Friday, January 16, 2009

Curacao - Friday, Jan 16

Friday, January 16, 2009
Gray and warm – cloudy and rainy – sunny and humid…a real mixture today of weather.
We were up at 7 to see the views as we cruised in to the port of Willemstad on the island of Curacao, just off the coast of Venezuela. It is a self-governing part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands with a population of 131,000. The original inhabitants were Arawak Amerindians and the first Europeans were members of a Spanish expedition in 1499. Many were from the Valencia region and knew how to cultivate oranges. Unfortunately, climatic conditions did not favor sweet Valencia oranges – the fruit was bitter. It probably happened by accident that some of them fermented – and why waste perfectly good liqueur? Margaritas would not be the same without Curacao!!

With its various Dutch and Spanish colonial style architecture, Willemstad is on UNESCO’s world heritage list. The buildings have verandas, porches, slatted shutters and pastel colors to accommodate the warm Caribbean climate.

We walked to the overgrown ballfield to see where Andruw Jones played – a Curacao native now playing for the Atlanta Braves/LA Dodgers. As we headed in to town – a short 10 minute walk – we stopped the local police for a tourist question and they offered us a lift! We found the Governor and Prime Minister’s offices, heard an organ recital in a beautiful church and worked on the computer from a café. And I mean we worked. Connectivity is low and slow and then it began to rain. We could not get anything on the screen to move, thinking water had gotten into the computer, so that really concerned us but a friendly fellow passenger helped us get it back working again. Thank goodness!!!!

We explored the floating market place where fisherman come with their fresh catch, walked along Fort Amsterdam where a cannonball is embedded in the chapel wall compliments of Captain Bligh, past the Jewish Museum, the Numismatic Museum and enjoyed the Kura Hulanda Hotel and Museum’s anthropological collection on Curacao’s cultural history, including the slave trade. What we didn’t have time for were the Animal Encounter at the Sea Aquarium, the Ostrich and Game Farm, the recreated slave village of Hofi Pachi Sprockel and Hato Caves, which were a hideout for runaway slaves.

My favorite and the most unique feature in Willemstad is the Koningin Emmabrug (Queen Emma Bridge) which is a floating pontoon! It was designed in 1888 as a toll bridge but is now a pedestrian structure. Two ship engines are required to move the 16 pontoons that support the 551-foot bridge, affectionately nicknamed “The Swinging Old Lady”. You are walking across and the bell rings…hurry to the end of the bridge or else you will be on for about five minutes while it swings to the other side before you are able to get off again!

It drizzled and we had sunshine all day long. We explored the casino in the new Renaissance hotel at the waterfront and returned to the ship. I took a short nap!!! Yeah! But I was awakened to the phone ringing to hear that two of my passenger were leaving the ship for an emergency and would return to the ship when we docked in LA, on January 27. That was sad news and I hope their return home will be safe.

I became engrossed in the Cunard Historical TV channel while I was trying to work. They showed the QE2 from the ‘80s (when I was on) and had the old TV advertisements and actual footage from the ship. What a grand way to cross the Atlantic! The sumptuous meals, the substantial staterooms, the grand parties at night and (silly) games on deck during the day…

I did go up to exercise again and was proud of myself! We sailed off as I huffed and puffed on the stair master.

Dinner is becoming old hat; always wonderful choices, wonderful presentation and wonderful tastes. I had spring rolls, green salad, haddock and pavlova with fresh fruit (a New Zealand specialty (meringue)).

Our entertainer did not make the ship!! So we enjoyed a marvelous magician – Brett Sherman -- who has worked with all the top names in the business. He was incredible. It was also the Buccaneer Ball being held in the beautiful Queens Room. Crew were dressed up as pirates and there were hats, eye patches and bandanas for sale, colorful (fake) Polly-want-a-cracker birds swinging around the room in open cages and puppets of bones and skeletons. Formal dancing takes place here every night and it is so graceful and relaxing to watch. The couples just seem to glide to the music…it is magical.