Aruba Trip Reports

Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort

November 5 - November 10, 2007 by Ken and Carolinar

Aruba Forum Profile: CGO

I am getting around to my trip report much quicker this time. Only 2 wks since we got back and Thanksgiving in between, not too bad! Again, I am sorry this is SOOO long!

Pictures: Click here!

November 5th

We flew Delta direct from Atlanta to AUA. Easy flight, no problems, arrived on time. Picked up our rental from ROYAL a Suzuki XL-7, as there were going to be 4 of us and luggage. My overly anal husband quickly inspects the car and finds a huge screw in the tire, good catch honey! They are very apologetic and tell us it will be ready in 15 minutes. Our friends are arriving an hour behind us on the USAir flight from Charlotte, so this is really no big deal for us. Rather have them change the tire now then when we are out exploring/lost on the northside. This gives us time to enjoy the airport venue (kidding here). Ken gets his first Heineken of many while in Aruba and I get the fruit shake (pretty good actually) and those fried cheese things like an empanada. So as we have our first cocktails waiting for USAir to arrive, car is fixed and ready to go. I go check the incoming area and my friend is literally jumping up and down to signal she sees us. This will be funny the remainder of the trip, but first you must know, she never struck me as the jump up and down in public type to begin with.

We are all set, we fit comfortably in the Suzuki XL-7 with 4 passengers and luggage (the girls did not pack light, so note PLENTY of luggage) This car has a fold down 3rd row, would be fine to hold more people, but not to hold more luggage. We rented for the week and paid around $350. Not bad since we split the cost between the 2 couples. This will be a theme that repeats itself. If you really want to travel, really can't afford it, go with friends! It saves a ton. I will start by saying, Ken and I went to Aruba in January this year, totally different kind of trip, blew the wad, so to speak, and this was a getaway, kind of sneaking in one last trip before the holidays. We flew free on Delta with FF points, our friends Rob and Ele flew USAir on Capital One points. So you see this theme will go on.

Back to the trip. We easily breeze through downtown and find the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort with no problem. We get checked in and make a bee line to the beach bar for Happy Hour (2 for 1) and enjoy the sunset, stick our feet in the sand, etc. AMBR has happy hour twice a day: 5-6 and 9-10 pm. How great is that? We check out the room, could not be happier. We stayed in a 2 BR Suite, they made both rooms up for Kings (pushed 2 twins together in the 2nd room, but no problem) The room was fully renovated, everything looked brand new. Very sleek dark wood, modern with brushed nickel fixtures. Kitchenette worked out great for having groceries, snacks, drinks, happy hour, and small breakfast as needed. The bedrooms and den all had flatscreen tvs. The bathrooms were nice with big bowl on granite modern fixtures. Glass slabs instead of doors (floor got wet but looked great) Beds were very firm, no problem for us. My only suggestion would be better pillows and softer/higher thread count sheets. Plenty of towels, built in hairdryer, etc. Off the den were french doors that opened to a patio with table & 4 chairs and 2 sun lounge chairs. Plenty of room. We overlooked the pool area, but not noisy at all. We could see the water and had a great view. Very happy with the accommodations and highly recommend the AMBR. They are just finishing the last of their renovations. Yes, they go to work early, yes, I could have used an extra hour sleep, but for some reason, being woken by the workmen on the building next door did not really bother me. Maybe because I was on vacation in paradise, maybe I was ready to get up? Not sure, our friends did not seem to mind either. The good news is, they will be done before the season starts. I will mention here that one feature of the AMBR is the 3 computer terminals right off the lobby. What a great idea. I loved checking in with all the gang on the BB. It ended up helping us get GREAT service, as the AMBR picked up on me being there and blogging and wanted to make sure we were having a great trip. I think they give great service anyway, but they knew my name before I could get it out! Big thanks to all the great folks at the AMBR and Tico is the best at the beach bar. He makes great Mojitos! Okay, back to the trip.

We wanted a casual dinner and ended up going to Salt & Pepper for Tapas. We enjoyed Sangria, Beer, Olive Tapenade, Spicy Beef, Curry Shrimp, Salt & Pepper Spinach Dip, Brie with Chutney..etc. We spent $76 + tip for the 4 of us. I had my visit aruba plus card and we got 2 free sangrias. That card comes in handy, we used it in January and since it is good for the year, we brought it back and got free stuff or % off at a lot of places. It is worth the $25 or whatever it cost. I got 2 trips use out of it too!

November 6

We got up and made our way to something I have been fantasizing about since January: Linda's Pancakes. I love these Dutch pancakes so much. We ate there twice on this trip and I could have gone back again. I got the banana pancake, Ken got plain, Rob got Apples and Bacon and Ele got Brie with walnut and honey. The thick dutch syrup is awesome. I would highly recommend for a late breakfast! We all got our pancakes, drink or coffee, total was $45 + tip for all 4 of us.

We hit the grocery store to stock up on beer, water, soft drinks (gotta have my morning diet mtn dew or I am not human), snacks. We also picked up some fruit, bread, cheeses and meat for light bite on late dinner night and to enjoy on our balcony. We spent $110 total at Ling & Sons for all 4 of us. (Again this shared thing is great!) We hit the beach from about 12-6, "getting" palapas was NEVER an issue the entire time we were there, very different from our last trip in the high rise area. Every day we walked right up and got a great palapa, early, mid day and late. We got a bite on the beach from Mango's via the beach bar. Some new interns from Holland, service a little slow, but not that big a deal, and bar tender ended up making it up to us with free drinks. My husband and I split the Chicken Melt and our friend got a sandwich, $29 including cocktails all around. We stayed through happy hour, which was $40 (2 for 1).

Feeling really relaxed, we head up to get ready and have reservations at Screaming Eagle right down the road. The restaurant was really cool, great atmosphere. We ended up eating in the mini beds in the "balcony" area, which we had all to ourselves. The bar was a little smoky, so weird since we are from smoke free Atlanta. The food was really good. We all got apps: Ceviche for Rob and Ele, which they loved, I got the Carpaccio of Artichoke, out of this world and Ken got the Escargot, which he really liked. Ele got the grouper special, I got the veal special, Rob got the Tiger Shrimp and Ken got the grouper special too. They were all good. We got a great deal on the wine, as we had so many waiters looking in on us, our wine order got brought out twice, pretty nice, when it was on the house! I got the brownie which was so-so for dessert, Ele got the Chocolate Cup which was to die for (order it and see pictures attached, it was sooo good) Total: $192 + tip for all 4 of us, really not that bad when we all got 3 courses and wine!

November 7

We had a quick breakfast in the room, croissants, bananas, juice, from the grocery store the day before. We headed out to the marina for our sail on the Morningstar. We found it again with no problems (right by Marandi's new location) It was great to see Marci and Kat again. Marci had recently broken his arm, so he was the "one armed captain", Kat outdid herself in the kitchen again, and we got to meet their beautiful bubbly daughter Jasmine. She was hilarious! Rob drank a lot of beer on the sail and Jazzy would say "Do you want another one, Mr. Balashi?" For some reason, we all thought that was hysterical. We started out with a lovely fruit tray, dusted with Cinnamon, it was great, we then had a Margherita Pizza, chicken nuggets and bbq sauce after our snorkel than sat down for the meal we had "ordered" during the reservation process. 3 had shrimp cocktails to start, I had the basil, tomato, mozzarella w/ balsamic vinagarette. Ele and I had the Argenine Rib Eyes w/chimmichurri sauce, the guys had sandwiches with prosciutto, ham, turkey, cheese and all the fixings. We had plantains with cinnamon, amazing, sauteed vegetables, rice pilaf, for dessert, we had an assortment: tiramisu, cheese cake, chocolate cake and my amazing warm apple strudel w/ ice cream! Knowing Kat is from Germany, I knew the strudel had to be good! We were so stuffed. We had wine, soft drinks, rum punch and lots of beer. The sail was beautiful.

From the Marina we went south past the industrial portion of the island (hold your breath) then to the beautiful southern tip. That is where we snorkeled. It was amazing. Marci was so excited to get a rubber sleeve to protect his cast and get back in the water. He took us on the snorkel. I really felt so much more comfortable with him right there. He gave us lots of tips on how to dive down and see everything. I swear he is part fish, he could stay under water SO long it was scary. We kept going further and further from the boat. When we finally turned around to go back, the boat was about and inch long in the distance. I almost freaked out, but a sense of peace came over me. Marci was right there and we just took our time, seeing everything below us and made our way back. We saw so many beautiful fish, coral, eels, on and on...We took the "outside" way back on the outside of the little islands. They let Ele drive which was funny since she used a transdermal patch for sea-sickness that will mess you up, then drank plenty! It was funny, Marci and Kat were right there, but the pictures are priceless...I have not seen eyes look like that since mail pictures for years to come! It is so cool to see the island from the water and we had not seen that part of the island before. I HIGHLY recommend the morningstar for private charters. We were supposed to be out with them for 4 hours and it ended up being over 5 hours. We were repeat customers (10% discount) so it was $540, and we tipped $100. Yes, it is expensive but again we split the bill with our friends, so it was not so bad! See that theme again, plus you get lots of couple pictures since you take them of each other, instead of having all these pictures of one of you, then the other in the same spot, you know the ones I am talking about!

We hit the beach bar for happy hour again (pretty sure we did this everyday) For dinner we headed to Sole Mare for Italian. The guys split the special of the house, the Pasta Parmagiana, big giant wheel of parmesan heated up with flaming liquor, then your pasta tossed while they scrape and scrape the sides to make your pasta a big gooey mess, but delicious! Ele got the veal special, I got the gnocci and we all got salads, Rob got the basil, tomato, mozzarella. We were too stuffed for dessert at this point. Everyone had a drink/beer/wine and our total was $133 + tip. This night we hit the RIU Palace. A bit overdone for me, but we dropped some money in the Casino, not really my thing, but my husband won $160 playing roulette? Who would have guessed? We took our money and ran....I mentioned we were too full for dessert, well that was then, this is now....we stopped at the high rise eating area and got gelatto/pastries at that Italian cafe place across from TH Palm. Sad I know the shop name and not the gelatto place, where are my priorities?

November 8

Exploring day! Can't go on an empty stomach so we hit up Linda's Pancakes again. Why mess with a good thing, I got the banana again, so did Ken, Ele got the Apple and Ham and Rob got crazy making his own: Tomato, Bacon and Cheese, WOW was it rich with cheese. With coffee, tea, etc total was $50 for all 4 of us. We stopped at a mini mart toward the windward side to pick up some waters, bread, dutch cheese, and chips, that became out lunch later on, total there was $9 (for all 4) We enjoyed the windward side, took lots of pics you will see attached. I joked about all the rock piles. How funny would it have been to post on the board: Phew! It took all day, but we just finished knocking down ALL of the rock piles, what a job! Can you imagine all the furious people coming to get me! There are some real works of art/physics going on out there. (I did not knock anything down just to clarify) It really is amazing how beautiful it is. The Alto Vista chapel is beautiful too, so serene. Hard to put into words. I highly recommend taking the time to go explore. You can only sit on the beach for so long right?? Wrong, okay, moving on.

We did the Manager's Reception: DANGER: $1 drinks. Scary. I almost missed our 9pm reservations. Pace yourself. I had fun talking with all the friendly guests and staff of AMBR. We did not partake of too many snacks, we kept missing them. (this is at the pool, not at the beach as we first thought, plan ahead, the $1 drinks only last for an hour) I met a really great lady, Linda, who lives at the AMBR 12 wks a year! Could life get any better? She was so nice and helpful to us. She was right downstairs from us and always pointing us in the right direction. Thanks Linda! We ate at Madame Janette's. I wish I were not hungover for this meal! It was amazing. The guys bucked up and got "The Butcher" sounds really gross when they mention Lard, but I guess all meat people know, the MJ chefs know what they are doing. I got the burgerloin, a stuffed filet smothered in bernaise sauce and Ele got the Grouper special, really rich. We all loved our food. MJ is not to be missed in my opinion. For sides, the potatoes augratin are really good. For dessert (hard to believe we could even think about it) Ele had the Belgian chocolate cake and I had the chocolate souffle. Now you see why we get along with these friends, she and I are chocolate fiends and the guys will try anything once! A match made in heaven. Beer (tried to steal the mugs but thought that would be really classy..kidding... and decided against it) Wine, for all 4: $160 + tip...not bad at all!

November 9

Ken and I had breakfast at Mango's, I love a Euro spread for breakfast, cheese, bread, ham, sweets, juice, coffee/tea, $10.95 + tip each. Ele and Rob (the skinny ones in all the pictures) had zone bars in the room.??? I thought part of vacation was over-eating?? We hit downtown to knock out our shopping. Got the kids gifts/moms and dads watching the kids gifts. (that is how we know the other couple, we met in child birth class, have 5 year old boys and both have 2 1/2 year old girls.,. scary on the same schedule too) There is a little jewelry stand behind the main drag where they sell hand made earrings and necklaces for nothing. I stocked up and will be passing them out for Christmas! For lunch we hit Bingo! I love this place, but can be a bit smoky. Rob and I got the goat cheese, pine nut salad with apple honey dressing, Amazing! I had the basil, tomato, mozzarella on ciabatta, delicious! Rob had the pate sandwich, Ele had soup and Cesar Salad, Ken had the Dutch peanut satay sandwich. Beer and drinks all around....then they tell us it is upside down special to celebrate their anniversary. Whatever your price in dollars, that is what you pay in AFL! What a deal, so all 4 of us ate a great lunch for $35 + tip. We hit the beach again, we went jet skiing. Ken and I both got our own and Ele and Rob shared one. We got 40 min for $55 each on our own and $65 for sharing. It was fun, but that is something I don't have to do. I loved going out to the 2nd "blue" water though, really beautiful. Our last happy hour, saying farewell to Tico. He was really awesome (beach bar at AMBR) He was great about giving us great service, great deals and we made it worth his while! Again, blogging from the AMBR was not done to get any treatment, but they are no dummies. Their mkt people keep an eye on things and they actually said my name before I could. They all know Amy and love her (for good reason :)! We drank our last pina coladas, mojitos, margaritas, yellow birds, bahama mamas, balashi, brights...... Then we got ready and headed to Yemanja Woodfired grill downtown for our "last supper" It was really good, but I have to say, I almost wish we did MJ last, as it really overshadows the others. I had the grilled vegetable app, really tasty, surprisingly so!, Ken and Rob split the Ahi Tuna (see the sharing thing again) Ele got the lobster bisque. She had developed a hacking dry cough a few days before so we got her to order soup whenever we could talk her into it, when it is 80-90 degrees, soup is usually not the go to dish??? We all had wine/beer, I had the filet of tenderloin, Ele had the rib eye w/ chimmichurri (I got some too and it was perfect) Ken got the seafood grill and Rob got the mixed grill lamb/beef. The service was good, food was good, just after MJ the night before, it was just not AS good. Total: $175 + tip. We did have a hard time finding the restaurant and almost got divorced and Ele almost got dropped off on the side of the road for coughing while we were all silent and lost! Funny to look back on, the pregnant silence with her dry hacking cough marking the time like a loud ticking clock...Okay, back to the trip.

November 10

Boo, hoo, we have to leave today. We all ventured down to Mango's for breakfast, $30 for all 4 of us. We got a late check out, as the AMBR is so very accommodating, but ended up not needing it. We hit the beach for as long as we could before getting ready and heading to the airport. We meant to stop and get something to eat on the way (think: linda's pancakes again!) but it just did not happen. We did stop at Ling and Sons again to grab some Dutch food for my mother in law, fun euro candy and cookies for the kids, etc.

I will never fly out on Saturday again if I can help it. We did not see the airport like this last trip, as we flew in and out mid week. The Saturday time share group all must fly in and out that day so it was crowded! Our friends were flying out later on USAir but came same time we did to return the car and breezed right through as they were REALLY early for their flight. We hit Delta when 2 flights were in line. It was ugly. It gave me time to put my bag on the scale and unload it until it weighed 50 lbs (that means putting all my stuff in my husband's bag while in line, fun!) We then found the medallion line (thank goodness) and got right through. We got through all the exit hoops and met up with Rob and Ele and dined on a fine Sbarro pizzette for only $7.50! (can you hear the sarcasm) It was really not bad. We were all delayed, as I mentioned in a bb posting, the inaugural flight for Spirit came in while we were waiting. The tv cameras, tourism board, hoopla, fire trucks did the water arch thing over the plane, the incoming plane we were getting on sat for 45 min watching (I sat next to the pilot who flew the plane down on the way back, he told me all kinds of stuff!) There was a United flight that broke it's tow bar and not at the gate, so it backed everyone up too. No big deal, but as I mentioned, being late would be better if the food was better at the airport. Not much in the way of offerings. I would eat before getting to the you can see, eating: pretty important for me! The Delta snack is funny, I send more to preschool for my 2 yr olds lunch. Great flight back. Again, sat next to the pilot (can't fly back b/c more than 8 hrs in the seat if he flew round trip) he was really nice and very informative. My husband is married to his iphone and watched tv episodes/movies the whole time. We were about and hour late arriving, but who is in a hurry to get home?

We had an awesome trip. Great weather, much less windy than when we were there in January. We stayed in the High Rise area last time (Marriott) and different folks/different strokes. We really prefer the laid back low rise area. We loved the AMBR. My husband's mom is from Holland, so we loved seeing/hearing all the Dutch guests. The few families that had kids, they were all VERY well behaved. No marco, polo or sand throwing going on. We went for great walks (to feel like we were exercising to make up for all the food) Ken and Rob would go for runs/swims to get their workout on. It was really relaxing. Rob had to call in to a conference call for over 2 hrs on his cell phone (we gave him a hard time for that, but you gotta do what you gotta do) I have to say I was a bit apprehensive feeling responsible for most of the planning and what if our friends did not like it?...well, Rob gave me a cute speech at the end that the AMBR was perfect, that they appreciated all the recon I did and setting things up. Amy put in a pre-call for us to AMBR and we were set up! I would DEFINITELY go back to the AMBR.

Again, everyone is different and looking for different things out of vacation. If I had to find a negative it is all the euro guest smoking, not that big a deal though when it is windy. Just not used to it when smoking is not allowed in public where we live anymore. We did get to see quite a few euro bathers (by that I mean topless) Ken and Rob are going to devise a system by which you have to apply for a permit before you are allowed to do so. Many we saw had not received their permit, nor would they, if that makes sense. We all now know what our Mom's would look like topless on a beach in a bikini. A few would have gotten their permit and maybe they can come up with a system to give out these permits to those who are not topless but should be....they are working on it, only a rough draft at this time. Just kidding!

We are talking about getting Scuba lessons for Christmas. Maybe going back to Curacao again, getting an underwater case for my much to think about before planning the next trip.

If anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me. I am more than happy to help in any way I can. I am sorry for being so long-winded...again!

I hope to see you on our next trip to Aruba!

Carolina & Ken