Saturday, August 25, 2007

You're Going to Aruba & Do What?

Well remember that story about my grandmother and the kids who said they wanted to go to Aruba for Christmas? Well 4 kids, and a couple of big ones, got their Christmas wish more than 8 months early this year.

Now, my Mom and I are always looking at cruises and ships and where they are all going. Some women go to the mall and go window shopping. We don't live near one another, so we window shop together online for cruises, each from our own computer. Then she and I swap the information. Naturally we had looked at Christmas cruises for 2007.

There was one huge problem though. My nieces and nephew do not get out of school until the weekend before Christmas. This particular school year, neither does my dh and dd. After all of their years of cruising, my Mom, Dad and grandmother refuse to cruise over the holidays or for that matter, any other time, for less than 10 days. That is just the way it is, so we suffer through it. For Christmas 2007, there were virtually no cruises which left the weekend before Christmas, were 10 days or more and were not a zillion dollars. Figure airfare alone for 10 people ...$$$

But wait, there was ONE cruise. Only one problem, it was the same ship that the ten of us had sailed on last Christmas, the Galaxy. The 6 of us (the year my brother and the kids stayed home) had sailed on the same ship for Christmas the year before that. My Mom was not looking forward to sailing the same ship for the 3rd Christmas in a row and knowing my Grandmother, she would like the prospect even less. But that was the only choice for cruises. The price had gone up from last year because there were an additional 2 nights and last year was more than my grandmother had wanted to spend. We are talking 4 balcony cabins (she will not allow anyone, including the kids, to settle for anything less) plus airfare.

Dh, dd and I were going to my parents in April for Spring break. My grandmother lives with my parents so naturally we would be able to spend some quality time together. When family sits down, usually around the dinner table, doesn't conversation sometimes turn to reminiscing? The subject of past cruises and holidays naturally came up. Any hints from Nana about this year? "Well", she said, "what do you have in mind?".

My Mom and I laid the facts out on the table. Plain and simple there was nothing out there cruise wise for us this year. The cruises either did not fit our dates or were not affordable. Well we told her, there was the Galaxy, but it was more expensive than last year due to an extra 2 nights. Not really an option in her mind. I figured I would throw out the idea about Aruba and this great beachfront resort one last time. She nodded, as if almost in agreement, she was interested. I reminded her of how the family had seen so many Christmas decorations on the island of Aruba last year and so few on the ship. We got the green light to get some prices.

Dh used to shop around for our Aruba trips. I kept telling him that it was a waste of time to go anywhere other than MCM Tours, but what do I know? The last time he shopped around was 6 years ago. He spent 5 hours on the phone getting 5 prices none of which beat MCM's. We had already booked through them what 7 times? I just sat shaking my head. Dare I say he learned his lesson? This time, as he has now been doing, Jerry immediately contacted our travel agent Amy at MCM Tours. Going through all of the options...a family of 10...4 teenagers to feed...a 93 year old who has some difficulty walking and a daughter who had a bad hip (since replaced in May), the Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive Resort was the best resort for what we wanted for our Christmas and New Year's holiday. Amy gave us fabulous pricing on the Tamarijn. Discounted airfare to Aruba was sold out so we were on our own there.

Knowing how much the 4 rooms were going to cost per night, we then had to work out the airfare. While Jerry got onto one computer to check out that, I proceeded to the Tamarijn's website to do some fancy copying and pasting. I needed to make up a personalized brochure for my grandmother. She likes/needs to see it and have something to "hold on to". I knew most important to her would be the dining choices and activities for the kids. She wants her great-grandchildren to be happy. Believe me, the poor woman endures rooming with two girls age 14 and 18 who travel with everything but the kitchen sink. That alone should qualify for sainthood!

So Jerry priced out flights from ATL, EWR and MIA for different sets of dates. Only being tied to airline schedule's which depart daily rather than ship schedules, we were able to customize a trip to meet the budget of whatever my grandmother wanted to spend. I made up a brochure with not only the information I mentioned previously but pricing for 9 - 12 nights. When I handed the information over, not only was she pleasantly surprised it was quite a bit cheaper than the cruise, she was also delighted by the wide choice of dining venues.

Her decision was that if 5 of us- my Mom and Dad, dh, dd and I agreed upon it, it was fine with her. BUT we knew we needed to call my brother to see if this would be something he would be interested in. We knew he would, just a formality actually. Then my Mom was appointed to call the mother of my nieces and nephew to see if she would grant permission for them to go out of the country with us for Christmas and New Year's. She said yes, but the final decision was up to the children. One by one they got on the phone and it was a vote of 2 - 1 in favor of Aruba.

My oldest niece voted against Aruba because she is convinced there will be no 18 year olds or anyone else near her age at the resort. Being out voted, and there being no other options on the table, the final vote tally was 8 - 1. My grandmother did not vote because she said it was up to all of us to come to an agreement on where to go. My oldest niece still agreed to come, either way she was not going to miss out on that Caribbean sunshine. She accepted even more readily when I informed her that the drinking age was 18 and she could consume all the beer she could drink for free. My grandmother pays for flights and accommodations, but individually we pay for our own beverages, tours, tips etc. On cruises in the past, free cruises have still added up.

Thus is the story of how we come to vacation at an all inclusive resort. My grandparents owned restaurants all of their lives, and my parents owned their own deli and restaurant for over 10 years. All of our family, kids included, have expensive tastes when it comes to food. Dinners alone in Aruba would have amounted to $500 a night at the very minimum. Oh, and did I mention that kids 17 years old and under stay free when sharing the room with an adult? We have 3 kids that age. Makes the whole decision a no brainer.

For our family the Tamarijn because of it's value and beachfront location are going to be a great choice for us.

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