Oranjestad Aruba Review and Pictures

Aruba to me has always sounded so exotic.  We had wanted to visit Aruba for a long time, so we found out which cruise lines went to Aruba.  Our best choice was on Carnival Sunshine, so we booked it for November 2018.

Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

Aruba is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and is situated in the southern Caribbean very close to Venezuela.  It’s a small island that is only 20 miles long and 6 miles across.  It’s kind of unusual in the Caribbean that it’s tropical in one area, and desert in another.  Another nice thing about it is that it rarely has a hurricane, and has a dry climate. 

Us at the I Love Aruba sign


We didn’t port in Aruba until 1:00 pm, so we decided just to walk around the colorful port town of Oranjestad, Aruba.  Oranjestad is the largest and the capital city of Aruba.  It’s an easy walk to the city from the Cruise port.  When we got off of the ship, we discovered that it was a hot day, but not humid, and very comfortable. 

The cruise terminal is a large building, and has a number of shops and has restrooms.  It seemed to stay open pretty late.

We went to the right on the waterfront street as we left the terminal area. The first thing that we saw was a local straw market.  There were quite a few shops owned by the local people, with quite a few items to buy.  We looked around a while, and decided to come back later to shop.  This is also the area where the Submarine ride excursion is found.  We kept walking, and found a casino area with shops and restaurants. 

Renaissance Hotel area

After that area was the Renaissance Hotel complex and a waterfront park.  We saw a statue of Anne Frank and one of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. We were walking down towards the waterfront, and saw a large group of Iguanas sunning themselves.  I love finding animals in the wild, so that was exciting to me.  Plus, there were a lot of pelicans in the waterway next to the walkway.

Crossing the street we saw more colorful buildings, and ended up in a mall. I love the colorful buildings of Aruba! This area had a restroom, and was also the place that you pick up the boat that takes you to Flamingo Island, the Renaissance Aruba Private Island.  I would have loved to go there but it’s $100 a person per day just to visit the island.  The mall was very nice, and prices seemed to be reasonable in shops in Aruba. 

And then we saw some government buildings with guards in front, and an old fort that was being used for restaurants and shops.  We walked over to the fort area, but nothing seemed to be open.  It did have a good view of the ship from there, though. 


One of our plans had been to get a one day pass on an Arubus, the Aruba public bus system, and take it around the island.  The terminal was supposed to be right across from the cruise terminal, and it was supposed to be $10 per day to ride.  When we actually got to Aruba we could not figure out where the terminal was.  There were busses parked, but there didn’t seem to be a building.  We never did end up figuring it out.   Plus, since we got to Aruba so late, we didn’t want to chance missing the last bus back to the port area.


There is a lot of shopping in Aruba, but mainly the standard souvenir and cruise ship type of shops that you can find everywhere.  You can also find pharmacies and grocery stores.  The grocery store seemed to be more reasonable in prices.  We found a Pizza Hut too, not what you expect to find on a tropical island.  There are two small open air shopping malls, both with restrooms.   Prices are usually in Arubian Florins.  At the time of our trip, a US dollar was equal to $1.75 of an Arubian Florin, and they do tell you the exchange rate.  They accept US dollars, but try to have correct change, or close to it.  It’s hard to say if you’ll get your change in US money or Florins.

They did have some nice merchandise.  He ended up getting an Aruba tropical shirt for only $15. I ended up with an Aruba T-shirt for $10, along with some other souvenirs for friends and family. 

Free Trolley and Markets

We decided to take the free open air trolley just to see where it went.  The trolley waiting area had some very interesting chairs.  They’d roll around.  I didn’t try to sit in one, I’m not that adventurous.  They had at least two trolleys, one with seating on the roof, and one without. 

The trolley drove down the main street, past the cruise ship, and to a market area.  We decided to get off there.  This market area was actually a pretty nice one with quite a few vendors in nice shop areas.  You’re going to find the normal Caribbean Island souvenirs there, along with some unique ones.  Since this is a Dutch country, you’re also going to find pretty Dutch pottery.  Prices are marked clearly, and the vendors are helpful. 

Across the street from this market is another straw market, but I wasn’t as fond of this one.  I hate shopping where prices are not marked, and you have to constantly be asking how much something costs.  This was a large market, but old style under a large metal roofed area.  And nothing was marked with a price.  The owners were constantly asking you to buy something.  This probably won’t bother most people, but for me, I didn’t like it.  I ended up waiting outside the market area while my husband shopped.

I Love Aruba

We walked down to the I Love Aruba sign on the waterfront street.  It’s to the right of the Cruise ship area.  A nice couple took our picture together in front of it.  A lot of people come to Aruba for a week or more, they love it so much.   We stopped once again at the market that we saw earlier in the day to do some shopping. Then we headed back to the ship to find some dinner.

After dark

We were scheduled to be in Aruba until 11:00 pm that day, so after we grabbed a quick dinner, we headed out to get some pictures in the dark. And the line coming back onto the ship was out the door of the terminal.  We almost wished that we had not gotten back off of the ship. 

We did get off, and walked to the main street to see the ship in the dark.  The ship was beautiful at night, we never get to see it from outside in the dark.  Also, the main street of Aruba is very pretty at night.  There were still a lot of people out, and it felt safe.  Not everything was open though, mostly the restaurants and pubs. 

We didn’t stay out long, and then headed back to the ship to see the entertainment for the night.  The line was still long in the terminal, but we discovered that there is a hidden door to the back left of the terminal that you can leave out of.  They had two gangways open, and the line down the gangway at that door was much shorter. 

Final thoughts

I’m not sure what I expected from Aruba, except that I thought it would be more glamorous than it was.  It had a few nice colorful buildings on the main street, but it didn’t WOW me like I thought it would.  In hindsight, I wish that we’d taken an excursion to see the entire island.  I would have loved to see the desert area, the beaches, and the lighthouse.  Also, the hotel area. I think that we would have been more impressed by that.  Next time…

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