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Marriott Ocean Club, Palm Beach Aruba by Ashley

May 12 - May 19, 2007


Where to begin……Well my DH and I just returned from a wonderful 2-year anniversary trip to Aruba. We normally take cruises whenever we can and have sailed on various lines including Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean. My mom graciously offered her timeshare for us to exchange and Aruba was calling our names. We stayed at the Marriott Ocean Club in a 1-bedroom unit from May 12th – 19th. The Ocean Club is between the Marriott Stellaris Resort & Casino and Marriott Surf Club. The Surf Club is still being constructed and I can’t imagine how crowded it will become when the new wings open. Being as we were in the middle, Ocean Club guests are entitled to use both the facilities at the Stellaris Resort & Surf Club. Resort guests can use the Ocean Club, but not the Surf Club and Surf Club guests can use the Ocean Club, but not the resort. That being said, even with two other resorts having access to our facilities, we did not find anything to be crowded the entire week we were there. We could always find a lounge chair by the beach anytime of day. In addition, we had no problem getting a beach palapa (fancy term for hut) throughout our entire stay. Each facility has their own palapas and only guests of that resort can use them. This is where the Ocean Club surpasses the other two. The Ocean Club was at full capacity even though the low season was just beginning. With the entire resort being full, it always seemed so quiet. I thought this to be very nice, as we could go over to the Surf Club for craziness if we wanted. The Surf Club looks fantastic and the rooms are amazing, but it is just not for me…but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you! It certainly has it’s pros!

Our 1-bedroom unit was recently renovated with all new furnishings. They are up to par with any other Marriott resorts, new bedding, granite countertops, etc. We had a full kitchen, which was nice since we ate all breakfasts and lunches in our room and even cooked 2 dinners as well. The kitchen had all the appropriate cooking utensils and even had a blender. There were enough plates and spoons for a family of four. In comparison to our home resort in Park City, Utah, these units did not have a washer and dryer in the unit, but one was provided down the hall – easy to use and we did about 3 loads of laundry the entire week. It was nice going home with all clean clothes and not having to mess with it at home. The unit was divided into two rooms – the master bedroom with a king size bed and a living/dining room. Each room had its own TV. This came in handy since my husband developed a case of insomnia and was able to watch TV throughout the evening without disturbing me. We did have some issues with our door and being locked out several times throughout the week that was rather inconvenient, but it didn’t put a damper on our holiday. Every time security came up, it showed our card expired, but who knows what was going on. On the fourth day, they replaced the entire unit on our door and left a hand written note and fruit basket in our room for the inconvenience. My husband loves fruit baskets. :-) Our room was on the 6th floor on the outside facing the Marriott Stellaris Resort. Before arriving, we had heard the owners were given priority to rooms inside the U and found this to be true. We chose to be facing the Marriott Resort versus the Surf Club due to the size of the Surf Club. At first we were a bit disappointed since when we looked out to the right, we saw a nice view of the parking lot, but looking to the left, we had a fantastic view of Palm Beach. Our Photos. Of course the further down the hallway you are, the better the view. All in all, we can’t complain that much since we were in the Caribbean.

Palm Beach turned out to be our favorite beach on the island. We like the fact that the water was so calm and that we could sit out in front of our hotel. We visited Eagle Beach and Baby Beach as well. Eagle Beach is where all the low-rise hotels were and although it was nice, we preferred the calmness of Palm Beach. In addition, no one seemed to be swimming at Eagle since the waves were somewhat rough. (My husband did get to see a topless woman though, so that’s good) Baby Beach with the exception of the view of the Valero oil refinery would be a great beach to spend the day. The snorkeling was great and you could be entertained for hours just watching the kite surfers. Even with all that being said, we only spent an hour there and headed back to the Marriott. There is just something to be said when you can walk back to your room to get a drink or go to the bathroom, etc. (Minor note here: Do NOT go out on the sand with your car….this might sound like a no brainer, but it’s tricky b/c you see people out there. Looooong story)

Throughout the week, we decided to take it easy and not do too much but relax. We did rent a car for the week so it was nice to go exploring when we wanted and did not have to be on a tight schedule. We visited the lighthouse and drove by the beaches past Palm Beach, took a horseback riding trip to the Natural Pool, went shopping downtown, drove down to Baby Beach and visited the Alta Vista chapel. We knew we would be returning to Aruba in the future, so we didn’t feel that we needed to see everything on this trip. We did the Natural Pool ride with Rancho del Campo and our tour guide was Alex. Our Photos

He was great and we enjoyed riding with him. We had signed up for a group morning tour, but as it turned out it was just DH, Alex and I. Riding through Arikok National Park, we saw a totally different side to Aruba. We knew that Aruba was very desert like, but it was strange seeing all the cacti, etc. In comparison to other tropical destinations, Aruba is very arid and does not have the lush tropical foliage, but it is beautiful in its own way. (it does around the hotels, don’t worry) Our ride was about 2 ½ hours and we spent around 30 min at the pool. I will have to put in a comment here about how slippery the rocks are getting into the water as I slipped and got a few scrapes on my side and a nice sliver in my big toe. I didn’t let this ruin the trip, as I knew salt water was probably the best remedy for it. (I am not too sure about the sand, but…) On our last day, my husband surprised me with a massage at the Mandara Spa. It was very nice and unexpected surprise to end the vacation. If you are an owner make sure to take advantage of the 20% discount from 9-2, they mentioned the discount to my husband, but failed to mention the time restrictions, so he made my appointment for 3 pm. He won some money in the casino while I was getting my treatment to make up for the difference, but still somewhat misleading.

We were very early risers – getting up around 6 – 6:30 each morning. Consequently this meant that we didn’t stay up past 10 pm each evening. Some mornings I went down and met some people while waiting in line for a beach palapa. Some can be rented the day before for a fee, while the rest are released on a first come first serve basis. I normally went down around 7 and was about the 7th or 8th person in line. I think some people got down there closer to 6. Other mornings, I went to the gym and worked out for a bit so I could rationalize eating a dessert that evening. The gym facilities were some of the nicest that I have seen and all in all it wasn’t that crowded the times I went. I was always able to get a treadmill or cross trainer. Each morning after breakfast, my DH and I would walk down in front of all the hotels. It would be a nice and peaceful walk and here we were able to see what other resorts looked like. We did this often after dinner as well. The Palm Beach area doesn’t have an active nightlife with the exception of the casinos. I do not gamble at all, but my husband went during the day and afternoon a few times – came out about even or a little up. (I won 35 dollars!!!) We did see people from out hotel getting cabs to go downtown to Carlos and Charlie’s and some bars down there, but that isn’t our scene, so we chose to relax.

The weather – there isn’t much to say about the weather except for that is was absolutely wonderful all 7 days. It was highs in the 90’s and lows in the 80’s every day. We are used to getting some showers throughout the week whenever we go on vacation, but this trip we might have seen a few drops of rain if any. I think it did manage to sprinkle for approx. 5 minutes on Friday (our last full day). All others days, it was just clear skies and sun. Even with the 90-degree temperatures, it didn’t seem that bad with the trade winds. We had never been to Aruba, so we had heard about them, but didn’t realize how strong they could get. That being said, they were wonderful and kept us comfortable throughout the week. We actually kind of missed them coming home to hot and humid weather at home. We managed to over pack as always and only used about ½ the clothes we brought. Not knowing how warm it would be, I packed a little bit of everything, as did my husband. I wore either sundresses or skirts in the evening and my husband ended up wearing shorts and a button down shirt every night to dinner. He vowed next time to leave all his pants at home since they were not needed at all.

I saved the best for last – dining. I could go on and on about the food we ate in Aruba. By far this was our favorite thing about the island. Since we were being economical by eating breakfast and lunch in our room, we splurged a bit at dinner. My DH and I are not the ones who go out and spend a ton on dinner, but in Aruba we made an exception to that pretty much every evening. Since we were so tired on our 1st night, we ate dinner in the room since I had gone grocery shopping that afternoon. We also ate in the room on Tuesday night.

Here is a brief review of each restaurant that we dined at:

Moomba Beach (Sunday night) – this was our 1st meal in Aruba and knowing we had some expensive meals ahead of us, we tried to be a bit friendly on our wallet. This meal was approx. $60 and we each got a drink and had the BBQ buffet. Their menu itself was very limited, but we would have been able to find something had the buffet not been an option. Sunday night’s buffet had grilled chicken, steak, chicken satay, grilled shrimp, grilled grouper and grilled tuna. There were some other salads as well, but we mainly stuck to the meats. They were all very tasty and prepared on the grill in front of us. It was a nice way to start our trip.

Flying Fishbone (Monday night & Thursday night) – I made reservations a few months in advance for our Monday night reservation to celebrate our anniversary. We had a 5:30 reservation to guarantee a table at the front. Instead of sitting with our toes in the water, we choose to sit along the right hand side to get an unobstructed view of the sunset. We started our meals with a few drinks and had the Tuna tataki and Crab and Corn chowder as appetizers. We each got one of the fresh catches of the day – Wahoo and Grouper, and both of these were fantastic. I have to admit that this is the 1st time ever that my husband has ordered something that has been better than my meal. By now the sun has set and we were getting ready for dessert. (The one nice thing about having a full kitchen is that you can get your leftovers in a doggy bag and take them back to the room for lunch tomorrow). A couple 2 tables down from us actually got engaged that evening. You could tell it was a special occasion since he ordered several champagne bottles, but when he got down on one knee it was just so romantic. She said yes of course and was all smiles all evening. Our own dessert came out shortly after that and the saxophone player came over to us and played us a song to celebrate our anniversary. We got a nice plate that said “happy anniversary” and a little sparkler. The perfect final touch to a perfect evening. Since the meal was so wonderful and since we had the car the entire week, my DH wanted us to cancel a reservation somewhere else to come back here. We knew we wouldn’t get the best reservation or the best table, but we were coming back for the food and ambiance and not just a picture perfect sunset. We decided to cancel our reservations at El Gaucho and came back on Thursday evening. We had a table in the sand, but it was the last row – it was a 7:30 reservation. This night we decided to be adventuresome and do the Chef’s selection meal. This was a fixed price and we each got an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Both the appetizer and entrée were to be seafood. I was hesitant about this, but my DH really wanted to do it, so I agreed. Every member at the table has to do it, so…I honestly think this was our BEST meal we had. The appetizer was a grilled shrimp salad combination and as the entrée we got a combination of both catches of the day and grilled scallops. Yum! For dessert, they gave us a little taste of each dessert, which was a perfect way to end the meal. Both our dinners at Flying Fishbone were approx. $130 (without tip)

I do have to make a side comment that Eric the security guy at Flying Fishbone was very gracious as on Thursday night when we came out of dinner we found out that our car battery was dead. He tried many times to jump our car with his and when it still didn’t work, he put his battery in our car to start the vehicle and then made the switch back – no questions asked. Amazing. Nowhere else would we have experienced this service. Our Photos

Simply Fish (Wednesday night) – My DH and I were going back and forth on where we wanted to eat on Wednesday and we finally decided on Simply Fish for the simple fact is that we could eat with our toes in the sand. We started off with grilled grouper skewers for an appetizer, and then I got the Chilean Sea Bass and my husband got the Mixed Grill plate with swordfish, mahi mahi and Caribbean lobster. Oh wow, I had never had Chilean Sea Bass before, but now I am hooked. It was truly amazing. We let our waiter surprise us with dessert and ended up with the pina colada cake, which was a perfect way to end the evening. Since we made reservations at 5:30 that evening for 6:30 (the time they open), we were not given front row priority, but still we saw a perfect sunset sitting a row back. It was nice to walk back to the room and then take a romantic stroll down the beach.

Madame Jeanette’s (Friday night) – This was our last meal in Aruba and after it came highly recommended, we thought we would try it out. It was the only restaurant that we ate at that didn’t have a beach setting, but the ambiance was still quite nice. Be forewarned though – it is still outside but enclosed. We order the shrimp casserole appetizer, which had 4 succulent shrimp. I also have to make a note about the bread – this was by far the best bread on the island. My DH got the cordon blue as an entrée and I got the mahi mahi. Both portions were huge – enough to share and we had plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day at the airport. We skipped dessert, as my husband was getting rather toasty. The only evening he chose to wear pants thinking we were going to be indoors and we had to go back to the room to finish packing. It was a pleasant meal and we would highly recommend it, but probably eat there on our 1st and 2nd evening to say the beach dining for last. Our meal with 1 drink, 1 appetizer and 2 entrees came to approx. $90 (with tip) Our Photos

Side notes regarding our flights and car rental:
We rented our compact car with Alamo since it was the cheapest I could find with our entertainment discount – it ended up being $125/week. We had a few glitches with the car – not switching from 1st to 2nd gear (automatic car), battery dead one evening, etc. It didn’t ruin our trip and we were able to later laugh about it, but next time I would pay the $20 extra to do with a different rental car company. We must have gotten the Alamo “lemon.”

US Airways – We normally fly Delta, but I couldn’t pass up on this airfare since we were saving around $150-200 per person. We flew through Philadelphia where we did experience any significant delays. The flights were full, but got us safely from point A to point B. On the flight down, we met a family from Toronto who were staying at the Ocean Club for 2 weeks. They had been coming down for 8 years and told us a lot of things to do during the week. We got into Aruba about 45 min late due to leaving Philadelphia late – it took more time than they thought to load everyone on the plane. Coming back was another story. They say get to the airport 2 to 3 hours prior to departure and mean it. Having to check-in and go through customs and security nearly took an hour, but we knew that our flight had been already delayed 1-½ hours. Our delay was nothing in comparison to some of the other delays we had seen. Some friends of ours were leaving on the 4 pm US Airways flight to Charlotte and were delayed 5 hours. They didn’t take off until 9 pm making the arrival time into Charlotte 1 am. Ouch! US Airways is a bare necessity airline and don’t offer much more than a soda and a bag of pretzels, so pack snacks for those longer flights. Since we would have missed our originally flight back home, they rescheduled us on a later flight that actually left early and got us home about 9 pm. I would fly US Air again only if they have the lowest price.

Overall, the people of Aruba are some of the nicest we have encountered on vacation and would definitely return to the island. If we didn’t stay at the Ocean Club, we would happily stay at the Marriott Stellaris hotel, Hyatt or Radisson. The Occidental and RIU look great as well, but I would be hesitant to do an all-inclusive in Aruba since the food was a highlight of our trip. We felt very safe traveling around on our own and the island itself is very family friendly. We saw a lot of families and extended families vacationing together while we were down there. It was a wonderful week and now unfortunately it is time to get back to reality.

I know this was long and I tried to be as detailed as possible. If you have any additional questions do not hesitate to ask.

Thank you
Ashley

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