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CapriAnniversary Dec 1st, 2005 07:33 PM

Aruba - [Long Post] Reviews of 3 restaurants, comments on weather, activities, resorts
We returned Sunday, 11/27, from a week's vacation in Aruba at the Marriott Resort. With a deluxe ocean view, we had a romantic perch on the 8th floor from which to enjoy the sun sets and activities, including a Saturday night fireworks show over the ocean front.

"KeyGal" was most helpful with setting us up with lots of good advance information she communicated to us by e-mail. Thank you, "KeyGal", especially for the tips on taking our own wine!

I took 7 bottles of wine with us. Please note that "KeyGal" was "spot on" about Aruban restaurants being very liberal on allowing corkage. The most we paid was $18 a bottle at the Flying Fishbone, reviewed below. And, you will come out far ahead taking your own wine, in my view, and paying a corkage fee than you will buying the same bottle of wine at the restaurant at its menu prices even after bringing your own bottle and paying a corkage fee. We took with us the following: 2 - 2004 Cloudy Bay SB's; 1- 2002 Boxler Estate Pinot Gris; 1- 2002 Zind Humbrecht Turkheim gewurztraminer; 1 - 2002 Wild Hog Sonoma Coast pinot noir; 1 - 1993 Royal Tokaji Betsek 6 puttonyos; 1 - 1994 Warres Late Bottled Vintage Port. While we ate at other restaurants, these 3 that are reviewed below were the planned gourmet meals. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible, here is my impression of the 3;

#1: FLYING FISHBONE. 9.8 for food and ambience. If you go, make reservations for 5:30 PM well in advance as this is the only time you can guarantee an oceanside table, which we had. The water literally will be at your feet. The sunset was marvelous. The food stupendous. Truly, a romantic setting. We had fresh Dutch oysters, flown in from the Netherlands; a sea food platter appetizer that had an assortment of delicacies including a first for me--fresh smoked mackeral, thinly shaved, that tasted like schinken speck; grilled duck, and lobster and shrimp grilled on a skewer. The Wild Hog and 1 bottle of Cloudy Bay were served with the meal . . . well . . . 2 glasses of the Cloudy Bay were served to my wife and me. The rest was served to the fish. The wine bucket was on the ocean side of our table. The Royal Dutch Marines were boating at high speed, lights out, past the restaurant. The wake pushed enough water up on the beach that it undermined the sand once the water hit it, and the bucket toppled into the bay! The waitress brought us a complimentary South African sauvignon blanc that was adequate but we took it all in stride, as it was a memory to lose a bottle to the fish!

#2: SIMPLY FISH, also an ocean side restaurant at the Marriott Resort & Casino. 7.5 for food, 9.2 for ambience. We would gladly go back here any time. However, they rely more on the romantic setting than quality of food. Unlike the Flying Fishbone, you are a good 15 feet from water's edge but on the beach. We arrived on a Saturday night. Around 10 PM they discharge a fantastic fireworks show from an ocean platform. This was only Saturday. We do not know if this was for the resorts in general collaborating or what, but, wonderful. Corkage was $15.00 bottle. We had lobster tail with 1 of the Cloudy Bays then for desser the tokaji with creme brulee and a baked mango, grilled pineapple, and fried plantain. Delicious! Also, by way of comparison, a recent vintage KJ Reserve merlot was priced at $60.00/bottle. Paying a small corkage and taking the wines you want is clearly the best policy, in my book, at all the Aruban restaurants.

#3: GASPARITOS. 6.0 for food. 8.0 for ambience. I would not go back. This restaurant is overrated, in my book. However, the waiter, Henry, was a first class waiter and deserving of the generous tip we left him. We learned from our cab driver on our way back to the Marriott that the restaurant had changed hands from its original owners. We don't know when but I tend to suspect that the restaurant has lived off the reputation from the prior management and is on the downhill side now. We were one of maybe 10 people in the restaurant that would probably seat 150 or so people.


#1. Scuba diving: We chose SEAruba Fly'nDive for our "Discover Diving Experience". See this URL: that allows you to dive with a dive master while not being a certified diver. We went out with them twice and had a wonderful time. The second time was on a reef dive, and fantastic. Why did we choose this one dive shop? My research indicated that the large resorts may be tied to a couple of shops that are going to have larger groups going out and meaning less personal attention. We were very happy with the attention we got from the provider we chose.

#2. Parasailing! This was a riot--lots of fun. $50/person was the standard fare from all the vendors on the beach. We chose Red Sail Sports and had no complaints. You get about 12 minutes in the air with a great view and sensation of flying. Highly recommended!

#3. Snorkeling. We went 3 times, had our own equipment, and this is really the best thing to do. Invest a few bucks. We bought most of our gear from but some from our local dive shop. We snorkeled at Malmok twice. Once at DePalm Island. YOU MUST DO DePalm! You will see large fish here that you won't elsewhere. We did a DePalm Tour and paid $54.00/each for the tour of Aruba island that included 2.5 hours at DePalm island.

#4. Kuku Kunuku Party Bus. DON'T MISS THIS! What a riotously fun time! Here's the website: We did this our 3rd night on the island and what fun! It includes a dinner that is not a gourmet meal, but very average tourist food but at a lovely site. The bar hopping was a scream. This isn't our typical fare but in the safety of the tour, we enjoyed going places we'd not have entered otherwise. If you're going for a week or more, I'd say you would do well to do this the 2nd or 3rd night on the island, as you will meet many of your fellow "bar hoppers" from the bus during the week on the beach--at least this was our experience. It made us feel we had friends. The people who had saved this for their last night on the island were expressing regret they'd not done it on the front end of their visit.

This is a question we worried about and others will again who go to Aruba as we did during their rainy season. You bet it rains! In the week before we got there, the island was hammered hard by all accounts from the locals we talked to and from what I could see from searches. These weren't little sprinkles but deluges. We got in on Saturday and escaped a major rain, but, Sunday morning was a heck of a down pour. Many streets were closed as a result. By our good fortune, from that day on, while there were several hard downpours, they all seemed to skirt our activities for the day so as not to affect materially our plans. One old timer told us that 30+ years ago, that the rainy season was really good long hard rains for extended periods for months. Then, the "rainy season" started subsiding in its intensity and was the moderate rains that some have alluded to as being Aruba's rainy season. He said it appeared to him that Aruba's rainy season was moving back toward the former episodes of 30+ years ago. Who knows for sure? But, just don't be disappointed if you get rained out in the rainy season.

We loved the Marriott! It is the northernmost hotel on the island . . . but not for long. A Ritz-Carlton is scheduled to be built north of the Marriott. [Marriott owns 99% of Ritz-Carlton.] We didn't go into any other resorts except the Holiday Inn. All I can say is that the Holiday Inn was very old, tired, and appeared like one would expect a 1960's hotel to appear, with a few buffs to dress it up. If you're wanting a place to sleep, it will do the job. If you want to "rest and recreate", you would do better elsewhere, is my opinion.

KVR Dec 2nd, 2005 04:31 AM

Thanks for the review. I was disappointed in your statement regarding the Holiday Inn. We are set to stay there in Sept. '06. I understand they are currently doing some updating and put in a new pool. Hopefully, it will be done by the time we get there. It's too late to back out now, so we'll just wait and see.

Any pics?

CapriAnniversary Dec 2nd, 2005 06:21 AM

Sorry, but no pics of the Holiday Inn. We went in around 8 or so in the evening and asked for a tour. I am a Platinum Holiday Inn member (159 nights in Holiday Inns in 2005), so they accommodated us. There is one wing that is being remodelled so by the time you get there, it should be complete. If you can get one of their ocean front rooms (not ocean view, but front), you will not be disappointed with the view. We were taken to one and the view will be fantastic. The swimming pool facilities outside are all very nice. Everything externally is up to par. It's just that the halls and rooms were painted in color themes that really struck me as 1960's hippie colors. I can't define it better than that. Perhaps with the remodelling in progress and more may be coming it will be toned down. The Holiday Inn, as I was told, was the first chain on the island. That bodes well for your proximity to a fun strip of restaurants like Salt and Peppers. You'll not be disappointed in that dimension. If I were going to Aruba and were committed that we were going to be scuba diving non-stop and just wanted a place to sleep, it would be a great place to stay. If you're wanting a more relaxed, romantic resort experience--which is what I was after with my wife as we were celebrating 25 years of marriage--then the Holiday Inn is not where I would personally choose to go. These are personal opinions only and reflect my biases, of course.

KVR Dec 2nd, 2005 10:21 AM

Sorry, I meant overall pics of your vacation.

I have pretty much scheduled us something to see and do everyday, and won't be spending much time directly at the hotel. I picked the HI due to the price and location. It seems to be close to enough attractions. I booked several tours to see the Island, go snorkeling and shopping.

I'm not looking for 5 star quality, so I think we'll be fine. We stayed at the HI in Grand Cayman, before it became the Courtyard by Marriott, and liked it well.

CapriAnniversary Dec 2nd, 2005 05:54 PM

I'm sending 10 pictures from 130 to KeyGal and you. Hope you have high speed internet or you'll choke on the download. If you have spam filters on, check for e-mail from [email protected] and accept the mail after you do your personal virus scan. I have up to date virus scanning software but if you should detect anything on your side, reply to let me know by e-mailing me at the e-mail address referenced above.

Kimberly Dec 2nd, 2005 06:28 PM

Thanks for the great review, wewill be staying there for a week in late Januaryand early Feb. Email me any info if you dont [email protected]

CapriAnniversary Dec 2nd, 2005 07:36 PM

Kimberly, I've e-mailed you 10 pictures. Hope you have a highspeed connection. If not, you'll want to choke me. Other comments are in the e-mail including a link to the Flying Fishbone's menu, in case you want to go there and want to decide on your dinner menu before arriving, which is most helpful if you should want to take your own wines.

CapriAnniversary Dec 3rd, 2005 07:06 AM

Kimberly, KeyGal, KVR, I have today, 12/03/05, sent a series of thumbnail pictures that should be much smaller in size and hopefully not over your ISP's limits for file size. These new pics are less than 1.3 meg in total.

cdt Dec 3rd, 2005 02:37 PM

We debated between the Holiday Inn and the Manchebo, which were roughly tied for being the cheapest beachfront hotels on the island. We opted for Manchebo because it is in a less crowded area. We loved it there.

We met some people who stayed at the HI and they thought it was okay for the price and great location. There seems to be a consensus that you should NOT do the AI option at the HI.

KVR Dec 4th, 2005 08:46 AM


We did decide on the HI for the location as well as price. We don't mind high rises. Actually prefer them over low rises that are spread out with long walking distance to the main hotel activites and resturants/bars.

We are not going AI, which will be a first for us. We always go AI if it is offered. The research alone on all the resturants is time consuming. Glad we have plently of time.

If anyone else has any info, please let me know.

CapriAnniversary Dec 4th, 2005 04:00 PM

KVR, glad to know you didn't do the all inclusive. We had a couple on our Kunuk Kunuku who were doing the AI at the HI and were very dissatisfied. And, where you will be so close to a fanastic row of restaurants, you would simply be teased every time you were near the restaurants but unwilling to spend money at them if doing an AI.

Kissy Dec 5th, 2005 07:44 PM

Just returned from 7 nights at the Marriott Aruba Surf club. Fantastic weather!!! Only a short shower the entire week. Disappointed with the water in front of the hotel...lots of seaweed and a smell of sluge when you step in and sink-down into it...Yuk! We were told it was due to all of the weather changes, but when we were there 3 years ago, the water was perfect. I would suggest a short walk past the Marriott to the public beach area when they Wind-Surf...water is absolutely pristine! Unfortunately, a Ritz-Carlton is being planned for this location.
Simply Fish at the Marriott for dinner was very romantic and the food was very good, although pricey. The Hyatt just started having beach dining too, but I can't comment on the food because we did not eat there. It looked like an equally romantic setting.

Kalik Dec 6th, 2005 11:11 AM

I returned from the Rennasance Resort. I loved how we had our own private island. The water close to our hotel was pretty but not clear. Well took the boat over to the private island. The boat takes 8 min and when you arrive the water its crysatal clear. You can see all fish that are in the water from the docks.I also loved our resort b/c it is walking distance from all the downtown restaurants, bars, and tons of shopping. no taxi's needed. When they give you the coupons in the airport most resaurants give you a free glass of wine with your dinner. The Drift Wood is a excellent restaurant too!

Kalik Dec 6th, 2005 11:20 AM

I forgot to say that the Resort has it's own casino and it's own dive shop. It's only 5 min from the airport. I am not big on driving all over in a taxi. Oh, all the restaurants we went to have there own fishing boats so it fresh daily.Not shipped. The Rennassance is all about the location and it is a great price. Why spend more money to be away from everything. Just my opinion. I hope it helps.

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