Bonaire

Our Shore Excursion from Royal Princess was BON-105. It took us on a drive along the coast with gorgeous sparkling ocean to the left in aqua to navy hues. We passed a group of divers as one beautiful sea vista after another exposed itself to us.

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Cactus in many varieties dotted the dry soil on this island. Tall trees were sparse, but plenty of bushy vegetation grew along the roadside. To the right rose a rocky cliff with caves. Eventually, we curved around and ended up on the other side of this cliff. Donkeys roamed free on an open plain.

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At Goto Lake, we spotted native flamingos wading for food in the water. Having seen many of this species at Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida, I was impressed to view them in the wild.

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In Rincon, the oldest settlement, it looked like any other Caribbean village with colorfully painted houses. We’d been driving nearly an hour and hastened to the single restroom at our stop. There wasn’t any toilet paper but there were paper towels. We were given a taste of cactus liquor that tasted minty. Snacks were available for purchase here at the Rose Inn courtyard. The stop seemed to benefit the tour guide more than us. We stood around waiting for her to finish her cold drink so we could head back to the bus.

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We were supposed to stop at a cultural park next, but this visit never materialized. Instead, we drove past the port and beyond to reach the salt flats on the other side of the island. A brown pond stretched into the distance. At the roadside, salt crystals bubbled and burped by the highway. A mountain of salt rose ahead as the guide explained the salt-making process.

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If I’ve gotten this explanation right, salt water is brought into the pond on the far side. This water is allowed to evaporate under the sun until it reaches a certain level of salinity. Then more water is added and the process repeated until it’s so concentrated that the salt begins to crystalize. We passed a freighter that might have been taking on salt, this island’s main export. It was fascinating to see the huge mound of salt and the crystals bubbling from the pond.

Then we stopped at a beach made from coral to view a cluster of slave huts. Slaves had to walk from there all the way to Rincon to go to church and receive provisions. It took them the entire day. With the low ceilings and cramped space in the huts, I don’t know how anyone could live there.

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This tour was too long. The drive to Rincon, while scenic, needs more stops. Rincon itself was unimpressive. We didn’t see the cultural center mentioned on the excursion listing unless the itinerary had changed. If you don’t mind a long drive to see most of the island, this tour will work for you. Otherwise, I’d suggest a shorter trip to see the scenic ocean vistas while heading to the salt flats. Then go shopping in town, a short walk away from the port. This tour took 3 hours.

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Coming Next: Curacao

Aruba

Day 7, December 14, Tuesday, Emerald  Princess 10 Day cruise to Southern Caribbean

BONAIRE

We had more time on this island than Grenada and I would have liked less. It’s 112 square miles with a population of 14,000. The land appeared relatively flat and sparse with little vegetation. It didn’t look as populated as the other islands, but my cousin took an island tour and was so impressed by the upscale housing and sights that this was her favorite island. She said there’s a very low level of unemployment. Next time we’ll have to do the island tour.

We walked down the pier to the main shopping street, passed a bunch of crafts vendors, and turned left. The shops sold the usual souvenir items plus sea salt produced here. We bought aloe lotions as they grow the medicinal plant on this island. There were no bargains and nothing else new to get. A few bars face the water where you can buy a drink and admire the view. The streets were dusty with the dried mud coating the surface and buildings with second-story balconies reminiscent of the Old West. We arrived at port at 12 o’clock. My husband and I spent less than two hours walking around. I liked this port the least but it’s probably good if you like water sports. The water was beautiful and crystal clear. We could see tropical fish swimming around right up to shore.

Main Shopping Street

                 

 

Day 8, December 15, Wednesday

ARUBA

We approached the main town Oranjestad on this prosperous island of 74 square miles. Aruba’s population is around 34, 000. It’s part of the Dutch Commonwealth. Aloe is its main agricultural crop. I spied numerous freighters offshore. A sandbar protects the coast by the pier and a lone tree grows seemingly in the middle of the water. We could see oil storage tanks from the Lago refinery in the distance on one side and the airport on the other. The island appears mostly flat with a hilly area in one direction.

The affluent and well-kept town contains some of the same jewelry stores as St. Thomas. You can get jewelry galore along the main street, L.G. Smith Boulevard, along with tropical wear, souvenirs, and Delft china items from Holland. It didn’t take us long to walk up and down the street and stroll around the Royal Plaza and Renaissance Malls (attached to a hotel).

Diamonds International is a favorite store among cruise passengers, and Kay’s Fine Jewelry had some good prices. (In St. Thomas, check out Imperial Jewelers and Ballerina Jewelers in addition to DI).

We went back to the ship for lunch then explored the souvenir shops inside the cruise terminal. You can get last minute gifts here without going farther. Aruba is a large island, and if you can ignore its news infamy, worthy of exploration.

                                

Tonight on the ship was the Captain’s Circle repeat members cocktail party. It was very crowded. They were generous with the drinks but not with the food. For dinner, I chose the roast rack of lamb. The show was a ventriloquist whose dummy was a shrieking duck that grated our nerves. We left in the middle of his performance.

Days 9 & 10, December 16-17, Thursday and Friday

AT SEA

We enjoyed our days at sea, sitting out by the pool, reading, eating, lounging on our balcony. Eating again. Napping. Checking out the ice cream. Getting a hot dog. Grabbing a cookie. Reading. Eating again. If you want to be busy, there are various activities going on, but this was my 25th cruise and I’d been there, done that. It was a wonderfully relaxing trip. I miss the warm weather, now that we are home again. The only solution is to plan our next voyage on the high seas.

For more photos, go to: http://bit.ly/i1wERn

And if you’re into cruise mysteries, check out Killer Knots, my latest Bad Hair Day mystery featuring hairdresser Marla Shore who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry tropical sun, this time on a cruise to the Caribbean.