Aruba Trip Reports

Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa

January 31-February 10, 2011 by Karla

Aruba Forum Profile: Karla

Dear all, Apologies again for a delayed trip report. Luckily, I jot down enough notes to write the reports up at a later date. I am just happy to submit much earlier than I did last year :)

Well, the excitement of spending days in the warm Caribbean sun was building and building with the many snow events of the winter. The nerves were also starting to set in because I was concerned that we would be delayed on departure – always a worry with winter travel from our area.
In preparation for the trip, I got my annual airbrush tan, mani & pedi a few days before leaving. Now, it really feels like we are about to go away.

Monday, January 31st

As usual, stayed up late packing the final few things and taking care of some things around the house. Alarm set for 3am, quick shower, and bags are into the car just after 4am. Again, we got a ride to the train station and took the Airport Line right into the terminal. About 20 degrees at this time of the morning. It’s been a tough winter – one we are not used to with all these snow storms/events.

Airport – Philadelphia International

Broke a new record this year with check-in and security – 17 minutes! That was even with a detour in Terminal A – got turned around a bit due to some construction inside the terminal when we got off of the train. Grabbed something to eat and that all important cup of coffee and waited to board on US Air.
Sitting at the gate does give you time to think and it dawned on me there was something else I needed to do… I needed to call my credit card company to let them know I’d be traveling. Also thought of something I needed to call home about and then turned the phone off. I do not turn this thing back on again until we land back in Philly – 11 days from now. Ahhhh – vacation!!!! Sunny and 23 chilly degrees at take-off.
We met a nice couple on the plane and had a conversation for a while. The plane was not sold out so we all shifted seats and had the seat next to us open for the rest of the flight. Had our usual assortment of books, magazines, and dvds on the plane to keep us entertained.

Aruba – Airport

Landed about 20 minutes early (1pm – local time). Yeah! We’re back! We each received a Divi bag with coupons in addition to our Little Switzerland bag. Luggage and customs were fast. Had an airport transfer included in our package this year. We are usually the third or fourth stop, so we know from years past, it will not take too long to arrive at Manchebo.

Manchebo – Think that we’ll have an updated room?

We arrived early for check-in, but our room was ready. Sandra welcomed us back enthusiastically. She let us know that we would have one of the rooms we requested and that these are some of the ones that have already been renovated.

We unpacked and changed, and stopped by the Pega Pega Beach Bar. Said hi to Ignacio – had the first mudslide of the trip, while Shawn had a Polar. Found out that one of the other bartenders, John, is now working for the government and that our housekeeper Tara is a cook at Giorgio’s. Saw Tara before we left Pega Pega and congratulated her on her promotion.

We walked along the path through the Divi properties down to Ling & Son’s to pick up some snacks & soda –about a 15 minute walk for us, and something we usually try to do when we first arrive. We got a ride back from one of the shuttle drivers from Divi and tipped for the courtesy ride back to Manchebo.

We had reservations for the French Steakhouse that night. Well, I am a girl that likes to eat and I have the appetite of a linebacker most days. As some of you may know from my previous reports, I am always wondering about where the next meal will be coming from! We wanted to stay close by the first night and had not been to the French Steakhouse in a few years. They offer a Five Course Ambassador Menu. Well, my tummy was rumbling and saying, "Mmmm". Our waiter arrived and I ordered the five courses – Keeshi Yani (never had this before), salad, churassco beef, ice cream (my nightly staple at home), and coffee. Shawn ordered the tropical crab cakes and filet mignon. Well, the waiter kept asking me while I was ordering, "Are you sure you want all this?". I kept laughing. The waiter said I should share. I said "All my husband may need is a newspaper so he has something to entertain him while I eat". So, for every course that came out on the five course menu by a food runner, it was placed in front of Shawn. I had to say, "Oh, excuse me, that’s for me". The waiter came to check at one point (maybe course three) and jokingly suggested that I share again. To my waiter’s amazement, I ate almost everything (I did wrap up some steak). Again, I like to eat and I am not shy about ordering food if I am hungry (which I am – about every 2-3 hours :)). Service and food were good.

After dinner, we decided to call it a night. We had a long day of travel and our bellies were full. Time for bed!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Unfortunately, I did not have a restful night. I woke suddenly about 1:30am with symptoms of food poisoning that I brought with me from Philadelphia. At the time, I had no idea what ailment I had but Shawn checked our email and my mom and sister emailed us that next day describing all of the same symptoms and the same onset that I had. We had all eaten dinner together from a take out place in the Philly suburbs the night before we left on vacation. Shawn had something different to eat the night before we left, so he was the only one of the four of us unscathed. We lost that entire extra day of vacation that we booked –ugh! Shawn was a sweetie and stayed in the room with me for most of the day.

Shawn had a banana for breakfast, and a cheeseburger in paradise from the Pega (thanks for asking for me Glenda!) and a sandwich from Subway for dinner. I was NPO all day and night. Had a Diet Coke later that night – wow! It tasted like Veuve Clicqout to me! We had to rearrange our reservations for that night.

Wednesday, February 2nd

We woke up early and went to Tortuga at Aruba Beach Club for breakfast. I was still feeling a little unsteady (and definitely weak). I felt bad for Shawn so I got up my strength to sit through breakfast with him. I ordered a plain bagel – it was a frozen bagel toasted, but in this circumstance, that was just fine. Shawn got a bacon omelet and we both had coffee. Coffee was not such a great idea so I stuck with water. Our service was okay that morning. Things were not coming out together and had to wait a bit for coffee and water refills. Decided we’d try again later in the week to see if service is any better. Shawn was happy with his omelette. We hung out on the beach for the rest of the day. For lunch, Shawn ate the rest of the sandwich from Subway and I had an apple and a cracker. Really missing all of the wonderful plans I had for meals :( Shawn enjoyed some Polars in the afternoon from the Pega Pega. I did not feel quite ready to partake in cocktails.

Just 2 minutes of rain late in the afternoon.
Since I was still not in fighting shape, we decided to rearrange dinner plans again and head to Pizza Bob’s. The front desk staff at Manchebo were great about rescheduling our dinner reservations all week. We ordered a large pie and I ate a couple slices. The rest would be for lunch tomorrow. Prince Tommy was there performing as he always is, when we are there. If there is one thing that makes us think of Pizza Bob’s, it is Prince Tommy’s songs. Shawn bought a CD from him so we can transport ourselves back to Aruba when we are missing it in the long year we have to wait to go back. We make it an early night – I think I am weak –caloric intake –l-o-w.

Thursday, February 3rd

Went to Dushi Bagels in the morning for breakfast – bagels and coffee. Early mornings here, reading the daily paper and chilling out, don’t get much better than this. I noticed a large crack in the frame of my sunglasses during breakfast so we walked over to the Divi gift shop and I purchased a new pair. Back to the beach to veg out, read, swim. Lunch was leftover pizza. Dinner reservations were for Yemanja.

When our cab driver dropped us off, she said that we would really enjoy our meal here, and she was correct. This was our first time at Yemanja and we really liked this restaurant. The service and prices were good, and we enjoyed the décor. Shawn had the Mahi Mahi and I had the chicken breast. We split the chocolate brownie for dessert. This restaurant does not add a service charge. We will visit again. Made a quick pitstop at the Crystal Casino to put a couple dollars in a slot machine and then on our after dinner/casino stroll , we saw a bus pull into the terminal so decided to head back to Manchebo.

Friday, February 4th – Frozen cocktails?

Well, I think I just may be able to partake in an adult frozen beverage today.
We head back to Dushi for bagels and coffee. This is the day that the demolition of the shops around the Alhambra begins. I’ll miss those little shops – always purchased something on each trip from at least one of the stores. I’ll especially miss the call shop and we get a little sad as the machinery starts to hit the little blue and white structure. It was always nice to make a quick phone call to check in to see if everything was okay with the family and our pets. We take the bus into town for shopping. We went to some of the more local shops, like La Linda, a few streets off of the main street to purchase some shirts etc.

For lunch, we head to Cuba’s Cookin. Start off with mojitos. Yummy! Shawn ordered the Chicken wrap, I ordered the steak sandwich and we split them so we could try both. Really glad that we finally made it here – service, food, drinks were excellent! Will definitely return for dinner (saw that they are moving – hope it retains the charm that it has now).

Continue shopping and as we near the Renaissance, the skies open up and we have 5 minutes of rain. The rain ends and the sun is shining just as brightly as before. One of the shopkeepers tells us that the week before we arrived that there was a lot of rain - many days were complete wash outs. So far so good for us. Sunny and high 80s all week. After shopping, we head to our usual spot for afternoon cocktails when we are in town - Iguana Joe’s. It’s really busy, but we still get a railside seat so we can people watch. I had a Pink Iguana and Shawn had a Polar. Took the bus back to Manchebo. I skipped dinner that night and just relaxed. Shawn grabbed another sandwich from Subway and we just chilled out around the hotel.

Saturday, February 5th

Raining very hard around 6am. Stopped raining but clouds remained. We went down to Giorgio’s at Manchebo to have breakfast. Service and food excellent, as always. Around 9am, it started to rain very hard. Lasted about a half-hour. Skies started clearing and it turned into a wonderfully sunny beach day. This was the last bit of rain we saw for the remainder of our trip. This was also the most rain that we had every seen (I know this is nothing in comparison to what others had experienced a few months prior to our trip). This was the day a lot of our friends that we had met over the years at Manchebo were due to arrive. Looking forward to seeing everyone! Lunch was fruit and crackers. I am definitely feeling better, because I actually make it to Happy Hour today. Instead of the usual mudslides, I decided to switch to Amstel Brights. Shawn had his usual Polar.

We made a reservation when we arrived on island for Wacky Wahoo’s. This is another restaurant we had kept saying we wanted to try the last couple of trips. We had plans to go with two of our friends that were arriving that afternoon. Had a quick drink at the Pega Pega Bar and hopped in a cab for our reservation. The place is small but the food here is incredible and reasonable. The service was great. Our table ordered Grouper, Baracuda, and 2 Chef’s Specials – Wahoo & Rock Lobster Tail. The special was an unbelievable deal - $32 for a large piece of fish and the lobster tail was huge. In our area, you’d pay $32 just for the lobster tail. All dinners came with 2 sides. Everything was fresh and delicious, beers were ice cold. We’ll definitely go back.

Sunday, February 6th – Game Day

We had originally planned to go to brunch at Matthew’s, but I had asked Shawn to cancel the reservation earlier in the week when I was not feeling well. We’ll try again next year. Instead we went for our staple of bagels and coffee at Dushi. We spent the day on the beach, went to happy hour, ran up to the room to get ready for game. Had one of our favorite bartenders at the Pega Pega bar, Fanny, for the Super Bowl. Diana was also there and she gave us maracas to cheer the team on – had to go with my home state. I am sure we were highly annoying to people with our maraca shaking, but hey – I am on vacation and having fun! Manchebo gave guests at the bar sampler appetizer platters during the game. I can’t quite recall what was on there now besides wings. But in addition to that, we also ordered, during the course of the game, a couple more orders of wings, a couple cheeseburgers, and some fries. Yes, and I was the one eating every couple hours. Beers were nice and cold - great night. My husband keeps hoping that one year he’ll be able to wear his Eagles shirt in Aruba during the game. Maybe now with all of these big moves the Eagles have made to their roster – who knows, could it happen next trip?

Monday, February 7th

Went back to Tortuga at Aruba Beach Club for breakfast-we both had eggs, toast & coffee. Service and food were great – we’ll be back. Prices here are very reasonable. Chilled out on beach after breakfast, went swimming and read. We ran back down to the supermarket area, this time we walked the beach. We purchased a bunch of Douwe Egberts coffee (bring this home for everyone each year). We also got some beer and soda for the room. When we got back we had lunch at the Pega Pega. Miss Glenda was our server – what a sweet and wonderful lady! I ordered the fish tacos and Shawn had a cheeseburger in paradise. Delish!

Our dinner reservation that night was for Windows on Aruba (rescheduled from last week). This was another one of those restaurants that we have had on our list for the last few years. We walked down to Windows since it is not very far. We received a coupon for a free bottle of wine in the Divi bag that we received at the airport, so we thought we may use that. I was not quite sure how to get up to the restaurant since Mulligan’s is on the lower level and Windows is on the upper level. The staff at Mulligan’s was very helpful and directed us to the restaurant. We were warmly greeted and seated at the bar while we waited for our table. Less than a 10 minute wait, and we were shown to our table, in the center of the restaurant, up on the platform. We had a view of everything. Our waiter was Romalo and he was amazing. For appetizers, Shawn had the Beef carpaccio, and I ordered the scallop & mango salad. We did decide to go for the free bottle of wine. We both ordered the tenderloin, and in a rare move, both ordered dessert. I ordered the Strawberry & Vanilla – strawberry w/chocolate mousse and crème brulee. Shawn had the Carrot & Cheese Cake. There were pieces of carrot cake, cheese cake, a brownie and some vanilla ice cream (of course Shawn gave me his ice cream). We ended with coffee and wondered why it took us so long to get here. No service charge is added to your bill. Windows will go on our to do list.
We walked back to the hotel, but made a stop in Alhambra for a little while.

Tuesday, February 8th

We had breakfast at Dushi and went back to the room to get ready for our horseback riding trip. We booked from home with El Paseo Ranch based on some reviews from Trip Advisor. Neither of us are experienced riders. I was on a horse once about 15 years ago and had a really bad scare. Then, with my feet on the ground, while in college, one of the teaching horses lost his footing on the barn floor during a lameness exam and nearly came down on top of me. I have also had positive experiences since then, but you tend to remember the scary moments and I never lost that fear (which is not necessarily a bad thing). I decided since I have only worked with horses doing exams and blood draws since my riding experience all those years ago, maybe it was time to get back on a horse.

We were picked up on time for our ride and driven to the ranch. We were riding with a family and our guide that day. I believe there were 8 of us in total. I was the first one placed on the horse. "Champagne" was a little restless, it seemed to me, but I stayed calm. Our ride started and we went through the wild side of the island. "Champagne" would canter once in a while and I could pull back and get him to stop when I was uncomfortable. I felt relaxed and was enjoying the ride. We had to stop or ride by ATVs or cars and jeeps and there were moments that I did worry if one of the horses would get spooked. I knew for my horse, I had to be calm and relaxed also, so I quickly put those thoughts out of my head. We arrived at the beach, and then I was very relaxed. We rode along, and briefly took the horses into the edge of the water. We turned around and came back out and then it was time to take the route back. I was feeling great – relaxed, enjoying the ride and the scenery. We were an hour into the two hour ride. We were still on the beach and I guess "Champagne" was feeling a certain way too. In a split second, his front end started going down, and I knew we were about to roll to the left. I threw my right leg over and jumped back to the left as far and as fast as I could, just as he went down in the sand and started to roll. My left sneaker was still in the stirrup and he was up and cantering away. All I could think of was of one of my teachers telling me she had a student that suffered fatal injuries from being kicked by a horse. I am just happy that my reflexes were fast. All I knew was that I did not want to be on him when he was down and get a hoof in the head. I don’t think that I could have pulled him up with the reigns because he was already down when I reacted. The guide came back with him and said that he likes to roll in the sand. Of course I got this horse! I stuck my sneaker on and I had to get right back on. I think this was the longest hour of my life. My days of horse back riding are officially over – that was the second chance I gave it and it is just not for me. I’ll stay on the ground with them, where I have a little more control. I did enjoy the ride before this and I made myself relax for the horse’s sake on the way back, but I do wish the guide would have given me the warning about my horse before we set out on our adventure.

When we arrived back at Manchebo, I decided I deserved a drink (or two or three..). I also wanted to get right to the beach. We grabbed a hut and decided to have beach service today. We ordered drinks (strawberry daiquiris for me and mudslides for Shawn ) and later split a Bacon & Chicken Cheese Melt. Definitely felt better after a few frozen drinks! Went to the Manager’s Cocktail Party and Happy Hour for a little while and thought that we would head up to Smokey Joe’s for ribs later.

After getting ready, and having a pre-dinner cocktail before deciding to call a cab with our friends, we realized that there was an all you can eat rib night next door at Matthew’s. We decided to stay local and went a few doors down. The ribs at Matthew’s were very good. I also realized while we were sitting there, that we had not made it up to the hi-rise area once during this trip (aside from Wacky Wahoo, but not on the main strip). That was fine by me, I like our little area and downtown. We’ll go up to the hi-rise for a day next year.

So, during dinner, the waiter offers the gentlemen another serving of ribs. The guys get another plate. The waiter was about to clear my plate, and this was when he asked the guys if they wanted more ribs. He left with my plate and I said, "Excuse me sir? Are you going to ask me if I want some more ribs?". He looked astonished and then said he would. I got a much smaller rack then the guys got and felt cheated. Shawn laughed and said, "Hon, they look at you and think you’re a buck ten soaking wet-where does all the food go?". I laughed and started thinking should I have a complex about my appetite? It was just a fleeting thought. When I was done my second rack, we all went back to Manchebo and had a few more beers before calling it a night.

Wednesday, February 9th

We went back to Tortuga for breakfast and went to the beach. During breakfast, I saw in the paper that Daniel Putkowski would be at the Tamarijn signing his new book. We were leaving the next day, so I asked Shawn if he would walk down with me later. I read the first book, it would be a unique souvenier to have the newest book signed by the author himself! We hung out on the beach for a while and then walked to the Tamarijn. For some reason, I got a case of shyness when I met Daniel and did not say much. Shawn was surprised at me because he says I am never quiet at home. I do appreciate that I had the opportunity to meet with him and have my photo taken. He was very gracious and maybe if I run into him on island again, I won’t act like a bumbling idiot:)

We took a cab to Gostoso for dinner. Once again, we were warmly greeted by the entire staff – Rose, and the owner Jose asked when we had been last since they knew we dined a few times before. We had the crab sushi roll for appetizer. eived at the airport). Shawn played a little on the video Black Jack while I played penny slots. We went back to Manchebo and started to pack since we were leaving the next day.

Thursday, February 10th

Back to Dushi for breakfast. Took our breakfast to the beach to watch the cruise ships come in and enjoy the last morning. I needed to get in the warm water one last time before we head back to the cold east coast winter. And, as usual on our last day, 4 years out of 4, it is overcast. It always makes it easier when leaving cause we can say, "Well, it wasn’t a perfect beach day". It eventually burns off, but just a sneaky way to trick myself into checking out of the hotel and getting on the plane. We pushed our beach time to the max and then ran around to say goodbye to all of our friends that we see each year. We quickly got ready and took our transfer back to the airport. We also had lunch at One Happy Bar (another tradition now) and the last Polar and Amstel Brights for this year. There was a delay of an hour for the plane to get in to Aruba because of the weather back home. I occupied myself with shopping, eating ice cream, and more shopping. Shawn played slots. Plane landed and USAIR staff turned it around fast. We are already thinking about extending trip again next year as we take our last look over the island as we fly away.

We have already booked for next year, and are going to do something very different for us for part of our stay, which is rent a car. We’ll be staying at Club Arias for the first 5 nights and then the Manchebo for the remainder of our stay. I have to say that Arias is personable, attentive and does whatever he can for his guests. He asks to call you directly and gives lots of helpful information. This is such an incredibly personal touch. We are looking forward to our stay at Club Arias and to experience this side of Aruba. Also big thanks to Vivian at Manchebo who called Shawn for our trip next year. Her thoughtfulness is greatly appreciated. Again, the people of Aruba are one of the biggest reasons we keep returning.

Back to Aruba February 3-February 16, 2012!