Quality has gone down dramatically! Posted Aug 30, 2013
My husband and I stayed here 4 years ago for our honeymoon and had the best time. With the exception of check-in/dinner reservation process (which was a nightmare!), everything was really fantastic. Clean rooms, great food, excellent customer service. So when it came time to book another trip to Aruba we didn't hesitate to book at the Occidental again. I wish we hadn't - it truly tainted our amazing honeymoon memories! From the start, there were red flags. Once we booked, I contacted the hotel to see if there was a way to circumvent the dinner reservations once we check in, given the headache it had been the last time. It took me about 3 weeks, 4 emails, two phone calls, and 7 tweets (yes, I'm THAT girl) to finally get any sort of response from the hotel! Finally, they told me they would allow the "one time courtesy" of pre-booking the dinner reservations. Didn't appreciate the hassle or the attitude, but whatever. I got my reservations, I was a happy lady. Unfortunately, I should have known based on how long it took me to get in touch with the hotel prior to our stay, that this place has gone DOWN. When we checked in they instantly tried to do the time share thing with us, but I'm a frank person and have no problem saying "no, not interested at all." Our "Vacation Planner" Christina gave us her card, telling us we were her "VIPs" during the trip and to contact her with anything. HA. More to come on her. Check in time is 4:00pm. We arrived early, fully understanding that we wouldn't be able to check in early based on the reviews we read. (Note that this is fine, even though about 90% of the hotels I've ever stayed at DO accommodate early check in.) We weren't able to get into our room until 5:15. That's right -- AN HOUR AND FIFTEEN minutes late. Do you know what would happen if I checked OUT an hour and 15 minutes late? You can bet I'd be charged for the day. Fine, we were about to move on when we bumped into Christina! Hey, we're her VIPs after all. When we told her, her response was, and I quote: "That's terrible! You should talk to the front desk." PAUSE. "Can I talk to you about our vacation club?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Fine, Christina was a waste of time, got it. This point was further proven as we were checking out. We probably saw her once a day on our vacation. Each time she instantly approached us and treated us like her best friends. "Are you sure I can't talk to you about the vacation club?" No thanks, Christina. Then, during check out, my husband and I sat in the lobby with our luggage for about 45 minutes waiting for our cab. Christina was no more than 10 feet away from us the entire time. Did Christina come over to us, acting like our best friend, to say goodbye; have a safe trip; or thanks for staying? NOPE. Christina was done with us. (The vacation club pushing is a whole different issue of it's own. It has to stop. I've stayed at COUNTLESS places that have timeshares/vacation clubs -- Disney World is a perfect example-- and never once felt bothered by it. Learn how to do it, because you're doing it wrong.) Overall everything else in the place is FINE. Not nice, not horrible, just FINE. The pool area isn't filthy, just kind of.. dingy. That's a good word for everything here. Expect to wait 10 minutes for a drink at the pool bar. And then expect it to be watered down/melted/just generally not good. Get the beer, that's the best bet. The Italian restaurant is the best, and actually the only thing I'd say is GREAT here. Also I need to give a shoutout to our waiter in the Tepanyaki restaurant. I can't for the life of me remember his name and I really wish I did. He was THE BEST. He should teach customer service classes to this entire hotel. The Caribbean restaurant, desire, is AWFUL. Hands down the worst. We almost walked out and went to the buffet. The last major issue is the palapas, or beach huts. I get it. Everyone wants one and there isn't enough to accommodate all the guests. But you need to come up with a solution! You can't expect people to lay out in the caribbean sun all day without any shade available. My husband and I literally set an alarm every morning at 6:15 to wake up and drag ourselves down to the beach to unofficially reserve a palapa. Without exaggeration, at that point 75% of them are already taken. We'd then go back to bed for 2 hours! Nothing says vacation like a 6:15 wake up call! While there is a sign up saying this isn't allowed, no one enforces it and it's so rampant that it's what you have to do. Why not put MORE PALAPAS on the beach? Or even just some rentable beach umbrellas? I absolutely plan on returning to Aruba. But without a doubt, would not go back to the Occidental. This is so sad to me because I have such happy memories from my honeymoon. Occidental management, if you're reading this - PLEASE! Do something about the customer service and overall decline in the quality of your resort.