When we think of the Caribbean, our first thoughts are sand, turquoise water, palm trees, and deep blue sky. Rightfully so, I think, but the Caribbean is a delightful blend of sights, sounds, feel, and feelings. Sandy and I recently re-created a cruise we took a few years ago, this time with a less dramatic start. Here’s a bit of history.
We had dreamed of someday celebrating our Anniversary with a special cruise. We pinched the piggy bank a bit and booked a very nice cabin on the beautiful Serenade of the Seas. All started well, for about 2 hours. I became very ill, which proved to be a faulty gallbladder. The medical staff literally saved my life. The entire crew was wonderful, and we managed to finish the cruise, though staying on or close to the ship at all times. I promised Sandy we’d do it again someday. When this cruise popped up again was when “The Second Serenade” trip became a reality.
Having been on several ships, the Serenade was instantly our favorite. Beautiful, clean lines and gleaming white paint outside with a huge atrium, the “Centrum,” with brass elevators and railings accent everything from shops to intimate bars to gourmet coffee. A bank of outside elevators are open with spectacular sea views as they glide up and down. We were glad to get back aboard, this time feeling fine.
Destination – the Southern Caribbean. Cruising along at a comfortable 18 knots we relaxed and enjoyed the warmth of the sun, the ocean breeze, and the heavenly sounds of the sea. With Kindles and iPhone fully loaded, we were ready to solve some whodunnits.
Our mistake on Arbua
The first port was Aruba. It was where we made our first, and probably only, mistake. The downtown area is close to the ship, and we remembered it as nice with quaint shops and rather accessible. The plan was to visit this area and then take a taxi to the newer Palm Beach area. We soon discovered that the sidewalk and curb cuts were something of a tactile nightmare. There were some large cracks, slopes we didn’t remember, and curb cuts that took a wheelie to pass over the gaps. We forged on. With Sandy pushing and actually guiding the wheelchair and me doing the same, we used a lot of energy. The shopping area was nice, though it did not have an accessible gentleman’s restroom. We bought a bottle of mineral water from a nice lady in a small convenience store and headed for the trolly.
The person at the trolly said it went, “all over the island,” and from the way she described the schedule perhaps a 75 minute ride. Free. There was an area for wheelchair users to sit in their chairs, but 2 steps up to it. For me, that is a no go. As more people came I got adventuresome and accepted some gravity defying help. But before we could get to the area, some tourists from another ship charged into the area and took the companion seats. We asked them to move, which they refused to do. So we crowded right in on top of them! At the first stop, they moved. The trolly is actually a ride up and down the streets of the old downtown, which appeared to have some economic distress. Sadly, we’d expended so much energy that we called it a day and went back to the ship.
Lovely Bonaire is a gem
Bonaire was our favorite of the islands! A small and delightful area of clean buildings, it had the fewer stores, but they were nice as well as accessible. They have worked hard on safe sidewalks, curb cuts, and access for everyone. There was a small park with venders in tents, like a permanent street fair. It is surprisingly and pleasantly quiet.
Conversations yes, but nothing to disrupt the feeling of the small island. We stopped in a small mall for a Coke before going through to the water side of the shops. Behold, a pier going into the yacht harbor that is entirely a Caribbean style bar. There was an open table in the shade with a easy route to it. It was a fun hour watching the boats and talking with our fellow cruisers. On the way back we picked up a couple of T-shirts and had a late lunch on the Serenade. I’d say Bonaire is a gem and would gladly go back.
Curacao’s colorful waterfront
Curacao has upgraded its waterfront and access from the cruise port. It is a nice, smooth stroll (or roll!) into the tourist area. Along the way are a few vendors on the land side and large boulders between the sidewalk and the harbor. The air and sun were warm, the breeze refreshing. Across the way, the painted buildings for which the island is known did not disappoint. The buildings were old, the colors fresh and new. They have turned the small fort into an area to enjoy the shade and get refreshments from one of the convenience stores. The liquor Curacao is made on the island, obviously, and it is available in multiple flavors. It would not fit into our luggage, perhaps another blog topic, and we probably wouldn’t drink it anyway. It was another late lunch on the ship.
Beautiful St. Lucia
St. Lucia might be the prettiest island in the Caribbean. It’s natural harbor is curving and relaxing the way Charlotte Amalie’s on St. Thomas is magnificent. There were exactly zero accessible tours offered for this cruise, so we visited the small shopping area and returned to our cabin’s balcony. From there we could experience the harbor, the live entertainment as the shopping area, and even watch the airport. We were in the shade all afternoon, and it was a truly relaxing port.
I got to compare wheelchairs with a local tour guide. Super nice guy!
The people of Antigua have had a hard way to go since Hurricane Irma. The small nation of Antigua and Barbuda was hit hard by the storm. Fearing the worst, the entire population of Barbuda evacuated to Antigua. The worst happened. Virtually everything on Barbuda was destroyed. They have worked hard to regroup on one, small island, and I applaud their determination.
With three ships in port, nearly 10,000 passengers the town was beyond capacity. Not too accessible or easy to navigate originally, we ventured into a few shops, could not get into either place to get something to drink, bought a bag, thanked the nice lady in the store, and worked our way back to the ship.
Not so fast
It wasn’t time to call it a trip. More books and our balcony awaited. The distance from Antigua to the east is about the same as to Aruba in the south, and we had another two days to relax and watch the Caribbean. So the second Serenade trip was a huge success. Sandy and I had lots of quality time together, got to experience different things at each port, and came home feeling better about everything.
Thank you for stopping by. Cruising is a fun and accessible way to travel for virtually everyone. Far more than what is seen in pictures, there are sounds, tastes, smooth ports and some that are hard to navigate. I’d remind everyone to exercise caution in port towns and not venture into areas that aren’t common tourist places unless on a tour.
Picture descriptions: The main picture is taken from the waterfront in Curacao. It shows the smooth sidewalk, boulders, and the Serenade of the Seas. The ship is white and has 13 decks. The second picture is a map of the Caribbean. It is blue with a few black areas to indicate deeper water. Each island of the cruise is noted. There is a line showing the ship’s route along the north coast of Cuba, between Cuba and Hispaniola, and across the sea toward Aruba in the south. Moving east and north from Aruba are Bonaire, Curacao, St. Lucia, and Antigua. The third picture is looking from the white, tented bar on the pier into the waterfront street. There are buildings of teal and blue, with white rails and shutters. fourth picture shows the colorful, painted buildings along the waterfront. The buildings are in classic Dutch style painted yellow, brown, orange, green, teal, and blue. All have red, tiled roofs.