I'll start by saying that we are timeshare owners with the Occidental Vacation Club. This is our third time to the resort and we have been happy with our experience every time.
LOCATION: First, Aruba is amazing. It is always warm, high 80s to low 90s and ususally with a low breeze that keeps you comfortable. The location of the Occidental resort is fantastic in the middle of the high-rise resorts on Palm Beach. As time goes on there are more restaurants and more shopping that are moving up to Palm Beach. Just steps from the resort there is an endless amount of shopping - everything from jewelry and clothing boutiques to restaurants and coffee (yes, Starbucks!). In previous years we spent evenings walking on the walkway between the resorts that runs for about a mile from the Divi Phoenix up to the Playa Linda. This year, we spent as much time walking on the path that runs from the Radisson to the Marriott (and passes all the shopping!). It was also great for people watching :)
ACCOMODATIONS: The accomodations in the resort are also really nice - although it's important to note that realistically, most people spend nearly all of the time by the pool or on the beach. We own a one-bedroom condo, but due to the time of year, the hotel was pretty booked and we accepted a junior-suite instead. The junior-suite was huge! and the bathroom was double the size of our usual bathroom (although only one, where we usually have two). We own in tower 2 and were on the 9th floor (top). We also had a double balcony that came with lounge chairs from the pool which was perfect for lounging past 4pm. The bed was very comfortable and we had at least a 42 inch flat panel tv along with a couch, chair and ottoman. We had a partial kitchen with a mini fridge stocked with water, soda, and beer - plus the 4 bottles of liquor (we're First Club members). The stocking of the fridge isn't always consistent but if I ask for more of something, I've never had a problem getting it. Our housekeeper, Yenith, did a fabulous job of keeping the room clean. There is a note from the housekeeper on the nightstand that asks you, the guest, to designate what time is most convenient for her to come in a clean so that she doesn't come in too early and disturb your sleep or come in later when you're trying to get ready for dinner. We were early-risers so she came around 9am so that by 4pm our room was always clean, bed freshly made, with plenty of clean towels. I cannot go without mentioning the staff of the vacation club - Ivette, who graciously and expeditiously performed our personalized check-in, and Alan, who made sure we were enjoying our time and not having any problems.
POOL/BEACH: The pool and beach are beautiful. As with most resorts, the pool chairs can come at a premium, especially if there is a particular need - like an umbrella or adjacent to the pool. We noticed that some beach chairs had been updated/replaced with nicer chairs that were more comfortable so we would make an effort to get up and get the newer chairs. It would be nice if they traded out all the chairs for the new ones - I'm sure they will in time. The pool was beautiful - hot tubs were relaxing - and pool bar was always hopping. Enrique makes the best drinks! The beach at the Occidental - I truly believe - is one of the best on the island. Plenty of soft sand (some hotels have really rocky/shelly beaches) and a nice big area to swim.
RESTAURANTS: Restaurants are wonderful too. We love Zen (oriental) both the tatimi and the hibachi - although really, what's better than hibachi! The specialty drink at Zen is always really good, and strong, too. L'Olio (Italian) is by far our favorite. We aspire to go at least twice as the menu has lots of options that we want to try. Our server, Edgar, at L'Olio was also so attentive (which I didn't appreciate until we went off property one night to AquaGrill and the server there was horrific compared to the service at our restaurants). El Olivido always delivers great service and good food but it isn't exceptional like L'Olio or Zen. There's room for improvement here I think. The winner of most-improved restaurant has got to be Desire. We went first in 2007 and the food was so-so, but this time it was fab-u-lous! plus the new decor, table cloths, and the stellar view of the sunset... it was a magical evening! We also love the Palm for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It is your typical buffet. The customized pasta station at lunch and dinner is nice, as is the fresh-made omelet station for breakfasts. The Beach Club for lunch is also a good option - with burgers, hot dogs, and pizza, plus fresh salad bar and desserts. While you don't need to go off property if you stay at the Occidental, sometimes we do. There is a gelato place down the street that is amazing, and Starbucks :) We've enjoyed El Gaucho and especially their deep fried cheesecake. We tried AquaGrill and had a mediocre experience. We grabbed lunch dowtown at Iguana Cantina which was very good for a quick bite. I'm sure we'll try more restaurants every time we go.
ACTIVITIES: This year we had a couples massage at the spa on the beach at the Occidental - to be honest, we get it every year on our first official day, it is such a wonderful way to start our vacation. We also went on an ATV tour of the island. We've taken a Jimney (rental car like a Geo tracker) around the island before, but this was my first time on a quad and, oh man, it was fun! Pancho from Cheri Quad was our tourguide, recommended by Stephanie at the concierge desk. We also spent a day shopping downtown in Oranjestad. The shopping district is growing by leaps and bounds. This year we took the bus ($2.50 from the hotel rather than a $20 cab), which was cheap and easy. We love the flea market area that has great tourist buys as well as the main street shopping area and of course the high-end duty free shopping! Jewelry shopping is also fun, although I find the store salespeople to be slightly pushy, which can get annoying/overwhelming if you're truly just browsing. In the past we've done a snorkel cruise with DePalm on the Palm Pleasure which included snorkling at 3 locations. Definitely do a snorkel cruise!
ENTERTAINMENT: We are not big late-night entertainment people, so I'll start with that. We enjoyed the pool-side show with fire-dancers and such. There are shows in the theater every night. There's the disco, which is rarely frequented. They had karoke at least twice when we were there but it was always empty. We secretly hoped they would just make another restaurant with the space or a full-service indoor spa. We like to listen to the live music from the DePalm pier (although we enjoy that from the luxury of our balcony!). There are some clubs downtown and may be some in Palm Beach too. There is a bar scene, although I'm not sure of the crowd. During the day at the pool there is the fun club that does the bingo and other games through out the day. While in the past I found it to be annoying, this year it was actually pretty entertaining - canoe basketball was hysterical and everyone gets into the bingo with cash prizes! We also played slots and blackjack - or I should say, we lost some money doing those activities. It was enjoyable although I found the slots to be a little tight - we blew through $100 in, well, it felt like 20 minutes.
Ask for the highest possible floor in either tower - pool side will have pool noise 10am until 4pm...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC