Cruise Ships In Town, What To Do

Cruise ship travelers are a different breed of visitors than stay-over. This requires a completely different approach, as the demands of the cruise ship travelers differ from the stay-over visitors.

Most local tourism officials do treat the different tourism type accordingly. In Aruba, there has been a considerable upgrade in the last decade in terms of infrastructure, signage, new activities, which has been a joint effort by both public and private entities.

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De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis Adventures

In a news conference local giant tour operator De Palm Tours announced the acquisition of Atlantis Adventures. Atlantis offers submarine and semi-submarine excursions. Additionally they offers shore services to cruise lines. Officials from both companies announced that that the transaction was finalized on February 1, 2011 (almost two weeks ago), without offering details about the sum involved. This transaction was rumored for some time and comes as no surprise. Atlantis was purchased back in the 90s for $4 million by the – now – former owners.

De Palm Tours claims it won’t effect the operation of neither company as both companies will continue to operate separately. On the short term perhaps but not on the long term. I believe this acquisition makes a lot of sense. Now De Palm Tours has a better filled portfolio of products and services. Whether or not this deal will be beneficial to the customers has yet to be seen.


De Palm Tours Acquires Atlantis

I see some issues down the road, however. De Palm Tours has now become more powerful in the shore excursion scene, beware cruise ships. I foresee a cut in positions in the future. For example, some of these excursions are executed with two staff (De Palm Tour bus driver and Atlantis tour guide) which now could be done by just the driver alone. Lastly, just a few months ago Atlantis partnered with another company – in direct competition to De Palm Tours – to launch a bus tour operation that now has an uncertain future. Acquisitions are very uncommon in Aruba, only deep pocketed companies (or have good connections to local banks) are able to do this and there aren’t too many of them.

First: Disney Wonder in Aruba

2011 starts on a positive note for sure. Today a new cruise ship is going to dock in town for the first time: Disney Wonder. This Disney-themed ship is going to be in Aruba today from 6 AM to 5 PM.

Disney Wonder accommodates 2,400 passengers, along with 945 cast and crew. Obviously this ship has a cast to entertain the kids and parents that go on this ship. Disney ships look like cartoons from both outside and inside.


Disney Wonder [image by Disney]

Apart from Disney Wonder, today there are three other ships in town: AIDAvita, Statendam and Ocean Dream. If you are staying in Aruba and want to avoid all the people, as always, I suggest you skip town today.

Carnival Returns, Miracle Is Here

Carnival Cruise Line decided to drop its Southern Caribbean itinerary at the end of 2007 season. Locally it was said that they did this because of the excessive fuel prices (note: which Aruba doesn’t control) and that the island government refused to subsidise the fuel. For Aruba it meant the loss Carnival Destiny with over 2500 passengers on a weekly basis, year around.

That’s old news. With a new government and three years later Carnival Cruise Lines is back in Aruba. This time with smaller ship Carnival Miracle. This ship carries over 2000 passengers and is going to dock every other week, only during cruise ship season (October – April). Start the festivities.

Carnival Miracle
Carnival Miracle in Aruba

A quick round of question to some operators and merchants learn that they are cautiously optimistic about the return. I don’t blame them, according to some research I’ve read, passengers on Carnival ships tend to spend above average on shore, making it a desirable ship to welcome for operators and merchants. Welcome back Carnival.

Aruba Airport Doing Good

Aruba’s airport recently released positive numbers – again – in terms of the arrival numbers. In a nutshell most markets are up, with the exception of Venezuela. The markets that are rocking right now are Brazil and Britain.

The airport core business itself showed strength and airport officials continue to be positive for the remainder of the year. Projects to enhance passenger experience are ongoing, such as a food court/supermarket outside the airport. The ratings company Finch kept the rating for Aruba’s airport positive, although I personally don’t give too much attention to this ratings.

Airport Aruba Arrivals
Aruba arrival terminal

Aruba’s airport owner (government) decided to allocate some of the airport’s profits into a new, to be created tourism fund. The idea is behind this is for the important partners in Aruba’s tourism to contribute to this fund for sustainable growth in tourism. What this exactly means is not clear yet.

Viva México!

Local tourism officials have recently approached Mexican tourism partners to survey the possibilities of a strategic cooperation. Specifically, officials would like to measure the chances of non-stop flights between Mexico City and Aruba by a Mexican carrier.

Mexican flag carrier, Aeroméxico, recently held a survey among their travelers with the question which leisure Caribbean destination they would like to see Aeroméxico start flying to and Aruba came on top. Aruba is badly in need of a solid secondary market after current number two – Venezuela – has dropped dramatically the last few years, mostly due to internal issues in Venezuela.

Señor Frogs soon
Señor Frog’s is owned by Grupo Andersons, based in Mexico

If Aeroméxico decides to start flying to Aruba a few times a week, this route can become an interesting alternative for travelers flying from California to Aruba. This is certainly good news.

Water Sport Service Providers’ Own Place


Rendering of platform for water sport companies [image by Amigoe]

Water sport service providers have been an disorganized bunch ever since inception of tourism in early 90s. Slowly but surely they were hit by government with rules and restrictions.

Now it seems that finally they might have found a home. The water sport association [they are organized now] had talks with officials and agreed in principle on a spot for them. Just south of Divi Phoenix and across the street from The Cliff condo [between Eagle Beach and Palm Beach] a new platform is going to be build, exclusively for the use of water sport companies.

The financing of this area is in hands of The Cliff condo developers. It’s mandatory for developers who build on public land to invest a percentage of the development’s budget in a project deemed necessary by the government. I really hope this project goes forward, because it would eliminate the chaos perhaps increase the service to tourists.