Aruba Trip Reports
Our Allegro Aruba Trip Report January 13-24, 1999
Well, a few weeks before Christmas, Jerry called me up one day at work. "Want to go to Aruba?" Who could refuse that kind of offer? Next big question, where to stay? A tent would have satisfied me as long as I was in Aruba, but Jerry was looking for a roof over his head. We have
stayed at the Playa Linda and the Phoenix, so this fourth visit, we decided to try some place different, the Allegro [now Occidental Grand], formerly the Americana. We booked a package for 11 nights. It included roundtrip airfare to Aruba, oceanview room, taxes and breakfast buffet daily.
This would be our first trip using Air Aruba [no longer in business]. The airline had quite a few problems in the past year, but with a bunch of new capital, including new MD-90's, they seemed to be faring much better. Working in retail, by the time January 13 rolled around I was more than ready for a vacation in glorious sunny Aruba.
Our Air Aruba flight departed the gate exactly on time at 8:00 am so we knew we were off to a good start. Service, food and beverage were excellent. The crew was there because they wanted to be, not because it was just a job. Our arrival in Aruba was without any fanfare since we were the only airplane in at the time. Double bonus for us since we were seated near the front of the plane so we breezed through immigrations.
There was the usual wait for our baggage, but retrieving that, we headed through customs and Franke was waiting for us in the Entrance Hall. This was our second trip that Franke would be our taxi driver in Aruba and I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see a familiar smiling face waiting for you at the end of a long journey to a foreign country. Just like coming home.
Off to the Allegro. Wow, the island looks terrific. After some unusually heavy rain in December and the beginning of January (it is rainy season then anyway), Aruba is bursting with flowers and green, green, green. There is even grass growing where we have never seen grass before. Franke filled us in on the upcoming Carnival activities and the sun was shining beautifully as it would our entire trip. With our arrival at the hotel, we made arrangements with Franke to pick us up for dinner that evening, as we would do every evening.
Check-in here is interesting in that they take each guest's photograph and then give you a laminated card. This is used as your identification for your drinks and food. Off to our room, 3rd floor, I was hoping that it would be high enough that we would be able to see the ocean. Well, the worry was for nothing. Our view was not only above the treetops, but we had been upgraded to an oceanfront junior suite. The room was larger than the others with king size bed and a divan, but the best part of all- it was oceanfront with a balcony! Definitely a wonderful surprise. There are 2 towers, north- rooms 00-25 and south- rooms 26-50. The higher the number the closer you are to the beach, and odd room numbers are poolview and even numbered on the opposite side. The hotel was very nice, probably about a Three Star. All of the usual amenities: blow-dryer, liquid soap and shampoo/conditioner dispenser in the shower, iron & ironing board, in room safe, mini refrigerator, clock radio, in-room movies and an ice machine at the end of the hall. Housekeeping did a tremendous job and evening turndown service was available by request. They also offer room service, but only between 7-10 am- Continental Breakfast.
Jerry and I love the beach and this was one of the main objectives of this vacation. Jumping into our swimsuits, we were down on the beach by 3:00 pm. Ah…life as it should be. Thank you Air Aruba for a flight early in the day that was on time. Tried a piña colada and the Allegro's was icky. Thankfully the Hyatt was next door and theirs are delicious. Buy one get one free at Happy Hour from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm. It so happened that it was time for afternoon bingo. Although we did not participate, they offered bingo everyday along with many other activities and contests. We are terminal dieters and try to exercise, but vacations for us are an indulgence. Some people like to travel on all-inclusive plans so they do not have to make any decisions or reservations or even worry about carrying around money. Aruba for us, is not the place for that. The price for a real nice dinner is comparable to what we would pay here in the New York metropolitan area.
Dinner that evening was at our favorite restaurant, Gasparito Restaurant and Art Gallery. We had missed the good food, fine service and company we always find here. Unfortunately George is now working at another local restaurant, but Elvina and Henry welcomed us with open arms. Again, just like coming home. This is a place where you can discover some Aruban culture. Big decisions, now what to eat for dinner? Appetizer: Mussel Soup, Ragout from Squid and Scallops; Entrée: Filet Mignon with mushroom sauce, Seafood Keshi Yena; Dessert: 1 Carrot Cake, 1
coffee and a bottle of wine. Total $103 (all prices here after include service charge or gratuity and an additional gratuity as deemed appropriate). Afterwards we went back to the Allegro and took an evening walk that is almost a ritual with us.
Thursday- Our first day was going to be like all the others except for one- beach. Have to get out early to get a palapa, but that is part of an Aruban vacation, no matter where you stay. The bonus here, if you wanted to sleep later- there was shade from the palm trees, although it was not close to the water. We like the view, so we get up early. No problem, something's in life are just worth it. There were beach boys, but they were only interested in those customers who tipped them up front for the entire week. During previous stays at the Playa Linda we have always tipped day by day. These beach boys would be out before 7 am to set up the chaises for "their" customers and then let the rest of the guests fend for themselves.
Okay, off to the breakfast buffet at the Topaz Restaurant, open air dining was a real nice way to begin the day. Aruban hospitality offered just about anything you can think of for breakfast including prompt delivery of coffee or tea. There was an omelet station with eggs made to order, all kinds of muffins, Danish, breads, sweet breads, hot and cold cereals, French toast and pancakes, and hot dishes, some of which varied, day to day. Standards were poached eggs, bacon, ham, sausage, fresh fruits, yogurt, cottage cheese and scrambled eggs. Some days there were items such as polenta, home fries (hash browns) and corned beef hash. There was a large selection of fruit juices, even fruit shakes blended right in front of you! Very filling to say the least.
On our way to the beach, we stopped by the Red Sail Sports office right there on the beach to rent a float, $5 for the day or $35 for 7 days and one free day. The only bummer is having to return them by 4:30 pm each day. Too early for us. We are such beach lovers, a normal beach day for us is about 9:30 am to 6:00 pm hanging out reading and swimming.
Each morning we made the effort to walk to either the Phoenix or Marriott, you have to be careful, this is when you really get sunburned! We grabbed a late lunch at the Allegro's beachside restaurant, Tradewinds. Real nice with good service. 2 sodas, Nachos and Chicken Fingers for about $14.00. Dinner was at L'Escale [no longer in business] in the Aruba Sonesta Beach Resort [now the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino] in Oranjestad. Dinner was terrific as it had been in August on our last visit. Appetizer: Onion Soup and Caesar Salad; Entrée Chef's Pasta- Chicken Alfredo with Tomato Sauce and Mahi-Mahi; Dessert: 1 cappuccino. Total- $74
Friday- After a big breakfast, it was off to the beach for more relaxation. We didn't really want lunch that day but needed a little something to tide us over until dinner. The beach bar served jumbo Hebrew National hot dogs all afternoon so we decided to try that. For $4 a piece they were worth it, they were very good- even had relish and sauerkraut. A smallish plastic cup of soda at the bar was $2.00 and cans of soda out of a machine on any of the hotel's floors were $1.00. After the day on the beach we decided to head next door to the Hyatt Pier Bar. Our weather thus far had been perfect with some fair weather clouds, which made for a beautiful sunset. You really need to beware of the sunsets they can be addicting, but don't take them for granted. This time of year the
sunset in Aruba is about 6:40 pm Also take lots of pictures, you'll need to take a look at them when the snowflakes begin to fall.
Dinner this night was at Chalet Suisse. This was probably one of the busiest restaurants that we dined in. Service and food were very fine as usual. Appetizer: Caesar Salad; Chateaubriand for 2; Dessert: 1 coffee, 1 cappuccino and their fabulous Apple Strudel. Yummy! Total- $80
Saturday- The breakfast buffet this day was in the Ballroom. Very puzzling and no omelets. It was to be this way for the next two days also. Later we found out with the hotel having a higher occupancy for the weekend, the Topaz Restaurant could not accommodate all of the guests for the breakfast buffet. You could also dine at the open air Tradewinds Restaurant, but that was only open to those on the all-inclusive plan. Needless to say, people were complaining. Jerry would tell you that as long as I was getting fed decent food, it didn't matter to us.
Normally by our third day in Aruba, we would have gone diving. Unfortunately I've had a really bad sinus infection so that was out this trip. Sitting on the beach, watching the boats go in and out all day, we pretty much decided we would have tried diving with Red Sail Sports and Unique Sports. There is always next time, I don't think the wrecks are going anywhere. Saturday is a special night to go to dinner, so a special place for us would be Gasparito. This time Appetizer: Vegetable Celebration and Mixed Salad; Entrée: Pasta with Fresh Mushrooms and Seafood in Puff Pastry; Dessert: 1 coffee and Pineapple and Pear Strudel with Vanilla Sauce and Ice Cream. Total- $85
Sunday- More of the same. Lots of cruise ship passengers around on the beaches, you could always recognize them by their different colored towels. Many used the chaise lounges at the Allegro. Some people were asked to move out from under the shade of the huts so hotel guests could use them. It didn't affect us since we were getting up early so we wouldn't have to deal with these kinds of hassles. The Tradewinds Restaurant had a "take out" window where you could order your food and bring it onto the beach. A Salad, Nachos and a soda- Total $12.50.
For dinner this night we chose Papiamento. My husband, always planning ahead, had called and made reservations for all of our dinners, about 2 weeks ahead of our trip. For this reason, I like to think that we always received a nice table, such as the one here next to the pool. An expensive restaurant, dinner was not as good as it was the last time, but it is very romantic sitting outdoors with their trees decorated in lights, even the birds were singing. Appetizer: Combo for 2- Pate, Caviar, Prosciutto, Seafood Salad, Olives and Cheeses; Entrée: Chicken Parmagiana and Chicken Casa; 1 Gin and Tonic- Total $95.00
Monday- Went to the beach and decided to take a walk for lunch. Across the road form the Allegro is a new restaurant called Salt & Pepper. Menus were presented and we were promptly told that there was no ground beef for Hamburgers. Jerry ended up eating a Salad Nicoise, I had a tossed salad and we split an order of French fries, with 2 sodas Total- $16 We would have ordered the burgers had they had the beef.
Dinner this night was one I had looked forward to, the
Flying Fishbone. We had the best table in the house directly on the beach at the water's edge. Again, Jerry had made the reservations 2 weeks in advance. Words really don't describe it. Worth every penny to sit under the stars with your favorite sweetheart in a beautiful and romantic setting. The worst part of the dinner was the incessant barking we heard from the dogs next door. Also, this is not the place to go if you are in a rush. It is not that their service is slow, it is leisurely. The menu now changes monthly. Appetizer: Salad with Smoked Duck and Italian Lobster Pie; Soup: Lobster Soup and Potato Soup; Entrée: Lobster Thermidor and Rack of Lamb; Dessert: Hot Chocolate Cake with Coconut Ice Cream and Blackberry Bavaroise; 1 bottle of wine, 1 coffee- Total $115.00
Tuesday- Beach, beach and more beach. I walked down to the Linda Vista Restaurant at the Playa Linda for a "takeout" Caesar Salad $6.00 Expensive for a smallish portion, but very delicious. I am still catching up on 4 months worth of reading, so plenty to do on the beach. For dinner back to Gasparito. Now I am not a real adventurer when it comes to trying new dishes, but Jerry and Elvina, the waitress at Gasparito, talked me into trying the Aruban dish, Keshi Yena. I was glad they did! Appetizer: Escargot and Mixed Salad; Entrée: Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce and Chicken Keshi Yena; Dessert: 1 coffee and 1 cappuccino and a bottle of wine. Total- Sorry forgot to write that one down, but figure around $100 with an extra gratuity.
Wednesday- The day for the big event of our trip- we rented a 4 x 4 SUV. We should have booked the vehicle in advance. Jerry called around over the weekend, but no one had anything available until Saturday. Prices ranged between $50 and $60. Luckily we found a hard top with air conditioning, which we wanted, from Supra Car Rental [no longer in business] and that cost $70 without the insurance. Looking back on the situation, it seems that the agency is the "Rent A Wreck" of Aruba! The 4x4 had no bright lights, no interior lights, speedometer was broken, window tinting made everything one big blur on the side windows and no washer fluid for the windows! Of course we didn't find out about any of these things until later, like no interior lights after it got dark! They came to the hotel and picked us up at 9:00 am and brought us back to their office to do the paperwork. However, we were delayed about 20 minutes. It seemed that the 4X4 that was to be ours was the one we were picked up in. It was filthy in and out. So, they had to clean it, nice job on the outside but do not think Supra knew about the invention of the vacuum cleaner. Why hadn't they done all of this before picking us up at the hotel?
We finally took off and stopped for gasoline. I thought that it was pretty funny when I went in to buy a bottle of spring water, I paid less than I pay everyday for a smaller sized bottle here at home. And who says Aruba is expensive?
We have taken tours of the island before; the main purpose of the trip was exploring the Southeast side of the island and taking pictures for the Aruba Bound! website. So we were off, heading out of Noord toward the northern end of the island. Malmok and Arashi Beaches, the Lighthouse and Alto Vista Chapel. Malmok is still my favorite spot for snorkeling and Arashi is a nice place to go and get away from the crowds. The Alto Vista Chapel is still an experience for me. It sits there on top of the hill overlooking the sea and it is so quiet. A nice place to come and pray, you can usually find at least one person here speaking to their God. We thought we would be brave and try a path that led closer to the water's edge and the California sand dunes, but it was not meant to be. The path turned into sand and with all of the rain, we got stuck! Jerry needless to say was upset. I said "move over" and sure enough: hanging out, listening and watching a bunch of guy friends growing up, paid off in spades- we were four wheeling! It was just like when I was a teen, but THIS time I was driving!
Escaping a mishap, we drove down to the other end of the island. Next destinations were Bachelors Beach, Boca Grande, Dos Playa and the White Sand Dunes. We just took some quick pictures here, off to more new found territory, at least for us that was. Quite a ride down the coast in our little 4x4; on the rutted dirt road we met up with a wild donkey. We were now in Arikok National Park, a well preserved nature habitat for both plants and animals. The first beach here was
Boca Prins and it was awesome. Beautiful pure white sand dunes leading down to the sea. Definitely nature at her best. Further down the coast was
Dos Playa, which was also very nice, but not like Boca Prins.
In our two previous visits to Aruba we had purchased some art to decorate our home. We had heard about the Galeria Harmonia in San Nicholas. It was tough getting there, we had the address on Zeppenfeldstraat and knew where the street was but it was a one way. One of those situations where "you just can't get there from here". Frustrated and hungry we finally stopped at the Coastal Station, sure enough it was right around the corner and we had made a wrong turn. Oh well. Mr. Freddy Patist runs the gallery. Mostly his own art, there were some very impressive and extremely expensive paintings. Now, I had seen a painting at Gasparito that I just fell in love with. Having been a gift to the owner, from the artist, it was not for sale. Mr. Patist had a copy! So we spent $100 on that and another print that I "just had to have". This did not include the framed print we received as a gift from Elvina and Henry at Gasparito. Now our walls at home are slowly beginning to fill up.
Took a quick run down to Baby Beach and Rogers Beach. My favorite is Rogers and I wanted to take some pictures, but it was already after 3:00 pm and the sun wasn't at the right angle for good shots, unless you like the stacks from the refinery in the background. Pretty much wasted our time going there, live and learn. Needed a
soda real bad so we stopped at Wendy's and picked up a 1/2 pound cheeseburger, large fries and medium soda for $5.05 and headed to Oranjestad. I wanted to stop in Zapp Music. I bought one CD, but thought their selection was horrible this year. Definitely not much to choose from in any category. Stopped by to see what the
Costa Linda Beach Resort looked like, but we still like the Playa Linda better.
Dinner this night was at La Trattoria El Faro Blanco. Food and service was excellent, something we haven't always been able to find here. Alfredo sauce is Alfredo sauce, but there was a very special something about this dish. Jerry thought that the dinner was expensive for an Italian meal. Appetizer: Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes and a cold combo Marinated Octopus, Roast Peppers, Mushrooms and Bruschetta; Entrée: Tortellini Alfredo and Linguine with Seafood; Desert: 2 Tiramisu, 1 Double espresso and 1 cappuccino, 1 glass of wine which was awful. Total- $96. Service was very fast.
Thursday- After running around all the previous day, we were looking forward to going back to the beach and our books. Later that afternoon we were meeting some folks from the Aruba Bulletin Board for Happy Hour at the Bucuti Beach Resort. The Aruba Bulletin Board was started and is run by a couple, Richard and Karen, who were also on the island vacationing. They were kind enough to serve as informal hosts of this gathering. It was terrific meeting people who previously only had a name, but not a face.
After that we had what was to be one of the best meals of our trip. In one of the coupon books Jerry had seen a small write up on a place called 3 little birds [no longer in business]. "Don't worry about a thing" the line from Bob Marley's song "Three Little Birds" lets you know that the name really suits this place. Who would have ever thought a roof top in Oranjestad, looking at other buildings, could be so romantic? Dining outdoors in cozy banquettes, with stars and awnings overhead and soft candlelight are just the right way to start off. If the same folks who own the Flying Fishbone do not own this restaurant, then it is a total copy, in a different setting. I probably shouldn't even be telling you about this, open only four months they only have nine tables, definitely make a reservation before you go. The French/Caribbean menu is brought to your table on a huge blackboard. Two soft spoken young ladies delivered wonderful food with excellent service. Appetizer: Potato Soup with Scallops and Marinated Squid; Entrée: Lobster du Chef- a huge lobster tail in a very light cream sauce and Salmon Stuffed with Trout and Ricotta Cheese; Dessert: Apple Strudel with Blackberries and Strawberries and White Chocolate Cheesecake, 1 bottle of wine, 1 coffee and 1
cappuccino. Total- $114
Friday- The beach as usual and a takeout lunch from the Tradewinds. Hot Dog and French fries for $5.25. Dinner this night was at the Old Cunucu House. We had not eaten here on our last trip so thought it was time to stop by. The place was not crowded so service was pretty quick, but we did get to hear one set of their strolling Mariachis. Appetizer: Caesar Salad and Marinated Seafood; Entrée: Chicken and Fettuccine and Keshi Yena; 1 Gin & Tonic. Total- $49.00 - $10.00 for a coupon that we had. The coupon was for a three course dinner, but since we only had two courses, they were nice enough to give us the discount anyway. The only place where the service charge was not added onto the bill automatically, we left a $10 tip.
Saturday- Vacation time has quickly dwindled away so all we could do was lay on the beach and absorb enough of the sights to get us through until our next visit. For lunch this day we decided on Subway so my husband being as wonderful as he is, waked and brought back 2 Chicken Sandwiches, a soda, an iced tea and a big bag of chips for $12. That evening Jerry and I were returning to our favorite restaurant to say good-bye to our friends at Gasparito and of course, have another wonderful dinner. Appetizer: Mussel Soup and Fresh Mushrooms with Pasta; Entrée: Wahoo with Creole Sauce and Chicken Keshi Yena; Dessert: 1 coffee, 1 cappuccino, Blueberry Cheesecake and Pineapple and Pear Strudel with Vanilla Sauce and Ice Cream. Total- $90
Sunday- Jerry and I had an early flight out on Air Aruba. Franke picked us up and took us to the airport and dropped us off at about 6:30 am It was obvious what a busy day it was going to be, everyone was going home and the lines were long! Air Aruba's was not bad, the worst line was Aruban Immigration, and it actually extended out of the door of the airport. People were worried about missing their flight because of the line, but they do have personnel who pull people out of line just before a flight is ready to depart.
Luckily there was only one other flight leaving from our gate. Once we made it through the throngs of people and officials, there was no confusion and a seat for everyone! Once the new airport is open, hopefully at the end of the year, the lines will have room to spread out in a space that has much better air conditioning.
Sorry to say our flight ended up being late. It could have occurred on any airline. We were heading out onto the runway and the pilot announced we were heading back to the gate to check a faulty generator. After 10 minutes and no "quick fix", the decision was made to take us off the plane and back into the waiting hall. People began to get excited now, the only other Air Aruba flight that day was already overbooked and we all knew it. Time was on our side though, we had all day for them to fix it or get the parts. As it turned out, everything was repaired and we departed Aruba paradise 2 and 1/2 hours late. Back to work and reality. Boy we will sure miss paradise.