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Ever-Changing Aruba

September 5, 2011 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent



The Aruba Harbor
The Aruba Harbor; cruise arrivals shot up remarkably during the first five months of this year.


Like most Caribbean islands, Aruba is on the road to recovery from the catastrophic year in travel that was 2009. In fact, according to the Aruba Tourism Authority, North American visitation was up 1.48 percent last year from 2009. More importantly, in July of this year, Aruba reported 50,558 U.S. visitors, which represents a 6.5 percent increase over the same month last year. Here are some things you should know to help you better sell this island that is determined to keep those numbers on the rise.

Aruba Resorts News

Radisson Aruba Resort, Casino & Spa’s $30 million renovation includes a facelift for its buildings and an impressive overhaul of its rooms. The project began in April 2010 with the complete upgrade of the Bonaire and Curacao Towers, now operational. The work continues in the Aruba Tower, which will reopen in October. The casino will remain open throughout its $6 million upgrade that will occur in phases during the month of October. While rooms maintain their classic West Indian look and feel, modern comforts include a workstation and hermetically sealed sliding doors with airport-grade glass. Agents should contact Reservations Manager Raquel Lesire (287-526-6580, [email protected]) with questions.

Aruba Events

Inaugurated on June 9, the island’s new weekly “Carubbian” festival is held in San Nicolas every Thursday night, year-round, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., showcasing the multicultural charm of Aruba’s “Sunrise City.” Tourists can purchase a package at their hotel that includes roundtrip transportation. The center of activities is a stage area where the audience can relax at tables and are treated to a variety of cuisines from the region and entertainment by locals. The main street closes to traffic, turning into a pedestrian mall filled with colorful booths selling local food, handicrafts and souvenirs, and with fun activities for the entire family.

The annual Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival is a cultural event that transcends its origins to present not only jazz, but also salsa, blues, rock and hip-hop. The festival also features film screenings, music-themed art expos, street theater and a diverse food court. Past performers have included Marcus Miller, Isaac Delgado, Michel Camilo and David Sanborn. The fifth edition of the festival kicks off in October.

The Aruba Music Explosion, scheduled for September 22–24, is a new festival that will focus specifically on the Latin American market but will be open to all visitors. In addition to the commercial flights, 13 additional charters from Venezuela will bring festival-goers. The festival, to be held at the Piedra Plat Entertainment Center, will showcase various musical genres and international headliners, including Michael Bolton, Air Supply, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Olga Tanon, Luis Fonsi, Servando y Florentino and Felipe Peleaz. Beach parties will take place during the day at Moomba Beach.

As the island looks to establish itself as the most fashion-forward in the region, Aruba in Style Fashion Week has officially opened its office at Renaissance Mall. Preparations are in full swing for this upcoming fashion and lifestyle event catering to the trade as well as a high-end consumer market. Aruba in Style will be produced in collaboration with IMG International, the company behind Miami and New York fashion weeks. This long-weekend soiree—from November 3-6—of runway shows, celebrity cocktail parties, premier DJ events, styling sessions and insider collection-reveals features foremost international designers.


On May 1, 2008, La Cabana Beach & Racquet Club embarked on an ambitious three-year project to renovate the guest units from floor to ceiling. The remodeling included brand-new tiling, furniture, appliances, artwork, LCD TVs and soft goods. The project was slated for completion last month. The renovated lobby has emerged with a bright new Caribbean look. On June 24, a soft opening took place, revealing a new porte cochere, efficient check-in pods, a new elevator, and a one-of-a-kind water and fire sculpture feature. For details, agents should contact Reservations Manager Debby Koleman (297-520-1126, [email protected]).

Now part of the Inn Suites Boutique Hotel collection, Brickell Bay Beach Club & Spa is a three-star boutique hotel that offers guests a unique island experience on the glittering high-rise strip, with 98 superior, deluxe rooms and suites, health spa on property, Wi-Fi, room service, outdoor tropical pool with swim-up bar and free shuttle service on Palm Beach. The newly renovated resort provides personalized service and added value in the form of a business center with free Internet, fitness center and 24-hour security. Agents should contact Reservations Manager Janet Arrendell ([email protected], 800-324-6965) for more information.

Airport/Air Service Update

Aruba’s Universal Air Service terminal, which serves private and business traffic, is set to begin the first phase of a three-part expansion project. The new facility has precipitated a vast increase in private air traffic to Aruba, particularly from Latin America.


Radisson Aruba
Radisson Aruba’s Curacao Tower has been renovated inside out; pictured here is its new-look Plaza Club room.


Presently, the terminal handles 10-15 arrivals and departures daily during non-peak periods. During peak periods, these numbers increase to 50-70 flights a day. The traffic includes mostly small planes from Latin America and larger Lear jets from the U.S. Phase one, projected for completion in a year, will add two new hangars, one of which will accommodate Aruba-based airline Tiara Air—the airline will commence daily commercial service to the U.S. by the end of this year. The South Side Apron will also be enlarged. Phases two and three will involve building of alternative runways for the private terminal and extension of the aprons.

The number of flights from the U.S. to Aruba for 2011-12 winter season will increase 6.5 percent compared with 2010-11. JetBlue Airways has added two extra flights (Mondays and Fridays) per week from JFK. AirTran Airways has a new route from Baltimore (twice weekly) and the Atlanta service is now daily, year-round.

New Tours and Attractions

De Palm Tours has a new tour package called Land & Sea Tour which promises a glimpse of Aruba’s fascinating history and culture, and unique flora and fauna. The tour includes a morning visit to the California Lighthouse, known for the panoramic view, and the signature divi-divi tree at Eagle Beach; an educational visit to Fantastic Gardens; and a drive through Frenchman’s Pass and the Balashi Gold Mill Ruins. This is followed by an afternoon at sea aboard the Sea Star, a luxury catamaran, cruising along the southern coast to Mangel Halto for swimming and snorkeling. Buffet lunch and open bar are included.


California Lighthouse
Tour operators have launched new packages that include a visit to California Lighthouse.

Fofoti Tours introduces visitors to the essence of Aruba with its four-hour Sights, History & Culture Tour. Stops include downtown Oranjestad, Alto Vista Chapel and California Lighthouse. Luxury air-conditioned bus passes are provided for a tour through Oranjestad of Government buildings, Wilhelmina Park, Boy Ecury monument, landmarks on Wilhelminastraat and Plaza Betico Croes.

Cruise News

Ola Cruises made its first call in Aruba on August 23 with 450 passengers aboard a ship that previously was Fred. Olsen’s Black Prince. Two calls have also been scheduled in December, during Christmas and New Year’s. A fourth call will take place in April 2012, with plans for more visits to Aruba. Fofoti Tours will organize all the onshore activities and programs for the cruisers.

Carnival has added Aruba to an eight-day Southern Caribbean cruise on Carnival Breeze— which is set to be launched in June 2012—from its homeport in Miami. The ship’s itinerary will also include Grand Turk, La Romana and Curaçao. The 1,004-foot-long vessel has a capacity of 3,690 guests and 1,386 staff and will bring together the best of its sister ships, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic.

Aruba has reported a whopping 32 percent increase in cruise arrivals from January until May compared to the same period last year. The port welcomed 203 calls, compared to 183 in 2010 and the number of cruisers went up by 39,795 to 368,860. In March, for the first time, the port received more than 100,000 visitors in a month.


Alto Vista Chapel
Alto Vista Chapel.


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About the Author

Joe Pike
Joe Pike is Travel Agent's senior editor covering the Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda; Hawaii; Central & South America. Previously, Pike was a newspaper reporter for The Asbury Park...

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By Joe Pike | September 5, 2011
Hotel upgrades, new cruise calls and an expanded airport enhance the island's profile. Here are some things you should know to help you better sell this island that is determined to keep its numbers on the rise.