Hi, I must say that before I type any further and you read any further that this following review is my own personal opinion, it reflects what I personally thought of both Aruba and The Occidental.
Most importantly please note that I am an English citizen so this holiday was not just a short 4 hour, or so, flight but a long haul 10 hour flight holiday and I will explain as to why I added this later.
Some will agree and some will totally disagree but it is purely my own personal opinion and everything I write is 100% honest and not exaggerated.
I will start with Aruba, the weather during the last 14 days ( I left yesterday afternoon at 5.30pm ) was absolutely perfect, I would say roughly 33 degrees every day and a good breeze to take the edge off the heat, I mut say that the breeze to some seemed to be a hinderance as I did hear moaning once or twice but, in my opinion, the breeze is needed.. especially if you are unable to get shade on the beach.
I must say that the beaches are some of the nicest stretches of beach I have seen and The Occidental section of Palm Beach did seem one of the best kept sections, the water also being crystal clear.
There is plenty to do around the high rise area in both daylight and evenings but mostly directed towards eating or drinking, shopping in this section is only really souvenirs etc ( except Time Square, this is a jewellers I purchased a watch from, VERY friendly and willing to negotiate ).
The Aruban people are friendly and road users are also extremely courtious.
I must say that Orangestad, for us, was a little bit of a let down.. certain areas were very picturesque but others did look shady and slum-like.
We found the shop assistants VERY pushy and their way of "pouncing" on you as soon as you walk through the door, or following you around like you are a suspected shop lifter is both un nerving and it just puts you off wanting to shop.. petty some may say but that is my opinion, I like to find my feet, browse, find something I like and then ask for assistance, on one occaision we were asked what it was we were looking for before we even knew what the shop sold they were that eager.
Anyway, my general overview is this, I like Aruba and I like it a lot, however, for someone from the UK to visit Aruba I do not think that it has enough to warrant the journey time and money.
The beaches are beautiful yes but so are beaches closer to home and for half the price.
There are some fun things to do BUT these things could ALL be done in 2 days.
If I were an American citizen and had Aruba that close to me I would probably go there several times a year as a flight from parts of the USA to Aruba is like a flight from the UK to somewhere like Greece... I use Greece as an analogy purely because IF I had of spent the same money on a trip to Greece then I could have had the beautiful beaches of say Kefalonia, gorgeous weather, more to see and do.. cheaper off resort AND a 4 hour flight !!!!
I guess I am saying that YES Aruba is gorgeous BUT there is not enough there to warrant the £3500.00 + price tag and a nearly 10 hour flight !!
RIGHT, now for The Occidental.
Before I go further I must explain as to why I am as frustrated as I am and then you will understand my issue.. This holiday has cost me roughly £4000.00 ($6000.00), 20 hours of air time (approx) AND was sold to me by First Choice as a 5 star PLATINUM AWARD WINNING all singing and all dancing resort... A very high pedastal !!!
Again, I know some people were having a great time at this resort and loved it, I must again say that 90% of these people were from the USA and the others were from Scotland and purely liked it because most of the time they were that drunk we could have flown them into Blackpool anf they would have been none the wiser... anyways...
The swine flu pandemic and The Occidentals inability to cope with the extra numbers has seriously ruined our holiday experience with regards to the resort.
Upon arrival we were told that our rooms were not available as requested but we would be recieving an "upgrade". This was due to the fact that the hotel was fully booked.
The "upgrade" was to the ROYAL LEVEL... this meant a room on the 7th floor, room service and concierge, a restaurant just for other ROYAL LEVEL members, a bar AND reserved cabannas on the beach... then came the second part of that sentence... we would not get ANY of the services which came with the room, just the room itself, unless we paid $420.00.
So our "upgrade" was just a room on the 7th floor instead of the requested low floor due to my partner having an issue with her back, making walking a little uncomfortable... there are lifts I know but the lifts at this place seem to be possesed !!
Anyway, the room itself was very nice, clean and cool and nobody could really complain UNLESS they were really picky.
Pool area was very nice BUT too busy and we never even got to get in the pool as not only were there about 500 guests round a pool which would stuggle to hold 50 in its entirity BUT half of it was cordenned off for volleyball...
This lead to the beach, the beach is beautiful and the water is also beautiful and crystal clear, there are sections at other resorts which is a little less "kept" and the water is cloudy but The Occidental section is perfect... EXCEPT... you are crammed in like sardines... people everywhere and if you want a cabbanna then you need to get to the beach by 5am, I say 5am as we were down every morning, except 2, by 6am and we were getting the "leftovers" 90% of the time... there are supposed to be rules in place but they do not enforce them, when I queried this with the First Choice rep she merely insisted that the resort had tried and failed in its attempts to sort tis issue out.. guests would ignore the rules and at a time when fines were being handed out this did not act as a deterrent either so they basically gave up.
So again, beautiful but get there early and be prepared for a crowd.
Drinks, bars and waiters... Lobby bar is a joke, quite literally would hold 8 people round it before you would not get a look in.. bearing in mind this hotel is a 9 storey, high rise resort holding HUNDREDS... in my opinion this needs addressing.
Pool bar, should open at 10am but seems to open when it feels like it, my partner asked on one morning, around 10.45 when they would be opening and they merely said "when we are ready" when she stated that the hotel books and info said they opened at 10am they laughed and repeated the "when we are ready". The same with the beach bar, it should open at 11am but usually its quite a bit later.... NOW before people start wondering why this would be an issue this is why, for an ALL INCLUSIVE guest you get 2 bottles of water in your mini bar and 6 fizzy drink cans and these have to last 2 days as the mini bar is restocked every other day... now in the Aruban heat you dehydrate very quickly but have no way of getting a cold drink unless you go and buy one from the shop at extortionate prices and this I find bad for an ALL INCLUSIVE, again in my opinion... especially if you have children.
This lateness and inability to open anything on time or when told was a general concensus for the hotel and though trivial adds to frustration on top of other issues.
The reservation/dress code restaurants, the so called Caribbean was awful, service slow and even had the table cloth half removed from the table when the waiter tripped on it as it was hanging on the floor.
The Mexican was very nice I will say and we had no issues, the Italian was terrible, bland flavourless food and the service was the worst I have ever experienced.. the waitress appraoached us and the first thing she said regarding our food order was "what do you want" !?!?!? I kid you not !!!
Asian, we tried to book the Tepanyaki but was told it was unavailable, we took standard seating only to find on the night that people were being allowed to sit at the Tepanyaki without reservation !!
Finally, the buffet restaurant... Tables which are so wobbly you have to hold them still with your foot, dead flies everywhere.. live ones "pestering you", staff "fingering" food at breakfast times.. cutlery being dropped while preparing tables and being placed out on tables without being cleaned after the fall, not getting asked if you would like a drink till the end of your food and just food in general... I honestly spent more time with a bad stomach during the 2 weeks I stayed in this resort then probably the rest of my life put together.
I really could go on... I wont as I am guessing some are bored and some just think I am a moaning idiot but let me leave you with this food for thought.
I paid a lot of money and was told this hotel was basically the best thing since sliced bread... instead I got a hotel which was 3 star at best which had both an overcrowding, overbooked feel with staff that just didnt seem to give a toss.
I can honestly say that this hotel was the worst hotel I have EVER stayed at !!!