The island of Aruba couldn’t be more convenient for planners. Sparkling Caribbean beaches, tax-free meetings and gorgeous outdoor venues combine on a 20-mile-wide stretch of land, just a 3-hour flight from Miami. Within this mix, snug amongst blue-green waters, swaying palms and the golden sands of Palm Beach, sits the 411-room Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino and a streak of renovations to reenergize meetings.
During a recent visit, J.Willard Marriot Jr. cut the ribbon to the newly renovated 8,435-sf Grand Ballroom, which accounts for most of the property’s 11,000-sf of meeting space. The $1.5 million project included interior upgrades that foster continuous contemporary design throughout the hotel.
“We changed the look and the feel of the ballroom, renovating the new skylights, the carpet and the walls,” says Chela de Lannoy, senior sales manager. “We wanted the colors to fit with the signature Marriott design that was updated in 2008.”
The H2Oasis pool, a new adults-only haven accented by coral stone pavers, glass mosaic tiles and wooden cabanas, adds flair to poolside gatherings. Groups can mingle here or go it alone with WiFi access and a comfy chaise lounge.
The completion of the H2Oasis marked the final phase of a $50 million renovation that began in 2009 with the addition of the 30, 218-sf Tradewinds Club, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and complete revamps to guest rooms, as well as the Waves Beach Bar and La Vista restaurant, a poolside Italian eatery for 200 dinner or 600 patio guests. Planners can expect renovations to the Great Room and lobby this year.
Rich wood furnishings and plush bedding adorn guest rooms, creating a relaxing space for in-room meeting prep. Each room overlooks the glittery Caribbean waters, where windsurfing, paddleboarding and the overall pull to dive right in beckon.
“Pair the La Vista patio with the beach and you have pool and ocean views,” says Lannoy, adding that Aruba is perfect for meetings because groups book mostly during January-March due to the sunny and breezy climate. “Several groups from the Northeast book during that time because they are ready to enjoy the tropical weather.”
Other venues include Simply Fish, a beachfront restaurant lit with tiki torches and candles. Groups up to 80 can kick off their shoes and enjoy private meals along the waves courtesy of a pre fixe menu of mouthwatering seafood and farm-fresh vegetables.
Between meetings, book a treatment at the Mandara Spa, a Balinese-inspired 6,500 sf facility with 12 treatment rooms and four couples rooms. The Aloe and Milk Bath Wrap, a soothing mix of traditional Balinese recipes with coconut, mungbean, spices and lavender is a common favorite.
The resort offers a newbie court for beach tennis—die-hard play can be found on two professional courts at Moomba Beach Bar & Cafe. The Vegas-style Stellaris Casino casino is the largest on the island, offering groups gaming kiosks, 26 gaming tables and over 500 completely coinless slot machines.
Between meetings, book De Palm Tours for an adventurous Jeep ride around the island. You’ll view popular attractions, including the Bonbini Festival, Guadirikiri Caves and the shipwreck of the Antilla. Close encounters with exotic marine life 130 feet below sea level can be found aboard the Atlantis submarine. De Palm Tours offers groups 25 luxury coaches and 40 Land Rovers and Jeeps, with a DMC office located within the lobby of the Aruba Marriott.
Tour the Aruba Aloe fields and factory, one of the only aloe companies in the world that grows, harvests and manufactures aloe products on-site. The factory is a good place for teambuilding as groups can learn how to peel the plant, wash and prepare aloe for bottling.