Monday, January 29, 2018

Day 6: Aruba on the Carnival Vista

Hey, this whole "sleeping in on port days" thing is getting to be a real habit. We arrived at our scheduled time of 8 a.m., but we got to sleep in today anyway. When I set up our dives for Aruba, the dive operator said they'd pick us up at 10. Sleep in, and dive? Yes, please!

We had our now standard coffee and pastries on the balcony around 8:30, as usual. And, as usual, we were able to enjoy the relaxed pace of not having to get up and rush around. We were able to get a good view of the terminal area, as we were tied up on the port side of the ship. We watched many people as they headed towards their own excursions, much like we did in La Romana. 

I mentioned before in previous blogs how Cindy and I prefer to remain as unplugged as possible when cruising. Sometimes this can be a bit of a problem, as you'll soon see. When we are getting picked up by a dive operator at a given time, we like to be at the appointed meeting place a little early, usually about 15 minutes early, just to make sure we don't get missed. Today was no different, and we got to the meeting place and waited for our pickup......and waited........and waited. Hhhhmmmm, this isn't good. We waited until 10:30, then decided to go back to the ship. We figured there was a disconnect with the pickup time. Since Aruba is one hour ahead of Miami, or "ship's time," we wondered if they had already come and gone. This happened to us before, in St. Thomas. When booking with a dive operator, I'm always very specific about our port times. I make sure to state that we are on "Galveston time," or "Miami time," so that they can make the appropriate adjustments and pick us up at the proper time.

Remember that part about being unplugged? Call me cheap, or frugal as I prefer, but I didn't even take my phone out of airplane mode. International roaming/data charges? No thank you. I didn't feel like spending $10 for 24 hours worth of internet, either. I found out after we got back that the dive operator sent us an e-mail a couple of days before we got to Aruba that their boat had some mechanical issues and they weren't going to be able to take us diving. Of course, that was after the fact, so once we got back on board and dropped off our dive gear, we reconfigured into "shopping and tourist" mode and headed into the local area.

Downtown Oranjestad

We try to be flexible when traveling, as things can and do happen. Yeah, we were disappointed that we wouldn't be diving, but that just gives us an excuse to go back. With Christmas coming up, this would be a good place to find gifts for family and friends. One of our favorite stores to hit in the Caribbean (well, anywhere that has one, really) is Del Sol. This company sells color-changing clothing and accessories, and we try to get a t-shirt from each new port we visit. These shirts are location specific, and we have some from Cozumel to St. Maarten. There are a few Del Sol stores in the US as well, and we even have a shirt from Durango, CO. 

As we strolled about, we ran into Keith and Barbara. They had been under the weather all cruise, so they weren't diving today, either. We hung out with them for a while, visiting several shops. They, too, had no specific plan, so we took in the sights while shopping. This bright creature caught my eye and naturally I wanted a photo of it. 

A blue horse??

This is her story

OK, cool, but why a blue horse? Not that I have anything against blue, I like blue, but it is an unusual color. Maybe "a horse of a different color?" Some of y'all will get that, most probably won't. You are welcome to leave your guess in the comments section below. We spent about another hour or so shopping and sightseeing and headed back to the ship. Our first breakfast was light enough that we were getting hungry. I knew we should've had second breakfast before leaving the ship!

Wait, time for another photo!

I don't see too many of these in our travels, so it's always fun to take advantage of the ones we find. I'm glad there is usually someone around who's happy to take our photo so both of us can be in it. From there, our walk to the ship was very short. There was no line to speak of, as most were still on their excursions or shopping. While I know the Vista is a huge ship, this really gets driven home when there's a smaller ship tied up alongside it. 

Carnival Vista and MV Freewinds

For some reason, that smaller ship intrigued me. It was obviously a passenger vessel, and the name placard identified it as the "Sea Organization Motor Vessel Freewinds." Without internet access, I knew I'd have to wait until I got back to Miami to find out more about this ship. It had that "old school" look about it, if for no other reason than the open style lifeboats. 

MV Freewinds

Once we got back to Miami, and I had internet access back on my phone, I Googled the name and discovered that the MV Freewinds belongs to Sea Org, which is part of the Church of Scientology. A church with its own cruise ship? Interesting, to say the least.

We dropped our gifts and souvenirs off in the cabin and headed up to Lido for lunch. Being a port day, we had our pick of eating venues with no lines. I'm sure several of my long-time readers will have no problem guessing what I picked, and you'd be right.

Blue Iguana pork tacos

I'll admit that I have impossibly high standards when it comes to this type of food. That's why it constantly amazes me, then, at how good I find these! Between the perfectly seasoned meat to the fresh toppings, these tacos stand out as something I'd happily eat anytime, any day. Good for you, Carnival! 

This was our last port, and last opportunity to dive on this trip. We had two sea days back, so after lunch, we took our dive gear up to the aft Lido for another good rinse. During the previous evening in Curacao, we rinsed our gear, but I wanted to give it another thorough rinse and allow it to dry completely. The aft Lido pools were practically empty, so we had no problem finding several loungers to spread our gear out on. It was hot and sunny in Aruba, so our gear dried in no time. We packed it all up and took it back to the cabin. 

We then ventured forward to the Serenity Deck and relaxed in the hot tub. By now people were starting to return to the ship and the common areas were beginning to fill up.There were a few people already in the tub, but we still had plenty of room. I struck up a conversation with a man from Florida, who happened to be a private pilot. It was fun talking about aviation-related subjects. Another gentleman from Philadelphia confirmed for me that an authentic Philly cheesesteak is made with Cheez Whiz. That's a whole 'nother story, but suffice it to say it finally put that question to rest. 

About the time I started on my second, or third, adult beverage, the Vista got underway for Miami. Sailaway from the for me! In this part of the Caribbean, so close to Venezuela, I saw numerous drilling and production rigs on each side of us. Having been a rig medic for Sedco Forex (now part of Transocean) many years ago, I'm still drawn to drilling rigs, almost as much as aircraft......almost. I took a few photos of rigs as we passed by, but with a small pocket camera, it was hard to get a good picture from a distance.

Drilling rigs

Our view didn't last too long, though, as sunset was coming on fast. Add one more reason we enjoy cruising later in the year: watching a beautiful sunset before dinner. I have soooo many sunset photos from our previous cruises I could make an entire album of nothing but sunsets. Most are good, some spectacular, and some not worth keeping. 

Sunset in Aruba

A glance at my watch told me it was time to head to the cabin and get cleaned up for dinner. Reluctantly Cindy and I took our leave and made our way below. After a hot and sunny day in Aruba, then soaking in a hot tub, a shower was definitely called for. We took our time and enjoyed listening to some more Christmas music on our mp3 player while we got ready for dinner. 

Heading back to Miami

Both of us were anxious to hear how the rest of our group enjoyed their day. I knew the Weinerts had booked an excursion through Carnival and wanted to hear about their experience touring Aruba. I figured they would have some pretty cool photos, too.

Appteizer: Caprese Salad
Tomato and fresh mozzarella, balsamico, virgin olive oil, basil

This is another of those appetizers that I normally order two of. This time, though, I ordered only one, as the entree looked good and I wanted to save room for it. The tomatoes were firm with just the right amount of acidity. The mozzarella, combined with fresh basil and olive oil complemented the tomatoes and made the whole dish special. Just a touch of salt and pepper completed this most pleasing appetizer.

Main: "Antillean Style Grilled Chicken"
Marinated with fresh pineapple juice and Ketjab Manis. Grilled yam and pineapple on mashed potatoes. Served with a peanut and coco dressing.

Wow! This entree was one of the featured "port" entrees and gives me a reason to go back to Aruba. The chicken was moist and tender, with a spicy and crunchy breading. It was fork tender and when combined with the peanut dressing made for one of the best entrees I've ever had on a Carnival ship. 

Dessert: Butter pecan ice cream

While I can get butter pecan ice cream anywhere, I enjoy this treat just as much on the ship. After such a phenomenal entree, this was the perfect finish. I was pleasantly full, but not quite to the "waddling from the table" stage. 

So, how did the others enjoy their day? Very much so, apparently. Brian, Denise and B-Man told us all about their tour. They got a good overview of Aruba, including the Alto Vista Chapel, Casibari rock formations, the natural bridges and the California Lighthouse. 

Enjoying the view
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

Make sure you click on the above photo and see if you can find our ship in the background. This is a good photo to demonstrate just how small Aruba is. We docked on the south side of the island and their tour focused on points along the north side.

Welcome to....a bridge?
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

Natural rock "bridge"
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

California Lighthouse
photo courtesy of Denise Weinert

B-Man adds his view of the lighthouse
photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

As if we didn't get enough time in the hot tubs during the day, Keith, Barbara, Denise, B-Man and I decided to spend some more time in the Serenity hot tubs after dinner. Cindy had her fill already, so she opted to stay in the cabin and watch......GASSSP.......some network TV. We enjoyed just hanging out and recapping our cruise so far. We even started talking about where and when our next cruise would be. 

In what felt like just a few minutes, our two-hour soak in the hot tub ended with us heading to our respective cabins. One more quick shower to wash off the chlorine and I was ready to sit out on our balcony and listen to the water rushing by, watch the stars and consider just how lucky I was to have this opportunity. 

Two more sea days, then our time on the Vista will be finished, at least for now. 

Coming up next, you'll be able to read about those fun days at sea. 

For your convenience, here are the links to the previous blogs in this series:

My Grand View of the Carnival Vista (first in a series)

Day 1: Embarkation on the Carnival Vista

Day 2: Our First Fun Day at Sea on the Carnival Vista

Day 3: Grand Turk on the Carnival Vista

Day 4: La Romana on the Carnival Vista

Day 5: Curacao on the Carnival Vista

Until next time.......

carpe cerevisi


  1. wow!! That Scientology ship...very interesting. Nice post, sounds like a fun cruise.

    1. Thank you, Jeff! I was totally surprised when I was finally able to Google the ship name. Not what I was expecting, that's for sure. The whole cruise was fun, and we are already trying to find our next one.

  2. Nice post. Love caprese salad. I think that MIA diving boat needs to PAY YOU for not showing up ... time is precious, always, but especially so on vacation, but I'm impressed you kept a positive attitude about it.

    1. I'm tellin' ya, man, their caprese salad RAWWKS! I'm not kidding when I say I typically order two of them. In all fairness, the dive op *did* send me a message via e-mail a couple of days before we got there. I'm just to cheap to pay for internet access to check stuff like that.