Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 5: Curacao on the Carnival Vista

On our last port of call in La Romana, we had no specific plans, so we got to sleep in. Today we were booked for a two tank dive with Caribbean Sea Sports.....and we still got to sleep in! Yay! When we first booked this cruise, I noticed that our port times for Curacao were from 1 pm until 10 pm. My first thought when I saw those times? Night dive! I immediately started researching dive operators and whether or not we could do a night dive with them.

Since we were cruising in December, sunset was early enough to allow full darkness for a night dive and still give us plenty of time to get back to the ship. Works for me! A late arrival time into Willemstad would allow us to have a relaxed morning before heading to the dive shop.

We are really getting spoiled to having our coffee and pastries on the balcony for first breakfast! Cindy and I took our time over coffee while watching the coast of Curacao slide by in the near distance. Our dive gear was already prepped, so all we needed to do was grab it and go when we docked. Actually, we had lunch before reaching Willemstad as well. The weather was so nice that we decided to have lunch on our balcony as well. We headed up to Lido and I grabbed a BLT and chips while Cindy opted for a Reuben. With a light breakfast and a moderate lunch, we were set for food until we got back. We made sure to have a couple of Cliff bars in our bag just in case, though.

Approaching Willemstad

I'm glad we happened to have our cabin on the port side of the ship, as we got to watch the pilot boat approach. It never fails to amaze me when I watch these boats approach the ship. These huge cruise ships, with their stabilization technology, make for smooth, comfortable sailing, at least for the most part. While we may feel only the merest bit of motion, the smaller boats look like a carnival ride.

Here comes the pilot boat

As we watched the pilot boat get closer, it was pitching and rolling wildly, while our ship continued sedately on course. I even joked to Cindy about how it reminded me of one of our dive boats in Belize.

And it takes a big wave

I'd like to take a ride on a pilot boat one of these days, just to experience what we watched. I've seen this on several occasions, and always wonder if they are strapped into seats or just develop a keen sense of balance. 

Coming alongside

Once the pilot boarded the Vista, we picked up a little more speed and soon we were approaching the pier. Keith and Barbara were still feeling under the weather, so they opted not to dive again today. Cindy and I proceeded to the Red Frog Pub for "priority debarkation." Basically, a bunch of us were just milling around until a uniformed crew member said: "Right this way, please." We dutifully followed her down a few flights of stairs and shortly thereafter we were off the ship.

We met J.J. from Caribbean Sea Sports, who drove us to their dive shop, about a ten minute ride away. He dropped us off near the shop and a short walk later we met Marcel, our divemaster for the day. Since we paid ahead of time, all we needed to do was fill out the obligatory release forms and start assembling our gear. We also needed to analyze our gas mixture, as we were diving nitrox today. Our tanks checked out, just as I figured they would, and Marcel gave us our dive briefing.

CSS dive shop
photo courtesy of Caribbean Sea Sports

When booking this dive, we had several options, from an afternoon boat dive to a shore dive from several our choice of several locations. The night dive would be a shore dive on the dive operator's "house reef" near the dive shop. As a group, we agreed that it would be most interesting to make both the afternoon dive and night dive from the same location so we could directly compare the two.

If you've read my blog on our day in Grand Turk (I really hope you did), you'll remember how I made a big deal about not carrying my camera that day. Well.....once again, I didn't bring my camera. I had a good reason, though. Doing a night dive requires a good light source, which we both had. I do have a video light for my camera, but it isn't bright enough for use as a dive light. It's great for close up work, but not for distance illumination. So, I could carry one or the other. Obviously, I'd need the dive light for the night dive, which ruled out carrying the video light/camera setup. While I could've carried the camera for the afternoon dive, I didn't know if I could secure it adequately for the night dive. I made the decision to leave it on the ship as it just wasn't practical to bring both.

Marcel, our DM (the diver in front)
photo courtesy of Caribbean Sea Sports

For this dive, we walked to the end of the pier in front of their shop and stepped right in. We spent the first few minutes of the dive looking for a seahorse that had taken up residence on one of the pier's supports. We didn't find it, so Marcel led us off along the reef. It seemed like there was a lot of debris on the bottom, and I made note of it to ask Marcel when we got back to the surface. As we neared the end of our dive, Marcel led us up this gradual incline to our safety stop depth. Our exit was at a small beach near the dive shop.

Dive #1 - afternoon
scanned from printed log

When asked about the debris we saw, Marcel informed us that some of it came from a pier that was wrecked during a hurricane. Cindy asked about all the empty bottles we found, and he said these came from passing party boats and yachts. "These people will finish a bottle of Champagne and just toss it overboard. There is no way to catch them at it, so it becomes a mess." 

Even with a 50 minute dive, we still had plenty of time before sunset, so I knew we would have a long surface interval. Marcel suggested we go to the nearby hotel restaurant and grab some dinner if we wanted to eat. With our recent hearty lunch, neither of us was hungry, so we just hung out at the dive shop, relaxing and enjoying a day on a Caribbean beach.

Nature treated us to a beautiful sunset while we organized our gear for our upcoming dive. This would be Cindy's first night dive, but she showed no signs apprehension or discomfort. If anything, she seemed excited to try something new. That's my girl! 

Because we were diving the same location, Marcel's pre-dive brief mainly covered how we would use the dive lights for signaling. He cautioned us not to keep our lights shining on parrotfish too long, as that would cause them to move from their sleep position and destroy a protective bubble they created each night to sleep. Yet another reason I love diving. I learn something new every time.

By design, this dive would be limited to 45 minutes, more or less. We had to be somewhat cognizant of the time, and 45 minutes would be adequate to see what we wanted to see. Once again, we made our entry from the end of the pier. The next time someone tells me "Take a long walk off a short pier" I can truthfully answer "Been there, done that" and leave them wondering. 

We actually found the seahorse this time after a brief search. As we progressed through our dive, we found several lionfish, but not as many as I expected. That's a good thing, too! The really cool thing was the way our lights reflected off a huge lobster. It was almost iridescent, and I wish I could've gotten a photo of that. 

All too soon our dive was over and we made our exit at the same beach. As we walked out of the water, I noticed a group of three or four sitting around a fire, enjoying the evening. I would've loved to had a Creature from the Black Lagoon costume on as we exited the water. That would've been hilarious, at least to me. Then again, I probably would've gotten my butt kicked, too.

Dive # 2 - night
scanned from printed log

We rinsed our gear off in the outside shower and rinse tank. It would be too late to rinse our gear on Lido, so this worked out perfectly for us. Marcel insisted we take our time rinsing our gear and getting it stowed in our dive bags properly. We didn't want to hold him up, as he still had to drive us back to the ship. He assured us that we weren't holding anything up, as he had the next day off. "Just take your time and take care of your dive gear." Thanks, Marcel! 

Back to the ship
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

Almost aboard
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

He dropped us off at the cruise terminal and we got back on the ship in very short order. As it was already 7:30 pm, there was no way we'd get cleaned up in time to make it for dinner. Of course, we knew this ahead of time and had already planned to have dinner in the Lido buffet. A quick detour to the cabin to drop off our dive gear and we were headed up to Lido. I grabbed an assortment of food, from a rice pilaf to chicken strips and satisfied my hunger. 

Back to the cabin to shower and change into our nightly wear. Cindy looked through the Fun Times while I was showering and thought going to the "High Seas Karaoke" in the Limelight Lounge would be fun. Ummm, sure, babe, sounds like fun. I'd much rather listen to a bunch of amateurs sing than watch some of the ship's professionals entertain us. Oh, wait, there's no sarcasm font, is there? 

Hey, look, some empty seats next to Keith and Barbara. As we plopped down beside them, I asked how they were feeling. Even though they were feeling a little better, they decided to scrub tomorrow's dive in Aruba with us. I'll admit that some of our fellow passengers actually did a good job. None of them were truly "bad," but one or two really knocked it out of the park. Our pick up time was 10 am the next day so we could stay up a little. That also meant, yes, you guessed it, coffee and pastries on the balcony! Most cool.

While this concluded our day, I want to introduce y'all to some of our other traveling group that I've mentioned, but not yet really written about. Cindy's brother Brian, his wife Denise and their son Brian Marcus ("B-Man") had some really cool excursions in most of the ports. 

Brian, Denise and B-Man took a private excursion featuring the highlights of Curacao's east side. Of course we didn't get to ask them about their excursion until the following night at dinner. We got to hear about their day in Curacao and Aruba. My Aruba blog will be out after I post this one, by the way. They seemed to have a good time in Curacao, and judging from some of the photos I saw B-Man did some exploring after dark as well.

Denise & Brian Weinert
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

Vista at sunset
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

Lighted arches
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

B-Man takes a selfie
photo courtesy of Brian M.Weinert

I believe all of us had fun in Curacao, whether diving, exploring or just hanging out on the ship and enjoying a little downtime. We have one more port day, Aruba, then two sea days back to Miami. What will tomorrow bring? 

For your convenience, here are links to the rest of my blogs in the series thus far:

Coming up next, we visit Aruba!

Until next time.....

carpe cerevisi


  1. Good work on your blog. How is the air con on Vista? We were on the Magic and our room was always to hot. Do you take a fan with you?

    1. Howdy, Brenda! The a/c, at least in our cabin, worked great. In fact, we had to turn the thermostat up a little as the room was definitely cool. We've never taken a fan with us on any of our cruises.

  2. These are fun to read. Looks like lots of fun.

    1. Thank you, Jeff! I'm glad you are enjoying them. We totally love cruising, and are always looking forward to the next one.