We loved Aruba and are looking forward to going back at some point. We stayed at the Mill and was happy with its value, we would stay there again in a heartbeat. (We spent less than $1200 total including taxes for our USAir flights from DC and 6 nights stay, no chance in finding that again with rising fuel costs)
Day 1)Uneventful travel via USAirways from DC/National Airport to Charlotte, then onto Aruba. No Turbulence, the pilot even picked up 30/40mins so we arrived in a little over 3 hrs.(Which was good because I was seated next to a larger male and we were packed in) Bring a pen because we had to borrow from other passengers to fill out the immigration forms onboard. We breezed through immigration quickly, but spent the better part of 30-45 minutes waiting for our checked baggage. We decided to take the Depalm Tour bus to our hotel since it was already included in our package. (2nd stop, so it only took 15 minutes I think) Check-in was a breeze, we got a royal room "C" on the 2nd floor overlooking the pool. We dropped our stuff and went exploring around 5pm, first to the Dutch Windmill, then walked across the street to the Westin. We decided to walk up the little sidewalk that runs along the hotels and ended up at the end next to the holiday inn. Crossed the street and had dinner at Scala in the new shopping center. Food was good, drinks were good as well.(Joanna liked the Aruba Ariba drink) Walked into the Excelsior Casino at the Holiday Inn, played 2 slot machines and left. Most tables were closed and it was just an OK casino.Walked back on the beach around sunset and passed 5 tables eating dinner by torch & candlelight (Azull) on the beach in front of the westin, and we decided to reserve that for the 19th when we got back to the room. Went into the Westin Casino (Casablanca) and played a couple slot machines and some $5/10 blackjack, spent less than $100 and went back to our rooms to check out the whirlpool tub. (Was okay, but ran out of hot water about 1/2 way full) The shower stays hot. (And has a built-in shampoo & body wash dispenser) Watched some tv on the LCD TV in the room and Went to sleep early for the inpending ABC tour the next day at 8am.
Day 2)Woke up and did the ABC Full day jeep tour from 9am to 5pm. Traveled in Land Rovers with bench seats & a shade cover stopping at the Lighthouse, Gold Mill Ruins, Alta Vista Chapel, Natural Pool, (No road, going over many rocks) Ostrich Farm (Lunch here), Natural bridge, Some high point on the island, the indian caves and Baby Beach. (Snorkeling was available at the Natural Pool & Baby Beach, and they were definately the best 2 stops on the tour) Our tour guide was named Rocky, and I would definately recommend this tour to anyone visiting Aruba. Our tour only had 3 jeeps doing the full-day, which was good because it reduced the amount of dust being generated on the dirt roads. (We saw the Depalm jeeps and there was many of them, i was glad we signed up online before leaving home for the more personal ABC tour,which was cheaper and offered a discount by booking online. Afterwards we were pretty tired so we ate at the Garden Cafe Resturant at the Mill, and was pleasantly surprised with the Mahi-Mahi&Shrimp in Garlic butter sauce we had.(You will find 10% off coupons in the books from the Depalm bus) The karoke guy though at the bar next to the resturant was loud and relatively annoying. Afterwards, my girlfriend went back to the room to rest and I went back to the Casablanca casino. Sat down at $5 roulette and won $150, played some $5 blackjack, broke even on that and went back to the room. (Its about a 2-4 minute walk across the street)
Day 3)Ate the breakfast buffet from the Garden Cafe Resturant at the Mill, it was fine, but expensive at $35 total. First day on Palm beach, we stayed around the Westin beach for a couple hours, then the Westin Pool. (Nobody checks anything, so you can just walk right up and sit at some pool chairs) Pool chairs with thick padding on them made them very comfortable. The place was full of lizards & iguanas though, which was interesting. Afterwards we bought a dozen donuts from Dunkin Donuts for $8 next to the Occidental on the beach side and milkshakes from the adjoining baskin robbins. We took the donuts to our room so we'd have breakfast for a few days. walked up the street side of the hotels and checked out everything. Dinner ended up being Salt & Pepper, which I thought was OK (But i had a bacon cheeseburger, nothing special) but Joanna did not care for her tapas that much. Went back to the Casablanca Casino in the Westin and actually threw the dice playing craps for the first time. (and many times after that since I was by myself at the table, it was a $5 table) Played some more $10 blackjack for a couple hours and went home.
Day 4)Late start to today, since Joanna was feeling sick. I went to the Mill gift shop and picked up some overpriced $2 & $2.25 Balashi (Aruba local beer) & Polar beer along with some bottled water. The beer bottles are only 8 or 10oz, very small. I drank a beer and relaxed on the balcony overlooking the pool until she was ready to get up. The Balashi beer was actually pretty good, kinda like an exotic budweiser. No need to buy bottled water though after that since the bottled water was actually just the tap water from the desalization plant. (Just refilled it from our tap)We walked our way up the street and had lunch at Tomato Charlies. The meat lasagna was pretty good actually. Afterwards we spent about an hour or so on Moomba Beach (Top end of Palm Beach) up near the Holiday Inn & Marriott timeshares. The sand is finer, but the water is a bit murkier and the sand in the water has a slimy squishy feeling that I did not really care for. Alot more shells around though. We did the Jolly Pirates Snorkeling Afternoon tour called Something's fishy going on (Booked it before we left, got a discount) from 3pm to 6pm. Good time, 2 snorkeling stops, a ropeswing stop and an unlimited bar. I liked Boca Catalina better than the shipwreck though because everyone was on top of each other at the wreck and I was constantly being kicked by other peoples fins. Afterwards we walked down and into the Occidental Casino for about 25 minutes. (Probably the oldest looking casino ever, some of the machines in there looked about 20-30 years old, no joke) They actually had external machines to insert your money into that connected to the slot machine. I played one and had to hit the "bet max" button, then hit "spin" button, very old-fashioned to say the least. Only 1 active table, so I redeemed my $10 match play coupon and played a few hands of blackjack. Made $20 dollars and left quickly. Dinner was at Casa Tua, (Near Salt&Pepper and the Argentine Grill) and the Pizza I had was very good, even though the service was rather slow. The pizza was about 12 inches and cracker thin crust, I ate all of it. Played more Roulette and blackjack at Casablanca Casino in the westin and went home.
Day 5)Today we decided to take a taxi down to the Black Hog Saloon which also had a mini golf course and played a round of Mini-golf. (The harder red course) I actually had my ball land in water, and thus Joanna won. We walked down the street to Eagle Beach near the Amsterdam Manor Resort and found a couple of beach chairs. (A guy came around and asked for $10 for the chairs though, and we paid it) The beach is wider and there are not as many people on this beach. Be advised- A decent number of dutch women stayed here, and there was some not-so-modest topless women around this area.(We had them on both sides of us) There was some jetski's nearby so we rented them for 30 mins and had a good time. After a few hours we walked back to the Palm Beach area about a mile away. (Stopped by the Westin and bought a soda for $1.04, got 96 cents worth of Aruban Florins back, the first time I got florin's all week) We then went up to the Radisson and ate at Gilligans, a cafe on the beach of the Radisson hotel for a late lunch/early dinner. I had a grouper/fish sandwich, it was really good. Afterwards, we lounged at the Radisson pool for a couple hours and listened to the guy playing the keyboard, which was rather pleasant. The Radisson had a very nice pool we thought. As usual, the late night was spent in front of the blackjack table at the Westin/Casablanca casino. At this point most of the dealers and some of the players are recognizing me. There was a couple of really nice dealers (such as lisabeth) and a few women dealers who were very cold and looked like they were staring into outer space the entire time. Some of the dealers made mistakes, I watched one dealer mistakenly hit a hard 17 and bust, one time paid someone with 17 when the dealer had 18 and so forth. One dealer on roulette tried to short a patron by about $50 on his payout (he played the number about 5 different ways) and it was called out & corrected, and once i hit my number 36 to 1, he pushed my colored roulette chips towards someone else. Obviously he needed more coffee or something because that all happened in a span of about 5 minutes.
Day 6) Started the day off rather late again, so we had lunch at our hotel (Garden Cafe Resturant) in which I had "Old fashioned" steak sandwich. It was kinda hard and not nearly as good as the dutch gouda cheese steak I had at Scala on Night #1. Afterwards we spent a couple hours in front of the Westin beach again, then walked up to Moomba Beach again so we could get T-Shirts from the Jolly Pirates shop. We layed on Palm Beach there in front of the Marriott timeshares/Holiday Inn Sunspree again for a couple more hours under a palapa/straw hut and then headed back. (Note: Except for the first day on the beach in front of the Westin, we were always able to secure beachchairs and almost always a straw hut/palapa if we wanted one. We returned to our room to shower and clean up, and then headed over to the Westin again for our 6:15 reservation for Azull, the beachfront dinner I booked for Joanna's Birthday dinner. We started off by taking off our sandals and being seated facing the sea with a mini table and 2 chairs. Our personal waiter (Jaime) brought us a bottle of Chardanay Trio in a ice bucket and some glasses. We drank the bottle of wine and watched the sunset with our feet in the sand. Afterwards, the lit up the torches surrounding the 5 tables, and the candles on each table. Our dinner was a set menu, and consisted of 2 sets of crackers, 1 with black olive dip, 1 with gouda cheese and a orange sauce, a seafood soup, a ginger salad, and the main course was beef,fish,chicken and shrimp skewers with creamy rice, green beans, black beans, a seasoned tomato and some other object that I could not identify. Dessert was cheesecake in strawberry sauce. All of it was really good and the ambience on the beach was unforgetable. The bill was around $145+tip. We recieved a jar of sand with Westin Beach and the Aruban flag painted on it as a gift. Afterwards we walked into the casino and I had about $120 on me. I sat down at a $10 blackjack table and won about $140 in less than 15 minutes, we left. (Did not even finish 1 shoe, I was playing by myself at the table again)
Day 7)Woke up early and hung out by the Mill pool for a couple of hours, then packed our stuff to check-out at noon. Bought a buddy some cigars at the shop next to the Dutch Windmill and then took the DePalm Bus back to the airport. Arrived about 3 hours early, but it took about 2 hours to get through everything. Spent the other hour just purchasing T-shirts and small gifts. The flight from Aruba to Charlotte was long and moderately turbulent due to bad storms over the eastern US. We actually had to circle in midair over South Carolina for 30minutes to wait for the rain to pass. Ended up being 4 1/2 hours back to Charlotte, and our DC flight was 30 minutes delayed as well. Got home around 12:20 after leaving Aruba around 4:40.