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Aruba, March 7 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

The description:

Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

aruba

Semi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.


Our day:

Aruba, 8:00am–6:00pm

Weather Forecast:  Mostly Sunny High 82 / Low 79

Sunrise 6:52 am / Sunset 6:50 pm

From the Navigator:  Overnight Coral Princess maintained a southeasterly course and this morning we will make our final approach to Aruba.  A local pilot will assist in navigating the vessel to our berth in the capital city of Oranjestad.  This afternoon, with all the passengers onboard, we will let go our lines and maneuver out of the harbor, before altering course to starboard and setting westerly courses toward our next port of call, Cartagena.

When we woke up, we could see that we were approaching port.  I watched the process from the balcony, then we went down to deck 7 (Fiesta) to wait in line for disembarkation.

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Arriving at Aruba

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Of course, I checked in at Foursquare :)

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Container ships on the dock. In the distance, near the crane, is the Hooiberg volcano.

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The Freewinds often hosts local functions in the ports it frequents, such as jazz concerts and movie performances in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. These events are usually free but often support island charities through entrance fees or suggested donations.[21] Local artists are often showcased. It also caters to different international conferences and events. The ship’s leisure facilities include a restaurant, lounge, cabaret, swimming pool, movie theater and beauty salon.

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More containers

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Arriving at Aruba

Off the ship, we went through the terminal and met our bus.  Turned out, Rosie and Jim were on the same tour.

We rode in the bus for a while as our tour guide mentioned some Aruba facts and showed us some points of interest.  One of the most interesting and pertinent facts for me was that all restrooms on Aruba cost $.50 to use except the Natural Bridge, which was $1.00.  Yuck!

One of the first things we saw was a roundabout with a McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food.  I also saw a store called Rat Land which I hope means something in Dutch than in English.

rat-land

Their license plates say “One Happy Island” but people are more happy when it rains.  They get very little rain there.  The island is very desert-like with lots of cacti, like we saw in Phoenix, AZ.

Our first stop was the California Light House.  There were some mini-Stonehenge rocks there.  We couldn’t go in.  This lighthouse was named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891. It was formerly open to the public until a suicide occurred, which prompted authorities to restrict public access to the lighthouse.

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California Lighthouse

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At the California Lighthouse, looking at the sea

In Aruba, they make piles of rocks, similar to those we saw in Iceland.  In Aruba, tourists stack them up and make a wish on each rock they add to the pile.

rockpiles

Back on the bus, we went to DePalma beach.  That was down a path next to the Riu hotel.  All beaches here, like Barbados, are public.  The Riu had a “garden” of big rocks, surrounded by hedges and flowers, complete with a gardner tending these rocks.

Lots of activity there like wind surfing, parasailing, etc.  We walked past the little shops (they had Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins!) and got on a flat-topped ferry boat for our semi-submersible.

The semi-submersible didn’t submerge at all.  The only “submersing” it did was when we walked down the stairs to take our seats by the portholes.  In some of the photos below, you can see the bottom of our craft on the top of the water.

Even their own website says that they do not submerge at all:

The Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine is a state-of-the-art semi-submarine developed in Australia for use on the Great Barrier Reef. This unique vessel does not submerge. You step down into the hull of this cruising underwater observatory and sit in air-conditioned comfort just 5 feet below the water’s surface, viewing amazing Aruba sea life through large clear glass windows.

They should call in non-submersible instead.  There must not have been a reef or anything because all we did was circle the shipwreck, the Antilla.

I was a bit upset by all the divers’ bubbles coming from underneath us.  That couldn’t have been safe for them to be diving under a boat, whether it submerged or not.

Whatever.

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Ferry “Stingray”

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Shipwreck of the Antilla. You can see a diver’s fin in the top of this picture.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla. The jellyfish-looking thing in the upper right is air bubbles from a diver.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla.

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Sergeant major fish

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More divers’ air bubbles

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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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From there, we drove to the Natural Bridge past Arashi Beach.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. The landmark collapsed on September 2, 2005.  We saw the newer Natural “Baby” Arch at the northeast shore of Aruba at the same site.

I thought I had a video of this arch but it might be on my other camera.  If/when I find it, I’ll put it here.  :)

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Natural Bridge area

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New or baby Natural Bridge

Everything where we were seemed so dry, so there was a lot of cactus.  We also saw some brown doves (close relative of the North American Mourning Dove) and egrets (a type of heron).

egret

The guide said that many of the beaches were made of coral.  They have a volcano on Aruba called Hooiberg, a Dutch word meaning Haystack.  It is actually a dormant volcano located close to the center of the island. The island of Aruba was formed as a result of volcanic activity.

Off to the Casibari rock formations.  Geologists are uncertain about their origins, but think that a collision of the teutonic plates forced the massive slabs to the surface. The limestone steps surrounding them are signs of the changing water levels of the Caribbean throughout the ages.

Aruba is made of lava quartz diorite and limestone.  There is also granite but it’s protected.

 

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Tom under one of the Casibari rock formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Arashi Beach

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A little lizard on the rocks.

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We didn’t get to see the gold mill or downtown Oranjestad but we were happy to head back to the ship.  I was surprised and pleased when the crew gave us cold water and cold towels.

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Oranjestad from our ship balcony.

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Back on board, we took a little nap, went to the library saw the singers and dancers do a show called Motor City, another excellent show.

After dinner in the buffet, we went to the Princess Theater to see Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

http://youtu.be/OiTiKOy59o4

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At Sea, Thursday March 6 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

image

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 82 / Low 77

Sunrise 7:15 am / Sunset 6:58 pm

New Time Zone, one hour ahead

From the Navigator: Throughout the day, Coral Princess will continue to maintain a southwesterly course across the Caribbean Sea towards the island of Aruba.  The Caribbean Sea is part of the Atlantic Ocean and lies between the Islands of the Greater and Lesser Antillies and the coasts of South and Central America.  It covers an area of over 2,500,000 km2 and is considered one of the World’s most marine-rich bodies of water.

We spent this day mostly wandering around and eating.

Tom had a Veteran’s Gathering that started about 15 minutes before Pop Choir so he started there then joined me in choir.

We learned the difference between port and starboard.  According to our guest lecturer, “starboard” is from the old practice of having a steering oar on one side of the ship with the right side thought to be chosen simply because most people are right handed.

The word starboard comes from Old English steorbord, literally meaning the side on which the ship is steered.

The captains didn’t want to damage their oars, so they usually docked with the left side facing the port – and that became the port side.

I saw an interesting brown bird.  Tom said he thought that it was a frigate bird but that they couldn’t get wet.  When I saw the bird dive into the water and come up with a fish, it disproved one or both of Tom’s thoughts.

This may have been what Tom was thinking of:

Frigate birds cannot plunge like pelicans, when wet they can’t take off without difficulty. If their wing span got fully wet it might drown them. Even with a 90 inch wing span water sopping adult frigate birds may have trouble from taking off in water. Surface dipping and fixed habitat feeding may explain species limitations in survival.

From http://www.tropicalbirds.com/frigatebird.php

libraryEventually, we ended up in the library.  Very comfortable chairs!  There were headphone ports with some kind of music available, as well as footstools.

I settled down in my chair with my book and most likely dozed off for a bit.  Next thing I knew, 2 (or more) women were talking behind me.  I heard the entire life story of one of them, I think.

Then, I had a little headache and an ache at the back of my neck.  We went to MUTS to see Mamma Mia! and my headache got a lot worse so we left.

By the time we got back to the cabin, the headache circled my whole head.  I took 2 Tylenol (the only thing I’m allowed to take post-kidney cancer) and lay down a bit with a pillow over my head.  Then 2 more.

About 7ish, I was feeling mostly better so I got up and we went to eat, followed by the movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks.

We decided that one of the library talking-women was wearing a perfume I was allergic to.  Tom will be more aware of potential scents in the future.

We had a small bit of rain…

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