It was soon after we included this section, that we realized some may visit our website with no interest in blades or survival gear, but simply out of an interest in Aruba. Since we are outspoken Aruba Tourism Advocates, we appreciate and encourage this. The beauty of Aruba is not just in it's diversified terrain as a desert isle, but in the beauty of it's people as well. If you are even remotely considering getting married in Aruba as we did, we urge you to check out www.arubaweddingsbybonny.com After all, how often is it that your wedding coordinator becomes a life long friend? For general travel to Aruba, we also recommend Guy Gemore of Player's Choice Tours. An Aruba Expert that has steered us in numerous anniversary visits. Guy can be reached at 1-800-79-ARUBA
Yet another fantastic anniversary trip in Oct. 22 - 29 '09. More to come!
We love you Bonny!
Kat's Girlfriend the Occidental Beach Bartender.
Keith in his element!
Typical Day at the Occidental!
2nd and 3rd Anniversary Pics coming Soon!
Our Aruba 1st Anniversary Trip 10/23-29/2007
Our Aruba Wedding Trip 10/24-30/2006
So many people have asked us about our trip, our thoughts, and pictures, that we decided to give the topic it's own page.
Traveling the Caribbean:
While neither Keith nor Kathy consider themselves Caribbean Aficionados, they have traveled to destinations there on a number of occasions. This Aruba trip was Kathy's 9th time to Aruba, and Keith's 2nd. Together they have also traveled to Nassau in the Bahamas, and the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula. Kathy has been to St. Thomas, and the Cayman Islands, and Keith has traveled to Puerto Rico a number of times.
Planning the trip: Kathy and Keith had originally planned to get married in Las Vegas. Urging from son Tony and friend Stephanie, to all go on a trip to Aruba the same year, changed the wedding plans, since 2 trips were out of the question.
In preparation, Kathy and Keith were civilly married by the mayor of West Milford in June, and all required documentation was sent to Aruba by the beginning of September.
Keith firmly believes that Murphy's Law applies to traveling, as it does to everything else in life, and this trip was no exception. A number of problems arose with flight arrangements through the travel agent, but these were addressed with concern and apologies, so both Kathy and Keith were satisfied.
The Friday before departure, Keith had begun moving cases into the bedroom for packing. During a 4 am call of nature, Keith tripped, in the dark, over one of the cases, and thinking he was stepping on a cat ( a regular household hazard), landed on his tail bone, either fracturing, or severely bruising it. This was to have consequences later. The morning of departure, the wedding party as a whole, experienced an alarm clock malfunction, and was awoke by the limo's arrival, instead of the hour and 1/2 before as planned. Finale packing was frenzied, and this too, would have it's consequences. The flight down was uneventful other than Keith being in some discomfort while sitting. He feels it was an even trade, as his degenerative disk disease did not flare up once.
Aruba in general:
Being in the protection industry, and a personal protection specialist, Keith was curious to see if he could perceive a difference between the Aruba he fell in love with in 1999, and the post Natalie Holloway Aruba he would be visiting now.
As he suspected, there was the a very faint tinge of wariness from some Arubans in dealing with tourists, especially American Tourists, that had not been there before. Some Arubans Keith spoke to prior to the trip, did not hide the fact that they felt the sensationalized US media response, and ridicules statements from some US Officials, in regard to the Holloway Case, greatly, and unjustly, hurt the islands economy. In this we truly sympathize. Keith and Kathy both, had denounced US attempts to boycott Aruba, as they both believe the Holloway Case was more a matter of personal responsibility, than one of corruption, inefficiency, or the inherent safety of the island. Keith continues to maintain that Aruba is one of the safest destinations he has been to, whether outside, or inside, the United States. To give an example, Keith's personal safety briefing for Aruba takes about 10 minutes, for Puerto Rico, 20, for our nation's capital, a minimum of half an hour.
The Occidental Grand Aruba Resort in particular:
Both Kathy and Keith were curious to see the changes in the resort after it's transformation from the 4 Star Allegro, to the 5 Star Occidental. They both feel that there were both pro's and cons. The initial bad review issues from the Occidental's 'soft opening' earlier in the year, seem to have cleared up. None of the complaints voiced on Aruba Bulletin Boards were experienced by the wedding party other than some lackadaisical housekeeping in the kids room.
A note on the posted complaints of 'watered down drinks'; If you think your drinks aren't strong enough, try tipping the bartender! This is universal to all 'all inclusive' resorts, not just the Occidental. Kathy prefers hers that way anyway, and Keith tips profusely.
The clientele seems to have shifted slightly upscale. The pool for instance, during the day, looked like a wealthy retirement community. Since we beach it during the day, and only pool at night, this didn't matter to us a bit. We did find it strange that no one was in the pool after dark but us, but it certainly didn't affect our enjoyment. A tip; if you've had a long day and are sore, standing under the waterfall is every bit as invigorating as a back massage. Keith could be seen there often.
The service afforded us as a wedding party was excellent. The only troublesome people we encountered were fellow 'Ugly Americans'. Another note; coming to Aruba with a bad attitude is only a waste of your money, do us, them, and yourselves a favor, and stay home or go somewhere else. We watched two other beach weddings besides ours, both more involved, but we were told, and believe, that ours was simple but elegant, and enjoyed by all those who participated or watched. Later we will go into more about the wedding co-ordinator and Reverend. Let it be said for now, that they both made the day very special for all involved.
On to the pictures, Keith has tried to put them roughly in the order they were taken, including Tony's, which contributed greatly to this Album. The trip itinerary went something like; (Tues.) Arrival, settle in room, pick up rental Jeep, show everyone resort. (Wed.) Beach, then show kids Palm Beach area, send parents on island tour. (Thur.) Beach, and then wedding/reception. (Fri.) Beach and then shopping in Oranjestad. (Sat.) Kathy beached and resort store shopped with Kristi, while Keith took the kids out exploring with the Jeep, and then did Stephanie's photo shoot. (Sun.) Quad Tour, and (Mon.) Homeward bound :-(
The view from our balcony:
Kids room, right across the hall, basically a mirror image of ours.
View from the Kids balcony.
The Occidental Lobby/Lounge.
The casino, we walked through once, but did not gamble, a first for us. Regina and Kevin did get a little lucky while waiting to meet us for the wedding arrangements.
Kathy and Stephanie in the hall lounge between the towers. Put a drink by each of them, and this picture could represent any day we were there.
Close up of the pool from our room.
Looking North from the top floor of the Occidental.
The Wedding and Reception. Regina and Kevin graciously volunteered to take pictures with Keith's digital camera, as well as their more professional ones. Unfortunately, the digital camera flash was not up to competing with the beautiful sunset. When the 35mm shots are processed, we will scan a few, and include them here as well.
Bill Wing giving the Bride away.
Bridesmaid Stephanie, Bride Kathy, Groom Keith, Best Man Tony, and Reverend Gibson. The ceremony was the most contemporary, and beautiful, anyone participating had ever heard, tying in the spirituality, and beauty of Aruba, with the sacred institution of marriage.
A special prayer was said in honor of Bill and Frieda Gallo, Kathy's parents who have both past on. We like to think they were there in spirit. We spent the rest of the trip warmly basking in the praise and admiration of other guests, telling us how lovely they thought the ceremony was.
The Reception Dinner, and all the wonderful people who were able to join us, and share our day. From left clockwise; Regina, the CEO of Kathy's Credit Union, whose end of vacation, luckily for us, coincided with our wedding day. Keith's mother Leone, and father Bill, Kathy, Keith, Stephanie, Tony, Kristi, Kathy's Boss, who gave us the pleasure of her company in Aruba, even though she had been traveling on credit union business the week before, and Regina's husband Kevin, whose photography we greatly appreciate.
Cutting the cake:
Returning to our room after the reception dinner, Kathy was delighted to find Rose Petals and Tea Candles arranged around the room.
Keith was possibly more delighted by the Champaign and tray of snacks, even though he could only have a few.
Shopping in Oranjestad:
One of the first things you notice if the cruise ships are in, is that they dwarf everything around them.
Most shopping areas are done in typical Caribbean pastel colors, the scenery is often as nice as the merchandise.
Yes, the mall has it's own canal, and water shuttle service.
There's Caribbean quaintness almost everywhere you look. We took a picture of a bike much like this for Tony when we were here in '99, and were delighted he could see this one in person.
Part of the outdoor market.
The Southwest Shore, California Lighthouse, Stephanie's Photoshoot, and Island Wildlife.
Aarrgh! There still be Pirates in Aruba.
Zoom shot looking East to Palm Beach and the High Rise Resorts from the shoot location.
Since we carry water emergency knife and flashlight sets in our line, we couldn't resist the opportunity to use one of our company spokes models for some publicity shots. Afterall, it's the perfect environment, and Stephanie was joining us as Kathy's Bridesmaid anyway. Finding a good location proved easy too. Here Stephanie and Tony scout the location, while Keith readies the gear.
See the actual publishing shots of her on our Bladebabe Page. Needless to say, she was the most beautiful girl on the beach, and we are very proud of her.
The goats by the California Lighthouse were fun to watch. The goats jumping into the road while we were racing through towns, full throttle, on our quads, were necessary to watch, and a bit more of a challenge. We did have to try and keep Stephanie from smuggling one of the little ones home with her.
We pondered why there were holes all over the ground that bordered the boardwalk. Tony discovered that right after dusk, hundreds of crabs would come out, scurry around for a while, and then disappear back down their holes.
The Iconic Aruban Iguana. There was some really beautiful lizards, with brilliant blue coloring mixed with the green, but they were either to fast, or we were to slow, on the shutter button.
The Quad Tour - Keith likes to research activities before a trip, to be sure he knows what he's getting the family into, and is usually well informed. He admits he was a little off the mark on this one. All the wedding party who participated had some level of ATV experience. From Keith and Tony, who have quite a bit, to Stephanie who has some, to Kathy, whose experience prior, amounted to putting around on the company quad 2 or 3 times at lawn tractor speed. Since tour groups are made up of about 15 - 20 People, Keith and Tony assumed that they would have to anticipate novice riders like Kathy, and the tour would consist of putting along trails, on entry level machines, at low speeds. We did indeed, see tours that seemed to operate in this manner, just not ours. Keith says jokingly, we should have been suspicious when we picked the 'ATV Mania' Tour. To begin, it turns out quads are legal on the road in Aruba, unlike in NJ. The machines were Polaris Trail Bosses, not exactly entry level machines, but at least, a lot like our own Polaris Xplorer. Our tour was 18 machines, a few of which were ridden by doubled up couples. WE all opted to have our own machines, though this was before the safety briefing, after which, Kathy started having 2nd thoughts. Our tour guide quickly showed us some hand signals he wanted riders to recognize, and pass on down the line. He then explained that most of the roads were lined with Barrel Cactus and thorn bushes with 2" thorns, so drifting off the road would require at least a full box full of bandaids. Drifting also being an easy mistake for a novice rider, especially while cornering. He finished with the cut and dry statement that those who couldn't keep up would be left behind. A few practice laps, and we were off, shooting down the road at near full throttle, for these machines, that's about 30 - 40 MPH. Kathy was 3rd behind the leader, then came Tony, Keith, and Stephanie. Most of the time we were in single file formation. Kathy immediately felt in over her head. Riding on dusty roads at 40 MPH means you eat grit. We then had a short, but intense rain storm, that the guide felt no obligation to slow down for. Rain at 40 MPH stings, and if you are not experienced, makes it near impossible to see. By the time we reached the half way point, Kathy didn't know whether to cry, quit, or both. With some assurances from the rest of the party, she continued on. The second half of the tour was mostly off road and a little slower, but included some impressive hill climbs and descents on loose rock, that kept even Tony and Keith on their toes. While she was terrified for parts of the tour, in the end, we were all proud of how well Kathy did, and she was even complimented by the tour guide. She admits that she wouldn't now trade the experience for anything, and realizes she got more ATV experience from that one trip, than she got in the entire 5 years the company has operated our own ATV.
The minute Tony and Keith saw the machines, they could tell they been ridden hard frequently.
Well... Her shirt WAS bright white.
Chase/Support Vehicle that followed the tour, and our quads. There was also some hiking involved, which Keith appreciated since it gave his aching tail bone a break.
Some hills were just about this steep, not all the novices made it on the first try, but at least there were no injuries. Kathy, while scared, did admirably well in keeping her place in line.
The Natural Bridge tour stop.
Kathy and Keith were interested to see the collapsed Natural Bridge, since it had still been standing during their last trip in '99.
Here is a picture scanned from their '99 trip, when it was the longest spanning natural bridge in the world.
Another view from '99.
Swimming on this part of the shore is, uh... Not recommended!
A fellow Quader took this group shot we all really like.
The Ayo Rock Formations part of the tour.
Absolutely fascinating, and reportedly nobody knows how they could have gotten arranged in a pile like that. Some are house size, and the immediate impression upon first seeing them, is the town of Bedrock from the Flintstones Cartoon. Indeed, in real life, prehistoric tribes made their dwellings among these formations.
Kathy, happy to have survived to the halfway point. If she had known about the coming hill climb...
She may have tried to lock herself in here.
See the coast way off in the distance? That's where we started. No one minded that it was overcast, as we probably would have baked otherwise.
Keith's gear for the trip:
This is the gear Keith brought, to support 2 days of adventuring. 1 day jeep exploring with the kids, and Stephanie's photoshoot, and then the ATV Tour day. Keith likes bringing gear he's familiar with and fits him right. All current shots for this trip were done with HP M415 Digital Camera's, one with a waterproof case. All digital pictures have been reduced in size for posting here. Anyone wanting a full size high resolution one should Email us.
A consequence of our abrupt departure. Keith has sleep apnea, and can only sleep well with the aid of a CPAP (Constant Pressure Air Pump). This has to be packed at the last minute. In the rush to get the luggage out to the waiting limo, the CPAP was packed, but not the power cord or connection hose. The resort let Keith borrow an old PC cord that Keith adapted, but no one, including the local medical supply company, could find the right fittings for the hose. No sleep for Keith the first night. Since he was desperate to get some sleep before the wedding, he bought 2 cheaper model snorkels, and used his multi-tool and the dive knife, to cut, whittle, and pry the parts into a makeshift hose, which sufficed for the rest of the trip. With out these tools, he doubted he could even get into the clamshell packaging the snorkles came in.
Sunsets- no matter what you are doing in Aruba, it pays to take a moment and admire their beauty.
The saddest sight in Aruba.
The plane that's going to take you away...
Tony catches one last glorious sunset from the plane bringing us home.
People we'd like to thank, who have not been mentioned previously, in no particular order. Bonny Stanley, our Occidental Wedding Co-ordinator. Her dedication to the enjoyment of our day touched us all. While our wedding was the most simple and cheapest of the three we saw, it was by no means the least elegant. Bonny, and Reverend Gibson, saw to that. Bonny, in doing a job that must often be thankless, we'd like to say... We love you! Thank you to Guy Gemore and Players Choice Tours of Yonkers, NY. Your, and Barbara's, help in smoothing out the wrinkles, made us feel much better. Good thing to, since it turns out we're practically neighbors. To Sgt. David Wing (no relation that we know of), of the Police Headquarters, Macuarina, Santa Cruz, and Charles Croes from Fast Phone Cellular Rental. Thank you for your correspondence, advice, and interest in our visit. Last but not least, thanks to our neighbor Ernest, for pet care and 'Homestead Security' in our absence. We left our pet's, home, and business, in good hands.
Now off we go Gallo-Wing along towards our next adventure, on a Wing and a prayer ;-)