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Thread: Trip Report, 9/30-10/7/13 (long!)

  1. #1
    Junior Member MrsAirplane's Avatar
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    Trip Report, 9/30-10/7/13 (long!)

    My husband and I recently returned from our honeymoon in Aruba, from Monday, September 30 to Monday, October 7. It was an absolutely amazing trip. We spent quite a bit of time on these forums doing research, so thank you to all of the contributors. Below is the recap of our time on the island -- more thorough reviews will (eventually) be posted on each business’ respective page. Sorry for the length, but I wanted to be sure to capture everything we were curious about prior to the trip. I hope it is helpful to someone else planning a visit to this beautiful place!

    We departed from Detroit on a 6:00am AirTran flight with a 3 hour layover in Atlanta. Our tickets were purchased about 6 months in advance for less than $500 a piece. Arrived in Aruba at about 3:00pm and took us about 10 minutes to get through entrance lines. Stopped at the duty free and picked up some liquor before heading to baggage claim (important to note: they will only allow you one 1-liter bottle per of-age person).
    We booked Bully for airport transfers and he was waiting for us with a big smile. Collected our luggage quickly and without problems. Bully did not have any other appointments that day so he graciously stopped at Ling and Sons for us to pick up some groceries (important to note: nearly everything in Aruba is imported, so prices are quite a bit more [40-50%] more than in the US -- bag of tortilla chips runs about $7, to give you an idea). We were in and out of the grocery store in about 10 minutes as we had made a list on the plane (and the store was small!). Bully only asked that we paid “whatever you think is fair” for the stop, in addition to the airport fee. We gave him an additional $25 for the stop and the brief wait.
    Arrived at Bucuti and were (almost) immediately greeted by Carlo and a luggage cart. We were ushered inside and over to the Tara building, as we had reserved the penthouse on that side of the resort. We spent a few minutes checking in (with nice cold glasses of champagne!) and were able to get the AAA discounted rate, which saved us nearly $50 a night. Jean Pierre brought us up to the top floor and made me close my eyes before walking in the front door. I was led through the suite and onto the balcony. When I opened my eyes, I had the most breathtaking view of the gorgeous beach and the ocean. It literally brought tears to my eyes, I was so happy to be there.
    Once we were settled into the room, we took a walk around the resort and then over to Pizza Bob’s for a quick bite to eat. I was craving Mexican, for some reason, and their Mexican pizza totally hit the spot, along with some tropical beverages. We returned to the room to unpack, and called it an early night due to that morning’s 4AM wakeup call.
    Our first full day (Tuesday) started with the complimentary breakfast on the Elements patio. There was a wide array of foods and included an omelette station and a daily rotating special that was consistently delicious. After breakfast we made our way to our reserved palapa where we spent the majority of the day just relaxing. Pizza Bob’s leftovers for lunch. At 4:00 we got to experience our first happy hour at the Bucuti Sand Bar -- half off all of their liquor drinks and we even got some complimentary appetizers. The steel drum player, accompanied by the resort’s resident parrots, made the scene complete.
    For dinner on Tuesday we opted to stay at Bucuti and partake in the romantic dinner, which happened to occur in our palapa. We were quickly reminded that the beach, even in front of Bucuti, is public, and had a front-row seat to a young woman straddling her boyfriend while they sucked face in the sand. Luckily, this only lasted through the first course and then they moved on down the beach. Back to dinner... The food at the romantic dinner, prepared in the Elements kitchen, was very good. I opted for the vegetarian menu while my husband chose from the standard menu. My menu consisted of a carrot-ginger soup, eggplant caprese salad, and a choice of entree (I chose root vegetables with fried wontons over a leek reduction). My husband had a mushroom soup, salad with duck, and beef tenderloin. We had a choice of dessert to share, tiramisu or chocolate cake. I’m not a coffee fan, so we went with the chocolate cake. Everything was incredibly delicious. We missed the late-night happy hour at the Sand Bar due to some confusion on our part (9:00, not 10:00!), and were back in our suite relatively early again on this night.
    Wednesday was our first excursion off of the resort grounds since our arrival. We booked an ATV tour with Aruba Sunrise Tours. The tour is operated by the owner of Club Arias, a bed and breakfast across the island. The tour provided transportation from Bucuti to the B&B, where we were provided a two-person Rhino ATV for the day. Along with another couple and Tess, our tour guide, we did a 6-hour tour of some of the beautiful sights of the island. We started at Black Beach, where we had a distant view of what is left of the Natural Bridge. We then made our way to the Natural Pool for snorkeling. The pool was perfect for four to snorkel, and our tour guide told us tales of some of the larger tour companies bringing busloads of tourists to the pool, which sounded miserable -- the pool is not large at all! Sure enough, as we were getting ready to leave, two large tours showed up, and we were glad we had arrived so early. Then it was on to the Arikok cave and a tour of the residence of Aruba’s very first mayor. We finished our morning on Bocca Grande beach, which might be the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. Apparently it is also one of the world’s best kitesurfing beaches, and my husband has vowed to return for a full kitesurfing lesson.
    We arrived back at Bucuti in time for lunch and utilized the red flag at the palapa for roasted garlic quesadillas and french fries. We spent some time in the afternoon relaxing until it was time to get ready for the Bucuti guest-exclusive sunset sail, which was operated by Unique Sports of Aruba (I think -- can’t quite remember!). It was such a fun experience, and very reasonably priced at $60 per person. We met quite a few couples that we really hit it off with. Drinks were unlimited and there was also a few passed hor d'oeuvres. Transportation was provided to and from the resort, and the shuttle driver was nice enough to drop people off at their restaurants of choice in order to make it to dinner reservations.
    Dinner for us was at Barefoot. We arrived nearly 20 minutes early, but our table was ready and waiting, just steps from the water. From start to finish, service at Barefoot was fantastic, parallelled only by the amazing food. We split the crab cake appetizer, pork tenderloin chimichurri for me, blackened mahi mahi for him. Dessert was the “Let’s Go Nuts” ice cream trio (walnut, hazelnut, and pistachio). After dinner we took a cab back to Bucuti, arriving in time for happy hour with some of the couples we had befriended.
    Thursday was another relaxing day in the palapa -- we even ate breakfast and lunch there. We tried to keep it light knowing dinner was going to be a spectacle -- reservation at 2 Fools and a Bull! We ended up sharing a cab with a couple we met on the sunset sail, and it was great to have a little group of us honeymooners to share the experience. The menu for the night: fish salad with salmon carpaccio, “foolish” mushrooms, red snapper and shrimp tempura, boneless veal chop, and the “happy ending” dessert trio. Oh, and wine, wine, and more wine! Very fun, unique, and intimate dining experience with two guys that obviously love what they do.
    Friday we left the resort before sunrise to catch our fishing charter with Hatts Off Charters. We found some great fishing companions right here on the forums, and the 5 of us joined Captain Leo and First Mate Rusty on the boat for a full morning of fishing. The seas were rough, and I am so glad I took my Dramamine an hour prior to departure, as a couple of the other passengers got very seasick -- and on a 6-hour tour, you definitely don’t want to spend it in the bathroom. In all, we brought back 9 mahi and 1 tuna. The Captain filleted the fish for us and we brought it back to Bucuti for dinner that night at Elements. Unfortunately there was some confusion and the fish never made it back to our room, but the chef was very apologetic the next day -- we ended up gifting the fresh fish to one of the Bucuti staff members.
    Dinner at Elements that night was unfortunately disappointing, but that was mostly due to the weather -- there was not even the slightest breeze that night and it was ungodly hot. Additionally, there isn’t really anything cool or light on the menu, so our dinners went mostly uneaten (risotto for me, duck for him). Delicious, but would have rather had a nice entree salad on a night like this. We moved indoors for a couple scoops of ice cream for dessert. It was even too hot to sit at the Sand Bar for happy hour! Luckily this was the only day without a breeze.
    On Saturday we scheduled a “trash the dress” shoot with a local photographer. We found Winklaar Photography through the wedding coordinator at Bucuti, and booked Victor for an hour-long shoot on the beach. This was a great experience and the photos are absolutely amazing, a great keepsake for years to come. He has quite a few of my photos posted here if anyone is interested -- had to brag because I think they came out beautifully.
    Saturday’s dinner was at Madame Jeanette, which is a unique outdoor dining experience, almost like you are in someone’s private backyard (which is probably, technically, true, as the restaurant is off the beaten path in a neighborhood). Tonight I went for the house salad with their house vinaigrette and the Dutch pork tenderloin (I had the choice of grilled or “Schnitzel” [pan-fried] style -- I ordered grilled, but the server told me the fried version was better. I hesitated because I really didn’t want anything fried [again, too heavy for a warm night], but she offered to do half and half, which I agreed to -- should have trusted my instincts, because the fried version was way too heavy, and I ended up just eating the grilled version). Husband had a Ceasar and the Burgerloin, which he enjoyed immensely. Between the huge salads and the amazing focaccia bread, we probably should have just split an entree tonight. We stuck around after dinner for drinks and to listen to the live music.
    Sunday -- our last full day! We had plans today to do brunch at Windows on Aruba and a sunset sail with Pelican Tours, but we scrapped both in favor of lounging at the beach again and attempting to finish up the alcohol we purchased at the beginning of the trip (unsuccessfully!). Couldn’t resist another visit to Pizza Bob’s for our last lunch (it’s so convenient!). We also changed our final dinner reservation to Screaming Eagle, as we had heard such good things about it over the course of the week. We were a little weirded out by the whole “eat in bed” concept, but it turned out to be kind of fun -- until I found quite a few dark hairs (not ours!) in the upholstered headboard. I’m kind of a germaphobe, so I’d probably choose to just eat in the regular dining room next time. Despite this, the service was, again, fantastic, as was the food. We opted for the fried brie appetizer, a vegetarian option for me (asparagus baked in brioche bread), and the special for him (stingray). Huge portions here as well, so no dessert for us.
    Monday was a sad, sad day. We finished out our week with breakfast at our palapa, accompanied by some much-needed champagne to take the edge off. We were able to get a later checkout (12:30) and I cried through the whole thing. Bully picked us up at 12:45 and we were on our way to the airport for our 4:00 flight. We arrived at the airport at 1:05 and were sitting at the gate by 1:55 -- no issues at all, and my husband was even flagged for additional screening. Both flights were early and we made it back to Detroit ahead of schedule.
    Overall, it was an amazing trip. Before leaving the resort, we made sure to book a stay for the same time next year, and look forward to celebrating our anniversary at Bucuti.
    A few more things to note…
    Things we hope to do next time: explore more of the island (Baby Beach, donkey sanctuary, etc); kiteboarding lessons
    Things we’d do differently: buy less booze/food at the grocery store (or eat/drink out less)
    Things we wish we’d packed: sunhat (originally I thought it would be too windy for a hat, but it was never that windy); headbands/headscarf (in lieu of attempting to style my hair)
    Things we will leave at home next year: hair care products (outside of the photo shoot, I just let the wind style my hair); heels (I wore wedges once, but sandals are where it’s at); citronella candle (one can of bug spray was more than enough); ties/dresswear (too warm, too formal!)

  2. #2
    Aruba since 1979
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    WONDERFUL ........thanks for sharing!

    Your photos of "trash the dress" are terrific.

    Many blessings to you both and may you grow very old together.........happy and healthy!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Pegmeister's Avatar
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    Wonderful report. I like the idea of red flagging for breakfast!! Congratulations on your wedding. It sounds like you got a great start with your honeymoon.

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    Thanks so much for your trip report and tips you gave at the end. 45 days until our trip se we appreciate all the suggestions we can get.
    Thanks
    Sean and Susan

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    Senior Member Arubalisa's Avatar
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    Wonderful Congratulations

  6. #6
    CK1
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    Senior Member CK1's Avatar
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    Lovely trip report! I liked the best how you described seeing the ocean from your balcony after you had to keep your eyes closed first.

    The ATV tour sounds very exciting. And so was your fishing expedition.

    Wonderful pictures of the "Trash the Dress". The one with your wet, flying hair caught especially my attention. Very nice!

    Reading through your restaurant experiences - I think I gained 5 lbs! LOL

    Seems like a fabulous Honeymoon! Congratulations! And how lucky that you could already book for your next year's Anniversary!

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    Great trip report and so glad you enjoyed the island. I love all of the pictures, what a great memory you made! Congratulations and my you have many happy years together!

  8. #8
    Aruba since 1979
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    Trip Report, 9/30-10/7/13 (long!)
    there is mention of "elements" in this thread pls click link

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Jacki's Avatar
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    Awesome report! Thanks so much!! LOVE the pictures!
    Jacki ~ loving Aruba from NJ

  10. #10
    Senior Member cpjones's Avatar
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    Thanks for the wonderful report.... You're definately off to a great start for a perfect life together!

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