January 22, 2022

Day 6 - Willemstad, Curacao

We arrive in Curacao by 7:00 AM ship time, 8:00 AM local time. The captain has elected to keep us on ships time, just to add confusion to those that go ashore and find phones have automatically switched to local time. The risk is low, as with the local time being later than ships time this will not add to passengers being late for boarding. 

An hour passes and the ship still has not been cleared by local authorities. Are we going to be prohibited from docking? Many ships have been turned away recently because of covid. I don't know the exact number, but if illness exceeds a certain percentage, passengers will not be allowed off the ship. There have been no rumors of any illness or medical mishaps, but likewise the ships staff has been tight lipped and shared nothing.

We are docked at the new pier, west of the original pier. I say new, it probably has been in use for 4 or 5 years. The Holland America Amsterdam is docked in front of us, not to be confused with the Holland America MS Amsterdam I sailed around the world on when I first started writing this blog.

The Holland America ship Eurodam is docked in the channel. From a passenger viewpoint, the most desireable location as it is within a 100 feet of the floating bridge and has easy access to everything in the central city area.

About 8:15 we get the word. We are cleared to disembark. Like every port I have been to since Covid, passengers are prohibited from taking any food or liquid ashore including water.

We walk to the pier and take a shuttle to the security gate. Like Aruba, it has been reconfigured. Here it appears that the change was made so that you need to walk past more street vendors. 

The private tour company I booked here sent me a map outlining exactly where the car and driver would be waiting for us. Very easy. As we were approaching, the driver flashed his lights and drove to meet us. I guess we looked like tourists and were easy to spot. 

Elmer introduces himself. A lifelong native of Curacao he worked in the refineries for many years, but with capacity and employment cut back 80% he found himself in need of a new career.  He is certifed not only as a general tour guide, but also as a Jewish history guide, and a Curacao history guide, each requiring over a year of training.  In addition to helping tourists he is also a teacher.

The first hour we spend touring the nearby neighborhoods of the UNESCO heritage sites. Most of the buildings date back to the 1700's. Made of coral they are structually very durable, but the retained salt in the coral easily blisters the finished surface which needs to be repaired every couple of years. Often government funds are available for some of the restoration cost.

Much of the old area of the city was established by the Jewish, but today most have moved away. Accurate historical records have been kept and many come here to research thier family history.

The floating bridge has been in operation over 100 years, and now only carries foot traffic. Originally there was a fee if you wore shoes, none if you were barefoot.

Of course there was a stop at the Blue Curacao distillery. Only the bottle is protected by copyright and patent laws. The liquors are made in many countries, but  the distintive bottle is only made here. Curacao also comes in yellow, red yellow and several other colors. The difference being the food coloring.

We drive thru the newer area of the island with million  dollar homes and million dollar views. In the harbor is an enormous floating platform used to assemble and disassemble oil rigs. One of the largest such rigs in the world.

A nearby resort was recently bought by Sandals and after refurbishing will be one of the largest and most exclusve resorts on the island.

We drive to the North west coast and stop to witness the waves crashing into the rocks and sending spray 40 or 50 feet in the air.  The coastline is very rough, and the seas today are also rough. Now that I am writing this, the road was also very rough. No tour bus will ever come here, just vehicles designed for off road such as the Toyota we are in.

We move to the other side of the island to stop at a popular local beach in a small community where fishermen bring in their daily catch, turtles follow the fishermen back to shore looking for a handout, and snorkelers enjoy the sea turtles.

Unfortunately this is a bad beach day. There is a minimal police presence in addition to the sunburnt snorkelers. There is a dead body on the beach waiting for the arrival of the proper authorities. There is no indication of foul play and most beachgoers are oblivious to the situation.

We head to lunch at a restaurant overlooking the water about 500 yards down the shore. The parking lot is unusually empty. Elmer spots a friend and stops to talk with him. The restaurant is closed because the two chefs that work the kitchen were killed in an automobile accident.  This is not a good day in this neighborhood.

With Elmer not being comfortable with any other nearby restaurant we begin our ride back to Willemstad. We pass numerous plantation houses dating back to the time of slavery. They were often positioned on hills so the owner could oversee the workers in the fields.

Curacao has always been a distribution center for all types of goods, including slaves. Slaves were brought from South Africa, trained here, then sold to other nations after they had been taught the required skills.

One plantation house we visited is occupied by the sister of aclaimed local artist Nena Sanchez. Her artistry was good, but I have no need for any.

We continue back to town and have our driver drop us at the fort near the floating bridge. A sandwich at a restaurant I have frequented in the past was excellent.

The day on Curacao was much better than Aruba. Maybe that is why I have always said Curacao was my favorite port in the Caribbean.

Back on the ship an hour listening to Jabes on the guitar, another excellent dinner in the Coastal Kitchen.

We leave Curacao about 5:30 to begin our two day trip back to Florida.

The seas are predicted to be about 3 meters or 9 to 10 feet. They are, but the ship is hardly affected. Temperatures are still near 80. Tomorrow is a sea day.