An Unbiased Review of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
As I mentioned in my last blog post, my husband I planned our 8th anniversary celebration in style this year; we decided on a trip to Aruba! And after many hours of discussion and research, we chose to stay at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino!
We booked our stay directly with Marriott.com and debated over which category to select - they have so many options to choose from including:
Partial Ocean View
Premium Ocean View
Tradewinds Ocean View
Tradewinds Governor's Suite
The Aruba Marriott Resort even developed a Choose Your View tool to help guests select the best view for their vacation. In the end, we chose to spend a little bit more on the Partial Ocean View to make sure we had some kind of view of the ocean!
All of the standard view rooms include the following amenities:
Oversized rooms with king or queen beds
Marriott's signature Revive Bedding
Seating area with desk
Oversized bathroom with double vanity sink
Purified water system
Jack Pack "Plug 'n Play" technology
High speed internet access
37" LCD widescreen TV with satellite programming
Telephone with data port and voice mail
Iron board & iron
Tradewinds rooms are considered club level rooms and offer the following additional amenities like five different meal services in the exclusive Club Lounge, a Tradewinds guests only Beach Club with complimentary beach float and palapa daily, access to the adults only H2O pool, and a few other extra perks.
For us, we weighed the cost difference, and even received an upgrade offer a few days prior to our stay for a Tradewinds room, and eventually decided a Tradewinds room was not right for us.
When Jeff and I arrived at the Aruba Marriott Resort, a staff member handed us a delicious cup of fresh passion fruit juice and we instantly felt the island vibes.
Somehow, there weren't any lines for check-in and Allen greeted us with a warm, friendly smile and told us we received an upgrade to a Premium Ocean View room - which pretty much just made our day!
We told Allen we were celebrating our 8th anniversary and the bellhop grabbed our bags and asked us to wait just 10-15 minutes for our room.
We grabbed drinks in the lobby bar - ouch, almost $20 per drink, which is the one hang-up about the lobby bar - the prices. While the drinks were strong and delicious, they were incredibly expensive. Jeff got a Mai Tai (soon to become our drink of the week) and I got a Hibiscus Margarita - YUM.
Shortly afterward, our bellhop came over, gave us our room key, and told us the bags were already in the room waiting for us. Talk about amazing service!
We ran up to our room and were surprised with a bucket of champagne, courtesy of our bellhop. The next day, front desk staffer Allen surprised us with more champagne and a yummy chocolate cake. Check out the view from our room!
Our large, king room also featured a love seat sofa, desk area, six-drawer dresser with one of the top drawers housing the in-room safe, and full length mirror. There was also a small bar/coffee maker spot between the bedroom and bathroom with mini fridge and a handy shelf for keys, wallets, etc.
The bathroom was awesome with a closest with plenty of hangers, double sink plus vanity area for makeup, toilet, and walk-in shower that was approximately tub-length. Keep in mind we came from a small house so ALL of these are features our home doesn't have - and we greatly appreciated them.
I'm not gonna lie. The Aruba Marriott has a bunch of restaurants....but we didn't eat in pretty much any of them.
Restaurants in the Aruba Marriott Resort include Ruth's Chris Steak House, La Vista, which is international cuisine and offers a full American breakfast, Waves Beach Bar & Grill (we did eat here), Atardi, beachfront seafood, Gelato & Co, and of course, a Starbucks.
We knew Aruba is known fo
r their amazing selection of restaurants and different cuisines, so we didn't plan on eating at the resort that often. I am planning on a dining in Aruba blog post in the near future as well and will touch on where we chose to eat and what's still on our list.
Located poolside and on the beach, the ONE thing you need to remember about Waves Beach Bar & Grill is the two for $16 happy hour twice a day, from 11am-1pm and from 3-5pm. This is your chance to basically get two drinks for almost the price of one - and they are GOOD and
STRONG. We sampled several of them including the Very Berry and Electric Blue Lemonade (not our fave), as well as the Mai Tai's (of course!), Pina Coladas and several others.
Waves poolside and beachfront servers are excellent and efficient. Jasmine may have an ever so slight gruff exterior, but she is actually very friendly and sweet, just super busy! Robert served us on the beach and was awesome - very attentive.
The level of service in Aruba is out of this world and Aruba Marriott staff is as well.
The only food we tried from the Waves Beach Bar were the Dushi Wings (I think that's what they were called) and they were DELICIOUS. Seriously. So good, we had them twice over the week. Plus all of their food is served in the cutest rattan tray/plates. I kind of wish I could take one home.
Come evening time, Atardi sets up on the beach and takes over Waves Beach Bar & Grill. Set your reservation for 6:30 to 7:00pm for optimal sunset time and you won't be disappointed.
Make sure you get a picture with your loved ones and/or partner - it's a gorgeous photo op!
The food at Atardi was yummy and featured plenty of local fresh catch of the day and fresh fish shipped from Europe. While I really wanted to order the Red Snapper, which came with a yummy sounding side of coconut rice, I wound up ordering the Mahi Mahi. It was excellent.....but I really felt like I needed a side of something a little more filling. If we had known this, we probably would have ordered a side of something like risotto. But, all in all, it was a beautiful location with delicious food and we would definitely try it again.
I'm not with the majority of the world's population and their love of Starbucks. At all. I just think there is much better coffee out there. BUT sometimes you need a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee after a LATE night out and an EARLY morning excursion. This is where Starbucks stepped in for us.
Jeff and I both ordered tall coffee and the woman helping us was so sweet. She could tell we weren't big on Starbucks coffee and not only watered it down a touch for us, but also added cream/half and half. It turned out to be the perfect touch and went very well with our sausage, egg, and bagel sandwiches. The sandwiches are great....but I will say the eggs were a little overcooked. Regardless, it worked and it was cheaper than the $28 breakfast in La Vista.
Spa & Fitness
There are spa and fitness facilities at the Aruba Marriott Resort.....but we didn't visit either of them. However we did talk to a few people and they did enjoy massages in the spa. Each morning from our balcony, I was able to see people enjoying the treadmill and other cardio equipment in the fitness center. The fitness center overlooks the adult pool and the ocean beyond that.
Beach & Palapas
The beach at the Aruba Marriott Resort is ridiculous. Ok, the beach in Aruba is ridiculous. Regardless, we found the beach at the Marriott to be calm, as blue as can be, and we were able to touch all to the way to the end of the swim ropes.
If I have just one recommendation for you, go to Target, Dollar Tree, Amazon, or wherever you like to shop and bring some floats. Seriously. I so wish we had known to do that because all I wanted in the afternoon was to float in the water. The beach water is so calm you can just float and float and might only move a little with the current, but that's it.
There are plenty of rental spots to rent a float or mat, but for some reason we just never did it. I really have no explanation for why, we just didn't. I will say that I do think the Aruba Marriott should offer free floats or mats for all guests and not just Tradewinds guests.
Now on to the palapas. Palapas are essentially a man made "tiki" hut that is awesome for shade and is served by the staff at Waves Beach Bar. It's the only shade available on the Aruba Marriott beach and that means they come at a price.
The Aruba Marriott only allows palapa reservations on their website (instructions are detailed in the Retreat Guide when you check-in) and only after you check-in for up to three days. The best palapas cost $30 per day BUT they do offer some free palapas daily.
The free palapas are offered at 4pm for the next day and at 7am for the same day. And they go fast. In hind site, I wish we would have tried to get a free palapa for our only free-from-excursion day, but we wound up using a single palm tree for shade as much as we could and then moved to the pool.
I do think the palapa reservation system is a little strange. There were so many unused palapas...in fact we wound up just grabbing an empty one at some point after lunch one day because no one ever used it that entire day. I understand the reservation system because it cuts down on the "I'll throw my towel here and never come back" routine people like to do at the pool...and yes they do it at the Aruba Marriott pool too.
The Aruba Marriott Resort has two pools: the main pool and the H2O Pool, which is adults only. I'll start with the adult pool.
For us, the adult pool was NOT where it was going on. I understand that many couples may want to go away and get away from other people's kids, and the H2O Pool certainly provided that considering it is for adults only. This pool is beautiful and our room's balcony overlooked it. It also had it's own pool bar that served drinks and food and towel service right there.
With all of that said, Jeff and I preferred the main pool 100%. It was where all the fun and all the action happened. And that's what we were looking for.
The main pool is a free form shaped pool with a swim up bar, volleyball net, music, and fun. Surrounding one side of the pool are these really cool rock formations that make small pools leading to one of the hotel entrances, also creating a grotto-esque whirlpool hot tub, and a flowing waterfall into the pool.
The best part of the main pool is the music and laid back atmosphere. There is always something going on in the main pool. People are constantly throwing around water bouncing balls, footballs, or an active volleyball game is always in session.
The music tends to lean toward typical Aruba reggaeton "dance" music mixed with reggae and some of today's hits. You'll get used to and learn to love the Spanish songs by the end of your trip.
On Friday afternoon into the evening, the pool was HOPPING. Tons of people with an awesome live band playing great music, majority in English that everyone knew, which was fun. I wish I had taken a video of how much fun it was (and this was during the afternoon happy hour with some excellent Mai Tai's).
Yep we visited it. Some nights I wish we hadn't, but we did. Overall we had a really great time in the casino. I'm not a slots kind of gal but if you are, this 24-hour casino offers tons of them. I'm not quite sure how many, but I do know they have 21 blackjack and poker tables, at least one craps table, and at least two to three roulette tables.
We wound up spending all of our time playing blackjack. Sometimes successfully, and sometimes not so much. It's amazing how much a good dealer and a happening table can affect blackjack (in my opinion).
Fun fact for Aruba casino dealers: to be a casino dealer in Aruba, you must be born and raised in Aruba, which I thought was pretty neat.
A tip if you do visit the Stellaris Casino - ask for a server right away. It's just like Vegas so you get to drink to free if you're playing. Remember to tip your server!
They also offer a player's club type of card to track your spending, winnings, and perks, but we didn't wind up signing up for it.
For us, the Aruba Marriott's location was perfect. We could easily walk along the beach and/or "boardwalk" as far down as we liked and then cut through to the main "strip" area where all the restaurants and shops are.
The furthest point we walked was about 1.25 miles, which took us about 25 minutes. The breeze on the beach side was so nice and refreshing that it kept you cool. We did take a cab one morning due to time restrictions and it was a $7 cab ride.
Each night we wound up walking back toward the hotel and stopping at MoomBa Beach Bar for drinks and music and even made friends with some of the bartenders. For us, the Aruba Marriott was in the perfect location.
The Bottom Line
We absolutely loved the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino and we would 100% stay again. I will point out that we did book our stay on points that we've been saving up for quite some time, but that doesn't affect our opinion. We would easily choose the Aruba Marriott again when we come back - and we may even consider one of the next door Marriott Vacation Club properties.
If you're considering a trip to Aruba or anywhere else, contact me today for your personalized vacation proposal.