Aruba Trip Reports

Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort

February 20-26, 2008 by Kevin and Diane

Click here to see our photos

Wed Feb 20th

We got up at 2:30am after a nice 4 hour nap in order to make it to the airport for our 5:30am flight. We were pretty much packed and ready so we were out of the house by about 3:00am or so and to the airport by about 3:45am. By the time we parked in long term parking, walked to the tram in the Humphrey Terminal and took it to the Lindbergh terminal, got through security and to our gate, it was nearly 4:30am. Our flight left on time at 5:30am and was smooth to Atlanta. In Atlanta, we had to take the tram to a different concourse and our flight from there to Aruba left on time as well. We managed to catch a little sleep on both flights.

We arrived in Aruba on time, at 3:15pm local time. The luggage claim process was pretty slow and ours were some of the last bags off. We got our bags and headed to the National Rental Car office right outside the terminal. They were out of the smaller class of cars we had reserved, so we were upgraded (for free) to a Mitsubishi 4 door. It was clean and ready to go.
We arrived at the AMBR around 4:15pm. Check in was smooth and the folks were really nice. A bellman took our luggage, showed us to our room and pointed out the amenities in the room.

Our first order of business, after a quick unpacking, was to head to Ling & Sons grocery store to stock up on food and beverages. The desk clerk told us how to get there and we found it with only minor difficulties. I must say that the prices there shocked me at first, until I realized the goods are priced in Florin, not Dollars. ;) We got some eats for the room, water, sodas and some beer (Balashi and Amstel Brights) and headed back to the resort.

By this time it was approaching sunset, so we headed over to the beach bar for a quick pre-dinner sunset-watching drink. Diane had a Banana Bridge, which she loved. I wanted a Bright but the bar was out, so I settled for a Heineken from the tap. We watched the sunset and headed back to Mango’s for dinner since we were tired and didn’t feel like driving and trying to find a place. We were seated immediately at Mango’s and the service was good. Not fantastic, but good. (We would later come to know our waitress, Diana, a lot better) I started with the French Onion Soup, which was great! As an Entrée, I had the Pork Schnitzel, which was decent, if not a little bland. The accompanying fried potatoes were, however, excellent. Diane had the Gypsy Style Beef Skewer which, again, seemed sort of bland.
Afterwards, we decided to call it a day and get some rest for Thursday.

Thursday Feb 21st

We woke up around 9am and sat on the patio for a bit, relaxing and having some coffee and breakfast. I was visited for the first time by the bird seen in the photos. I’m not sure what kind of birds it was, whether a pigeon or something else, but this particular bird was missing a foot. I fed it part of my toast and we became fast friends so I was soon able to feed it from my hand.
After breakfast, we packed up the cooler and beach bag and headed across to the beach. We found a palapa and assumed our positions. (This would become a common theme for our week.) The beach was beautiful and not overly crowded; the sand, smooth and white. The water, as I’d hoped, was beautiful and clear. It actually seemed to glow a deep aqua when the sun hit it just right. Already, we knew we had chosen the right resort in the right place for a vacation/honeymoon. This day was spent on the beach and we adjourned to the room for showers and to prepare for dinner sometime in the late afternoon.

We hit the Manager’s Happy Hour at the AMBR Upper Deck bar. It was pretty crowded and warm, so we only stayed for one drink and then left for dinner.
We decided to give Smokey Joe’s a shot, so we headed up toward the high rise district. Driving through there, we were further convinced that the low rise area was the correct choice for us. Also, finding a place to park is an interesting exercise. In Aruba, it seems that one can just pull off the road in most places and leave their car. We found a side road just around the corner from the Holiday Inn that served as our parking area for each trip to the high rise area during the week. Meandering down toward Smokey Joe’s, we walked through many of the souvenir shops, noting that many sold identical items. A lot of the things were baubles produced elsewhere. We did manage to get some T-shirt shopping done for the folks back home and Diane found a nice picture frame.
We got to Smokey Joe’s around 6:45pm and were seated immediately. Our waitress was a very friendly and personable lady, (perhaps from Jamaica?), who kept interjecting "yeah, baby" into her sentences and responses. I ordered the ribs, naturally, and Diane went for the pulled pork sandwich. Suffice to say that we were both very pleased with our food. The ribs were great, as was the sandwich. Again, the fried potatoes were fantastic.
Afterwards, spent a couple of hours at the Alhambra casino and headed back to the hotel.

Friday Feb 22nd

We had originally planned to go on an ATV tour with Watapana on this day. However, after reading nothing but negative reviews about them on TripAdvisor and other places, we decided to cancel and spend the day at the pool and on the beach instead. We went to the beach during the morning and hung out at the pool for a few hours in the afternoon, just relaxing and taking in the sun. It did rain once or twice during the afternoon (for short periods).
We had reservations for La Dolche Vita for the evening and it was still rather windy when we arrived, so we decided to eat inside. We both were quite impressed with the restaurant. It was classic Italian from the décor to the menu to the service. The inside of this restaurant is quite beautiful. I started, once again, with the French Onion Soup and Diane with the Caesar Salad. As an entrée, Diane had the Fettuccini Alfredo and I had the Veal Marsala. Both were very good! For dessert, we shared a Caramel Flan, which was fantastic. I think we’d both recommend this restaurant and will visit it again.

Saturday Feb 23rd

Today was Oranjestad shopping day. We ate some breakfast at the room, got ready and jumped in the car for the trip downtown. Traffic was very heavy but we managed to find a place to park fairly easily. We spent most of the morning and early afternoon among the folks from the docked cruise ships walking through the small shops downtown. Again, a few more souvenirs found and a lot more shops explored. We gawked at the size of the cruise ships, admired the colors and architecture of the buildings and just generally bummed around for a few hours.
Afterwards, we hit Ling and Sons again and headed back to the room for a few hours of beach sun before our reservations at Passions for dinner.

Ahh, Passions….a fantastic idea with fantastically poor execution (at least for us and the folks at the next table with whom we spoke). We were seated and waited close to 15 minutes before being greeted at all. Finally, the waitress from the adjoining section greeted us and took our drink orders. Our waitress showed up a few minutes later, apologizing and bringing us our drinks. We ordered and waited a short time for our appetizers. Diane had a house salad and I had the watermelon salad with chili sauce. It was served in a half watermelon which had been hollowed out and was really very good. The presentation was also very nice. Again, however, it seemed that after bringing the appetizers, our waitress forgot about us completely. Perhaps 30 minutes after finishing the appetizers, I finally had to go to the bar on my own to order our second drinks. The folks at the bar were, I think, shocked to see me and immediately offered to bring the drinks to the table. Our waitress brought our drinks and, once again, arrived apologizing, then cleared the dishes from our appetizers. This was about 90 minutes into the meal. Our entrees appeared nearly two hours after our arrival. We both had the filet mignon and were satisfied with the steaks, but not overly impressed. They were good, but not great. By this time, the waitress from the next section had more or less become our de facto waitress. She was very good and we did get our dessert (key lime pie) shortly after ordering. All in all, it took close to two hours and 45 minutes from the time we were seated until we finished dessert. Neither of us was impressed with the service and we aren’t likely to go back given the other dining options in Aruba. Having said that, Diana, our waitress from Mango’s on the first night, was the waitress from the other section that "adopted" us at Passions. She was fantastic and went out of her way to try and salvage our evening. On the way out, we sought her out specifically and gave her a nice tip for all she had done. The saving grace for the evening was that this meal was a part of our honeymoon package at the AMBR, so we didn’t have to pay for it directly. They even covered our drinks.

Sunday Feb 24th

Today’s report: Beach, beer, sun.
We had reservations with Red Sail Sports for the sunset cruise this evening, so we got ready and headed toward the high rise area to be there for the 5:00pm boarding. Not sure where the Hyatt Pier was, we left a little early and found it with relative ease. So we sat at the bar on the pier and had a drink while waiting to board the catamaran. The cruise was very nice. The crew was personable and the open bar was used quite extensively by everyone on board. Appetizers consisted of chicken nuggets, chicken wings and some sort of pastry with a sweet (mascarpone?) cheese. It was a very relaxing cruise and all the passengers mingled freely once we were underway. The sunset was partially obscured by clouds, but beautiful nonetheless. There are photos from the cruise in our set of pictures as well. We arrived back at the pier around 7:30pm and wandered back into the high rise district for dinner.

Earlier in the day, we had discussed our possible dinner plans with Illis at the front desk of the AMBR. He highly recommended Texas de Brazil for steak, even preferring it over El Gaucho. So, once off the boat, we headed to Texas de Brazil. All I can say about that restaurant is "wow". Do yourself a favor and avoid the salad bar as much as possible because you will want to eat beef, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage until you can’t move. The flavour of the meat was outstanding and the beef tenderloin and filet mignon practically melted in your mouth. It’s not a cheap meal at nearly $50.00 each (not counting drinks) but it certainly is something that must be experienced. Price notwithstanding, this was my favourite meal in Aruba.

Monday Feb 25th

Our last full day in Aruba was the Jolly Pirate snorkel, swim and swing cruise. We made our way, once again, to the high rise area, found Moomba Beach, got signed up and waited on the beach with the others for the ferry to take us out to the ship. Once on board, we got immediately underway and made the short trip to the first snorkeling area. Along the way, the crew handed out life vests, goggles and fins to everyone who needed them. There were no instructions provided, but then I didn’t ask, even though it was my first time snorkeling. Once there, the captain gave clear instructions about where we were allowed to snorkel (i. e. – not to go behind the ship), how long we would be there and that he’d blow the air horn when it was time to board the ship again. With that, he announced that "the pool was open" and we jumped right in. The first area was very near the coastline and provided some pretty neat underwater views. Afterwards, we headed out to the German freighter wreck to snorkel there. That location was quite a bit different because the water was a lot rougher and not nearly as easy to see through. Also, the Mi Dushi was anchored beside us so the water was very crowded. This was our least favorite spot. Our third stop was back near the shore and provided some of the best underwater views. Lots of tropical fish, a couple of eels and what I assume were small squid. After a half an hour or so of snorkeling, the BBQ lunch was served on board. The food was decent, but nothing to write home about. After lunch, the fun with the rope swing began. Instructions were given including the most important one…"be sure to remember to let go of the rope". The rope swing was a blast with nearly everyone on board, young and old, participating. The crew also got into the action, naturally, showing off their impressive back flip skills. They also did the tandem back flip with a girl on the cruise, as well as the female crew member. Once the rope swing time was up, two crew members provided a nice show by shimmying up the rope that held the swing, doing some acrobatics and dropping the 30 or so feet into the water. All in all, it was a very fun trip. Also, I’m glad we picked the Jolly Pirate over the Mi Dushi because there was ample shade on the back of the Pirate and there appeared to be none on the Dushi. The Mi Dushi also seemed to be a little long in the tooth in comparison to the Jolly Pirate.

After the cruise, we headed back to the AMBR to spend our last afternoon on the beach. We first went over to the beach without our cooler and things to see if we could get a palapa. We found one right in front of the beach bar and were claiming two chairs there so we could run back and get our things, when Diana (the waitress from Passions) came out of the beach bar with a bucket of ice and four Amstel Brights. She apologized again for the snafus at Passions on Saturday night and handed us the bucket. I was very, very impressed that she remembered us and that she went the extra step to do that for us. She explained that the girl that was our waitress was new and that Passions strived to give each customer a personal and enjoyable experience. She said she knew they had failed in that with us and told us they were working hard to get the service level to where it needed to be. Again, very impressive.

We enjoyed our beers and spent a couple of hours on the beach before heading back to the room to get ready for our final dinner on the island. We’d decided that we wanted to do something a little more casual since Madam Jannette was booked solid for the next week between 6 and 9:30pm, so we headed back up to the high rise area to try Tomato Charlie’s pizza. We were seated in the outdoor sidewalk section and ordered drinks and food. The bruschetta appetizer was pretty good and the pizza was nice and thin with not too much tomato sauce. I think a lot of pizza places drown their pizzas in sauce, which only serves to cover up the taste of the crust and other ingredients. This pizza had minimal, good-tasting sauce, a good amount of cheese and quite a load of toppings. All in all, service was good as was the pizza. I think we’d go back here.

Tuesday Feb 26th

We had to leave Aruba. Enough said.

I’d also like to name a couple of individuals at the AMBR who made our stay very nice. Don’t get me wrong, the entire staff was wonderful, but Illis at the front desk and Diana at Mango’s and Passions went well out of their way to ensure everything was spot on for us. Personal thanks go to those two folks!