Zuiderdam was the only ship at Half Moon Cay today. We thought it strange there were no instructions in the Explorer regarding tender tickets. They were not needed. The two super-tenders based on the island began ferrying people and the large glass bottom tour boat also joined in the ferry process. Half Moon is a really nice private island. The sand is incredible. This was our third visit there and the first time there were any waves breaking on the beach. This resulted in low underwater visibility so the snorkeling was not very good today. The boat based snorkel tours were (wisely) canceled.
We headed back to Zuiderdam about 11:00 and enjoyed the hot tubs and the lido pool.
We arrived right on time and found our way off the ship. We like to snorkel but knew with the sea state of "6-Very rough" as the ship says, beach snorkeling was not going to be an option. In the terminal is an information desk and they directed us to a beach. The four of us got in a cab and the driver said he would certainly take us to that beach, but suggested an alternate of DeKalb beach. He said it is public, on the hotel strip, and all concessions are readily available. We went with his suggestion and are glad we did. There was even a Dunkin Donuts. That may not seem like a big deal but for some longing for really good coffee, it was very welcome.
The beach was great and for $20 we secured four loungers under a thatched structure. Gorgeous warm water with just a little roll coming in. Lots of activity, and we witnessed a number of ship's tours coming to the pier here to leave on catamaran and glass bottom boat sightseeing tours.
At about 4:30 we had enough and hopped in a cab to head back to the Zuiderdam. We enjoyed dinner in the Vista dining room and headed into town to see what we could see. It was dark and most shops were closed. Near the port it seems every store is a high-end jewelry store. The local market was pretty much closed down. We walked through the mall attached to a casino and found nothing of interest, so back on board after about an hour's stroll.
Tuesday we docked in Willemstad, Curacao. Zuiderdam docked right in town, and the famous swinging bridge opened to let us in. We had reserved a car through Avis and the process seemed very slow, but we were on the road before 9:00 AM. For some reason, all aboard is 3:30 so it's really a rather short day. We drove out towards Westpunt and Shete Boca National Park. We enjoyed watching the huge waves crash against the rocks along the north shore, often creating large batches of mist and sometimes rainbows. From there, we headed toward Grote Knip beach, and the only good snorkeling of our cruise. Knip beach is a lovely crescent of sand between two rock walls on the leeward side just a few miles from Westpunt. Along the rocks there were a lot of fish, some large, and also some coral. But this is a great beach just to enjoy swimming in the lovely clear water if that is your preference.
We left the beach about 12:30 and found the Flamingo area in the salt flats on the way back to the Zuiderdam. We returned the car before 2:00 PM, walked some of the local vendor stalls, and boarded Zuiderdam quite tired. A burger from the Terrace Grill and a little time in the hot tub helped revitalize us. We had a nice sail away with a band playing poolside.
Once in Gatun Lake, we tendered off the Zuiderdam as we were booked on the well-reviewed excursion to the Embera Indian village. We ended up seated in the front of the canoe and ended up being "Well splashed" en route. It's a good thing it was 85 degrees and a sunny day! The provided ponchos kept our main body dry but arms and legs were soaked, as was my wallet. We very much enjoyed the visit and found the Embrea to be a warm and welcoming people. We also were able to see more of Panama than can be viewed during a canal transit.
Friday we called on Puerto Limon, Costa Rica. We ended up doing the ship's tour to the Tayutic Hacienda. My wife really enjoyed the Hacienda visit, where we were shown how they process Sugar Cane, Macadamia Nuts, and Coffee. I thought it was interesting but really could have cut the visit by a half hour as some of the demonstrations seemed prolonged just to fill the time. The nice lunch on an open deck patio with a view was very nice. This was a very long day, however. Meeting time was 6:50 AM and we returned to the ship at 3:28PM for a 3:30 "All aboard." We did not even get inside the port building where our friends were able to obtain some very nice local products.