Excellence El Carmen Trip Review

One of our incentive groups recently traveled to the all inclusive Excellence El Carmen for their annual event and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel with them.

My flight into Punta Cana was on American via Miami and we arrived without a delay into Terminal A where we met our transfer shuttle.

As I remembered from before, the trip from the airport to the resort is along virtually deserted roads. There isn’t much to see on the way to the resort and Excellence states that it’s approximately 30 minutes to the property but it felt a little longer to me.  It’s a good idea to pick up a water at the terminal before departing, since they don’t stop unless it’s an emergency.

Upon entering the gated area to the resort we were dropped off at the lobby and I was escorted over to the Excellence Club for private check-in since I wasn’t on the group reservation. However, Excellence had arranged for a group check-in at the main ballroom area.

My first impression? El Carmen is super-modern! The resort features a chic and modern style and everything is very conveniently located to the rooms. It was nice that the Excellence Club is in the lobby for check-in but that meant it was a trip back to the lobby to experience the lounge and private restaurant which meant it was a little more inconvenient than desired.

The room? My suite was very spacious. I was on the first floor with a swim-up suite (direct access from the terrace to a pool). The soft furnishings were new and continued with the modern feel of the resort. There is an in-room minibar and bottles of premium liquor. The walk-in closet is a bit of a secret until you figure out how to get the door opened and then the lights are on a motion sensor. I used the outdoor daybed on one occasion and mostly spent my time exploring the hotel grounds and the main pool and beach area. I give the rooms an A+ for cleanliness, newness and overall feel.

The food? On our first night, the group had arranged for a private cocktail reception and buffet dinner overlooking the beach. It was a bit windy, but refreshing and still warm enough for us snowbirds…The food was generally good and plentiful. The bar was the perfect setting for a private event.

The breakfast buffet was massive and provided pretty much anything you could have dreamed of. I was very impressed with the wide range of cuisine they presented. One could live solely on breakfast at Excellence El Carmen.

For lunch, I discovered the brick pizza oven by the swim-up bar and that was an excellent choice. Many in our group camped out at the main pool and swim-up area and the restaurant was only 25 yards from that location. They also do a grill-out if you want to pick up a quick burger or other grilled items. On one day, they made a massive amount of seafood paella that resulted in a swell of hungry patrons descending upon the beach.

The next evening, a few of us went to the Agave Mexican restaurant and that proved to be the best dinner I had while at the resort! We ordered a second round of appetizers and then went all in on the entrees. Everyone raved about that meal.

Since the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team was playing on the Tuesday of the trip, many of us went to the sports bar and dined on bar food. It’s standard bar fare and was quite good.  The chicken wings looked miniature-sized in comparison to what we are used to, but you can always order double…

Overall, the food is quite good. Punta Cana resort food is typically not what we are accustomed to in the states. I would rate Excellence El Carmen on the higher end of cuisine when comparing to my previous four visits to other resorts.

The entertainment?

Excellence El Carmen is more laid back than some all inclusive resorts. The playmakers did an excellent job with our team building event on the beach. They also conducted a daily set of activities that ranged from beach volleyball to Texas Hold’em to dance classes. The Sports Bar was an active scene and the disco is hit or miss. One night it was packed and the next was empty. You’ll need to ask someone where the disco is located. It’s actually behind a curtain and a door, very similar to a Speakeasy.

The big showroom is right off of the main lobby bar and is open air on one end. The Michael Jackson show was entertaining but I believe the one that travels in Mexico is more energetic and authentic. They do entertainment every evening and the shows rotate nightly for a week.

The Group?

Excellence El Carmen staff did a great job with our group. The on-site coordinator pre-planned the private events and team building with the group leader and attempted to assign all rooms according to our requests. This is the one area where we had a challenge. Not all information was communicated to the reservations staff, however, the resort was very proactive and corrected the oversights before guests were escorted to their rooms. I was very impressed! Management was always available in case we needed anything. Excellence have a great incentive group contract and we received many perks and discounts for the size of group.

We highly recommend this resort for your group getaway! One thing to keep in mind is that El Carmen has only 10 rooms that feature double beds. King beds dominate the room inventory, so be aware when traveling with many non-partner guests that are sharing a room.