Call it a religious experience.............no other words can describe the feeling I get while on the beach at sunset. It had been a good vacation overall. Unfortunately there are things that happen which try to distract and take away from good times like this. No big deal, really...........in spite of any kind of problems we kept focus on the importance of enjoying ourselves.
The Occidental Grand Hotel in Aruba may have been pretty grand at one time in the past. For some reason.......our experience at this resort was a bit disappointing. Having travelled to other resorts throughout the Caribbean, we found that the Occidental left much to be desired. In the grand scheme of things I am easily pleased and I am not the kind of person to nitpick over the details........but some things must be mentioned. The island of Aruba is called "One Happy Island".........it is even on their license tags.............but it became evident immediately upon our arrival at the Occidental Grand, that happiness is not always the case. I could not help but notice the lack of smiling faces on the employees of the resort. Often, I had to encourage or prompt a smile out of the staff. The entire staff, with the exception of the bartenders, seemed to be depressed or bored............they give the impression that they are not happy to see us. Mind you, I do not travel to see the people necessarily, but the location...............but the people should very much be a part of that location. They are the ones that greet you, take care of you, help you find your way, and serve you. You are paying good money for all of this. Maybe the difference is that Aruba is not a third-world kind of place. Maybe they are not so grateful as people in the Dominican or Jamaica.....or even Mexico. At times, it seemed that only the numerous iguanas that roamed the resort were willing to even greet you. This is NOT how a resort should be operated.
Usually, I would only expect the minimum of service and accommodations.......that way, if after I arrive and things are way better than that.......well........then I am pleasantly surprised. But this time, I was expecting a bit more than the minimum. This was a mistake on my part.
Ordinarily, when I write about my travels, I include photos of the hotel lobby and various rooms. This time, I did not even bother to take pictures of that. Maybe I should have taken pictures of the hallway outside of the elevators and how the staff laid numerous towels to soak up the water from the leaky windows and roof. Maybe I should have taken a picture of the terrible view from our balcony...........well........we could see the ocean, but we had a much larger view of a parking lot strewn with debris and loaded with flooded areas of water. It was just not a pleasant view. I would not have minded the location but obviously somebody doesn't know that they ought to take care of the landscaping in this area as they do the rest of the resort.
The beach.........Palm Beach.........is a public beach.............thankfully. The beach is clean and tidy and the resort has no authority over it. Overall, the grounds of the resort is rather nice.......the pool is well kept. Many in our group had problems with their rooms and had to request other rooms. Our room was just fine, however..........the maid service was minimal. At other resorts you would always find a towel on the bed, folded into the shape of a flower or animal........it's a nice touch.............but not here at the Occidental..........none of that. On one day we had requested more washcloths and it took four hours to get it. I went to the front desk in the lobby to request an ashtray and was told by the clerk to go back to my room and call housekeeping. Imagine that. Anywhere else and the clerk would make the call right there for you. Apparently, from what others had told me, the number one answer to any problem in the hotel was to "call housekeeping". It is obvious that the Occidental has management problems.........I do not understand why that is, but it is something that should be easily corrected........and I hope that they do. Without a doubt, all resorts eventually show signs of age and wear, and that repairs and improvements must be made. Either the Occidental could care less or they are some slow movers, because I did not get any impression of effort being made. There are no apologies from staff for anything. That is a shame, because this place could be a complete gem.
Usually I take tons of pictures of the food and the people that serve the food. I did not do that at the Occidental. There was nothing fancy here......nothing that I would even call impressive.......nothing "Grand" about it. I would have to rate the food as being "good", yet mediocre when compared to other resorts that we have been. Sure there was plenty of food......but presentation is 80% of the deal.............no food carving or fruit sculpting. No ice sculptures, no happy smiling faces on the servers. It seemed that nobody that worked here was glad to see us. At each sitting for a meal, we were only served a drink once. After that one drink, we never saw another unless we went and asked for it. Other places would have the server keep your drinks full as you sit and eat..........SERVICE!..........but not here at the Occidental. Without a doubt this is a management problem.........maybe even more than that.........maybe it is a corporate policy problem and I cannot fault the managers.
Would I go back to the Occidental?............maybe. Would I try some other resort in Aruba..........more likely.
Now about Aruba itself. We primarily kept ourselves to the resort and as a result did not get to experience what all Aruba has to offer. Those that did venture out and about had good things to say about their experiences. I can say that if there is a next time, I would want to check it out. From what I could see, Aruba appears interesting and yet it also appears to be a work in progress. If all we would know about Aruba was what we have seen on the news, I doubt most people would go there for a vacation. From what I have seen on the news about the authorities in Aruba, they are inept and worthless, not to mention corrupt as all get-out. From what I have seen with my own eyes, the police handle a situation in a very limited fashion.......in other words........you might be better dealing with a problem in your own way. It is no wonder that the Holloway family has gotten no justice. Maybe these Aruban police are way too "happy".
To sum it all up, I would say that Aruba's Palm Beach is one of the best that I have been and worth the trip. As to the Occidental Grand.............other than it's location and it's wonderful pool...........you might want to stay at the Hyatt or the RIU.
The ride home was long. In all of my travels, I never had the opportunity to see the sunset from the plane. I was always on the wrong side of the plane or the plane was heading in the opposite direction. This time, I got to see something I had never seen before...........and it was awesome. This picture does nothing to show you what I saw.......it was way better than this.
So we are a bit toasted than ever before......hehehe.........but that's okay...........we will do it again someday soon.
That's it for now, folks.........until I return from our trip to Florida.