Tag Archives: vacation

On Island Time in Aruba

This past winter in New York just didn’t want to quit. As an East Coast native, you’d think I’d be used to our harsh and unpredictable winters by now, but this one just kept zagging on us. One weekend we were lounging in the park, enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree temperatures; the next we were huddled inside, braving our third major snowstorm of the year. Don’t let anyone tell you that climate change isn’t real, kids.

It kind of bums me out that Spring Break ceases to be a thing once you’ve exited the academic world. We could all use a break during the long months between the holidays and the first signs of summer. I try my darndest to get out of town at some point during the winter/early spring. As much as I love the city, a little sunshine is extremely beneficial to my mental health. So when my parents planned a late winter getaway to Aruba, I decided to tag along (with their permission, of course – as an only child I’m a pro third-wheeler, but I know my boundaries).

Beach 1

Most of our time on the island, just 18 miles north of Venezuela, was spent at the beach or pool at our resort. I was very grateful for the time to just chill out and actually read a book for once. I finished John Darnielle’s Universal Harvester and Nicola Yoon’s The Sun is Also a Star, two very different but equally excellent reads, while enjoying the (surprisingly strong) Caribbean sun. Knowing my parents, of course, we weren’t content to just plop for the whole week. We needed to get out and see some of the island.

Natural Pool 2

We woke up early one morning to take a Jeep ride out Arikok National Park, which makes up a good chunk of the northeast part of the island. Arikok’s terrain and shoreline stand in stark contrast to the sandy beaches of the island’s south side. It’s much more rough around the edges, featuring huge limestone formations, cliffs, and fields of aloe plants. It’s cliche, but it honestly felt like we’d traveled to a completely different island in the 30 minute ride from our resort to the park.

Natural Pool 1

The tour guides drove us out to the Natural Pool, one of Arikok’s top attractions, for a bit of snorkeling. It was kind of amazing to get to swim in this one calm little pond, while the waves of the Caribbean crashed on the rocks around us. We saw some great local fish, and I only hit my head on the rocks once! From there, we got to check out the Natural Bridge, ate some delicious pastechi, and took in the view from the comfort of our Jeep.

 

One of the last stops on the tour was the Alto Vista Chapel, a tiny Catholic chapel in the hills just outside the town of Noord. The chapel stands on the site of the original church built by Venezuelan missionaries in 1750. The original church was abandoned in 1816 after a plague hit the area, but a schoolteacher raised funds to rebuild it in 1952. Though I’m not particularly religious, I was raised Catholic and something about this church resonated with me more than others I’ve visited. Maybe it was the warmth of yellow walls, or the striking statue of the Virgin Mary at the altar, or just the serenity of its location high above the ocean. The place almost demands that you take a moment to sit down and just be still. Whether you feel like praying is totally up to you.

Church 1

Later in our trip, we took a sunset catamaran cruise around the south side of the island. I’ll be real with you, I don’t have much to say about this part of the trip other than a) I love sunsets, b) I love boats, and c) I love taking pictures of myself with sunset lighting on a boat. Also drinks were included. So that’s cool.

Boat Selfie

I had a really lovely time in Aruba and would go back in a minute. This time with more cash for the casino, of course.


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How to Cruise Like a Pro – Bermuda Edition

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Every summer, I join my dad’s side of the family (all 22 of them) for our annual family reunion. This usually consists of a few days in Upstate New York, but every couple of years we’ll venture out of the northeast. This year we decided to return to the high seas with a five-day cruise to Bermuda on Royal Carribean’s Explorer of the Seas. This was my fourth cruise and second time in Bermuda, and at this point I feel like I’ve gotten the cruise routine down. So how does one cruise like a pro? Read on, dear traveler.

1. Pick the right port.

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The port you depart from is almost as important as the one to which you’re sailing. You’ll probably end up staying a night or two in that city before or after the cruise, so you’ll want to make sure that that place is somewhere you’d like to visit. This all depends on where you’re going, of course. Port Canaveral, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale are pretty common departure points for Carribean cruises, and I, as a 20-something, would personally much rather stay the night in Miami. There are also departure ports around the world, and there may be one within driving distance of your home. I’m lucky enough to live near New York City, a common departure port for cruises to Bermuda and transatlantic voyages. The first time we sailed out of New York, my parents and I drove into the port a few hours before go time and parked at the dock. That’s pretty damn convenient if you ask me.

2. You’re gonna want a drink package.

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While you can eat til you burst on a cruise and not pay a cent extra, drinks (aside from tea, coffee, water, and some juices) are unfortunately not included in your fare. And believe me, you’re gonna want a drink or five when you’re at sea all day. To save cruisers a little bit of a heart attack when they receive their bill, a lot of cruise lines are now offering prepaid drink packages. For a few extra dollars a day, you can drink to your hearts content. Royal Carribean offers a few different levels of drink packages to accommodate everyone’s thirst. I went with a package that gave me unlimited beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages, and I’d say it was definitely worth it.

3. Get off the boat, dummy!

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This probably seems like a given, but a lot of folks on my cruise actually never set foot on the island once we arrived in Bermuda. If that’s what you want to do, go for it, but I’m a fan of exploring. Definitely look into the excursions your cruise line offers. When you have limited time in a new place, it’s nice to have someone guiding your adventures.

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My family decided on a snorkeling excursion with a local tour company. We cruised around the island on a small boat and stopped near a reef for some snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It was a nice, relaxing day out and the weather was fantastic. It also helped that they were serving complimentary Rum Swizzle all day.

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Since we were in port overnight, we decided to take it easy the next day with a trip to Horseshoe Bay. We laid out, did a little exploring, and took advantage of some excellent photo ops.

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Cruising definitely isn’t for everyone. It’s expensive, crowded, and sometimes a little too structured. But I’m a fan of seeing the world on a full stomach, so I’m definitely into it. Now to plan the next journey.

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P.S. If you want to see a silly video I made while I was in Bermuda, click here.
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