Looking for something special to do on your Aruba vacation? Try this sunset dinner cruise on a luxurious wooden schooner! It was one of our favorite things that we did during our week in Aruba, and would be perfect for a honeymoon, special occasion, final night of vacation, or just to treat yourself!
As we were planning our third mother-daughter vacation – this time to the Caribbean island of Aruba – my mom, sister, and I were on the hunt for unique activities. We wanted to find something special that was unlike anything we’d done in Belize or Puerto Rico. A snorkeling excursion, guided tour of Aruba’s north shore, and a day trip to the southern city of San Nicolas were already in the works, but as exciting as those plans were, something seemed to be missing. Something with a “wow” factor, like Belize’s remote Mayan ruins or the unexpectedly pristine and deserted beaches of Vieques.
Happily, our research into sunset sails led us to the Monforte III, a luxurious wooden schooner that plays host to sunset dinner cruises along the Aruban coast. Almost immediately, we knew we’d found our special splurge for the trip.
What we didn’t realize was that we had just found the best thing we would do all week, as well as one of the best meals of our entire vacation.
Our original goal was to take an Aruba sunset dinner cruise on our final night on the island. A last hurrah, if you will. As it turned out, however, the cruise is only offered on certain nights of the week, so we ended up booked in the middle of our vacation. No matter! After a day of exploring Oranjestad and the Aruba Aloe Factory and Museum, we made our way to Pelican Pier to meet our ship.
The Monforte III is a 115-foot, two-masted wooden schooner that was crafted in Brazil. Most of the forward part of the ship is open, with bench seating along the sides. Toward the stern is a covered area that houses the majority of the tables as well as the bar.
Unlike the snorkeling trip we had taken earlier in the week, our dinner cruise was a small-group tour that seemed to have fewer than thirty passengers. As a result, the ship never felt crowded, we could move about freely, and we never had to wait for more than a person or two at the bar.
It also helped that, to our delight, our assigned table happened to be at the front of the ship just under the forward mast. This allowed us to spend the entire evening in the open air, with the only obstruction to our panoramic views being the ship itself.
Soon enough, we were setting sail. The captain navigated us away from the pier and out into the open ocean, where we sliced northward through the deep blue water. The bar opened promptly, and we were content to sip wine as we sat along the railing and watched the beautiful coastline slip by.
The journey was peaceful and scenic, and it was such a delight to just be able to relax and enjoy the view… and the occasional sea spray!
Eventually, the Monforte III anchored not far from the northern tip of the island, and we stayed there for the majority of the evening. At first, I was surprised – and maybe a little disappointed – that the “sail” part of the excursion wasn’t a continuous event, but it actually made eating our meal much easier and more enjoyable. Plus, there were no complaints about the views!
As the sun slowly sank toward the horizon, we had plenty of time to sip wine or cocktails, roam the ship, take photographs, and enjoy the scenery and experience.
Eventually, it was time for the first of our four courses: an Aruban take on ceviche.
Next came a salad with fresh shrimp and greens, accompanied by a tangy dressing. There’s no photo of that dish, as we were too busy diving into it!
We were off to a great start, and the sunset and the food just kept getting better.
After the first two courses, I made my way aft to refill my wine glass. Most of our fellow passengers were seated at their tables, which were nicely spaced under the canopy so that it didn’t seem crowded.
It was also at that point that I realized that our chef was grilling the steaks for the main course right on the back of the boat! I know Chef Jeremy probably had a lot of pressure on him to provide a great dinner for all of us, but I can’t help but think that he had the best job of all. There are far worse kitchens than an open-air one with the sea and sunset just beyond.
Soon enough, those steaks were served with roasted potatoes, asparagus, and a lobster salad.
When we originally booked the cruise, I had high expectations for the sunset sailing experience and fairly modest ones for the food. I mean, how good could a dinner cooked on a wooden boat actually be?
To our delight and amazement, the answer was, “Incredible!” Everything was fresh and well-balanced, and my steak was cooked perfectly. We couldn’t get over how delicious everything was. Even taking the rest of the experience out of the equation, our dinner on the Monforte III ended up being one of our favorite meals in Aruba.
Throughout our dinner, we were entertained with live music, and the sun continued its dramatic descent toward the sea. It was an absolutely glorious night.
By the time it began to grow truly dark, we were topping off the evening with coconut flan alongside a home-baked, crispy cookie.
Once again, I was grateful to have been seated at the bow of the ship, where we could enjoy the stars above and the gentle sounds of the sea below. There was just enough light for us to see our food and find our way around while still maintaining the unparalleled ambiance of being on a wooden ship at night.
Eventually, however, both the sunset and the dinner were over and we had to return to Palm Beach. It was a quiet and peaceful journey through the dark, accompanied by the soothing sound of the sea as the ship cut through the waves. Upon our arrival back at Pelican Pier, the three of us bade a sad but well-satisfied goodbye to the crew. We were so grateful for their excellent care of us throughout the evening; although we only suspected it at the time, the crew of the Monforte III had helped create what would become one of our favorite memories from our time in Aruba.
If you’re looking for a special night in Aruba, a nice way to celebrate a specific date or occasion, or to go out with a bang on your last night of vacation, consider taking a sunset dinner cruise. I hope you have as enchanting of an evening as we did!
Tips for Your Aruba Sunset Dinner Cruise
- As of the time of writing, the cost of our dinner cruise on the Monforte III was $155 per person. It definitely seems like a splurge for a single dinner, but we found that it wasn’t much more than what we would have paid for a regular sunset cruise with an open bar (about $50 – $80 per person for only two hours) plus dinner on the island (where entrees alone could easily be $25-$30). When we considered the additional hours of sailing, four-course menu of delicious food, small group size, ambiance of the wooden schooner, and the open bar, the price didn’t seem unfair at all!
- It is highly recommended that you book your Monforte III dinner cruise well in advance, as the group is intentionally kept small and it is only offered on certain evenings.
- I recommend that you wear flats on the dinner cruise, rather than heels.
- It would also be wise to bring some sort of jacket or shawl in case the breeze is cool.
- We were unable to do so due to our travel dates, but I suggest planning your Aruba sunset dinner cruise for your final night on the island! It’s the perfect special, splurge-y activity to end your vacation in style.
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