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Caribbean Holiday Cruise - Part IIAuthor: arubalisa (More Trip Reviews by arubalisa)
Date of Trip: December 2006
There were some Grenadians at most of our stops along the way selling whatever they could offer up. Two women outside the Annandale Waterfall offered to pose for a photo with their mighty baskets of fruit perched a top their heads. Once we reached the waterfall there were two men who said that in order to "make a living", for a small donation of an amount of your choosing, they would climb up and jump from the top of the waterfall. For a couple of bucks the guy was probably going to be able to eat that night, the kids got a kick out of seeing it and it was a good photo opportunity for yours truly. Were we suckers? Maybe, but the way I look at it, putting myself in their shoes and with such limited opportunities you gotta do what you gotta do to support yourself and your family. It beats picking my pockets or slashing my bag to get to my wallet, any day.
In the course of our day, there was a man who allowed you to pose with his monkey, there was more than one musician...you get the picture. Our driver had advised us of all of this beforehand and we were under no obligation at all.
One of our last stops was a short guided tour of Fort Frederick given by a young fellow who gave a very detailed history of the US invasion of the island in 1983 and made us all very aware of the fact that, though not all Grenadians necessarily felt that way, he for one was extremely happy with the outcome. You even have a perfect view of the prison below where those who incited the coup and survived the invasion are now being held in prison for life.
The tour started at 8:30 a.m. and was about 5 hours. Afterwards there was still time in the afternoon to take a taxi from the pier to Grand Anse Beach for some swimming before the ship departed.
With 7 out of the 10 of us having previously been to Curacao and spending the day touring, it was easy to decide that this day would be spent at the beach. We really wanted to try one of the fabulous looking beaches which were furthest from the cruise terminal and thus "less touristy".
Furthest north on the west side of the island are beaches Grote and Kleine Knip and Playa Kalki. It would be very expensive to get there via taxi so we attempted to rent a vehicle for the day. A 10 passenger van would have been perfect. Well, turns out that because it was Christmas week, there were no agencies on the island who would rent a vehicle for less than 3 nights (more were 7 nights). So we had to come up with "plan b".
We spent the day at Playa Porto Mari. Walked off the ship to the waiting taxis found two drivers who were willing to split us between the two of them and drive us to Porto Mari. They said it would be a 45 minute ride, but it ended up being only about a half hour tops. Not a cheap ride at about $30 each way, but without a car, we had no choice.
The money was well spent. It was nearly perfect. Our entire family can highly recommend it. The only thing it is lacking is clean soft white sand. The sand contains coral fragments, some of which are large chunks, and walking can be painful. Once you reached the water, the sandy bottom here was much much better. IF you are prepared beforehand, you will have a pair of water shoes with you.
There are facilities: umbrellas, chaise lounges, restrooms, open air restaurant and even a dive shop. Beware that prices at the restaurant and bar are posted in guilders (also called, as in Aruba, the florin), abbreviated NAFl. or ANG. It is pegged to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77. So as you can see, the prices when converted to US dollars are going to be much less. At the bar, when in the ABC islands, I always highly recommend an Amstel Bright!
We were a little confused when we arrived because their website states they charge Naf. 3.50 p.p. (Naf. 4.00 on Sundays/Public Holidays). When we arrived I guess we kind of expected someone at the entrance collecting the fee. A man appeared at least an hour after we had arrived and just walked from chaise to chaise down the beach collecting the money. We arrived at the beach just about a short while after they opened and were glad we got there when we did. If you require shade I would imagine ESPECIALLY on a weekend since there were many locals there, arrive when they open. According to their website they open at 9:30 am.
Three of us had two chaise lounges and an umbrella for the bargain price of $8 USD. My brother rented snorkel gear for himself and his son and paid about $6 or $8 each. Once they had their masks and snorkel they were off exploring. They finally came out of the water raving on and on about how fabulous the reef was, they had never seen so many "cool fish"...My husband and I are both divers, and though we knew there was great snorkeling AND a dive shop on the premises, had never even considered diving. It did seem thought that no matter where you looked there were people walking around with tanks on their backs.
Hmm...were we missing something here? We decided to take a little stroll down to the dive shop. I figured if the price was right, I could at least convince my husband into taking a dive. He had his wallet with his certification card on him, I did not. It was uselessly sitting in my wallet, in the mini-safe on the ship. Gee, maybe a lesson to be learned here?
We asked the nice man behind the counter how much to rent gear for a shore dive and it was ONLY $23 for all equipment including weights and the tank. Now THAT was a bargain. I don't know if my husband's eyes lit up, but mine surely did. My husband then explained to the gentleman that I did not have my C-card, by any chance would he be able to look up my certification on the computer? "Surely" he replied. Wow how cool was that?
Oh no, I suddenly remembered I did not have my prescription dive mask with me! Again, another item left back on the ship, this one inside the luggage underneath our bed. I am blind without my glasses so there was no considering diving for me, no way would I be able to see anything- zero, zilch, nada. In saying this out loud, the gentleman asked if I knew what my prescription was. I did not, but my husband did. Well the chances are probably one in a million, but he had a mask with my prescription in it! Wow, I would never have dreamed of being that lucky in my life.
In talking some more we found out that in a couple of hours they were offering a guided dive of the reef. Instead of going off on our own in a relatively safe place, but one we were unfamiliar with nonetheless, why not spend the extra money for a guide. So for $36 per person 2 hours later we had one of the best and longest dives in my life. My husband has over 100+ dives (I have a little over half that) and admittedly, was not quite as impressed as I was, but I was in heaven. I will always remember not only the abundance of fish, but the gorgeous Stove-Pipe Sponges. We have dove Aruba many many times, but Curacao really put it to shame in everyway. For our next dive vacation I would not hesitate to consider Curacao, but thinking about that makes me REALLY curious about the diving in Bonaire...
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