Cruising to Aruba

Whether light-hearted or luxurious, cruises top the list of enjoyable methods of traveling to Aruba

Photo credit: © Lidian Neeleman |

Cruises to Aruba

Aruba has a long history of cruise tourism. The first tourists arrived on cruises in the early 1950s, and since then more and more visitors have come to enjoy Aruba's cruise- and tourist-friendly atmosphere.

Aruba's Cruise History

The first cruise ship to visit the island of Aruba was the M.S. "Libertador," which combined cargo and passenger facilities. It was a part of the K.N.S.M, the Royal Netherlands Steamship Company, now the Nedlloyd Line. The first all-passenger ship was called the "Tradewind" and first stopped at Aruba in 1957. A party was thrown to welcome passengers to Aruba's first luxury hotel, which was then under construction. This hotel has been renovated, and is now the Radisson Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino.

Ships from the Prudential Grace Line called the "Santa Rosa" and the "Santa Payla" began regular visits to Aruba each Thursday. Early visitors from the Santa Rosa were offered cocktails, while others toured the luxurious $25 million ship. These ships were followed by a few others in the 1960s, but Aruba's cruise tourism truly began to grow in the 1970s.

Larger cruise lines, including the Italian Line, Cunard, Holland America Line, Costa Line, Sitmar Cruises, Princess Cruises, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line picked up service to Aruba in the 1970s. In the next decade even more cruise lines became interested in Aruba, and Chandris Line, Sun Line, Royal Cruise Line, Majestic Cruise Line, and the Russian Black Sea Shipping Co. added Aruba to their itineraries.


Though Aruba's cruise tourism has had its ups and downs, in November 2002 Aruba welcomed its 500,000th cruise passenger. The following year brought even more visitors, and the outlook for 2004 is again over half a million cruise passengers.

This growth in cruise tourism may have its roots in several places. First of all, Aruba welcomes cruise travelers with open arms. Also, the Aruba Ports Authority and Cruise Tourism Authority have created beautification and renovation plans for the main cruise ports.

The Cruise Tourism Authority is a non-profit, governmental organization. Since its establishment in 1995 it has promoted cruise tourism to Aruba, offering information and assistance to those who wish to spend their vacation on an Aruba cruise. The Cruise Tourism Authority can be reached at the Royal Plaza Mall, Suite 227, L.G. Smith Blvd. 94, Oranjestad, Aruba.

Cruising Now

Planning a cruise is no last minute project, especially when traveling during the winter. Travelers flock to Aruba, where warm, sunny days are to be expected, even in December. Cruises themselves have the added attraction of onboard amenities and attractions, as well as their ability to stop by more than just one island.

If you're booking your own travel, you'll want to consider a few things when choosing which company to cruise on. Families, for instance, may want to consider a ship from the Disney cruiseline, while Princess cruises may be better for lovers looking for romance. No matter what you're looking for, you'll find plenty of price, schedule, and island stop options when traveling to Aruba.

Aruba's Cruise Lines

Aruba vacationers can choose from a large number of cruise lines that regularly visit the island. Travelers may want to consider the following popular Aruba cruise lines:

Telephone Number(s)
Fred Olsen Cruise Line
01473-742424 (U.K.)
Holland America
Peter Deilmann Reederei
800-348-8287 (U.S.)
44-20-7436-2931 (U.K.)
04561-396-0 (Germany)
P & O Cruises
Radisson Seven Seas
Royal Caribbean
Windjammer Barefoot


Cruise Classes

Most travelers will find themselves faced with plenty of cruiselines, and plenty of prices, without knowing the differences between them. The most popular style is the contemporary or value cruise line. Premium and luxury each provide a step up in terms of luxury level, and specialty cruises are just like they sound.

Almost 90 percent of the cruise industry is dominated by Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the most recognizable names in contemporary/value cruises. In Aruba, it's common to see these ships in port. Contemporary/value is by far the largest class of cruising, with reasonable prices and package deals.

Superior service and smaller service for liners like Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America make them premium cruise lines. Fewer passengers or larger staffs are important in making these ships what they are.

Luxury liners offer the pinnacle of service and amenities, but also charge the highest prices. Still, travelers looking for the utmost in luxury feel the experience is worth the additional expense.

Specialty ships often sail to unique destinations, but may also offer specialized cruises for specific groups. Since Aruba is certainly on the beaten track for almost all cruise companies, specialty-style cruises may be limited in this location to specific groups, such as homosexuals, senior citizens, or singles.


Ships come in all styles and sizes, however, when booking a vacation the size may matter quite a bit. The largest ships are the Panama-class ships, so named because they are nearly too large to pass through the Panama Canal. These huge liners hold a maximum of 3,000 passengers, but can only visit major ports due to their large size. However, travelers should also consider that larger ships are more stable on the ocean, especially during storms or turbulent weather, and this can be a plus for passengers.

Ships are classified based on the following criteria:

Criteria Explained
Gross registered tonnage
measurement of the ship's volume/vessel's size
1 gross registered ton = 100 cubic feet
Passenger-to-crew ratio
number of passengers served by each crew member
Smaller ratio = better service
Passenger capacity
based on double occupancy (2 passengers in each cabin)
More rooms = more passengers
Space ratio
comparison of ship space/tonnage to passenger capacity
Higher ratio = extra spacious


When choosing a cabin, you'll first need to make one other choice. Travelers who are particular about a specific room they want will want to book a "perfect" cabin, one where you pay a little more, but you are locked in to a specific cabin. "Run of the ship" rooms, on the other hand, mean you'll choose between an inside or outside cabin, but the rest is up to luck, as they're assigned one week before departure - however, these are a less expensive option.

Consider the following other suggestions prior to selecting your room:

  • Avoid booking cabins in close proximity to anchors, bars, casinos, elevators, engine rooms, gyms, nightclubs, public rooms, stairways, pools and hot tubs, theaters, or thrusters. These areas can be particularly noisy.

  • If you are traveling with young children, do not select an outside cabin, especially one with balcony access.

  • If you are subject to motion sickness, consider a cabin on the lower decks. The further into the middle of the ship you are, the less ship movements you'll feel.

  • Keep money and valuables safely hidden in your room and always lock your cabin door. Avoid carrying unnecessary cash around the ship.

  • Confirm the view you'll have in an outside cabin - make sure you're getting what you expect. You may want to request a view of the ocean.


Begin planning your cruise by considering time of year. Higher prices reign from December through early April as people plan winter vacations for the tropical Caribbean. Aruba finds its tourist season tapering off during the spring and fall, but summer is the low because of hurricane season. Still, hurricane season can be a great time to travel because large number of great deals make traveling much less expensive, and Aruba lies outside the hurricane zone. The most vacationers will generally experience is a slightly bumpy ride. Travelers on a budget should avoid taking a cruise over New Year's Eve, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter, as these are the most popular, and so most expensive, travel times.

Travelers will find that most Caribbean cruises begin in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Tampa. Most cruises stop at more than one island, and cruises to Aruba may stop in South American ports as well, because Aruba is much closer to South and Central America than many other Caribbean islands.

There is no truly "typical" cruise length, they may last from two days to two weeks, however, first-time cruisers may want to start with a shorter trip. Cruise veterans sometimes take seven to ten day cruises, and sometimes two weeklong cruises can be strung together to create a two-week cruise.

Onshore activities are often arranged by the cruise line for an additional price, usually between $25(USD) and $100(USD). You may try out horseback riding, golfing, or scenic tours, and even scuba diving in some locations. Reserve an excursion when you book the cruise, or when you board, but remember that space is limited. Another thing travelers won't want to forget is time for their own personal sightseeing on the island.


Cruise costs depend on a few factors, most important are luxury level, length of cruise, and number of people traveling - somewhat surprising to some travelers, single occupancy rates are higher than double occupancy rates.

Most dining and activities are included in the cruise price, but beverages and shore excursions, as well as the final tip, are not usually included. When booking you may want to inquire about specifics, as well as about your personal cabin. Ask ahead of time for items like bathtubs and televisions if you would like them, and don't forget to inquire about additional fees for such items.

What To Bring

Cruise ships are hardly known for their spacious cabins, so it's important to know exactly what you'll need to bring. Include bathing suits and lightweight clothing from shorts and shirts to cover-up clothing. Flip flops, sunglasses, and a hat for additional sun protection are suggested accessories.

Evening wear for meals falls into a few categories depending on the meal on each ship. Evening casual attire includes slacks and a collared shirt for men, and sun dress or nice pants with a blouse for women. "Informal" on a cruise will usually mean a suit and tie or cocktail dress, while formal dinners require passengers to wear "black tie" dress.

Remember to carry clothing that will be appropriate on Aruba as well as on the cruise ship. Aruba's clothing styles tend to be informal, though women may wish to bring a scarf or hat to keep the constant trade winds out of their hair. Formal dress is not completely eliminated from the island, but is not as necessary as it once was, and a suit with tie should suffice for formal dinners. And, of course, like most Caribbean islands, it is considered inappropriate to wear swimsuits away from Aruba's beaches.


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