I traveled to Punta Cana last weekend(ish – Thursday through Sunday) for a friend’s wedding, and it was easily one of the most luxurious, unforgettable trips I’ve ever had. I plan to talk all about the things I did and experienced later this week, but today, I want to focus on the resort itself. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I was quite anxious about this trip in general and Googled the living daylights out of the resort, so I figured I’d dedicate an entire post to the resort itself in case any other anxious travelers find themselves in my position in the future.
If you’ve spent more than a hot minute on this blog, it should go without saying that I am not even remotely close to being an influencer (I don’t even have Instagram, for goodness’s sake), so this trip was most certainly not paid for by the resort or any travel agency. No one asked or expected me to write this, and all opinions are most definitely my own.
Excellence El Carmen is located along the Uvero Alto beach, which is on the northern end of the (surprisingly-to-me) gigantic area that constitutes Punta Cana. Excellence El Carmen is a literal marathon away from the Punta Cana International Airport (really: it’s 42 kilometers from door to door), so you will certainly need some form of transportation to get there. I used Island Sun for my transportation, and it was a seamless experience. The company provided extremely specific directions on how to find them at the airport and also handled all of the scheduling for the return trip to the airport on Sunday based on my flight information.
When you arrive at the resort, you’re ushered to the bellboy stand outside the main door, where you’re immediately handed a glass of champagne and a cold towel. The bellboys tag your luggage and hold it for you while you check in. After that’s all taken care of, they escort you to your room with your luggage in tow.
I stayed in Building 11 in a Suite (I think? I know I was booked for a Junior Suite, but then some sort of upgrade was mentioned at check-in, so I think I ended up a Suite, not a Junior Suite) with a Pool View, one of the lowest level of suites available at the resort. Even though this was the bottom tier of amenities as far as the resort’s offerings go, it was far and away the fanciest hotel room I’ve ever had. Upon arriving in the room, the bellboy provided a brief tour of the space (because when your hotel room is 800 square feet, a tour isn’t unreasonable).
The room featured three separate spaces: a bathroom area, a sitting area, and a sleeping area. The bathroom area included two sinks, a separate room for the toilet (which, with its concrete walls and glass door, was not exactly soundproof), a rain shower that had both a rain shower head (“shower head,” really – it took up most of the ceiling of the shower stall) and a handheld shower wand, though you could only use one or the other, and a Jacuzzi enclosed on two sides with glass, allowing you to look out over the pool or your balcony if you so chose. The Jacuzzi enclosure also came with blinds if you wanted a bit more privacy. The bathroom area also had an abundance of amenities, including a scale, slippers, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, a bar of soap, toothpaste, a shaving kit, and certainly other things I’m forgetting. All of our toiletries were Excellence brand, though if you stay in an Excellence Club room, you get Acqua di Parma toiletries instead (more on the Excellence Club later).
Just outside the bathroom was a closet for returning room service dishes along with another walk-in closet where you could hang up more clothes than I would ever consider bringing on vacation. The closet also contained robes that you were allowed to use for the duration of your stay (which I most definitely did) and a safe.
The sitting area featured a couch, a chair, a long desk, a coffee maker with an assortment of coffees and teas, and the mini bar. The mini bar, which is supposed to be restocked daily (though mine was not restocked on Saturday – but since I left Sunday, it didn’t bother me), contained four bottles of water, Coke, Fanta, Canada Dry, Presidente (the primary beer at the resort), and orange juice, along with Oreos (*insert heart-eyed emoji here*), peanuts, and crackers. In the booze department, there were three full sized bottles of Johnnie Walker Red, Stoli, and a rum whose brand I don’t remember. There were also two additional bottles of water by the coffee maker. The water in the restaurants and ice that came from the restaurants and bars was safe to drink; the water in the rooms, though treated, was not potable, and the resort recommended sticking to bottled water in your room. I, being the hypochondriac that I am, refused to drink the water at the restaurants, though everyone else I knew there did and no one seemed to have any issues. There was also a balcony off the sitting area that included a small table and chairs and two large sunbeds: one on the balcony itself and one in a nook next to the Jacuzzi (but still separated from the Jacuzzi, due to the aforementioned glass enclosure).
The sleeping area had a gigantic four poster bed, another closet, another desk, and more pillows than you could shake a stick at. I’m a princess about my sleeping accommodations, but I didn’t have a single complaint about the bed or pillows. I was perfectly comfortable, but if I hadn’t been, the resort offered a pillow menu with several different types of pillows you could request (including latex, my favorite!). The only unfortunate part of the sleeping area was that it was the one part of the room that didn’t have any vents (as far as I saw), which meant that while the bathroom and sitting area stayed perfectly cool, the sleeping area did have a tendency to get a bit warm.
As the name of my suite suggests, I could see two pools directly outside my balcony. While I never spent a full day in my room, neither pool seemed to get much action. The area of the resort around Building 11 wasn’t particularly on the main drag, but I really liked the location. It was easy to access the main building with the majority of the restaurants, it felt quiet and peaceful, and the gardens in the area were stunning. I particularly enjoyed being able to see the pond from my room, which attracted several different species of birds throughout the day.
There is no shortage of places to eat or drink at Excellence El Carmen. The vast majority of food offerings are within the main building, though you’ll need to walk outside to access all of them (aside from Martini Bar, which is located near the lobby, and Sports Bar, which is just off to the side from Martini Bar and accessible from both the inside and outside). The restaurants offer a variety of styles, including sushi/hibachi (Spice), French (Chez Isabelle), tapas (Flavor Market), Indian (Basmati), Mexican (Agave) and a steakhouse (The Grill). Kitchen House, the buffet, put both buffets I’ve been to in Las Vegas (one at the Flamingo; one at MGM) to shame. Everything you could dream of and more was available at Kitchen House. The main building also contained my favorite place, Aroma. While technically a coffee shop, Aroma also served all sorts of sweets: cookies (including meringues and macarons *more heart-eyed emojis*), quick breads, eclairs, a ton of different flavors of ice cream, and gorgeous (and delicious) cupcakes.
I imagine the way I felt about Aroma is how most people at all-inclusives feel about the bar. The fact that I could just waltz in there, take as much dessert as I want (they even had to go containers!), including desserts like macarons that usually cost an arm and a leg, come back as often as I wanted, and not pay a penny for it was MIND BLOWING.
The building that contained the swim-up bar at the main pool (the only swim-up bar at the resort) also had two restaurants, Oregano and Lobster House, and there was a kind of ish restaurant on the beach itself called Las Olas. I’d consider it to be more like a concession stand you’d find at an arena or stadium than a restaurant, but, that being said, the pizza I got at Las Olas was delicious. In terms of bars, you really weren’t hard pressed to find one anywhere. Las Olas had a bar, there was a swim-up bar in the main pool, there was another bar on the way back from the beach to the main building, there was a bar by the pools near my room, there was a bar on the land side of the building containing the swim up bar: if you wanted alcohol, it was easily accessible. There were also two bars near the beach reserved for those staying in Excellence Club rooms.
The beach itself was pristine. The northernmost and southernmost section were reserved for the Excellence Club, but there was ample space on the beach for non-Excellence Club guests as well. Several vendors not associated with the resort wandered up and down the beach with a variety of wares to sell, but I didn’t find any of them to be aggressive, pushy, or annoying. If you said you weren’t interested, they’d leave you alone, and that was that. The main pool is just off the beach, and while several other wedding guests felt that the water was too warm, I thought it was the perfect temperature. I do not like feeling cold even for the tiniest sliver of a second when I get in water, so I was all about the warm pool.
If the beach and/or pool and/or sitting in your room weren’t your thing, there was more than enough to do at the resort. Each night, housekeeping would come by to provide turn-down service some time between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (which did mean that I didn’t get turn-down service the first night, when I crashed at 9 p.m. like the 87 year old I am.). Turn-down service entailed putting your slippers by the side of your bed (yesssssssss), general tidying up of the room, turning down the covers (obviously), a small piece of chocolate on your pillow (double yesssssssss), a coupon to the spa for the next day, and a two-sided sheet of paper that outlined the various things you could do the following day, including fitness classes (of which I had grand aspirations to attend two, and ended up attending zero), activities, the restaurant hours, and the nightly entertainment. The morning and afternoon were packed with activities like archery, horse shoes, beach volleyball, Spanish classes, dance classes, and a ton of other offerings, so if you wanted to do something, you certainly had the chance. There was one main themed show at 9:30 every night (themes on the nights I was there were Disco Fever, Broadway, and Circus. Burlesque was on the docket for Sunday evening, but I left at noon on Sunday.) along with some other sort of entertainment earlier in the evening (music, a fire show) and later night entertainment as well, including karaoke and a discotheque. As I mentioned, I’m 87 years old, so I barely engaged in any of the evening activities, but I did do archery on Saturday and had a lot of fun!
While I did not stay in an Excellence Club room, other guests at the wedding did, so I had a little peek into what the Excellence Club entailed. From what I gathered, it seemed like staying in an Excellence Club room came with lots of small upgrades that, when taken together, feel like a big upgrade. They had better toiletries. They had more and better liquor (Johnnie Walker Black instead of Red, aged rum instead of non-aged rum, Absolut instead of Stoli, Bombay Sapphire instead of no gin at all). They had access to more bars, an additional restaurant, and a lounge. They got petit fours delivered to their room. They had better views. Personally, I thought staying in a non-Excellence Club room was just fine, but I suppose if you really, really wanted to go all out, perhaps the upgrade would be worth it.
I also want to note that I had read many reviews critiquing the staff’s ability to speak English, and I could not disagree with those assessments more. I don’t know what kind of turnover has taken place since those reviews were written, but every single staff member that I interacted with spoke wonderful English, and I didn’t feel like there was a language barrier at all. I was actually a little bummed, because the reviews made me think I would need to draw heavily on my Spanish to communicate with the staff (which I really looked forward to!). Every staff member I encountered spoke English much, much better than I speak Spanish.
This was my first time at an all-inclusive, so I really don’t have anything to compare it to. Regardless, I was beyond impressed by the whole experience and would certainly recommend the resort to anyone considering a trip to Punta Cana.