Although not the first time to the Caribbean this was our first time to Aruba. Our previous holiday was to the Dominican Republic in the Riu Naiboa and we particularly chose the Riu again based on our experience. We could not have been more happy with all the aspects of our holiday, the hotel and the staff.
in our party was myself, my wife and our cousin (same age range – circa 50’s) and we all stayed in the one room (more to follow on that below).
Arrival: After a long flight ( for us from the United Kingdom this was 10 hours !) the last thing you want is a tedious and time consuming check in process. We were in our room within 20 mins from walking into the lobby and the luggage arrived no more than 10 minutes after that – EXCELLENT SERVICE !
All the information about the bars, restaurants, pool towels etc etc was made clear quick and easy and we were made to feel very welcomed.
Rooms: Room 710 was in the middle of the block and being only 4 floors down from the top we had a FANTASTIC view. The room is badged as a "Junior Suite" and as this was our first time in a Riu Palace we were not sure exactly what this meant but were not disappointed with the room size or its layout. The air con worked fine and with a large ceiling fan to move the cool air around we were never uncomfortable. As I mentioned above there were 3 adults in the room and were shared the 2 double beds with myself and my wife in one and our cousin in the other.
If I have any adverse comment it can only be about the size of the beds. If there had been only 2 of us and we had a bed each there would have been no problems but the beds are slightly too small to have 2 people in (neither of us are large people but it may be because we have a particularly large bed at home). However after 3 days we had got used to it and it did not spoil the holiday at all.
Restaurants and Bars: Again, as this was our first Palace we did not appreciate there would be such excellent extra restaurants, they were UNBELIEVABLE. We used all 4 of the restaurants during our stay. The queue for reservations started each morning about 8:45 with the desk supposed to open at 9:00. Each morning it opened as soon as the members of staff got there ( none of this "we don’t open until 9 am" attitude ! which was most refreshing). The restaurants are; Nautilus – a great steakhouse – we had the "surf and turf" – no short measures there, a decent size steak and half a lobster tail – cooked to perfection. Milano – a very nice Italian – good food and nice surroundings Sayuri – A Japanese restaurant to rival anything I have experienced in London (or anywhere else for that matter). Krystal – for my personal view this is the best of all 4 and the mix of flavours and styles was a joy (makes perfect sense why it is called a "Fusion" restaurant).
From a purely personal view I also got a great kick from the bar on the patio as it was called "Barry’s" which just happens to be my name – good excuse to go there each night and work through the Martini menu !
Beach/Pools/Grounds: The beach was just 30 seconds from the pool and was always clean and with space to sit and relax. The pools were cleaned every morning and despite there being a few of the small tiles missing was in good condition with plenty of room and the benefit of a swim up bar.
The grounds of the hotel were a nice mix of the poolside patio and superbly kept green areas (every day I saw the gardeners going round tidying up and looking after the plants etc.)
Activities on and off the Resort/Hotel: We had always planned this to be a relaxing holiday and therefore did not join in many of the poolside activities or excursions.
We did go on the "Discover Aruba" coach trip (cost of $69 each), this took us around the island and included a stop off for lunch which was good food and nice surroundings, the highlight of the trip is the final stop at Baby Beach with fantastic snorkelling and it is from here you can see Venezuela and realise just how close you are while on such a tiny island.
Other Comments: Unlike the hotels in the Dominican Republic the Riu Palace is not in a gated compound and you are able to walk out onto the street and visit the local shops etc. We did this several times and had a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe which is only a few minutes away – at no time did we feel unsafe or unsure about walking about. We also got the bus into Orangestad a couple of times ( $2:60 return each ) and again felt totally safe using the normal local buses and walking around the town. It was while on one of the visits we went past the marina and found the helicopter tours. All 3 of us went in the helicopter on the shorter trip which took us up to the top of the island, past the Riu and back down to the marina -we chose the shorter trip to make sure we all enjoyed the helicopter and wished afterwards we had gone for the longer "round island" trip. The pilot was great and made sure we saw all the sights on the flight even looking carefully for the sea turtles during the flight.
Would we go back ? YES – but we do have many more places to see first so it may take some time !