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Thread: Hotel Reviews (long read)

  1. #1
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    Hotel Reviews (long read)

    Hello all. I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Aruba to tour the island and hotels on the island. I was able to visit 15 hotels in 4 days, and wanted to share my thoughts. Keep in mind, the below reviews are coming from my place as a travel agent, and is my personal opinion based on what I have discovered my clients needs are. I have also simplified locations for agent friends of mine who are not familiar with the island. I am very familiar with the island as I lived in "the colony" in the early '90s as a child, and have visited many times since moving back to the states in the mid 90s.

    Courtyard by Marriott: I was pleasantly surprised by this hotel. It is not on the beach, but across from the two Riu properties. It does have a dedicated beach area in front of the Riu Antillas, closer to the ongoing construction of the St. Regis. This shouldn't be an issue, as clients can go a little further down the beach and not deal with construction noise. The hotel itself has been refreshed since it was The Mill. The rooms are spacious, light and bright. Each room has a balcony, with many overlooking the pool and main courtyard. The pool is large for a small property, and offers a swim up bar. There is also a lobby bar near the pool that stays open until 10 p.m. There is one restaurant on property (Allegro's). I only had breakfast here, but it was very good. They offer a buffet as well as a la carte menu. The restaurant does serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many nights I walked up and down the strip. It's only a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the end of the the shopping strip at Paseo Horencia mall. Tons of restaurants and shop all along this area, as well as all of the other high rise hotels. Great for budget travelers.

    Hilton Aruba: This is a gorgeous property. The grounds are stunning, it's right on the beach, and the rooms are decently sized. There are three towers you will see when booking this property. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. All rooms are lovely, with the Aruba rooms being slightly larger. I had lunch here at Gilligan's Seafood Shack, and it was very good. This is outdoor dining with views of the beach. All in all, this hotel is a constant winner with clients, and a solid option on Palm Beach. It's within walking distance of tons of shops and restaurants along the main drag, with an array of watersports available beachside.

    Hyatt Regency Aruba: So, last time I stayed at this resort was back in 2018, and it was a very lackluster experience. Our room was horrible, and the staff was very rude. They have since remodeled their rooms, and they are fantastic! The staff was definitely friendlier this go round as well. The new adults only pool is stunning, and the grounds as a whole are absolutely beautiful. This has always been one of my favorite hotels as far as the grounds go, with tons of greenery, flowers, waterfalls, birds, swans, koi, etc. I'm happy the rooms are now up to par. This hotel is located on Palm Beach as well, which means it's within walking distance of shops and restaurants.

    Barcelo Aruba: This was my first time touring the Barcelo. I typically do not book clients in AI or stay in AI myself when on island, but I do think this would be a great fit for the right client. I went in with very low expectations. That said, this hotel did exceed them. The rooms are your basic Barcelo rooms, and do show some wear and tear, however they are decently sized and seem comfortable. The grounds are nicer than I expected, and every staff member I encountered was very friendly. We did have dinner at the Italian restaurant on site. Again, I had very low expectations. The food was good for mid level All Inclusive food, and exceeded my expectations. The hotel is located on Palm Beach, which is the major plus as there is so much to do within walking distance. For clients who want unlimited drinks, or have teenagers with them that eat a ton, it's a good option.

    Tamarijn and Divi All Inclusive: As far as the Tam goes, all I can say is WOW! I have not visited this resort since I was a teenager at least, and I am so impressed with the recent renovations. All of the rooms are beachfront, with some being literally feet from the sea. I had breakfast here, and the buffet was very good with a huge variety of offerings. There is only one pool, as the focus here is really the beach. The Divi is the slightly larger sister property, offers three pools, and more dining options. I prefer the rooms at Tam, but either would be a great option for those wanting an AI. When you stay at one property, you have full access to the amenities at the other, which is a huge plus. There is a golf cart shuttle that can take guests between the two, or you can do the 7 minute walk along the beach. The beach at Divi is a little nicer as the beach in front of Tam tends to be a little rockier. The Tam beach is still swimmable with clear blue water, but I do recommend water shoes or at least paying attention as you enter the water. These hotels are located in the Eagle Beach area, and do have some shops/restaurants within walking distance. You won't find all of the water sports options here like you would in Palm Beach, but these are definitely my favorite AI on the island.

    Aruba Marriott and Stellaris Casino: I really like this property. It is large by Aruba standards but nothing like the mega resorts in other parts of the Caribbean. The rooms are nice and decently sized, and the balconies are large. The property is located on Palm Beach, so lots do within walking distance. This is a solid option for clients wanting Marriott standards while being right on the beach.

    Amsterdam Manor: I hadn't been to this resort since I was a child, and I now see why it is a local favorite. It is located right across from Eagle Beach, with only a road separating the hotel/beach. This shouldn't be an issue if you have clients that want a beach front property, as the resort faces the beach, and there are no other hotels in front of it. The hotel is done in the Dutch colonial style, and is so charming! The room categories range from studio to suites which offer one and two bedroom options. Each room also offers a kitchen, which is amazing. I toured a two bedroom. The room had a full kitchen (minus a dishwasher), dining area, living room, master bedroom with king bed, and second bedroom with two twins. It also has two bathrooms, which is awesome when traveling with friends/family. The famous Passions on the Beach restaurant is also located here, right across the street on the beach. Unfortunately due to weather we didn't eat here, but did eat at Horizons bar which is located inside Amsterdam Manor and overlooks Eagle Beach. The food even at the bar was delicious, and far exceeded my already high expectations for this property. There isn't a ton to do within walking distance, so I do recommend renting a car at least for a few days so clients can get out and explore the island.

    Manchebo Beach Resort: This is a fantastic boutique resort located in the Druif/Eagle Beach area. This hotel really focuses on wellness, with free yoga/pilates several times a day in covered pavilions on the beach. It is also home to Spa del Sol which is mostly outdoors with private treatment cabanas with views of the beach/sea. The spa menu is comprehensive. It also has the islands largest herb greenhouse, where the hotel grows many of its fresh herbs and small veg/fruit. The rooms are beautiful, with many of them having beach views. I had breakfast here, and the Aruban breakfast was delicious. They have a wide menu option including vegan and GF options.

    [COLOR=var(--primary-text)]Riu Palace Antillas and Riu Palace Aruba: Oh boy... I'm trying to think of something nice to say. The newly renovated rooms at Riu Antillas are better than I expected, with a light and airy feel. Most rooms have some sort of ocean view. There is ongoing construction, but it is expected to be finished by the end of the month. There is also ongoing construction going on next door as they build the new St. Regis. The noise is pretty loud during the day. The St. Regis is NOWHERE near completion, and while you can request a room on the pool side, there is no guarantee that your clients wouldn't have a wonderful view of construction. The Riu Palace Aruba... DO NOT BOOK THIS RESORT!!!! The rooms smell horribly of mold. It was almost unbearable and after being in the room for only 10 minutes, my sinuses and the back of my throat were burning. They are also pretty tired looking.

    Holiday Inn Aruba: I love the Holiday Inn, and that hasn't changed. This is by far my favorite "budget" property. It is located on Palm Beach, with rooms ranging from standard view (think parking lot) to walk out beachfront rooms. The rooms are light and bright, if nothing special. The grounds are beautiful (not as grand as the Hyatt), and it's located within easy walking distance of shops/restaurants. The onsite restaurants are okay, but I prefer to eat off site when I stay here. This is a solid option for lower to mid budget clients who care more about having a clean room and hotel location.

    Renaissance Aruba: I toured both Marina Hotel and Ocean Suites back in 2018, and love the new renovations. This hotel is located in downtown Oranjestad. Marina side is located across the street from the Marina, while Ocean Suites is located across the street and to the left. Ocean suites does offer a man made cove beach. The new rooms at Marina hotel are great, and even the hallways have been refreshed. You will find the private island boat transfer in the lower lobby where there is a canal for the boat to come in/out of. Ocean Suites is also in the process of renovating rooms. The hotel is within walking distance of lots of restaurants/nightlife/shops with some shops being high end Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Columbian Emeralds, etc. When staying on either side, you have have full access to Renaissance Private Island. It's about a 10 minute boat ride from the marina. This is where you will find the famous "Flamingo Beach" that has been all over social media. Flamingo Beach is adults only, and Iguana Beach is family friendly. The island does have a bar/restaurant on site as well as snorkel rental. I had lunch at the hotel, and the buffet was very good with a large selection of options.

    Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort: WOW WOW WOW!!! This is definitely one of my favorite resorts on the island. The owner of this resort is world renowned for his environmental initiatives, which is employs at his hotel. The resort is located on Eagle Beach and is absolutely stunning. It is a high end boutique property, and the attention to detail through out is out of this world. It has consistently been voted as the Caribbean's most romantic resort, and it shows. I toured the Tara Suite, which offers a sitting area with a separate bedroom. The views of the beach are absolutely amazing. I did have dinner here, and like everything else with this resort, it was fabulous. While not all inclusive, your stay does include breakfast. The hotel takes customer service seriously, and will even go to the grocery store prior to guests arrival to make sure their favorite drinks/snacks are available. They do charge a small fee for this, but it is totally worth it.

    [COLOR=var(--primary-text)]Aruba Ocean Villas: This is the resort with over water bungalows/villas as well as beach bungalows. This hotel exudes rustic luxury. I stayed here one night at the end of the fam, and am so glad I did. It is located in Savaneta, which is about 15-20 minutes south of the airport and far removed from the touristy areas of Palm and Eagle Beach. The hotel has a beach bar and one restaurant that only has 8 tables. Right now they only have 8 bungalows/villas so it is a true boutique property. They are now putting the final touches on the new Villa Sophia which is a large over water bungalow. It is absolutely gorgeous! I stayed in Chupi, which is a two story beach bungalow. On the first floor is a baby grand piano (not playing condition), living area, large soaking tub, and bathroom, while upstairs is the loft bedroom with a queen bed. The whole property is like walking through Eden with lush greenery, flowers, and a great private beach. Dinner at the restaurant was delicious, and the included breakfast was wonderful as well. The property is on the beach, but surrounded by mangroves. Mosquitos can be an issue. The hotel provides spray in room, as well as throughout the property. There are hammocks and beach beds scattered along the small beach, with hidden seating areas throughout the gardens. I don't know if I would want to stay here for a whole week, but thinks it's a great option to offer your clients a split stay with a few nights here and then transferring to a hotel on Palm or Eagle beach.

    [COLOR=var(--primary-text)]One thing to be aware of... because these are thatched roofed buildings, and bamboo/rough cut wood walls, it can feel hot/humid is certain areas of the bungalows/villas. For example, in the two story bungalow there was A/C available in the living area and upstairs in the bedroom, but none in the bathroom. The bathroom was sooo hot and humid. It was so hot/humid in there I couldn't even imagine taking a shower. Luckily the soaking tub is located in the living area, so I could at least bathe, lol. Many of the buildings offer outdoor bathrooms/showers which I think would be much better as far as the heat goes.

    If anyone has any questions or anything to add, please let me know.
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  2. #2
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    thank you for sharing your reviews of those hotels/resorts.
    4 days and all of those properties...WOW!



    Quote Originally Posted by hmitchell_travelplanner View Post
    Hello all. I recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Aruba to tour the island and hotels on the island. I was able to visit 15 hotels in 4 days, and wanted to share my thoughts. Keep in mind, the below reviews are coming from my place as a travel agent, and is my personal opinion based on what I have discovered my clients needs are. I have also simplified locations for agent friends of mine who are not familiar with the island. I am very familiar with the island as I lived in "the colony" in the early '90s as a child, and have visited many times since moving back to the states in the mid 90s.

    Courtyard by Marriott: I was pleasantly surprised by this hotel. It is not on the beach, but across from the two Riu properties. It does have a dedicated beach area in front of the Riu Antillas, closer to the ongoing construction of the St. Regis. This shouldn't be an issue, as clients can go a little further down the beach and not deal with construction noise. The hotel itself has been refreshed since it was The Mill. The rooms are spacious, light and bright. Each room has a balcony, with many overlooking the pool and main courtyard. The pool is large for a small property, and offers a swim up bar. There is also a lobby bar near the pool that stays open until 10 p.m. There is one restaurant on property (Allegro's). I only had breakfast here, but it was very good. They offer a buffet as well as a la carte menu. The restaurant does serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many nights I walked up and down the strip. It's only a 10 minute walk from the hotel to the end of the the shopping strip at Paseo Horencia mall. Tons of restaurants and shop all along this area, as well as all of the other high rise hotels. Great for budget travelers.

    Hilton Aruba: This is a gorgeous property. The grounds are stunning, it's right on the beach, and the rooms are decently sized. There are three towers you will see when booking this property. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. All rooms are lovely, with the Aruba rooms being slightly larger. I had lunch here at Gilligan's Seafood Shack, and it was very good. This is outdoor dining with views of the beach. All in all, this hotel is a constant winner with clients, and a solid option on Palm Beach. It's within walking distance of tons of shops and restaurants along the main drag, with an array of watersports available beachside.

    Hyatt Regency Aruba: So, last time I stayed at this resort was back in 2018, and it was a very lackluster experience. Our room was horrible, and the staff was very rude. They have since remodeled their rooms, and they are fantastic! The staff was definitely friendlier this go round as well. The new adults only pool is stunning, and the grounds as a whole are absolutely beautiful. This has always been one of my favorite hotels as far as the grounds go, with tons of greenery, flowers, waterfalls, birds, swans, koi, etc. I'm happy the rooms are now up to par. This hotel is located on Palm Beach as well, which means it's within walking distance of shops and restaurants.

    Barcelo Aruba: This was my first time touring the Barcelo. I typically do not book clients in AI or stay in AI myself when on island, but I do think this would be a great fit for the right client. I went in with very low expectations. That said, this hotel did exceed them. The rooms are your basic Barcelo rooms, and do show some wear and tear, however they are decently sized and seem comfortable. The grounds are nicer than I expected, and every staff member I encountered was very friendly. We did have dinner at the Italian restaurant on site. Again, I had very low expectations. The food was good for mid level All Inclusive food, and exceeded my expectations. The hotel is located on Palm Beach, which is the major plus as there is so much to do within walking distance. For clients who want unlimited drinks, or have teenagers with them that eat a ton, it's a good option.

    Tamarijn and Divi All Inclusive: As far as the Tam goes, all I can say is WOW! I have not visited this resort since I was a teenager at least, and I am so impressed with the recent renovations. All of the rooms are beachfront, with some being literally feet from the sea. I had breakfast here, and the buffet was very good with a huge variety of offerings. There is only one pool, as the focus here is really the beach. The Divi is the slightly larger sister property, offers three pools, and more dining options. I prefer the rooms at Tam, but either would be a great option for those wanting an AI. When you stay at one property, you have full access to the amenities at the other, which is a huge plus. There is a golf cart shuttle that can take guests between the two, or you can do the 7 minute walk along the beach. The beach at Divi is a little nicer as the beach in front of Tam tends to be a little rockier. The Tam beach is still swimmable with clear blue water, but I do recommend water shoes or at least paying attention as you enter the water. These hotels are located in the Eagle Beach area, and do have some shops/restaurants within walking distance. You won't find all of the water sports options here like you would in Palm Beach, but these are definitely my favorite AI on the island.

    Aruba Marriott and Stellaris Casino: I really like this property. It is large by Aruba standards but nothing like the mega resorts in other parts of the Caribbean. The rooms are nice and decently sized, and the balconies are large. The property is located on Palm Beach, so lots do within walking distance. This is a solid option for clients wanting Marriott standards while being right on the beach.

    Amsterdam Manor: I hadn't been to this resort since I was a child, and I now see why it is a local favorite. It is located right across from Eagle Beach, with only a road separating the hotel/beach. This shouldn't be an issue if you have clients that want a beach front property, as the resort faces the beach, and there are no other hotels in front of it. The hotel is done in the Dutch colonial style, and is so charming! The room categories range from studio to suites which offer one and two bedroom options. Each room also offers a kitchen, which is amazing. I toured a two bedroom. The room had a full kitchen (minus a dishwasher), dining area, living room, master bedroom with king bed, and second bedroom with two twins. It also has two bathrooms, which is awesome when traveling with friends/family. The famous Passions on the Beach restaurant is also located here, right across the street on the beach. Unfortunately due to weather we didn't eat here, but did eat at Horizons bar which is located inside Amsterdam Manor and overlooks Eagle Beach. The food even at the bar was delicious, and far exceeded my already high expectations for this property. There isn't a ton to do within walking distance, so I do recommend renting a car at least for a few days so clients can get out and explore the island.

    Manchebo Beach Resort: This is a fantastic boutique resort located in the Druif/Eagle Beach area. This hotel really focuses on wellness, with free yoga/pilates several times a day in covered pavilions on the beach. It is also home to Spa del Sol which is mostly outdoors with private treatment cabanas with views of the beach/sea. The spa menu is comprehensive. It also has the islands largest herb greenhouse, where the hotel grows many of its fresh herbs and small veg/fruit. The rooms are beautiful, with many of them having beach views. I had breakfast here, and the Aruban breakfast was delicious. They have a wide menu option including vegan and GF options.

    [COLOR=var(--primary-text)]Riu Palace Antillas and Riu Palace Aruba: Oh boy... I'm trying to think of something nice to say. The newly renovated rooms at Riu Antillas are better than I expected, with a light and airy feel. Most rooms have some sort of ocean view. There is ongoing construction, but it is expected to be finished by the end of the month. There is also ongoing construction going on next door as they build the new St. Regis. The noise is pretty loud during the day. The St. Regis is NOWHERE near completion, and while you can request a room on the pool side, there is no guarantee that your clients wouldn't have a wonderful view of construction. The Riu Palace Aruba... DO NOT BOOK THIS RESORT!!!! The rooms smell horribly of mold. It was almost unbearable and after being in the room for only 10 minutes, my sinuses and the back of my throat were burning. They are also pretty tired looking.

    Holiday Inn Aruba: I love the Holiday Inn, and that hasn't changed. This is by far my favorite "budget" property. It is located on Palm Beach, with rooms ranging from standard view (think parking lot) to walk out beachfront rooms. The rooms are light and bright, if nothing special. The grounds are beautiful (not as grand as the Hyatt), and it's located within easy walking distance of shops/restaurants. The onsite restaurants are okay, but I prefer to eat off site when I stay here. This is a solid option for lower to mid budget clients who care more about having a clean room and hotel location.

    Renaissance Aruba: I toured both Marina Hotel and Ocean Suites back in 2018, and love the new renovations. This hotel is located in downtown Oranjestad. Marina side is located across the street from the Marina, while Ocean Suites is located across the street and to the left. Ocean suites does offer a man made cove beach. The new rooms at Marina hotel are great, and even the hallways have been refreshed. You will find the private island boat transfer in the lower lobby where there is a canal for the boat to come in/out of. Ocean Suites is also in the process of renovating rooms. The hotel is within walking distance of lots of restaurants/nightlife/shops with some shops being high end Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, Columbian Emeralds, etc. When staying on either side, you have have full access to Renaissance Private Island. It's about a 10 minute boat ride from the marina. This is where you will find the famous "Flamingo Beach" that has been all over social media. Flamingo Beach is adults only, and Iguana Beach is family friendly. The island does have a bar/restaurant on site as well as snorkel rental. I had lunch at the hotel, and the buffet was very good with a large selection of options.

    Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort: WOW WOW WOW!!! This is definitely one of my favorite resorts on the island. The owner of this resort is world renowned for his environmental initiatives, which is employs at his hotel. The resort is located on Eagle Beach and is absolutely stunning. It is a high end boutique property, and the attention to detail through out is out of this world. It has consistently been voted as the Caribbean's most romantic resort, and it shows. I toured the Tara Suite, which offers a sitting area with a separate bedroom. The views of the beach are absolutely amazing. I did have dinner here, and like everything else with this resort, it was fabulous. While not all inclusive, your stay does include breakfast. The hotel takes customer service seriously, and will even go to the grocery store prior to guests arrival to make sure their favorite drinks/snacks are available. They do charge a small fee for this, but it is totally worth it.

    [COLOR=var(--primary-text)]Aruba Ocean Villas: This is the resort with over water bungalows/villas as well as beach bungalows. This hotel exudes rustic luxury. I stayed here one night at the end of the fam, and am so glad I did. It is located in Savaneta, which is about 15-20 minutes south of the airport and far removed from the touristy areas of Palm and Eagle Beach. The hotel has a beach bar and one restaurant that only has 8 tables. Right now they only have 8 bungalows/villas so it is a true boutique property. They are now putting the final touches on the new Villa Sophia which is a large over water bungalow. It is absolutely gorgeous! I stayed in Chupi, which is a two story beach bungalow. On the first floor is a baby grand piano (not playing condition), living area, large soaking tub, and bathroom, while upstairs is the loft bedroom with a queen bed. The whole property is like walking through Eden with lush greenery, flowers, and a great private beach. Dinner at the restaurant was delicious, and the included breakfast was wonderful as well. The property is on the beach, but surrounded by mangroves. Mosquitos can be an issue. The hotel provides spray in room, as well as throughout the property. There are hammocks and beach beds scattered along the small beach, with hidden seating areas throughout the gardens. I don't know if I would want to stay here for a whole week, but thinks it's a great option to offer your clients a split stay with a few nights here and then transferring to a hotel on Palm or Eagle beach.

    [COLOR=var(--primary-text)]One thing to be aware of... because these are thatched roofed buildings, and bamboo/rough cut wood walls, it can feel hot/humid is certain areas of the bungalows/villas. For example, in the two story bungalow there was A/C available in the living area and upstairs in the bedroom, but none in the bathroom. The bathroom was sooo hot and humid. It was so hot/humid in there I couldn't even imagine taking a shower. Luckily the soaking tub is located in the living area, so I could at least bathe, lol. Many of the buildings offer outdoor bathrooms/showers which I think would be much better as far as the heat goes.

    If anyone has any questions or anything to add, please let me know.
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    Wow! Very nice of you to post all of this information. It will certainly help first timers or those who want to try different hotels. Most of us on this forum who have been to Aruba numerous times have our fave hotels but definitely an interesting read. Thank you.
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    I hope it helps. I know so many people (including myself) have very strong feelings regarding particular hotels/resorts. I tried to stay as neutral as possible, but the Holiday Inn is still my fave place to stay, lol.

    Quote Originally Posted by Colette M View Post
    Wow! Very nice of you to post all of this information. It will certainly help first timers or those who want to try different hotels. Most of us on this forum who have been to Aruba numerous times have our fave hotels but definitely an interesting read. Thank you.
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    It was definitely go go go the entire week. I'm grateful for the experience, but it was a lot to take in in just a few days
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    Whew...! Thanks!
    A wise man is easily fooled. But, only a fool would fool a wise man!
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmitchell_travelplanner View Post
    It was definitely go go go the entire week. I'm grateful for the experience, but it was a lot to take in in just a few days
    It definitely was a lot! I appreciate your post and would say I am in agreement with your assessment of places we have stayed. Selfishly was hoping to see your take on the Ritz.

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    Unfortunately I didn't have the Ritz on my tour schedule, which was disappointing. I'm taking my family for vacation in June, and plan on scheduling a tour and meeting with the general manager. I'll update when I do

    Quote Originally Posted by Pegmeister View Post
    It definitely was a lot! I appreciate your post and would say I am in agreement with your assessment of places we have stayed. Selfishly was hoping to see your take on the Ritz.
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    Quote Originally Posted by hmitchell_travelplanner View Post
    Unfortunately I didn't have the Ritz on my tour schedule, which was disappointing. I'm taking my family for vacation in June, and plan on scheduling a tour and meeting with the general manager. I'll update when I do
    I think you will love the Ritz. We have only stayed there once but it was special.

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