This is a fairly lengthy trip report, but I hope you’ll find it to be informative! Amy and I were married on August 21st and this was our honeymoon and first time in Aruba. Amy is 27, and I am 36 years old.
Arrival: This is a fairly lengthy trip report, but I hope you’ll find it to be informative! Amy and I were married on August 21st and this was our honeymoon and first time in Aruba. Amy is 27, and I am 36 years old. Day 1, Sept 3rd ~ Our trip started early, with a departure flight from Asheville, NC at 9:27am. I say “early” because we asked my Dad to pick us up at the “in-laws” at 7:15, knowing that we had an international flight, a two year old to drop off at the in-laws, goodbyes to say and didn’t want any check-in problems, especially with TSA. I really honestly should have realized that Asheville Regional Airport isn’t THAT big, and 15 minutes would’ve been sufficient for checking in and dealing with the TSA. We got to the airport at 7:25am, and discovered that due to pea-soup-thick fog, our flight might be cancelled. This is the LAST thing two honeymooners want to hear, especially as our flight from Charlotte to Aruba was leaving at 10:50am, with only 45 minutes of lag time in between. Luckily US Airways had another DeHavilland Dash-7 left over from the night before, so both flights (ours and a previously cancelled one from 6:30am) were converted to one and we winged our way to Charlotte, holding our breath as to whether or not we would actually make the connection. We arrived at 10:42, leaving us exactly 8 minutes to make the connection. The ramp agent at Charlotte saw us running down the “D” concourse and yelled if we were Amy and Keith. An affirmative, a quick trip down the jet way and we were the last 2 to board! (Hmmmm… where is our luggage? Do we care?!) We’re headed to Aruba! Needless to say we endured a few glowering glances from those that have probably been to Aruba before and were anxious to leave Charlotte!
Flight 979 from Charlotte to Aruba was uneventful but fairly bumpy. Several things come to mind here: Hey, US Airways, clean your planes occasionally! That 757 was filthy! Stuff splattered above us on the ceiling didn’t make a favorable impression, nor did the really BALD tires! (Ok, I flew in the Marines for 8 years, and I’m picky about such stuff. If you flew professionally you would be too.) However I will say that the flight staff WAS exceptionally friendly, and US Airways did feed us a no-cost lunch, which we didn’t expect. That really was appreciated as we didn’t have time in the 8 minutes of “Olympic Concourse Running” to stop for food. The booze wasn’t bad either, and one of the stewardesses, after learning about our previous flight, slipped me two mini-bottles of Finlandia Vodka for good measure. I hope those same flight attendants are there on the return flight! They more than made up for a dirty aircraft (which isn’t their fault anyway).
Arrival II: I recognized several things from the air, including Hurricane Frances as we winged away 30,000 some thousand feet above it. Next was the Dominican Republic, then shortly thereafter Bonaire. Suddenly Aruba was in sight (now we really don’t care about luggage!) and then as we were landing, I actually spied the Tamarijn Aruba (our resort for the week) and the Bunker Bar. A gentle touchdown, a quick trip through Immigration (fill the WHOLE card out, top to bottom, not just the top!) and then we were at the baggage claim area, fully expecting no bags. At this point, I really need to commend SOMEONE on the VisitAruba.com BB (maybe Sherry?) for tipping us off about the far right hand flight crew immigration line. Worked like a charm! No waiting, no lines. Well, there were our bags, the first two to come down the line. Imagine that! (Amy was VERY happy!) Last two on, first bags off. Good trade-off and welcome to Aruba, I think! We left baggage and went through the Customs clearance area. That was kind of funny, as there was an Aruban Customs Officer standing there with a very stern face. I asked if I needed to place my bag up on the x-ray machine, and he replied, “No, you have nothing I want!” He then broke into a huge big grin and announced, “Bon Bini! Welcome to Aruba!” The masses behind us followed suit outside into the hot climate.
We crossed the street to Econo Car Rental, which has an “office” (more like the size of an outhouse!) directly across from the airport. They were waiting for us, and after signing a LOT of paperwork and trying to use two languages to understand the CDW policies, we walked out to our Nissan Xterra. My initial impression was not really favorable – it was dirty, beat up and although a 2003 model (I checked the VIN number), it surely didn’t look like it had the 30K miles indicated on the odometer. (Add about 100K to that!) Both airbags had been popped and the covers glued back down, and the body had a complete re-paint. At this point I began to remember some of the posts I had seen on the internet about Econo Car Rental AND also some of the posts praising Hans at Tropic. Had I made a gross mistake? Heck, we’re in Aruba! Who cares?! They were friendly and after we (the agent and I) both agreed on probably the most extensive inspection they’ve ever had to do with a customer (ok, I’m a car dealer, I know what I’m looking at), we left the airport with lukewarm AC and horns honking behind us. (In Aruba, even if you pay for the Collision Damage Waiver, you are still liable for up to $500 in damages to the rental vehicle.) Traffic at 4pm in Aruba is pretty thick, and all I could do was point us in the general direction of where I thought the Tam resort was at, especially as Econo had no map to offer us, only “good luck!” I was really thinking about having a Rum and Coke, and not much was going to stop me from getting to it! I did discover at this point that most Arubans are really tolerant of us foreign drivers, even when we “think” we know what we’re doing!
Arrival III: We pulled into the Tam at 4:30pm and were checked in very promptly and informed of what was happening that night and the do’s and don’ts of the resort. We hopped on a golf cart with on of the bellhops and away we went at breakneck speed to room 2406. The room was clean, neat and with a high vaulted ceiling and great view of the ocean, much to our satisfaction. (Not so satisfying was the AC that reminded us of the Nissan – lukewarm, not cold.) This room is at the south end of the resort nearest town and the beach, while very short, was less than 20ft from our second floor balcony. Amy at this point had not had a cigarette since 8:30am, and content to watch TV and vegetate , I wandered down to the Bunker Bar after parking our Nissan in the little lot in front of the room. (There is much construction and renovations happening at the Tam right now, so parking is somewhat at a premium, what with all of the rebar and building containers in the parking area.) The Bunker Bar was pretty quiet with several couples from Holland and the UK. There’s not much of a selection of spirits there (one of this, one of that) but Myer’s Rum and Diet Coke was awfully tasty and the company was good! It was also at this point that I met Carmen, who has been with the Tam for 31 years. She was exceptional, and I really felt she earned the $20 tip I left her. 31 years of putting up with drunks (and there were a couple there that evening) is worth $20, don’t you think?
I made reservations that evening at the Tam for Papparazzi as Amy likes Italian food. We both were really pleased with the service AND the food. Amy had the Lasagna ( an enormous piece) and I had the Parmesan Encrusted Tenderloin. Everything was cooked to perfection and the wine was excellent as well. (At this point, I was feeling pretty good, and since Amy is pregnant, she wasn’t enjoying the “buzz” as much as I was!) We left dinner quite full and opted to take the golf cart shuttle up to the Alhambra Casino, as I didn’t feel up to driving, especially after imbibing for the past couple of hours. We walked in, I won $200 on the quarter slots on a $50 bet, and we left, happy and content for a first night in Aruba. We didn’t sleep well though, as the room was quite hot and stuffy, and after opening the balcony door, we both at last drifted off to sleep to the sound of the ocean…
Day 2: Day 2, Sept 4th ~ We began the day early, waking up at 6:30am. Amy is a diehard coffee drinker, and since there was no coffee maker in the room, I was out the door at 6:31am in search of the Dunkin’ Donuts I had seen the night before next to the Alhambra. The staff there was very friendly and after purchasing two plastic travel mugs full of coffee, I returned to find a much happier wife. (It’s the small things that matter.) We decided to have breakfast at the buffet at the Tam as three of the workers at the resort couldn’t (or didn’t want to) tell me where Amici’s was. Having read about Amici’s on the visitaruba.com BB, I thought it would be well worth a try. Later after a good breakfast (minus the runny eggs) we hopped in the Nissan and began to drive north as the traffic at 9am on Saturday in Aruba is quite nominal. Well now, there’s Amici’s, right there on the right! I know where we’re eating breakfast tomorrow! We drove north for a while, then turned around and headed south to San Nicolas. After stopping for gas at Valero (expensive @ $3.25 a gallon, but pumped for you) and filling up ($52, but I’ll use it), we returned to Oranjestad to shop. We discovered that although the shops in the downtown area were nice with good shirts and other souvenirs, the little stands just to the right of Paddocks had better deals and were willing to bargain, something that warms the heart of a used car dealer! J We returned around noon and Amy decided to visit the Bunker Bar with me for a virgin
Pina Colada. I had a Balashi Draft (not bad, but I’m a liquor person usually, so beer doesn’t really excite me) and she went to lay out in the sun while I donned my snorkel gear I had brought and plunged into the ocean. As many have said, the beach at the Tam is somewhat rocky, and it’s actually worse once you enter the surf. Not bad, just uncomfortable if you are used to entering in sand and not smooth rocks. No great snorkeling off the Tam, although I did have an enjoyable time looking at several small schools of fish and the Puffer Fish that wanted to follow me around. After about an hour, I called it quits and we decided to clean up & head to the Divi’s Snapshot Photoshop to claim our Honeymoon Certificate. Now for those of you considering spending $280 for such a certificate, don’t. It’s a waste of money in my humble opinion, with a bottle of sparkling wine, a cheap picture frame, dinner at the Sunset Beach Bistro (Divi Phoenix – at this point yet to be had, so more later) and a sales pitch for the picture services of the Divi. I’d pass on it again, but it’s your call. Festus WAS very entertaining though, and I give him credit for giving a good speech in perfect Queen’s English! After leaving the photo shop, we opted to get a pizza at the Divi’s CoCo Grille, where we discovered the vast difference in the quality of people between there and the Tam. It seems that the Tam is much quieter, with a lot of Europeans, which suits us just fine. When in Aruba, don’t expect it to be like it is stateside! That attitude really got on our nerves at the CoCo Grille, especially the drunks next to us, berating the bartender and the poor woman suffering beside the 330 degree pizza oven. We promptly left after eating and like the Tam just fine –at least the Europeans and most Americans there are a lot more respectful and mindful that underpaid bartenders and cooks are NOT miracle workers.
Many on the visitaruba.com BB had mentioned the French Steakhouse at Manchebo Beach Resort as a favorite. After locating it on the internet prior to our departure Friday morning, I e-mailed for reservations @ 8pm. They promptly e-mailed back and our table was waiting when we arrived. Although we are just getting climatized at this point, we opted for a table outside by the pool, as the inside dining area is non-smoking and we both enjoy a cigarette after our meal. The food was excellent and the portions were very generous. I had two glasses of French Merlot (house French or Chilean wine @ $3.95 – a good deal, although the French wine was better ) and Amy had two virgin Pina Coladas. We had the Turkey Ragout as an appetizer, along with a house salad, a Caesar salad, the Beef Stroganoff and the 12oz Churrasco tenderloin. Total bill was $82 including service charge and I tipped an extra $10 for the courteous service, although it took FOREVER for them to bring us our bill. We retired back to the Tam to change and head off to town to the casinos we had seen earlier that day. After several minutes at the Crystal Casino, we left. The crowd was kind of strange (Amy’s words and much kinder than mine) and we headed north towards the La Cabana Casino. This particular casino had a lot of machines that were either not working or not working correctly. Amy had problems with one of the quarter slots not giving her proper credit and after spending over ten minutes trying to locate someone to help her, we gave up and headed back to the Alhambra where we decided to stay from that point on. The staff is friendly and helpful, quick to bring a drink and always polite and prompt. A few hundred dollars poorer at midnight, we left and headed back to the Tam. Amy retired for the evening and I headed out to the main bar for a nightcap. At the main desk, I decided to ask about having Maintenance check our AC unit as the average temp in the room was around 85 degrees and we both found that a tad warmer than our liking. (We put up with it one night, thinking it was just us, but it wasn’t.) At 1:30am, after no one from Maintenance had come by (although the front desk assured us someone would even though I didn’t ask them to do it then), we turned in for the night.
Day 3: Day 3, Sept 5th ~ We began the morning by driving up and down 1A looking for Amici’s. I know we saw it yesterday! We finally realized we weren’t going far enough north and found it after much turning around and discussion. This is a really great breakfast experience!!! The Breakfast Special for $9.75 included coffee (Dutch style and GREAT!), scrambled eggs and bacon, an enormous freshly baked muffin of choice, fresh fruit, a vegetable medley, Belgian waffles and Flemish pancakes. There was way too much food, the service was great and we left, not only full, but with a bag of leftover muffins to boot! Thanks to Sherry and Kevin D (I think) from the visitaruba.com BB for this wonderful tip! We also enjoyed the birds which I could’ve fed out of my hand, if I would’ve been so inclined to share my breakfast.
We changed and drove north to the California Lighthouse. Other than some really pitiful stray dogs, there wasn’t much to see, and since Amy doesn’t share my enjoyment of offroading, my first (and only unless I get up earlier!) Aruban offroading experience was pretty short-lived on the rocks near Druif. On the way back, I noticed many of the tour snorkel boats anchored about 50 ft off the shore at Malmok Beach and we swung in to check it out. Amy didn’t relish the idea of sitting in the sand while I snorkeled, so the good new husband I am, we drove back to Hong King to find a beach chair for her. I ended up locating it in the shopping plaza down the street for $23. It actually will fit in her suitcase, so we’ll keep it for the next trip! We drove back up to Malmok Beach and I enjoyed snorkeling and looking at the varied sea life while she hung out on the beach with the cooler and diet cokes we had also purchased. (Ok, I bought a bottle of Palmera Rum too, but only imbibed once.) Apparently there were some Dutch Marines there with their girlfriends/wives, who decided to go topless. I must be a newlywed- I totally missed that!
At Night: We returned around 2pm and goofed off for a while up at the Divi Aruba’s main bar and Coco Grill. We met a really nice Dutch couple there and then we all headed back to the Tam’s Bunker Bar. The iguanas were out in full force in the parking lot and I really had to be careful not to squish one! I also had the opportunity to ask the maids about local seafood and the AC. Seems the AC is something you eventually accept for granted and get used to. I like it colder, but I’m flexible. It’s Aruba, right?! We had asked about a reservation that night at the Red Parrot Café at the Divi, but they had already taken the book, so we’re winging it again. (At this point, I should mention that $100 dinner tabs don’t scare me. If the food and service is good, fine. If not, I’ll complain. I’m in the “service” industry too, so I have a pretty tolerant attitude towards restaurants.) Amy decided to take a nap and I hung out for a couple of hours with Tina, the bartender that day at the Bunker Bar. Seems as if everyone arriving from the airport every day has a hell story about their flight to Aruba. I think it gets better once you land. It’s Aruba, who cares?!…
We ended up eating at the Waterfront Crab House. Nothing spectacular and very expensive for the same type of seafood we can get at home at the Fish Camps, but it was what Amy wanted. I did enjoy the musical trio playing next door at the pancake house and when they broke into a perfect rendition of Jimmy Buffet’s “Remittance Man”, I was really impressed. Our waitress, Janice, was the best we have had so far, which more than made up for the mediocre food. Afterwards, we stopped to look at the white tiger in the big cage. After reading the heart wrenching and somewhat pitiful story about the Aruban government not allowing the owner to export the tiger for vet work in the US (some fact, some fiction, I suspect) we decided to leave and headed back to the Tam to call it a night.
Day 5: Day 5, Sept 6th ~ We decided to attempt to find Baby Beach this morning, and after some better directions from the locals (the route is not well marked), we ended up at Rodgers Beach for some photos, then found Baby Beach signs. I wasn’t really impressed as I enjoy snorkeling and it was very shallow with nothing to probably see, but since we were there, I donned mask and fins and off I went. I enjoyed playing with the numerous tropical fish in the little 5ft deep inlet when someone asked if I had gone beyond the inlet into the open sea. When I replied, “No”, he said, “Go!”, so I did, and what a wonderful experience! I saw a jewfish that must have been 3 feet long, as well as several eels and hundreds of large tropical fish. If you go to Baby Beach, go beyond the rock wall – it’s well worth it and less than 15ft deep! I could’ve snorkeled there all day long, but my skin would’ve been really burnt even with the SPF48 so we left after several hours. We drove back through San Nicolas and stopped at several places who’s names I can’t remember now, but the locals were awfully friendly and not very used to seeing tourists on that end of the island.
We had dinner this evening at the Pirate’s Nest just next door to the French Steakhouse at the Bucuti Beach Resort. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, and they had a unique salad bar which we both enjoyed. We then went back to the Alhambra Casino and gambled for about 2 hours, leaving with most of the money we had walked in with. So far, this casino has been our favorite and pays off decently for slots, which typically most casinos don’t. Thus endeth the night….
Day 6, Sept 7th ~ Breakfast at the Tam Buffet, minus the runny eggs. Their scrambled eggs look more like egg soup. I snorkeled and hung out in the Bunker Bar through the midday while Amy relaxed in the room and I chatted with a really nice couple named Josef and Monii two rooms down from us that are from Antwerp, Belgium. She asked if all Americans are fat! I replied “No”, but most of us like to party when on vacation, which tends to add a few pounds. I also had met some Elks Lodge members from the Hudson, NY Lodge yesterday afternoon and we joined back up for a few drinks during the afternoon hours. (I’m an Elk from the Hendersonville, NC Lodge.) Dinner tonight is at the Red Parrot at the Divi and most I’ve talked to have said it is excellent. Now that I’m back to typing, the meal was good but the service was really sub-par. There was no smoking, even outside, so we walked through the bushes twice to have a cigarette on the boardwalk, much to the consternation of the Divi staff (and amusement of our fellow resort patrons). On the way up to the Divi, Amy reminded me to get my camera, so back we went to the room. I was very surprised to find a security guard and bellhop in our room (and they jumped when I came in), but the impending Hurricane Ivan had the Divi Resorts busy leaving flyers for the guests letting them know what was going on weather-wise. The funny part is that I had read about Ivan in the Aruba Daily paper this morning, and when I mentioned it at the Bunker Bar to a lady from Georgia, she called me a liar. Hmmmm…. Pays to keep up with the daily news, huh? At any rate, we left dinner stuffed but unimpressed with the service and went back to the Alhambra. Imagine hitting big on the same machine you won on the night before! We did, and left with more in our pocket than we had going in. I ended up the night watching the lightning show from our balcony while I typed this, Palmera Rum and Coke in hand. I had invited Josef and Monii to go snorkeling tomorrow, but he’s not big on snorkeling. I just thought it would be nice to give them an opportunity to see another part of the island for free since they had no vehicle. He and I spent most of the afternoon in the Bunker Bar together and after two hours of stories about Cuba, I really wish I didn’t have an American passport! They say it is a blast and very inexpensive. Maybe sometime in my life they’ll remove the restrictions for US citizens. I spent a couple of days in Guantanamo Bay while in the Marines, and pretty it isn’t, but according to Josef, it’s no reflection on the rest of the island.
Day 7, Sept 8th ~ Hurricane Ivan is coming. We drove into town to get more Diet Cokes, cigarettes and chips just in case there are no stores open for several days. We did some last minute shopping and souvenir buying and left town around 10:30am. Everything was either being closed or already boarded up. Upon returning to the resort, the employees at the Tam had already moved our patio furniture back inside. We spent the afternoon parked at the Bunker Bar – not much else to do. It has rained off and on, sometimes quite hard, which reminds us of home. I know the hurricane is not anyone’s fault, but it definitely limits what you can do on the island, and I don’t relish watching TV at $200 a day. Without e-mail or internet access, I was going crazy, so I finally went up to the Bucuti Beach Resort to use the WiFi. This was when I discovered that you have to purchase the WiFi card from the front desk. Regardless of what SETAR’s website says, the pre-paid card is the only way to log in. Just about the time I got back from the front desk there ($35 card in hand), the WiFi crapped out! After several hours of sitting at the bar at the Bucuti’s Pirate’s Nest, we gave up and came back to get ready for our honeymoon dinner at the Divi Phoenix. What’s this?! Cancelled? A word one gets familiar with when it rains in Aruba… so we ate at the buffet at the Tam as all of the other eating options (including those off of the resort in close proximity) were closed. After dinner, we headed back to the room and I grabbed the bottle of Palmera and joined a “hurricane party” several rooms down. Ended up calling it an early night at 11:00pm.
Day 8: Day 8, Sept 9th ~ The Tam is now operating on a very limited scale. Most of the workers were either given the day off or can’t make it to work as the rain from Ivan has caused some flooding in several areas, especially between Eagle Beach, the Alhambra Casino and the downtown port road areas. The bus service is cancelled and due to widespread flooding and the Aruban government telling workers not to go to work unless they absolutely have to, the staff at the Tam is very sparse. We decided to go ride around and see what had happened to the island, and before two minutes into the trip, I was driving through water 2 feet deep (or more at some points). Suffice to say that it was NOT the experience I had planned to have in Aruba when I rented a 4X4 with the idea of doing a little off-roading here and there! After several hours, we did discover that the center of the island seems to be a little higher and the roads there were fairly dry, so we decided that this might be the way to get to the airport tomorrow. We drove down to Baby Beach and most of the area was really torn up. No more snorkeling there for me anytime soon…
Our honeymoon dinner has once again been cancelled by the resort (with no offers to repay us for it or send us elsewhere), so rather than eat the buffet our last night here, we drove up to the Texas de Brazil Churascarria. Good lord, what a lot of food! Not cheap at $91 for dinner , a virgin Pina Colada and a glass of wine, but everything we had was excellent. We watched the lightning show under the clouded skies while enjoying a cup of coffee at Amici’s afterwards. Once it started to sprinkle, we decided to make one last trip to the Alhambra. We actually left $30 poorer, but by this time it was almost 1am and time to call it a night. I began to pack Amy’s suitcase upon our arrival back to the room (I had already packed mine this afternoon) when the monsoons started and for five steady hours we endured what had to be the worst storm I’ve ever sat through, with the exception of 3 past hurricanes. This came from nowhere and really caught a lot of people by surprise I think. I’m thinking tomorrow’s trip to the airport is going to be a very wet and arduous adventure…
Day 9: Day 9, Sept 10th ~ Woke up at 6:42am to sunshine, and not the liquid type! The seas were fairly calm and all seemed right with the world, but then I opened the room door and was greeted by “Lake Tamarijn”. The parking lot was completely flooded, so on when the diving shoes and I still managed to pick out the borders while driving to the main lobby for coffee. (Important things first, right?!) I returned, illegally parked the Nissan on the sidewalk by the room, and loaded up our stuff. I was really worried about getting to the airport as the road in front of the Tam was completely submersed and the airport had been closed Wednesday and aprt of the previous day, stranding quite a few fellow tourists. I’m brave, but I’m also cognizant of that $500 I’m still responsible for on the rental truck, so very carefully, Amy and I started out early (8:45 am), driving north towards the Amsterdam Manor. We had found yesterday that following the locals pays off, and they seemed to like this road up to 2A. I tried not to think about the stalled and flooded cars around us as I gripped the wheel and forged on through 3ft of water at the Alhambra intersection. Once I got around the corner, I got in the left (other!) side of the road. What were they going to do to me?! Again, just following the locals, officer… The three Polis cars we passed could have cared less or didn’t want to fool with us. We made it to the airport relatively unscathed, fueled up at the Texaco around the corner from Wimco and dropped off the rental to Econo. They asked if we had any problems, I mentioned the AC switch, and after a very short inspection, we were given a friendly good-bye and inside the airport we went. Econo was very understanding that I couldn’t get the Nissan cleaned for them, even though there was no provision requiring me to do so. Perhaps that’s why they didn’t look at it too closely. Good thing too, as there was a little bit of sand inside! Leaving Aruba can be time-consuming, and in light of recent security tightening, this was to be no exception. We arrived at 10:12am for a 2:55pm flight. They don’t even open the US Airways counter until 11:30am, and the customs and immigration folks were a little behind that because the main inspection area floors were flooded, so the two Continental and Delta flights before us created somewhat of a clog in the system. I did find that once they had pumped out the floors in the airport, we were whisked through pretty quickly. Start to end was exactly 53 minutes, leaving me time to get on the WiFi. It’s free at the airport, so if you have wheels, just go there and use it without having to pay for it! I posted a couple of messages to various boards (including visitaruba.com BB) and our flight left promptly at 2:55pm as promised, full of people but not overbooked as previously feared by many.
Amy and I both agree that we’d like to re-visit the Tam again and we enjoyed our time in Aruba, even in spite of some cancellations and poor weather. We are planning to return at the end of next September. We will not get the MEGA upgrade, but will just use the Tam’s facilities. Feel free to e-mail me if you need further information.
Random thoughts: Various random thoughts and advice (The good, the bad and the ugly): First and foremost, take the advice offered on the VisitAruba.com BB! We found it to be invaluable! Rent from Tropic. Good positive experiences from others are valuable experiences! Next time Hans has my business! Do you snorkel? Buy good gear and take it. Glad I had mine… Pack light light light, especially if it is your first trip. You’ll see 10 shirts you want. Your wife will see 15. Wear them and save yourself the luggage hassle. Go to Baby Beach. The snorkeling beyond the sea walls is excellent! Tip your bartenders at the Tam. They appreciate it and will take good care of you. Harold, Carmen and Rudi are very well worth it! If you venture off the resort and have a car, buy a cheapo Styrofoam cooler at Hong King’s or the like and get beer, cokes, etc. Well worth the expense, especially if you’re in the boondocks. Want to see the “outback” and have a Jeep or 4X4? Follow the tour guys. They don’t mind. Go out to eat at least once. All inclusive is nice, but don’t cheat yourself. You may never get to experience it again! Expect the AC at the Tam to be marginal. Take tape and paper. Tape a sign on the AC Thermostat that says “Don’t Touch!” The maids turn it up to the minimum setting to save energy when they clean the room. That’s fine, I guess, but I’m paying for AC, not heat. Tip your maid. Be friendly. You might meet a new international friend or two! If you smoke, bring more than you’ll need. Cigarettes are expensive and someone will buy them from you at the bar in a moment of desperate need! 😉 Treat those around you at the bars like they were your parents. No one likes an obnoxious drunk, no matter how funny they may think they are. Be brave. The local hangouts in San Nicolas and Saveneta don’t see many tourists. They’re really friendly! Shopping for shirts and other souvenirs is fun. The little flea market across from the port staging area and the little shops next to the Paddock in Oranjestad had the best deals we found, and they’re willing to bargain, especially if you’re spending some serious money. Expect to hear foreign languages. Not everyone vacationing in Aruba is American, nor do they speak English. The Divi is nice, but I’ll take the ocean 20 feet from my balcony! (And on that note, the Mega upgrade really isn’t necessary. Use the extra money you would’ve spent on dinner out in town somewhere.) Vacations are different things to different people. Even I re-learned this after Amy spent one day just watching TV. My immediate reaction was to think, “You can do that at home!” She can’t. Space and understanding is a valuable thing to learn! I like to explore – she likes to relax. Find a happy medium… They are doing a lot of room renovations at the Tam. Don’t expect a tropical wonderland. Any business that can afford to renovate would like to have you back or they wouldn’t bother to spend the $$$ to fix it up. Give them a chance! Ask the Bunker Bar bartender what the long metal rod with the hook on the end is for! (Have a ready camera in close proximity.)
If you see a couple taking pictures of each other, offer to take a picture of both of them together. You’d like them to do it for you, right?