Hello world! It’s been some time because the whole family’s been out of the country on a luxury cruise. I’m not dead. We left on November 28th on the Norwegian Pearl and returned on December 9th. Overall, it was a very positive experience even though we had a few extra guests that we didn’t plan on towing along until more recently, but sometimes that’s how life works. I want to write a very visual post to share our experiences with you with an emphasis on brevity and the destinations.
To begin, we drove down to Miami. It was quite the road trip for our tiny Kia Soul and four people plus at least four full-sized luggage bags. The poor engine huffed and struggled, forcing me to set Sport Mode for the entire drive to safely handle highway driving in Florida. I’m sure we were close to overloaded. I could hardly see my wife sitting next to me, and the passengers in back were but a muffled and distant memory.
After a long drive, the Miami proper area was a challenge to navigate. I’m not experienced in city driving despite previous trips to Boston and DC, so I was quite uncomfortable for some time getting into the parking garage. I was not observant and parked in the wrong place, later costing me a $500 parking fee for my lack of familiarity with the parking arrangements. Let’s say that I won’t be parking at that lot ever again. I had never been to Miami previously.
Processing at the port itself was quick, and once onboard, I was finally able to appreciate the city skyline and offer myself the chance to cool down once we settled in.
Not a bad view either. I admired it for a few minutes out the back of the ship.
That evening we had a lovely dinner (as we did every night. Bear with me–I won’t repeat every meal and prefer to move on and summarize the ports of call), did some gambling, and enjoyed the ship. We must have enjoyed it because I bought the dumbest plushie version of an NCL cruise ship ever after the cruise. I post an image at the end of the article.
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
We have been to Puerto Plata, DR previously, but we never got off the ship because there wasn’t much to do. It’s a relatively new port that has since grown. We took a bus tour and saw highlights of the nearby town including a rum house (Barbados was better), a museum (with a piano that I played), and the famous pink aisle and umbrella-covered walkways. We visited a church and the Amber Museum as well. To be plain, the tour was so rapid-fire that I scarcely recall all the details. It was a whirlwind to be sure.
It was a hot day. We were tired and turned in early for the night back on the ship.
Oh how do we love Aruba. Shall I count the ways? So far, if we were ever to move to an island country, Aruba would be our first choice. My wife grew up in the desert. It felt like coming home to her, and I’m fascinated by the succulent flora and desert birds.
Our first encounter with Aruba was on a “Loco” open air bus tour emphasizing the more rural side of the island and ending in two hours at one of the most beautiful beaches. The sand was white but rocky, and the currents were so strong that we’re still getting sand out of places it shouldn’t be years later. The water will violate you in unspeakable ways.
This trip however was on the more developed side. We visited hotels, an ultra-touristy butterfly farm that captured our hearts, natural land bridges over water bocas, and a local aloe business where I bought an overpriced moisturizer.
This trip mirrored our first experiences with the island. I believe we visited the Hato caves on our first trip, visited an art exhibiton where we signed our names into the guest book, and then walked the port area, but this time we chose a trolley tour because I liked my experiences with the one in Key West a few years prior and because we wanted to see more of the city. I remember watching YouTube videos about cave explorations that night. Our guide told us that this island was the center of the Dutch colonial control in the sense that goods were transported from the neighboring islands of Bonaire and Aruba to be shipped back to the Netherlands.
Curaçao is in my opinion the most beautiful of the ABC islands.
Take a look at the below architecture especially for the Queen Juliana bridge. This gives the island an unmistakable skyline.
To be direct, this was my least favorite island. Although I enjoyed taking many photos of cacti, the island is easy to confuse with its siblings and lacks a distinct flavor unless you’re especially into diving. I say this from a tourist perspective of course. I’m sure that a local would feel the island is distinct once you get to know her. I found Bonaire less remarkable.
Let me share the flora and maybe just a little fauna too.