Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Heavy American turnout, as young families and retirees all lounge and laugh together.
An equal mix of young couples and retirees, but everyone was ready to forget the outside world. This involved leaving the kids at the Fun Club, dropping quarters at the Casino, and downing drinks at the pool's swim-up bar.
Many guests were from New York or elsewhere in the United States. Half the passengers on my flight to Aruba turned up at the Occidental. If we'd known, we'd have carpooled!
Friendly (if not exactly chatty) and very, very fast.
Check-in and checkout wasn't a matter of minutes -- it was a matter of seconds! The staff here are friendly and professional, but they're focused on keeping things moving. I don't blame them -- the Occidental receives a lot of guests. If witty banter comes at the price of waiting in line, I can do without it.
Surrounded by resorts, so don't be surprised to find crowds.
Only 10 minutes from Oranjestad, the Occidental shares a bustling street with popular hotels like the Radisson, the Riu, and the Westin. This means you'll find plenty of eye candy on the beach, but it can get pretty crowded.
For a more local flair, guests can walk up to De Palm Pier (near the Radisson). There's a great bar with live music at the very tip of the pier, overlooking the ocean. Grab a drink and hitch a ride on one of the many cruises that take off from the pier every day.
Landlubbers can always check out the many great restaurants across the street. And then, of course, there's always Hooters.
Crowded, active beach, with plenty of outings on tap.
Guests from nearby hotels stroll by, as do vendors selling scuba diving lessons and boat rides (which are some of Aruba's main draws, thanks to its pristine, hurricane-free waters). Tattoo, a popular company in Aruba, has booths for all sorts of water sports every few yards down the beach. De Palm Pier is at the end of a long wooden plank heading into the ocean. I steeled myself with a drink before heading out for a "sunset cruise."
My Deluxe Room was perfectly clean and comfortable, even with the air conditioner set to arctic. The room was large enough to spread out a week's worth of supplies, but the TV cabinet was squeezed in between the foot of the bed and the wall behind it. This meant that every time I opened the cabinet to watch TV, the doors closed off the only route from one side of the room to the other.
The balcony was really more of a ledge. There was no space to relax.
The 24-inch Daewoo TV was, well, small. Not that I was able to watch anything on it: A storm had knocked out the hotel's satellite. If only I'd brought along DVDs, I would have been able to pop one into the matching Daewoo DVD player.
The beds are beautiful, with a grand wooden headboard to match the rattan ceiling fan. Comfortable enough to sleep in -- nothing to write home about -- but it was light-years ahead of the beds at the neighboring Radisson.
The bathroom is well lit, but the multiple dividers between the toilet, sink, and shower just make an already small bathroom seem smaller. Shampoo is mounted to the wall in a pump, but it's serviceable. Water pressure was good, even though the "cold" water could only turn lukewarm.
The Occidental has Wi-Fi (a rarity in the Caribbean), but it costs $15 per day. At the business center, guests can also access the Internet for $5 per hour.
The on-site Kids Fun Club i's nothing special.
The Kids Fun Club is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Parents use it as a drop-off center. Tykes can spend time watching cartoons or filling coloring books.
No special décor, but still popular for gamblers and voyeurs alike.
The Casino is prominently displayed right by the lobby, which made its modest interior a tad disappointing. Still, it draws quite a crowd. With slot machines and dealers at the tables, you can take the plunge or just watch from the bar.
No complaints during the entire stay.
Better options off-site
The Occidental has six restaurants, but there are much better restaurants just across the street.
Our first buffet at the poolside Beach Club was a mixed bag -- the outdoor space was breezy and comforting, but the light snacks and desserts were thoroughly ordinary.
Breakfast at the Palm, dubbed an "international buffet restaurant," was a breakfast buffet without eggs, waffles, or pancakes. That's pretty standard for breakfast, right?
Other restaurants include Italian at L'Olio, Mexican at El Olvido, sushi and Asian food at Zen, and Caribbean fusion cuisine at Desire.
A lively, modern resort in Aruba's tourist center, the Occidental draws young couples, families, and retirees -- all playing together on the hotel's active beach. Comfortable rooms, polite service, and a lagoon-shaped pool -- but less impressive on-site cuisine. Not to worry, though: Great restaurants, bars, and shops are only a walk away from the High-Rise complex.