View from our balcony on board the Emerald Princess
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The Emerald Princess docked in Aruba bright and early at 7:00am and we were ready for another fun-filled day! It was our last island stop before two days at sea. We planned on going snorkeling in Aruba as our Grenada trip was cancelled, and we really wanted one more snorkeling trip! As we didn’t really plan for this excursion ahead of time, we quickly booked it through the ship a couple of days before we arrived in Aruba. I wish we could have researched it ahead of time or perhaps booked with a private company, but there really wasn’t much we could do at the time since it was planned at the last moment.
Views from our balcony – our side of the ship faced the ocean
Snorkel Tour in Aruba
We woke up nice and early, but had a little bit of time for a leisurely breakfast. We gathered some food at the buffet and ate outdoors by the Terrace Pool at the back of the ship. It was really warm outside for being so early in the morning. There was a lovely breeze and we watched as huge pelicans glided across the sky, then swiftly diving to the water for food. Shortly before 9:00am, we departed to the pier to meet with our tour group for snorkeling. We were all set to go to two different snorkeling sites in Aruba. There was a huge catamaran ready to take us on a ride to the snorkel sites. This was a much larger boat, and a much larger group of people than the day before, which made me further appreciate the more intimate gathering in Bonaire with Woodwind.
Red Sail Sports tour guide
Our tour guides were booked through Princess Cruises, but the company was Red Sail Sports. Our group was all on board so our boat started to sail, but one of the engines started to sputter. They kept trying to start that one engine, and never got it going. We were sailing, but very slowly as it appeared that we only had one engine running.
The first snorkel site ended up being about one hour away (not sure if it would have been quicker had the boat been sailing at its regular speed!). We took the time to enjoy the boat ride and the views as we glided across the ocean. There were many hotels and beaches on the shoreline, and we saw flying fish jumping out of the water. We were all provided with snorkel gear to use for the trip.
Views of Oranjestad before we sailed
The First Snorkel Site
We reached the first snorkel site at the Boca Catalina beach area in the northwest end of the island. One of the cool features of this catamaran was that it had a slide at the back. So, we were able to go down a slide into the water if we wanted! Of course, we both took that opportunity! For those who weren’t as strong of swimmers, you could easily go down the stairs into the water. Stay tuned for a video of going down that slide!
The water was a little bit chilly, but there were plenty of fish. Many fish swam in schools, navigating through the coral together, and others swam by themselves. The water wasn’t quite as clear as our day in Bonaire, and overall, there was less coral and less variety of fish. Nevertheless, we did see a lot of fish everywhere! I think we were way too spoiled in Bonaire and not much could live up to that day.
The Second Snorkel Site
Unfortunately, we only had a half hour to snorkel at this site before we were called back to the catamaran. It didn’t seem like long enough to spend at this site. According to our tickets, we were supposed spend an hour at each site and we could have definitely used the extra time. We didn’t complain to the tour guides as there wasn’t much we could do, plus we were off to the second site and couldn’t wait to check that one out.
The catamaran sailed for ten minutes to the second site, the Antilla shipwreck. Antilla is one of the largest shipwrecks in the Caribbean, and lots of fish and coral have taken over the wreckage. When we arrived at the site, the deep blue waters were quite choppy. We were warned that only stronger swimmers should go down the slide, as we would have to swim back around to the other side of the catamaran, battling through the waves to reach the shipwreck. We are both fairly good at swimming – Justin is a better swimmer than me as he practically was able to lifeguard – but I can hold my own! We were doing just fine swimming through the waves and reached the other side.
An Unfortunate Incident
We had almost reached the shipwreck when all of a sudden, I felt a painful sensation in two different places on my leg – one on the back of my calf and one on the back of my thigh. It was as though I was being stabbed with many tiny needles. I tried to ignore it at first so we could keep swimming, but something was definitely wrong. In a slightly panicked voice, I told Justin and he helped me swim back towards the boat, even though my hurt leg started to feel heavier in the water.
Back on the boat, I told the guides and showed them my leg, as well as one of my fingers that had also started to hurt. A red, irritated rash was starting to appear. One of the tour guides rubbed a little bit of alcohol on it – yes, the kind of alcohol that you drink! He said that something from the coral must have been agitated and released, and it may have brushed by my skin. It still stung pretty badly, and soon enough, word was spreading around our entire group that I had been stung by something.
Stung by a Jellyfish
We sat down and waited for the pain to subside. The spots on my leg started to blister up and bulge from my leg, so I asked for some more help. One guide asked if I was feeling sick or anything, but I didn’t feel sick – my leg just hurt a lot! He ended up going to a storage area beneath the boat and brought out a stronger bottle of vodka. He rubbed the vodka all over my legs and finger! It was a little bit entertaining to watch almost an entire bottle of vodka being poured on my leg. Then, he got some moisturizer and rubbed that into my skin, and told me no to scratch it.
There were so many sweet people in the group who asked if I was okay and tried to help me feel better! Thank you to those people! One lady told me that I was so brave, and she would have been crying her eyes out if that had happened to her. Truthfully, I was fighting back the tears as I am a bit of a sensitive person. But, thank you to everyone that was concerned about me – even those who I saw on board the cruise ship after the tour, days later, who asked how I was doing!
I believe that I was stung by a jellyfish, and most people that I talked to said that I had the symptoms of that. It felt like I had been stung by a wasp but many, many times all over those places on my leg and finger. I’m not sure why the guides didn’t tell me that I was stung by a jellyfish. Maybe they wanted to keep the rest of the group calm and allow them to enjoy the rest of the snorkeling trip without having to worry about jellyfish.
As a side note – we saw an older lady on the ship was standing off to the side of the boat while one of the tour guides poured an entire bottle of rum over her head! I asked her, were you also stung by something out there? She said, no, I requested a rum shower! A rum shower? Apparently she had some knee surgery a while back and her knee was bothering her, so she asked for a bottle of rum to be poured over her head. I guess this is soothing in some way! I have never heard of that before, and it was quite entertaining to watch!
As it turned out, the group only ended up staying for about 20 minutes at that site, instead of the hour that we were originally going to spend. Another passenger on the tour with us said that the water was too choppy anyway, which decreased the visibility. He said that he wasn’t really able to see anything and we really didn’t miss out. I’m sure there are many days where snorkeling at the Antilla shipwreck would be awesome, but today wasn’t one of them.
The Trip Back to Shore
At least it was a beautiful day outside, and we were able to enjoy the ocean views and the cool breeze. After all, we were in Aruba! It was so gorgeous there. We relaxed as the sailboat took us back to the cruise ship port. They had rum punch available for the ride back. For anyone who has spent any time in the Caribbean, you probably know all about rum punch! In my experiences, this tropical drink has always been very strong, but very fruity, too.
I decided that it would be a good idea to have a couple of rum punches, as the alcohol might decrease the amount of pain that I was in from my leg throbbing. I was having a great time, but I may have a had a little bit too much alcohol! When our catamaran docked at the pier and we stood up, I could really feel the alcohol! And, it was before noon! Well, when you’re on vacation and you’ve been stung by a jellyfish, I suppose this is acceptable!
Check out how we spent the rest of our day in Aruba, exploring downtown Oranjestad. There are so many ways to have fun in Aruba beyond snorkeling and shopping. Here’s a list of the best free things to do in Aruba.
Have you ever been stung or had a scary encounter with wildlife on your travels? Do you have any experience when snorkeling around jellyfish?