Bati Bleki Buzz Weekly Recap, December 22nd, 2019

About our girlfriend Inge Van Roon,

It was a sad weekend, and everything that could possibly be said about Inge was already said on social media, in an outpouring of immense grief and disbelief.

She just celebrated her 49th birthday. A strong, independent woman with a solid career and a passionate calling as an animal advocate/crusader.

As Director of Banquet & Event Sales at Divi & Tamarijn Aruba Beach Resorts she helped orchestrate our finest hours, with many memorable Aruba weddings unfolding like clockwork, effortlessly executed in umpteen locations, by her dedicated crew at the hotels.

In her private life she was the savior, the angel, rushing to the rescue of all Cunucu pups and kittens, 24/7, treating the unwanted and discarded like gold.

If you didn’t get married under Inge’s spell, you adopted a bundle of furry joy, and more than often, both.

We held a small memorial last evening on the beach at Boca Catalina. Aruba’s animal rescue foundations, friends, and colleagues tossed some flowers into the waves at sunset. It was Inge’s favorite Sunday Happy Hour spot.

This is what I know: Inge concluded the Tito’s Putts for Paws Golf Tournament at Divi Links successfully, on October 26th, she was tired but pleased with the results, the money raised for St Pepper’s Friends, https://www.sgtpeppersfriends.com/ would allow the work at the shelter to go on.

The following day, the tell-tale blue bruises appeared on her skin, friends rushed her to the emergency room, from there she was flown to a hospital at Cali Colombia with the immediate diagnoses of ALL, Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

Seven week later she was gone.

ALL is a rapidly progressing form of leukemia: Wikipedia: Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. The word “acute” in acute lymphocytic leukemia comes from the fact that the disease progresses rapidly and creates immature blood cells, rather than mature ones.

And you should also know that the symptoms can be easily brushed away, disregarded as menopause, or just a general malaise: Feeling tired, weak, dizzy or lightheaded, shortness of breath, pale skin, infections that don’t go away or keep coming back, bruises (or small red or purple spots) on the skin, bleeding, such as frequent or severe nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or heavy menstrual bleeding in women.

And while most symptoms exhibited, because of Inge’s sunshiny disposition, her family doctor must have explained them away. If Inge said she was fine, that was good enough.

ALL takes over swiftly, and wipes out all platelets, the body’s repair material, but there are clear signs ahead of time that trouble is brewing, signs that are easy to disrespect, and neglect.

I would love to ask that family doctor if a patient is pale and hemorrhaging, why he didn’t demand a blood test.

All my female friends agree, Women Health Issues are not seriously taken on the island, and we can tell a million stories about that.  

Medical Cannabis, Legalized

A while ago already, and ongoing, there was a political debate in Aruba and all parties agreed to support medicinal cannabis. The AZV board wrote a paper on it and informed GOA that it stands behind the introduction, in small steps, prescribed by doctors, distributed by boticas, where it will be handled just like any other restricted medicine such as opioids.

Last week, the MinHealth signed it into law, and with his signature legalized the use of medical cannabis here.

The MinPres came out in a statement immediately thereafter confirming that the legalization of recreational use is out of the question, and will not be permitted. To quote, she said that many families in Aruba are already suffering from the disease of addiction and while legal recreational use is out of the question, and punishable by law, there will be more funds dedicated to treatment and prevention of addiction.

The use of cannabis oils and creams is already wide-spread in Aruba. It is a thriving home-industry and bootleg potions are offered under every tree, but the quality is not guaranteed, and the prices vary.

When products will be imported by the boticas and taxed, they will be a source of income for the government, but as far as I understand, we will have to pay for what we need, out of our own pockets. AZV will not carry the cost, a la Netherlands, where the insurance companies decline to pay.

Thinking about it, there is probably very little use for medical cannabis in the Netherlands in view of the fact that all coffee-shops carry the weed and CBD oils is freely available.

Basically, GOA will make a list of approved products that may enter Aruba through wholesalers or pharmacies. Doctors then may prescribe, what pharmacies hand over to clients, and I will have to decide it my knees are worth it.

GOA will now work with the legal department on the nuts and bolts, God knows how long it will take. So note, medical cannabis products, not really anything to smoke.

One hurdle the legal department will have to overcome is the law on drugs which bundles cannabis with opioids. They will have to amend that legislation in order to make room for imports.

No, we’re not building a large, fenced and controlled, government-farm growing the weed and making the products. No, we will not be allowed to plant and harvest for personal use. No fancy dispensaries. No dedicated coffee-shop zone. No tax money fixing every crack in every road.     

The lobby against cannabis is still strong. The teachers’ union recently hit the alarm button stating that the legalization of cannabis will spell disaster in education and that many middle and high school students are already using, and worse, selling. They obviously meant recreational, which as indicated by the Minpres is not even a possibility.

Signs of distress

Economist Ben Marapin who usually shies away from the media, piped up this week signaling distress with our economy.

He made a few good points:

He wanted to see significant STRUCTURAL changes, not just cosmetic ones, in the handling of our public finances.

In that respect he sees no difference between the current and the past government, they both continued to treat public finances recklessly.

According to Marapin, the cake is big enough for us all, we could all be successful and thrive, if our resources would be more efficiently used. If productivity increases, we could personally make more money, and our GDP would grow….

But…the moment GOA shrinks its personnel, it seems like a signal to our politicians to hire more people, and we end up with the same inflated, money-wasting bureaucracy, having spent fortunes on paying employees off, and sending them home.

He also totally nixed the ‘refinery’ concept. Our refinery stopped being one, years ago, he says, when it turned into 100-year-old rust bucket, it might perhaps be useful as an ‘upgrader,’ mixing heavy Orinoco gold into naphtha, to be further refined elsewhere, but he doesn’t see any real initiatives in that direction.

The 2020 challenges are huge, and the outlook is grim, he concludes.

AHATA, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association, ATIA, the Aruba Trade & Industry Association, KvK, the Chamber of Commerce, and ATSA, the Aruba Timeshare Association held a joint press conference in which they expressed their concerns about the total lack of communication between the public and private sector.

It is not a secret that GOA is working on phase two of a four-pronged tax reform, with zero input from their main stakeholder, the private sector.

Representative of our business community were also totally taken by surprise by a news item, published in the media in which the MinFEC apparently announced that the Foreign Exchange Tax will be increased by 0.6%, from 1.3% in 2019, 1.9% in 2020. The MinFEC mentioned that this tax is being introduced instead of sugar tax, that drew such vocal opposition.

The private sector considers this move detrimental to our economy, as this is not just a tax levied on the rich and famous changing their florins into dollars, this will affect every single person. The banana importer, and the gasoline purveyor, whatever is paid in dollars and imported, will now be more expensive, which means EVERYTHING.

With prices going up, our money falls short, inflation appears, we demand a raise, the merchants hike prices up to stay in the game, and the poor consumer suffers, without GOA cutting anything from its budget, with ZERO effort to reduce expenses and structurally change the way our resources are treated.

Note: The pubic, has not yet received any official notification of this tax decision, we only read about it in a credible news story, which demonstrates fatal lack of transparency on behalf of GOA, and a chronic breakdown in communications.

#cutexpenses #reduceoverhead #takeyourhandoutofmypocket

The Holiday Inn On Our Mind

A persistent rumor this week insists the Riu will be picking up its 3rd Aruba property in the form of the Holiday Inn.

The 600 room resort, with a reported grandfathered AI option, and a reported grandfathered third tower, for eventual 900 all-inclusive rooms, is currently the talk of the town.

What I hear:

Riu made a serious offer. We know they have been eying a third hotel here. Remember they made an attempt on the Hilton, thwarted by the former, former MinTour.

The InterContinental Hotel Group, IHG, has just 3 more years as a management company and they would need to be bought out.

The owners of the Holiday Inn real estate, Lionstone Development, with Alfredo & Diego Lowenstein at the helm, are running a 50-year-old well-established company with properties in Miami, Curacao, Aruba & St. Thomas U.S.V.I. They have had a desire to sell and/or convert the Aruba resort into AI, for a long time. They have an all-inclusive in Curacao, Sunscape Resort, and it works for them.

(They are an active company, they’re also totally overhauling their Hilton Hotel & Casino, in Piscadera Bay, Curacao, affiliated to the neighboring LGBT Floris Suite Hotel.)

I guess there is little we can do, besides saying, ay no, not another all-inclusive.

AI and TS now represent 78% of the room inventory on Palm Beach.

With the possible conversion of the Holiday Inn, the ceiling GOA enacted by law of 40% AI, will be compromised by a lot.

The MinTour can only insist on retaining all employees and protecting their jobs over the transition, a la Hilton, not a la Riu Antillas.

I tried to call the Riu lawyer for more info, but did not find him.

Why would Lionstone wish to sell its property that brings in such a nice and steady rent monthly, without much investment, is a mystery.

Changes at Caribbean Palm Village Resort

Dedicated, veteran, acting general manager Astrid Muller retired from her temporary job, it has been temporary for the past six years, and handed the baton over to hotelier Steve Mara, formally with the Marriott, Playa Linda Beach Resort and Gianni’s Group. He has been named General Manager, with foxy duo Hans Vink as controller, and lawyer Gabri de Hoogd LL.M. as chairman of the board. They also hired back from retirement a veteran, reliable director of timeshare sales, Volker Jurgens. Expect firework.

Don’t underestimate the Caribbean Palm Beach Resort. It is indeed tucked away in Noord, but its members and guests love it. I always told Astrid they drink her Kool-Aid, just overjoyed by their time at the resort, worshiping Aruba.

Originally built by the Chemali family and partners in 1987, in the style of the art deco district in Miami, the property boasts 170 rooms, very friendly, multi-tasking staff members and the happiest guests under the sun.

CURAÇAO MARRIOTT BEACH RESORT, IS WORTH A LONG VISIT, and a two-day column

The last time we visited the Curacao Marriott Beach Resort was for the South Sea Jazz Festival in 2014. We had a good time, but noticed our favorite hotel is in need of some TLC. The following year, uncertainties plagued the festival and jinxed our trip, and then the resort closed for complete renovations. Or at least that’s how I remember it.

I flew across the pond on other occasions after that, but promised myself that as soon as the resort opens post-facelift, I will be there to kick its tires, see how much I like it.

I liked it. A lot.

They spend $37 million dollars, and it shows, added a full floor of guest rooms, and most importantly opened the hotel up further, to allow more of the fantastic view to invade the space from every angle.

We flew over on a terribly expensive airline ticket, more about that later, and were met at the airport by Sr. Sales Manager Sergino Croes, and Executive Assistant to the GM Lourdes Geerman, Aruba’s ambassadors, working at the hotel in top positions, recruited here, to go there, by Aimbridge Hospitality, the resort’s management company.

There are five or six Aruban’s working for the property, Director of Revenue, Kenrick Croes, Nick Martina and Kurt Mendes, both managers in the Food & Beverage department, and I guess they show everyone how it’s done.

I can’t help it. I’m going to take the credit. The Curacao Marriott Beach Resort employs some of the most engaged and engaging associates, friendly, educated story-tellers who take the time to connect with guests and forge personal relationships and I suspect Aruba gets the credit for that.

Curacao is catching up on that famous Zjeito. As guests, we were treated with great difference and courtesy everywhere – and they don’t really know us. We were just ordinary people, made to feel really good about ourselves and about our new connections, General Manager Craig Martin, and our old friends, Hotel Manager Jaime Osma, and Gersmeline Capella Leito from the Reef Club, a genuine pearl

Rob smith happened to be at the resort, he flew in for two days, for a meeting and the staff Christmas party. We fondly bonded in the lobby.

Rob joined Ambridge Hospitality when he left Aruba, and helped grow that company over the past years as Executive Vice President and Senior Vice President Operations, with an increasing-in-size resort portfolio, and an army of vice-presidents reporting to him.

The company, he explains runs more than 1,400 branded and independent properties in 49 states and 20 countries, and it is his personal ambition to be one day affiliated again with one dushi island. He wouldn’t say which property, but he is actively engaged in the search, he said.

During renovations, the resort’s piece de resistance main swimming pool was made even larger with comfortable and inviting submerged sitting benches, great lounge chairs on the deck, and plenty of shade umbrellas. The resort’s new zero entry, infinity edge lap pool, on the north side of a property is a real beauty, overlooking the lovely, white sandy beach, with an adult-only designation. We played in the water at sunset. Truly memorable, quiet, and serene.

The rooms: 328 cool guestrooms. We slept well on very comfy beds. They are clean and contemporary in shades of blue, turquoise, white and natural wood, with large doors, leading to waterfront terraces. Large spa inspired bathrooms, with good hair dryers, and great makeup mirrors, definitely enhance the female guest experience in that hotel.

Bring your own lotions: We spend Naf 61.95 on Banana Boat sunscreen and Naf 44.95 on some spray at the Britt store….

The Emerald Casino is no more. Instead the resort will cater to meetings and conventions with large functional outdoor and indoor meeting spaces, including the Royal Ballroom for events up to 375 attendees, and the Queens Ballroom, besides tropical gardens, and a dedicated beach wedding area.

The all-new Curacao Marriott Beach Resort is located at John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Piscadera Bay, 10 minutes from historic Willemstad, the island’s hub of dining, shopping, and entertainment and just 15 minutes from Hato International Airport.  For more information, visit https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/curpb-curacao-marriott-beach-resort/

 

CURAÇAO MARRIOTT BEACH RESORT, IS WORTH A LONG VISIT, second installment.

 We’re in Curacao we love it, we’re talking about the newly renovated and reopened Curacao Marriott Beach Resort.

Famous chef Dino Jatiani, who was blown off the island of St Maarten by the hurricanes in 2017, shared he was hired immediately by a luxury cruise ship company, and when his liner docked in Curacao one day in January of this year, he visited the resort, still under construction and interviewed for the Executive Chef’s position. How could they say no to award-winning, charming, Caribbean-born, Dino??

The food & beverage outlets under his direction are all up and running. We loved Zala a Gastro Bar with a collection of bar bites, in the heart of the lobby with talented bartenders, cozy seating areas and sweet servers.

Zala became our own living room during our stay, we sat around working, nibbling, and sipping. We had the crispy Brussel sprouts twice, the Korean short rib tacos, and the veggie dim sum. From adjacent Izakaya sushi bar we let the good times roll: We loved the Angry Iguana with coconut shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, BBQ eel, spicy mayo and wasabi tobiko. What’s not to love?

Did I mention the Soba salad, with tempura shrimp over Japanese style buckwheat noodles? Where can we get that in Aruba??

C-Spice on the pool level of the hotel is the resort’s beautifully appointed signature fine-dining restaurant delivering a modern take on upscale Caribbean dining, for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The menu lists Dutch Caribbean, European, and Latin American favorites with fresh fish, shrimp and lobster, and an artisan brick pizza oven. We chose our own pie toppings from among the dozen listen: Pepperoni, Calamata olives and caramelized onions. Why not?! We sat inside, in the cool, slate-hued dining room. We’re Aruban, we like it air-conditioned.

Naturally, the restaurant has gorgeous al fresco seating on the open-air terrace, mid tropical garden.

Alas, we never got to the pool bar. Next time.

The Curacao Tourist Board Regional Manager Janine de Windt picked us up for a spin through Willemstad with a lunch stop at the historic Plasa Bieu. The hall is now significantly cleaned up and upgraded by the government.  We visited Zus di Plaza, a famous Creole cook, savored her awa lamunchi, mochi di piska and karni stoba, her moist and buttery funchi, no tutu on Tuesday, and for dessert we wolfed down her notorious arepa di pampuna, wow.

Talking about experiential dining. This is the ultimate soul food hub, and its packaged well so visitors and locals may partake. Even germaphobics will approve of the level of cleanliness and organization.  

Janine told us cos ta hot in Curacao, they are building, upgrading and diversifying their tourist product (They had 6,000 rooms on island in 2015, 50% Hotel rooms & 50% Apartments/Villas, when they started focusing on the island’s growth momentum, which is now coming to fruition.)

The way Janine sees it, guests get a similar beach experience at Pescadera Bay, similar to Palm Beach Aruba, at $350 a night instead of $1,000. She has a point.

We visited the number #1 Willemstad attraction, Arubans love it, Sambil Curacao shopping mall, strategically located within 10 minutes of the airport, and the hotels. The fish shaped mall, open 365 days a week, makes going to shop in Miami redundant, with over 100 stores, restaurants, cinemas, entertainment for kids and a huge educational display, focusing on the tragic circumstances created when plastic meets marine life.

On our last full day, we took a trip on Miss Ann to Klein Curacao, which I have never done before. Motoring on a 105-foot beauty of a yacht to the tiny island, and spending the day on a virgin beach, BBQ lunch, guided snorkeling tour included, was a much-enjoyed experience.  The island is just 1.7 km2, and it has no permanent inhabitants, just an old 19th century light house and some boat wrecks, courtesy of captains who did not stay out far enough.

Hato airport, was very friendly upon arrival, and quite spectacular upon departure – WinAir plane was just one hour late. The airport can be proud on its stylish shops, including sampling and tasting stations, and at least 10 food options in addition to a gastro bar, Juan Valdez coffee and clean restroom. Makes a huge difference. I think we also have an Aruban ambassador there.

The only but, are airline tickets, they are expensive, $350 per person including airport tax. In a recent American Airline sale, we bought tickets to Miami for $290. Just saying.

 

 

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December 22, 2019
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Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster
Bati Bleki by Rona Coster