Cruising the ABC Islands…

We had a cruise certificate from our time share that was going to expire.  We had to pay for the port charges and taxes.  We began looking at cruises and decided that we should choose the longest cruise that we could to get the most bang for our buck.  We found a 9 day cruise on Royal Caribbean Int (RCI)out of the port of Miami.  Embarkation day, or the day you get on the ship is always considered Day 1. The other 8 days were split evenly…4 days at sea and 4 port stops.  We went to Haiti, Curacao, Aruba, and Bonaire.  We booked the excursion online so that when we got on the cruise, we would not have to worry about anything.  We love to cruise, which is evident of the fact that this was our 23rd but only our second on RCI.

We started the trip off by using our Southwest Airline reward points and flew out of SLC, Utah.  We can fly for only $11.00 round trip.  Since we had a connection in Chicago, had to have Chicago style pizza and caramel popcorn.  Living in Idaho, we have to fly in the day before the cruise leaves, so we used some more credit card reward points to secure a free room at the Best Western.  That night we ate at Chipotle, which we had never done.  It was good.

Since our hotel was near the Fort Lauderdale airport and we had to be at the Port of Miami we booked a shared passenger shuttle.  Once at the cruise terminal, we dropped our luggage with the porters, and proceeded to the check-in area.  It was a bit confusing compared to other check-ins that we have done, but once on the ship we set about to explore and familiarize ourselves with our home for the next 9 days.

This ship had some pretty nice features…

The one we liked best was the locator near each elevator.  It was a touch screen, that told you the current activities, and then gave you directions to get there. We also liked that every day they changed the elevator floor, so we knew what day it was.

Almost ready to set sail, a bit windy.  But first the muster drill, to practice in case we have to evacuate the ship.

A cruise ship is all about the food….so here are a some pictures of our meals at the buffet as well as in the dining room.

Since we love snorkeling, we signed up for an introduction to scuba diving.  We practiced in the ship’s pool.  Cindy will need a bit more practice and for now will just snorkel on top on the water.

On our first day at sea, a ship passenger became very ill and near the Cuba coast, the ship turned around and headed back toward Miami.  A Coast Guard helicopter flew out and picked the passenger up.

That night in the promenade, they introduced the Captain and his staff.  It was formal night so we dressed up a bit.

Our first port was Labadee, Haiti.  This is a private area that RCI owns.  It becomes a little town when the cruise ship is in.

There are 2 buffets, vendors, bars, a town trolley and some nice beaches.

We had a speed boat and snorkel excursions, but it was cancelled due to engine problems.  So we caught the trolley and went to the beach and snorkeled.  We even saw our broken boat…lol.

Later that night back on the ship, they had a magician perform.  We sat on the front row and Cindy was “chosen” to participate. She had a tube “pushed’ through her body and water poured through the tube.  She doesn’t know how he did it…it was MAGIC!!!

The dining room was an enjoyable experience.  We shared our table with a very nice couple from Florida, Rebecca and Brad Hall. We also had an excellence wait staff with Patricia and Eva. There was also entertainment of dancing and singing by the waiters.  We were also greeted every morning at the buffet by one unforgettable gentleman.

The weather was a bit rough and we walked to the pool deck after dinner and got drenched by the waves in the pool.

We took advantage of our day at sea….we slept in, walked around the ship, played some Chinese Checkers in the library, and went to the ice show.

The entertainment at the theater was good.  There were singers, comedians, and dancers.  It also included the always fun, Love and Marriage aka Not so Newlywed Game.

We would have 3 straight port stops to the ABC islands.  These are 3 small islands just off the coast Venezuela.  Our first island was Curacao.  The Spanish discovered the island in 1499 while looking for gold.  Finding none they called the island useless.  The Dutch came and settled the islands in 1637.  It was part of the Dutch constellation of islands, until Aruba wanted to have their own government.  In 2010, the islands became independent Dutch territories.  They are considered Caribbean Dutch citizens.  Can go to Holland for education and have the same citizen benefits.  Their language is a combination of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and African.

We stopped at the Curacao Liqueur factory.

They also make a hand sanitizer/lotion.

The Dutch use the island for vacations, so we drove through some of the expensive neighborhoods.  My father-in law said that the tour they took did the same thing 25 years ago.  We then stopped at a beach resort.

It actually was not bad snorkeling.  Lots of fish and clear water.

After the tour dropped us back at the ship, we walked to downtown.  There is a fort that has been transformed into a shopping area.  We climbed to the top and got some views of the bay area.  Being a Dutch territory, they had a Delft Blue China shop.

We walked over the Queen Emma Bridge, or the swinging bridge.  When a ship comes through, it swings open rather than lifts up.  There was another cruise ship docked at the port right in the town.

We finished with some local entertainment, views of our ship, and a bit of history.

Our next port was Aruba. Michael was our tour guide.

All beaches are public and open 24 hours a day.  The island is very flat and dry, with lots of tall cactus, which they cook and eat like okra.  It is 15 miles from Venezuela.  The roads have mostly round-a-bouts with very few traffic signals.  There are 120,000 residents.   They are just south of the hurricane belt, so will not get a direct hit but may get some winds.   Our first stop was at Casibari Cafe.  We climbed the rocks there and could see about 80% of the island.

We travelled to the North Coast to the Natural Bridge, but stopped to look at the impressive waves, which had been rocking our cruise ship!!!

Natural Bridge collapsed in 2005.  There is a smaller bridge that is visible. We also did the tourist thing and left our pile of rocks.

We learned how to say some local phrases and words.  Made at stop at the California Lighthouse, so named for the ship that wrecked near by.  You can climb the lighthouse, but we just missed the tour, maybe next time.  We drove past a Dutch windmill built in 1906.

Michael was having a hard time, finding a beach for our tour to enjoy.  The normally calm waters, had 5-6 foot waves.  So we ended up at Eagle Beach and played in the waves.

A few were pretty big, and we face planted into the sand.  The wave hit so hard we got water and sand in our waterproof camera…oops.

A walk on the beach, before catching the bus back to the ship.

You can’t beat the sunsets on a cruise ship and the moon isn’t bad either.

The room steward will also provide you with towel animals when they turn down your bed at night.  We like to have fun with our animals.

Our last port was Bonaire.

We had booked an ATV ride and we had 3 awesome guides.

We stopped at a cave and looked at the hieroglyphics.

We then climbed the coral outcropping above the cave and got a view of the dry landscape.

We then headed to the ocean and stopped for some pictures of the waves, which were more impressive than Aruba.

We stopped at a lighthouse.  It is now automated, but at one time had a worker and his family living on site.

Caretaker’s house…

On the way back, the guides, let us have a bit of fun.

With this ship having a Promenade, there was always some sort of entertainment taking place, from circus parades

to Disco nights…

It had been a great cruise.  This was our path and the map even showed when we doubled back near Cuba.

On Debarkation Day, we had a late flight.  So rather than taking a shuttle back to the airport and sitting, we decided to do the Hop on Hop off Bus tour of Miami.  Things don’t always go as planned, as it rained, but Our tour guide Jacob, made it informative and fun.

We learned the port of Miami is made up of 17 man made islands, with Fischer Island being the only natural island.  That the cruise port can handle 7 ships at a time.  That all the celebrities live on Star Island.  The causeway was built in the 1920s.

Besides some great views of the port and islands, we learned that the gold Freedom Tower is where Cuban refugees came to be sworn in as citizens.

Art Deco was the architecture of the 1930s.  It is Round corners, pastel colors and eyelids over the windows.  The buildings can’t be demolished only re-modeled with strict guidelines.

And then it rained.  The tour company did provide rain ponchos.

We were hoping to go to Little Havana, but they were having a music and street festival. We did drive down US Hwy 1, which goes down the entire East Coast ending in Key West, Florida..

We enjoyed our Cruise Adventure. We had a 4 hour delay in Denver, but when we finally got home, we had our Iowa family waiting for us.  What an awesome surprise ending to an amazing trip.

Categories: adventure, Caribbean, Cruises

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