We had scheduled a 14-day cruise for our first trip to the Caribbean (Eastern Caribbean). The ship embarked from Ft. Lauderdale. Our first port of call… Aruba!
20 miles long (69 sq mi)
Population 101,500 (entire nation)
Discovered by Amerigo Vespucci in 1499
With its unbeatable beaches and constant sunshine, it should come as no surprise that Aruba is the most visited island in the Dutch Caribbean.
Along with the Netherlands, Curaçao and St Maarten, Aruba is one of four constituent countries which form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The citizens of all share a single nationality: Dutch. Oranjestad, its capital and largest port, is known for its impressive Dutch Colonial architecture. It has been described as “Holland meets Disney Fantasia”.
Language can be seen as an important part of island culture in Aruba. The official languages are Dutch and – since 2003 – Papiamento. Papiamento is the predominant language in Aruba. A creole language spoken on Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, it incorporates words from other languages including Portuguese, West African languages, Dutch, and Spanish. English is spoken by many; its usage has grown due to tourism.
Local foods are called pan bati (a pancake-like bread or keshi yena (a baked medley of Gouda cheese, spices and meat with heavy brown sauce), unfortunately, neither of which we sampled.
Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape. This climate has helped tourism as visitors to the island can reliably expect warm, sunny weather. At one point, Aruba was the largest producer of aloe-vera (has now switched to petroleum refining). Currently, about three- quarters of the Aruban gross national product is earned through tourism or related activities. Unfortunately, due to climate change, Aruba has been experiencing heavy rain showers, resulting in disappointed tourists. During our day visit, at times, it was raining quite heavily, to the dismay of locals.
The island’s trademark, bent-over divi-divi trees are a natural compass as they only ever point in a south-westerly direction due to the trade winds.