As with other Feld games, this one comes in at a solidly middling review. There was nothing wrong with what you were doing, it just wasn't a memorable experience.
We love drafting games, and Aquaretto fits the bill. A bit more open and approachable then zooloretto, with the more flexible pens. Great, great game.
This is one of the few games where I will unabashedly say the more expansions you own, the better! A fantastic stacking game, I've enjoyed playing this with both my wife's family and my own nieces and nephews. Just excellent.
The problem with a drafting game like this, is that if you add in any expansions, you have to sort the deck to pick which cards you want in the game. Doing otherwise tends to lead to an imbalanced experience. I very much like a lot of what Among the Stars does, especially before we picked up any expansions. Ultimately, we went with Fields of Green over this, though it's basically the same game with a more pastoral theme.
As I play more and more Stephen Feld games, I'm beginning to realize there are few that stand out from the pack. This, unfortunately, isn't one of them. At least, it didn't grab my wife and I the same way that Castles of Burgundy or Bruges did. Not bad, not great, just somewhere in the middle. If it were in a smaller box, I might have considered keeping it.