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Trip Report, Tips and Reviews Studio Divider Bar

Trip Report - February 5-12, 2003
Additional information is available under individual photos in our slideshows.

Good-bye Upstate New York
We hadn't planned to take a winter vacation this year but after 80+ inches of snow and weeks of freezing temperature we had enough. By the end of January I was calculating frequent flyer miles and Marriott Reward points. I soon had us booked for a week at the what I thought was the same Marriott Hotel we had enjoyed so much before. Four nights would be covered by Marriott rewards and three nights were at a very reasonable rate. It wasn't long before I realized why.

Welcome to the Renaissance Aruba Beach Resort and Casino
Marriott had purchased what used to be called the Sonesta Beach Resort located in the capital city of Oranjestad This wasn't the same category for a romantic getaway as we experienced at the Palm Beach Aruba Marriott but it's tough not being happy where ever you stay. The Marriott we would be staying at would be the Aruba Renaissance Beach Resort and Casino.

We soon realized the Aruba Renaissance had some special perks of it's own. The Renaissance is located on the water front in Oranjestad and offers a convenience to a large variety of shops, restaurants and even a 24 hour casino. The resort is split up into two buildings. A six seater golf cart is available to shuttle guests between the two buildings or towers. It's also a pleasant, scenic walk but I noticed as the heat relaxed us we frequently took advantage of the shuttle cart.

Marina Tower
The Marina Tower is an ocean front building separated from the seaport marina by one of Aruba's main roads. The street access is both a big advantage and disadvantage. If you'd like easy access to shopping and the 24 hr Crystal Casino the Marina Tower is for you. We enjoyed watching the cruise ships come into town from our ocean view room. The pool here is located on a deck over looking the marina and street.

The Marina Tower also houses an ocean view exercise room and a full service spa. One night we enjoyed a relaxing couples massage at the spa. Our final night we checked out the Let's Go Latin show at the Crystal Theater which was very impressive.

The rooms were typical hotel room and not what you might expect from a Marriott Resort. We were lucky enough to see a model room showing the changes Marriott would be making this summer and it was much nicer. You can see what they look like in our Marina Tower slideshow. Just about everything we could suggest as improvements were in the renovation plans. We may have to return again next winter to enjoy the hotel once its had the Marriott touch.

Beach Tower
The Beach Tower provides more in the way of resort grounds and plenty of palm trees. The two pools here were open 24 hours and included a swim up pool bar. Happy hour at both towers provided 2-for-1 frozen drinks and we indulged more than once.

The Beach Tower also includes a beautiful self contained lagoon for those who want the beach experience just outside their room. We never had a problem getting a spot by the water facing the sun.

The rooms at the Beach Tower used to be time shares and most include the amenities of a microwave and refrigerator. This makes the Beach Tower the better choice for families with small children. More of the theme night dinners also occurred at the Beach Tower.

Seaport Marketplace
Between the towers you'll find the open air Seaport Marketplace which has something for everyone. There are a number of unique gift stores that have more than just the cheap stuff sold to the cruise ship passengers. There's also a movie theater but I can't imagine going to the movies while on vacation in paradise. You'll find a range of places to eat but with the heat in Aruba you won't be eating as much as you normally do. I'm cheap and easy so we often ate at Dunkin Doughnuts, Subway, Wendy's or Sbarros. We did splurge one night at the Waterfront Crabhouse for some Alaskan King Crab. Delicious!

There was also a unique opportunity here to have your photo taken with a 520 lb. Siberian Tiger named Tessa. I was tempted to spent the $35 for a digital photo to include here but you'll have to wait. Maybe next year I'll go for it.

Renaissance Island
The real resort aspect of the Renaissance comes from the private Renaissance Island visible from the beach tower and the right side of the plane flying into Queen Beatrix Airport. A water taxi provides an enjoyable 15 minute ride for hotel guests who want a special treat. There are two main protected beaches oriented for plenty of sunshine and calmer breezes. Heading off the water taxi to the right you'll see pink flamingos as you enter the "European" style beach where clothing is optional. The path to the left brings you to the family beach, complete with a Red Sail Sports shop, the Sea Breeze Restaurant, tennis courts and health club.

Oranjestad
The capital city provides a wide variety of shopping and dinning. The bargains in jewelry might be worth the trip for many people. We always felt safe when shopping and walking around the town. The folks in Aruba enjoy the tourist business so it was common to see police and private security clearly visible.

Sunday in town is usually pretty dead. None of the cruise ships were around so most of the shops are closed. This year our timing was good and we were able to experience the Aruba Kids Balloon Parade. The parade went the entire length of the waterfront and the kids we're adorable. The local residents were all out to support their kids and enjoy this unique event. The music blared and there apparently are no open contained laws in Aruba so a good time was had by all.

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