Continuing my posts on Aruba, this is more about the disappointing Hyatt Regency Aruba, here is the previous post if you would like to start from the beginning.
This resort has beautiful grounds complete with caged macaws. It felt tropical, luxurious and refined. There were landscaped waterways that led to a restaurant area over the water featuring black swans and a handful of iguanas. Not all of the landscaped water features were functional during our stay and left a couple of swamps in areas, keeping in the theme of our stay there, not a catastrophe, but something so easy to fix you wonder why it hadn’t been. The surroundings were lush and felt more like Hawaii than the Caribbean.
Hidden throughout the landscaping were hot tub jacuzzis and a waterslide. The pools were placed at several levels and allowed for at least one children’s height pool with a gradual step down approach to deeper water. There were four pools from what I could count, and two jacuzzis, though it’s possible that more were secluded in the trees and hidden pathways.
The waterslide which was fast enough that the Sherpstress had to go down again before we left, a little too fast for our daughter to enjoy. The largest pool was set up for volleyball every day and featured rows of deck chairs as well as a swim up pool bar.
“They rent these umbrellas six months in advance” – Hyatt Employee
A reservations agent on the Diamond line explained that umbrellas around the pool area are locked up long before we even bought our plane tickets. While I don’t mind a little planning ahead, we knew a family that showed up to the property and paid $550/night for a small suite (no breakfast or lounge access included) and couldn’t snag one of these for any of their six nights and seven days. That’s ludicrous.
Just to reiterate, that’s a customer who left another resort (the Ritz Carlton), and showed up ready to pay $3300 for six nights without any additional services (they ate every morning breakfast in the restaurant for four of them)… and they couldn’t get an umbrella. I have been a Diamond member for several years now, and have re-qualified through Feb 2017 in July and I can’t get an umbrella either (though they did provide a Palapa that was held for us, other beachgoers did not respect the reservation).
There has to be a better system. I believe that Joel Bunde, the new GM of the property that previously managed Hyatt Curacao before it’s closure, is trying to make a system that works for more clients than just those in the know, but as of right now, it’s a hot button issue among guests. Leading from the pool area to the beach there is another bar and restaurant with some TVs fixed on sports and a stand-alone juice bar.
Palapas are their own kind of “umbrella issue”. I described them in my post about the Holiday Inn Resort Aruba but at the Hyatt, there were really two problems. The first is that the reservation process was being switched from in-person to online, but at the end of the afternoon (reservations for the next day opened at 4 PM) there was a line at the towel shack for people trying to secure their spot for the next day.
The second problem with the Palapas is that there is no way to show that a Palapa is reserved and depending from which part of the property you join the beach you might have been able to miss the numerous signs that state they must be reserved. One afternoon we left to drop off some friends at the airport and when we returned to our Palapa, which had been secured in advance of our stay, some strangers had made themselves at home. It was uncomfortable and we didn’t want to have to ask for our spot back, but the options weren’t good. Our daughter needs the shade of the palapa as she often gets tired from running around the beach and for when she is nursing. Our option in this case was to either ask these people that probably had no idea they had taken our spot to move, or worse, involve the staff to do it for us and essentially tattle. We didn’t like either of those options, though I doubt someone would have been as kind to us had we sat at one of their beloved umbrellas which mostly were unused by reserved parties during the days we were there to observe.
I am not sure what the right answer is for this problem, but the property doesn’t seem to know either. One one hand, you have the pool umbrellas secured by anyone way too far in advance, or you have palapas readily available during the stay poorly enforced. Why not just assign a room number to the spot and the better the room (assumedly the more you are paying Hyatt) the better your spot on the beach. Either way, you could eliminate the problem we encountered.
It may seem petty but this is a beach holiday at a premium resort. If you are like the family I mentioned and pay $3300 for a six-night stay do you really want to unroll a beach towel and lie in the sand? If you charge a premium you need to deliver a premium.
Casino and Shops
There is a casino on-site like seemingly all the properties on Palm Beach and it looked to be pretty busy. The hotel does their best to combat the smell of smoke coming out of the doors as they open and close and they actually do a pretty good job in a challenging environment as this portion of the lobby is also indoor/outdoor. You get two free $10 match play coupons at check-in but we chose not to use them.
Like all other complex sorts we saw, there are also some shops in between the casino and the beach but part of the building. Some of them are useful, like a mini-mart that can do some basic Starbucks drinks (very basic, not a full location) but also had some cheap and easy snack and breakfast items, soft serve yogurt, Haagen-Dazs and even some Hyatt Aruba apparel.
I lost my sunglasses early on and never found them. I am not one to buy expensive sunglasses for just this reason, but the pair I lost were Oakley’s that I had won playing golf. I did want to get some new ones and didn’t mind spending a little bit of money to do so. The store on-site was owned by an entrepreneur and not by Hyatt. There were sunglasses in the window and before I could even find a style I liked, I had the Pretty Woman experience, where it was assumed I couldn’t afford any of them. As readers of the blog know, as a result of this hobby, lines of credit are no problem and unbeknownst to the shopkeeper, I could have cleared her out on just one card. But obviously, I decided to find a pair I liked anyway, she said the price which was several hundred dollars. She then followed it with,
“Cheapest pair I have are $180.” – shopkeeper
I noticed she only carried Oakley’s or other premium brands, but I was still amazed that she was able to pay rent selling only very expensive sunglasses. As much as I wanted to return to the store and buy the most expensive pair I could find (a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – “big mistake, huge”), that would be childish and I don’t care about showing her up.
In the end, I decided that squinting was free.
If anyone knows the name for these things I am open to correcting this post. For the purpose of this article they were essentially floating foam sheet loungers that would support a couple of hundred pounds and allowed you to relax in the sea. This is one aspect of the stay that felt very luxurious about the property. They were available on a first come, first serve basis and were popular everywhere on the island including at other properties where I found them floating by or washed ashore (easy to spot as they are yellow, a very distinct texture and say Hyatt Regency Aruba on them.
These could not and should not be used in the pool, but rather just in the sea and at first I couldn’t understand why, but then it made sense. In the pools, there would be no room for anyone. I can’t think of a single place where you could have had more than just four or five without taking over the pool and ruining some people’s days. But for the tranquil sea water they were amazing and if it would fit into my carry-on, I would take them to every beach we visit.
Next up is a review of the restaurants that you won’t want to miss on property at the Hyatt Aruba including the lounge and Kraft Macaroni and cheese.
Have you stayed at this property? Were you able to secure a coveted palapa or umbrella? What’s your favorite resort in Aruba?