THE CORAL PRINCESS - PANAMA 2016   4/5/16 - 4/15/16




Aruba:   is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the southern Caribbean Sea, located about 990 miles west of the main part of the Lesser Antilles and 18 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. It measures 20 miles long from its northwestern to its southeastern end and 6 miles across at its widest point.  Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, Aruba forms a group referred to as the ABC Islands. Collectively, Aruba and the other Dutch Islands in the Caribbean are often called the Dutch Caribbean.

Aruba is one of the four countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands, Curaçao and Saint Maarten. The citizens of these countries all share a single nationality: Dutch. Aruba has no administrative subdivisions, but, for census purposes, is divided into eight regions. Its capital is Oranjestad.

The island has a bit of history. Aruba's first inhabitants were the Caquetio Indians from the Arawak tribe, who migrated there from Venezuela to escape attacks by the Caribs. Fragments of the earliest known Indian settlements date back to about 1000. Due to Aruba's mostly distant location from other Caribbean islands and strong currents in the sea which made canoe travel to the other islands difficult, the Caquetios remained more tied to South America than the Caribbean.

In 1636, Aruba was acquired by the Netherlands and remained under their control for nearly two centuries. In 1796, the town that was later named Oranjestad, was founded and became the island’s capital.  During the Napoleonic wars, the British Empire took control over the island, between 1799 and 1802, and between 1804 and 1816, before handing it back to the Dutch.

A 19th-century gold rush was followed by prosperity brought on by first the opening of a crude oil transshipment facility in 1924 and then in 1928 with the opening of an oil refinery. This was the Lago Oil and Transport Company a 100% owned subsidiary of Standard Oil of New Jersey. 

The Lago refinery was located on the east end of the island and on the west end Royal Dutch Shell had a small refinery, the Eagle Refinery which closed soon after World War II. The last decades of the 20th century saw a boom in the tourism industry, which became Aruba's primary industry when the refinery closed in 1985.

In 1986, Aruba seceded from the Netherlands Antilles and became a separate, autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, under the Dutch crown. Movement toward full independence was halted at Aruba's prerogative in 1990. Aruba has a mixture of people from South America, Europe, the Far East, and other islands of the Caribbean.

After a break in the coalition between the ruling Arubaanse Volkspartij (AVP) and the Organisashon Liberal Arubano (OLA), the election of July 1998 was pushed forward to December 1997. The results were unclear, with votes equally divided between the People's Electoral Movement Party (MEP), the AVP, and the OLA. After negotiations failed to unite the MEP and AVP, a new coalition between the AVP and OLA formed, which forced the MEP to be the opposition.

Its main business is Tourism though efforts for offshore drilling and natural gas deposits may change things economically.  When the ship leaves the dock you can see the drilling rigs off shore.  Most of ARUBA is in a political hiatus and confidential chats with locals (which is what a journalist does) indicated they feel about some of their politicians like we do in the US.

From the time you leave the ship and tour the local businesses adjacent to the pier, bring the attitude, they want to sell and you want to buy.  There are some great bargains for the local goods which made kids back home happy with hats , beads, trinkets, toys, t-shirts, flip flops and so forth. 

For the adults there are high end stores with all the brands of watches, diamonds, jewelry, bracelets and necklaces in every level of luxury heavily discounted.  NOTE:  I always make sure warranties and exact model comparisons are correct and up to date as some models never come to the states, some might be discontinued and for a myriad of reasons, I always invoke ‘Caveat Emptor’ or buyer beware and put forth restraint if it all sounds too good.  Most of what we saw was fairly priced, some exceptional bargains, and wished we had more time there.

My traveling partner did buy a watch on the ship after hers stopped,  and the Princess prices were as good or in one case better than on shore (10%) and definitely better than here in the states. (About 40% better)  Think of the ship as a floating retail hotel with shops and deals all the time.

I admit I went into shock as I drooled over one watch in the window, with a picture of John Travolta (His is an avid pilot and so am I) and an Breitling watch, sold in many stores I believe the Navtimer model he wears in the ad, but just down the block was a custom Navtimer Breitling in 18KT for a modest 42,000 dollars,  a true one of a kind.  I was quickly hurried off by my mate suffering from a depravity anxiety attack caused by looking at my wrist at my Citizen Pilot, the best watch I have ever had, it never needing batteries and only 500 dollars. 

We only spent the day in Aruba, beautiful beaches, nice shops, friendly people and the ship was getting ready to leave.

Cartagena, a gorgeous fishing village on Colombia's Caribbean coast, has excellent beaches, a historic old town (that's entirely walkable) and beautiful colonial architecture. It's also one of the safest places in the country, so it's no wonder it's a popular port of call for cruise ships. Need a break from exploring the cobblestone streets? Stop at an outdoor cafe for excellent pastries and people-watching. 

 We only had a day in Cartagena, and we were able to do a lot in the amount of time we had!  IN - You can opt for a private city tour, which I would recommend Cartagena Connections Walking Tour. It was the perfect start to our trip, and we were able to walk outside the walled-city into Getsamani (really beautiful graffiti) and other parts, that we may not would have known to do on our own.  And they customize it to what you want to see/do/experience. Plus it's always best to get the in and out from a local.

IN - I would suggest going to La Popa, for the view of the whole area, perhaps to see the monastery itself, then head to the old city. If you have time, then you can consider San Felipe.   Castillo de San Felipe if you are into history and forts. We explored it in about an hour, so it won't take much of your day.   You could aimlessly wander for a while in the walled-city, and it's just so peaceful and beautiful!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that potable water is more difficult to source in lowland tropical regions. Many Caribbean destinations warn against drinking from the tap, from Punta Cana to Montego Bay. However, according to the body of water safety, Acuacar, and the local government, the water in Cartagena is potable.  

Taxis are usually plentiful but you will get a sense of that once you arrive at La Popa and whether you want to ask them comment on how much that would cost.

You should not need to worry about needing to speak Spanish to go back to the port. Most taxi drivers will understand that request in English.  Try to get a map of the old city so that you don't end up wasting time walking in circles.


The city was founded by Americans in 1850 as the Atlantic terminal of the Panama Railroad, then under construction to meet the gold rush demand for a fast route to California. For a number of years early in its history, the sizable United States émigré community called the town Aspinwall after Panama Railroad promoter William Henry Aspinwall, while the city's Hispanic community called it Colón in honor of Christopher Columbus. The city was founded on the western end of a treacherously marshy islet known as Manzanillo Island. As part of the construction of the Panama Railroad, the island was connected to the Panamanian mainland by a causeway and part of the island was drained to allow the erection of permanent buildings.  Much of the city was burned during the Colombian Civil War of 1885 and again during a massive fire in 1915. The Great Colon Fire of April 13–14, 1940 destroyed one third of the city.[1]

Stretching along the Caribbean Coast, Limon is considered to be one of the most pristine and lush regions of Costa Rica. Roughly 125 miles of shoreline between Nicaragua and Panama boast picturesque white-sand beaches lined with coconut trees for an ultimate tropical paradise. As one of the country's most geographically diverse regions, Limon features everything from mangrove wetlands to towering mountains. Take in the endless scenic landscapes throughout Limon, which was first "discovered" by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Despite this, Limon remains as one of the least traveled regions in Costa Rica, allowing for exploration of untouched prehistoric rainforests and unmatched beauty compared with the rest of the country.

Puerto Limon - As the cultural hub of Limon, this capital city is a bustling port town with a unique and vibrant fabric. Mostly residents here have Afro-Caribbean ancestry, so Limon often provides a culture-rich experience without the touristy environment of some other major destinations in Costa Rica. The city is home to several museums and attractions for travelers to visit as well as stunning architecture that is unique to the area. One must-see attraction is Parque Vargas, a beautiful park filled with tropical palm trees, where sloths are often found slowly climbing between branches.

Tortuguero National Park Located in the northern half of the province, Tortuguero National Park is known for its turtle nesting along the beach. Unlike many other parks in the country that best serve hikers, Tortuguero should be explored via the water channels. Travelers can hop on a boat or even go kayaking or canoeing to get the best view of wildlife in this park. While there is a plethora of mammals, aviary species and reptiles that populate the area, the most sought-after attraction is the turtles. Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles are the most common species that nest along the beaches, and depending on the time of the year, it's possible to see these nocturnal creatures dig their nests and lay eggs. The canals are filled with unique species as well, including the West Indian manatee, monkeys, river otters, and more than 50 species of freshwater fish.

Montego Bay, the capital of St. James Parish on Jamaica’s north coast, is a major cruise ship port with numerous beach resorts and golf courses outside its commercial core. Popular beaches include Doctor’s Cave Beach and Walter Fletcher Beach, home to an amusement park. There’s snorkeling and diving at coral reefs in the protected waters of Montego Bay Marine Park.


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