Tag Archives: Caribbean

A Visit To Bonaire

Flamingos! On the island of Bonaire

Our recent cruise took us to the islands of Grand Cayman, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. We booked a private tour on Bonaire with Luc of Bonaire Photo Shoot. I had found him online a while ago and this was our first opportunity to tour with him. He has a 12-passenger custom built van, which he built himself over a period of years. It is an open air bus for unrestricted photography but with shade, and is quite ingenious with hidden storage and easy access. Luc is a former photographer and all-around great guy. There were five of us on the tour and we had a great time.

Unlike many Caribbean islands, Bonaire is largely unspoiled, and there are plenty of native flamingos, donkeys and tropical birds.

Flamingos! On the island of Bonaire
Gnarly Tree. Island of Bonaire, Caribbean Netherlands

Sorobon Beach is a popular spot for windsurfers.

Wind surfers at Sorobon Beach on the island of Bonaire
Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Wind surfers at Sorobon Beach on the island of Bonaire
Wild donkeys on the island of Bonaire
Fish sculpture on the beach. Island of Bonaire
Crashing waves along the eastern (Atlantic) coast of Bonaire
Crashing waves along the eastern (Atlantic) coast of Bonaire

Salt mining is still part of the economy on Bonaire, although the operations are now largely automated. Slaves were once used to harvest the salt, and they lived in the huts that remain along the beach.

Cargill salt works on the island of Bonaire

The marker points the way to one of many dive sites just off the beach.

Along the shore on the island of Bonaire
Slave huts on the island of Bonaire
Slave huts on the island of Bonaire
Semi Private. Te Amo Beach on the island of Bonaire
The 1000 Steps beach on the island of Bonaire
The 1000 Steps beach on the island of Bonaire
View of Goto Lake in Washington-Slagbaai National Park on the island of Bonaire
Goats on Bonaire
Views from Seru Largu viewpoint on the island of Bonaire
Seru Largu means “large hill” and from the top, you can see the capital city of Kralendijk and the little island of Klein Bonaire. There is a monument at the site which reads in the Papiamentu language as “Kristu Ayera Awe Semper” which means “Christ, Yesterday, Today and Forever”
Seru Largu means “large hill” and from the top, you can see the capital city of Kralendijk and the little island of Klein Bonaire. There is a monument at the site which reads in the Papiamentu language as “Kristu Ayera Awe Semper” which means “Christ, Yesterday, Today and Forever”
Kralendijk, Bonaire
Luc and his ‘Bonaire Photo Shoot’ van on the island of Bonaire

Being Knotty

Roped. In Kralendijk, Bonaire

For some reason, I have a thing for ropes and knots. I can’t tie a decent knot to save my life (even my shoes!) but I do like photographing them, especially those along docks and on boats. This is a small collection of photos from our recent cruise plus time in Florida.

Boats and boat stuff at the Bluffs Marina in Jupiter, Florida
Boats and boat stuff at the Bluffs Marina in Jupiter, Florida
Boats and boat stuff at the Bluffs Marina in Jupiter, Florida
One of the critical operations of a cruise ship departure is “letting go the ropes.” These were taken from the helipad during sailaway from Curacao aboard Celebrity Equinox
One of the critical operations of a cruise ship departure is “letting go the ropes.” These were taken from the helipad during sailaway from Curacao aboard Celebrity Equinox
Oranjestad, Aruba
Oranjestad, Aruba
Nautica. George Town, Grand Cayman
Nautica. George Town, Grand Cayman

Why Do People Litter?

Shete Boka National Park, Curacao

Monte’s recent post reminded me of this sign I came across on the island of Curacao. Litter, and trash in general, is a problem everywhere. This particular sign was in a national park, which thankfully appeared to have its litter problem well under control.

I need to get a sign like this and post on the road in and out of our neighborhood.

Artistry At Sea

The Solarium aboard Celebrity Apex

This is (finally) the final post of photos from our February cruise marathon. Completed galleries can be found on my Adobe Portfolio page for anyone wanting to see more.

Light fixture over the Martini Bar aboard Celebrity Apex
Light fixture over the Martini Bar aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex

Cruise ships have always had vast art displays on board. Even back in the early days of steamship travel, ships were known to have decor consisting of paintings, sculptures and murals. Modern cruise ships seem to be carrying this artistic theme even into their design. More and more we are seeing sweeping atriums, huge glass observation decks, and dramatic architectural features that are much more about form than function.

Pendulum-like sculpture aboard Celebrity Apex
Pendulum-like sculpture aboard Celebrity Apex
Pendulum-like sculpture aboard Celebrity Apex
Pendulum-like sculpture aboard Celebrity Apex

On our Celebrity Apex cruise, I tried to capture a bit of the flavor of t his art, as well as some of the design elements. Here is a small collection of what I saw.

The main pool deck area aboard Celebrity Apex
‘Eden’ lounge and restaurant aboard Celebrity Apex
Aboard Celebrity Apex
Collection of Champagne seals formed into little chairs. Le Grand Bistro dining room aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
The Theater aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex
Artwork aboard Celebrity Apex

Sailing On The Apex

Our stateroom #7231 aboard Celebrity Apex

I’m getting close to the end (you’re welcome) of the photos from our cruise marathon this past February. I’ve posted three galleries on my Adobe Portfolio page for anyone who just has to see more.

Our stateroom #7231 aboard Celebrity Apex
The Infinite Verandah was a bit of a letdown. When the window is open the climate control in the room shuts off. The shade covering the window at night can only be raised or lowered, so there is no way to use the balcony while someone in the room is still asleep.

I get a lot of comments about the size of cruise ships, especially from people who have never sailed on one, or sometimes have never even seen one. So I thought I would post some photos and make some comments about this particular ship plus show a brief comparison of ship sizes.

Le Grand Bistro dining room aboard Celebrity Apex
A machine almost as nice as Jeff’s!

Celebrity Apex is the second ship in what is known as the Edge Class that was introduced in 2018. The first ship of course was Edge (2018), followed by Apex (2020), Beyond (2022) and later this year, Ascent. There may be more in the pipeline but I’m not sure. Edge Class is the latest of three classes of ship, with the exception of some smaller specialty ships that sail exclusively in the Galapagos (they are on our long-term list but are quite pricey).

‘Eden’ lounge and restaurant aboard Celebrity Apex
‘Eden’ lounge and restaurant aboard Celebrity Apex
Guitarist Bryan James performs in Eden aboard Celebrity Apex

Cruise ships are generally compared in terms of Gross Tonnage (a measure of volume, not weight), length and passenger count. I’m using Celebrity’s ships for comparison, although there are many other ships with different lines, both larger and smaller.

From a previous cruise: Celebrity Constellation, Oasis of the Seas and Celebrity Beyond
The orange structure on the side is the Magic Carpet. It travels up and down the side of the ship and functions as a bar by day, a restaurant at night, and a tender platform when the ship is operating tenders to take guests to shore.

We don’t usually sail on ships when they are fairly new, because in general they are more pricey than ships that have been out a while. But in this case, we were already in Fort Lauderdale for our first two cruises, so by spreading the travel expenses over another cruise we were able to bring the average cost down. And we got a pretty good price for booking fairly late, and it gave us a chance to try out a ship sooner than we might otherwise.

The Solarium aboard Celebrity Apex
The main pool deck area aboard Celebrity Apex
Oceanview Cafe dining area aboard Celebrity Apex
Rooftop Garden area aboard Celebrity Apex
Rooftop Garden area aboard Celebrity Apex
Rooftop Garden area aboard Celebrity Apex

One of the recent trends among some of the cruise lines is to make the ships larger and larger. Royal Caribbean has the largest ships afloat, and will soon be introducing Icon of the Seas, which will carry 7,600 passengers. I’m sorry, but that is stupid big. Not to say we’ll never sail on her, but when our preference is ships 1/3 of the size, we aren’t going to be standing in line!

What always surprises us is that for the most part, the ships don’t feel crowded. Exceptions are sea days by the pool, and “lobster night” in the main dining rooms. Sometimes there is a special event going on in the central atrium (called different things on different ships) and those can get crowded. Other than that, Kathy & I have developed some routines that get us out and about before the crowds arrive (we call them “the nooners” although I’m aware that term has several meanings. 😉 ). There are often out of the way places where it is quiet and uncrowded, although that also means we have to walk a way to the bathrooms and retrieve our own drinks. 🙂

The main pool deck area aboard Celebrity Apex
Passageway along the pool deck aboard Celebrity Apex

The great thing about newer ships, however, is that the decor and architecture are beautiful. The layout, styling and technology have come a long way since we started cruising in 2000. There are more dining choices, more entertainment options, the theaters have new technologies and even the staterooms have fancy gadgets like temperature and lighting controls. It’s even possible to adjust the shades, lighting and temperature of a stateroom using an app, from anywhere on the ship. Not terribly useful, but there are cases where it might be.

Production show ‘Rockumentary’ in The Theater on Celebrity Apex
Cellist ‘Elanka’ performing in The Theater aboard Celebrity Apex
The Theater aboard Celebrity Apex
Cosmopolitan dining room aboard Celebrity Apex
Tuscan dining room aboard Celebrity Apex
Casino aboard Celebrity Apex

There were things we loved about Apex, and a few things that we didn’t care for. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but overall we liked the ship, but for our money we prefer the smaller and slightly older Solstice Class like Equinox that we sailed on for the first two cruises.

Cleaning the light fixture over the Martini Bar aboard Celebrity Apex

You Better Belize It!

Jaguar Temple, a Mayan structure at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize

After our visit to Key West, Celebrity Apex sailed to Belize. We had sort of visited Belize in 2020, but only to stop at Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island. This time we got to see the “real” Belize with a visit to Lamanai Archaeological Reserve.

From travelbelize.org: Lamanai (from the Yucatec Maya for “submerged crocodile”) was a city-state dating to 1500 BCE. Archaeological research has revealed that the site was continually occupied for 3,000 years until European contact. More than 700 Maya structures have been identified, but only a few have been excavated and studied, including a ball court, stelae, and principal structures like the Mask Temple, adorned by two impressive carved limestone masks over 13 ft. (3.9 m) in height.

The vast majority of the site remained unexcavated until the mid-1970s. Archaeological work has concentrated on the investigation and restoration of the larger structures, most notably the Mask Temple, Jaguar Temple, and High Temple. The summit of this latter structure affords a view across the surrounding jungle to a nearby lagoon, part of New River.

Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize
High Temple, a Mayan structure at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize
Restoration work in process at High Temple, a Mayan structure at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize
Mask Temple, a Mayan structure at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize
Mask Temple, a Mayan structure at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize
Jairo, one of our guides at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize

We were not able to climb the High Temple, as it was closed for restoration work. Instead, we were able to climb the Mask Temple. It doesn’t have the view of the High Temple, but it was interesting and fun to climb.

Yes, I climbed it! Mask Temple, a Mayan structure at Lamanai Archaeological Reserve, Belize

Getting to Lamanai involved a tender ride from the ship (there is no cruise ship dock in Belize), an hour plus bus ride to a boat, then a boat ride to the reserve. Once there, a lot of walking, then back to the boat and do it in reverse back the ship. Fortunately, between the return boat ride and the bus ride, we got lunch!

Colorful canopies shade the walkway along the waterfront in Belize City, Belize
Colorful canopies shade the walkway along the waterfront in Belize City, Belize
Colorful waterfront in Belize City, Belize
Colorful waterfront in Belize City, Belize
Colorful buildings along the waterfront in Belize City, Belize

The ruins were very interesting, and our guides did a good job explaining the various pyramids and their uses. The Mayan culture has largely disappeared, although their descendants, including our guides, help keep the heritage alive.

Celebrity Apex anchored off the coast of Belize

Colorful Curacao

The colorful waterfront of Willemstad, Curacao

After our stop on Bonaire, we sailed to the island of Curacao. Like Bonaire, we had visited previously but it was a number of years ago. Things hadn’t changed a lot, but there were a few obvious differences from our prior visit.

Arriving in Curacao aboard Celebrity Equinox
Colorful mural on a building in Willemstad, Curacao

The cruise port on Curacao is the capital city of Willemstad. The colorful waterfront and the Queen Emma floating bridge are two of the main symbols of this beautiful island. Downtown Willemstad is an easy walk from the cruise terminal. Although we made the walk three times, and it got a little longer each time!

Colors of all kinds in the New Market, a marketplace in Willemstad, Curacao
Colors of all kinds in the New Market, a marketplace in Willemstad, Curacao
Colors of all kinds in the New Market, a marketplace in Willemstad, Curacao
Colors of all kinds in the New Market, a marketplace in Willemstad, Curacao
Colors of all kinds in the New Market, a marketplace in Willemstad, Curacao
Colors of all kinds in the New Market, a marketplace in Willemstad, Curacao

The Queen Emma Bridge is a floating bridge, hinged on one end with an engine and propulsion unit on the other end that allows the bridge to open, allowing ship traffic to pass in St Anna Bay. We were fortunate to be able to see the bridge open several times throughout the day, and from both sides of the water. When there is a lot of ship traffic and the bridge needs to stay open for more than a few minutes, there is a free ferry that will take pedestrians from one side to the other. We only saw that happen once, as a large cargo ship was escorted out of the bay, and the bridge stayed open long enough for the tugs to return. And yes, it is possible to stay on the bridge when it opens for a long time, and it is possible to get off, but only on one end. So be careful if you have somewhere to be (like the ship?)!

Street scene in Willemstad, Curacao
Ship traffic on the St Anna Bay through Willemstad, Curacao
The Queen Emma Bridge opens to allow ship traffic to pass in St Anna Bay in Willemstad, Curacao
Punda Love Heart sculpture covered with padlocks on the waterfront of Willemstad, Curaçao
Street scene in Willemstad, Curacao
Interesting artworks in Willemstad, Curacao

When our ship first arrived in Curacao, Kathy & I walked into town and spent several hours walking around. We walked all over, including through the New Market, a public market offering all kinds of items, from clothing to produce and beyond. The best part for me was all the color there and in the town. It made for some interesting photography, for sure!

After our walkabout we headed back toward the cruise dock, stopping for lunch at the “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar.” Yeah, it was a tourist trap, but it was close to where we needed to meet our tour, which was scheduled for that afternoon.

It is precisely our human diversity that keeps this ship afloat to resist the storms.
Waterfront of Willemstad, Curaçao viewed from the Queen Emma Bridge
Waterfront of Willemstad, Curaçao viewed from the Rif Fort, former fort turned shopping mall
Gelato cow. Willemstad, Curacao
When in doubt, use the apostrophe?
Building in Willemstad, Curacao
Flamingo mural in Willemstad, Curacao

Our tour took us back into town, where we retraced a number of the steps from earlier in the day. This time we had a guide and narration, however, so we learned a bit more about the town, its history and architecture. After our walk, we boarded a bus for a tour through the city and a stop at the Curacao Liqueur Distillery. Curacao liqueur is a bitter orange liqueur that can be enjoyed on its own, or used as flavoring in numerous cocktails.

Cruise ships Silver Dawn and Celebrity Equinox viewed from atop the Rif Fort, former fort turned shopping mall in Willemstad, Curacao

After our distillery visit we were taken to a local restaurant, where we were served local cuisine, including baked chicken, plantain and rice & peas. Except for the fact that we weren’t too hungry after a big lunch, it was a yummy experience.

Tour of the Curacao Liqueur Distillery in Willemstad, Curacao
Tour of the Curacao Liqueur Distillery in Willemstad, Curacao
View of the harbor from atop the Queen Juliana bridge during our tour of Willemstad, Curacao

Our tour brought us back to the cruise dock in the late afternoon, and we debated whether or not to return to the ship. I really wanted to head back into town in order to photograph the bridge and the waterfront at dusk. We decided that if we went back to the ship we would likely not leave again, so despite being tired and thirsty we headed back into town. We found some bottled water and a place to chill while we waited the hour or so before twilight.

The Queen Emma Bridge opens to allow ship traffic to pass in St Anna Bay in Willemstad, Curacao

Our efforts were rewarded, as we not only got to witness another bridge opening, but we were treated to some really gorgeous light on the buildings as the sun set. Soon after, the lights came on on the bridge and I was able to capture the photos I had hoped for. We then walked back to the ship one last time, grabbed a quick shower and headed for drinks and dinner. My Garmin tracker recorded 15,672 steps for the day, so those drinks and dinner were well deserved!

The Queen Emma Bridge and the waterfront of Willemstad, Curacao
The Queen Emma Bridge and the waterfront of Willemstad, Curacao
The Queen Emma Bridge and the waterfront of Willemstad, Curacao

Bon Bini To Bonaire

Swimmers and windsurfers at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire

‘Bon Bini’ means ‘Welcome’ in Papiamentu, which is the common local language on Bonaire.

Flamingo in the distance on Bonaire
Donkey on Bonaire

This was only our second visit to this lovely island, as not too many cruise ships stop there, opting instead for the more popular Aruba and Curacao. We last visited in 2007, and while we knew we enjoyed the island, we hadn’t remembered a whole lot about it. I tried to set up a private tour, but we couldn’t generate enough interest on our message boards to make it cost effective, so we booked a ship tour to see the highlights.

Cargill Salt Works on the island of Bonaire
Cargill Salt Works on the island of Bonaire
Cargill Salt Works on the island of Bonaire
Salt crystal on Bonaire

The main industry on Bonaire other than tourism is salt. Yes, salt. There is a huge Cargill salt facility there, where they evaporate sea water in large ponds, scrape away the salt then move it out to container ships to be sent around the world.

Slave huts along the beach on Bonaire. The huts were originally built to house the slaves that worked the salt operations. They have been preserved to document some of the history of the island.
Along the beach on Bonaire.
Slave huts along the beach on Bonaire. The huts were originally built to house the slaves that worked the salt operations. They have been preserved to document some of the history of the island.
Slave huts along the beach on Bonaire. The huts were originally built to house the slaves that worked the salt operations. They have been preserved to document some of the history of the island.

The island is very dry and arid, and is probably best known as a diver’s paradise due to the shallow and clean water. We enjoy looking at water more than getting in it, but there is plenty to see and do for everyone. Flamingos are also very common on Bonaire, and while they are generally pretty shy, we did manage to come across a few.

Crashing waves along the eastern (Atlantic) coast of Bonaire
Marker commemorating the history of this stretch of beach on the east coast of Bonaire, a site of many shipwrecks and attempts to minimize them.

Along several beaches are restored slave huts. These huts were used to shelter the workers that were brought here in the early days of salt production, before the implementation of heavy machinery. The huts are pretty to look at, even though they represent a less than pleasant past.

Sebastians Beach Bar at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Windsurfing shop at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Windsurfing shop at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Swimmers and windsurfers at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Swimmers and windsurfers at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
She wouldn’t get out of my shot…what could I do? Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Swimmers and windsurfers at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Sebastians Beach Bar at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Coconut weather forecast. Sorobon Beach, Bonaire
Windsurfing shop at Sorobon Beach, Bonaire

The Atlantic coast has several beaches with huge waves, and the prevailing winds make places like Sorobon Beach especially attractive for wind surfing and kite boarding. There is also a place on the island where you can rent go karts that are powered by sails.

Government Office Building in Kralendijk, Bonaire
Downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire
Downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire
Downtown Kralendijk, Bonaire

The town of Kralendijk reflects the Dutch influence of the island, in the buildings and architecture. We spent a little time walking around the area close to the ship, which included a marketplace with locally made arts and crafts. A good place to pick up a flamingo souvenir!

Bon Salud! (Cheers!)

Arriving in Bonaire aboard Celebrity Equinox
Windstar “Star Legend” in Bonaire during our arrival aboard Celebrity Equinox
Arriving in Bonaire aboard Celebrity Equinox

Ambling Around Antigua

View from The Lookout, part of the Shirley Heights Military Complex of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site

On Antigua I was pleasantly reminded of the joy of a pre-arranged private tour with a small group and a knowledgeable local driver/guide. Kathy & I have done this previously – we arrange a tour for just us or for two or three couples, then post on one of the roll call message boards for someone to share the tour with us, splitting the cost. We have met some lovely people that way, since, at least in our experience, people interested in this type of tour are travelers like us. Not photographers necessarily, but people interested in a little slower pace with more details.

In this case, we responded to someone else’s post, and ended up meeting Susan and John, a very nice couple from Indiana. We had lunch with them on one of our sea days to get acquainted. Unfortunately Susan was not able to join us for the actual tour, so there were just three of us plus Emelda, our guide.

We started our tour with a stop at Betty’s Hope Historic Sugar Plantation. We found the remains of an old sugar plantation, with two windmills, and the ruins of several buildings including a still house, where rum was once produced.

Betty’s Hope Historic Sugar Plantation near Pares, Antigua
Betty’s Hope Historic Sugar Plantation near Pares, Antigua
Betty’s Hope Historic Sugar Plantation near Pares, Antigua
Betty’s Hope Historic Sugar Plantation near Pares, Antigua
Betty’s Hope Historic Sugar Plantation near Pares, Antigua

We then proceeded to Devil’s Bridge National Park, a place with crashing waves and a blow hole. The blow hole wasn’t blowing too much during our visit, which likely reflected the lovely weather we were having!  We did get to see a few bursts, however.

Crashing waves at Devil’s Bridge National Park, Antigua
Crashing waves at Devil’s Bridge National Park, Antigua

After Devil’s Bridge it was on to Nelson’s Dockyard, another national park which is known for its marina but is much more. Included within the park is a number of historic sites, including forts, lookouts, beaches, hiking trails and more. We spent quite a bit of time in the various locations, since there was so much to see. It was quite windy at the higher elevations, which made it very pleasant without air conditioning – but hold on to your hat!

Nelsons Dockyard Marina, Antigua
Crossing the Atlantic the hard way – by row boat. Nelsons Dockyard Marina, Antigua
Boats and yachts from around the world. Nelsons Dockyard Marina, Antigua
View of Eric Clapton’s home from The Blockhouse, part of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site, Antigua
The Blockhouse, part of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site
The Blockhouse, part of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site
The Blockhouse, part of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site
The Lookout, part of the Shirley Heights Military Complex of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site
The Lookout, part of the Shirley Heights Military Complex of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site
The Lookout, part of the Shirley Heights Military Complex of the Nelsons Dockyard World Heritage Site

Our last stop was at St. Barnabas Anglican Church. The church is one of the oldest Protestant church buildings in the western hemisphere, dating from the 1670s. The church has a green color due to the high copper content of the stone, which came from a nearby quarry.

St. Barnabas Anglican Church near Liberta, Antigua. One of the oldest Protestant church buildings in the western hemisphere, dating from the 1670s. The church has a green color due to the high copper content of the stone, which came from a nearby quarry.
St. Barnabas Anglican Church near Liberta, Antigua. One of the oldest Protestant church buildings in the western hemisphere, dating from the 1670s. The church has a green color due to the high copper content of the stone, which came from a nearby quarry.

After the church it was back through town and to the ship to prepare for our return to Florida and the end of Cruise #1.