Sunday, February 5, 2017

Monday, December 12, 2016 – Willemstad, Curacao – Partly Cloudy - 85F

Distance from Ocho Rios, Jamaica to Willemstad, Curacao:  617 Nautical Miles

Crystal Serenity will be here from 8 AM to 7 PM.

IMG_20161212_OtrobandaWillemstad_thu IMG_20161212_Otrobandafromship_thumb

Otrobanda from the Ship


Queen Juliana Bridge

We are not on tour today so we will do some walking around the city of Willemstad.

One of our goals is to visit the synagogue here.  It is a historically important building – Mikve-Israel Emmanuel is the longest continuously running synagogue in the Americas (going back to the mid 17th Century).  The first time we were here was on a Saturday (the rabbi on board has arranged for a tour of the synagogue but it was closed); the second time we were here it turned out to be a national holiday so everything was closed (including the synagogue).  This visit will be successful because I emailed them earlier and told them we were coming; they answered and indicated they would be open.

Another major event happening today is the At Sea Marathon being run by extreme runner Dane Rauschenberg.  He will be running 89 plus laps around the Promenade Deck to finish his marathon (the distance has been certified by an official sanctioning body).  He started about 6 AM this morning and will finish about three hours later.  We got a picture of Dane in progress from our verandah.


Run, Dane, Run

This is the end of the first mini-cruise so some people are getting off and others are getting on – the ship will now have 777 (verses 700) passengers headed for Miami (capacity 1050).

It’s a little warm today so we will stay in the shade during our walk around Willemstad. 

The ship is parked in what looks to be a new terminal – I am pretty sure we did not dock here the last time because I clearly remember walking up a hill from the dock. 



Serenity Docked

From the pier we walked through a very well kept up park area,


Can you spot the iguanas in the bushes?

then through an upscale mall that was part of the Renaissance Hotel complex.  Eventually, we passed through a gate and found ourselves near the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.



Queen Emma Bridge

We crossed the bridge to get to Punda, the main shopping area of Willemstad.

We stopped by Riff Fort, which, with all of the colorful buildings, looks like La Boca in Buenos Aires.  No tango here just upscale shops.  They have a spa here but the prices are stratospheric. 


Riff Fort

In the Riff Fort Mall, I ran across another metallic and colorful animal, what I like to call the Curacao Cow.


Once over the bridge, we walked down the main street, which parallels the “Floating Market”.  It’s just my personal opinion, but I would not feel comfortable eating any of the local produce at that market.  For grins, I stopped in a phone store to check on phone prices; the clerk quoted me a price for a phone similar to my new one - $242 dollars. 

Punda is not a super large place and we were able to find the synagogue easily on the map – it is located on Snoa Street.  The synagogue is a non-script yellow stucco building from the street.  There is a guard at the gate (not quite the armed security we ran into last time but I’m sure someone like him is here somewhere).  He directed us to the ticket office, where we purchased two tickets for $10 a person. 


Synagogue Main Building

The handout on the synagogue indicate that about 250 Jews are living on Curacao.  They have regular Shabbat services as well as festival services.  You are allowed to take photos in the synagogue but not in the adjacent museum.

The entrance to the synagogue is very interesting.


The first thing I  noticed upon entering was the sand floors.  There are also sand floors in the synagogue on St. Thomas.  The sand does represent the wandering in the dessert.  The sand is also symbolic of the sand used during the inquisition to muffle the sound of praying.  In any event, the sand is kept neat.  I put my own footprint (size 12.5) into the timeless sand of Mikve-Israel Emmanuel. 


“One Small Step…”

The interior was in excellent shape suggesting a recent renovation.  The ark is beautiful and there are balconies, no doubt to provide separate seating for women at the services.  There are also ornate chandeliers hanging from the high ceilings. 





Mikve-Israel Emmanuel Interior

We then visited the museum – there were several rooms and two levels to the museum, which displayed historical items associated with the Jewish Community of Curacao.  Even though some of the pieces were several hundred years old, they had been preserved perfectly.  The visit to the synagogue and museum was worth both the time and money.

We walked around some of the other streets in Punda (looking for a spa) and then crossed the Queen Emma bridge and walked along a major street running parallel to the harbor.  The street was lined with shop after shop selling clothes and phones.  Unable to find any spas in Otrobanda either, we turned toward the pier and in about five minutes we were at the port – a potential shortcut for future visits.

We had lunch in the Lido and Trident Grill and spent the afternoon out on our wonderful verandah. 

Dinner tonight in the Crystal Dining Room consisted of Kosher Chicken for ET and a terrific hamburger for me.  I put together my own thousand island dressing, which just enhanced the taste of my burger. 

Showtime tonight was the unusual but interesting techno-production show - “illuminate” – a 30 minute show in the dark featuring dancers in light suits (like “Tron”) operated by computers to provide crazy special effects.  The music was all electronic and pretty loud but the show was inventive.  No one was supposed to be able to come late or leave early because of the dark theater but…

A very nice day in Curacao.

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