Trip Start Oct 25, 2012
Trip End Jan 12, 2013

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Where I stayed
Quint's Travelodge Willemstad
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Netherlands Antilles  ,
Saturday, October 27, 2012

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! 
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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