Are you wondering what it’s like to return to your Aruba home away from home or make your first visit for a much-deserved getaway? You’re not alone. We’re here to help!
We recently had the great pleasure of hosting repeat guests and Bucuti top fans Stephen and Angela Byrd from the U.S. Even our media friends are curious to know what the Bucuti experience is like during these new times. Seasoned journalist Gay Nagle Myers, Caribbean Editor of Travel Weekly, is connecting the media outlet’s readers with the on-the-ground vacation experiences currently happening in Caribbean destinations. Gay met virtually with Mr. and Mrs. Byrd who graciously took the time to share about their August vacation at Bucuti & Tara so both travel professionals and guests alike could hear first-hand about the Caribbean’s Healthiest, Safest Vacation.
When did you book this trip?
Last September 2019 and they were for these same August dates.
In March, the world stopped due to COVID-19. Were you nervous about being able to take the trip?
Absolutely not! It was not going to keep us away from Aruba or Bucuti. We just knew, whatever is necessary, whatever we had to do, we were returning to Aruba for our August vacation.
What was your flight routing? Were they full?
We flew American Airlines from Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) to Miami (MIA) and on to Aruba (AUA). The flight was sparse from BWI to MIA, however from MIA to AUA it was more than 50% full.
Did everyone on the airplane wear masks?
Was there dining on the plane?
We traveled first class and while we are accustomed to a variety of hot meal options, due to current circumstances, we were served cheese and grapes.
Did you take your COVID-19 tests prior to arriving to Aruba per island requirements?
We absolutely tried. We tried hospitals, clinics, labs, CVS, Walmarts, our physicians, but no one could provide both the tests and results within Aruba’s guidelines. The best was going to be 7-10 days, which wouldn’t work. We knew we had taken good care of ourselves, so we went to Aruba by faith and trust that we would test negative upon arrival.
What was arrival like to Aruba?
A First Class Aruba concierge greeted us when we got off the plane, helped navigate us through the airport and to the station where we did the COVID-19 nasal swabs. The staff was so friendly. The test didn’t bother my wife, but it bothered me. We then took a private car to Bucuti & Tara and quarantined in our room until we got the results. It only took six hours! The results flashed up on my phone – negative – and we were set to continue enjoying our stay.
How full was the resort?
We’re used to Bucuti & Tara having a very high occupancy so it was different to see fewer guests. We think it’s due to fear from mainstream media, which we don’t follow. We live our lives.
What was check-in like?
Bucuti & Tara invites all guests to pre-register in advance. We pre-registered and as soon as we arrived, the staff greeted us and a Bucuti associate escorted us directly to our room for check-in on a tablet.
Were people wearing masks the entire time?
We wore them for arrival, but that’s all you have to do. Staff wore them the entire time.
That first night, could you leave you room to go to dinner?
We didn’t need to. While we quarantined and waiting for our COVID-19 test results, we have room service and it was fabulous. Even after getting our results a little after 9 p.m., we were free to leave our room, but we were exhausted and went to bed early.
For breakfast, did you dine inside or outside?
We always like dining outside. The whole purpose to go to Aruba and Bucuti is to see the beauty surrounding Bucuti!
Did you leave the resort any?
Yes, we drove around the island and went shopping. We had downtown to ourselves. It was interesting to experience it with less people.
Were you aware of Bucuti & Tara’s cleaning procedures and safety protocols?
Yes, definitely. Bucuti has always been an exemplary establishment so it was mind-boggling that they could even top themselves, but they did. What’s most impressive is the sterility of the rooms. After all of the cleaning, they even use a big UV light to sterilize the room and then seal it with a sticker before guests arrive. We thought that was just off the top!
We’re big Bucuti fans so we read everything on the website, emails, forums. Months ago when they started posting their COVID-19 measures, we were extremely impressed. With their green standards, knew it was going to be big, but wow! So we knew months ago we’d be going to a very safe resort. It’s better, safer at Bucuti than it is here at home. There are more protocols for a Bucuti guest room than our entire state!
Do you complete your Embarkation/Disembarkation card ahead of time?
Yes, we completed the embarkation/disembarkation card online. It’s a VERY SMOOTH process.
Were you charged for swab?
Yes, it was $75 for each of us and we thought it was a deal. At home, it would have been $120 each. Aruba made it easy by just wrapping it into our insurance.
So travel insurance required to go to Aruba? Do you think that’s a good policy?
We have private health insurance and we purchased travel insurance in January before COVID-19 was big in the U.S. As for the insurance required to enter Aruba, we didn’t care about paying additional for it. If we can help the Aruban people and government in any way, it didn’t matter to us that island insurance was required. We’ve seen on sites where people complain if they didn’t have to use it, but so what, that’s what it’s there for.
How did you get from the airport to Bucuti? How long was the trip?
By a private car service organized by Bucuti with First Class Aruba. We had a wonderful black Mercedes. It only took 15 minutes. The traffic was next to nothing.
How was the check-out process? Was it seamless? How did you pay your bill?
Everything was already handled since we pre-registered. All we did was just turned in key. Everything was tabulated and paid for with our credit card on file. It was a swift, wonderful process!
Did you see Ewald? (Ewald Biemans, owner/CEO of Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort)
Yes! He is the CEO owner/visionary genius of Bucuti. You would not think a man like that greets every guests. He does. I can’t imagine going to Hyatt, Marriott, or another high-rise hotel and having the CEO greet or care about us. We love him! He is wonderful!
Stephen Byrd: Years ago, I didn’t even know about Aruba! Angela mentioned the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaco) and we dreamed. Finally, in 2007 we visited Aruba for the first time.
Bucuti is “our perfect place.” We love the staff, the staff, the staff! People say you can go anywhere else, but it’s like being a person who has fallen in love. You don’t need anything or anywhere else!
Gay Nagle Myers: You’re right. When you find a place you fall in love with, you go back.
Angela: Yes, and if you go away, you find yourself going back to your real love. Arubans are precious people. When you love someone, you have a sense of what can I do to help?
Stephen: Arubans don’t get what all the entitlements US citizens receive. So while we were anxious to go back to Aruba and Bucuti, we also wanted to go and do our part to help their economy. Someone posted in a forum they were thinking of canceling their upcoming October stay and we said not to for these reasons and they agreed.
We’ve already booked our eighth trip to return next summer! We couldn’t come last summer in 2019 because Angela broke her leg right before we were to travel.
Did you go without her?
Stephen: No! Bucuti is a place of romance. I could never go without her!
This year’s trip is a [re-anniversary celebration. This September 27 will be our anniversary of meeting each other 50 years ago when we were each just 19 years old.
When you first chose Aruba in 2007, did you book direct or go through a travel agent?
Yes, our nephew was a travel agent at the time and we booked through him.
Were there other guests at Bucuti? Did you talk with any?
Yes, absolutely. There were fewer guests than usual. Yes, we love talking with other guests. Everyone we spoke with was glad they made the right decision to not cancel, but to be there. Everyone was all smiles and it was a joyous time. It was a mix of first-time guests and repeaters like us.
What was the dining experience like?
When you go to Elements, you receive a tablet with the menu. The tablet is sanitized, and you know it is because like the room, it is sealed with a sticker indicating so. You order from your server who is a safe distance away and everything is delivered to a tray stand next to your table. You just reach over and pick up your dish so no one is handling your items. There is no person-to-person contact. The tables are for two and spread out. It works beautifully.
Is there anything new about Bucuti since your last visit?
Yes, during the spring they did renovations to the SandBar, redid the swimming pool area and the renovated lobby was new for us. They gilded the lily!
Our hearts are with Bucuti. There’s nothing else like it. Can you imagine saying it about a place? Bucuti is in the Low Rise district and is so unique, such a jewel. We’ve looked around other hotels in the High Rise district, but they are cramped. With this honey, you can’t think of anything else that can be done to make it more appealing, more relaxing. Adults only, no kids acting crazy…just peace and quiet!
We thank the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Byrd for being such amazing loyal guests and taking the time to share their August 2020 vacation experience. It is truly our privilege to have you both as part of our Bucuti family. We thank Gay Nagle Myers for the far-reaching interview in helping travel professionals and guests discover that Bucuti & Tara is providing the Caribbean’s Safest, Healthiest Vacation. To read her story in Travel Weekly, click here.