What a fantastic 10 days with the family! It was so nice to get away from all of life’s daily distractions and spend some real quality time with my husband and two children. This year’s family vacation started with a flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to catch a 7 day cruise to the southern Caribbean. We opted to fly in a couple days before the cruise so that we could spend some time in the Venice of America.
We stayed at the Westin. It was a beautiful hotel and directly across the street from Pompano Beach.
We also took some time to explore some of the over 200 miles of canals and water channels that earn Fort Lauderdale the nickname of the Venice of America. There were boats, yachts, super yachts, and multi-million dollar houses everywhere. Apparently, there is no personal income tax in Florida so a lot of people with money live there.
Then it came time to board our ship. We’ve cruised several times before, but never on Holland America Lines. Let’s just say I was impressed. Our ship was the Westerdam and it was really upscale without being stuffy. The food and service were absolutely top notch!
Our first port of call was the Bahamas. The cruise line has it’s own private island, Half Moon Cay. It was nothing but beach, sun, and fun for the entire day. We couldn’t get over how soft and fine the white sand was and how warm and beautiful the water was. It was fantastic. We stayed out so long that we all left with a sunburn even though we put on our sunblock! I guess when you’re by the water and that close to the equator, the sun is pretty intense.
Our next pot of call was Oranjestad, Aruba. Aruba is part of the Dutch Antilles and in the southern Caribbean about 1,500 miles away from Ft. Lauderdale. In the Dutch Antilles they speak Spanish, Portuguese, English and Papiamentu (a creole mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English and Arawak Indian). I think it was almost as diverse as Sacramento!
This was the first view we had of Aruba from the ship.
This is the California lighthouse. The lighthouse is named for the U.S ship – the California – which sunk about two years previous to its construction in 1910.
The picturesque Chapel of Alto Vista exudes tranquility on its dramatic setting above the sea. The chapel was the island’s first Roman Catholic Church, built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953
The Dutch influence on the architecture was everywhere.
Our final port of call was Willemstad, Curaçao (pronounced kyur uh sow), another island in the Dutch Antilles. At this point we were a mear 40 miles from South America, but it really felt like we were in Amsterdam! What a cool little island. We did our usual and had a local taxi driver show us the town.
This bridge opens and closes on a regular basis so ships came come in and out of the harbor. We almost got stuck on on our way back to the ship as it started to move when we were only half way across!
After Curacao, we had two days at sea. It was a nice chance to just relax with no plans, deadlines or pressure. I took out my camera (as if I ever put it away) and explored our ship the Westerdam in more detail. I do love details!
There were live orchids everywhere on the ship.
Ahhh, the main dining room, where all the magic happens. We are such foodies and there were no disappointments with any of our food on the Westerdam. The meals were long and relaxed and the kids were so well behaved. The worst thing about coming home is having to adjust to everyday meals after the 5 course lunch and dinners everyday. Even breakfast was more than one course!
This is one of the elevators on the ship. Everything was so tasteful and elegant.
Since our flight home was not until 5:00pm in the afternoon, we decided to spend our last morning in the Florida Everglades. What a nice way to round out a fantastic vacation. The kids really enjoyed the airboat ride and loved seeing all the wildlife. We even had an alligator approach the boat (a rarity since they are usually out at night only).
I think he saw Megan and thought she looked like a tasty morsel!
This was our last sunrise in Florida.
What a great trip. I’ve posted a slideshow below if you want to see more!