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Curacao’s Maritime Museum

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Ever since the dawn of the 16th century, when it was finally drawn onto the maps of European explorers, Curaçao’s fortunes have been tied to the sea. The Maritime Museum, located across from the Floating Market at the beginning of the Waaigat Harbor, is a must for anyone interested in understanding the history of the island.

Maritime Museum Curacao

The museum occupies one of the most stunning mansions of the Scharloo, directly at the end of the pedestrian L.B. Smith bridge. This two-story house was built as a private residence in 1729, but burnt to the ground in 1988. After a complete renovation, the building re-opened to the public in 1998 as the Maritime Museum.

The renovation of the property was marvelously done, with an interior designed to evoke the hull of a ship, including portholes, railings and even the spiral staircase which leads to the deck… although in the museum’s case, it leads to a third-story room for special exhibitions.

Maritime Museum Curacao

Even those without a special interest in the seas should find plenty inside this museum to hold their attention. The exhibits start at the very beginning, with the canoes employed by the Arwak Indians to reach Curaçao from the Venezuelan mainland. The museum then moves on to the “discovery” of the island, its occupation by the Spanish and Dutch, and the Atlantic slave trade.

We enjoyed the section about the dawning of cruise ship tourism. I had never thought about when this phenomenon began, but it’s older than I would have guessed. The first cruise ship reached Curaçao from New York City in 1901. Passengers in those days eschewed the island’s beaches, disembarking primarily to shop in Willemstad, which was known for fashions and jewelry at prices unheard of in Manhattan.

With further exhibitions about the Isla Refinery and its dry dock, as well as old nautical maps and uniforms, this museum could easily occupy an hour or more, and we highly recommend a visit. Keep in mind that they also offer a ferry tour of the Schottegat Harbor two days a week. If you plan correctly, you can buy a joint ticket for both the museum and the tour.

Location on our Map
Curacao Maritime Museum – Website

Hotels In Curacao

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Maritime Museum Curacao
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Maritime Museum Curacao
Maritime Museum Curacao
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February 25, 2016 at 12:14 pm Comments (0)

A Tour of the Schottegat Harbor

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Curaçao’s fortunes have long been tied to the Schottegat, the remarkable natural harbor around which Willemstad was built. It’s the largest harbor in the Caribbean and, behind Rotterdam, the second-largest in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And it’s allowed the island to become a great center of trade. Since 1915, the Schottegat has been home to Curaçao’s Isla Oil Refinery. We took the ferry tour of the harbor offered by the Maritime Museum.

Harbor Tour Curacao

After our boat set sail from Saint Anna Bay and entered into the harbor, the first thing I noticed was the its sheer size. From east to west, it’s about four kilometers long, and seen from the water, it’s a lot bigger than we had realized. The shipping barges which loom so massively as they pass through the Saint Anna look relatively small when anchored in the Schottegat.

This is a side of Willemstad which most people don’t get to see, as the harbor is used entirely for commerce and military purposes. There’s no water-skiing on the Schottegat, and definitely no swimming. Thanks in large part to the refinery, the water is seriously contaminated and recreation is strictly forbidden.

Our ferry boat went in a counter-clockwise circle around the harbor, first passing Fort Nassau, an old fort which has been converted into an upscale restaurant. We went by Curaçao Scrap, where the island’s metal refuse is compacted before being packed onto barges for recycling in other countries. And we saw the headquarters of the Dutch Navy. Curaçao might now be autonomous, but it still depends upon Holland for its defense. Which is good, since the world is terrified of Holland’s awesome military might.

My favorite part of the tour came when we sidled up next to a large dry dock, where a barge was currently stationed. The dry dock is a complicated piece of technology, whose need I’d never even considered. How else are you going to paint or repair a giant barge? You can’t just drag it onto land! It reminded me that there are entire industries about which I know nothing. We watched the crew paint their ship, and were told that this is something they’re required to do around the clock, since the boat is losing money every hour that it isn’t sailing.

This harbor tour leaves every Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm from the Maritime Museum. Tickets can be bought for just the boat trip itself, or in combination with entry to the museum. Unless you can get a gig working on one of the barges which are stationed here, this is probably the best way to see the Schottegat.

Location of the Maritime Museum on our Map
Maritime Museum – Website

Cheap Flights To Curacao

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January 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm Comments (0)
Curacao's Maritime Museum Ever since the dawn of the 16th century, when it was finally drawn onto the maps of European explorers, Curaçao's fortunes have been tied to the sea. The Maritime Museum, located across from the Floating Market at the beginning of the Waaigat Harbor, is a must for anyone interested in understanding the history of the island.
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