Christmas Eve Day was spent in the port of call of Aruba. The area around the cruise ship terminal looks like any other Caribbean port, filled with all the luxury and pseudo-luxury stores like Diamonds International, Little Switzerland, Colombian Emeralds International and hundreds of T-shirt shops. Folks flock to these places and, if that’s your thing, you will be well catered to.
We wanted to see the island and a bit of the culture. We opted for a Town & Countryside tour offered by Holland America ($49 per person).
The first stop on the tour was the Aruba Aloe plantation, factory and gift store. Since was Christmas Eve, there wasn’t much to see, but we did sample some of the aloe chocolates, which were excellent. Since I got a sunburn in the Bahamas, I bought some aloe to sooth it.
The bus took us out to the west and past all the resorts on Eagle Beach and Palm Beach. If we ever came back to Aruba, we would probably stay at the Westin or Radisson out on Palm Beach. We briefly considered getting married at this Westin here in Aruba, but the airfare for our families was prohibitive.
Then our tour took us to the oude molen – a 200-year-old Dutch windmill that was dismantled and brought to the island in the 1960’s. Then we went out to the California lighthouse on the far west coast.
Afterwards, we worked our way north to the Bushiribana district. Along the way, we passed an amazing old cemetery, with little Dutch “homes” built for the dead. Calling them mausoleums is an insult to their color and beauty.
We then went to Casibari Rock and climbed to the top. It’s not high and the views it affords are well worth it!! We took tons of photos from the top and could see our cruise ship way off in the distance.
Finally it was off to the north coast. We got to see divi-divi trees and cashew trees. Then we went to the “Natural Bridge” ruins and national park. The Natural Bridge fell down several years ago, but the area surrounding it was still beautiful and worth the time.
If you find Aruba on your port list, consider hiring a private taxi and doing the itinerary above. Booking through the cruise line adds convenience, but a lot of cost.