Arrival: We stayed at Renaissance Aruba, Marina Tower, (adults only) from February 4 to 11, 2011. Travel was with Sunquest via Thomas Cook Airlines. Aruba was beautiful, the trip there and back was not. The plane was delayed both ways. We were originally to leave Toronto at 4:15 p.m. and didn’t take off until 8:30 p.m. There was a mechanical problem with the plane, discovered as we were about to taxi to the runway, had to switch planes, and then another issue with a passenger which resulted in a further delay. The plane for the return flight had the same issues out of Toronto, and our return flight was delayed an hour or so.
We arrived at the Renaissance Aruba at 3 a.m. and were happy to see 3 clerks on duty to check us in.
Rooms: Our room was quite nice. Small, only about 270 square feet, but more than adequate. There is a French balcony (about a foot wide), would have liked a full balcony. The room was carpeted, which seemed odd for a Caribbean destination. Actually the whole feel of the hotel was more like a downtown Toronto hotel. Nice, though. Comfy beds, maybe a little too soft, with nice duvets. Our room had two double beds, there were also rooms with king beds. Bathroom was a little dated, but clean. Usual amenities – hair dryer, coffee maker, alarm clock. Always lots of hot water and great water pressure. A mini-fridge in the room (not stocked). There’s a local grocery store around the corner if you want to buy snacks or drinks for your room. For Sunquest all-inclusive they give you two large bottles of water in the room, although you can drink the tap water. Rooms are “smoke-free”, no smoking allowed in the rooms or balcony. Smoking is allowed in the hotel lobby (open-air). While there are people there on an “all-inclusive”, the hotel is not generally all-inclusive. Because of its location in town and close to the airport, there were lots of business people and airline crews on layovers staying there. They give you a sheet when you check in that tells you what is included in the all-inclusive and what isn’t. For instance, only their Balashi beer is included, if you want a different kind you have to pay for it. There are no bracelets here, you use your room key for everything, ie. even if you get a bottle of water at the bar you have to sign for it. Kind of a pain, but we got used to it. The hotel is connected to a high-end shopping mall and casino, and all the shops of Oranjestad are just steps away. Take U.S. money, even coin, as it is accepted everywhere, in fact most stores price things in U.S. dollars. We took some cash and the rest in traveller’s cheques, which are readily cashed at the front desk for U.S. cash.
Restaurants and Bars: Food was good. The Aquarius Restaurant was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner was a seafood buffet, and although they did have a couple of non-seafood items, we only ate dinner there once because we don’t eat seafood. At breakfast and lunch you could have the buffet or order off the menu. The L.G. Smith Steakhouse was their other restaurant. There was a special menu for those on all-inclusive, but lots of options. We ate there twice and it was good. There was also the Blue Bar, located in the lobby, where you could order snacks. We never did, but the food looked great. They would also serve you at the pool. The Suites section also has an open-air restaurant, Captain’s Corner, where you can eat. We went there twice. One of the nights was a Caribbean Buffet. And on our last night we felt like something different, so just walked over to the Marketplace and had dinner in an Italian restaurant there (not included). You’ll find all the food chains here – Taco Bell, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, etc. and if you’re a Starbucks fan, there was one in the lower lobby of the hotel.
Beach/Pools/Grounds: For the beach, your options are to go across the road to the Renaissance Suites which has its own small beach, or go to the lower lobby of the hotel and hop on a motor launch for an 8 minute trip to Renaissance Island. The island is split into two beach areas, one for families, and one adults only. There is a nice restaurant there where you can get lunch and drinks. The boats run every 15 minutes or so, so it was never a long wait to get to or from the island. Here you can rent floats ($5) or snorkel equipment. If you prefer a pool, there is a nice pool right off the lobby. Great views of the marina and you can see the cruise ships that dock every day. There was free wi-fi in the lobby of the hotel, a couple of days when it wasn’t working well, but you could go downstairs and pick up the Starbucks signal. Wired internet access was available in the rooms, but it cost $15 a day or $70 for the week.
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We took a bus tour of the island, our driver was very informative. If we went again, we would rent a car for the day and stop at some of the beautiful beaches along the way. Lots of iguanas everywhere! All sizes and colours.
Other Comments: Weather was good, hot and sunny with some clouds every day, and only a couple of short periods of rain. Very breezy, but it would have been too hot without the breeze. We loved Aruba, and would definitely return!