After months of freezing temperatures, frequent snowing and lack of sunny skies……TROPICAL VACATION! My trip to Aruba couldn’t have come soon enough and now it was finally here! Last week, I briefly mentioned a dream (nightmare) I had while in paradise. This week I figured why not share some details of my trip along with a few photos. You might want to add the beautiful desert island of Aruba to your list of tropical paradise destinations.
To begin, my flight was set to depart from Newark/Liberty International Airport (EWR) in Newark, NJ just after 10:00am. I expected to land in Aruba at Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA) just before 3:00pm. Check-in for my stay at Barcelo Aruba was set for 4:00pm. Everything I experienced was smooth sailing from TSA Pre-check to arrival in Aruba.
A few days prior to my scheduled flight, I was required to receive a negative Covid-19 test result within 12 hours, but no more than 72 hours before departure to determine that I was Covid-19 free. Apparently if you don’t shed at least one tear, you are not taking the test correctly. Travelers are given the option to upload test results by both United Airlines and the official website of Aruba. In order to be permitted into Aruba I needed to complete the ED (Embarkation/Disembarkation) card process to aid in the island’s mitigation efforts to prevent further spread of Covid-19.
Once I retrieved my luggage I was directed to an airport transit bus that took me to my final destination resort hotel just in time for check-in. Instead of utilizing the main service desk, I casually grabbed an elevator to the 9th floor for the Royal Level, black-band experience where I was offered a delicious glass of champagne to welcome me to my vacation.
I received my wrist band and room key card just as I finished my glass of champagne so I grabbed my luggage that was parked nearby and headed to my room. My first thoughts regarding the room was clean and pretty basic for “royal” stature. The views were amazing. I could see both the spectacular beaches and ocean as well as mountains miles off into the distance.
I quickly put my things away and performed a walkabout through the hotel and grounds. Barcelo had all of the latest amenities and creature comforts:
- Shops and boutiques
- Pool with swim-up bar
- Restaurants dedicated to Royal Level guests in addition to restaurants available for the all the guests
- Easy beach access
- Lobby bar, entertainment and dance floor
- Tour and adventure bookings directly via hotel concierge
Arrival day was pretty chill. After the self-guided tour, I freshened up for pre-booked dinner reservations at Arubian Seafood located in the pool area of the hotel. I must say I honestly was not impressed by the food but the set up and ambiance were filling enough. Then I stopped over at the lobby bar and enjoyed a cocktail before retiring to my room for the night.
On the second day, I enjoyed breakfast in the Royal Lounge before I headed down to book a few activities and excursions. Spring break and pandemic fatigue along with amazing discounted deals made finding available booking times difficult on such short notice. The heavens must have wanted me to have a good time since I was able to book one of the last available time slots of the day for a snorkeling tour. I proceeded with further bookings for a beautiful sunset cruise and a UTV tour set to occur over the remainder of the trip. Afterwards, I visited the spa and booked a couples massage with the works and then some with just enough time left to get changed for the snorkeling tour.
The tour instructor entertained the guests with jokes and fun facts about Aruba and events that have occurred. The first stop was to view a sunken ship called the SS Antilla, one of the most famous shipwrecks in Aruba. Next, we snorkeled over some reefs teeming with communities of aquatic wildlife.
We returned back to shore with just enough time for me to get cleaned up for dinner. Although the Royal Level concierge already made reservations at on the premises, I decided to make reservations for Lobby located down the road from the resort. I was pleased with the service as well as both the food and drink menus. When I finished dinner I headed back to my room for a complimentary Balashi beer, brewed right in Aruba, then prepared for bed.
There were no bookings left for the third day so I decided it would be a relaxing beach day. I had a few Aruba Aribas and a couple Happy Islands over the course of a few hours before retreating back to my room. I had reservations at the Osaka Japanese restaurant located in the hotel. I was hoping for Tao level cuisine but after all of my day drinking, I wasn’t too picky. After dinner I took a walk down the strip for some fresh air and snapped a few photos. Soon I was ready to dance and listen to some music so I headed back over to the hotel lobby bar and dance floor for a night cap.
Feeling guilty about my indulgences the night before, I had breakfast at the Royal Level Lounge then made plans to spend the first half of the day hiking up a local mountain called Hooiburg. I’m no stranger to a good workout but let me tell you. My legs burned so bad at about the 50th step. I couldn’t help feeling like the stairs were much steeper than they seemed. Alas, I made it to the top panting and completely out of breath but so glad I did it! After a few minutes of being a tourist I made my way back down the mountain and called for a taxi to return me near my hotel where I stopped at a restaurant called Salt & Pepper for lunch. With all the heat I had endured hiking I figured it was time to change into a bikini and take a dip in the pool before I began getting ready for a Sunset Cruise. At the conclusion of the cruise I once again returned to shore for dinner. This time I had reservations for Mexican cuisine and once again I was not overly impressed. After dinner I went back to my room and prepared for an early next day.
Day 5 was full of activity so don’t ask me how I managed to take a nap on a UTV ride. I guess I’m not much of an early riser. Visitors who signed up for a morning UTV ride were picked up by a De Palm Tours bus and transported to the operations facility where we were provided a face covering and bottle of water. We drove past desert cliffs overlooking the vast tropical ocean making our first stop at the California Lighthouse with views of the “Beverly Hills” of Aruba. We continued along the scenic route until we reached the Bushiribana Gold Mill Ruins to have a quick snack at the Happy Stop food truck on the way to visit the Natural Bridge. After we drove around taking a few more photos we arrived at Arikok National Park (Park Nacional Arikok) to transfer to an off-road bus that took us to the Natural Pool. We spent about 45 minutes snorkeling and swimming before we were taken back to the UTV’s in order to return to the operations facility and be bussed back to our respective hotels. Since this was the last night for the trip, I decided to have dinner right on the beach at a lovely place called Sea Breeze Restaurant & Bar.
The flight home was scheduled for around 4:30pm so I had breakfast in bed before I packed up and checked out of my room. I figured I should have a bit of lunch before heading to the airport so I stopped at a little poke place on the beach then sat by the pool of my hotel to eat. Entry into the airport wasn’t swift but it also wasn’t too slow. Global Entry membership awarded me extradited passage through security and quicker access to my gate. The ride home was smooth and I was able to arrive home just in time for bed.
Overall, I truly enjoyed my trip and would definitely be up for planning another visit some time in the future. I hope my opinion and experience of the trip was pleasing for your eyes to glance over.
Share a comment about your tropical vacation experiences you’ve had or are planning to have. Maybe you will give someone a new idea for a trip. I’d love to hear from you!
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