Archive for January, 2015

Caribbean Cruise – Curacao!

Willemstad, Curacao

Willemstad, Curacao

On January 6th we pulled into the slim passage of the Sint Annabaii channel.  This is one of the most interesting towns I’ve ever been to.  At every turn we saw something new and different.

The first thing we noticed was the colorful painted Dutch architecture that lined the waterfront.  Legend has it that the 19th century Governor-General suffered from migraine headaches that he attributed to the harsh reflection of the sun on the white buildings of Willemstad.  Thus a decree was issued to paint the structures any color other than white.

Colorful waterfront of Willemstad

Colorful waterfront of Willemstad

In order to cross the channel to get to the downtown district, we walked across the Queen Emma Bridge, also known as the “Swinging Old Lady”.  The bridge is built on pontoons and swings to the left to allow boats to come and go into the bay.  We were walking across when it closed to let a boat through.  So cool!!!

Susie on the Queen Emma pontoon bridge

Susie on the Queen Emma pontoon bridge

We walked along the waterfront and down to the Floating Market.  A mini boat fleet comes from Venezuela each day and sells fresh fish and fruit to the locals.

Floating Market

Floating Market fruit stands along the road

Boats from Venezuela that supply fish and produce to the market

Boats from Venezuela that supply fish and produce to the market moored in the back of the stands

After walking through the lots of shops and local markets of Willemstad, we stopped at an open air café along the waterfront to have a cool drink and watch the pontoon bridge swing open and shut letting the boats through.

Iguana Café along the waterfront

Iguana Café along the waterfront

Cheers!

Cheers!

Next we decided to see more of the island so we hopped into the back of a truck to take a tour.  Now let me tell you this is a high tech truck tour if I’ve ever seen one :-)!  What fun!

Susie boarded and ready for the Casper Tour ride!

Susie boarded and ready for the Casper Tour ride!

Tour guide was really informative about the island (although his mike didn't work most of the time) :-)

Tour guide was really informative about the island (although his mike didn’t work most of the time) 🙂

We saw a lot of the beautiful brightly colored houses and buildings along the way. DSC02119DSC02121

Beautiful archetecture

Beautiful architecture

We also passed a refinery during the tour.  The guide told us that the oil is brought in from Venezuela, refined and shipped back to Venezuela.  Gas here is about $5 a gallon so it seems they don’t get a break on the prices.

We stopped at the Curaçao Liqueur Factory at Landhuis Chobolobo where the Genuine Curaçao Liqueur is made.  To differentiate it from other brands of Curacao liqueur that are not original, “the Genuine Curaçao Liqueur” is the only liqueur that is made of the peels of the “Laraha” (the bitter orange native to Curaçao). It’s produced in 5 different colors; the original clear liqueur, the famous Blue and Green, and Red and Orange as well. And there are also the special tastes: Coffee, Chocolate and Rum Raisin. The small distillery is more than 115 years old.

The original Curacao Liqueur distillery

The original Curacao Liqueur distillery

Curacao Liqueur still made by hand according to an ancient recipe

Curacao Liqueur still made by hand according to an ancient recipe

After sampling some of the delicious liqueurs, and buying a couple of bottles to take home, we went on our way.  We stopped at a vista point where we could look down onto the bay.

Windy viewpoint of Willemstad

Windy viewpoint of Willemstad

And then stopped by the beautiful Cabana Beach where we saw lots of sea life as well as crabs and lizards along the rocks.

Cabana Beach

Cabana Beach

Clear water at Cabana Beach.  We watched an eel scamper off with his lunch

Clear water at Cabana Beach. We watched an eel scamper off with his lunch

Crab on the rock next to the water

Crab on the rock next to the water

All too soon it was time to return to the ship and say good-bye to this unique little town of Willemstad.

Leaving Sint Annabaii channel.  Notice the pontoon walk bridge fully opened in the foreground.

Leaving Sint Annabaii channel. Notice the pontoon walk bridge fully opened in the foreground.

Our last glimpse of Willemstad with the fortress wall overlooking the entrance to Willemstad

Our last glimpse of Willemstad with the fortress wall overlooking the entrance to Willemstad

Next stop – Panama!

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January 31, 2015 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

Caribbean Cruise – Panama!

Panama-Canal signSeveral years ago my cousin Bruce and I traveled through Panama.  While we were there we visited the Miraflores Visitor Center, just outside of Panama City.  We watched the ships going through the locks.  It was just fascinating!  From the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Atlantic Ocean exit, the canal is approximately 51 miles and is about a 9 hour journey to complete.  It handles around 13,000 ships a year.

This shows why the locks are necessary going from one sea level to another sea level.

This shows why the locks are necessary going from one sea level to another sea level. A question I always had.

This time coming to Panama I got to actually go through the locks on our cruises ship!  I woke up early (before light) and sat on our verandah in anticipation.  There were lots of ships hanging around just outside the locks.  I assumed that they were waiting for their turn to enter the canal.  We entered on the Atlantic side just north of Colon and went through the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake.

Approaching the Gatun Locks.  You can see the entrance to the third lock to the left

Approaching the Gatun Locks. You can see the entrance to the third set of locks to the left

The Panama Canal expansion project (also called the Third Set of Locks Project) is intended to double the capacity of the Panama Canal by 2016 by creating a new lane of traffic and allowing more and larger ships to transit.

This photo shows the Third set of locks under construction

This photo shows the third set of locks under construction

Going through the Gatun Locks

Going through the Gatun Locks

While going through the locks all the pilot boats and trains started blowing their horns.  It lasted several minutes.  We later heard that it was in honor of a man who was retiring after working at the canal for 30 years.

A ship passing through on its way to the Atlantic

A ship passing through on its way to the Atlantic

Entering Gatun Lake

Entering Gatun Lake

After hanging out in Gatun Lake for a couple of hours, we passed back through the locks towards Colon.  There really isn’t much at all to see in Colon.  Pretty much a strip mall with restaurants and shops.  But it was still exciting to be on land in Panama again.

Colon, Panama

Colon, Panama

Our next stop was supposed to be Costa Rica.  Unfortunately when we got close to the port, the captain announced that due to the swell conditions he had to make the decision to cancel the port call.  It was just too dangerous.  We were SO disappointed!  We had planned a 5 hour excursion to see a banana plantation & packing house, an animal rescue eco tour where we were to see sloths, howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys and macaws.  A jungle boat tour, and a drive through the city ending at a viewpoint of Puerto Limon.  It would have been so wonderful to see Puerto Limon.  Well, I guess I’ll just have to go back some day!

After we were 5 hours away from Puerto Limon, the captain announced that a passenger had a medical emergency and we had to turn around and go BACK to Puerto Limon since it was the closest port.  So back we went.  By the time we got back to the port the water had calmed and it was thankfully safe to transfer the patient to the ambulance.  We later found out that it was a young woman who was having a miscarriage.

The only glimpse I got of Puerto Limon

The only glimpse I got of Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Patient being taken away in the ambulance

Patient being taken away in the ambulance

My next post will be of all the fun and activities we had on the Zuiderdam!

 

 

January 29, 2015 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Caribbean Cruise – Aruba!

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On January 5th our cruise ship arrived in Oranjestad, Aruba.  I was so excited because this was the stop where we had scheduled a snorkeling trip.  I had contacted Captain Rene’s “Private Snorkeling Aruba” site and set up a trip for 5 of us.  We headed out in a taxi to MooMba Beach.

MooMba Beach

MooMba Beach

Susie, Karen, Jon and Charles waiting for Captain Rene

Susie, Karen, Jon and Charles waiting for Captain Rene

As soon as I met Captain Rene I realized he was Dutch (I love my Dutch heritage) so I immediately liked him!  It turned out that he was exceptionally nice, funny, helpful and just a joy to be with during our trip.

Heading to our snorkeling site with Captain Rene

Heading to our snorkeling site with Captain Rene

Our time snorkeling was fantastic!  We saw lots of fish and coral, and just enjoyed floating around in the water.

Having a blast in Aruba!

Having a blast in Aruba!

Next we headed to Malmok Bay to take a look at the sunken ship Antilla.  This ship has an interesting, very short history.

"Antilla" by unbekannt, Foto aus dem Jahr 1939 - http://willemsubmerged.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/antilla-1-copy1.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Antilla.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Antilla.jpg

“Antilla” by unbekannt, Foto aus dem Jahr 1939 – http://willemsubmerged.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/antilla-1-copy1.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia

SS Antilla (1939)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

SS Antilla was a Hamburg America Line cargo ship that was launched in 1939 and scuttled in 1940.

Antilla was built for trade between Germany and the Caribbean.  On 15 July 1939 Antilla left Hamburg on her maiden voyage, which took her to the Caribbean. On 9 August Antilla left Curaçao for Galveston, Texas, where she loaded 3,000 tons of sulphur for Europe. En route the captain received several coded messages directing him to leave main shipping lanes and to alter their ships’ names and appearance, communicate only in code and return to Germany as soon as possible.  If the ship was not able to return to Germany within 4 days he was to find refuge in neutral ports.

On 1 September, the day Germany invaded Poland, Antilla sailed for neutral Curaçao. However, en route the captain learnt that Willemstad Harbour was already full of German merchant ships, so he changed course for Aruba and anchored in Oranjestad.

On 10 May Germany invaded the Netherlands so the Dutch government ordered the seizure of all German ships in the Dutch Antilles. The German crew immediately started scuttling Antilla. They were not going to hand the ship over to the Netherlands.  At 0500 hrs the Dutch marines boarded the ship. The Marines escorted the crew ashore in a lifeboat and handed them into the custody of the Royal Marechaussee.  By the time the Netherlands Coastguard came back to board the ship, they found it on fire and sinking.

Antilla lies in Malmok Bay, Aruba in just 60 feet of water and is one of the Caribbean’s largest shipwrecks and a popular dive and snorkel sites because of its location in shallow waters.

The sunken ship Antilla

The sunken ship Antilla

Because of the rough waters, I wasn’t able to see the ship.  But Charles snorkeled out and was thrilled to get a chance to see it.

After a beautiful afternoon on the water, we reluctantly headed back to shore.  The rum punch that was served on our way back made it a little easier to accept our trip was over 🙂

Susie, Charles and I enjoying our rum punch on our way back to shore

Susie, Charles and I enjoying our rum punch on our way back to shore

Next stop – Curacao!

January 27, 2015 at 8:43 am Leave a comment

Caribbean Cruise – The Bahamas

DSC02007Our first stop on our cruise was at Half Moon Cay (pronounced Key), Holland America Line’s own private island.

Fountain at Half Moon Cay

Fountain at Half Moon Cay

Good music always playing

Good music always playing

The cruise ship had set up a nice BBQ on the island so instead of taking an excursion, we opted to just have lunch, grab a souvenir, and enjoy the beach.

BBQ on Half Moon Cay

BBQ on Half Moon Cay

As we walked along the trail to the BBQ we passed several misting stations along the way.  I thought that was a pretty cool idea since it was so hot.

Misting station along trail

Misting station along trail

After lunch we grabbed a couple of lounges and enjoyed the powdery white sandy beach and the crystal clear water.

Susie enjoying the beach

Susie enjoying the beach

Beautiful powdery white beach and vibrant aqua water

Beautiful powdery white sand and vibrant aqua water

We decided we needed to have a Bahama Mama so we moseyed over to the ‘I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever’ bar.

I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever bar

I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever bar

A couple of happy mama's drinking their Bahama Mama's on a beach in the Bahamas!

A couple of happy mama’s drinking their Bahama Mama’s on a beach in the Bahamas!

It was a beautiful and relaxing start to our wonderful trip!  Next stop – Aruba!!!

January 25, 2015 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

Ending the year in Fort Lauderdale 2014

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My friend Susie and I were invited to go on a cruise with a group of friends leaving from Fort Lauderdale, FL on the 2nd of January.  We decided to go a couple of days early and celebrate New Years Eve on the East Coast.  We flew out of Seattle Wednesday morning and arrived at our beautiful Hyatt Place hotel in the early evening.

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After getting settled in we headed downtown to the Orange Bowl New Years Eve Countdown.

New Years Eve Orange Bowl street fair

New Years Eve Orange Bowl street fair

I loved the palm trees all lit up along the streets

I loved the palm trees all lit up along the streets

It was fun sitting along the waterfront watching the boats coming and going

It was fun sitting along the waterfront watching the boats coming and going

That's a tall drink!

That’s a tall drink!

We listened to the band and enjoyed the nice warm night.  At midnight the ball dropped and it was 2015!

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

The next morning we took the short walk to the water taxi.  The water taxi is a hop on / hop off boat that cruises along all the waterways of the city.  Since Ft. Lauderdale is considered the “Venice of America”,  there’s no better way to enjoy the sights and stops along the way.

Ft. Lauderdale Water Taxi

Ft. Lauderdale Water Taxi

The crew talked about all the houses and yachts, suggested places to shop and eat, and answered all of our questions.  What a fun way to see the sights of Ft. Lauderdale.

Ron Howards yacht "Imagine"

Ron Howard’s yacht “Imagine”

Susie enjoying the ride

Susie enjoying the ride

Toyota dealership owner's humble abode

Toyota dealership owner’s humble abode

He bought the house next door, tore it down to create a dog park for his pups.  Lucky dogs!

He bought the house next door, then promptly tore it down to create a dog park for his pups. Lucky dogs!  And notice that their yacht is pulled up alongside too!

Most expensive house in Ft. Lauderdale.  $18 million dollar home.  It has no land.  The home takes up the entire lot.  The parking garage in under the house.

Most expensive house in Ft. Lauderdale. $18 million dollar home. It has no land. The home takes up the entire lot. The parking garage in under the house.

This was originally Lucy and Desi's home in the day.  It's a beautiful home but doesn't compare to the houses built today.

This was originally Lucy and Desi’s home in the day. It’s a beautiful home but doesn’t compare to the houses built today.

We decided to go back to the hotel and have a rest before heading back out for the evening.  We chose to take the Water Taxi again to see the Christmas lights.

Beautiful palm trees lit up for Christmas

Beautiful palm trees lit up for Christmas

Not only do they decorate their beautiful homes, but their yachts too!

Not only do they decorate their beautiful homes, but their yachts too!

More trees lit up for Christmas

More trees lit up for Christmas

We got off the boat at Flipflops.  A casual Caribbean style restaurant right on the water.  We had a wonderful seafood dinner, listened to Reggae music, and enjoyed sitting by the relaxing water.  A perfect way to end the day.

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A great place to eat

A great place to eat

A great dinner, great atmosphere, with a great friend!  What better way can you start out a new year?

A great dinner, great atmosphere, with a great friend! What better way can you start out a new year?

Tomorrow we head to the cruise ship down to the Caribbean!

 

January 15, 2015 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment