When we visited the Excellence El Carmen in February of 2017, the resort was only 6 months. It was immaculate! It has a modern Caribbean vibe, which I really dig. The resort is beautiful and you can’t really go wrong choosing it as a vacation destination.
But my goal here isn’t to describe the resort, you can find that on the Excellence website. But trust me, it’s awesome. Instead I want to point out some things I picked up while I was visiting that may make your stay more enjoyable.
Try to Speak Spanish
Spanish is the first language in the Dominican Republic and much of the staff speaks English. That being said, sometimes we felt that english wasn’t really working. There were little miscommunications and you wouldn’t get exactly what you wanted. One night off the cuff, I tried ordering my dinner in broken Spanish. I did a horrible job, but we all laughed about it. To my surprise though the staff at the restaurant was all of the sudden going above and beyond for me. I kept doing this the rest of the week, I picked up a few more words of Spanish, and the service was great. Google Translate can help you with translation, there really is no excuse, put yourself out there and try.
Play the Restaurant Wait List
Mrs. Blanco and I discovered the concept of First and Second dinner while visiting the Excellence in Playa Mujeres Mexico. So we would typically hit a restaurant when it opens for something light, think of it like an appetizer (sushi, tapas, etc) aka. First Dinner. Since you are there you get in quickly. Then when you are done head over to your Second Dinner choice and put your name on the wait list, go grab a drink and wait for your name to come up. You might meet some new friends while you wait.
Let’s say one night you linger in the room a little longer for whatever reason and there isn’t going to be time for First Dinner and Second Dinner. You’ve hit the dinner rush but you are starving from a long day of laying in the sun. What to do? Well, most of the restaurants are in one building at El Carmen. If you’re not too particular about what you eat that night, then put your name on the wait list at multiple restaurants. First one to buzz you wins.
Tip the Staff!
It’s ALL-inclusive right, so no need to tip? Wrong! You’re going to see the same staff throughout the week and they will remember you. I had the same waiter at lunch at the Lobster House and dinner at The Grill the same day. He walked up to my table at dinner and said “Hello Again Mr. and Mrs. Blanco.” You will see the same bar tenders and pool service staff also. Tip them, build up some rapport with them, you won’t regret it. How much to tip? That’s up to you. My rule of thumb has been to tip the equivalent of what I would if I bought the drinks, dinner, etc. If the staff does something special for you, tip a little more. Don’t stress over it, you’re on vacation!
Dessert (and other things) to Go
This one is so simple I’m not sure why we didn’t think of it before. But after First and Second Dinner you might not have room for dessert. Ask for it to go. In general we’ve found that the Excellence staff is accommodating to reasonable requests.
Use Incense to Fend of Bugs
Our room had an awesome balcony. One problem though was that after dark Excellence keeps all the balcony lights on and there is no way to turn them off (they go off automatically at 11pm). The problem is that they attract bugs. I even evaluated whether I could remove the bulbs…it wasn’t going to be easy. I stumbled on the fact that if you light the incense from the room on the balcony it helps fend off the bugs.
Note: There are 2 Excellence Resorts in the Dominican Republic: Punta Cana and El Carmen. They are only about a 30 min walk down the beach from each other. Punta Cana was Excellence’s first resort and is older. The word at the El Carmen from those visiting the Punta Cana resort was that it was scheduled to undergo refurbishment.