by DeniseZ (nieciez)
April 14, 2002
We booked the Carnival Destiny for her last "Dutch Treat" sailing on April 14th as a result of the special offer we received with the Port Charge refund vouchers last November. We booked category 8D, room 9203 on Lido deck. This was our 7th sailing and our 5th Carnival cruise. Sailing out of San Juan Puerto Rico, our ports-of-call would be St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Curacao and Aruba.
We always go out a few days early and this sailing was no different. We decided to spend our 2 day pre-cruise stay on the Puerto Rican Island of Vieques (La Isla Nena, small girl island) where my husband Bill was stationed 25 years ago when in the Marine Corp. Duty on Vieques was "unaccompanied" but our oldest two daughters and I went over at our own expense to live (they were 3 years and 15 months at the time). So, our stay in Vieques was to be a "Home Coming" of sorts. Vieques Island is 55 square miles and has less than 10,000 inhabitants and not many visitors. The beaches are pristine and just gorgeous. The Island is about 21 miles long by 5 miles at its widest point and it is located between Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, just 6 miles from the southeast coast of Puerto Rico. I had been doing research on Vieques in the hopes of revisiting the island sometime and this became that opportunity. A number of small inns have sprung up on the island. I booked a Deluxe Caribbean Room at Hacienda Tamarindo. Most of you may be familiar with Vieques due to it's being in the news for the controversy over the Navy using the island for bombing practice. It has been featured on all the major news magazines over the past few years. Unfortunately the bombing practices had begun again so many of the great beaches that are on Naval property were closed to the public during our visit. A disappointment to Bill was that he couldn't get access to Camp Garcia to see his old base.
I booked our air independently from the cruise lines at Orbitz and got great non-stop flights on American Airlines from Washington Dulles for $345 pp. (The cruise line wanted $569). Since we live about an hour and a half drive from the airport we decided to book a room at Hampton Inn South in Chantilly VA through their park and fly program so as not to be rushed for our 7:00 a.m. flight on Friday morning. After work on Thursday we went to the Hampton Inn to begin our vacation. It still amazes me the wonderful folks I have met via the Internet. I had gotten a nice e-mail from Surfergirl (Fleda) who lives in Chantilly wanting to know if we would like to meet for dinner. The four of us met at the Backyard Grill where Fleda and Dean gave Bill and I a true Bon Voyage send off! Thanks Fleda and Dean for the good company! We had a wonderful evening together discussing our favorite topic.. Cruising and our love Labrador retrievers! I posting a picture of "Buck" our lab had which caught Fleda's eye a few months back.
I had also struck up an Internet friendship with a lady from Harrisburg PA, Seabreez (Pat) who would be sailing with us on Destiny with her husband Jim. She too spotted my picture of Buck. Pat and Jim have a black lab named Kai. We have been emailing each other almost daily since mid-December and we had our travel agents link our bookings so that we could dine together. We were looking forward to meeting for the first time.
Friday morning we took the 5:00 shuttle to the airport. We checked our luggage at the American Airline curbside check-in with no problem. We breezed through the security process without a hitch. Boarding at the gate was also flawless. The plane was not booked so we had the center seat of d-e-f free. Just loved the extra legroom on American too. Take off was on schedule and we made it to San Juan 15 minutes early. While taxiing to the gate we had our first delay.. an iguana decided to cross the tarmac bringing the 737 to a halt until he moseyed to the grassy median. We were booked on Vieques Air Link for the 30 minutes flight to Vieques. This is on a little 10-seater prop airplane. Here we ran into the first hurdle of our trip. I wasn't thinking about the limited luggage allowance on these small planes.. 25 pounds per person! Yikes! We had 4 times that each! Luckily, there were only 7 of us flying so the luggage could come with us. When we arrived it Vieques we took a Publico to the rental car agency and picked up our Jeep Wrangler then got directions to Hacienda Tamarindo. We took the long way there to go through the town of Isabel Segunda where we rented a house 25 years ago. Things change in 25 years and we couldn't find the house, so we headed off to the Hacienda. The only way I can describe the view is "Breathtaking". The Hacienda has 16 guest rooms and is perched on a hilltop with spectacular 180-degree views of the Caribbean. You can learn more about Hacienda Tamarindo at their website at http://www.enchanted-isle.com/tamarindo/ Our room had a bank of louvered windows on the east side of the room shaded with palm trees, overlooking the pool. The south wall has a louvered French door that opens to a magnificent view of the Caribbean. The room has A/C but it wasn't needed as the Caribbean trade winds and paddle fan kept the room comfortable. An ancient Tamarind tree in the lobby atrium majestically rises three stories through the center of the building. Terraces, courtyards, and parlors offer ample space for relaxation and conversation. The Hacienda offers a full breakfast every morning on their terrace overlooking the Caribbean. What a way to enjoy breakfast and a cup of coffee! We quickly checked in and Olga gave me a tour of the facilities. At this point Bill wasn't feeling well (he has a number of health issues), so he took this time for a siesta and I began to unpack. At this point I discovered I forgot to pack our aqua socks. Afterwards I headed to the pool and lounged in the hammock with my book.
After a relaxing afternoon we freshened up and went to the village of Esperanza for dinner at the Trade Winds. Esperanza is a small fishing village where a number of waterfront cafes and restaurants take advantage of the great Caribbean view. Dinner was very good, the atmosphere relaxing and the sunset was great. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera! It had been a long day so we called it an early night.
We awoke early to the crow of roosters. We enjoyed early coffee on the terrace. The path to the beach from the Hacienda is quite steep and Bill and I are quite out of shape so we drove the jeep down to explore the immediate waterfront. We are not snorkelers but this area looked like it would have some fine snorkeling. We went back up to the Hacienda where we were greeted by the house parrot and Barkley the Hacienda sheep dog. We then enjoyed breakfast on the terrace. We chose the breakfast special, eggs benedict and fresh fruit. We then took the jeep and went exploring.
We explored the west side of the island, which previously was a Navy base that was turned over to the municipality of Vieques. It is now a nature preserve. We drove out to Mosquito pier and watched the early morning fishermen then drove onto Green Beach. Unfortunately a heavy shower arrived with us. We then headed back to Isabel Segunda to look for the old homestead! This trip was more successful and we found the house. It had been completely re-designed but I could still make it out as the one we rented. The house across the street was the only other house that looked the same. I swear the same old Mercury Comet was sitting out front! I took many pictures for the girls. We also did a bit of shopping to get new aqua socks at the inflated cost of $17 per pair!
We then headed over to Fort Conde De Mirasol, which houses the local museum. When we lived in Vieques the fort was closed and abandoned. At one time it housed the local jail. We could see the fort from our front porch and bedroom window. In the early morning you could see Venus rise over the fort just before sunrise. I always loved that sight. I am so glad to see that the fort has been renovated and opened to the public. They did a wonderful job restoring it. The fort is the last Spanish fort to be built in the Western Hemisphere. After leaving the fort we spent some time driving in circles around the hillside trying to find our way back to town. I didn't think we would ever find our way off that hilltop!
We then headed for Sun Bay, the public beach. I had the Hacienda make us up a picnic lunch. We spent about two hours enjoying the sun, surf and white sandy beach. Unlike home, there were very few people on the beach this day. After our fill of sun we headed back towards Esperanza and The Amapola Bar and Grill. Bill had his usual diet coke and I tried a very potent specialty of the house and toasted all my cruising friends! The remainder of the afternoon was spent relaxing around the Hacienda's pool.
We had an early dinner at a sidewalk cafe in Esperanza. Afterwards the evening's entertainment was a tour of the Bioluminescent Bay. The 'Bahia Fosforescente' at Puerto Mosquito should be listed as the eighth natural wonder of the world. The microscopic organism responsible for the glow in the water when agitated is a protozoan of the family dinoflagellata. Several physical features of the Bay allow its bioluminescence. One is the shallowness of the waters (about 13 feet); the other is the presence of mangrove trees at the shores. Decomposing mangrove roots promote the concentration of bacteria in the water. These bacteria produce vitamin B12, which is an essential nutrient to the protozoan. The Bay has a narrow exit to the sea allowing for the organisms to concentrate in its shallow refuge. It is the incredible concentration of these organisms what makes Vieques so unique. From what we were told by our tour guide there are few of these bays left in the world and this is one of the best examples as it has a higher concentration of protozoan then it's sister bay on the main island of Puerto Rico. The bay is one of the main attractions for visitors to Vieques. We were fortunate as our night of the tour was cloud free and during the new moon, when the sky is it's darkest. The tour guide pointed out many of the constellations and an unusual alignment of a number of planets that followed the path of the sun. The tour was by pontoon boat powered by electric motor with no running lights. As the boat cut through the water it light up the wake. Bill thought there were lights under the boat! Occasionally you would actually see a fish swim by. Since most of the fish were asleep, the tour guide decided to wake them up. by stamping on the bottom of the aluminum boat it caused the fish to stir.. well, it was unbelievable the number of fish that light up. The bay is a natural hatchery for fish. And we are supposed to get out and swim with them? After a bit of coaching by the boat's crew we donned float belts and entered the water. What an experience! As you float and move your arms and legs the water around you glows, and I couldn't believe, I didn't feel a single fish. When you get back on the boat the droplets of water glow like glitter. Bill was the last one back on the boat. The tour lasted about 2 hours and afterwards we just headed back to the Hacienda.
We were again up at sunrise as we had the early flight back to San Juan. We enjoyed another wonderful breakfast on the terrace; the special this day was cranberry walnut pancakes. We discovered over breakfast that Margie, the head housekeeper/waitress and the cook Rosa would be sailing on Destiny on April 28th. This trip Margie was taking her 10 year old grandson on his first cruise. Margie is a true cruise-addict with more the 18 sailings to her credit.
Again, we had to worry if our entire luggage would get on the flight so the airline recommended that we arrive earlier then normal. No x-ray or security at this airport! Bill dropped me and the luggage off at the airport then returned the Jeep. The airline decided to use one of their bigger airplanes, as we weren't the only passengers with extra luggage. The plane held the same number of passengers, but it had 3 props instead of two.
Once back in San Juan we took a taxi to the pier ($18 for the two of us). We were one of the first to arrive along with some new crewmembers at about 10:15. The Adventurer of the Seas and the Radisson Diamond were also in port. We luckily found a little bit of shade. Carnival representatives came out early and checked us in early. We then waited an hour before the embarkation warehouse was open for our admittance. At least we were out of the sun! Boarding began sometime after noon and we were the third couple to board. While in line, Seabreeze found us and we had our first hug. We were informed that the rooms would not be ready but we checked anyway, and ours was cleaned and waiting for us. After dropping off our bags we met Pat and Jim then had lunch in the Sun and Sea Restaurant. Carnival could learn a lesson from Celebrity in their buffet restaurants. I really enjoyed the trays and the servers that assisted you when we sailed on Century last October. Carnival could at least provide you with a tray. But the food was good and the company even better. We then returned to the room where we found that our bags had arrived. It was only 2:00 p.m., so I started to unpack. That's when I discovered that our family Gremlin came on vacation with us. We have this Gremlin who resides in our home that hides things from us. We search and search when an item is lost and we never seem to find it when it is needed. Once you don't need the item, it shows up, right there in the open where it is suppose to be. When we arrived in the airport at San Juan on Friday, I could not find the piggyback straps for the luggage in the side pockets. I already wrote how I couldn't find our aqua socks when unpacking in Vieques. I went through the entire luggage, completely emptying everything. Well, when I unpacked on Destiny all items were right there in side pouches of the luggage, and I KNOW I looked there! Two pairs of aqua socks and 3 piggyback straps, all where they should be.
I found the ship to be in pretty good shape for her six years. There always seems to be someone painting and cleaning one area or another. The ship will be entering dry dock at the Newport News Shipyard in September for 3 weeks. Having sailed her sister ship the Victory I was surprised that the tones of the Destiny were subdued for Carnival. I was disappointed that Destiny's bathrooms weren't as large as Victory's. We only attended the two big productions shows. They were good and pretty much the standard Carnival production show. It seems Bill and I must be slowing down a bit. We were back in our stateroom most evenings by 9:30 p.m. We took full advantage of our balcony. I found it a nice relaxing spot to read my book. Bill enjoyed the fact that with satellite all the major networks were on the air every morning and evening. On previous cruises we have run ourselves ragged trying to hit all the activities. This cruise we just enjoyed and relaxed! This sailing was sold out. I found the crowd to be of a pretty mixed age group with lots of extended families (kids, parents & grandparents). We were on the tail end of "spring break". But the kids on this cruise were well behaved from what I observed. We had a cabin of 17/18 year olds across the hall from us and I was pleasantly surprise on how well behaved they were, as I took them for the "partying kind". We heard them coming in one or two nights but nothing outrageous and the noise settled down quickly.. just young folks coming in from a fun evening.
Since we didn't leave San Juan till 10:30 the first evening, dining was open seating in the Galaxy Dining room. We requested a table for four and were assigned table 354 in the Universe dining room. Linden our Headwaiter is from Guyana and Jekaterina (Kathy) our Assistant Waiter from Lithuania. Our dining room hostess was Arta from Latvia. And our maitre d' was Manuel. We found our dining staff to be warm and friendly. They were also very good at what they do. No complaints in the dining room! The food was good to very good and always served artfully and at the proper temperature. Linden was a master at recommendations. Bill has some gastro/intestinal problems that flared up early in the cruise. The second evening he didn't join Pat, Jim and me in the dining room. Linden saw to the preparation of a special dinner for Bill, grilled chicken breast, a baked potato and a clear broth. He also put a slice of apple pie with vanilla ice cream on the tray, just in case Bill was up to it. Now how did Linden know that was Bill's all time favorite dessert? Linden had an uncanny ability to anticipate your desires even before you knew it yourself! I asked Linden how he felt about the automatic tipping and he said he prefers it. We let the tip ride on our sail and sign but Linden, Kathy, Arta and Manuel all received a special envelope at the end of the cruise. We felt we had the best staff in the dining room.
On to our room. We may have had the best dining staff the ship had to offer, but that wasn't the case in regards to our room steward Yositti Pairoj. He was extremely standoffish and he never introduced himself. I had to just about tackle him in the hallway the second day out to introduce myself and give him the introduction envelope I prepared for him (I had also prepared like cards for Linden and Kathy). I found cute note cards with a picture of two children walking hand in hand down a beach. I used these cards to write a little note of advanced appreciation and added an international calling card and an advanced tip. Well it sure didn't grease any wheels with Pairoj. I don't believe he was intentionally rude, maybe just extremely shy and possibly he didn't understand English well. OK, I can understand that. But, he was also somewhat lacking in his skills. I found some trash left by the previous occupant next to the television, in plain sight. A number of times he didn't empty the trashcan by the vanity (though he did get to one in the bath), didn't always replenish the soap. The evening Bill stayed in the room, he told Pairoj to come in the room and "do his thing" but he went away and never came back.left the dirty towels, no clean ones, didn't refresh the toilet paper (not a good thing under the circumstances). On another occasion I had a brandy snifter of Amaretto in the cabin one evening. The empty glass sat there for 3 days dirty, he never took it away. A few nights later Bill's sugar level crashed after his insulin shot. I got him a couple cups of apple juice from the lido area. Those glasses joined the dirty snifter, as he didn't remove them the next morning. Finally the next evening I caught him in the hallway and handed him the glasses. Two nights there were no chocolates on the pillows, not that I eat them, but I do take them home to my grandkids. Pat and Jim had a towel animal every night, we only had two. One of my jobs way back when was a Contract Surveillance Representative (quality assurance inspector) for the Public Works Department at The Marine Corp Base Quantico. I believe Pairoj needs a senior housekeeper to do bit of advanced training and some QA inspections behind him. I let that fact be known on our comment cards. I let the standard tip for Pairoj stay on my sail and sign, but he didn't get a departing envelope.
Now, onto our ports of call. Our first port was St. Thomas. We had just been there this past October on the Century and we visited St. Johns at that time. Just loved St. John's. This visit I was hoping to get in some beach time at Coki's or Magen's' beach, then a tram ride up to Paradise Point. Well, it was very overcast and raining. And this was the day that Bill didn't feel his best. Pat and I spent a relaxing morning in the Sun and Sea Pool area at the aft of the ship while Jim worked out in the gym. We sat right up at the windows looking out at the Adventurer of the Seas parked behind us on the dock. We must have spent a couple hours there telling each other our life stories, LOL! The three of us had lunch in the Sun and Sea Restaurant. During the afternoon during a lull in the rain I decided to mail my grandchildren some postcards and hit the pharmacy I knew was in Havensight Mall to restock the pink stuff and the Imodium ID. After coming out of the pharmacy it started to pour again, so I took my time looking in the shops. I found two pretty Tuscany lace table runners for $8 each. In another I purchased the grandsons Virgin Island short sets and a sundress for the granddaughter. Luckily the shop also had umbrellas for $7. After ringing up the items for the kids, the saleslady talked me into a gold bracelet for myself! I also realized I had left the post cards onboard the ship. So, I went back onboard, dropped off the packages, got the cards and went back out to the post office and did more window-shopping. Later in the afternoon I lounged around the Sun and Sea Pool (it's a covered pool) and enjoyed a drink of the day, read my book and hit the hot tub. All in all the rainy day turned into a relaxing one.
Tuesday's port of call was St. Lucia. Due to the weather we were expected to arrive an hour late at l:00 p.m. Another cloudy day but with a few breaks here and there. When arriving in St. Lucia you could barely make out the Pitons due to the heavy cloud cover. As we approached the port the cloud ceiling lifted somewhat. by the time we docked and were allowed off the ship, sun was trying to break through. Pat, Jim, Bill and I decided to rent a driver for an independent tour. Our driver was Casper and he had a very nice Toyota 4 Runner that was loaded. Bill and I opted to wear our swimwear under our short sets and Casper was going to drop us off at the beach after our 3-hour tour of the island. St. Lucia is everything you expect of a tropical island, rich vegetation with many floral plants like flamboyant, hibiscus, or bougainvillea in a riot of colors. The sun, clouds and rain played tag all day. Casper drove through the capital city of Castries; pass the local markets, taking us up into the lush hills with a panoramic view of Castries and its surroundings. At the summit we got out for a photo opportunity. Many vendors were plying their wears in this area. They seemed to be quite aggressive but I was more interested in pictures as we had a clearing moment. Good thing too as just as we finished with pictures, the rains came pouring down again. No problem getting past the vendors. We drove past the Governor's mansion and through the campus of the local college. We also stopped at a batik shop that demonstrated the cotton-printing process. They also had many nice things for sale. We drove further up into the mountainside and past banana plantations. We seemed to follow along a ridge in the mountains for some distance and had some magnificent views. We passed a number of schools as the children were just getting out of class. They all looked so neat in their school uniforms. Each school had their own colors. We ended up at the Rodney Bay beach area. At this point Casper was going to let Bill and me have some time on the beach. He would return Pat and Jim to the ship, then return to the beach in an hour or so for us. by this time it was 3:00 and though it wasn't raining at the moment, rain was still in the air. With this being our "first formal night" we opted to return to the ship with Jim and Pat. Once dockside we explored the dockside shops before returning to the ship. All in all I found the items for sale in St. Lucia to be way overpriced and we didn't buy anything, which is very unusual for me! by the time we boarded it was time to get ready for the evenings formal. Bill and I both had lobster and split a prime rib. Both were excellent. The Captain's hosted cocktail party was after dinner so that both early and late seating could share the one party. This was handled differently then any other cruise I have been on. No dance music, no Captain and Staff Officer's being introduced. After the party we headed to the Palladium show lounge for the first stage production "Formidable".
The next day was a sea day and finally, sunny skies! We were up early as usual and opted for breakfast in the Lido area. It was OK but we decided from then on we would have breakfast in the dining room. Carnival's coffee in the lido grill area is awful! Again, Celebrity has them beat in that department. Carnival makes good coffee in the dining rooms, why not in the grill areas? It has to be those monster coffee makers, or do they use a better grade of coffee in the dining room? At 7:30 when we crossed the lido pool area there were lots of deck chairs available. When we came out a half our later they were filling up fast as the sun was out this day. We found 2 chairs together up by the slide pool. I also took this time to take some pictures of the Camp Carnival area. The counselor on duty let me come in, as there were only two children with her at the time. I explained that I had a family cruise booked on the Pride for Oct. 2003 and my grandson Jacob was most anxious to see pictures of Camp Carnival. She also gave me a few blank coloring book sheets with cruise themes that the kids color. One is of a pirate and the other is a cruise ship. I am going to make enough copies for all the boys to color for the next 18 months! We spent about two hours around the pool then went in to get ready for lunch in the dining room. The afternoon had a few scattered showers. We spent most of the afternoon on our balcony reading and relaxing. A nice relaxing day at sea, as it should be.
Thursday dawned another cloudy day. Today we arrive in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. What a pretty town. The pastels of the buildings were quite a sight. I was also surprised at the amount of industry on the island. The economy looked good in Curacao. We again opted to procure a local tour with Jim and Pat. This time our driver was named Julian and we were in a 15-passenger van with 3 other couples. The Inspiration (or was in Imagination) was in the local shipyard for dry dock repairs. We traveled across the Queen Juliana Bridge, 200 feet above Willemstad, offering a magnificent view of the ship and the capital. Julian stopped for a picture opportunity. We then traveled onto Scharloo, a former residential neighborhood lined with picturesque homes built by Curacaos wealthy merchants during the 1880s. We stopped in front of Bolo di Bruid, known as the "wedding cake" house and the city's most photographed building. Leaving Scharloo, we passed Pietermaai Cathedral, the largest church on the island. We also viewed the Floating Market, the Mivke Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, Queen Wilhelmina Park, Waterfort Arches and Fort Amsterdam, built in 1635 to guard the entrance to the harbor from enemy ships. The fort was converted into the Governors Palace and the office of the Central Government of the Netherlands Antilles. At the rear of the courtyard is Fort Church, Curacaos oldest Protestant church. When then headed out of the city. Julian's first stop was the world famous Curacao liqueur factory where the original liqueur is made from "Laraha" orange peels. Even though it has been imitated all over the world no one has caught the essence of this delicious after dinner drink that made Curacao famous. My favorites were the Chocolate Curacao and the Coffee Curacao liqueurs. We then traveled further out into the suburbs and into a community of very nice homes and up a hill to another vantage point that had a nice view of the island. As with most drivers, this was also his choice "shopping spot". Actually the trinkets in this shop were quite reasonable I made a few purchases. We then headed back towards Willemstad with a stop at a very pretty beach. Even though the day had been overcast it had never rained. Darn, we didn't have on our swimwear! We could have opted to end the tour here and catch a taxi back to the ship if we wanted to take a swim. This area also had a number of nice looking restaurants and beachfront bars. We continued with Julian and he took us on another swing though town and then dropped us off in the central shopping area and pointed us in the directions we wanted to go. We chose a leisurely walk along the canal, past the Venezuelan fishing boats and produce stands where the locals buy their food. Further along the canal front the stands and boats give way to waterfront cafes. We stopped along one of these cafes and had a beer (Bill had a milk shake) and watched the pedestrians walk across the pontoon bridge that connects the two sides of Willemstad. We had the opportunity to see the bridge open. We returned to the ship, crossing the bridge. On the other side there was a flea market type area set up with vendors welling the usual tourist trinkets. More stands were set up dockside. I loved the rock people formations along the pier. Curacao was my favorite island. Tonight was our second formal night. I received a very flattering comment from one of the ship's officer's about my formal. We attended the second production show "Nightclub Express. Again, standard Carnival show but we enjoyed it. It was also the night of the Grand Gala Buffet but we called it an early night. This was the night Bill's sugar level dropped. Luckily our room was very close to the lido area and the apple juice worked quickly. He already had some crackers in the room and he nibbled on a few packs of them for good measure. In the morning he felt fine but adjusted his insulin.
Aruba! I have always heard that it is always sunny and rarely rains in Aruba...well, that wasn't the case during our visit. It was completely overcast all day; never seen the sun peak out and it drizzled off and on all day. At least we didn't have downpours like in St. Thomas and St. Lucia! Aruba was Bill's favorite island. The westernmost of the Caribbean islands, Aruba lies just 18 miles off the coast of Venezuela and 42 miles west of Curacao. The island covers an area of 70 square miles, 20 miles at its longest and 6 miles at its widest. Approximately 81,000 people reside here full time. We had heard that renting a jeep is the best means for an unforgettable around-the-island tour. So that's what we did. Again we shared this with Jim and Pat, and since Jim is a professional truck driver, he had the honors of driving. We rented a mini SUV with a/c that was not a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but that never became a problem. We started our along the coast past the major hotels on our way to the picturesque California Lighthouse on the northwest point of the island. We then headed eastward The back roads of Aruba run along the rugged north coast, passing eerie rock formations, cacti and the famous divi-divi trees. The landscape reminds you of the Flintstones and Bedrock! The strange geological formation of large diorite boulders looks as if it had just been dumped here in a pile. Scientists still have not been able to explain how these rocks got here. Further on we stopped at the charming Alto Vista chapel and went in and said a prayer. Chapel of Alto Vista was the first chapel of Aruba and sits high above the sea. The chapel was built by the Indians and Spanish and is often referred to as the Pilgrim's church. Continuing on we passed the donkey preserve. We also came across a number of wild dogs that were looking for handouts from the tourists. We stopped a number of times along the coast to enjoy the waves crashing upon the rugged coastline. We then traveled on to the Bushiribana gold mill ruins at Bocas Mahos. It is said that the ruins are of an old pirate castle that dates back to 1499, the year that Alonso de Ojeda landed here. Here a vendor was selling inexpensive tee shirts and beach cover-ups. I did a bit of shopping! Bill climbed the ruins. Our next stop was the Natural Bridge, which measures over 100 feet long and 25 feet above sea level, is the Caribbean's highest and most dramatic coral structure and the island's most photographed site. I stayed on the beach area taking pictures while Bill, Pat and Jim climbed to the top. At this area there is a restaurant, restrooms and gift shop. We partook of the facilities then headed on our way. At this point we were headed to the Natural Pool "cura ditortuga". The roads weren't very well marked but we somehow found our way over some of the most rugged terrain ever, and uphill at quite a steep incline! I didn't think we would make it without the 4 wheel drive. Once we reached the crest in the hill it was quite a view. The drive up took quite some time. There was a very steep decent down onto the beach where we suppose the pool was located. Due to the ruggedness we decided we had gone far enough and headed back down the hillside. Apparently we took a different path as the road (if you can call it that) became washed out. Somehow Jim was able to maneuver the SUV around the washed out area, and we continued on our way. We then drove south through the town of San Nicolas and headed to Baby Beach. The weather was still overcast so no one wanted to go swimming. by this time it was about 2:00 p.m. and we decided to head back to Oranjestad and the ship. We arrived back in town to quite a traffic jam. When we arrived the rental car agency was closed. They didn't re-open till 5:00 p.m. Jim and Pat decided to head back onboard the ship. Bill and I headed to Carlos 'n Charlie's. We split a chicken quesadilla and I had a specialty drink, Aruba Ariba . It was yummy! Aruba Ariba ingredients: 1/2 oz vodka, 1/2 oz 151 rum (better if using Ron Rico from Aruba, higher proof), 1/8 oz Coecoei, 1/8 oz Creme de Banana, 1/2 c orange juice, 1/2 c cranberry juice, 1/2 c pineapple juice OR you're favorite "punch drink", splash of Grenadine top with Grand Marnier. Do not shake, just stir lightly served on the rocks. Garnish with cherry and orange. I now know why folks end up dancing on the tables and bars at Carlos 'n Charlie's (but I didn't). Dinner this night was as surprise in dress code.shorts were permitted, as the ship didn't sail till 11:00 p.m. Many folks ate then went back to town to explore the nightlife. We opted to say on board and again called it an early evening.
Saturday was our last day at sea. Weather again was overcast and raining off and on. We had breakfast in the dining room then relaxed on our balcony. At 10:30 we went to the Palladium Lounge to play bingo..no luck! At 11:00 a.m. we attended the debarkation talk given by Jorge Solano the cruise director. I was surprised that it was during this talk that they did the introduction of Captain Gianpaolo Casual and his ship's officers and staff. After lunch while walking through the Lido pool area two deck loungers in prime location were empty. Bill staked them out as ours since it wasn't raining. I ran to the room to change into my swim suite then relieved him of chair watching duty while he went to put on his suite. We spent about an hour and a half on deck before it started to rain again. We moved to a sheltered area to see if it was just a "passing shower". We each had a "Drink of the Day". The rain let up some but not enough to lie out. We opted to return to the cabin and start packing. After packing we enjoy the balcony for one last afternoon. Where did the week go? This night was the "Farewell Dinner". We handed out our special envelopes to the hard working staff and said our good-bys. We took a stroll along the deck and checked out the photo and gift shop one last time. Didn't make any more purchases. Since we had another long day ahead of us, we headed to the room early and just relaxed. We had to be up early and ready to leave the room by 6:00 a.m. for the immigrations check-in. We waited and waited for our floor to be called. Apparently there was a large number of folks onboard who either needed assistance or had early flights. We were advised to not go to breakfast until after immigrations. Breakfast was either open seating in the dining room or in the Sun and Sea Restaurant. Even though Pat and Jim were sailing again the next week they had to clear immigrations also. We all met after immigrations for breakfast and our good-bys. Luckily they do not live awfully far from us so we plan on visiting each other in the future.
Bill and I were able to disembark the ship at about 9:30. We were able to find our luggage easily and a porter was handy to help with the luggage. It was well worth the tip we gave him as he really hustled us through the last immigration line and had us to a taxi in record time. The ride to the airport was very quick. Once at the airport we got a skycap to help us with our luggage. The lines for the American Airline curbside check-in were very long. The skycap whisked us to the inside line which wasn't as bad. He stacked our luggage up in front of the line as we took our place in the queue. We were still able to keep an eye on our luggage from all vantage points. These lines moved very quickly. After receiving our boarding pass we were on our way to the gate. Our first security problem! Bill has a shaving bag that he has been carrying on trips for years. He just replaces the items as need be. Since on ship you must send you luggage out the night before, Bill's shaving bag was in my carry-on where he usually has it in his checked luggage. It didn't make it through security! Apparently he had a very old pair of scissors in the bottom of the bag and the x-ray technician detected it. We had no idea they were in there and couldn't understand why there was a problem. DAH! We were pretty embarrassed! Bill has taken this bag on a number of flights since 9/11 and never realized there were scissors in the bag. They were pretty old and rusted too, so they went right in the trash! It was all pretty quick and painless though. We were at our gate by 10:30 for a 2:30 flight. Lots of time to kill! We did have lunch in the airport, more to kill time then being hungry. Boarding started at 2:00 and the flight was full and took off on time. This time we had a third in the seat with us. A very nice lady who was traveling to DC for Red Cross Training. Our flight arrived in Washington on time at about 6:20 p.m. Bill gathered up the luggage as I called the hotel shuttle for pick-up. The shuttle arrived just as we exited the airport with our bags. We were on our way home by 7:00. We arrived back in Fredericksburg at about 8:15. Pepper, April and Buck gave us a warm greeting! I immediately started the laundry and changed my countdown clock on the internet..169 days till the next one, Carnival Spirit, Hawaii to Ensenada.