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Are you heading on a Caribbean cruise and wondering what to do when you reach Aruba, well here are a few ideas when docking in the capital Oranjestad.
Transport is the first issue resolved as bustling downtown Oranjestad is a comfortable stroll from the cruise terminal, which this year will be used by many leading cruise lines.
Fresh off the ship, passengers will quickly discover the city is a welcoming mecca for shoppers. Just steps from the cruise terminal, local artisans sell their wares from a collections of recently-constructed villas.
Those looking for a fun adventure can hop aboard the tram that leaves from a nearby stop and winds its way through the city centre along Oranjestad’s charming Main Street, recently refurbished with towering palms and plenty of green space. The tram, operating Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm, goes all the way to Plaza Nicky and back, with stops along the way, enabling passengers to hop off and visit the many boutiques lining Main Street. For a truly local experience, pop into some of the island’s oldest stores, like Maggy’s (a perfume and cosmetics emporium) and La Moderna and Bon Bini Bazaar (local department stores).
Oranjestad boasts several malls, all located on a main artery of the city, L.G. Smith Blvd. Quality souvenirs, surf brands, and name-brand jewellery can be found at Royal Plaza Mall, an island institution with a unique Dutch colonial charm. The upmarket Renaissance Mall features luxury brands like Cartier, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Dolce & Gabbana, while Renaissance Marketplace is home to a wide range of boutiques at the more casual end of the spectrum.
Interested in combining retail therapy with local history and culture? A handful of museums and monuments are dotted around Oranjestad. The National Archaeological Museum is conveniently located along the tram route, while the Historical Museum of Aruba is housed within Aruba’s oldest structure, Fort Zoutman, which also features the Willem III Tower.
For those in port on a Tuesday evening, stop by Fort Zoutman for the popular Bon Bini Festival, which entertains visitors with traditional folkloric music, dancing, and locally made crafts. And finally, you can absorb a little history in the streets of Oranjestad as you encounter the blue Paardenbaai horses. These eight horse statues recount the interesting story of Aruba’s horse trade, which was largely helped by Oranjestad’s natural harbour.
Other points of interest in downtown Oranjestad include Plaza Daniel Leo, featuring colourful Dutch colonial architecture, water fountains, eateries offering refreshments and shaded benches for relaxation. Nearby, Cosecha offers a wide selection of local arts and crafts, many of which are certified by Aruba’s national seal of craftsmanship to guarantee authenticity.
For passengers whose cruise ship docks overnight, consider the short trip to the bustling Palm Beach area, Aruba’s night-time shopping destination. A handful of attractive malls - Palm Beach Plaza, Paseo Herencia, South Beach Center, and The Village—along with countless boutiques, offer an inspired shopping experience just steps away from the white sands of Aruba’s famed Palm Beach.
Remember, too, when shopping in Aruba that many products are duty-free. Duty-free shops are exempt from paying some local and national duties, thereby promising customers better prices on goods such as alcohol, tobacco, fragrances, cosmetics, and luxury goods.