Saturday, March 21, 2020

October 31, 2019 – Willemstad, Curacao – Dutch Caribbean – Mostly Sunny – 87F and Humid

Distance from Ocho Rios to Willemstad, Curacao 620 Nautical Miles

I was up early enough to have a nice breakfast and watch our approach to Curacao.

We are both on tour today – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I had originally wanted to go after lunch but I had gotten up early and was ready to meet my group for “Curacao Highlights and Folkloric Show”.  This would give Ellen a chance to rest up in the morning and she wouldn’t have to see the folkloric show.  She is on “Crystal Late Risers Adventures: Curacao” departing at 12:45 PM. 

I led my group of 20 out to our wonderful air conditioned bus (brand new and with USB plugs).  Our guide, Heliane Maas, is from the Netherlands originally and speaks perfect English as well as many other languages (including Papiamento, Curacao’s native language).  The bus holds about 50 so there is a lot of room to stretch out.  Still the back area of the bus is still bouncy and I do not want to have to visit my orthopedist when I get back.

Our first stop would be “Dinah’s Botanic and Herb Garden”.  The bus took us through a little bit of Willemstad before crossing the Queen Juliana Bridge and heading into the suburbs.  

From the bridge, I got a great view of the Sint Anna Bay and the Crystal Symphony docked.

We have had little luck in getting excursions here and have never been in this part of the island. Except for the light traffic (Curacao only has about 150,000 people or about 15 minutes worth of traffic on the 405 out in LA), the burbs had every type of fast food restaurant you could need.  There were shops and strip 
malls but no tall buildings.  We saw a flat topped mountain that looked like other similar mountains but this one was hollowed out due to limestone mining.

Heliane also pointed out the Curacao (Hato) International Airport - our timing was good because we saw a KLM Jetliner coming in.

After a 20 minute ride, we pulled into the Botanic Garden.  

This was not the kind of botanic garden I am used to.  Curacao is a dry island and the plants all looked like they needed water. Our guide, Dinah’s son, 

showed us a natural laxative, 

a basil plant, 

a calabash tree (whose fruit is used to make maracas), and two Divvy Divvy Trees (common on the ABC Islands).  The tour took only about 30 minutes, which was good since there was no shade and the temperature was stretching toward 90F.  After the tour, which really was a sales tour for their botanicals, we went to the covered pavilion to watch the folkloric show.  I expected a bunch of locals filling the stage but there were only two dancers – a man and woman.  They demonstrated African slave dances and more modern dances.  Our guide told us that Curacao is an island of music and dancing.  We were also served a super sweet drink of some type – I don’t usually drink these on tour but I was really thirsty and my water was in the bus.

I was happy to get back in the bus for our next stop – the Senior Distillery.  On our way there we passed the Jewish Cemetery.

The Distillery is back in the fast food neighborhood.  

The Senior Family, observant Jews from Amsterdam, started this company in the 19th century.  They make a special liquor from dried orange rinds of the native bitter orange, Laraha, and other ingredients.  It comes in many colors and flavors but the signature drink is blue in color.  After a description of the distillation process in the factory (which was closed today), 

we had a opportunity to taste three different type of liquor (which is 80 proof by the way). The tasting amount was literally one mL – you need more if you are considering buying the stuff.  Well, I was unimpressed with any of the flavors even though the drink is certified kosher. It was very hot in the factory so I was happy to get going – I should mention that this was a good facilities stop.

Our final stop, the Curacao Museum, was just a few blocks from the ship.  The museum, somewhat in disrepair, was very hot inside.  We visited four rooms depicting the history of the island and some of the work by local artists.  There was an option to walk to an outbuilding containing the first plane to cross the ocean from Amsterdam to Curacao but I, and about half the bus, opted for air conditioning.

Some passengers wanted to get off at Punda’s Shopping District and Heliane asked me if that would be OK.  Tours have done that before so I said OK – I went back to the ship to get out of the heat.

By the time I got back on board (around 2:15 PM or so), the Marketplace was closed.  Silk was open until three so I ordered the veggie Chow Mein Noodles and a Spring Roll.  They were good but a little to savory for the time of day. I ordered a plain tuna sandwich from Trident Grille and that hit the spot along with a Diet Coke.

From Deck 11, I got some nice pictures of Willemstad, the Queen Juliana Bridge, and Sint Anna Bay.

I stayed in the Silk Couch area until I heard from Ellen and then met her in the room around 5 PM.  Ellen had visited the 300,000 year old Hato Caves on her tour and took some nice pictures.

We both cleaned up from the heat of the day – I love the showers on Crystal Ships – you could power wash your driveway with this kind of water pressure.  With all of the sweat and heat residue removed, we went down to the Waterside Restaurant (and our table 32) to get dinner.  Ellen scored with the Dover Sole, which was filleted right at the table by our fantastic waiter, Dragan.  I asked the chef to make me a shrimp free version of the rigatoni, which was delicious.  I had the cold Pineapple Soup (good) and a Farmer’s Salad (also good). We both had a chocolate/walnut tart for dessert (sinfully rich, good, but not finished).

It is Halloween, and the passengers packed accordingly.  We sat in the Crystal Cove and watched all of the costumes go by.  Some were ingenious and some were a good attempt.  The best costumes were, of course, worn by the Crystal Entertainers, who got their duds provided.  Shane was dressed up as a dead guy who fell overboard – he had an anchor and life buoy attached along with stringy stuff – very interesting since he wore it to introduce the show later.  Carina was just perfect as Wonder Woman and one of the dancers came as Harley Quinn.

We stayed in the Crystal Cove for the Halloween Dixieland Event – the music was not too loud and the costumes hilarious.  The party soon dispersed and quiet once again set in.

At 9:15 PM, we went to the Galaxy Lounge to see “Character Man” a one man show by Jim Brochu.  We saw a version of this terrific show on the Broadway Cruise but Jim added a couple of new songs, the best of which was “For Good” from “Wicked”.  A full hour and very entertaining.

It was late and we were pooped from our day in Curacao.

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