I have very mixed feelings about Oceans Apartments at the Dive Bus. If we hadn't loved the people so much we likely would have chosen to go elsewhere; and if they hadn't been so receptive to our negative feedback I would hesitate to recommend the place to anyone else. But the people really made it a special place AND they were so receptive to our feedback that I can't help but think it's only going to get better. Bottom line is that I will recommend the apartments, with the caveat that you should check that some of the following issues have been sorted out if they are things that would make you uncomfortable.
Overview: We stayed for about a week in the room called "Crab Corner". It was one of the least expensive places to stay in that part of Willemstad, with the dive shop right on site. The room is very basic, which was exactly what we wanted. The furniture is old but functional. We don't expect much more than that.
There was a large bed in a relatively small room, sufficient space to hang clothes, an ensuite bathroom with shower, a mini-fridge stocked with for-cost treats (no gouging here), and air-conditioner. The dive shop has rinse tanks and storage for dive gear. The room has a small patio and opens onto a private asphalt "compound" with a couple of lounge chairs and a patio set that is shared only with the guests of the other 2-3 rooms. There is a drying rack in the room that you can put outside to hang wet towels, swimsuit, etc. In essence, everything you need is there. It is an "efficiency" room that does not provide daily housekeeping; although during our 1-week stay we had the option of having our room cleaned. Basically, the room was a bit tight but had everything we needed plus a few thoughtful extras.
Concerns: We fall short of being satisfied with the room because it GAVE THE IMPRESSION of being very dirty. I say 'the impression' because in addition to some obvious dirt, it is possible - and even likely - that some of the surfaces are just old and worn and carry the look of age with them. I can't help but think that the room was probably cleaner than it looked. But that said, there were very small blood stains on the laundered sheets (mosquitoes attacking previous guests undoubtedly); build-up of dust, dirt, and hair in the spaces between the walls and the furniture - I dropped something under the bed and was reluctant to retrieve it when I saw where it rolled; the cleaning supplies were stored in the bathroom and adjoining space (dirty sponges, cleaners, dirty mop, broom with hair and dirt in its bristles) creating a lot of clutter; fingerprints were all over the mini-fridge; the remote control for the air conditioner was filthy; there is a kettle provided in the room - a bonus, in many respects - but it was so dirty I had to scrub the inside and outside before using it, the plug was still filthy; there were dead mosquitoes on the cloth covers placed on the bedisde tables and on the cups/bowls/plates that were kindly provided; the overhead light fixture was full of dead insects; and, the top of the air conditioner was covered in cobwebs. There was also something wrong with the plumbing so that every time we flushed, there was a backdraft of sewage gas.
Although we are both easy-going and don't expect a lot from a room (but appreciate it when we get it), we were unhappy about the state of the room. We usually want clean, quiet, and comfortable. I'd suggest that we got 2 of the 3.
That said, the people were so nice that we didn't say anything about the state of the room until asked for our feedback at the end of the trip. I'd simply gone around the room and washed everything down that I knew I would be touching. Indeed, I didn't accept the included mid-week cleaning because I was already sure that I what I NEEDED to have clean was now clean and I didn't want anyone to mess this up on me! So I accept a measure of responsibility for the state of the room. I expected it to be clean when I arrived; when it wasn't, I liked the people so much I didn't have the heart to complain and just cleaned the critical surfaces myself instead.
The room has a very old air-conditioner that takes AGES to cool the room and is probably a huge drain on electricity. But it does work and the room does eventually get and stay cool.
The location wasn't great. It was certainly extremely convenient for diving (our primary reason for visiting Curacao). And the diving with the Dive Bus was fantastic, so no complaints there. But we chose a room without kitchen and found it inconvenient to find breakfast in the mornings. The restaurant across the street doesn't open 'til 8 and has the slowest service I've ever experienced. A nearby resort has a breakfast buffet that starts at 8 but is very expensive. We settled for the restaurant at Lion's Dive Resort which started their buffet at 7 which ensured sufficient time to eat breakfast and make it back for the morning dives at 8:45; there was no ala carte option.
A couple mornings we tried doing breakfast at the room but found it awkward because there was no place to easily plug in the kettle, the sink was too small to do the dishes, and we had to ensure that we handled and consumed all food outside the room so as not to attract the very persistent ants that abound in that climate. Plus, the grocery store was a 15-20 minute walk each direction. In the end, doing breakfast at the room wasn't worth the hassle.
Aside from the timing issues associated with breakfast, we weren't very happy with the choice of restaurants that were available within walking distance. Most places within walking distance are large resorts. We had a couple of pretty good meals at these resorts but weren't crazy about having to take our meals in these places when we were explicitly trying to avoid a resort experience.
That said, there are privately-owned buses (small vans) that run frequently up and down the street on which the apartments are located. You can hop a bus and for $3 USD go into downtown where there are a large number of wonderful pubs and restaurants to choose from. The ride is about 15 minutes one-way and gives you a chance to see the town and travel with locals. We enjoyed this experience very much. Be aware that most buses stop running between about 8:30 and 9:00 pm.
The Highlights: Even though we were disappointed with the rooms and didn't love where the apartments were located, the people at The Dive Bus mitigated these concerns to a surprising extent. They were unbelievably nice. One of the highlights was sitting in the 'compound' having a beer with another dive client, the shop owners, shop management, and dive staff at the end of the day. It was so relaxed, comfortable, and fun that we felt like we were on holiday with friends.
The Bottom Line: We learned that the Ocean Apartments @ the Dive Bus are a new venture for the owners. They're new to the "hotel management" business and still have things to learn. They are absolutely wonderful people and so I can't help but wish them every success in this new aspect of their business. They haven't gotten it right yet. But we may have been one of the very first people to stay in their rooms. And we booked the room blind, knowing that the apartments hadn't been reviewed previously on TripAdvisor. We weren't happy with the room but still had an overall positive experience. This makes me inclined to think that our concerns reflect the mistakes of early days in the business. These are some of the nicest, fairest-minded people I have met and so I can't help but think they are going to do everything they can to bring their rooms "up to snuff". And when they do, I think it might be the kind of unique place that makes the perfect holiday for the right kind of people.
The Ocean Apartments @ the Dive Bus will never be the kind of place for resort-lovers. But for those who like quiet, personal, and slightly 'quirky' and who have the flexibility to make the best of a situation (e.g., take the bus into town), the ocean apartments will probably end up being a reasonable option, presuming they bring up their standards of cleanliness.
- Also Known As:
- Ocean Apartments @ The Dive Bus Curacao/Willemstad