Curacao was the main reason I booked this cruise. We’d done Aruba and Bonaire last year, so A & B were checked off the list. But I needed the “C” island and here we are. I have to start with one word. Gorgeous. It’s currently a Dutch island like the others, part of the former Netherlands Antilles. (That’s no longer applicable as they have their own identity now, as of this year, so your old t-shirt that says “Curacao N.A.” is now officially obsolete. They tried to sell me an old one but I was already savvy, so…..
We were just going to walk to the town center, but it began to drizzle and we thought it ill-advised. If the skies opened in the middle of the walk we’d get soaked and that would spoil the experience. As fate would have it (and of course, commercial endeavor), there was a myriad of tours right on the dock, that for $20 would drive us in an air-conditioned van, all around the island. We took it and had the most marvelous time. We saw the entire country. Marketplaces, poor neighborhoods, rich enclaves, and sights not available on foot.
We went to the Curacao liquor distillery, complete with samples; (geez that stuff is delicious).
They still, to this day, apply the labels to the bottles by hand. Here are a few pix: that’s Husband.
Our tour guide was very eloquent and taught us a handful of words in their native language. “Bon Dini” means “good morning”. Stuff like that. Also, he filled us in on the history of the ownership of the island, beginning with the natives, conquered by the Spanish, and subsequently conquered by the Dutch. It was a huge salt-mining nation for a time, salt being very valuable back in the 1700s. (Well, the Dutch do cure a lot of fish…mostly herring). Then it became a major slave-trading hub of commerce. The Jews, fleeing the Inquisition in Spain arrived and surprisingly to me, got into the slave business. Most disturbing. Eventually, they started banks and businesses and got around to doing what Jews do best, so I can still be proud of my people. The island has the oldest synagogue in the Caribbean, dating back to the 1700s. I went to see it but they wanted ten bucks just to walk in. I knew I’d only be in there five minutes so I photographed the outside and took a pass on entering. Its claim to fame is that it still has a dirt floor. Not such a draw for me. Plenty of dirt on my floors at home, so…
All in all, a great look at a fabulous island. I could consider going there sometime and checking into a resort and just chilling in the crystal-blue waters of the Caribbean. Just sayin’.
Back aboard brought the next in a series of naps. (Don’t you love vacations? All those naps).
That evening’s entertainment was complex. There was a 7:30 show in the main theater, and an 8:30 SS&D Motown revue in the night-club, and a repeat of the former at 9:30. When to eat?
Side note: Therein lies the only stress there is on a cruise; sometimes the great entertainment interferes with the feeding schedule. They do their best, but still, you know….
Second side note: I found out today, on day 6, that there’s food in the Sports Bar. I didn’t go in there because sports and I, well, you know. But there’s “Sports Bar food”. Chicken wings, burgers, nachos etc. So that solved our problem. (I’ll spare you pictures of the chicken wings. You’ve seen one, you’ve….well, you know.) We’d have some of that at 7:30, and then to Motown. Great show once again. Husband retired and I continued on to the comic/hypnotist in the big room.
Now if you’ll recall, I’ve been on stage with hypnotists on past cruises and I swore I’d stay out of it this time and just watch, which I did. If you’ve never seen this kind of act you ought to. Spoiler alert: you don’t get hypnotized just because some guy snaps his fingers in your face. (Imagine how much guys would get laid if that worked. “Hey Honey, come here a minute, would you?” Snap. “Yeah, baby, that’s it, watch your teeth.”) But the volunteers play along with the guy to produce a good show. And laugh we did. People get really silly if you let them. I hope they enjoy their notoriety for the remainder of the week. People will stop them constantly to ask “were you really hypnotized?” and they’ll tell whatever version of the truth that they like. Trust me. Been there, done that.
Afterwards, I went up to a room called “Las Ramblas” which is a tapas bar where the karaoke is held. Again, it was horrible (screeching cats come to mind), but the homo gang was there and I met an interesting new group; a gay, newly-married-in-Iowa couple travelling with one of their mothers. His name was Steve and the mother is Edie. How funny is that? When I said to them, “Steve and Edie, really?” the son replied, and I swear I’m not making this up, “Who are Steve and Edie?” I slapped him. Okay, I didn’t really but the thought crossed my mind. Edie, the lad’s mother and I explained who they were and had a good laugh. We became instant BFFs and they’re both eager to download my book from Amazon to compare Jason’s “coming-out” process to Steve’s. Cool stuff. I’m deeply flattered.
Five minutes on the top deck in the hurricane winds and off to bed. We just passed the half-way mark of the cruise. Five days to go.
Another day at sea. On the one hand those are my favorite days; lying around, choosing shipboard activities, writing, reading, napping etc, with nowhere to be, go or do. On the other hand, those are the crowded days where everyone is aboard. The saving grace is that at any given time, half are on the pool deck and half are eating somewhere (or some combination of both), so if you avoid those two areas, it’s a lovely day.
Food was a regular day. I feel the pounds creeping up on me. We’re not walking as much as usual and not going to the gym. The winds are wicked if you try to do laps, so we eat instead, to fill the gap in time. I’m not unhappy about my waist, as if we were home, without constant food offerings, we’d be doing the whole holiday season thing, and gaining weight anyway. Right after we return home is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners, more bingeing, then New Year’s Eve and its offerings, so all talk of weight reduction has been put on hold until January 2, 2014. I’m okay with that. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.) I can still get into my pants for dinner, so it can’t be too bad.
We had our pre-dinner cocktail with the gang and we made a date with several of the FOD group for dinner and had a marvelous time. The staff in the MDR now understand that we’re a presence with which to be reckoned. I had the short ribs and they were amazingly lean and lovely. Bravo, chef.
The show that night was “The Look of Love”, a production number of the songs of Burt Bacharat. It was the SS&D gang and as ever, it was great.
A stroll in the almost full moon on deck. Can we re-write the lyrics to that song “Oklahoma?” Ready?
Cartagena, where the wind comes whipping through my hair.
Where the roarin’ sea will make you pee and the ship will rock from here to there….
(I don’t know. I think Rogers and Hammerstein have nothing to fear, really.)
Off to bed.
This day almost needs its own blog. I have a story to tell.
It began with the view from our miniscule balcony. The sight of five cruise ships parked at the dock (looking very much like a Walmart parking lot loading with motor homes), and three floating just offshore, for a total of eight, yielding 22,500 tourists on this tiny island, should have told me to stay put. Take a look:
This is how the day went:
Background: We’ve met a Dutch couple. Let’s call them Gijs and James. Not native Dutch but rather transplanted from Canada and South Africa, but they live in Holland for the past 20 years. (You should hear the way they pronounce Holland. It’s just so cool.) They’re great guys and I think husband has a man-crush on James. He follows him around like a puppy. (Not really, but he likes them a lot). Did I mention that James has the body of a god? Yeah, he does.
Gijs, Having lived on St. Maarten for several months, years ago, wanted to take James to a secret beach about which he knew. It was a clothing optional place and strictly gay. Personally, I really didn’t need to schlep my cookies to a naked beach on a tropical island, considering I don’t even go the local one in Miami, but husband really wanted to go with, and I’m nothing if not a sport, so we did.
We loaded up; towels, sunscreen, water bottles, etc and headed out. Gijs knew about the $2 bus that would take us to our first stop; the famous Queen Juliana airport where you can sit on a beach, or in a tavern next to the runway and watch the planes taking off and landing, just above your head, practically removing your hat as they pass. It was kind of exciting, but actually we have that same effect traveling on I-95 in Broward county while passing Fort Lauderdale Airport. James thought it was very cool, which made Gijs happy. It was a bit of a walk from the bus stop to this viewing site, but we made the schlep.
From there, the schlep back to the bus stop, another ride to a small seaside community named Cupecoy Beach. After paying the driver we began a “600 meter walk”, according to Gijs’s recollection from his time there, to the beach. It was a rocky path, along an edge of a cliff suspended above the shore line and it was closer to a mile than to the aforementioned distance. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of the path because I was a little terrified walking so close to the edge and imagined, several times, falling to my death on the rocks below. But I’m nothing if not a good sport so we plodded on. We reached our destination, a flight of crooked, rocky steps, leading down to the beach. It was about two stories down, on uneven steps with no hand-rail, accompanied by more thoughts of death on the rocks. (I began to mutter, “you guys don’t really know me that well, but this is seriously not who I am”.) They helped me down the flight to a tiny beach/cove. Then, up on to the rocks upon which the surf was foaming, at the mouth of the cove, and around a bend. We had arrived.
There was no place to lie down or even put our things down, as it was a cove in a rocky section where the surf pounded mercilessly against the boulders and often came all the way up into the cove. We hung our things from jagged edges in the rocks to keep them dry. (See photo). Gijs immediately got naked and James, the beauty, whom I seriously hoped would, of course, did not. He and Gijs grabbed their snorkeling gear and plunged into the roaring, foaming, angry sea, husband stretched out in the sun to work on his tan and I was left standing in the shade of the cove with the sandy surf roaring. (Can I inject here that this was not my favorite moment of my life? This was right up there with my colonoscopy).
There were a few other naked people, dotting the rocky landscape looking for action, but of course it’s never the people that you’d like to be naked with. Just never. Oh well. I wanted to snorkel with the boys, but literally feared for my life ending with my brains splattered all over the rocks on the beach of St. Maarten, and I hated to think about the obituary, after having lived a relatively sane life. Can’t you see the headline now? “Respected Fort Lauderdale businessman and novelist dies from injuries sustained cruising naked gay beach in St. Maarten.” What would people say? So I sat there, for maybe an hour, convinced that I’d never make it back up the rocky, dangerous steps alive. Not my finest hour, people. Finally, I announced that I was going to attempt to climb and return to the bus stop, with, or without the assembled party. Mercifully, all agreed and they helped get my things back around the treacherous rocks and up the flight to safety. I more than assured them I was not “cliff walking” back, and we found a rocky path instead. We made it to the bus stop (I’m getting pretty tired by now), and took it back to the airport, where the two of them departed and husband and I found a café with both wi-fi and a large bottle of water. We checked in with home and grabbed another bus for the four-mile ride back to the ship…..which took over an hour in a packed vehicle (mercifully air-conditioned), because of local traffic and a pesky bridge that went up for a half-hour to allow the billion-dollar yachts in and out of the harbor. (Have I mentioned I hate those yacht owners? They’re so rich they should buy their own islands and leave the rest of us alone). Anyway, we made it back to the dock, just in time to stand in line for a half-hour waiting for the tenders to take us back to the ship. (More crowded, packed seating). Once back aboard, I took a twenty-minute shower, trying to get the sand off of my body.
People, I’m a player with the best of them, but this was not my finest hour. Oh well, live and learn. Moral of the story? “Hang around with people both your own age and your own general body type.” Or a slightly different lesson? “Don’t go cliff walking in your 60s”. Point taken.
Cocktails with the boys where I was polite about our excursion, while leaning heavily on the sarcasm about the joys of near-death experiences. We had dinner that night with our new-Aussie friends. It was her birthday and her guy ordered a little cake for the occasion. We ate a piece right after the assorted cheese-cakes, tortes, and ice-creams. (Yeah, it was in addition to dessert, not instead of. Oy, ships).
The entertainment was a Gaucho act. The poster was of a guy who looked to be close to 70 wearing a Spanish-style hat and boots, holding bolos. Sound fabulous to you? Me neither. I almost blew it off but then thought, “every show so far has been excellent, so let’s peek in at the beginning and if it sucks we’ll back out”. So we did and surprise of surprises; the guy was amazing.
He did about ten minutes of standup, with an outrageous accent and was hilarious. Really. Then he cued the band and sat down at a grand piano to play Malaguena, no easy piece. People, he was a concert-level pianist. I was slack-jawed. This was followed by more banter and a chair and guitar appeared. He proceeded to play classical guitar, again, on a concert-level. Was there anything this guy couldn’t do?
He proceeded with his famous bolos, twirling and snapping and dancing in a very thrilling way. He then searched the audience for a guy with a lot of hair on his head to do the next part of his act, and because it’s such an old crowd, for the most part, he couldn’t find one so the banter began and he had us hysterical. Finally he settled on a guy, brought him onstage and proceeded to do death-defying things around this guy’s head, all the while keeping us in stiches with his banter. Among the best acts we’ve seen in a very long time. Bravo.
A full-moon stroll around the deck and off to bed. It’s hard to convey a full moon with a picture, but let me try to give you a sense. Take a look.
See you tomorrow. Stay tuned for Part 4…..