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Old October 23rd, 2007, 02:38 PM
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Default Polynesia Trip Report Sept. 1-15, 2007

This may not be the best of times for a trip report, but I thought I’d post how our trip went. It seems we kind of ran the gauntlet and got in two near-perfect weeks (the only blip was Felix) between the Poly’s arrest and then a few weeks later her cancelled cruises. We went down knowing what was going on, but without a ‘plan B’. We just believed everything would work out and we’d be sailing.

Saturday, Sept. 1st – Flight Day – It was an uneventful flight with easy jaunts through security in San Antonio and Oranjestad as well as a wave through at customs in Aruba. Someone from A1 Apartments was supposed to meet us at the airport, but there was a slight screw up, so we took a cab over to A1. Dropped our bags off in the room, and walked into town, about ten minutes, to explore and get something to eat.

The Poly was docked behind a warehouse in the cruise port and we could really only see her bow and masts. It’s really hard to find local food in downtown Oranjestad, so we finally settled on having supper at Paddock’s on the harbor at waterside table. Debbie had Dutch Pea Soup and I had Weiner Schnitzel and a Balashi, the locally brewed beer. The food was pretty good and after some more exploring we headed on back to A1 and had a chat with Ingrid and Stanley, the owners of A1 Apartments. If you want a clean, reasonably priced place to stay in Oranjestad I highly recommend A1 Apartments.

Ingrid and Stanley are two of the nicest people you could ever meet and the location makes it fairly easy to get around downtown on foot if you don’t want to cab it or rent a car. After a few more Balashis it was sleepy time.

Sunday, Sept. 2nd – Hurricane Felix – Awoke to the winds and rain of Felix. The winds weren’t too bad only around 35mph, but we did get a fair amount of rain for a while. Nothing drastic but more rain than Aruba is used to. We went downstairs to visit with Ingrid and Stanley to find out where to go for breakfast only to find out from them that most restaurants, grocery stores and shops had sent their employees home, so nothing was open.

So, Ingrid decided that she needed to feed us and worked on getting us breakfast while I helped Stanley track Felix on his computer. As the morning progressed and we watched the rain, one of the neighbours came by and was offering a lasagna lunch for $6.00 a plate, so we took her up on it. The worst of the hurricane had passed by around noon and at about that time our neighbour dropped by with our lunch. We finished up and decided that we’d go take a stroll downtown to see how everything looked after Felix.

Everything was shut tight, including restaurants and bars. There were only a few tourists out and we overheard someone complaining that they couldn’t find anything to eat, which made us especially grateful that we had taken our neighbour up on her offer. Since we could no longer see the Poly anywhere, we walked over to the cruise port to see what was going on. The officer there told us that the Poly was on the other side of the airport at Barcadera, a more sheltered port, to ride out the storm. However, he said that she may be back before sundown.

We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with Ingrid and Stanley until around 4:00 or so when we thought we’d head in for boarding. Ingrid decided she would drive us, as a cab would be too expensive if the Poly was still at Barcadera. The Poly had not made it back to the cruise port, but we stopped in there anyway to see if she was heading back or still at Barcadera. Finding that the Poly was still at Barcadera, I hopped back in and Ingrid drove us there. Barcadera is a small industrial type port, but seeing the Poly there and no other passengers around, I asked the port officer if the Poly was boarding as scheduled. He said “sure?, so we grabbed our bags and headed to the ship. Ingrid decided to wait to make sure we got on.

As we neared the Poly we could see that there were only about 10-15 people on board and none waiting on the dock, so it didn’t seem like the usual WJ’er boarding day. We reached the gangway to be greeted by Sly and Donna in street clothes, so I greeted them and asked if they were boarding. “Nope, not until Monday? Sly replied, “didn’t we get the e-mail explaining that at our hotel?? I explained that we hadn’t stayed at a hotel, so we didn’t know anything about it and after a little more discussion Sly said “OK?. Hurray, we were on!! Try that on a floating tub!! We walked back and thanked Ingrid and said our goodbyes and then we boarded the Poly.

We were on the way to our cabin, when Devra (Newjammer) stopped us to say ‘Hi’. We had made contact with Devra and her husband Jesse a few weeks earlier via e-mail, and finally got to meet in person. After kicking off our sandals in our cabin and digging out an old doubloon, we were back on deck to meet our few other shipmates that evening.

Of course, it wasn’t the usual first boarding on a WJ’er as it was just a few of us refugees, but the bar was open and dinner was served, so what more could you need?

Monday, Sept. 3rd – Aruba – Back to the cruise port to pick up the rest of the passengers, with boarding allowed all day. After breakfast we decide we’d head to town with Devra and Jesse and book our own island tour with ABC tours on Sue’s recommendation. Before we left we were told last gangway would be at 6:00pm, so we’d have plenty of time for lunch and a half-day tour before getting back to the ship for snacks and swizzles.

The tour was great with the highlight being the 4x4 ride through the national park to the natural pool on the rugged coast of the island. There was plenty of bouncing over the rocks and a few times Devra’s butt was off her seat by a good foot or so, as well as plenty of laughs at the expense of the passenger door on our truck that kept flying open every few minutes. Our driver finally tied the door closed with the seat belt and we were off, with the other truck on our tour, to the highest spot on Aruba just a little behind schedule.

As we reached the summit of the hill a little after 4:00, Jesse noticed as he was climbing out of the truck, that the rear tire was going flat. Then, after taking a few pictures, we realized that the other truck which had been traveling close behind us, still hadn’t reached the top! We decided to pile back in and head down the hill to find them and then fix our flat. We found them stalled on a sharp incline about three quarters of the way up the hill.

Our driver hopped into their vehicle and, not being able to start it, rolled backwards down the hill to a flat spot off the road. We then moved our vehicle past theirs to a fairly level spot to change the flat. After about half an hour we finally got the tire changed and were ready to head to the ship. The other four tour goers loaded into our vehicle, abandoning the other 4x4 which would no longer run.

We got back to the cruise port around 5:00 and for the second time in two days the Poly was no longer where we left her! Was she arrested? Did we hear the last gangway time wrong? Was she just simply hidden behind another ship? We all were a little stunned at first, but the port authority officer told us “Oh yeah, she’s back there.? As we cleared the gate we bumped into another passenger who asked us if we were Poly passengers looking for the ship. We told him we were and he told us that the ship was gone, and he didn’t know what was going on and that everybody was gathering at the end of the pier. I glanced out and noticed that there were about thirty people waiting and knew everything would be fine as the ship wouldn’t have left Aruba missing 30 passengers.

There were a few crew members also waiting at the end of the pier and they told us that the ship had to move to make room for a Foo-Foo and was circling around to dock there. After a little more waiting the Poly pulled alongside and we were allowed to board. We had already checked in so we headed up top for snacks and swizzles and the atmosphere finally started to take on a bit of the usual first night WJ’er party feel.

We finally raised our sails and set off for Curacao at around 9:30; the captain had waited as long as possible for all the late arrivals due to Felix. It was a pretty bumpy sail that night and a few people did not have very good sleeps. Fortunately, sea sickness doesn’t bother me although the ships creaking and cracking did wake me up a few times.

Tuesday, Sept. 4th – Curacao – Arrived late due to strong headwinds left over from Felix, but decided to take the shuttle into Willemstad to look around. The shuttle is really more of a mini-tour with an informative tour guide that gave us a great overview of Curacao as well as taking us on a 45 minute walking tour once we arrived downtown.

After looking around a bit, Debbie and I decided to sit at one of the harbour side restaurants to have a beer and watch the floating bridge open and close. I highly recommend this: it was nice sitting back, sipping an Amstel Bright, and watching people rush to beat the opening bridge by jumping across the opening if need be.

Then it was back to the ship in Caracas Bay to get ready for our beach BBQ and live band at the local bar. The food was excellent and the band was pretty good, although a lot of people left pretty early, quite possibly because of the bumpy crossing the night before.

Wednesday, Sept. 5th – Curacao – We spent the morning wandering around Caracas Bay and checking out the old fort. We planned to spend the rest of the day snorkeling around the harbour, but one of Bill and Dianne’s kids, Jared asked us if we’d like to go to the Seaquarium with them. We knew we had another week and weren’t dead set on snorkeling, so we figured we’d tag along with our little buddy and his family.

The Seaquarium is an interesting place although very hot, with not many breezes. A guide happened along when it was feeding time for the nurse shark pups and he was very informative and had a good rapport with all the kids that were around. He also got the kids involved with the touch pond that featured urchins, sea cucumbers and conchs. Once Jared and Eva saw that it was safe to touch and pick up these creatures, they were hilarious touching just about everything they could get their little hands on.

Our taxi arrived to pick us up and it was back to the ship for Sea Hunt, which our team won by bribing the judges the most, and PPP night. There was a little more partying this evening, but nothing too crazy.

Thursday, Sept. 6th – Bonaire – Arrived at the pier in Kralendijk in the early morning to see the town gearing up for Bonaire Day. A parade was getting ready to start and various food, drink and craft tents were setting up in the town square. We wandered into town, but being a holiday, everything was closed. We checked out the crafts tents and checked out the festivities for a while before heading back to the ship to get ready for our snorkel safari.

The Sea Cow water taxi picked us up and took us to Klein Bonaire for a drift snorkel. It was pretty good with lots of fish, sponges and coral, although a bunch of the coral did seem to be dead. Two guides from the Cow stayed with us to keep us on time and get us back on board for another snorkel stop off the coast of Bonaire. We saw much the same things, but one couple did see two sea turtles heading in from the beach.

After that it was back to the ship for swizzles and the Newlywed game. Our pals Jesse and Devra won, Devra was also the captain of our Sea Hunt team, so we were staring to amass a few bottles of champagne. Later we were off with Captain César to do a pub crawl through town and enjoy some more of the Bonaire Day celebrations.

Friday, Sept. 7th – Bonaire – We had our first sit down breakfast of the week. Until then, all meals had been buffets, probably because the A/C in the dining room was not working very well. We walked to the Harley shop in Kralendjik to buy a T-shirt and then over to a grocery store bakery to pick up a couple of snacks. We had Pastechi Galena, which was like a chicken-curry empanada and some kind of Dutch sausage-pastry thingy and both were pretty good.

We hoisted the sails around noon and started our sail back to Aruba, so we spent the rest of the day sipping concoctions from the bar and chatting with our fellow shipmates. At Captain’s dinner that night, again in the dining room which was almost bearably cool, our table had a good laugh. We sat with Bill, Dianne and their kids Jared and Eva along with Jesse and Devra. As some of you may know, when Chief Steward Brandon assembles his Caesar’s Salad he has everyone cheer to determine the amount of each ingredient added. Well, Eva LOVES her garlic, and we laughed our heads off at the amount of bellowing she did when Brandon added the garlic. When in doubt, smother it in garlic!!

This is only the second time I can recall ever sailing with children aboard, and I’d have to say Jared and Eva were two great little sailors. Jared was in charge of keeping me from getting lost and Eva would pick out Debbie’s earrings. We enjoyed every minute we spent with them.

I believe that this was also the day that my friend Tony, the Bosun’s mate, stitched on my fourth Turk’s head bracelet…. I’m running out of room for my watch!

Saturday, Sept. 8th – Aruba – Back in the cruise port for debarkation. This is always a bit of a sad day when doing back-to-backs, as you have to say goodbye to most of the many friends made that first week.

After everyone had left, Debbie and I walked into town to find a laundry mat so that we could have clean clothes for the second week. With the help of the crew we found a laundry mat that would do a stuffed duffle bag worth of clothes, washed, dried and folded for $14.00.

That evening we decided to head off towards the hi-rise area for supper at Gianni’s with Pam (Beachy Grrl) and her husband Mark, the other couple doing a back-to-back. We hopped a bus and rode out there for some Whiskey Pasta, which wasn’t bad, but was a bit pricey for a meatless dish. It was a good show though with the flaming sauce in a 40lb. hollowed out cheese wheel.

By the time we got back to the ship the crew party was in full swing. For anyone who hasn’t experienced the between cruise crew party, I have to tell you it is a fun time. We all know how wonderful and outgoing the Windjammer crews are, but when you get to party with them as a friend, listening to their music, dancing their dances, it really is a great time. Thanks to my friend Vish for teaching me some Indian dances…. I’m sure the pictures the crew has of me are hilarious!

Sunday, Sept. 9th – Aruba – This was a bit of a lazy day as it was boarding day for new passengers. As we wandered around the deck getting ready to head ashore, we noticed a few people dropping off bags at the ship. They turned out to be Michael (Jammerhead) and Terri, another couple we had contacted before the cruise, so we toddled off down the gangway and went into town for lunch.

Debbie had some kind of sausage sandwich that they served with a Dutch curry-ketchup. I tried some of the ketchup and really liked it, so I decided I would bring some home as a souvenir.

After some more exploring of Oranjestad it was back to the ship to meet our new shipmates for snacks and swizzles.

Monday, Sept. 10th – Aruba – It was a bit smaller group this week with only 53 passengers compared to 79 the week before. On this morning we went back to the A1 Apartments to say goodbye to Ingrid and Stanley as well as Bill, Dianne and the kids, who had left the ship while we were ashore on Sunday.

After, visiting at the apartment for a while Bill decided to give us a quick island tour in his rented car. We drove out to the lighthouse, checked out the low and high rise hotel areas and a beach or two, before Bill dropped us off at the numismatic museum near the cruise dock back in town. Unfortunately, it was closed so it was back to the ship to have lunch and get ready for our 1:00 sail.

We pulled away from the dock pretty much on time and hoisted the sails to Amazing Grace. No matter how many times you hear it, it never gets old! The Bosun’s mate Tony, pulled out the cannon so that we could fire on Aruba as we left… that’ll learn ‘em! The crossing to Curacao was nowhere near as rough as the first week, but still strong enough to make a few people queasy at dinner time.

One other thing about Aruba: if you like wind, then Aruba’s got you covered, at least at the cruise port anyway. It was windy each day we were there, all day long.

Tuesday, Sept. 11th – Curacao – We decided to share a cab, with another couple, into Willemstad this time instead of the shuttle. We looked at the synagogue, which is the oldest one in the Western hemisphere and has a sand floor, and toured the adjacent small museum.

Then we walked over to the shopping area near the floating market and saw a chalk signboard advertising Simone’s Restaurant that was serving curry chicken roti. Being a little hungry and real suckers for roti, we decided to have some lunch. The sign pointed us down an alley to a little hole in the wall restaurant, with maybe 4 or 5 two-person tables. We ordered the large roti for the two of us to split, and it was plenty. The order came with two large roti skins with four pieces of curried chicken that had to be stripped from the bone. You wouldn’t think it by looking at the place, but the food was excellent and good value for the money. (The washrooms there were a little scary: light had to be turned on from the kitchen, no water, tiny as an airplane washroom, with the added bonus of ants on the floor and spider webs in every corner!)

After lunch we walked over to the maritime museum which was interesting and then caught the ferry to Otrobanda on the other side of the Schottegat Harbour, since the pontoon bridge was open. There we paid for a guided tour of the slave museum. This museum was well worth the visit and had tons of stuff to see. You could easily spend four or five hours there and probably still not see everything.

We walked back over the floating Queen Emma pontoon bridge and back to the Punda side of Willemstad. We did a little more souvenir hunting, then it was back to Caracas Bay and the Poly to get cleaned up for swizzle time.

Supper was once again a barbeque ashore, but this time the band didn’t show so we only had a DJ spinning tunes for us. This group was a little more laid back than the first week’s passengers, so the dancing ended early again tonight.

Wednesday, Sept. 12th – Curacao – This day started off a bit gray and drizzly and last gangway was set for noon. We decided to do a little exploring around Caracas Bay, so we walked up the hill, past the abandoned quarantine building and all the way down to a diving and fishing area on the other side of the point. Along the way we stopped to talk to a few divers that were getting ready to go in, and poked around the quarantine building on the way back.

We grabbed our snorkel gear and headed to the rocky beach off the right hand side of the ship. The snorkeling wasn’t bad and we saw lots of fish, although it was still overcast, so the colours weren’t great.

Tonight was Sea Hunt and PPP again, except this time Debbie and I were selected to be judges. People buying you drinks and then getting to watch them act like goofs…. it’s a great life being a Sea Hunt judge! PPP started soon after and my aluminum foil costume earned me one of the two top prizes, a nice looking Windjammer shot glass.

There was a little more partying tonight especially once Sly, Ryan and a few more crew members started dancing.

Thursday, Sept. 13th – Bonaire – We actually arrived in Bonaire around 9:00pm Wednesday night so we all just enough time to visit a bar or restaurant or two before bedtime.

Today we decided to take the island tour in the morning, which took us out to the salt pans, the slave huts and over to Lake Gotomeer to see the flamingos. We actually did manage to see quite a few flamingos and even saw a couple young ones up close that were still gray as it takes about two years for them to get their pink colour.

The tour also took us through the village of Rincon and into the Washington Slagbaai National Park. Overall, the tour wasn’t too bad, but could have used a van with better air conditioning and a few more photo stops.

Tonight was Karaoke night at Karel’s Bar and we joined about a half dozen other passengers sitting at the bar. A few got up and sang, but thankfully for everyone, I wasn’t one of them. Debbie and I weren’t really in much of a bar mood, so we wandered back to the Poly and hung out yapping with a few friends for a while.

Friday, Sept. 14th – Bonaire – Today was to be another lunch time sail, so we just ended up checking out a museum in Kralendjik and a few other shops in the morning.

Last gangway was set for 12:00 and we were already back on board at about 11:30 when I noticed that a few more craft and food booths had set up in the square. So, I asked Debbie if she wanted to check them out and she figured we might as well. The crew joked with us as we left and told us to make sure we didn’t get back late because we were going to leave on time for sure.

As we got in to town one of the other passengers gave us a tip on buying a deep-fried plantain from one of the food booths. I believe it was like $2.00 for the plantain, but it was fantastic.

Not much in the craft booths really caught our eye until about 11:55. That’s when Debbie started talking to a lady that made her own ceramic jewelry and other articles like clocks, picture frames, etc. Sure enough, Debbie found a clock that she wanted and we waited patiently as the lady dug through her boxes and bubble wrap to find us the best possible packing material. Finally, clock in hand, we made our way back to the Poly a few minutes late… to the “See, told ya? gazes from the crew. We were okay, though, because Chef Whiskey came aboard 5 minutes later... can't leave without the cook!

The rest of the day was a nice lazy sail back to Aruba with everyone trying to get in their last minute conversations with new found friends. The bar also seemed to be a little busier today, probably with everyone trying to use up their doubloons… I know I had three of them burning a hole in my pocket.

Captain’s dinner and the bananas flambé was excellent as usual and again the A/C hung on long enough in the saloon to make the heat almost bearable. We made up for our incredible luck the first week at the Sea Chest raffle by having no luck this week. Oh well, what can you do?

A little more drinking, dancing and talking, then it was time for bed.

Saturday, Sept. 15th – Aruba – The most dreaded day on a Windjammer trip, departure day. Our flight wasn’t until 4:05pm that day so we signed up for the last airport shuttle at 12:30, and did our packing in the morning as we waited for the inevitable to come.

We said our goodbyes to passengers and watched as the ship slowly emptied. We then tried to find as many crew members as possible to shake their hands and thank them personally for everything they do for us to ensure we have a great vacation. Please, if you get the chance to sail a WJ’er in the future, take the time to shake the guys’ hands and tell them how much you appreciate the work they do for us. I mean tipping is one thing, but everyone likes to know that their work is really appreciated.

The shuttle ride, airport and flight home were all run of the mill, uneventful stuff. Except for the US Customs guy in Aruba who had a pretty good laugh about me bringing home a bottle of ketchup for a souvenir!

A trip like this underlines the reason we all need WJ’er to pull through this: When they’re at the top of their game, nobody does it better! If something happens and we can no longer sail WJ’er, then we probably won’t sail anymore, because once you’ve sailed the best, you can’t sail the rest!
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