North of Venezuela, Aruba is a grand beach vacation with a dizzying array of romantic hotel suites, gourmet restaurants, swishy spas, snazzy casinos, championship golf courses and shopping galore. Without the standard-issue tropical amenities like volcanoes and mountains, Aruba is flat and dry with cool trade winds and warm temperatures that welcome sun-worshipping couples year round. Like the snappy slogan on their car license plates, Aruba is, indeed One Happy Island.
Chi-Chi on the beach, Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino hugs the calm waves of Palm Beach and tempts with 411 rooms including delicious suites, eight restaurants and cafes including the Ketsu Sushi Bar (we recommend the spicy tuna rolls), gelato stand (our nod goes to the pistachio), largest casino in Aruba, Balinese-style Mandara Spa and state-of-the-art health club. Welcoming lovebirds to roost in regal style, guestrooms are uber-comfy with Revive bedding and balconies that boast stunning views of the Caribbean Sea. A room service-delivered breakfast of fresh fruit and yummy omelets is the perfect way to greet the day.
Cozy corners for canoodling Caribbean-style is de rigueur in the lobby with the Bar the go-to spot for a sinfully sweet apple martini and a spin across the dance floor. Espresso yourself in the Lobby Café where a fresh selection of sandwiches and salads and the best chocolate chip cookie south of Disney Land is served 24/7.
Perched on the highest floor, the Tradewinds Club indulges eternal romantics with a team of concierges who will check you in, unpack your bags and press your clothes so couples can spend time on more pleasant activities like indulging in a warm Frangipani Body Wrap in the spa. Visit www.mandaraspa.com.
Weddings are big business from a ceremony under a Kunuku gazebo or traditional Aruban home to a grand party in the grand ballroom. “Barefoot on the beach is quite popular with our brides,” says Abigail Van der Linden, sales coordinator, “we do only one wedding a day because a ceremony at sunset is always requested.” Packages include the Tradewinds Club Honeymoon Package or Escape Romance package that offer champagne, couples massage and dinner at Simply Fish.” A dedicated website – www.weddings.arubamarriott.com – enables brides and grooms to plan their Aruban dream wedding. “Couples can plan their entire wedding on-line,” adds Abigail Van der Linden, “our planners arrange every detail from the civil ceremony and photographers to flowers and entertainment.”
And for couples who know a fine meal when they taste one, options range from sizzling steak at Ruth’s Chris to an Italian buffet at the seaside La Vista that includes a spicy Sicilian antipasto and a pasta station that begs for return visits. For seafood lovers, Simply Fish grills the catch of the day while Waves Beach Bar pours plenty of frosty Balashi beer.
When the sun sets, Lady Luck beckons in the Stellaris Casino. Open twenty-four hours, Aruba’s largest casino features tables and slot machines like the popular “Deal or No Deal” games. “Many of our couples make a stop in the casino after the ceremony,” smiles Abigail Van der Linden, “we like to say that couples lucky in love are also lucky in the casino.”
Check out the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino.
On the southern coast, Oranjestad is the cosmopolitan Dutch city where the tall multi-hued houses are easy to spot with carved wooden doors and traditional Dutch tiles. Along the wharf, merchants sell fish every morning while the Renaissance Mall does a brisk business in duty-free Gucci, Bvlgari and Vuitton. And the at the swanky Paseo Herencia mall, Mr. Jazz beckons with a cigar lounge, spicy Cuban kitchen and $30.00 shots of tequila.
One-Stop Vacation Shopping
From soup to nuts, booking a package is the way to go not only for convenience but to make sure all vacation bases are covered. Continental Airlines offers a tempting array of packages to Aruba that includes accommodations in a variety of resorts, airfare, tour options and a host of personalized extras. Go to www.covacations.com or call 1-800-829-7777. Reservation agents are superbly knowledgeable about wedding packages as well as the destinations and are delighted to suggest couple-pleasing activities and resorts that ooze romance.
Make it a Date
May 25 – 30: Soul Beach Music Festival – The Memorial Day holiday weekend is filled with the sounds of R & B and jazz.
June 2 – 4: Food and wine tastings with a side of local music makes for a spirited three-day island-wide event.
June 10 – 18: International Film Festival. For eight days, the island is all about films and celebrity visits.
June 25- 26: Beach Tennis Championships – On Moomba Beach, international pros and novices compete for top honors.
Click or call www.aruba.com