QUACK, QUACK. Duckhorn Vineyards hosted a successful wine dinner at the Sunset Grille Restaurant, last week. Michael v/d Berg and Herdy Ten Lohuis, of Pepia Est, which as you know are the local aggressive importers & distributers for the winery – aggressive in sales, is good — invited the Duckhorn Export Sale Manager, a friendly and entertaining character by the name of Brian Bostwick to host the event. In charge of inviting their major clients Raymond Kok, Jimmy Koopman and Kiume Tjonastein, the company’s three dynamic salesmen, who were happy to include Ivette and Patrick van der Donk, of Amuse, Shirley, Aqua Grille, and Nigel Barrow, Joel Bunde, the General Manager of the Hyatt Regency, and food & beverage executive Julian Tucker, Freddy Zedan, Marrit Fleur and Chantal Beke, of Divi Resorts, Mark Naber, the former food & beverage manager, now director of operations for the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Hotel & Casino, who will be relocating for a new assignment, Arianna Valentino, the resort’s Director of Sales and Marketing, Ruben and Jundira Yrausquin, no introductions needed, Marvin and Sharla Kelly, ABC Tours… you get the picture, an excellent, appreciative crowd. The Hilton’s culinary brigade, with chef Anthony Martinus and Executive Sous Chef Hector Espinosa was inspired by Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, California 2013, and paired a lightly grilled Scallop and Apple appetizer with the wine, produced by Duckhorn since 1982. After a delicious orange flavored sorbet, Grilled Rack of Lamb was paired with the world-class, flavorful Migration Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California, 2013. I love that wine and I wanted to eat every bit of my chops, which was a challenge on the narrow plate they were served on, I kept picking them off the white tablecloth, where they frequently landed, hope no one noticed. The vinery’s famed Duckhorn Merlot Napa Valley California, 2012, complemented the Filet Mignon, which was pre-cut and easy to handle, and the Paraduxx Proprietary Red Wine Napa Valley Californiam 2011, was an outstanding escort for the dessert, dark chocolate served a number of different ways. Duckhorn Vineyard, a premier producer of Bordeaux varietal wines co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976, spent almost forty years establishing itself as one of North America’s premier producers of Napa Valley wines. Duckhorn Vineyards’ tradition of quality and excellence resonates well in Aruba as well, where the wines are served at fine restaurants, and are available on the wine card of the Sunset Grille. And talking about the resort Sheldon Leuden, restaurants manager, helped orchestrate the evening.
Written on APRIL 8TH, 2014
THE SELF-PROCLAIMED AND SELF SERVING BEST OF ARUBA™ AWARDS. I recently ran into the ever-charming and ever-calculating Yenny Dominguez who is launching ARUBA’S OFFICIAL BUSINESS AWARDS these days. Basically the enterprising sales lady – she was after all trained by the Marriott Vacation Club – started a program in which everyone is asked to pay for their so-called business excellence award, there is no legitimate competition or a set of standards to meet. If you have the spare $6,000 in your pocket you may place the plastic sticker BEST Real Estate or Best Cuisine on your door; you will also be invited to party at Tierra del Sol, at the end of April. If you don’t have the money, tough luck, even if you’re running an excellent establishment, you’re out! When people can buy the-best-of-this or best-of-other titles, and there is no due process, no jury, no judges, no Gold Standards to uphold, you can safely say that the program was designed to solely support its managing director. In the real world, Best Student, or for example Best Movie titles have to be earned, not bought! It’s a good idea of course, when introduced by the Chamber of Commerce, it’s a scam when the title in empty, and all you have to do is write a check!
Written on JUNE 9th, 2014
THE SELF-PROCLAIMED AND SELF SERVING BEST OF ARUBA™ AWARDS II. In April of last year I wrote about the For Sale Awards, masquerading as real, with no due process, no jury, no judges, no Gold Standards to uphold. They’re back in June, a bit late but nevertheless I congratulate the shrewd and determined business people behind the scheme for having the chutzpah to do it again. This time they are masquerading as having altruistic purposes, they claim to recognize those who have worked hard, blah blah, those who have served the country, blah blah, those who have served our people, blah blah blah, and by the way, buy an ad in our cut and paste catalogue on shiny paper to maintain the recognition year around. I trust that the public is not fooled by the not-for-profit talk. Businesspeople are in business to make money, there is no shame in that, but as consumers they expect the delivery of a good product, and I hope the award organization improved its product this year, infused it with solid, relevant content, not just hoopla, hair, nails and a short dress.
Written on November 17th, 2015
THE SELF-PROCLAIMED AND SELF SERVING BEST OF ARUBA™ AWARDS III. OMG, they are doing it again. This year’s twist is a so called online voting process, and I noticed a number of local organizations who got sold on the concept, are soliciting votes to support their award candidacy. I also heard more than once that the organizers are circulating thank you e-mails expressing gratitude for voting to individuals who never voted for anything in their life. So, as I mentioned, there is an added voting element, and a chance to win a trip to Cuba, and a second year partnership with the Palm Beach Plaza Mall, who hosted the extra drawn-out and extra boring party last year. And despite of numerous meetings with the mall’s marketing man Ishwar Daryanani, some things remain the same: The magazine is late from the printer, it’s printed in very small quantities, it’s a cut and paste catalogue on shiny paper, you can hardly call it a magazine, and best of all, you gotta show the publisher the money, before you’re allowed to hang the sticker at your door.
AHATA’S 50th ANNIVERSARY. AHATA, the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association celebrated its 50th Anniversary on November 13th, we marked our calendar when the e-mail arrived, then showed up on time in the ballroom of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino. The faces of the island’s tourism pioneers Eduardo de Veer, Ewald Biemans, Harold Malmberg, Rory Arends, Adwina Arends and the late Ike Cohen smiled at us off the invitation, encouraging us to attend, from 7pm to 11pm. As I sit here five days later, I am questioning myself why my fingers did not itch to report about the party, immediately, the following morning. I am usually eager to tell it all. I guess I was underwhelmed, I had a good time, but the festive, congratulatory buzz I was expecting was not there. Perhaps I go to too many parties. Anyway, according to me, we missed a great opportunity to honor AHATA’s remaining pioneers. I congratulated my friend, hotelier Ewald Biemans on the well-deserved and fully-earned Lifetime Achievement Award he received, but Ewald would not have minded sharing, he would have been equally happy with his award, had some other key-players of the industry been recognized as well. Instead they were mentioned as footnotes in the CEO’s interesting historical overview. I liked Jim Hepple’s dissertation. I would have liked it more had I been sitting comfortably. He described AHATA’s journey over the past 50 years. Naturally, it was the abridged version. I asked him if his address will be posted on line on the AHATA website. He promised it would. Alas, it’s not there. But then again that website has not been updated in years. So anyway, original cast members such as Harold Malmberg and Rory Arends could/should have joined center stage for a plaque and applause. And I am happy for Ewald, though he will have to buy an additional cabinet for his growing collection of trophies. One more thing before I go. Have you ever heard Donald Trump complimenting Barack Obama on a job well done? No. The Republicans never compliment the Democrats, right? It’s their job to forever be dissatisfied with each other. Same thing here: the Private Sector should NEVER compliment government, the Public Sector, on a job well done. Never. Even if a partial compliment is due. Telling the Minister of Tourism at an official AHATA gathering that he has done a good job, is unthinking, an undeserved token, even if it is quasi-deserving, in view of the fact that a 7% AAB is rumored to arrive on the scene January 1st, 2016.
THE ABB SAGA. So after I warned yesterday “Beware of ABB,” a maven friend enlightened me, that it’s a good move. By introducing ABB we’ll get 100% of the island’s residents to pay taxes instead of the mere current 40%. Apparently, 60% of the island’s population believes that taxation is an option, and a mere suggestion on behalf of the government, however with the introduction of ABB, we’ll all be taxed at the source, without exception. I learned that ABB is part of a comprehensive package some very smart people in Minister Bermudez’ entourage put together, reducing all frivolous charges such as income tax, for example. My maven friend supported getting rid of them all, BBO and BAZV including, and simplifying import duties, abolishing inheritance tax, forcing every citizen on this island to contribute in taxation. However if you read the newspaper today, you already know that our PM nixed all plans for reform, vetoing the ministers. He nixed the suggestion by Minister Dowers to outlaw right hand drive cars; he nixed Minister Bermudez’ tax reform and he nixed Minister Croes’ labor law modifications. Scared of losing votes our PM is entertaining the implementation of a bank transfer tax, one that is standard in third world countries!! While the Minister of Finance has a team of professionals by his side, people with excellent fiscal experience, we cannot say the same about the people on the PM’s team. The people making decisions, says my maven friend, would not even occupy a managerial position in an average accounting firm. And don’t forget the license plate issue, also quagmire by the PM. The suggestion to link the annual license plate fees to gasoline purchases was solid. And I am disappointed it ain’t happening.
LIVE XPRESSIONS. A super cool jazz band grabbed our attention recently at the Marriott Ballroom during the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association 50th anniversary. They are Live Xpressions. I saw them again performing super cool music at Starbucks on Thursday for an art opening, at Paseo Herencia. They are Jeanoir Koolman on guitar, Pierre Koolman on drums, Milly Hernandez on bass and backup vocals and the lovely Gyslaine Helder, as vocalist.
STARBUCKS UNVEILS AN ART WALL. Starbucks Aruba offers more than just new and interesting ways to drink coffee and more than free WIFI connectivity. Your home away from home on the island is now an art gallery. On Thursday evening, Starbucks Paseo Herencia inaugurated its Art Wall, a small exhibition by three immensely popular and extremely talented local artists. According to the Starbucks management team, Shakira Arrindell and Maartje Dolfing the empty wall just asked for it, and the three selected artists were happy to comply, Armando Goedgedrag with paintings of the island’s wild nature, Cado de Lannoy with photographs of abandoned historical structures and Luis Mesquita with original, colorful driftwood art pieces. The opening of the exhibition, at the Starbucks Coffee at Paseo Herencia attracted a crowd of art loving coffee aficionados, who also enjoyed the super cool jazz band, Live Xpressions. The Art Wall will be on view for a week, and management is considering making the wall a permanent exhibition place. Shakira also reports that they are experimenting at Starbucks in Curacao with offering wine and beer in the evening hours, to help the café morph into a friendly bar-lounge, after office hours. Joey Koevermans, Suelyn Dankerlui, and Ashlin Ahlip contributed to the artistic buzz, over a delicious selection of wines and cheese.
PRESS WEEKEND AT THE RIU PALACE ARUBA. Aruba’s press members were invited for an all-inclusive overnight at the Riu Palace Aruba recently, to experience the resort following a 25 million dollar renovation. As you recall, the old familiar Palm Beach hotel, re-opened under the RIU RESORTS flag in 2007. It now shows off luxurious, elegant and modern decor, combined with new services and upgraded facilities.
Press members checked in at 6pm, and were greeted in the lobby with a glass of champagne and a warm bonbini by Daniele Camponovo Aruba’s Operation Manager, General Manager Richard Velasco and Sales Manager Enrique Llinas. Local pianist Victor Camacho entertained in the lobby bar during check in time. As they reached their respective rooms, press members were surprised with bouquets of fresh flowers, a chilled bottle of champagne, an artfully carved fresh fruit platter, petit fours and other deluxe amenities.
Having freshened up, press members were escorted on a property tour which included a Junior Suite with indoor and outdoor Jacuzzi tubs, and a viewing of the resort’s various restaurants, the ocean front Nautilus steakhouse, the upscale Krystal fine dining, the Oriental fusion Sayuri, and the traditional Italian trattoria, Milano.
According to Camponovo and Velasco the interiors of the newly renovated Riu Palace Aruba are now contemporary and bright, with more ocean front views and larger windows, a departure from the classic Spanish/European look of early years. The concept is now based on clean, uncluttered lines with vibrant colours in the public spaces. The resort’s 450 rooms have also been updated with a modern and comfortable approach paired with the latest technology, with flat-screen satellite TV, electronic safes, and free WiFi. The beach front enjoys the addition of a sun terrace and a new infinity pool overlooking the crystal waters of Palm Beach.
At the end of the property tour cocktails were served at Barry’s Lounge, under the stars, as assorted members of staff were introduced, including representatives of diverse departments from housekeeping to kitchen and management.
A special formal table with a festive flower arrangement was reserved for the press group at Don Nicholas, the main dining room fully renovated in a lime-green motif, where the journalists and photographers enjoyed a huge selection of international buffet specialties. After dinner press members were invited to visit Cool Casino and/or both showrooms at either the Riu Palace or Riu Antillas.
RIU Hotels & Resorts headquartered at Palma de Mallorca, is a privately owned international hotel chain, founded by the Riu family in 1953 as a small vacation enterprise. The company is still held today by the family and managed by members of the third generation. Almost 70% of RIU Hotels and Resorts are all-inclusive. With the opening of its first city hotel in 2010, RIU is expanding its range of products with its own brand of city hotels called Riu Plaza. The chain had recently opened its first Riu Plaza in New York. With more than 100 hotels in 19 countries, Riu welcomes over four million guests annually and provides jobs for more than 27,813 employees. The chain is currently ranked the world’s 30th, and one of the Caribbean’s most popular. It is the largest hotel chain in Spain in terms of revenue, and the third largest in number of rooms.
In Aruba, in addition to Riu Palace Aruba the chain also operates the luxurious Riu Palace Antillas, the first hotel on the island exclusively reserved for adults 18 and older which offers all-inclusive service 24 hours a day.