Aruba was as beautiful as we expected. At the recommendation of a local business owner, we caught the public bus and headed to Arashi beach, near the lighthouse. It was a beautiful beach to sunbathe and swim, but there are no restroom facilities or restaurants (although there was a snack truck). You can rent beach chairs for $10. The bus runs every 30 minutes or so. Palm and Eagle Beach were beautiful but much more crowded…and closer to shops & restaurants and more options such as sailing/windsurfing lessons. However, we were in Aruba the day after Christmas, so a lot of the shops were closed. There is a nice shopping area at the pier, so we were able to pick some things up there. Try Iguana Joe’s for some local beer. Note: If you want to see the lighthouse, take the bus or a taxi. The excursions are expensive, and the buses we saw drive to the lighthouse only stayed for a few minutes.
Curacao is a much larger island than Aruba and beautiful. The colorful houses make it an idyllic setting and the Dutch influence is very prominent. We didn’t book any excursions, but found a local tour company called Casper Tours (we met Casper himself). This was a two-hour tour of the island for $15 each and included stops at the Curacao distillery, a beautiful overlook of Table mountain, and a very small & crowded beach (where you could choose to stay and return later in the afternoon). It doesn’t sound like much, but the information about the island’s history and sights to see were worth the time & money. You can find Casper tours just on the far side of the swinging bridge going into town to shop. Also, check out the floating markets to see how the locals get their produce and fruits – it’s all brought in daily on boats because Curacao doesn’t grow any of its own!
St. Kitts – I’m not sure why RCCL stops on this island. The town itself was depressing. We walked through town and went past the small tourist area into the local shopping area…love to do this to get a better idea of what it’s like living on the island. We stayed on the island for only a couple of hours and then headed back to the ship. Maybe an excursion would have been better.
In St. Thomas we shopped at Trident Jewelers – a family owned business we’ve known about for years. Ask for Mac – he’s the manager and will treat you well. Going through a small business rather than Diamonds International (which RCCL will recommend), we’ve found that you get better service and less pressure to buy. They are also very willing to help if you have a challenge with jewelry you buy. We found a great little pub called Rum Island Pub located in Drake’s Passage (an alley)…the owners are from Alabama and super friendly! Had lunch at the Side Street Pub which was delicious as well.