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Curacao Trip Report May 9-16, 2009 with Pic Link

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May 17th, 2009, 01:36 PM
  #1
KVR
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Curacao Trip Report May 9-16, 2009 with Pic Link

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:

http://travel.webshots.com/album/572141510pfxUnR


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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May 17th, 2009, 02:06 PM
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I'm surprised the water wasnt that clear. Was there storms the week before?

It is quite a haul everywhere...you def. need a car. That Jaanchies is quite a place. We never ate there... We stayed close by there.

The sea aquarium dive looks amazing. You actually went inside the tanks with those fish! Wow

KVR, I'm glad you enjoyed your trip.

Peace, Greenie
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May 17th, 2009, 04:10 PM
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Sounds like a busy trip with a few ups and downs. I'm sorry that you didn't just *love* it, but I'm glad it was overall pretty good for you. I'm about to go check out your photos now. Thanks for posting so soon!
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May 18th, 2009, 08:49 AM
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I am also surprised that the water wasn't clear and suspect that this was a temporary issue. The restaurants are not like those in Aruba or GC where you are within walking distance. Many culinary experts have called Curacao's food the "best cuisine in the Caribbean" and we personally tend to agree with that. We visited the seaquarium as our friends were interested in going and we were very glad we went.

We all have our own opinions, don't we? Glad you still had a good time and hope the pain and bruising go away soon.
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May 18th, 2009, 09:01 AM
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Curacao is not one of my favorite islands but I'm glad you enjoyed your trip overall. Thanks for letting us know how your trip went.
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May 18th, 2009, 03:40 PM
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KVR
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The weather was very nice. Cloudy and overcast. The forecast predicted rain, but we didn't have any the week we where there. Don't know about the week before. The wind blew hard, much harder than when we went to Aruba. Was wondering if the intense wave action due to the winds was causing the water to be cloudy?

I agree the food was very good. We didn't have a bad meal expect that one creme brulee at Mambo.

I also agree that of all the Islands we been to Curacao is not one of our favorites either. Which in a way is good, since is takes so long to get there and back and is rather expensive.

The highlight was the scuba dive at the Sea Aquarium. One of the main reasons we chose Curacao in the first place. No more self propelling watercrafts for us in the future though.

We have started planning a trip for our 10th wedding anniversary in July, 2010. Have a few Islands to narrow down.
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May 19th, 2009, 05:03 AM
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Thanks for the trip report. We liked our stay in Aruba. I always assumed like you that Curacao was similar. Every time I researched it, I found it very hard to get to as well. We have never done all inclusive. Just some places that offered meal plans. Now that our teens are getting older, we may try one of those someday. Friends of ours went to Mexico and loved their all inclusive. that will be another time. We are off to Bermuda this June.
Did you go to the Marriott on Curacao at all?
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May 19th, 2009, 05:34 AM
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KVR
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No, we did not go to the Marriott. We did drive by it though. It's next to the Hilton, which I took a picture of. The Hilton looked old and run down from the road. The Marriott has an AI plan and is highly recommended. We didn't choose it due to location and we thought it would be too crowded.

We love the AI's in Mexico, which is why we kept going back there. You get way more for your money, plus is easier to get to from our location. Too bad it got so much bad press lately, but it would not deter us from going back in the future.
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May 19th, 2009, 09:37 AM
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Having visited Curacao 3 times I am sorry to hear of your disappointment with the snorkeling. I assume you went to the WEST END to Klein Knip and several of the 8 or 9 bays after that one where there are nice medium size clean beaches bordered by boulders and around the boulders yjere were always a large variety of fish in waters with 20-30 ft. visibility. Also if you rel;ook at my comments and others on the Curacao thread there are 7-8 really good restaurants, though pretty expensive unless many have changes owners or head chefs that we would eat at more than once per trip.
The Hilton does not look much better inside than it does outside and you were wise to pass on Breezes though they have a very 1 very good restaurant open to the public. While we have not returned in 3 years we likely will go back in 2010 and stay at the Royal Resorts Sea Aquarium Resort that in a suit in Nov. or April is $250+/- with full kitchen well equipped kitchen and nicely furnished but for the price it is not luxury but for 2-4 persons it is a bargain but a rental car is a must to drive to the the snorkeling on the WEST END and dinner.
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May 19th, 2009, 10:57 AM
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Now which end has better snorkeling? I'm not clear. ;-)

Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed trip report KVR. Glad you made the most of your trip. That's a shame about the Aqua Boat tour that you were hoping for. What exactly is an aquaboat?
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May 19th, 2009, 03:21 PM
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KVR
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Aren't the following beaches on the West End? Playa Daaibooi, Cas Abao, Playa Lagun, Playa Forti and the Natural Jacuzzi. The beach hopping trip we did took us to those beaches.

We don't rent cars in foriegn destinations and I'm actually glad we didn't in Curacao. Getting around was difficult and the beaches on the West End are no where near each other. DH stated even with a good map, he would have been lost trying to find all the places the tours took us to and he would have become tired and frustated. Same for driving around town and finding restaurants. The condo with kitchen we had was nice, but really not our type of vacation. We did try though and found it not to be to our liking.

An aqua boat is a small boat that seats two people side by side. We did them in Cancun and Grand Cayman. They are bigger than a jet ski, but smaller than a fishing boat. They are much easier to get on and off than a jet ski and don't have the tendency to tip over. Here's a few pics:

http://travel.webshots.com/photo/105...38640397pLssXz

http://travel.webshots.com/photo/209...38640397ETulKV

http://travel.webshots.com/photo/209...38640397PcTxHt
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May 19th, 2009, 05:51 PM
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Thanks for the pics. They look like they would be fun!
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May 19th, 2009, 07:04 PM
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Hi KVR,
Thanks for your great TR and sharing your pictures! The Sea Aquarium tour looked like a lot of fun, and my daughter and I enjoyed looking at your pictures! At first I thought your DH was feeding the sharks (with teeth) with his bare hands (I didn’t see the glass). I was relieved when I saw the holes! Whew! Was that scary? I loved the picture of you both with the sting rays-beautiful. You should get that one framed! Oh, and my daughter literally kissed the screen on my computer when she saw the dolphin and said he looked like he was smiling

I have to say, I’m looking at your pictures late at night and all the great food shots are making me HUNGRY! Crème brulee is my favorite, too! Hope your jelly fish sting and pulled muscles are feeling better soon. I always enjoy reading your reports and seeing your pictures. We tend to do the opposite type of trips (secluded villas-my DH loves cooking so it’s sort of like being at an AI when traveling with him-and with small kids it’s just easier so we don’t drive everyone else nuts!) so it’s nice to see trips to resorts and I love looking at pictures. It really tells the story. Can’t wait so see where your next adventure takes you!

Oh, and it looks like our next trip will be to Mexico for a wedding this winter-they haven’t decided exactly where yet though. So I may need to pick your brain for things to do while there. This will no a no kids trip!
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Jun 11th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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KVR, a question on your flights: did you book through a travel agent or did you find a website that included the InselAir? We're going next spring to visit long-lost relatives and I haven't been able to find anything remotely direct to Curacao; it looks like I'm going to have to go to the different airline websites and book the Aruba/Curacao connections separately. (We'll be flying out of Calgary).

Thanks in advance.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 02:54 PM
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KVR
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I had to use a Travel Agent. I searched for 2 years to get a decent flight with the on-line booking agents and they always only had American Airlines overnighting in Miami, which I wasn't going to do. Plus the price was outragous.

My TA went through GOGO Travel and booked me seperate air on Continental to Aruba and the hotel portion at the Lions Dive. Then she booked me a seperate flight from Aruba to Curacao on Insel (or you can use DAE) She ensured that there was enough time between flights, which there was more than plenty. It was easier to let her do all the bookings and me just give her my CC number. No worries, no hassel.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 05:45 PM
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Kelly, Nice trip report. Since we are stuck on St John, I can live vicariously through you . As to the snorkeling, there was a large algae plume that affected some of the Caribbean and even traveled as far north as STJ which is rare around the time you went. It made the water a little cloudier with a slight greenish tint in the shallower water. I think the plume originated from South America but I can't remember for certain now.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 05:51 PM
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http://www.onepaper.com/stthomasvi/?...l&p=1223617576

Here is a link to the article.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 06:39 PM
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i always look forward to your trip reports. this one certainly did not dissappoint. the trip sounds wonderful but it is a shame your were injured. better on the last day than the first perhaps.
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Jun 11th, 2009, 08:12 PM
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KVR
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I don't think the water was as greenish at the link you posted, just cloudy. I guess I'm spoiled to Cozumel and Grand Cayman.

We booked our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip. Cliff insisted on Ocho Rios, Jamaica so we chose Sandals Dunn River. I know I give Sandals a hard time when people ask, but I'm giving them another chance only because I really do love their pools and I couldn't find another resort in Ocho Rios that I liked, so they actually won by default. (LOL)
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Jun 12th, 2009, 05:19 AM
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We just returned from Andros Island in the Bahamas. A guest at our hotel was in Belize before coming to Andros and said in May many of the Caribbean waters and in Belize were cloudy due to algae spots and several early tropical depresions.
We found the waters in the Bahahamas clear with 20ft. visibility when the sun was out.
In Curacao on the WEST END we found 15-25ft. consistently on sunny days so snorkeling was very good. At least as good as GD now but not the GC og 7-8 years ago when GC was far superior but global warming, hurricanes and pollution from over-building and cruise ships has caused a great deal of damage to the coral and in turn the fish that feed off the coral down to about 15ft. unfortunately.
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