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Cruise Diary: Favorites of a 3-Star Mariner – Favorite Adventure

Dutch TV host and adventure seeker Charlotte van Hoorn was on board Noordam for a Caribbean cruise and sent in posts during her voyage. Where is your favorite place to dive? Let us know in the comments below!

Favorites of a 3-Star Mariner: Favorite Adventure – Snorkeling off Little Bonnaire

Thank you Queen Beatrix for so many things, but buying back Little Bonaire personally for your nation was a master stroke. Second only to the Great Barrier Reef, Bonaire is an acknowledged world class diving and snorkeling locale, providing enjoyment to HAL cruisers and employment and economic stability to this corner of the Kingdom of The Netherlands. Most striking is that the swimming conditions are so safe that it is the only dive site PADI certification classes may be held actually in the ocean, not first in a swimming pool. After two snorkel sessions of 45 minutes off the protected islet off Greater Bonaire, I visited a dive shop to inquire about learning to dive.

It was a breathtaking experience, both in numbers and variety of fish and types of coral and visibility of water down to greater depths.

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I average two weeks a year snorkeling, mostly off Kona or the Florida Keys which satisfied me until now. Just no comparison. Guess I’ll have to take a better look at HAL’s circumnavigation of Australia itinerary now that a ship is based Down Under permanently.

Even if conditions are ideal, safety first. Got to give HAL credit for choosing good vendors throughout our voyage. If you are a beginner, stepping off the beach at Half Moon Cay after learning to fit and use your equipment is an easy beginning to be introduced to the delights of the watery world. It truly is a place where time and space are altered and all manner of creatures you thought you knew about behave differently in their own realm.

The very next day we landed in Grand Turk where we boarded a skiff to travel offshore to a reef protecting the corner of the island. The safety briefing was thorough and crew was in the water with the group. However, the combination current/wind and wave action kept them busy herding some guests with their faces in the water not paying attention to their own natural drift from the vessel. I enjoyed myself enough to buy the dive shot holding an empty conch shell the photog handed me, retrieved from the sea floor, but I hadn’t been to Bonaire yet…

Where to start … You plan and plan, but this trip surprised me with unexpected pleasures. Boarding The Sea Cow, quite a stable, former ferry, I had no idea what surprises were in store for me. The crew of 5 handled a smaller group of us which I appreciated.

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Everyone was super competent in explaining the nature of the waters and what to look for. I had not had a briefing in such a way before. Gia the Captain was at the helm while Henk supervised fitting our equipment checks and gave us information on the supervised path of snorkel drift, beginning upstream of the boat so as not to tire. Actually, this way I could stay with the guides in the water and go farther from the boat because I was assured that I would easily float back. They knew who didn’t have a buddy along and used hand signals from the deck to keep an eye. A first-class operation and a woman-owned business to boot!

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After two sites of 40-45 minute sessions off the edge of the marine park reserve, on board again we heard a great deal about life on Bonaire, the marine park’s establishment and protection, and generally how the land and its people are protected as an integral part of The Netherlands. I had fun meeting the local Dutch as well as their countrymen aboard Noordam who themselves enjoy visiting their ABC islands. It was a great itinerary for visiting a few cultures, not to mention the fun in the sun. So what to do for a change of pace? For me next … Alaska! HAL even offers a snorkeling excursion up North. Can you believe it?

I enjoyed exploring the tidy town and was offered a cup of coffee at Your Dive Shop. Such a friendly port of call.

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