Calling all cruise ships: Bonaire Offers Cruise Passengers A Port Of Distinction

KRALENDIJK, Bonaire – Since 1968 when the Dutch Caribbean island of Bonaire welcomed its first cruise ship into port, Bonaire has offered cruise passengers a unique alternative in the Caribbean.

As one of the Caribbean’s more off-the-beaten-path islands, Bonaire offers visitors an unhurried, tranquil and undeveloped oasis and a wealth of eco-adventure activities that include scuba diving, caving, climbing, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking and mountain biking.

The open sea and deep water approach to berths, allows cruise ships to dock right at the Northern and Southern Piers located in Bonaire’s capital city of Kralendijk. Passengers disembark into the heart of Bonaire and are greeted by multilingual representatives from the Tourism Corporation Bonaire at an Information Booth.

Specially trained guides offering island tours are also waiting for passengers as are representatives from various companies offering shore excursions. For passengers that haven’t planned ahead shopping guides, maps of Kralendijk and the island, as well as brochures on shore excursions and accommodations are also available at the Information Booth.

Most cruise guests will also enjoy the Cruise Market Place, which has been reinstated for this season. Held right on Wilhelmina Square, the Market Place brings cruise guests face to face with the island’s culture and heritage, as friendly local artisans offer goods such as native foods, hand-made wares, original art and clothing for sale.

The Cruise Market Place also features cultural dance shows, music and other entertainment at various times throughout the day.

Just steps from the pier, the quaint, Dutch town of Kralendijk awaits. Offering pastel colored buildings, shops selling unique arts and crafts, jewelry, perfumes, clothing and souvenirs, open-air cafés and restaurants and historic sites visitors are encouraged to wander through the streets of the city exploring the open-air fruit and vegetable market and the town’s many sites.

The pier is located just a short distance from all hotel beaches and a public beach. For those visitors that would rather get wet, Bonaire’s calm, turquoise waters await. Activities like diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, kiteboarding and kayaking are all available and most can be enjoyed by the whole family.

For decades, Bonaire’s pristine underwater world has been captivating visitors. Easily accessible right from the island’s shoreline Bonaire’s 86 marked dive and snorkel sites can be enjoyed by divers and snorkelers of all skill levels. Resort dive courses, guided snorkeling excursions and more are offered by the island’s many dive centers.

The peaceful, protected lagoon at Lac Bay is the perfect spot for windsurfing with extraordinarily clear, waist-deep water with constant 15-to-25 knots per hour crosswinds. Located right on the beach, the island’s two windsurfing operations feature top-of-the-line equipment and classes for beginners to advanced board sailors.

The calm waters surrounding much of Bonaire make kayaking a relaxing and fun way to see the island. Kayak tours led by local naturalist are available to explore Lac Bay’s mangroves, a nursery for fish life. Cruising through the mangrove’s secluded tunnels visitors will get a close-up view of the island’s beautiful marine life and birds, upside-down jellyfish, pelicans and egrets included. Kayaks can also be used to peacefully view the coastline or to visit the small uninhabited island of Klein Bonaire, located just offshore.

Accessibility, calm waters and abundant fish — the same features that attract divers — are what make deep sea fishing on Bonaire so special. The catch in Bonaire varies by season, from Marlin, Sailfish and Dorado to Wahoo, Amber Jack and Yellowfin, and boats rarely come back empty-handed. A number of charter boat operations are available as is bonefishing in the island’s flats.

Visitors who would rather stay on dry ground also have a wide selection of activities to choose from. One of the first national parks in the Caribbean, Washington-Slagbaai National Park is home to over 190 species of birds, thousands of towering Candle cacti, herds of goats, stray donkeys, lizards and small hidden beaches. The park terrain is varied and those who are ambitious enough to climb some of the steep hills are rewarded with majestically sweeping views. Jeeps and cars can be taken through the park on one of two driving trails and hiking trails and guided tours are available.

Bonaire can also be explored on mountain bike. With over 300 kilometers of trails on Bonaire including goat paths and unpaved roads visitors can get up close to Bonaire’s ecological diversity, flora and fauna. Local operations offer bike rentals and guided tours.

One of Bonaire’s newest activities, land sailing takes advantage of the island’s constant trade winds. People can experience the excitement of this sport on the world’s largest track for land sailing which is located on the windward side of the island. Bonaire’s best known area for horseback riding is the Riding Academy at Kunuku Warahama. A wonderful retreat tucked away in the wilderness, the ranch offers guided rides to the beach and through the island’s interior.

A leader in marine conservation Bonaire has always made it a top priority to protect its natural resources and ensure that the island’s natural surroundings, both above and below the water, remain sanctuaries for preservation and pristine for future generations to enjoy.

In cruise season 1999/2000, fifty-six ships with 39,245 passengers called on Bonaire,” said Ronella Croes, Director of the Tourism Corporation Bonaire. “In season 2005/2006, sixty-eight ships made and will make stops in Bonaire bringing 56,476 passengers, and we expect these numbers to increase over the next few years as cruise ships continue to seek out new and exciting destinations to add to their itineraries.”

“For many cruise ship passengers, this will be their first visit to Bonaire. We take great pride in showcasing our island and all that it has to offer, and we continue striving to improve our tourism product. We hope that, based on their time spent on island, those visiting by cruise ship will consider Bonaire when planning their next Caribbean vacation,” continued Ms. Croes.

For the 2006/2007 cruise season, Bonaire estimates that 69 ships will call on the island expecting to bring approximately 85,000 passengers. Among them will be Silversea Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard Cruise line (Queen Mary II; this ship paid its first visit to Bonaire in December 2004 and has since visited Bonaire 3 times) and the Holland America Line.

Related Articles

Back to top button