Just three hours flight time from Miami, the postcard island of Aruba is the perfect tropical meeting destination. That’s not just because of the phenomenal resorts and natural beauty. It’s also about the people. The annual Shoco Awards recognize the staff throughout hotel departments for their excellence in service and their unique contributions to hospitality.
“The value of what my teams do for tourism has always been the most important in the industry,” says Gerrit Griffith, GM of Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort.
Personally, I believe as planners, we’re the true winners because of the exceptional service. Pam Swank, president of DPS Incentives, said it best after our fam: “The service staff were especially genuine. They really like their jobs and seemed to serve from the heart.”
RENAISSANCE ARUBA RESORT
Located in the heart of Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad, the family-owned Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino ensures every guests needs are exceeded with two distinct hotels in one and an overabundance of activities, shopping and dining. The adults-only, 287-room Renaissance Marina has a fresh new look too that’s cosmopolitan, ultra-chic and sophisticated. It’s fabulous! Love the white confetti bed linens, the lounges where you can eat in comfy sofas and a very work-friendly table. The white palette is perked up with dynamic, bold and bright chartreuse, turquoise, and teal accents. Nothing is ordinary, and it’s all extraordinary, especially the full length mirror complete with an on/off switch!
This high style approach will revamp the Renaissance’s family-oriented 269 Ocean Suites in 2014. Next door, the Renaissance Convention Center is a planner’s dream comes true featuring 22,000 sf of flexible space with an additional 6,860 sf of eye-catching waterfront outdoor space. Space aside there’s also a wealth of diversions and distractions. Most notable, the 40-acre exclusive island with two private beaches: Flamingo Beach for adults; Iguana Beach for families. By day, the swaying palms, gentle waves, free WiFi, friendly flamingos and pretty white sand are just an 8-minute ride away from the Marina’s boat launch inside the lobby. At night, it’s a spectacular spot for themed events complete with lighting and awe-inspiring water views in the moonlight.
Hanna Mantel, a 13-year planner for the Creative Group selected the newly revitalized and vibrant Renaissance for her group for its competitive rates, and abundant offerings. It fit well within her group’s mid-budget and offered an exotic and affluent island option for her seasoned travelers.
HYATT REGENCY ARUBA RESORT
The moment one steps into the 357-room Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort & Casino, a serene peace embraces you with fragrant tropical scents and a gentle sea breeze. There’s a genuine paradise representative of the island’s Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish heritage with an irresistible sense of seclusion from the world. Every need and want is fulfilled at Hyatt Aruba, which boasts over 60% repeat guests. New renovations have transformed the Hyatt’s guest rooms and public areas into elegantly lavish retreats emanating a residential coziness and style. There’s also a completely restructured, flower-topped Ruinas del Mar restaurant with more spacious outdoor seating, and Mexicado is a new truly authentic restaurant with tableside guacamole and extensive tequila bar. A magnificent new beach deck is now available for events, and coming soon, extensive renovations are planned for the 12,250 sf of meeting/prefunction space.
The newly renovated ZoiA Spa opens up to an 8,000-sf, 3-level pool complex with cascading waterfall and 2-story waterslide, surrounded by tropical gardens. There’s also endless activities available through Red Sail Sports, including catamaran sail cruises and snorkeling. Looking for Golf? Tierra del Sol, the first championship golf course in Aruba, presents an 18-hole, Robert Trent Jones II, par-71 challenge with impressive greens and island views to revere.
For fellow greenies, the Hyatt is Aruba’s first Green Globe-certified high rise resort on Palm Beach earning “Silver Status.” The most impressive accomplishments for the award include community work by employees through Hyatt’s volunteer EMBRACE Project (Employees Maintaining, Beautifying, Revitalizing Authentic Cultural Elements). Love that!
RADISSON ARUBA RESORT
The astonishing 355-room Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa is exceptional. A 15-acre tropical oasis underwent a recent $30 million renovation, enhanced by a well tenured, hospitable staff with attentive service. Known as the first hotel in Aruba and the flagship of the chain, the Radisson has been delivering four-diamond luxury for over 10 years.
Offering very forward-thinking, modern Caribbean luxury, this hotel appeases one’s wanderlust for island adventure, with custom-designed colonial West Indian furnishings emphasized by 4-poster beds, marble bathrooms and balconies with breathtaking views. The 15,000-sf of special event space with five function rooms and an 8,100-sf ballroom adorned with sculptured blown-glass chandeliers ensure that most meeting and event needs can be met.
The property’s pinnacle is having Aruba’s largest expanse of white sandy beach on the island and a sparkling free-form pools with 24,000 sf of dedicated event space encircled by exotic lagoons, cascading waterfalls and lush manicured gardens. When you imagine the ultimate poolside Caribbean party on a perfect beach, you’re imagining the Radisson. You’ll also be enchanted by the unique interactive aviary program with nine tropical birds including macaws, a sulfur-crested cockatoo, African grey parrots, a Cuban Amazon parrot and a Brazilian toucan.
Another big lure for the Radisson is its award-winning oceanfront Larimar Spa. It’s most notable for incorporating indigenous island ingredients into each of their treatments and offering 10 separate treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center facing the beach.
MARRIOTT ARUBA RESORT
The 413-room Marriott Aruba Resort & Stellaris Casino has continuously improved each year and remains exceptionally well maintained. New highlights include a stunning, tropically elegant adults-only pool perfect for events, a refreshed casino, and ahead this summer, a complete meeting space renovation with some reconfiguration to add more square footage.
Yay! You can never have too much from my humble planner opinion, and the Marriott’s 30,000 sf of outdoor space is breathtaking. This Marriott exudes the tropics in a warm and friendly atmosphere with 4-story high ceilings in the lobby and floor-to-ceiling glass windows showcasing Aruba’s beautiful sunsets, pools, palms and palapas.
You can’t help but relax here and think of frothy fruit drinks and curling your toes in the warm wet sand.
The ideal size group for the Marriott is 150 with a max of 250. For more discriminating, smaller groups, the Tradewinds level offers a hotel within a hotel concept with 49 spacious elite rooms and extensive services including pillow menus, unpacking/packing, dedicated concierges and an exquisite lounge serving food and beverages throughout the day. It’s a delightful respite within the hotel where one can simply relax or join in the social company of colleagues.
Numerous restaurants and lounges offer delights for every appetite. My top faves: The versatile Simply Fish is fun for an upscale dinner on the beach under the swaying palms basking in moonlight. The always fabulous Ruth Chris is great for high-end dinners with a variety of private/semi-private room options.
Linda Tack, director, meetings/incentives for Van Zile Travel, is bringing two groups in 2013 to Aruba. She says that’s because she and her groups love the large volume of flights, easy customs and clean, safe tropical atmosphere.
For Linda’s 300 guests, the Marriott’s expansive meeting space and vibrant nightlife are perfect, while for a smaller 6-night incentive, the Hyatt’s courteous service, plethora of recreation and location set the stage for success.
She says, “Everything’s accessible, clean and friendly, with great service. Safe and very charming. It’s wonderful to enjoy hotels that have 100% occupancy and yet the pools and beaches feel unoccupied.”