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View Full Version : Our Vacation in Curacao with Pic Links


KVR
May 17th, 2009, 10:43 PM
We actually did a land vacation and not a cruise, but we used this forum for recommendations on many things to see and do and wanted to report back. Maybe our experience will help someone else in deciding what to do in Curacao.

We did the East/West Island tour and the Beach Hopping tour with Atcief. Both were very good tours. The Island tour only had us and one other couple. The Beach Hopping Tour was the same, but the other couple only did the half day and we did the full day, so during the tour a taxi came and picked them up and then we were on our own with the guide. Very nice. The Island Tour took us to Spanish Waters, drove through Punda and Ontrabanda, the Curacao Liquor factory, Boca Tabla and Grote Knip for swimming.

The Beach Hopping tour went to Playa Daaibooi, Cas Abao, Playa Lagun, Playa Forti and the Natural Jacuzzi. The beaches and water were lovely, but we found the water not a clear or the snorkeling as great as we expected or what we have read about. The sand is white, but full of rocks and coral. To get in and out of the water at the beaches there is lots of coral to go through. Water shoes were a must. Including the beach at the Lions Dive. The best snorkeling was at Playa Lagun. I did get stung by a jelly fish at Cas Abao. It didnít hurt for long, but left a huge red mark. This was our first trip ever to get stung.

One of the best activities we did was the Animal Encounter Scuba Dive at the Sea Aquarium. The Sea Aquarium is within walking distance of the Lions Dive and staying at the Lions Dive we got free entrance. We have never scuba dived before and thought this was really great. The dive instructor and his staff were just wonderful in helping us learn how to use the equipment and with the actual dive. There were a nice variety of fish, sharks, turtles, sting rays and dolphins to see. DH did very well and was able to stay down for the entire dive. I was more apprehensive than I thought I would be and had some claustrophobia issues. The dive master was great and very patient in getting me comfortable in staying under water so I could participate in the fish feeding, but was readily available when I wanted to go back on the surface. They took a variety of pictures of the dive. 79 to be exact. DH is in most of them. They burned the pictures into a disc for $45. I thought it was well worth it. The only negative is that the water was not all that clear. However, it was a great experience and I would recommend this activity to anyone. We were glad to get to try scuba diving especially in such a controlled environment, but I donít think its something we would rush out and do again on future vacations. Since there are so many pictures, I set up a separate book on our picture site just for this activity at:

http://travel.webshots.com/album/572141510pfxUnR


We also did a evening tour and beach dinner with Caribbean Bayside. They took us to an area in which we had great views of the town below, a fresh fruit market and Ft. Nassau. We then went to the Avila Beach Hotel and had a nice dinner on the beach catered by the Blues restaurant. The food was good and we enjoyed the experience. We brought along 2 bottles of Champagne that we purchased and had them with dinner. The Avila Beach Hotel is very nice and their beach is great.

We also booked an Aqua Boat tour with Adrenaline Tours. We were very disappointed in this tour as what we booked and what we got were two different things. We booked the 2 Ĺ hour Aqua Boat Tour with snorkeling, but got the 1 hour jet ski tour with no snorkeling for the same price. We were supposed to be picked up at our hotel at 8:30am. By 9:00am no one had showed up, so the front desk personnel called them for us. They had no idea who we were or a record of our reservation that I had booked on-line in April even though I had an e-mail confirmation. They did end up sending a cab for us at 10:15am. Once we got to the office, we discovered there are no aqua boats. They only had 4 jet skis in use. I didnít want the jet skis, but something bigger, but I was assured that we would get to go to the Tug Boat for snorkeling. They then tried to charge me $205 for the tour, but I had a credit card confirmation for $145 plus $10 for pickup service. My gut instant told me to call the whole thing off, but it was our last day on the Island and we really wanted to snorkel at the Tug Boat, so we went ahead. While attempting to get on the jet ski, it moved away from the dock and I ended up falling into the water. In doing so, I pulled the hamstring and groin muscles in my right leg and bruised the back of my right arm, but Iím OK though it hurt pretty bad and still does. I finally got on the jet ski and we are off. The water was very choppy and rough. DH was having a hard time driving as the water continually kept slapping him in the face, but he did very well. We were taken over to Spanish Waters to see all the waterfront homes. When we took a break, we were told that since it would be too difficult for us to climb back on the jet ski in open water, then we wouldnít be taken to the Tug Boat for snorkeling. I was very upset. This is why I wanted the Aqua Boats. They are bigger and easier to get into. Weíve done them before in Grand Cayman and had no problem snorkeling and getting on and off or them. I didnít appreciate the way this tour was handled and thought they could be a little more forthcoming with information before we booked this tour and took our money. Like there are really no aqua boats and that that we are too old and out of shape for jet skies. In hind sight, since what we really wanted was to snorkel at the Tug Boat, we should have just booked a catamaran trip that specifically went there.

Shopping - We spent one morning in Punda shopping. We found the stores to be very nice. Not too many tourist shops, but nice clothing stores, linen shops and department type stores. We purchased several linens, as I bought many for this years Christmas gifts. Found many nice clothes I would love to buy, and finally, shops that carry plus sizes. I only bought one nice top with lace cut-out designs. Also bought two wall hanging tapestries that will need to be framed. We went to the fish/fruit/veggie market. It was interesting to see. The shops in town were fixed prices and there was one area where we bought the paintings were we could do some haggling. No pushy street vendors or time share people. There was one older man, who tried to adopt us and get us to buy him food and beer, but we firmly told him no and he finally went away.

Overall, we enjoyed our trip and thought Curacao was quite charming, but it didnít live up to our expectations with regards to dining out, snorkeling or water clarity that we have read so much about. Restaurants are not centrally located, but all over the Island and a car, taxi or a more convenient bus system was needed in order to get to them. Iím sure diving is better than snorkeling, but we found better snorkeling and clearer water on Grand Cayman, Cozumel and Turks and Caicos. The housing, people and living conditions reminded us a lot of Jamaica. Though the Island is desert like, it is much more lush than Aruba. We prefer Aruba over Curacao and are looking forward to a return trip to Aruba in the near future.

Our pictures are located at: http://community.webshots.com/user/kvrlvn

cruiseapril
May 20th, 2009, 10:18 AM
Very interested in your review as we like so many of the places you mentioned- Ft. Nassau, the Avila, the beaches etc.

CrusinAgain
May 23rd, 2009, 03:44 AM
Wow thanks for the review and I'm so sorry to read you got hurt. I would put a dispute in with the credit card company. You definitely did not get what you paid for and I know all of these tour companies charge a lot at this island to snorkel or dive tugboat as I just booked one. I have had a tough time getting places to respond to my e-mails for inquiries and then only 1 company, the one that you land toured with, responded to my every question. The rest would answer 1 question and tell me how to pay again. I was looking tonite on the forum to find activities for 2 of us who didn't want to go snorkeling.

Is the shopping and a casino close to the cruise pier?

Seavoyage
May 26th, 2009, 07:11 PM
Hi There KVR...

Thank you so much for your great review and pictures - sounds like you guys had a great time! The Sea Aquarium pics are stunning - how awsome - DH and I love to snorkel and he would love to scuba - but I am nervous about the whole scuba breathing thing - but this looks pretty good. Few questions....you did comment about they gave you enough time to acclimate to gear - how long did it take to become comfortable before going under with the fish? Ok, stupid question here (I know some will have a field day with this...) but here goes - how were the fish - were they friendly or agressive about getting food? How long was the dive? Is the tank big? Were there alot of other people diving with you? May I also ask the cost.... thank you in advance for your kind reply - and trust your jelly sting is better!
sv

caribbeanboy
May 27th, 2009, 10:39 PM
Where did you go for dinner? there are tons of good restaurant here in Curacao. Pretty much European standards.

KVR
June 1st, 2009, 07:08 PM
I had a lot of trouble also getting companies to respond to my e-mails. Actief was wonderful. Responded promptly and their guides were great. I highly recommed them and the the 2 tours we did with them. I did have to fax them credit card authorization before they charged my credit card.

I booked the Sea Aquiarum dive with tourism-curacao.com I received an e-mail confirmation quickly. They charged a $14 deposit twice on my credit card (one for me and one for my spouse) The price was $99 p/p, but when we got to the Aquarium they only charged a total of $76.00 for the remaining balance for the two of us. Don't know why and I didn't ask. :)

They gave us a 30 minute dive lesson/instruction. The only people diving was me, my spouse, the dive master and one of his assistance who was taking the pictures. Since my husband didn't have any problem getting used to the breathing, he went with the assistant. I stayed on top with the dive instructor for about 15 more minutes and finally was ready to go down. I stayed down about 10 minutes and then had to go back up. I did that several times and the dive instructor was fine with it. The area is actually in a cove and the plexiglass is the barrier to the ocean. It's pretty big with lots of room to swim around. There's a sunken ship down there also. I'm not afraid of fish or stingrays. They were not aggressive, though a stingray rubbed up against my husband twice because he had food in his hand. He thought that was cool. The fish were friendly and one of the puffer fish just loved having his picture taken. If you don't want the little fish to bother you just don't take any of the food they give you to feed them. To feed the sharks it's through a small hole in the plexi glass. Just enough for the fish food to get through. The dive lasted 45 minutes.

I'm not sure where the cruise pier is. I didn't see any ships in port while we were there. The shopping is on the Punda side. We didn't go to any casinos.

We stayed at the Lions Dive in a 2 bedroom apartment. It was very nice. We mostly ate at the hotel's restuarants: Piazza, Hemingways and Nemos. We thought the food was very good. Their breakfast buffet was limited and expensive, so we didn't eat there. Since we had an apartment with full kitchen we went to the grocery store and bought food for breakfast and lunches then ate dinners out. We also ate at Mambos Fish Market, Jaanchies and Iguana Joes. We found the restaurants spread out and to difficult to get to without renting a car, which we didn't.

My leg did finally competely heal without any complications. It's just one those risks you take when doing tours like that. We've been to many Caribbean Islands and Mexico several times and never encountered a tour company like that. Live and learn.

CrusinAgain
June 1st, 2009, 07:23 PM
We mostly ate at the hotel's restuarants: Piazza, Hemingways and Nemos. We thought the food was very good.

Does the restaurant Hemingways have anything to do with Ernest Hemingway?

KVR
June 1st, 2009, 10:55 PM
Yes, the restaurant was named after Ernest Hemingway. There is a picture of him next to the sign.

Crusing Bob
July 30th, 2009, 04:09 PM
caribbeanboy, can you suggest some good restaurants for lunch. We will be on the Westerdam in late November from 8AM-5PM.

Is Hemmingway a good one or more of a touristy one?