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Aruba Trip Report

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By Jill Hart
Vacation Specialist
Sunsational Beach Vacations

The following  is a synopsis of my recent experience in Aruba:
The island is a treasure - from the perfect weather year round to the warm and friendly people everywhere we went to the conveniences for US travelers - US currency accepted everywhere, almost everyone speaks very good English and the ability to get the US customs hassle out of the way while you are still in Aruba (more on that later).  
We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris which is also connected to the Marriott Surf club and timeshares next door.  It is located on the end of the "high rise hotel strip" but it will soon be accompanied by the Ritz Carlton next door (opening later this year).   The hotel lobby is dominated by rich dark woods and deep chairs, a large lobby bar and also a deli, sushi bar and convenience shops. 

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My first impression was that it was not what I expected for a tropical location hotel but it was very clean and I used the conveniences offered quite often during our stay.  We did not go to the casino much because we are not huge gamblers but it looked nice.  The hotel is non-smoking but in the casino you are allowed to smoke so you could still smell it in the lobby.  I am not a smoker and was not bothered by it.  Check in was speedy and the staff from start to finish were friendly and courteous.   The one exception may be the bar staff at the beach - they were quick but did not smile very much.  I had an issue with the firmness of our bed (I prefer soft) and although they did not have feather beds to add the staff did what they could to make it softer by adding an extra comforter below the bottom sheet.  
The room was spacious with a sitting area, walk in closet and ample bathroom space.  The patio of our room overlooked the adult pool with a nice view of the ocean.  We were only on the 3rd floor and I am sure the higher floors had a better view but I was happy with our room.  Everything was very clean and our room was cleaned each morning before noon.  The hotel was full during our stay so the beach and pools were all full and you had to be down to the pool by 7am (especially at the adult pool) if you wanted a chair.  You could leave your towel there until 10am but after that if you were gone longer than 2 hrs, the staff would clear your chairs for someone else.  I don't mind that policy but understand it can be frustrating for those who don't get up early. 

The palapa reservations were a bit of a challenge.  You can stand in line and reserve the night before for a guaranteed spot but have to be there by 10am also.  If you pay a fee of $20 you can show up whenever.  The grounds in total were spectacular.  Lush with tropical plants, a waterfall, nice pools and always in pristine condition. 
The food at the hotel was a bit pricy but the quality was good and the portions were generous at La Vista.  Champion Grille (in the Surf Club) was not as good but there are soooo many good restaurants on the island both within walking distance or short cab ride, it did not matter.  We sampled Madame Jeanette, Barefoot, Amadeus, The Taste of Belgium and El Gaucho.  All amazing and priced the same way you would expect for a nice restaurant in the States.  All the restaurants we encountered were casual but you can dress up if that suits you.  
We took an ATV excursion to the North end of the island and learned a lot about the history and geography of the island.  We did not venture much downtown but there are lots of things happening down there from high end shopping to large scale improvement projects such as a rechargeable battery operated tram and other building restorations.  
The overall vibe of the island is one of relaxation.  I was NEVER bothered on the beach by vendors, everyone was casual and it was a family friendly atmosphere.  There are numerous timeshares so many of the people we met had been there multiple times which may contribute to the calm nature of the island.  I also felt very safe walking around by myself during the day.  There are plenty of places to shop near the high rise hotel area and I never had an issue. We did not sample the night spots but I heard they were a lot of fun.  Like any other place, just use common sense and you should be fine. 
Our trip home was long because  as there were no direct flights to and from the Midwest at this time and you have to be at the Aruba airport 3 hrs early.  This is not because they are inefficient but you will go through all of the normal security and Aruba customs procedures that you would anywhere else but then you get all of your luggage back and enter into US customs, re-check your bags, go through security and customs again.  This is a very long process so you have to be patient but the major benefit is, when you land in the US, you don’t have to go through customs there.  I would much rather get it over with at the beginning of my long journey than at the end when I am tired and just want to get home.  Others may feel differently but I appreciated landing in Atlanta and just walking to our next flight. 
Overall, we had a spectacular time and plan on returning, despite the long travel times.  We plan on taking our young kids along next time too.

Jill Hart is a Sunsational Beach Vacation Specialist located new Madison, WI.

If you are interested in a vacation to Aruba or any other beach destination in Mexico and the Caribbean, You can reach Jill at:
608-469-9973 or Jill@SunsationalBeachVacations.com                                                                   



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Riviera Maya, Mexico
September 2014

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Riviera Maya
March 2014

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