Enjoyed our stay at the Occidental Grand Aruba – RCI Exchange
We are RCI members that exchanged our week (six nights seven days) for one at the Occidental Grand Aruba. So much has been said in past post that we hope ours will help answer some of your questions. We very much enjoyed our stay!
Also, I stay in Hilton (Diamond HHonors member) and Marriott (Gold Elite member) properties about 90+ nights a year so am kind of particular about my accommodations and we are both foodies. Therefore our expectations for our vacation may be higher than others (just to let you know who and where we are coming from in our review).
We exchanged for a “1 Bedroom” as listed on the RCI web site. Even though it was just two of us we wanted a bigger room and this qualified us for a two room suite (King Bedroom and second living area) plus had a few points to burn. Also two bathrooms which was great for both of us!
As an RCI guest we were included in the “First Club” which is very similar to the “Royal Club” (from what I could tell) that you will see others have the option of upgrading to. The First Club is managed by Ivette Croes email@example.com that was fantastic in helping us confirm our accommodations and directing us to Paola Garcia firstname.lastname@example.org who made our restaurant reservations prior to arrival (also fantastic gal and very helpful during our stay)!
Hotel Layout: Basically all rooms are in two towers (Tower 1 is the south extension hosting the First Club on the 2nd floor and Tower 2 is the north extension hosting the Royal Club rooms top three floors and Royal Club itself on the top floor I believe [we never went into tower 2]) that extend from the boardwalk along the beach inland and then connect to the business/front desk/casino/lobby bar/restaurants/First Club/Ballroom and gym. I will post an image of the layout of the resort that we were given upon check in that I hope helps!
Arrival: Took a taxi with a cost of $25 US cash. When entering hotel does not look like much from the outside but once in the doors very nice and clean. Tile floors, fountain and check in on the right. It was a Saturday and Bell Captain took our bags from the cab and held them until we received our room info. As RCI members we were directed through the lobby down the hallway to the left to the First Club where we met Ivette in person. She did our check in, had our package ready and put on our “Green” resort bracelet that we wore the entire trip for access to the resort. There are multiple colors or bracelets issued. These indicate to staff if you are in the Hotel, Timeshare Exchange, Timeshare Owner and much more. I also believe this indicates the type of room you got with some possibly getting better rooms than others. Also as RCI Members we were not bothered with their sales efforts to buy into their program.
Room: We were assigned room 2909 in Tower 1 (South tower) and had a top floor center room (two doors to enter from in the hallway). I will post photos but as we entered the Bedroom it was fantastic! Clean and ready to go! As we explored we found the connecting door with the living room area, again clean and ready to go. We also had two balconies both with two chairs and table and ash tray (if you are a smoker). Everything seemed to work and no complaints. Cleaning staff were in the hallway most of the morning and I did tip them $20 US the first morning. That seemed to be a good investment as they made up the room every morning, new towels and stocked the coffee packages each day and cleaned the glasses we used each day. No complaints.
The four bottle Liquor Bar (hanging on the wall) was full on arrival and only partially used by us so did not need restocking. The refrigerator had various sodas and bottles of water upon arrival including mini Balashi Beer (basically the only beer the resort has and made in Aruba – as a Guinness drinker it took some getting used to but worked fine – drink what the locals drink). I did find the guy that restocked each day and tipped him $10 US the first afternoon and each afternoon after he came by, knocked and gave us whatever we asked for in the quantity we asked for with no problem (we did not over request quantity).
Internet: We did sign up on-line for internet service the entire week for about $70 US. Internet worked great all over the entire resort including all the way out to the water. Very happy with this service as we did not use our cell phones while there!
First Club: OK, not much to this but it is included. For us we did not really use the area but for check in, a couple of drinks when passing by and printer to get our Boarding Pass when leaving. Also a good spot to ask questions about anything you may need answers to. Always helpful and nice! They have several tables to sit at, Ivette (and staffs) desk and computer, couch sitting area and bar. Also there is a food area (along a wall) that seemed to have snacks and stuff at different times of the day. Not very crowded but we did see some regulars there often. Also TOP SHELF alcohol there but all other non “Club” bars were generic liquor. Clean and friendly staff but kind of out of the way for us when we are there for the beach, pool and eating, but it was included and a nice benefit for RCI members (and/or others that qualified for that amenity).
Staff: All in all everyone was very nice and friendly! Of course there was one or two people we may have run into that may not have been super friendly but that is life and fortunately it did not really affect us. All in all we were pleasantly surprised in lieu of other posts of their vacation here.
Resort: I have to say that we were very impressed with all aspects of the physical resort itself. One thing we mentioned to each other several times was there was always multiple people cleaning, painting, and maintaining something somewhere all day, every day all hours of the day and even evening. There also was plenty of security off to the side and non-obtrusive. It was nice to know and we felt very safe all the time (even up and down the boardwalk of the beach away from the resort).
Beach: Very nice (of course – it’s ARUBA)! Lots of lounges and chairs, but as you read to get a “Great Spot” for the day you do have to get down there early with your towels and set up camp. We did so even thought it says you are not supposed to but no enforcement. I will tell you that about 5:30 AM each morning over half a dozen people claimed their regular spots. Then others came out about 6:00 – 8:00 where there were still a few good one’s to grab. A good one is closest to the beach, but all day there were always some along the boardwalk available but we were also told the time we were there it was not “booked” and the next week (Christmas week) it becomes packed. We ended up getting our spot about 6:00 AM next to the Beach Bar which was perfect for us! On the way out to the beach is the Towel building for everyone. You are given two yellow credit-card material cards to check your towels in and out or refresh. They take the card from you and your room number and give you your towel/s. Don’t lose the card when you don’t have a towel checked out or it could cause a charge (from what I understand).
Excursions: There was a De Palms Tours desk in the lobby that could get you whatever you wanted to do booked. The gal there was very nice and informative. She was there from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM (long hour job for her).
Casino: Dropped a few bucks on the slots but did not do anything else. All slots are one cent ($0.01 US). They had Bingo and table games going on. Nice and clean. Some drinks are included in the all inclusive but others (probably Top Shelf) you had to pay for. Good Luck if you play!
Pool: Beautiful fresh water and clean! Lots of lounges but could become quite crowded as people finished the morning along the beach and came back to the pool area. Swim up bar (also could sit on the opposite side not being in the pool) was cool. Two spas in the center and pool is tiled so nice on the feet. There were daily activities like bingo, exercise with Staff motivator, DJ on and off during the day and volleyball. We did not participate in any of the pool activities ourselves but many others did and seemed to have a good time.
Restaurants: Ok, saved this for last. As foodies we became concerned when reading other reviews. They were right, not very good! OK, but nothing special overall. There are four restaurants (require reservations). Only two of them are open each evening for dinner and that rotates. You apparently need to make reservations immediately upon arrival but we were able to coordinate that through the First Club as RCI members and as stated above with the help of Paola Garcia. Once each week they have a dinner Seafood Buffet and a dinner Beach Party, then it is up to the four restaurants for dinner (or off property not included in your all inclusive of course). All day The Palm Buffet has Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and what they call late evening snacks with no reservations needed (you can basically wear anyting clothing wise as long as you have top and bottom on. They also try to dress up the area for dinner with cloth table covers and chair covers. They try but it is a Buffett all day, ready anytime with no reservations, so what more could they really do (I guess). Yes, breakfast is the same thing every morning but they had basically anything you wanted for breakfast including cooked to order eggs/omelets. Lunch changed up a little and dinner was themed to change things up a little but always much of the same thing, generic but eatable and only option.
Without going into details about the four restaurants; Zen – Asian, L’Olio – Italian, El Olvido – Mexican and Desire – Caribbean. They certainly try to make it seem like an event for dinner (different than the Palm Buffet) but in my opinion the food is pre-made for the night (like as if for a convention), kind of dressed up and reheated and served to you (nothing was HOT but luke-warm). Presentation was ok but absolutely NO BELLS or WHISTLES! Not all you could eat like the buffet as you were limited to one of each course offering. Décor and theme of the restaurants were very nicely done but other than that nothing was memorable. They get you in and out quickly as the food is basically already done and almost instantly servable. We tried hard to not go out on the town as the all inclusive fee was so much but by the last night we gave in and went across the street to Daniels’s Steak House (Wonderful) as many of the other restaurants across the street seemed to appear. Gosh we needed a good, filling, “hot”, made to order meal by then. It is really too bad as a vacation to us has high priorities on food and the experience we don’t get at home and this was very disappointing and did not happen here! If they had a fifth restaurant that we had to pay an up-charge for and was like the ones out in town we probably would have done so. This was really the only thing about the Occidental Grand Aruba that we were disappointed with.
Tower 2 Pool/Ocean view and Tower 1 South (overlooks neighbor hotel and parking lot) will get Sunset...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.