Aruba Trip Reports

Marriott Resort & Casino

January 15 - 22, 2007 by Carolina & Ken

Aruba Forum Profile: CGO

Arrival: Day 1

My husband and I flew direct from Atlanta to Aruba, Delta, first class. The flight was great, service was excellent, I don't normally get to fly first class, husband does, but we were going to Aruba to celebrate his 40th birthday, so we started it off right. We arrived on time, baggage took a little while but no big deal. The only issue we had was trying to figure out if we could use my husbands cell phone with his sim card, we ended up getting a calling card to call home, but long story short, you can't use these cards at the Marriott property so it was a big pain, to drive into town or find somewhere to use these cards. I would not get that card again, but again, not a big deal, minor pain. I wish I could think of the name of it, the locals use them, so I just ended up giving it to a local as we were leaving, she was appreciative. We ended up using my husband's cell phone with no problems to check on the little one's back at home as needed.

We rented a "4WD" from National. It was not technically 4WD, but it got us around the island, even the north side, we had a few dicey moments but that is what makes it fun. The rental car office was easy to get in and out of. We were very pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get around, find the grocery store, the hotel, etc. I did do my research on this BB before going, so I felt like I had "the lay of the land" before even arriving.

We stayed at the Marriott Resort & Casino. The property was nice. I would not call it 5 star, but it is a great 4 star. Our first room was over the huge Atrium, which we could see might get loud and or smoky during the night, so we requested to change right away and the were able to accommodate us with a nice side view room looking out toward the lighthouse and fisherman's beach with all the kitesurfing. We were happy with our room. The pool is lovely and swim up bar convenient. We are beach people and were all ready for a rumble to get palapas but it really was not that big a deal, as we were told ahead of time. We got one everyday and we moved from side to side so our view changed. Near the bar is nice! We took full advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour every day. My husband is a runner and found a great run right up the road toward the lighthouse, if anyone looking for exercise. He would then come back to the Marriott and jump in the ocean for a few laps. He said no better way to start the day...I was still in bed enjoying the other great way to start the day....sleeping in...we have a 20 month old and 4 year old, sleep is a luxury!

I will highlight our meals with prices: (note: when I say & drinks just know alcohol is involved, we are away from 2 small children only once or twice a year!)

Arrival night, we ate at SALT & PEPPER'S Tapas in the high rise area, great music out in the courtyard. We paid $54 with tip, including Sangria and beer, so not bad, food was pretty good.

Day 2

Breakfast at the Marriott Buffet, more than you can eat and over priced if you ask me. We only did this once, as it was a waste of money and we don't like to start the day off with too heavy of a meal (that is my husband's thought) Me, I dieted my fanny off before going and wanted to eat anything that was not nailed down! Meal was $45 with tip, just too much to spend for breakfast. Lunch: We beached it this day, so we ate at the beach front restaurant at the Marriott called Waves, paid $35 with tip...for burgers and drinks? Not great but convenient for someone who does not want to move to far from their Palapa.

Dinner: We did the easy thing and ate at Tomato Charlie's so I could watch the Australian Open on TV (tennis not too big on Aruba with all that wind, I guess it would be a nightmare to play in those conditions) We got pizza and an appetizer & drinks, we paid $46, not bad pizza, but even in Atlanta, GA, I've had better, does not compare to good NJ/NY pizza.

Day 3

We did the cafe in the Marriott, bagel, juice, coffee for $10, ate in the room on the balcony watching the cool kitesurfers, not a bad way to start the day. I even worked out at the Marriott gym, pretty good equipment and "lemon water" to drink. A lot nicer than most hotel gyms. Lunch: Bingo! I loved it and would definitely eat there again. I got a salad and sandwich, did not need both, it was a lot of food. Husband got sandwich and drinks, paid in cash so I don't have the receipt but was not more than $30-$40 and I did get both salad and sandwich, b/c they both sounded so good and I could not decide. This was the day we explored the North side of the island in our psuedo 4WD. My husband had just gotten a new 10 megapixel camera and was playing with the settings all day so I felt like I was on a trip with Annie Lebowitz (sp?) Pictures came out well though, so no complaints now. He took over 700 and I took over 300 on my measly 5 megapixel camera. We did the Alto Vista chapel and about 1/2 way down the island. Hopefully next trip we will start at the bottom and work our way up. Definitely worth doing, the drive on the northside that is.

Dinner: we ate at Cuba's Cooking, it was really good. Very different than the americanized Cuban we get at home, but still very good. Who knew how much we would both love Mojito's. I have been growing mint for years (we just do that in the south) and who knew what a great use I now have for it! We paid $80 with DRINKS and that was with the visit aruba discount card! That thing sure came in handy. I would advise anyone to get it, well worth the $20-$25 whatever I paid, it paid for itself!

Day 4

We did the snorkel trip with the Octopus, so breakfast was Banana Bread & Mimosas, lunch was a great salad bowl, European meat/cheese tray with fresh bread. I found it easiest to take my meat and cheese, put it in the bread, dump my salad in the bread as well, pour Italian dressing over the whole thing, and I ate an amazing Sub! It is not so easy to eat on a moving boat, so I thought I was so clever...even more so since I had been drinking the rum punch which has a punch. The snorkel was fun, my husband loved it too. Only 4 other couples so it was a nice relaxed, still had your own space. We did the freighter and I think Malmok? After we got back on land, we hung out at the pool at the Marriott for the first time. Very comfy chairs at the pool and did I mention the convenient swim up bar. I still say the Marriott has the best Pina Coladas I have ever had and I have had quite a few! I learned the secret if anyone wants it, let me know....because I asked for it! This is the day I fell flat on my face on the pool deck (had nothing to do with being in the sun, snorkeling or mimosas, rum punch and pina coladas??) It was no big deal, just missed a step and down she went. I am pretty sure I broke my middle toe, but what can you do. It was my husband's 40th birthday, we had big plans for the evening. This is the night we had a private charter dinner cruise on the Morningstar (per Amy's advice) It was wonderful. If you have seen any of my postings, you know I can not say enough wonderful things about the Morningstar. Kat and Marci (the chef and Captain/host and hostess) made the night so special. We were greeted with drinks (they ask your preferences ahead of time to make sure they have everything you want) and a beautiful fruit tray dusted in cinnamon, actually very tasty! Time goes by, they chat with you, you feel like you have known them forever, they tell you about what you are passing on land and sea, they take pictures of you if you want (great b/c we always get home and it looks like we were not even together, as we only have pictures of one or the other!) Then an appetizer pizza is brought out, pesto, mozzarella and tomato. It was delicious and hit the spot. At some point my husband noticed that the lines Marci had put out for catching fish had "caught" and Marci insisted my husband reel it in. It was a barracuda and it was great to watch my pretty laid back husband turn into macho man (on his 40th birthday no less) and bring in the fish. It was a thrill for us. Marci was so cool, took pictures, then took it below, cleaned it, brought it up to show us, cut a fillet and my husband enjoyed a piece of his REALLY FRESH catch with his pre-ordered grouper dinner. He loved it! I had the steak, wonderful, the sauces she makes are amazing. We also had salad, beautiful and I had a basil, tomato balsamic app, husband had the seafood sensation. All served in giant seashells, with flowers, candles, it really was amazing.

For dessert, Kat really goes all out and did a birthday message for my husband (you will see the pics) You are so comfortable on the boat at dinner, they put pillows below your feet, you are sitting on cushions, pillows on either side and behind you. Marci goes below and changes from shorts and a polo to a tuxedo and become an amazing waiter/butler. He appears before you even know you want him to and disappears so you have plenty of alone time but amazing service with precise anticipation. At one point, beyond full and relaxed, many, many rum punches for me and beers for the husband, perfectly paired reisling for me and can't remember the wine for my husband, Marci tells you to relax, lay back will see the pics, I look like a beached whale (2nd time that day, after falling on the pool deck) and I was not asleep, just incredibly relaxed and enjoying the sail. Okay, enough said...the morningstar is amazing, we had a hard time getting over the price, but we are going back in November with friends (really can't believe we are going again and in less than 8 wks!!!) and we are going back out on the morningstar because I can not imagine going to Aruba and not going out with them. At least this time, another couple will split the bill (we thought it would be hard to convince them to go, but it was not at all, after seeing all of our pics) This time we are doing a 1/2 day sail with a snorkel, not the dinner cruise.....I guess you are now hoping I will wrap this thing up.... We paid $550 I think, but using your visit aruba card you get a 10% discount which you then double and hand back to them as a tip, but that little card still helps! I think we even got champagne with it too for free???

Day 5

Breakfast from the lobby, $8...ate on the foot and knee hurt so badly from the fall, but I am more upset that I can't wear my new strappy black Stuart Weitzman's I brought with me....girls should understand this problem.....Another pure beach day, I think we ate at Moomba's this day, but don't have a receipt (It has been since Jan) We both got sandwiches, food was fair, service was super slow, but the view was great, the people freaking out over a big iguana were funny, we were both pretty relaxed and just walked up off the beach. Might have paid b/w $30-$40. Dinner, was a great suggestion from the Concierge at Marriott (btw, use the concierge, they are really helpful and got us great reservations as needed, they are there to help you) We ate at Sole Mare, an italian restaurant that he said was the best, much better than wherever all the tourists go? don't know where that is, as this is our 1st trip. We had an excellent meal and they did birthday dessert for my husband, bill was $96 with tip. This place does a great meal prepared at the table in a giant wheel of parmesan, we did not get it, but is sure looked interesting when they light it on fire and swirl the pasta around in the melting cheese wheel...okay I am getting hungry and I just ate dinner! I would go back again, it was great.

Day 6

I promise this is winding down....Bagel and Juice from the lobby cafe, $9. We ate at the Pelican nest for lunch, again beach day, we just walked down the beach from the Marriott and stopped where we felt like it. The view was great looking out over the water (the beach reminded us of the Jersey shore that day, it was packed by the HI, etc with chair to chair by the Marriott time shares. The food at the pelican lacks a little, but where else can you just meander up in your bathing suit and sarong and eat? I would not eat there again, but not too bad.

Dinner: Madame Janette's I should not even have to say anything as this comes so highly recommended, but I will go out on a limb and say it was one of the best meals I have ever, ever eaten. We both got fillets but did not get apps or salads and boy was I glad, I could not even finish my steak (and I don't miss too many meals if you know what I mean) It was amazing, the sauces to die for! We split a desert, did not need to but I am a big sweet eater and work most menus backwards. I would not be able to go back to Aruba and NOT eat at MJ, it was that good.

Yes, this was black strappy sandal night, my foot still killing me but I took one for the girls and wore them anyway! This was also the day the Marriott found out I had fallen and they were so scared I was going to sue, they sent their risk management people to me at the pool/beach making me fill out and incident report?, later came back to my room bothering me. I could not get rid of them. I could not be plain enough. I am not going to sue you, I fell down, I missed a step, I had been snorkeling, laying in the sun and drinking each step of the way! It was my fault, but apparently they are used to people looking for a reason to call a lawyer, but that is not us! It was funny (after the fact) I kept saying if you really want to help me, go get me a robe! I am naked, holding a towel and you are here at my door, my husband is naked trapped in the bathroom until you leave, so unless you can find me a robe (which they do not provide) you can not help me. He insisted I go to the hospital??? I thought he was crazy, my toe might/might not be broken, I am on vacation, I am not going to the hospital, I am strapping on my Stuart Weitzman's and going to Madame Janette's! You are probably wondering if I am drinking right now, No, but it is funny to remember standing there naked and the guy just would not leave, insisting I go to the hospital. Really funny part was my husband did not see/hear me fall (at the time of the incident at the pool) and this really nice man speaking only spanish in his speedo was squatting over me trying to help me get you have this picture in your mind??? I was trying to stop crying and I have this speedo, let's say, a few inches from my face, so I am laughing while crying, it was funny. Did I mention this man could have been mistaken for the missing link he was so hairy, and he is squatting, this is how my husband found us, we laughed and laughed, then I started crying again. It was embarrassing to say the least.

Day 7

2 words: Linda's Pancakes. It is a good thing I did not find this place day 1 or I would have eaten there everyday. We did a late breakfast and it was so amazing. My husband's mom is from Holland, so this was right up our alley. I even asked if they would make me something not on the menu and they did...many of you will gag, but I saw Banana pancakes and asked if they had any caramel sauce. It was mind blowing. Obviously you skip the syrup and whipped cream, but I only recommend the banana caramel pancake only for the sweetest of sweet tooth's. We have the before and after pics, it was soo good. Many of you know, these are not "normal" pancakes but in between a crepe and a pancake. Big as a medium pizza. We might have to try the pizza next time, but I am not sure I could bring myself to order anything but that pancake. I am starving just thinking about it! Paid $27 with tip, includes coffee and juices, maybe even a hot chocolate for me! Who's counting carbs/cals on your last day of vacation. Since we did the very late breakfast, we did not eat lunch and headed back to the airport after touring around the island a bit. Got through customs, everything quickly. Made the mistake of eating in the airport, I would eat before I got there next time, as the food choices were a bit sketchy for me.

We did hit Ling and sons and Super Food grocery stores. Both were filled with anything you might need. Ling's had great deli, cheese and bread options. We like to buy snacky stuff then have happy hour on our balcony. Cheese, bread, meat, make a little euro snack. We did buy beer, water, softdrinks etc to keep in the hotel fridge (too small) I also enjoy buying junk food from other countries to see if we are missing out on anything...not really...then we stock up on Dutch foods for my mother in law. Coffee, cookies, etc to bring home. Kids love the Euro candy too, just something different. We spent $55 at lings and $88 at Super foods. One day we did drive downtown to check things out, but that is not our scene. We were there for the beach our the north side exploring. Different strokes, different folks. I bought some little things to bring home but did not see any great deals unless you are buying big ticket jewelry, which we were not....unfortunately...I tried and tried, but to no avail....Emeralds are my birthstone????? Our daughter is diamond???? (are we lucky or what??)

The rental car from National (psuedo 4WD) was $315.48 for the week.

We had a wonderful week. I am not going to comment too much on the Marriott as I got some harsh feedback in January when I got back and posted some views at the time. Short story, we were there week 3, which I am told is not the best time to go. The Marriott staff we talked to said it was the most requested week off of the year! I would never go back weeks 2, 3 or 4 just to be sure! My husband and I are very friendly, kind, polite and have never been more embarrassed to be American as we were in the Marriott. We were actually asked by the bar tender where we from because we were so nice and actually asked not demanded a drink, we said please and thank you and engaged them in chit chat. I could not believe how rude some of the guests were to the staff/other guests at the Marriott, demanding this and that, yelling, kids running around crazy, leaving trash all over the beach (including dirty diapers & pizza boxes) just being very rude. We just don't believe in treating people like they are beneath us, invisible, or servants. Life is too short! We laughed about it with some of the other "nice" guests and it gave us something to bond over.

Bottom line: The marriott property is great, I would stay in that hotel again, just not at that time of year. We are going back in a less than 8 weeks and are going to try the Amsterdam Manor. Totally different trip, going with another couple and sharing a 2BR suite. So more grocery shopping, lower budget, low rise vs high rise......just different. There are things to love about both areas, we'll let you know what we think when we get back and I promise not to take 8 months to post a trip report next time!

Thanks to all the great people on the BB who post and helped us to have such a great trip. It really made us feel like we knew what we were doing, where we were going, etc before we even got there!

Any questions, just let me know. Sorry for the LONG report, but I am chatty and have learned how to ramble in writing too!

Carolina & Ken
Alpharetta, GA