6/3 We arrived at the Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport in plenty of time to make our 10 am flight, which was packed! Took off late, but arrived 5 minutes early! Cleared customs with no issues, and rather quickly too and claimed our bags. Off to the Westin we went. Arrived and this year, we met Jerry's parents there, so a car was rented from Royal Car Rental. Great agency, and no issues with the car at all! When we pulled up to the hotel, Perry was out front, unloaded all our bags, and even parked the car. We thought that since we were anxious to get down to the beach, we would wait forever before we had our luggage and change of clothes. Not so, Perry even called and told us that he was delayed for a few minutes, but as promised he was at our room in maybe 15 minutes from the time we checked in.
For our entire stay we got to the towel counter at about 7 30 am - 7 45 am and never had an issue getting a palapa near the water. The Westin gives out a "I Was First In Line!" t-shirt to the person who is at the head of the line each morning. We never actually saw it being given to anyone, but did see people wearing them! Beach days, as usual were perfect as well as the weather. We had a few days where there was a 5 minute shower, but the benefit was that it wet the sand, and the wind could not blow it! If you want a hint for the beach, try and get a Palapa to the right of the towel hut, as you face it. The beach boys at the Westin have once again surpassed themselves. They wet the sand down in this area to keep it from blowing. They could only spray down this area because this is where the water source is and they can only drag the hose so far. Won’t go into the issue of them having to worry about someone tripping over the hose. Another new feature is that they have beach boys and girls come along when you are on the beach to clean your sunglasses. We can honestly say, the Westin has thought of it all in the area of making its customer happy and wanting to come back!
Jose and his bird buddies are doing well too. They all have new cages, Jose excluded of course and a brand new playground near the sidewalk beachside, right next to Pelican Water Sports. Everyone, birds included, seemed very happy about this too!
Water was beautiful for the entire stay, clean and clear. We thought the water was unusually clear and you could see your feet, as well as numerous fish. We noticed a lot more people snorkeling off the beach and taking advantage of the rocks south of the
Westin's beach. The sun, as usual was strong, and we used 8 ounces of SPF 30 and 8 ounces of SPF 15 for 2 people and we are not fair skinned. This could give you an idea of how much to take along; we were there for 11 nights. Of course, being an island, if you buy it there you are going to pay a premium.
Breakfast at "The Greenhouse" was great each day, large selection, as always, fruits, bagels, lox, pastries, omelet station, waffles, pancakes, French toast, potatoes, scrambled eggs, various breakfast meats, oatmeal. We also enjoy their granola, all types of dried fruits as well as individual portion boxes of cereal. Hint for those that want other than Orange juice, ask for it! It will not be outwardly offered, but they have grapefruit, cranberry, and a few more, others, just request it.
Terrace Restaurant for lunch was good; menu was typical burgers, salads, hot dogs and so on. Prices were fair, and service was very good, improved over the previous years. A new addition this year was a grill alongside the Tambu Bar, where you could order hot dogs and hamburgers. Prices were $5.00 for a hot dog and$ 6.50 for a hamburger, but both items were gigantic, and there was even a "fix: your own station which had sauerkraut, onions, pickles, tomatoes, mustard, mayo, ketchup etc. The neat thing about this area was that as the chef was chopping lettuce he would throw some over on the ground. At any given point there were at least 12
iguanas lined up munching lunch, really something to see.
We went downtown to Oranjestad one morning with the parents. Immediately we remembered why we hadn’t been shopping down there in a few years. Hot, hot, hot!!! They wanted to buy a new digital camera and went into Boolchand's. The clerk quoted a price of about $550.00 for an Olympus 6.1 mega pixel and a 128 memory card. I suggested that it might be less expensive to purchase it online. So, off we go to the Internet Cafe, next door. At a cost of $3.00 for 30 minutes of time, we found the camera, and a 256 memory card with shipping for about 100.00 less! Downtown’s shopping area has not really changed at all. The most we could stand was about 3 hours, It was just too hot with the buildings blocking most of the wind. On the way back to the resort we also went to the Aruba Aloe Factory. We have really come to like their products and they are available at various locations all over the island. Jerry usually places the order online at www.arubaaloe.com but we figured while we were there we would buy some at the Factory store. Pricing online is the same as the store, but you paying the shipping. On the other hand, you don’t have to lug it home in your suitcase. They were selling a tour of the Aloe Factory itself for $6.00, our beach time was wasting away, and so we did not take part in it. There was a group that went through the tour while we were in the store and it is was the fastest tour in history, maybe all of 10 minutes!
For shopping, Aruba also has a perfume called Sea Jewels. This year they offered some new fragrances. For those of you who are scotch drinkers, my father-in-law fell in love with Johnny Walker “SWING”, and
it is not available for sale in the US. You can get it at the airport in Aruba for $36.00 a bottle, which was less than purchasing downtown in Oranjestad.
There is also now both an Arabic as well as Kosher restaurant [no longer in business] on the island, both near the Playa Linda. The Kosher restaurant is part of Dushi Bagels, and gets their deli from Aarons in Miami. Across from this is a new place called Tomato Charlies, which has pizza, must say the pizza was excellent, thin crust and was only about $15.00 for a large. We pay $13 here in Atlanta and the pie was just as good.
Weddings have become a success on the island, and we had the opportunity to see several from our oceanfront balcony. The
Westin does a wonderful job of decorations, and pays attention to details so the experience is a memorable one.
Notable dinners were at the Sunset Grille at the Radisson, food as always was excellent as well as service. A must to have is the Sunset Grill Salad and the soft-shell crabs. Dinner was so great we ate there twice! We had lunch at Gilligan's one day, had an excelled grilled vegetable wrap, as well as Caesar salads. Caffé Baci at the Westin was excellent too and dined there twice too, reasonable prices and great service. Gasparitos was as always wonderful, and is still our favorite place for local food. A disappointment was Tuscany at the Marriott, food was excellent was it is now truly Northern Italian fare, and the menu is a challenge, so we would suggest you take a peek at it from your hotel concierges desk first to see if it would appeal to you. Aqua Grill is going on its second year on the island, and is excellent too. All their fish is flown with the exception of a few caught locally, but the key here is that even the fish flown arrives fresh and not frozen, and you can taste the difference. Chalet Suisse was excellent and Jerry's parents favorite. They were impressed with the ambiance at the restaurant as well as food. They almost enjoyed this dinner as much as their favorite, the
Sunset Grille. We were finally able to try Blossoms at the Westin which was also very good. We ate Chinese, but it looks like where the chef cooks in front of you, the Japanese cuisine is their big draw.
Should you want a novel experience, both adults and children a must is to have dinner at Marina Pirata and ask for a table at the edge of the dock. Once it gets dark, lights shine into the water and attract fish, and when we say fish, we are not talking schools, we are talking universities! WOW! Hey if you are a kid and are reading this, give you a hint, take a seat near the edge, and if you do not want to finish your veggies or something else that you do not like, when mom and dad are not looking toss it in the water. The fish will gobble it up and it makes you look good! Dessert is just around the corner!
There is wireless internet access offered from SETAR, and the
Westin as well as many other resorts have "hot spots" however, no where could we find a cost for this. There is another Internet cafe near the Playa Linda, it is across the street, on a side alley next to an Italian Cafe that sells ice cream and pastry. We think the price was even less expensive than the Internet Cafe at the Renaissance Mall downtown.
6/14, our time to leave came upon us quickly, but this year we did 11 nights, and it was just the right amount of time. It was the prefect vacation, and the ONLY bad thing, and this was at every place we dined, was the coffee was the typical mass market variety, not very good in our opinion. Take advantage of the in room coffee makers at the Westin , and if you like bring your own coffee from home. The only thing you need to bring in addition to that is basket type coffee filters. The Westin provides in room coffee, but it is in a filter pack, thus no filter needed.