We just came back from a delightful vacation at the Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort in Aruba. This was our first time on the island, and we picked the AMBR after much reading of both good and not so good reviews... I have to say that as expected, it was just the right place for us: small yet comfortable, friendly yet not invasive, lively yet not noisy, authentic, aesthetic, well situated, environmentally progressive, great food in and nearby, etc...
You may see our photo album here:
We also posted a video on our iMac gallery, but note that it may take a few minutes to start if you do not have good bandwidth: http://gallery.mac.com/rongreg#100053
We found the staff to be unbelievably nice, cheerful and helpful. The room we had the first night was not the best since it was just across from the restaurant and had no windows other than the front. We do not like AC, and especially in Aruba is makes much more sense to just keep your windows open. As we arrived late, that was the only room available, but it seemed like the entire staff was mobilized to find us a better room for the remaining of our stay -- which we indeed got (plus a bottle of wine in the fridge for good measure!). All the rooms seem very comfortable and practical. The location is great since it is at the very north of the low-rise hotel area, therefore the beach seemed less crowded than all others. The beach was also very clean and well kept, plenty of shade and a very convenient bar, yet not obtrusive or noisy.
The food and service at Mango's restaurant was surprisingly good and affordable. Passions, the restaurant on the beach is indeed a must experience for the ambiance, but we were not so thrilled about the food. However there were plenty of nice restaurants near by (we walked everywhere) - We mostly recommend Tulip (good food, nice atmosphere and affordable), and Screaming Eagle (the name is regretful, but the food was excellent, though a little pricey).
This time we left the kids behind, but in our mind the AMBR is equally good for couples and families, young and old, straight or gay. Probably with the kids we would have preferred the ground floor.
The only small disadvantage of the location is the small road between the hotel and the beach (like most low-rise hotels and time-shares in the north part of the section). It is right in front of the hotel, but nicely hidden between the trees / vegetation, easy to cross, and not too busy. It took us less than a minute to get from the room to the water front, which is not the experience you can expect in most of the high-rise accommodations....
The AMBR may not be for everyone... We like small places, we like to walk a lot (absolutely no need for a car here), we appreciate environmentally conscious places, we dislike noisy public entertainment (couldn't believe how obnoxious the music around the clock at the "La Cabana" was), etc. We were not bothered by the lack of a fitness center, and appreciated that it has no casino.
We walked all the way to the California lighthouse one day (took the bus back), and it was wonderful. We walked on the beach most of the way, and discovered many small coves and "baby beaches". Note that there are no kiosks or stores once you pass that high-rise area, so bring water and snacks / lunch with you if you want. It took us about an hour and a half to tow hours for the walk plus small stops.
We also rented bikes another day for a wonderful ride to the east coast of the island. The AMBR arranged for the bikes to be dropped off and picked up, and they were only $10 for the day (great quality mountain bikes plus helmets). It was a great way to discover the east coast, with the wild beaches. Alta Vista, the gold mine, etc. From the AMBR it took only about a half an hour to reach Alta Vista.
Also also walked to town one day, but that is not as recommended.