Lions Dive Curacao - May 9 - 16, 2009
Flight - We flew Continental Airlines from Midland to Houston and then to Aruba. Once reaching Aruba, we flew Insel Air to Curacao. The Insel Air flight was interesting as it’s a very small plane that only seats 17 passengers. From the passengers seats towards the front of the plane you can see right into the cockpit and watch the pilots fly the plane and look out their front window. Taking off and landing was interesting to watch. The whole experience was good, but a little nerve racking. There were no issues and we wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again especially if it keeps us off of American Airlines and out of Miami.
Hotel - We chose the Lions Dive. We hesitated because we are such AI people (13 AI vacations to date) that we weren’t sure we wanted a non-AI vacation. We’ve done two non-AI vacations before (Hawaii and Turks & Caicos) and didn’t care for it. We’ve been to Aruba and loved the set up of hotels to restaurants and hoped Curacao was along the same lines. It wasn’t. Curacao is nothing like Aruba. We were scared away from Breezes due to the reviews and just the shear number of people that go there. We were wanting something less crowded and more quite. We made the right choice in the Lions Dive. Though there were many families and lots of kids at the hotel. It wasn’t too loud or annoying.
Room - We booked an ocean view room and were given a 2 bedroom apartment in the new section overlooking the 2 new pools and a small ocean view from our wrap around balcony. The apt. was fabulous and very spacious. Loved all the room in order to spread out. It was nothing like what we expected. It had 2 bedrooms each with access to the balcony and 2 full bathrooms. The master bath had a separate shower and tub while the second bathroom had only a shower. A full kitchen with stove, microwave, coffee maker, full size frig, pots, pans, silverware and a china hutch with all the dishes. Huge living room and the doors to the balcony completely opened on both sides by sliding back to gain full access. The master bedroom had a wall unit of 3 built in closets. The dining room table was out on the balcony and seated 6. The apartment had 3 flat screen TV’s. One in each bedroom and one in the living room. The room was done in a contemporary style, and though I don’t really care for that style, this room was done very nicely. It was like staying in a friends condo for a week. The only thing we didn’t like is that there were no US electrical plugs in the apt. We inquired before leaving about an adaptor and was told by the hotel they didn’t provide one, but they did have a US plug in the office that we could use if we needed. We found that to be inconvenient, so we purchased an adapter. It worked OK, but it would have been better to at least wire one plug in the bathroom with US voltage. We would recommend this hotel to anyone. We had a very nice and relaxing stay.
Dining - Since we had the nice full kitchen we took the free shuttle from the hotel to one of the local grocery stores on Sunday; Best Buy. We purchased an 1 liter bottle of Wild Turkey at the duty free store in Houston for $16.00. At Best Buy, we purchased Amstel Bright, bottled water, coffee, Sprite, eggs, bacon, bread, butter, flour tortillas, cereal, milk, orange juice, fruit, veggies, deli meat, cheese, canned meats, chips, salsa, refried beans and various finger foods. Cost was $137.00. For breakfast and the lunches we were not on tours, we ate the things we purchased at the store. We ate dinners out. One of the reasons we like AI so much is after a full day of tours/swimming, we are just too lazy to walk far or take the bus/cab into town. So we pretty much ate at the 3 restaurants at the Lions Dive; Piazza, Hemingway’s and Nemos. We found the food at the restaurants very good, but on the pricey side. Dinners with beer ran between $80 to $100. They had the best crème brulee and carpaccio. I also don’t care to cook on vacation, but the atmosphere was so different from home, I didn’t mind it this time. Though, we still prefer AI vacations and would severally limit this type of vacation in the future. We do like to snack throughout they day at the beach or pool and hang at the bar or a swim-up bar and drink. This type of vacation didn’t allow us to do that. We spent some time concerned about how much the food and drinks were costing. It's just easier to pay for an AI plan upfront and know what it cost and not have to worry about that on vacation.
We also had lunch at Jaanchies during one of our tours. Two plates with beer was $40. Lunch at Iguana Joes in town while shopping ran $50 for a club sandwich, hamburger with fries and beer. We found the food good at both places. We did go to Mambo Beach on Thursday night for the fresh fish market. It might be me, but I really don’t want to see where my food came from before it hits my plate. I’m not much for fish, so we picked out one lobster tail to share and then the meal came with coleslaw and fried potato wedges. We also ordered a garden salad, baked potato, tempura shrimp, and cream of celery soup. All was very good and we enjoyed the meal. We ordered crème brulee for dessert and it was the most awful tasting I have ever had. Total cost with beer was $72. For all that we ordered, I thought the price was quite reasonable.
Tours - We are very active on vacation and booked several tours. 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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:
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 ½ 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 didn’t 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 I’m 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 wouldn’t 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. We’ve done them before in Grand Cayman and had no problem snorkeling and getting on and off or them. I didn’t 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 didn’t 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. I’m 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
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Lions Dive Curacao - May 9 - 16, 2009