Aruba Trip Reports

Wyndham Resort (now Westin)

October 4 - 12, 2002 by Dawn

Having traveled throughout the Caribbean and Mexico, I have to say that Aruba was the best destination we have been to yet and will probably be extremely difficult to top. The beautiful beaches, turquoise waters and lovely hotel were fabulous but it was the Aruban people that truly made our vacation memorable. Everyone we dealt with could not have possibly done more to make our visit any more enjoyable. That being said, our lengthy but detailed trip report follows.

We left Philadelphia on time, connected through Miami with no problem at all and arrived in Aruba 15 minutes ahead of schedule. After months of planning for our first trip to Aruba, we were finally here!

After we collected our luggage, I decided to head across the street to see if I could get a good deal on a rental car. Only spending a few minutes, I decided that I would abandon my hunt and take a taxi to the Wyndham and deal with it later. It was quite warm and we were anxious to get to the hotel, get settled it and relax. As we entered the lobby, we were cheerfully greeted and welcomed by the door man and again as we approached the front desk. As we gave our name to the clerk, a woman popped out from the office behind and exclaimed "Welcome, we have your room ready for you!" It was Cristina Galinda herself. At first I was a little disappointed that we were assigned room 1605, sunrise side, not sunset. She assured us that we would love it and if we were not satisfied with our room, we could return to the front desk and she would move us immediately. What the heck, the least I could do was look at it. Cristina, after all, did go through all the trouble to have the room set up to our By-Request profile and with a refrigerator. So up we went. We opened the door and to our amazement, we had been upgraded to a One Bedroom Suite, at no charge, and we didn’t even have to ask. A bottle of wine and some mixed nuts, feather pillows and a feather duvet just as our profile listed. A full living room complete with sofa, chair, coffee table and entertainment center with 27" TV and a balcony with two chairs and a table and Ohhh, what a great view! The bathroom was large and done in marble. Large sink area with a nice supply of toiletries and a hair dryer. There was a full tub with a multi-setting massage showerhead. Also, an iron and ironing board. Through the doorway was the bedroom with a king size bed, two night stands, a vanity and mirror, Cedar chest, another entertainment center with another 27" TV and another balcony and again, the view got even better. Each room had it’s own thermostat so we could set the AC exactly as we wished. We decided that this would be our home for the next nine days.

We got settled in and went to check out the rest of the hotel. The hotel was immaculately kept. The lobby was nicely appointed with several groupings of sofas and chairs, a giant screen TV, and a lobby bar. Everything was immaculate. The marble floors reflected like mirrors, the doors and windows were crystal clear. No detail was overlooked. During our entire stay, I never once saw a cigarette butt in any of the public ashtrays. (we looked, but never found the phantom who stamped the Wyndham emblem into the ashtray sand :o) The pool area was terrific with one large free form pool with a sitting ledge that spanned the entire circumference. At the end closest to the Tambu pool bar, there were Jacuzzi jets nicely spaced along the ledge. (This little alcove became our spot for the week!) The beach was magnificent. Sixty or so palapas were comfortably spaced along the property. The water was the most amazing turquoise I had even seen and totally calm. We stopped at the Tambu bar for a couple cocktails and were greeted by Marco. One frozen pina colada and a draft Balashi beer….$10.50. My first reaction was OUCH! But as we sipped our drinks and looked out to the beach and ocean, it would have been a bargain at any price.

The Tambu has Happy Hour everyday except Tuesday (because of Manager’s Cocktail Party) from 3-7 with $3.00 house drinks (excludes frozen drinks). The live band is very good too! We decided to have a small bite to eat at the Garden Terrace, an outdoor café that also overlooked the beach. Two HUMONGOUS hamburgers served with fries and two iced teas …$30.00 including the 15% service charge and an extra $2.00. (The iced tea was the best we ever had. I found the website for China Mist when we got home and placed an order to be shipped. It is a little pricey but well worth it.) After a shower and a little nap, we went down to the casino to gamble for a little while and have a couple drinks. We played at the poker bar, as the progressive was over $1500.00. This is a cash bar, even if you are playing the machines. Complimentary house brand mixed drinks, coffee, soft drinks and that delicious rum punch are complimentary while playing on the floor and at the tables. Now being up almost 24 hours, sans nap, we decided to turn in for the night.

9:15 am and what the hell is that hammering????? I called the front desk to find out what was going on and was told that they were looking for the job foreman on the project on the roof to cease construction until a more reasonable hour. The hammering and drilling echoed and vibrated through the upper floors of the building. We later found out that they had quite a few complaints and we never heard another thing the rest of the week.

Out to the pool. Along the way, I met Jose, the bird keeper. Every morning he has all the parrots out of their cages. He was very charming and extremely knowledgeable. He would let you hold them and would even take your picture if you liked. My favorite was Tommy, a beautiful white parrot with remarkable pink markings. My morning ritual became visiting Tommy on my way out to the beach or pool. Only two days during our stay did we consider the wind an annoyance. The sun is brutal and without the wind it would have been unbearable. The two days the wind was bad, we just stayed by the pool. Most days, we got down to the beach about 10 am and had no problem getting a palapa. (We were on vacation and there was no way in hell, I was getting up at 7 am to reserve one) We usually ended up at the pool about 2:00 for bingo and a refreshing swim. The chaise lounges at the pool had the most comfortable cushions, you almost couldn’t help but take a little nap. The Wyndham definitely had the best cushions than any other hotel in the high rise area. The stomach bug we both had prior to our trip seemed to be rearing its ugly head again, so neither of us ate too much for the next couple days. From 7am to 11 am, the lobby bar did have a selection of donuts, bagels, quiche, muffins, pastries, cereal and milk, coffee and tea, at quite reasonable prices. (1 bagel and 1 muffin $3.30 including 15% service charge). We arrived on Friday and it’s now Sunday and we have not left the property yet. We decided that we would stay close and try Café Bacci for dinner and hope our stomach’s cooperated. Our meal was very good. He had Escargot which was the best we ever had. Out of the shell, sautéed in garlic, olive oil, minced tomatoes and onions, seasoned to perfection and served with four pieces of toasted garlic bread. I had a Caesar salad that was excellent. Our entrees were Veal Parmigiana and Chicken/Veggie Fettuccini Alfredo…$60.30 including 15% left an additional $5.00 because our server was great. We went to the Radisson and gambled for a little while. The machines were not that good but I got lucky and hit four aces on a Double Bonus Machine for $200.00.


Hung out all day and relaxed. Ate dinner at Madame Janette’s. Very nice atmosphere, good service and large portions. Lobster Thermidore was good but was really too rich for an entrée, Shrimp Casserole was excellent, 2 Iced Teas and shared a Mama Jamaica for dessert. Large scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with pineapple soaked with rum, drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with toasted coconut and surrounded with whipped cream. Highlight of the meal! ….$60.00 with 20% tip no service charge added! Came back and gambled until they booted us out at 1:00am.


We did the beach and pool and had lunch at the Garden Terrace. Very large nacho platter, giant chicken quesadilla and 2 iced teas…$23.55 including 15% service charge (left $25). Ate dinner at the Sunset Grille at the Radisson. VERY EXPENSIVE!

Thank god it was comped from the casino because otherwise our bill would have been $150.00. EVERYTHING was a la carte. Escargot, Oysters Rockefeller, Prime Rib, side of creamed spinach, side of garlic roasted mashed potatoes, and Alaskan King Crab Legs (second choice…..ran out of Lobster????) 2 iced teas. The food was excellent and the service was very good, but we were extremely disappointed that they ran out of lobster (we never found out until after we finished our appetizers). Our waiter was so apologetic, I actually felt bad for him! It was not his fault and he was great! Had we gone there and paid for dinner though, I might have been pretty angry. We went there specifically for lobster and it would have been terrible to end up with a huge bill and not get what you want for dinner. But everything was good and we would probably return again as long as we knew that they had what we wanted available. All things considered it was a lovely meal and for us the price was right! Thanks GiGi!


Did the timeshare tour at the Allegro, now Occidental. 60 minute low pressure tour, free breakfast and a free jeep rental. Seriously considered buying but decide that we were best waiting until our next trip so we could come home and sell our current timeshare. We plan on visiting a couple other resorts, to compare, next time and buying then. We went downtown for the rest of the day. Browsed the shops and took a stroll along the water. Ate lunch at the Paddock. Very quaint Dutch restaurant RIGHT on the water. Sat there and relaxed for about an hour while we ate lunch. The service here was fine as it was late afternoon and there were only a few people dining. Our waitress was a total sweetheart from Holland who engaged us in a nice conversation and a brief history lesson. I had a Ham and cheese sandwich…(yes ham & cheese, I don’t know why, it just sounded good!)…on delicious French bread…crusty on the outside, soft on the inside and he had the pork sate (on a skewer) in a peanut better sauce and served with that yummy fresh baked French bread….it was out of this world! 2 iced teas and 2 Amstel Bright’s (buy 1 get 1 free with coupon in bag ‘o crap you get at the airport) only $18.50 including 15% service charge, left $3.00 extra. Gambled at the Crystal Casino for several hours. Left $250.00 up and caught the bus back to our hotel.

Thursday, Oh Thursday!

Got a Free Jeep from the timeshare tour. They pick up us and another couple, we became friendly with, and took us to the rental office to fill out the paperwork. 15 minutes later, our journey began. We decided to caravan with the other couple for the day. Our first stop was the California Lighthouse. Very beautiful. Great photo op! Then off to the Natural Bridge. Awesome sight. All the pictures I had seen did not do it justice. We asked the restaurant owner for directions to the Natural Pool and she sweetly claimed "no problem, mon!" This is where it gets interesting! Off into the mountains she sends us! We had a jeep, not a tank! After an hour of navigating monstrous rocks and boulders, up and down 80-degree slopes, through countless reveens, we surrendered to the fact that we were completely lost. So we stopped, while brainstorming with our new compadres, two more jeeps arrived and they too were just as lost. The crumpled up, rusted out skeleton of a car at the bottom of the reveen, from those who had come before us, should have been our first warning but damn it!

After all this we are not, not going to see the Natural Pool! Our mantra…it’s not the destination, it’s the journey! Our caravan two jeeps larger decided to forge on. Off in the distance I saw the dust trail of the Jeep Safari Tour and was quietly praying they came our way. Sure enough over the horizon, our ticket out was coming. We flagged them down and they cordially invited us to jump in line and follow them. They were not going to the pool but would get us to a ‘good’ road in. Back in business! As promised, they got us back on track and to the road. As they continued on and we made our way, following the hand painted signs that would take us to the natural pool. Let me first say that the concept of a ‘good road’ is purely objective. We should have figured something was amiss when we crossed paths with a jeep load of people laughing and pointing to us as they exited the park. 40 minutes of nervous laughter, several hundred expletives and god knows how many boulders later, we finally reached the pool. It was beautiful. We hike down the steep steps and sat to catch our breath for a while. We had a nice chat with the ‘pool keeper’ and when he denied our request, with a hearty chuckle, to call the Coast Guard…the US Navy…Anyone! We realize we had to go back out the way we came. We finally made it out….ALIVE!

In hindsight, I have to admit that it is adventures like these that make vacations memorable. Frank and Linda……..we will always have the ‘Pool’! Truly exhausted, starved and desperately needing a beer we decided, filth and all, to head back to town for a bite to eat. We ended up at Iguana Joe’s. 2 burgers, Caesar salad, rib platter, 4 iced teas….$47.00 including 15% service charge and a complimentary bath in the restroom! We gambled at the Crystal again for a bit before heading back. Again, I won $500.00 (two 5 of a kind’s ) playing video poker plus $60 cash back with players card. This, by far, was the best gambling on the island. Back home. Scrubbed off the crud from the day. Grabbed a Caesar Salad, Escargot and Pizza and 2 iced teas at Café Bacci….$33.85 including service charge left $3.00 extra. Pizza was very good by the way….great for a light meal! Off to the casino.


Spent the day at the beach with our new friends and fellow adventurers. Had a brief rain shower. While everyone headed for cover, I headed for the ocean. Today was one of the two days that were too windy. The sand actual stung a bit as it hit your skin. So…I just stayed in the water. It was a bit overcast most of the day but who really cared! Ate lunch at Gilligan’s at the Radisson. Tuna in a pita, BBQ pork sandwich, 2 iced teas….$27.00 including service charge left $2.00 extra. Thanks for the lunch vouchers Happy Bear! We owe you one! Hung out to see the last sunset of the week before we had to return home. Packed up and went to the casino for the evening. As we were having a good time, we completely forgot to eat dinner! The pit boss overheard several of us at the table discussing our hunger and intoxication and 5 minutes later showed up with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Again, another way, they folks at the Wyndham went over and above the call of duty. You guys were the best!


We are stricken with overwhelming sadness. Time to go home. WHAAAAAA! We checked out, no problems! Tommy Chung, our casino host, had us all taken care of before we even came down to the front desk. We came to the Wyndham through their casino players program and ended up having our entire stay comped. (Based on our play during our stay!)

Our trip home on American was a nightmare. Stood in line at AA check in for 3+ hours, flight was delayed 4 hours, sat at gate for 3 hours with no food, drinks or smokes! Missed our Miami connection before we even took off from Aruba, stayed in Miami overnight. It was a rude awakening when we got to Miami. After nine days of dealing with the lovely Aruban people, back to the rudeness that infests itself in the hearts of so many Americans. With exception of the lady at the first class ticketing counter, we were treated as if they were doing us a favor. Finally we got home Sunday evening. Yep, you guessed it, they lost our luggage. They did deliver it to us at 4:00 AM Monday morning….how kind!


Despite how our trip ended, it cannot overshadow the wonderful trip we had. We are already planning on returning…hopefully in the spring. We absolutely WILL stay at the Wyndham again! Even after visiting the other hotels, we had no regrets with our choice.

Helpful Hints!

  • Bring a raft with you! Save $6.00 a day rental. I found a new type of inflatable raft at Eckerd Drug store before we went. It rolls up while inflated and deflated totally flat for repacking.
  • If you want to be ‘thrifty’, do timeshare tours, you get all kinds of free stuff plus you usually get a breakfast or lunch and it’s a great way to check out a new property.
  • This was the first time I ever used 30 SPF sunscreen in my life. Load up before you go, you will need it!
  • Bring a collapsible cooler great for keeping bottled water and soft drink and beer cold at the pool or beach. Also, great for daytrips! The bartenders did give you glasses of ice water without any problems. The tap water was great!
  • A rental car for the entire week is not necessary unless you prefer it. Ask for round trip bus pass when you first get on. Only $2.00 per person. Gas is expensive!
  • Taxi fares are set by the government. No need to haggle, it’s the same for everyone! And we got a history lesson by just asking questions and engaging them in conversation! All our drivers were great!
  • Don’t bother shopping price for perfumes and cosmetics. The government again sets the prices. I bought Tommy girl for $44.00 reg. $65 in the states. Same prices in the hotels, airport and downtown! Very good prices for most items. Just know what you are looking for and what a good deal is!
  • Bring Clothespins! Great for clipping swimsuits to outside chairs to dry. At least you know they will still be there in the morning!
  • Ladies, save yourself the trouble. Don’t bother primping. The minute you step outside it’s all over. Prepare yourself for a bad hair week and go with the flow! Nobody’s hair looks great in Aruba and no body cares! Used the curling iron first night and it never got plugged in again! Bring headbands, hair ties and hats!
  • Lastly, relax and go with the flow. Leave all your daily stresses at home and enjoy this wonderful place. It truly is a paradise!

Special Thanks!

  1. Marcos at the Tambu Bar for helping me feel better when I was not feeling well.
  2. Cristina Galinda for making sure we had all the comforts of home and then some.
  3. Juancho in the Casablanca casino for always keeping my drinks fresh and full.
  4. Tommy Chung for taking care of business….and remember….get those machines loosened up a bit!
  5. Frank and Linda for our newly forged friendship…see you guys real soon!
  6. …GiGi at the Rad for an awesome dinner.

And last, but not least……all the super folks on this BB for the great advice and imput! You helped take the guesswork out of vacationing in a new spot!

For all you gamblers, I will be posting a Gambling Report!

One thing I forgot! There is a grill next to Tambu Bar that serves cooked to order burgers and dogs. They are huge and only $5.00 or $6.00 with cheese. Much quicker and less costly than the Garden Terrace which charged $10.00 for a cheeseburger served with fries. Also, a $4.00 sharing charge!! We shared a burger a couple times at the Tambu Grill and it was enough to take the edge off, leaving plenty of room for a nice dinner.