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Home > Destinations > Dominican Republic > Trip Reports > Trip Report

Dominican Republic - Trip Reports

Punta Cana Secrets Excellence

December 5-12, 2004


After reading many trip reports about this resort (most of them very positive - with the exception of the few weeks during and after the hurricanes) we found a good deal and decided we couldn't go wrong. Generally, that was the case. I can recommend Secrets Excellence, Punta Cana (adults only) to practically everyone. Of course, there are caveats. First, it is a beautiful resort with very nice rooms and well kept grounds and facilities. They seemed to have fully recovered from any hurricane effects. The pool was absolutely beautiful and the best maintained of any we have seen anywhere. However, the resort is on the Atlantic Ocean and while we were there it was simply too rough for water activities. Other activities were also poorly organized or, while scheduled, simply skipped. Dining was a less excellent than what we expected out of a five-star resort, but generally good.

Transportation. - To Punta Cana. American Airlines was on time and as comfortable as it gets. We connected through Puerto Rico.
- From Punta Cana. The flight to Miami was on time. My wife sprained her ankle and we asked the ticket agent to have a wheelchair available at the gate. We arrived early, had to wait for a gate, but had plenty of time to meet our connection. There was no wheelchair available, so the wife had to limp the very long distance through customs. Then, AA announced they couldn't get the aircraft baggage compartment doors open, so the luggage was about an hour late showing up. This, naturally, caused us to miss our connection. They put us up at a not so good Holiday Inn for the night, and the trip out the next day went without a glitch. I called to complain and they gave us two vouchers worth $200 each.

Reception. Transport to the hotel was good. It took about an hour to get from the airport to Secrets. Check-in was efficient and polite.

Room. Very nice room--nicer than the standard Sandals, but not quite as nice as the two Club Melias we have visited. It had a stocked mini-fridge that they kept fully stocked. Room service and maintenance was outstanding. Some people had good luck ordering food from room service, but some did not.

Grounds and Facilities. They work hard and constantly to maintain everything. We really did not see any residual hurricane damage.

Restaurants. No reservations were necessary. Waiting was minimal. (They did have some problems with long waits one night at their 'French' restaurant. The night they were supposed to have a beach party it was too windy and they cancelled. For beach party night, they announce that they close the Seafood and Steak restaurants for the party, but will open them if it is cancelled. On this night they failed to open them and so crowds formed for other restaurants, especially the popular French one.) Generally, I'd have to say the quality of the food was not five star. In fact, aside from the great desserts always available, the quality of the food was less than most chain restaurants we eat at. Below covers most of what was available to eat

- Higuey. Very spacious and long hours. This was used for the breakfast and lunch buffets. Breakfast was only okay, with service only okay. We had to ask for coffee refills almost every refill. It was disappointing considering the five-star rating. Lunch was better. The Higuey turned into the Italian and Oriental restaurants for the evening.
- Oriental. Generally good, with a large selection of Sushi and fair menu. Service was good. The main courses were not five star quality.
- Italian. We did not do this one, but other guests gave it mixed reviews.
- Seafood (outside, covered, or on the beach). Open for lunch and dinner. This restaurant was quite good. You could have lobster every day, and other courses were excellent.
- Steak House. Open for lunch and dinner. We ate here twice. The steaks were not outstanding, but the service was excellent.
- French. This was the primo restaurant, supposedly. It was good, but not as good as the French restaurant at Sandals Regency on St. Lucia. Plus, they wanted to change for anything other than house wines. Since it was popular there was always a chance you would have to wait for a table.
- Mexican. Surprising, this was my favorite meal. I got lucky and chose the right menu item and it was all very good.
- Dominican. We didn't eat here, but it seemed popular.

Bars. Bars were everywhere. I think I counted at least eight of them and six were open all the time. We never had to wait for a drink. However, the frozen drinks were way to watery. Worst of all they didn't know how to make a mud slide. Top shelf liquor was not always available, which is never the case at other resorts of about the same quality.

Beach. Great beach, but the Atlantic was very rough for the time we were there and people leaving as we arrived said it was even worse. (We picked the wrong season.) Only a few souls braved the waves. Sand was a bit finer than other beaches, but the beach was clean and spacious.

Pools. There were essentially two pools, the waterfall (kind of) and the main pool. The main pool was divided by a wall or two and so they may claim to have three or four pools. The waterfall pool was off the beach, and it was beautiful. The water was the cleanest and clearest of any pool I have ever been in. They should teach every other resort how to maintain the water. The main pool(s) was almost as clean. It ran along the beach for about 150 yards and was quite attractive. The only complaint might be that the water is too shallow throughout.

Weather. For all but the last day of our stay the wind blew at 20-30 MPH. It kept thing cool and free of bugs, which was nice, but it did stir up the ocean waves. Surprising, the wind caused only minor problems for sitting on the beach and playing volleyball.

Activities. I'd have to say I was disappointed with the level of activities. It just wasn't happening. I think the biggest problem was that the Sport Center (that included billiards, ping pong, board games, etc., as well as tennis and basketball) was behind the resort and away from where everybody hung out. Nothing scheduled (other than goofy pool side games) actually happened.
- Beach. Water was really too rough. Hardly anybody got in the water. Beach volleyball was fun when we could get a game together. I got to play three times.
- Pools. Water was a bit cool, but okay. The waterfall pool was 4-5 feet deep, and the main pool was 4 feet deep only in a small area around the swim-up bar. Still it was not too crowded and swimming was fun. They played water polo every day and got about 10 people to play. Since the game took place in about 3 feet of water, it was a bit ridiculous (and could have been dangerous with big guys throwing a ball as hard as they could at a goalie). I wanted to play water volleyball, but it was way down at the other end of the pool (edge of the resort) and they never even had a game get started. Again, the water depth probably would have made it less than fun.
- Pool-side games. These silly games happened about twice a day, and they gave a prize to the winners.
- Boating. Amazingly, they let people use the boats despite the wind. They did close when the winds got up over 30.
- Tennis. They have three nice courts and many people played. I played once with one of the employees because every time I went looking for the billiards or ping pong tournament he kept asking me to play. Then, after we played he informed me he was the club pro and I was supposed to pay. This wasn't a big deal, since he laughed it off when I expressed my surprise, but this was the first time at a resort that the 'pro' expected payment-and, there was nothing in any literature about paying for a pro's time.
- Basketball. They have a nice court, and they did have a few people playing. But it was the guest organizing it with no dependable schedule. I managed to find one game, though others happened that I never heard about until late in the week.
- Horseback riding. Part of the package and it seemed popular. We didn't participate.
- Casinos. We didn't participate, but what can you say?
- Shows. Not bad (well, maybe they were). Considering the extremely nice theater they have, it was surprising they didn't do better with evening entertainment. They had karaoke every other night and this was popular. They had a band playing every night, but no dance floor and the music was practically all Caribbean with little variation on the popular cha-cha beat.
- Snorkeling. There apparently was a small reef-protected area off the resort a few hundred yards up the beach. Since the wife had twisted her ankle and couldn't walk, and the water looked way too rough, we never ventured to the area. We did talk to a couple that spent some time there and they said it was nice enough. There were no snorkeling trips as part of the resort package.
- Scuba. They tried to sell SCUBA training and trips, but I never saw anyone in the water getting trained. - Archery. Scheduled, but I never saw anyone doing it.
- Shooting. They had a pellet gun you could check out and target shoot.
- Other. They scheduled ping pong, pool (billiards) and other 'tournaments' but I looked and never found anything happening. They claimed to have a racquetball court (and they did), and it was very nice. But, no one played and they probably didn't have balls. The thatched ceiling would have made it interesting.

Service: As with all good resorts, this one had good service. Friendly, smiling people. Breakfast service was the only thing suspect.

Spa. They had a fairly nice spa with a nice Jacuzzi. In fact, aside from two little plastic Jacuzzis next to the pool, this was the only one available. But, you had to pay $10 a day or $25 for the week to use it. Wife did not do nails, hair or massage because the cost was a bit high. We've yet to figure out why the employees like to sit around with no customers because everything is too expensive instead of lowering the prices and getting busy making money. When tips are a source of income, more customers mean more tips, I would think. Perhaps it is the resort dictating everything.

Fitness Center. Meant to use, but did not.

Excursions. We didn't do any. One couple said they did the shark and sting-ray trip and it was fun. I overheard one guy complaining about the catamaran trip, though. He said it was seven hours on the road and very crowded on the boat. Except for the local bike and four-wheeler excursion, everything was a hour or more away.

Conclusion. While this is a beautiful and nice resort, it caters to a indolent crowd. Not for me, but if you want to relax, this is certainly the place. Don't expect to stay here and have tons of crazy fun, though if you go with your own crowd or find one, there would be plenty of things to do.

Thanks to Chris for this trip report ...
January 2005

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