I have been wanting very much to see Aruba for a while, and it finally happened.
The morning started off back on regular port schedule of arriving in port earlier than most people on vacation would choose to be awake. I woke up early enough to get my breakfast before the ship made port. I wanted to catch the ship coming in and message my mom to watch the port cam. I had another delicious Blue Iguana burrito and some fruit from the buffet before heading back to the cabin to watch the ship arrive. I wanted to shower and use the restroom before setting off that morning. While getting around, I heard a muffled “BRIGHT STAR” announcement, but couldn’t make anything out other than the those particular words. I wasn’t sure what had happened and had heard the call before, un-phased got dressed and headed out with my camera.
It was a more calm arrival in Aruba than it had been at Curacao. Wind was not as much of an issue. We pulled up along side Oranjestad. Freewinds, the cruise and training ship of Scientology was in port. It was cool to see an older ship (entered service in the early 60s). Pulling in not too far behind us was Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. I had seen this ship two times before on two previous Southern Caribbean cruises.
I headed back inside to the cabin and found Andrew laying on his bunk. “I think I just watched a person die” he said. “This couple were having a conversation and the man didn’t look too good. She kept asking him if he was alright, and then he just collapsed.” He told me about how passengers and crew tried to save the man’s life but it had appeared to be a battle. We would learn later on of what happened to the man. I felt terrible that such a thing had happened and sorry for all those whom he may have been traveling with. I also felt bad for Andrew who had been dealing with some anxiety himself. It was tough to get past all that for a little while but I thought that I should try to make a better memory of the island for myself. I needed to get back to relaxing and treating myself to get over my anxiety issues. So far things had much improved and I even hardly needed tissues anymore. I couldn’t let this get me down. I grabbed all my gear and headed down to Deck 0 to step off the ship and get on with my day.
When I hit the ground, I decided I’d walk around a little before hand to see about picking up some stuff for some gifts and souvenirs. Unfortunately, most of the stores weren’t open yet and those that were, had really bad selection. While walking around, I found the “I♥ARUBA” sign. ***Those of you wondering where it is, when you leave the port area, turn right on Lloyd G. Smith Blvd and walk 2-3 blocks, it’ll be on the left.*** There are other smaller versions of the sign around the island but the biggest one is there on that street. I continued to walk a little aimlessly for a few minutes before deciding just to head back to the pier to get on with my intentions for the day.
I had planned to spend my time in Aruba relaxing on a beach. I decided a day pass at an all-inclusive resort was what I wanted to go for and had even narrowed it down to the Radisson. I walked back to the pier next to the ships as finding an empty cab would be much easier there since 90% on the roads were in service. I found a taxi que next to the terminal where the Royal Caribbean ship was and waited. Taxi fares to most of the popular destinations were fixed and there was a sign indicating how much the fares would be. They didn’t seem to come as frequently as I had assumed. I didn’t really wait too long though as the line wasn’t too long. I was scooped up by the 4th cab and set off, just me and the driver (it was nice not having to share). Along the way we passed several built up areas that reminded me a little of Grand Cayman and yet it had similar looks of Curacao. Only once we got to the resorts (a 10-15 min drive) did things look different.
The resorts were HUGE. The most impressive being the RIU. Next door was the Radisson where I had requested to be dropped off. It was impressive as well. When I first walked I wasn’t totally sure where to go, but I realized the check-in/service desks were to the right. I waited briefly while an agent spoke with a guest before it was my turn. When I inquired about a day pass I was shot down. “I’m sorry, but we stopped offering day passes a couple years ago.” My jaw hit the floor as I wasn’t sure what to do. Truthfully, it was really my fault that I hadn’t taken to the time to really look into whether or not they offered them. “Do you know if any of the other resorts offer them?” I asked. “I don’t think so, but if I had to guess, maybe the RIU.” she replied. Not wasting any more time with her, I grabbed my stuff and began walking over to the RIU which was thankfully the next one over. It was my second choice as the Radission had a nicer looking pool/beach area in photos. With no choice though, it was onto the next one.
The RIU was very imposing inside as it was outside. When I walked in, the first thing that came to mind was its grandeur. Dark wood everywhere, a sort of 1930s style to it. It was a very nice lobby and the staff was mostly attentive. I noticed that all the guests ahead of me though spoke a variety of languages (which was cool, honestly) and at first neither did the guy who helped me. When I asked they mercifully did offer day passes, however it was $110. Taking a deep breath I agreed. I didn’t really have many options because my dumb self didn’t look more into it. When he broke down the amenities though it didn’t seem so bad. All alcoholic beverages were included, Breakfast/lunch/dinner were all included, I had a towel card, I could access every part of the resort aside from the casino and rooms. Not that shabby I suppose. The front desk would hold my license while I was on property until I checked out.
After a fairly long wait to get my day pass armband, I was off to explore the property and make my place on the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day with a nice breeze. Walking out onto the main staircase behind the main building, you could see the main courtyard and pool area, straight out to the turquoise ocean. I walked down the stairs, past the fountains, and beyond the inviting pool. The sand and sea were the main reason I was there. I could hang out in a pool on the ship or really anywhere at home. I got a towel from the stand (it was a really nice towel that I almost thought about keeping) and went to find a nice spot.
When I arrived at the beach I came to realize something that made me feel even more dumb than earlier. It was a public beach. What the hell. In my head though I said “screw it” and decided to make the most of my day pass anyways. Staff from the hotel had a habit of reserving the palapas with towels. You would find one of them and tip them for letting you have it. I declined and happily moved a lounger under one of the nice palm trees on the beach. I lathered my very Caucasian skin in sunscreen and made a break for the sea. The picturesque water was nice to look at but not as warm as I had expected. Once I just jumped in though, it wasn’t too bad, and became very nice. I stayed for a little while before deciding to get a drink.
At the pool bar (which was also swim-up) you had a good selection of beers and cocktails to choose from. Beer was a slight disappointment though. You’ve probably read that I like to try local beers and keep the caps. The RIU was tap beer though with relatively small plastic cups. This meant more trips to the bar and watching plastic cups get blown around the patio area when there was a breeze. I ordered a beer anyways since I had already paid for it with the pass. The bartender quickly served me a Balashi in a cup and it was good. I couldn’t wait to have it out of a nice cold bottle.
After the beer I went to explore a little bit. I walked to the right of the resort and past the pier that was on its border. On the other side was the Radisson’s beach and pool area. The pool area did look inviting, but the place was a zoo! So many people on the beach compared to the RIU. At that point I was kind of glad I had been sent away by them and made it to the RIU. Walking back, I stopped by the pier. There was a shop with some tacky stuff and on the end a cool looking bar. I chose to hang out at the latter for a little bit. It was here I was able to enjoy 2 cold Balashis in bottles and keep the cap. I watched as people came and went. There was a speedboat hauling people behind pretty fast on one of those inflatable couch-rafts. It was a great place to be and just watch things. The bartenders were two very busy but nice girls who despite their haste to fill orders made good conversation. Great multi-taskers. Food was available and smelled good (I was seated near the kitchen) but I was going to have my lunch back at the RIU to get my money’s worth.
After I began to get a slight buzz, I felt like exploring the area for a little bit. Outside the resorts there were some shops and restaurants. Senor Frogs, Hard Rock Cafe, among the more popular places. I went looking for and picked up some stuff to bring back home for others. On the way back, I found another “I♥ARUBA” sign and saw some pretty cool looking trees. Between the Radisson and RIU, I discovered there was a public path that ran all the way down to the pier where I had been and that some of the guests from both ships had come this way to get to the beaches. Apparently there is even a bus that takes you.
Back at my spot on the beach, I decided to get back in the awesome water for a while. It was really the only time I could immerse myself in the sea this cruise and I wanted to make good on it. Either the salinity was higher here or I had improved since being not so successful in St. Croix, but swimming here was really easy. I could have swum or remained in that water all day and wished so. Unfortunately, the reality was that I was only there for a short while and that I probably would need to get a late lunch in before heading back. I reluctantly got out of the water, returned the towel and got my stuff together. I ordered a pina colada from the bar before getting lunch in the cafeteria.
Lunch at the RIU wasn’t too bad. Nothing great, but not bad. I had some chicken mostly and pasta that was decent, but honestly not as good as what would probably be available on the ship. Just about all the main food groups were there. Chicken, pizza, burgers, etc.. There was a massive salad bar as well. The dessert selection was very good and I couldn’t leave without some dang cake.
After a late lunch, I caved and decided to head back to Oranjestad for a short while before getting back on the ship for sail away. When I checked out, they cut my cool-looking arm band and gave me back my license. They asked “so soon?” and I just nodded and said “ship leaves in a little over an hour” with a tone of disappointment. I didn’t really want to go knowing it was the last port and the next two days would be at sea. I walked outside and waited a while for a taxi back, having slightly awkward conversation with the valet.
The cab picked me up after dropping off a few guests and I once again had a van to myself. Heading back to town seemed to take a little longer even though we seemed to be going the same route. Back in town, traffic was a nightmare. When we got close enough to the main strip I gave the cabbie some money and hopped out. I wanted to grab a couple more things before making my way back onto the ship for the last time. I got a few things and once inside the port area made a final attempt at getting a passport stamp. The only place that did them was an office inside the terminal where the Adventure of the Seas was docked. Just my luck, it was closed. No passport stamps this trip, but no biggie. Letting that idea go, I made my way back and onto Carnival Breeze. I headed up to Lido deck to grab some ice cream and enjoyed the really good choice of music that the DJ was playing. Impressive for a ship DJ!
My timing had been impeccable getting on the ship. After getting back on board and having some ice cream, I went up to look over the side of deck 12, below to the gangways. To my surprise there were crowds trying to get on the ship. They were only letting a certain amount of people on at a time and it appeared that every last one had jammed the pier at the last-minute. Finally after everyone had made it, we began to pull away.
Sail away was bittersweet. I sent messages back and forth with my mom who was watching the ship leave on the port cam. While departing ,it was cool watching a plane take off from the airport as we passed. As we continued, Adventure of the Seas and Aruba became smaller and smaller and my heart sank a little. I reminded myself that I was still on vacation though and looked to enjoy the water slides and ropes course in the 2 remaining days aboard.
As evening set in, I decided that night that I’d have dinner at the sushi restaurant. After showering I walked down deck 5 to Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and grabbed a seat at the bar. I received a weird glance from one of the servers at first. Unknown to me, I needed to make a reservation. The bar was fairly empty though and they didn’t mind me waiting there as long as I didn’t mind. One of the waitresses took my order after a little while and told me that it might take a little time before my food was ready. Once again I was ok with it. Behind my table was the main indoor promenade and nearby was the Ocean Plaza, I could drink and people watch until my food was ready. A father and son took seats next to me. The father had ordered a roll and the son didn’t seem too interested in sharing it. Sushi weirded me out too when I was his age, but like his dad, I found it delicious now. Eventually my food was ready. First was the miso soup which was really good. Afterwards was the bento box that I had ordered. It was ok by sushi standards, but really good for sushi on a ship. I wanted more, but not really wanting to pay for more sushi, ventured up to fill the rest of my gut in the Lido cafe.
That evening was a nice calm one. I did a little more catching up online and watched some more movies on the outdoor big screen. All the cruises before, I had never really taken the time to watch movies on the big screen. It was nice to relax and enjoy it with the feeling of the ship moving.
After movies, I hit the hay. Tired from being in the sun all day.