This was the best excursion on our 10 day cruise but you won't find it mentioned through the cruise line. We looked on line for what other fellow travellers experienced as the best adventure in Aruba and found Tribes Aruba at www.trikes-aruba.com. Boy were they right! We had an absolute blast and would do it again in a flash. There were four of aged from 37 to 71 and we all agreed this was incredibly fun way to tour and see the island. We were up front and personal with the topography, flora and fauna, (amazing and huge cacti); sights (lighthouse etc.)and people of the island and it gave us a real flavour of what the island had to offer. It was very hot on the trikes, but, the wind mitigated the effects of the heat and we were very comfortable -- should wear suntan lotion however! Now to the trike -- which is a motorcycle with two back wheels. Things to consider before booking: know how to drive a standard car and /or motorcycle and you should adapt quickly. The manual transmission is a four speed stick shift with brake and clutch -- similar to a car. However the throttle is on the right handgrip. They provide you with clear instructions and a test drive before leaving on your tour. We toured for 3 l/2 hours, ending up with a ride through the city of Oranjestad that drew a lot of attention. People were taking pictures of us including tourists on tour buses so that was kind of a hoot. Our daughter has and rides a Harley and loved every moment of the experience! We had a blast and you should try it to -- you won't regret it! Thank you for the opportunity and experience!
This was the one occasion that a cruise excursion was booked. We hadn't planned anything for this island but the night before two of our group decided to go snorkeling and booked through the ship. They went on a glass bottom sub to see the fish and then went snorkeling at Bonaire Marine Park. The area is pristine and the coral healthy and alive which is a reflection on Bonaire's commitment to conservation and preservation. Our daughter is an experienced snorkeler and found this was an incredible place to snorkel because of the clear waters and the abundance of fish which speaks to the conditions of the coral reef. She swam with a huge grouper fish and barracuda (before she realized it) and had a fabulous time. Her added comment is that if you snorkel, don't touch or get near the coral as it will die. Support Bonaire and its commitment to preservation.
I contacted Allen at AJ Meddy Tour and Taxi Service Grenada for a private tour to see the island because he had great reviews. He was very professional and gracious in his communication with me. He was going to be our tour guide but because it was on a Saturday, he was unable to do so. However, he arranged a great alternative. Neil Dominique met us right as we exited the security area in port. He was young, energetic, fun and knowledgeable about the island and the people. His van was comfortable and air-conditioned and it was an incredible personal tour with only the 4 of us and our guide. The roads are narrow, winding, and go up into the mountains while driving on the opposite side of the road as we do. However, we were not concerned with our safety and felt very much at ease throughout the day even though some of the drivers we encountered were a tad sketchy. This is the spice island and so this truly is the place to buy all of your spices (and don't forget the pure cocoa) but only ones that are FDA approved. The island is beautiful and being able to see it on a personal tour with a great tour guide like Neil (or Allen) is the only way to see and appreciate the island, the people and what it has to offer.
I made a major error in planning for this port but in the end, we had a fabulous day. We had planned to book one of the "Indian River boys," through the Portsmouth Indian River Tour Guides Association to go down the Indian River once we arrived in port. However, what I failed to realize was that this was not a port where our ship was located but rather it was one hour away and we decided not to do it. However, we later realized we should have just done it-especially since we heard how fabulous it was from others. We instead went to the tour information place in the port we were and arranged an amazing tour through a guide that was stationed there to facilitate tours. We had asked the woman inside the building behind the desk but to put it bluntly, she was very unhelpful and very unfriendly. The Guide outside was friendly, extremely helpful, humorous and happy to find the perfect person to provide us with a private tour. He was a very nice and sweet man -incredibly knowledgeable, creative, resourceful, and gracious and the best tour guide we have met on any journey. Unfortunately he neglected to write down his name but we think it might be Pippin (sorry)? He is 50 but looks much younger and is genuine! His van was comfortable and air conditioned but the tinted windows made it difficult to fully appreciate the beauty when driving. The top opened and we could pop out and take a picture whenever we saw something we wanted to capture. He would stop wherever we wanted and at no time did he make us feel rushed (one price no matter length of tour). Along the way he would just stop and show us something - i.e. a leaf that if touched would shrivel up and die (would revive however later), picked a grapefruit then jumped back in, peeled it and gave us some to eat and again with a star fish. He stopped and got us a feast of bananas and that was what our trip was full of. We stopped at many of the tourist places that we wanted to see and he explained in great detail everything about the island. The roads are reasonable and although they drive on the opposite site it feels doable -- as long as you honk going around corners. The island is incredibly beautiful, lush and the rain forest is truly amazing. At the end of the day, we all decided that of all the islands we have visited over the years, this one was our very favourite and we haven't seen it all so it will be the island we will return to.
Overall, we were really disappointed with St. Thomas. From the time we got off the ship until we returned, we felt this was not a port we wanted to return to. Getting a cab to town from the ship wasn't a nice introduction to the island. The fellow who we got assigned to was very unpleasant and grumpy. They charge $4.00 a person and with 8 in the van, he made $24.00 for a relatively short ride into town. Don't make the mistake we made, just grab one of the open air buses and you will be better served. Other cab drivers during the day were much better and far more gracious and reasonably priced (sort of). What we didn't like was that by far, the majority of stores were jewellery stores and by now, like others, we were sick of it. If you are into that, you will find there is a plethora of stores to pick from so for you, it is the place to shop. We did find one shop we really liked and it was called Mr. Tablecloth. Now don't be fooled by the name because inside Jeanne (spelling?) has many items that are reasonable and quite beautiful, including clothes (jackets are exquisite). We did not take a tour of the island so it is possible we missed a lot of wonderful things to see. However in town, you can walk to see some interesting things (outside of shopping). We took a cab up to Blackbeard Castle and then walked down 99 stairs to town. You see the Castle (well, tower), the Rum Factory (LOL), Rum purchases (free samples of flavoured rum was delicious), and shops and antique museum type homes during the decent which is quite lovely and easy to do. Oh yes, don't miss the dinosaur in one of the shops. We had a lot of fun and it was very pleasurable. We also went to Ice Magic for $20.00 and we thoroughly enjoyed that experience. If you go, take socks for your feet if you are wearing flip flops! Our best experience on the island was that the day we were there, a very large group of youth were playing the steel drums all day and they were incredible. We sat and listened and observed that they played for hours. Once you are done in town, you can easily get an open bus to return you to the ship - just remember which port you arrived in as there are two and we were at the far end.
Two of our group disembarked that day and sunbathed on the beach. They indicated it was a very relaxing day. Also advised there was good food and drinks on the island as well as some shopping opportunities - didn't find they returned with anything however. There also was a lot of water sports equipment but like everything else, there was costs involved so they didn't bother to rent any.The only way to get to and from the island is by being ferried by ship boats. It seemed to run smoothly with no delays. They enjoyed the day but I can't comment further as we remained on board, out of the sun while relaxing...already had too much sun.