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Day 22 - Sea Day

When & Where

sunny 80 °F

Last day at sea. This is when reality starts to set in.

Weather was a nice 80 °F and partly Cloudy.

Being your last day of a long cruise, this is generally the time when you start repacking your belongings and make sure anything you bought at any of your stops can fit into your luggage.

Since I had been on several dive trips, the first thing I did was to rewash all of my gear to ensure majority of the salt water had been rinsed off.

Checking your ships account, making sure there are no bogus entries, or your bill is settled in full. Since I had bought a beverage package, I spent the morning adding up all of my beverages and see if I actually saved money, or wasted money in having the package. (I came out about even, so I was happy)

Along with the premium wine package, there was one final Premium Wine Tasting that I went to, and learned about more pairings of wine, food, and cheeses.

Saying your goodbyes is never easy, especially when you make many good friends of all ages. Exchanges emails, facebook profiles, phone numbers, or enjoying your last meal together.

If there were any employees that stood out, this is a good time to seek them out specifically and give them any tips you see fit.

In the evening, it's hard to to see all the luggage lined up in the hallways for pick-up to be sorted out by the staff once you dock the next morning. Your last folder will also give you instructions on when you are to leave the ship, and if you have your own ride-share, where to meet before getting off the boat.

Posted by Sluggoaafa 13:22 Archived in USA Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 21 - Georgetown, Grand Cayman

When & Where

sunny 82 °F

Names after the Carib Indian word for marine crocodile, Caymanians are proud fo their sea-going heritage. Legend tells a story of a shipwreck, whose crew, in trying to warn other ships, instead drew 9 more vessels onto the treacherous reef. Not a single life was lost. In gratitude, King George III declared Cayman Islands forever exempt from taxes, which turned into a billion dollar gift. There is no income, property, capital gains, or corporation taxes.

Of the three Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, is the largest and home of the capital, George Town. Visitors from all over the globe flock here for three reasons; beaches, stretches of soft white sand fringed by clear turquoise water; the diving; and amazing shopping. Its international luxury brand reputation has earned the island its nickname "Brand Cayman.".

Weather was an excellent 82 °F and mostly sunny.

One can make their way to West Bay, where you'll find the Cayman Turtle Farm and Hell, which is an interesting grouping of short, black limestone formations. Around the island you'll find a variety of picturesque fauna. One can head over to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park to find a variety of plant life gathered in one spot. Then make your way to the eastern districts for a taste of authentic local cuisine and popular outdoor attractions like blow holes and the Mastic Trail. The North Side is where you'll find the Rum Point, Breakers, and Kaibo, along with a more relaxed atmosphere conducive of soaking up any paradise adventure.

I was able to enjoy my last two-tank excursion with Cayman Diving. We began on the famous West Wall which had an average depth of 70 feet. The wall featured many crevices and overhangs teaming with hard corals, colorful sponges, and beautiful gorgonians.

Our second dive was swimming around a shipwreck where we saw plenty of Caribbean lobster just hiding out, and plenty of other water life.

This was actually my favorite spot to dive as the water, sites, and dive shop were all wonderful and made everyone feel extremely safe.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 13:02 Archived in Cayman Islands Tagged cayman vacation island america holland rotterdam georgetown carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 20 - At Sea

When & Where

semi-overcast 78 °F

Day at sea with a full load of activities.

Weather was 78 °F, partly cloudy.

After my two-tank dive in Aruba, I was able to sleep in a bit and enjoy a later start to my day.

I did have a couple of appointments scheduled however, one was an excellent massage at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, as well as a Mariner Lunch with the Captain and Hotel Director.

The Mariner Lunch is very nice gathering of those folks who belong to the frequent cruise program, and a chance to get to know the ships officers. You also get a couple of coasters, which have become collectors items for some people.

I did try a go at the Bingo on board to win a free 'future' cruise...but no luck.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 12:49 Archived in Aruba Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean hal Comments (0)

Day 19 - Oranjestad, Aruba

When & Where

semi-overcast 79 °F

The first in the ABC group of islands, Aruba is a favorite among Holland America guests and their repeat cruisers for its rich and unique culture as well as its stunning picture perfect landscape. It's very difficult to be unhappy in Aruba, an island that has only emerged as a major tourist destination and has therefor preserved a rich and colorful history.

Weather was actually a warm 79 °F, and partly cloudy.

Luckily, there was no language barrier in Aruba as locals are fluent in four languages - Dutch, Papiamento, English, and Spanish. This is evident in the vibrant combination of European customs and Latin influences. Aruba boasts some of the most pristine white sand beaches in the Caribbean. There is great natural landmarks such as the Natural Pool, and The Natural Bridge. There are also family friendly activities like going to the Ostrich Farm or Butterfly Farm.

I was excited for this stop as it would be my 2nd 2-tank dive with Red Sail Aruba. I was a little put-off at first as once we were in the boat and on our way, the dive master told everyone to set up their own equipment. After thinking of this, I was happy they did this as a Diver, you are suppose to know how to set everything up yourself. Even though it had been a long time for me, it was a great refresher to put it all together. A true self assurance.

We enjoyed a wreck dive at the Antilla - known locally as 'the ghost ship. The Antilla is a German freighter that was scuttled by the Germands in 1945 and is the second-largest wreck in the Caribbean at 400 feet long. Covered by giant tube sponges and coral formations, the wreck is surrounded by lobsters and many kinds of tropical fish. The Antilla dive has a maximum depth of 60 feet for approximately 40 minutes of bottom time.

Once we got back on the dive boat, and on our way to our second dive site, it did rain a bit and got a bit cold....so we all sort of huddled together and kept our dive suits on to keep warm. Thankfully, it was just a passing shower, and didn't affect our next dive.

The second-dive took place on a shallower wreck - the Pedernalis. The Pedernalis is an oil tanker that was torpedoed by a German submarine during World War II. The wreck's several large pieces are spread out between coral formations, making visible cabins complete with sinks and other fittings, as well as the tanker's pipeline system. The area around the Pedernalis wreck is known for its many types of groupers and its bounty of angelfish. The dive had a maximum depth of 25 feet for approximately 40 minutes.

Once the dives were complete, and we were heading back to shore, I truly became aware of my initial haste and realized that as a scuba diver, you learn how to set up your equipment to become an Open Water diver. I think because it had been a while since my initial dive, and my previous dive in Mahahual, I had only put my equipment together a few times. Thankfully, Red Sail got me back to feeling comfortable in setting up my own equipment. They did double check everyone's gear before anyone went into the water, so it puts you back at ease.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 12:19 Archived in Aruba Tagged vacation america holland rotterdam carribean aruba hal oranjestad Comments (0)

Day 18 - Willemstad, Curaçao

When & Where

overcast 79 °F

One of the most vibrant and adored cruise ports, a city that is outlined by a pastel skyline created by the painted Dutch architecture that lines the waterfront. Locals say that it was the 19th-century Governor-General Albert Kikkert who is responsible for this colorful architecture. Legend has it that he 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 the white.

You will see buildings with Caribbean hues of blues, greens, yellows and reds. The result is a vibrant introduction to the city as the ship navigates the slim passage of the Sint Annabaii Channel. The city itself is a blend of cultures, from the languages spoken to the cuisine that can be found in this bustling port. Outside of the city, Curaçao boasts 38 beaches with reef systems that beckon diving enthusiasts from all over the world. The "C" in the Dutch ABC islands, Curaçao is the largest, most populous and most cosmopolitan of the former Lesser Antilles.

Aptly named for the Portuguese word "heart" upon discovery in 1499, this island, rich with culture rooted in history and hospitality, has a good chance of stealing yours during a visit.

Our boat docked on the "Otrabanda", which means "The Other Side" of the bay. This is the residential side, with twisting streets and brightly colored homes. On the opposite side of the bay is "The Punda", a grid of narrow streets chock full of museums, art galleries, cafés, boutiques, and restaurants, teeming with photo ops!

Willemstad's incredible architecture has earned the city its designation as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The most notable site is The Queen Emma Bridge, the only wooden pontoon bridge in the world, and it is free to cross. 16 pontoons float as the bridge swings open to welcome container ships, cruise chips, and sail boats into the harbor.

I had booked a swim with a Dolphin while we spent the day in Curaçao. The excursion was going to give us an introduction to the dolphin and it's habitat, a chance to swim and play with them too. However, shortly before we arrived to Curaçao, I received noticed that despite Holland Americas best efforts to leave this tour available, they were unable to reach the minimum number of guests set by the tour operator, so they actually requested to cancel the tour.

At first I was a bit disappointed about the cancellation, however...looking back on it now, it's best for the Dolphins to not be trapped and made to do things.

Instead, I did a self walking tour around the island, visited a Maritime museum which explores the history of the Curaçao shipping industry, pirates and maritime history of navigation.

Great little village to walk around, as well as plenty of shops and restaurants to try.

Until Next Time,

Posted by Sluggoaafa 11:37 Archived in Curaçao Tagged vacation america holland curacao rotterdam carribean willemstad hal Comments (0)

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