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Thread: Curacao Trip Report Dec 2011

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    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    Curacao Trip Report Dec 2011

    Curacao December 10-17, 2011

    Overview: This was our first trip to Curacao with the objectives of shore diving and relaxing on a sunny beach. Traveling was two couples all divers. We have been to Mexico, Cozumel, Bonaire, and Roatan previously. Travel arrangements made by Joey at GOGO Travel joey@outdooradventuretravel.net(Joey did an excellent job with finding us a deal and handling all the reservations) I highly recommend contacting Joey for your travel arrangements. We could not have booked this trip ourselves cheaper than what Joey put together for us. We traveled from St. Louis, MO, connecting through Miami, FL and then onto Curacao via American Airlines.

    Accommodations: We stayed at the all-inclusive Breezes Resort. Prior to the trip we read many reviews about the resort with some saying it was run down, dirty, the help was rude and unaccommodating, the music was too loud often playing late into the night, and the food was terrible. Many also commented on the small glasses they use to serve drinks as a negative. What we experienced was a very nice, well-maintained resort. Everything was clean as well as the beach and pool areas were cleaned every morning. As I sat on our patio every morning watching the sun-rise workers were raking the beach and picking up any trash and reorganizing all the furniture on the beach. We did not experience any rude workers and everybody was very friendly. They all seemed to want to help us in any way they could and served us with a smile and a Hello. Many even went a little above that and engaged us with funny conversation making you feel like you were important to them. The beach had a lot to offer and was protected by a rock wall to keep waves from crashing onto the beach. Many spent the day swimming and snorkeling. On the beach is a rock-climbing wall and a trapeze…yes, I said trapeze. Both of these were monitored by the Entertainment Crew that would allow guests to try them out. During the day several kids worked on the trapeze with the crew and then on Friday nights they have a show where the kids showcased what they learned through the week. They called this the circus and was kind of fun. This was unusual and something to do, but really not a high-class circus act. All day there were activities planned on the pool deck and each night some sort of entertainment was offered from a sax player, 1-2 man bands, full bands, and one night native dancers demonstrated cultural dancing. There was always something going on to entertain guests.

    There are many reviews of the resort that mention the music. Starting in the morning they have activities on the pool deck with somebody always seeming to be talking on the PA. In the evening, music is playing. Mostly this is your typical island type music but they play a lot of what my generation grew up on 70’s and 80’s music. Our room was located near the pool and yes, the music could get a little overwhelming at times when we were trying talk on the patio of our room. I enjoyed the music, but they could have turned it down a notch at times. Usually, the music shut down at midnight and those wanting to continue could go to the disco. If you are the early to bed type and your room is close to the pool this could be an issue.

    The property has a workout room, computer area, gift shop, ping-pong and pool tables for guests to use. A gift shop, disco, and jewelry shop along with a casino are also on the property. The Casino is large and has a multitude of slot machines, black jack tables, and a craps table. We spend some time in the casino using the slots. The process is that you purchase a card and put money on the card and use this in the slots. When you return the card they reimburse you cost of the card and any “winnings” on the card. The slots were old and we had issues getting our cards out of the machines. A good pair of tweezers is needed for this. Several times, I won, but the machine failed to credit my card with the winnings. After this happening I turned in my card and never returned to the Casino.

    The resort does offer WiFi for a small fee or you can use the computer lab. I think the WiFi connection was $35 for the week. The only issue we found was that it could really only be accessed at the pool area. Even in our room we had very limited connectivity if any. We did have an issue with getting the wrong code for the first couple days, but once we got the correct code it worked fine at the pool deck area.

    I would say we had the best room on the property. We were a ocean front room on the ground level (3102 & 3103). Our patio faced the beach, which allowed us a place to hang out and watch what was happening on the beach. The rooms were clean and updated with great air conditioning. A programmable safe was provided in the room along with a flat screen TV, coffee maker, iron and ironing board. The room had a large shower area and no bathtub.

    Food: We have stayed at several all-inclusive resorts. First, let me say the food was good and for buffet style feeding hundreds of people it was very adequate. If you are looking for 5-star food at this or any all-inclusive we haven’t found it and I doubt you will find it anywhere. It was typical all-inclusive food with a emphasize on island food (seafood). But, they did have various forms of pork, chicken, beef, and pasta along with assorted salads and desserts. The resort offers buffet style breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with a late dinner we called “2nd Dinner”. Breakfast included a full omelet bar made to order along with traditional breakfast foods – the French Toast was awesome. All this was available in the Jimmy Buffet area and open to all guests. Three restaurants were available for dinner – Italian, Japanese, and BBQ. These you needed to have reservations for and should be made when you check-in. You can only make 3 reservations at a time to allow all guests the opportunity for the finer dining. Other nights you simply eat at the buffet. During the day in-between lunch and dinner food is available to order at the snack shack on the beach. Here you could get hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc. Complaints we heard and experienced is that they take an order cook it up and then move to the next customer. With many standing in line, it is a really slow process. Having finger food available at all times could be an improvement.

    We ate at all 3 restaurants and they all were good. Again, you are not going to get the fine dining food, but it was a good experience. The Japanese Grill was interesting and the cook really tried to give you Japanese Grill Experience, but his knife skills were not the greatest but he did have fun entertaining everybody by simply banging the utensils on the grill. Most comments following the meal centered around the fact each item; noodles, chicken, beef, and fish were all served separately after they were cooked. Most people would have liked to have it all served at once; rather than, eating each item separately. The Italian Restaurant was probably the most “fancy” and the food was good, but not your favorite Italian restaurant. The BBQ was limited, but the short ribs were very good. The BBQ restaurant is actually the beach snack shack converted for under the stars dining.

    Drinks: There were plenty of drinks to go around from your favorite island drink, beer, to any mixed drink you could think of. We are not huge drinkers, but from what I could see they did serve the higher end alcohol products and not the generic. Many comments have been made about the small glasses. Yes, they do only give small glasses, but if you bring your own they are happy to fill them up or you can get as many drinks at a time as you like. This wasn’t a huge issue with us, but since many have commented on this it is worth touching on. The only issue we found with drinks was the availability of ice. There never seemed to be ice available from the soda machine, but they did serve drinks from the bar with plenty of ice. I’m not exactly sure why they gave you ice bins in your room since finding ice was a challenge. I do have to comment on the coffee available in the rooms. I travel a lot in my work and stay in a lot of hotels. I will tell you that the coffee they provide in the rooms for your in room coffee pot was excellent, the best I’ve had. I guess being that close to South America has its benefits.

    Diving: We wanted the freedom of shore diving on this trip. Ocean Encounters had a small shop located on Breezes Resort with a much larger shop located at the next resort down the beach (Lions Dive Resort). First, let me say that everybody we talked to at Ocean Encounters were absolutely great people. Everybody we met were very friendly and we enjoyed talking to them and they seem very interested in how our dives were going and shared much information with us on what to dive and what not to. In general, we felt like we were long lost friends. As I said, we wanted the freedom of shore diving and seeing the island. To do this we needed tanks and weights. It was odd, but OE didn’t seem to be very organized to provide this service to us very easily. They much preferred that we pay for boat diving, but that is not what we wanted to do. After several discussions with the resort shop and several phone calls between the contacts at the resort shop and somebody, they finally put together a deal that would work for us. They would rent us tanks for $11, but we had to pick them up and drop them off at Lions Dive. They didn’t want us taking tanks from the resort shop. This meant we had to drive down to Lions Dive pick up tanks (8 of them) and then every morning make a trip down to Lions dive to replace any empty tanks. Not a huge issue and they made it accommodating with allowing us to drive behind the resort to the dive shop. We thought $11 for a tank was a little expensive and really not the deal they quoted us by email prior to our trip, but it was the best they could do. When we shore dived at other locations that had a dive shop on site, we compared prices and found we could rent tanks from other places for $7; so, we would leave our OE tanks in the truck when this happened. Our deal at Breezes provided for one free tank daily, but this tank had to be used only at Breezes resort and had to be used when the shop was open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. They didn’t leave out any tanks for use after hours. So, to do night dives we had carry tanks from our truck down to the beach for use and then back to the truck. This was a real pain and an opportunity for improvement. Yes, we could have bought their night dive boat package, but that isn’t what we wanted to do. They did provide us with lockers and lock to store our gear and did have a room in back of the shop to hang up gear. The only issue with that was it was only open from 8:30am – 4:30 pm.

    Because of the driving situation and spending time trying to find dive sites, we really didn’t get as many dives in as we had hoped. I think we ended up with 12 dives for the week. Our first day of diving we attempted to find some of the sites using the local map we purchased and also received from a forum member prior to the trip. To us, these maps are virtually useless because none of the streets are marked. After spending the day getting lost we eventually ran into a dive site called Kokomo. It was a nice beach area located somewhere in the middle of nowhere. It appeared to be a party place with a bar and dive shop located onsite. They were in the process of tearing down a stage when we were there; so, I think they had a band their the night before. It didn’t cost anything to dive the site and the dive shop was very friendly with information. Nice dive, but I wouldn’t make it point to return. The next day we regrouped and rented a GPS from our car rental place. This was the trick and I highly recommend renting a GPS. Let me say that again, Get a GPS with local maps. We did bring a GPS with us, but was unable to find the correct maps for the island through Garmin. Long story, but it appears Garmin does not offer maps for the island, but they appear to be available because the GPS we rented had detailed maps loaded of the island. The next day we tried to dive Don’s Habitat, but it was closed for renovation, but the guard told us to go to Porto Marie just down the road. Awesome beach with a bar and dive shop. We pulled up and were allowed to drive down and unload our gear before parking in the parking lot. Even though we didn’t initially rent tanks from the dive shop they allowed us to use their gear benches and rinse tanks and even spent a few minutes explaining the dive. This was a great dive with a double reef system. We spent two days diving this coming back the 2nd day with our wives who had not been feeling well, but we knew they would love the easy diving it offered and the did. Entry fee was $2.50/person and then if you wanted to use a chair on the beach it was another $3 per person. Tank rental was $7. I highly recommend this site for the easy diving and double reef and the scenery on the beach isn’t bad either. Over the next days we found a site call Casa Abuo. It was a nice dive with a dive shop located on-site. Again, very pleasant people allowing us to use their facility with our own tanks at no charge. Nice beach and typical reef dive. We made our way little farther west and found a dive site called Playa Lagun. Again, we talked to the dive shop and they explained the dive. We had hoped to see some turtles here, but no luck. Kind of a strange dive. The beach was set inside a cove and the surge was very strong. We were told to surface swim out of the cove and then descend to a sand area. Follow a compassed reading across the sand to the reef and depending on the current go right or left returning on another compass heading to the bluffs and then follow the bluffs back to the cove. This all worked out fine, but kind of a boring dive and a lot of surge even at 60 feet. We wanted to dive the Superior Producer, but it is located in the pier where the cruise ships are docked and this never worked out for us because a cruise ship was always docked in the pier. They will not allow you to make the dive when a cruise ship is in port and was threatened with a rather hefty fine if we did. We did several dives on the house reef at Breezes (Car Pile) taking advantage of the free tank. The house reef is a nice dive with abundant coral and marine activity. We found the usual fish life along with squid, octopus, several puffer fish, eels, and also the dreaded Lion Fish. I wouldn’t say Lion Fish were everywhere, but there were plenty to see. Other dives we made were west of Williamsted. It appeared the better dive sites were located in the west, but this was a 45-minute trip for us and ate up a lot of time driving.

    Many ask us to compare diving in Curacao with Bonaire. Whoever said, “Divers go to Bonaire to vacation, and Vacationers go to Curacao to Dive” were absolutely correct. Diving in Bonaire is much easier because of two things, 1) Getting to the dive sites is so easy in Bonaire, drive down the road that runs along the shore and pull over and dive. In Curacao there are no roads that follow the coastline. You drive down a central main road and exit on paths taking you to the shore areas. These are not marked very good and you do spend a lot of time driving. 2) Bonaire seems to have it figured out with the unlimited diving packages. We really missed the ability to simply pull up, fill the truck full of tanks, and take off for the day. Curacao seems to concede the shore diving aspect to Bonaire and focus more on boat diving. We stayed away from the boat diving because of the added expense and we wanted the freedom of not having to meet a boat at a particular time. In general, if you are going on a dive trip with the focus to dive and don’t have non-divers I would recommend Bonaire. If you want more than just diving and want a family atmosphere than Curacao is the better choice. Curacao is a busy place around Williamsted, not like Bonaire that is rather sparse. Williamsted is a large city with a city feel to it. You don’t have this in Bonaire. Driving is a little crazy because you really don’t know where you are going and the horn is meant to get your attention not a sign of road rage…..they definitely use their horns. We spent a day in town shopping. I nice experience, but pretty much every shop was a clothes shop. They did have an open market where the fisherman brought in fresh fish. This took me back to when I lived in England.

    We are very happy with our trip and we will return. I’m not sure when because we really want to see the world and dive in as many locations as we can. We wish we could have visited more sites, but it took a while for us to figure out the driving and the locations. When we return we should do much better. If you haven’t been to Curacao, go even if you are thinking of Bonaire simply for the fact to say you have done it. We found ourselves frequently comparing Curacao with Bonaire. They both are different and offer different things.

  2. #2
    Shark Zeagle Eagle's Avatar
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    Excellent report Snagle. Thanks.
    --Zeagle Eagle

  3. #3
    Funeral Jorunna
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    Thanks for the great report.
    If you get confused listen to the music play.
    To much of everything is just enough.

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    Megalodon
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    Great report snagel. Glad you had a good time.

    I once saved a man in Wichita just to watch him dive...(inventor)

  5. #5
    Grouper
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    My son did his OW in Playa Laguna great bunch of guys. Great trip report sounds like you had a great time. Um was I right about the car?

    I must have sounded like a nut job about getting a car to everyone here on the boards but it is so much nicer.

    If I could ask one favor though? Could you compare the marine life and reef to Bonaire. Just a quick run down. Health of the reef, diversity of marine life and amount of fish

  6. #6
    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    Yep, the car is the ticket.

    I would say the reef and marine life are very similar in both Bonaire and Curacao. Pretty sure they are the same reef system. We didn't see anything in Curacao that we hadn't seen in Bonaire. In Bonaire, we did see Eagle Rays at Red Slave....Awesome. Didn't see anything like that in Curacao. We did hear a rumor that a nurse shark was spotted just east of our house reef about a 30 minute dive one way. We didn't venture out to find it and I'm really not believing it was there.

    I talked to my dive buddies about this and not sure if it was Curacao or what, but the reef didn't really have all the beautiful colors that I was expecting. I'm not sure if maybe I have lost my WoW Factor for this or if it might have been a little duller. My dive buddies debate this and said there was plenty of color, but for me the reefs did appear to be somewhat dull and gray.

    We were in Bonaire 2 years ago and I remember several places having a lot of dead coral near the shore line. Didn't really see this in Curacao, but most of the places we dove were beaches. The dock on the house reef was virtually right on the reef, but others you had a little swim over sand.

    Definitely, the better diving is west of Williamsted. The water reminded of that turquoise water you see in Coz and a lot calmer.

    In general, there was plenty of marine life and it all appeared healthy....lots of juveniles and everything seemed to be in balance.

    Snagel

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    Barracuda
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    Snagel,
    My wife is not a diver. How well did you feel things were suited for a snorkeler? Was the house reef suitable for snorkeling? Were there boat trips for snorkelers? We are planning a trip to go somewhere in the next couple of months and I want to go some place with good diving that has good snorkeling for her.

    Our last trip was to Puerto Aventuras. The diving was good, but the snorkeling was not very good at all for her.

    Thanks,
    Bill

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    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    Your wife would love the Breezes Resort. Regarding the snorkeling. There were a lot of people snorkeling off the beach. The beach has a lot of sand and not much to see snorkeling, but if you get up next to the wall they built there is some marine life. Pass the rocks is where people dive and the reef is right there. I did see some people snorkeling out there and a good place to snorkel. Very little boat traffic that close to the rocks. Many of the beaches in the area offer the same. I did see signs for snorkeling trips; don't know anything about them.

    The house reef at Breezes would provide good snorkeling. I would say you could find more, but one issue with a lot of the places is the reef is a little swim out from the beach areas. Very doable. In fact, we had a guy free dive down to us at 30'.

    I think you guys would really enjoy this place. If you are doing a lot of searching for reviews on the place we found a lot of negative reviews. I don't know why because we really liked the place. Let me know if you get serious about it.

    I hope to have some pictures up on our website soon, but due to the holidays we are pretty busy....didn't get much done before we left for our trip.

    Snagel

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    Grouper
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    I agree with you Snagel about the reef that's why I am asking so many questions. I hate to seem like a broken record but I am planning my next dive trip and it sounds like I will pass on Bonaire. So I am looking at Belize or Rotaan I can't afford the Caymans or Turk from what I am reading on the net.

    Thanks for all the info!

  10. #10
    Shark snagel's Avatar
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    Sounds like you are a lot like me, I save all year for this one trip. I too would love to go to the Caymans or Turks or many others, but they are a little out of price range. Maybe once I get the boy out of the house and through college I can do something like that.

    Roatan is good as well. We did all boat diving there, but it was part of the vacation package at Fantasy Island. You get just about everything in Roatan...reef diving, wreck diving, wall diving, and some of the cracks like Calvin's Crack and Mary's place are unique. When we were at FI it was pretty much a dump, but the week after we left new ownership took over and I've heard they put a lot of money into it. But, there are other places as well. I would recommend to try and stay away from the rainy season because it does rain a lot and it does affect the diving a lot. I believe the rainy season starts something like Oct and runs through maybe Jan/Feb. Don't quote me on this. We were there in Oct and the shore diving was hit and miss due to the run off. The ocean diving we thought was very good, but many were saying it definately wasn't as clear as it normally is without all the rain.

    I've heard mixed reviews on Belize, never been there. Some say the holes are pretty boring. I have a friend leaving any day for Belize to do some diving. I'll try and get some information from them when they get back.

    Snagel

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