We just returned from a trip to Aruba in November 2012. We stayed at the Marriott Stellaris for most of our trip but switched to the Renaissance so we could see the private island and see downtown.
We stayed at the Ocean Suites side. We did not have kids with us but I would still recommend staying at the Ocean suites hotel vs the Marina hotel. We visited the Marina hotel and so glad we did not stay there. The lobby is very nice but I am not impressed with lobbies and I read the reviews on the rooms there. The rooms there are very small with only a French balcony and the pool at the Marina side is well … a joke to be honest.
The Ocean Suites were great. Granted, it was certainly a step down from the Marriott Stellaris and rooms at the Ocean Suites definitely need updating but we the rooms are large. The balcony was great. We were upgraded to a Ocean View suite and the view was fantastic! Keep in mind that all rooms above the second floor are reserved for the timeshare owners ( or renters) so we were on the second floor but no complaints at all. I do have to say that I find the bedroom location bazar because there are no windows. The only windows are in the living room area but still, how much time do you spend in the room anyway.
I will say the room service was slow. We ordered breakfast one morning and It took almost an hour to get it and by the time it arrived everything was cold. Better to just go to the restaurant or one the of many restaurants that are nearby.
The pools at the Ocean Suites are great! Plenty of room and chairs. There are numerous pools including a pool with a swim up bar. The whole pool area is very impressive. The lagoon is much smaller than I expected but with the private island only a boat ride a way, I wouldn’t spend any time at the lagoon.
The private island was great. We had a great time there. Granted, it is still not the ocean resort feel but there is plenty of room and you can float in the water just like a normal ocean beach. The water still had some waves like you would on a regular beach. The wildlife is amazing to see. The pink flamingos on the beach and yes.. .lots and lots of iguanas. They don’t bother you at all and it was neat to see them in the beach area. Some people fed them so they would come right up the chair. I petted one. They really don’t bother you but definitely provided entertainment.
The island has a bar/restaurant , bathrooms, towels, floaties for rent and plenty of chairs. Never a problem getting a chair. We hung out on the adult side for most of our stay on the island. The other side was a little too crowded for us. We did eat in the restaurant which is on the family side of the island. The food was good. Not great but good. Not as good as the Marriott Stellaris.
The drinks are expensive on the island. More than at the Marriott Stellaris but not unexpected. Other people have commented that the island is to close to the airport but it never bothered us at all. In fact, you really only hear the planes in the late afternoon on the weekends for a period of about an hour.
As many people have said, the private island is what makes the Renaissance. If it wasn’t for the island, I would not stay there.
The Renaissance mall / plaza right across from the Ocean Suites hotel is great. It has a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and a few different restaurants and bars which we enjoyed. A few places had some live music which we really enjoyed. The mall attached to the Marina hotel was closed by 6 or so and there really is not much there anyway.
A little walk down the road to the downtown area and you will find some other choices for bars and restaurants. We stopped a few different bars to get the “local” feel and enjoyed each one of them. Always felt safe. No problem at all.
Bottom line, we enjoyed the Renaissance Ocean Suite because we wanted to see the private island. There is no question that I would not make my whole stay in Aruba at this hotel. You would really miss the Aruba experience if you didn’t stay on an actual beach somewhere. The Marriott Stellaris on the beach was fantastic. The stay at the Renaissance was also great but only for a couple of days. I would not hesitate to come back to this hotel but only if I stayed at the Ocean Suites hotel and not the Marina hotel and only for a couple of days to experience the island. The rest of my stay would have to be on the beach at the Marriott Stellaris or similar hotel.