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Trip Report Jed's info and notes on Marriott Resorts Aruba

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CAUTION: Reading this is advisable only if you are going to stay at Marriott Resorts and Stellaris Casino Aruba (MRS), and interested in getting the best out of it. Side effects of reading this long, obsessive post may lead to boredom, headache, and screaming.

My wife and I stayed at the MRS for 5 nights last week, using Marriott points which had been burning a hole in my pocket. Rather than a trip report, this is a compilation of various thoughts, information, and opinion which I hope will be helpful. Of course, being a long-time Fodorite, I wouldn't be surprised to be criticized for anything written here.

For some pictures that might be helpful in following my screed, go to http://www.worldisround.com/articles/323254/index.html

ROOM - When I started looking a few months ago, I found the 5 nights out of all January and February, going for 110K points, which was about what we had. This was a PointSaver award. About a month ago, this was no longer available, nor was it available at the regular amount, but only by premium points, which was over 200K. I was lucky to book it while it was available. I suggest that if you see the time you want at the PointSaver amount, book it, because you don't have to pay for it right away, and you can cancel it up to 7 days before. For that I got an standard room, but I chose the "Deluxe Ocean View" option, which I assumed was a higher floor, for an extra $75/night.

In order to get a good room, you have to know the layout. The MRS is an 8 floor, U shaped building, with the open part facing the ocean on the west. The rooms at the base of the U have entrance doors on balconies that look down to the lobby, and at the back have balconies that face the ocean. The numbers are _30 to _43. They are open to noise and smoke from the lobby and casino.

Both arms of the U have one interior corridor with about 10 rooms on each side. The rooms are angled towards the ocean so that all balconies partially face the ocean. The balconies that face south, and the ones at the base get the sun almost all day. We feel that the shade is more comfortable if you want to sit out. The inner area of the U has palm trees and the pool. The ocean view of the first four balconies is obstructed by the palm trees, making them less expensive.

On the rate sheet, there are 4 categories of rooms: Quality, Garden View, Island/Ocean View, and Pool/Ocean view. In addition, there are 4 categories of suites, all of which have king beds, although you can get a rollaway. When we checked in, we were given room 530, which looked down on the lobby. When going in, the room appeared small. We asked for a larger room, and were told that a 'honeymoon suite' was available for $30 extra/night. When we saw 'suite' 620, it was apparent that it was significantly better, and we took it. This suite had an additional triangular area measuring 80 sf, making it 20% larger than the other rooms on the arms of the U, which I calculated was about 400 sf. We looked into some of them, and they seemed to have good space. I came to believe that the rooms at the base of the U, like the one were were first shown, are actually smaller than the ones on the arms, because of the angulation.

Therefore, my feeling are:

1- A room above the fourth floor is better because you can see the ocean.
2- A room facing north is better because the balcony is in the shade.
3- The rooms facing the lobby (_30 - _43) are smaller and exposed to noise and smoke.
4- If you want more comfort and are willing to pay for it, the 'honeymoon suite', those on the southern arm, (must be _20, of which there are only 8 at the hotel), is worth it. Not only do they have significantly larger living area and bathrooms, but they are the only ones with a bath spa, which we felt was great. And it was not that much more $. What could be more romantic?

More to come....

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    EATING PLACES Ristorante Tuscany is a nice restaurant in an attractive room with a large menu and excellent food at high prices. Dress is better casual.

    At the back of the hotel near the sand is a small kitchen which is called Waves in the daytime and serves basic food. At night it is called Simply Fish and they put out about 50 small tables on the sand near the water. The menu is limited and mostly fish. The food is excellent and the price is high. Dress is very casual and you can put your feet in the sand, see and hear the waves lapping on the shore, feel the breeze, and enjoy the excellent food. Not bad. Try to get a table on the first line.

    Around the pool is La Vista Restaurant. That is where you can get breakfast. They have 2 buffet choices, at $15 and $20. There ia also a menu. For lunch there is a menu, and for dinner there is also a buffet choice which changes nightly. The prices are reasonable.

    In the lobby there is a food counter open all the time which serves various coffees, pastries, soda, sandwiches, salads, icecreams, etc, at high prices. We thought this was great. There is also a 'bazaar' store which has bottled soda, wine, water, candy, cookies, etc.

    We are not breakfast or lunch people. On the morning after we got there, we took a bus to the supermarket near town. It was well stocked, and we got fixings for breakfast and lunch - juice, yogurt, sliced cheese, crackers, and soda which we kept in the fridge. Mornings we would go to the lobby counter, wifey would get her latte (good, not great), and I would get a pastry. I prefer the coffee from the coffee maker in the room. Then we would sit on the deck having breakfast looking at the pool and ocean, the swaying of the palms, and all the goings on. For lunch we had either cheese and crackers or a sandwich from the lobby counter.

    We ate lightly so we would enjoy our good dinners. In addition to Tuscany and Simply Fish, we took a taxi ($6) to Gasparito, a small building in the middle of nowhere, with plain indoor rooms with paintings, and an outdoor area which was more popular. The food was excellent, the prices were moderate, and there was a 10% discount with the card you get at MRS for being a Rewards member.

    We also went to La Dome, a nice Fench place with high prices. The food would have been excellent, except that the promised 'crispy duck' was not crispy and disappointing. We made this known to them but they did not offer any compensation.

    We wanted to go to Papiamento, but they were booked. Some restaurants close for Monday or Tuesday. Even though we had the concierge make the calls, we could not get exactly what we wanted. So I suggest that if you want a particular restaurant at a certain time, you should make reservations as soon as you get there or even before.

    Dinner at Madam Janette was excellent, with large portions and reasonable prices.

    More to come.....

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    Thanks Jed. We stayed on points at the Marriott a few years ago. We had an outside room on the U on the 5th floor. We were on the left side if you looked at the building from the street. It was a good room and we had an ocean view without upgrading. The other side of the U, they were building a ball room (noisy). Who wants to look at construction on vacation?
    I am glad you seem to enjoy, we did too!

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    Kristen - The Surf Club buildings (MASSIVE) looked to be finished with the main construction, although there were still a few cranes finishing up the outside, as far as I could tell.

    I don't know about the fishing pier and seawall, but we were able to walk down to the Westin without problem. The beach in front of the clubs seemed to be normal.

    girl- I didn't see any major construction at MRS, but sometimes I could hear hammering and sawing.

    The categories and upgrading info on their site is quite confusing. The categories listed on their rate sheet has no relation to the categories on their website. And if you try to compare it with categories listed on such sites as Apple Vacations, it is impossible.

    Indeed, we enjoyed it and would recommend it, although we wouldn't go back because there are so many other places to see. ((*))

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    PALAPAS A palapa is a large thatched umbrella on a pole. They are ubiquitous all along the beach. There are about 100 in front of MRS, numbered in lines. The are 2 ways to get a palapa:
    1- pay for it
    2 - get it free.
    The odd numbered ones can be reserved at the towel hut for the next 1-3 days, by payment of $15/day for the first and second rows, or $10/day for all the others. The even numbered ones are given free out every day at 7AM. By that time there is a line, and some days, mostly on weekends, the free ones are given out. However, I asked for a free one at 11AM and 4 PM on a weekday, and they were available. As there are other shady areas, you could take your chances, unless you really, really must have one.

    Near the towel hut are large piles of clean and used, large red and white towels. They can be exchanged freely. You can also take them up to the room. Nobody cares.

    BOOKING ACTIVITIES The many activities -watersport, touring, sailinjg, etc., can be booked by the 2-6 people at the concierge desk across from the reception desk. You can also book them by the activities person at one of the desks in the room to the right of the reception desk. There are many varieties of activities, and may be differences between the two above places. The prices are similiar between them for the same activity. However, I don't know if it is cheaper to book directly calling or visiting the tour company.

    Along the beach there are many small tented structures, each with small and large owners of boats trying to sell a variety of watersport. It is hard to compare prices as each trip or activity is different. We chose a half-day catamaran snorkling trip by Red Sail which was good.

    We wanted to see the caves with Arawak drawings and the Arikok Park, so we booked a jeef safari with De Palm Tours. We expected to ride in a jeep, but when we got to the tour depot, we and another couple were told by the young leader to drive our own jeep and follow his jeep, which is what we did. I was most unhappy since I did not pay to drive and was not told about it beforehand.

    Buses Regular buses go between town and the hotels every 30 minutes. One way is $1.15, and round trip on the same day is $2, for which they give you a chit. Have change. There are also 10-passenger vans which go irregularly and charge $1 each way. They are faster, but I don't know how to get them except to wait at the Bus Stops, 2 of which are right outside MRS. Taxis are plentiful and fares are mostly standard, with minor variations.

    TIPS Bring along at least 50 one dolar bills and some fives and tens. Be prepeared to hand them out like trick-or-treat candy at Halloween.

    CASINO We are not casino people, but it was interesting seeing all the people trying their luck at the various games. Wifey put a five dollar bill in the nickel slot machine, and when she was 15 cents ahead, she cashed out. To celebrate our winnings, we had a gelato, a spa bath and then.......BON NOCHI!

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