Aruba Trip Reports

Aruba Bound!  Aruba Trip Reports  Our Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive Trip Report July 2012

Tamarijn Aruba Daily Activities & Theme Nights
Tamarijn Kids Club Activities
Divi Aruba Daily Activities & Theme Nights
Divi Aruba Resort Map
Tamarijn Aruba Resort Map
For a few reasons I intentionally waited to write this review. I was hoping that time would give me some distance and perspective from our most recent experience at the Tamarijn however time did not change my opinion. In 21 visits to Aruba when writing a review I have always done my utmost to portray both god and bad about our experience.

The trip for us, was spur of the moment. My 99 year old grandmother had been down in the dumps that she never went anywhere or did anything. At her age, her days of traveling were just about over so we decided as a family that we would surprise her with a trip to Aruba. She had been to the Tamarijn All Inclusive once before and absolutely loved sitting out on her patio watching the ocean and chatting with us while we lounged alongside her on the beach.

As soon as we book our airline tickets, our very next step in vacation planning is to contact Bully to make arrangements for pickup at the airport. Unfortunately Aruba’s taxis by law are only permitted to carry a maximum of 5 people. Because we were a party of 6, Bully could not transport all of us together so instead made plans with tour operator Sonny Binns to have us picked up at the airport. This way we would not have to split up. Sonny has a tour license, vs. taxi license so can transport up to 11 people in his mini-bus. I had met Sonny previously and he is of course a terrific fellow.

Guy at MCM Tours made the trip affordable and after consulting with the Tamarijn, was able to guarantee a handicap room. He and Ursula are truly a pleasure to do business with. My grandmother required a handicap room for the bathroom.

The handicap bath had grab bars at the toilet as well as a roll in shower. Housekeeping provided a portable shower chair. We were extremely fortunate that a dear Aruban friend did some research, made some phone calls and was given the name of a home health care nurse Lucia Kanaar. I made arrangements with her prior to our trip to have her come in and assist my grandmother with bathing in the shower, washing her hair and dressing. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the care that Lucia provided my grandmother. Best of all and of course, most importantly, my grandmother was very pleased with Lucia and looked forward to seeing her and chatting during her visits. Late one afternoon, my grandmother decided she was too tired to go to dinner with us. We had a reservation off property at Windows on Aruba and did not want to leave her alone for two hours. On short notice, Lucia graciously offered to sit with my grandmother while we went to dinner. If you would like Lucia’s telephone number, please contact me with your email address.

Delta

We booked our flights on Delta. My parents and grandmother were flying from West Palm Beach to Atlanta and then connecting to Aruba on the same flight as us. My dh, dd, and myself were already at the airport in Atlanta when I received a phone call from my mother saying that their 7 am flight was delayed. Their connection time was 1 hour and 9 minutes so they had a bit of padding time wise. By 7:30 am I was worried. By 8:30 am their flight from West Palm to Atlanta was cancelled due to mechanical problems. THAT is fine and understandable, these things do happen.

Always familiarize yourself with the rules or contract of carriage for your airline.
Delta’s Liability in the Event of Schedule Changes, Delays and Flight Cancellations
"In the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger’s request) cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket and unused ancillary fees in the original form of payment in accordance with Rule 260 of these conditions of carriage. If the passenger does not request a refund and cancellation of the ticket, Delta will transport the passenger to the destination on Delta’s next flight on which seats are available in the class of service originally purchased. At Delta’s sole discretion and if acceptable to the passenger, Delta may arrange for the passenger to travel on another carrier or via ground transportation. ..."
I asked my mother to request that Delta book them on the 6 pm American Airlines flight out of Miami that evening. My family was two hours from iami International and had 6+ hours to get there. Furthermore, they would have even been willing to pay for their transportation to Miami. Delta counter personnel in Atlanta felt that this was an excellent solution. West Palm Beach personnel however REFUSED to put them on the American Airlines flight. They told my mother that American did not have any seats, but it was a lie because we tried to book the three seats online ourselves and there were plenty of seats available. Again the Delta personnel in Atlanta were incredulous that the personnel in West Palm would not put them on the American flight. SO, my parents and grandmother had to phone their car service to take them back home from the airport, a 40 minute ride and have a “do over” the following day. They lost one entire day of their vacation. On the spot, Delta did reimburse them for their car service home that day as well as their return to West Palm the following morning. They also offered to change their flight on the return to extend it an additional day without charging the change fee. How nice of them huh? My mother learned a very hard lesson, always take the earliest flight. My mother did not want to have to wake up in the middle of the night for a 5:45 am flight vs. the 7 am flight they were booked on.

Dh asked the Tamarijn if they would offer a free night since the rooms went unoccupied they flat out told dh, “no”. Somehow out of the kindness of their hearts, and perhaps some cajoling from our travel agent Guy at MCM Tours, they said dh misunderstood and they would give my parents and grandmother each a free night for their respective rooms. In the end my mother decided against it because she could not handle my grandmother on her own and would have had to pay an additional night hotel for us, plus the $150 per person change fee. At that point, for almost an extra $1000, it was not worth it. Kudos to the Tamarijn for offering two rooms anyway.

Now onto our own flight to Aruba. Fortunately we did not have to pay for our luggage thanks to our Delta Skymiles American Express card. The annual $95 fee more than made up for what otherwise would have cost us $150 for our three suitcases. Unfortunately due to booking only 45 days prior to departure, there were no assigned seats for dh, dd and I. I understand the concept of paying an additional $59 per person for economy comfort and Zone 1 boarding, extra leg room and a seat closer to the front of the plane. Economy comfort to Aruba does not always offer extra recline since it is dependent upon the type of plane and no free alcohol. Extra leg room is nice, we already qualify for Zone 1 boarding with our Skymiles credit card, and I can think of oodles of better things to do with that extra $177 for our family of 3. For Aruba we do not mind sitting in the middle or back of the plane since unless we are flying business class we have to wait on luggage anyway. I do not understand the concept of punishing people by not giving them seat assignments. We were able to get discounted tickets so the flight was not nearly sold out; Delta was just not showing the seats. I have even greater sympathy for families with small children.

So we decided to take our chances and at the gate we were able to get two seats together for dh and myself, better yet, a window seat which I prefer. Lucky for us, there were only two people seated in the exit row. However they did not speak a lick of English, only Italian. Delta requires passengers in the exit row speak English and be at least 16 years of age and of course physically able. Our family of 3 was able to relocate our seats and sit together in the exit row.

Finally Aruba!

Upon arrival in Aruba, Sonny was waiting for us outside Aruba Customs and promptly took us to the Tamarijn. Shortly after checking in, Bully was able to find us in order to make plans to have him pick up my dd and I the next afternoon to greet my parents and grandmother at the airport the afternoon. That evening Bully returned with his taxi to take us to Passions on the beach at the Amsterdam Manor. While waiting to board our flight I had emailed the food and beverage manager asking for a last minute reservation. Fortunately they were able to accept our reservation.

After a long and especially stressful day, a tranquil delicious dinner on the beach was good medicine. From the ambiance to the food to the service, we were again treated to a perfectly relaxing evening. All of the staff made us feel welcome and our oceanside table was perfect. Dd enjoyed a new appetizer- Vegetarian Fried Spring Rolls- hand rolled pastry sheets with crispy bean sprouts, carrots, onions and shredded cabbage served with an oriental pineapple sauce. Even better, dh and dd both had grouper! Dd had her favorite, coconut grouper and dh had a special, grouper and shrimp with caramelized coconut. Of course, they both enjoyed it, but dh said his dish was out of this world, moist and cooked to perfection! Boring yours truly had her customary Caesar salad and delectable Filet Mignon which were delicious as well. We topped off our dinner by sharing the "Passion Surprise!" I cannot tell you what it is since it is a surprise, but you can rest assured it is delicious and large enough to share!

The following morning we awoke early to enjoy the morning on the beach before having an early lunch and heading with Bully to the airport. If you have ever thought that it took forever to make your way from the plane in Aruba out to your taxi, the wait on the other end, is just as excruciating. I thought it would take forever for my parents and grandmother to make their way out of Aruba Customs, but when they did the expression of joy when my grandmother spotted my dd and I waiting was absolutely priceless. She was surprised beyond imagination. She was speechless and cried tears of joy during the ride to the Tamarijn. NOW our vacation had truly begun!

The Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive

This was our 5th stay at the Tamarijn and we noticed a distinct difference in quality. Again, I wanted to let everything settle in my mind to gain some clarity before writing this review. I fully realize that we are only one family who occupied 3 rooms, but our family's opinion is still the same and now 8 months later has not wavered.

The rooms at the Tamarijn were great. My grandmother was in handicap room 1319. We had requested our other two rooms be adjacent to hers. My parents were in 1317 which connects to 1319 and we were in 1315. Rooms were clean; the bathrooms have been renovated and look contemporary and are sparkling clean. The best feature of the resort are the rooms directly on the beach. Location, location, location cannot be beat and the main reason we decided the Tamarijn since my parents and grandmother have difficulty walking.

Staff for the most part, with a few exceptions, were wonderful. Some folks complain employees at the Tamarijn are grumpy. Others expect chatty conversation, but employees are there to work. We have always found that if you greet them with a smile and treat them with respect they will treat you the same in kind.

Now as to the drinks, cannot say a bad thing, generous pouring’s, dh and I are not big drinkers, but the drinks we had as well as what we saw, said to us that all were getting their monies worth for sure. Wine with dinner was always plentiful and there was never a problem having glasses refilled.

A security issue which troubled us were squatters on our patio. The Aloe Man being the exception, NO where else have we stayed in ARUBA where anyone was hawking services on the beach, never mind using our chaises, etc. One afternoon my dh went to exchange some beach towels. My mother and I were sitting under the shade of our palapa as would my dh upon his return. A hair braider was chatting up business with a couple on the beach who were not wearing all inclusive bracelets, but in my opinion, beside the point anyway. The braider came up and asked my mother if she could use the shade to braid the woman's hair and my mother said, "No, my son-in-law is returning and we won't have the room for 5 people." She went back and forth with my mother, "it would only be for a few minutes" but the braider finally gave up.

Now keep in mind we were at the Tamarijn with my 99 yo grandmother who happened to be in her room which was adjacent to the palapa taking a nap. There was always one person there at the palapa at all times and the slider door was open so we could go in and check on my grandmother when she was napping or resting. The hair braider decided there was just enough shade on my grandmother's patio to take her client there and use the patio and chairs to do the braiding. I got up and walked to the front desk to ask them to call security. Remember the hair braider said it would only be a "few minutes"? When security showed up 40 minutes later, the braider and client were still on the patio. Security asked the braider's client if they were staying at the Tamarijn. They were not. Do you really mean to tell me that if the hair braider's client had been a guest of the Tamarijn that it would have been okay to just use someone/anyone's patio? Maybe it is me and I am looking at this the wrong way, sure palapas are first come, first served, but should strangers be permitted to use just anyone's patio like that?

Should it have taken security 40 minutes to respond? I know for a fact that security was going room to room EVERY night to check sliding glass doors to make sure they are locked and the security bars are in place. There was also a security person staffed at the end of the property at the end of the 2500 building, 24 hours per day. There was a security officer standing outside the lobby of the Divi at night about 10 pm. We had seen security walking the property off and on, so there was security at the resort. My mother got a gash in her leg getting out of the pool, staff insisted on calling for security for first aid and security's response time was about the same.

There were also other issues with the Tamarijn. The small one was ants on the beach. The sand had in front of our rooms had not been cleaned in however long, but a LONG time. You could just tell by the dirt and whatnot. Naturally, never sifting the sand, there are all kinds of goodies for the ants to nibble on. Maybe from people pouring their fruity drinks in the sand but there were ants all over. My poor mom, due to a bad hip had to sit in a chair under the palapa and could not even sit with her feet in the sand without being bitten alive by the ants.

The Food

Our biggest issue with the Tamarijn was our disappointment with the food. Of course no one is going to starve to death, but you cannot survive for 10 nights on pizza, chicken tenders and Mexican fries from Pizza per Tutti. Food, and this is the sad part, was AWFUL. The food at the Divi’s lunch buffet was 50% better than that at the Tamarijn. Unfortunately with my parent’s walking difficulties and my grandmother in a wheelchair, it was just not practical to walk to the Divi for breakfast and lunch. For dinners at the Red Parrot we always made sure we allotted ourselves enough time to wait for the golf cart shuttle as well as for dd to wheel my grandmother in her wheelchair down the side walk between the two resorts. My grandmother could have climbed aboard the golf cart shuttle and we could have folded her wheelchair and brought that along as well, unfortunately all too often we have found people to be extremely impatient and easily annoyed at the minimal delay. Let's just say I hope none of these people EVER get old.

Breakfast buffet:
1) Same varied choices, but the baked tomatoes were hard. They were ripe, but instead of baking them, were just putting them under the heat lamp. At 7:15 am they were not "done".
2) Waffles, of course, made ahead and under a heat lamp were always cold. We did not try them, but the pancakes were next to the waffles so were probably the same.
3) Eggs of any type were over cooked and grease was king as to the pans and cooking style.
Omelets were always over cooked. My Mom's omelets ordered twice, two separate mornings, never had the correct ingredients, close but not exact.
One day I ordered over easy fried eggs and they were over almost hard. To try to avoid some of the grease, and out of desperation, I ordered poached eggs one morning. There was so much vinegar in the water that the eggs tasted like vinegar.
4) Bacon- 2 types burnt or under cooked.
5) Pork sausage, the only words I can use are terrible. The pieces looked like small miniature mummified cigars, or in other words, pieces of cardboard.
6) Yogurt and granola were safe bets. Fruit was hit or miss though as to whether or not it was ripe.

Lunch buffet:
Beef was consistent, be it stewed or grilled, it was a tough as a sneaker heel. Hamburgers had a funky taste and one day the fried chicken, which dh pointed brought to the attention of one of the waitresses, was RAW. She was horrified and said she would tell someone. Even better, picture fried chicken in the steamer server? Steamed fried chicken, is not the same as fried rice.

The salad bar ended up being the best option for lunch. That is if you do not mind watery salad dressings and waiting for the lettuce to be refilled. If I bring to your attention that the lettuce needs to be refilled, there is a line of people also waiting behind me and you acknowledge it, then why take 10 minutes? This happened 2 days out of 9.

Dinners:
The first night and last night at the Red Parrot, the tenderloin, ordered “pink”, since everyone’s definition of medium rare is different nowadays, was tough, overcooked and blackened on the outside. One entrée, grouper the first night was served not even close to what the menu's description and was overcooked. Grouper ordered the last night, one was fine and the other almost blackened, as one had been on the first night. There was just no consistency in the food served. It was as if no one cared what they were putting out of any of the kitchens at the Tamarijn or Divi.

All entrees when accompanied by a "cream sauce" was seemingly the same sauce whether it was at the Red Parrot or Paparazzi. Either way, this made each dish very bland and lacking taste. Most evenings the service of dinner courses dinner not flow smoothly or properly. If we ordered an appetizer, salad and entree, the first two would appear at the same time or within 5 minutes of each other. We were on the island for 11 days so really no place to rush off to. They could not even say they were trying to push us out for the next seating since we always had dinner at 8 pm. Desserts were not worth the calories, but imo, they never were. Desserts were the least of the problem with the food. I realize others may not agree, but this was the experience of our family of 6. When we first stayed at the Tamarijn it was a much better value than it is now and based upon that it is probably much easier to overlook certain things, unfortunately this is no longer the case.

In another comedy of errors, one day dh and I decided to go to the Sandpiper at the Divi for lunch. This was a huge mistake. Middle of July and it was hotter than Hades so we were not in the mood, mindset, or me, with only a cover-up and beach shoes as opposed to sneakers, ready to walk. Originally it seemed simple enough to head off to get the golf cart shuttle at the lobby. We waited and we waited and we waited. The bellman saw us and called on the radio twice. The Divi Village driver pulled up twice and called on the radio. The front desk called on the radio and to a person, five times, the reply was “on the way”. Well after 40 minutes I could probably have walked to the Amsterdam Manor if not further never mind just from the Alhambra to the Tamarijn so we gave up.

According to the Tamarijn website: "How far away are the resorts from each other? The Divi Aruba and Tamarijn Aruba are separated by a stretch of beach. The walk takes about 5 minutes. Free shuttle service, using golf cart-like vehicles, is available. It runs between the two resorts, the Casino and The Links at Divi Aruba golf course approximately every 15 minutes."

I could not verify with more than two Tamarijn employees, one of which was a shuttle driver, so those are my only sources, but this is what I was told. The Alhambra Casino owns and runs the shuttle. The Aruba Beach Club and Casa del Mar, again according to what I was told, pay to have the shuttle service provided for their owners to be able to get over to the Alhambra. There is a separate network for the shuttle with separate stops, which runs from the Divi Village to Divi, Tamarijn, and Dutch Village etc. Not all shuttle stops, such as at the Tamarijn are at the lobby. The Manchebo was not mentioned in the conversation.

One of the Tamarijn employees flat out stated, "The shuttle is a privilege provided by the resort and not a right. If the shuttle was not provided you would HAVE TO walk." I still get very annoyed when thinking about the arrogance of that statement. Weather permitting, dh and I walk on any given day anywhere between 1.5 - 2.5 miles here at home for exercise so it was not that we could not physically do it, but in the heat of the day, without the proper walking shoes we chose not to walk. At Christmas time, around dinner time we have sometimes had to wait for the shuttle upwards 30 minutes. This I can understand when the resorts are full/sold out. During low season, at 2 pm when the resorts are far from sold out, as far as I am concerned, this is unacceptable. The resort either wants to offer the amenity or they do not. If you do not want to offer it, stop listing it as an amenity. Then what will they do for the elderly and/or have difficulty walking? If you ARE going to offer it as an amenity, then equip it and staff it properly.

I spoke to a woman this last trip that stayed in building 2400, next to last building on the property. Though she was not elderly, it was apparent she was not up to walking the distance from the building to the buffet for breakfast and lunch daily. She said that the lack of consistency with the shuttles would make her think twice about returning as well, unless she would be guaranteed a building closer to the lobby. Tamarijn reservations accepts "requests" for buildings, but never offers a guarantee. Of our 5 stays at the Tamarijn we have been fortunate that the 3 times we were with my parents who are "challenged" in the area of their mobility, the Tamarijn has granted our requests for rooms in the 1300 building. If they had not we would have had to request a wheelchair, either from the resort, if available (I do not know) or rent one and hope that there one available at last minute notice.

One night we decided to use our "Red Parrot Club" certificates to eat at Mulligans in the clubhouse of the Divi Links. Our family of 6 had to wait only a short time to be seated. Be forewarned that this is an open air restaurant and this particular summer night it was hot where we were seated. The kitchen is on the windward side of the restaurant so blocks any breeze. Our server was nice and tried to be as attentive as he could. It was obvious though that he had too many tables to tend to keep everyone's drinks filled. I finally gave up on getting a second drink and stuck with water.

The food was palatable, but nothing especially delicious. Prices were reasonable in comparison to many other restaurants in Aruba. The only exception being the Caesar salad we ordered. I say "we" because it was $9.50 USD and ask the waiter if it was large enough to share. He emphatically stated yes. At that price we sure hoped so! Upon the arrival of the salad, alas it was only enough for one. I could have gone to Passions on the beach and ordered a Caesar salad for $7.95 which was about the same size and much more delicious.

Upon leaving our family agreed, there are too many other great restaurants and we do not need to go back. One excellent restaurant worth mentioning and one of the highlights of the trip was of course Windows on Aruba. With the upcharge for all inclusive guests, it is still one of the best bangs for your buck on the island. Perfect service and delicious food resulting in great memories.

Since it was our fifth stay at the Tamarijn, we had now achieved membership in the Red Parrot Club. For this milestone, each guest receives a Red Parrot Club t-shirt and a $50 gift certificate that can be used in various ways at the resort. Membership also qualifies you for discounted rates on subsequent visits. We choose to use our family's certificates, along with my bingo winnings exchanged for certificates, on dinner at Mulligan's and casino credit.

Luckily the shuttle was readily available one night, so my dad and I headed over to the Alhambra Casino. It was the first time I had entered a casino in Aruba for over 10 years. It was a nice way to pass an hour and a half free of charge. Naturally the free credit enhanced the experience. At the casino the player representative was very friendly and smiling. When we sat at the roulette table, a waiter immediately approached us for a drink order. Then dad and I both began winning. My gin and tonic came with a bug in it, but a fellow player quickly got the waiter's attention and it was promptly replaced with a smile and a fresh drink. Dad and I continued to win and walked away with money in our pockets.

Lastly on the subject of the Tamarijn, I will shout from the roof tops to avoid the karaoke at all possible costs. Perhaps it is entertaining or at least tolerable if you are drinking at the bar and no worse for the wear, but we were in our room and could hear it plain as day. Finally I resorted to putting in some travel ear plugs I save for when dh snores really badly. Dd was a karaoke with my mother and said it was even more painful to watch. In my mind, at least leave the entertainment to the professionals, even if they are mediocre. Some of the entertainment like the steel pan group was not half bad though.

I am thinking if dh and I were to go back, maybe we will try the Divi instead. The Divi's pool area is 100% nicer than the Tamarijn's and their buffet is better as well. We went over there just to play bingo with our favorite “fun maker” Igmar. No more lame bingo prizes, they give you redeemable points. 175 points gave me a hat and $50 certificate which I redeemed for chips at the casino. Played for an hour and cashed out $15. Downside is bingo is now only select days of the week.

We are friends with a couple who have also stayed at the Tamarijn multiple times and they too noticed a downturn in the food during their last visit so we know it is not just us. We could not convince my father to return. Overall, everything I have detailed, gives us reasons why we will consider other choices for our next accommodation in Aruba. Ultimately I cannot say dh and I will never stay at the Tamarijn again, because where we stay is dictated by our budget, however we would more likely try the Divi for a change of pace as well as better breakfast and lunches.

Perhaps it is an issue with management or lack of? The only person who we could speak to about our experiences were the concierge and the front desk upon check out. The woman at the front desk politely listened to my father detail some of our experience but I am sure that is far as it went. Are there any managers at any of the restaurants that you could actually have a conversation with? If there are, in 5 visits to the resort there are no stellar managers who present themselves as anything but a supervisor who is there seeing after the wait staff.

Diving Experience written by My Dh

Based upon all of the glowing reviews on the internet, my daughter who is a recently certified open water PADI diver and I decided to give JADS a try. Not the best decision for us. Their website was inaccurate at the time, despite many emails to them prior to leaving, which were not responded to. The cost for 2 people, 2 tanks each, shore dive was $247.00 total.

Pickup was not an issue and all the staff we dealt with were very nice, but the first dive was not good. The current was extremely strong and not conducive to a pleasurable dive. My dd being a novice was pretty shaken up by the end of the dive. The dive guide checked the second site and said that the conditions were the same and he felt that it would not be a good idea to continue. In my opinion, as a former divemaster, we should have never completed the first dive, but obviously the dive guide was more concerned with having to refund our money than safety.

We were taken back to the shop and I asked if we could get a credit since we did not dive our second tank. They were not too fond of providing this and offered a more expensive boat dive issuing a partial credit for the tank we did not dive. The cost for this was about $185.00. I was a little confused until I found out that due to the boat dives being 2 tanks, we would be given the credit for the one tank dive we did not use, but then charged for the second tank on the boat. All this, even though we only wanted to dive one more tank.

Ultimately, the next day my daughter woke up with an ear infection. Though we informed JADS 2 days before our upcoming dive that we would have to cancel, a refund was provided minus a $50.00 cancellation fee which they said could be used on our next dive. NOT charging a cancellation fee would have been "good will" and we surely would have given them another shot. Now it is a moot point since we will not use them again. There are 5 other PADI dive operators on the island and we will use one of them, most likely going back to Aruba Watersports. They provided exceptional service during my dd's open water certification and unless you oppose diving of an inflatable, are a small safe operation. Side note, you have to get back on the horse so to speak and our dd has since dove two tanks in St. Thomas and had a fantastic experience.

Last Tidbits

The weather this trip was terrific. There were a couple of passing morning clouds with a few 2 minute sprinkles which were not even enough to make us leave the beach. There were always more clouds in the morning than the afternoon. As the day went on, the moisture dried up everything, including the clouds!

Kudos to Delta though on our return to the states. It took a few minutes but they had three people for our three wheelchairs and they allowed dh, dd and I to accompany my parents and grandmother so we would not be separated. Since they were in wheelchairs, they were “upgraded” to complimentary “preferred” bulkhead economy comfort seats. Again dh, dd and I did not have seats together. We arrived at the gate early so dh requested exit row if they became available complimentary. Yes, Delta now charges extra for “preferred” seats. 15 minutes before boarding began they had not “sold” the seats so gave them to us “free”.

For anyone whose final destination is Atlanta, the new International Concourse F has a specifically built bypass for any passengers arriving from a US Customs and Immigration Pre-Cleared location. With Aruba being a pre-cleared location you of course will go through Customs and Immigration in Aruba and upon returning to Hartsfield you simply step off your plane and proceed on towards a special corridor which takes passengers directly to a separate baggage carousel, map (see upper right) for US Customs pre-screened flights. For connecting flights, as always, your luggage will be automatically forwarded to your Atlanta departing flight and you simply need to take the "plane train" to your departure concourse.

Upon returning home, as an expression of good will to loyal customers, with a bit of persistence on the part of my mother, my parents each received $250 vouchers (their other option was 19,000 frequent flier miles each) good towards future travel on Delta. My mother appreciated it and thought it was better than nothing. My grandmother had travel insurance and thus she was reimbursed the cost of her hotel room.

Epilogue

This trip was bittersweet. A month after returning home my grandmother came down with a skin infection and her health gradually deteriorated. She passed away 6 weeks later 6 months shy of her 100th birthday. 40 days after my grandmother’s passing, my mother died due to complications from lung surgery. I am forever grateful for the fond unforgettable memories of numerous vacation days over the years spent in Aruba with these two strong women.

Following my mother’s death, my father chose to spend Christmas and New Year’s this past year on a cruise. For our third holiday time visit to Aruba, our Christmas 2013 and the ringing in of the New Year 2014, my dad wanted to once again stay at an all-inclusive resort. Everyone says Aruba is the worst place to go for an all-inclusive vacation, but he pays so we do what he wants.

For Christmas we would never stay on Palm beach because it IS too crowded at that time. We saw it twice with our own eyes and that was enough. So off the list were- Occidental, Riu, Westin (which was ridiculously expensive anyway), and Holiday Inn. That left the Renaissance, Manchebo, Divi, Tamarijn or Amsterdam Manor. Too many negatives with the Renaissance- Dad’s difficulty walking and not sure Dad or dh would have liked to have to take a boat to the beach- so that was out of the running. Dad refuses to go back to the Tamarijn and they did not have pricing yet anyway. Given the choice between the Manchebo and Amsterdam Manor Beach Resort, we felt the Amsterdam Manor would be the best fit for our family. Knowing past Christmas prices at the Tamarijn, two rooms there would in all likelihood have been more than staying all inclusive in a 2 bedroom penthouse suite we have booked at the Amsterdam Manor. Speaking from experience and our many memorable dinners at Passions on the Beach, we already know the food will be MUCH better.

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