Snorkel Sensation in Aruba

Today we awoke to find the Ventura docked in Oranjestad, Aruba.  We had been here once before; on the Arcadia in 2007 and we enjoyed it a lot, so we were pleased to be back.

After breakfast we decided to go ashore and spend the morning looking around the town.  We were booked to go out on a catamaran this afternoon, for a bout of swimming and snorkelling, which I love.

The main drag in Oranjestad consists of lots of shops, cafés, bars and casinos.  There seemed to be an abundance of discount jewellery and diamond stores.  We walked along the front and bought a couple more postcards; in addition to the cards we bought in Curaçao we wanted to find somewhere to write them out and send them, as we’d already spotted a post office.

We found a bar and had an ice cold beer each while I wrote out all the postcards.  Then we looked around a few more shops and I bought myself a gorgeous pewter butterfly necklace, a really blingy one.

There was a queue in the post office, so we took our place at the end and waited… and waited… and waited.  At the front desk there appeared to be only one person serving the customers, while a second fat bloke sweated on the phone.  I don’t know what on earth the person at the head of the queue wanted, but we stood there for over 15 minutes without moving while the line of people behind us got longer and longer.

Eventually we gave up and decided to post the cards on the ship.  We dropped them off at the purser’s desk and went and had something to eat;  not much as we were going swimming after lunch.  We gathered together our swimming things and made our way to the quayside, where we were taken to a nearby waiting catamaran.

Once everyone was on board, we glided away from the quayside and sailed off down the coast.  The sun shone hotly down  but there was a lovely sea breeze.  The guide came round with cold glasses of fruit punch for everyone as well as fresh pineapple and melon on skewers.  There’d be no alcohol served until after we’d finished swimming.

Our first snorkelling stop was to see a ship wreck, the remains of the German warship M/S Antilla, which sank in 1940.  The story was that when Germany invaded the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, the relationship between the two nations was obviously strained.  As part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, this extended to Aruba.   The Antilla was anchored off the coast of Aruba at the time.   When a contingent of Dutch Marines told the Antilla to surrender, the captain asked for an extension, and the Dutch accepted and gave the ship 24 hours to surrender.

The Antilla was fairly new at the time, and rather than see her turned over to the enemy, the captain decided to scuttle the ship.  After putting the crew ashore, he heated up the boilers, which were amidships, and opened the seacock.   When the cold sea water hit the hot boilers, they exploded, ripping the ship in half. It sank in eight minutes.

Our catamaran dropped anchor and we were all issued with an inflatable life jacket, snorkelling mask and tube and flippers.  The we jumped overboard.  The sea was actually quite choppy for snorkelling; it was just as well we had the extra buoyancy provided by the life jacket otherwise swimming would have been quite difficult.  The wreck was not really that far down, only about 55 feet, so we had a good view of it lying on its port side.  It had that usual ghostly look that you associate with old ships, but at least no-one had died in the sinking.

Back on the catamaran we set off for our next stop.  I really enjoyed drifting along in the azure water and we soon dried off under the hot sun.  I had to put on some factor 10 sun lotion because the breeze led you into a false sense of security, as you wouldn’t realise how hot it actually was.

We dropped anchor over a coral reef, near a little beach.  Jumping overboard I found myself swimming right through a large shoal of brightly coloured fish.  There were loads of them and they came right up to my mask and brushed along my body; I could feel their smooth scaled bodies.  We could see fish, corals and sea urchins.  I didn’t stray too far from the catamaran; the beach looked a bit too rocky and I didn’t want to risk cutting myself on the sharp edges.  In any case, once again the sea was a little too choppy.

Once we returned to the catamaran and started heading back, the guide put on some loud soca music and came round with plastic cups of rum punch for everyone.  Trevor and I had three each; they were delicious.  There was also some ham and cheese sandwiches.  The music wanted to make me dance but it proved to be a little difficult with the rocking motion of the boat.

When we got back on the Ventura I showered and changed, but didn’t feel like going up to dinner because I wasn’t really hungry after the rum punch and sandwich.  So I went along to the Bay Tree restaurant to join Trevor just in time for the coffee stage.  Once again there was only Don at the table; no sign of the other couple.

Later on we went along to the Arena theatre where the Headliners were putting on a show called ‘Stage Door’.  It consisted of excerpts of singing and dancing from famous stage musicals, including Rodgers and Hammerstein.  I felt really tired and I could hardly keep my eyes open, despite it being a really good show.

We had a couple of drinks in ‘Wetherspoon’s’ afterwards and then I decided to go back to the cabin, read my book and go to bed.  I am reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson.  After a slow start the story is actually starting to hot up a bit.

Trevor went along to the Havana show lounge to see a John Denver tribute act at 10.30pm, which he said he enjoyed more than the ‘main’ show.

We had another day at sea to look forward to tomorrow.

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