The Carib Celebrates 60 Years as the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino

Today, sixty years ago, July 18th, 1959, the opening ceremony of the new, swanky resort on Palm Beach took place in the presence of the Governor of the Netherlands Antilles, representing the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Antoon Arnold Marie “Teun” Struycken.

He gave a short speech, and we have a picture of the ribbon cutting in the archive.

Carl Wolff was recruited as the first General Manager of the Carib, by Executive House, from Chicago. For the casino, Clifford Jones and Jake Kozloff, both well-known in international gambling circles, were contracted to operate gaming. They had a limitless budget to bring the best entertainers of that time to perform in the “Klompen Klub,” among them Xavier Cugat, Harry Belafonte, Jack Benny and Liberace.

Just before opening, during the hotel soft opening period, the 120-member Washington Symphony Orchestra came to perform in Aruba for two days, all expenses paid by the U.S. government.

That was nice.

Remember, they have been busy since 1955, with building the road from Oranjestad to where the Holiday Inn now stands, to make the beaches accessible. This coastal road eventually led to the beautiful, new hotel, the first to be built, the Aruba Caribbean, a deluxe undertaking, with just 125 rooms originally. So when the official opening took place it was a national happening.

 Visionary politicians Juan Enrique Irausquin and Oscar Henriquez basked in the glow of the moment.

Once the ribbon was cut, Hildegarde, an American cabaret singer, gave an unforgettable rendition of her well known “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup” song, accompanied by the orchestra of Eduardo Chavez, then a local folkloric show presented, and Padu Lampe fired up his piano.

I wish I could have been there.

Later on, to celebrate the resort 7th anniversary the recently married Royal Highness Princess Beatrix, who became the Dutch Monarch in 1980, and her husband of four-months Prince Claus of the Netherlands, joined the government of Aruba, for lunch.

It was July 22nd, 1966.

Would you like to know what they had?

The gold engraved menu on the occasion of their royal visit here included Lobster Medallions en Belle Vue, poached then sliced lobster with mayonnaise over greens. The appetizer was followed by the elegant Boeuf Wellington, center cut filet mignon wrapped in puff pastry, layered with pâté de foie gras, sitting in a puddle of sauce Perigueux, a rich classic, flavored with Madeira wine and black truffles.

Not just any vegetables, but Bouquetiere Aristrocrate, an aristocratic bouquet of veggies, escorted by crunchy Pomme Noisettes, the bite size hazelnut potatoes.

The Salad Mimosa, a layered fish salad chased the main course, then for dessert, Bavaroise Royale, a classic pastry cream.

The meal concluded with Le Café, and Les Liqueurs.

The royals sipped Chablis Premier Cru Vaillon 1962, and Champagne Dom Perignon 1959.

They had money, they had good taste.  

I wish I could have been there.  

When you consider that in those days, there were no large government guarantees for the development of resorts, and when you note that the government set up a corporation and financed the project by involving local and foreign investors, plus loans from Holland, you realize how visionary the construction project of the Aruba Carib was.

Of course, later our government guaranteed huge bank loans to private investors to finance their hotel projects, which got us in hot – Italian – water, but then it all worked out, it’s all paid off already.  

The Aruba Carib, now the Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino carries the mission of Aruban hospitality excellence on. Besides, sixty is the new forty.

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July 18, 2019
Rona Coster