Monday, December 29, 2014

Cruising the ABC Islands

The ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and CuraƧao, are the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean (off the coast of Venezuela). They are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, thus share a Dutch colonial history as well as a West Indian heritage. All are popular ports of call on a Southern Caribbean cruise.


The cruise port of Aruba is located in the capital city of Oranjestad. A state-of-the-art tram begins at the cruise terminal and meanders through the city making stops at monuments and museums, as well as at key shopping areas. The city’s streets and malls are dotted with international luxury retailers, diverse boutiques, and dazzling jewelry stores

The beaches in Aruba are world class and all beaches on Aruba are open to the public Eagle Beach with its sugar-like sand has been named the best beach in the Caribbean. There are shaded picnic areas, some huts, and a variety of motorized water sports.

But when you tire of soaking in the sun, there's scuba diving, snorkeling, great windsurfing, parasailing (thanks to those famous trade winds), sky diving, jet skis, many different types of boat cruises and all the other watersports you expect from a Caribbean island.

Aruba’s interior is not lush …its landscape is very desert like with scrub coral and cactus, iguanas, goats, donkeys, strange boulder formations and even the remains of a Spanish gold mine. The best way to see this side of the island is to book a jeep tour and they are offered through the cruise line or can be booked independently.


Cruise ships dock in Kralendijk, the sleepy capital of Bonaire. A newly constructed seaside promenade lined with shops, restaurants and bars leads downtown. Near the cruise ship pier is an outdoor market in nearby Wilhelmina Park which sells local wares and foods. Kaya Grandi, the main street in Kralendijk, also has shops with clothing, souvenirs, jewelry, snorkeling and diving equipment.

Just north of Kralendijk on Bonaire’s western coast, Eden Beach is perhaps best-suited for beachgoers who like to have easy access to food and drink. Serving the beach is a small restaurant and beach bar. Lac Bay, a sheltered lagoon off the Caribbean, lies along the southeastern coast of Bonaire. Although the vast majority of beaches on Bonaire’s eastern coast have rough surf, Lac Bay Beach is the exception, making it a relatively safe beach for families.

Bonaire is a diving and snorkeling paradise, surrounded by staggeringly diverse coral reefs that are part of a protected national marine park. Turtles, rays, sea horses and fish of every imaginable color abound in the pristine waters of the park.

Available shore excursions include visits to the Donkey Sanctuary, Flamingo Sanctuary and the original Spanish settlement of Rincon, founded in 1527.


The largest of the ABC islands is Curacao. The capital Willemstad, settled in 1634, might be the most photographed city in the Caribbean thanks to its well-preserved, cotton-candy-colored Dutch Colonial architecture and buildings like the Mikve Israel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in use in the Western Hemisphere.

It’s a lovely walk along the Queen Emma pontoon bridge and if timed right, you may see it swing open to let ships in and out of the harbor. There’s also the famous floating market laden with produce, and even if you’re not buying, the photo opportunities are delightful!

Playa Port Marie is a gorgeous sandy beach a cab ride away. Spend the day enjoying the beautiful turquoise waters with very calm waves. It's very appropriate for small children. There is a snorkeling trail and it also features a great sea-side restaurant!

If you’d rather explore the rest of the island, jeep caravan shore excursions are a good choice.   Hato Caves, an elaborate network of stalactites and stalagmites with 1,500 year old drawings as well as the Christoffel National Park, 4,446 acres teeming with exotic wildlife and gardens are two of the most popular destinations."

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