Initial Thoughts on Hilton Aruba

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I just arrived at the Hilton Aruba a few days ago and wanted to share my initial thoughts. This is my second time at the property, with the first time prior to it changing ownership when it was still the Radisson Aruba. Overall, I wouldn’t know a difference. The resort is almost 99% the same with the same amenities and same service.

Here are my quick thoughts:

  • Overall service is the same. I haven’t seen a difference in maid service, restaurant service, front desk service, etc. I personally think the service is fine, but if you are used to the Four Seasons you probably wouldn’t be pleased with the service at this hotel. At the pool and the beach they will come around and take your food and drink order which is nice. I personally haven’t used the concierge desk, so I cannot comment on whether or not they are helpful. And maid service came mid-day and even cleaned up/folded the stuff in my daughters pack-n-play.
  • Internet is awful! I cannot remember if that is a change from last year, but I do not recall having the same issues. In-room service is in and out constantly so I wouldn’t plan on getting a ton of work done.
  • The palapas reservation system is the same. Palapas are shaded huts on the beach with lounge chairs. Palapas are free and available to reserve at 4pm the prior day. Although if you want to guarantee availability or one right in front of the ocean, you can pay and reserve ahead of time.
  • Happy Hour at Gilligan’s restaurant is still 50% off select drinks between 4-6pm everyday.
  • They are still offering kids eat free although no where do I see it advertised. All kids under the age of 12 eat free with a paid adult meal. I am not sure if this is at all onsite restaurants or just Gilligan’s. The kids means are also generous portions (I think the same size as an adult meal), so we are able to order an adult meal and a kids meal to feel my family of three during lunch time and save some money. My daughter is only 2 so not eating an entire meal herself.
  • They’ve painted the exterior white which makes the resort look a little nicer.
  • I do not believe they’ve changed one thing to the rooms. While some of the rooms are small, I personally do not care. I am hardly in the room and outside the entire day.
  • They now have a coffee place in the lobby which offers coffee and pastries. Perfect for those looking for a quick on the go breakfast.

The major difference is how they are honoring status. Now that it is a Hilton hotel, Club Carlson status no longer plays a role. It also seems like a month or so ago they changed the way they are honoring Hilton status (although it might depend on who you get at check-in). They are NOT honoring Hilton Gold or Diamond status IF you booked prior to the change of ownership with Club Carlson. HOWEVER, if you let them know that you were previously told that they’d honor your Hilton membership, they will do so. This did require the manager Nelson to come over and approve it though.

While they never checked the email I printed  out that said they’d honor my benefits, I did bring it just in case. All I said is that I emailed the hotel this past summer after ownership changed and was told all benefits would be honored. This includes continental breakfast for those with Gold status and executive lounge for those with Diamond status. And the executive lounge is AWESOME!

Overall, I really enjoy this hotel and that is why I came back again for the second time. However, with the number of Hilton points it now requires I’ll probably be hesitant to stay here on points vs. some of the other chain hotels (Hyatt and Marriott). I’ll be sure to write a more detailed post of this hotel after my week vacation (and when I have better internet)!

Let me know if you have any questions!

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Comments

  1. Considering most people have never been to this hotel, an article that says “service is the same as it used to be” tells me nothing. Is it good? Bad? Friendly? Surly? What’s a palapa and what’s the routine for reserving them? You’ve missed an opportunity to actually write a useful blog. Isn’t there any editing at Boarding Area?

    • @jenny – i’ll update the post, but not to worry – there will be more posts to come detailing out the hotel. I can also link back to my post from last year. I identified the route for reserving the palapas, but essentially they are little shaded huts on the beach with lounge chairs.

      And no, there is no editing at BoardingArea, each blogger is on their own.

  2. I have a 5-night stay coming up which was booked under Club Carlson. Currently Hilton Diamond. For a Hilton property to tell members that they don’t get the benefits (which they earned) just because they happened to book prior to a sale they had no control over says it all about the program and how serious it is about guest loyalty. It’s a Hilton property. If a Hilton guest has status, give them the benefits. End of story. Thanks for the tip on forcing your hand with the status. Will definitely try that.

  3. We stayed 10 nights in November 2014 and 8 nights in March, 2015 on Club Carlson points. We will return for the last time in February, 2016 for 8 nights on Club Carlson points.
    We never paid the very high 23.5% tax on any of our previous stays. Are they charging that tax for Club Carlson award stays? I sent an email to Hilton Aruba asking, but no reply.
    We are both Hilton Diamond so having club lounge access is a big money saver. Hope we don’t have issues! Enjoy.

  4. Great post. Thanks for summing it up so succinctly as a comparison to when it was a Radisson. I stayed there once and thought it was fine for a few days of beach time. Nothing amazing. Sounds like it’s about the same. For me personally, I’d rather give another place a try than return.

  5. My boyfriend and I are coming to this resort next week, and we already have a bad impression based on the hotel’s lack of responsiveness. We have tried contacting the hotel 3 times about an issue with our stay with zero response (phone and e-mail). Thus, we tried contacting Hilton customer service via e-mail and was told that they don’t have info on stays booked under the hotel’s previous ownership (Radisson), and that we’d have to contact the hotel directly. The whole reason we contacted Hilton was because no one from the hotel will respond….and we both have Hilton status. This run around is absolutely terrible. I hope it is not indicative of how the resort is being run.

    • @krystyna – I had the same negative experience with the hotel being unresponsive. If you email me I’ll send you the four email addressss I have.

  6. We are right now at the Hilton Aruba, as well, having booked with Club Carlson points when it was Radisson. I have Hilton Diamond, but they didn’t say anything about honoring or not honoring it. When we checked in the 21st, we were just told the club plaza was full and instead given continental breakfast at Gilligans. Because we got 2-night stays (using the free night) in alternating bookings between my partner and me, we actually have to renew our key card every two days and they seem to be treating it as four bookings despite twice asking them to just fuse it all into one booking (and, yes, they also did not respond to our email ahead of time, we had to call). Our room is nice enough, but the view is facing the parking area near the neighboring RIU – so nothing to see – and near the elevators and ice machine, which means a lot of noise in the morning. I don’t know if we should be asking when we renew the card to see if they have any upgrades or just settle for the room we have now?

    • Our last visit was for 8 nights in March, 2015 when the hotel was still Radisson. I am under the impression that they retained the staff. We also had to register every two days. I asked for an upgrade to a suite every time I registered. The 3rd time was the charm and we did get a suite. I’d also be asking for club access everyday.

    • Terms from Hilton website. Notice that they use the word “always” for executive club lounge access!!!

      Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™

      Space-available upgrade to a preferred room
      1,000 HHonors Bonus Points per stay
      A complimentary continental breakfast for you and up to one additional guest registered to the same room each day of your stay
      Executive Floor Lounge Access (available at select properties 7)

      7 Executive Floor Lounge Access Policy: The following policy applies at all Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, and DoubleTree by Hilton™ hotels with Executive Floor Lounges. Executive Floor Lounges are available only at select properties.

      If you are an HHonors guest with Gold status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will be granted complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge only if you receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor or an upgrade to a room type that confers Executive Floor Lounge access benefits.
      If you are an HHonors guest with Diamond status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will always enjoy complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge, even if you do not receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor.

      • @davidnj – interesting! I see that wording too. My parents actually checked in a few days ago and said executive lounge full and they are doing continental breakfast. Emailed the manager but for now they are just checking into the lounge under my room so no big deal Yet. No one at this hotel can be found and no one responds to email.

        • @FreeTravelGuys: Thanks for your info. I’d like to know what taxes for award stays w/ Club Carlson points. The room tax for a paid stay is 23.5% which was not collected on point stays w/ Radisson. Curious if Hilton is charging this tax.

          • I haven’t booked a true “Hilton” award in quite a while so I’m just guessing here, but usually points stays do not result in any taxes. Resort fees are fair game though, but this hotel doesn’t have one as far as I recall.

        • @Steve > That’s good to hear. On the Hilton Aruba site, when you book w/ points, they say taxes may apply. Look forward to everyone who stayed on Club Carlson points, giving their review and how they were treated.

          • The second two days they charged me a $7 “environmental tax” which they said was $3.50 per day. It wasn’t there the first two days. Expect a good amount of inconsistency in behavior, service, and treatment at this place.

    • @steve – I’d be persistent and ask for executive lounge access since you are a diamond. The breakfast has an omelet maker and believe at Gillian’s you are just getting continental breakfast (is that correct)? There’s also lots of food, drinks, apps in the evening between 5-7.

      Also cannot hurt to ask for a room upgrade but I do believe they are at capacity.

      Enjoy the stay!!

      • @dealswelike > I contacted HHonors Diamond on Thursday and explained about booking w/ Club Carlson points before the sale and re-branding. I was optimistic based on the tone of the conversation that Hilton, Aruba was not following HHonors terms and conditions. Today, I received an E-mail from Hilton, Aruba which is disappointing. Indeed, there is a caveat in the terms and conditions where they do not have to “honor” HHonors Diamond status.

        Thank you for contacting Hilton guest assistance with your inquiry why your Hilton Honors Diamond status is not recognized at our property.

        If your booking is made through the Radisson before Hilton took over the management of the property indeed your HHonors status will not apply. We are however honoring the Club Carlson benefits at the time of your booking which are similar to the HHonors benefits. Because you have booked your stay through Carlson it is considered a third party booking and therefor your HHonors Diamond benefits cannot apply to this stay. For clarification please visit HHonors.com/HHonors terms & conditions page 8 which states the following:

        On-Property benefits are not awarded in the following circumstances:
        Reservations booked through a non-Hilton Worldwide-direct booking channel, designated GDS, third party website or any other channel.

        I hope this clarifies your question.

        Happy Holiday’s and best regards,

        JAAP VAN DAM I Director of Operations

        HILTON ARUBA CARIBBEAN RESORT & CASINO
        J.E. Irausquin Blvd 81
        Oranjestad
        Aruba

        T: +297-586-6555 ext. 6500
        F: +297-586-3260

  7. Hi! Big fan and subscriber of your blog. How’s the weather in Aruba? I’m arriving in AUA on Thursday, staying at the Hyatt (#HGPDiamond, #allonpoints) down the road. I would love to meet up, grab some drinks with the family, and talk points!

    Happy Holidays!

    • @nhrcca – the weather is beautiful like always. Although much windier then last time I was hear. The breeze is nice though.

      Hope your stay at the Hyatt (for free!) is amazing. Walked through that hotel and the pools and it is super nice.

      I am down here with a ton of extended family so not sure if I’ll be able to slip away, but will let you know!

      Safe travels to Aruba!

  8. We requested Exec Lounge access, as you suggested, as Diamond, and they refused us. We spoke to the HHonors rep in the lobby, named Germaine, who said that Hilton status was not being honored for ANY third party booking, as of October 1, including Club Carlson bookings made previously. She offered us a “gift” of a food basket or wine, as this is what Club Carlson Gold would have given us (we turned it down, as we were rather disappointed with the interaction).

  9. I emailed ahead to Germaine and asked if as a Hilton Diamond I would have admission to the lounge on my trip June 2016 (booked through Club Carlson) and was told I would not. Since this seems directly opposed to the Hilton policy of “If you are an HHonors guest with Diamond status, you and up to one additional registered guest in the same room will always enjoy complimentary access to the Executive Floor Lounge, even if you do not receive a room upgrade to the Executive Floor,” does anyone have a good email address of someone at Hilton Diamond to bring this to their attention?

    • @Karen – You can call Hilton customer service, but my understanding is that Hilton is not supporting the executive lounge access. However, I would let them know that originally the hotel stated you would receive access.

  10. We also stayed at the Hilton – think I shared an elevator with you Jennifer one morning. We were told no club access and I pushed back pretty hard. I ended up showing them an email from Rosita, the assistant front end manager confirming the benefit and reluctantly they gave it to us.

    I really think this is due to capacity issues that were caused in part at least by the huge influx of new Diamonds. When we were in the club, it was overcrowded.

    Jennifer is right that the food offerings at breakfast are good. And there’s a ton of premium free liquor bottles at dinner.

    I’m at the Hyatt now for free on points and realy like it.

  11. Mark Weinstein is the VP of Hilton HHonors and all Hilton e-mails are last name.first name@hilton.com I believe. I think we all need to inform him of the lack of responsiveness from this property, as well as the fact that the hotel is arbitrarily deciding not to honor Diamond and Gold benefits here – despite the website language.

    If anyone is going to be there this weekend, I’d love to meet up for a drink.

    • The hotel claimed they weren’t honoring status for any third party bookings since October 1. Is there any basis to this in Hilton T&Cs?

        • @Steve > So Hilton, Aruba states in an e-mail to me that they will be honoring my Club Carlson benefits as of time of booking. It will be interesting when we are there in Feb. 2016 for 8 nights when I request my Club Carlson food discount, Club Carlson 20 points per $ spent, credit for award night toward status, point bonus for elite status, early check-in and late check-out, breakfast, upgrade, etc.. Our last two visits this past Winter was a suite upgrade.

          Hilton, Aruba might want to re-consider their not honoring Hilton Diamond status. They are going to have to deal w/ my Jersey Girl Wife who is a Hilton diamond.

          • @DavidNJ – Hahah!! Please keep me posted on your outcome. I have a feedback email out to them and Hilton so will be interested on what their response is.

          • This was their response to me yesterday. Originally I had reached out to Hilton and they kicked the can to the property. I told them that the property wasn’t answering emails, so I told them to contact the property directly and ask them for a response. They’re just making up a misinterpretation of the rules. I didn’t book a “Hilton hotel” through a non-Hilton channel. I booked “a hotel” and then they bought it. It’s very arbitrary on their part. Response below.

            Thank you for contacting Hilton guest assistance with your inquiry why your Hilton Honors status is not recognized at our property.

            Your booking was made through the Radisson before Hilton took over the management of the property. Due to the changeover to Hilton we are honoring the Club Carlson benefits which are similar to the HHonors benefits. Because you have booked your stay through Carlson it is considered a third party booking and therefor your HHonors benefits cannot apply to this stay. For clarification please visit HHonors.com/HHonors terms & conditions page 8 which states the following:

            On-Property benefits are not awarded in the following circumstances:
            Reservations booked through a non-Hilton Worldwide-direct booking channel, designated GDS, third party website or any other channel.

            I have made note of your request and based on occupancy we definitely will look at providing additional services to our most loyal customers. If you can please send me your HHonors number I can apply this to your Carlson reservation.

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