The Cruise Port of Curaçao

Curaçao, Perfect Blend of Two Worlds

Wouldn’t it be great if we could move tropical seas, palm trees and great beaches to Northern Europe? It’s not going to happen, but the next best thing is to move the Netherlands into the Caribbean. Welcome to Curaçao.

Queen Juliana Bridge

There are a number of European influenced islands in the Caribbean but no place expresses it as well as this little Dutch island. While Aruba has succumbed to run-away Americanization you can still stroll the streets of Willemstad, sit in a café for a Cappuccino or stop in a small bistro for lunch and it isn’t hard to think you are in Amsterdam.  Add to that the great beaches and resorts, balmy weather and turquoise seas and you have Curacao.

Neighborhood under the Queen Juliana Bridge

Where Your Ship Docks

Willemstad is the activity center of Curacao and most ships will tie up very near the center of town. Located at the dock is a hotel area with a shopping and restaurant area. A short stroll along the water brings you to the unique Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. On the other side of this floating bridge is the downtown area of Willemstad. There are also public facilities near the dock.

 

Transportation

Curacao is a larger island and while there are taxis available they tend to be pricey. Public transportation is sparse and difficult to make use of. If you really want to go out and see this charming island a tour or renting a car is probably your best bet.

Currency

Curacao while a major Caribbean destination and many places will accept U.S. Dollars it is usually limited to smaller purchases. The Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG, locally referred to as NAF, an abbreviation of the Netherlands Antillean Florin) is the official currency of Curaçao. It is benchmarked to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAFl. 1.77. Most credit cards are welcome and there are ATM’s available.

Attractions

Curaçao has seen explosive growth in upscale resorts and residential neighborhoods in recent decades but the old world charm has remained intact. Over a period of time there was a huge migration of Dutch retirees, much to the consternation of the locals, and that drove up the cost of living, but it didn’t negatively impact the atmosphere of the island.

Dutch Colonial architecture

In the center of Willemstad is a channel that is part of St. Anna Bay and the primary way of getting across is the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. The bridge opens by breaking its connection on one side and an outboard motor pushes it out of the channel anchored by a hinge at the other end. Fun to watch and fun to ride.

On the northwest side of town is a neighborhood that has been restored and turned into a resort, visitor center and museum known as the Museum Kurá Hulanda & Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa. Where you can walk cobblestone streets and visit cafes and shops. There is also a floating market in town where boats come over from Venezuela, only 70 miles away, to sell produce (current conditions in Venezuela have probably eliminated this business). The island also boasts the Curacao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy Curacao which is worth a visit.

If you like to dive, snorkel or just relax on the beach, you have come to the right place but you may have to get a ways out of Willemstad. There are dive shops everywhere and great resorts around every turn. The language is Papiamentu which is a blending of Dutch, Spanish and local Indian. Greetings are Bon dia – Good morning. Bon tardi – Good Afternoon. Bon nochi – Good Evening/Good Night and Danki – Thank you, Di nada – Your welcome.

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Port of Call Fredireksted, St. Croix

Visiting The Cruise Port Of Frederiksted

At 84 square miles, St. Croix is the largest island in the Virgin Island group and significantly more rural than the others. The island features a rain forest in its western interior, an arid climate in the east along with two historic towns.

The island was a possession of Denmark until the early nineteenth century and boasts a deepwater port at the west-end town of Frederiksted. The port was defended by Fort Fredirek as far back as the mid eighteenth century. A second deepwater industrial port was developed on the south coast in the nineteenth century. The island, along with St. Thomas and St. John was bought by the United States in the early nineteenth century. That means you don’t need a passport to visit and best of all you can bring back to the United States five liters of liquor duty free.

Where Your Ship Docks

The more popular destination town on St. Croix is Christiansted but it sits inside a protective coral reef with no good anchorage or pier. Cruise ships will dock on the far west end of the island at the Frederiksted pier. The island and town are developing the area around the pier and historic customs house and there are public facilities available. There is no terminal or facilities on the pier.

 

The Hotel On The Cay

Transportation

Leaving Fredireksted pier and the fort

Other than taking a tour the best way to see the island is to rent a car. Prices are reasonable but arranging a car can be an issue. On our most recent trip we had reserved a car through Avis which indicated they had an office in Frederiksted – they didn’t and we wasted an hour figuring this out and getting them to bring us a car from the airport. So be caustious in reserving a car. Driving is on the left side of the road which can be awkward because most of the vehicles come from the American market and have the steering column on the left. Taxis are available but they are expensive but you can negotiate a tour with the drivers. There is also limited bus service and “taxi buses” which have dedicated routes and a flat fare. The system is a bit freeform and isn’t something a visitor can rely on.

Lunch on the water in Christiansted

Currency

The U.S. Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar but credit cards and debit cards are welcome.

Attractions

Frederiksted is a town that seems to always be redeveloping starting tomorrow. For decades it has been taking two steps forward and one step backwards – sometime three steps backward. It is a historic town with a colonial fortification and customs house. There is a small strip of beach in town but the nearest good beach is Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately(?), to protect the sea turtle nests the beach is closed between April and September.

Historic Christiansted

As mentioned already, to really see the island you should rent a car. Christiansted is about twenty five miles from Frederiksted and there are some glorious beaches scattered around St. Croix. Christiansted to us, represents the quintessential tropical waterfront. It is located on the north central coast. The waterfront is fringed with a boardwalk and small boat docks, protected by a natural reef and a close-in small island occupied by a hotel. The harbor features sailboats at anchor, crystal clear water and a number of small hotels and restaurants along the boardwalk. Running up from the waterfront is a colonial era town where the stone and brick buildings include colonnades protecting the sidewalks from the frequent tropical rainstorms. Most of these buildings feature galleries, shops and restaurants along with a couple of small hotels. Just to the east on the waterfront is the old Fort Christiansvaern operated by the U.S. Park Service. The small island in the harbor is Protestant Cay and features the Hotel on the Cay which is serviced by hotel launches. Its beaches are open to the public but there is a small fee to take the launch from town.

Another area, which we love for its beaches and good snorkeling is Davis Bay. Located along the western north coast it has always been pretty isolated and primitive but the beaches are some of the best on the island. Some thirty years ago the Rock Resort people built an exclusive resort above Davis Bay called the Carambola Resort but a combination of things, including a storm named Hugo, caused the venture to fail. Today it is alive again as the exclusive Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort and, based on location alone, it is worth visiting.

Fort Christiansvaern

Up in the rain forest is a bar with a pig and back in day you were expected to buy the pig a beer by simply tossing a can into the pen. The pig would pick up the can, raise its head, crush the can and drink. If you got there too late (or early depending on perspective), the pig was passed out drunk. I never actually knew the places name but apparently it is the Montpellier Domino Club and I would bet that that pig is long gone. It has been replaced we’re told by a couple of pigs and now seems to be a “must do” tourist destination.

If you are a skin or scuba diver, or just a novice swimmer, one real “must do” on St. Croix is to visit the underwater National Park at Buck Island where the whole island, not just the reef, is the park. Located 1.5 miles off the northeast coast, there are a number of boat tours from Christiansted out to the area and the reef is spectacular. There is also an underwater trail on the eastern tip. If you can convince yourself to take this trip and put on a face mask you will never forget it.

A good driving circuit is to drive out Centerline Road where you should visit the Estate Whim Museum, the only surviving plantation great house in the Virgin Islands. Go on into Christiansted for lunch and a walk around the historic district and the waterfront. Skirt along the northwest coast from Salt River a stop at Davis Bay, the scenery is spectacular. On your return to Frederiksted drive through the rain forest on Mahogany Road with a stop off for a beer with the pig if you are so inclined.

Port of Call Roatan Honduras

The Caribbean Island of Roatan, Honduras

The main cruise dock and visitors village
Sailing into Mahogany Bay

Roatan is the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands in the Caribbean and is becoming a popular cruise itinerary destination. Like many Caribbean destinations it is recognized for its beautiful beaches, water sports, including premier scuba and skin diving, and modern resorts. It also has a growing number of American and Canadian ex-patriots and seasonal residents. To accommodate the cruise ships the Honduras government helped develop Mahogany Bay with modern docks, a well equiped duty free village and a beautiful beach recreation area.

Where You Dock

Most Cruise ships now dock at the Mahogany Bay facility on the southwest coast. The beautifully laid out area includes piers, a duty free shopping area and a beach area. In addition there is also the Port of Roatan located a bit farther west past Barrio Loma Linda and occasionally cruise ships may still dock there. It is about five miles between the two port facilities.

Transportation

The best way to get around Roatan is by hired taxi or a rental car. Taxi’s are inexpensive and you can usually negotiate an island tour at a good price (share with other passengers).

Money

The local currency is the Honduras Lempira with one being worth about US 5¢. US Dollars are usually welcome and most major credit cards are accepted.

Mahogany Bay beach area

Attractions

Outdoor recreation is the focus on this Caribbean island with sandy beaches and clear, warm water being the central attraction. There are also several zip line facilities on the island and a dolphin encounter at Anthony’s Key Resort that’s very popular.

If your ship docks at Mahogany Bay you can spend the day right at the ports beautiful beach. It’s equipped with water sports equipment, beach loungers and umbrellas with a number of excursions leaving right from the cruise port.

A little over a mile from Mahogany Bay is the town of Barrio Loma Linda. It is not a resort area but a typical small Honduran town with stores and restaurants along with a couple of crafts facilities working in leather and wood.

 

Port of Call Roatan Honduras

The Caribbean Island of Roatan, Honduras

The main cruise dock and visitors village

Roatan is the largest of the Honduran Bay Islands in the Caribbean and is becoming a popular cruise itinerary destination. Like many Caribbean destinations it is recognized for its beautiful beaches, water sports, including premier scuba and skin diving, and modern resorts. To accommodate the cruise ships the Honduras government helped develop Mahogany Bay with docks, duty free village and a beautiful beach area.

 

Where You Dock

Most Cruise ships now dock at the Mahogany Bay facility on the southwest coast. The beautifully laid out area includes piers, a duty free shopping area and a beach area. In addition there is also the Port of Roatan located a bit farther west past Barrio La Loma  and some cruise ships may still dock there. It is about five miles between the two port facilities.

Transportation

The best way to get around Roatan is by hired taxi or a rental car. Taxi’s are inexpensive and you can usually negotiate an island tour at a fair price.

Money

The local currency is the Honduras Lempira with one being worth about US 5¢. US Dollars are usually welcome and most major credit cards accepted.

Attractions

Outdoor recreation is the focus on this Caribbean island with sandy beaches and clear, warm water being the main attraction. There are several zip line facilities on the island and a dolphin encounter at Anthony’s Key Resort that’s very popular.

If your ship docks at Mahogany Bay you can spend the day right at the ports beautiful beach, that includes water sports equipment, beach loungers and umbrellas along with some excursions leaving right from this cruise port.

A little over a mile and a half from the Mahogany Bay is the town of Barrio Loma Linda. It is not a resort area but a typical Honduran town with stores and restaurants along with a couple of crafts facilities working in leather and wood.

 

The Windward Passage Hotel, St. Thomas

Blackbeards Castle Resort
Blackbeards Castle Resort

 

Looking for a modest priced hotel in St. Thomas right in the center of the action in Charlotte Amalie?

The Windward Passage is not a fancy beachfront resort but it is a moderately priced accommodation for the budget minded in an excellent location in Charlotte Amalie.

We’ve been kicking around the Caribbean for over forty years. Our business has taken us to well near three quarters of the Caribbean’s islands, several more times than we can count. At one point we were making plans to move to St. Croix but a storm named Hugo changed our minds. We have also operated a couple of offices in the islands and our children refer to a number of islanders as their aunts and uncles.

The Mamas & Papas 1965
The Mamas & Papas 1965

My first visit to the Caribbean was in 1965 when my Navy ship stopped in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas for three days. There was a popular club called Lion in the Sun where a band called the Mamas and the Papas were playing at night, usually after working restaurants and bars in the Creeque Alley area during the day (thus their song Creeque Alley). I was a diver and St. Thomas was my first visit to a coral reef and from that day on I was hooked on the Caribbean.

During our business travel days we rarely stayed at beach resorts but used hotels that catered to business travelers. We had a number of accounts in St. Thomas that required frequent attention so we were there often. Our favorite hotel in Charlotte Amalie was the Windward Passage.

The Windward Passage, is a large waterfront hotel in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Overlooking the picturesque Charlotte Amalie Harbor, it is a business-class hotel centrally located just steps away from duty free shops, good restaurants and nightlife. The hotel is a large building with clean, nice-sized rooms. It also offers complimentary van service to the airport, the beautiful white sands of Magen’s Bay Beach, Coral World, an underwater marine park and observatory, “The Sky Ride” cable car that takes you 700 feet above sea level, and the “99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie”* for the most amazing views of the Caribbean. With a good location on the Harbor in Charlotte Amalie it makes for convenient day trips to neighboring St. John. There is a ferry to St. John that leaves the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie several times a day for a $20 round trip (there is more frequent service from Red Hook).

We have some fond memories of this place as our oldest son, who is now in his thirties took his first steps at this hotel.

*Step streets in Charlotte Amalie are historical walkways called 99 steps (actually more than 99) and were built in the seventeen hundreds from the ballast bricks of the ships coming from the old world.

Cruise Port St. George, Grenada

St George Harbor

Once an out-of-the-way island, Grenada is gaining in popularity as a cruise ship port of call. The capital of St. George is considered by many as one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque towns wrapping around a half-moon shaped harbor. Called the spice island it is also a great place to shop for nutmeg and other spices.

 

Where the Ship Docks – St. George has a well equipped cruise pier and terminal located below Fort St. George and attached to the Esplanade shopping mall.

Fort St. George sits above the town.
Grand Anse Beach

Transportation – Getting around the island usually requires a taxi, water taxi or renting a car. Rental cars are available in St. George but you will need to pay about EC$30 for a temporary drivers license.

Taxis – Taxi fares are reasonably inexpensive with a trip around town costing less than EC$11 or US$4 or out to Grand Anse Beach for EC$27 or US$10.

Money – Grenada is part of a group of islands that form a common market and use the Eastern Caribbean Dollar with EC$2.67 equal to one US Dollar. US Dollars and credit cards are normally accepted.

Christ of the Deep statue

Attractions –

Beaches – Grenada has an abundance of great beaches but the most popular is Grand Anse Beach not far from St. George.

The Rain Forest – This island is blessed with some of the richest rain forests in the Caribbean offering a number of nature trails and waterfalls to visit.

Grenada Rainforest

Spices – Known as the spice island you can find dozens of opportunities to buy spices at really remarkable prices. If you have the time take a tour of a plantation. One of the most popular spices grown here is nutmeg.

Port of Call Grand Cayman

General – George Town, Grand Cayman is a major cruise destination for Western Caribbean cruises. It is a modern town with good duty free shopping along with a number of good tour itineraries. The port requires tendering but the tender pier is right in town.

Transportation – There are basically three ways to get around this island:

Bus System – Cayman actually has a pretty efficient bus system with fares starting at CI$2.50. The central bus terminal is located in central George Town.

Taxis – Taxis a are readily available but like most thing is Cayman can be pricey.

Rental Cars – Cars are pretty easy to arrange but can be a bit expensive. Remember the drive on the left.

Sting Ray City

Money – The local currency is CI$ and is fixed at an exchange of US$1.25 to CI$1.00, so remember that everything is 20% more expensive than it seems. The US$ is readily accepted.

Local Attractions – Beaches, beaches, beaches with the centerpiece being Seven Mile Beach with its resort hotels and restaurants. The island is also a scuba and snorkeling paradise. Grand Cayman was the originator of the stingray tour called Sting Ray City.

Other attractions include swim with the dolphins at  Dolphin Discovery, The Cayman Turtle Center, Crystal Caves and visiting Hell (a gift shop with famous post office).