Just off the northern coast of Venezuela in the Southern Caribbean, the ABC Islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao – are unique and beautiful cruise destinations. Part of the Netherlands, the islands have spectacular weather all year long, with average temperatures in the 80s and little rain; and, they are out of the path of most Atlantic hurricane systems.
This small line of islands doesn’t precisely follow its “ABC” nickname: from west to east, they are Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire.
Aruba is dotted with cacti forests and fringed with white sand beaches on the sheltered western and southern coasts. After docking in Oranjestad, take an excursion to lovely Eagle Beach or Palm Beach, where you can try out some water sports. Aruba offers great snorkeling for everyone from beginners through experts (experts should check out the catamaran tour to the wreck of the Antilla, a German freighter from World War II). Many visitors are also attracted to Oranjestad’s glittering casinos.
Curacao’s capital of Willemstad has charming colonial buildings painted in pastel pinks, blues and yellows. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city is divided into two districts (Punda and Otrobanda) by Santa Anna Bay; cross the bay on the Queen Emma Bridge, a historic pontoon bridge that swings open for ship traffic. Learn about Curacao’s culture at the Museum Kura Hulanda, the Maritime Museum or the Curacao Sea Aquarium; or visit the Hato Caves, an underground world of limestone formations and waterfalls. The must-have souvenir is, of course, a bottle of Curacao liqueur.
Bonaire, surrounded by a protective reef, is a paradise for snorkelers and divers. The waters around the island are all part of Bonaire National Marine Park, which includes a sanctuary for sea horses. Windsurfing, kayaking, bird watching, kite boarding, fishing, mountain biking and horseback riding excursions are all available on Bonaire, as are tours of a flamingo sanctuary and a sanctuary for donkeys: visitors are welcome to help feed the gentle herd. Ships dock in Kralendijk, Bonaire’s capital, where Wilhelmina Square offers a Cruise Market Place with native foods, original art and clothing for sale.
Cruise itineraries that include the ABC Islands are often seven days or more, usually departing from Ft. Lauderdale, Miami or San Juan. Ask Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert to help you select a cruise that visits one, two or all three of these memorable islands.
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