Day 16 – Wednesday – Oct 10 – Aruba

Central America Caribbean
October 11th 2012
Published: October 11th 2012
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Today we arrived in Aruba as our final port-of-call of the cruise. Aruba is a comparatively small island, measuring only about 19.5 miles by 6 miles wide at the widest. There are only a couple of high points on the island. Aruba has a very dry climate with only 16 inches of rain annually. The interior is dotted with lots of cactus and the windswept divi-divi trees. There are picturesque sandy beaches along much of the coast (all beaches are public, even in front of the exclusive hotels), where both low-rise (6 stories or less) and later high-rise hotels and condominiums have developed in the past 20 years. Most people speak English, but the locals actually have a language of their own called Papiamento, which is a combination of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English. The US dollar was accepted everywhere we went.

Today we got to sleep in awhile (even with the time change last night) because we weren’t scheduled to arrive in Aruba until about Noon. However that created a bit of a feeding challenge by having a late breakfast and an early lunch (didn’t want to miss any meals). The morning’s buffet featured Eggs Benedict again, which are Janet’s favorites. Anyway, we had a good leisurely breakfast about 8:30.

We then had a few quiet hours to spend before our tour, so Janet rested in our cabin and David went for a walk. He ended up on the pool deck and the big screen was showing a History Channel documentary on Caribbean Pirates. It was very interesting, but kind of hot sitting under the sun instead of under the stars, so he did not stay for the whole show. Then back in our cabin about 11:00, our steward (Ferdinand) came to clean so we went to the Library to read until noon.

We each had a slice of pepperoni pizza at 12:00 and watched the ship come into port in Aruba. The ship tied up and the gangways were opened, so we went on down to look around. Our tour was to meet at 1:20 in a terminal on the pier instead of the usual places on the ship, so we weren’t entirely sure where to go. It turned out that we were plenty early and did a little looking around in the duty-free souvenir shops. We started
Janet on ferryJanet on ferryJanet on ferry

riding along Aruba coast
to try the shops outside, but weren’t sure how far we could go and get back in time for our tour, so we just returned and waited in their air conditioned terminal.

Our tour today started with a bus ride along the coast and past some of the beautiful beaches. We were told that Eagle Beach was voted the 2nd best beach in the world, and it certainly looked nice. We boarded the ferry "Stingray" at Pelican Pier after walking from the road to the beach. The water color is two-toned, with a light blue in places and a turquoise elsewhere (depending upon depth). But it is very picturesque.

After a 20-minute tour of the coast from the sea, we transferred to a “semi-sub”. This is a surface vessel where we went down steps to be five feet below the waterline and sat on small fold-down seats and viewed out the windows. We had a good view exploring the sea life that lives in these clear Caribbean waters. We were told that on a good day the visibility is clear all the way to 50 to 60 feet deep. The semi-sub cruised back and forth along the wreck of the "Antilla," a German freighter that sank off the coast of Aruba shortly before World War II. The sub-tour included a guide who explained how the 440-foot-long freighter met its end. We also saw the coral growing on the freighter and plenty of various kinds of fish. We then transferred back to the ferry (both transfers down at sea rather than on a pier) and returned back to land.

We boarded the bus again for a scenic drive to our second stopping point, the California Lighthouse. From here we had good views of the western end of the island, both the sea and Aruba's windward coast. The lighthouse is named after the U.S ship which sunk in 1908, two years before the lighthouse was built. The lighthouse is no longer open for tourist to climb, but there was a restaurant where the restroom was free if you bought something from them. Janet got us both sodas which were cool and refreshing.

Our tour continued to the Casibari rock formations, where we got to see an amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Some of the group (including David) climbed the 80 stone steps to the formation's summit for views of the island. Along this path, there we climbers had to squeeze through a narrow fissure between rocks which we were not told about until we got there. But all was well and the view was very good. Meanwhile Janet and some of the others stayed at the bottom. While she was waiting she watched a 3-legged dog.

The bus headed across the island to the rugged north coast. There is no development on this side of the island (mostly arid cactus land) since a large part of the land is a national park. Aruba has allocated almost 20%!o(MISSING)f the island to national parks. The water here is much darker blue than in the southern side, and our guide said today was unusually calm compared to normal. We stopped at the Baby Natural Bridge which was carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone over the years. We also saw the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visited their gift shop too. This was actually our 3rd natural bridge on this vacation (Santa Cruz, Cabo San Lucas, and here).

Finally the bus took us back to the ship, driving past the ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos. After the gold panned out, both tourism and oil refining became the leading businesses in Aruba. The oil is brought in from Venezuela to refine and then shipped out to world-wide destinations. Apparently Venezuela wanted to annex Aruba because of its excellent deep-water harbor, but The Netherlands would not part with it. The tourism industry has blossomed in the past 20 years and continues to be n ever-growing focus of their economy.

There are about 110,000 permanent inhabitants, but that is an increase of about 70% over 10 years ago. Tourists arrive at about 150,000 per month, many on cruise ships (11 different lines service this island). Their harbor is capable of handling up to 5 cruise ships a day, but we were the only one in town today. Even though the piers might handle 5 ships, it was pretty crowded with just one ship, so we were glad we had it to ourselves.

Our luck with the weather continued again today. It was an average Aruba day with temperature in the low 80’s and steady trade winds blowing a light breeze across the island. There were occasional dark clouds in the sky, but they blew on past and we did not have any rain.

We got back at the terminal about 5:45 and finished a little final shopping in the duty free shop. We were able to board the ship pretty quickly but even so we were late to dinner. We changed quickly and went to see if we could still eat with our usual group. Actually there were a LOT of missing people from various tables, so many tours must have been late. However we were welcomed at our table. For dinner Janet had the Veal Marcella and David had Orange Roughy.

We shared tour stories with Vic and Carol. They went some of the same places as us, but did not do the submarine adventure. They did tell us that they had enjoyed this trip so much that they have signed up for another Princess cruise next year – a cruise from Quebec to New York along the St Lawrence Waterway.

After dinner, Janet was kind of tired and wanted to
Janet & DavidJanet & DavidJanet & David

at California Lighthouse (Aruba)
rest in the cabin. It is very restful for her to do needlework and watch TV. She discovered that the Cardinals won again today and have a 2-1 lead now. David went to hear one of the new comedians who joined the ship since Panama. This person had been the warm-up act for Gladys Knight and the Pips for 15 years, so he was pretty funny.

We wanted to thank Valerie again for the travel plug/surge protector. We have used it frequently to charge our stuff (there is really only one set of plugs in the cabin) since our batteries seem to run low at the same times.

Well, that is about all for now, so good night.

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