Posts Tagged With: Aruba

If I saved more money, I would……buy a Marriott Vacation Club timeshare

View from our room's balcony at the Marriott Surf Club Aruba.

View from our room’s balcony at the Marriott Surf Club Aruba.

Earlier this August, I spent a week of relaxation and fun on one of my favorite islands, Aruba.  Their current “One Happy Island” marketing campaign portrays the island and its feeling perfectly. I was definitely happy the entire time while there, and as the campaign states, their weather is ideal. This was my second time on the island, and it rained for about an hour and was cloudy for a total of maybe four hours.  The rest of the time, the weather was PERFECT. A breezy 90 degrees and mostly sunny during the day. Cooler, breezy, and probably close to 80 at night. Last time, it didn’t rain for a single second while I was there. You gotta love an island with amazing blue waters, white sandy beaches, and palm trees that’s also a desert that hardly ever gets hurricanes!  I love the Bahamas too, but hurricanes would be the one thing deterring me from planning an August trip there.

Enough small talk about the weather.  This spring, while driving around the Boston area and listening to my favorite top 40 radio stations, with commercials about “One Happy Island” reminding me how great the island is every 10 seconds, I made the decision that I would just HAVE to go.  Who says traditional advertising is dying?  That radio commercial worked just fine on me.

I was very lucky to stay in a family’s suite at the Marriott Surf Club, which is a villa timeshare resort located in the same complex as a Marriott hotel and the Marriott Ocean Club villas at the northern end of Palm Beach.  Featuring a number of nice amenities, including a large pool, lazy river, swim-up bar, free wifi, sunset views, daily activities for both kids and adults (everything from Zumba to Iguana Interactions) and more, the hotel was the ideal place to spend the week.  Although we spent a couple of days sightseeing on the island and on a snorkeling trip, the rest of our time was spent laying on the beach reading, cooling off in the ocean, or aimlessly floating around the lazy river during “happy hour” while sipping refreshing Aruba Breezes.

The bedroom of the 1 bedroom villa.

The bedroom of the 1 bedroom villa.

Since the Surf Club is an easy walking distance to the hotel strip with lots of restaurants, shops, and bars, most nights we wandered out for some dinner, drinks, or souvenirs.  A perfect location in case you ever get bored of the tons of amenities the hotel offers.

Decorated in a casual, beachy blue theme,  the rooms inside the resort are ALMOST as amazing as the pool and lazy river outside it.  Our group stayed in a studio and 1 bedroom villa that were connected with a conjoining door.  So, two couples got to sleep on the luxuriously comfortable Marriott beds, while the other couple struggled through the night on a pull-out couch. I mean the couch wasn’t that bad, but the big beds are so much better. If I could squeeze one of those white comforters in my carry-on, I totally would steal it. Between the two rooms, we also had two large bathrooms, a kitchen with a dining table, a small kitchenette in the studio, a living room area, and two balconies with ocean views. Having our own kitchen was great because we were able to buy groceries for breakfast and lunch, helping us save a lot of money AND calories. As I’ve written before, bringing food on trips or buying groceries for breakfast or lunch can help you stay within your budget and allow you to splurge on nice dinners and desserts! Perfect, because in my next post you’ll see just how much I splurged both financially and calorically.

One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting into the routine of waking up leisurely, heading down to the fully-equipped gym on the first floor (which I surprisingly actually did a few mornings), returning to the room for a quick breakfast, and having to make the difficult decision of whether I would sit by the pool or on the beach for the day. Tough life.

Now, my stay at the Aruba Surf Club was great, but it’s not the only reason why I want to own a Marriott Vacation Club timeshare.  If you’ve spent more than two seconds on my blog, you know I love travel (and ice cream but I guess that’s besides the point).  With Marriott Vacation Club, I could choose a resort in a location where I would want to travel to often, most likely somewhere in the Caribbean or Hawaii for me. And then, the best part, on years where I don’t visit my timeshare I could try one out somewhere else in the world. Florida, Vail, multiple Hawaiian islands, Myrtle Beach, St. Thomas, St. Kitts, France, Spain, Thailand…the list just gets better and better! And those are just the locations in the “collection”; it seems that with the timeshare you can also visit other Marriotts and various different hotels around the world.

Come on bank account, start growing! Fast.

The beach at the Surf Club at sunset. Such amazing views!

The beach at the Surf Club at sunset. Such amazing views!

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Oh the places I’ve been…My favorite travel photos from 2010 – today!

I’ve never been much of a photographer. During college, most of my photos were of my friends and I holding various alcoholic beverages and smiling or making some crazy faces at a most likely tilted camera. Or even worse was in high school, when we used to hold the camera above our heads and take the dreaded “MySpace” selfies or make a tilted “gangsta” peace sign with weird duck faces.  Yeah…a few girls in dresses at a high school, classy New Years party holding drinks with Raspberry Smirnoff and Sprite are super “gangsta.” Although the photos are a little more than slightly embarrassing, they did capture some fun memories, and I would never delete them. I am glad, though, that over the past three years I’ve had the chance to travel to a few amazing destinations and photograph those experiences.

While I was in Aruba a few weeks ago, my memory card that I bought at the start of the second semester of my senior year at BU finally filled up. With no space left on the card, I uploaded all the photos onto my semi-new computer (actually my sister’s old computer that was given to me last year to replace my IBM Thinkpad from 2006) and began to look through them. I realized that there are actually some pretty nice pictures. Take a look at some of my favorites from my travels to Florida, Cape Cod, New Jersey, Las Vegas, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vermont, Aruba, Tokyo, and Hong Kong over the past 3.5 years. Keep in mind these are in no particular order and were taken mostly on auto settings with my 2010 Canon 10 megapixel point and shoot camera and weren’t edited. Enjoy!

Hong Kong island at night. Taken from Kowloon in July, 2012.

Hong Kong island at night. Taken from Kowloon in July, 2012.

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A sunset and bottle of wine at Passions on the Beach in Aruba. Taken in August, 2013.

Tokyo, Japan. Taken in July, 2012.

Tokyo, Japan. Taken in July, 2012.

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Sun, sand, and some good food…in Aruba

Jolly Pirates boat

When I was first thinking about writing this post, I was going to do a “top 10 things to do in Aruba” or “Aruba top 10,” but the more I thought I about it, I couldn’t really come up with a top 10.  Don’t get me wrong, my trip to Aruba was amazing, but it mostly consisted of laying by the pool, floating in the ocean or in the lazy river, reading, and relaxing.  Definitely do all of those things if you go to Aruba. That’s what a Caribbean beach vacation is all about, but you should also consider the following:

  • Jolly Pirates 1/2 day snorkeling trip.  Like every other island that I’ve been to, Aruba has many different options for snorkeling day excursions. They all seem the same. Big sail boat or catamaran, a couple of stops for snorkeling, possibly a mediocre buffet, an all-you-can drink bar serving some rum punch, etc.  The Jolly Pirates trip was one of the better ones that I’ve been on for a few reasons.  First of all, a half day is enough time.  We stopped at a couple of places to snorkel; one was super rough/wavy and had views of a sunken ship and the other was calm, shallow spot with some nice fish.  Our third spot was my favorite, though.  We all got to swing off the boat into the water on this huge rope swing. So fun! Maybe it’s because it rained during my snorkeling excursion in Puerto Rico and the water was so rough in Cancun that people were vomiting, but Jolly Pirates in Aruba was definitely my favorite.
  • Sight-seeing.  We rented a car, so one morning we took a quick trip to a few of the different tourist sites on the island: a light house, a tiny old chapel, and the “land bridge” on the other side of the island.  The water on the other side of the island was blue, choppy, and beautiful, but again, a half day was enough for this. Afterwards, I was ready to head back and lay by the pool and read some more.
  • Go into Oranjestad. The largest city and capital of Aruba, Oranjestad boasts some typical touristy shops, more restaurants, and some stands to buy souvenirs from the locals.  A lot of the buildings were painted in pretty pastels, and I’m glad we got to spend some time walking around there.

The other side of the island

As you probably know, my second favorite hobby-after travel- is eating.  So food is always a very important part of my trip.  Not 5-star gourmet food, but just tasty food, especially the kind that comes in big unhealthy portions.  We went to the Hard Rock Cafe (hahaha…I know..to all of my friends that hate chain restaurants, I think their fajitas are good and cheap, no matter what country you’re in!) and a fun hibachi restaurant, but I would recommend:

  • Fishes and More: This cute little seafood restaurant is located on the strip of restaurants by the Palm Beach hotels.  We stopped here one night and I had a great meal of Mahi-Mahi out on the patio.  It was my first time trying Mahi-Mahi, and it was very good.  The nice Aruba breeze and the band down the block playing “Sweet Caroline” made the evening even better.
  • El Gaucho Steakhouse: My meal at El Gaucho was definitely one of my favorites on the island.  Although it’s located off a hard-to-find street in downtown Oranjestad, it was worth the longer drive and getting lost.  The restaurant is known for their steaks, so I ordered one of the more affordable smaller options, and was still completely stuffed when I finished.  The steak was cooked to perfection and came with three sides. 3 sides! I love sides, so I was very excited about that.  The garlic bread that came out before the meal was also great, and we polished off a few baskets before our food even arrived.

And of course, I can’t leave an island without a giant margarita in a plastic souvenir glass from Senor Frogs! Aruba was no exception…I may be too old for it, but I am still adding to my plastic cup collection. And yes, my over priced $27 margarita was delicious.

Oranjestad, Aruba- Marissa and I in front of the sign

Oranjestad, Aruba- Marissa and I in front of the sign

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Review of the Marriott Aruba Ocean Club

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Palm Beach, Aruba

Last month, my parents, sister, and I took our first family vacation in four years (and definitely the biggest family vacation that we’d ever taken) to Aruba.  The trip began filled with stress and featured me running frantically through the Miami airport in search of an outlet to charge my laptop and deal with some work issues, only to finally find one, after walking past every gate in the terminal 5 times, and realize the wireless fee was something ridiculous, like $7.  So, of course, I, like my usual self, slammed my laptop shut, threw my phone in my bag, and complained until our flight was ready to depart. Typical.

When we arrived in Aruba a couple of hours later, my stress had subsided, but I still wasn’t feeling the Aruba “bon bini” welcome and was unsure that I was on “one happy island,” as all signs and carpets in the airport were telling me.

After we got to our hotel and I spent some relaxing time by the beach and pool, though, all of that began to change.  Like your typical Caribbean beach vacation, Aruba makes you forget about your life at home and allows you to relax, while you soak up some sun and sip a cocktail.

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The Pool

The Marriott Aruba Ocean Club is a suite/villa timeshare resort located in the same complex as a Marriott hotel and the Marriott Surf Club villas, at one end of the “high rise” hotel area of Palm Beach. It features a number of nice amenities, including a large pool, swim-up bar, free wifi, restaurants, sunset views, a spa, etc. It was also within an easy walking distance of the hotel strip with lots of restaurants, shops, and bars.

The room was the perfect size and included a full kitchen, living room, dining table, and large bathroom.  Having our own kitchen was great because we were able to buy groceries for breakfast and lunch, helping us save a lot of money AND calories. As I’ve written before, bringing food on trips for breakfast or lunch can help you stay within your budget and allow you to splurge on nice dinners and desserts!

Overall, the trip was definitely one of the best that we’ve taken as a family…I don’t think we ended up fighting or arguing at all! Some of our past highlights include my sister and I getting into a big fight at the Lincoln Memorial, one of us running off at Epcot, as well as countless more I can’t remember. This trip flew by without issues.

Aruba was the ideal destination for some fun and relaxation, and the Marriott Aruba Ocean Club was the ideal hotel to visit.  I’d definitely recommend it, and hope to return in the future! Out of the resorts I’ve stayed at in the Caribbean, in Cancun, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas, this hotel is definitely toward the top of my list.  The only one that beats it, is, surprise surprise, Atlantis, which I will always love.

Stay tuned for my take on the food/fun on the island and my thoughts on my first trip to Asia (I’m heading to Tokyo and Hong Kong on Monday)!

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