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Top 10 Reasons to visit Aruba


Our friend Don from is back again today, with a look at a great Southern Caribbean port, Aruba. Enjoy!

Aruba is a popular vacation spot welcoming over half a million cruise ship passengers each year. Many popular cruise lines have itineraries that visit Aruba, including Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas.

Located just 15 miles north of Venezuela, this Southern Caribbean island is truly one of a kind. Measuring only about 6 miles wide and about 20 miles long, you can see much of the island in a single visit.

Recently, we sailed on Adventure of the Seas, and our itinerary was altered resulting in an impromptu stop at this “one happy island”. After spending a full day exploring the island, we are already looking to return on another cruise.

If you want to know why we are so eager to get back to Aruba, our Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Aruba may have you booking your own trip to the island.  

Top Ten Reasons to Visit Aruba

10. The Weather

While the Caribbean is known for having great weather, Aruba might just be the ideal vacation spot.

Getting only 18 inches of rain a year and having constant temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees, you are almost guaranteed perfect weather.

Situated just 12 degrees north of the Equator, the island is located south of the hurricane belt, and only rarely experiences the effects of tropical storms.  In addition, the favorable trade winds make the feel-like temperatures tolerable; so, as long as you wear plenty of sunscreen, you can enjoy a full day in the sun.

9. The Stunning Views

While there is plenty to do while on the island, take some time to appreciate the magnificent views from both sides of the island.

In the southeastern Arikok National Park, you can get a bird’s eye view of the island from atop the Arikok Hilltop. If you head to the Casibari Rock Formation, you can reportedly see the coastline of Venezuela on a clear day (which is only 15 miles away).

On the island’s northern tip, you can climb the hillside in the area known as “Hudishibana” to get fantastic views of both the rocky coral shoreline to the east and the white sandy beaches to the west, as well as the Championship Golf Course, the Tierra del Sol.

8. The Hotel District

There’s also plenty of grown-up fun to be had for those who want to escape the beach while in Aruba.

Tons of bars and nightclubs, restaurants, and shopping can be found in the northern hotel district. You will find many familiar retail outlets, international cuisine, and upscale hotels resorts, like the Ritz Carlton Aruba.  You can explore this area on foot, do a little shopping, or press your luck at one of the dozens of casinos found in virtually every resort.

You may also want to enjoy a full day of pampering with a day pass, including food and drinks, at the luxurious 5-star Occidental Grand Aruba where you can use the beach, pools, water sports, and other resort facilities.

7. The Historic Sites

Now a Dutch colony, Aruba has a checkered past with its native Indian roots and influences from various European settlers.

Discover this heritage by visiting various historic buildings during your visit to Aruba. Among the locations on your tour, one should be the Alta Vista Chapel, the oldest church on the island dating back to the 1750s.  

For more excitement, you can relive the Aruban gold rush of the mid to late 19th century, in which 3 million pounds of gold were excavated from the island, by visiting the Bushirbana Gold Mill Ruins. This 140 year old smelting plant was built to resemble a fortress to ward off pirates. 

There is also the famous California Lighthouse. This 100 year old lighthouse was built after a steamship sank off the northern coast of the island and now provides stunning vistas of the surrounding areas.

6. Exquisite Cuisine

Indulge in some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean while you are docked in Aruba.  

You can dine in one of the first restaurants to make eating on the beach popular in Aruba, the Flying Fishbone, with its Mediterranean inspired menu. For more adventurous palates, there are several “chef’s table” options providing intimate 4 and 5 course meals at trendy locations like the 2 Fools and a Bull and the popular Carte Blanche, For families, Gostoso offers a casual atmosphere and a menu with traditional Aruban dishes with Portuguese influences.

There is also the well-known La Trattoria El Faro Blanco, located right near the California Lighthouse.

Famous Italian dishes are served in both indoor and outdoor dining rooms offering spectaculars views of the coast and the perfect romantic dinner location.

5. Rock Formations

Unique to Aruba are two Rock Formation sites.

The Casibari Rock Formation, toward the middle of the island, is a cluster of huge tonalite rocks. Appearing to just rise from the ground, you can take the 55 step climb to the top of these boulders for a great photo op.  Walking paths also exist around the formation to let visitors wander the adjacent large rocks and other landscapes near the site.

After your trek, you can get a drink at Casibari Café and perhaps listen to some of the live music.

Further east on the island is the Ayo Rock Formation. 

These diorite rocks were utilized by the native Arawak people for ceremonies and tribal rituals. Ancient cave paintings and carvings dating back thousands of years can be seen in some of the formations.  These large boulders seem like they have been purposely placed next to each other in unique designs. Travelers can transverse this area at their own risk.

4. The Landscape

Unlike your traditional Caribbean islands, with palm trees and lush green vegetation, Aruba offers a quite different landscape. It is mostly a flat, arid, desert with little vegetation. 

You will find several species of cacti that have various uses including fences for keeping out livestock, cooking (the tall Kadushi Cactus is used for making soup), and even Christmas decorations. After admiring the cacti, you can let the awe inspiring divi-divi trees be your guide, literally, as the constant eastern breeze has shaped these trees to all point in the southwest direction.  

Aruba appears to be one of the few locations in the world where these trees thrive, so make sure your camera is fully charged to capture this unique landscape.

3. The Wildlife

Although they are not native to Aruba, donkeys have played an important role in the Aruban economy for close to 500 years.

With the influx of cars on the island, donkeys were nearing extinction until the 1970s when the non-profit Donkey Sanctuary was founded. Visit the sanctuary to learn more about these animals and help support their preservation.

You can also take time to learn more about the mysterious ostrich at the Ostrich Farm on the eastern coast. Interact with over 80 ostriches and emus as guides provide details about the largest living bird species on earth.

Or, you can explore the Butterfly Farm in Aruba, providing you the opportunity to view 100s of different butterfly and moth species. A guided tour comes included with your admission, and it is recommended that you arrive early when butterflies are more active.

2. Natural Water Attractions

If the natural landscape and rock formations are not tantalizing enough, then Aruba’s famous natural water attractions may have you calling your travel agent.  

The most famous of these sites is the island’s Natural Bridge, a 25 foot high and 100 foot long bridge made of coral limestone.  

Even though it partially collapsed in 2005, it is still a popular tourist stop and amazing photo opportunity. For more adventurous swimmers, the Natural Pool (or Conchi) in Arikok National Park is surrounded by rigid rocks and offers excellent snorkeling and scuba diving.

The terrain is rocky so getting to this natural pool requires 4X4 transportation or horseback.

1. The Beaches

Many Caribbean islands are known for their beaches, but of all the islands we have visited, Aruba by far has the most pristine beaches of any island in our opinion.

We relaxed on Eagle Beach during our visit, the widest beach on the island. The white sandy beach and crystal clear water was pure paradise!

This public beach is free to all visitors, and you can rent chairs from seaside vendors. On the southern tip of Aruba is the famous Baby Beach, this lagoon beach has shallow water making it the perfect stop for families.  The calm waters within the lagoon also provide ample opportunity for snorkelers of all skill levels.

If you like your beach break with a little more energy and excitement, then Palm Beach is your destination. This two mile stretch is adjacent to the hotel district with bars, restaurants, and a variety of water sports.

Visiting Aruba

We have only scratched the surface on things you can do and see while in Aruba, but I’m sure you can already see why we can’t wait to plan another cruise stopping at the island.

Aruba truly has a variety of attractions, entertainment, and Caribbean life making it one of our favorite ports of call. So the only question remaining is “When is MY next trip to Aruba?”.

Embarkation on your Royal Caribbean cruise in San Juan, Puerto Rico


Royal Caribbean offers cruises that begin in San Juan, Puerto Rico that offer some great Southern Caribbean itineraries to try.  If you're considering going on one of these cruises, here's what you need to know about embarkation day in San Juan.

It's not where you think it is

If you've ever taken a cruise that stops in San Juan for the day, you've likely been to the San Juan Cruise Port, but that's just for cruise ships that are in the city for the day.

Royal Caribbean cruises that originate in San Juan will dock at the Pan American Pier, which is across the channel from the San Juan Cruise Port.  It's adjacent to the Isla Grande Airport and is about a 5 minute taxi drive from Old San Juan.

As you're driving in, you should be able to see the ship docked since there isn't much around there.  As of the writing of this blog post, Jewel of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas are offering cruises out of San Juan.

Getting checked in

Once you arrive at the pier, the check-in process is similar to other ports but we've also noticed a few differences too.

There will be porters at the pier to help take your luggage and load it onto the ship.  In addition, there is a special line to enter the building for Platinum and above Crown and Anchor Society members.  Everyone else will wait in a separate line.

Waiting to check in for our Jewel of the Seas cruise #cruise #JewelOfTheSeas #cruiseship #travel

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

We've gotten to the pier as early as 10:30am and we've generally heard passengers are let into the embarkation building around 11am.  One potential issue is the check-in building is not very large and the staff will only allow batches of passengers in at a time, so you may get stuck outside waiting to get in.  Given this is Puerto Rico, the temperature and humidity outside can be quite high.

Since most Royal Caribbean ships do not leave port until later in the evening (usually around 8pm), so getting to the port early in the morning is not as critical but lines outside the building are possible.  The good news is, often the lines outside are infrequent.


Once inside the building, you will find lines for Crown and Anchor Society members and lines for everyone else.  

You will be subjected to a security check that consists of an x-ray machine and metal detector.  Once through there, you will enter your line and get checked in.

We should also note there is a duty-free liquor store inside the check-in area, which is a great place to pick up a few bottles of wine to bring onboard your cruise. Remember, Royal Caribbean allows up to two bottles of wine per stateroom to bring onboard.

After check-in, it's just a short walk onto your Royal Caribbean cruise!

Boarding #jeweloftheseas!

A photo posted by Royal Caribbean (@royalcaribbeanblog) on

Have you embarked in San Juan?

Did you have a chance to take a Royal Caribbean cruise out of San Juan?  Share your tips and suggestions for embarkation day in San Juan in our comments below!

Royal Caribbean's advice to Greece: invest in ports to win cruise war


Royal Caribbean Vice President Commercial & New Business Development, John Tercek, spoke at a recent tourism conference in Greece where he advocated the country invest in its ports to win over more cruise business.

The growing demand for cruise ships forces companies to order bigger ships so if Greece wants to get its share of the cruise business, it must modernize its ports and expand other ports in the coming years.

In Tercek's speech, he indicated the Greek cruise destinations that can best attract the interest of cruise companies are Piraeus, Santorini, Heraklion, Chania, Corfu and Katakolon, but others, such as Rhodes and Mykonos need more modern infrastructure to support the growing demaind.

Global competition for cruise ships is on the rise and Tercek noted that Australia's cruise tourism has increased by 77% over the last 10 years and that demand is still increasing.  Greece will close 2014 with about 2.5 million cruise visitors but that is still less than Italy and Spain.  Tercek believes the big disadvantage for Greece is most cruises do not home port from there. Last year only 212,000 passengers departed from Greek ports whereas 2 million left from Italy.

Royal Caribbean to invest in Taiwan port of Penghu


Local media in Taiwan are reporting that Royal Caribbean plans to propose a development plan for the port of Penghu Jinlongtou, which could be a new homeport in Asia for the cruise line.

SinoShip News reports Taiwan minister of Transportation and Communications, Yeh Kuang-shih, has instructed Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC) to coordinate with Royal Caribbean on the investment plan.

Jinlongtou port currently belongs to the Taiwanese navy, and the navy has agreed to hand over the port and transfer its base to another port.

Royal Caribbean is expected to propose a development plan by the end of January.

Port Focus: St. Thomas


The US Virgin Islands is popular among Eastern Caribbean cruise stops and the island of St. Thomas is an American owned island with Caribbean flair.  Great beaches and shopping highlight what there is to see and do here.

St. Thomas Benefits

  • Beaches: St. Thomas features some very beautiful beaches, including Magens Bay, which is among the most beautiful beaches in the world.  There's also other beaches here that offer beautiful water color and very fine sand.  When you think of a Caribbean beach, St. Thomas is the sort of beach experience you will have in mind.
    • Best public beach: Magens Bay or Coki Beach
  • Shopping: St. Thomas offers a lot of shopping options around and near the cruise terminal.  Being an American island, the prices here are fairly close to what you'd expect to find back on the mainland.  The island boasts good prices on jewelry, liquor, linens, china and crystal.  By far jewelry is what is in demand here and there are lots of places to check out.  There is no sales tax in the United States Virgin Islands so you can take advantage of the $1,600 duty-free allowance per family member (remember to save your receipts).
  • Proximity to St John: It's common for St. Thomas to have many cruise ships in port but St. John is very close and there are water taxi options that take just 20 minutes to get over to the island.  For those that have visited St. Thomas before, St. John is close enough to allow for two ports in one.

St. Thomas Detractions

  • Traffic: Like many small Caribbean islands, traffic can snarl up the roads often and quickly.  This is especially true in the late afternoon, which is typically when cruise ships leave port. If you are planning to use a third-party excursion or going to explore on your own, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get back.  
  • Crowds: During the busy season, it is not uncommon to have six or more cruise ships docked in port on any given day and that leads to a lot of people in one place.  St. Thomas has cemented itself as a cruise destination and many cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, send many of their ships here.  More than likely you will feel engulfed in a sea of other tourists.

What to do in St. Thomas

On your next Royal Caribbean cruise to St. Thomas consider these activities

  • Beach visit to one of their beautiful beaches, including Magens Bay, Coki Beach or Sapphire Beach
  • Take water taxi to St. John
  • Duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie
  • Go to Mountain Top (it's a bit of a tourist trap, but the view is worth it)

Royal Caribbean ships stopping in St. Thomas: Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas & Legend of the Seas

Bayonne, New Jersey cruise port open again after Hurricane Sandy


Following the devastation by Hurricane Sandy, Cape Liberty cruise port in Bayonne, New Jersey is open again for departures and arrivals.

Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas is in port today for an eight night cruise to the Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean spokesperson Cynthia Martinez said the Cape Liberty sustained some water damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  Once the storm passed, the Cape Liberty staff began working to prepare the terminal for the arrival of passengers today. All of the port's power is being produced by backup generation because the electricity has not been restored to the terminal building.

Royal Caribbean is dealing with refunds and rescheduling tickets for those who can't get to the port because of Hurricane Sandy on a case-by-case basis.

People who can't make their scheduled departure are encouraged to call (866) 562-7625. 

Royal Caribbean interested in port of Kotor


There's a report out that claims Royal Caribbean is interested in sending its ships to the port city of Kotor in in southwestern Montenegro.  This Mediterranean port city is an option for Royal Caribbean to send its ships there.

According to the report, Royal Caribbean is considering significantly improving service to Kotor harbor.  

Royal Caribbean enters into joint venture with Barbados


Royal Caribbean is partnering with Barbados Port and SMI Infrastructure Solutions to build a brand new state-of-the-art cruise terminal in Barbados that will cost over $300 million.  The new facility will allow some of the world's biggest cruise ships to dock at the island.

George Hutson, Barbados Minister of International Transport and International Business, announced the two year project at the recent Barbados Port Inc.’s 50th anniversary staff awards ceremony.

“If we are going to remain relevant, if we are going to capitalize on the opportunities available from cruise tourism, we must renew our plant from the basic infrastructure currently existing to one which will accommodate and service the increasingly large cruise ships."

According to Hutson, Barbados is hoping the new cruise terminal will attract more cruise ships to the island, which in turn will lead to increasing revenue generated by cruise passengers on the island.

The new terminal will be completed in two phases, the first phase will cost $300 million and will include two cruise piers, arrival and departure facilities, along with parking lots. The development will take involve reclaiming 15 acres of land from the sea, 100,000 square feet of which will be provided for commercial activity. Dredging is slated to begin in November.

Cruise tourism in Barbados has grown from 127,000 in 1985 to 726,543 last year.  The best year ever for cruise passenger traffic to the island was 2004 when 812,863 people visited the island.

Royal Caribbean shows interest in developing Ukraine cruise business


The Ukrainian government will begin promoting the development of a cruise industry in its country, specifically eyeing the ports of Odessa, Sevastopol and Yalta as prime candidates.

Royal Caribbean vice president Craig Maylen met with Ukranian Minister of Infrastructure Borys Kolesnikov during a visit to the United States.  Maylen talked about the future of the ports, "Odessa port has great prospects for receiving cruise ships, as it is in the heart of the city, and it is very convenient for tourists"

The meeting took place in Royal Caribbean's headquarters in Miami, Florida where the two sides discussed a number of issues regarding the  potential of Ukrainian ports in the cruise industry. 

According to Maylen the port has quite a good infrastructure. With certain infrastructure improvements in Yalta and Sevastopol, the ports could be upgraded to handle considerably larger cruise ships than they serve now.