Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Recap - Vision of the Seas
March 15 – 22nd, 2014
 

17th at sea

We are at sea today and there is always lots to do if you want that or nothing at all as well. There are many choices from yoga classes to spa treatments, to playing cards or reading or perhaps you want to try the rock climbing wall…not I but it is here. >From table tennis to pool games to casino or shopping enjoy the time and just be in the moment.

18th Curacao

6 a.m. and light is appearing – the hills and water are all grey blue. As we approach the sun is peeking out to light up the sky turning all to pink. There is a hole in the clouds right where the sun is causing beams of light to illuminate down towards the ocean. I will just sit here on my balcony with my cup of coffee and enjoy this for a while. Good morning sunshine!

Looking at the ocean is mesmerizing. It causes you to drift in thought or just stare at the waves the ship is making as it glides through the water. I wonder if there are any sea creatures gliding along with us under those waves. Slowly we make our way to the pier…you can feel the heat of the day already. Salt, slaves and oil made this island. The salt water ponds here became a major source of income as everyone got hooked on salt. Once they discovered oil in 1920, it became known in the world. Now the island refines oil so as we approach you see no less than 14 oil stacks…only a few are burning right now. A rich Caribbean destination, both in beauty and colonial treasures. Discovered in 1499 by the Spaniard Alonso de Ojeda, most of the Indians who first inhabited the island, became slaves in the 1600’s. In 1634 the Spanish were defeated by the Dutch. It was their need for salt for their herring industry that drove them here. In the 1700’s the slave trade was the pillar of the economy. The slave trade was abolished by Holland in 1863. The Dutch built a total of nine forts here. One of the most unique and not to be found anywhere else in the world are the plantation houses. Built in the 1600’s they were the main buildings on a plantation with the slave huts surrounding them. Made of coral stone rubble and bricks and plastered with lime and sand and painted soft pastel colours as white was just too intense in the tropics. Many of these houses have been turned into hotels, art galleries and restaurants, thankfully preserving them for the future.

The pilot boat is coming to meet us. Soon the pilot will get off that boat and onto ours to guide us safely to our pier. People are hanging over the railings of our ship watching him as he does this. Excited to be visiting this beautiful country. The buses and vans are waiting to take those who have booked excursions but there are many who will just disembark and do their own thing. I am in no hurry as I have been here a few times now so have a leisurely breakfast before heading out. 8 a.m. and we are safely secured and people are making their way off by 8:20.

Once off the ship the entrance is beautiful…past gardens with sign posts telling you a bit of the history of Curacao, then past this to Rif Fort. A visit here includes walking up the short flight of steps to the top to really get a wonderful view of the city. Built in 1828. This fort is directly across the water from another fort called Fort Amsterdam (built in 1635) and a chain was once actually pulled across between the two forts to ‘lock’ the harbour. Divided by water, cargo ships must go through to the docks that are really behind the city. It was a safe harbour long ago and often used to shelter ships. There is also another pier for passengers ships. The very first time we were here we were docked at this older pier. That was before they built the one we are at now. Much nicer and it can take the really huge ships that dock here. There is a bridge here that you must use to cross from one side to the other and it is the most remarkable one you will ever see. It is a floating bridge on pontoons and when boat traffic wants to go through, the pilot starts it up and it moves over to one side for the boats to go through. Called the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, it rests on 16 pontoons and is affectionately known as the “Swinging Old Lady”. Once you have visited Rif Fort, make your way past the stalls selling everything from colorful shifts and bags and all make of souvenirs to this bridge and cross it to the other side. This is where you can get up close to the colourful and wonderful Dutch colonial architecture that you see in magazines. Walk to your left after crossing the bridge and follow it along until you reach the floating market. These people bring boats full of fish, vegetables and fruit from Venezuela to sell here. They actually live on these boats. If you didn’t pick up a map leaving the ship you can get one just after crossing the bridge. The walking areas are not that large so make sure you see the highlights while here in this world heritage site.

I had spent a few hours shopping here. Not only are there wonderful shops but they are housed in some beautiful old buildings. A lot built in the 1700’s. There is a synagogue here that is the oldest in the western hemisphere. Jewish families from Amsterdam founded the congregation in 1651 and this building was consecrated in 1732. There is a sand floor symbolizing the desert where the Israelites camped on their journey to freedom. Back at the Rif Fort it was time to have something to drink and just sit awhile before moving on. I could feel a beer calling me and that is weird as I don’t drink beer but here I was, sitting at an outside table enjoying this ice cold beer. I could not believe how easy it went down. The bar has the most incredible collection of salt and pepper shakers too, hundreds of them. They bought a collection from someone years back and now if you bring in a pair they will give you a glass of Sangria…fair trade. Lovely people to chat with too. I also discovered a cheese shop and was so pleased to see it. It was the same company that I had bought cheese at while in Amsterdam…Reypenaer. Excellent cheese too. This is their first shop here and they plan on expanding. Make sure to take home some XO Cheese. Slice thin and enjoy this incredible flavor. They do cheese tastings as well. The store is called Royal Dutch Cheesery.

All had to be back on ship by 4:30 but of course there were a couple that got back at 4:45. How can they do that I wonder. To keep a whole ship waiting and to wonder if it would leave without them? Soon the huge ropes that secured us to the dock were unhooked and the horn of the ship bellowed and we were off. Music played on the 9th deck as we left. The sights of Curacao were fading away but the sun lit up the sky to make our journey to Aruba lovely. Just a bit before dinner I saw a beautiful sunset and thought that was a nice ending to a great day. There is always something going on while on a cruise ship..music playing in the atrium, shows to watch, drinks to be enjoyed in the lounges. So after dinner I made my way to the Diamond lounge to enjoy a cappuccino and some chocolate covered strawberries (I didn’t have desert at dinner) before heading back to my room to do a bit of work and watch some television. I discovered in Curacao that there was free internet and it actually made its way to our ship so I took advantage of this to download and Skype Tom…so good to get to see his face!
 

 

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