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.
Cruise ship season in Aruba starts every year around late October and last until about March/April. The rule is, the colder it gets in the northeast of the United States, the busier it gets with travelers on the islands.
During cruise ship season there will be 1 or 2 ships in town, but there are days that can have 5 ships in town, which can be overwhelming for the port and our capital Oranjestad, where all ships dock. This can represent about 10.000 tourists and crew on the island, additional to the visitors already staying in Aruba.
What to do when you arrive on a cruise ship
The cruise ships arrive straight in downtown, Aruba’s capital. You can walk to the gate and you are in town. After you exit the gate and passed the tour vendors you will find shops, a popular market, and a stop for the free (at press time) streetcar.
In case you are up for a more active visit in downtown, there are two new activities that begun giving service in Aruba, namely a city tour on foot and a city bicycle rental.
Well produced 1-minute promotional clip for the city walking tours.
Other activities such as bus tours, off-road tours, catamaran sailing tours, snorkeling tours, diving tours, sea scooter tours and much more are available as well.
Alternatively, you can always go to nearby beaches for a swim. All beaches in Aruba are public and free of charge. Beach furniture, such as chairs are not free.
What to do if you are staying in Aruba
For stay-over visitors, I suggest to skip town for that particular day and try to schedule another day to visit downtown. Ask your hotel concierge how many ships are in town before you decide to go.
Cruise ship passengers only have a few hours in Aruba, while stay-over visitors can better schedule a trip to another day.
Note: none of the recommendations and links are endorsements or sponsors.
Former Aruba tour guide, trying to provide value to Aruba travelers.