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Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Norfolk
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Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

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 !!!

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1. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

We just returned from Aruba on 6/18/09 and I couldn't agree with you more about the Occidental Grand. We stayed the first 4 nights of our vacation at the Occidental and the last 4 nights at the

Amsterdam Manor Resort. After staying at the Amsterdam Manor, we were so disappointed that we didn't stay there the entire time. Although the beach and location of the Occidental was great, being so close to the great restaurants outside of the resort and also shopping areas, the resort itself was terrible for an all-inclusive. They have a lot to learn about being a good all-inclusive. Doesn't even compare to the all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, Dominican Republic or Jamaica. I agree with PokerShaun that the bars were a joke. They seemed to always be understaffed and slow and many people complained about not even getting the drink they ordered. With the heat as wicked as it is in Aruba it would be nice to be able to get a refreshing drink before 10:00 am...........how about a Bloody Mary on the beach at 9:00 am.......Hey, you're on vacation, right?? When we went to make reservations for the "specialty restaurants", the only times available were after 9:00 pm. That was just too late for us to do dinner. We ended up eating all our dinners away from the resort, which was fine with us because the restaurants in Aruba are fantastic. It was just disappointing that we paid for all-inclusive and barely could get anything we paid for. We won't make that mistake again on our next trip to Aruba. The Amsterdam Manor was FANTASTIC!!! The rooms, people, beach bar, Passions and Mango Restaurants were all top notch.

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Norfolk
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2. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

I am glad omeone agrees, Me and my partner were literally beginning to think we were going insane and that maybe there was some strange "cloud" over us.

For a travel company as big as First Choice to label this resort as a 5 star resort means one of 2 things, either they are deliberately setting out to mislead their customers OR they are just incompetant and have no idea what they are selling to people... all I can say is thank god that Aruba itself is so nice as if the island was anything less than near perfection then we would have probably left early.

Just a pity it is so far away from the UK, it makes it a little bit of a too far to treck just for an amazing beach scene.

I am sure we will return at some point but I think we will be staying at the Bucuti :)

Northants, UK
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3. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Hi Shaun,

I'm really sorry that the hotel was such a let down for you - I had thought that from the First Choice brochure that their ratings looked wrong for the hotel as I knew it wasn't a 5 star.

I completely agree with you about First Choice misleading their customers, I find their "upgrade" to premier flights an absolute joke - as in essence all you get is free drinks!

The flight is a long drawn out affair, and then for you to get there and not recieve the kind of hotel you were expecting is such a shame.

North Cape May, Nj
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4. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

PokerShaun, Your good buddy Tony here. I am actually surprised that you expected a 5 star resort in Aruba. ESPECIALLY an AI resort. Hyatt comes close.

I don't know what options you may have had through First Choice. Seems to me that you are intelligent enough to have made a better choice (for you) if one were available. Some travellers love the AI resorts.

I wouldn't and you didn't. Could it be that we have something in common?

While you were there, did you venture over to Eagle Beach. Just thought that I'd ask since you mentioned Bucuti as a possible future vacation.

Norfolk
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5. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Hi Em and Tony, all in all I am glad I went to Aruba and it is deffo a place I will return to. The place is both laid back and the weather fantastico :)

To be honest I should have researched the Occidental further, I knew it would not be a 5* as I knew before I went that hotels like Bucuti, Amsterdam Mannor etc completely overshadowed the Occidental.

The problem with us brits is that we are stupid and being stupid means that we like to bask in the sanctury of the ALL INCLUSIVE deals and sadly that was the rope that hung us.

I now know that Aruba, whether you are from the US or the UK is not a place to entertain the all inclusive option and going all inclusive does one thing and one thing only and that is makes damn sure that your choices of resort are both limited and inferior.

Maybe we do have a few things in common Tony... stretching beyong the want to argue and banter with fellow Trip Advisors.

I have used this as a learning curve, i will not be the idiot burned twice.

I am booked up for Egypt November 2nd and staying at the Coral Sea Imperial for 10 nights and that looks quite nice, also booked for Maldives (Meeru) Feb 7th but seriously contemplating cancelling and booking to go back to The Royal in Cancun... Just wanna get somewhere where everything goes perfect.

Just dont think that I went to The Occidental thinking it was going to be perfect as I really didn't... I may be annoying at times but I aint stupid ( dont say anything Tony ).

I did however think it would be a lot better than it was because to be honest it was literally the worst place I have ever stayed !!

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6. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

pokershaun, I'm sorry to hear that you were disappointed. I know that you were so excited to go and it sounds like you were let down. Greece is always a good option!! Better luck next time.

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7. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Shaun - I'm curious - what is the equivalent of the Caribbean for people in Europe? Is there an area nearby where there are beaches equal to the Caribbean and many all-inclusives, etc? Do most people go to Greece and Turkey? Italy? How do the prices compare, minus the flight cost?

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Norfolk
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8. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Hi Hominamad, we obviously do not have the luxury of the Carribean on our doorstep and places like Aruba but we do have Places like Italy for scenic trips and cultural getaways, the weather is very nice and prices are around £1000.00 for a couple self catering, mid range hotel for a week including flights. I guess flights would possibly make up approx £350.00-£400.00 of that sum... There are extremely good deals to be had however.

Some parts of Greece are amazing and some of the beaches are sooo gorgeous and recently I have known people, including my mother in law to get a last minute deal for around £350.00 self catering for a week, again including flights and single traveler supplements, not palacious hotels granted but I have not heard anyone having the problems that we came across at the Occ.

Turkey and spain are also available but not really my kind of place and due to the Euro and pounds activity lately it has made spain an expensive place to go and not really good value for money.

Turkey is not in the Euro so it is cheap, very hot and some parts scenic but I have heard of certain malicious acts being apparent lately and this has placed a slight haze on that, in my opinion... however accurate my sources are.

None of these places are quite like Aruba but again certain parts of Greece are gorgeous, temperatures around 28 degrees AND for little money who can argue.

I dont wish people to think I am slating Aruba or that I had a terrible time because I didn't.

My trip was a nice break with my parner and we both loved Aruba, we just felt it a long long way to go and an expensive option, when taking The Occidental into the picture, when for a third of the price and travel time, as mentioned, there are the likes of Greece.

I am in no way comparing Greece to Aruba but line the two destinations up side by side as far as value for money and ease of access Greece is, I guess, our Aruba.

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9. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Should have gone to meeru. LOL.

Norfolk
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10. Re: Aruba and The Occidental, A Review.

Believe it or not Boris, going to Aruba has cast even more doubt over going to Meeru as it has even more proved to us that a beautiful beach scene is not enough to warrent such a long journey.

Like ya style though :)