We travelled to the Holiday Inn Sunspree in Aruba from June 04 – 11, 2006. We had a wonderful time. I had heard some negative feedback recently because the resort is at low occupancy right now and so the buffet is only open for breakfast… I’ve heard that this caused some problems with lineups for the restaurants. I did not notice any issues at all.
Skyservice. Cramped seats but the flight crew was very friendly (as always) and the airplane food wasn’t too bad! However, we hit a bad air pocket on the way down which scared some people on the flight and the whole ride home was extremely bumpy. I was glad to be off of the plane.
Check in at resort:
A very long lineup upon check in, because pretty much everyone from our plane was at the Holiday Inn. However, they had extra staff at the check in desk and gave out the wristbands while we were still in line. The front desk staff is excellent and very friendly, even when people complained that they could not get a room at 12 noon (had to wait until 4pm which is the standard in hotels all over the world).
We had room #5573 in the Aruba tower. We booked a standard room but were upgraded to a superior room. I’m convinced it was simply because I was polite and smiling at the front desk and said I would take any room at all, I was not picky. After all of the rude people before me, I’m sure that’s why they upgraded us. The room was very nice and comfortable. King size bed, the air conditioning worked great, we had a very nice view of the ocean and beach, great amenities in the bathroom. Some info about the room: each room has an unstocked bar fridge which comes in handy, the bathroom has a shower only, there is plastic patio furniture on your balcony, there is a coffee maker (but my hubby wasn’t too keen on the coffee they had), clock radio, lots of movie channels on the tv, iron and ironing board, in room safe (no charge but we did not use it). We were very happy with our room. Gladys was our room attendant and she was fantastic! So friendly and she kept us comfy all week long. I wish I could have brought her home with me!
Resort in General:
There are 3 towers: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. The Aruba tower is the Superior rooms and the standard rooms are in the other two towers. There is a kids club and a games room, it looked pretty decent. There are quite a few shops at the resort, and a mini mart for snacks. They have internet available for 30 cents a minute.
Open for breakfast only during low season, and also for theme dinners on Saturday and Sunday nights. We went to the prime rib night on Sunday (it was fine but nothing special) and we skipped the Mexican night on Saturday. The breakfasts were very good. There was plenty to choose from and even picky eaters should be satisfied there. A great spread of breads, bagels and croissants…. that was my favourite.
Sea Breeze Grill:
This is an a la carte on the beach which is open for lunch and dinner (but no dinner on weekends due to the buffet). The food is fine, nothing special but certainly edible. We had lunch here pretty much daily but only had dinner here one night, and that night we were lucky enough to get one of the tables overlooking the ocean, and we got to dine while watching a very beautiful sunset. This restaurant is very casual and bathing suits with a cover up are suitable for lunch.
Cafe Da Vinci:
This is the Italian a la carte restaurant. Reservations are required, and they start taking them at 3:30pm daily. In low season the line up is not very long at all, you may have to wait about 10 minutes at most. We were able to dine here 5 times. We really enjoyed the food here. The pork tenderloin and the cheese tortellini were two of the best I’ve ever had. The staff was top notch.
Iguanas Beach Bar:
very busy bar, and they had pizza and hot dogs available for lunch. I had the pizza and it was fine.
open in the evenings, they have a 7 item snack menu. There is sometimes karaoke and singers there. They were showing the World Cup games while we were there.
our favourite bar. Continental breakfast available in the mornings (breads, coffee, and juice). The bartenders here are the best at the resort, and the bar is often not busy, especially during the day. The lobby bar is quite small but it’s the best one. Domingo and Hodge are the two best bartenders around!
There are two pools…. the family pool and the activity pool. They were fine but not the best I’ve seen, but that’s because the beach is so incredible that fewer people use the pool. We had fun in them though. The family pool is great for little ones.
White sand and turquoise water. Beautiful! They have a palapa reservation system and I can see how in high season this could cause problems. However, in low season it was fine. The lineup for them started at 7am but I went down between 8 and 8:30am every day and was able to get a palapa with no problem. If you like to sleep in though, forget about getting a palapa. The water is really shallow and calm, which made floating around in it really fun and peaceful.
We did no organized excursions. We wanted to simply relax and I found some of the excursions to be a bit pricey. Plus, I’m 7 months pregnant and a lot of the excursions were too active for me. We did take the bus into town twice. The cost is $2 USD round trip and it’s really simple to get there and back. We had fun shopping for touristy knick knacks. We also went to the supermarket area outside of downtown at the recommendation of our room attendant. We had fun shopping for cheese, liquor, even just checking out the food prices for the locals.
Entertainment: They had shows on several nights, but not every night. I did not see any of the shows because being pregnant, I wanted to get to sleep early. Two nights they had outdoor movies for families which was nice. They had karaoke a few times, a few times there was dancing in the Palicoco lounge. I think though for the most part, people go off of the resort for their entertainment. There is a casino that was quite popular.
To sum up, we had a wonderful time at the resort. It is rated anywhere from 3 to 4 stars, depending on the tour operator or website, and I think this is accurate. I consider it to be a four star. A lot of people may be disappointed if they have seen the other hotels surrounding this one. Places like the Hyatt and the Occidental are very beautiful and elaborate five star hotels (we did walk around the grounds) and if that’s what you are expecting, please do not choose the Holiday Inn. However, if you know what to expect you will have a wonderful, laid back holiday. We would certainly go back but we have other islands that we need to see first!