Port and Shore Excursions
Rated 5 for the ease and cost of the bus and the beautiful free beach.
I walked down the pier and across the street to the Arubus lot, where I caught a bus to Eagle Beach. It cost $2.50 each way. After a 15 minute ride, the driver announced "Eagle Beach, Amsterdam Manor". A couple got off along with me and we were all somewhat surprised to find ourselves at the side of an empty road. We started down the side road that the bus driver had pointed out and in about one minute were crossing the street to the beach. It was a beautiful white sand beach with turquoise water, offering lounge chairs under palapa umbrellas for $15, a beach bar, and water sports. I didn't want to buy a chair so put my towel and bag under an empty palapa and spent a couple of hours mostly relaxing in water and chatting with other people. This was my favorite activity of the cruise. I started getting a bit sunburned and the wind was picking up and sandblasting us. The bus back to town stopped right across the road from the beach.
In town I wondered around for a while looking for Aruba Aloe. After many false starts (including directions to a now closed booth in the big pink mall, and another reference to try Far-mah-see which turned out to be a pharmacy), I finally found the shop tucked away in a back corner of the Renaissance Hotel behind the Starbucks. I got my products and headed back to the ship past a row of cheap souvenir stands. Right at the end of the gangway off the ship was a huge shed with several more souvenir shops.
Rated 5 for the private excursion snorkeling, convenient docking, and cute little shopping town.
I had reserved the 8:00 am Woodwind snorkel tour. It was about a 12 minute walk through a resort to the Woodwind pier. The staff on the catamaran was great. Dee looked through my glasses then brought me a prescription mask. She changed one of the lenses twice until we found just the right strength. It was a revelation; the first time I could see clearly underwater. They also provided fins, more comfortable than any I'd used before. We sailed over the the first snorkeling spot, being offered water, soda, and beer on the way. They divided us into three groups for drift snorkeling, where the boat followed along. Each group had a guide; mine (Isabella) realized I was fine by myself and concentrated on the other two people who had float jackets and were tethered to the guide - newbies I guess! The only time I had to kick was when I was afraid I was drifting too close to coral; otherwise just floated along on my own enjoying the coral and fish (and wishing it was sunny). Isabella checked on me a couple of times, and at one point advised me that a sea turtle was nearby. The Woodwind photographer and I both paddled over and I got a great picture with my disposable underwater camera. After about 50 minutes we returned to the ship to go to the other spot. The water there was rougher and there was nothing different to see, so I only did about 20 minutes before returning to the catamaran. They offered snacks and more drinks, and we could watch the DVD of the Woodwind photographer. I decided not to spend $30 to get pictures of me photographing a sea turtle, among the rest. The staff took good care of us and gave the ladies detangler for our hair. Although it wasn't the most colorful snorkeling I've done (vs Hawaii), there was a wide variety of fish and coral and was a different experience than I'd had in the past and well worth the $65 cost.
I went back to the ship to shower and have lunch, then back off the pier to check out the craft stands and shops in town (and get a wifi signal in the plaza). It was a charming little tourist town. My objective was to get Bonaire sea salt for the table (vs bath or pedicure salts) which I found in the market. I got a few other souvenirs in town and sent a couple of postcards off; the art shop where I bought them also sold me stamps.
We were docked at the MegaPier instead of the one across from town so no great view. I had reserved the 11:00 am IRIE bus tour and headed over early to make sure I could find it (their directions were from the other pier). I found a guy with a card with my name on it near the IRIE tour sign so knew I had the right place. While I was waiting I found free wifi inside the Renaissance Resort shopping center. When I came out I made a joke about the IRIE guy's Segway and he asked if I would like to use it. I'd been on one before so took it on a little circle of the courtyard. The bus arrived and the driver said not to worry about where we sat because we wouldn't be very full. We started off and the next thing we knew, the bus was being filled by passengers off another ship (the Grandeur out of Panama). They were a bit raucous for some of the tour.
Other than that, it was a very nice tour, especially for the $20 cost. There were plenty of descriptions and history in both English and Spanish. They had cold water, soda (no diet), and beer. We drove past the pontoon bridge, through the old Jewish quarter, across the Queen Juliana bridge, past more old homes and other famous landmarks, and a stop at the Curacao "factory" (actually store). IMO this was a bit of a waste; they don't manufacture there so all you really learned was the history and had the chance to try tiny samples of four flavors. It was also theoretically a bathroom break but the ladies room had TWO STALLS. You can imagine the line.
Back on the bus to the new housing developments, a view of Spanish Waters, and down to Seaquarium Beach where we got free admission for a 45 minute stop. We could opt to stay longer and have a later bus pick us up, which fortunately was the choice for the Grandeur passengers. It was a lovely beach with warm water; I just left my stuff on a chair and floated for most of the time. Then back on the bus, back across the bridge, and finished where we started by the pontoon bridge.
I watched the pontoon bridge open to let a freighter through. After it closed I walked over to the Punda side. I relaxed for a while at Wilhelmina Park and had a snack from the ship, then asked someone to take my picture at the giant Curacao sign. My next destination was the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue where I paid admission and took a look around the sanctuary and museum. Then I walked over to floating market and back to the shops in town where I bought a few souvenirs. I finally headed back to the ship, stopping near the dock to buy a small wheel of Gouda.
It was overcast and in the high 60's. I tendered over at 10am and walked for an hour - you can see the stingrays and starfish at Stingray Cove from about four feet above them without paying to go in the water. Then I went up as far as the stables and over to the beach, where I watched "swim with the horses"; looked like they were actually in the water only 6 or 7 minutes. I started back along the beach and tried out a hammock for five minutes until it started raining and the temperature dropped a few degrees. I chatted with people at the bar, had a tiny bite at the buffet, got chilly, and went back to the ship at 12:30 and right into the hot tub