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

March 20, 2014

The ship secured to our pier by 7 a.m. and there is movement as those who have excursions get breakfast before heading off. I have to be on the pier by 7:45 to meet our guide. There are a lot of English speaking people taking the Bonaire Highlights excursion so we get our own small bus to ride in. First stop was the flamingo sanctuary but of course they are so far away it is hard to see them. We just catch a glimpse of their pink bodies in the sunlight. Then to Cadushy which means cactus. We are here to taste this liqueur and see how it is made. They use the candle cactus, very tall tree shape cactus to make it. Each is cut and then cleaned by hand. They use only the outside skin and the rest goes to feed the donkeys and other animals. They also had some calabash trees here with round and oval shaped fruit. They use some of the fruit in their liqueur as well and the trees had many parakeets in them to also entertain us. The calabash fruits can be dried and also used for mariachis, bowls, cups and souvenirs. This whole area is a sanctuary of sorts now, in fact the whole island is protected so that it can be preserved for future generations. With around 200 bird species including the most photographed flamingos and parakeets there is plenty to see in the trees and on the ground.

Our next stop was to the Mangazina di Rei which now forms part of a cultural park and museum. Here you can get an idea of what it was like living many years ago and listen to some of the traditional music played with conch shells and pieces of bamboo. What I found interesting are the cactus fencing, used on many plantations or farms to keep domestic animals safe although I hear they do not have anything more dangerous than wild donkey and goat here. Doubt anything would want to tangle with those thorns! One of the local traditional dishes is called funchi. It is a type of pancake made with sorghum that has been ground into flower. When the harvest begins they make this to celebrate and eat it along with either goat stew, iguana stew and salads. I took a photo of a couple of the kitchen tools they make and use for this pancake.

They have one big wind farm on the island with 12 wind turbines, then at another location in the salt flats they have just one turbine. We drove through the village of Rincon, about 500 years old and having a population of around 1800 people. Our next visit was to the slave huts at the salt flats. I cannot imagine what it must have been like here. You are a man and you sleep with three others in these tiny huts. No beds, just whatever bedding you bring with you as you have to bring whatever you need to survive. The stone says white slave but you are not white, just the hut is white as it makes it easier to find when the ships are looking for you. Your family is in Rincon, about an hour away and they are working on the plantations while you are here blinding yourself because of the glare of the salt day after day. The bigger house was for the owner.

The beds of saltwater are left to dry in the sun. They are very pink as there is an algae in the water that turns pink with dehydration. This algae by the way is eaten by tiny shrimp that flamingos love to eat and that is why they are pink. As the beds dry they become whiter and whiter until they glisten like diamonds in the sunlight. The edges of these ponds are foamy and move eerily in the breeze. Once the salt is dry it is scooped up with machines and transported on a conveyor belt that piles them like pyramids until a ship comes in. Then they are transported by conveyor belt to the waiting ship. The colours here were incredible – the pink of the water against the while of the salt with the blue sky in the background is one I will remember for a long time.

Bonaire has a lovely market just across from the boat pier where you can buy all kinds of things that are unique to the island. There are a lot of very creative artists here in art and jewelry. One of the most beautiful areas to dive – there are over 80 dive spots and snorkel in, Bonaire has a great dive shop too. Lots of bars offering free internet and cafes where you can get great coffee. Tropical colours abound here in architecture. Some really nice graffiti too.

The island only has 18,000 inhabitants on its 112 square miles of land surface. The rainy season is September to January so growing agricultural crops is very difficult. The main income here is from tourism and salt which is owned by Cargill. Of course some are using cactus and aloe plants in unique ways for making liqueurs and beauty products. There are five types of cactus that make their home here.

The residents are proud of their island and have taken many steps to protect and improve both it and the ocean surrounding it. The island recycles with brightly coloured trucks picking up bins matching the colour of their trucks. The children are taught in school how to recycle and they go home and teach the older folks. They recycle waste water here too which is a good thing considering they have so little rainfall. In the other areas of the island where there are streetlights they are solar powered.

Back at the ship I head out to do some last minute shopping as we leave at 3:30. I enjoy a huge café latte for just 2.85 and walk around a bit more to get some more photos before heading back. In the evening I make my way to the lounge for a nice drink before dinner and finally watch the show tonight. I am happy, they include ABBA in their musical tonight.

March 21, 2014

On our way back to Colon today with arrival tomorrow morning at 6:30 a.m. A whole day at sea to relax and perhaps take a spa treatment, or a class in jewelry making or a wine tasting, or even a sushi making class. There are lots of other things to do as well but likely a lot will just relax by the pool soaking in the warmth of the sun before heading back home to…colder weather….snow even. I am lucky, I head back to warm and sunny Panama!



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