Bati Bleki

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Island Escape to Sand and Turquoise Waters

13 days ago

Easter Vacation found me in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. I have been there before, once on a cruise ship stopover and once as a resort guest. Then and now, St. Thomas exuded Caribbean charm. It has a very Arubanesque vibe, because it is wealthy, the third wealthiest group of islands in the Caribbean, and

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Island Escape to Sand and Turquoise Waters

13 days ago

Easter Vacation found me in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. I have been there before, once on a cruise ship stopover and once as a resort guest. Then and now, St. Thomas exuded Caribbean charm. It has a very Arubanesque vibe, because it is wealthy, the third wealthiest group of islands in the Caribbean, and as its name implies it is officially American.

I couldn’t help noticing that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers provides civil engineering services to the island, taking care of infrastructure, roads and whatever else we’re struggling with, such as sewer and trash.

It’s all well-regulated there, and enviously functional.

I read the U.S. bought St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, three lovely islands, from the Danish West Indies company for $25 million in 1917. It needed a naval base and got a gorgeous one. U.S. citizenship was conferred on all Virgin Islanders in 1927, and the Danish influence is still present in street names and historic places, but otherwise the island speaks English, some French, some Spanish and Creole too.

We stayed at The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef which is a spectacular property, perched on an harborside cliff with stunning views from every angle.

The hotel was once an iconic Holiday Inn in the 70s, the biggest, most popular, and it was proud of its adjacent Morningstar beach. On an island low on beaches, the Morningstar is a spectacular asset – no walking barefoot, midday, it gets hot.  The two hotel wings, the main building and the rooms built along the beach, were major economic drivers for the island, contributing to tax revenues and offering steady employment.  They hosted and entertained many, as chief vacation memory makers.

In later years the resort was flagged a Marriott, and it continued to contribute to money-making growth, directly and indirectly, with more than 415 employees and about 486 rooms, hosting groups of over-achievers in the pharmaceutical, insurance and car sale businesses.

Having lived in Aruba for so long we hear about hurricanes, but luckily, we don’t get to see their full destructive forces. When sitting at Luna Mar, a Coastal Mediterranean Restaurant at the resort, now the completely rebuilt Westin, I could understand a bit better what it meant, being exposed to the elements hanging on a cliff, in the middle of the ocean.

In 2017, both hurricane Maria and Irma landed a double punch on the resort and shattered it. It was damaged beyond repair, and consequently closed. The owners, opted to sell the property to an affiliate of a NY-based private investment firm, with a Hotel Asset Management Division in 2021.

The private investment firm raised the cash necessary, around $460 million to reconstruct and rejuvenate the cripple beauty.  It finally reopened around September 2023, giving hiring priority to those who already worked at the resort before the storm.

The colossal main building, the Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef, is now blessed by a boutique extension. The beach resort cove, baptized Noni Beach Resort, Buoy Haus, Autograph Collection, a tad more expensive and a bit more prestigious. Two stylish resorts instead of one, with interchangeable services.

The resorts have a third sister, tucked away behind the cliff, a Marriott Vacation Club, which did not get that damaged by the hurricane by virtue of its recessed location.

Aimbridge Hospitality, a leading global company founded in 2003 with 8 resorts, runs the day-to-day operations.

How are we related to Aimbridge?

Remember hotelier Rob Smith? He is now the Divisional President, Full Service; Full Service Hotels, Luxury, U.S. and Caribbean Resorts, and Evolution Lifestyle, for that giant. It’s a big title. After 11 years with Aimbridge, Rob has been recruited by another equally big private investment fund to become their hotel division CEO, more details to be revealed, soon.

As you all know, investment funds are the ones raising the cash to hire talent and inject excitement into hospitality. True, they are profit oriented more than customer-service driven, but how can we complain? We’d be poor and miserable without them.

Rob who worked in Aruba for almost two decades as General Manager, Wyndham Aruba Resort Spa & Casino, then, General Manager Westin Aruba Resort Spa & Casino, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and finally, President & CEO of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association / Aruba Convention Bureau, left here with his family to work for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, as General Manager. He was ready and available when Aimbridge called with an offer. He then went on to successfully climb up the corporate ladder.

Aimbridge now lists1,500 branded independent properties, thanks to a series of very successful acquisitions and mergers.  The company achieved meteoric success and Rob Smith is now moving on to become a CEO of a competitor, can’t say who, yet, its being negotiated.

David, my son, still fondly remembers Rob during desk hours in the lobby, listening to guests over coffee. Those were the days.

Aimbridge has also appreciated the diverse and profound talents of hotelier Jeff Lesker, on various assignment on the East and West coast, in Arizona and now in St Thomas. Jeff came out of retirement to lend his famous touch to the operation at the recently-opened resorts in St Thomas. He came out of retirement, he says, but thinks he will soon go right back, and enjoy the company of his beautiful, intelligent wife, diverse family members, grandchildren, and race horses, which he owns, breeds and runs.

When I arrived, Jeff was in the lobby, overseeing check-ins. He filled in for the bartender, serving Mutiny Island Vodka with Ginger and Lime bush tea, a delicious concoction made with lemon grass growing at the hotel entrance. During breakfast I saw his bus tables, remove the yellow Caution When Wet signs, left in walkways, long after the floor has dried. He is a hands-on professional, and while there are two General Managers in place, he talks to corporate, owners, and investors, deals with six restaurants and bars, hundreds of MICE guests, families with babies, and honeymooners.

He is also a very thoughtful, generous host.  The rooms, the public areas, the pools, the Flying Frenchman Catamaran, they are all delightful!

More comparisons with Aruba? The St. Thomas shopping experience is much nicer. The old warehouses along the waterfront were reclaimed as stores and do not offer any Haitian or Chinese arts and crafts. Sure, jewelry stores are abundant, but we also enjoyed a visit to the Turkish emporium of carpets and ceramics, wow.

In St. Thomas the locals are divided among super-star-friendly and sullen and pouty. You only get two kinds. At The Westin Beach Resort & Spa at Frenchman’s Reef they all belong to the super star category, and I made a few friends.

Isla Blu is an elegant seafood restaurant on a breezy, airy terrace.

Ruth, the resort’s fitness guru is fantastic. She stops every few meters, to take pictures, while in fact, she allows guests to catch their breath, walking up and down the cliffs, at full speed.

Director of Engineering J.C. Silveira, who worked in Aruba has been in St. Thomas for many years, it was nice to see him again.

Meson Amalia, in the Palm Passage, is a tasty spot for lunch.

The Tap & Still answers inexplicable cravings for good burgers, in the tropics.

 

From Wikipedia:  The Virgin Islands of the United States, is a group of islands in the Caribbean off 40 miles from Puerto Rico, it is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States with a population of 104,000. The U.S. Virgin Islands consists of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, and many other surrounding minor islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands are known for their white sand beaches. Approximately 2.5 million tourists per year visit USVI, most arriving on cruise ships.

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World Premiere of Rebecca Roos’ latest documentary at the Curaçao International Film Festival

14 days ago

  Wednesday April 10th, the 10th edition of the Curaçao International Film Festival will commence. During this prestigious film festival Rebecca Roos’ latest feature length documentary, I CAN’T BE MOE; Alice van Romondt (I Can’t Be Tired) will have its World Premiere. there will be two chances to see the film in Curaçao: Friday April

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World Premiere of Rebecca Roos’ latest documentary at the Curaçao International Film Festival

14 days ago

 

Even though the documentary encountered many challenges, Rebecca Roos is very happy with the end result, in which we not only get a portrait of a dynamic and inspiring woman, but through her also of the creative industries in Aruba and the Dutch Caribbean as a whole.

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Botica di Servicio Celebrates 5th Anniversary of Anoeska Wever & Dennis Diaz

14 days ago

At the beginning of the month, head pharmacist Anoeska Wever celebrates 5 years of service with Botica di Servicio. Anoeska is known for her big smile, beautiful personality, and also dedication to her profession. But the celebration doesn’t end there! Also, driver Dennis Diaz is celebrating his 5 years of service. Dennis is dedicated and

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Botica di Servicio Celebrates 5th Anniversary of Anoeska Wever & Dennis Diaz

14 days ago

At the beginning of the month, head pharmacist Anoeska Wever celebrates 5 years of service with Botica di Servicio. Anoeska is known for her big smile, beautiful personality, and also dedication to her profession.

But the celebration doesn’t end there!

Also, driver Dennis Diaz is celebrating his 5 years of service. Dennis is dedicated and responsible in his work and is a great part of the team responsible for bringing and delivering the different products and medications.

Botica di Servicio wants to thank Anoeska and Dennis for their tremendous commitment and hopes to have them for many more years.

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Aruba Airport and Aruba Tourism elevate presence at Routes Americas 2024 Conference in Bogota

14 days ago

Aruba Airport proudly participated in the 17th edition of the Routes Americas 2024 conference, an essential networking event in the Americas aviation industry. Held from March 19 through 22 in Bogota, Colombia, this conference brought together key stakeholders from across the Americas region, fostering invaluable connections and collaborations. A standout moment for Aruba Airport this

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Aruba Airport and Aruba Tourism elevate presence at Routes Americas 2024 Conference in Bogota

14 days ago

Learn more about what’s happening at AUA Airport by visiting www.airportaruba.com and connect with AUA Airport on Twitter.com/Aruba_Airport, Facebook.com/ArubaAirport, Instagram.com/arubaairport/ and Linkedin.com/ArubaAirport.

Date: April 3, 2024

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Make the Switch & Win with Botica di Servicio!

14 days ago

Botica di Servicio is offering a grand giveaway for all new members who switch during April. Additionally, every member will have the chance to win one of their various prizes, such as a Wellness & Nature retreat to Colombia, a 65-inch TV, 20,000 FunMiles points, and more prizes! Every year, everyone has the opportunity to

batibleki.wheninaruba.com
news item

Make the Switch & Win with Botica di Servicio!

14 days ago

Botica di Servicio is offering a grand giveaway for all new members who switch during April. Additionally, every member will have the chance to win one of their various prizes, such as a Wellness & Nature retreat to Colombia, a 65-inch TV, 20,000 FunMiles points, and more prizes!

Every year, everyone has the opportunity to switch pharmacies twice a year, which is happening now in April and in October.

During April, everyone has the opportunity to switch pharmacies. Botica di Servicio welcomes all new members with one of the gifts they offer as a token of appreciation. Additionally, all existing and new members are eligible to win one of the fantastic prizes offered by Botica di Servicio.

Botica di Servicio’s main goal is to provide exceptional service to the community of Aruba in the healthcare sector.

Therefore, every member of Botica di Servicio can take advantage of various benefits:

Botica di Servicio invites the community of Aruba to switch before April 29th and receive a gift as a token of appreciation as well as participate in their grand prize giveaway.

Visit one of their 4 locations and let our helpful team assist you in making the switch or visit our website www.boticadiservicio.com and fill out the form.

Make the switch before April 29th to enjoy everything Botica di Servicio has to offer!