European flair, vibrant culture and natural wonders
A beauty to behold, Curaçao, a Dutch Caribbean island just off the coast of Venezuela, offers dramatic coastlines, hidden beaches tucked into coves, expansive coral reefs, wondrous caves and two different climates: one wet and tropical, the other dry.
Abuzz with European flair, Willemstad, the capital, boasts a thriving art and culinary scene, pretty pastel-coloured colonial architecture, museums and a go-go attitude, thanks in part to its booming economy.
As you arrive on an MSC Caribbean and Antilles cruise in Willemstad, you’ll have options for MSC excursions at your fingertips as diverse as its climate: Cultural tours or nature tours? Beach or hiking? A blend of both? The choice is yours.
Start by exploring the narrow alleys and gaze at the curious houses in bright colours in the picturesque old town of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dutch colonial-style houses with sloping roofs, and alternating pink, light green, blue and yellow colours contrast with the monochrome blue of the sky and sea, a panorama worthy of Instagram. MSC excursions let you hop on a trolley tour or join a guided walking tour to marvel at the city’s best known sites.
At the mouth of the bay of Sint Annabaai, between the two districts of Willemstad, lies Fort Amsterdam, one of the most important forts on the island. Built in 1635, the fort is now the seat of the governor, and houses a Protestant church and a museum. The church, built in 1769, was fired upon by a British warship in 1804, and you can still find a cannonball embedded in the southwestern wall of the church. Another fort worth seeing is Fort Beekenburg, overlooking Caracas Bay. Constructed in 1703, it was actively used in the 19th century to defend against the French, British and pirates, and is one of the best-preserved fortifications in the Caribbean.
A Curaçao cruise lets you tour the factory where the world-famous Curaçao liqueur is made. At the sunshine yellow Chobolo Mansion, visit the old distillery to learn how the distillation process works and, of course, you get to sample the Blue Curaçao liqueur.
For an otherworldly experience, opt for a short drive to the north of Willemstad, passing salt flats and flamingos, to explore the Hato Caves on a guided tour. At this natural wonder, you’ll learn about stalagmites, stalactites, limestone formations and, if you're lucky, you’ll spot long-nosed fruit bats.
Or to observe the stunning coastline, another MSC excursion takes you on a country drive, past old plantation homes, to Boka Tabla, part of Shete Boka National Park, on the north coast. Admire the phenomenon of how the pounding surf has over time formed beautiful coves and interesting rock shapes stretching over seven miles of unspoiled shoreline.