My Aruba obession started back in Sept, 2006 while we stopped there on a cruise onboard Carnival Destiny.
Our hours in the Island of Aruba started with a 8:30am pick up with Gabriel with ABC-Aruba tours for a half day island tour with guided jeeps. It was by far our best excursion. We went back to the ship for lunch about 1:30 and headed to Palm Beach for a sunset about 4:30. We sat at the Wyndham hotel beach (now the Westin) -- and used their lounge chairs = lots of chairs and hardly any people about. Nothing was said to us and we were not asked to leave. We found the waters calm and beautiful. Never have I seen a ocean with no waves. and the sunset......WOW- Now we seen lots of sunsets but not like this day. And was not prepared for the intensive sun either. Poor Joe got sunburn on the tops of his feet that was terrible. With all that--on the way back to the ship by cab I decided that Aruba is the place we MUST take our first land vacation to.
We are generally cruiseaholics. Been on 12 cruises since 2000. Not counting Disney as that really isnt a vacation with all the hurry up and wait-- rush to get somewhere to hurry and wait on a line. Those vacations there dont really count.
I spent a year looking at packages--and various hotels- thinking I wanted to spend Joes Birthday, 2008 in Aruba= only problem being--there was a huge price difference between the week of his birthday-- and the week before. So to save a few hundred bucks-- we will leave Sept 8.
Cant leave on Sunday ==Joe is a true Eagles fan and god forbid-- if he misses a game. So I plan accordingly and plan our vacation for Monday through Saturday. (
Actually started out Monday through Friday but there was a sale-stay 5 days and get the 5th night free. So it was cheaper to book Monday through Saturday for 275.00 cheaper. So for people looking for a great deal-- play around with dates--sometimes its cheaper to go longer.
We used MCMTours-www.aruba4u.com Amy was fabulous- got us free breakfast buffets every morning plus a 100.00 room credit. Airfare and hotel room for Sept 8th thru the 13th using usair with a 4 hour stopver in Charlotte going down-- and a non stop coming home. Total price including taxes etc was $2080- staying at tthe radisson.
A few months ago--- found the Radisson was having a Summer Sale- We got upgraded to a garden view room with the free breakfast buffet every morning PLUS a $250.00 room credit. PLUS the price came down to 1980. Needless to say-- I am extremely happy and we leave tomorrow.
I am now all packed and ready to go- Got up very early this morning-- 4am-- so I can try to go to sleep about 8pm to get up when the alarm goes off at 2am. Wishing all goes well with my flights and the weather cooperates with us.
September 8th. flight from PHL to Charlotte. leaving at 5:30 with boarding at 5am. Always thought you need to be at the airport 2 hours before the plane is scheduled to leave. The place to check baggage in don't even open til 4:15 and security don't open til 4:30. Wish I known that --we coulda slept in for an extra hour.
USAir states one carry on bag allowed-- how is it that some people find that rule don't apply to them and are able to board with 2-3 bags plus laptop cases?
Why is it that people will stand in the line to board the plane 30 minutes before boarding starts? I mean we all have assigned seats== the plane wont leave if you are not seated 2 minites after boarding--- only to find that the people standing in these lines are people in first class. Do they think their seats will be given away if they don't stand there? Most of the people with those 2-3 bags were people in the first class seats.
We printed out boarding passes with in 24 hours of our flight. Boarding passes has us at gate C18 Women who took our bags was so busy talking with her friend that she didn't tell us the gate was changed to B-2 Lesson learned: check the board before heading to the gate-- it was a long walk back to the "real" gate.
Places to eat/drink don't open til 5am so getting a coffee for me was out of the question since we board at 5. Oh well-
Arrived in CLT before schedule-- very nice. Yep, there are places opened to eat breakfast at that hour. We ate at chilis.
we each had 2 eggs, potatos, sausage (which were like shoe leather) and joe had two pancakes, a coffee and a soda- costs= 24.00 plus tip ==wowsers. Spent our 4 hours sitting outside people watching. Amazed at the number of people being taken out by ambulance in that time.
Gate change for our flight. Asked for any upgrades. Only two seats left on the whole plane. no chance of one of those seats being next to me. Plane needed air maintenance so we left about 20 minutes later but arrived only 5 minutes later then scheduled.
We did get our Immigration forms on the plane--fill them out while flying so bring a pen, EVERYone needs one, we also got a custom paper (one per family) that needs to be with us when we return back to the airport to go home.
After we go through Customs we got the bottom page which we also need to bring back with us- if you lose it it could mean a longer time checking in for your flight. There is no smoking while you are waiting for your luggage. The wait was tolerable and we had our luggage 15 minutes after landing.. (I dont think that time was bad at all.)
We did notice the crying room- and many people are right when you look in there those people look so sad and I cant help but smile at them coz my time is only beginning.
I reserved Bully ahead of time and he was right outside with my name on a board. took us to the grocery store. I got 6 bottles of pepsi- 12 bottles of diet pepsi. 4 stropwaffles. 4 bottles of water.. That bill was 26.50.
Off to the Radisson. We were given the Curaco tower 6th floor room 3612. two beds. Our view is a little of everything. (the 3 is the Curaco tower) 1= Aruba Tower 2= Bonair Tower)
I can see the Rui. I can see the Mill. I can see some garden, I can see the street and I can see the ocean. the hot tub sits under our room. ( I went down to feel the water and it was awesome. Sometimes hot tubs are just luke warm.) We were given the option of looking at the room and deciding to take it or be moved somewhere else. For us-- its not a bad room, clean, the view is nice. so we took this room (besides we are dead tired now--Its after 5:30pm and we been up since 2:00am.
Unpacked and looked around the room.- coffee maker hasnt been clean in a while-- there is still an old bag of grounds sitting there with mold growing all over it. Cant tell you how long its been there--- so i wont be using that coffee maker,
There is a stocked refrigerator in the tv stand. It is sensored-- so if you move something to look at it you will be charged- I do not see a price list for items in this refrigerator. We can order a small dorm siz frig by calling the front desk. I have a small cooler and will use that instead.
Its now 6:30 and we are heading to Casa Tua for dinner. Couldnt decide between here and Tomato Charlies but we made a good decision---the place was awesome. We ordered 2 sodas- beef carppaccio to share and Joe got a Pizza with ham and mushrooms and I got a regular pepperoni. Pizza is about the size of a dinner plate. We each got a different one and split the pizza. Crust is thin and tastes like a brick oven pizza. Both were great but I edge out the ham and mushroom one as it was a better choice. (more toppings creating a better flavor. The place wasnt busy so we got seated right away. The guy took our drink order-- gave us them and then we ordered our pizza and appetizer. Appetizer was out in 20 minutes and pizza 40 minutes. The bill was 45.00 does not include any service charge-- or tip. We left a 10.00 tip.
Its time for bed now--- its 8:45pm...and I cant stay awake any longer. I have a full belly. I am in Aruba.. and Cant wait til tomorrow.
Tuesday- up at 6:45 (this is vacation--what the heck. ) got ready for the day waiting for joe to get up. Still cant access the internet. There is a business center for free with 6 computers. Need your room key to access the center.
Went to Laguna for breakfast since the buffet comes with the room. The price is 17.99 otherwise. Lots of choices. Hot food was hot and cold food cold. Omelet bar with many selections. All different kinds of breads for toasting- Very well worth it even if we had to pay. Service was good-- The waiter was on top of empty orange juice and kept the coffee caraf full.
There is a 15% gratuity added to the bill PLUS a tax. (I don't know if that portion is given for free with the room. But the server was excellent and we gave him an extra $5.00 tip in cash. (and the omelet lady we gave her $3.00.)
After breakfast we took a walk on the grounds-- checked out the pool (warm water, clean) empty chairs-no towels on them either. Went to the towel hut to get a palapa. Many in the middle were gone but we took one to the right of the beach at the waters edge. We got two towels to place there-- kinda scared about that because if we dont turn the towels back in we will be charged $25.00 per towel.
Back to check out the business center.. there was no one there--- it opens at 7am. its free. I went in to do some work. and within a few minutes all the computers were manned.
Back to the room to get ready for the beach--- and its not even 9am yet.
Went to the towel hut and the guy explained how the towels/palapas work. We get a palapa for the day- s long as our towel stays there it is ours for the entire day. There are 147 palapas infront of the radisson resort area. He gve us #7 which is located waterfront all the way to the right if you were looking at the water-- it was almost next to the water sports place. Most everyone else wanted the palapas in the middle-- we wanted peace and quiet and got it with this particular hut.
It sure is hot sitting out there in the sun-- getting cooled off by sitting under the palapa. Water is nice-- warm. not too hot--not too cold. Its perfect. not many people in the water infront of the radisson. the water next door (Occidental?-) very crowded.
We stayed on the beach til 1pm--then headed back to the room stopping at Gilligans for a drink. I got an Aruba Frosty. Got shell shocked with the price. The drink is in a 12 oz plastic cup- (I guess i was expecting one of the fancy "glasses" for the price. It cost 8.95 plus 15% grat- plus a tax. THAT drink cost $10.60. And you couldnt even taste any alcohol in there. Considering we dont drink at all-- shoulda tasted that right off.
Back to the room to find it has not been serviced yet. Oh well. took a quick shower. I was gonna buy a setcard for the computer but Joe kinda got upset that we had to pay for something that should have been within the room for the price of our stay. He complained to the right people-- told them that we booked and was told we would get wireless in the room-- and if we need to pay for a card then we should be reimbursed. The kind lady hooked us up with tech support. The guy talked us through changing the IP address-- and got us online within 10 minutes. Guess it paid off to complain-- I was just gonna pay the $35.00 to get access for the week.
Time to take a nap so we cab be back on the beach by 4pm.
Back to the beach-- wanted to see the sunset but its at 6:45. we sat on the beach for a bit then took our towels back to the hut and reserve a palapa or tomorrow- got #12 because #7 was gone already. its still water front so we didnt care.
Back to the room for showers and getting ready for dinner at Texas D Brazil.
Texas is across the street from PlayaLinda and a short walk from the Radisson. We arrive bout 6:30pm. Its not crowded and were asked if we had reservations-- we do not. After a very short wait we were escorted to the room to the left which left me worried that we wouldn't get served in a timely manner since we were the only ones there. Worried needlessly since it was not the case at all.
Dinner is 45.00pp which includes the salad bar. We have a coupon for buy one dinner get one free- compliments of an email from texas de brazil for my birthday-- August 30th and the coupon is good til Sept 17th--perfect.
Dinner here was amazing- After reading reviews that are love it or hate it i was on the fence about this choice.
We started with the salad bar--knowing that we should not fill up with this stuff--only took little tastes of the offerings and it is many.
The waitress gave us our cards== red to stop--green to go. We keep it red as we are eating our salad stuff. I thought that the way it worked is--you get a piece of meat-- and will be waiting for the next== its not the case. As soon as we turned the card over to green we were taken care of immediately. The guys with the skewers came about--not intrusive but made sure we were taken care of. For me the best was the garlic sirloin, and the garlic chicken. For Joe He loved the filet mignon wrapped in bacon. I think we tried everything that was being offered including a Parmesan crusted pork, ribs, even lamb which i didnt like coz it was too chewy. The waitress put on the table garlic mashed potatoes and fried plantains. We were so full but managed even to have a dessert. Waitress bought around a tray of what they had to offer and that choc one was calling to us. It was three layers of choc mousse- dark choc on top, white choc in the middle, milk choc on the bottom-- enrobed in a choc yum.- served with vanilla ice cream. We ordered one and shared it.
Considering we had the get one free dinner the bill was 85.00 and some cents. We get charged the 15% gratuity plus the tax on the whole bill. We each had 2 sodas and they are not free refills. 2sodas were 5.50 dessert was 9.50. The tip is split among ALL the workers which is nice since the guys with the skewers do most of the work. Dinner here was truly worth the going rate.
After dinner we needed to do some walking so checked out the stores located here- then started our walk back stopping in the casinos along the way. We each had 50. bucks for our gambling for tonight. We stopped at Hyatt, Occidental and Radisson.
I came back to the hotel with my 50 bucks and Joe came back with 80.00. Nice night. Hyatt we lost big- Occidental about even--won most at the radisson. (will try the casinos in the other direction maybe tomorrow)
Back to the room and sleep by midnight.
I am a day behind--guess thats what they call Aruba time.
All we did yesterday is breakfast at Laguna. beach- rented one of those float mats for 5 bucks for the day-- spent over an hour in the water which is sooo unlike me since I am afraid of sharks-- the most I do in the water is ankle high--not kidding. But this water here is so gorgeous you cant help but wanting to be in there-- besides its too hot not to be wet.
We came back to the room for naps, showers and got ready for dinner at Giannis. For me, When on vacation it is good not to go with any expectations that way there is no disappointments. Too late- I had very high expectations of Giannis. It IS a beautiful place that is shared with Daniels. kinda confusing when you walk into the place since Giannis name is on the front of the place and Daniels is on the side. We walk in and the lady at the podium has Daniels Steakhouse Menus in place and told us for Giannis we need to go outside to the side
of the building- we needed to wait about 15 minutes for a host to show. (its 6:30pm)
When we finally get escorted to our seats we do see that the workers are setting up shop for very large tables.. So far we are the only people eating inside-- there are two couples outside. Portions were kinda small and i manage to still leave there hungry. Not starving-- just not satisfied. Dinner here was 107.00 i had a caeser salad, chicken parm , for dessert i had a choc salami. and a soda. joe had a caprese salad, Pasta Fagliola, Sausage polanta for dessert he had a tiramusu. - please note dinner at Gianni's was not what I expected so because i went there with a high expectations I was disappointed. I mean the food was good and everything-- it just was food. Its very expensive for what we got.
We only hit the radisson casino tonight--- Played for many hours on 20 bucks and made it back to the room about 12:30am.
got up at 7:30am for an 9:00 appointment at the spa for a swedish massage. My first. Decided to use the radisson spa since we have 250 room credit and only spent 10.65 cents of it here. My kids gave me travelers checks for mothers day to be used for a massage while here-- i will buy me something special instead. Since i have to use up our room credit first.
Anyways-- for the massage i have to be there by 8:30 and needed at least a half cup of coffee so i got dressed--walked to the dunkin donuts which is right around the bed from the spa-- sat for about 15 minutes drinking coffee then headed to the spa by 8:30- this place is beautiful- but remember I have never been to a spa so have nothing to compare it to. After filling out forms and a medical release I was shown the locker rooms-- asked to wear the robe and slippers- I can wander around for about 20 minutes and just relax. I saw the cold water pool and did just stick a toe in there--- coz that is all the parts of my body that could handle that coldness--yess it was that cold. Since I was the first appointment there is no one else around so I took my time looking around, saw the steam room, the sauna room, The Ladies lounge room looked so nice and inviting. not too dark, not too bright. Large padded lounge chairs to recline in Music was playing softly--im gonna call it the Chinese piano music coz I surely cant describe it. The showers are nice and large--supplies are plentiful. Towels are available to take a shower. Coffee, tea and freshly made ice water with a bunch of fruit in it is available. |(Wonder if they took that water from the cold pool)
At 9am the girl took me into the room-- their website made the room look like my OBGYNs "waiting" room but in real life they look nicer-- more of a green then a white.
Its my first massage and have no idea on what to expect. I can honestly say that I was not relaxing enough to enjoy it but felt like melted butter when i was done. Raddison gave me a $15.00 off coupon so the 50 minute massage was 98.00.
Back to the room to get Joe and head to Laguna for breakfast. then to the beach for a little more sun--not much today coz Joe got a tad burnt yesterday---- Make sure your sunscreen is waterproof. I made the assumption that ALL sunscreen is waterproof and its not. I got 6 bottles of sunscreen before I left--- the kind I used on Joe's back in not waterproof. Poor thing
We head back to the room for a nap, shower and get ready for our sunset cruise tonight. Meeting BB friends at the Bugaloe located at DePalm Pier at 4:15.
Sunset cruise was awesome- very relaxing, peaceful. Joe and I were able to see all the hotels from the tam all the way to the Marriott properties. Tom and Karen from the boards were with us so they were kind enough to describe each place as we were passing. I even got to see the Lighthouse.
We got back to the pier about 7pm and Tom offered to drive us downtown since we wanted to try Iguana Joes for dinner.
He parked across the street from the place and they decided to head to dinner someplace around the corner from Joes.
Dinner at Iguana Joe's was excellent. The menu online does not list everything on the menu. Started with the Nachos (cant remember the name exactly-- but that was a meal in itself. It was huge. I had two starters. (boneless chicken with a hot not too hot sauce and a sampler of ribs) both of these dishes were a lot of food. Joe had the Jamaican Jerk chicken. It was 4 pieces of a boneless breast and it just melted in your mouth. A glass of sangria is 6.95 so I wanted to try it since everyone rants about the sangria on the island. It was huge--it was served in a carafe-ice cold. But it was not to my liking. I am not a drinker. and wine even more so--never could develop a taste for it. I only drank a quarter of it. The waitress saw I wasn't drinking it.. asked me why and i told her I guess I was expecting a more fruity /7-up/sprite kinda drink and i dont like it --she took it back- took it off the bill and gave me a spite instead. (that service itself was reflected in her tip- that ws nice and so not expected. I ordered it i should have paid for it.)
Dinner here was 49 bucks including 2 sodas for Joe.
We left here and walked to the Crystal casino which is downt he street from Iguana Joes. Place was packed- very smokey, (Im a smoker and it bothered me a great deal)
There is a sign at the door that says dress code enforced after 9pm-- it was only 8:30 so we went it. stayed til about 11:30 went in with 50 bucks each-- I came out with 30 and joe came out with 62. (he paid for the cab on the way back so he has everything he went in with) Cab from downtown to highrise--10 bucks
Back to the room to go to sleep- we are bushed.
>Got up early-- walked to the dunkin donuts for a coffee- came back and waited for Joe to get up- He had a restless night because of a sunburn he got while in the water on Thursday. He took 2 tylenol PMS so figured let him sleep for a bit--got his butt up by 10am-- got ready for the day--headed to breakfast at Laguna again. Took our time and spent almost an hour doing breakfast. We then went to the front desk to find out about our room credit-- We booked the radisson with a special getting us a 250 room credit. On Tuesday I asked the front desk if I can get a massage using that credit and was told yes- so today I want to ask if i can get a facial with the credit===(Since I only spent les then 11 bucks on it.) and was told yes I can get another spa service-- only gratuities are not included. So We walked to the spa and made a 3pm facial appointment. Got our picture taken with the colorful birds. (4 bucks) Came back to the room for packing and cleaning up. We have so much room credit left that we decided to forgo our dinner at Sunset Bistro and eat at Gilligans.
I went to the business center to print out our boarding passes- free is for me. The headed for my appointment for my facial. Never had one-- and it was relaxing but expensive. 113.00 fo 50 minutes.
We didnt want to head to gilligans between 5 and 7 since it is happy hour and it might be crowded so we decided to walk to Smokey Joes to buy some of their hot sauce and take a walk through that mall there. We go into the mall and see a sign for Scala. There is an early bird special (gotta be seated before 7:30) so we decided to eat here instead. It was a good choice.
we both had creamy onion soup, caesar salad, choc fudge cheese cake. and 2 sodas each ..I had the garlic shrimp, joe had tenderloin Alfredo. The bill was 64.00 the whole dinner experience here was amazing. service was great and the meal itself was very good. Took some awesome shots of the sunset from inside the restaurant.
Headed back to the radisson to hit up the casino again--- back to the room about midnight. Joe is going home with over 400. and I have a tad over 200. Not bad for the week.
Our non stop flight is at 1pm and I know to hit the airport 3 hours ahead of time. Bully is picking us up at 10am.
We get up at 7:30 and finish packing, showers and getting dressed. We get our last beakfast at Laguna. Servicce is slow, stuff is over cooked. Couldnt even get a 2nd glass of orange juice. (no, it was not crowded either I dont know if this mornin breakfast was not so good as we are leaving today-- its the weekend and less people are working? I cant put my finger on it.
We dont want to check out through the TV as we are having problems all week getting that credit applied to our room. So we head to the front desk to check out and pay cash for the stuff we got in their stores. Of course our room credit still has not been applied and it took the girl about 15 minutes to find out the information and get it applied. We paid our 39.00 made sure that the hotel is not gonna charge our credit card-- and went back to get our luggage and wait for Bully.
Headed to the airport at 10am.. was at the gate sitting waiting by 11am. It was not as bad as I expected BUT we were in the line waiting when 2 depalm buses loaded with people arrived.
Our flight home was the flight from hell. completely full- the movies are broke-- and we are sitting next to a young family with a 18 month old toddler. I dont know if it comes with inexperience but when you are taking a baby on a LONG trip wouldnt you have some stuff for that baby to do-- like a portable DVD player, books, little toys?? maybe color in a book ?? nope--this family had nothing for the boy..he of course wanted to run the isle and when told no would make this loud pitch screech--(and here I thought cabin pressure was bad) doesnt help either that the mom is having him drink some sprite-- it made for a very long flight. I felt badly for the honeymoon man sitting in the seat next to them- with his new bride in the seat in front of him. and felt more badly for the couple in front of this baby coz he would be kicking and screaming right behind their seats-- so in reality we had it a tad better. He did manage to fall asleep for about 15 minutes at about 3:30... but never was I so glad to hit ground and get the heck outta there.
Home now. Unpacking, washing clothes--and getting ready to go back to work on monday. Getting those after vacation blahs that come each and every time. We will be back to Aruba but not in any time soon. We do have cruises booked for Feb and Sept 2009 and disney in Oct. 2010-- I looked to see what it would cost to go back in Feb and just cancel the cruise--but with airfare costing over 800pp it just not cost effective at this time.
Places I would go back to for dinner--Texas De Brazil and Casa Tua--
I am happy about not renting a car---found I didnt need it. It only costs us 10.00 for transportation to get downtown one day so renting a car would have been an unneeded expense.
I will take less clothes next time.