Tag-Archive for » Aruba «

Friday File: Signs, signs, everywhere…

When you travel on cruise ships, you often encounter signs that have strange, double or hidden meanings. Or maybe they’re just clever, prompting the shutterbugs to snap a few photos. And that’s what we’ve done, for your enjoyment (and ours) this week…


This was in Lima, Peru and we didn’t need a Spanish-English dictionary to get the picture, but maybe we should’ve because it probably doesn’t mean what you’re thinking.


Everybody on a shore excursion takes a bus, often trying to find the right one — this Alaska bus driver for Star Princess passengers had a with a sense of humor.


Truly the only time any of us want to visit Hell, which is in the Grand Cayman Islands, and — yes — it’s re-assuring we’ll be able to send postcards back home.


At a snack bar in Aruba, near the “Natural Bridge” the primary tourist attraction until it collapsed 10 years ago — and now home to a sign that speaks for itself.

Costa Rica

A sign from the wilds of Costa Rica and our first thought was of a feeding frenzy so we didn’t know if it was wise to proceed — except for the women, of course.


In case you’re wondering what the dietary desires are for the locals in Valencia, Spain, these eels are always on the menu and in the butcher’s (?) shops.

In the news…

• Fourth of July sales for many cruise lines a reason to pause the celebrations
• Incentives for booking early on Oceania include new ship Sirena in 2016
• Work stoppage at Fincantieri's Shipyard where Carnival Vista is being built

Today at portsandbows.com: Cruising through glaciers to Vancouver

Grandeur of the Seas
8 nights
September 17, 2015
Baltimore (return): Portland, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax
Inside: $804
Cost per day: $100

Friday File: Beaches of Beauty

If you think a beach is a beach is a beach, which people who don’t lie in the sun might feel inclined to do, then you haven’t met our son-in-law. He will structure his family’s vacations around the quality of the beaches. Prompted by his discriminating eye, we’re re-visiting some that we’ve at least seen in our cruise travels…

TulumTULUM: This picture is taken from the ancient ruins of Tulum, and its accompanying beach provides an alternative for cranky teenagers (or adults) more interested in sunshine than sun gods.

GREAT STIRRUP CayGREAT STIRRUP CAY: This is Norwegian’s private island, which means this is Norwegian’s private beach, available only to its cruise-ship passengers. It has everything you might want, especially people.

BarcelonaBARCELONA: You don’t expect to find palm trees, or beaches like this, in Barcelona…at least we didn’t. The lack of beach-goers had more to do with the time of year (May) than the quality of sand. 

Huatulco-2HUATULCO: A nice spot frequented mostly by the locals who live near this pretty place in southern Mexico, and just a short cab ride from the Celebrity Millennium…well worth whatever it cost us.

St. MaartenST. MAARTEN: The bar from which this shot is taken does a booming business all day, thanks mostly to cruise tourists from Philipsburg, 20 minutes away from being this close to landing jets.

MIAMI: There are places that lay claim to being the most famous of beaches, but is there one better known than Miami Beach (okay, Fort Lauderdale) and its view for passing cruise ships?
ArubaARUBA: White sandy beaches that stretch seven miles along this tiny island, flanked by some of the most expensive hotels you’ll find. The good news is the beaches are all public — it’s the law.
Costa MayaCOSTA MAYA: A popular Mexican port still recovering from Hurricane Dean (2007) doesn’t have a lot to do within walking distance of the ship, but this beach near the pier is a hotspot for passengers.

Today at portsandbows.com: Koningsdam coming to America

Royal Princess
14 nights
April 25, 2015
Fort LauderdalePonta DelgadaCorkRotterdamBrusselsSouthampton
Inside: $696
Cost per day: $49


Aruba: The Best Of An Idyllic Place

ORANJESTAD, Aruba — There’s a few things you should know about this idyllic little island if cruising has never taken you this deep into the Caribbean Sea, which is precisely where we find ourselves.

Aruba is not at the end of the Caribbean, but you can see it from here…well, almost. You can see Venezuela on a clear day, so that’s how close you are to South America.

• While the Carnival Freedom is by no means the only cruise ship that ports here, it was the one that brought us, and that was good….because Carnival’s Best of Aruba Island Tour was ideal for Aruba newbies.

• There are spots where you can pretty much see the entire island, like from the top (541 Aruba-Hoybafeet, 520 steps) of the biggest hill — called Hoyba, or haystack — and even from Casibari Rock Formation, a collection of rocks only a third as high.

• Orange is the color here (Oranjestad is Orange Town), since this is one of three remaining Dutch colonies in the southern Caribbean, which also means the principal Aruba-cactuslanguage is “dutch” to visitors like us. Fortunately, English, Spanish and Papiamento are also major languages, although Papiamento is also “dutch.”

• If you think you’ve seen a lot of cactus in the Arizona desert, or inuksuks (or inuksuit: stones of friendship in the picture above) in British Columbia, those places are rank amateurs compared to Aruba. There are 21 kinds of cactus and what seems like a million unukuit.

• And finally, expect to pay a premium for most things (isn’t that what happens on idyllic islands?) for the good reason that most things are imported. Fortunately for us, Mirto Boekhoudt isn’t among them.

A grandfather now, Mirto was the driver-cum-guide-cum-comedian for Carnival Freedom passengers on his bus. He was born here and has never left. While we’re constantly amazed by how much these people know about where they live, his running commentary turned three and a half hours into an entertaining education.

He’s never seen snow, which immediately made his passengers envious since that’s part of the reason they leave northern climes and board cruise ships. It’s 80 to 90 degrees here Aruba-Dividivi-1year-round and “rainy” season from now through January means about 16 inches per year. There hasn’t been a hurricane since 1934 — Aruba’s outside the hurricane belt — and the winds blow hard enough to turn the dividivi trees into compasses.

“They’re a guide to tourists,” he says, “because the wind blows to the southwest and that’s where all the hotels, casinos and ships are. The casinos are like investment centers: Invest your money and you never see it again!”

Cactus is part of the island’s lifeline because it retains water during rainy season to complement what comes from the third-largest desalination plant in Balashi that also provides all the island’s electricity. The steam from boiled seawater powers turbines that become electricity while the water is stripped of minerals to make it drinkable, pumped to storage tanks situated on hills to create water pressure for the homes.

“We call it a Balashi Cocktail,” Mirto quips, without having to explain that its more common name is tap water.

There are golf courses and restaurants with food from Venezuela (nothing grows here) and Aruba-Beach-1seven miles of white sandy beaches, flanked by some of the most expensive hotels you’ll find — how does $850 a night for the cheapest room sound? There are tourist sites, such Aruba-Nat. Bridgeas the Natural Bridge that collapsed (above) in 2005, depriving Aruba of its biggest attraction although it has been replaced by what is billed as the Baby Bridge (below). And Aruba-Baby Bridge-1there’s a chapel which draws more visitors than parishioners, because church service is only on the first Sunday of every month —the 350-year-old Chapel of Our Lady of Alta Aruba-Chapel-1Vista features its outdoor pews, immaculate graveyard and white crosses on the roads to keep you from getting lost…yes, you could.

You might think that’s next-to-impossible on an island paradise that rose from the sea as volcanic ash to become 20 miles long and just six miles wide but it isn’t. Almost everything is at the same height.

In recent decades, Aruba has gone from gold mining to oil refining to just straight tourism as it’s number one industry.

“Seventy-five per cent of the people depend on tourism,” cracks Mirto, “and the other 25 per cent depend on the 75 per cent.”

So do the visitors who step off cruise ships.

Today at portsandbows.com: The latest in cruise news

Carnival Liberty
5 nights
November 2, 2014
Port Canaveral (return): Freeport, Nassau, Half Moon Cay
Inside: $159
Cost per day: $31

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