PUNTA CANA — A lot has changed since my visit to The Excellence Collection in the D.R. in February 2020.
Just one month later, as the realities of a global pandemic took hold in March 2020, hotels and resorts were forced to temporarily shutter, vacation plans were cancelled or postponed and re-opening dates became moving targets.
Now, however, the industry is readying itself for future travel.
In the case of The Excellence Collection, all of the resorts have reopened. Those resorts include Excellence El Carmen (reopened Nov. 28, 2020), Excellence Oyster Bay (reopened May 20, 2021) and Excellence Punta Cana (reopened July 1, 2021).
Vaccinations for workers in tourism have been a priority and all on-site staff members are fully vaccinated. Additionally, The Excellence Collection has been facilitating free in-site PCR tests/ antigen tests that comply with regulations for guests to be able to return home without incurring any additional expenses or having to find a clinic to do the tests.
The Excellence Collection is known for bringing a ‘bespoke’ feel to its upscale all-inclusive properties in the Caribbean. Its collection encompasses three brands: Excellence Resorts (adults only), Finest Resorts (all ages) and Beloved Hotels (couples only). There are five Excellence resorts throughout the Caribbean, including two in the DR (Excellence Punta Cana and Excellence El Carmen), two in Mexico and one in Jamaica.
And get ready to add another Finest Resort to the list, with a grand opening set for the brand new Finest Punta Cana, a neighbour to Excellence El Carmen, on Oct. 1, 2021. This will be the brand’s second Finest property.
Through extensive audits, both Excellence properties in the DR have earned AAA’s Four-Diamond Award, cited as having “a high degree of hospitality, service and attention to detail.”
The Excellence Collection already has an extensive list of security measures in place, such as security gates and registration at all property entrances, security checkpoints at each end of the beach and qualified guards who make rounds throughout the entire property, 24 hours a day.
Private transportation is provided through vetted companies; its own Seasons Tours transportation company offers professional English-speaking drivers from the airport to the resort, which can be prearranged by travel agents.
In the DR, the two Excellence properties are only about a seven-minute drive apart, and both face a golden-sand Caribbean beach dotted with palms — but each has a different feel (and often a different clientele).
Excellence Punta Cana opened its doors in 2000, which marked the beginning of The Excellence Collection (in 2017, the property underwent an extensive US$45-million renovation). Excellence El Carmen opened its doors in 2016. Both offer 24-hour room service, free WiFi, nightly entertainment, non-motorized water sports and a similar range of food and beverage options.
Excellence Punta Cana is designed to look like a traditional Dominican village, with pastel-coloured buildings and four pools that meander through tropical gardens (including a bird-watching area with flamingoes).
Its breezy open-air lobby provides a view of the beach; suites feature mid-century modern interiors, most with either direct pool access or a private plunge pool. It offers 11 restaurants and 12 bars; like other resorts in the collection, it offers a range of vegetarian, lactose-free and gluten-free meal options.
The all-suite El Carmen is more contemporary; oversized suites feature marble floors, neutral fabrics and glass-enclosed whirlpools with private terraces or balconies. Options include swim-ups, suites with private plunge pools and suites with expansive rooftop terraces. There’s a total of 23 pools and nine outdoor Jacuzzis spread out across the property, along with 12 restaurants and 16 bars — plus Food Shark, a food truck offering burgers, tacos and nachos.
Miilé Spa, available at both resorts, is a highlight of any stay, featuring the brand’s signature Aqua Wellness Hydrotherapy Circuit — a hydrotherapy pool with swan-neck high-pressure water hoses, Swedish sauna, aromatic steam bath, ice room, Sensations shower and bubble massage loungers. An hour-long guided hydrotherapy session is offered prior to spa treatments.
Agents can upsell clients to the Excellence Club, which offers added perks such as a private check-in/check-out area, private concierge service, private lounge and Magna restaurant, private beach and pool areas, upgraded in-room premium liquor, Bulgari toiletries and an included Aqua Wellness treatment. In addition, Club-level rooms are typically situated in more privileged locations.
For more information see theexcellencecollection.com.