Curacao is the C of the ABC islands, with Aruba as A and Bonaire as B. We visited all three on our cruise on Celebrity Constellation, starting with Curacao. All three islands once belonged to the Netherlands. Curacao and Aruba are independent now, though they are considered as autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands while Bonaire is still considered a part of the Netherlands.
One of the biggest tourist attractions on Curacao is Hato Caves, which we saw on our previous visit there. Ships dock in Willemstad, the capital city of the island. Willemstad has many historic and colorful buildings made from coral. It’s a short walk from the cruise ship dock into town, though there is a trolley for people who would rather not walk. A nearby historic fort has been turned into a shopping area with many small shops.
We had no prior plans for Curacao so we just got off the ship to see what was there. Just off the dock there were some tents set up with things for sale. Right past that a few vans waited to take people out for taxi tours. Prior to Covid that sort of tour usually sat there until they filled the van, but this time they charged according to how many people you had in your group and just went with those rather than waiting for more to come. There was a group of 4 already talking to them looking for a better price, so we joined in with them and got the 6-person price of $30 each. Not bad since the pre-covid full van price was often $20 each for those sorts of tours.
First we went up to the big tall car bridge that towers over the river through Willemstad. It’s called Koningin Julianabrug (Queen Juliana Bridge) and crosses over Sint Anna Bay. Just before crossing the bridge our driver stopped and let everyone out for a photo op.
On one side of the bridge we could see a view of the city with the ship in the background. On the other a large oil refinery, which was not in use at the time as they were unable to get any crude oil from Venezuela to refine there and had to import already refined fuel instead.
Our next stop was the Chobolobo factory where the blue Curacao liqueur is made. It is made mainly from orange peels. Long ago inhabitants tried to grow oranges there, but they were no good for eating because of poor soil and growing conditions, so they use them to make the liqueur instead.
The original Curacao comes in a variety of colors and clear as well as blue, and they had several flavored ones also. Flavors they had out for tasting were the original blue, tamarind, and chocolate, of which I liked the tamarind best. John preferred the original at the time, but we bought a bottle of the tamarind and he later decided that flavor was awesome.
Then we went to Mambo Beach, apparently the most popular beach on the island. It reminded me of a cruise ship port. There were lots and lots of shops to pass through before getting to any actual beach. It was a nice beach with lots of beach chairs, and also lots of people so not so good for quiet and seclusion. It had a breakwater protecting the swimming area from any rough waves. Driving out from the beach it looked like there was a trail along the beach to less populated areas of it.
Our drive took us through both poor and wealthy neighborhoods. While the buildings varied in size and upkeep, rich or poor none of them had much in the way of yards.
After stopping in the main part of town we were given the option to wander about for 20 minutes and then have a ride back to the ship, or just get out there and walk back when we felt like it. John and I opted to stay in town for awhile and walk back on our own, while the other 4 wanted the ride back.
We walked around through the shops a bit and he bought a pink flamingo Christmas tree ornament. We didn’t get a ship model ornament this cruise since the Constellation’s gift shop didn’t have any, but we ended up with the flamingo ornament instead. There were 3 giant hearts next to the foot bridge where people could hang love locks, probably to keep people from hanging thousands of locks on the bridge and weighing it down.
The little boats full of produce that made up the floating market from Venezuela were not there like they had been on our last visit. Our van driver said they don’t come there anymore. She did not say if that is due to covid or political turmoil in Venezuela. There were some stalls along the smaller river near to where it joins into the main one where the little boats used to be, but the stalls were all on land with no boats floating behind them on the river like the little boats at that market did before. Most stalls had either crafts or produce so people still managed to find produce somewhere.
There were also stalls full of things for tourists to buy next to the main river near the bridge, but those had been there on our previous visit as well so were not there in place of the floating market. These mainly had souvenir stuff like clothes and knick-knacks.
The pontoons under the foot bridge look like little boats. When a boat came that wanted to go to the other side, the bridge sort of sailed open on its little pontoon boats just wide enough to let the boat through and then back.
In the daytime the bridge has white hoops over it, but at night those hoops light up in ever changing colors. The pontoon bridge is called Queen Emma Bridge. For the people on land, bridges are the one thing that are closed when open and open when closed.
On the way back to the cruise ship dock people pass through the Renaissance Mall & Rif Fort. The one-time fort turned shopping mall still had quite a few Christmas decorations up in various places. Items in the shops were significantly more expensive than things at our prior port in Mexico. Odds are these were mainly imported while the ones in Mexico are mostly made there. Importing things has gotten quite expensive, driving up prices everywhere.