I lined up with about 40 other people to get into the small boat that would take us to the pirate ship. It was a hot and sunny morning in Aruba and I was about to go on a snorkeling trip with Jolly Pirates Aruba.
Now, I'm usually not a big fan of “mass activities” like this, but here's a spoiler for ya: the Jolly Pirates trip was much more fun than I'd anticipated.
Jolly Pirates Aruba Sail, Snorkel, Swim and Swing Cruise
When we got to the pirate ship, everybody was handed snorkeling gear. We got goggles with a breathing tube, swimmning fins, and a floating vest. I was surprised to get the vest, but it would turn out to come in handy later.
Once we set sail, one of the mates told us how the trip was going to go. We'd visit three different snorkeling spots where we'd get 25 minutes in the water. After that, we'd get the chance to use the ship's swing to – exactly – swing off the deck into the water. Lastly, we'd get lunch before heading back to MooMba Beach.
Oh, and there'd be an open bar for the duration of the journey.
The snorkel spots
Our first stop was a shipwreck from World War II. We were there at the same time as another Jolly Pirates ship, so it was a bit crowded to swim. This was also the deepest spot we snorkeled at and as the ocean was a bit rough that day, it was a hard to clearly see the ship. I did spot some divers below us.
This spot also immediately made it clear why we needed the vest. It was so much easier to stay afloat with it and allowed me to completely focus on what I saw, instead of having to put a lot of effort into swimming. The flippers proved handy as well.
Our other two stops were the shallow reefs at Boca Catalina and Malmok Beach. For me, these stops were much better than the first one as we were in more shallow, very clear waters which meant that we got to see a lot more fish.
At one of the stops, one of the mates even gave me a little piece of bread to feed them. I had no idea how that was going to go, but all of a sudden I had a school of beautiful blue fish swirling around me!
I love fish, but my knowledge of them is very limited so all I can say is that I saw a bunch of different species, as well as some big starfish.
While we were allowed to leave our vests on board during these stops, I kept mine on as I found it so much easier to snorkel with. Why do it the hard way while you can do it the easy way as well, right?
Now, can you visit these snorkel spots by yourself as well?
You need a boat to get to the shipwreck and while you could swim where we swam at Boca Catalina and Malmok, our snorkeling spots lay outside of the actual swimming zone. At a lot of beaches in Aruba, parts of the ocean are marked off as being for swimmers, boats, water sports, etc and to get to the spots where we snorkeled at those two beaches, it would be quite a swim from the shore.
I have to admit that as soon as I heard “open bar”, I was afraid this would be one of those over the top party and get drunk snorkeling trips where nobody would actually snorkel. Luckily, that wasn't the case. People drank, but I only spotted one or two men at the end of the trip who might have been a bit tipsy (the trip lasted for about four hours).
What kind of people were on board?
Aside from us four (me, the other Belgian couple and our guide Jasmine), there were a few couples, one or two couples with kids and then there was a big group of Americans who were on the island for a wedding that would take place the next day and yes, the bride and groom were also snorkeling away.
What I loved about the Jolly Pirates cruise, is that the crew was attentive to everyone in a way that was entertaining without being obnoxious. I so hate it when people try to force you to be loud, sing, act crazy, drink or whatever. Being put in the spotlight and forced to “have fun” is the one thing that ruins an experience for me.
This didn't happen at all on board the pirate ship, though. The crew talked to people, made jokes, and fooled around a bit, but nobody was the center of attention in a good or a bad way and nobody was left out. Somehow, the Jolly Pirates found that perfect dose of entertainment that lets everyone have fun and feel included.
You know me, I have to pay special attention to the food. To be honest, I'd expected that we'd get some hot sandwiches with half-melted cheese and that would be it. My chocolate, was I wrong!
While people were swinging off the boat and going for a last swim, a small motorboat approached us and loaded off boxes of food. Yup, that's right, everything had been freshly prepared and was now brought to us. A few crew members set to work in the kitchen and a little later they handed out plated with chicken, ribs, plantain, potato salad, Caribbean rice and melon.
It was a proper meal and a good meal at that. Needless to say that for me, this was the perfect end to the trip :-)
Want to go snorkeling in Aruba with the Jolly Pirates as well? You can find all practical information in regards to the Jolly Pirates Sailing Cruises & Snorkeling on their website. They have a handy FAQ section that answers a bunch of questions you might have.
Where to stay on Aruba
While I was in Aruba, I stayed at two completely different hotels.
The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is a high-end hotel that has its own harbor, food plaza, private island and casino. The poolside is a great place to chill during the day and listen to DJ sets and live performances in the evenings.
The Boardwalk Hotel Aruba is a small, family-run hotel made up out of different casitas that have their own kitchen, living room and balcony with barbecue. It's perfect for those who like having a home-away-from-home in a more intimate setting.
How to get to Aruba
I flew from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Oranjestad in Aruba with KLM. Click here to find the best flights for your trip.