"" Writer's Wanderings: A Caribbean New Year's

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Caribbean New Year's

New Year’s Eve Day can be a noisy one in the Caribbean. December 30 and 31 found us at Aruba and Curacao. In Aruba, we heard lots of fireworks being set off and just before we sailed at 10 p.m., we watched a beautiful fireworks display.

There was no comparison however to the noise of the fireworks in Curacao. At times it was deafening. Our morning was passed somewhat quietly as we took a country drive with a bus full of cruisers to the north end of the island. Along the way we stopped at a former slave’s home, a cave, and a beach to enjoy some of the beauty the island has to offer.

The former slave home was quite interesting—two rooms that housed a couple and their thirteen children. As the story goes, the main room was for the husband and the children and only the mother slept in the small bedroom. The husband was only allowed into the bedroom twice a month which I guess was sufficient enough to produce 13 children. Slavery was quite a business on Curacao at one time and there are more than a dozen plantations as a result of it.

There are numerous beaches on the west side of the island—all very beautiful and well kept. They are run by the government who charges three dollars a head for their use.

The cave area along the shore was interesting for the rugged lava landscape that met the blue of the ocean pounding against it. The island is covered in cactus more than in trees but at the time of our visit, the rainy season, the landscape was quite green.

Willemstad is the port town of Curacao and is divided in two by the harbor. The two parts are connected by a large bridge for vehicular traffic and a floating pontoon bridge for pedestrian traffic that swings open when ships or boats enter the harbor. The town is colorful and delightfully quaint with its gingerbread townhouse look. I’m told the shopping is good but I’m not an expert in that area—no matter what my husband may say.

Back to the noisy celebration: As we walked through the streets of Willemstad, we had to cover our ears. Chains of firecrackers were laid out a block long and lighted in various parts of the city. It would take a good twenty minutes for them to all go off. Meanwhile large clouds of smoke rose and the air smelled of fireworks all day. Larger bottle rockets and, I’m guessing, cherry bombs added to the merrymaking. As the Eurodam pulled out, we saw preparations for what I assume was a spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

Our New Year’s Eve celebration was lively aboard ship that evening. A formal night, we were dressed in tux and gown and sporting the appropriate party hats. In the atrium of the ship hung the ship’s bell and at midnight, amidst balloons and champagne and noise makers and streamers, the bell was rung to welcome in the New Year. Crew and passengers alike celebrated the hope that a new year offers.

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