Firstly, sorry this is such a long one. I was planning on updating as we went along, but the internet access at our hotel was poor at the best of times, and at peak times was nonexistent. Having said tat, I didn't have a lot of time to spend in front of a keyboard anyway.
I had done a lot or research on Aruba before booking (First choice at the Tamerijn all inclusive) so I thought I knew pretty much what I was getting into).
I remember reading that Aruba was a desert island with less than 16 inches of rain annually, and I thought " okay, desert island, it'll be hot but it'll be a dry heat". WRONG!!!! It was hot, and there was a nice breeze nearly every day, but it was also humid....at times uncomfortably so.
The weather was brilliant though, and we only had a few times where it rained, and then only for a few minutes at a time.
The hotel we stayed at was the Tamerijn ("J" is silent). We stayed in a one bedroom suite with a "kitchenette". Now here in Europe, that would mean a 2 ring stove unit, and a mini fridge. Our suite had a full 4 ring stove, a proper American Fridge and freezer, and a huge microwave/convection oven. It also has a toaster, a kettle, a coffeemaker, and all the pots and pans, and plates, glasses, and silverware you could have possibly needed.
Didn't use any of it though. The buffet restaurant was great! We all ate like pigs. The ala carte restaurants, with one exception were also very good. The exception was the Italian restaurant, and it was a huge disappointment. I had the seafood spaghetti, and the spaghetti was undercooked, tasted like eating a plate of rubber bands, and the seafood was so undercooked that 2 of the mussels weren't even opened. I suggest if you like Italian, give the Paparazzi at the Tam a miss.
The red Parrott at the Divi was good, and the setting right on the beach with sunset views was brilliant. The Ginger (Asian) was fabulous as well. We ate there twice and enjoyed it both times. The mussels in green curry souse was especially nice as was the sushi.
Was a bit of a hassle getting a bookng for there, but I got up early every day anyway, so managed to get the ones we wanted.
The staff at the hotel were also great...They were all very friendly (as were nearly everyone we had contact with there) and went out of there way to make your holiday special. A big thank you to our waiter at the buffet restaurant , Karel, he was an absolute gem, and always managed to bring a smile to our daughter's face.
Excursions....We did several and all were good value for the money. The jeep tour of the island that ended with a stop at baby beach was good fun. Baby beach was nice, but very crowded, which was a bit of a letdown...we were hoping to get to spend longer there too, but an hour and a half was a good end to the day. When we return, we intend to book a private guide to explore the national park more fully. The cactus looked really interesting, and I'd have loved to seen a bit more of the wildlife. My OH managed (after a lot of trying) to get some decent pictures of the "sugarbirds" but I know there are a lot of other interesting wildlife we didn't get to see. Watch out for the Iguanas though, they are everywhere!
We also did a half day to palm island. I didn't much care for it myself, it seemed to " manmade" to be interesting to me, but the OH and DD both loved the snorkeling. And it was a nice break from the resort area.
My OH is a keen diver, and did 3 separate 2 tank dives on three days with Unique divers. She enjoyed them all, and had a great time. She did say the diving wasn't as good as she had hoped, there was a pretty good current running and the Visibility wasn't as good as she's hoped for...but still, it was her first dives in a year, and I'm sure if we were still there she'd have been back for more.
We talked to several of the other guests about their excursions, and they all said the ones they did were good value. The helo trips seemed to be especially popular.
Having said all of this, we did spend most of our time at the beach.....GREAT !
Shopping....We did a trip into the high rise area and into the downtown area for shopping. Being a tightwad Yankee, I took along as many of the "free gift" coupons as I could find, and picked up a whole raft of freebees. Watch out for the de Sol coupons. They do items that change color in the sun. My 13 year old really loved them.
The hotel had a bit of a "market" several times a week in the lobby, but we just went to the local market for ours souvenirs, at about half the price.
We never even tried the local bus, relying instead on the Taxi service. I like the fixed price set up....saves having to worry too much about your costs. One driver told me it was 9 dollars, but he would take 10 if I insisted. I thought it was so cheeky, that I gave it to him! Not like me at all.
Tipping...We did tip when we felt it was deserved, which was fairly often, but then, the people make you feel so happy and special, that you just don't mind. I never felt like we were being pressured, either in the shops, or anywhere else....so even shopping was relaxing.
Visited a supermarket....WOW...how on earth do they afford to eat there? I can tell you that if we were to move there, meat would be a rare item on the menu...No problem for me, I could eat seafood forever.
The only part about the holiday I hated were the flights. Thomson air is a lousy way to get there...I have never been on a long haul flight before where anything except tea or coffee with your meal costs extra. And they ran out of ice within an couple of hours of takeoff. We did plan a bit better on the way back and packed lots of snacks in the carry on, but for drinks you had to go and see if they'd even bother to sell you one. Not a nice experience and one I will not repeat. If (and when) we return to Aruba it will not be with them.
Arrived back here in the UK to discover it had been cold and rainy nearly the entire time we were gone (HA) temps at the airport when we landed were about 15c (50 or so in old money) A real shocker.
We will be returning, just not sure when. It wasn't a cheap holiday, but it was a great one. My daughter (who's 13 so would know) said it was the best one she'd ever been on!
Thanks to all on here for your advise over the long planning process, sorry I didn't get to meet you guys, but as you predicted, it was tough to pry myself away from the beach. See you on the next trip!