Here’s where NOT to stay in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
All-Inclusive resorts are never my idea of a satisfying vacation. Besides the fact that you really don’t get immersed in the culture, how good can the food be? That was my guess before visiting the Excellence resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. However, after a very stressful year of work, we decided all that was needed was a lovely beach and some island drinks. We booked this trip through CheapCarribean.com.
Turns out, decent food, empathetic staff, and safety are a couple more things we needed. Our stay was 4 nights of disappointing and sometimes abysmal experience. Upon landing, we found out our bags didn’t make it to Punta Cana. We tried to make the best of it. Arriving mid afternoon, my choice was either to spend $100 on a cheap, ill-fitting swimsuit in the gift shop and $30 for a small tube of sunscreen at the resort gift shop or miss out on the better part of my vacation. I chose the prior.
But I’m jumping the gun a bit on this story. When we arrived and were checking in, staff was quick to try to upsell us. If it’s All-Inclusive what is there to upsell, right? With the upgraded package, we were told, you get access to a private lounge area, private concierge, daily fruit basket, and a host of inconsequential luxuries.
The biggie that I would have liked to have is the private beach access area with private cabana nooks. We were given access to only the most basic lounge chairs. When we upgraded ourselves to the fancier lounge areas, staff promptly came over to let us know we weren’t allowed to be there.
Fine Dining: NOT
Although All Inclusive resorts are always quick to point out that they have multiple restaurants featuring a diverse cuisine, what they neglect to spill the beans about it that only a few will be open on any given night. They usually try to keep one casual and one fancy restaurant open on the same nights, so guests are free to wear what they like.
I was totally up for fancy eating and Chez Isabelle was what I had my mind on, but since I only had the clothes on my back, we dined at the more casual Lobster House. It was okay, but the mosquitos that dined on my legs enjoyed a much better meal that evening than I.
The next morning, we awoke hungry and ready for something with alcohol. Breakfast is always served in the Toscana. Truthfully, this was the best meal we ate, every day. There were fresh fruits, lots of breakfast meats, an omelette station. We learned to fill up on breakfast, because the rest of the meals were bound to be disappointments.
By noon, when my luggage still hadn’t arrived (24 hours into our vacation) I put on my same ratty suit, husband’s white t-shirt as cover up and fancy sandals and walked to the pool. The pools are quite beautiful. We lounged with our beach cocktails and let the day go by. After my hubs went back to the room to use the bathroom, he returned with my flip flops (luggage had arrived)!
That evening, there was a party with a pig roast and lots of other goodies. I couldn’t wait to don my island dress and partake in the good eating and fun. It was a good time and we enjoyed ourselves but darn if those mosquitos didn’t eat me alive again. If you go to Punta Cana, make sure to pack lost of repellent, you’ll need it.
There’s a main entertainment room that features dance acts each night. They were very talented and we certainly enjoyed the entertainment at the Excellence resort in Punta Cana, staying until the end.
The next morning found us chowing down on breakfast. We usually ended up sleeping in, enjoying a huge breakfast skipping lunch and then dinner. Another day of lounging by the beach / pool lay ahead of us. With rain starting around late afternoon, we thought a nap was in order before dinner. As I write this, I’m realizing our vacation sounds more like an Assisted Living community than vacation for able bodied adults.
Walking back to our room, my hubs slipped on the smooth marble (it is all open air and when it rains that floor incredibly slippery). The fall must have been bad – blood started streaming out of his head. Out of nowhere, an employee appeared with a wheelchair and whisked us away to the on site medical station. Um, do you think this has happened before?
The doctor (or whatever he was) gave a cursory examination telling us we must go to the hospital. Scared and anxious as to what lay ahead of us at an ER in a third world country, we hopped into a taxi and rode the 45 minutes to the hospital. To our surprise, we hardly waited at all to see the doctor.
The doctor x-rayed and stitched hubby up and the taxi, waiting outside for us, took us back to the resort. At no time were we ever asked for payment at the hospital or for the taxi. At least the hotel seemed to take responsibility for the cost.
Tired and hungry back at our hotel, our only restaurant option was pizza. We waited for what seemed an eternity for the most tasteless pizza I’ve ever had in my life. We took a few bites and then decided we’d get room service. But I think the tasteless burger from room service at the Excellence Resort in Punta Cana was even worse than the pizza.
All the next day, hubs was queasy from his pain medication, and stayed in the whole day. Yep the entire day (one quarter) of our vacation was shot. I tried to make the best of it going to the pool and the beach by myself.
I’m not sure if he felt well enough to go to dinner that evening or just didn’t want to disappoint me, so we got dressed and went to the fancy restaurant that was open – Barcelona (a Mediterranean restaurant). We were the only ones in there save for one other couple. After tasting the food I could see why. At least I’d have some decent wine with dinner…if I was willing to pay for it. Oh yeah – wine isn’t included in the fancy restaurants. WTF?
All along there could have been little niceties or upgrades the hotel could have given us after the fall to at least make the stay a bit more bearable, but never once did they do anything for us. Even the sunscreen that we needed after our bags were lost was $30 in the gift shop, and they were not going to let us use one drop of theirs despite plenty of bottles laying around.
Usually, the end of a vacation is a sad one, but from the Excellence resort in Punta Cana, we couldn’t wait to get home. Since it is a long drive to the Punta Cana airport from the resort, we asked if hotel staff could verify that our flight was leaving on time. No need to wait at the airport when we could wait at the resort.
After being assured our flight from Punta Cana was departing on time, we arrived at the airport to find out it was delayed. Six hours. And I use the term “airport” loosely. It was like two very large rooms with uncomfortable seating that everyone is vying for.
I’ve never been so let down with a vacation in my life. While many of the factors were beyond our control, it was disappointing that the staff took no initiation to make our stay any better despite that they go out of their way to say “Anything we can do to make your stay better please let us know” multiple times during check-in. I also shared my displeasure with my experience at the Excellence resort in Punta Cana with CheapCaribbean.com (thought they would like to know about the resort they rate as 5 stars), but they didn’t seem to care.
I never regret going to visit a new spot or country, but I doubt I’ll never go back to the Dominican Republic again. And I’ll probably never book another trip through CheapCaribbean.com again.