Who needs so many cruise ships?
The other day I walked through a branded Palm Beach resort and was stopped by the General Manager. You’re all wrong, he said, the reason why the beach situation is unbearable, is the number of Cruise Ship calling on the Oranjestad Harbor.
We need one a day, not three.
We cannot handle the multiple ship visits, it overcrowds the few attractions we have. Too many people at tiny Alto Vista, too many people at Conchi, the park is seriously considering closing the area and regulating visits. Aruba doesn’t need all that cruise ship traffic, it doesn’t contribute to the economy as much as it disrupts it.
And it disrupts the beach experience of our over-night-stay visitors who pay top dollar for serenity on a lounge.
Less cruise ships, less pirate taxis, less pirate tour guides, les flea markets.
I listened. He has a point.
Then I got another interesting message from another hotelier I questioned: “Cruise ships are not the problem. If tour operators are banned from dropping cruise ship passengers on Palm Beach, and fined when they violate the decree, the problem would be solved. Small tour operators must adhere to the instructions to drop Cruise Ship Passengers off at Arashi, Surfside & Eagle Beach, where ATA & the Tourism Product Enhancement Fund built facilities, NOT on Palm Beach. Our over-night-stay tourists are paying serious money to be here, and the 20-dollar-for-three-tee-shirt crowd must be directed to those gorgeous OTHER beaches. HOWEVER, the illegal vendor on Palm Bach pay these little bus drivers PER TOURIST, encouraging them to drop them off, on Palm Beach, where they are promised the use of the pool, and toilets. This issue can be controlled but it takes balls.”
Here’s for the good news: I understand that a Task Force enforcing the Beach Policy visited the beaches yesterday for friendly control. Illegal structures were given the order to dismantle. The MinInfra, MinJust and MinTour are collaborating to establish law and order between chair vendors and watersports operators.
Thus, the Police, DIP and DOW, are in charge of patrolling the area, as of January 21st, with a 3-strikes-and-you’re-out policy, meaning if three complaints are registered against any of the vendors, they lose their business license.
I say: We’ll see. But the development in general is very positive with the Police, DIP & DOW out of their offices and on the battleground. I saw pictures, it’s true!
Divino NV, an exciting new company
Michael v/d Berg is building a new warehouse across Caribbean Overseas, in Eagle, it is more than double the size of his old digs at Pepia Est. The way he sees it, the company couldn’t expand in its original address, so the partners decided to partially part ways, with Michael v/d Berg overseeing the growth at Divino NV and Herdy Ten Lohuis consolidating Pepia Est.
Sometimes along the way when Tito’s handmade vodka joined Pepia Est, then Macallan Whiskey, Jägermeister, and Disaronno Amaretto, they started feeling cramped. So, the decision to give birth to a new company took shape.
It was a bold move, but Michael is bold. He identified a good location, an abandoned warehouse project in Eagle, picked it up, as is, where is, and proceeded to build the original footprint, already blessed with permits and all. He moved into the building just recently, operating a generator for light, water will be connected shortly, but Divino NV is launched and in business.
With a new dynamic company, Camus cognac came along and many more, all leading global brands who were happy about the emerging opportunity to expand their local market share.
Because of the ample warehouse space Divino was able to pick up Cupcake wines, and FlipFlop, both wines from a global source meaning the Pinot Grigio comes from Italy and the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, all best sellers; and among fine wines Shafer & Caymus, Napa Valley and Brunello di Montacino top the list, then Michael also made room for an amazing find, San Telmo from Argentina.
As the owner of the new company he opted to spearhead sales and leave the actual management to two members of the next generations. As a sales person he is tireless and driven, a consummate wine connoisseur and a deal closer, all wrapped in one. He got his start on the island in F&B but later joined a stumbling liquor purveyor. He eventually took the business over, with his partner Herdy, as he found his calling: Grapes, Wineries, Vino.
Always engaged, always engaging, I will drink his wine, anytime. We wish Divino NV a great success.
Aruba Bankers Association (ABA) Checks Out Aruba
Do you still write checks? If you do, you’d better get rid of the habit because last November the Aruba Banker Association announced it will be discontinuing the use of checks which are inefficient to process, expensive and insecure.
As of May 1st, this year, private clients will no longer be able to use checks, and on November 1st, 2018, corporate clients will be joining the checkless crowd.
ABA made a recent presentation at the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association meeting, stating its case, and reporting that the use of checks on the island has declined to the point of making them obsolete.
I haven’t written a check for years, but I can see the little people affected, day workers and temporary employees. They will have to open bank accounts and get ATM cards between now and May 1. Easier said than done.
Check out the web page: www.checkoutaruba.com
Dia di Betico at Rancho
I joined the walking tour in Rancho, don’t get intimidated, around 3,000 steps in the vicinity of Flor da Oriente, in Oranjestad. Stichting Rancho, dedicated to the historical and cultural heritage of the neighborhood organized the activity on Betico Dag.
The response to the walking tour was positive, there were about 60 Dutch, Papiamento & English-speaking history buffs in my group, some with impressive cameras, ready to snap architectural and visual gems.
Rancho is the cradle of Oranjestad, a triangle of cunucu-style homes, south and west of the first built St Francisco church. The roofs are slanted in an effort to collect rain water, all doors face south. The early houses, built mid 19thcentury, were made of sticks and mud, the later ones, built early 20th century when the Harbor opened importing better building materials, were made of bricks and mortar.
The foundation identified and named five interesting alleys, reflecting an overview of the urban development of Oranjestad, and we followed that trail.
The people who lived in the Rancho area at the time, were fishermen, enjoying the close proximity to the ocean. Predictably, the neighborhood was also blessed by some entrepreneurs, Papa Chango who built a commercial Lime Kiln in his yard to satisfy the demands of the building boom in town; later Cornelis Henrik Eman built a water tank, a reservoir, cleverly supplying water to the neighborhood, up until WEB Aruba took that job over and closed his business down.
Two more thriving livelihoods were gambling and prostitution, operating within a short walk from the harbor. Think visiting sailors.
Today, residents hang out, some peddle drugs, some sell snacks, the area is depressed and falling apart, except some areas of revival, Flor Da Oriente, Architect Raffy Kock, Lawyer Doris Canwood, and some iconic businesses Panaderia Moderna, Kowloon restaurant, U Wanna Beer.
While the old structures are crumbling, revealing their stick and stone guts, most buildings in the narrow alleys are in different states of disrepair.
The island’s Monument Fund purchase, as in a lot of money, the Lime Kiln and the Water Tank, both unique and important parts of the island’s heritage, nothing has been done to either restore or preserve them.
The discussion in ongoing: Should they be restored to their original state, or should they be preserved, in their current condition, just supported against further damage??
Clifford Rosa was our tour guide. A self-appointed chairman to the foundation, a story teller, a curator of history, a consummate volunteer.
His project faces many challenges, mainly no funds. Also, no legal structure, no masterplan. The previous government applauded his efforts under the ‘culture’ umbrella, but did not anchor the initiative by law. So, under our new government, the project has no status, it’s sort of hanging, until someone picks up the ball. And though our MinFin, who is also in charge of Culture, is from the adjacent neighborhood, she hasn’t visited the project yet. Xiomara, please visit, our monuments are in danger.
One shocking aspect of Rancho, a successful fighting cock business, at Fishermen’s Alley, a breeder and trainer who runs a small arena, and raises dozens of bare-ass cocks in plain view, and against the law.
He is part of the cultural heritage of the area, says Clifford, just like bull-fighting in Spain: You can take the savage out of the jungle, but you can’t take the jungle out of the savage!
One of our walking tour members summed it up for me: Meimei Tuna & Cadushi, Mi Ta Biba Dushi. Mid cactus, I live well — meaning perhaps that in spite imperfections, we may have a good life and learn to live with thorns; be content with what you have, just like the resident of the barrio who just hang out!
What time is it? It’s Wine Time!
On the eve of the Dia di Betico holiday we hopped on the Kukoo Kunuku’s red, windowless bus, to experience the new wine tour visiting four of Aruba’s top chef-owned restaurants, with a friendly sommelier on board to guide us through the hardship.
Bottom line, we wholeheartedly recommend the tour, additionally we suggest to change its name to Wine & Dine, because the progressive tapas-style dinner we were served at four different locales was fantastic.
We climbed on board at the Marriott Aruba Resort and Stellaris Casino, but the bus would pick you up anywhere. Armed with maracas, and shaking them to Carnival music, the first leg of the trip brought us to White Modern Cuisine at the club house, Gold Coast Residence. Our sommelier poured some Villa Sandi Millesimato prosecco into delicate flutes while we admired the spectacular sunset. He graciously orchestrated the introductions. We went around the lovely long table learning the basics about our bus buddies.
Then we got to taste Chef Urvin Croes’ signature amuse, a Cheese Ball with truffle mayo. The bite was chased by Yakitori Glazed Tuna, paired with Pine Ridge’s white blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, and followed by chef’s legendary Corn Chowder accompanied by Josh Cellars Chardonnay, reminding us that Chef Urvin is Aruba’s #1 Iron Chef, and a national treasure.
The highlight of the stop: Marcus and Cindy Wiggins, the owners of Kukoo Kunuku dropped in for a short interlude, thanking us for tripping with them that evening. They are a charming duo.
Back on the bus, maracas, music, this time Rock ‘n Roll.
At Screaming Eagle on the terrace, surrounded by gently wafting white curtains and twinkling lights we savored Chef Erwin Husken’s amazing Pork Belly appetizer, with white cabbage & red onion salad, bacon bits, and nam phrik
mayo, paired with a Gewurztraminer Riesling, a wow combo. No wonder the food was so good, chef Erwin was honored as The Caribbean Chef of the Year, in 2017.
Another short trip, with the people on the bus now fully into their maracas!
At Hostaria da Vittorio we nibbled on just-baked focaccia bread and appreciated every bite of Chef Vittorio’s homemade cheese-stuffed ravioli paired with Caposaldo Chianti. The restaurant, by master Chef Muscariello, is the only authentic Italian restaurant in Aruba, importing all its products from Italy, boasting the Ospitalita Italiana seal of approval by the Government of Italy, for serving 100% genuine products.
Just around the block and at the busiest portion of Palm Beach, we stopped at AZIA Bar & Lounge for dessert, a collection of the Gianni’s Group of restaurants best sweets: Chocolate dipped strawberry, cream filled profiterole, mini chocolate lava cake and vanilla custard in a shot glass. Our dessert platter was paired with Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, a full-bodied wonder.
Wouter Koeneman, our sommelier, an account manager at Pepia Est, wine purveyors, and a super friendly driver made the trip complete.
Maki, the operations manager at Kukoo Kunuku was the perfect host!!
Great night time tour. A wonderful way for the young and the restless and the old and the reckless to spend an evening of out-of-the-box food and wine.
Book early because you don’t want to miss this bus!