Aruba (Photo:Steve Photography/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Melissa Paloti
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Aruba

"One Happy Island." This, the official motto of Aruba, is plastered on each taxi's license plate. Surely Arubans are happy to see cruisers: Aruba's economy is fueled by tourists' dollars, and much of the island is heavily developed for them -- perhaps even more so than neighboring islands Bonaire and Curacao. (Together, the three make up what's known as the ABC chain of islands in this deepest part of the Southern Caribbean.) Most Arubans speak English and accept U.S. currency, and shops located in and around the port area are American -- Tommy Hilfiger, Diamonds International and the like.

About Aruba


Pro

Its location in the Southern Caribbean nearly guarantees good weather all year-round

Con

Renting a car might prove difficult; roads are narrow and locals drive on the left side

Bottom Line

Gorgeous beaches, abundant shopping and intriguing terrain keep Aruba a cruiser favorite


Find a Cruise to the Southern Caribbean



Beyond that, Aruba has a rich, layered heritage. The first people to inhabit the island were a nation of Arawak Indians. (The name Aruba seems to have derived from the Arawak Indian word oibubai, which means guide.) In 1499, the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda laid claim to the territory for Queen Isabella. Nearly 200 years later, the Dutch captured the islands of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire from the Spanish, and much of that heritage can be seen in its pastel Old World architecture.

But let's face it -- we don't come here for the history. We come here for the diversions, and Aruba is the Caribbean's theme park. There are casinos, duty-free shops, more than two dozen dive sites, noteworthy shipwrecks and a championship golf course, lined with cacti and populated by friendly iguanas. Aruba's trademark divi divi trees always point in a southwesterly direction (due to trade winds that blow from the northeast), but we like to think they're leading the way to the sandy beaches that ring the island in the shape of a cheery smile.

Best of all, there really is no bad time to visit Aruba. Located only 20 miles north of Venezuela, temperatures are consistently pleasant (lows in the 70s, highs in the 80s), there's no "rainy" season, and its location is far below the Atlantic hurricane belt, so it's less likely to be impacted by storms. Aruba's dry climate is home to large mondis (forests of cacti), and you may feel like you are in Arizona, rather than the Caribbean!

Where You're Docked

You'll be anchored in downtown Oranjestad, Aruba's capital city. The terminal features the Tourism, Culture and Heritage Information Center, phones, ATMs and small souvenir shops.

Good to Know

If you are planning on driving, use caution on the roads, as some international signs may be unfamiliar. (Driving is on the right side of the road.) Also, exercise the same common sense and safety as you would in any foreign location, particularly if your ship stays in town late and you decide to walk into town at night.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The official currency is the Aruban florin, approximately 1.79 to the U.S. dollar. However, U.S. currency is widely accepted, and some banks' ATMs will even dispense it, including the Caribbean Mercantile Bank in the cruise terminal next to the information center.

Language

Most locals speak English, Spanish and Dutch, as well as Papiamento -- a language native to the ABC islands. If someone says, "Bon bini," he or she is welcoming you to Aruba.

Shopping

The local grocery store is a must for bringing back edible mementos, such as Dutch coffees, chocolates and cheeses. (Customs allows one pound of hard cheese back into the U.S.)

Best Cocktail

Try the legendary Pink Iguana -- a concoction of frozen strawberries, pineapple, rum and coconut cream -- at Iguana Joe's Caribbean Bar & Grill (right next to the port, open from 11 a.m.). Or throw back a Balashi, the local brew.