Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hanging out in Aruba's underwater café

Hanging out at an underwater café, some 20 feet under the Caribbean Sea, a cheeky little yellow and black fish nips my bottom.

Welcome to Aruba or Bon Bini as the locals say! I had always wanted to travel to the Caribbean - but as a fair-skinned redhead the prospect was challenging, and the idea of a week sitting in the shade just didn’t do it for me. I wanted to find somewhere to explore and have an adventure.

So, when the brochure described Aruba as an adventure playground with year-round sunshine, cooling trade winds, vibrant nightlife, and new direct flights from Gatwick (England) thrown into the bargain, I could not resist a week away to this small and friendly island paradise.

Aruba, I later discovered, lies just off the coast of Venezuela, and is the 'A' in the ABC islands – its counterparts being Bonaire and Curacao. As a former colony of The Netherlands, Aruba still has a strong Dutch influence visible in the colourful colonial architecture in Oranjestad, the island’s capital. Although the official language is Dutch, nearly everyone on the island speaks English, so no worries there, as well as the local tongue Papiamento. This is a lilting mix of a number of other languages - including Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, English and French with a sprinkling of Arawak – and it’s utterly baffling.

With nine miles of beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise seas, the island is picture perfect and a haven for sun-worshippers, but with freckles and factor 30 for company, I was more interested to find out what else this Dutch Caribbean island had to offer. Watersports are a-plenty in Aruba, from kitesurfing and windsurfing, to snorkelling and scuba diving - and even a curious combination of both in the form of Snuba.

As a non-diver, however, it was Seatrek, which seemed the best way to explore Aruba’s magical underwater world and I was mesmerised. Huge blue parrott fish, and what seems like a rainbow of marine life surrounded us during our rather unusual walk along the seabed. Wearing a helmet pumping oxygen to help you breathe, and prevent you from floating back to the surface, my trek is anything but graceful. Instead we looked more like budding astronauts bouncing on the moon as passed submerged aircraft in this make-believe underwater park.

For my next adventure we set sail along the coastline to find the Caribbean’s largest shipwreck for a spot of snorkelling. And we found it: the 400ft long Antilla, a German freighter, which was sunk in 1940 when the Germans invaded Holland during World War II. The wreck sits in shallow water, so even beginner snorkellers can get a good feeling of its huge forbidding bulk. Our boat Mi Dushi seemed a little incongruous with our tropical surroundings. Built in Sweden in 1925 of oak and mahogany, it was apparently one of the last great authentic sailing ships still operating in the Caribbean. Whatever its origins, on deck a party was starting, with one song which was to become the anthem of the holiday – the Beach Boys’ Kokomo blasting on the speakers. "Aruba, Jamaica ooo I wanna take you, Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama…"

Back on dry land, the pristine beaches of the south coast, where all the island’s hotels are situated, contrast dramatically with the island’s arid, desert-like interior. Cacti and huge rock formations make up the rugged northern coastline, which is best explored on an off-road adventure. I opted for a jeep safari with local operator De Palm Tours, but horse-riders and thrill seekers on ATVs roared past us as our group stopped at some of the island’s most interesting sights, the California Lighthouse, the lonely but charming Alto Vista chapel, and the ruins of a former gold mine, Bushiribana.

Although we stayed at the one of the island’s few all-inclusive resorts, a great tip for holidaymakers looking to save money, we could have dined out on different style of cuisine every night, as the island caters for every appetite and budget. A little local restaurant, Papiamento came highly recommended. Housed in a fully restored authentic 19th Century Aruban house, you can dine inside the elegantly furnished rooms or outside around the pool surrounded by enchanting fairy lights and exotic plants. I tried a Caribbean casserole of fish, shrimp and scallops served in a lobster cognac sauce followed by the owner’s speciality, Eduardo's Seafood Pot, to share - a handmade clay pot filled with locally caught seafood and herbs. The fusion of Dutch, Latin and Caribbean culture on the island have combined to create a spicy and sizzling nightlife.

So after an exhausting but exhilarating week I headed out to meet Reggie and Sabine, founders of dance school Aruba Salsa to learn some steps. Aruba’s islanders never need an excuse to party and their infectious enthusiasm for fun ensures a good night out. The salsa club I found myself shaking my hips at, Mambo Jambo, is just one of the island’s many nightspots. After a few local Ariba Aruba cocktails to pluck courage, and that Beach Boys song playing for the one-hundredth-zillionth time, I was partying like the best of them. Written by Claire Horwood from the United Kingdom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

JetBlue Twice to Boston, Earn a Free Flight to Aruba

JetBlue Twice to Boston, Earn a Free Flight;
TrueBlue members who take two trips to Boston between now and May 31, 2009 can receive a free ride to Cancun, Aruba or anywhere else JetBlue flies.

Members completing two roundtrip flights between Boston and Denver, Las Vegas, L.A./Long Beach, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco or Seattle can receive a free roundtrip travel certificate that can be used for a roundtrip flight to any of JetBlue's destinations. To be eligible for the free flight, you must register at www.jetblue.com/bostonwest before booking your tickets online between March 19 and May 31, 2009. Members who complete two flights on eligible routes by May 31 will receive a travel certificate on or after June 15, 2009 that can be used for a roundtrip flight on JetBlue. The free travel certificate is valid for travel until Dec. 15, 2009 and capacity controls and blackout dates may apply. LINK: http://www.jetblue.com/bostonwest

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Soul Beach Festival Aruba

Estelle & Jamie Foxx for Aruba Soul
Estelle set to headline Aruba Soul. British soul sensation and Grammy Award winner, Estelle, joins R’n’B star Jamie Foxx to headline this summer’s Aruba Soul Beach Festival.

The event kicks off on the sun-kissed Dutch Caribbean Island on May 20th.

The star-studded five-day soul party takes place in venues across the island including Aruba’s pristine white sand beaches and coolest night clubs and will also feature performances from R’n’B and hip hop artists Robin Thicke, Common, Wayne Brady and Etana.

Festival ticket packages start from $180 and include entrance to all three main stage concerts, which take place in Oranjestad the island’s capital, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings made before April 15th will receive a ten per cent discount. Single night concert tickets are priced from $65. To book and for more information visit Soul Beach

Saturday, March 21, 2009

DJ Roog at Confessions- March 21, 2009

Roog @ Defected In The House @ SET, Miami If previous Defected In The House events are the omen for this upcoming WMC edition, you are in for a treat! An international line-up will rock Miami's hotspot SET like there's no tomorrow. Roog is one of this years' headliners and he will be joined by Kenny Dope, ATFC, Simon Dunmore, DJ Spen, Yass, David Penn, Studio Apartment, Baggi Begovic, DJ Tekin and Marc Evans. If you're looking for a perfect place to find hot new producers and the next big record then you'll find them all at the Defected In the House Miami show.

confession night club

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chef from Sweden gives thumbs up to Moby Dick’s

PALM BEACH – On Friday Night, Moby Dick’s Seafood Restaurant had the pleasure to welcome Chef de Cuisine Kenneth Akerlund of Gastis Jokkemokk in Sweden.
Although they didn’t realize that they had a famous chef in the house, Moby Dick’s served up the most amazing Lobster Thermidor he’d ever had. Chef Akerlund said “Many thanks for the fantastic Lobster Thermidor. I did not know Moby Dick’s is one of the best! I’ll be back again next year!”
Moby Dick’s Seafood Restaurant is located in the Paseo Herencia Mall @ PALM BEACH on the corner with the most beautifully appointed underwater dining room you’ve ever seen.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ritz Carlton to Aruba

ORANJESTAD-The government has surprized many on the island on Wednesday by announcing theconstruction of a five star luxury Ritz Carlton Resort. The present and past governments have for 15 years tried to attract a prestigious five star resort brand such as the Ritz Carlton in Aruba, withnot much success. With great pride Prime Minister Nelson Oduber announced that the parties involved in the negotiation of the proposed Ritz Carlton project have reached an agreement, and construction of the resort will start shortly. The Prime Minister admitted that the road to bring Ritz Carlton to Aruba was long and difficult, but was pleased with the final outcome.Aruba's tourism industry has long matured, and it is now time to elevate the quality of the tourism product to a higher level, by attracting the luxury market and that of high excellence. Contrary topast hotel projects, it is agreed that the Ritz Carlton hotel will not receive tax holiday from the government, nor will the government stand guaranteed for the project. This project will not cost Aruba tax payers money, but will provide money to the government and locals once the resort is operational.The hotel will be constructed north of the Marriott Resort on Hadicurari Beach, and it will be namedAruba Ritz Carlton Resort Spa & Casino. Ritz Carlton Aruba will consist out of 320 rooms of highquality design consistent with the standards of Ritz Carlton. The construction of the five star hotelproperty is priced at US$200 million. Aruba Investment Bank is the biggest financial stakeholder inthe project.While many hotel projects in the Caribbean are being cancelled because of the present global financial and economic crisis, the construction of Ritz Carlton in Aruba is a sign of confidence in thetourism product and the economy of the island. The construction of the hotel is welcome news forthe construction sector, it will provide 425 construction jobs. Ritz Carlton Aruba will employ 500 people once the hotel is operational. An additional 550 indirect jobs will be created because of additional tourists. Oduber says there is no need to attract much foreign labor, as 900 students complete their studies each year on the island.Oduber emphasized that attracting an additional five star hotel on the island does not imply that Aruba is a five star tourism destination, but it is a step forward in achieving that goal. "We have to continue to improve our tourism product, through educating and motivating employees working in the sector, and hotels should improve and upgrade their facilities." The government will continueto push for the relocation of the container terminal from Oranjestad to Barcadera, and soon announce the start of revitalizing the main street of Oranjestad.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Aruba Offers Couples A Romantic Beach Escape or Destination Weddings And Honeymoons.
Aruba, the island that boasts year-round ideal weather, world-class beaches and breathtaking sunsets is a picture perfect place for a destination wedding or honeymoon - and offers everything couples need to celebrate the beginning of the rest of their lives together.
Destination Weddings in ArubaCouples choosing to get married in Aruba generally first have their civil ceremony - the legal part of the wedding - in the morning, followed by a beach blessing in the afternoon or evening. Civil ceremonies always take place in the Civil House, which is a historic, sea-colored renovated mansion in downtown Oranjestad. Couples then have the choice of many luxurious hotels and resorts in which to hold their ceremony and reception. From beach blessings on the sugar-white sands at sunset, to receptions aboard a catamaran, to reciting vows to the gentle rhythm of steel-pan drums, Aruba offers an authentic island experience for couples tying the knot.Below are current wedding packages being offered in Aruba:
Customized Weddings at Bucuti Beach ResortAt Bucuti Beach Resort, weddings are designed individually for each bride and groom. The resort offers a choice of packages to begin the planning process which includes a decorated wedding area on the beach, services performed by a non-denominational officiate, flowers, champagne and music, plus planning assistance from the resort’s award-winning wedding coordinator. In addition to the beach blessing, Bucuti Beach Resort will also coordinate a couple’s civil ceremony, and can offer a sit-down wedding reception dinner on the beach for up to 12 people, or a buffet-style dinner on the beach for up to 50 guests. For more information or to book a wedding at Bucuti Beach Resort, email weddings@bucuti.com.
“Free Caribbean Wedding” Package at The Holiday Inn Resort ArubaThe Holiday Inn Resort Aruba offers a “Free Caribbean Wedding” package exclusively for couples who book a minimum seven-night stay on the all-inclusive plan in a Superior Ocean Front Room. The package includes a romantic wedding location on the beach, professional wedding planning services, a non-denominational pastor, one-tiered wedding cake, garden-fresh bridal bouquet and boutonnière, a bottle of champagne, marriage certificate, preparation of all documents and a special gift from the resort. Themed decorations and a complimentary candlelight dinner for two are also included in the package. Videography and photography services, music and reception/banquet options are also available at additional costs. An $850 fee applies for stays less than seven nights. The “Free Caribbean Wedding” program is valid through December 31, 2009. For reservations and more information, call 1-800-HOLIDAY or visit www.caribbeanhi.com/aruba.
Kunuku Traditional Wedding Ceremony at The Aruba Marriott & Stellaris CasinoAt The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, couples have the option to get married under an archway replica of a traditional Aruban kunuku house on the resort’s pristine beach. Champagne and cake are served after the ceremony amid the sounds of Caribbean steel drums. Components of the package include a palm- fringed walkway to the kunuku archway decorated with tropical flowers; a professional photographer; a one-tier wedding cake; flower arrangements for the signage table, bridal bouquet and groom’s boutonniere; a bottle of champagne; one-hour of live steel drum music before and after the ceremony; the service of a non-denominational pastor; a wedding certificate as a keepsake; and services of the resort’s on-site wedding coordinator. This package is available year-round, and starts from $2,350, excluding service charges and taxes. For more information, please visit www.arubamarriott.com or contact the resort’s on-site wedding planner at 011-297-520-6634.
The Occidental Grand Aruba Offers Stress-Free Wedding PlanningFor those looking to plan a stress-free destination wedding, the Occidental Grand Aruba offers an online date confirmation system, save-the-date invitation tool, and value-added amenities for weddings, honeymoons and anniversary trips. Couples may simply visit www.occidentalweddings.com to reserve their wedding date, and an on-site wedding coordinator from the Aruba resort will contact them within two business days to create a celebration that fits their style and budget. Additionally, the online save-the-date tool provides a cost-effective and eco-friendly way for couples to send personalized notices to guests, and an online link for guests to reserve and pay for their rooms directly. As the Occidental Grand Aruba is an all-inclusive resort, a plethora of dining options and daily and nightly activities are available to guests throughout their stay, providing no surprises on the hotel bill at check-out time.
Rehearsal Dinner or Wedding Reception at SeaFor couples looking to celebrate their love at sea, they can host their private event aboard a catamaran on the Caribbean. For those planning their rehearsal dinner, Red Sail Sports offers a Dinner Sail experience, including views of the sunset along Aruba’s scenic coast, followed by a Caribbean buffet catered by award-winning chefs. Private charters for up to 38 people (seated) or 80 people (reception-style) are available, and prices start from $105 per person, for a minimum of 20 people. Red Sail Sports can also accommodate wedding receptions on their catamarans, and the relaxing sail is a perfect way to end a beach wedding. The boat departs from the Palm Beach pier and sails along Aruba’s scenic coastline. Guests can enjoy music, hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary bar featuring wine, beer and cocktails as they watch the sun go down over the water. Private charters for up to 100 guests are available, starting from $45 per person. To book a private sail, couples can email info@redsailaruba.com or call 011-297-586-1603.
Aruba Offers Exclusive “One Cool Honeymoon” Program for NewlywedsFor those who have already planned their wedding, Aruba also offers wonderful honeymoon options for those who have recently tied the knot. Honeymooning couples have always received the red carpet treatment in Aruba, and now they have access to even greater amenities through Aruba’s “One Cool Honeymoon” program. Honeymooners at participating hotels and resorts receive a bottle of champagne in their room upon arrival, a souvenir gift from their resort, as well as one free hotel night stay upon their return anniversary visit. Honeymooning couples also receive special discounts on spa treatments, island tours, snorkeling excursions and on meals at select restaurants. Newlyweds only need to identify themselves while booking their hotel accommodations to automatically receive these special offers. For more information on participating Aruba hotels and resorts, visit www.aruba.com/SpecializedVacations/weddings.aspx.

Aruba Divi Resort hosts Cheerleaders Swimsuit Calendar shoot

Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives Hosts New England Patriots Cheerleaders For This Year’s Swimsuit Calendar Shoot
Due to the resorts picturesque tropical beachfront setting and variety of dining and activity choices, the Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusives has been selected as the official host venue of this year’s New England Patriots Cheerleaders exclusive swimsuit calendar shoot.
The photo shoot will be taking place from Friday April 24th to Friday May 1, 2009 at both the Divi Aruba and the Tamarijn Aruba, located just steps apart. These all inclusive, oceanfront sister properties are situated on a wide stretch of sandy beach facing the sparkling turquoise Caribbean Sea, making them an ideal backdrop for stunning photos.
Over the course of the week, the Cheerleaders will be participating in various activities throughout the resorts with fans who have booked their trip with TNT Vacations as part of the Celebrity Come Along program. Activities range from beach volleyball to private dinners and cocktail parties to autograph sessions and special dance performances taking place within the resorts. Anyone booking the trip will have full use of the Divi & Tamarijn Aruba’s 10 dining options, three swimming pools and wide range of activities available all inclusive to guests of both resorts.
Located just ten minutes from the airport and five minutes from Aruba’s capital city, Oranjestad, the Divi & Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive resorts are set on beautiful Druif Beach, with a shopping arcade and the Alhambra Casino nearby. Guests staying at either the AAA 3-Diamond Divi Aruba or the adjacent, oceanfront Tamarijn Aruba have use of all facilities and services of both properties. All stays at the Divi & Tamarijn Aruba include all meals and snacks at a choice of ten dining options, unlimited beverages at seven bars, the use of three freshwater pools, a wide range of activities including non-motorized watersports and nightly entertainment and offer a variety of packages. In addition, all guests may use the well-equipped Divi Winds Sports Center, which features a 30-foot outdoor rock climbing wall on the beach.
For reservations and more information about Divi & Tamarijn Aruba, contact your travel professional or 1-800-554-2008, 207-594-7888 or visit the resorts’ websites at www.diviaruba.com or www.tamarijnaruba.com.
To book the 7-night all inclusive trip with the Cheerleaders from TNT Vacations, call 1-888-GO-TNT-GO (1-888-468-6846) or visit www.tntvacations.com. TNT Vacations is New England’s leading provider of popular vacation packages to the Caribbean and Mexico, as well as Bermuda, Costa Rica and more. Over 3.5 million passengers have traveled with TNT Vacations since it was founded in 1974 by Chairman Steve Belkin.

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