Fourth Port: Curaçao!

The last and the best port that we visited on our cruise to South Caribbean Islands was Curaçao!  It is a Lesser Antilles island country in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region, north of the Venezuelan coast. The brightly hued island of Curaçao, is part of the ABC chain of islands, which also includes Aruba and Bonaire. We reached the island at 8 am in the morning and had around 8 hours to roam around. Our plan for the day required us to travel to the west most point of the island, so the first thing that we did here was to rent a scooter! Yes – a two wheeler, moped that Nariiii loves to drive! 🙂

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Almost all Curacao beaches are scattered along the sheltered and calm southwestern coast, where the waters are calm and crystal clear. And the most popular among them all is the  Knip Beach – Playa Kenepa Grandi.  It was a 40 mins drive to the beach from the cruise terminal but totally worth it!! It was one of the most beautiful beaches that we had visited on our trip! It started raining as soon as we reached there – swimming in the rain is sooo much fun and I loved it!  It’s a great beach for all levels of swimmers and also has some amazing reefs. We were able to do some snorkeling much closer to the shore as well!

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After spending a couple of hours at the beach, we decided to head back to Willemstad, where our cruise ship was docked. Willemstad, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with waterfront shops and cafes. It distinctly has a Dutch feel in the centuries-old buildings that line the waterfront in all those fantastic colors!

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The city is split into two districts —Punda and Ortrabanda, one on each side of a narrow but deep channel, traversable by a landmark floating pedestrian bridge Queen Emma Bridge.  We drove to Punda and then returned our scooter to get on with a walking tour of this district. The first stop of our tour was the Floating market where vendors sell fresh produce, fish, and local goods directly from their boats. A very unique thing to see! Strolling around we reached the main commercial area, Handelskade, which is lined with colorful buildings including the most photographed building in Curacao, the Penha building. The vibrant yellow colored building definitely steals the show!

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We missed visiting the Curacao Liqueur Factory, since it was closed that day – but it’s on almost every list of must-do things in Curaçao that I’ve read! Maybe for a future visit?! We walked across the famous Queen Emma Bridge to reach our cruise terminal – taking in every minute of this colorful and gorgeous island!

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Legend says that an early governor suffered from migraines and mandated the pastel-colored houses, now a trademark of the Southern Caribbean island, because white paint aggravated his condition. Whatever be the reason, there’s something wonderful about approaching by cruise ship and spotting buildings in shades like cotton-candy pink and deep, ocean-blue!

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Third Port: Aruba!

The third port on our cruise to South Caribbean Islands, was Aruba – known as “One Happy Island” 🙂  And it indeed is!

We reached Oranjestad port in Aruba around 1pm in the afternoon and had time to wander around till 10pm! Our first ever port where we get to see some night action and it couldn’t have been better than Aruba – which is known for its neon-lighted casinos! We were sooo looking forward to it!

 

Aruba was one of the largest islands that we would be visiting on the cruise and so we had to plan our day very well! Below is our list of the absolute must-do things on this happy  island!

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The Butterfly Farm is a huge, enclosed tropical garden, home to hundreds of beautiful butterflies. It’s located close to Palm beach – so a great place to take a break from some beach time! 😉 Although it is highly recommended to visit it in the morning when you can see the new butterflies emerging from their chrysalises – afternoon time was equally mesmerizing! So many butterflies, sooo many colors!!

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Palm Beach, a 15-minute taxi or bus ride away from the terminal, is a great beach for watersports! Many of the large resorts are located right on Palm Beach, so a great place to stay while you are there 🙂 Added it to my list, for next trip!

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Eagle Beach, a hangout for tourists and locals alike, is the longest stretch of white sand on the island. It has some lovely shaded picnic areas. It’s approximately 10 minutes away from the cruise pier by taxi or bus. It stretches soooo long, that we had one area of the beach just to our self 😛 Also, we got to see some spectacular sunset views from here!!

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It may not be Las Vegas, but Aruba is certainly up-and-coming on the gambling scene, with 11 Neon-lit casinos island-wide. Crystal Casino, always hopping with slots and table games – was the closest one to the cruise terminal, that we went to. Insider tip: the slot machines here are pretty loose ( or at least it felt like that since we kept on playing for long :P)! Added bonus – you get free food and drinks!

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Before heading back to the cruise, we took a stroll around the Oranjestad area to take-in all that the island has to offer!

First Port: Grand Turk!

The first port on our cruise to South Caribbean Islands was Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands! The island is the administrative, historic, cultural and financial center of the territory, and has the second largest population of the islands, that is approximately 3720 people! 🙂

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We reached the islands at around 7am in the morning and we were scheduled to depart from there at 3pm. So we had around 8 hours to go and see the island. After an early breakfast, we left the cruise to see what this island had to offer!!

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We took a taxi and went directly to the first place on our list: Pillory Beach. Pillory Beach is regarded as Christopher Columbus’ first landfall in the New World. A beautiful white sand beach with turquoise-clear waters! Since we reached there early morning Island time, there were hardly 4-5 people at the beach – which gave us the opportunity to click some people-free pictures of this paradise and swim around at our own pace and leisure!

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After the early morning swim, we headed to the Cockburn Town area of the island – to check out the local markets, artists and of course, to buy a magnet for me! While we were waiting for the taxi to arrive, we saw some Salinas or Salt Pans– they are almost everywhere on the island! The water on top of these pans appear as red, hence they are known as Red Salinas!  The downtown market consisted of small colorful hut-style stores with handmade sculptures, decorated wooden planks and decorative items made from coconut shell. Everything looked so pretty!

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It was super warm on the island, so after walking around the town for 30 mins or so we were tired and sweaty 😐 It was time for another swim now! So we headed to Governor’s Beach. Governor’s Beach is a crescent of soft sand and calm, turquoise ocean waters that fronts the official British governor’s residence. It was very close to the port – we could see our cruise from here and even thought of just swimming till there – jk! By the time, we reached the beach, the sun was out and shinning bright, which made the waters shimmer – such a beautiful site! We spent a couple of hours just lazing around – before we headed back to the port.

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The port area or the Grand Turk Cruise Center, is an 14 acres recreational center with swimming pool, shops and a large beachfront area! Once we reached there, we saw a lot of people from our cruise had decided to spend the time just there – and since there were two carnival cruises at the port it was super crowded. We were so glad that we decided to venture out on the island 😉 It was a great place to click some pictures of the cruise and have fresh water coconuts – my all time favorite! Also, carnival had handed us coupons to collect a free bracelet and the port charm from Diamonds International – one for each ports – so I collected my first charm at Grand Turk! 😉

It was 2pm and we were super hungry – so we headed back to the cruise to the awesome caribbean treats that awaited us!

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Cruising to the South Caribbean Islands!

We have an office-wide shutdown in Vimeo from Christmas eve to New Year’s every year. It’s a great time to go on a vacation without actually using up any vacation days 😉 [PS: only the ones in states will understand my pain :P] Usually, we use this time to visit our family back in India – but since that wasn’t our plan for Dec 2016 we thought of checking off an item on our bucket list – Take a luxury cruise!

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So we booked the Carnival Splendor for a 8-day cruise to the South Caribbean Islands – since the Caribbean Islands are the best places to go to escape the weird, cold & nasty winter’s on the northeast, isn’t it?

The Itinerary: We sailed from 26th of December, 2016 to 3rd of January, 2017 from the port of Miami. Visited – Grand Turk, La Romana, Aruba and Curacao (details on each of them coming soon!)

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The Ship: 952 length in feet with a capacity of 3000+, Carnival Splendor turned out to be the best first cruise experience that we could have asked for! It has 13 deck plans – we stayed on the 9th deck stateroom. The room was well equipped, spacious-enough and comfortable. The housekeeping staff did an amazing job every day! Each day our next day itinerary and events schedule would be left for us in our own little mailbox outside the room – how cute is that?! 🙂

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The Food: Omg! We had sooooo many options for food – it was the best part!! The 9th deck had a buffet area known as Lido – where we would be served breakfast in the morning till noon, then the lunch buffets and followed by early dinner buffet for those who didn’t want to go for a sit down option. The variety at the Lido buffet ranged from – the mouth-watering Indian food from Tandoor, the chef’s specials which included different cuisines everyday, the spicy noodles from Mongolian Wok, the fancy Burrito Bar, 24-hours Pizza Pirate and Swirls, the most amazing Grilled Cheese at the Deli, the meaty BBQ and the yummylicious desserts – almost 10 varieties of them everyday! Dinner was a proper three course meal served at the Gold Pearl Restaurant which had port of call specialities on the menu, elegant cruise dining days, special meal on new year’s eve and the bestest of all – the Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake – it’s the best I’ve ever had! [PS. I managed to find a recipe for it – so hopefully will be trying it out soon 😉 ] On sea days – we had two additional options Taste Bar – samples from the Carnival’s best and Seaday Brunch – the most delicious reason to eventually get out of bed!

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The Fun: I’m not sure where to start about the fun options that the ship had to offer! Since, it was our very first cruise – we were over over overwhelmed- seriously! So I’m just going to mention them from the lowest to the topmost deck. On deck, 3, 4, 5 we had this amazing and really huge Auditorium where we played life-size Hasbro games, Clue, BINGO and witnessed one of the most amazing musical show. On deck 5, we had the punchliner comedy club where we saw some great stand up comedy shows, the cool lounge where we played games like hunger games/harry potter Trivia, Trivial Pursuit, etc, the all-lit casino, an all red nightclub, a gaming zone and the Art Gallery where we attended our very first Art Auction – yep! On deck 9, we had a dive-in movie theatre which showed some amazing movies every night, 2 decent size swimming pools, 3 jacuzzis and an open deck. Deck 11, was the spa deck – with the super fancy Cloud 9 spa, the Carnival twister slide, the water splash park and the adult-only retreat Serenity. Deck 12 was reserved for a jogging track, basketball court and mini-golf. Yes, all that was just on one ship. It was like a small town on the water.

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The Favorites: This particular section is dedicated to the things that we loved doing on the cruise – and here by ‘we’ I mostly mean ‘me’ 😛 Watching Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children in the dive-in theatre, dressing up for the elegant cruise nights, getting pictures clicked by the dozen of photographer’s on the cruise and then tossing them into trash next day, participating in the bean bag toss tournament, reaching the semi-finals of our very first bocce tournament, winning $150 in Bingo, attending the epic rock show by playlist productions, the various adult-only game shows, the numerous stand up comedies, playing mini-golf middle of the sea, acquiring the miniature of the cruise by winning the fact or fiction trivia, the balloon drop, dancing on new year’s eve at the open Lido deck party (sneak preview here), playing coin pusher and winning tshirts at the casino, attending the super informative 101 art connoisseur seminar , our very first art auction, participating in all the raffles with the hope to win at least one, attending the detox session and taking the BMR test, all the food, playing alley roller and air hockey in the game arcade, sitting for hours in the jacuzzi overlooking the beautiful sea!  I’m sure I’m missing out a bunch of stuff. We had a lot of first time experiences aboard the cruise, making it really special!

Thank you Carnival Splendor for filling our 8 days with brilliance, grandeur and, well… splendor!

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InstaCard: http://ift.tt/2dbW1h3

The Caribbean Sorrel drink: From Trinidad and Tobago in the south (include Guyana in mainland South America) to Jamaica in the north, as you make you way up the island chain, islanders all appreciate a cold glass of Sorrel on hot Caribbean days! We had our first one on our trip to Trinidad and Tobago and have been hooked ever since 😀

The drink is made using either fresh/ dried Sorrel flowers (they look like Hibiscus and are from the same family) and varied spices!
Sorrel drinks are not that easily available in the States, so I decided to give it a spin. Here’s a very basic recipe, using some of my favorite fall 🍂 spices for flavoring! Dried sorrel flowers are available at Whole Foods and Amazon and if you are lucky you can get fresh flowers at Farmer’s Markets specifically the ones in Brooklyn!
#recipe: Boil 2 cups of dried flowers with 8 cups of water, 3-4 bay leaves, 3 cinnamon sticks,4 cloves, 2 pieces of dried orange peel and thick slice of ginger, for an hour. Then strain and sweeten to taste (around a cup of sugar worked for me).
To add some kick to it, mix it with rum 😉😛 #ruchyum #frommykitchen #sorrel #instadrink #drinkstagram #foodporn #foodgasm #homemade #chefsofinstagram #foodpics #foodblogger #nomnomnom #eeeeeats #caribbean #caribbeanfood #holidays #spices #cinnamon #ginger #ruchyumrecipes