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Thread: A very long trip report

  1. #1
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    A very long trip report

    TRIP REPORT DEC 2012
    Surf Club: Manager Scott has been transferred and it seemed noticeable that there was a lack of a manager. Little things like a good many light bulbs were burnt out in the lobby, just to mention one item. However, his replacement will be arriving next month.

    As usual, the front desk is just a disaster but seemed far worse this year. They have a new key system that is sure to frustrate even the most patient of people. In the past, one could have their credit card swiped at check in for each segment of your reservation so the key will work for the duration of your visit. This new system does not allow for this. You need to come and get new keys done each time which is frustrating to stand in line for this and it slows the process for everyone. One person had had booked 4 paid nights prior to owner week and had to come every day for the first 4 nights to get rekeyed! We had a similar situation. In addition, you could get a card sleeve for your room key so it wouldn’t get demagnetized but they no longer provide those. Many people had this problem and of course, you need to show ID before getting a new room key but when locked out of your room you have no access to ID!!!

    At the front entrance of the Surf Club they made a small enclosed alcove to sit just outside where the doors are. I would assume it is so people can sit without the wind, however, there is no AC or ceiling fans so the heat is oppressive-never saw anyone actually sit there for that reason.
    The addition of grocery style carts is fantastic. We loved them and made bringing groceries up to your room very easy and you could do it yourself. This also helped with moving of luggage and storage bins at the end of our trip.
    Wifi is coming to rooms in March, which will be nice. Pool where the kids slide is located will be under renovation Sept 2013 and completed by Oct 2013, they are not touching Lazy River.

    New tables were replaced at the Captain’s Galley restaurant they are square and smaller (very nice). They can get more tables in and take up less space. However, we did enjoy these big round tables in the wasted area on the second floor (outside) at the Lighthouse building. We would enjoy our group BBQ’s there at night but they have removed them and currently the area is once again, sitting empty.

    New picnic tables are being introduced to the BBQ areas. Round and smaller with umbrellas attached. All in plastic, they are very nice.

    Destination points are now what they are pushing. My firm belief is that if you want to come to Aruba during the winter, destination points are not the way you will get there. In addition, with destination points there is no guarantee that you can/could come to Aruba yearly. You need to own or rent and they are now no longer selling any weeks. Destination points will probably work in other locations but with the rate of return so high in Aruba, owners will unlikely turn their owner weeks into destination points. If they aren’t going to use a week they will sell the week privately.


    General: Tropic car rental is the “best”. First time we used this company and we can’t say enough about them. We have used Royal, Avis, Hertz, Amigo, Toyota and none compared to Tropic. As long as we don’t need a large vehicle Hans will have us as a customer FOREVER!

    Ritz Carleton is moving along quite nicely. I was surprised to see how wide it will be and hence, the beach is going to be very big. I am hoping that the vendors will be able to stay on the side where they are located now.

    Trolley downtown is almost complete. Very mixed comments from locals about whether this will be a success or not. However, more stores seemed to be opening up around Main Street and the square behind Renaissance Mall. More stores at the affordable level.

    Weather was fantastic. We started off our trip with a day of rain on Dec. 22nd and the next two days were cloudy but after that never saw another drop of rain. Usually we had a 5 minute rain shower in the middle of the day but not this year.
    Super Foods was a disappointment, to be honest. The store is lovely, big and clean but does not carry the same type of food that Ling and Sons has. I think this store caters more to the Dutch people so for our requirements we will stick with Lings or Kong Hing.

    NYE fireworks were the smallest we have ever seen since 1999! Not nearly as many fireworks going off inland and this was confirmed by many people. Ling and Sons did not have their firework show out of respect for the loss of life at the firework factory explosion in Curacao. Marriott did a wonderful job lighting their fireworks on a barge in the ocean. It was fantastic.

    Interesting 2 hour excursion on a catamaran that we booked privately. We got a group of people together and “went shopping” for the best price and excursion. All the local vendors seemed to sell for the same company so we went ahead. We usually try and use the smaller companies for most water sports as to help support them. However, next year we will use Depalm or Red Sail even though they will be more money. We started our day by being picked up and brought out to the catamaran by a waterski style boat. They packed us in far exceeding the allowable limit with no lifejackets on board. One father of the group finally told the driver to stop putting on any more people in the boat or he would have continued. This was obviously done to reduce the amount of times they had to ferry us to the catamaran. Luckily, we didn’t have to go far. Getting into the boat was difficult and transferring to the catamaran from the boat was dangerous for some of the kids and even some of the “older” people. We were told the catamaran would hold 40 people which we all agreed would be dangerous. We were 25 people and that was plenty and we found numerous issues with this company, but the most serious offences was the lack of lifejackets and the crew drinking with the rest of the group while “on duty”. Luckily, we only stayed just outside the swimming areas of the high rise hotels.

    We left on Saturday, the day of the power outage. The situation at the airport was not like I have ever seen before. The line ups for both segments, Aruba and US were unbelievable. Aruba security and customs was a complete disaster with nowhere near enough custom agents but the real slow down was the security screening. Three booths are just not enough!! This process was PAINFUL!! Then when you went to pick up your bags for US customs, they were asking what flight you were on so as to limit who was coming through. If your flight was later then they asked you to wait. Not sure if this is a new “thing” or that they were so backed up they wanted to get the people through who had to catch earlier flights. My son went left Aruba on Thursday and he said going through US Customs took 45 minutes as they only had 2 agents on. They had 5 agents on and the line was completely full (wrapped around the entire room) but it went quickly and we made it through in 15 minutes. Security screening was another issue entirely. Again, not enough booths to move ppl through quickly.


    RESTAURANT REVIEWS:
    First I want to make mention of Madame Janettes. Last year we had a terrible experience and MJ made good and gave us a complimentary meal for all 8 in our party. We went back somewhat jaded but have to say our food and service was amazing. Job, the previous manager of 12 years is no longer there but we thanked the owner and said we would be back.

    Honourable mention goes to our regular favourites, Barefoot, Anna Marias, Wacky Wahoos and Yemanja Woodfired Grill. Loved those and will keep getting our business as food and service was outstanding as always. Just as an FYI, our reservation for Anna Marias was at 7pm and we were done in 1.5 hours. If you go earlier the service is faster as larger tables come later. We were a large group 10 ppl. Still say best Italian on island, imo.

    Gianni’s has once again been dropped from my list. We haven’t been there for years and decided to give it another try but no more! We got our food luke warm and most of our party ordered veal which came with sides of pasta. The pasta came almost 10 minutes after our meal (2 were forgotten and came 15 minutes later) and were cold. Service was slow and it is hot there. A few ppl who went there on other nights experienced similar issues too. We sent them an email and to date, almost 2 weeks after sending an email, we have not had any response.
    We tried 2 Fools and a Bull and this was a fantastic and most enjoyable experience. The food was delicious and the concept was great. We look forward to going back there again. Loved it!!

    Went to White Modern Cuisine and overall enjoyed the experience but after 10 months of operation, they still have some kinks to work out. Our soups were “out of this world” and so were the fish dishes. We all ordered different ones and all got thumbs up for taste and presentation. The issue was extremely slow service in getting our dinners. The owner explained (after we spoke with someone) that a few tables who had 8:30pm reservations showed up at 8pm so all the orders got put in at the same time and they were not able to cope with all the dinners being prepared at once. They stagger their reservations so they can accommodate this but when ppl show up early this was the consequence. In a small restaurant, perhaps the best way to handle this would be to let the 8:30pm reservations know that the kitchen is small and that they can get them started with their appetizers but the 8pm reservations would have to be served first. There was a table next to us that half the table got served after the other half had finished. They came in before us and not sure if they will come back. That is sad as their experience was ruined due to the above situation. Our reservation was for 8pm, we got our appetizers in a normal pace but our food was not delivered until almost 10pm. The owner gave us free desserts which was a nice touch.

    Ventaas del Mar at Tierra del Sol golf course. Went there in March after a many year hiatus so decided to come back in December with a larger group. The restaurant has a beautiful setting outside but it was empty. Our food was average so probably won’t be back as too many options now.

    El Gaucho and Chalet Suisse were both outstanding. We sat upstairs at El Gaucho in the front section. This place is only accessible by elevator, no stairs at all. Obvious issue is in case of a fire what do you do? They said you go out the window??? If the elevator breaks, then what? We will be requesting in the future not to sit there.

    Well back home now and looking at all the snow we have and dreaming of the white sand of Aruba. With unpacking, doing all the laundry and quickly settling back into the usual routine, Aruba seems almost a distant memory. However, we all live through the trip reports of others and that is what keeps us going until our next visit to Aruba.
    happiness is going to Aruba with your adult kids because they still want to come with their parents

  2. #2
    Aruba since 1979
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    Andrea J.'s Avatar
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    thanks randi

    you write so very well and your report is awesome!

    how do you remember everything with such detail?


    glad the weather was good.

    thanks so much for sharing!!

  3. #3
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    Thanks Andrea! I pull out my calendar to remember all the dinners and I try to remember as much of the other things as I can.

    Having said that, I did forget to mention one thing...Bully! We used Bully and Hubert when we had to travel in a larger group. They were fantastic, as usual, and the best ambassadors for Aruba. Both Bully and Hubert are like part of the family now and we look forward to seeing them on our visits.

    Thank you Bully and Hubert!! See you in March!
    happiness is going to Aruba with your adult kids because they still want to come with their parents

  4. #4
    Senior Member jeffnev's Avatar
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    Randi-

    Thanks for the great report. As a fellow Surf Club TS owner, I am concerned about some of the things you reported. We are splitting our unit this year for this 1st time and staying 2 weeks so it sounds like I'll be stuck in that check-in line twice-ugh. Glad to hear you had a positive experience with Tropic as we have reserved a car with Hans for the first time this year too since we are by ourselves and didn't need a bigger car.

    Jeff

  5. #5
    Senior Member aruba here I come's Avatar
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    thanks... trying to figure out where we are going to eat, these posts help alot!
    ______________

  6. #6
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    I did forget to mention that we had a few breakfasts at Scott's Bratts and always enjoy Leslie and Scott. Love their place...so clean!! Nice people too!
    One morning got to meet Tom (as in Tom and Stanley) who was helping out Leslie and Scott with a delivery. Seems that the forum members who have taken residence on the island have a nice network of friendship.

    We did also go to Linda's Pancake and were a little disappointed. We called ahead to reserve a table for 6, so that was good. However, it took one hour to get our breakfast!! Not waiting one hour for a breakfast. They have a small kitchen and cook each table one at a time. Heard the waitress tell a customer who wanted to sit at the bar because there were no more tables that she would have to wait a long time for breakfast so she left. Also, the amount of fruit put on the crepes is very small.
    happiness is going to Aruba with your adult kids because they still want to come with their parents

  7. #7
    Aruba since 1979
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    Andrea J.'s Avatar
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    that is a shame randi , re: Lindas

    we rarely go there for breakfast, but have never experienced that slowness for dinner.

    we too love scott's and their owners!
    i would love to see scott's expand/open a 2nd location!
    but, they'd have to find 2 very hard working employees to work!
    i don't know anyone that works as hard as leslie and scott.

    Quote Originally Posted by Randi View Post
    I did forget to mention that we had a few breakfasts at Scott's Bratts and always enjoy Leslie and Scott. Love their place...so clean!! Nice people too!
    One morning got to meet Tom (as in Tom and Stanley) who was helping out Leslie and Scott with a delivery. Seems that the forum members who have taken residence on the island have a nice network of friendship.

    We did also go to Linda's Pancake and were a little disappointed. We called ahead to reserve a table for 6, so that was good. However, it took one hour to get our breakfast!! Not waiting one hour for a breakfast. They have a small kitchen and cook each table one at a time. Heard the waitress tell a customer who wanted to sit at the bar because there were no more tables that she would have to wait a long time for breakfast so she left. Also, the amount of fruit put on the crepes is very small.

  8. #8
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    We are headed for Aruba 2 weeks from today. It is our 5th time. I am in search for some new or fresh ideas for restaurants. I am glad you posted in detail about those places. 2 I have not been to is El Gauchos and Swiss Chalet. I try to make it a point not to get in a rut and go to the same places all the time. (MJ's Driftwood ) It seems this always happens! Thanks for posting.

  9. #9
    Senior Member cpjones's Avatar
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    Randi, Thanks for the great report.... you're right... we do experience Aruba all over again thru other's trip reports!

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