Who: Shormk2 and her new Husband
What: Our mini-moon... two of our friends were getting married the weekend after our wedding, so we only had a few days to get away.
When: September 19th-23rd, 2009
Transportation: USAIR; non-stop CLT to AUA (4 hour flight); around $450 round trip, including taxes, per person. The airports were easy to navigate on Saturday morning and Wednesday afternoon. The flights were fine. On the flight there, you could purchase lunch. However, on the flight back they had very limited food selections. The airline suggested we purchase food in the airport to bring on the flight back with us. Also, you clear US Customs before you actually depart from Aruba. Therefore, you have to be at the Aruba airport 2.5- 3 hours before your flight time. Since we departed on a Wednesday, there were no lines at security or at customs. Although it was a pain to get to the airport a long time before our flight, it made it very nice when we landed and we just walked off the plane and could go straight home.
Lodging: WESTIN Aruba. Located in the Palm Beach (high rise) area, the Westin is spectacular. I travel for business and stay at Westins and this one lived up to my expectations. The heavenly bed is just that, heavenly (I slept for 13.5 hours the first night we were there! The wedding weekend had been so hectic, I was absolutely exhausted!). Our room was a partial island view and it still had a fantastic view of the water. Our room rate was $160/night, but with taxes, resort fees, etc, it ended up being around $180/night. Because it was our honeymoon, the Westin sent a bottle of champagne to our room and also gave us a gift certificate for one night's free stay upon our return visit. The giftcertificate is good now through December 2011. Great marketing on their part- now we have to go back to take advantage of our gift certificate!!!
The grounds were immaculate. Immediately upon walking out of the lobby and onto the terrace you notice how GORGEOUS the beach and water is. I've been to Jamaica and St. Maarten and the beaches and water of Aruba are far more spectacular. It really is like waking up in a postcard each day. God truly shows his splendor in Aruba.
A the Westin, there are ample tiki huts that can be set up with chairs. Although there is a cost to reserve the huts in advance, each morning you can get a tiki hut for free if they haven't been reserved. While we were there, I believe only a handful of huts were reserved at any given time. We never had a problem getting a hut next to the water or by the pool.
The pool itself is large, well kept with an abundance of chairs and great staff. Each morning, Monday-Friday, at 11am an aerobics instructor led a small group in water aerobics. The music filled the air and it was a lot of fun. All age groups participated.
Dining: There are several restaurants at the Westin. Because we were so tired and felt like being lazy, we didn't venture too far from the Westin for any meal. The Terrace Restaurant at the Westin is pricey, but it was good. They have a large selection of sandwiches, quesadillas, nachos, etc. During the course of our stay, we ate lunch there several times and everything we had tasted delicous. We also ate Sushi at Blossom in the Westin. The sushi was delicious and was reasonably priced for sushi.
Bugaloe is a cute beach bar and grill on the Palm Pier (maybe 250 yards from the Westin). I had a wonderful grouper salad ($10) for lunch there one day. We also returned there in the evenings for live music and drinks. It was like a scene straight out of the movie Cocktail
One night, we did walk down the street to Aqua. The restaurant is tucked down a side street (behind the Benehana's and Hooter's) in the main shopping area of the resorts. It was phenomenal! I would highly recommend Aqua. I believe the entrees ranged from $25-$35 and were mainly seafood selections.
Although we may have missed out on some of the best dining spots on this trip, we have vowed to return to Aruba and we'll hit those places (Driftwoods, Flying Fishbone, El Gaucho) upon our return.
Note: I packed some protein drinks, peanut butter crackers, and snack packs (those little packets of cheez-its, cookies, etc that are usually in kids' lunches) for us to munch on. They definitely came in handy. There is also a store in the lower lobby of the Westin that sells bottles of water ($1.25), cokes ($1.50), juice ($2.50) and chips ($5-$7 for a bag of doritos). It is MUCH cheaper to buy your bottle of water here then to order one from the poolside bar and grill. The bar charged $3.25 for a bottle of water and the same for a glass of coke, etc. This store also has sunscreen, an assortment of liquor, beer, wine, clothing etc. It basically stocks anything you may have forgotten at home.
Fun Things: Before leaving for Aruba, we booked a trip on the Kukoo Kanuku bus ($60/person). It was so much fun!!! If you're a drinker or a partier, I would highly recommend it. It is an old school bus that has been converted into a Party Ride. You can't miss this vibrantly painted bus cruising the streets blaring "Born to be Wild" and honking it's crazy horn. For the price of admission, they pick you up at your hotel, take you for a champagne toast at sunset at the light house (it was nice to see this part of the island- the other coast is rocky and is beautiful in its own right), give you dinner at a private terrace and tote you around to several local bars. It is definitely a fun adventure if you like to party.
We also booked a Snorkeling trip on the Mi Dushi. I would recommend this afternoon trip for all ages. I believe we paid $30/person for the 3 hour trip. The ferry boat left from the Palm Pier and took us out to this beautiful, old sailboat. The sailboat was built in the 30's in Sweden and can hold a lot of people. It is no small vessel and I highly doubt sea sickness would be an issue for anyone. The price of our trip included an open bar, snorkeling equipment (a new, disposable mouth piece) and flippers, and snacks. The crew took us to two snorkeling spots- a shipwreck and a spot for great fish viewing. This trip was wonderful! The crew was knowledgeable, multi-lingual, entertaining, and more.
Weather: A man on our flight to Aruba told us that you'll never see a Weather report while you're in Aruba because it is a constant 86 degrees, sunny with a breeze. He was spot on. Each day was gorgeous. There is a strong breeze, not a slight breeze (the windblown look is sexy, right??????). We never minded the breeze and actually appreciated it. You never got too hot, you never got cold. It was just the perfect temperature. Also, the sand isn't as fine in Aruba as it is the States. Although the wind was blowing, the sand didn't really blow with it. You could sit out on the beach, enjoy the beautiful view, with a frosty beverage in your hand and not worry about your drink blowing away or getting sand in it.
Overall, we found Aruba to be "One Happy Island". The people were warm, welcoming, helpful, and friendly. Everyone spoke English and the US Dollar was accepted everywhere. We were amazed at the language capabilities of the local people. Not only did they speak Papiemento (sp?) and English, they were also all fluent in Spanish and Dutch. Many even spoke Portugese and French. The local people recognize that tourism is their livelihood and they take care of tourists. I also felt amazingly safe at all times. No matter where we went on the island, I felt secure.
We loved Aruba and will go back there. Although we're normally adventurous people and like to get off the beaten path and try new things, Aruba was just easy. It was relaxing and peaceful. I didn't have to think or plan, I could just be. There is a great beauty in that.
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Who: Shormk2 and her new Husband