A Travellerspoint blog

January 2013

PONCE, PUERTO RICO


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Happy New Year! The Crystal Cove was already decorated for our New Year’s Eve party when we woke up Monday morning.

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Not much happening at the pier in Ponce, so we took a cab into the old city.

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Nice light on the Cathedral!

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The town offices must be beautiful at night with their many Christmas lights.

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This little train took us on a great $2, 45 minute tour of the city.

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The poinsettia that ate the High School

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Beautiful detail on some of the homes –

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- but not all

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Hmm – which to choose?

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The lion is the symbol of the city. The central square is populated by a dozen lion statues painted by different artists. Can you find Hästa? After returning to the Serenity we enjoyed all that Crystal had to offer as we rang in the New Year. Hello, 2013!

Posted by Swenigale 17:56 Archived in Puerto Rico

KEY WEST FLORIDA, USA

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On Jan 3rd we were in Key West. We were the only ship in port and we were docked virtually in the town!

There are amazing statues around the Old Customs House – you may have to work at this – find the real person in this vignette.

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We visited the “Little White House” and learned of President Truman’s penchant for collecting and wearing loud “aloha style” shirts while he vacationed here. I don’t think he sold many of these at his haberdashery shop in Independence, Missouri!

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Next door to the Ernest Hemingway House is a café named for all the six toed cats in his cottage – the cats have six toes as a product of inbreeding down through generations.

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We walked to the southernmost point in the continental USA.

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And then there is the Southernmost Southernmost House, and not to mention –

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- the Southernmost House.

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It seemed like an imperative to have a slice of Key Lime pie – umm, umm!

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As we savored every morsel some feathered locals were hoping we’d drop some. Not a chance!

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We will be returning to Key West at the start and at the end of the coming World Cruise which begins on Jan. 16th.

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At 5pm we sailed for Miami and the end of this holiday cruise. Here is the Crystal logo which appears magically fresh each day in the sands atop the trash receptacles at every elevator. No longer used for extinguishing cigarettes, the fine, clean sand seems an appropriate place for the seahorses of Crystal.

Posted by Swenigale 12:01 Archived in USA

MIAMI, FLORIDA, USA

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Same day, the end of a cruise and the start of another. The Serenity is bathed in morning light as Miami awakens. Guests from the Christmas cruise have left the ship and the hard working crew is doing a remarkable cleaning and refitting in the space of a few hours. Boarding guests will find a crystal clean ship and rooms to call home for the next 12 days.

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We were docked at Terminal J, Port of Miami. The following pictures are of the port area, day and night. The Serenity set sail at 9pm and sails on with 2 sea days filled with lectures, activities, food and even a Sunday worship service with Pastor Ed until we dock in Tortola on Monday, January 7th.

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Posted by Swenigale 14:46 Archived in USA

ROAD TOWN, TORTOLA

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High winds and seas delayed our arrival in Tortola, but as soon as we docked, both Ed and I escorted tours of the island in the local taxis. Our guide, Courtney, was also our driver.

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Our tour involved a whole lot of up, in low gear!

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A large mural along the mountain road depicts scenes reminiscent of island history

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Looking back to the pier and the Aidaluna is docked with us again

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My first escort assignment

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At a rest stop, Hasta gets in the picture

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Pelican grooming

Posted by Swenigale 04:01 Archived in British Virgin Islands

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS


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We approached the pier in Basseterre, delayed again during the night crossing

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The Shore Excursion staff does an amazing job - rescheduling their tours when delays happen. Today we both escorted excursions around the island. The Southeast peninsula and the island of Nevis are in the distance.

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Trees filled with egrets - what a beautiful sight!

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The 18th Century Fairview House and Botanical Garden has been beautifully restored.

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Every day is wash day in this tropical climate!

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At the beautiful Romney Gardens we saw a demonstration of the process of making batik fabric and had a chance to enjoy the beautiful flowers and rare plants in the gardens.

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Hello to our grandchildren from Mor Mor and Opa! Romney Manor was once owned by Sam Jefferson, the great-great-grandfather of President Thomas Jefferson. The terraced gardens have evolved over centuries.

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790 feet above the sea is Brimstone Hill Fortress, fully restored and now a National Park and World Heritage Site.

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The first cannons were mounted here in 1690 in an effort to defeat the French occupation in Ft. Charles on the coast below. It took the British 100 years to complete the fortress.

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Cute catches the eye - the green monkey outnumbers the island population 2 to 1!

Posted by Swenigale 11:36 Archived in St Kitts/Nevis

POINTE-A-PITRE, GUADELOUPE


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Welcome back to Guadeloupe! Today we escorted a panoramic tour. Guadeloupe is actually 5 islands, but the two larger islands, separated by a narrow sea water channel, are the most populated.

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Our guide is pointing on the map to our location. The two main islands are frequently referred to as forming a butterfly shape. During the 4 ½ hour tour we traveled into the rainforest in the western island, Basse-Terre, and then to several sites on the eastern island, Grand-Terre.

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Sugar cane grows uncultivated here since 2005, when the government stopped the export of sugar since it had become unprofitable. Tourism is now the main industry.

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A walk into the rainforest took us to Crayfish Waterfall

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A house of the living –

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-A house of the dead. This cemetery is in the city of Morne-a-l’-Eau. The black color of morning for Europeans and the white color of mourning for Africans are combined, symbolic of the island history.

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- What can I say – it’s a French island!

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We made a brief stop at this restaurant on our way to the southeastern most point of land.

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This is Castle Pointe, with a wild surf and amazing rock formations.

Posted by Swenigale 14:06 Archived in Guadeloupe

CASTRIES, ST. LUCIA


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Lots of ships in port today, so we are anchored offshore and we used tenders to get to the island.

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Our island tour was delightful, especially since our guide had a wonderful Caribbean accent.

We visited Bagshaw's Art Studios and learned about the silk-screening process.

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Seven times occupied by the French, and seven times occupied by the British, St. Lucia is now an independent country.

This is La Toc Battery, built by the British near the close of the 19th century.

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As we stopped for a glimpse of beautiful Marigot Bay we were distracted by the wonderful cooking aromas.

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In the small fishing village of Anse la Raye the boats and nets were already in for the day.

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Conch shells decorate the walls in front of this house

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The Roman Catholic parish church

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Chickens crossing the road - could be supper!

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The "Pink Plantation" is located on 2 acres of tropical gardens. During French occupation the estate housed

senior officers of the military and later became a small coffee estate. It is now the home of Wild Orchid hand-painted ceramics -

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The lush gardens at the Plantation provide plenty of inspiration for the artists' tropical designs.

Posted by Swenigale 12:16 Archived in Saint Lucia

GUSTAVIA, ST. BART'S


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Sunrise over St. Bart’s

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The harbor in this lush French-speaking island is only 15 feet deep, so at sunrise we anchored and prepared to tender to the island.

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Saint Barthélemy was named by Columbus for his brother. It was first settled by the French in 1648 (briefly taken over by the British in 1758) until in 1784 France traded it to Sweden, of all places, for trading rights with Gothenburg. The Swedes built Fort Gustavia, renamed the capital Gustavia, and stayed for 100 years.

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Our taxi tour with our English mixed in with French speaking guide lasted one hour– it’s a small island. There are no crops grown here – everything must be flown or shipped in. So, needless to say, everything is really expensive!

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Most of the cement-paved roads are very well maintained. We saw spectacular vistas – and homes. This house was the home of Rudolf Nureyev the dancer (you reach in through the heart to open the door).

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The cemeteries (of which I believe there are only four) are prettily decorated with real and also artificial flowers. Unlike other Caribbean islands, 90% of the population here is of European descent.

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This statue of an Arawak honors the island’s original inhabitants.

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The stamp of Swedish ownership is still to be seen in the street names, which are all posted in both Swedish and French.

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The oldest building in town is the Swedish Bell Tower, built in 1799. The bell has since been replaced by a clock.

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It was truly right and fitting that out little Swedish Hästa would make an appearance in this formerly Swedish Colony!

Posted by Swenigale 13:16 Archived in Saint Barthélemy

PHILIPSBURG , ST. MAARTEN


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The beautiful island of St. Maarten welcomes us again. The Star Clipper is in her berth waiting to welcome new guests aboard for their week-long cruise in the islands.

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As we walked to the water taxi we got the chance to take one last Christmas tree picture – when we walked back to the ship 4 hours later it was all gone.

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Picturesque, non?

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Me, Chandra the sales girl, and the free hugs / beer man. We bought a watch here – good prices!

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Hästa made it to the beach –

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- and stood guard over us.

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This is the current Town Hall and Post Office. Built in 1793, it has been a Commander’s home, a Fire Station and a Jail.

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This is one of the Water Taxis that run from town to the cruise ship docks and back every ten minutes.

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What is it? Anyone know? It is very duck-like (note the webbed feet), but that is a very different kind of duck bill!

Posted by Swenigale 06:56 Archived in Caribbean Netherlands

GRAND TURK, TURKS AND CAICOS


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We docked at the Grand Turk Cruise Center, sharing the space with the 3,000 passengers on the Carnival Freedom.

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There are 30 islands in the 166 square miles of ocean known as the Turks and Caicos. They lie due east from Cuba and just north of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Diving and snorkeling are the draw here since the maze of coral reefs form the third largest barrier reef in the world!

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The excitement for us today was going to be a "power snorkel". We headed away from the terminal area onto a local road which would bring us and 20 guests to the snorkel site.

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On the drive we saw school girls,

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donkeys (which roam freely about the island),

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salt ponds (Grand Turk and Salt Cay were the largest salt producers in the Americas in the 18th and 19th centuries),

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the first church built on Grand Turk (St. Thomas Anglican, 1823-24, built by Bermudan settlers),

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and monuments and reminders of John Glenn's nearby splash down in 1962.

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We were on our way back to the ship in this bucolic setting (note the cow), still marveling about our awesome snorkel adventure. We had floated over the edge of "The Wall" where the ocean floor plunges 7,000 feet!

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We weren't taking any pictures on this adventure but here is a stock photo of a Seascooter in use. We had spent part of an hour (it seemed like minutes, it was so fun) each holding our individual power units with which we explored the reef and its colorful occupants. It was so cool powering around with my Seascooter that I almost forgot to look at the fish! Was this experience a highlight? You bethchya!

Posted by Swenigale 03:11 Archived in Turks/Caicos Islands

MIAMI, FLORIDA


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We sailed into Miami early in the morning, the close of a cruise for most of the folks onboard.

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In a matter of a few hours the ship's cabins were cleaned and all set for new guests, 400 of whom will be sailing on the full World Cruise. The Crystal Plaza is ready for a gala send-off countdown.

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This is our cabin/home for the next 74 days.

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The Miami skyline, from our balcony. Someone pinch me!

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Everyone is onboard and ready to celebrate with Capt. John Okland.

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We've reconnected with many friends and everyone is excited to be embarking on this Grand South America Exploration!

Posted by Swenigale 19:56 Archived in USA

KEY WEST, FLORIDA


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The American flag, flying for the port of the country we are entering, a beautiful sight. Today in Key West two other ships are docked at the pier, so we will be tendering to shore.

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There are numerous trolley and conch train 1 hour tours. We both escorted guests in the trolleys this morning. The driver/guides were excellent. Here are some quick snapshots of some of the homes, etc.

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Hmm. The tour was over and somehow we found ourselves in Margaritaville - at lunch time. Should we, shouldn't we.it is 5 o'clock somewhere!

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Why not!

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Add a "Nacho Volcano" to the yummy margaritas and we were happy!

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Back on the ship, fresh squeezed orange juice, anyone? What a nifty orange squeezer! Too big for our kitchen, though!

Posted by Swenigale 10:21 Archived in USA

GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN


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Since we didn't have a bank to "visit our money" (a frequent joke among the guest entertainers) we headed for the beach.

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Seven mile beach is gorgeous and today uncrowded. The surf was a bit rough and it was tricky getting out of the water without getting dragged back. The water was beautiful, however.

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Public access paths to the beach are well marked and numerous.

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Lovely landscaping surrounds the resorts.

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Posted by Swenigale 11:01 Archived in Cayman Islands

WILLEMSTAD, CURACAO


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As we entered the narrow harbor of St. Anna's Bay (which opens up to be the 7th largest natural harbor in the world), Curacao's Dutch heritage and "storybook" appearance was delightfully on display.

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The Serenity is docked inside the harbor. Looking out from a rear deck you can see the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge for pedestrians. It swings wide open when ships enter the harbor.

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Our afternoon tour took us through Willemstad to some of the sights on the island. The coming Carnival (which is 3 weeks away!) parade route is already lined with people's chairs - reserving their spots!

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This is an obligatory stop on most tours, and a chance to taste Curacao liqueur - the distillery is north of the city and is the only place in the world where the original liqueur is made. The secret recipe evolved using dried orange peel from inedible oranges.

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Here we were, just 35 miles from the northern coast of Venezuela in a 38 mile long volcanic island, home for over 50 nationalities. The Dutch West India Company claimed Curacao from Spain in 1634, but it was rarely peaceful in ensuing years as the French and British battled each other in the New World. Only after 1814 and the Treaty of Paris did things calm down and the Dutch influence and control resumed.

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We arrived at the Hato Caves - don't need to understand the language to understand this warning - don't eat or touch those little apples on the ground! They are poisonous!

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The Caves are high above sea level and they are made of coral! Eons ago caves formed under the sea and since being above ground the coral is being draped with the limestone formations we expect in underground caves. They are hot and humid, since they are above ground - but the fruit bats like them!

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On the hillside Ed caught sight of this lovely pair of parrots.

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So pretty, even at night. We learned a few words in native Papiamento- there is no set spelling for the language, so this is what I heard: Bom bini (welcome), Masha danki (thank you very much) and Sushi (garbage!).

Posted by Swenigale 05:26 Archived in Curaçao

ORANJESTAD, ARUBA


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Frigate birds were soaring overhead as we docked at 7am

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The sun rose and Oranjestad awakened. Aruba is a small island in the Dutch West Indies, just 70 square miles

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Tourism is flourishing, thanks to Aruba's beautiful beaches and friendly people.

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Reflecting the Dutch influence in their architecture seems to be a good tourism move.

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Work is being done on a shopping street.

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A local supermarket posts prices in Netherlands Antilles Guilders.

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Ready to let go the lines!

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Looking from our balcony we have a good view of the port side of the bridge, and the start of our trip to Cartagena.

Posted by Swenigale 18:56 Archived in Aruba

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