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GONE : Westin Aruba (Leaving Starwood February 27, 2014) [Master Thread]

GONE : Westin Aruba (Leaving Starwood February 27, 2014) [Master Thread]

 
Old Oct 24, 11, 2:14 pm
  #151  
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Originally Posted by rkmallik View Post
SPG plat here booked a 7 night stay with FRN for the week after Thanksgiving (11/27-12/4) There's just two of us and we're primarily looking to unwind (I may try to sneak away for a day long deep sea fishing trip, any recs?)

Still on the fence about renting a car for all/part of the stay. Anyone else heading down around then? Any must-dos or have-to-sees?
Must-dos: Relax. Nothing else. That's the point of Aruba!

Mike
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Old Oct 24, 11, 2:18 pm
  #152  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Originally Posted by mikeef View Post
Must-dos: Relax. Nothing else. That's the point of Aruba!

Mike
Agreed. If you're not very familiar with Caribbean Islands, it might be an idea to rent a car for a day or two, perhaps from the resort. Otherwise, I personally wouldn't do it. Stay in and around the resort; eat, relax, enjoy the weather.

There really isn't much off resort to see if you've spent any time in the islands whatsoever...

Cheers,
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Old Oct 24, 11, 2:33 pm
  #153  
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Location: Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL
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Originally Posted by Flews View Post
Agreed. If you're not very familiar with Caribbean Islands, it might be an idea to rent a car for a day or two, perhaps from the resort. Otherwise, I personally wouldn't do it. Stay in and around the resort; eat, relax, enjoy the weather.

There really isn't much off resort to see if you've spent any time in the islands whatsoever...

Cheers,
It's a matter of personal likes and dislikes. I would say there is very little to do at the resort. The beach and pool are always crowded with lots of other guests having a good time and that generally involves a lot of noise. Sometimes even the hotel contributes to the noise level with loud speakers. For me, that makes relaxation impossible. Food and drink at the hotel are very expensive, and not really very appetizing, compared to local establishments. On the other hand, the island itself it beautiful, the people are mostly friendly and helpful, and the local food is quite tasty. If you have a car you can look for a quiet beach, try out local food, even go to local clubs, if that's the way you're inclined. It seems to me that there is no fixed answer as to how to enjoy a vacation on Aruba. It depends on what you enjoy in life.
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Old Oct 24, 11, 2:40 pm
  #154  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
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Originally Posted by ajnaro View Post
If you have a car you can look for a quiet beach, try out local food, even go to local clubs, if that's the way you're inclined. It seems to me that there is no fixed answer as to how to enjoy a vacation on Aruba. It depends on what you enjoy in life.
Fair enough. Why I deliberately used the word "personally"

Also why I favour BVI and/or Cayman, at half the flying time, over Aruba - for some of the best food & beaches in the Islands imo, without having to rent a car. Although the only clubs I enjoy are my 'sticks'...

Cheers,
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Old Nov 5, 11, 9:51 pm
  #155  
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: SAN
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Mixed bag

I just completed a 3-night FRN stay and wanted to update the previous reports.

The good: Front desk staff and doormen were very friendly and helpful. Indeed, all the indoor staff was all smiles (of course, helps to have a cute kid in tow to get a smile out of folks). As a Platinum, I was upgraded to a xx02 Oceanfront 1-Bedroom Suite, which, as others have posted, is by far the nicest room available (save the purported Presidential Suite, which appears to be in the middle of the 17th floor if the exterior hotel view is any indication). Also had no problem getting the "high speed" Internet comped (usually $9.95). While it wasn't exactly blazing, it was at least usable, which is more than I can say for the free option. The beach is amazing: clear water, soft sand, gentle break---perfect for young kids. The pool is also very kid-friendly with an expansive shallow end with fountains to play in. Similarly, they have a playground and other toys for young kids to amuse themselves with (our son wasn't old enough for the "kids club" so can't comment on that).

The bad: Was charged the $25/night resort fee as others have mentioned above. IMHO, the physical property is not worthy of the Westin brand. While they've done a nice job with the lobby, the rest of the hotel feels more like a Sheraton. Our room was generously large, but it was aging, and the bathtub was an eyesore (broken drain, chips, grout, and some sort of vinyl tape covering much of the bottom). The carpet was tatty, and the walls had the cheap stucco treatment reminiscent of a motel. TV reception was horrible. We had a lower floor, which meant we heard all of the afternoon Bingo, movie night, aquarobics classes, etc. Alternate Platinum amenity was a cheap bottle of Chilean plonk that wasn't drinkable. Requested early housekeeping each morning to facilitate early-afternoon naps. Every day we returned from the pool to change for lunch to find the maids still in the room at 11:30. Elevators were as reported above: only two seemed to work at any one time, and the wait became annoying during peak times.

Worth noting: We were there mid-week in shoulder season, so had no trouble getting a palapa for free if we showed up before 8:30am. (No way we would have paid for it regardless; you can get chairs for free and folks happily plop down right in front of you and block your beach view anyway.) Pool could get crowded mid-afternoon; I can only imagine what a zoo it must be during the holidays. Spa services were nothing special, and expensive as would be expected of a resort. Casino seemed dead most nights, although did noticeably pick up on the weekend, but then the smell of smoke was so strong I couldn't stand it for more than a few minutes at a time.

About the food options: Breakfast buffet was plentiful, but overpriced---$48 for two. (Coffee was horrible, though; the Starbucks in the room was much better.) We went with the all-inclusive breakfast option which made it a little cheaper, but definitely pricey when one is used to it being included as a Platinum benefit. We skipped the remainder of the restaurants---all of which seemed pricey---except for "Azull", their dine in the sand option which is only open for one sunset seating each night. The setting is a dream, but the food was passable at best, and certainly not worth the $53/plate fixed price we paid. But then again, we knew going in we were paying for the experience, not the food. We were otherwise quite happy to stick with the off-property restaurant options, of which there are many. Definitely wouldn't recommend selecting any of the all-inclusive packages unless you plan on drinking heavily at the resort, as drinks are pricey---and small.

Overall: we had a great stay, due largely to the lovely beach, kid-friendly facilities, and suite upgrade. That said, I would have been very disappointed had I booked the Westin looking for an upscale romantic escape. I'd suggest one think about this property more as a family friendly, low-end Sheraton and you won't be disappointed.
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Old Nov 7, 11, 10:59 am
  #156  
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Originally Posted by Flews View Post
Fair enough. Why I deliberately used the word "personally"

Also why I favour BVI and/or Cayman, at half the flying time, over Aruba - for some of the best food & beaches in the Islands imo, without having to rent a car. Although the only clubs I enjoy are my 'sticks'...

Cheers,
Thanks for pointing that out. We may have to try those options next year, since we have already booked our trip to Aruba. We had such a great time last year, though, at Aruba, but the flight does get to the kids. For some reason, we booked a connection through MIA on AA instead of Jet Blue non-stop.

Originally Posted by Erasmus View Post

Overall: we had a great stay, due largely to the lovely beach, kid-friendly facilities, and suite upgrade. That said, I would have been very disappointed had I booked the Westin looking for an upscale romantic escape. I'd suggest one think about this property more as a family friendly, low-end Sheraton and you won't be disappointed.
We liked the facilities but your points are good ones, although I'd go more with "high-end" Sheraton (For "low-end Sheraton," please see "Sheraton Safari Orlando.". The property was unbeatable with kids.

I have no idea what the deal is with the elevators, other than that they may shut one or two down during low-demand periods.

Mike
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Old Nov 14, 11, 2:31 pm
  #157  
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: EWR
Programs: CO Gold, SPG Platinum, Hyatt Diamond, Marriott Platinum
Posts: 18
Platinum Upgrade question

Any other Platinum's out there have upgrade success at this property? I'm burning through a bunch of points for an extended stay with the family during shoulder period (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) which is traditionally a quiet time to go to Aruba but I've only booked a standard room which may make being comfortable with wife and 2 young kids "challenging." It looks like for the period that I'll be there, the highest category room is available.

Thanks in advance.
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Old Nov 17, 11, 12:25 pm
  #158  
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whats the least expense way to get to the Hotel from the Airport? and how much
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Old Jan 9, 12, 8:15 pm
  #159  
 
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Anybody been here lately?

I am going in a few weeks and wondered about any tips.
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Old Jan 10, 12, 10:56 am
  #160  
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Originally Posted by hooterbif View Post
Anybody been here lately?

I am going in a few weeks and wondered about any tips.
We arrive tomorrow and are there through Monday. If any FTers wanna grab a drink, just shoot me a PM.

Mike
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Old Jan 10, 12, 6:07 pm
  #161  
 
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Originally Posted by mikeef View Post
We arrive tomorrow and are there through Monday. If any FTers wanna grab a drink, just shoot me a PM.

Mike
We won't overlap with you, but let us know how it goes.
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Old Jan 14, 12, 1:37 pm
  #162  
 
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Originally Posted by ajnaro View Post
If you have a car you can look for a quiet beach, try out local food, even go to local clubs, if that's the way you're inclined.
Any recommendations on a quiet beach? We have a car the whole time. Then again, perhaps we need to stay at the hotel beach with small children (in case they want a bite to eat, or a nap, bathroom, etc.....)
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Old Jan 18, 12, 3:42 pm
  #163  
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And we're back!

Originally Posted by hooterbif View Post
Any recommendations on a quiet beach? We have a car the whole time. Then again, perhaps we need to stay at the hotel beach with small children (in case they want a bite to eat, or a nap, bathroom, etc.....)
We went with our 3-year old twins. You could try Baby Beach on the other side of the island, but you should be okay at the hotel.

Overall grade: B/B+. I tend to be a tougher grader than my wife, who would have given the hotel a higher grade. The twins would have given the hotel an A.

We arrived at the hotel at about 1am, after a late MIA-AUA flight. Bags were handled quickly, but there wasn't anyone at the front desk (The Platinum Concierge tried to call the hotel for us about an hour earlier and it just rang and rang. It took a second phone call and several minutes to get someone on the line.). A FDC showed up after a minute or so and checked us in quickly. He wasn't really aware of the alternative Platinum amenity, so we just chose a second item off of the amenity list.

We had booked a suite and ended up in 702, an ocean-front suite. Beautiful view, nice suite. The cribs were set up in the living room and our kids, who had been totally wired, went to sleep quickly. The suite itself opens into the living room and there is a set of doors that lead into the bedroom. The doors were older and never closed quite right, but it wasn't anything serious. We had requested a fridge and it was set up in the living room. The bedroom portion was nice and the bathroom was huge. It had both a soaking tub and large, rainfall-style shower. The safe was in the back corner of the bathroom. The TV was often fuzzy, which wasn't an issue except when trying to watch the playoffs.

Breakfast was eaten in the room every day. We had brought boxes of cereal and bought milk in the little store downstairs. Prices had definitely gone up since the last time we were there, but the $3.55 carton of milk lasted us the whole trip. Better than the $24 per person buffet (Kids four and under are free. At least I think it's four.).

Hit the pool the first thing the next morning. You have to pick up towels at the towel hut, where they take your room number. When you return them, you give them your room number and they check off the return. The pool is medium size and not heated, so you'll get a bit of a jolt when you first get in. My kids never quite got accustomed to it, although they could spend 10-15 minutes in it without going too crazy. You can rent chairs on the beach or little clam-shaped seats by the pool, but it cost a fortune. We threw our stuff on a pool chair.

A note on kids here: If you look at the word "resort" and think quiet, relaxing, kid-free experience, this ain't it. There are a ton of families here, as well as a kids' center, which ran lots of pool activities, and a playground right off the pool. There's also a chance that you will get run over by a kid chasing the numerous lizards that are running all over the place. The kids' center was a good, air-conditioned place to let our kids rest and play with legos, stuffed animals, etc.

On the days that our kids didn't eat PB&J (brought from home), we ate at Terraces and usually had the same wonderful server, Evelyn (William, if you know how to get a good word in for her, please let me know.). It was exactly what you'd expect from a poolside restaurant: bar and grill food which was a little on the pricey side and just okay in quality. But it was outside, casual and good for a family who didn't need gourmet cuisine. Note: You can buy expensive meal plans, but we're non-drinkers, so it didn't make sense for us.

Restaurants: We also ate at Blossoms, a Benihana-type Japanese restaurant and the Italian restaurant in the lobby whose name escapes me. The former was okay but offered a decent value while the latter was actually pretty good. We also took a walk along the strip of hotels. The Westin is at one end, with all of the hotels on one side of the road and the restaurants on the other. We ate at a couple of the restaurants, almost all some variation of bar & grill or Italian. The common theme was that they served food that indicated they weren't counting on repeat business. One of them was a pizza place and the other was a barbecue place that looked like it was owned by the same people who owned Senor Frog's.

We also spent quite a bit of time at the beach. The beach was very nice and we grabbed a few chairs rather than pay an exorbitant price for one of the huts. The water was shallow, the waves small and the tides not too bad. Be sure to bring your sun block. It was quieter than one would have expected with all the families around. The water was excellent and our kids loved it.

Overall, we felt the service was quite good. Employees were generally friendly and whenever we had a request through Service Express, it was filled as we asked. For instance, we always needed morning room service so our kids could nap. Never a problem. And, contrary to our last trip and several posts here, the elevators were fine. My wife had a massage and said that it was good.

Okay, a few negatives, which brought down the rating:

The outdoor staff ranged from mediocre to downright poor. In particular, I saw this at the towel hut, where we were often interrupting the dour employee from her texting by asking her for towels, and the bar, where the bartenders simply appeared to ignore people. Note: I had the same complaints about the towel hut two years ago.

All the nickel and diming. I guess we've gotten used to it at the resorts, but between the $25 resort fee (for what, exactly?), the charges for the beach "huts (a straw umbrella with two chairs)," the extra charges for certain kids' activities and the concierges who appeared more interested in selling tours and whatnot than helping guests (I know, it's not just this resort.), it was annoying. Oh, the restaurant checks come with "service charges" included. Evelyn got extra, no one else did.

Carelessness: We always check our bill the night before we leave to get a quick start and we found several errors. The most egregious (and, truthfully, the only one for more than a few dollars) one was seeing that we got charged for a meal that wasn't ours. Turns out one of the other guests had written their name and our room number on a check and nobody at the restaurant checked to make sure they matched up. Instead, they later just charged our room. It was fixed at the desk, but not without a bit of hassle.

Last few things:

Smoking is allowed everywhere outside. Not many people were smoking, though. It is technically banned in the lobby, but half the lobby always smelled of smoke, anyway, since the doors to the casino were left open.

The Aruba airport is a pain, so give yourself plenty of time. Check in, clear metal detector, clear something else, pick up bags, clear another metal detector, clear something else. At least two hours, especially during busy times.

Hopefully, I haven't forgotten anything, but feel free to ask.

Mike
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Old Jan 18, 12, 3:50 pm
  #164  
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
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Originally Posted by mikeef View Post
We went with our 3-year old twins. You could try Baby Beach on the other side of the island, but you should be okay at the hotel.
Wow, thank you for your thorough report.

We reserved 1502 (one bedroom suite) and 1501 (adjoining room) which I believe are joined at the side of the hotel that faces the ocean.

We will take your tips into account.
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Old Jan 18, 12, 3:53 pm
  #165  
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: SAN
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Originally Posted by hooterbif View Post
Wow, thank you for your thorough report.

We reserved 1502 (one bedroom suite) and 1501 (adjoining room) which I believe are joined at the side of the hotel that faces the ocean.

We will take your tips into account.
These are nice rooms, but "faces the ocean" is a bit of a stretch. Only the end of the hotel (i.e., one jr. suite per floor) actually faces the ocean. 1502's bedroom balcony will have a side that also faces directly out toward the ocean and overlooks the pool. The sides of the hotel either angle toward the ocean and the nature preserve (the side you'll be on) or angle toward the mega-resort Taj next door (the other side).

And I agree there's absolutely no need to leave the resort in search of a better beach for kids: I've never seen a calmer, more inviting break or sand for little ones (and I've seen a lot of beaches in my day). That said, you'd do well to leave in search of food
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