Oranjestad, Aruba (2019)
March 22 found us docked at Oranjestad, our last port of this voyage before it ends in Ft Lauderdale. This is another formerly Dutch possession, since 1986 an autonomous country that is part of the monarchy of the Netherlands (so the locals have Dutch citizenship and governor appointed by the Dutch crown serves as the formal head of state). About 35,000 of Aruba’s 105,000 citizens live in Oranjestad. As in Curacao, the other Dutch island we visited, there are a number of colorful Dutch style buildings here, but unlike Curacao most of the ones here were renovated in that style for the tourist trade near the end of the 20th century.
The tourist industry is the main economic engine in Aruba, but there are few notable landmarks and most visitors come for the sun and beaches. On our first visit here in 2014 we explored the city on foot:
And we did that again this time, since it was a good compromise between relaxing on the ship (which seems like a waste) and taking an excursion (we were done with that for this voyage). We visited mostly the same sights as last time, with one notable exception. Setting out after breakfast, we decided to ride the free tram into town. Although it stops right near the port it took us a little while to find the stop. It was pleasant enough, but extremely slow; you could probably walk into town faster. On the way we passed the Archaeological Museum, which we had enjoyed visiting last time but was closed this time for renovations that were apparently completed near the end of 2019. This town has a lot of outdoor art and we passed some wall paintings in the tram. We also passed the brightly painted city hall, which we saw from the side.
Leaving the tram in the center of town, we walked to Fort Zoutman. The fort was first built in 1798 and the city grew up around it. It was last renovated in 1936 and today houses the Historical Museum of Aruba. The artifacts we saw there were mostly old clothing and furnishings, along with an interesting exhibit on the history of the hat making trade that grew up on the island. A large group of school children were visiting while we were there and their teachers had some difficulty keeping them together. The Willem III tower was erected at one corner of the fort in 1868. At that time the fort and tower were at the water’s edge, but due to land reclamation projects (a specialty of the Dutch) they are now about 300 yards from the ocean. The tower was originally a lighthouse and also the city’s first public clock (which no longer keeps accurate time). We ran into Bill & Robert here and we all climbed to the top of the tower, three flights of steep, narrow, mostly open wooden steps with inadequate railing. It was a little bit daunting but we all made it to the top, where there were great views of the city on all sides. Among other things, we saw the Old Protestant (Calvinist) Church built in 1846 sitting right next to the New Protestant Church built around 1950. We also saw the 1888 school, the first public elementary in Aruba, which was the public library for a few years during the 1950’s. In front of the school is a monument to the men who wrote the Aruban national anthem, with sculptures of the three men gathered around a piano on a platform with a pool made to look like piano keys.
We had failed to find the library on our last visit but this time we had a better map. We parted from Bill & Robert and started out toward the library. It was a nice walk through a garden infested residential area. Before reaching the library we came upon the Beth Israel Synagogue, which we understand is the only synagogue in Aruba with a congregation of about 75. Across the street was a monument to two Aruban units that fought in World War II.
The library was cool and modern, with some colorful art inside . . . notably a representation of the Willem III Tower that was about 8 feet tall.
It was lunch time when we left the library, so we walked back to the shore to find the restaurant where we had lunch the last time we were here. It is in a delightful spot right on the shore. We had delicious grouper sandwiches washed down by the local Balashi beer. We told you this was a pleasant island on which to relax!
We walked back to the ship through Queen Wilhelmina Park. Wilhellmina was Queen of the Netherlands for 50 years, from 1898 until 1948. A statue of Queen Wilhelmina in the park was dedicated by her daughter, Queen Juliana, in 1955. Nearby is a statue of Dutch holocaust victim Anne Frank, erected in 2011. The park is full of Iguanas and other lizards running around freely in the grass.
Reaching the port we boarded Prinsendam for the last time . . . not just the last time on this voyage but the last time ever. She was sold to a German cruise company called Phoenix Reising at the end of 2018 and they took possession in July, 2019. So while she still has many years to sail, it will be under a different name (Amera) and with a different look. https://www.cruisemapper.com/ships/Amera-742 So this sparked a bit of nostalgia, not only because this is a particularly nice ship but also because it was the first ship on which we took a long voyage, the circumnavigation of South America in 2012.
On the morning of March 24, our last day at sea, the housekeeping staff put on an extravaganza towel animal display on the Lido deck by the pool. The white ones are room towels and the blue striped ones are beach towels.
There were large towel animals, as much as three feet tall.
There were small towel animals, hanging on a hedge and sitting on tables and the benches around the pool.
And of course, not to be forgotten, plenty of hanging chimpanzees.
So that is the end of this episode and the end of this epic voyage. The next day, after 80 days of sailing, we disembarked in Ft Lauderdale and drove home, stopping to visit some relatives along the way. It was quite an experience, and we will look forward to our next international adventure, hopefully in 2020.