pretty good.

1) Bordeau
Nice restaurant, but wife and I not impressed with the food. Fancy digs, but the taste of the food we had was lacking.

2) Hirimitsu
Never ate there.

3) Mexican
Contrary to most reviews, we were not impressed with the food, but the building exterior is pretty cool.

4) Oceania
My wife and I ate here two nights and enjoyed the “shrimps in garlic.”

5) Steak House
Ate there once and would never return. My wife had the fillet and it was so chewy she did not eat it. I struggled with the New York steak. The steaks were just very tough and grizzly. They did have a decent taste if you could chew it (and I have excellent teeth).

6) Lunch Buffet.
We ate here most of the time. You could always find something that was good and you could have as much as you want. Pizza was good. Most things made to order by the cook were good.

7) Breakfast Buffet
Loved the omelets. Pancakes and French toast were okay. Bacon should be avoided. Liked the fresh orange juice and melon juice. Pastries were pretty good.

8) Room Service
Limited menu and we never ordered room service.

9) The Grill
We ate a burger here for lunch once and it was so-so.

10) The Pool Bar Food (Far End Bar)
Nachos with cheese were not too great. French fries with cheese were great. Onion rings were excellent. I never at the burger or hot dogs made here. They had self-serve ice cream here and it was a welcome treat during the day.

The Bars:
Drinks were poured with local no-name alcohols at the pool. The main bar had premium brands. I actually drank very little alcohol as we didn’t have a desire in the heat/humidity. We did drink lots of local drinks from the pool bar which came with some alcohol. Ask for alcohol in the drink if you want alcohol in the drink. I found it came automatic later in the afternoon, but not earlier in the day at the pool bar we used. We loved the bannamama. The CocoLoco is cool to see and drink out of a coconut shell, but it was a little sweet for our taste (although it was very good). We also liked the SammySosa and strawberry daiquiri. They had ladies that would deliver drinks and even food to your lounge chairs on the beach or pool side.

The Disco:
We never went while it was open, but peeked inside one day. It looked okay. I think it opened at 11 PM and stayed open until 2-3 AM.

The Beach:
It was absolutely beautiful. The resort is located in the middle between two points which helps give it the sense of isolation (which it is) and has great natural beauty. The beach is huge (lots of walking just to get to the water). You can get a massage on the beach through the spa if you so chose. The water is a little rough in front of the resort, but we went just south of the resort where the reefs created a tranquil pool of water to play in. The beach is not crowed (or at least in July). I found the coconut trees that line the beach to be beautiful and romantic. You can walk down the beach to some resorts to the south if you want. One there is better suited to those seeking a more active vacation (wind surfing etc.).

What impressed me most was the natural palm trees that line the beach where there is no development. They are absolutely beautiful along the beach. Also, local vendors have small shacks that line the beach and they will try to get you to come and see (and buy) their merchandise. Most of the shacks have things I would never want. We did go to one just on the north side of the resort and bought some t-shirts for the kids. The vendors are all friendly, but may not be what your looking for while walking the beach.

Pools:
We loved the pool and spent most our time laying under a pool shelter. The pool was like bath water when it was hot for a couple of days. A little rain and overcast day cooled it off a little and made it a little more refreshing in the hot sun. The pool was beautiful and a great place to help beat the heat. Take your flip flops to the pool as the tile around the pool gets very hot in the sun.

Water Fall pool:
We saw it, but never went over to hang out (never wanted/needed to).

Main Pool
: The décor was very Roman with large canopies to lay under. They also have many smaller shelters to get under and escape the sun. We found two shelters at the far end to have the best breeze off the ocean (and this is important).

Other Notes:
We took insulated mugs with us, but never used them. They are a good idea, but we never drank much. If you drink beer, it is needed more than if you drink mixed drinks. Take a hat if your head ever burns. This was my saving grace as I burned my head the first day (and I have a good head of hair). Be prepared to do very little the 1st few days (especially if you’re not super fit) as the heat/humidity has a way of draining your energy. Schedule your excursions (if you chose to do them) accordingly.

We did not take any tours. We even skipped the free horse ride as we overheard it was not too good. We didn’t even make any of the evening shows. 10 o’clock seemed awful late in the Caribbean.

On a negative note, they had vendors in 3 nights in the week we were there. We dreaded going past the vendors so we were a little turned off that this was allowed so much. They are set up so you must walk past them near the lobby.

Most (probably 80%) were from USA and good percentage of them were from New York. Language was never a problem.

We were told that they were building a new road that will replace some of the twisting, pothole filled road that currently exist much of the way. It should be finished next year. It was started when we were there, but like many things in the DR, it is work in progress and development/renovation seem to progress at a slower pace. We had a crazy van driver on the way to the resort and much better driver back to the airport.

I would advise against calling home unless it is absolutely needed. A two minute call cost about $20 US.

Pool floats were generally being used or hoarded, but you could normally find one after a little while. Plan on getting a towel and claiming your lounge chair at the pool if you are picky about where you sit. Not as much of an issue on the beach. During July, we had our choice if we claimed the chairs by 9:00. We got our chairs and then went to breakfast.

Overall impressions
We loved our trip. The resort has a little age and it shows it some, but the grounds/buildings are well kept. The employees do a good job and everyone is very friendly. We loved the fact that this is an adult’s only resort (we have 4 kids and needed a break). There are always things that could be better, but we were very happy with our trip. This is our first trip to the DR so we have nothing to compare it against, but I would guess this is one of the top resorts on the island.

This resort would be hard to beat if you are looking for a slow paced, relaxing vacation where everything is furnished. We had no charges at checkout. We would certainly consider another trip here.
Excellence
Andrew 
USA
July 2006
Having already been to Punta Cana, I have always heard good things about the Secrets Excellence Resort. It was always touted at one of the best resorts in D.Repub. So I was happy to hear that my Apple Vacation 6 Apple Square Deal ended up at Secrets Excellence.

We did find out some INTERESTING info about this resort. We were told that the resort is LEASED to Apple Vacations, and that on Dec 21/2006 it will be turned back to the original owners (remember the Royal Ouvara Alta? sorry for the spelling..)

Workers said once this was announced quality took a serious down turn. Although they did expect a total remodel and turn around when the orignal operators took it back over. Currently Apple is running Sunscape- The Beach, as well as building a new super resort.

Arrival:
Check-in was smooth, and swift, although they REALLY pushed room upgrades. A Honeymoon suite for an additional $220us per day. Beach Front for $70/day. Excellence club for $100/day. We pass on all of them.

The Room:
We were assigned 2203, which was in the 3rd floor overlooking the smaller "waterfall" pool. Room was clean, and nice size with the expected 2 person jacuzzi tub. The toilet had a broken handle, although one was still able to fiddle around and flush, there was also some water damage over the sink in the bathroom ceiling (not impressed). A lamp never worked. The lamp shades were missing the wing nuts, and were always falling off. In the hall ways, there were some lights by the doors, missing their coverings.

Maid Service was hit and miss. Sometimes at 7:30am they pounded on the door.. other times they came to clean the room at 4pm or later. Once the arrived, it was cleaned very well.

The Grounds:
Wow.. this shocked me... The grass was a mess.. and needed MUCH trimming (much was even going to seed!) Grounds people were literally sleeping under trees by the beach! Exterior trim was peeling with paint, and when the maint. people repainted things.. they did a terrible job getting paint on the floor, and everywhere This really made the resort look a bit... well.. tired. A good Power washing and cleaning is needed of the grounds.. and MORE people maintaining the lawn/flowers, or at least more managers to catch the staff sleeping under the palm trees on the beach.

The Jogging trail was very over grown, with workers hanging around, doing very little. Most of the grass around the outside was going to seed, and the workers building looked like a scrap pile full of dumped tools, and stuff just thrown about.

Public bathrooms were very clean, although one had its hand dryer ripped off the wall, hanging by its power cords for days..no one ever fixed it.

The food:
I was expecting fantastic food, but it was very hit and miss:

1) Bordeau- 1/10
-The worst of all. Lobster bisque, salads and appetizers were fine, the steak was all fat and tough as heck My girlfriend has the stuffed chicken breast, but it was 99% stuffed with cilantro (she hates it) and VERY over cooked. Service was slow, and they really pushed the surcharged wine.

2) Hirimitsu - 7/10
- Was Ok. Sushi was ok,.. safe, nothing too crazy. My Girlfriends Grouper was good, but my breaded stir fried pork was VERY bland, and not breaded. I think they make the food "safe" for all tastes.

3) Mexican - 9/10
- Actually quite good. The Steak there was VERY VERY good. And all dishes were very tasty.

4) Oceania -9/10
- Very good. BUT Surf and Turf was Steak and SHRIMP! No lobster ANYWHERE!! (watch the Channel 2 Movie.. they show the LOBSTER version of Surf and Turf.. but none was offered)

5) Steak House- 2/10
-Ok.. no way was the meat Black Angus.. maybe Black Bart.. but not Black Angus. Our steaks were like shoe leather.. and not at all cooked to order. We ordered 2 mediums.. got one better then well done,.. the other less then rare.

6) Lunch Buffet. -2/10
- This place was a total let down. They had a grill station, 8 items in serving trays, pasta and pizza -Ok.. Pizza was good.. but boy.. you can only eat soooo much pizza.

7) Breakfast Buffet - 4/10
- Not a huge selection.. No smooties.. no huge cheese/veggie/fruit trays (ok.. some TINY ones.. with 1-2 types of cheese) Riu had a 100 time better Buffet... Breakfast AND Lunch.

8) Room Service - 9/10
- Menu was limited, but food was ALWAYS hot and presented nice. If they were busy, they would call and tell you when they were on their way. A nice touch.

9) The Grill - 1/10
- Hot dogs, Hambergers, nachos, and fries/onion rings. All sitting around all day, and disgusting.

10) Pizza Guy- 8/10
- Ok.. this was kind of cool. They had people run around the pool handing out Pizza while you were sunning. I did get really sick of pizza everywhere.. but it was a cool idea.

11) We passed on the Dominican restaurant (we were not into eating goat) and we passed on the Italian, as we eat lots at home.

The Bars:
Drinks were poured with local no-name alcohols. You could ask for premium, but they would take your glass and go in the back returning with who knows what. One worker said it was just the same stuff, in old premium alcohol bottles.. so dont bother asking for it.

They did have an endless supply of coconuts for those Coco-loco drinks. Unlike many other resorts, getting a drink in a coconut was never a problem anywhere.

The Budah Bar- Closed. The Managers Happy hour no longer exists. (contrary to the Channel 2 presentation)

Pool Bar- Fine.. the meeting place for everyone in the pool.

Lobby Bar- great selection of drinks.. even had USA beer!

Beach Bars - Served drinks and ice cream.

Waterfall Pool Bar- This guy made killer drinks. If your planning on going blind.. this is the bar. - They also served small snacks and sandwhiches.

Pools:
Note: I was not thrilled to hear that the pools ALL closed down at 6pm! They packed up the chairs.. and removed everyone from the pool. NOT GOOD.

Water Fall pool: People just read, and hung around there drinking. Nice and quiet. No shade though. Top area was 5ft deep for people who liked deeper water.

Main Pool: Actually it was 2 pools stuck together. Very nice. Lots of shade and Huge. This used to be The biggest pool in D. Repub. but now is 2nd to Sunscape - The beach. Word has it that the new resort Apple Vacation is working on will have an even larger pool.

Overall impressions
We paid $989.99 us + tax. For that price it was a very good deal for 1 week.

Although I though food was so-so.. or at least VERY hit and miss.

The Animal area was fun. The Parrots were a blast, but watch out, the little one can get VERY nippy. (yeah.. he nipped me.. and drew a bit of blood.. no biggie.. maybe he is just hard of seeing?)

Oh.. if the parrots see you with a pizza box.. they will go crazzzzzy. They will jump up and down and try to get it.. to the point of falling off their pirch. yeah.. we fed them tomato pizza.. they loved it.

The resort was getting tired. And little to no maint was being done. I would have MUCH rather been at Riu Palace Punta Cana. Sunscape was new, and thus had a very crisp look to it... but true.. food was not as good as the Secrets Excellence..(as hit as miss as it was)

Beach was fine. It had 5-6 foot waves.. which was fun.. at least for me. Snorkeling was poor, but entertaining. Being so rough, the water had only about 50' visability. We did see fish, but only 1 school of blue tangs.. it was fun, but I am so used to more from my other trips to D.R. or Mex. Be warned (or take notice) Channel 21 is a porno channel, the girlfriend was very surprized.

Bang for the buck.. based on what I paid.. It was fine. If I paid full price.. I would have been upset. Really upset. I heard a few (more then one) person on their cell phones screaming at the travel rep. saying they were not at all satisfied (I guess they paid full price)

We did talk to many people who never had been to any kind of a resort and were thrilled... But I have been to many, many .. and this didnt live up to the hype. Once you have seen some other resorts You will see this is going down hill.

I would rate it a 4*. Loose 1/2 star for messy lawn/plants, and poor grounds, and 1/2 star for hit and miss food.

Riu was a MUCH better resort.. better beach,.. although smaller pool(s)
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
Mandy 

July 2006
We just returned from a 6 night stay at Secrets Excellence for our honeymoon. I'll start from the beginning. The airport was very interesting....the airport looks like multiple huts which I found very fun and different. It didn't take too long to get our travel pass ($10) and show our passports and pick up luggage. It was very hot though since the airport is open and no a/c.
It seemed very organized as we had our bags taken over to a van that was to take us to the resort. The van trip was very bumpy and going 80mph on the curvy, narrow roads was a little scary but it wasn't as bad as some of the reviews suggested. It's about an hour drive, but it took longer because we dropped one couple off at a different resort. Don't be worried about your location choice when you are driving through town because the resort is like a whole different world. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a cold washcloth, but no champagne which was ok. Check-in was easy, but we felt a little pressure to pay more to upgrade as we turned it down a few times...no big deal.

We walked into our room and it was absolutely perfect! We did not get the honeymoon suite....we just went for the Gardenview Junior Suite. There was nothing junior about it....jacuzzi, high ceilings, little enchanting paintings on the wall and a relatively small balcony overlooking the garden. The bed was enourmous and when I laid on it, I expected it to feel like cement since that's what I had read in previous reviews. It was firmer than I would prefer but we slept soundly on it the whole time.

Our baggage took over an hour to arrive to our room so we called the front desk to see what was going on and it arrived a 1/2 hour after that. That was frustrating because we were waiting to go to dinner.

All of the food was very very average....some was not good at all. We didn't eat at Oceana or Bordeax (although I heard this restaurant was very good). Here's what we thought of the other restaurants:
Seaside Grill's steaks (including the filet) is very chewy but the taste is ok and the baked potatoes are the smallest things I've ever seen! The desserts were disgusting! Stay away from a desert that looks like flan w/ kiwi on top!!!
La Patio: This was our favorite...we ate there twice. All 3 appetizers were good. Fajitas were pretty good. The beef tips were very good. Chicken was ok....not a big fan of the mole sauce though. The marriachy band was great!
Himitsu: very so-so
Da Mario (at dinner): Good food also. I actually enjoyed the buffet portion more than the actual meal we got.
Da Mario(lunch): Their pizzas are great! We had some through room service and also just picked them up ourselves. Margherita pizza was very good!
World Café: Not so good....the only breakfast place and it was ok.
We ordered room service for breakfast and that was decent.

The food definitely didn't affect much... we still had an amazing time! The pool was definitely the highlight of the trip! It was so clean and just beautiful and huge! This is where we spent most of our time. We could usually get a raft if we got out there by 9:30-ish. Otherwise you'd just have to hope people were not hoarding them the whole day. Most of the time, people were pretty good about sharing.
Favorite drinks: Coco Locos!! (don't drink too much, it's a natural laxative w/ the coconut juice), Sammy Sosas were our favorite....and the mamajuana is a fun different drink....do it as a shot not a drink.
Bartenders were great and made great drinks whether you were specific or just asked for something good.
The beach is beautiful and it doesn't feel quite as hot there w/ the breeze.
The water is no where near calm. So if you like to play, there are some fun waves to accompany you. We boogie boarded and it kicked our butts, but it was really fun. Snorkeling off the shore is pointless....too rough. I can swim pretty good and I still wore a life jacket because of the strong under-toe.

Midnight massages were absolutely an amazing experience. You don't have to do them at midnight but we did and it was the perfect end to a night before going back to our room. It's a little pricey ($250 per couple) but totally worth it. You get massages next to each other in a hut right by the ocean.
It was raining a little when we had ours and it was still wonderful.

The shows were fun! If they still have the Michael Jackson show, don't miss it! The dancing shows are great as well.

The disco is pretty weak. We went one night and stayed for about an hour and a half. We didn't go back. But if you want to dance, that's where to go (small dance floor though)

One complaint we had is the tipping. Sandals resorts you are really not allowed to tip from what I've heard. Tipping at Secrets was "optional" but the service seemed to depend on how often and how much you tipped. I think it's better to have an all inclusive where you don't feel like you need to carry around money, but if you go to this resort, make sure to bring some $1's with you.

Overall we had the best time on our honeymoon. It was romantic, fun, relaxing and I would definitely recommend it.

Tips:
-Bring bug spray
-Watch out for the fruit and the coco-locos (if you have a sensitive stomach, you'll be in the bathroom often) -The vendors (that come in on Sun., Tues., Thurs.) will try to charge you WAY TOO MUCH INITIALLY. Make sure you bargain hard with them. Most of them make it fun!
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
Cramden and Nisi 
USA
May 2006
My wife and I just returned from a fantastic vacation to Secrets Excellence Punta Cana. This was our 4th trip to the D.R. Two previous to the Paradisus Punta Cana and once to the Sun Village . We’ve also been to several other Islands, Mexico, Europe and Asia throughout our travels. In our opinion Secrets was our favorite Resort that we’ve been to thus far.

We flew direct out of JFK on American Airlines. Had a fantastic flight, retrieved our luggage and were heading to Secrets 30 minutes after landing. The trip to Secrets took us exactly 1 hour. Our driver was an absolute madman on the road and I loved it. The mother and daughter from New York sharing our ride seemed to have a slightly different opinion than me. Seriously it wasn’t nearly as bad as it’s made out to be.

Initial impression leaves you speechless. There were fountains, marble and tile, plants, flowers, statues and more, just beautiful. I loved that you could see the ocean from the lobby. Porters tagged our bags and we were greeted with a nice welcome drink. I had emailed Maria prior to our trip informing her of our anniversary and requesting a general location for our room. What we received exceeded our expectations, a beautiful swim-out room, #1003, overlooking the cascade pool.

From this point on I’ll be rating different aspects of the resort on a 1-10 scale.

ROOM-10
After the quick check-in we were escorted to our room. It was fantastic. There was a bottle of champagne on ice and a fruit basket awaiting us. The room was beautiful and clean with sliding doors leading out to our patio which was located right along the cascade pool. It was fantastic being able to jump in and out of the pool right from our room. We ended most of our nights with a quick private dip in the pool. Our room contained a king sized 4 poster bed, TV and hutch, desk, love seat, coffee table, small dining table, Jacuzzi, safe, mini bar etc. No problems with lack of hot water or water pressure in the shower. Aside from 6 or so tiny ants around the sink we saw no bugs in our room throughout our stay.

SERVICE-10
For us it was fantastic. We tipped well but service didn’t seem dependant on it. Our room was made up everyday by 11:00 am. Our mini bar was restocked just as we requested, (mucho cervezas and agua and no Pepsi) by noon each day. Turndown service was performed each night of our trip. Service in the restaurants and bars was outstanding. Santa and Elvin were AMAZING. Calvin, Josie, Alfredo, Ana, Vertudes, Miguel and Gleny weren’t far behind. Consistently our drinks, from juices and coffee in the morning to cervezas ,wine and champagne during lunch and dinner to evening after-dinner drinks were replaced or refilled before they were empty. Never had a language problem with any of the staff, as a matter of fact we felt the staff spoke English better than any other D.R resort we’ve stayed at.

GROUNDS-10
Absolutely beautiful. I didn’t think we’d find a resort more beautiful than the Paradisus, but Secrets is. The resort is built along the ocean as opposed to away as are almost all other resorts in P.C. This affords you beautiful ocean views and cool breezes from multiple areas of the resort, including the lobby. There are also several areas that you can feed and interact with rabbits, parrots, chickens, turkeys, flamingos, peacocks and many other critters. Fountains, pools, flowers, statues are all everywhere throughout the grounds. Now try to imagine, as beautiful as the grounds are during the day it’s even nicer at night. Make sure you walk the grounds as the sun is going down and the lighting comes on. If you don’t find this romantic you might want to see if you still have a pulse.

BEACH-10
Fantastic. I had some concerns before we got there regarding the beach. I’m a big fan of white sand and turquoise water so I was sure the beach would be a slight disappointment. I was wrong. The water is beautiful and while the sand is light brown it’s very soft and every bit as beautiful as any beach we’ve been to. The water while wavy isn’t nearly as rough as what it’s made out to be. We were in the ocean every day and LOVED the waves. Use your head and don’t take on more than you can handle and you’ll be fine. And as the sign on the beach says “If you prefer clearer, calmer waters, ideal for leisure bathing and snorkeling, you can walk 328 yards to the right of our beach” We always saw a few people taking advantage of this area. Snorkeling, swimming or just spending some quiet time together. My wife and I walked the beach for at least 2 hours everyday, heading both north and south. The new Sivory resort is about a 30 minute walk north. Sirenis Tropical is about a 20 minute walk south and Sunscape about and hour. We had drinks one afternoon at Sunscape since it’s also an AMResorts property. Not sure if we were supposed to but we didn’t get questioned.

SPA/GYM-10
We used the gym almost every day. There was a decent selection of dumbbells (although they could use a few heavier ones), weight machines, elliptical machines and treadmills. The gym was clean, air conditioned and had plenty of cold water and towels. As for the Spa itself my wife and I each did the Dominican Coffee Rush treatment and LOVED it. It was an unadvertised special which usually cost $90 per person but we paid $70. We just happened to ask that day if they had any specials. Usually as part of the turndown service they leave a newsletter which advertised the next days Spa special. For some reason they didn’t leave one the night before so on a whim we asked. Turned out they had several on special. So even if only one is advertised ask about others.

POOLS-9

We loved the pools. Since we had a swim-out along it we spent most of our pool time in the cascade pool. Just a few short steps outside of our room and splash. Very convenient. The main pool is large and stretches parallel along the beach. It’s very long but narrow in spots. Tons of loungers and if you looked hard enough you’ll be able to find a float or two. The swim-up bar was always active and a great place to meet people.

FOOD-6
I hate to say it since we became friendly with Chef Berthold, but the only slight disappointment was the food. It wasn’t bad just not quite what we’ve come to expect in comparison to other top All-Inclusives. I’ll rate the restaurants individually. Just for the record I don’t often hand out 10’s

BORDEAUX-8
This was our first meal and maybe the best. They started us with warm rolls served with regular and guacamole butter and two small quiche. The quiche was tasty but slightly salty. For my appetizer I chose the salmon tartar served with red pepper coulis and cilantro oil. It was as good as any I’ve had. My wife had the onion soup topped with emmenthaler cheese. Excellent. I had the chateaubriand for my entrée. It was served with fried onion shreds, a small piping of duchess potatoes and a nice béarnaise sauce. Very good although the tenderloin was somewhat tough. Denise ordered the vasco style chicken breast which was stuffed with brie and vegetables and served with a red pepper coulis. It was exceptional. For dessert we shared the white chocolate cake which was great and the cannoli which was ok. Calvin was our waiter and he was outstanding, which was a theme throughout our stay. He kept our glasses of cabernet topped off all evening.

EL PATIO-4
This was our most disappointing meal. I’d read in several reviews that this was many peoples second favorite restaurant behind Bordeaux. Maybe we just ordered the wrong items. The restaurant itself is beautiful and Alfredo our waiter was very attentive. We both started with the lime soup which is a chicken consommé with shredded chicken, tortilla strips and fresh lime. It was ok. Next I had the chicken tostada and Denise had the quesadilla. Both were good. Denise had the poblano chicken which was served with Mexican rice. It was pretty good. The big disappointment was my entrée. I ordered the Puerto Juarez shrimp with cilantro sauce. It consisted of a small molded circle of plain white rice topped with 10 small (36-40 count) shrimp, which were pretty severely overcooked. The shrimp was tough and the aforementioned cilantro sauce was nowhere to be found on my plate. Actually the plate was bone dry. We skipped dessert and instead had two Mexican coffees which were outstanding.

HIMITSU-6
Service again was great, this time provided by Miguel. We started with a few selections from the sushi bar which were served with a nice sinus clearing wasabi paste and pickled ginger. Soy sauce is provided on each table. Next we had the shrimp tempura and vegetable springrolls. Both were very good and accompanied by duck sauce. Denise had the beef in curry, which didn’t seem to have much if any curry. Aside from missing the curry it wasn’t bad. I ordered the grouper with red curry sauce. It was served with fried rice and vegetables. The fish was mild and tasty but again not much curry. That being said I still enjoyed it. There was a dessert bar at this restaurant. We shared the vanilla cake and the espresso chocolate cake. The vanilla cake was very good and the espresso chocolate outstanding.

DA MARIO-7
I enjoyed the food here although I had a little difficulty with the menu trying to figure out where the buffet ended and the ala carte started. That being said the food itself was very good. I grabbed an assortment from the appetizer bar, a few slices of prosciutto, seafood profiteroles, and a small piece of grilled skirt steak. All were very good. Denise had the lasagna for her entrée. It was filled with both cheese and meat and seemed to be made with homemade pasta. It was really tasty. I had the potato gnocchi served with a gorgonzola cream. It was outstanding.

OCEANA-7
I loved the location and physical beauty of this restaurant. Overlooking the ocean it’s very romantic. We started with a salad bar which was pretty small but provided enough for us. For my entrée I had the Alaskan grilled salmon served with chopped cilantro, rice and assorted vegetables. Denise had the Caribbean style grouper, a grilled grouper filet topped with garlic butter. Dessert was again self serve but we were stuffed from our meals and the bottle of champagne that accompanied it.

SEASIDE GRILLl-8
This was our second favorite restaurant and we had dinner here twice and ironically since it’s a steak house not ordering beef either time. Both nights we ordered the same thing. We each started with a nice salad, mine a bibb lettuce salad served sticking out of a hollowed cucumber, a really cool presentation and Denise having the watercress salad. For my entrée I had the grilled grouper served with creamed spinach, buttered carrots and ratatouille. It was great. Denise’s was equally good. She ordered the roasted chicken breast, served with baked potato and creamed spinach. We skipped dessert and had a little after dinner sambuca. Elvin was our waiter and he was fantastic. He bent over backwards for us both at lunch and dinner. On our last night at the resort he had made up a special seafood appetizer plate for us consisting of shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab and calamari with fresh lime. It was fantastic. I can’t say enough about the service he provided us.

ROMANTIC DINNER- food 4 atmosphere 10
This is tough to rate since we had a great time, but since this is strictly a food review the meal wasn’t very good. The setting was beautiful, setup inside the courtyard of the Mexican-Dominican restaurant. Tables set around a fountain in the middle surrounded by citronella torches. It was in fact a very romantic setting. Gleny was our waitress and she was great. They started us with assorted bread, one of which was this amazing chorizo stuffed bread. Served with the bread were rosettes of plain, chipotle and guacamole butter. Next was a mini corn tortilla topped with shredded chicken and jack cheese. It was ok. Next was the perfumed consommé. The description calls it a wild mushroom consommé. It was ok but didn’t taste like much more than college inn chicken broth with a can of sliced mushrooms tossed in. We both had the love and passion, a surf and turf consisting of about a 4 oz filet mignon and a handful of the small grilled shrimp. It was served with “mushroom risotto” which was actually plain white rice with a few mushrooms chopped up and a little bit of grated parmesan cheese added. It was ok.

MISCELLANEOUS
There are several shops at Secrets where you can buy essentials and gifts at the typical inflated resort prices. Also there is a nice Cigar shop. This is the first time I’ve seen genuine Dominican and Cuban cigars available for purchase in the D.R., but be aware that you’ll pay 3-4 times what you’d pay in the US for the same Dominican cigars. So if you smoke you may want to bring your own. As for the Cubans, the selection was limited to only 3 brands. I bought a nice Bolivar Churchill. There’s also an internet Café. If I remember correctly the cost was $6 for ½ an hour. The resort also allows local vendors to set up shop every other night throughout the property. They weren’t terribly aggressive and most had a good sense of humor.

Chef Berthold works his tail off. He can be seen at all hours of the day keeping an eye on all of his restaurants. During our kitchen tour we saw that everything was made in house, including all breads and desserts. That being said, our slight disappointment with the food wasn’t due to lack of effort on his part. My advice though, stay away from anything with shrimp unless they upgrade from the 36/40 shrimp to something larger. It’s way to easy to overcook such a small shrimp. Now that I think of it both meals that were the most disappointing contained shrimp.

The Entertainment Team is a hoot. They work their tails off and their energy is infectious, especially Doris who’s smile and personality captivates your attention.

We had pizza delivered via room service on a few occasions. Took an average of 45 minutes and was always hot when delivered. It makes a great late night snack. Pop out the top rack on the door of your mini fridge and the pizza box will fit in perfectly.

We met some great people at the Resort, Jim and Linda from Memphis, Gary and Denise from Detroit, Jennifer and Eric from Boston and Stash and Ania from New Jersey. Hi if you guys read this.

In summary we had the vacation of our lives. Secrets surpassed our expectations in almost all areas. This place was built for the romantic in all of us. Like I said earlier, if it doesn’t inspire you here, you may be dead. You can do as much or as little as you want. We participated in several events but also shared lots of quiet time together. That’s another point, the resort was at 95% occupancy and never felt crowded.

We have pictures posted of our trip on Webshots for those interested.

http://community.webshots.com/album/550347369UnvFSD

Happy Travels!!
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
Kate 

May 2006
My mother, a friend of ours and myself just returned May 1, 2006 from a week long stay at Secrets Excellence Punta Cana and I wanted to be sure to write a review about what we thought. To start with all the positives, I have to say that we all thoroughly enjoyed the location. Being from Miami, the scenery is not all that different, but we wanted to escape the city and avoid the typical "family-style resorts" so that we could kick back and relax with no agenda. Secrets honors this as it is an "adult only" resort. (Though I have to say it was funny at times because we were three women alone, apparently an oddity, being we left spouses at home!! I have never been asked if I was married so many times in one week!!) The ride from the airport is bumpy and long but not unbearable. I fully trusted the man that drove us to the resort and gratefully tipped him for his efforts. It also provides a clear picture of what life in an underdeveloped country can be like and taught me to be VERY grateful for what I have here in the USA. Upon arrival to the resort, we were graciously greeted with a cool cloth (no beverage though, as people have said.) Check-in was a breeze. We were offered two rooms in Building One, which we opted for because our second option was two rooms in building 12 or 14 and I heard numerous complaints about the distance and construction surrounding these particular buildings. We were shown to our rooms, one on the first floor and one on the second. I do wish that we had some sort of view. Unfortunately we stared at the windows to the Bordeaux Restaurant, but we didn't spend that much time in the room anyway. We were very happy with this location, because we mostly stayed in the waterfall pool since it seemed to be an older more relaxed crowd of adults (i.e. the winding pool had music, activities, swim-up bar and lots of very young honeymooner groups). Building One is close to all the restaurants, spa, lobby etc. The property was clean and the staff was friendly and we did not feel the pressure of participation such as on cruise ships. All in all, for what we paid and what our goals were in terms of "getting away" we were completely satisfied.

However, there are some things that we felt could definitely use some improvement. I'll start with our room. The rooms are big and spacious and kept mostly clean, however, our room smelled like a root cellar. And I am not exaggerating. When I got home, I had to air and launder EVERYTHING. I know about humid climates, i.e. I live in Miami, but the air had been off in the room for at least a week, but the hotel was at full capacity and I did not want to be in the other buildings on the end. So we dealt with the odor. The only other thing with the room would be the beds. While I enjoy a nice, firm mattress, after about three days of sleeping on a wooden plank, I was in quite a state of low back pain and considered sleeping in a lounge chair. But again, I didn't spend a lot of time in the room.

Next, I would address the food issue. This is a tough one. For the most part, the food was acceptable. I was told there was lobster and steak, but we never found it. Breakfast was the norm. The sausages and slab bacon were good, seemed pretty fresh. We did order room service a few times, however, it never arrived in less than an hour and a half. I always had to call, but was given an apology each time. Lunch was a bit more difficult. There was the buffet and the Seaside Grill. I quickly discovered that the food was limited and did not change throughout the week. I ended up eating the little pizzas a few times. The Seaside Grill did have a really good piece of marinated flank steak at lunch and the hamburgers were fine. The Burrito "Grande" is NOT SO GRANDE, in fact MUY PEQUENA. It was funny to watch men order this and see their response when the silver lid was removed from the dish to unveil the burrito! For dinner the first night we went to Oceana because we were told this was were the lobster and steak was. The food was just okay. We each ordered a different fish dish, but they all looked EXACTLY the same. And they were the smallest pieces of what truly looked like tilapia, I had ever seen. Being originally from Maine, there truly was not a choice of select "seafood." We did have an excellent waiter there named Victor, who made our evening enjoyable as we drank bottle after bottle of really cold cheap champagne!!! We closed the place down!! The next night we tried the Dominican restaurant. I had the asapoa which was very tasty, my mother had the goat which was also good and our friend had a fish dish that looked like the same fish from the other night! I spoke with our waiter and he was very accommodating and had the cook make us some tostones which we eat in Miami but are not in the menu. He also was able to get me frijoles and picante. Next we went to the Japanese restaurant. From our experience, I would NOT recommend this to anyone, but I guess it also depends on how big of a sushi snob you are. First, that night they were obviously having a problem. People were complaining and leaving, etc. But we were seated but had to finally ask for a waiter. Our waiter, unfortunately, was sniffling and wiping his nose, cold sort of thing, but we decided to order something just to get anything at that point. Interestingly, he came back and by then, half the things we asked for they no longer had. So we ordered Imperial, rice, chicken fried rice, and some sushi nigri. He brought over two saucer plates of rice. One he said was imperial and the other chicken, both were identical and not a piece of meat to be found and soooooo salty it couldn't be eaten. The biggest turn off was when we asked for the sushi, he had forgotten, came back with a plate of salmon nigri because that was all that was left, so we took a bit and much to our dismay, they had put smoked nova lox as salmon sushi. Sorry, this is NOT sushi. Well, we chalked it up as a learning experience and questioned ourselves as to why we might try sushi in the Dominican Republic anyway. Oh well. The next two evenings we ate at the Bordeaux. We had a great waiter there named Kilvio. He found us Johnny Walker Black both nights, a good red wine, and a better bourbon. We tipped him both evenings. The first night we tried the Chateau Briand, which I didn't mind too much, but most were saying it was "gamey." I told my mother to remember that we were not in the U.S and the meat will taste different. The next night I tried the duck which was tasty, however, pass on the poultry mousse! I haven't commented on desserts, since I don't eat them, but my mother and our friend said that the macaroons were really good. Probably my most enjoyable meal was at the El Patio mexican restaurant. They had great chips, guacamole, picante salsa, crema, frijoles and beer!!! They also have these rolls stuffed with chorizo (spicy sausage). I had the chicken mole which was juicy and a reasonable portion. The service here was also very good and the mariachi was entertaining. Our last night we went to the Italian restaurant, which was basically buffet. Here, we struck out on things we ordered again. They seem to have a very limited amount of things that are rationed for each day. Once it's gone for the day, it's gone. The other thing about this that was a little difficult with the language barrier was that we are used to being told something is not available and would we care for something else. This was not the case with food or drink. If you ordered a Jim Beam and they were out, they do not tell you their out the just bring you Jack Daniels instead of asking what else you might want. Again, this is definitely due to the language barrier. Being that there were some funny things with the food, I have to say I am grateful that it was NOT "to die for" cuisine simply because I did not need to go on a week vacation and focus on meals and eating. Besides, I got plenty of calories from all the icy cold beer and water by the pool!

Overall, cost is fantastic for what you pay for and the amount of time, the location is great and secluded, no children is a HUGE HUGE selling point to us, staff was very friendly, accomodating, and willing to try to communicate, food was acceptable, drinks flowed, did use the gym and had a massage and milk bath which were good and clean. Can't comment on activities because we didn't go there for that. Night time entertainment was a lot of fun and we did do karaoke after lots of drinks. Hung out with one of the entertainment guys named Rigo who was very friendly and got us involved in the karaoke thing (Thanks Rigo!!) and danced with us at the disco one night since we were all stag! Had a great bartender out at the waterfall pool named Martin. Laid in the sun, had NO agenda, enjoyed ourselves immensely. Would I go again...most likely, but I would also like to try the locations in México some time.
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
 

May 2006
Hi Debbie,
I am 27 years old, and I have stayed at more than 12 resorts.
This is my third review of Secrets P. C.; I stayed at Secrets in 2004, 2005. This time my stay was from April 20-27, 2006. I stayed in my usual room type, double balcony ocean view. The rooms with the best views of the ocean, for this fare, are room# 3110 and room#1109 ( I have stayed in both rooms ). I made a special request for one of the two rooms, and the wish was granted. This time I was visiting secrets on my honeymoon, and had mixed feelings about the resort. Perhaps It was the fact that I had just stayed four nights at Paradisus Palma Real (newest resort in the Dominican, I will also review), but some things have dropped in quality at Secrets.

Still, I will start with the Excellent things about Secrets.

The entire hotel staff all perform an excellent job. I have to thank them for all the accommodations (private beach dinner, champagne in room, massage, facial) during my honeymoon.

The entertainment staff go out of their way to keep everyone active and involved. They are still the best entertainment staff I have encountered at any resort.

The food and beverage staff is still the best I have encountered at any resort. The bartenders are Excellent. They serve the best drinks (coco loco, uvero passion) made with fresh fruits and actually frozen (believe me, this can be a luxury at some resorts). The waiters are very pleasant, and go out of their way to satisfy you.

The entire staff is extremely well trained.

While we were there the resort had the "On the Beach Dominican Night Festival". This was an awesome event. They had some staple dishes from the Dominican, native music, drinks, and others. The resort makes a huge investment to make this happen, and it shows.

The beach water is rough, but I prefer it like this(boogey boards) because it makes it interesting. If you go a block south of secrets, the waters are much more calm. Of all the Punta Cana resorts, Secrets is the only resort I have seen that does not have calm waters, but I enjoy this.

ADULTS ONLY IS A LUXURY. Until you visit an adults only resort, you will not know how true this is. Please try this at least once, and you will know what I mean. Everyone is there to enjoy their partners; and romance is in the air.

This resort is small, and this is a great advantage because it makes it easy to find beach chairs, pool chairs, more detailed attention, and better service. Plus, your a small distance from everything.

THE NOT SO EXCELLENT:

I base this on the fact that this is my third visit. Those who have never experienced the difference, will not miss it, and may not agree.

The seafood restaurant: In 2004 they served whole lobsters and opened for lunch and dinner. In 2005 they served half lobster tails with steak, opened for lunch and dinner. In 2006, no lobster at all, and opened only for dinner.

The buffet: The buffet is open for breakfast and lunch. The buffet has always been small for Dominican resort standards, but before, you had the option of going to either the seafood, or the steak, if you did not find something you liked at the lunch buffet. Now you only have steak restaurant as an option. The variety at the buffet is very poor, and repetitive. I hope they improve this soon. For most of the stay we had to eat Pizzas for lunch, because there was not much better.

At the steak house we could not find anything we liked because the quality of the meats at this resort has taken a big down grade. Most meats are fatty, and the taste could be better.

My favorite restaurants this time around were the Mexican and Dominican.

The hotel needs to purchase better quality Steaks and fishes for its restaurants.

This resort is no longer the highest rated resort in the Dominican, in my opinion (Paradisus Palma Real has that distinction now, but it is priced higher). The Secrets staff, price, the beach, the pools, the drinks, and the adult atmosphere still make it the best option available in the Dominican Republic for couples looking for a romantic vacation, away from someone else's kids. Hopefully the Excellent things do not continue to disappear.
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
December 
USA
April 2006
We had a FANTASTIC time at Secrets. I'll make this brief, as I could go on for days and days. My Now Husband and I were there from 4/16-4/28, and had the.most.amazing trip ever.

The drive in isn't that bad. We flew Apple Vacations from O'Hare. 4 hour flight, landed, filled out the form, paid our fee, and got our luggage. a 1 hour drive, not too bumpy. It really goes quick!

Once at the resort, we were greeted and given a cool drink and a cool cloth. Very nice touch. We were escorted to our Room (the HoneyMoon Suite- building 3 top floor - #3208) It was AMAZING. Both our Jaws DROPPED.

Cathedral ceilings, a large balcony with a Hot Tub for 6, overlooking the Ocean. Scuba Caribe was right near us, and we overlooked the Buddha Bar.

In our 10 day stay, we were treated consistently like Honored Guests. Every request was met with an honest Its My Pleasure. From the Concierge, to the Bartenders, to the wait staff, to the Maids. For the first 7 days, the resort was almost 1/2 full, and it was FANTASTIC, there was rarely any wait at any restaurant, always prime chairs to be had, no problem finding a floaty. Very personal attention. For the last 3 days, the resort was filled to capacity, and we did notice a miniscule decrease in service. This is to be expected, and we were no way upset.

The Pools were in spectacular condition, I don't know how they keep them so clean!! We played in both the Cascade pool, and the Long Winding Pool. Both were beautiful. Nobody was hogging the floatys until more people came, then naturally they were a little more scarce. The Beach was in perfect condition, and the red flags were up each day. We still boogie boarded our bootys off!! However, we were very aware of how far out we were, and where the current was. You could tell on the beach where the undertow was pulling thru. Our friends pulled a few people out of the undertow one day, and they saw a rescue from someone struggling. If you want calmer waters, go to the right or the left of the resort. Otherwise, just enjoy the waves!!! We saw the staff come out 2x a day, once around noon and once around 6ish, to pick up towels and tidy up the chairs.

The restaurants were fantastic. We were able to visit every restaurant, and I can't remember one bad meal. Every meal started with an appetizer, then soup or salad, then the meal itself, and of course dessert. Service was impeccable, and the food truly was indulgent. We were with a group of 16, and everyone had great things to say.

The Nightlife is a little slow, but we were usually exhausted by 1am anyway, it wouldn't have mattered. Jose at the Beach Bar was our favorite, he always greeted us with a Cheery My Brother, My Sister!!! The entertainment was fine, we really enjoyed the Michael Jackson night, the Picnic on the Beach was THE BEST!!! Tuesday night they close all the restaurants, and have a HUGE grill out. then they have a big Dominican Carnival, with fire breathers and authentic dancing, and music and a limbo contest. ITs WILD FUN!!! The magician was laughable, but he's trying to translate into 3 languages... ITs hard to keep things moving! we just sat at the bar and enjoyed our Presidentes. mmmm. Karaoke night is fun, our group was pretty musical, we had 4 people go up and sing. My Bro-in-law built a small but enthusiastic fan club, and my husband sang Prince's Purple Rain to Jose the bartender. He came RACING up from the back to dance, it was just a riot!!! We went to the night club a few times, things didn't start hopping in there until 12 or 1. They had a 70-80's night, but unfortunately they played all the techno Remixes instead of the originals. This of course did not stop us from dancing. er, um, jumping and knocking around the dance floor. (sorry to whoever I clocked, I was doing an intricate Windmill dance move...LOL!!)

Tips for travelers to Secrets - bring a Large Insulated Mug. The bartenders are happy to fill it!
IF you want a top shelf liquor, all you have to do is ask! don't be shy!
Be respectful of the staff, they may take a moment or two to assist you, but what is your big rush anyway? You're on vacation!!
Take a look at the vendors who come on the grounds, they're fun to haggle with, and very nice.
If you get a little bit of La Toursita (it feels like the flu) just try to drink lots of water, and eat some mello foods, it'll pass in about 12 hours. And I'd rather be ill in Paradise then healthy here in Wisconsin.

Feel free to e-m me with any questions - dombrd19 at yahoo dot com.
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
Skip and Annette 
Alabama USA
April 2006
Hello everyone, just returned from our first trip to the DR.

We celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary and my husbands birthday at Secrets Excellence. Let me start by saying I had read all I could about the place and had a few worries. As it turned out I worried for nothing.

BUS RIDE : WHEW! What an experience.They drive like manics there, but we made it to the resort just fine. Ride was bumpy and about 1 hour. We only stopped at one other resort. On return trip to airport we almost hit a horse that decided to move from side of road to middle of the road. We missed him but I don't know how.

CHECK IN : No problem. Received damp cloth upon arrival. Was offered to upgrade for extra charge but did not take it. Shown to room within 10 minutes. No problems

ROOMS: Awesome!! Gardenview, spacious and very clean. Maid service was consistent and they did a great job. Turn down service everynight. Mini bar restocked everyday. No problems.

BEACH AND POOLS: We miss the beach already. The place is beautiful. Water is rough and can be dangerous, but if you pay attention to what you're doing it is great fun. Some chair hogs would reserve chairs in shade and sun, but we never had any trouble finding what we wanted sun or shade. Water temp was perfect.

STAFF: EXCELLENT. There was always something going on. They didn't hound you but you were asked to join. Everyone is friendly and helpful.

FOOD: This was the part we found lacking. Some was good some bad. Mainly it wasn't what we were used too. We didn't let it affect our vacation at all. And hey I didn't gain any weight.

OVERALL: One of the best vacations (if not the best) we have ever had. We were really taken care of and felt like part of the family. We loved the resort and the people. Special touches like fruit basket, champagne, breakfast in bed and romantic dinner for anniversary. Cake, decorated room with ballons for birthday. Everything was wonderful. I did forget to mention the Spa. We did the honeymoon package. It was great, even my husband enjoyed it. To let everyone know we got the cheapest room with no upgrades. I don't know how it could have been better. For shopping check out Nancy in booth 8. Seemed reasonable to us.
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
 

April 2006
We originally booked our week stay at Sunscape and really enjoyed the well-kept grounds and our very clean 2nd story room with a balcony overlooking the winding river pool. the staff was extremely friendly-giving the impression they were welcoming everyone to their country and greetings from EVERYONE!

Apparently they were overbooked during Easter weekend, so they offered 2 free nights at Secrets for couples only. Approximately 20-25 couples took them up on the offer. I jumped at the chance to see a hotel rated as highly as it was and as expensive as it was. Boy, were we disappointed! The group was treated like second-class citizens-our room in building 11 on the bottom floor smelled horrible, had very shabby bedspread and curtains, and the view was an unkept courtyard with the service drive by our room holding large broken boards, many hoses or dangling curling lines, and a sewage smell. We had expected to have a comparable room to Sunscape and complained-as did several other couples. The best they could do is tell us to come back and they would give us another room for the last night. When we did, the desk attendant said there was nothing in the computer and we had to wait until the manager returned. My mild-mannered husband blew his stack and told her we wished we had never left sunscape and Secrets was a poor substitution. Then we marched over to the Apple rep, who made a phone call and walked us back to the desk. We got an upgrade and the room was much better. The staff tried to be invisible and not friendly at all-except for the activity staff.

The ocean was beautiful and we loved the large waves and the solitude on the beach. the grounds were beautiful, but not as well kept as Sunscape.The food was definitely better at Sunscape, especially the World Cafe, which is the general buffet for all meals. We did enjoy the Seaside grill and ate there twice. Desserts were wonderful.

Secrets is definitely overrated. I guess you have to do their upgrade club to get what everyone has raved about.
Secrets Excellence - Punta Cana
Mikki 

April 2006
Our trip to Secrets was a mixed bag. We laughed as we got off the plane into the “Gilligan Island” tiki hut that the airport looks like. The weather was warm and sunny and we were thrilled to get there! The ride to the resort is as terrible as everyinbe tells you- one tip – go to the bathroom BEFORE you leave for the resort. There was a long line- but anyone we spoke to that didn't do this- paid for it later with a long BUMPY ride!! Lots of potholes (more like craters) but an interesting ride in terms of viewing the Dominican Life. The car was air conditioned and that was all I really cared about. They offered to stop for Presidente or water- but we just wanted to hit the road.

The resort is absolutely beautiful! From the moment you enter the gates, the lobby, the pools and the beach- you look around in amazement. It is so clean- they always have people cleaning the public areas and even the bathrooms have those adorable towel animals. Our room looked just like the pictures- it was large, spacious and clean! (BTW- we check in at 1:30, our room was ready by 3 although some people’s rooms weren’t ready until 5! We also did not get a drink at reception or a towelette as others have mentioned. We did get a brochure of the resort- but it was in Spanish. When we asked for one in English- they couldn’t find any- but after searching found one for us- I thought this was weird). We were in Bldg 4 and had a garden view- it overlooked the sports bar area- not a view to die for- but good enough! The bldg was nicely located- right by the cascade pool and not to far form the lobby. Some bldgs seemed far from everything. Since we were on the 3rd floor (or second as they call it) we had cathedral ceilings which were wonderful! We laughed as we turned on the TV and found channel 21- which none of the reviews I read of the resort mentioned- it was porn- bad porn at times. We and many of the guests got a good laugh out of it (once we realized it was free!) and often compared what had been watched while “relaxing” in the rooms. It was good for a giggle- although some people did find it quite offensive.

The pools were wonderful- we were only there for 3 days so we spent our time on the beach- but the first day we had gone to the pool in the afternoon- nice place to catch a nap. Most of the chairs were open at the beach or the pool until at least 10ish but you always had those that had to reserve their spots- esp the double beds by the main pool. People were quite obnoxious about those. They would have something on them at like 7am and not get there until more like 10- then they would use it for a few hrs and then have lunch and not use it again for a bit. There were plenty of huts on beach to sit under- they cooked on the beach as well- we had incredible paella- I would have had seconds- but it as all gone!

Speaking about food- it was hit or miss. You could always find something you liked- was the bacon as crisp as you make it- probably not- but it was still good. I tried new things at each meal and like much of what I tried. The omelets in the am were really excellent as were the selection of juices- I had watermelon juice and loved it! For lunch we had salads, pizza or whatever struck our fancy= we never made it to the Tex mex place for lunch- stuck with the buffet place. Dinner- we hit 3 of the 6 restaurants (we were only there for 3 nights) - Oceana was lovely- I had shrimp, my husband had the lamb and loved it. (We heard the red snapper wasn’t so good) It started to POUR while we were in there and if we had been sitting by a window- we would have been soaked! Next night was the steak place- not filet migons- but also pretty good- the food was okay there- the fried calamari was terrible but my hubbys salad was great. The last night we ate at the Mexican restaurant –OMG the food was incredible! We had the lime soup, chicken quesadillas (sp?) and I had the shrimp and Tim had the chicken poblano. It was all so good! The deserts were excellent too- I had some cornflake rice krispie like treat that I need to get the recipe for! We heard the French restaurant was wonderful and not many people we knew tried the Dominican restaurant. There were long waits at the French and Mexican restaurants between like 7:30-9- but they give you beepers so you can have a drink or walk around a bit. There were snacks available at several bars as well as ice cream cones (which we only found out about on our last day- bummer!). We had room service as well on the last night and although it says allow 45 min- it came in under 30 and the food was hot! Great job on that!

The drinks varied in strong ness depending on who made them, what you asked for and how much you tipped. The Coco Locos were funny- everyone should try one just to get a picture! The Mar Caribe, tequila sunrise and bora bora were our staples and always very good. Not a good margarita in sight?. The Bars opened at 10 and many stayed open until 1or later.

Activities- not much to say here- not a lot to do which may bore some but most people were there for relaxation so it didn’t seem to bother them. I did the Yoga one day (it was decent) and we did beach volleyball which was fun (but competitive!) The activities are the same every day with two new activities a day thrown in-some were well attended- other- like the Donkey games- no one went to. The activity personnel were friendly enough and very hands on (touchy feely) which bothered some people- their English was a mixed bag. They could all dance though- whew! They were at the disco all night with us and they could certainly boogy ooogy oogy! They were low energy during the day but turned it on at night… The shows we had at night were okay- Thursday was karaoke which was sadly funny at times and Friday was the “Ideal Date night” where they had 4 couples competing against each other- the winners won a 3 night stay- not too shabby!! I heard the Michael Jackson guy was really good and we skipped the Jazz guy – He was on our last night and we were beat! The free horseback riding was fun- we didn’t know we had to sign up in advance – but we met up with a couple that spoke Spanish and they convinced the guy to let us go- that and $5! The ride was like 40 min- rough at times rubbing up against each other- almost lost my shoes several times but once you go along the beach it is wonderful!! Be warned- wear clothes you don’t care if they get wet/muddy/sandy- the surf gets all splashed up on you! They take your pic at the beginning on of the ride and by the end it is developed with a cute frame and laminated on a bottle rum- cute souvenir for $15- but I don’t think I would ever actually drink the rum!

Souvenir time! The resort was of course outrageously expensive at times- we got two t-shirts there for the kids at $12 each. We went down to the huts at the end of the property and went to #8- Nancy’s hut. She was very nice- gave us fair deals- she tells us- I price myself low so no haggling- which was fine with us. We bought a cute marble turtle for $5 that was later found in the gift shop for $10-so we were happy! She gave Tim a cigar to try to see if he liked it before he bought more (which I thought was smart and nice) she spoke very good English. She was also thrilled to receive the school supplies we brought down and gave us her address to send more down if we wanted.

I forgot to mention the beach- Big waves- but we knew that- the water was warm and blue and beautiful but not good for any kind of water sports except boogie bd surfing. We like the waves- so it never bothered us. The beach is tan sand but so soft and deep- it was great! Big beach so it never felt crowded. The bars had people come around for drink orders which was really nice. You do need to use caution when going in the water- there was a drowning there the day we arrived. Pay attention to the rip tides and the waves!

Service- this was the one area that we felt needed improvement. We felt that tips were expected and not only that- but it was tip to ensure good service- not after you receive good service. We were not cheap by any means- but we still felt the service was iffy. Our maids(s) were fine- at one point we went back to the room to nap at 4pm and our room had still not been made up. The first day we arrived we only had one bath towel- so we called for more (and more water since there was only one bottle in fridge) and within 30 min we had 3 towels, 2 bottles of water and really comfy robes! One nice thing is if you do call with a need- they follow it up with a phone call to be sure what you asked for happened. Service at the bars was iffy- the bartenders definitely play favorites- although they were nice to all- Service at the restaurants was quite good most of the time- and we did leave tips for them as well. (The exception was in the am at the breakfast buffet- we saw people going over to pour their own water/coffee since no one came to them after that first cup).

Recommendations: would we go here again? - Probably not- just being with the distance form the airport and we like to try new places. Would I try other Secrets another one more in the “family of resorts” ABOSOULETLY! We felt all in all it was a wonderful vacation and even a week later- I am still hearing the waves wash up on shore and can picture me drinking a coco loco (Esp when the kids are yelling at me!) I would recommend this for honeymooners (they seem to do a nice wedding) and people (who like us) wanted a place where there were no children. I am now interested I trying some other places to have something to compare the resort to. Using Spanish really does help slightly- even just to say thank you or good morning. The staff did seem to enjoy it when you spoke to them in Spanish- they even understood my mangled present tense only 11th grade Spanish!