Aruba Trip Reports

Our Radisson Aruba Trip Report June 2011 Overview

June 2011 by ArubaLisa

Aruba Forum Profile: ArubaLisa



Our travel to Aruba, like many families, is dictated by our budget and where we can afford to stay. Having a decreased income in a bad economy coupled with multiple eye surgeries for yours truly and a terminally ill pet, our family did not visit Aruba in 2010. This did gives us time though accumulate enough frequent flier miles with Delta for two frequent flier tickets as well as a third, "pay with miles" ticket which ended up costing us a minimal amount.

When it came time to book this Aruba trip, having used them for over 11 years, we again phoned MCM/Players Choice Tours. They only sell travel to Aruba and are highly reputable with excellent customer service. Ursula and Guy are always extremely patient in answering any questions we may have. All around they are a pleasure to work with. We have always found them to have the best pricing.

When we lived in New Jersey we were able to take advantage of the terrific airfares they bundled into their pricing of Aruba packages. Now living in Atlanta, we are still able to take advantage of MCM/Players Choice Tours fantastic resort package pricing even when we do not purchase our airfare with them. In all these years, we still have yet to find anyone who can beat their pricing on our favorite Aruba resorts.

This year, the Radisson was offering extraordinary special pricing during their $30 million refreshment which made it much more affordable for us. As of this writing, the refreshment is now completed. The special at the Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa included breakfast buffet daily as well as a generous beverage credit and other goodies. The Radisson has always been our favorite resort on the island. Finally we were on our way to return to the Radisson and Palm Beach.


My husband and I, had been to Aruba 19 times previously having staying at a variety of resorts along Palm Beach, some numerous times: Divi Phoenix timeshare, Playa Linda timeshare, Westin (former Wyndham), Occidental (former Allegro), Radisson and Hyatt. In the past few years, because it was what we could best afford, we had stayed at the Tamarijn All Inclusive.

Though this was the fifth time that we have stayed at the newly renovated Radisson, I still feel as I did the first time we were there in 2000. There are not enough adjectives to describe this resort-- wonderful, tranquil and gorgeous. We love, love, love Aruba, and we love, love, love the Radisson. The Radisson makes every effort to assure that guests are as comfortable and cared for as possible during their stay.

Aruba is a semi-arid island but the Radisson with its West Indian furnishings right on down to teak wood balcony furniture and lush landscape plantings has the atmosphere of a tropical vacation. We spend very little time in our hotel room while vacationing in Aruba and are able to fully appreciate the long stretch of beach with picturesque ocean beyond, cultivated lush green grounds and crystal clear, zero entry free form swimming pools.

As soon as we stepped out of our taxi driver friend Bully's van and were greeted by the bellman and subsequently the front desk clerk, we knew we were "home". The atmosphere at the Radisson is more upscale than the Tamarijn and in our opinion still the most tropical resort along Palm beach. We spend very little time in our hotel room while vacationing in Aruba and are able to truly appreciate the long stretch of beach with picturesque ocean beyond, cultivated lush green grounds and crystal clear, zero entry free form swimming pools.

Room 3522 - Panorama View

Upon check-in we were told our room would not be ready until 4 pm. but the bellmen would store our luggage. Dh, dd and I walked around the pool area of the resort. It had been a long day, so I settled by the pool in the shade and kept an eye on our carry-ons while dh and dd went off to do some further exploring.

Promptly at 4 pm, our room was ready. The luggage was already in the room. Our room in the newly renovated Curaçao tower, 3522, had a southwest exposure with a partial view of the ocean. The attractive West Indian furniture has all been refinished, including the wood shutters installed over new insulated sliding glass doors. We found the new glass doors are virtually sound proof. Radisson has even gone the extra mile in refreshing their classic teak balcony furniture rather than replace it with uncomfortable plastic.

The room sparkled and was kept that way by housekeeping. Our room was kept immaculate throughout our stay, always made up promptly and there were always plenty of fresh towels. There were also complimentary toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, and a selection of soaps, including body wash as well as mouthwash and hand sanitizer. Another thoughtful amenity along with the coffee/tea maker was the "to go" coffee cups along with lid. This made it easy to take along a cup of coffee for that walk on the beach before heading off to breakfast when the rest of the family awakened. For me personally, it always has been these added touches which show the resort wants to go the extra mile to satisfy their guests.

Our family rule is "no TV on vacation" but for inquiring minds, the Radisson has satellite TV with all the channels you would expect in the U.S. New in-room safes are large enough to fit a laptop very easily and inside the same dresser there is a small un-stocked mini-fridge as well. The room we had in the Curaçao tower had plenty of room to spread out as well as storage space for our family of three.

If you require a big bathroom, definitely request the Aruba or Curaçao towers. If you wish to be centrally located and bath size is not as important, definitely request the Bonaire tower. We have now stayed in all three towers of the resort and do not mind any of them, but they are all unique in their own way and offer slight differences.

If you require extra space, consider one of the suites with even more luxuriously appointed baths as well as living room and in the case of the Curaçao tower two balconies or Aruba tower suite with an exquisite view. From what I understand the Plaza Club is also an upscale add on for those interested especially in snacks and complimentary beverages as well as upgraded room amenities and personalized concierge services.

Because dh required the Internet for work, from prior experience at other resorts, the first thing he did was to check the in room Ethernet connection. The connection was not working. The Radisson folks worked on the issue diligently until it was resolved. In the meantime dh took his laptop down to the lobby where there was a complimentary Wi-Fi connection. In room Ethernet is complimentary as well. We also travel with a 15 – 20 foot cord to be able to sit at the table. Note, the sometime in the first half of 2012 the Radisson will have in room Wi-Fi as well.


Once we were squared away with the situation on the Internet, we were beach bound. Packing could wait while there were still hours of daylight left. It has become a family tradition to take that first swim in the warm Caribbean upon arrival. This June, the water temperature was 81 F. Refreshing any day when the temperatures were in the low 90’s every day.

That late in the day, there were plenty of palapas available. The Radisson Aruba offers the longest stretch of beach of all the resort on Palm beach. The shade palapas are spread further apart than most other resorts, and the beach is much less crowded than other resorts along that stretch of beach.

The Radisson offers an equitable solution to Aruba’s often problematic palapa shortage. The Radisson allows you to reserve your palapa at 4 pm for the following day. The towel hut personnel set out chairs about 3 pm for folks who inevitably wish to be first on line and do not mind waiting. Some bring drinks and make a social occasion out of it and others bring a good book. As long as you claim your palapa by 10 a.m. the following morning, there is no need to awaken at 6 am on your vacation as at other resorts on the island in order to stand in line for shade.

Our family spends most of the day on the beach so we reserved a palapa each afternoon for the following morning. In the morning dh would go to the towel hut where a beach boy would escort him to our assigned palapa, carrying our complimentary float and set up our towels and chaises.

For those who do not wish to wait in line and still want to reserve ahead for the next day, first row palapas can be rented for $35 per day or $25 per day for second row. Cabanas at the pool could also be rented at a cost of $35 per day. The cabana rental included a set up of unlimited towels as well as an ice chest with 6 bottles of Evian water.

We were vacationing during the summer in low season, but I can certainly see how these additional amenities would be a huge bonus during high season. The Radisson offers 5 handicap palapas for those with disabilities or skin conditions which can be reserved in advanced at no cost. If you choose not to pay for a palapa or cabana, or reserve a palapa on the beach late afternoon the day before, chaises and shade are available in the morning on a first-come, first-served basis.

Either swimming pool is perfect for senior citizens or young children in that both swimming pools are zero entry with easy access. No matter the time of year that we have stayed at the Radisson- March, June or September, the pool water has been warm and inviting. Even though we travel to Aruba for a "beach vacation," our family finds ourselves spending more time at the pool areas of the Radisson than we do at any of the other Aruba resorts where we have stayed. There are plenty of large shade umbrellas or areas of sun if you are so inclined and unlike other Aruba resort areas, plenty of room to spread out on both the pool deck as well as in the water.

Each Tuesday during happy hour there is a manager's cocktail party with complimentary rum punch, wine, beer, soda and snacks. It was fun to see the names matched up with the faces of the managers and though we did not win anything, there were numerous gifts given away in a free raffle including two free nights for your next stay.

Upon the completion of our fifth stay at the Radisson, dh and I agree it is still the best resort on the island and continues to improve with age. Small things have never been a deal breaker for me, but I do take note of complimentary floats, they used to be $5 each per day, beach service for food and beverages, fresh frozen fruit poolside in the afternoon, generous daily happy hour with varied live entertainment and a weekly manager's cocktail party. Add to that newly renovated rooms with luxurious toiletries, complimentary coffee and tea with "to go" cups and other amentias such as complimentary min-fridge, a mini-safe large enough to accommodate a laptop computer and sleep number beds and it makes a difference and the Radisson stands out among resorts in Aruba.

We look forward to returning once again someday, hopefully in the near future.

Radisson Aruba Food, Beverage & Service


Overall, the staff and service were superior to any resort we have stayed at in our 20 visits to the island. There was a very noticeable improvement in service especially in the restaurants. Gone was service on "island time." Another sign of a quality resort was service on the beach and poolside for beverages, lunch and snacks. We had experienced this during our last stay at the Radisson, however this time if was much more attentive.

We enjoyed all of our meals at the Radisson whether our buffet breakfasts or dinners at the casual Laguna Restaurant as well as our beachside lunches at the Radisson's Gilligan’s Restaurant and Castaways Bar. Also to their credit, astonishingly, the kind ladies at Laguna Restaurant recognized our dd from her first visit to Aruba and the Radisson in 2006. Due to our budget, though we had stayed elsewhere in the past few years, I still find it remarkable that the staff remembered and doted on her.

The breakfast buffet at Laguna was included in our package and there was a choice of outdoor or indoor dining. Breakfast was always delicious and never lacking in any aspect. Fresh fruit choices alone consisted of fresh fruit, papaya, mango, cantaloupe, kiwi, watermelon, pineapple and whole bananas, apples and some days even plums or pears. There were eggs cooked to order, including omelets, sausage, bacon, potatoes, assorted cold cuts, lox and hot and cold cereals. There were waffles on request, pancakes and French toast including brown sugar, syrup, fruit in syrup and other goodies for toppings. As well there were two additional hot dishes rotated daily throughout the week. Our family favorite was the local Pastechi. There was a variety of Danish, along with croissants, muffins and breads, and in addition, the usual English muffins and bagels. We were always offered one of a wide variety of juices when we were seated, and you were also left with a pot of coffee or tea.

Lunch at the Radisson is very convenient dining beachside at Gilligan’s Restaurant. It was a very easy routine that dh and I settled into. Whether it was at the bar, restaurant or toward the end of our vacation in our ongoing laziness, delivered on the beach to our chaise lounges, the lunch menu offered various choices and everything we sampled was tasty. The few times dd joined us for lunch two items were always enough to share between the three of us.

Dh loved the nacho platter; it reminded him of "real" nachos like they serve in "Jersey." He was shocked when they were served to him the first time and then he was even more surprised when he realized he had cleared off the entire platter all by himself! That same day we were eating lunch at the bar and I ordered the "Shrimp Boat" because I saw someone else eating it and it looked so good. Oh my goodness, I love shrimp cocktail and I was hungry but very thankful when dd came along and helped me or I would have never finished it. It was an unfathomable amount of "peel and eat" shrimp with, REAL lemons. In all of our years of travel to Aruba, I never recall seeing real lemons anywhere with limes instead usually being substituted.

The Radisson's restaurants offer a variety of dining spots. For dinner there is the upscale Sunset Grille, casual Gilligan’s Beach Grill as well as Laguna Restaurant’s themed buffets three nights per week or intimate beach dining by torchlight.

Though we love to frequent some of the $100 and up per couple "fine dining" restaurants in Aruba our family was happy with the buffet at the Radisson’s Laguna Restaurant. It was such a good value at $23.95 per person plus 15% service charge (note the price has recently increased to $30 inclusive) we ate there twice. With our beverage credit included with our package through booking with MCM Tours, we were also able to enjoy wine with our dinner without running up an expensive tab. The beverages were added to our check that evening but deducted as a credit at check out. I wrote more details about our dinners at Laguna here and here.


If you wish to eat off property, there is any number of restaurants within walking distance. If anything, the worst thing I can say that is not a criticism of the hotel, is that it would be very easy to never leave the Palm beach area to see the rest of the island. A couple or family could easily spend a week walking the Palm beach area sampling the restaurants and stores, however remember Aruba is much much more.

The Radisson offers a daily happy hour with live entertainment and two for one drinks between 4 pm and 7 pm. Our dd quickly became enamored with "Milky Ways" ... Oreo Cookies, Vanilla Syrup and Vanilla Ice Cream, minus the Vodka and Crème de Cocoa, but still topped off with not one, but two Oreo cookies. In my mind the Radisson still serves one of the finest pina coladas on the island. At $12 a glass for fine wine and Amstel Brights at $5 each (no buy one get one at happy hour on those), alcohol at the Radisson is not for the faint of heart. If you are soda drinkers, you can easily get buy with stocking the complimentary, in room mini-fridge with soda purchased from the local grocery story as well as taking advantage of the 2 for 1 happy hour.

Each Tuesday during happy hour there is a manager's cocktail party with complimentary rum punch, wine, beer, soda and snacks. It was fun to see the names matched up with the faces of the managers and though we did not win anything, there were numerous gifts given away in a free raffle including two free nights for your next stay.

Our Aruba Restaurant Reviews

Just prior to arrival in Aruba, we purchased gift certificates online from the Aruba Gastronomic Association.

"Gift certificates are accepted at both AGA and VIP restaurants. Each $50.00 gift certificate can be purchased for $45.00. Minimum order: 2 gift certificates. Participating restaurants are subject to change." Upon arrival at the Radisson the day after we checked in the gift certificates were delivered directly to our hotel room and slipped under the door. We used the gift certificates at Amadeus and Laguna Restaurant at the Radisson.


Barefoot has a very nice upscale, but relaxed, barefoot atmosphere, the food was beautifully presented. Some tables overlook the beach; others are under a palapa overlooking it. The menu is not for everyone, but if you go with an open mind and if unsure, ask for sauces on the side, you should be able to find something to tickle your taste buds. Service was terrific, doting, but not overwhelming. My dh drinks a lot of water during dinner while in Aruba and his glass never once went empty here.

Vanilla Skewered Scallops, Goat Cheese Medallions- cheese on roasted bell pepper, topped with red onion chutney & balsamic syrup, Two Tuna- Tuna tartar & tuna Carpaccio)

Caribbean Grouper- filet topped with mango cream cheese & served with a light spicy mango sauce, Romance of the Sea- Grouper, Snapper & Mahi Mahi, Grouper Special

Tiramisu & Grand Dessert (Chef’s selection of different desserts)


We knew before arriving at the Radisson that they were offering at Laguna Restaurant, a buffet 3 nights a week and an ala carte menu with nightly specials the other nights of the week. In trying to create a budget for our dinners for the trip we decided to take advantage of Laguna’s reasonable pricing for some less expensive meals. It worked out very well and the service was excellent as was all of the food that we sampled.

Laguna Restaurant Prime Rib Buffet at the Radisson
The buffet at the Radisson was such a good value at $23.95 per person plus 15% service charge (note the price has recently increased to $30 inclusive), we ate there twice. With our beverage credit included with our package through booking with MCM Tours, we were also able to enjoy wine with our dinner without running up an expensive tab. The beverages were added to our check that evening but deducted as a credit at check out.

The salad bar offered including peel and eat shrimp, hand rolled sushi, soup du jour, a wide variety of "toppings" for your salad as well as a wide selection of dressings and other salads such as heart of palm, tuna, chicken or avocado cucumber and others. The salad bar never ran dry and was constantly being replenished throughout our time in the restaurant.

Add to this, a chef carving to order, melt in your mouth prime rib, accompanied by baked salmon, a few other hot choices, vegetables and baked potatoes with toppings. The prime rib was just as good as I have had anywhere. For the price, this was by far the best value on the island.

For dessert, the buffets offered a station with a chef making flambéed crepes as well as make your own sundaes and a separate table with cakes, tarts and pastries. One night the flambé was strawberries and another it was bananas. If that was not enough, there was fresh fruit on the salad bar as well. Whether, breakfast, lunch or dinner, fresh fruit was an area which the Radisson did not skimp on. Besides the usual oranges, apples and bananas, there were days with Bartlett pears and grapes.

The only buffet we went to was the Prime Rib. Others we spoke to had gone to the seafood buffet and thought it was just okay. The third buffet night is Churrasco. Again, on the nights of the buffet there is no ala carte menu.


Amadeus was one of the highlights for "new found places" for us out of all of our dinners while on the island.

Besides the serene ambiance of the restaurant, the soothing classical music was a nice compliment to the 17th century décor. Dd, a fledgling musician, loved the Mozart theme and we all loved the Austrian cuisine. This restaurant on the island of Aruba, of all places, is definitely a refreshing change of fare.

The quality of the food and service were even more remarkable! Frank was an attentive, but not overbearing host. Without doubt try his blended liquor, the Lost Symphony. It is a unique and delectable blend of Cocoa, Vanilla and Almond.

Escargot, Coconut Breaded Shrimp, Austrian Goulash Soup

Lobster Newburgh, Beef Stroganoff, Braised Beef Steak

Sacher Torte, Fresh Strawberries, Chocolate gelato sundae


Passions On the Beach At the Amsterdam Manor
My husband, daughter and I have had dinner at Passions a number of times now and each time it has exceeded our expectations. When you arrive at any place of business, first impressions are lasting ones. At Passions, we are always greeted by name and welcomed in ways which make you aware that customer service and guest satisfactions are their priorities.

The food and service each and every time has exceeded our expectations. To us, it is the little attention to details such as keeping water glasses filled and not being rushed through our dinner which keep us returning on each visit to Aruba to Passions. It even amazes us how two servers are able to coordinate the lifting of three domes off of our three entrees so that they are all revealed at the same time!

The atmosphere, service and food are outstanding and we will continue to return at least if not twice, each trip to Aruba. Thank you to Marc, Humphrey and Teresa as well as the rest of the staff for such superb dinners.

Prosciutto di Parma- Thin Sliced Salt Cured Italian Ham with Arugula, Goat Cheese & Honey, Caribbean Crab Cocktail- Surumi Crab Meat Smooth Blend with Mayonnaise, Brandy & Onions, Classic Caesar- Chunks of Romaine Lettuce Tossed in a Rich Dressing Flavored with Roasted Garlic & Anchovies, Finished with Croutons

Local Grouper Filet in Crispy Coco Jacket- Golden Fried Accompanied with a Light Creamy Banana Dip, Sesame Crusted Red Snapper with Tamari Soy– Ginger Sauce
Wasabi & Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Snow Peas, Grilled Filet Mignon- Straight from the Grill Served with Garlic Butter

Brownie Bites- With Vanilla Ice Cream


Soenchi's Good meal, not fantastic, food was good as well as the atmosphere, but directly inside was where it ends. It is sandwiched in between two other restaurants like Philly row houses and each had their own music playing and it just ruined it for us Dh also thought the dining was warm with minimal ventilation.

The menu is $35 prixe fixe with some items having minimal surcharges. You place your order for all three courses together including dessert. Dd came for the "Tear Drop"!

After we finished our meal, the time came for dessert and the waiter said that their freezer had a melt down and they had no more "Tear Drops". Gee, that was pretty strange since only 5 minutes before they served one to a table that had only been seated for a total of 10 minutes and obviously only there for dessert.

We were confused since the order was taken all at once for our meal, would not one of the "Tear Drops" have been held aside for our order? Was it given away instead to this other party which walked in right before it was time for our dessert?

We are not "difficult" so did not argue the point. If they were gone, they were gone and arguing was not going to bring one out. The waiter offered a rain check good for one "Tear Drop" at another time, as well as the dessert ingredients that night, minus of course, the "Tear Drop". Since we were staying within walking distance at the Radisson it was convenient, otherwise it certainly would not have been worth the taxi fare to go back for the dessert.

Since dd was really "stuck" on the idea of this dessert we went back to take advantage of the rain check. When the hostess found out we were not there for dinner and only the rain check, she directed us to the bar. Maybe it is just me, but right away I had an uncomfortable feeling, like they thought they were doing us a favor. There were plenty of tables available and it was late at least 9:30 pm if not 10 pm. Our family had a considerable beverage credit at the Radisson so dh and I were not relishing the idea of having to pay Soenchi’s to have a drink to sit at the bar while our dd ate her dessert. So we stood there annoyed while dd enjoyed her dessert. Not a good feeling to have for a lasting impression about a restaurant.

It also did not help that while standing at the bar, dh saw via their kitchen window, that the cooks were microwaving food. I thought he was going to have a stroke.

Keri Keri fish cake, Goat cheese fritter, dd had the Pineapple duck pastechi (God has to love a 15 yo who can be as adventurous in her dining as she is)

Cinnamon Duck breast (again dd loves her duck), Whole Red Snapper in rock salt crust, Filet Mignon

Pineapple Flan, Chocolate fondue, "Tear Drop"

We went back to redeem the rain check and had a chance to see the kitchen via the window at the bar and was HORRIFIED to see the chefs MICROWAVING food to get it hot! Sinful, Gordan Ramsey would have had a stroke, well, I almost did.


The owner, Jose, was absolutely charming and could not be prouder or more earnest to please his guests. The restaurant is small so definitely do make a reservation. Gostoso is on a small side street in downtown Oranjestad. If you are going to take a taxi anywhere on the island, this is the place where you want to take a taxi to. Parking is also very limited. And lastly, by taking a taxi, there will be no questions when it comes to ordering that second pitcher of sangria. Dh is not a big drinker, but I was able to sway him into sharing a pitcher of white sangria. Oh my goodness it was delicious and packed with all types of fruit.

The food at Gostoso is a mix of international, Aruba and Portuguese foods. There is a very large menu and Jose patiently answered all of our questions and suggested various items we might like to try. Dh is a very daring diner and had never tried morcilla (blood sausage) before and Jose described it sufficiently enough that dh felt secure enough to give it a try.

Chorizo & Morcilla- Pork & Blood Sausages grilled and accompanied by Guasacaca Dip, Breaded Calamari with Marinara Sauce, Creole "Sushi Roll"- Wrapped with Plantain & stuffed with Cream Cheese & Avocado with Crab

Beef special with Roquefort sauce, Mixed seafood with coconut sauce


Laguna Restaurant Ala Carte
We decided we wanted to try an ala carte night at Laguna. I love Chateaubriand and it was Thursday, "Chateaubriand Special" $23.95 night. All entrees as well as the nightly special included soup and salad bar in the price of the entrée.

This ala carte night, the salad bar offered blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

Grilled Shrimp Bruschetta- Grilled shrimps tossed with tomatoes, basil & marinated onion finished with balsamic vinegar over garlic toast,

Shrimp Cocktail - Six shrimp on a bed of greens, cocktail sauce, lemon wedge & mango relish, Escargot Mediterranean- Sautéed snails with creamy garlic sauce with mushroom served on puff pastry & bell pepper pesto

Veal Oscar- Paillard of veal sirloin filled crab mojo with asparagus tips, pinot noir sauce & béarnaise sauce served with house risotto, Thursday: " Chateaubriand Special"- Roasted & carved tenderloin served with fingerling parsley roasted potato, asparagus, pepper corn sauce & béarnaise sauce


Marina Pirata
Marina Pirata is still one of our family’s favorites. This is our place to go for local flavor at a reasonable price with the added bonus of dining outdoors on the water.

Luckily we had made a reservation almost two weeks prior to arriving, requesting a table on the dock next to the water. When we arrived, the restaurant was full with locals. It was worth the price of a phone call from the states when we saw that there was one table still available, it was next to the water on the dock as requested, and it was ours. We were the only tourists there until we were about half way through our meal when another family sat down for dinner.

Only in Aruba would you see it. Dh couldn't believe it when a party of three was seated next to us and they almost immediately after being seated received their entrees. Little did he know? Dh had had his back to them when they were seated at their original table. Being full, the manager had asked the party of three who were sitting at a table for four to move to another smaller table so that they could accommodate the family of five who had just arrived.

Squid in garlic sauce & two French onion soup

Grouper Meunière, Spanish Lagoon Special- Creole Sauce, Seafood Kabob


Laguna Restaurant Prime Rib Buffet


Da Vinci Ristorante Italiano A friend described this restaurant as affordable Italian fare for families and that is exactly what it was. Service was excellent and the food was very good. Da Vinci is an excellent value for the money. It is directly across the way from Cafe Rembrandt so another easy walk from any of the high rise hotels.

Gorgonzola salad, two Caesar salads & mushrooms in a cream sauce which we shared and nearly fought over. It was truly AMAZING.

Tuna Puttanesca, Grouper in white wine sauce, Vegetarian lasagna


There are many words one could use to describe this restaurant. I am just going to say, "WOW". There were four of us who dined together. Three had dived that day and the other had walked two miles. Everyone was starving and what a memorable delectable meal it was. Our party ate "soup to nuts" and the service was very nicely spaced out so that we did not feel rushed.

Bisque - Caribbean lobster & prawn bisque sprinkled with a touch of cilantro
Dijon mustard soup - creamy soup made of spicy whole grain mustard with a hint of bacon

Ceviche al Habana - Tuna, grouper with shrimp marinated in lemon & lime juice with cilantro, Madame Janette peppers & red onions
Tuna Trio - Tartare with mango & sesame seared black peppered tuna with spicy papaya & a seaweed salad & Carpaccio with sesame soy & lime sauce
Escargot en Croûte - Escargots simmered in herbs & garlic butter & a touch of Pernod, sealed underneath a pastry crust
Chèvre salad - crispy goat cheese on a mixed salad with a marinated beetroot, melon tomatoes, pine nuts & a honey balsamic dressing

Mahi Mahi Special with White Asparagus served over Risotto
Triple Tail Safrannaise - fresh filet of triple tail baked on the skin with home made garlic angel hair pasta & a saffron beurre blanc
Grouper Papillon - grouper filet pan fried with garlic, herbs & lemon under a potato crust, served with a white wine lobster sauce
Canard à Passion - Crispy, seared duck served with mushroom rice cakes, green asparagus, an orange passion fruit sauce & a chocolate drizzle

Mousse Tasting - A white, dark & milk chocolate mousse with a Caribbean twist.


Passions On the Beach At the Amsterdam Manor

Soups & Salad
Soup of the Day- Cream of Onion Soup, Classic Caesar

Grilled Filet Mignon "Firenze"- On Green Asparagus & Balsamico Glazed Mushroom & Bacon Ratatouille & Port Wine Gravy, Vegetarian Lasagna- Vegetable Layers of Eggplant, Zucchini, Mushrooms, Cream & Parmesan Cheese with a Chunky Tomato Sauce, Get Together- Grilled Grouper Fillet with Creamy Hot Shrimps

Dh found it interesting to note that seafood such as shrimp and scallops were not cooked like it is done in the US, most were softer in the middle, almost cool to the touch and one would think they are raw since the texture is different from what we are used to getting. The seafood is not cooked as "well done" as in the US. Overall the texture being different from what we are used to in restaurants here in the U.S.

Aruba Activities & the Rest of Our Vacation

Weather for the most part was not as perfect as Aruba in June usually is, but every bit as windy. Having said that, overall the weather this Aruba trip was far from anything to ruin a vacation. We had a few early morning showers with slow clearing. There was one particularly unsettled day during which we actually encountered, for the first time in 20 trips to Aruba, a thunderstorm. The same day eventually brightened about 2 pm. Another day we had a very heavy squall come down Palm beach mid-afternoon. It lasted about 15 minutes and behind it were the most crystal clear blue skies we had seen the entire trip.

Out of 20 trips in 16 years, we have never ever seen the island as clean as it was this trip. There was a gentleman picking up trash outside the area surrounding Mangel Halto beach and Arashi beach there were ladies working roadside picking up trash as well.

We went with the Pacsafe system for the first time this trip and loved it! Though it was not cheap, we will get many years use out of it and now that we have actually used it, knowing the security it provided, we feel that it was money very well spent. My dh traveled with a backpack for the very first time and loved it. He will never go back to his wheeled carry on and separate computer bag EVER again. His Pacsafe backpack had a separate padded compartment solely for the laptop.

Separately we purchased Pacsafe's retractable cable lock. The cable is simply threaded through the tamper proof zippers of the backpack attaching the entire backpack, with my DSLR camera inside as well 3 Kindles, dd’s iTouch and other assorted goodies such as suntan lotion and sunglasses, to the post of the palapa. There are other security devices out there for beachgoers, but they are too small for our needs. Overall the system was a great investment. We can now use it not only for air travel but each day on the beach in Aruba as well. We had peace of mind when hopping in the ocean to cool off or go off to lunch without having to worry about our belongings being snatched or lugging a beach bag and other assorted gadgets with us.

What We Did In Aruba

A few years back we took our dd on a Discover Scuba dive and she was immediately hooked. When we began our research to obtain her certification, we were looking for a similar type of experience with personalized service and one on one tutoring.

After doing a large amount of online research and communicating online with Aruba Watersports, we decided to reserve the Open Water Certification class with them. They were very prompt and professional in their emails and I was confident that it would be a good experience.

Upon certification with Aruba Watersports, dh and dd did two dives on the Antilla. They were both very pleased with Aruba Watersports. They are a small basic operation but you will have personalized service.

What follows, is my dd’s take on diving and Aruba Watersports…

"I had dove with Aruba Watersports (AWS) in the past for a Discover Scuba course, and decided to use them again for my Open Water certification. This was due to various reasons. We were staying at the Radisson so it was close by, a few hundred steps depending where you were. The cost was less than other operators, and being a small outfit, we knew chances were good I would have a lot of close supervision. Actually, I ended up being a class of one. This made my classes private, and they were personalized and centered on me. Certification is typically done in 3 or 4 days, but since I was staying at the Radisson for 12 nights, I had the leisure of doing half days and not being rushed. It also enabled us to pick days that fit my parents and my schedule best.

AWS lacks a pool and I had to do all the skills- hovering in place, flooding the mask, taking the mask off and swimming without it and then putting it back on, removing the regulator, etc.- in shallow open water. I did not feel it was an issue since the instructor was of course always right there with me and in the long run I felt it provided me with more confidence. I was even able to go on an actual dive after review of my first set of skills.

Nick, the instructor, was patient and covered all areas in depth and even made me re-do areas he found I struggled with. I had to work for the certification; I did not have the card just handed to me. We all feel that this was an excellent base for future diving education.

Once my certification was complete, I used AWS for a dive. I have to say that the service, due to small inflatable boats they use, get you to the dive sites quickly. Dive groups are no more than 4 people (including the instructor.) The dives are personalized and typically there are not set sites and the group is able to decide. The cost for one tank with your own equipment is $45 and $70 for 2 tanks, adding $25 if you needed the equipment."
My dh and dd dove together twice on the Antilla after she was certified. Dh was very pleased with their outfit. They are not glamorous and only use inflatables but you will have a small group experience for a very modest price.

Strea Charters

Strea only takes 8 people and this snorkel tour is an excellent value for the money for an intimate tour experience. Even if you do not snorkel, I would recommend this excursion for anyone looking for a leisurely boat ride along the mangroves of Aruba’s western coastline with turquoise waters all around.

Mangel Halto is one of the best spots on the island for snorkeling and there is much to see underwater. The shallow reef may make it a little daunting for the faint of heart, but if you are an experienced snorkeler you should have no trouble at all. The Captain John is your underwater guide. If you are not experienced, he will tell you what to do and not do to make your snorkel tour the best experience. We were the only group at the reef at the time.

Once out of the water, Captain John took our requests for sandwiches and we enjoyed time munching our lunch while reminiscing about what we saw.

Book this excursion early. Since they take small groups, it does tend to book up quickly.

Monday Driving Tour

Dh and I wanted to take a drive to drive around the island and take photos as we do nearly every trip. On another day we wanted a vehicle to do some snorkeling from shore in the morning and then use the same vehicle to drive to Savaneta to Marina Pirata for dinner that evening. Hertz had a desk at the Radisson so prior to arrival on the island; we had reserved an SUV through Hertz for two separate days.

When we arrived at the Radisson on Friday the Hertz desk was right there to adjacent to the front desk, so I thought to myself, while I am here, let me go over and just confirm our reservation. I confirmed the reservations; yes they did have a record of both dates.

Monday morning comes and dh walks up to the Hertz desk, shows the woman the copy of the email confirmation he had received and was told that it was not the "proper" email. The email confirmation we received from Hertz, was according to the woman at the desk, not the "correct" one. Did it have the proper date? Yes. Did they understand that we had a separate reservation later in the week? Yes. Was there confusion between the two reservations? No. Simply in their mind we did not have the "right" email.

Dh went back and forth with this woman at the Hertz desk and she just had a downright nasty attitude. She finally told dh that she did not have an SUV and she could call to see if one of the other locations had one. Fine, we had already wasted well over an hour of our day.

The Hertz location at the Westin had an SUV available. Rather than wait for them to be good and ready to deliver it to the Radisson, we took it upon ourselves to just walk from the Radisson to the Westin. The gentleman manning the Hertz desk at the Westin was the exact opposite of the woman at the Radisson rental desk and very accommodating. He did the paperwork for our Terios as quickly as possible to get us on our way.

Unfortunately, it was also our wedding anniversary that day and not exactly how we had planned on starting out. In turning the Terios in the following morning, dh told the person that the vehicle was having a bit of trouble turning over to start, and was probably going to be needing a battery.

Our tour took us southward from the Westin on past Eagle beach, through Oranjestad and down into Savaneta, Mangel Halto and beyond. From there we drove the main road to Rodgers beach and then onwards to Baby beach.

For the first time in 20 trips, dh and I experienced an Aruban thunderstorm. We were at Baby beach and just sightseeing. The flashes of cloud to water lightning were tremendous. Amazingly the tourists did not budge from the water. Luckily no one was struck, including the ones hiding under the palapas. Remember what your mother told you about standing under a tree during a thunderstorm? The same principle applies here, but no one seemed to mind. It rained off and on all morning to about 2 pm and then became partly sunny.

When the rain storm finally subsided we took the road up and around Baby beach towards the coastline and the Pet cemetery. From there we continued on towards, Boca Grande and the wind farm at Vader Piet. This was our first time at the wind farm, or any wind farm for that matter and the size in photos or video does not do these structures justice. They are a unique landmark on Aruba’s coast just before you approach Arikok National Park.

We paid our entrance fee to get into the park and continued on to Boca Prins where we stopped at the restaurant for a cold drink, potty stop and a bite to eat. From here we tackled the "dirt path" to Dos Playa and back. Dos Playa is still one of my favorite spots on the island.

Our last part of our driving tour we attempted to reach Andicuri beach and unfortunately had to turn around, the path was like trying to get to the Natural pool. Dh did not want to take a chance damaging the rental vehicle, especially in that it was on FWD and not 4 x 4. Someday I will get there!

Friday Driving & Snorkeling Tour

Our rental on Friday was ironically the exact same vehicle. There were no troubles picking up the Terios at the Radisson that day. We used the car that morning to snorkel at Boca Catalina and Mangel Halto. That night we used the Terios to drive to Savaneta for a delicious dinner at Marina Pirata.

Remember dh told the Hertz agent that the battery was going dead? Now you know where this part of the story is going? Luckily the car battery died at the gas station outside of Oranjestad as opposed to the two snorkel spots we were at that day or the restaurant which is off the beaten path. We could have gotten stuck at any number of places in the middle of no where on either of the two days that we had the vehicle. Getting stuck at a gas station is ideal.

Worst part was being screamed at by an Aruban because the car would not start back up after we had filled up and he was mad I would not move the car. Dh was inside with one of the clerks calling Hertz for a jump. I explained the situation to the gentleman and embarrassed, he apologized and waited on line for another pump. When dh came back out, he and I together pushed the Terios away from the pump to avoid any further angry gas station patrons. Hertz had someone there in 15 minutes and jump started it.

Moral of the story, is to please keep in mind that "cheapest" or "least expensive" is not always the best rental. My dh just learned this, the hard way, again, by renting from Hertz. We would never rent from them again after their claim that they did not have a reservation in their system and we had the paperwork in hand to present them.

We have used Amigo in the past with great success. In driving around the island in June we also noticed that Aruba Royal, who we have also used in the past, had many new vehicles.

The rest of our trip was spent vegetating on the beach as well as spending time at our favorite pool on the island at the Radisson. For us that is what vacation is all about.

Getting There

When booking our Aruba travel, having found them to have the best pricing, we have been using MCM/Players Choice Tours for over 11 years. They only sell travel to Aruba and are highly reputable with excellent customer service. Ursala and Guy are always extremely patient in answering any questions we may have. All around they are a pleasure to work with.

When we lived in New Jersey we were able to take advantage of the terrific airfares they bundled into their pricing of Aruba packages. Now living in Atlanta, we are still able to take advantage of MCM/Players Choice Tours fantastic resort package pricing even when we do not purchase our airfare with them. In all these years, we still have yet to find anyone who can beat their pricing on our favorite Aruba resorts.

We arrived at Hartsfield Atlanta and immediately after check in they changed our gate of departure. The time came for flight to board and there was no plane present. Next there was an announcement that the flight was overbooked by 10 people. Delta offered $400 Delta dollars and a flight the next day.

So Delta is offers a $400 voucher good for one year and the discounted fare to Aruba had held steady at $600+ for the past 7 months. There was nothing to be gained there with the exception of one lost day of a vacation and for us, transportation back home and then back to the airport the following morning. No thank you Delta.

Oh wait, we were given another option, fly from Atlanta to JFK, overnight at JFK and then New York and on to Aruba? Again, there was nothing to gain there except a night in a lousy hotel room and another wasted day of vacation. We were thankful we had checked in three and a half hours before our flight. Always check-in early with your airline there is a reason why there is this rule.

Another detail of this story is to warn people to check their flight itinerary at least weekly, if not more often, prior to travel. Before our trip, dh had seen that due to a change in airplane configuration, our seats for the flight were randomly switched. By the time we noticed, there were no longer three seats together anywhere. So we did the best we could, and dd sat on the aisle in the row in front of us.

Upon arrival at the gate, besides annoyance at the flight being oversold, there were now angry passengers who were not going to be seated together as families. Sure enough, we were seated on the plane, dh in a middle seat and I at the window and a 6 or 7 yo girl seated next to him on the aisle. We did not even sit down and the child’s father rushed over, and did not ask, but told us, he wanted us to move so he could sit with his dd and Jerry or I could go sit in the exit row by ourselves.

Neither dh nor I are fans of the exit row because we always store our carry-ons under the seat in front of us. Furthermore, it was going to be extremely difficult for our family to split up. We travel with our own lunch and dh was the one with the sandwiches. By one of us moving, one of us would have then had to play waiter with our own food. And lastly, why should we have to be inconvenienced because this gentleman did not plan ahead and check on his family’s seats prior to departure? In hindsight, maybe if his demeanor had been nicer, but just demanding that we jump at his command was a little over the top. The man ended up sitting next to Jerry and somehow the child was able to sit next to her mother. He did not say a word to Jerry the entire flight, but he made sure everyone on the plane heard his loud phone call to his travel agent or secretary telling them in no uncertain terms, they better make sure the family was seated together on their return flight. I hope it worked out for them.

Again, I write this as a cautionary tale. We are also the same family who has actually had their itinerary changed when Delta decided not to fly at all on Tuesdays. Delta arbitrarily decided our flight home from Aruba would be on Monday instead. Luckily we saw the change in itinerary with enough advance notice that we were able to change the dates of our vacation. We were not going to allow Delta to cheat us out of a day of vacation.

On the up side, our flight arrived on time in Aruba. Queen Beatrix International Airport is a very easy airport to navigate. Delta from Atlanta and Jet Blue from Boston both landed one after the other. By the time we were down to queue for Aruba Immigrations, the lines were backed up the stairs. Luck was with us that day, we were in a short line and for the first time, with the exception of when we have flown business class, our luggage was up and on the carousel waiting for us when we exited immigrations.

I was carrying an unwrapped gift, as required by U.S. T.S.A., in a shopping bag by hand and strolling through Aruba Customs the officer, a female, looked at me and smiled as if she wondered what was in the bag. I stopped and offered to show her. She took a quick peek, smiled once again and waved us on our way.

As soon as we made our airline reservations we emailed "Bully the Taxi Driver". I have written about him numerous times, most notably Bully- Aruba's Taxi Driver and Bully Again. We always look forward to being greeted by a friendly face at the end of a long journey. Our restaurant reservations were already planned out for each night so in the same email we listed the nights we would require pickups along with the reservation time.

As we exited the doors from Aruban Customs, Bully was of course there waiting for us. Hugs and kisses all around to welcome us to our "home away from home" We were at the Radisson by 3 p.m., exactly one hour after we had landed. What an excellent way to begin our vacation.

We had a great flight home on Delta. When we landed in Atlanta, by the time we got from the gate in concourse B to baggage claim, ours were the first bags on the carousel! That NEVER happens when we arrive home from Aruba.