I had no plans for Aruba, because I was a big chicken and didn’t make up my mind to sign up for the Introduction to Scuba Diving excursion until it was too late. I was on the waiting list, but Aruba Day arrived with no word that I’d been bumped up, so my vague idea was to hound the excursion staff until someone let me go try on some flippers. When we got off the ship, the cruise terminal was filled with tables to sign in for excursions, so I got my “pretty please” face on, cranked up the politeness, and haunted the Scuba table so expertly that I expected someone to be by with a Proton Pack to dispose of me. They took my name, and told me it was full, and I had to wait past the start time of the excursion to see if anyone didn’t show up. I waited, and waited, and as the clock inched past 2pm, they sent my husband off to the other side of the island with the rest of the divers in a brightly-colored shuttle, leaving me all alone.
The surprise and happiness in my husband’s eyes as I got off the shuttle to join the Scuba group is one of my most cherished memories from this cruise.
As it turns out, neither of us are Scuba divers. Once I got into the pool and started using the equipment, I was really excited, but I just couldn’t get comfortable breathing from the regulator underwater. I was fine with just my face under the surface, but trying to sit on the pool bottom, with all that water over me, and my only air coming from a tank on my back… I freaked out more than I really want to admit. I felt like I could not get enough air, no matter how hard I tried to inhale, and that just got me hyperventilating, which is not good. Dave had issues with clearing his mask, so he ended up not being able to dive, either.
The instructors see that all the time, so instead of making fun of the sissies, they handed us snorkeling gear and let us float on the waves while the real divers poked around the bottom of the sea. I’d never snorkeled before, but it was a breeze, and it was an amazing experience. We were above the Pedernales, a WW2 oil tanker that was taken out by a U-boat in 1942 and whose wrecked middle section was left as a target for the Dutch navy to practice on. It was so close to the surface that I could stand on a section of it and have my head above water. It’s been sitting there long enough for coral to start moving in, and little schools of blue and yellow fish use it as a hiding place to avoid predators. I am still amazed at how bright tropical fish are. Also, at how much salt water burns when it’s in your nose.
We were in Aruba until late that night, so we had a perfect chance to watch the sunset from the island. We had some drinks at a bar near the water and watched the sky burn orange behind the Westerdam before we headed in.