As we get further south the seas continue to calm. We slip into the dock at Aruba behind another ship. A former Royal ship that has been sold and renamed. I am unable to read the name, but definitely used to be in the Royal Caribbean fleet, as she sports the unique Crown Lounge which existed on all ships prior to Oasis Class. She looks like a sister ship to the Monarch which went to the scrap heap last year.
Weeks prior to the cruise I decided to book private tours in Aruba and Curacao to avoid the crowed tour busses and to allow us to see what we want at the pace we want without the inconvenience of dealing with crowds.
I have a message that our private tour driver will be holding a sign with my name just outside the port gate. Of course after the port gate configuration being the same for a decade, it has now changed and been moved.
We were two of only a few passengers disembarking first thing in the morning and not taking a Royal sponsored excursion. Finding my way to the gate, it was easy to find our driver. We were the only passengers at the gate, and he was the only driver with a sign.
After a difficult converstion of him asking where we wanted to go and me trying to tell him to show us the best things to see on the island, we were on our way.
Sometimes the best made plans of mice and men don't work out as planned. The van was probably a 10 passenger vehicle. There were two of us and the driver. The road noise level was high as you might expect in a truck not a passenger vehicle. There were speakers throughout, but no mic. Actually that really didn't matter as he was better qualified to be a taxi driver than a tour guide. He had very little to tell us about his country and fundamentally struggled to answer our questions.
Regardless we did see the major attractions. Lynn climbed the 117 steps to the top of the California lighthouse. We made several stops to view the rugged cactus covered terrain. Of course we had to tour the Aloe factory, every tour goes there even dull ones. Additional stops at the natural bridge that collapsed years ago and the 300 year old church rounded out our morning.
The guide at the Aloe factory was excellent. She knew the history, the process, the products, and she spoke very clearly. Of course a small purchase resulted.
At the conclusion of our tour we choose to go to Iguana Joe's, A restaurant and bar not far from the port that I have frequented a number of times over the years. Another disappointment, just a sign "opening soon", and "now hiring". Signs that look as if they have been there for months if not a couple years. Another casualty of covid.
We spot another outside restaurant of similar layout closeby. We order, a couple of adult beverages and just a plain old fashioned cheesburger sounds good after all the fancier food on the ship. We wait and wait. Finally the waitress comes by and apologizes for the delay in the kitchen. Probably another half hour and our burgers arrive.
The top and bottom bun are stale and hard and at least an inch thick each. I decide to east just the burger, cheese and bacon with a knife and fork. The bacon and cheese are excellent. The burger not so much so, It is probably the most overcooked ground beef patty I have ever encountered. I struggle to cut it with a knife, and though not a steak knife, a sharp table knife never the less.
If I thought cutting it was difficult, chewing was tougher. Most of it remained uneaten. A discount was applied to the bill.
The drinks were good though!
All is not as bad in Aruba as it may seem. A brief check of the sandbar on the seaward side of the ship reveal that the lone tree is still surviving. A mainstay that looked like it would be washed away in the next high tide when I first saw it about 10 years ago. Hopefully it will remain for many more years. I will come back to check periodically, probably without a private tour.
Back on the ship. Cocktails and the usual excellent dinner. We have our now hopefully, regular waiter, but yet are seated at a different table. Not that it matters at all except we were told the first night that we would have the same waiter and table every night.
The headliner show, Scotty Cavanaugh, a comedian and juggler is excellent. He has added some new material since I last saw him, but really an act that does not easily fall into the category of "I saw that once".
After the headliner we go to a production show in two70. "The Book". A collection or dancing, violinist, music, aerial acrobats and high tech images. If there is a story, it escapes anyone I have spoken with. My impression is the production is only "what can we do to show off all the trechnical capabilities" without regard to audience entertainment, theme, or story.
We are schulded to leave Aruba about 11 PM to head to Curacao. I am sound asleep.