Sunday, March 31, 2019

Amazon & Carnival Explorer Cruise - Day 6: Willemstad, Curacao

Saturday, February 9

We were due to dock in Willemstad, Curacao this morning at 8:00, and I kept getting up and looking out to see if we were getting close.  Every time I looked out our window I didn’t see anything but ocean so I would go back to bed.  Finally at a little after 8:00, there was an announcement about getting off the ship, but I still could only see ocean outside our window.  It turned out the town was on the other side of the ship and there was no real port except the pier where we docked so that's why we only saw ocean out our window.  Not a problem, I do like to watch us dock at each new port, but it really didn’t matter.

The ABC Islands are circled in red.
Curacao is one of the ABC Islands (the others are Aruba and Bonaire) and located just 40 miles off the Venezuelan Coast.  It is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but is an independent country within the Kingdom.  The island's size is 171 square miles and has a population of 160,000.  Willemstad, where we are docked today, is the capital of Curacao and has a populations of 150,000 so you can see most everyone on the island lives here.

The island of Curacao
Today we were scheduled to go on a snorkeling excursion, but as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it was cancelled.  We hadn’t found any other tours that caught our fancy so we decided just to walk around the town today.  Since most thing didn’t open until 10:00, we were in no rush to get off the ship so we waited until just after 10:00.

As we walked off the ship, we immediately noticed the humidity and heat.  It really wasn’t too hot, but standing in the sun it sure seemed like it was.  After a stop at the information center on the pier, we walked along the waterfront and into town.  There was another ship in port today so things were really bustling with the cruise ship passengers adding to the other tourists.  We wandered around the town enjoying the sights of a new place.  We visited a few shops, but mostly just walked around.  We did run into Roy and Garbriella (our trivia friends) and sat and talked to them a while.

Our first look at Willemstad.

As I have mentioned, Val is a little less than six months out of her knee replacement surgery so it is still somewhat painful for her to walk so we have to be careful not to push it too much.  With that in mind, we decided we should head back to the ship, but before we did, we wanted to pick up some bottled water as it is pretty expensive on the ship.  Someone had told us they found a good price on bottled water at a Seven Even store (much like our own 7-11 stores).  When we found the store and went to purchase a case of water, we found it not to be the case as it was actually more expensive than on the ship.  We passed on the water and headed back to the ship.

The walk around town was actually pleasant as there was shade and a breeze blowing, but as we walked back and got into full sun we felt the heat again.  We were very glad to get back on the ship and into the air conditioning.  After cooling off for a bit, we were getting hungry and decided to have a late lunch in the Lido.  We opted for our first pizza of the cruise today along with a caprese salad.  As I said on my blog from our last cruise, the pizzas are surprisingly good on the ship.

Since it was a port day, Val’s team trivia was late in the afternoon so she was off to that.  I just relaxed while she was gone.  When she got back it was time to go to the Neptune Lounge to meet up with Bob and Carol, who we will be sharing a box with in the Sambadrome at Carnival in Rio.  They are involved in the Cruise Critic Roll Call and we all got tickets from the same tour company in Rio, so we wanted to meet them before we got there.  We had a nice chat with them and enjoyed meeting them.  We still have a ways to go before Rio, but it was good to meet them early.  They also are in a suite so the Neptune Lounge was a good place to meet.

By the time we finished talking to Bob and Carol, it was getting near time for trivia and dinner so we were off to that.  For a while we thought we were the only ones on our team there for trivia, but at the last minute Wally and Nancy showed up.  We didn’t do very well without Roy and Gabriella.  Since we are in port until 11:00 PM, the casino was not open tonight so after a stroll on the Lido Deck, Val and I returned to our room, where we spent the rest of the evening relaxing.  The extra time this evening allowed me to finish this blog post so the extra time was nice.  Tomorrow our port will be on the island of Bonaire, which is another of the ABC Islands and very close to Curacao.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Amazon & Carnival Explorer Cruise - Day 3, 4 and 5: At Sea

Wednesday, February 6 - Day 3

We got up earlier this morning and had our breakfast in the Neptune Lounge.  We read for a while on the balcony while they cleaned our room and then headed up to the Crow’s Nest for the Cruise Critic Roll Call Meet and Greet.  I believe there were over 160 participants so it was very crowded, but very well organized by Roger who put the whole thing together and kept track of everyone on an amazing spreadsheet he made.  We talked to a few people and touched base with a couple we had talked to about doing a tour with and then headed back to the room.

Val had her trivia at 1:30 so we went up to the Lido Buffet to get lunch.  After lunch Val was off to her trivia and I returned to the room to work on the blog.  I didn’t make much progress as I had to set up a space for my computer and there were several interruptions from our room steward and a supervisor checking out a possible maintenance problem (which I didn’t know anything about).  Finally, everything settled down, but by this time Val was back and it was time to head for the showroom for a talk on our next three ports, the ABC islands.

The ABC islands are Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao and they are our next three ports, but not in that order.  It was an interesting talk and we are looking forward to our visits to these ports.  After the talk it was back to our room for our usual afternoon relaxation.  After a while I decided to go for a walk and did four laps around the Lower Promenade Deck (1 mile).  I hadn’t had much exercise lately so it felt good to get out and walk.  Right now, the temperature and humidity is pretty mild, but as we sail further south the heat and humidity may preclude much outdoor exercise.

Tonight is a Gala Night (formal night) in the dining room, so when I returned to the room it was time to start getting ready for dinner.  We were soon off to trivia and dinner.  Tomorrow is the second of our three sea days so it will be another relaxing day.

Thursday, February 7- Day 4

We didn’t have anything planned for this morning. Not sure why, but there don’t seem go be the usual lectures that we enjoy going to on a cruise.  After our breakfast in the Neptune Lounge we spent the morning relaxing and reading.  We went to lunch a little early as there was a slot tournament today and Val and I wanted to try our luck before her trivia started at 1:30.

After lunch we both bought tickets for the slot tournament and were in the first round of payers.  Val did very well and was highest in her round and atop the leader board.  The leader board consists of the top six point getter's so I did end up at number six since we were part of the first six to participate, but I won’t be there at the end of the day.

After the opening round of the slot tournament, Val was off to trivia and I went back to the room where I downloaded the pictures we had taken so far (not very many).  When Val came back from trivia we made our way to the showroom to hear a talk on more of the ports we will be visiting.  Today’s presentation was on Trinidad, Tobago, Saint Vincent and Barbados.

After the port talk we went to the excursion desk to inquire about a snorkeling tour we were scheduled to take on the island of Curacao.  We had heard that there wasn’t enough people signed up and it might be cancelled and sure enough it was.  That’s a disappointment for us as we were looking forward to our first snorkeling experience in the Caribbean, oh well there will be others coming up.  We didn’t see anything else of interest so decided we would just walk around the town for our visit.

Before returning to the room, we decided to check out the slot tournament leader board.  Val had dropped from number one to three and sure enough, I was off the board entirely.  There are two more rounds before the finals so I still have a chance.  We returned to our room and finished off the afternoon reading and relaxing.  I did take another four laps around the Promenade Deck before getting ready for dinner.

We finished our day with trivia in the Ocean Bar, dinner and the casino.  I got back to my normal self and had a terrible night in casino, but Val did very well and is now even for the trip.  When we returned to our room, we were disappointed to see that the clocks would be moved ahead and we would be losing an hour of sleep tonight.  We are now four hours ahead of California time.  We called it an early night because of the loss of an hour and went to bed.  Tomorrow will be our last sea day before we get to our first Caribbean port of Curacao.

Friday, February 8 - Day 5

Despite trying to get to bed early last night because of the time change, we still slept late and by the time we had gotten up and around, the breakfast items had all be removed from the Neptune Lounge.  Oh well, we weren’t really hungry anyway.  We spent the rest of the morning reading on the balcony and then were off to lunch.

After lunch, Val went to her trivia and I returned to our room to pay some bills online and then catch up on the blog.  When Val got back from trivia we decided to see if the future cruise consultant was busy as we had some questions about another cruise. Unfortunately their desks are near the casino and since it was open on a sea day, we couldn’t resist dropping a few dollars.  I was hesitant because I figured I’d lose my daily allowance and wouldn’t be able to visit the casino after dinner tonight.  It turned out to be a fortuitous visit as both Val and I came out ahead and now have more money to spend tonight.

After the casino it was back to our room to relax until dinner.  After trivia and dinner, it was back to the casino where amazingly we both did well again.  I did very well in fact, and am now ahead for the trip, a very different situation for me.  Because we were having a successful evening we stayed in the casino later than usual so when we returned we went straight to bed.  Tomorrow we visit our first port of the cruise outside of the U.S, Curacao.

Amazon & Carnival Explorer Cruise - Day 2: Key West, Florida

Tuesday, February 5

Today we are in Key West, Florida, the southern most point in the contiguous United States.  Key West is the southernmost island and city of the Florida Keys and is located at the end of US Route 1, the longest north-south highway in the US.  It has a total area of about 7.25 square miles and a population of around 27,000.

Southern Florida and the Florida Keys.  Fort Lauderdale is on the upper right and Key West is on the lower left.
We docked at 8:00 AM, but we didn’t see it as we were still sleeping.  We were so tired we didn’t get up until after 9:00.  By the time we got up and were ready to get going, it was too late to get our breakfast in the Neptune Lounge as they had already removed the breakfast food and hadn’t yet put out the lunch and snack food.  We had managed to hit the gap in the normally always stocked supply of food in the Neptune Lounge.  We puttered around a bit and then decided it was time to go ashore.

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting much from Key West, but it actually was much nicer and much bigger than I expected.  The ship was docked right in town so all you have to do walk off the ship and you’re in town.  We walked around a bit, but then decided to buy tickets to the hop-on / hop-off bus.  Tickets were quite a bit more expensive than most hop-on / hop-off buses, but we found out why as the day went on; everything is expensive in Key West.

As you can see, when you get off the ship your are right in the town.
As we rode the bus, the driver talked about what we were seeing and added stories and local color.  Key West is where key lime pie was first made so the first place we “hopped off” the bus was Kermit’s Key Lime Shop where everything you could think of was key lime flavored.  We even saw Kermit himself.  After looking around the shop a bit we decided to pass on the pie here and have some later.  We walked around the area for a while and then made our way to the bus stop and after a short wait, hopped back on the bus.

Inside of Kermit's where anything key lime was sold.
I don't know what this was about, but it was unusual.
As we drove on, we passed Jimmy Buffet’s original Margaritaville.  The story we were told was that before he was discovered he played in a bar in Key West, then after he became famous, he came back and purchased the bar and named it Margaritaville.  I’ll have to research that to see if that’s a true story, but it sounds good (It turns out it is mostly true).

The next thing we wanted to do was visit Ernest Hemingway’s house so we got off at that stop and walked a couple of blocks to his house, which is open to the public for tours (for a price of course).  It was a large house situated on an acre of land which is the largest home lot in Key West.  The grounds were beautiful with lush vegetation and a large swimming pool.  The house is a bit dated of course, but you could see it was very nice for its time.  It had the first inside bathroom in the area.  This is where he did his most prolific writing and most of his most well known books were written in this house.  We found the tour to be interesting and I learned quite a bit about Hemingway’s life that I hadn’t known before.

Ernest Hemingway's house.

It turns out that Hemingway was a great cat lover and descendants of his six-toed cats roam the grounds.
We were getting quite hungry and decided to look for a place to eat.  We found a restaurant called the Blue McCaw which advertised homemade key lime pie so we decided to eat there.  We both had sandwiches for lunch that were good and of course ordered key lime pie for dessert.  I’m not a big pie eater, but I have to admit, it was very good.

Pie is not my favorite dessert, but this key lime pie was delicious.
After lunch, it was time to move on so we made our way to the bus stop and caught the bus after a short wait.  By this time, it was mid-afternoon so we decided to just ride the bus the rest of the loop and not get off at any more stops.  Key West was much larger than we expected and the rest of the loop took almost an hour, but it was very interesting with the driver continuing to point out the sights and telling stories about the area.

After finishing the bus tour, it was getting near time for the ship to leave so we walked back to the ship.  Today turned out to be a very nice day with moderate temperatures and low humidity.  After a partly cloudy morning, we had blue skies the rest of the day.  We enjoyed our visit to Key West and I once again learned not to prejudge a place based on some feeling which is based on nothing.

A couple of pictures of Key West from the ship.

We were back on the ship in time for late afternoon trivia so Val was off to that where she met up with Roy and several others to form a team, while I stayed in the room and relaxed.  Val returned and joined me doing nothing until it was time to get ready for evening trivia and dinner.
As we sailed away from Key West there were boats everywhere.  Obviously it's all about the water here.

Dinner was once again excellent so we are cautiously optimistic about the food on this cruise.  We returned to the casino where I didn’t have much luck, but Val turned her fortunes around from last night and had a winning night.

Tomorrow is the first of three sea days before our next port.  We are looking forward to the sea days as we haven’t had much time to settle in.
A beautiful sunset to end a great day.