Bati Bleki Weekly Recap, January 29th, 2017

Renaissance Island Steps It Up Ten Notches, #RenIslandXP

If you recall, not long ago, an unfortunate fire consumed the restaurant on Renaissance Island. In no time, management had the place up and running again, out of a temporary fun bar made of recycle palette wood by artist Cado de Lannoy.

This week a small number of press members were invited to tour the upgraded and revamped, fully recovered Renaissance Private Island.

We were greeted on the dock in Oranjestad with a Champagne Strawberry cocktail. Apparently once a week on Wednesday, the island hosts a special event, dinner under the stars, and we were to join the select group on Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino guests, taking the short, eight minute water taxi ride across the bay, leaving our cares behind us.

The pelicans were asleep in their tree perches when we arrived on the torch lit island. Zugheila Lindeborg, our escort for the night walked us to the brand new Papagayo Bar & Grill for dinner. The newly renovated restaurant features a large deck overlooking the ocean in soothing, hushed and calming colors inspired by ocean, wooden lamps and driftwood accents serve the décor well.

It rained that day so dinner which is usually set up on the beach, toes in the sand, was served on the deck. Chef Jeffrey Vrolijk prepared a three course Asian fusion menu, which took off with delicious Dim Sum, and continued with a clear Tom Yum soup packed with herbs and vegetables; the main course, a green curried chicken delivered a fragrant, creamy punch, while dessert cooled things down considerably, with ice cream and a sweet pastry. Wow, totally out of the box flavors.

Zugheila says the dinner menu was designed to reflect a departure from the hotel food offerings, which give an added incentive to resort guests to sign up for the nighttime dinner adventure.

Over appetizers, Food & Beverage manager Tineke Lenters told us the island is open 12 hours a day from 7 am to 7pm, and that her Food & Beverage operation is in the process of adding a satisfying breakfast option, served from 7am. The daytime restaurant menu features casual favorites, a variety of burgers, grilled fare, fresh salads, and a wood-fired pizza oven.

Lunch, snacks in between, cocktails all day, and now also dinner every Wednesday, the island is a nonstop vacation destination and the Mangrove Bar recently relocated to Flamingo Beach, adding a food & beverage option there.

Between courses, Zugheila suggested a short exercise session. We trotted down Iguana Beach to Flamingo Beach, the island’s adult-only section.

It looked lovely at night, with just our flashlights dancing on the sand. The flamingos greeted us with a rushed migration, getting out of the way, and we continued down to the end of the crescent, where the island has just constructed 4 cabanas, made of beautiful wood, overlooking the gorgeous ocean.

The cabanas now offer chaise lounges, and additional comfortable seating, beach towels, a net hanging over the water, soft drinks and bottled water, easy steps leading down to the water, for guests wishing to spend the day in the lap of luxury.

Each cabana accommodates four guests and the last one, the biggest, welcomes six lounge lizards for a lazy day. A special butler in charge of that beach section is entrusted with cocktail and food service around the clock. Zugheila reports the cabanas are fully booked every day.

Best of all, the island is working on a “Me Tarzan, You Jane,” vacation package in which one totally romantic couple may stay on the island overnight, with 40 acres of mangroves and beaches to explore, by the moonlight.

One of the cabanas will be transformed into a wall-less bedroom, with nice linen and comfortable bedding, but that’s where the familiar ends. The romantics will be invited to take a water taxi ride at 6pm, watch the sunset, then be served a gourmet meal under the stars, by private butler, then they’re on their own, with a ‘Survival Kit,” of chocolate, champagne, and a pre-paid phone.

Any time during the night they may call the resort for a fast pick up if the night feels too long, or too cold, or the company boring. A boat captain will be sleeping at the resort that night, on standby to come and collect the lovebirds, longing for air-conditioning.

Renaissance Private Island also offers a private Spa Cove, with an extensive menu of treatments. You may play a game of beach tennis, the court are ready and waiting, and the fitness room is nicely equipped with treadmills, a step machine, a workout station, a Nordic rider, ski exercisers, weights, exercise cycles, and a magnificent view of the Caribbean during the workout, as if slipping into the rich blue waters of Renaissance Private Island, isn’t enough.

Red Sail Sports is currently renovating its store, but it normally offers a complete water sports program including snorkeling, scuba diving, deep-sea fishing, and sailing cruises. Sun searcher floats, ocean kayaks, and paddleboats can also be rented. Red Sail’s retail store offers a full supply of sun accessories.

We left the island close to 11pm vowing to return.

DRAMA @ SIAD. I posted some pictures with long lines at SIAD, waiting to pay their vehicle registration. I understand the reluctance of people to pay on line. I just got a ground tax bill from a few years ago which was paid on line and I will have to search for back up in my archive. Pain in the you know what. Venezuela? Cuba? Aruba, of course. We’re lining up to pay our motor vehicle registration. I paid it on line. I hope they apply it correctly.


Caribbean Queen will be closing its doors 1 February. I am pictured here at the official opening. I remember with joy the tremendous energy the participants of that magical evening put into that night as clearly as I recall the amount of time and thought Arlene Nagtaegaal and I put into every bit of the interior design. Not one piece of flooring, molding, paint etc… was placed without tremendous forethought, let alone the antique furnishings and the merchandise I anguished over. So much passion!! I was so excited to host and promote the local talent I saw in the Artisan community starting with our first CQ, Carina Molina, who had been so integral to the success of The Salamander Group during the years she worked with me. In the years since Caribbean Queen opened its doors I’ve watched the Artisanos set up shop with a momentum of their own, growing info a strong retail presence all over our island without the constraints of a brick and mortar store. In truth, my passion for the store and the artisans we hosted each month was far greater than the passion the mall had for maintaining a well appointed, well marketed location for our visitors & locals to want to make the mall a destination.

I’m an advocate of a free market economy and as such I believe competition is healthy. It keeps us working hard for our clients and forces us to push ourselves and those we employ. At the same time, those competing in a free market economy should operate under the same basic regulations and restrictions for a healthy free market economy to function. A brick and mortar location, with all the costs of running a fully legitimate enterprise where every florin earned is properly accounted for and every imported invoice submitted to customs means The Salamander Group and others like us already operate on a tilted platform. We vie for sales against kiosks, flea markets and other retail platforms setting up in both legitimate businesses and businesses not licensed to sell retail as we have witnessed the past years. I understand the desire to hop a plane and shop in the Mecca malls of the USA, the entrepreneurial spirit of bringing in goods under the radar screen and selling them at a private party, a festival, or a special holiday fair in the parking lot of a restaurant. At the same time I understand the empty spaces I see cropping up all over the hotel area and around the island and I’m aware, there will be more of those as the black market community continues to grow. As our retail landscape evolves, Change is here!! And Caribbean Queen is part of that change. No sale. No notice in the newspaper, just me sharing this one fact: Caribbean Queen is closing its doors on 1 February.

If you made it to the end of this post – thank you to all of you who did show your support for Caribbean Queen – we would not have lasted five years without you!!! We are open this weekend and what remains of this month and will look forward to welcoming you at T.H. Palm & Company, The Juggling Fish and The Lazy Lizard in the future! Thank you for reading me!

Cash in Purse?

Happy Betico Day, he was a charismatic politician, and I had the priviledge to meet him on various occasions, a warm, outgoing personality with bad hair.

I am not going to burden you today with much information, just point out of the highway robberies going down under our noses. We just paid for a printing of a magazine in the USA, and while I do not wish to incriminate CMB, we use their services, so the info is available.

The fixed charges on a USD transfer to CITI bank are:

  • USD 75,00 CMB
  • USD 15,00 Citibank
  • 1,3% Centrale Bank of Aruba
  • 10% CMB bank-charges

So for example a transfer of 30K to Citi costs a total of USD 510,00.

Options? None.

Bird Calendar Revealed at the Hilton

The gardens at the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino were the perfect backdrop for the 2017 Bird Calendar reveal, published by the Aruba Birdlife Conservation, and sponsored by the resort, the second year in a row.

Resort General Manager Hans Georg Roehrbein was proud to hang the first calendar, fresh off the press, in his office.

Greg Peterson, the President of Aruba Birdlife Conservation states that there are 236 registered bird species on Aruba with just two that are endemic to the island, the Shoco and the Prikichi, both featured in starring roles in the calendar.

The Shoco, the Burrowing Owl, is the island’s fifth national symbol and protected here since 2012. The tiny owl was caught mid flight for the calendar, by Armando Goedgedrag, one of the island’s best nature photographers and video artist.

The Prikichi, the Brown Throated Parakeet, was photographed by Michiel Oversteegen, a member of the Aruba Birdlife Conservation foundation. Michiel’s son, Sven, is the foundation’s youngest member at age 12, and his stunning picture of a feeding White-Tailed Nightjar, shows the nocturnal, infrequently seen bird, with a butterfly in its beak.

On the cover of the calendar, a shimmering Blue Tailed Emerald Hummingbird, captured by nature photographer Damilice Mansur, in her backyard. Damilice reports watching the bird for about 5 months, shooting its picture regularly, until the perfect moment materialized, as both flower and bird displayed in full view. The image went viral when it was submitted to National Geographic.

Other exceptional images in the calendar include one of Patrick Pena’s birds of prey, the female American Kestrel, in a typical stance, on the hunt. Patrick specializes in photographing Aruba’s birds of prey.

Ross “Boss” Wauben, contributed a Great Egret having speared a fish at the Bubali ponds.

This year’s calendar also included some of Peterson’s famous images. He just published a hardcover coffee-table book by the name of Bird Wildlife of Aruba, on December 7, 2016, available on The book contains full page photographs of over two hundred species of birds taken in Aruba’s wildlife.

on’t think it’s convenient to travel with the cash in my purse.

Islanders: “With an eye on the future.”

Last week, the Aruba Tourism Authority hosted three separate evenings, one in San Nicholas, one in Noord and one in Paradera, inviting islanders to come and voice their views regarding tourism, “With an eye on the future.” I sent a fellow-reporter to those “Cu Mira Pa Futuro” sessions.

The following is what she says:  “Personally I had seen the invitation to participate in the town hall sessions, but my feeling was: I have nothing  to say to ATA, why should I go? Whatever I have in mind is not interesting enough … they already know what our main concerns are…,” etc. Then when I was there, it was nice to be able to talk about feelings and worries… and to share with total strangers… I forget how well those group sessions empower people!

So if ATA feels the attendance was not very high, they should have made a stronger invitation, broadcasting a louder call for action by means of a popular marketing campaign, my fellow-reporter adds.

San Nicholas: I was told they had about 15 people, small attendance but very vocal and effective.

Paradera: Around 35 locals of all ages, I saw some politicians, recognized former minister Rudi Croes and politician Jocelyn Croes, Ryan Peterson from the university, and the center’s coordinated Elton Hart, Dancer Wilma Kuiperi.

Noord: More than 40 locals of all ages, tourism veteran Milton Granadillo, former politician Mary Wever, businesswoman Audrey Lacle, her daughter, artist Cado de Lannoy, hotelier Gerald A Griffith, culture advocate Indra Zaandam ,several business owners, Optica Moderna, KPG.

The CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority opened the gathering with two clips describing the work of the Aruba Tourism Authority and declaring its intention to be more involved with the community.  They are working “With an Eye on the Future,” on a plan which will be concluded in March, a Forward Outlook, designed to guide the island into a well planned future.

She also showed a second video about the destination, addressing sustainable growth, brand identity, and the local economy.

She asked good questions, how will the island’s tourism sector grow, and outlined different expectations, she acknowledged the preoccupation with quality services and the preoccupation with the rate of growth, and the questions regarding the direction this growth is taking.

Here comes the interesting part:

Valerie Croes then divided the audience into groups; discussions ended at about 9.45pm. Each group had 5 or 6 participants and 1 or 2 ATA officials as guides. Different questions were asked, which the groups had to answer one by one. The following are the questions and some answers.

I- Write down  a VEHICLE, a FLOWER OR PLANT and an ANIMAL which represents Aruba for you… then explain why

II- What is your biggest preoccupation regarding our touristic product?!

III- Kindly assess what should be given, high, medium or low priority from among the following topics : Hospitality, security, our beaches, culture, the environment and our island’s national identity.

(Every group gave SECURITY the highest priority)

IV- Does Aruba’s Tourist product require more variety. Yes? No?

If yes, please specify in which area.

-Activities on the beach (Unanimous NO)

-Tourism related activities in the neighborhoods (lots of YES)

-Events/ Festival (lots of NO)

– Restaurants (lots of NO, but YES to more food variety)

-Shops (lots of NO, but Yes to more variety)

V- Should Aruba expand its hotel product ? YES? NO?

If yes, please specify in which area.

Five star hotels, a discussion ensued about being ready for it

All inclusive (Unanimous NO)

Boutique hotels/small hotels (Unanimous YES)

Condominium (lots of NO)

Time share (lots of NO, the timeshare idea was deemed outdated)

VI-What is your perception of a Dushi Aruba, a would be a nice place to live in?

VII- What makes you proud of Aruba?/ What would make you personally happy?

(Overall unanimous patriotic pride, and the expressed satisfaction over Aruba’s excellent global reputation)

For more information, you may contact Stephanie Boekhouwer, at 582-3777 ext.  246

[email protected]

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January 29, 2017
Rona Coster