Rob and I arrived in Curacao after relatively smooth flights. I wore my tiara in hopes of inspiring the ticket agent to upgrade us to first-class, but to no avail. The flight attendant from Puerto Rico to Curacao did address me as “your highness,” though.
A very nice gentleman with a slightly dilapidated van met us at the Curacao airport and brought us to the Marriott. He took a few minutes to explain Curacao a bit (38 miles long, 3-7 miles wide; very diverse population; “on some days you can see Venezuela – it's always there, you know, but just some days you can see.”)
Our room at the Marriott is beautiful –the sliding doors lead right out to the ocean. It looks like a Corona commercial. A little more privacy would be nice but the location is great. We got the “all-inclusive” package so we were under the impression that meals (and all associated fees) are included, but while taking a leisurely stroll through the resort grounds, we saw some fine print on the menus outside of the restaurants about 12% and 5% fees. We asked about it at the front desk and the very kind woman told us in her best English that these fees are not included in the “all-inclusive” package. Alrighty then. (We later found out that they are, in fact, included – the kind woman's best English was apparently not good enough.)
We rented a Jeep today – actually, a Suzuki Jimmy with no air conditioning. The Curacao travel books that I had read said you need 4WD to get to some of the beaches. I’m beginning to not trust those travel books and wonder if the writers have actually been to the places they are writing about because we soon learned that we did not need 4WD and a/c definitely would have been nice. Anyway, today we headed into the capital of Willemstad. We drove the 5min from our hotel, parked (parking is very easy and it’s all free) and took a ferry over to Punda (the “shopping” district).
We enjoyed a European-style (i.e., 2-hour) lunch at the Vienna Ice Cafe overlooking Santa Anna Bay. It was very nice if not excruciatingly hot out. I had a cheese “toastie,” which is basically a panini but with a much more amusing name. We then walked around Punda a bit to explore the shops. We kept getting the feeling that we weren't really welcome there – so much for hospitality from the locals. Rob bought some toenail clippers and the woman made a frustrated face when we said we were paying in dollars (Florin is the official currency).
After that, we headed back to the hotel and had an exquisite dinner at Portofino – now this is what fine dining is supposed to be like. We dined al fresco and the service was excellent. I found it amusing that the waiter offered up not one, not two, but something like five choices for water (tap, two choices of “flat” bottled, and two choices of bottled “with gas”). I think we just chose one of the flat bottled varietals which was placed in a metal container on ice beside our table as if it were a fine champagne. For dinner, I had the shrimp and Rob had the red snapper. We both don’t normally eat fish but we tend to get adventurous on vacation. It was delicious. I can’t believe I’ve ignored shrimp all of this time. I finished off the meal with some tiramisu and dessert wine. It was perfect.
We ventured out to do some snorkeling on the far western tip of the island – Playa Kalki. Before heading out there we stopped at a local market where I went inside to do shopping and Rob waited in the Jeep. Not only is there no a/c in our beloved Jimmy, there is also no back window so no real way to lock it. We can’t be too trustful of those “friendly” locals. Grocery shopping was an adventure, especially because mostly everything is in Dutch. A kind teenage local took the bags out for me and he hung around for a tip. Told him all we had was American dollars. Another frustrated face. Well. Driving out to the beach, the landscape was very arid and everything was very underdeveloped. Think dessert and small shacks that are Curacaoans’ minimalist homes. As Rob said, it seems as though owning a Kia is a status symbol here.
We got to Kalki and did some snorkeling – the place is swimming with marine life! We even saw a manna ray (or was it a sting ray?). I tried to use the bathroom at the beach and the woman who apparently works there asked for a “guilda” for the key. I didn’t have to go that bad. (We later found out that a guilda and a florin are the same thing. Rob immediately started with the Princess Bride references.) We left the beach and found a place for lunch down the street and I used the bathroom there, free of charge. The lunch place wasn’t all that great – microwaved chicken nuggets – but it was good enough. Can’t have fine dining all the time.
At night we headed back to the hotel and ate at one of the other restaurants - Seabreeze. It was not as nice as Portofino. And we found out (after being transferred to someone who can actually speak and understand English) that the 12% and 5% charges are included in our “all inclusive” package. We took a nice walk on the beach at night and lounged on the loungers to stargaze. We saw a helicopter go by and Rob quipped that they must be looking for us – we didn't stay in Marriott-land that day for lunch and we didn't return our snorkel fins. I feel so sad for the poor vacationers that never leave the hotel – they are missing so much. Don't get me wrong - the hotel is beautiful - but it doesn’t capture the distinctiveness that is Curacao. To really experience Curacao, you have to leave Marriott-land.
This morning is the (hopefully) final day of a family reunion that has been taking place at the hotel since we got here. On Sunday they had the pool cornered off for them and on Monday they had the nice, quiet section of the beach sectioned off for a concert that you could hear all over the resort. While it's great to have such an engaging reunion, the influx of people has smeared a little grit on our honeymoon. The family in question is mostly American and of Jewish decent. When they are all around us at breakfast, you can close your eyes and swear you're smack dab in north Jersey. So much for exotic seclusion.
Breakfast, by the way, is otherwise very nice. We have it in the same place every day. It’s in a huge open-air patio where exotic birds like to fly by. My favorite is a black and yellow one that’s a bit mischievous. He likes to steal the sugar packets when no one is looking. And he won’t settle for Sweet-N-Low.
Today we headed out snorkeling again, this time to Playa Porto Marie. Despite being a bit crowded (with mostly Dutch tourists), it was great. This beach is the epitome of the Royal Blue Caribbean. There is a protected bay with coral reefs surrounding it and cliffs on either side. The view was breathtaking. The snorkeling was also very good – in addition to all of the colorful fish of various sizes, we also saw several types of rays and even a lobster! And we saw a HUGE iguana! He was sitting on the steps as I was going to the bathroom. A guy scared him away before Rob could get a picture though.
Also of note, there was a marked difference in the clientele at Porto Mari. The attendant first requested the payment for the beach in Dutch. His English accent wasn't much easier to understand (think Scotsman underwater... blub blub blub). There were very few people speaking English at lunch which brought back some of the exotic nature we were looking for. The sea life and iguana (HUGE I tell you) also helped.
On our way out of the beach, Rob was having fun with the 4WD and he pulled off a “perfectly executed” drift in the dusty parking lot. I was not impressed – it frankly freaked me out. Upon returning to Marriott-land, we had some yummy tropical drinks at Seabreeze (perhaps one too many) and then dined alfresco at Portofino again. It was just as yummy as the other night.