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.

Hurricane Katia Moving Westward

Hurricane season started slowly this year, but it’s been steaming up. As of today there are three systems that formed and all three seems to eye the mainland USA. In below image you can see two nameless systems and tropical storm Katia. System #1 has 80% chance to form into a major storm and system #2, 50% chance.

New storm Lee

The only system that seems to threaten the Caribbean right now is system #1 (storm Lee), however that one seems to move into the Gulf of Mexico on its way to the state of Louisiana, among others. None of the systems are a threat to Aruba at this point.

Hurricane Katia
Hurricane Katia [image by Storm Pulse]

2011 Hurricane Season has been relatively calm for the southern Caribbean. In fact there hasn’t been a threat down here. Quiet the contrary in the US. My thoughts go out to the people who lost family and friends because of Irene.

Update

Update 1: Today (September 2) National Hurricane Center in Miami upgrade system #1 to storm Lee. Hurricane Katia’s projected path has been updated and seems now to be headed to the east coast. It’s still too early to exactly pin point if and when hurricane Katia will make landfall.

Pictures: Construction Alhambra Shopping Bazaar and Casino

The renovation work at Alhambra continues at a blazing fast speed. The whole shopping area structure was razed, leaving only the casino and sandwich shop Subway standing. The parking area has been paved on the southern part. Currently the parking area on the eastern part being constructed.

The casino building is also being renovated right now. The outside is getting a mostly cosmetic work. Needless to say that the inside also needs a renovation badly.  The developer  reiterated that the casino would remain open throughout the whole process.

Alhambra Casino
South side of Alhambra Casino

Things are certainly looking up for the whole development there. The new development, construction and re-construction fits perfectly with the other properties of Divi Resorts, which are also under renovation. In the combination of photos you can see the current progress.

Alhambra Casino
Alhambra Casino parking

Alhambra Casino
Side access of the parking at Alhambra Casino

Alhambra Casino
Alhambra Casino parking

Alhambra Casino
Eastern (main entrance) Alhambra Casino

Alhambra Casino
View where Dunkin Donuts used to be

Alhambra Casino
Framing of shopping area being removed

Alhambra Casino
Subway, last building standing

Acqua Condominium Latest

Construction at trouble-filled development Acqua Condominium continues. It was only last month that they had to deal with another issue regarding pay of some workers with a sub-contractor. The issue seems resolved as the construction appears to be ongoing.

There’s a wall around the whole construction effort preventing me of an inside look, so I decided to take a peek from neighboring Palm Beach Plaza mall. From this angle I got a decent view of recent work.

Acqua Aruba
Facade of ongoing construction work at Acqua (stucco work on the southern tower visible in picture finished)

What I saw didn’t really impress much. I mean, people are working and the development of the construction ongoing but nothing more. Currently they are pouring concrete of adjacent towers, which is not visible in the combination of pictures. Work in progress.

Acqua Aruba
Construction at Acqua

De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis Adventures

In a news conference local giant tour operator De Palm Tours announced the acquisition of Atlantis Adventures. Atlantis offers submarine and semi-submarine excursions. Additionally they offers shore services to cruise lines. Officials from both companies announced that that the transaction was finalized on February 1, 2011 (almost two weeks ago), without offering details about the sum involved. This transaction was rumored for some time and comes as no surprise. Atlantis was purchased back in the 90s for $4 million by the – now – former owners.

De Palm Tours claims it won’t effect the operation of neither company as both companies will continue to operate separately. On the short term perhaps but not on the long term. I believe this acquisition makes a lot of sense. Now De Palm Tours has a better filled portfolio of products and services. Whether or not this deal will be beneficial to the customers has yet to be seen.


De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis

I see some issues down the road, however. De Palm Tours has now become more powerful in the shore excursion scene, beware cruise ships. I foresee a cut in positions in the future. For example, some of these excursions are executed with two staff (De Palm Tour bus driver and Atlantis tour guide) which now could be done by just the driver alone. Lastly, just a few months ago Atlantis partnered with another company – in direct competition to De Palm Tours – to launch a bus tour operation that now has an uncertain future. Acquisitions are very uncommon in Aruba, only deep pocketed companies (or have good connections to local banks) are able to do this and there aren’t too many of them.

Pictures: Alhambra Bazaar and Casino Renovations

Several weeks ago I took notice of the construction at Alhambra Casino. This aging facility located at Punta Bravo also features a shopping center. This property has a distinctive Arabian theme which really stood out. Alhambra is owned by Divi Resorts.

A quick view outside shows a revamped parking area and ongoing, be it minor, renovation activity. Is it really so minor? That’s what I thought at least. After I received a tip from a reader I decided to take a closer look and saw how this renovation included taring down of large parts of the building.

Alhambra Renovation
New pavement for the parking lot at Alhambra

Currently the only part of the building standing is the Casino (which is going to be renovated as well) and Subway. All other shops (including Dunkin’ Donuts) had to make room for the renovation. In the combination of pictures you can appreciate the work that’s being done currently.

Update: The casino is expected to remain open throughout the renovation.

Alhambra Renovation
Front view of the casino with new parking lot

Alhambra Renovation
Middle square of the mall, with the casino in the background

Alhambra Renovation
A view to Casa del Mar, from Alhambra Bazaar

Alhambra Renovation
Steel framing visible at Alhambra

Alhambra Renovation
No more shopping at Alhambra (for now)

Alhambra Renovation
Destruction of old building

Off topic: Aruba Gasoline Price Surge

Note: This post is not linked directly to tourism.

In Aruba gasoline prices changes once a month and tomorrow it’s increasing. This is the forth consecutive month with an increase and there’s no end in sight. Compared to last month the price increased with almost 5%. With $4.48 per gallon ($1.18 per liter) this is the highest levels the prices of gas has been in over two years. In October 2008 gasoline was at an all-time high with $5.55 per gallon.

The most upsetting part is how the prices are established. All stakeholders come together once a month (minus consumer groups) and they set the price. It’s done in a way that no one (beside the little group that comes together) really has slightest idea of how it’s established. I see no signs of this changing either. Do you smell the inflation? For more information visit ArubaGasoline.com.

Aruba Gas
Gasoline this month: $4.48 per gallon

Do you wonder how it is elsewhere? Below there’s a quick list with some prices to compare, for your reading pleasure.

Prices are in US dollar per gallon (US dollar per liter in bracket):

  1. Netherlands $8.14 ($2.15)
  2. Aruba $4.48 ($1.18)
  3. Canada [daily average] $4.28 ($1.13)
  4. Jamaica $3.90 ($1.03)
  5. USA [daily average] $3.07 ($0.81)
  6. Trinidad & Tobago $2.27 ($0.60)
  7. Venezuela $0.09 ($0.34)