So this was a nice hotel, very clean and exactly what you'd expect from a Marriott. That was actually my only complaint about the hotel - it was just like any other Marriott in the states, nothing tropical about it. The only thing that made me feel like we were in the Caribbean was that we were greeted at check-in with fruit punch. Outside of that, the appearance of the hotel is a bit business like (may or may not be a problem for you). The adjacent Marriott properties (Ocean Club and Surf Club) were much more tropical looking. I didn't see the rooms but if I went again I would probably stay at Surf Club. You can go back and forth between the properties and use the amenities in any of them regardless of which one you stay in it seems.
Drinks - they are not cheap. There is a 2 for 1 happy hour at the pool bar in the afternoon but that means 2 for $11, still not that cheap. I would suggest buying alcohol at the duty free shop in the airport (great prices) and bring a soft cooler with you and bring your own drinks to the beach and pool. That worked out great for us and we saved a lot of money.
Food - we didn't really eat much at the resort because it was so expensive but we didn't have to because there was so much nearby. We did eat at the pool bar a couple times - great fries and grilled cheese and prices are reasonable. We also ate at the cafe in the lobby and my BF had the best pastrami and swiss sandwich he can remember. I had an egg and cheese croissant which was very good and also reasonable. We ate at Smokey Joe's (famous for ribs) which was pretty good although the service was very slow. We also ate at Moomba Beach (great place on the beach within walking distance with breakfast buffet for $11.99) and Hadicurari - a bit more expensive for dinner which we didn't enjoy much but the breakfast was fantastic - I had pancakes for just $5 and they were yummy. The service was also very good here. Both Moomba and Hadicurari are walking distance- just walk through Ocean Club and through Surf Club and it is on the beach outside of Surf Club. Or you can just walk down the beach. 5 minute walk.
Room - very clean but business like as a mentioned. Great amenities however. Also, if you have Marriott rewards you get free wifi. Was very useful. Do not stay in room 352 - we stayed there and it was fine except you have no view at all and your balcony while huge, looks out to the roof of the building and nothing else - literally nothing. Very private though. We didn't bother moving since we didn't spend much time in the room.
Casino - pretty crowded, decent size, has a small stage with live entertainment. Many people have complained about the smoke in their reviews. Yes, you smell smoke in the casino but we did NOT smell smoke until we went inside.
Beach - the water is gorgeous and warm. There is a rough spot of sand that has a lot of shells and tough to walk on when you enter the ocean so you have to get past it to reach smooth sand again, and there is a significant dip so be careful walking in. It is very windy in Aruba and it caused the sand to smack us in the face so we only spent one day at the beach and the rest at the pool. Regarding the palapas, it is true they were a bit hard to come by unless you are out there very early or wait until the afternoon.
Pools - There is a main pool with a swim up bar and an adults only pool. We spent one day at each and enjoyed both. The adult pool is definitely more quiet but the main pool wasn't extremely loud either. The adult pool is smaller so it's harder to find a seat but certainly easier to find chairs at the pool vs. the beach. The chairs at the adult pool had cushions and were much more comfortable.
Location - this resort is at the end of the beach so the location wasn't the best but not horrible either. You can walk to the area with the shopping, bars and restaurants but it is probably a 20 minute walk. However, the resort has a guy that will drive you in a golf cart to the end of the Marriott properties which gets you more than halfway there. We did that each night. It is free and we just tipped him a couple bucks. Shaves a good ten minutes off your walk. One night we came back too late to catch the ride home though. If I ever went back to Aruba I might choose to stay at one of the hotels a little closer to the nightlife.
Service - lobby personnel were very friendly and helpful. Everyone was almost always smiling.
Speaking of nightlife, they have several bars and restaurants nearby. Senor Frogs seemed to be the most fun with the biggest crowd. Moomba Beach is fun at night as well (5 minute walk as mentioned earlier). They have a live band at night.
Transportation - Booked DePalm Tours for $20 per person round trip. Excellent service, they were right outside when we exited the airport and ride was smooth with no problems.
By the way, we did not do Tradewinds and I can't say I missed it at all. I think it would have been a waste of money other than the fact that I would have had a better view.