Now I understand why people fall in love with Aruba. Unlike many of the Caribbean Islands where you dock at either a commercial port or an area of dilapidated wooden buildings, we pulled into a pier directly across from a lovely and welcoming Oranjestad. It didn’t hurt that it was 31*C with sunny skies. From my balcony I could see pleasure craft, fancifully trimmed buildings and a number of hotels with a good possibility of having a business center (high-speed Internet access).
Of course, I do realize that this is a recently built area likely heavily subsidized by the cruise lines. Tourism, after all is a big industry. I am sorry to report that all the standard tourist stores are here – from Jewelry to clothing. If you don’t look too hard you could just as easily be shopping in Cozumel. With the except that there are absolutely no bargains in the name brand stores. Columbia shirts (long sleeve=97$ and short sleeve 66$), Coach bags, luggage, jewelry, you name it are all at higher on-line prices.
Anyway, even walking back an number of streets from the shopping area, houses were still well maintained, garbage in cans rather than on the street and the sidewalks in reasonable repair. The local internet cafe has computers, wifi and LAN (the last costing a whopping $2US/hr as apposed to the $0.85/minute of the ship). Needless to say, I am downloading both my audio books and this weeks’ videos from my Coursera classes.
Otherwise, Aruba is part of the Dutch Antilles just north of the Venezuelan coast. According to our good friend Wikipedia – the island the earliest inhabitants landed around 1000. First colonized by Spain, the Dutch have been in charge since 1629. The Island played a role in WWII both as a base and as a major oil refinery location. The road to independence was initiated in 1933 but wound up permanently shelved in 1990 when the scheduled 1995/6 date was rescinded. Since the island is primarily arid, plantations are not an issue so I think that the oil refineries play a major role in the Netherlands’ desire to maintain a foothold in this region.