I went with a friend to Aruba for "mommy break" 2012 to unwind for a few days prior to the holiday madness. Full disclosure: this was not the best trip ever, as my wonderful aunt died while I was down there and I had to cut the trip short. My opinion may be influenced by the negative experience (nothing to do with the resort).
This was my first time in Aruba. We chose it because neither of us had been and it seemed relatively safe. Pros: easy customs (you actually go through US customs in Aruba, which is really nice)/entry/exit, you can actually drink the tap water (desalination plant offshore), everybody speaks English (along with several other languages). Cons: I wasn't there long enough, but it didn't seem unique or special in any discernable way, unlike St. John, Provo, and even Haiti. No real culture - although I didn't try very hard. Just another tourist trap - should I go so far as to say the Myrtle Beach of the Caribbean? And that's not a totally bad thing but something travelers should be aware of. Also, the beach was sort of muddy mucky and the beautiful water was cloudy when I tried to swim it, but I didn't have time to explore beyond Palm Beach. Other beaches might be nicer.
The Marriott Aruba Ocean Club is part of three Marriott resorts on one property. It is a timeshare so beware to avoid the sales pitch or take the discounts and endure it (we ignored it and weren't hassled - probably b/c we weren't traveling with our husbands). As other reviewers have said, non-owners seem to be placed on lower floors - we were on the first, but I didn't mind. Lovely porch and view of the pool, nice ocean breeze. Our condo was lovely - two bedrooms (one a lockout so you can rent as one-bedroom or hotel room too), one with a king and one with a queen. Two nice baths and a full kitchen. Three TVs. Would be a nice set up for a family. We chose it so we could have some privacy/our own room but still stay together. I thought the price was very reasonable.
The property was well maintained. We were allowed to use the Surf Club pool (family scene) and the main resort pool (more of a party scene) but not the adult only pool, which sucked since we were on break from our kids. Pools are clean and good temperature, no real way to swim laps or anything though. Plenty of chairs and umbrellas with slow but full bar service on site. Bar staff was friendly enough. There were lizards (from tiny to gigantic) and birds everywhere and they were not afraid of people. I enjoyed them, but the abundance of large reptiles might creep some people out. On the bright side, it wasn't buggy at all I'm sure in part due to the wildlife.
Everyone has written about the beach and it is completely crowded with chairs/umbrellas that have to be reserved in advance for a fee or you take one at the back - we just used one at the back. I could still see the water/feel the breeze and it was closer to the bar/restrooms/pool, so that was a plus but there's no getting around that the beach was only so-so by Caribbean standards. You can only use the one associated with your resort, which was weird, since it's all Marriott. Also, there is a towel limit per day, which might be problematic if you have kids.
The things I liked about the resort were the staff was by and large very helpful. When my aunt died, I was a complete wreck and concierge was very good about calling US Airways, getting me on the next flight out, canceling my spa appointment, etc. There seemed to be a lot of resort "rules" with little flexibility, though.
There are quite a few dining options as well. I really liked the sushi in the main hotel. The breakfast buffet in the main hotel was way overpriced but at the pool by the surf club, they made a very nice omelette at a very low price.
The resort offered fitness classes each day. I didn't get to check out the spa, unfortunately. I also noticed they had water sports activities hut on the beach so it would be easy to schedule excursions. Went in the Casino briefly - that and the hallway of the main Marriott hotel were the only things that were smokey. I'm not much of a gambler but it seemed like a decent small casino.
Other things: cab to and from the resort to airport $30; cab into town is $11 each way, but town was just a lot of shops (and not really "duty free" since they have a very low sales tax). As best I could tell, the regional cuisine is Dutch - I think a lot of heavy, cheesy dishes. There is also probably great seafood, and they were unloading fresh tuna from a boat to the restaurant we stopped at in town.
The resort has a very small market Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Surf Club - got some nice stocking stuffers for my kids. I liked the vendors, as they weren't pushy at all. Also, the shops in the Ocean Club were nice - not cheap, but also not too bad in terms of typical Caribbean resort prices.
All in all, I would recommend the Ocean Club and probably the other two properties, especially for families not on a really tight budget who are looking for a very low hassle beach vacation.
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- Also Known As:
- Marriott`s Aruba Ocean Club Hotel Palm/Eagle Beach
- Marriotts Palm Eagle Beach
- Marriotts Aruba Ocean Hotel
- Marriott Palm/Eagle Beach
- Marriotts Aruba Ocean Club
- Marriott's Aruba Ocean Club Palm - Eagle Beach