My wife and I stayed at the Renaissance from November 20 to 27, 2012 and found the hotel to be as good as we had anticipated based on having read many reviews on Trip Advisor and based on our travel agent's recommendations.
It was even better than we had hoped actually, as the negatives reported on Trip Advisor by other reviewers were not an issue at all for us, probably largely due to the fact that we booked last minute and had a killer, all inclusive deal. It's hard to complain when you pay half of what some other people have been paying.
Let me address these negatives first that others had mentioned (not our impressions).
1) There were no mosquitoes (didn't see even one) on the private island.
2) While it is true that there are several iguanas and lizards on Renaissance island (the private island which belongs to the resort and which is accessible to guests by boat), it was not an issue. If you think that might bother you, however, then my tip is to eat your lunch at the restaurant on the island and not on your long chair, as the food will attract the animals and they will "ask" you for food and may even attempt to climb on your chair. The two first days we spent on the private island, we ate at the restaurant, and the critters did not come near our chairs at all when we were at the beach. The third day, we had the food brought over to our chair by the server, and about five iguanas mustered in hoping to get some food, and two even tried to climb on our chair. They are harmless, and once again, this was not an issue at all for us, and seemingly not for anyone else as well while we were there.
3) The bathtubs are in need of an update, fair enough, which I understand is planned to occur at some point in the upcoming future, but they are functional for the time being. Once more, this was not in the least an issue for us.
I forgot whether there were more negatives reported on Trip Advisor, but those are the ones I remember.
To put the above in perspective, once again, we were on an all-inclusive package which we got at a bargain price, and so that is probably why we felt so great about our deal that nothing bothered us; we were just grateful.
On the other hand, if a traveler buys into this hotel because of it's affiliation with the Marriott chain, and expects the same level of luxury as would normally be found for $500/night in a high end hotel, I can appreciate that they would be unimpressed with some things. (And I'm not exaggerating, as we went to Palm Beach for one day and someone told us they were paying $600/night to stay at the Hyatt Regency, food, beverages and flight excluded, from what I understood. (And by the way they loved it).
So it all comes down to perspective and deciding what it is that suits you based on the price you are paying, in my opinion.
Now, I'll give my review, as opposed to simply addressing other people's reported issues.
The check in process went fine.
We were happy with our room. The layout and decor were pleasing to us. The A/C worked great and the mattress was comfortable. We didn't have an ocean view, but could not have cared less. We were facing the atrium overlooking, the lobby right above the Starbucks, which meant that I had free WiFi access right in the room.
The staff was fantastic throughout the entire hotel at all times.
The private island was great, not the best beach in the world perhaps, but great nonetheless. Snorkeling wasn't bad there as well. The restaurant on the island serves typical pub fare, nothing high end but well-enough prepared and adequately cooked for the style of food that it is. We found the soup and the jalapeno steak sandwich to be the best items there, among the ones we had, over the three lunches we've consumed there.
The buffet restaurant was quite good, especially for dinner, for the all-you-can-eat seafood (lobster tails, scallops, shrimps, grouper, etc.).
The LG Smith Steakhouse was the highlight of our food experience during our stay at this hotel. We ate there 3 nights. The steak was really good, contrary to what someone had mentioned in another review. They had said that the pork was the best item at the LG. I had the pork once, and it was great, but the steak was so much better that I had it twice. And the ambiance is upscale, and the prices reasonable --for those who are not on the all inclusive-- about $100 to $120 for two.
Some people have mentioned that, unlike other all inclusives, we have to be invoiced for everything we consume at the Renaissance. That is true and it is because this place is not essentially an all inclusive resort, but rather, an hotel where more than half of the guests pay hard cash for everything they get there. And so all of your purchases get charged to the room, just like at any hotel, but at the end you pay zilch -- zero! It is what it is, and it is just a different experience if you are a hardcore all inclusive fan. For us, it wasn't an issue at all.
The alcohol was just fine, especially that we didn't have to pay for it, otherwise it would be pricey.
The pool at the Marina, the adult side of the two resorts, was just the ticket for us. It's a great pool, in a city setting by the ocean, with a view of the marina and the sunset (except when cruise ships are stationed in the line of sight, which adds to rather than detracts from the beautiful view). We loved the pool so much that we stayed there for two full days, rather than going to the beach.
We weren't as impressed with the Ocean's Suite, the family side of the two resorts, located further down across the street. The pools and the fake beach didn't attract us at this location, and so we didn't spend time there. We ate twice at the Captain' Corner, the restaurant located there, and weren't impressed either. It was just ok. It was good to eat at the Ocean's Suites only to make a change from the restaurants at the Marina.
It was very nice, we found, that the Renaissance is located in a downtown setting, attached to a shopping mall, as well as being 5 minutes away by boat from the hotel's own private island.
Aruba is a beautiful island, the people are great and we definitely want to return, whether we can find a great deal once again, or whether we're willing to spend more and stay at one of the hotels on Palm Beach.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.