Some background: When we first decided on an island vacation about 7 years ago, I launched into extensive research on Caribbean islands. The primary criteria was for perfect beaches. Great restaurants (I’m somewhat of a foodie), safety, ease of travel, friendly people, some casinos (for me) and weather were also considerations. With a couple of strong recommendations from some people at work and my research Aruba was ‘it’!
This was our 6th visit to Aruba. The first three years we stayed at the Hyatt and then switched to the Radisson. Each year we always toured the other hi rise hotels and their grounds. During our last year at the Hyatt, we stopped by the Radisson and asked to see a room. No problem! My wife loved the warmth of the room and furnishings and the ‘sit down’ balcony. We both loved the grounds at the Radisson… just as nice as the Hyatt, but in a less formal fashion. We also looked at rooms in the Aruba Grand, and the Wyndham. We were totally sold on the Radisson and have stayed there since.
Hyatt advantages: Larger bathrooms, best staff on the island and we loved the old lobby. We don’t like the renovations with the Alice in Wonderland chairs. Does anyone else remember the 60+ foot wool carpets in the old lobby..? We used to start and finish our days at the Hyatt in the lobby.
Radisson advantages: Balconies to sit on, less motorized water sport noise at the beach, much larger free form pool, wonderful grounds. We found that we could stay on the Concierge level for the same price as a deluxe ocean view at the Hyatt… of course, the price went up about 15% our second year at the Rad.
We booked thru AAA and purchased the trip insurance… this allows cancellation for any reason prior to departure. If you purchase trip insurance… be sure you know what it’s for… not all policies are the same.
In the few months prior to our trip, I mentally packed, repacked, agonized over what to bring or not bring, spent hours on this site and on http://www.restaurantsaruba.com/ , I memorized menus and planned like crazy for our trip. I also put together 4 pages of notes for my sister who comes to take care of my 89 yo Dad and the Pugs (16, 10 and 3 yo) oh yeah, and Willie the 16 yo Persian. Thanks, Lin for helping us out!
So…. It’s the night before and I’ve been packed for hours. My wife used the 28 inch Samsonite and I used the 21 inch. I pack light, no long pants ever, 5 pair of shorts, underwear, 2 swimsuits, 7 shirts on hangers gently folded to avoid ironing when we arrive, beach flip flops and two other (dress up?) flip flops. I planned to wear boat shoes on the plane, but they will stay home next year. For carry on I had a swimsuit, toiletry stuff and my friends, Lee Child, Robert Crais, James Lee Burke and John Sanford…. And, of course some snacks! We finished packing and went to bed late for not much sleep! Wake up call for 4 am.
I stumble outta bed at 4 and Patty has been up for an hour. Monte (son) is due before 5 to get us to Logan by 6. Fortunately we live in SE Mass and it’s just under an hour to Logan… some of you people have incredible journeys! Monte shows up and just after 5, I get a little suspicious of my wife’s suitcase…. After a quick weighing drill we discover that it’s about 53 pounds… We quickly jam some stuff into my bag and all is well. I thought we had both packed light, but I did forget that ‘natural beauty’ does require an assortment of lotions, creams, oils and goo! Hence the extra weight! Monte gets us outta the drive at 5:10 and to USAir by 6:10. There was no one in line and we check thru almost immediately….. we linger over coffee before security so I can go outside and smoke… We hit security and to the gate with tons of time to spare for the 8 am flight. We left the gate 5 minutes early and arrived in Aruba a full 15 minutes before our scheduled 12:45 arrival! This was a bonus day in the making! Thank God (and USAir) for the non-stop flight!
We got thru immigration and baggage claim in no time and actually had a taxi within 20 minutes of landing! We took the DePalm bus our first year and decided that the 25 +/- for the cab was worth not making 8-10 stops before we got to the hotel. Even though check-in is 4 pm, the Radisson has always been able to check us right in! I had booked for a garden view room (saving $) and got an easy upgrade to partial ocean view in the Curaco tower. We quickly unpacked – yes my shirts, even the linen ones, made it without need of ironing! We actually were on the beach with our traditional Aruba Ariba’s in hand by 2 pm…. It was truly like an extra day of vacation!
We spent a few hours at the pool and the beach before going up to change for dinner. Dinner was a short walk away at Smokey Joe’s. Fantastic ribs, a jerk chicken caesar salad and a couple of island potions was $55 with tip. Lotsa flies this time tells me that there is probably a dirty dumpster nearby…. Won’t be doing Smokey Joe’s again for that reason. Took a leisurly walk thru the Hyatt, sat in the lobby for a while and walked the beach back to the Radisson. Pat turned in early and I naturally went down to the Casino. The Radisson Casino is a bit dated and smells like stale cigarettes (all casinos do) but the décor is quite interesting and the staff is great! If you’re doing any time at the casino where you stay, be sure to sign up for the player’s club and earn points for comps. Even if you just get a t-shirt or a cap, it’s better than nothing.
Monday was a long beach day with a northward walk in the am and a southward walk in the pm. We really believe that we were staying at the best stretch of Palm Beach. The Marriott was quite crowded as always. Lunch was at Gilligan’s to be able to stay close to the beach. Pat was schedule for a Swedish massage (I’ll stay tense) at 4:30. I went to the casino while she got ready for dinner. Yemanja Wood Fired Grill…. We had planned on dining in the garden, but with a troubled sky and some earlier downpours, we opted for inside. Nice place with fantastic people. Grilled scallops, shared salad, rack of lamb, a bottle of nice pinot, and my dessert and Pat’s coffee was $125 with a good tip. This is definitely a ‘do again’ place, but not ahead of Mme J’s or the Sunset Grille. After dinner we had the taxi drop us off at the Rui for our first real walk-thru of the property…. Ostentatious… kinda like plastic wood grain in a luxury automobile. We just didn’t like it! Down the beach, thru the grounds, and Pat’s off to bed and I’m down in the casino again.
A note on tipping: We do tip for good service and for quality people. If you tip your maid, I recommend doing it daily. These women work hard and I would not like to see the ‘part-timer’ get the tip because the main one is on the day off if you tip weekly.
Tuesday was more of the same… it’s what we come here for. Relaxing day at the beach, a coupla good walks, a nap in the shade and a good book. Neither of have any interest in giving up a beach day for shopping, tours, or other activities. We did rent a 16’ Hobie for an hour sail. Palm Beach is so nice from a coupla hundred yards out. I finished with Robert Crais this morning and the body count was significant…on to Lee Child this afternoon! Lunch at Salt and Pepper… we brought a S&P shaker for the free glass of wine for Patty and I had an Amstel Bright (OK..so I had 2!) a greek salad and some tapas. We had planned Wacky Wahoo for dinner but they were closed so we went to Texas de Brazil – normally I wouldn’t do this restaurant for 46 pp with Patty eating as light as she does, but I had a casino comp for the meals and a coupon for a drink. We had to pay for service charge, coffee and a glass of wine. The food is great, the salad bar is amazing and service was wonderful. We walked thru the new shopping complex across from the Holiday Inn and then through the Playa Linda to the beach. The Playa Linda is by far the prettiest property on Palm Beach.
Wednesday = ditto beach and walks and good books..! No problem getting a palapa any day with the 4 pm sign up for the next day at the towel hut. Even the days I hit the towel hut at 6:30 there was no problem. Lunch was Gilligan’s again – great caesar salad for my girl and a tuna melt for me! Patty had a 90 minute massage at 4:30 and we met at Miro Solo at 7 for cocktails before Mme Janette’s. Almond Grouper, The Old Butcher Steak (marinated in lard and bacon), shared crab cakes, a coupla drinks, dessert for me (always) and coffee for Pat. Came to $87 plus an over tip of $20! Best food of the week, wonderful atmosphere, nice entertainment and flawless service…. Mme Janette’s is a wonderful bargain and should not be missed by anyone.
Thursday = ditto beach etc. Another sail on a 14’ Hobie today. I finished with Lee Child today… and started James Lee Burke. Lunch was salads at Tomato Charlie’s – my lipitor needed help with the dinners I’ve been eating! Dinner was downtown at El Gaucho. This was Pat’s choice as I had had less than great experiences on my previous two visits. Everything was great (except lost reservations) and this place is elevated to my ‘do it again’ list. Pat ran into one of her friends on her honeymoon in the lobby and we made plans for a sail on Sat. Taxi dropped us at the Westin… nice job with the lobby upgrade. Walked the beach and went ‘home’!
Friday = beach and lunch at Gilligan’s (Casino comp) and finished James Lee Burke. We went to the room late, I took a power nap and we scooted down to Gilligan’s for happy hour before we walked to the Westin for dinner at Pago Pago. Dinner was wonderful, we had Caesar salad prepared table side (12 pp) and it was supurb! Pat had grouper and I had some kind of other fish! Service, food and atmosphere were all excellent (especially my caramel pecan cheesecake), but with no entrees at less than $30, it’s a very pricy place to eat. I’d rather spend less money and have a better experience/food at Mme J’s.
Saturday=beach, books (started John Sanford) and lunch at Salt and Peppers. We sailed with Patty’s friend and husband on a 16’ Hobie. Very aggressive wind made for a great sail! Pat had her last massage at 5 pm while I took a nap in our room. While she got ready for dinner, I went to the casino. We always save Sunset Grille for our last night. We both love this restaurant! Dinner at 8 on the patio. The grounds are magical in the evening with the lighting for the pools and the waterfalls. We had a coupla drinks, portabella appetizer for Pat and a spinach salad for me. Baked stuffed shrimp for Pat and a bone in rib eye for me (I think my cholesterol count has exploded in Aruba), coffee for both of us and a white chocolate hazelnut soufflé for me. This was fairly expensive, but well worth every penny! The Sunset Grille is truly a 5 star restaurant. I needed this to get over the melancholy of going home tomorrow. I did tuck Pat in and then closed the casino at 3 am!
AARRGHHH! Sunday is go home day. We had the breakfast buffet at Laguna. Quite adequate for the money. Pat broke out the camera to get some quick pictures for the grand kids. We made a quick trip to the gift shop on the pier for the obligatory grandkid gifts. After a final walk through the grounds, we checked out and got the taxi to the airport for 11:30! OMG! no one in line at USAir again…boy, do I love this airline! We got thru customs, immigrations, the gift shop (my cigarettes) and baggage check in 20 minutes! This has proven to be our quickest in and our for Aruba since we’ve been coming here! Our flight boarded early and backed up from the gate 10 minutes early. The flight #1686 was uneventful except that the little boy behind me had a near death experience when he kicked my seat and woke me from my much needed nap! Actually the kids that were near us on the plane did a wonderful job traveling…. Good job, kids! We got to Boston about 25 minutes prior to our scheduled time and had to wait at the gate for a jet way operator…. All in all, we were outta baggage claim about 35 minutes after getting off the plane. Monte picked us up and we got home without incident!
I’m amazed at the amount of construction on the island and the number of condos and rooms that are in the works. We regularly hear that a stop should be put to all this construction and that we need to keep Aruba the way it is now! That will never happen. Maybe if we all write horrible trip reports, tell everyone how awful Aruba is and never recommend the island to anyone…. AIN”T gonna happen! We all love the island too much to do it injustice. One of the things we each love about our individual Aruba experiences is being able to share them with others. All we can hope for is that the changes will be gradual and in good taste to minimize the impact on all of us!
I hope Patty and I can get to Aruba again next year. Nothing is a given. If we get to go, we’ll do the beaches all day, bring the favorite authors and do the two most important dinners at Mme J’s and the Sunset Grille….. the other nights will be more casual meals and ….. OH POOPS!….it’s a year awayL
If I can answer any questions for anyone….lemme know
Swedish massage... dunno difference with others, but the folks at the Larimar Spa can answer that and explain the differences... sounds like a lotta rubbin'! My wife loves it and is totally relaxed afterward.... Highly recommended!
Texas de Brazil has a seperate price for just the salad bar. The
46 pp does include the salad bar. Go to the Texas de Brazil website and you can sign up for their 'member club' and get a discount coupon ... it's been a while but I think it's 2 for 1!
Simply asked for the upgrade and it was available to us. I think you'll be ok in Sep for an upgrade.... it's still low season.
I'm so happy for your update and happier that you seem to have had such a wonderful time and everything went as you had planned, gee, pat does like those massages, can't blame her at all, hope to at least get in one myself. Now the questions: # 1 Aruba Ariba, some special drink ? # 2 Do you play big at the Casino to get these Comps ? I will join the players club, but am more of a slot player, is it worth it ? Have reservations already for MME J ( is that a far taxi ride from the Radisson ? ) and Sunset grill, after you review, I can hardly wait to enjoy. # 3 Yemanja Wood Fire Grill - haven't read anything on that one, is there a web site, although Scallops and Pinot is right up my alley ? # 4, Salt and Peper, what, you bring a actual s&p shaker and they give you a free glass of wine ? Is that place also far from the Radisson, was looking for something different one day for lunch? # 5, have heard or shall i said read so many pros and cons on El Gaucho, but you seem to enjoy it, will have to add to my list. # 6 I had booked a partial Oceanview, gee maybe I'll get a upgrade to Oceanfront, that would be so sweet, but will be happy none the less.
Thanks again for your update, hope you don't mind, but if I have
any more questions, I will write you again.
Thanks for the trip report. I am leaving in a few days for Aruba and we too stay at the Radisson. This will be our 8th time there. We also love the grounds and the more causal atmosphere. Sounds like you had a great time and I am sure we will too!
Glad to hear you had a great time
Thanks for the Radisson update, don't see many people staying there on this forum
We too love the Radisson and are headed back in Nov for 2 weeks
I can't wait for the food, casinos, drinks and doing a whole lot of nothing on the beach and at the pool