Cruising to Aruba and Curacao

We wanted to do another winter cruise this year so we booked an eight day cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  This meant we needed to fly the day after Thanksgiving but we figured it would be an easy fly day since it was in the middle of the holiday weekend. Wrong. Every seat was taken and somehow it felt as though they had crammed in a few extra seats because I don’t recall ever feeling that cramped in an airline seat before.

The Carnival Conquest

The Carnival Conquest

By the time we landed and collected our bags it was 11:30 PM. Our hotel offered free pick us up at the airport but I was worried about how long they would take to get us. I needn’t have worried…we were on the bus by 11:40 and at the hotel ten minutes later. Awesome service and what a relief!

The next morning we grabbed a quick breakfast and boarded the free shuttle to the port. We got through the security and check in lines fairly quickly and by 11:30 we were onboard the Conquest. As usual, we headed straight for Guy’s Burgers for our first onboard meal. We love the burgers and fries and it’s an ideal spot to watch your fellow cruisers as they get accustomed to the ship. Afterwards it was time to unpack, then attend the safety briefing and then wander the ship.

This was our first time aboard the Conquest, but we’ve sailed three times on ships of this class so we were very familiar with the overall layout. However, the decor was very different from any other that we’ve seen because the theme is French Impressionist style…which is right up our alley. We loved it!

At dinner we met our new tablemates. As many of you know, it’s the luck of the draw when it comes to who else is assigned to your table. We’ve been very lucky on all our cruises but one, and that exception has always made us a little apprehensive about who we’ll be dining with. On this cruise we were seated with three other couples: Buck and Mary, Peggy and Denny, and Rich and Eansa. It seemed like the eight of us clicked immediately and they turned out to be the best tablemates we’ve ever had!

Our awesome tablemates!

Our awesome tablemates!

Sea Days

Our next day was a sea day and this day set the pattern for all four of our sea days. I would get up early, usually around 5:00 AM. If it wasn’t raining, I’d walk the upper exterior decks taking pictures and looking for sea creatures. Afterwards, I would head for our rendezvous spot, port side of the Lido deck. Mona would sleep till later and she would finally come up to the Lido deck sometime around 8:30. We would get our breakfasts from either The Blue Iguana Cantina or the buffet and then dine outside.

Sun's reflection glowing on the water

Sun’s reflection glowing on the water

The rest of our sea day times were spent relaxing in the sun or in the shade, reading, playing trivia and listening to Lido Deck music. In the evenings, we would dine with our new friends, catch the evening show and then listen to music at whichever venue hit our fancy. For most evenings on this cruise we crashed pretty early because we were both still recovering from our pre-cruise colds, but a couple of evenings we managed to stay up late enough to catch the adult comedy show and then dance afterwards.

Dancing at the Glow Night Party

Dancing at the Glow Night Party

Chicken Again?

Remember me talking about our tablemates?  We had so much fun with them every evening; sharing stories and tall tales.  Somehow, someone told the story about Mona’s Key West chicken dance so of course everyone at table wanted to see it.  For a few minutes she declined saying it was a one-time thing. Then all of a sudden she got up, started strutting and then belted out a cock-a-doodle-doo!  This in a formal dining room with about a hundred other diners nearby.  Everyone was laughing like hell!  I couldn’t believe it!  THEN, people at a nearby table said they didn’t see the whole thing so they asked for a repeat performance….and she did it!  OMG…I laughed so hard I hurt!  For the rest of the cruise people would come up to Mona to tell her how much they loved her chicken dance!

Unfortunately, I was so surprised at Mona’s crowing I didn’t get it on camera.  However, if you want to see her earliest rendition you can see it on our Playing Chicken in Key West blog: Key West Chickens

Cruising fun and food

As usual, the food onboard was great.  So many selections for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We loved Guy’s Burgers and the breakfasts at the Blue Iguana grill, not to mention the lobster on formal night.  And of course, there is the room service and those incredible BLTs.  Yum!  This trip Mona discovered two new taste treats: the 24 hour chocolate yogurt and the 24 hour pizza.  Both were delicious and I lost count of how many trips she made to get them.

The Lobby of the Conquest

The Lobby of the Conquest from three floors up.

There were several productions on this cruise   All were great, but our favorite was “Epic Rock” featuring great rock songs from the 80s and 90s with songs from Aerosmith, Journey, Bon Jovi and more. This show rocks! This particular performance crew seems to be a cast of stars. Every performer can belt out the songs and they really play to the crowd.

Love this decor!

Love this decor!

One of the highlights of this cruise was the after-show trivia conducted in the lobby by the Cruise Director, Eric. The lobby was always packed and people would line up along all the railings of the floors above to participate. Each night’s trivia theme was a different era of music and the whole crowd would be singing the answers to the questions. I’m not sure how a winner was ever chosen, but these trivia games were easily some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a cruise! (P.S. If you’re ever on a ship when Eric is conducting this trivia be sure to ride the glass elevator during the show. You’ll have a blast!)

Aruba

Our first port of call was Aruba. We were on Aruba for an entire week back in 2000 and we were really looking forward to our return visit. We had everything planned, find a geocache and then stroll/wade down the beach stopping at a shack or two for drinks and lunch.

One of Aruba's beautiful beaches

One of Aruba’s beautiful beaches

The first part of the plan went perfect. We walked from the port into Oranjestad and then about a half of mile later we found a geocache. We then headed back past the port and to the beach….well, at least we were hoping for the beach. Problem was that the beach isn’t where we remembered it, and you have to walk about two miles out of town to get to it. And the beach didn’t have the quaint little shacks we remembered; instead, it’s now resort after resort. We walked/waded for about a mile then stopped at a hotel’s beach bar for lunch. It was nice, but just not the same.

Curacao

The following morning was our next port of call: Curacao. This was our first visit and we were impressed from the get-go. The port is just outside the capital city of Willemstad. As the ship comes in to port you can get a great view of the Queen Emma Bridge (a long pontoon bridge that opens and closes for boats) and of the colorful buildings lining the Sint Anna Bay.

The view while we were docking at Curacao

The view while we were docking at Curacao

Since this was our first visit to Curacao we had to find a geocache. We got off the ship and walked to the nearby Rif Fort to make our find. The fort was built in the 1820s but is now filled with trendy shops and restaurants. The geocache was on the fourth level of the fort and gave us a great view of our next destination: the Punda Quarter of Willemstad.

The Punda Quarter is the oldest part of the city and is a World Heritage Site. Many of its colorful buildings date back to the 16th century and are very reminiscent of what you would see in Amsterdam. That’s understandable since Curacao was Dutch until its independence in 2010.

We crossed into the Punda via a free ferry. Once we got there we walked over to the floating market. This is where merchants from nearby Venezuela sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish every day. It’s very colorful and we saw lots of fruits and vegetables that we didn’t recognize, along with bananas, coconuts and other tropical wares.

Curacao Boat Market Stall

Curacao Boat Market Stall (That’s a boat behind the plantains.)

We spent the rest of the day wandering the streets, stopping here and there to shop or to sample the local food and beverages. We ended our visit by stopping at the Iguana Cafe for a refreshing drink by the bay.

Grand Turk

After one more sea day we landed at Grand Turk. This is our third visit to this little island and as soon as we got off the ship we headed for our favorite spot: Jack’s Shack. This little shack is about a quarter mile walk down the beach from the dock. Jack and Janet run the place and they serve awesome drinks and incredible jerk chicken. You can also play with the dogs, Topher and Laura, on the beach. It’s like a little slice of paradise that we truly enjoy. All too soon it was time to get back onboard the Conquest and head for Ft. Lauderdale.

Laura (from Jack's Shack) going up for a water bottle.

Laura (from Jack’s Shack) going up for a water bottle.

Back in the USA!

We got into Ft. Lauderdale about 7:00 AM Sunday morning.  Disembarkation started like normal and we thought we’d be off the ship by 8:30.  However, they soon announced that “the gangway has been moved away” and we didn’t get off the ship until almost 11:00.  Then there were huge lines for Customs/Immigration which took another hour to navigate.  Lucky for us, our friend, Carolyn was outside waiting to pick us up.  She took us to lunch at a neat spot in Ft. Lauderdale and then dropped us off at the airport.  What a nice way to end a trip!

Primantis w/Carolyn at Ft. Lauderdale

Primanti Bros w/Carolyn in Ft. Lauderdale

We loved the cruise and the Conquest is an awesome ship.  However, we don’t think we’ll try another mid-holiday trip.  It’s just too much to add to an already busy holiday schedule.

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