Just like when I fly, I love to listen to what the captain has to say when he does his daily announcements at 8am. Today was no different, except that we had arrived into Aruba early morning, and he was imparting some information that was interesting to me, so I can say that the captain got me out of bed this morning. We've fallen in to the bad habit of having a big night the night before we arrive in port, which means we go ashore with a sore head. Last night was no exception, thanks to Jean and Trevor, but the hangover wasn't anything to speak off; so we were up and breakfast complete by 9 (that's pretty good by our standards).
Side note: My "full stop" key has stopped working, so please excuse the intermittent poor punctuation!
Aruba looked instantly inviting; When you've spent a few days at sea, and your cabin is on the aft of the ship, coming down to breakfast (or up in our case) you always seem to be surprised when you look out of the windows to see land; On one side of the ship we had a natural harbour wall of marsh land, the other was a very inviting small town, very dutch in look, multi-coloured buildings with stepped roofs. The strange but very good thing about Aruba is that you basically dock in the town centre; You have this huge great ship, then a couple of roads away, the small red roofs of the main high street; It's a strange sight, that I failed miserably to capture on camera.
We had a free morning, no excursions booked, so decided to join our friends on a taxi tour of the island ending up at a hotel on the beach; All beaches on Aruba are public, so we could arrive at a hotel (in our case The Hyatt in the "High Rise" area of hotels) and simply pretend that we were wealthy enough to stay there, using "their" beach, and their facilities; I felt a bit cheeky, but that's just my british-ness coming out, and Katie soon put a stop to that! This is where the picture at the top of this post was taken; It was a lovely beach, with typically turquoise waters, and some random sea-weed further out from the coast which caused Katie to squeal when it touched her! The hotel/resort was great actually, although not sure I could stay there for any length of time, partly due to there being nothing but sun and sand, and partly because it seems Aruba is popular with guests from the States. Actually, Aruba in general is a little more US friendly and a little less Caribbean than average; It's a bit more polished than the other islands we've visited on our holidays, less burnt out cars and unkempt grass verges than other islands, and the dutch influence is obvious in the buildings and the obsession for reclaiming the land. It's not a bad thing. So a couple of hours of sitting on the beach and swimming in the sea was enough, and we had to get back to the ship for our organised afternoon excursion anyway.
A quick lunch back on board, and then out again to join the coach tour. Hmmm. We should have known better. The tour consisted of a view of the island, which we'd had in the morning, but also a trip on a semi submersible boat to look at a ship wreck and some fish. The guided tour was fine, but the semi submersible was a disaster. Apart from the fact that it made me feel ill, there were no fish and the ship wreck was barely visible. Still the tour lady tried her best to make it interesting, it wasn't. I found more joy in exploring the menus of our camcorder than making myself ill by staring out the windows into the murk. While the tour guide tried to make out she was seeing lots of interesting things, Katie, not being British, was perfectly ok shouting out such things as "Are you on the same tour?" and "You'll see more fish by looking at the wall chart" which was designed to help us identify the numerous species we were bound to see. We decided to call it a day. When we reached dry land, I fained illness (not entirely untrue) and we dropped out of the rest of the bus tour, and sat in a local beach bar with Strawberry Daiquiris and Pina Coladas on the table and fish swimming beneath the wooden decking. It was infinitely more enjoyable.
A quick taxi back to the port with some time for postcards and shopping, then back on board; So far, the disembarkation and embarkation process has been relatively smooth; You can imagine that with some 2000 passengers and 800 crew to clear immigration at every port it could take some time, but so far (I say so far because I think it will get more involved at some ports) all we have to do is scan our ships card on the barcode readers on the way off and again when we board, along with a quick airport style x-ray scan of our bags, no passports needed; The whole process, including tours appears to us as extremely well organised;
The general consensus at the dinner table this evening is that Aruba is well liked amongst most people; It has all the nice beaches and relaxed atmosphere of other Caribbean islands, but also some smart hotels, good shopping, and is pretty to look at. The Dutch and American influence is easy to see and feel, especially in the wallet!