Aruba Vineyard: Wine Tastes Better By The Sea

That fact that Aruba is somewhat of a tourism center is known. Our island continuously receives accolades from travelers worldwide and experts alike. Currently, in Aruba, there is a push to try to promote its culture and gastronomy, with the latter having arguably improved considerably in the last decade or so.

Today’s topic is for the oenophiles among us, or at least for the ones with a moderate curiosity about wines.

Due to a private initiative, Aruba is carefully taking its first steps into the world of winemaking with the introduction of “Adore Wines” by Mr. Luiz Videira Melatti, with locally grown grapes.

Continue reading Aruba Vineyard: Wine Tastes Better By The Sea

Quick Hits: Alhambra Casino, Tropicana Resort, Linear Park, Oasis Condo, Acqua Condo, Costa Linda, Taste of Belgium, Ritz Carlton, La Cabana

In terms of tourism development at lot went on during my 6 month absence, as you can image. This post is especially interesting for the repeat visitors to Aruba or just for the one who are curious by nature. I’m touching each project briefly just to get you up to speed. At a later time I will elaborate on the individual projects, including several pictures. Let’s get to it.

Alhambra Casino

The construction at Alhambra Casino has been ongoing for the better part of the year. Currently work is being done at the main entrance which is on the east end. On top of the main entrance a dome is being build to give the casino entrance a grand appearance.

Ritz Carlton Aruba Construction
Construction at Ritz Carlton Aruba

On the eastern part a new section is being constructed, which seems to going to function as a storage room or staff area. The parking area is completely finished, including new asphalt pavement, desert landscaping and LED parking lights.

The shopping area that use to be there was razed to make place for a new, better organized shopping area. The retail section still needs months of construction. Only food retail business to remain open during construction is Subway restaurant.

Tropicana Resort

Renovation at Tropicana Resort is ongoing, at a slow pace it seems. The old temporary banners with the resort titles made place for more permanent titles. Tropicana chose for a retro design using white letters on top circles with green background and gold trim for the second part of the resort name. The casino’s name is now Trop Casino. As of today the casino hasn’t resume business. The restaurant there is open for business. By the way I saw a couple of juicy deals on their website for the coming months. Have at it.

Linear Park

The island government has pushed for the construction of a linear park across the street from Talk of the Town Resort (this resort is located on the way to Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital, just after the airport). The linear park is an open and accessible park for locals and visitors alike.

The first contours of the park are becoming visible and I must say that I’m actually pleasantly surprised at the first shapes of this park. I could see myself hanging out there with the family. The complete plan entails the largest linear park of the Caribbean connecting the park from Talk of the Town to the hotel area by the beaches.

Oasis Condo

Oasis is practically finished, with only a few more minor details that need some work. The way things are going I believe guests could be arriving weeks before year’s end. It really looks nice. I’ll have to tour the place to see the quality in the detail and finish.

Acqua Condo

Construction at Acqua Condo continues to be ongoing, but not without the well documented issues. This time the issue isn’t the construction itself, rather the fact that some buyers are complaining about getting a different unit than initially was agreed upon. Sigh… By the way, I read that on a forum.

Costa Linda

This is the first major renovation of the 90s build resort, Costa Linda. Construction is full ahead and ongoing. Nothing else to report here.

Taste of Belgium

Taste of Belgium Restaurant (same owners as Cilo City Lounge, Papillon Restaurant, Taste of Belgium Bistro and a catering business) is under construction at Palm Beach Plaza Mall. This ambitious group is expanding rapidly and are now competing with another fast expanding group of restaurants Aruba Wind and Dine.

I have always been a fan of Taste of Belgium and related restaurants. You should check them out. They have a great Facebook page with up to date pictures of the construction at Taste of Belgium Restaurant.

Ritz Carlton

North of Marriott Resort, construction of Ritz Carlton continues without novelties. This luxury resort is expected to be delivered somewhere in 2013.

La Cabana

Construction at La Cabana continues. Big parts of the resort has been delivered, including the front facade and lobby. I think the renovation should help La Cabana fix issues it had recently due to the previous lack of maintenance.

These are just a couple of developments I covered, many more to come in the coming time. I’ve added some links for your convenience. Have a great week.

Zissles Dinner Show D’Licious Well Received

When Paseo Herencia commercial center opened three years ago in Palm Beach, club Mr. Jazz opened. This place was supposed to be become the go to place for people in their twenties, thirties and forties to go and have a good time. It never really took off, despite ownership changes.

A Dutch entrepreneur acquired the failed Mr Jazz project and vowed to change it into something this island has never seen before: Zissles. This is restaurant features the Dinner Show D’Licious.

Zissles Dinner Show D’Licious [image by Today]

D’Liscious has been well received thus far. From what I understand from the reviews and customer response, people love it. Maybe I should invite my wife to this show. Congratulations to the crew at Zissles.

New: Starbucks Renaissance Marina Aruba

Starbucks Coffee opened its second location in Aruba. It is in the downstairs lobby area of Renaissance Marina Hotel, adjacent to Renaissance Mall in down town Oranjestad. A year ago Starbucks opened its first location in Renaissance Market Place, not too away far from this location.

I’m surprised that Starbucks* decided to expand so soon in Aruba [FYI Starbucks doesn’t franchise*] After all Starbucks finalized a major restructuring in its business just over a year ago by closing down many locations across the United States and Australia. I’m guessing they’re are betting on oversees expansion with strong American customer presence.

Starbucks Renaissance
New Starbucks at Renaissance Marina Hotel Aruba

Previously this location already sold coffee and breakfast, now it’s been slapped with a Starbucks logo and design. I’m sure sales will increase, as the location is terrific. There are several shops in the area and this is also the dock location for the shuttle boat to Renaissance’s own private island.

Rock Shop in Aruba

Hard Rock Cafe Aruba has been open for well over a year now at South Beach Centre in Palm Beach. It opened in a time proven to be rather difficult for the restaurant business in Aruba. Examples of this are the recent closures of some high profile restaurants such as Le Dome Restaurant, Ristaurante Italiano, Bella Luna, Rumba Restaurant and Le Petit Cafe (partially) among others.

Hard Rock is alive and kicking. At this point that is. In fact, Hard Rock is opening a “Rock Shop” in middle in town. I’m not sure what that is but I imagine it’s a retail store with Hard Rock merchandise. In below picture you can see the banner “Rock This Way” to remind tourists of its location in Palm Beach. This banner was put there since the inauguration in late 2008.

Hard Rock Shop
Rock Shop opening in Oranjestad

I think it’s a rather good move to open a “dependency” in town, especially in that heavily trafficked area with cruise ship passengers. Apart from that the all important brand expansion is crucial. Cruise ship season starts later this year in September. By opening there Hard Rock also helps offset the dominance of jewelry stores in that area. For the record, Aruba doesn’t produce any jewelry, it’s all imported.

Restaurants Using Two Pricelists

NOTE: This article was written by guest writer Sonny Vallejos. She’s been coming to Aruba with her husband for 20 years and love it so much here they even purchased a condo.

While visiting Aruba this week with my son and his wife, we took them to a restaurant we have in all of these years never been. It was highly recommended for the food and service. The restaurant Old Fisherman was your typical Aruban restaurant with plenty of island ambiance but not over the top.

As we were seated all four of us were given menus. My daughter-in-law received one which showed the prices in florins while the rest of us were given menus showing the prices in U.S. dollars. We started comparing the prices. You know trying to convert the florins into U.S. dollars. While it just started out as a learning process of converting florins to dollars, we began to notice a huge discrepancy between the amount charged in florins and the amount in dollars. We then asked the waiter why there was a difference in the menu prices and had one or the other not been updated. The waiter replied that my daughter-in-law received the wrong menu. She was given by mistake the menu for the locals.

Old Fisherman in Oranjestad

Well, now we were furious. We have owned our own home here in Aruba for the past 5 years and a time share prior to that, so we have been considered “locals” by many vendors just by showing our deed. However, at the Old Fisherman’s if we didn’t have a “card” then we were not considered locals and would be charged the prices in U.S. dollars, which by the way was at least 10 to 15% more in price. After several conversations with the manager, Old Fisherman finally agreed to giving us the local’s price for this one time only.

While I do believe that the locals in Aruba should be given discounts in some areas I feel that we should all be charged the same to eat at a restaurant. Why should tourists be charged differently?

Passions Restaurant Rocks, Permits Ussues

If you are a frequent visitor to this site by now you know that the tone written here is predominantly positive. However, once in a while I call out certain actors/partners in tourism when I see things which I feel are wrong. Lately beach-spaces have been under pressure on several fronts and I’ve been pretty vocal about it. This is from the recent increase in legal construction project but also the tolerated illegal ones. At the end, the latter bothers me the most, because put together it does more damage on the land than otherwise.

Passions Rocks

Passions Restaurant at Eagle Beach, known for its food, service and overall ambiance, was single out this week by the Department of Infrastructure as the only beach-restaurant to have legal title by paying a sort of land tax for the use of the beach. Good for you and thank you for showing the proper respect for public domain. Passions Restaurants is located on Eagle Beach, across from the Amsterdam Manor Resort [also a great establishment]. It’s open daily from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM. I would highly recommend this place for sure. Again, food’s good, service’s good and view’s awesome.

Eagle Beach from La Cabana
Amsterdam Manor’s Passions Restaurant at Eagle Beach not only serves wicked food, but is also a good “citizen”

Other beach-restaurants

The rest of the beach-restaurants don’t pay for the usage of the land. I’m already hearing their excuses: “others are doing the restaurant thing on the beach without paying, why should we”, “they have never taxed us, it’s the tax collector’s office’s [read: government] own fault” and a the last one if my favorite “we pay enough taxes as it is”.

All excuses are invalid. Period. If you are using public spaces without permits or without paying land taxes you are acting illegally. Yes, even if the government did a poor job of regulating the public spaces, such as beaches. You know that the beaches are not there for your benefit without compensation. Obviously the government doesn’t go without blame here.

Why regulation

I hate bureaucracy. I hate Aruba-bureaucracy even more. Regulation would mean more administrative control, inefficiency and in Aruba it would mean more public officials which I absolutely don’t want. We have more than enough.

However, strict regulation is needed to halt the free for all on our beaches. In the past perhaps there wasn’t much need for regulation because there were only a handful of restaurants and tourism numbers were small but now not anymore. Now it seems that the current government understands the urgency to control the public-spaces and have announced steps to regulate this sector.

In my opinion the biggest reason we need new regulation in this area is to stop judges making laws. The – by me – much hated jurisprudence [definition: the course of court decisions]. In reality this means that there’s a deficit in organic laws thus obligating judges to make up their own rules. And guess who judges side with? Our judicial systems allows it, but I think it’s immoral. The sovereign [definition: supreme lawmaking authority] needs to wake up. Lawmakers and Ministers need to step up and start passing legislation quickly. Limit the bureaucracy, let the business come to code and stop judges play lawmaker.

Not everything is illegal

Using the beaches for unscheduled activities such as weddings or parties isn’t illegal and shouldn’t be regulated. It’s impossible to regulate it anyway.

Sunset Palm Beach Aruba
Removable structures aren’t illegal, such as a wedding at the Hyatt