Aruba Trip Reports

Play Linda Beach Resort

November 11- November 25, 2007 by Sharkman

Aruba Forum Profile: sharkman

Part I

This is a little bittersweet for me but I’ll take a shot at it.
We’ve been going to Aruba for the past 18 years and last year we decided to take the plunge and purchase a timeshare. We always wanted to do the Playa Linda and last year they finished a lanai right on the beach (They call it the "Royal Lanai"). It was perfect. My lovely wife and I bought a week and her brother and his wife bought the subsequent week. Sadly, my wife never got to use it. She passed away in July, after a valiant fight against cancer… But I knew that she would want me to go and have a good time. So at every dinner we toasted her with our drinks and remembered the good times we shared both at home and in Aruba.

OK. So the flight down was fine, no delays and good weather for flying Continental from Newark. Picked up a bottle of Stoli Gold duty free for my before dinner drinks.
Getting thru Aruba immigration was a breeze especially when you know to go to the extreme right side so when they open up the "Aruba Citizens" line to immigration, you get two lines to go thru.

Luggage came off fairly quickly (and easy to spot since I have 3 strips of red masking tape on each piece) and the taxi to the Playa Linda was right outside and cost 25 bucks...
Check in at the Playa Linda was simple (especially when my brother-in-law (who had arrived on Saturday and stayed downtown, checked me in before I arrived.)

The Royal Lanai was a fantastic unit. For those of you that don’t know (since I’m putting this report on multiple sites including the Playa Linda board) is a two bedroom unit with 3 full baths, 3 flat screen hi-def tv’s, 3 dvd players, 2 CD dream machines, living room with a pull out bed in the couch, full kitchen with a dishwasher, double door refrigerator/ freezer, washing machine/dryer, microwave, coffeemaker, blender, private chickee (aka palapa), private gas bbq, two outside tables and the whole thing is fenced in and gated and located right on the beach. You actually open the fence and you are on the beach… It was fantastic.
For the first week, I had the master bedroom and they had the second one. We switched for the second week.

Even though we had a private chickee we wanted to be on the beach so each morning one of us would watch the sun rise, sitting on a chair at the shore line. The Playa Linda has a fairly decent mechanism for getting a chickee and it seems to work well. You need to be at the chickee at 6AM and one of the guys takes your room number and chickee number.
You can then leave and when the beach guy comes around he will set up the number of chairs you want at the chickee.. (I know this sounds complicated but it really isn’t and it works). However, in order to get a front row chickee you really needed to be on the beach by 5:30AM.

Anyhow, the first night we had reservations at Aqua Grill and I had the Calamari as an appetizer and swordfish with a Cajun spice and mango sauce that was very good. Aqua Grill has never disappointed me in the few years that they have been open. The only complaint that I have heard is that it’s very noisy and sometimes the service can be slow but this night it was fine.

Next day we spent on the beach (in fact, every day we spent on the beach, except for Thursday when we went with Captain Anthony and Ernest on the Tranquillo for the snorkel trip and drift dive). So aside from just lounging on the beach and meeting a quite a few very friendly people that shared the Playa Linda with us our days were generally the same. We had virtually no rain for the entire two weeks.

For breakfasts, we alternated with making our own (thanks to my SIL) and going across the street to Amici’s. The consensus for their Dutch pancakes was that they were interesting and tasted pretty good. I found the French toast to be wonderful. I liked them so much, I had them each time we went.
One morning, based on recommendations from some new friends on the beach, we did Linda’s Pancakes. We were told it was not far so we walked there. Needless to say, it was far and we taxi’d back. Now THOSE were Dutch pancakes.. I had one with bacon, mushrooms and cheese. I was like eating a thin crusted pizza and it was delicious.

For lunch we ate leftovers, occasionally went to Gilligan’s at the Radisson, Bugaloo on De Palm pier and on Thanksgiving we had turkey on bagels from Dushi Bagel.

Monday we decided to try a new place for Italian called Gianni’s. Unbeknownst to us, it was the same owners as Azzuro which is on the Playa Linda property. Gianni’s is across from the Radisson and is attached to another new one called Daniels Steak (in fact, our reservation put us in Daniels with the Gianni menu). Another winner. I had Calamari fritter as an appetizer and a superb veal parm.

Tuesday we decided to have ribs at Smokey Joe’s since it was all you could eat night. I had 4 racks, my brother-in-law had 4 racks, and sister-in-law had the regular 3 racks. There was so much left we brought them back to the room for lunch the next day. I prefer these ribs over Tony Roma’s. We sat outside and it was excellent except for the large coke I spilled on my SIL by getting up and tangling my foot in the table leg.

Wednesday was another new one – Screaming Eagle. Ambiance was excellent. They brought us a warm truffle soup kinda thing in a tiny glass, compliments of the chef. It was great. I had Black Angus tenderloin and it was done perfectly. Sister-in-law thought it was "just OK".

Thursday we did the Tranquilo with Capt. Anthony and his mate Ernest. They were great. The sail to Spanish Lagoon (which he owns) was great and the booze was plentiful. The snorkeling at the reef was as good as always and one my buddies saw a very large octopus swim from his perch on a coral formation and grab a fish. I’m sorry I didn’t see that one.. The drift dive was the best. The water was clear and the fish were abundant. I never go to Aruba without a sail with the Tranquil... I recommend it highly. It’s much better than the standard snorkel trips.. And he only takes about 12-15 people so it’s never crowded on his sailboat except this time when I had 2 couples with me that had never done the Tranquilo and the good Capt agreed to take them with us.. So that brought the group to 18 people. Also, Capt. Anthony’s mom is doing well and her pea soup was as spectacular as ever.
On the way back Capt. Anthony trolled and got 3 nice sized barracuda and 1 yellowtail snapper. He gave the snapper to one of my group who filleted it and we had it for lunch cooked on our bbq at our Royal Lanai.

Thursday night we decided to try Wacky Wahoo and walked from the Playa Linda to the restaurant. Appetizers were crispy tiger shrimp and a salad which we shared. We all had (what else? Wahoo) I had it baked in garlic and wine in a parchment pouch. BIL had it pan fried and SIL had it sautéed with tomato, olive and wine. Another successful dinner in an excellent restaurant. Be sure to make a reservation because the place is small (about 15 tables).

For Friday, we had made reservations for Madam Janette while at home (btw we made most of our reservations online before we left and had the lovely Yvette (the extremely efficient (and cute) concierge at the Playa Linda) confirm them when we got there. We asked for and got a table near the music. In my opinion M.J. is the finest restaurant on the island and I’ve tried most of them in the past 18 years. Had the Forest Mushrooms in Puff Pastry for an appetizer and had the Almond Crusted Grouper for the main course, Yummee...

Saturday was Chalet Suisse (another favorite) and it was nice to see Bennie. Dinner was escargot as an appetizer (I love their escargot) and Wiener schnitzel for the main course. What an island... Not a bad meal to be had...

After gambling at the Radisson (and me not winning) we had amassed enough points on the Radisson card for 55 bucks per person off dinner at the Sunset Grill. We made reservations for Sunday evening, earlier in the week anticipating the points. My appetizer was the hot stuffed Oysters Rockefeller and I shared the Chateaubriand with my BIL.
Again another winner...

By now you’re all wondering if I had a bad meal or experienced lousy service anywhere. Well, the only bad one was a burger on Pelican pier... but I kinda expected that. And there was a family of 7 that we met on the beach at Playa Linda who (almost all of them) ended up with what we believe, was food poisoning but we never could nail down exactly where they got it although they suspected Subway.

Part II

The three of us made a deal when we arrived in Aruba that if any of us hit a jackpot while gambling (jackpot being described as $1000) that he or she would pay for dinner that night. Well over the course of the 2 weeks, my BIL hit one and my SIL hit four (I, of course, didn’t hit any. I did hit a few $100 and $250 wins but never the jackpot). With their winnings, I had five free dinners.

One was this night (Monday) and we went to Azzuro in the Playa Linda. My SIL and I shared a mozzarella fritta which was wonderful. Don’t recall what my BIL had. Azzuro had just gotten in these tremendous live Caribbean lobsters and the menu said they were $52 per kilo. My SIL and I shared a 2 kilo that they grilled for us. It was amazing. While we were there we watched a table next to us getting a special that consisted of a mostly hollowed out cheese wheel that they poured flaming liquor into and swirled it around to melt the cheese, followed by adding a pasta in a wonderful red sauce and swirling that around in the cheese wheel… We vowed that if we came back this week we would try it

Tuesday again was all you can eat night at Smokey Joes so off we went for dinner and Wednesday’s lunch. Excellent ribs although SIL had ribs and chicken. She is a chicken connoisseur and said that the chicken was a little dry. (We did have it for lunch the next day).

Wednesday we used the BBQ again for lunch and did the leftover ribs, chicken and some friends came over with the snapper that Capt. Anthony gave him. It was great. We drank beer, vodka and ate a wonderful lunch at our private chickee. That night we did a repeat at Azzuro because my companions wanted to try the cheese wheel special. We shared calamari and the mozzarella fritta for appetizers and they had the wheel (BTW it is for 2 people.) I had a scampi sautéed in garlic, oil and white wine over spaghetti that was perfect.

Thursday we had reservations at Yemanja Wood Grill. We had seen some of the reviews on the various boards and decided to try it. I asked Yvette (the lovely Playa Linda concierge) to confirm the reservation that we had made from home and she remarked that it was one of her favorite restaurants. It turns out this was where Que Pasa was located. (They moved up the block). This restaurant was a feast not only for the mouth, but for the eyes too. The chef was originally from Marandi’s and he brought his expertise with him. They did a masterful job on the place. I understand that one of the owners or the chef actually handmade the tables and the wood around the windows. BIL had the Beef Capriccio Bombe and when it came to the table it was about the sized of a large grapefruit. My BIL couldn’t believe his eyes. Turns out that the paper thin beef slices were over a salad. There was plenty of beef and I tasted it and it was fantastic. SIL had seared tuna. There were 6 beautifully prepared slices of the tuna and I had some of that too. I had the soup of the day which was a wild mushroom and it was thick and had a variety of mushrooms in it. Simply wonderful. For the main course I had the tenderloin with wood fired garlic mashed potato. The steak was so tender that you could cut it with the perennial fork. SIL had the rib eye and BIL had the tenderloin also… Each was spectacular. I highly recommend this place.

Friday was an interesting experience. Another new restaurant called "Cooks". This one we read about on the boards as well and I made the reservation from home. This is the place that you can grill your own steaks on a grill at your table or, of course. have the chef do the cooking. In the center of the restaurant was a massive grill. I wasn’t sure what it was for until I found out that on Fridays, they have an all you can eat menu and they cook the meats on that grill. Unfortunately we didn’t find out about the all you can eat until after we had ordered our meals. Ah well, next time. Anyhow, although I don’t remember what appetizers we had I do remember that the 24 oz rib eye was out of this world. I asked for it medium rare and it came out perfect. As did my BIL’s 26 oz T-bone. My SIL was debating over which steak to order and decided on the churasco steak. She asked for it medium and it came out a bit more than medium but worse than that, it was on the dry side. She was unhappy but declined to say anything so at the end of the meal, I casually mentioned to the waiter that the steak was dry. I thought that that ended the matter and we paid the bill and left. When I returned home to NJ and checked my emails I had one from the owner of Cooks:

Good morning Sharkman.

It came to my attention that the lady that was with you and the other gentleman last Friday at Cooks, was not satisfied with her dinner. We can not have any one leave without being satisfied.
For that reason we would like to offer her dinner at the same value for free.

It is our commitment to make it up to her.


Cooks Restaurant

I answered with a thank you but we were home already and if the offer remains open until our next visit, we would take him up on it... He replied that our table will be waiting. NOW THAT’S CUSTOMER SERVICE!!

On Saturday we went back to Madam Janette for our farewell to Aruba dinner and as usual it was the best. BIL had a shrimp appetizer of which I had one and it was amazing. I did the lobster ravioli. Also wonderful. SIL and I shared the Almond Crusted Grouper and the Rack of Lamb. BIL had the massive Burger Loin as main course. I’ve had it before and it was excellent also.

Sunday we prepared to leave and had a last couple of hours on the beach. As we were leaving the lanai, a couple and their kids came up to us and related quite a story. In summary, they had the Royal Lanai for the following week and bought it for that week because 6 out of 7 years, Thanksgiving falls on the week they bought so that they wouldn’t have to take their kids out of school for a complete week. Anyhow, as we know, this year Thanksgiving fell in week 46 (although not everybody knew that but that's another story). Well they contacted Playa Linda early in the year and had them try to get in touch with my BIL (who actually had week 46) to find out if they could arrange a switch. Well, Playa Linda never got in touch with my BIL, told the family that they tried and something about my BIL being out of the country (which was not true) and the couple and their kids stayed at the Hyatt over Thanksgiving and the last I heard, their week 47 went empty for this year.

We were a bit concerned that flying home at the end of the holiday would be pretty bad, but the Aruba airport was really empty. I stopped at the Duty Free and got my Stoli Gold. My plane into Newark was fine and my car service was waiting.

That’s it for this trip. I know it looks like all we did was eat, but we DID spend our days on the beach which is why I come.
I LOVE ARUBA, my home away from home.

See ya next year. Same place, same time.