by Diana Lambdin Meyer
Update: Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino is currently closed for renovations.
Turning into the driveway of the Marriott Curacao Beach Resort is like driving onto an immaculate European estate. Bubbling fountains, marble statues and well-manicured flowerbeds, shrubs and trees lead to an open-air lobby and registration area. As you get out of your taxi, hang on to the kids’ hands, as they’ll be anxious to run ahead. Fabulous views expand through the lobby to the pool and beautiful Caribbean Sea, and your vacation begins.
The Marriott Curacao Beach Resort and Emerald Casino was built as a Sonesta Resort, but Marriott bought the property in 1996 and a major renovation in 2004 brought an amazing array of amenities.
Nearly 250 standard guest rooms and ten suites with balconies or patios are comfortable and spacious, but it’s the outdoors that brings you to the Caribbean. Your family will find plenty to enjoy in the pool area and its abundance of lounge chairs and quiet spaces. A swim-up bar is just as much fun for the kids retrieving fruit punch and soft drinks as it is for adults getting cocktails.
Complimentary Wi-Fi is not offered in the guest rooms, but is available in the dining area, where plenty of rattan couches and chairs offer a comfortable place to lounge. It’s here that many guests choose to stay in touch with people at home. Although your living room at home probably doesn’t have two blue iguanas wandering around. The hotel’s iguanas like to snack on maraschino cherries, which are offered throughout the day by bartenders and guests.
Another favorite spot to hang out, notably for teenagers, is the gameroom, equipped with ping-pong tables, pool billiards and lots of board games. Older teens might enjoy the live music and occasional karaoke that fills the common area adjacent to the Emerald Casino each night. Of course, only those over 21 can enjoy the Casino.
Many of the guests your family will interact with here are European. Remember that until 2010, Curacao was a Dutch colony and a part of the Dutch Antilles, so all of Curacao still has a strong European flair, and northern Europeans frequently choose the Marriott Beach Resort as their destination.
To learn more about Marriott Inclusive Vacations, please visit Marriott Inclusive Vacations.
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Bright and spacious breezeways accented by potted palms and flowering bushes connect the numerous two-story buildings that contain 247 standard guest rooms and ten suites. Most of the rooms can be connected to others.
Standard guest rooms include a mini-fridge, safe and other basic amenities. Parents can choose a king bed and a double bed, or two double beds. The sofa opens to sleep two, but a crib or rollaway bed will cost an extra fee per night. All bathrooms have shower/tub combos. Wi-Fi in the guest rooms costs an extra fee, but the desk area has abundant outlets to keep all electronic gadgets fully charged. No need to worry about special adapters either.
With little ones, it's tempting to ask for a ground floor room that includes a patio, as opposed to a balcony. However, the humidity in the Caribbean makes some of these ground floor rooms a little musty. You may enjoy a second level room instead. Either way, the patio or balcony are just big enough for a small table and two little chairs. You won't be spending much time there.
It's also tempting to choose a room closest to the pool and beach, but you may wish to re-think that as well. Special events around the pool in the evening, including weddings and themed dinners, often include music and revelry until about midnight. If the little ones need to get to sleep earlier than that, choose a building at least one layer away.
The good news is that no matter what building you're in, the kids stay free.
The children's program at this Marriott is not one that allows parents to drop kids off in the morning and pick them up in the evening. It is, however, a program that offers engaging activities several times during the day, such as painting and sand castle building. All activities are designed for those in the 4 to 12 age group. During busier times of the year when more children are guests, a greater variety of activities are planned.
There's only one swimming pool, but it is a massive structure with lots of little nooks and crannies where parents with little ones can play. The depth ranges from a few inches to about five feet in the middle. Although lots of toys are available for sale in the hotel's shops, there are no pool toys for rent or guest use. Towels are provided.
The Caribbean Sea Sports Shop located onsite is a PADI-certified dive shop offering shore and boat excursions. A magnificent coral reef about 10 yards from the Marriott beach attracts the region's most colorful fish. Overall, Curacao has 60 registered dive sites. Check out the scuba packages offered seasonally on the hotel's Web site. You can rent snorkeling gear and sign up for extended snorkeling excursions as well. Ask about the nearby Dolphin Swim encounter. It's a blast!
Bicycling is a popular activity on the island, and if your family is adventurous, pick up a paved trail just outside the Marriott's front entrance and follow it all the way into Willemstad. Bike rental facilities are nearby.
A volleyball net is a permanent fixture on the beach, and balls are kept at the recreation facility. That's where you can also rent lots of the other beach toys your family may like to enjoy.
The property has two shops that offer the basics your family might have forgotten, as well as a few souvenir shirts, sun hats and the like, but for any serious shopping, you'll have to head into Willemstad. The Rif Fort is a very popular shopping area that should please most teenagers.
Baseball is the most popular sport in Curacao, and the Rif Stadium, located about five miles from the Marriott, hosts games in the AAA and Caribbean league year-round. It's an intimate little stadium and the fans are enthusiastic.
Marriott Curacao Beach Resort & Emerald Casino has a selection of four restaurants to fill whatever cravings your family has. The kitchen is also capable of providing Glatt kosher dining.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Portofino offers guests the option of ordering a la carte or from a buffet. A child-size buffet features burgers, hot dogs and pizza, but also lots of fresh fruit.
Seabreeze Swimup Bar
Never lose site of the ocean and stay comfortable in your swimsuit and flip-flops with a salad, burger or sushi at Seabreeze. Cheese quesadillas are one of the most popular items on the menu.
This casual deli offers fresh baked muffins, pastries and a quick cup of coffee in the morning, as well as sandwiches and other treats throughout the day. Grab just a banana or apple for an afternoon snack, or select from fresh baked cookies or ice cream in the freezer.
Adjacent to the casino, Emerald lounge is filled with overstuffed couches and leather arm chairs, along with several large-screen TVs. Order a pizza or burger or similar goodies. The kids will want to be out the door before 8 p.m. when the music cranks up loud and the entertainment becomes more adult-oriented.
Also, on Tuesday nights, gather around the pool for a special lobster dinner. On Thursday evenings, the special is mussels, and meals are served on the patio adjacent to the Emerald Lounge and Casino.
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The concierge can make arrangements for childcare or in-room babysitting services. Please allow at least eight hours for the staff to make those arrangements for you. The onsite spa is a treat for the entire family, with specially priced 30-minute massages for kids ages 13 and under.
The gym is also open to the entire family. Cardio machines, free weights and weight machines, along with occasional yoga classes, make the gym a bustling place.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Marriott, like most resorts in the Caribbean, is open all year. The best rates are offered in the shoulder seasons, such as April and May or September and October.
The nice thing about planning a trip to Curacao is that you don't need to worry about hurricanes. The island is far enough south -- just 35 miles from South America -- that it misses the path of most hurricanes. November through February can be a bit rainy, so that shoulder season is the best bet for a most enjoyable trip.
Always remember to bring bug spray. The mosquitoes are plentiful on this end of the island.
This Marriott is about 10 minutes from the Hato International Airport (CUR) on the northwest side of Curacao. A local law supporting local taxi drivers prohibits hotels from offering shuttle service, so a taxi ride for a family of four will be about $30.
Despite the local ordinance, however, the Marriott provides one shuttle bus to downtown Willemstad each morning. It fills up very quickly, so make your reservation with the concierge the night before you plan to go there. Otherwise, you will need to hire taxis or rent a car to explore the island. If you choose to rent a car, it's nice to know that the Marriott does not charge a parking fee.
For Mom and Dad
How fabulous would it be to have a romantic, candlelit dinner on the beach, just a few steps from all the nightlife and activity of Emerald Casino? Just make your reservations with the concierge 24 hours in advance, and you'll have that. Otherwise, Willemstad is home to dozens of restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, many of them with live music and a dance floor.
Another option is a couples' massage on the beach, which also requires a 24-hour reservation.