A Travellerspoint blog

Value Proposition

Really, this trip came down to making a choice - would you rather have beautiful Caribbean beaches and tropical drinks, or Elvis impersonators and gorging yourself at all-you-can-eat buffets? Originally, we weren't supposed to be in Curacao - but somehow a short getaway to Vegas morphed into a few days in the Caribbean. Really, our feelings on Vegas are fairly neutral, but it does seem to be a fairly standard getaway - not that far away, and cheap. Or so you might think ... surprisingly, coming to Curacao ended being all about the value.

Truthfully, the idea of Vegas being a value destination is a bit of a myth - sure, the cost of a flight from Calgary is relatively cheap, but a flight to Curacao isn't exactly bad value when you consider how much farther the flight is, and if you happen to travel there in the low season. Adding up flight and accommodations, the cost of five nights in Curacao wasn't that much more than Vegas. Granted, the Las Vegas accommodation would've been a fancy hotel with a big swimming pool and a spa, instead of the simple, but clean and modern, hotel we had in Curacao.

In that regard, Vegas does offer excellent value when you consider the class of hotel available for a relatively low price point, but the price of a trip here quickly escalates. Want to catch a show? Anywhere from $100 to $200 per person. A fancy multi-course dinner for two, complete with a bottle of wine? $200, easily. How about a spa treatment? Some gambling? Shopping? A few drinks? Cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching! In the end, I figured that five nights in Curacao was less than five in Vegas, making it an easy choice.

Of course, our particular trip to Curacao wasn't quite the same type of getaway that Vegas would've been - lacking in luxury, preparing our own breakfasts, packing lunches, and not doing too many tours. Sure, you could find some luxury here in Curacao, but overall, it simply can't compare to the blinged-out World of Vegas, and finding such luxury here likely would've ended up costing more than Vegas. But there's something to be said for a place that is more natural, and without any fake famous World monuments.

And after a few lazy days relaxing on the many fine beaches in Curacao, sipping on some cold, slushy tropical drinks, I think we'd both take "roughing it" in Curacao over Elvis impersonators any day!

Playa Kenepa Grandi ...

Playa Kenepa Grandi ...


Playa Jeremi ...

Playa Jeremi ...


Playa Lagun ...

Playa Lagun ...


Brain Coral

Brain Coral


Oddball Breakfast on the Beach ...

Oddball Breakfast on the Beach ...


A Familiar Friend ...

A Familiar Friend ...


Looks Disgusting ...

Looks Disgusting ...


Disapointment ...

Disapointment ...


Good Grilled Meats ...

Good Grilled Meats ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

ABC

The ABC islands - Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, also known as the Lesser Antilles, are all part of the Netherlands, though they seem to function as independent nations. The Dutch influence definitely lends a unique atmosphere to the place, especially when combined with the fact that it's a Caribbean island just off the coast of Venezuela. Sitting on the Punda waterfront in downtown Curacao, it's striking how reminiscent it is of Amsterdam's canals and architecture, except that here it isn't grey and dreary, and the buildings are painted in vibrant Caribbean colours.

At times it also feels as if you're at a conference at the UN, with the variety of languages spoken in the streets, which include Dutch, English, Spanish, and Papiamento, a creole language that seems to be heavily-influenced by Spanish and Portuguese. There's even a daily migration of people from Venezuela, who arrive early every morning with fish, produce, and other goods to sell at Willemstad's Floating Market.

Though Curacao bears similarities to other Caribbean islands, it doesn't quite have the same annoying cruise ship carnival atmosphere, because it's just outside the reach of most cruise itineraries. It's a shame, really, as the cruise ships have essentially reduced most Caribbean nations to a shore excursion, in the eyes of the typical passenger. A snorkel trip, a driving tour around island, a stop at a rum factory, some duty-free shopping, and perhaps a dolphin encounter ... that's nearly all that a ten-hour whirlwind cruise ship stop allows you to do, and it ends up giving Caribbean ports a very uniform, and perhaps even mundane, feel to them.

Perhaps it's because cruise ship season has yet to ramp up, but Willemstad's port seems to feel unique, in comparison. It may also be because the island is heavily touristed by the Dutch, who seem to have different vacation expectations than the typical cruise ship passenger. Curacao has an abundance of self-catering options and few all-inclusive resorts, making it a more rewarding place for independent travelers who are willing to wander around on their own, rather than joining up with an organized tour.

At any rate, it's nice to have more than just a handful of hours here, to be able to slowly wander around Willemstad, and have a few patio stops for some cold drinks. And without having a cruise ship to rush back to, we had plenty of time to finally find Fishalicious tonight - and even better than finding the place, was that it's one of those rare restaurants that actually lived up to the hype!

The Floating Market ...

The Floating Market ...


Typical Caribbean Shopping Street ...

Typical Caribbean Shopping Street ...


The Caribbean Amsterdam

The Caribbean Amsterdam


Hotel Kura Hulanda ...

Hotel Kura Hulanda ...


Cheap Cheese ...

Cheap Cheese ...


Strange Combo ...

Strange Combo ...


Strange Combo #2 ...

Strange Combo #2 ...


Fishalicious ...

Fishalicious ...


Sprats ...

Sprats ...


Trio of Fish ...

Trio of Fish ...


Kabritu Stoba - Again ...

Kabritu Stoba - Again ...


Tender, Tender, Tenderloin ...

Tender, Tender, Tenderloin ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Netherlands Antilles Comments (0)

Superstorm

We're so smart - avoiding any islands in the Caribbean hurricane belt would ensure our little getaway would be unaffected by any severe weather, though there is still a high probability of some rain and clouds this time of year. But ... we weren't so smart after all, since our connecting flight through Miami was still subject to the whims of Mother Nature, and especially to the whims of her ugly stepdaughter, Hurricane Sandy. Oh, shit ...

To be honest, neither of us was even paying attention to the weather forecast, since Curacao is rarely impacted by hurricanes to any significant degree. We had no idea what was going on until we checked into our Miami hotel at 1 AM, and asked the receptionist how far in advance of our morning flight we should arrive at the airport. "At least three hours - it's going to be chaos tomorrow morning, with the hurricane expected to make landfall." Hurricane???!??! WTF??!?!!!

Of course, it couldn't have been just any old hurricane, as it soon morphed into Superstorm Sandy - but fortunately for us, Miami wasn't greatly affected, other than some strong winds, as Sandy veered northward and away from us. Other than a minor delay getting off the ground, we landed in Curacao only a short time after the scheduled arrival.

As far as Caribbean islands go, Curacao is a bit of an oddball, in that its economy isn't entirely dependent upon tourism, with oil being the major component. Driving around the island, it definitely doesn't have the look of other places in the Caribbean, with an ugly refinery spewing smoke from its incinerator and flare stack, and some fairly decrepit areas in and around Willemstad's touristy centre. Of course, that's not to say that tourism isn't also a vital industry in Curacao - the effects of an increasing focus on tourism and attracting foreign investment can be witnessed in action in the waterfront district of Pietermaai.

Strolling around Pietermaai tonight, everywhere we looked we saw rapid gentrification, with an influx of boutique hotels and fancy restaurants, with fancy prices on par with any fine dining you would find in Calgary. It's quite the striking contrast, with upscale renovations interspersed amongst blocks of derelict buildings, and also quite eerie - it's possible that the neighbourhood is completely safe, but you definitely have an uneasy feeling strolling around its dimly-lit streets, as you may not come across another soul for several blocks.

Our mission tonight was to find Fishalicious, a renowned seafood restaurant - but our uneasiness kept increasing as we wandered farther and farther into Pietermaai without a map, and still unable to find the place. Eventually, we gave up and turned around, returning to the more populated area of Pietermaai, ending up at Ginger, another fancy new renovated restaurant. Though the food was a tad disappointing, coming from sub-zero Canadian temperatures, we still couldn't complain - sitting outside on a balmy Caribbean night, sipping on the finest mojitos we've ever had the pleasure of sampling ... how could you beat that?

Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge by Night ...

Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge by Night ...


Scharloo Waterfront

Scharloo Waterfront


A Little Caribbean Colour

A Little Caribbean Colour


Oops ...

Oops ...


Sign of Quality - Wine Served by the Gallon

Sign of Quality - Wine Served by the Gallon


Aloe Vera ..

Aloe Vera ..


Curacao's Most Renowned Export ...

Curacao's Most Renowned Export ...


Bakeljouw ...

Bakeljouw ...


Kabritu Stoba ...

Kabritu Stoba ...


Ikan Bali ...

Ikan Bali ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Comments (0)

Prequel

If hairy little Hobbits can have a prequel this year, then so can we! Just because neither of our ancestries trace back to the Shire, does that mean we shouldn't be allowed to do what the Hobbits are doing? Should we be denied the privilege and pleasure of making our own prequel because we aren't hairy little Halflings? Truth be told, I sometimes wonder if I'm not actually part Hobbit, particularly when I glance down at my dirty, hairy feet - a strong indicator that Hobbit genes are intertwined in the helix of my DNA.

Are those tufts of excess hair on my feet the result of over production of testosterone? Are the calloused and dirty bottoms of my feet due to too many months spent backpacking in sandals, too many nights shuffling along scuzzy hostel floors? Is my predilection for all things culinary because of too many hours spent plopped on a sofa, eyes glazed over in a Zombie-like trance, watching hour after hour of Anthony Bourdain and Alton Brown on the Food Network? Or does this all suggest that my family life has been a lie, that my Earthly origin lies within a chance encounter between my mother and a milkman who bore a striking resemblance to Bilbo Baggins?

So, a prequel it is! Though the big Africa trip is only a couple of months away, we took the opportunity to sneak away for a few days to somewhere tropical for some beaches and beer. Given the time of year, deciding on a spot was bit of a challenge, as the more accessible and affordable destinations that offered the desired climate limited the selection to places like Mexico, which we had already done last year, and the Caribbean. But since October falls at the tail end of the Caribbean hurricane season, this ruled out all the islands found within the hurricane belt, limiting choices to only a handful of places farther south, that are just safely out of Mother Nature's reach.

In the end, Middle Earth was just a tad too out of the way for us to film our prequel, so we decided on Curacao, instead. It's a lot easier to get to, even though it took a LONG day of travel with several flights and a layover in Miami - that's still a hell of a lot easier than trekking through Mordor to Mount Doom!

Welcome to Curacao!

Welcome to Curacao!


Christmas Came Early ...

Christmas Came Early ...


Surprisingly Good ...

Surprisingly Good ...


Cousin's BBQ ...

Cousin's BBQ ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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