Hoping to watch the moon "swallow" the sun, Carnival revelers, island-hopping astronomers and star-chasing cruise liners descended on the Caribbean to see an eclipse Thursday.

Partying to themes such as "voyage to totality," thousands of cruise ship passengers sailed off the Dutch islands of Aruba and Curacao, where a total eclipse of the sun was to last some three minutes around 11:12 a.m. MST Thursday.The moon will block all but the sun's corona - its flaring outer envelope - and cast a shadow onto Earth that causes momentary deep twilight.

As in many places, the phenomenon long has held a mystique in the Caribbean, where legend has it that Christopher Columbus persuaded rebellious Indians on Jamaica to feed his scurvy crew in 1504 by "predicting" a lunar eclipse.

This year's eclipse is no exception. It has produced panic in Haiti, where fear of blindness led schools to cancel classes, businesses to close and officials in one town to warn that the eyes of anyone staring at the sun will burst.