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Bright, airy, and beachy Willemstad may feel like a Dutch city, but don’t let the colonial pastels and European-style streets fool you—you’re on the Southern Caribbean cruise of a lifetime. On cruises to Curaçao, beautiful beaches, clear waters, and incredible diving and snorkeling will quickly steal your heart.
During a day in Willemstad, stroll along Willemstad’s Old Town and quaint harbor, both designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Soak up the sun at Mambo Beach, or discover local culture and history on a museum-hopping tour. Take to the floating Queen Emma Bridge for sweeping city views over the water. Savor the fusion of Dutch and Afro-Caribbean cuisine on exclusive culinary experiences with local chefs.
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Welcome to Willemstad’s trendiest beach. Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, the calm waters at Mambo Beach are perfect for swimming. On cruises to Curaçao, visit the shops along Mambo Beach Boulevard and unwind with a refreshing piña-colada. Take it easy lounging on the sparkling white sand, or get your heart rate up with a friendly game of beach tennis.
Queen Emma Bridge, also known as “the Swinging Old Lady,” is an attraction unique to Willemstad. Stretch your sea legs on a rejuvenating walk across Queen Emma Bridge, or simply watch as the floating walkway rises and falls to let ferries and sailboats into the harbor from the comfort of a quaint cafe.
It took hundreds of thousands of years for the Hato Caves to form, and today these coral limestone wonders are one of Willemstad’s most popular natural attractions. Learn the history and tall tales of the Hato Caves on a guided tour, then meander the trails and cactus garden in the park nearby.
Blue Bay is a palm-lined paradise with some of the clearest waters in the Caribbean. Grab your snorkeling gear and spot schools of colorful fish. Afterward, indulge in a frozen drink at the thatched cabana at Blue Bay Beach Resort, or hit the links at its sweeping golf course for the perfect day in port on a cruise to Curaçao.
One of the must-sees of WIllemstad is Fort Amsterdam, a Dutch fort built back in 1634. While it once protected the city from pirates and other invaders, today the fort is used as local government offices. It’s a prime location for a photo op and a close walk to shopping in the Punda District.
Interact with sea lions, dolphins, and flamingos in their habitats at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium, where marine experts take you behind the scenes on incredible encounters for all ages. Descend into a chamber nearly 20 feet below and gaze into the deep blue sea from Ocean Lens Curaçao, a once-in-a-lifetime guided tour.
Curaçao boasts a fascinating mix of culinary cultures, fusing Dutch classics with Afro-Caribbean and Venezuelan influence. Seafood is a staple on local menus alongside Dutch delights, specifically cheeses like gouda and Dutch sweets. Try stroopwafels, a sandwich of thin wafers and caramel commonly served with coffee, or puffy, pancake-like poffertjes. Island cocktails are a must on the island. Curaçao even has its own liqueur: the Blue Curaçao, which is made from citrus peels and the Curaçao orange.
The history of Curaçao dates back thousands of years, starting with settlement by the Arawaks of South America. The capital city, Willemstad, was founded in the 17th century by Dutch traders, who saw an opportunity to transform the island into a shipping and trading port off the Sint Anna Bay. During this time, residents built the city’s now-historic sites, including Fort Amsterdam, the harbor, and various grids across Old Town. By the 20th century, Curaçao became a favorite destination for cruise ships, warmly welcoming visitors from all over the world to the tiny island.
Cruises to Curaçao disembark at the Mega Pier located on the Otrobanda side of the island. Downtown Willemstad is easily walkable from the terminal. The port is also equipped with ATMs and currency exchange counters. Tourist desks offer information about nearby attractions, and taxi stands are located right outside the port.
Downtown Willemstad is fairly walkable, but if you want to venture further into the island or to one of its top beaches, you can arrange a shore excursion, rent a car, or hail a taxi from the cruise terminal. Water taxis regularly run to and from Punda.
There’s plenty of shopping in Curacao to satisfy your craving for retail therapy. Rif Fort in Willemstad is a converted fort that now houses boutiques, shops, and galleries, while Mambo Bay Boulevard is a popular shopping hub for souvenirs and beachy goods. The Punda District is a gold mine for duty-free stores, known for shops with the latest designer goods, fragrances, jewelry, and locally made art.
The official currency used in Curaçao is the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG), which is also called “Florin.” While you’re in Willemstad, you’ll find that U.S. dollars (USD) are commonly accepted at larger establishments. Carrying a little bit of cash for small purchases is recommended, though many major credit cards are accepted. Many restaurants include a “service charge” in your bill, which means that tipping is not required. If the restaurant doesn’t include a service charge, you should leave a 15% to 20% tip. Don’t forget to tip taxi drivers anywhere from 10% to 20%.