Sonesta shuttle docks in lobby

Writer Felicity Long recently visited the Aruba Sonesta Beach Resort. Her report follows:

The expression "when my ship comes in" takes on a whole new meaning at the Aruba Sonesta Beach Resort at Seaport Village, a property that boasts, among other things, a water-shuttle dock in the lobby.

The property, which is in the final stages of a $25 million renovation, uses the shuttle to ferry guests to its private, 40-acre Sonesta Island.

The water canal and surrounding area, designed to look like a natural cave, were part of the renovation.

Waterfalls and lush greenery lend a natural look to the dock, and guests who gather at 8 p.m. are treated to a nightly water and light show.

The shuttle runs every 15 minutes between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and the ride takes eight minutes.

Guests at Aruba Sonesta Beach Resort travel back and forth to Sonesta Island via a water shuttle from the main lobby.
Sonesta Island features the Seabreeze Bar and Restaurant as well as private dinners on the sand, where -- in a long dress and bare feet -- I sampled an upscale al fresco buffet including grilled lobster tails.

Travel agents can arrange similar theme dinners for their group clients.

Other island features include secluded coves as well as a tropical bird sanctuary, sandy beaches, a tennis court and a fitness center.

Guests looking to relax can rest in hammocks under leafy palms, while more active visitors can Jet Ski, kayak, snorkel and scuba dive.

The property was formerly comprised of two separate hotels located across the street from each other: the Aruba Sonesta Resort and Aruba Sonesta Suites.

The two buildings now are known as the Marina Tower and the Beach Tower, respectively, bringing the total number of rooms to 556.

My brightly decorated guest room featured a balcony overlooking the marina; one-bedroom suites offer kitchenettes.

The Beach Tower has its own beach cove, and guests in either tower can use all of the combined resort's facilities.

A highlight of the renovation is the Okeanos Spa, which opened in September.

I sampled a first-rate Swedish massage at the new spa located adjacent to the swimming pool at the Marina Tower, where guests also can try wraps, spa treatments and fitness programs.

The spa treatment was priced at $70 for 50 minutes.

Guests at either wing of the resort can get a break from the heat in the Seaport Village shopping center, which is accessible from the lobby of the Marina Tower or by crossing the street from the Beach Tower.

I explored the village shortly after my arrival and found everything from ice cream and souvenirs to trendy beachwear, gold necklaces and water- sports gear.

In all, the resort and village comprise more than 130 shops and eateries -- including 15 restaurants and six bars -- as well as three swimming pools, two casinos with 24-hour gaming, six cinemas and the Stardust Theater, where visitors can take in live shows.

The property has its own upscale restaurant, L'Escale, as well as the new Umbrellas Cafe & Espresso, a gourmet coffee bar located in the lobby.

Because of the high domed atrium, the coffee bar has the look and ambience of an outdoor cafe but in an air-conditioned setting.

During my visit, I also attended meetings in the 40,000-square-foot conference center, a five-minute walk from my accommodations in the Marina Tower.

Families can take advantage of Sonesta's Just Us Kids children's program, which offers supervised activities for ages 5 to 12.

This year the property received top overall honors from the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association's annual Freeman Survey, which also rated it No. 1 in the food and beverage category.

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