We stopped in Aruba on Thanksgiving day 2013 while on the Carnival Breeze, and it was definitely an excellent way to spend Thanksgiving, as Aruba is an incredibly beautiful and scenic island. I love to be outside on the ship watching our arrival in to port, and the beauty of the island really made getting up early for that worth it. On this cruise we had an oceanview at the front of the spa deck, which gave us quick access to the “secret deck” at the front of the ship, so I popped right out to watch us dock in Aruba as soon as I saw we were close. In a word: Wow. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves
For this stop, my wife had set us up with an all day tour through HF Tours, and we loved every minute of it. There were 5 of us on the tour, as my mom and step dad were on the cruise too, and we got a 5 hour tour in a 15 person van for $65/pp, which seemed very reasonable compared to past tours we’d done. To add to it, our guide was outstanding, one of the best we’ve ever had. The tour itself took us over a large portion of the island, including stops at the California Lighthouse, the Old Dutch Windmill, and Eagle Beach.
While those stops were all cool, our target for this tour were really the following landmarks:
Philip’s Animal Garden: While all three of us enjoy animals, my daughter is definitely what I’d categorize as an animal lover. Her goal in life is to work with animals, as she wants to train animals for TV and movies after she graduates from college. She also has her cat at college with her, has an Instagram account for him, and as you can see in those pictures, he’s quite active with her on campus. Back on topic, Philip’s was the first long stop we had. Our guide dropped us off right at the gate, and after paying the entrance fee, had a guide come up and walk us around, talking about the history of the facility, and telling us about all of the animals they had. If I recall, we spent about 45 minutes there and enjoyed it from start to finish. Very beautiful facility that’s growing, and doing good work, as they take in and house all kinds of animals that people decide they no longer want. Well worth the stop.
Casibari Rock Formation: This was a pretty cool stop, allowing us to climb up to the top of the rock formation, where we had a great view of the island. Not much to say about this, as it’s a giant rock formation, but it’s a cool place to stop. If you go, be sure to climb the rock, it’s worth the effort. If you look carefully in the picture of my daughter and I, just above her head, you’ll see the two cruise ships in port that day.
Donkey Sanctuary Aruba: You read that right, we visited a donkey sanctuary. Did I mention my daughter is an animal lover :)? The road leading up to the sanctuary is a bit small and rocky to the point that we weren’t sure the van would make it, and pulling up we really had no idea what to expect from the facility. Walking in, I was amazed at how many donkeys there were, they were everywhere! There really isn’t anything else to the stop, but it’s exactly as advertised, and run by some very friendly people. We spent some time there feeding the donkeys and listening to them talk about the facility. It was definitely an interesting stop.
Natural Bridge: This is one of the most well known landmarks in Aruba, and was very cool to see in person. Unfortunately the bridge itself collapsed several years ago, but it’s still a great area of the island with spectacular views, and it’s a great place to walk out on the rocks, watch the waves come in, and clear your head. Almost cathartic.
I know I said this earlier, but we really enjoyed this tour, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend HF Tours to anyone going to Aruba. I’d have loved to spent some time in the water at Eagle Beach, but that’s for another trip, as Aruba easily made our shortlist of places we want to spend more time. Even after such a long tour, we had plenty of time to stop and do some shopping in the area around the port before boarding, so here are some shots of that shopping area, along with a couple from the ship as we were pulling out of port.