Being a UNESCO World Heritage for its famous colorful city center and harbor area, it is not that surprising that a visit in the Maritime Museum of the city is recommended in many Willemstad, Curacao, travel guides. As the museum in addition offers a harbour tour, this is also part of the travel review.
Curacao Maritime Museum – Location and Admission
The Maritime Museum is located in Punda, just a very short walk away from the famous Handelskade. In case you come by car, I recommend the Abraham M. Chumaceiro Bulevar / Waalgat parking lot, which is closeby, large and one of the few lots which is free in the city center.
The museum is open Monday to Saturday, 9am to 4pm, at the time of writing. The admission is 11.50 NAF (or 6.50 USD) for adults. The harbour tours just happen twice a week, (currently) Wednesday and Saturday at 2p.m. and cost additional 17 NAF / 10 USD. More or less all exhibitions in the museum are explained in English and Dutch in parallel.
Curacao Maritime Museum – The Dutch arrive
You likely start your visit of the museum by watching a quite informative 20 minute long video about the history of the port and the city of Willemstad. The initial exhibitions are showing the routes of the original settlers on the island coming from today*s Venezuela by canoe boats. After that, you get some detailed information how Christopher Columbus explored the West Indies and how Curacao became Spanish in 1499 already. While the Spaniards were disappointed about the island due to the lack of natural resources, the Dutch, as a result of their independence from Spain, controlled the island since 1634. There are a lot of ship models and other artifacts from that time, which also show the role of privateers or pirates in the area. Another important topic is slavery and the transport and trade of slaves. There are also some other historic ship models like the famous Vasa (not sure why it is part of the exhibits).
Curacao Maritime Museum – Modern Era
Majorly located on the second floor of the museum, the exhibition shows how ship traffic has changed. One exhibition, for example, shows how more and more cruise ships landed in Curacao – but you may also see models of container vessels or oil tankers. A very interesting part of the exibition is also a photo collection of vessels which have been landing in Willemstad port in the past. There is also a small exhibition stage on the presence of the American navy in Curacao, which have been based in Blue Bay, close to the hotel I stayed in.
Curacao Maritime Museum – Dutch Military Exhibition
On the third floor, there is a small exhibition about which kind of troops are based on the Dutch islands in the Caribbean and which tasks they fulfill nowadays (including their assistance in natural catastrophes). There are some videos in Dutch only, but in general, it is quite interesting and I felt it is a nice addition to the museum.
Maritime Museum – Harbor Tour
The participants of the harbor tour are picked up at the museum and brought to the Handelskade ferry boat stop. The tour is done by one of the boats which is typically doing the ferry replacement service for the Queen Emma Bridge. Within some 45 minutes, you see the ship pilot area, the wreckage area, the oil refinery and the container port as well as the to-be-reopened docks. The tour is done in English and Dutch in parallel – which may sometimes be quite bothering as you might have passed one viewpoint already before it is explained. Nevertheless, you get quite a nice impression of the port and its sheer size.
Maritime Museum and Harbor Tour – My View
Though I am not too much into the naval topics, I felt that visiting the Maritime Museum was a nice time spending. The development of the city of Willemstad is so closely linked to that harbor and trade, so that it gives you a nice impression of the the history of the city. Compared to other attractions in the city (the price level is comparably high), the admission is fairly priced. One exhibit I especially liked was the one about the Dutch army presence in the Caribean. Overall, it took me some 75 minutes to explore the museum.
The harbor tour was very impressing as well. If you enter the city for example via the Queen Juliana Bridge, this just gives a very limited impression on the size of that trade place – still minor compared to European super-ports like Hamburg or Rotterdam, but amazing for an island of that size. Apart from that, it gives you some nice views of the city, so that I would absolutely recommend it.
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