Nestled deep in the Southern Caribbean, the ABC Islands of the Leeward Antilles – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao – enjoy reliably balmy weather and are outside the usual hurricane zone. These are desert islands where cacti share the landscape with palm trees, and sparkling blue waters invite visitors to dive in. All three islands are part of the Netherlands, and most residents speak English, making them easy places to visit and enjoy.
On Aruba, cruise ships dock right in the capital city of Oranjestad, with lots of shops and restaurants in easy walking distance – and, the shopping is duty-free. There are wide, white sand beaches seemingly made for snorkeling and parasailing. You can play golf or ride a horse, visit a historic lighthouse or spend time at a butterfly farm. Or, you may decide to try your luck in one of Aruba’s glittering casinos.
There are no casinos in Bonaire, a quiet island that is consistently rated among the best locations in the world for scuba diving, snorkeling and windsurfing. Bonaire has long-standing laws to protect its coral reefs, and the entire coastline is designated as a marine sanctuary. Cruise ships dock in downtown Kralendijk, the capital, with shopping and dining a short walk away. Bonaire is one of the few Caribbean islands with a large population of flamingos, many of which live in a sanctuary on the island’s south end.
Curacao, the largest ABC island, is known for its brightly-painted Dutch colonial houses – you’ll see some of them as your ship approaches the city of Willemstad. The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is brimming with historic and walkable neighborhoods. You can visit the Maritime Museum; the Jewish Historical Museum and a 350-year-old synagogue; or the Curacao Sea Aquarium, which houses many species of marine life that are native to the waters around the island. When you’re ready for a break, try a cocktail made with authentic Curacao liqueur, flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit grown on the island. Diving and snorkeling are popular on this island, too.
Some southern Caribbean cruise itineraries include one, two or all three of the ABC islands. Ask your personal cruise expert to help you select one as your next cruise.