- Only one restaurant on site
- Stellaris Casino is a meandering 5-minute walk away
Low-key and quiet, attracting families and older guests who come for the beach, not the booze.
With the "Lazy River "-- a long, slow-flowing pool that carries half-dozing rafters from one side of the property to the other -- ping pong tables by the pool, and a Nintendo Wii Lounge for 12- to 17-year-olds, the Marriott Surf Club has "family-style" figured out.
Screeching kids wearing floaties shoot down the on-site waterslide again and again. Parents on beach chairs by the pool keep a lazy eye on their children. Older folks flip burgers on the do-it-yourself BBQs while their spouses fish jokers from the decks of playing cards at the picnic tables nearby. College-age partiers don't exactly swarm to the Marriott.
While the convenience store in the lobby and the fitness center get their fair share of traffic, bathing suits and suntans make the scene. The largely American crowd revels under various versions of umbrellas and cabanas, and I spied more than a few fast asleep, paperback books face-down on their chests. At the beach, mothers tote their young kids in and out of the considerable tide. The sand, which flows a few hundred feet, leads to the beaches of the Riu and Westin resorts.
In general, the staff is friendly and helpful. But check-in is a nightmare and the concierge is rarely at the desk.
Check-in was a nightmare. Just one clerk was working the front desk, and I baby-stepped in line for more than 20 minutes. The clerk turned out to be exceedingly sweet, but by that point I was too exasperated to appreciate her kindness. As was the case at the Holiday Inn SunSpree, I had to carry my own bags to my room (a couple of minutes from the lobby).
Otherwise, the service here is on point. At the fitness center, two women distributed towels, answered questions, and wiped down the machines. They, like the front desk clerk, were lively and upbeat. Extra towels arrived at my door in 15 minutes.
The concierge has excellent restaurant suggestions, but he was rarely available at his desk (think hour-long absences). I had to pose most of my questions to the front desk, where 10-minute lines were the norm.
A 30-minute, $30 cab ride from the airport, near shops, restaurants, and a movie theater in the High-Rise complex.
The airport is farther away from the Marriott than it is from most other hotels -- about a 30-minute, $30 cab ride (depending on traffic). Downtown Oranjestad is a 15-minute cab ride away. The beach is in back of the hotel, while a row of houses sits opposite the front parking lot.
The Surf Club is immediately off Aruba's single main road, which is lined with resorts. It is one installment in the Marriott's Vacation Club resort -- to its right is the Marriott Aruba Ocean Club, and to the right of that is the Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino.
The High-Rise shopping complex is a three-minute walk away. The High-Rise has many restaurants, including the fabulous Hostaria da Vittoria and a number of nightlife haunts, such as a movie theater and a samba club misleadingly named Mr. Jazz.
The location feels very safe. Between foot traffic from the High-Rise and tourists from a number of neighboring hotels -- the Holiday Inn, Occidental, Radisson, and others -- the area is well-populated at night.
The beach in back of the Marriott follows the tone set by the aptly named, Lazy River pool, which ends where the beach begins. Cabanas and trees shade guests while they read or play with their kids. The palm tree clusters and plentiful shaded recliners are necessary because the beach sun is so powerful that some soft sand patches are uncomfortably warm.
Drink service is virtually nonexistent, since hotel staffers generally stay off the sand. The closest drink outlet is a two-minute walk away at Seaworthy's pool bar, the swim-up station by the Natural pool.
Captain Monty's water sports offered deep-sea fishing. Another water-sports outlet offers wave running, parasailing, banana boating, and Jet Skiing. A long wooden pier juts about 100 feet into the water, serving as a docking lot for a number of small vessels. Tour groups gather on the pier for boat tours, a few of which take place every hour.
Very comfortable rooms with soft sheets, a powerful A.C., full cable TV, and an ocean view.
The room smells of freshly cleaned carpet. The sunlight from the balcony makes the modest space seem larger and more airy. The walls are white and undecorated, except for a mirror above the loveseat. Creating a cool, refreshing look, a blue color palate dominates the furnishings -- the carpet, loveseat, bed skirt, seat cushions, and beach towels are all blue. Even cooler is the astoundingly powerful A.C.
The silver 27-inch Sony TV receives full cable, including three ESPN stations. It swivels so that you can see it from anywhere in the room (except the corner table, where the hotel provides a cable for free, hard-wired Internet). Free Wi-Fi is available in the lobby, but the rooms only have the wired connection.
The king-size bed is tucked in the rear, right-hand corner and flanked by two dark wooden end tables. It has baby-soft white sheets and is stacked to the hilt with fat pillows. A cozy orange throw lays folded at the foot. The mattress is soft, without giving too much, and I got a wonderful night's sleep in its embrace.
The bathroom is minimally decorated, with two lamps by the mirrors above the sink. The sink is topped with a granite vanity, but is a bit small. Water splashed everywhere when I washed my hands. The shower was clean when I arrived, and it has excellent water pressure -- great for washing off the hotel's citrus face soap. The area between the bedroom and bathroom holds a coffeemaker, dishes, and even a microwave -- the store in the lobby sells a host of nuke-able eats, including pizza (yes!) and chicken nuggets (double yes!).
Designed for quiet, the thick hallway carpet is so plush that it sank and reshaped under my feet. I sprinted down the hall and the flooring's thick layers absorbed the sound. I was on the 11th floor, so even with the balcony door open the kids heading down the water slide didn't disturb my napping ... er, working.
The best feature is the "Lazy River" pool. This long, slow-flowing chlorinated artery carries half-dozing rafters from one side of the property to the other. There's also a more conventional Natural pool. Many loungers lie beside both pools, and cocktails are easy to come by.
The lobby convenience store sells blended iced coffees (to which I quickly became addicted). With all that extra energy, I made my way to the fitness center, where I had my pick of 86 clear-reception channels available on private televisions mounted on each machine. The fitness center also includes a room devoted just to free weights. The locker room has a sauna and steam room in addition to regal wooden lockers.
Free and fast Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere in the hotel (though rooms only have a wired connection).
A golf cart tram carries guests between the three Marriott properties. This service is free, although I felt obliged to tip my kindly driver. Walking to the casino at the Marriott Aruba Resort took five minutes (two on the golf cart shuttle).
A waterslide and a teens-only game room with Wii keep kids entertained.
Beside the Lazy River pool, the hotel has a huge waterslide. In addition, the hotel has a teen lounge on site, off the lobby, which is only for 12- to-17-year-olds. During my visit, it featured Guitar Hero and Nintendo Wii games. I was too old to enter, so I took solace in a sizable game room (where adults can play as well).
Maid carts circulate constantly, and the place is spotless.
Not a speck of dirt anywhere. I canvassed the hallways for rug burns and dusty shades, the bed sheets for wear, the balconies for strewn ash, but they all came up...well...clean. At the ground floor, a very vigilant man with a mop cleaned all the sand and mud dragged in from the beach. Maid carts constantly surf the halls.
Basic food offered at limited times at the Captain's Galley. It's best to eat elsewhere.
The Captain's Galley is the only restaurant on site, an outdoor spot next to the Natural pool. Open only during traditional mealtimes, it is shut down at, say, 3:30 p.m. Its menu is limited enough to display as a two-column billboard -- house specials include grilled cheese, grilled shrimp, and the Caribbean Fruit Oasis. A swim-up pool bar--Seaworthy's--offers cocktails, but no grub. The lobby convenience store sells sandwiches and snacks, but nothing fit for a hearty meal.
Eating off-site is the best option. The High-Rise shopping complex has a number of restaurants, and is only a three-minute walk away. The Marriott Aruba Resort also had in-house dining, such as the excellent (but pricey) Ruth's Chris Steak House.
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