After two days at the Royal Westmoreland, I was off to the southeast coast of the island for the serene yet beautiful and historic Crane Resort.
It is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the Caribbean and marries old world charm with modern amenities. My one bedroom ocean view luxury condo includes a plunge pool on the balcony, mahogany furnishings, a full kitchen and a whirlpool tub. I am starting to feel spoiled again. I am also feeling hungry.
Fortunately, there are several restaurants right on site, my personal favorite being the Asian-inspired Zen which offers traditional Tatami rooms, a sushi bar and booths for private dining.
In the afternoon, I breathe in the fresh air and relax on the world famous Crane beach while listening to the roaring waves.
Feeling the need to explore the area beyond the resort, I eventually take a walk to a deli across the street called Cutters where they feature live music on Sundays courtesy of local entertainer Jerry Roberts.
Shortly after I arrive, people begin to show up, most coming from the Crane and all with stories to tell.
Fifteen years ago Geoff Munn gave his new bride Karen a unique wedding gift – a one-week ownership at the Crane.
They are back each year and this time excited about the plans they have made for the week.
“We love Barbados and the Crane so much we are renewing our vows here,” beams Karen Munn.
Whether it was the rum punch or the excitement of the moment, she insisted I come to the ceremony. Sadly, I would be on a plane by then.
The words “time share” have always made me grimace as I envision high-pressure sales people buzzing around but as I soon learned there are many options and new approaches that changed my thinking.
Irene and Robert Linder of Wales, who were also enjoying a Sunday afternoon beverage at Cutters, say they were drawn to Barbados because of the warmth of the locals. But it was the sales approach of the Crane that sealed the deal.
“There was no pressure – it was the easiest transaction we ever made. They just let us make our decision.”
More importantly, they add, is that the cost was so reasonable they saw it as a “no brainer.”
It’s hard to think of the Crane without thinking of the resort owner and developer Paul Doyle.
His hands on approach, passion and vision are hard to ignore. He doesn’t believe the resort needs an aggressive sales and marketing team chasing buyers. Instead, he prefers potential guests to walk in the door and see for themselves.
“We always give a fixed price, invite comparison shopping and never haggle,” he added.
He is building on his success with a new development about 10 minutes from the Crane. Right now, there is one model home but I was ready to move in. The Beach House is definitely remote but the kind of place you can imagine celebrities seeking out with its stunning views, floor to ceiling glass windows, contemporary architecture and ultra-privacy.
Most significantly, Doyle says you don’t have to be a celebrity to afford an ownership at the Crane or the Beach House.
We all woke up early since the sun rises early. Still no Internet. It was Sunday so we figured it might come back sometime on Monday…maybe. We went down to the tour desk to see if there were any partial day tours for today and full-day ones for tomorrow. The ATV won for today, leaving at 1:00. But first, breakfast in the little restaurant here.
I remembered that we had that other Internet outside Brian’s office and went outside there to log my iPad on with WiFi so I could give AT&T a pile more money and I could get more Global Data, just in case. Sneaky, huh? Turned out, it wouldn’t start until midnight on the 18th, but better than nothing!
Our driver came about 1:00 and we headed off for the ATV trip. This turned out to be a place that also has ziplines and such. We met up with another couple, Tony and Donna, before we headed off up and down unpaved, rut-filled “roads” When we left the Congo Trail Canopy place we visited two beaches: Penca Beach with white sand and Potreros Bay with dark sand), and had snacks at a beach bar. Michael later commented that we learned a lot about operating an ATV but nothing about Costa Rica. True!
Back “home” and found the elevators had signs on them that they weren’t working. Surprise! Tom and Michael went out for Subway subs. When they got back, there was a huge rainstorm and loud booms. We looked out and some of the rocks were coming off our mountain. Great – landslide!
We played some of the games I’d downloaded last night, then early bed. Tomorrow is an early day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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).
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.
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.
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.
What a nice – but early! – day. The taxi picked us up at 7:30 am for the Jammin’ Cats catamaran. Along the way we picked up a couple young women from Holland, then another from Australia.
We arrived at the Careenage, paid our bill, took off our shoes and got onboard. We found a nice little place in the shade for a while before leaving the dock.
Not long after we got onboard, we started motoring out of the careenage into the Caribbean for thesbille first snorkel site, the one where folks can swim with the hawksbill sea turtles. People coudn’t use fins here because the turtles are endangered. Due to Tom’s puncture wound, we had decided not to go in the water on this trip but it was fun to see the others swimming with the turtles.
We countinued along to a snorkel site over a scuttled French ship, the Berwin. The Berwin is a World War I French boat scuttled in 1919 by her own crew. Her captain thought that they were being followed by a German U-Boat and decided to abandon ship first. The Berwyn sits between 7 and 10 feet below the surface depending on the tide. We could see her outline from onboard ship. Because it’s so calm in the bay and because the wreck is nearly 100 years old, it is covered in marine life, such as coral, and lots of fish.
When we left the Berwin it was time to hoist the sails and head north to Payne’s Beach. In this calm bay we were close to land and it was pretty shallow so people could have fun swimming, floating on mattresses or going into shore. This catamaran also had the luxury of drink delivery to the mattresses and swimmers! Next time, you’ll find me relaxing on a floating mattress!
After a bit, it was lunch time. Those of us onboard got to eat while the swimmers were still climbing on board. It was a pretty standard Bajan Tour lunch – peas’n’rice, flying fish, curry chicken, salad, macaroni pie… I’m not complaining at all, though – I love it all :)
After lunch, a bit more swimming, then heading south again.
We disembarked about 2:30 or so and got home about 3:30. It was a beautiful day, no rain, but I was exhausted. I fell asleep and didn’t wake up until about 8.
We got a call from the front desk – someone from the Sunday non-catamaran had called. Tom got the number to call back on Tuesday.
A crab was removed from the kitchen… lots of wildlife on this trip!
I’m writing this post from home since I ran out of time to to it in Costa Rica.
Saturday was a “rest day”. Ha! We were originally going to leave Quepos early and head to San Jose, leave our stuff at the Holiday Inn and head further north to the Poás Volcano.
We decided that would be a bit much so we mostly packed up our stuff and headed to Dominical, a small surfing town.
Dominical has been know for many years to the international surfing community because of its consistently good waves. Discovered in the early seventies by a group of intrepid and dedicated surfers, Dominical has steadily gained in popularity over the last 30 years. The town has become a haven for surfers with local restaurants.
The unusual conditions of the beach is what gives its surf both size and dependability. The wave is a beach break with a twist, that twist being the mouth of the Rio Baru to the north. The river empties out of the mountains to the east and deposits sediments that form into a sandbar that spreads like a pair of lazy rabbit ears north and south of the mouth.
This town was down a dirt/gravel road. We missed it the first time because it looked more like a driveway than a road into a town. There were all little restaurants, towel and tshirt stores. The picture of the VW bus was a restaurant called San Clemente and the bus had sculptures of Elvis, a frog and a surfer hanging out the windows.
Some of the other images are taken out of the window of the car and include rivers, palm tree plantations, the mountains and more.
The picture of the airport made me very glad I was in a car and not in one of those little cars!
We got back to Pueblo Real, finished packing. It was raining then and the last balcony pictures were taken in the rain as a little comparison to the balcony pictures I took the first night.
We checked out and headed north to San Jose but we didn’t get on the road until about 3:30 which kept us on the road after dark. One of the pictures is of the sunset through the car window.
We stopped at the Crocodile Bridge over the Río Tárcoles just north of the Pacific beach town of Jacó. I thought I saw some but Tom said that they were logs. We had some ice cream and continued heading north.
Thank goodness for GPS – we got to the Holiday Inn about 6:30. We checked in there, unloaded the car and went to dinner next door at… Denny’s! Almost like being back in the US. We found the only nearby ATM in the Fiesta Casino. Then we returned the rental car which was also less than a block away. Everything was so convenient.
I watched part of a House – in English – before falling asleep early. We had to get up at 4am the next day…