Why We’ll Never Go Back to Aruba: Part 2

I already told you about how miserable check-in was when we arrived in Aruba HERE.

And while an air mattress did eventually arrive for Tech Support, there are plenty of other reasons I’ll never go back to The Happy Island.

Inconvenient Flights. We got up at 4:30 am and took three flights to get to Aruba. We all know the airlines don’t offer much in the way of edibles anymore, so we made sure to eat before our second flight.  The last leg of our journey involved traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina to Aruba; it would be four hours. We knew we wouldn’t have time to stop and get anything, so we mentally prepared ourselves to shell out $24 for sandwiches we wouldn’t normally consider consuming. But it was a complete shock when the cart finally made it to us back in row 25  — the non-reclining last row of the plane in front of the bathrooms — and we were told there was no more food. Nothing. We were ravenous, but managed to stave off our hunger with chewing gum and gummy worms.

I would have paid $30 for these nuts.

The Smokers. They should call Aruba The Smokers’ Island. When I am on vacation in a tropical paradise, I like to smell the fresh air. Quick word to the smokers out there: If you are smoking a cigarette within six feet of others, please know that we can smell your stinky second-hand smoke. And while you might enjoy the stench of your cancer stick, you should know others do not. If you light up when people are eating, you are officially a douche-bag. Sorry about your addiction, but we are hating on you. As far as I am concerned, there were way too many smokers in Aruba.

Smokers in paradise suck!

The Americans. Downstate New Yorkers had taken over the island and, I have to admit, initially, I looked for camera crews because Tina and Chrissy and Margo and Ellie were like something out of The Housewives of Long Island. {Is that even a thing?} These folks and their families were every bit as loud and demanding as they were pierced and tattooed. I tried to ignore them, but they spoke at a decibel that made this impossible. Here is a bit of unintentionally overheard conversation:

“Omigawd, Teeeeena. Yor down! Howa you feelin?”

“Omigawd. So sick. You have no idea. Last night, I thought I was gonna die.”

“Do you think it was the food or somethin’?”

“I dunno. But I was pukin’ until like three or somethin’.”

“Shuttup!”

“No, I’m serious.”

“Omigawd, that’s terrible. How are you now?”

Believe me when I say, I didn’t want to hear all about Tina’s dosing schedule.

How the Tylenol wasn’t touchin’ it. How she was “gonna take sumthin’ else around two OAR so.”

The moment she went back up to her room, Tina’s devoted friends shared their thoughts:

“Can you even freaking believe she came down he-AH? Omigawd. Keep that shit to yor-self.”

“I know, right?”

“I paid seven thousand dollahs for this trip. Fuck if I wanna virus! Jeezus. What is she thinkin’!”

You get the point. We got to hear that for six days.

Oh, and we also got to hear the Downstate New Yorkers at 2 AM as they stumbled back to their rooms, cackling and swearing.

Most. Unpleasant.

The Palapa Line. If you wanted to make sure to get some shade on the beach, you had to stand in a queue to reserve one of those circular thatched-roof structures. Palapa reservations started each day at 4 PM. I assume at any other time of the year, this would have been no big whoop because there were 147 palapas. But because there were sooooo many guests at the hotel during this particular week, folks started lining up at 3 PM. Which made me feel like I had to get in line at 3 PM. If my math is right (and it might not be), I spent five hours waiting in lines trying to ensure my family would have sun protection when I could have been doing water aerobics with Dushi.

Put 1,500 people in this picture and then you'll have a more accurate idea of what we were dealing with.

The Lack of Non-Touristy Destinations. For some, sitting in the sun doing nothing is the best vacation in the world. But Hubby and Tech Support have ants in their pants, so we had to move. And frankly, I was underwhelmed by Aruba’s downtown that was filled with one souvenir shop after another. Perhaps the greatest disappointment? Baby Beach. I had been told this beach would be deserted and romantic, but we encountered a crowded beach with dozens of travelers who were obviously thirsting for solitude as well. Meh.

Baby Beach would have been great if it had looked like this.

The Public Pooping. I still can’t believe I really saw this, except I did. If you walked waaaaay past the fancy hotels, you would have seen children using Nature’s potty. And I’m not talking #1. {I assume they were doing that in the ocean.} No, I’m telling you I saw littluns crapping in the sand. To be fair, I did see one mother pick up her kid’s turd in a plastic grocery bag, tie it up, and toss it into a larger trash bag. I’m not known for having delicate sensibilities, but I did not want to walk on that stretch of the beach after that. Hubby declared it was my fault. “You went past the last resort,” he said. “You went too far.”

The Surprise Charges at Check Out. I enjoyed arguing with the manager about the $87 worth of bar charges that the hotel said we had accrued. Thing is, we didn’t drink any alcohol or charge anything to our room. The hardest drink I consumed was a mango smoothie. After much investigation, we discovered the drink charges were leftover from the prior occupants of the room. (I’m guessin’ they may have been from Downstate New York.)

Wheeeeeeeee! Yeah. No. That wasn't us.

The Masters. Hubby had prepared me that The Masters was going to be on while we were on vacation. I knew this meant I would be on-duty with Tech while my husband relaxed in the room. For two full days. Secretly, I prayed Aruba would not have televisions, but they did. And of course, Hubby had to watch. Until the bitter end. So good for you, Bubba.

"Must. Watch. Bubba."

The Cranky Arubans. We visited Aruba over our son’s April Break which coincided with Easter and Passover this year. It seemed the whole world had come to Aruba. Like nineteeen-bazillion people had crammed themselves onto this relatively tiny island. People told us we wouldn’t have any problem grabbing dinner; that we would be able to just walk into restaurants and be seated. Um, not so much. Every restaurant was packed with hungry tourists. One night, we had to wait 45 minutes to be seated at a mediocre Italian place. Two hours and two meatballs later, we realized our original server had vanished. There had been a shift change (or something), and we had to beg the manager to please take our credit card so we could leave.

My Theory. Peak tourist season in Aruba is between December and April, so if the Arubans had to deal with abrasive, high-maintenance visitors for five months, well…who can blame them for being exhausted? I know the Housewives of Long Island wore me down, and I only had to listen to them for six days. {This is why we told everyone we were from Canada.} Still, when your nation’s economy depends on tourism, you’d better smile and figure out a way to be nice.

Grrrrrrr.

But it wasn’t all bad. I mean, we were together on a tropical island, right?

So here is some cool stuff I’d like to remember about Aruba:

The colorful lizards & iguanas

The fabulous, consistent weather

The soft sand

The $87 smoothies

The funky trees

The awesome starfish I stepped on

Finding a live starfish was pretty cool.

The 20-minute ride on the Big Mable. Worth every florin.

From here on out, I’m taking a tip from Annie over at Six-Ring Circus and keeping my vacation expectations low.

If you could go anywhere & money was not an issue, where would you go?

69 responses to “Why We’ll Never Go Back to Aruba: Part 2

  1. Greece. For about a month.🙂

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  2. Karla Porter Archer

    you weren’t kidding about the “it got worse” thing…

    If I could go anywhere, and money wasn’t an issue?? gah… so many places I’d pick. But I would love to go to Iceland one day. Absolutely!

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  3. We spent a day there on a cruise….Caraosal (very near) is much nicer.

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  4. Loved Antigua! Fred and I went there for our honeymoon. We stayed at an all inclusive resort. Very safe island and lots to do!

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  5. Wayne Borean aka The Mad Hatter

    Toss up between London and Rome as to where I’d like to go. I know it would end up being London, my wife is English, and my Italian never was all that hot.

    As to visiting anywhere in the Caribbean, I’ve heard the same thing about most of the “vacation” destinations. I thought the same thing of Los Vegas. I’d rather visit Washington D.C. (which has some fantastic museums).

    Wayne

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    • D.C. Is actually one of our favorite vacation destinations. We went last summer. There is so much to do -and a lot of it is, of course, free!

      I could see you in London. Totally. And then you could just visit Rome from time to time. Perfect.

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  6. I travel so much for work that for vacation, all I want to do is go to a nearby State Park/National Forest and hike, bird watch, picnic, star gaze, and generally be quiet.

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  7. Um, to quote your annoying hotel-mates.

    Oh. Mie. Gawd.

    Or something.

    I am hereby passing the “shitty vacation trophy” to you.

    Just know we’re traveling in May. I might need it back soon.

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    • No. I don’t wish that on anyone. I’ll hold the trophy for a while. I don’t feel like I really captured the awfulness of the Americans. If this is how we behave abroad, wow… No wonder people hate us. I hated us. So embarrassing. Excited that you have a trip planned in May.

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  8. It sounds like you went to a completely different place. We went in the summer so it wasn’t high season.
    I would go to France and rent a villa for a month so everyone could come and visit!

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  9. So sorry that your vaca wasn’t more pleasant…. But don’t blame it all on Aruba…..maybe. I certainly don’t claim to be a world traveler with all the answers but have seen glimpses of what you endured and hopefully this will help for future adventures. My former traveling companion and I are no longer together but when we were we enjoyed some wonderful tropical vacations in both Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Fortunately and unfortunately depending how you look at it….we had no kids so we were not constrained by the school calendar. We usually traveled around this time of year…end of April…beginning of May where as you know especially today the CNY weather can be less than ideal and a tropical vacation is just what you need! Maybe Tech Support’s apparent book smarts can get you a pass on a few missed days of school allowing you to avoid the masses. One thing is that generally when the Americans are not on break the Europeans are which increases your number of smokers and they have their own set of let’s call them personality flaws but in my opinion they can be more tolerable than Americans. Being out of the country and observing our fellow Americans on vacation you begin to see where we get our “reputation”. Americans can be sooooo obnoxious! A big plus going off American peak is the decrease in the number of Americans with you.
    I think the key is finding a resort that meets your needs…we always stayed at the all inclusive….it gives you the convenience of having your restaurant picked out for you but you have to find a resort that has a good reputation ….and one that has what you’re looking for….non smoking areas….good food and inclusive cocktails (avoiding the large post vacation bill)……also many have excursion desks set up and you can shop for some off resort things to do….all of which I have been very happy with. All you have to do is show up in the main lobby they pick you up drop you off and usually feed you too. EASY PEASY! I have stayed mostly at a Spanish owned resort called the IBEROSTAR….both in Cancun and Punta Cana DR….and in Cancun I have stared at the IBEROSTAR Grand ….first class all the way…staff is fabulous, great amenities and also not so many rooms which helps with overcrowding…even when they were completely booked …it didn’t feel like it…that has a lot to do with how the resort is set up. As far as pooping in the sand….many of our resort destinations have high levels of poverty…..I remember Cancun when we first went …there was so much poverty….it made me sad and felt guilty BUT I also felt empowered to help….I suddenly went from a moderate tipper to a Big tipper…first of all because I got such fabulous service I was happy to part with some extra dough but also I knew that this person was working to bring money home to their family who lived off the resort….so that money I gave them really did make a difference to them and they appreciated it.
    The all inclusive that I didn’t love was Sandals Whitehouse in Jamaica…I felt lie it was cheaply done….grounds were not impeccable, food was …ok and the staff was exasperating….the ya mon no problem mon was old after the first day and I learned that was the Jamaicans excuse for being lazy. But that is really a cultural thing more than anything. Sandals was also the most expensive of any.
    So there’s my feedback sorry to have gotten a little lengthy…this may be longer than your blog…
    Well here’s wishing that you’ve just experienced your worst vacation ever and the following are enjoyable and relaxing as every vacation should be! Xoxo dont every stop writing..it is such a joy to read your blogs!

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    • Look at you! When you come over, you really come over! I agree with you 100% on most things. We have been fortunate to be able to stay with friends in some of our most remote locations, and this has been awesome because then we really get to not be stuck on-resort, but we have the safety of our own tour guides. We have stayed at many all-inclusives, most of which have been really wonderful. We were told you don’t need to do that in Aruba because everything is safe (which it was) and that restaurants are plentifulb(which they were). We just chose the wrong week.

      Now that Tech is in 7th grade, he refuses to miss school for vacation – so this was our first vacation on a school break. Never. Again. He’s going to have to learn how to deal. These vacations are too expensive to have to have an unpleasant time.

      And you are spot on about the reputation we have earned as Americans. It doesn’t come from nowhere. Oy. I wasvso embarrassed. Seriously.

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  10. Catherine Johnson

    You poor thing, that sounds crazy! I’m familiar with loud tourists and though amusing at first you soon want to throw a towel over them🙂

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  11. Ok. The extra bar charges would irritate me. The Jersey Shore chicks would make my eye twitch. But dropping dueces in the sand? This. This is surely the last straw. What fresh hell is this?!?!?!

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  12. I want to go to Ireland. And Prince Edward Island to see Anne of Green Gables’ house. Yes, I am a great big dork.

    Sorry your trip was so “ugh”filled, Mama. It’s so disappointing, not to mention expensive, to end up hating it.

    Cool starfish, though!

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    • The starfish was the best part. Seriously. When I picked it up, Tech was like: “Mom! You stepped on Patrick!” truly the funniest moment.

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    • I’ve been to PEI – Anne’s house was wonderful, but there are lots of other things to do there. I want to go back and stay in a lighthouse (yes, you can do that there!)

      If money (and time) were no object, I would first like to take a road trip and see all of the states (mostly in the west & the great plains) that I haven’t been to before.

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  13. I would love to go to Greece. Ever since I found out there is a City named Larisa (OK, I think it’s spelled Larissa, but half the people I know spell my name that way, anyway.). Though, from the other comments, it sounds like Greece is the popular destination of the day. It might end up as crowded as Aruba!!

    I’ve also thought and African Safari would be amazing, but that would take more time and money than I’ll ever have.

    My next vacation will be Rochester, NY. In June. Followed by a few days in NYC with my parents and brother. Possibly a detour to one Camp Seneca Lake. 🙂

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    • Greece sounds awesome! Join Lisha and Jen and me. We’d all like to see Greece. But you are right; it does sound like THE hot destination spot these days. I really think our negative experience was because we went on a school vacation. Tech is going to have to suck that up. We are so not doing that again.

      Can’t wait to see you in June. Glad to know you consider coming to Rochester a vacation. But hopefully it will feel like one!

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  14. So excited to see part 2 in my in box this morning! I couldn’t wait to hear how Aruba ended. Talk about needing a vacation from your vacation.

    I would pick Italy. I’m working on my Italian with Rosetta Stone. Envisioning Under the Tuscan Sun and setting my expectations high. Thinking summer 2013 with the boys fencing with some Italian Masters before heading to the countryside.

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    • I was fortunate to go to Italy twice. These were my two favorite trips – ever. (Alas, I took them before I was married.) I traveled all the way from the Swiss Alps all the way down to Sicily and stopped everywhere in between. I’m happy to hear you are working on your Italian. It is the one place I went where knowing the language would have really helped. Luckily, I was with a native-born Italian, so I had that part covered.

      Fencing in Italy would be cool! Is this a f’real thing or just a dream?

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      • Not a dream – we are really working on this & will have our Coach hook us up with a club in Italy – I’m sure there are some great saber fencers for Tech Support😉

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  15. Sounds terrible. I feel less depressed about my un-vacation in minneapolis.

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  16. We have traveled quite a bit. Retirement does have its advantages. My favorite place is Australia. It is large with a varied topography and climate (like U.S.). They speak English!! There are unusual things to see like Ayre’s Rock, koalas and kangaroos, among others. The big cities are wonderful and the Outback is fairly rustic, like our Old West. ‘d go back in a flash but it sooooo far away.

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    • Marlene: I have never been to the other side of the world, but I would love to check out New Zealand. I mean if you are over there, you might as well, right? I hear the travel there is brutal not to mention the time change, eh?

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  17. At least you had a vacation. I’m a single mom of 3 with a deadbeat ex-husband, I haven’t had a vacation in 22 years, and that was just a ride through New England bed and breakfasts. Never been to a resort or anywhere warm. My next “vacation” will be driving my oldest child from Rochester down to college at NYU in August and trying to schlep his crap up a million floors to his room. Go me! Count your blessings, there are worse things than no cabana and loud NYers. lol (I’m kinda’ lookin’ forward to the loud NYers in August, it’s like watching a sitcom)

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    • See, I knew I’d come off as sounding ungrateful. I didn’t mean to. I have been fortunate to have traveled a lot – so I know it sounds miserable to complain about a vacation, but honestly, this was not a great destination. So once you CAN travel (because once you dump the kid in NYC), you SHOULD take a vacation. Even if that means going to Florida for a long weekend. You deserve it! Watching the students move into the dorms was a hoot last year.

      But…

      I would not want to go through it myself.

      You might be part of the sitcom this summer!😉

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  18. We would have paid that 87 dollars and not even noticed. Hmmmm…..

    Your dialogue re: Tina was priceless. You should write a book or something🙂

    I know this sounds terrible, but I would still go to Aruba. Just so I could actually have gone on a SINGLE vacation that doesn’t involve visiting Bill’s family in his hometown (in upstate New York) or a weekend skiing.

    That’s it.

    Ever.

    We didn’t even take a honeymoon. It’s the curse that goes with the blessing of marrying a man whose family lives across the country. All our traveling is to visit them.

    Oh yeah and the skiing. Which I love. But. Because of Bill’s job we can never do more than a long weekend. Ever.

    I’ll take crap beaches and cigarettes and 87 dollars of booze to get the heck out of Mammoth and Northville, NY.

    (Shhhhh….)

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    • So many people told me they wouldn’t have noticed the charge.

      BUT

      they slip the bill under your door the day before, and there it was right at the top:

      ITEMIZED BAR BILL $87.

      And I only drank smoothies which I paid for with a credit card to avoid this crap. I had to produce all my receipts to SHOW them what I had consumed. Huge. Pain.

      Now I’m off to Google Mammoth and Shortsville. Because that can’t be far away from me. I mean, I grew up in Syracuse.

      And if I have to drive to meet Julie C. Gardner, um… I’m gassed up and in the car.

      (Wait, I’m not gassy, the car is.)

      Shut up and just hug me when you see me!

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  19. At least your vacation to Aruba ended better than Natalee Holloway’s. Still bothered by that one.

    My dream vacation? Probably anywhere Holland America sails. Love that company. Don’t even care what ports it visits – it’s the cruise I enjoy.

    A land vacation? Just about anywhere in British Columbia (including Banff & Jasper, which are actually in Alberta), but #1 spot there is Buchart Gardens near Victoria.

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    • Buchart Gardens is GORGEOUS! That place is a jewel. We went to visit when we were in Seattle. Who knew? I mean, we did – obviously – we heard it was lovely in Victoria, but it’s really just spectacular. We have some great pictures from there.

      And what an endorsement for Holland America.😉 I agree. If you have never cruised before, that would be the line.

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  20. NJ shore wouldsa been better

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  21. Aw man Renee ! That sounds horrendous. You SHOULD have gotten at LEAST $87 worth f booze to cope lol I am dying to go to Europe, especially England.

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  22. I have to say I am laughing. Just cracking up and laughing. This is pee in my pants funny and I am still laughing. I love how you write (but sorry it was not the vacation of your dreams).

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  23. I really want to take the family to Hawaii, but it will cost me two arms and a kidney to fly all six of us out there. Maybe someday. And if/when we do go…I am expecting very little. 😉

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  24. BTW….public pooping?!?! I can’t get over it.

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  25. I could be almost any where on a sailboat! It not crowded, you can go island hopping, etc…basically control your own vaca!

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  26. You made me laugh. So that was worth the hassle, wasn’t it?😉

    I’d love to go anywhere. I have such a travel bug that I’d go anywhere. Italy, Asia, South America…

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  27. Oh, Sweetie that sucks! SO. Bad. But I laughed…so really, it wasn’t all for naught.
    I have to recommend you go somewhere like Grenada. (Not at ALL touristy) the locals are fantastic, incredibly beautiful….
    Also…the San Blas islands in Panama….AMAZING.

    Okay…I think I’d go pretty much anywhere on a sailboat for a month…or forever…

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  28. Drew Gradinger

    Ouch ~ I’ve always wanted to go and these tales have curbed that!
    I recommend Akumal, half way between Cancun and Tulum. Mayan ruins, cenotes, turtles and ultra mellow, plus very easy flights and transport.
    And just to say, not all pierced and tattooed folks talk like that😉

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    • Been there! Loved it. Off the beaten path. Gorgeous. I’m been fortunate to do quite a bit of travel, so I think I just really prefer even MORE off the beaten path. I loved Belize which is still pretty undeveloped. It was truly one of our best trips.

      And just for the record, I have a tattoo and piercings. (Okay, my ears — but still.) That wasn’t the issue. The Americans were just obnoxious. On the other hand, what’s to say the Dutch weren’t equally obnoxious. I couldn’t understand them. Maybe they were awful, too.😉

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  29. I’m so sorry your vacay was so, literally, shitty. I hate any vacation that involves competition for space or food, or that involves the evidence of public pooping!

    I’d love to go to Australia. Perhaps one day, after the kids are out of med school and college, we’ll be able to afford it!

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  30. Gah. Also, gah.

    I know it’s not especially exotic, but . . . Eugene. I want to see my siblings, my niece and nephew, so much.

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    • That. Is. So. You.

      And it is romantic and wonderful. And it is something my friend would say. Because she has five sibs spread out all ovr the place and they are forever making plans to see each other. That is an awesome sentiment.

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  31. I want to re-enact Enchanted April. And I want people from the early 1900’s to go with me.

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  32. Oh, jeez Renee. It seems the best thing about this trip is it gave you the fodder for these hysterical blogs.

    I’m so sorry you had to spend oodles of money AND miss participating in the biggest, best, almost-coup-in-the-name-of-a-candy in WordPress history. Let this be a lesson to you.🙂

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  33. You need to get out on the ocean on a Hobie Cat, just far enough out that the people are dots but the beach still looks beautiful 🙂

    Go anywhere, money no issue – multiple safaris in Africa please. Road tripping the whole way across the US would be cool too.

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    • Corms:

      I think you are right. We did have the best time getting dragged behind a motorboat on a big bouncy seat. That was wonderful. A Hobie would have been great. We did a great trip in Hawaii, and it was so peaceful. I think the deterrent was the fact that there were soooooo many people. Lines for everything. That and Hubby needed to watch golf. I should have just taken Tech.

      Like

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