Archive for January, 2009

Kralendijk, Bonaire

Our last port on the Cruise was in Bonaire.

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We spent most of our time ashore under the water enjoying the spectacularly clear Caribbean water.  We took a launch over to Island Klein Bonaire, a small island just offshore of the city.  The whole island is a National Park and its white sand beaches fall off steeply underwater.  Where they fall off the underwater life is spectacular for snorkeling.

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Bill had a great time with his underwater camera, taking photos of the colorful sea life.

We were in the water for over 2 hours, so upon returning to the ship we ate lunch and relaxed the rest of the afternoon.

Otranjestad, Aruba

Aruba was the next stop on our cruise.  It is another Dutch settlement and the wharf is protected by a shallow reef of  sandbar and small islands.

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There was a small area of anchored boats near where the ship docked and this photo also shows part of the offshore reef.

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Bill and I signed up for a “sail,  snorkel, and swing” activity.  We were transported by a well decorated bus to the dock where the schooner awaited us just offshore.  We were transported out to the schooner on a small barge along with a group of about 20 people.  The schooner upped anchor and we sailed off to the first snorkel spot.

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The first snorkel spot was above a World War 2 German wreck.  Bill took his first underwater photos there after having spent some time with the camera instructions ahead of time.

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The second snorkel spot was over a sandy area that contained many rounded rocks.  On the rocks grew several types of sea live.

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After snorkeling we had a nice sail back, complete with drinks from an open bar onboard.  We made one more stop for the “swing” part of the adventure.  They had a halyard fixed with a  handle and the passengers took turns swinging out over the water and dropping off.  I gave it a shot and discovered that it takes quite strong arms to hang on for a long swing.

We returned to the ship via another highly decorated bus and showered before going to the restaurant for a late lunch.

Willemstad, Curaçao

We arrived off Willemstad, Curaçao in the late morning.  There was another cruise ship docked at an outer dock but we passed thru into the inner harbor past the open floating bridge.

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As we approached the city the pilot boat came out to drop off the pilot to guide us in.  As the pilot boat approached we could see how rough the seas really were.  The trade winds blow pretty steady from the east all year but in the winter they are much stronger.

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Santa Marta was a coal exporting port  and Willemstad appeared to be exporting oil.  There were lots of stacks around and many had occasional flames out the top.

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Willemstad is a Dutch city and the buildings and waterways reminded of our visit to the Netherlands several years ago.  It has a very different look and feel than the rest of Latin America with its Spanish influence.

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The old fort is just inside the harbor entrance.  The buildings now seem to be used as government offices.

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Even the church shows no Spanish influence even though it is constructed of concrete.  The decoration and shape is Dutch.

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One of the interesting sites in the city is the floating market.  Small boats arrive each day with fresh produce and tie up to the wall to sell their products.

Santa Marta, Colombia

Our next stop on the cruise was Santa Marta, Columbia.  We arrived early Tuesday morning after traveling overnight from Cartagena.

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As we made landfall the sun was just coming up and we enjoyed a fairly nice sunrise.  Bill and I went down for breakfast, after watching the docking from the open deck above the Windjammer Restaurant on the bow, before we went ashore to explore the small city.  It is the oldest city in the Americas founded by the Spaniards.  The city has many old Spanish style buildings, but many are in need of repair although we noted much restoration work in progress as we wondered the streets of the city.

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At the port of Santa Marta our ship was tied up opposite a coal loading area. We watched trucks unloading coal, but while we were there no ship arrive to receive the coal. It was an interesting operation as the coal was dumped from the trucks by placing the truck on a ramp that tilted way up to dump the coal.

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Upon leaving the ship, we walked off the dock into the nice small city beach.  The beach is well used by the residents as it is currently summer vacation for the students.  There is also an area where fish boats were hauled up on the beach waiting for another fishing trip.

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The city has very narrow streets – as to be expected in a city developed before the automobile.

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The market flows everywhere, almost blocking one of the streets to car traffic.  In most of the Latin American cities that we have visited we see the market overflowing into the nearby streets with semi-permanent stands set up on the sidewalks.

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In the Center of the Colonial area we encountered the Church, which in colonial times had been the center of life in the city.  It had the usual plaza in front of it although it was not very large.

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Near the waterfront were two major government buildings from times past.  The white building is the old customs house and the yellow is the other government offices and is still in use today.  The old customs house currently houses a small café.

Although the ship was not scheduled to sail until 2:30PM, we returned in time for a late lunch after seeing much of the town.  Walking thru the entrance to the dock we passed thru an area of vendors stands hoping to make some last-minute sales to the tourists.  The ship was quite crowded in the afternoon as most of the passengers were onboard enjoying the pools and food.  We found a table in the shade on the pool-deck where we could people watch as we tried to read.

Cartagena, Colombia

After an all night travel from Colón, Panamá we arrived in Cartagena, Columbia, late in the morning.  After breakfast, Bill and I spent some time watching out to sea.

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We noticed a couple of container ships, probably heading to the Panama Canal, and two sailboats.  One of the boats was nearing the entrance to Cartagena.

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The channel into the estuary around Cartagena is entered thru a narrow opening called Boca Chica, which was once guarded by old Spanish forts on either side of the entrance.

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We entered the estuary and proceeded to the inner harbor, were we tied up near another large cruise ship in the container port.

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In 1999 when we visited here on a container ship bound for Europe, we were tied up very near to our current spot.  Having spent three days visiting all the historic sites in the old city on that earlier visit, we opted to rest today saving our energy for new ports.  We did walk in to Club Nautico,  where the cruising fleet meets here, hoping to see some of our cruising friends.  We enjoyed beers at the small restaurant there before returning to the ship.