Aruba (Oranjestad)
Cruise Port Guide: Review (2022)

Photo by IQCruising of main street in Oranjestad, Aruba cruise port

Essential travel guide for visitors on a cruise to Aruba (Oranjestad): find out where cruise ships dock, how to get around and explore on foot, the best in Oranjestad, shore excursions, and basics.

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Aruba is one of the most popular destinations in the south Caribbean itineraries. And there are good reasons why this island is a first sight love for most cruisers.

Oranjestad (the capital and cruise port of Aruba) is a neat city, clean, very well kept, and organized, which from the moment you step out of the cruise ship embraces you with a sense of relaxed safety.

Contents

  1. Where cruise ships dock
  2. Getting around
  3. The best of Oranjestad
  4. Top five beaches in Aruba
  5. Shore excursions (Shorex)
  6. Good to Know: Tourist Info, Language and Currency
  7. Safety, emergencies, and basics

The beaches of Aruba are famous, spectacular, and very easy to enjoy on your own. The Bus Terminal is right in front of the port exit, public buses are affordable, have stops next to the most popular beaches, and taxis are not the rip-off found in many other Caribbean ports.

Photo of Palm Beach in Aruba

Palm Beach, Aruba

Photo: Public Domain

Where cruise ships dock in Aruba

Cruise ships dock in Aruba in piers next to the north end of Oranjestad downtown, the capital city of the Island (population around 35,000). There are four docking spots, two of which with Terminal Buildings. Depending on how many ships docked are in port, the walk to the main street – Lloyd G. Smith Boulevard – varies between 5 and 10 minutes.

Photo At The Pier Aruba

At The Pier, Aruba

Photo © IQCruising.com

How to get around

Right outside the cruise terminals or close to the gangways if your ship docks at one of the piers without a terminal building, you will find taxis with official rates. Taxis prices are quite reasonable.

Traveling around by Public Bus

As the cruise traveler reaches the exit gates of the port, the Bus Terminal is right in front – not only very conveniently located but with clear maps of the routes and bus fares to all major destinations (in particular the beaches).

Photo of Bus Terminal in Aruba

Bus Terminal, Aruba

Photo © IQCruising.com

What's within walking distance

If you are not into spending a day at the beach or attracted by water activities, Oranjestad is a lovely city (really a small town) to explore on your own. Just turn right once you exit the port gates and you are in the city. Many cruise passengers walk along the L.G. Smith Boulevard to the Renaissance Marketplace and then back thinking that there isn't more to see in Oranjestad.

Photo of Royal Plazza Aruba

Royal Plaza, Aruba

Photo © IQCruising.com

The best of Oranjestad

Nice as this walk is with great high-end shopping and wonderful views of the bay and marina, you would be missing the best of the city. Havenstraat and Schelpstraat (followed by Main Street) are the main streets to explore. These run parallel to the L.G. Smith Boulevard and you just need to turn inland to find them.

Photo of Royal Plazza Aruba

Royal Plaza, Aruba

Photo © IQCruising.com

Surely you will not miss any of these streets if you look out for the tram tracks or the tram itself which offers both transportation and sightseeing to Plaza Nicky and back.

Photo of Street Car Aruba

Street Car, Aruba

Photo © IQCruising.com

In between these major streets, or very close by, the cruise traveler will find most of the landmarks and highlights of Oranjestad: the Archaeological Museum of Aruba, the Protestant Church, the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum, the City Hall, the Renaissance Mall & Marketplace, shopping and more shopping (reputed to be one of the best in the Caribbean as far as tax and duty-free goes); and very nice restaurants to taste local delicacies.

Square Aruba

Square, Aruba

Photo © IQCruising.com

Insider’s Tip: The Editor has always preferred to start the walk around town on the inland streets of Oranjestad, return to the port along the Lloyd G. Smith Boulevard and stop midway for a quick bite with a fabulous view of the marina – The Paddock has been a favorite for many years.

Top five beaches in Aruba

Photo of Eagle Beach in Aruba

Eagle Beach, Aruba

Photo: Public Domain

If you wonder why most savvy cruisers talk about Aruba as a top beach destination and why many get off the ship to go straight to the beach and bask in the sun, you should plan to spend (at least) a couple of hours at one of the following beaches:

  1. Eagle Beach: voted the #1 Caribbean beach by a USA Today survey of travel writers, travel agents, and frequent travelers. Its immaculate sand stretches for miles, making long, leisurely walks an ideal activity. Eagle Beach offers clear turquoise waters, shaded picnic areas, a few palapas, and many motorized water sports.
  2. Baby Beach: lies at the southern end of Aruba. This famous beach wraps around a shallow and remarkably calm lagoon, making it a prime destination for families with small children. Swimmers can wade out for a long distance and still touch the sea bottom. Baby Beach is also a fabulous location for snorkeling in Aruba.
  3. Palm Beach: lined by top-rated hotels, the beach is home to several diving and watersports operators, piers, beach bars, restaurants, and wonderful majestic palm trees. The sea is usually very calm in Palm Beach - perfect for swimming, floating, snorkeling, or sailing. Or to enjoy lunch barefoot on the beach.
  4. Arashi: along Aruba's western coastline, the beach is known for its crystal-blue water, sugary white sand, well-kept public palapas, and picturesque view of the California Lighthouse. The ocean is typically calm at Arashi, with periodic swells that invite local surfers to flock to the break just north of the main beach. A nearby coral reef offers ideal snorkeling opportunities.
  5. Druif Beach: a long, narrow oval-shaped stretch of pristine sand, is connected to Eagle Beach.The tranquil waters and soft, white sand make it an ideal beach for swimming and lounging. Like Eagle Beach, it's also a popular nesting spot for sea turtles.

Aruba shore excursions and tours

Aruba is easy and affordable to explore on your own: be it on foot around Oranjestad, by public bus, or by taxi to farther away attractions. But some sites are better explored on a shore excursion. In particular, if you wish to discover scenic and cultural highlights.

Naturally, all cruise lines offer many and diverse shore excursions in Aruba. Celebrity Cruises offers as many 43 shore excursions and Royal Caribbean has 43 cruise excursions. Carnival lists 28 shore excursions. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has available 24 shore excursions. Oceania Cruises organizes 13 shore excursions, Holland America offers 19 cruise excursions, and Princess has 26 excursions available.

Besides the cruise excursions organized by cruise lines, there are also shore excursions and tours offered by the following reputable private online services:

Good to Know: Tourist Info, Language and Currency

There is a Tourist Information Desk conveniently located at the Cruise Terminal, usually maned all day, where you can get maps and brochures.

Language

Although Dutch and Papiamento (a local dialect) are the official languages, English is widely spoken in Aruba.

Currency

Aruba's legal tender is the Florin (AWG). However, US$ dollars are widely accepted. Although you may read reviews stating that "change may come in local currency", in over 20 years visiting Aruba on cruise ships this never happened to any of IQCruising editors.

Safety, US travel advisory and basics

For comprehensive and updated information about traveling to Aruba see the U.S. Department of State website page evolving advisory.

Covid-19 advise for cruises to Aruba (Oranjestad)

For updated coronavirus (Covid-19) information and travel advice to Aruba and Oranjestad visit the website of the U.S. Consulate General in Curacao. For more Traveler's Health advice to Aruba see the CDC Website.

Aruba Cruise Port Basics

Internet: You will find free Wi-Fi available in the Renaissance Mall, and also in many cafes and bars around Oranjestad. T-Mobile offers unlimited data at up to 2G speeds at no extra cost.
Phone Code: Country Code: 297. T-Mobile offers calls at 25 cents/min. and text at no cost. Other US phone providers may work but it is advisable to check with your provider to avoid roaming charges.  
Electricity: Standard American current, between 110 and 127 V.
Phone Emergencies: Ambulance - 911.
Pharmacies: There are several pharmacies located in Oranjestad open from Mondays through Saturdays from 7 am to 7 pm.
Hospital: Dr. Horacio Oduber Hospital. Dr. Horacio E. Oduber Boulevard 1. Oranjestad. +297 527 4000.

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