I find that I NEED to get away for some sun and warmth during the winter months even if it has been a mild winter like this year. It always gives a lift to me since I feel that I have a slight case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. My last minute cruise to the Caribbean didn’t happen this year due to conflicting schedules but I did have my two free night certificates that I earned late last winter from signing up for the Hyatt credit card from Chase. The two free nights could be redeemed anywhere in the world. When Blogger Hubby had this card we used his two free night certificates at the Grand Hyatt Kauai.
I have Diamond status with Hyatt due to them status matching me last year to my Aspire status with Holiday Inn. The status was effective for all of 2016 and expires on 2/28/2017. The Diamond status gave me 4 upgrades and I had used two of them already as I mentioned in the previous blog about me being a Hyatt Gal. With a couple more suite upgrades and two free nights, we decided to go to Aruba for our beach vacation.
Getting There: I already had some points that I had transferred from one of my Chase credit cards that gave me Ultimate Reward points to Singapore Airline’s Krisflyer loyalty program. Knowing that there is an expiration on those points, we decided to book our flight down to Aruba using the points that I had transferred over to my KrisFlyer account. As they are an alliance partner with United Airline, I went to the United website and saw which flights had award availability. I wanted to get to Aruba as soon as I could and from looking at the flights available to me I saw that we would have a connection in Newark. Never having flown through Newark before I wanted to allow myself enough time to get from one gate to another, particularly since I would have to change terminals. I was nervous about that since I had been told to take the train but if I took the train, I would have to go through security again. Instead there is a bus that brought me to my terminal. There was hanging signage so it was easy to find.
The flight down to Aruba was set. For the return flight, there didn’t seem to be any good flights for us without having a long layover in Newark, which would mean we would have to spend the night. I instead began looking at other airlines and found that Delta had a good one that would get us back to our home airport at 10:30 PM. The only concern I had was that there was a one hour connection time in Atlanta. We booked this flight because we also saw that there was ever a little later flight to our home airport in case we should miss ours. I don’t have many Delta miles so we paid out of pocket for this flight. I used my American Express credit card and received 5 x points for this purchase.
HYATT – To add to our two free nights at the Hyatt, we booked three other nights paying cash and points. I was charged $150 per night and 12,500 points per night. I knew that at this point (and it will change as of 3/1/17) that suite upgrades are not given on award stays so I tried to strategize and book the points and cash nights first followed by the free two nights hoping that they would keep me in the suite that I would get from using points and cash. Of course, there was always the possibility that they would have me change rooms after the first three nights and then transfer me to a standard room. I was willing to take my chance but didn’t tell Blogger Hubby about it till we were on the plane.
Flights were fine and before we knew it we were outside the terminal with our carry on only luggage getting into a taxi cab for the $25 fare to where the high rise motels were located on the northwest side of the island.
We pulled up and my breath was taken away at how beautiful the resort was. We went to the reception desk and was helped by Junel. At first we were told that our room was not ready even though I had asked for an early check in (a benefit of being a Diamond member). We started to walk away and he called us back and said that he could give us another suite, a larger one, but only for three nights in the high rise and then go to the regular suite in the low rise for the remaining two nights OR we could wait for the regular suite and stay there for all 5 nights. We chose to go to the larger one that had an ocean front balcony.
A little background on this hotel – there are essentially two parts to this hotel and they are connected where the reception area is located – somewhat like a U shape building. There is the high rise which has 9 floors and the low rise which has 5 floors. The Regency Club is located on the 9th floor of the high rise.
ROOM #1 – We were taken to our suite and it took my breath away. It was huge, at almost 1900 square feet it encompassed the entire back end of the hotel on our floor overlooking the Caribbean. We had 4 sets of sliding glass doors, 4 thermostats, three separate sitting areas, an Apple desktop computer on the desk, a bathroom that would equal my kitchen, a dressing area, 4 sofas and numerous chairs, two refrigerators, 2 bathrooms and so much more. This was luxurious living at its best. I was giddy but to be honest, we really didn’t use much of the room as we didn’t spend much time there. It did make it convenient to go up one floor for the Club offerings and the concierge that was there.
the left side of our large living roompart of our living room and the kitchen area
ROOM #2 – if I hadn’t seen our first room, I would have been thrilled with this room. It was a 2 room suite though the layout and furnishing were either awkward or outdated. The little kitchen area had only a small dorm size refrigerator and a microwave sitting on top of it. There are no glasses, plates, silverware in any of the cabinets in this area. There wasn’t even a sink. What was strange was one of the two closets was in the kitchen and the other in the bathroom. The sofa would convert to a sofa bed but it seemed very outdated. The bathroom counter could have accommodated two sinks but there was only. There were two doors leading into the suite from the hallway – one into the bedroom and the other into the living area. The balcony overlooked the ocean and we enjoyed sitting out at the end of the afternoon sipping our wine and watching the sunset.
GROUNDS – The grounds in the back were immaculate. They had 3 or 4 cages of birds including macaws. In the water feature, there were plenty of koi swimming around, many green iguana, turtles and black swans. Enough there to keep the few children that were staying here entertained not too mention my husband as well!
POOLS – there are really two pools although they are connected. The lower pool has a large very, shallow area for very little ones. This is where I saw the children with their little floaties on their arms. Steps led down to the adult pool where there was a net across for water volleyball. This is the pool that has a swum up bar. Around the corner, but still in the water, is where the water slide ends so be careful of the adults and children who are speeding down the blue water slide. Blogger Hubby went down numerous times and had a great time. The upper pool is is just a pool, although a very nice pool. Behind it, hidden away by the tropical foliage is the hot tub which was very relaxing.
LOUNGERS, UMBRELLAS, and PALAPAS – I found the way that you sign up for a palapa (the palm frond covered wooden umbrellas that are on the beach)and loungers with umbrellas around the pool to be a little difficult but honestly, I don’t know if I could improve it. First of all, you can reserve and rent a palapa, umbrella or one of the few cabanas. The palapas rent for $55 per day or $80 for the cabanas and they can be rented for up to one year in advance of your stay. They have the prime location, closest to the beach. They do have some palapas that are not for rent but in order to reserve them you can either go online at 4 PM the day before or stand in line at the towel hut. I stood in line but to be honest, you need to get in line around 3:30. It goes fast so have an idea of the number of the palapa you want because you are competing with those online. Many people found that the online process didn’t work so I wouldn’t risk it because they can, and do, run out of palapas by the beach or the umbrellas by the pools. If they still have some available, you can go to the Towel Hut at 10:00 AM and sign up for one there. There are usually empty loungers available by the pool though there may not be by an umbrella.
STAFF – we found the staff to be very accommodating and they always seemed to know our needs and our names. The Club has a cooler for water, and soda. I lamented to the concierge that there was no Coke products in the cooler. When my husband went up later, she gave him two cans of Coke’s for us since she keeps some in a different area for those who ask. They have a contract with Pepsi so they wouldn’t put out the Coke products but they still had them for their guests. Every time I walked by the registration desk I was always greeted by name and was always asked if there was anything I needed. At the towel hut, they knew my room number when I would go to borrow a floating pad to lay on in the water. They even knew when we changed rooms. I cannot say enough great things about the staff.
REGENCY CLUB – who needs to eat out when you have such amazing food at the Club. Breakfast dishes always had bagels, croissants, toast, English muffins, cold cuts, smoked salmon, hot oatmeal and then another dish such as pancakes, scrambled eggs and more. Fresh fruit was plentiful and we appreciated the pineapple chunks, in season watermelon, slices of grapefruit as well as apples, bananas and plums. The afternoon was time for sweets such as cookies, nuts and dried fruit and cake. Appetizers began at 5:00 PM and we found that several days that we didn’t need to go out for dinner – that’s how filling and ample the appetizers were.
When we did want to go elsewhere for dinner, we could walk out of the hotel and turn either left or right. I would go to the left (near the Hilton) as there were many good restaurants there. Many of them had outside seating around a small stage where there was live entertainment. We particularly enjoyed the Argentina Grill but we could have easily gone to many of the other restaurants.
SUPERBOWL SUNDAY – We arrived on Superbowl Sunday and in case you don’t know me, although I live in Virginia and have for over 3 decades, I am a Bostonian through and through as that is where I was raised and lived till we moved to Virginia – my accent will testify to that. Well you know who was playing on that Superbowl Sunday and I wanted to watch it. Of course, we had that large television in our living room but Hyatt went one better. They had out in the water a large inflatable screen that they televised the game on. Of course, we could have sat in one of the uncomfortable wooden slat chairs in the sun but we had a better option. Remember we had the entire balcony facing the water. As we had been up way too early, we changed into our PJ’s and sat out on our balcony and watched the game with the audio on in our living room. Great fun.
My goal on this trip was just to sit my bottom in a lounger and read, swim, nap and just relax. We did take a sunset cruise booked from the tent in front of the palapas and we enjoyed it very much particularly since everyone on board was from Boston and they had no trouble understanding me! Blogger Hubby went on a snorkel trip and he thought it was so so. Next time, and there will be a next time, I would rent a car for a day or too which you can do directly at the Hyatt.
I thoroughly enjoyed this mini vacation and this is the only Caribbean island that I would consider coming back to. Most people just know it from a cruise port of call but it is more than just the downtown area that the cruisers know. There isn’t a lot to do (aloe factory tour, feeding ostriches, touring the island and seeing the Old Lighthouse) but I wasn’t looking for anything except pure relaxation and this fulfilled it.
FYI – when you leave Aruba, you go through their customs and security and then you go through US immigration and customs before you get to your gate. If you are leaving on a weekend, particularly on a Saturday, this can take up to three hours so make sure you allow yourself enough time. We had read that and decided to leave on a Friday. It took us about 90 minutes to go through everything.