After three days of rocky seas, we were more than ready for our first port of call in Aruba. But we wouldn’t dock in Aruba until the afternoon, and we had an entire morning to fill.
And it rained. All morning.
We started the day upstairs on the Lido deck for a leisurely breakfast, noticing dark skies in the distance despite the sun that was peeking in and out. We were out decently early (maybe around 9:15 am) and we noticed stickers on many of the deck chairs. Upon closer inspection, they were notices that property had been removed from saved chairs that hadn’t been attended to in 40 minutes. These stickers were all over the poolside chairs. The pool attendants weren’t fooling around with chair hogs this week.
The skies opened up while we were finishing our breakfast and didn’t clear up until the early afternoon. We were hoping to go out to the promenade on deck 3, but those were completely shut down, as were all upper decks outside. The rain wasn’t terrible, but the winds and high seas were becoming a safety hazard. Apparently.
With anything outdoors off limits, we headed to Ocean Plaza for a few rounds of trivia and coffee. Did you know that there are 206 bones in the adult human body? Neither did we. Now we all do. You’re welcome.
We napped in the room, we walked around the ship and we were hopeful that the rain would let up as we grabbed a quick lunch from Guy’s Burger Joint, but it only got heavier as we approached the island of Aruba. The forecast showed promise for the afternoon hours, though, and Cruise Director Chris said just about the same: that there was a lot of liquid sunshine in Aruba right now, but that it would clear up within an hour or two of our arrival. So we enjoyed our burgers while the Sunshine was docking about a half hour early — the gangways were open by 12:30 pm.
The evening prior, there was a note in our stateroom that, as Platinum guests, we could take advantage of priority debarkation in Aruba, giving us a time and a meeting place. We’d only been offered priority debarkation in tender ports previously, and we were intrigued by this new option. But our plans for Aruba were not thrilling enough to warrant early debark: our plans were contained to walking around, stocking up on Aruba Aloe products and getting a really big iced coffee at a Starbucks that we’d hoped would have faster wifi than the slow-crawling premium service we’d purchased on the ship. What can I say – we aim high. Regardless, we had no need for a priority service here, though we certainly appreciated the option.
Instead, we took our time getting ready for our time in port because I couldn’t miss the afternoon trivia session of Name That Musical. Broadway shows are my jam. Total guilty pleasure. I have Broadway in Chicago season tickets, I listen to a ridiculous showtunes Spotify playlist when I’m at work and I’ve been driving Stephanie crazy singing showtunes around the house (and in the car) since I was 11. I wasn’t missing this. Showtunes trivia? This is my moment.
Earlier in the day, Stephanie joked to me that I should have brushed up on my Miss Saigon – I’ve never seen Miss Saigon and there’s always a Miss Saigon question that I always miss. She wasn’t kidding: there was one song I didn’t recognize, but she did because of course, it was from Miss Saigon. There were 20 questions plus a bonus, for a total of 21 total points. We took the win, the glory and a plastic piece of gold ship with a score of 20.
After we dropped our ship on a stick back at the room, we headed down to deck zero to disembark. A hearty wind had pushed the rain out and kept the temperatures manageable, but it was mega humid as we walked down the main street, stopping to peruse the merchandise at the souvenir huts.
We walked down to the Renaissance mall, grabbed some venti iced coffees at Starbucks (which DID have faster wifi than the ship, but not by much) and then walked back on the other side of the road, stopping in the other mall to buy as much Aruba Aloe as we could carry back. If you stop in Aruba, check it out – they have two locations (one in the mall, one at the terminal) and we swear by their after sun and aloe products.
As we were walking back, we started talking about how we wished we had booked an excursion for this port – it was our fourth time in Aruba in four years and we’ve seen and done most of the island’s must’s, but there is so much more than shopping at the port in an island as beautiful as Aruba is. We love the Southern Caribbean routes – so much so we’ve done it yearly for the past four years – but in that, we’re starting to miss those other ports that we haven’t visited in a few years, especially now that we’re cruising the Caribbean once a year instead of twice.
We reembarked the ship and checked the dinner menus posted in the lobby, but nothing looked particularly good. Thankfully, they could squeeze us in for a 6:00 pm at JiJi Asian Kitchen, so we dropped our bags off at the room and headed off to watch a spectacular sunset before heading upstairs for dinner.
JiJi is one of our favorite dining experiences on the seas, across all of the ships we’ve ever sailed on. It isn’t available on every ship – only the Sunshine and the Vista (and all indications are that it will be on the Horizon, as well) – and it doesn’t get the same attention as Fahrenheit 555, Carnival’s signature dining experience, but at $15 a person, it’s a steal for the innovative Asian fare. The dishes aren’t just delicious, either – they’re presented as meticulously plated artistic masterpieces that are almost too beautiful to eat, every edible flower or swath of sauce plated with precise purpose. We have our favorites: Stephanie swears the Chicken and Cilantro soup is the greatest thing ever, I could have a bite of the pork belly every day and never tire of it and Mom can’t get enough of the Kung Pao chicken. If you’re on a ship with a JiJi onboard, put it on your must do list, order the pork belly and thank me later (but seriously, let me know what you think!).
With the ship docked until the late evening, there wasn’t a Playlist Production show for the evening. Suicide Squad would be on the big screen, but not until 10:00 pm and one of our favorite shows, Liars Club, was on the late night schedule in the Limelight Lounge. Stephanie and I decided to hit the hot tub up on the Serenity deck, but it was packed. Like literally packed. At 8:30 pm. And the two hot tubs on the Lido deck were just as full. The Serenity pool was too cold to swim in, so we just laid out and stared at the stars for a little bit, discussing how while we like the Sunshine, on weeks like this one where the ship is near capacity and there’s nearly twice as many sea days as port days, it would have been nice to be on a ship like the Breeze or the Vista with more public spaces (and a lanai with all of the hot tubs!).
The Sunshine left Aruba at 10:00 pm on the dot, and we watched from the deck 3 promenade. We wandered around Ocean Plaza for awhile before settling in for the evening with a movie in our room, hopeful the short distance to our next port in Curacao would lend us some smooth seas and a restful night’s sleep.