Thank you all so much for all your reviews and advice leading up to our honeymoon. It was the best - and most relaxing - vacation we have taken and we absolutely loved the island. There is no doubt that we will be back (likely each year to celebrate our anniversary). I'll break down the trip by accommodation, food and drink, and gambling (which is essentially all we did on our honeymoon -- and loved every second of it!). HOTEL We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris, which ended up being perfect for us. We stayed on the Tradewinds floor, which was great because we were able to have breakfast, bring a bunch of beers down to the beach, go up for lunch, bring a bunch of beers down to the pool, and relax until dinner, all without spending the ridiculous resort prices for food and drinks. We met a bunch of great people at the beach and in the pool, and the Marriott really provided a relaxed but fun atmosphere. (The Marriott also has an adult pool, which is gorgeous and perfect if you want total quiet and relaxation, but was a little too quiet for us). The food in the Tradewinds lounge was decent, and there was plenty. Everyone kept telling us that we needed to do excursions - and we had, at one point, planned on actually riding RVs or going on a snorkeling trip - but once we reached the island, we vegged out for the entire week and did not do one excursion. This ended up being perfect for us, as we were so stressed from the wedding and just wanted to do nothing. (If you are interested in water sports -- paddle boarding, snorkeling, etc -- it is very easily accessible from the Marriott. I was told that non-motorized watersports are included with the stay at the Ritz (right next door), whereas they are extra at the Marriott, so that might be a consideration for people when deciding where to stay). FOOD We went to El Gaucho on our first night and were very impressed. I think part of it had to do with low expectations, but we really enjoyed our meal and would definitely come back here. We got a deal that included soup or salad to start (the pumpkin soup was outstanding), a platter of meat to share as an entree (filet, two types of ribs, two types of sausage, chicken -- all phenomenal), dessert, and a bottle of (cheap, but drinkable) red wine, all for $100. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better deal in Aruba. And the food was really, really good. On our second night we went to Carte Blanche. This was definitely the meal I was most looking forward to but was also most nervous about. I was hoping I would love it, but was concerned that it wouldn't hold a candle to many tasting menus in NYC. We were very impressed. The food was delicious and excellently presented and the wine pairings were spot on. We had a bunch of really nice people who were dining with us that night, which added to the enjoyment. The service was great. We will definitely be back on our next visit. I would absolutely recommend Carte Blanche to any wary city folks who think this is just Aruba's attempt at cashing in on the tasting menu fad. It's legit. You'll enjoy it. Our third night we originally had reservations at Flying Fishbone but were persuaded to cancel by a number of couples we spoke to who said it wasn't worth the long drive. Stupidly, when we found out that we couldn't get into Wacky Wahoo, we asked the hotel concierge to recommend a restaurant and they sent us to Gianni's, across from the Radison. Ugh. While the service was great, the food was bland. We were mad that we wasted a dining night on this place but, in retrospect, it was our own fault. We stopped at Soprano's after dinner and it was fine - nothing to write home about. The next night we went to Two Fools and a Bull. While the company was great (and maybe this is because I was constantly comparing it to Carte Blanche), the food simply fell short. It wasn't terrible, and some of the dishes were decent, but it definitely didn't blow us away. The wine pairings also left a little to be desired. If you're looking to do a tasting menu in Aruba, I would definitely recommend Carte Blanche over Two Fools. It's more pricey but, in my opinion, it's far superior in ambiance, food quality, and wine pairing. On Friday we went to Madame Janette's, which we enjoyed. We LOVED their beer menu (and found things we are not able to get at home) but found ourselves so full that we were only able to try two beers each. The bang-bang shrimp appetizer was good, but so filling. The almond-crusted grouper with creamed spinach was excellent but HUGE -- i couldn't finish half of it and I can usually eat anything put in front of me. My husband got steak which he enjoyed. We will be back on a day where we fast in preparation! (We were also there the first night of "Oktoberfest" which looked fun, though we just walked past and poured ourselves into a cab in our food comas. We were asleep by 11 that night -- a poor showing!). On Saturday, we attempted to watch the college football games at Hooter's, but that failed miserably. We kept trying to get them to put on the Mississippi State game, but they turned on Southern Mississippi, so we drank the day away and then went back to the Ritz to gamble (more on this later). On Sunday, we spent the day at Champion's at the Marriott Surf Club -- very impressed with this place, as they seat you at a table in front of the TV with your team's game on. The food was what you would expect for a sports bar in the Caribbean. The beer buckets were a decent value. We were really impressed with the beer selection at Taste of Belgium, and vowed to go back, but never made it back during our stay. They have about 25 belgian beers and happy hour from 5-6, where all are half price. Great value and we were able to try some stuff we've never seen in the states. Great service as well. I hope this place does well. We will definitely be back. We also got lunch at Scott's Brats one day -- awesome little place with incredible sandwiches. I had the Doc's Brats (with peanut butter, cream cheese, and jalapenos) and it was great. My husband got the Combo (don't quite remember what was in it, but it was similar to a philly cheese steak with sausage and it was also really good). Would definitely recommend this place for a quick bite on the beach. I'm bummed that I didn't get to try White Modern Cuisine, Screaming Eagle, Amuse Bistro, Barefoot, and Wacky Wahoo. Certainly on the list for next time! GAMBLING Our favorite casino - by far - was the casino at the Ritz. Most friendly dealers, Craps table, and great cocktail service. The cocktail waiter would bring another drink before we were done with our current one (this led to a blurry night and a miserable hangover, but it is appreciated nonetheless). There's also a sports book kiosk, while the one at the casino in the Marriott was often broken during our trip. The casino was big, essentially smoke-free, and smelled great. The entire Ritz hotel was gorgeous, though I would be concerned that it would have more of a stuffy vibe than the Marriott, so I think the Marriott was perfect for us, since the Ritz was such a quick walk away. The casino at the Marriott was also really fun. They have a video poker bar which was a great place to watch the Thursday night game and the World Series. Most of their dealers were nice and the people playing there were fun as well. I don't know why they don't have a Craps table, but someone told me that they will be bringing it back within the next few months. We HATED the casino at the Radison. The dealers were miserable and the place seemed desolate. I love the location of the Radison, but because of that casino I wouldn't stay there. (To be fair, we only went twice, and others could have had different experiences, but we just did not get a good vibe). We also enjoyed the casino at the Hyatt. The grounds at the Hyatt are beautiful and the casino was no different. Very nice dealers, Craps table, and central location. If we were to stay somewhere else, I think this would probably be the place. Ok, I think that's all I got! I've now decided that my life passion is to open a beer bar in Aruba Absolutely loved the island and am sure that we will return for years to come. Thanks again for all your help - I really appreciate all the advice I gleaned from this board.
Best wishes for a wonderful life together.... and you certainly choose the right place to begin. Loved your report and your dining stories. Glad it was enough to just 'veg out' on the beach.... it's my favorite Aruba pastime!
Thanks so much for posting. I think most of us fantasize about opening a bar or something in Aruba, but I don't want to have to work there should I become lucky enough to live there! Congrats on your wedding and honeymoon in Aruba!!