We hadn't actually made plans to see this Carnival Dinner Show on our first night in Aruba but, after our seemingly endless eight-hour trek to the island, we just sorta stumbled across it. Our general rule when traveling abroad is that the first night we always eat onsite. And, if we are at a beach destination, we just head straight for dining on the ocean.
We lugged our suitcases to our partial ocean view room at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino and promptly set off with two exhausted kids to find some dinner.
The sun had already set but the pool area and lush sidewalks were lit with soft hues. We couldn’t actually see the ocean because it was so dark already. But...the noise alone of lapping waves was already bringing smiles to our faces.
When the sidewalk ended we encountered La Vista. With an expansive wraparound porch overlooking the ocean the restaurant looked modern and inviting.
The menu posted outside was not labeled gluten free. No gluten free menu behind the counter either. Even worse, the regular menu was not available on Thursdays. We happened upon this dining establishment on a dreaded buffet night. Shivers went down my spine at the mere thought of dealing with the cross contamination nightmare inherent in a buffet line and a child with a wheat allergy.
But the staff was very kind and responded that they would be happy to make an exception and let my son order a-la-carte for safety reasons.
A table outdoors perhaps? Nope, too windy I was told. But, they said a local dance troupe would be performing an Aruban Carnival Dance Show so we would have plenty to entertain our senses. It looked like we were in for a real treat!
When our server did turn up, I was about halfway through the allergy story when she cut me off and said she was just going to bring out the chef.
The chef came out and asked Kid Allergy what he liked to eat. He would make something to order per his preferences. My son listed his usual favorites and the chef chose the ground beef tacos with lettuce, tomato and cheese on a corn tortilla. He then offered up a side of French fries.
That was where I jumped in. We have always had difficulty ordering French fries in the past and have often times paid for it in the end with an all night vomit fest. I protested but the chef said he frequently deals with gluten allergies and that they had a dedicated fryer. That was the buzzword I was looking for so I relaxed a bit and let the evening unfold.
The show ended up being a vibrant Carnival dance production with intricate costumes and island music. It was a beautiful introduction to an island rich with history and a varied and inclusive culture. Even for those not particularly excited by dance productions, I feel like it would be worth the time to experience just how Aruba’s diversity has influenced expression on the island.
Once the show ended we got even more of a treat: they had gluten free chocolate cake! Plus, it came along with two gigantic scoops of vanilla ice cream complete with sprinkles on top.
Okay, so I am willing to admit, maybe it wasn't the most healthy meal I have fed my child. But, it certainly was a real treat to have that many kid friendly foods available to Kid Allergy all in one sitting.
Those of us eating off the buffet were pretty impressed as well. It was classified as an international buffet and the $75 per adult price tag didn't even really bother me that much because I thought the execution of the whole thing was pretty solid.
The dance show was vibrant and colorful and can be a real opportunity to begin discussions with your children about the various nationalities that have intermingled to form this incredibly diverse island people. The Europeans brought Carnival to Aruba and eventually African, Arawak Indians, Chinese and Indians customs were incorporated to make the Carnival celebration in Aruba what it is today.
But be warned. The pageantry of this Carnival Dance Show is not a watered down PG version just because it is held in a family-friendly Marriott hotel chain. The whole essence of Carnival is meant to challenge everyday social norms and behaviors, so you do need to gage your family’s comfort level with scantily clad women dancing three inches from your loved ones faces.