Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
The Arabian-style design looks out of place at this Aruban . Couples are the norm here, and some guests own their units.
The complex's three buildings are shaped like massive white sand castles, crowned by rounded spires and the word " " in a typeface that Microsoft Word probably calls Persian Excess. I'm all for throwbacks (I still listen to Ace of Base), but the Riu has a decidedly nonhistoric artificiality. The architecture looks woefully out of place in Aruba.
The lobby and adjoining Bob Bini Bar gave me the same impression. Purple Mediterranean furniture, grand high ceilings, and faux-royal made me feel like a patient in Aladdin's celebrity rehab. The elevators did not have air conditioning or ventilation, and the sweltering smell was made worse by the smell of rank rum punch.
The Riu used to be the Aruba Grand. (This old beach chair still has the former name.) In the summer of 2007, new construction was completed and it was renamed the Riu. The Aruba Grand, however, specialized in time-shares. According to many of the guests that I met, the Riu's ownership made no attempt to buy out the owners of those units. Many guests, including a husband and wife from New Hampshire staying in , actually own their rooms. "We just spring for the extra $350 a week for the all-inclusive," the husband said as the couple sipped Balashi beers at the Bon Bini bar. "It's a really good deal."
Couples of all sorts make up 98 percent of the clientele. I saw only two children, and no teens or college-age travelers. There were retired couples from America, younger ones from Brazil, middle-aged ones from Holland, and every age and place of origin in between. With a mandatory sports bar, and a smoky, boisterous casino, the is an ideal place for partying couples and vice-minded honeymooners.package that includes all food and drink, a 24-hour
The staff isn't particularly helpful, and many of them don't speak English.
Unlike staff at every other resort in Aruba, none of the four front-desk staff members spoke enough English to check me in. I communicated through a series of strained hand signals and then waited 20 minutes for the clerk to find the right forms. He spent five of those minutes searching the back room for receipt paper. The receptionist somehow communicated that my room wouldn't be ready for 45 minutes. I crossed the lobby to kill some time with the -- only the concierge leaves at noon every day.
The front desk staff told me that my bags would be waiting in the room. When I arrived at Room, the door was open but my luggage was not there. I returned to the front desk, where a lady told me she had no way of figuring out where my luggage was and had no idea why my door was open. The bags did eventually arrive, but it took two hours and several phone calls.
About 20 to 25 minutes from the airport, depending ontraffic; the surrounding area is safe, and nightlife and are nearby.
The Holiday Inn SunSpree, is a 10-minute walk in the opposite direction of (and about a two-minute cab ride along the - and palm-lined road). The High-Rise has many restaurants, including the fabulous , as well as a number of nightlife haunts, like a movie theater and a samba club misleadingly named .complex, a large downtown strip that ends at the
The location feels very safe. Between foot traffic from the High-Rise and tourists from a number of neighboring hotels -- the Holiday Inn SunSpree, Occidental, and Radisson, among others -- the area is well populated at night. For added security, frequent the outside the hotel.
Rooms smell like cigarette smoke; nonsmoking suites are nonexistent. King beds are really two doubles, but they're comfortable enough. Guests should note that some rooms are a long outdoor walk to the lobby -- and there's no cover in the case of rain.
My room smelled like stale cigarettes (every room is a smoking room at the Riu).
Set against dull red furnishings evoke a playboy's bachelor pad. But on the whole, the room was very clean. The bathroom was especially well maintained, as the towels were still warm and smelling of fabric softener., the
The "king-size beds" are really two double beds pushed together. The red-and-white checkered seemed as though they had a sweaty film. I made sure to pull my bedspread off before retiring to the hard mattresses. Many reviewers on TripAdvisor also complained about the mattresses being too firm, though most, like me, didn't have any trouble sleeping. Besides the bed was a small, dark with a black .
The 27-inch Zenith television got poor reception and only a few channels.
The room was a seven-minute outdoor walk from the lobby. Heavy rain made it impossible to walk that distance without getting wet.
The Riu's beach connects to the next door Westin's. If not for a couple of small signs telling me so, I would have had no idea where one property ended and the other began. Like the Westin's, the Riu's sand is no more than 30 feet wide and 100 feet long.
Available water sports include snorkeling, parasailing, tubing, and boating. The guides offered to sell me pot (the only time I got such an offer in Aruba) after I declined their standard, nature-related activities.
Blue and green beach chairs cover most of the available ground, shaded by and umbrellas. Most of the shady spots were claimed by midmorning; anyone who doesn't claim a spot early should bring plenty of sunscreen.
Two pools combine to create one giant aquatic complex with a on the floor. The main pool comes complete with a fountain in the middle and submerged beach chairs. The Palm Beach Pool Bar has swim-up access as well as a and a tucked in the corner. An feeds reggae and salsa into the speaker system. The second pool is also rectangular but . Few people choose it over its larger, more-beach-chair-saturated counterpart.
Free Wi-Fi in all guest rooms and in the lobby.
The casino is crowded and smoky, but small fortunes can be made here.
Smoky, loud, and crowded, the gaming room is even more packed than the Bon Bini bar at night.
Although the televisions played college football, I instead watched an exceedingly drunk man make an epic 15-minute blackjack run. He started even, went up $3,000, down $3,000, and then back up $5,000 before his two friends dragged him out.
The rooms are clean, and the property is pretty neat. However, cause the lobby to stink.
During my stay, the lobby smelled like a bowling alley, due to the strewn about the coffee tables. Of more concern was the gurgling leak that sprung from above a ceiling fan in the bar; a janitor's bucket was stationed underneath to catch the stream.
From my balcony, I had a perfect view of the pools, which appeared to be in fine, sanitary form. All of the restaurants were squeaky clean, especially , where whole battalions cleaned up after the voracious buffet crowds.
All restaurants are covered under the package, so I sampled as much as I could. When I was done, I went back to the 24-hour sports bar -- not because alcohol is also part of the all-inclusive package (which it is), but because no matter how much dinner I ate, all I wanted was .
Though dinner at the reservation-only restaurants begins at 6:30 p.m., diners gather on the Krystal, where guests are greeted with Champagne flutes. My favorite was Milano, a warm, red-bricked Italian joint with a huge buffet.at 6 p.m. to ensure that they get to make a booking. The choices include , a Japanese restaurant, and
Thecomplex across the street has a number of restaurants, including the excellent . These restaurants can get expensive, but are well worth the splurge.
Wedding packages are fairly standard for an all-inclusive resort, but the resort itself has poor service and smoky rooms.
A giant, Arabian-themed castle on the beach, the Riu Palace feels (and smells) less than authentic. Couples-heavy, the resort has two huge pools, a rowdy casino, a 24-hour sports bar, huge buffets, and a bustling beach. But service is scarcely competent, and rooms typically stink of cigarettes (nonsmoking rooms are not an option).