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Thursday, February 21, 2013

ARUBA'S DIVI PHOENIX--CHARM IN A TIMESHARE


Aruba
The Divi Phoenix from out on the jetty
 Aruba’s charm is irresistible.  For many tourists, the introduction is simply a day stop on a Southern Caribbean cruise—a day of shore excursions to the beaches or a tour around the island, a walk  around historic Oranjestad where homes are painted in soothing pastels, a visit to the vibrant, colorful markets, or a meal in one of the excellent dining establishments the island has to offer.  Almost inevitably, the seed is planted to return to this sliver of paradise tucked warmly in the Caribbean.  And so you do.  So we did.

Rob and I stayed at the Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort, a condominium type hotel and timeshare (I surmise the new term is “vacation ownership”) in the high-rise section of hotels.  More on Aruba’s hotel areas in a later post.

There are five Divi hotels in Aruba: Divi Aruba Phoenix Beach Resort, Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort, Divi Dutch Village Resort, and two all inclusives, Divi and Tamarijn Aruba.  Vacation ownership is available in all, and full ownership is available at the Residences at Divi Village Golf and Beach Resort.  This is just one company.  Think of any major hotel chain, and it is represented in Aruba in a big way.

We also saw building going on for permanent residences intended for foreign retirees.  Perhaps that is the next step for this country.

Aruba
Terrafuse
You know Rob and I are fans of timeshares, and the Divi Phoenix is a pleasure.  Our suite is big and comfortable and very nicely appointed.  In the living room there hangs a glass sculpture reminiscent of Chihuly, but made in Aruba and called Terrafuse.  The Terrafuse studio, by the way, offers classes and tours if one is here long enough, and the work is quite marvelous.  We met a man who had taken classes there and loved it.

ArubaArubaOur one bedroom suite is lovely and painted in the relaxing, happy shades of teals and beige with the same colors incorporated in the artwork on the walls.  It is nicely decorated with comfortable furniture, a sofa, wicker chairs, and a coffee table in the living room, more than ample dresser and closet space in the bedroom and hallway in addition to the comfortable king size bed, a fully stocked kitchen, and two complete bathrooms, one with a whirlpool bath and a separate glass shower, and the other with a glass shower.   A louvered utility closet houses a washer/dryer.  There are televisions in the living room and bedroom.  The living room couch is a convertible should there be up to four in a party. There is a small dining area with room for four, and a kitchen island with bar seating for four. 

Aruba
What a beautiful way to start an evening.
The balcony overlooks the central part of the resort, the pools toward one side, over palm trees to the ocean in the center, and to the beach and ocean on the other side.  Just sitting on the balcony, cocktail in hand, watching the sun set over the ocean is one of the most wonderful parts of the day.  The sun set around 6:15 PM during our visit, and we make sure to be on the balcony or in some picturesque location each evening so we can savor the beauty. 

Aruba
from our balcony
At night colored lights fill the pools gently changing hues and creating a delectably romantic atmosphere.

The first night we arrive, we enjoy dinner in the hotel at the Pure Beach restaurant.  It was the finest Mahi Mahi I’d ever eaten, but more specifics on Pure Beach in a later post.

The Divi Phoenix has two freshwater pools, one with a swim up bar (need you ask if we swam up?), but we were not here for swimming pools.  There’s a smaller pool in another section for water games.  Each morning I join a terrific water aerobics class that actually has men attending as well as women!  Most unusual.  I like these and participate each morning while Rob walks.  He’s not into water aerobics.

Aruba
No problem relaxing here--and plenty of shade. 
Make sure you use a strong sunscreen.
The beach is fantastic.  There are ample palm trees and palapas to provide shade, and though there are the usual idiots who bring some item down before sunrise to “reserve” their space under a palapa, there are ample lounges and space in the shade for everyone.  Hammocks stretch between trees, but Rob and I have no problem snoozing on our lounges.

The sand is cool under foot, the trade winds belie the heat, and the water is a perfect temperature with an easy slope and sand bottom.  People float around on Swimways Spring Floats or rented floats.   It’s heavenly!

One important word of warning.  You need a good sunscreen.  The trade winds may make you feel cool, but you are very close to the equator.  The sun’s rays are very direct here, and I saw several people resembling lobsters.  Don’t be one of them.

If there is one negative aspect to spending a week in this kind of setting is that it has spoiled us for hotels which usually lack enough comfortable seating, and unless it’s a suite hotel, you have only one room. These days, I feel cramped!  I think I am spoiled.

Some people complain that there is the hard sell when you stay at a timeshare.  Sometimes that is true, and you just say no to invitations to tour.  In Aruba it was very different.  It was so low-key even we were surprised.

I think it all fits in with the Happy Island idea.  It works. 

We flew United, and when we boarded the plane, we were handed a big, Oprah-style magazine called Destination Aruba.  It was filled with history, information about transportation, money, post offices, medical facilities, prominent people, restaurants, festivals, duty-free shopping etc.  There were lots of advertisements for just about everything imaginable.  I read it cover to cover on the trip down, learned a lot, and altered some of the plans I already had in my head.  We hit the Aruban ground running.

As we headed to pick up our luggage at the airport, we passed a big Divi table, and people were handing out free Divi bags (similar to but bigger than the recyclable grocery bags) to everyone regardless of their hotel destination.  Inside was a slim brochure on the different Divi resorts, but outside was stamped the Divi logo.  Each tourist became a walking advertisement, but there was no attempt to do anything more.  I saw these bags all over the island.  They were light, folded, and big enough to carry many things.

At the Divi Phoenix we never received the usual “breakfast or lunch invitation plus tour,” but we were invited to meet a hotel concierge.  We did that, and he simply checked that everything in our accommodations were all right, helped us with suggestions for restaurants serving authentic Aruban cuisine, and answered our questions about the supermarket shopping and festivals.  Not once did he suggest a tour of Divi property or anything vaguely resembling a sales pitch.  If we were interested, apparently it was up to us to ask.  We weren’t, so we didn’t.



Aruba
The welcome party with music, drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and
a lot of friendly folk.

Aruba
A friendly staff is always
welcomed
  On Monday evening there is a welcome party—drinks, hors d’oeuvres, music.  No sales pitch, but a lot of information about resort activities, getting around the hotel strip, etc.  I had already become acquainted with Balashi Beer, the island brew, so I was quite content and enjoyed meeting some of the other guests.

No pressure—just relaxation, beach, and water.  Aruba is One Happy Island.


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