It was an overnight voyage to the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba from Curaçao, and by the time we woke up Britannia had already docked in the port of Oranjestad, the capital. Our balcony view this time was a small marina and beyond it, volcanic-looking hills. Aruba is tiny – just 20 miles long – and it’s only 18 miles from the coast of Venezuela.
The view from the other side of the ship revealed that we had docked between the shore and a small reef, where a single tree had managed to grow out in the turquoise sea. Beyond that, in the distance, there were lots of oil rigs, and between the reef and the rigs was the final approach flight path into the international airport. Looking at the small gap in the reef through which the ship would have to navigate when we left later on, it was going to be an interesting departure to watch over our evening aperitif!
But there was lots to do before it was time to hit the Crow’s Nest. We’d splashed out – if you’ll forgive the pun – on a slightly more expensive shore excursion for Aruba, namely a submarine experience. We were picked up by boat from the marina right by Britannia, which gave us a good view of Oranjestad on the way out.
Leaving Britannia behind. You grow quite attached to the ship when it’s your home for a week!
It was a bumpy boat ride alongside the reef to where another boat was waiting and, alongside it, the submarine. Neither of us had never been on a submarine before, unless you count the permanently docked one at the Intrepid Museum in New York. This is what the submarine looks like in the publicity materials, while the view below is what you see when you go aboard.
After we were all crammed into our seats, one to a window, the submarine seemed to rock around a bit and before we knew it, there was the ocean floor. It was only about 100ft deep, if I recall correctly – less than that in places. For a while we just saw sand, and then suddenly there was a shipwreck.
Initially there weren’t too many fish, and mostly they moved too fast to get decent photos. I rather liked this one.
As we moved along the reef, suddenly we came to a much busier bit where there were hundreds of fish. It’s so hard to get good photos down there in the murk, so this only gives you a vague impression of what it was like in reality.
It has to be said, though, that the reality doesn’t really much resemble that publicity pic I linked to above! I was imagining colourful coral, vivid ‘Finding Nemo’ fish etc! We did see lots of fish, including some stripey ones, but overall it wasn’t quite as impressive as I was expecting. Still, an interesting thing to have experienced, and one to tick off the bucket list. (It’s also a good way of seeing some marine life if, like me, you don’t fancy the idea of diving or snorkelling.)
After the submarine resurfaced – and after rocking around inside it, unable to see the horizon, feeling increasingly sick!! – it was back on the boat and back to the marina for a tasty lunch on the ship. In the afternoon we planned to explore Oranjestad, though with hindsight I wish we had booked another excursion for the afternoon so that we could’ve seen some more of the island (for some reason, I’d thought the submarine would be in a different part of the island and that we would have seen something of Aruba on the way to it). There isn’t really much to do in Oranjestad and it isn’t as nice as Willemstad, so next time I would probably head to one of the beaches.
We made straight for the marina, where there were frigatebirds soaring around and iguanas basking in the sun in the flowerbeds.
I thought these colourful lightbulbs in this marina-side bar were highly Instagrammable!
Some of the buildings in Oranjestad are colourful like the ones in Curaçao, but the town centre seemed largely deserted. I rather liked the trams though – they reminded me of the ones in San Francisco.
After everyone was back on the ship the Captain made an announcement to say we’d be leaving port and that the ship would have to speed up to get through that narrow gap in the reef, which would lead to the ship tilting a bit! Needless to say we watched it over a glass of Prosecco from the vantage point of the Crow’s Nest (sorry about the awful picture – the windows were rather dirty, as you can see!).
We also saw an R44 helicopter fly around our ship and land on a helipad in the marina…
…and a big passenger plane crossed directly in front of us, so that was exciting. It looked so much closer than that in real life!
The next day would be a day at sea, bound for Tobago – which shall, of course, be the subject of my next Caribbean post.