On our last cruise, we purchased tickets for Aruba’s best snorkeling experience, the Jolly Pirates ship. We received no discount or special accommodations, so obviously all opinions are my own. Some links in this post are affiliate links that earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
I love Aruba. The first time I visited, I stayed for 10 days with friends at an all inclusive resort called the Divi Resort. We loved it, but aside from SCUBA diving almost every day, we never left the resort.
I’ve been to Aruba a few times since then on cruises. A year ago, we did a snorkeling excursion (that we paid for) via Carnival and enjoyed it.
However, we saw another snorkel ship that moored near us that had a rope swing. And looked like a pirate ship. My kids were hooked.
Looking for more cruise excursion ideas? Check out more reviews and recommendations at the end of this article.
Fortunately, this year, our adventures put us back in Aruba, and I looked up that excursion. The Jolly Pirates sailing isn’t a part of our cruise ship excursions, but we spend plenty of time on the island and had our choice of the afternoon sail and snorkel or the sunset cruise that had no snorkeling but does include the rope swing.
My kids begged to do the Jolly Pirates afternoon sail and snorkel, so after a few back and forth emails to confirm we’d arrive in time to board the ship, I booked online.
Heading to Aruba on a cruise ship? Most likely you’re visiting some of the ABC islands and have a decent amount of time on the island. You absolutely can do Aruba’s best snorkel excursion.
Our ship docked at 1pm, and we had plenty of time to disembark and take a taxi to MooMba Beach to check in for the 2pm snorkel cruise. We weren’t the last to arrive, and we even had time to relax on the beach before boarding the pirate ship.
Looking for more cruise excursion ideas? Check out more reviews and recommendations at the end of this article.
Jolly Pirates Sailing Options
The Jolly Pirates in Aruba has three daily sailings, each lasting a different length of time and with a different cost. Check the costs before you book to verify.
Jolly Pirates Morning Sail
The morning sail lasts the longest. It runs from 9am to 1pm, though like all sailings, you need to check in 30-45 minutes before sailing to get your tickets.
This cruise option has three snorkel stops, including the shipwreck SS Antilla, a protected cove, and shoreline snorkeling. And yes, of course you have the chance to enjoy the rope swing.
The morning snorkel also includes lunch, the only one of the three that incorporates a meal. You receive ribs, chicken, Caribbean rice, potato salad, fruit, and bread. As with all the cruises, you can also enjoy an open bar throughout the majority of the trip – unlike most snorkel excursions that only open the bar after your last snorkel stop ends.
Kids 4 and under attend for no charge, but they still need tickets. Kids 5-10 are half price – $32.15, while adults 10 and over cost $64.30 for the 9am trip.
Jolly Pirates Afternoon Sail
The afternoon snorkel trip lasts three hours from 2pm to 5pm. The afternoon includes two of the three snorkel stops from the morning, as well as the rope swing at the last stop. The protected cove is the stop you skip for the 2pm sail.
You don’t receive food in the afternoon, but the bar is open. Read more on the details of our experience on this Aruba snorkeling excursion below.
Adults cost $50, and kids 5-10 are again half price at $25. And yep, kids 4 and under go free.
Jolly Pirates Sunset Sail
The sunset cruise lasts the shortest, but it’s also the least expensive. If you aren’t into snorkeling, go for this option. You experience the fantastic sunset views from the same pirate ship, and you won’t want to miss the photo opps.
This cruise departs at 5:30pm and lasts two hours, as there is no snorkeling but a cruise around the island (not a full circle!) and a stop to enjoy the rope swing.
As always, the cruise includes an open bar. Adults cost $34.50, with kids 5-10 half price at $17.25, and under 4 free.
Details of the Afternoon Jolly Pirates Snorkel
Our boat had three crew, giving us plenty of comfort to man the bar, watch the snorkelers, and more. Daniel, Milton, and Julio all had great enthusiasm for what they do and kept us entertained and happy throughout the sailing.
Make sure you check in early. Even including the time to line up on the pier and taking a little water taxi to the moored ship, we were on board before 2pm. How often do you have an excursion start on time, let alone early?
The afternoon tour has two snorkel stops, the shipwreck Antilles in 60 feet of water and the snorkel closer to shore. This is one less than the morning cruise.
Once aboard, they opened the bar, and we had a 20 or so minute ride to first site. You pick up mask and fins as you board, so you don’t have to transport them to and from the boat.
They had both kid and adult size masks, plus a variety of sized fins. Make sure to try them on once you get them so you know they fit, then slide them under your seating area until it’s time to snorkel.
The crew did provide life vest to all at first snorkel stop. Unlike many snorkeling excursions, it’s optional to wear. If you choose to wear it just in case but still want to explore underwater, the vest is the blow up kind. Simply uninflate and dive down to see things up close.
Put on fins just before enter water. You don’t want to walk across the deck of the ship wearing them.
Pro tip: Fold the back of the fin that goes over your heel back until it rolls under the fin. Slide your foot into the fin like a flip flop, then flip the heel portion back up. It’s much easier than trying to wriggle your foot in otherwise!
The first stop includes a 25 minute snorkel. The crew sounds three horn blasts to let you know when it’s time to go back. Swim back to the pirate ship, then take off your fins while holding onto the ladder. Hold them in your hand, then climb the ladder and store them with your mask for the next stop.
At the Antilles, we saw lots of fish and coral growing on wreck. The water visibility was not super clear, but it was enough to see lots of fish. In fact, we saw many schools of fish. Some tend to hide under the wreck, so dive down to make sure you see everything.
One word of warning: This is a smaller snorkeling area, so watch getting kicked, especially when coming up from a dive.
We were ready to come in after 25 minutes because not a huge area to explore after awhile. If you finish snorkeling before the 25 minutes are up, you can always return to the ship early. The crew is there and waiting to help you.
While there were multiple boats in the area, groups don’t overlap where they snorkeled, so it wasn’t an issue. Throughout the snorkel time, we had one guide in the water, while the others were on the boat watching.
I was slightly disappointed that the crew gave us no introduction to fish we would see. Instead, they tols us to look down then swim to front of boat and swim. We did see lots of variety from parrot fish to grouper to angelfish and more. I loved seeing the different types of coral, too.
The second site is near shore and just five minutes away. This is a popular spot; our cruise excursion visited the same site last year – where we first spotted this ship! – and many park on shore and wade in to snorkel.
The water here is just 12-14 feet. Swim near rocks by the shoreline to spot the best fish. Additionally, it’s a more open area for snorkeling. Compared to the Antilles, this site has calmer water and no real current, so it’s an easier snorkel.
At this site, we didn’t see any unique fish, but we saw a tiny pink octopus that was really cool. We also saw plenty of trumpet fish and puffer fish among other common fish.
Once the horn blasts to call you back to the ship, you then enjoy the rope swing from the same site. You have time for 4-5 swings for each person with most people doing it. If you have a group that gets tired of it sooner, you may have ever more chance to swing.
It’s tempting to jump, but listen to the guide. You just step off to the left and hold on until you reach the apex of the arc. At that point, let go and swim to ladder to go again.You can do backflip if you want to try, but be warned that you may get water in nose. Overall, watch out to make sure you don’t do a belly flop, ouch! A cannonball may be best bet for something…splashy.
The rope swing is fun to watch even if you don’t go, but do it! The rope swing is the main reason we booked this one after watching last year. We’re so glad we did.
The Jolly Pirates ship heads back to MooMba Beach around 4:20pm. It’s a 20 minute ride back, then you hang out waiting for water taxi for a bit. The music is going nonstop, and of course dancing is encouraged.
There are no snacks on the afternoon sail, but there’s an open bar throughout.
What to Know About the Jolly Pirates Cruises
How to get to MooMba Beach from the cruise terminal
It’s a $14US cab ride per car – not per person – to MooMba Beach. The taxi stand will have a wait especially right after disembarkation, so build in time for this.
The taxi stand has a starter to ensure you get the right size cab. Many cabs are minivans.
It’s less than 15 minute ride, so if you leave an hour before your scheduled Jolly Pirates cruise time, you’re right on target.
Book Aruba’s best snorkel experience in advance
While the Jolly Pirates excursion has two boats, so there’s plenty of room, this is a popular activity. Both ships when we visited were full!
When you book, make sure you get tickets for everyone in your party, even if they’re under four years of age and free. There is a limit to how many people can go on each ship!
- Book the morning snorkel cruise here
- Book the afternoon snorkel cruise here
- Book the sunset cruise here
Check in tips
Check in 30-45 minutes before your cruise is scheduled to depart. That’s 8:15-8:30 for the morning cruise, 1:15-1:30 for the afternoon cruise, and 4:45-5 for the sunset cruise. Once you check in, you receive plastic tickets for each person in your group that you turn in as you board the water taxi.
After check in, you can hang out on the beach in the sand and shallow water or you can wait on beach under umbrellas. The crew will give you a heads up when it’s time to go.
At that point, you walk to the pier as group and board the water taxi to the ship to depart.
Every group needs a fill out a waiver. The main office won’t provide your tickets until you fill it out. They have a paper waiver onsite.
Aboard the Aruba pirate ship
You have your preference when it comes to sun or shade, another reason this is one of Aruba’s best snorkeling trips. There’s plenty of shade in the back of boat with benches all around the edge and center of the ship. You find the bar in this shaded section.
The front of the ship is open to sun though lacks benches. If you’re a sun lover, find a spot and enjoy the view.
The open bar is free – but be a good guest and tip your bartender, right? They offer rum, vodka, gin, whiskey, red wine, pirates poison (their specialty drinks – and it’s good!, and a pina colada. Interestingly, there is no beer option.
For mixers or those who don’t drink, you have plenty of choices, too. You have your choice of orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, grapefruit juice, and pineapple juice, plus sodas and water.
My recommendation? Use the facilities before you head to MooMba Beach.
The ship has a head available if needed. After you use it, you must pump to clear it. All paper and plastic goes into basket, so make sure you don’t flush it.
There is also a bathroom available around side of the check in building. That said, they aren’t serviced as often as possibly necessary. When my daughter used it, she had no toilet paper or soap. That said, the one my mom used had both.
After your cruise ends
After you tip your guides – you won’t forget that, will you? – you have your choice to hang out on MooMba Beach or head back to your cruise ship or hotel.
If you plan to leave right away, ask at check in, and they will call cab to get back to your hotel/cruise ship. If you’re on the sunset cruise, this won’t be an option, as they close up after everyone checks in.
The day we did our Jolly Pirates snorkel, only one of the three cabs they called ever came – and we waited a long time. You may be better off walking to a hotel and getting cab there.
If you head by the Holiday Inn, there’s lots of great shopping and restaurants beyond what was on the beach. It’s honestly worth the walk and exploration.
If you aren’t ready to head back to your hotel or cruise ship, there’s plenty to do on beach after your Aruba snorkel cruise. Right on the beach in front of the check in for Jolly Pirates, you’ll find a hopping outdoor bar. Aside from that, there are always beach activities, etc. Make a whole day of it at MooMba Beach!
What to Bring for Your Jolly Pirates Excursion
Once you get aboard the ship, you have no chance to pick up anything you may need, so don’t forget anything critical!
The good news? The cruise provides your snorkel gear and life vest, so no need to pack that, although you’re welcome to bring your own if you choose. But that’s it.
Make sure you pack:
- Your swimsuit (obvious, right?) and a change of clothes if you want to change back on the beach after your cruise
- A towel – I’m a huge fan of microfiber beach towels because they’re super absorbent and pack small.
- A hat for the sun to protect yourself – this one is my all time favorite because it packs so easily and never loses its shape
- Sunscreen – the sun reflects off the water, so you’re especially prone to burning while snorkeling
- To avoid sunburn, consider wearing a rash guard
- Money to tip your guides and for your taxi to and from MooMba Beach
Have you done the Jolly Pirates snorkel in Aruba?
Check out my other Caribbean excursion recommendations:
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- Belize Great Barrier Reef snorkeling
- Roatan: Pirates, Birds, and Monkeys
- Curacao: Ostrich Farm Excursion
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- St. Maarten: A Day Trip
- St. Kitts: A Day Trip
- St. Lucia: A Day Trip
- Barbados: Pirate Ship Adventure
- Explore the Secret River in Cozumel
- Check out all my other cruise tips and reviews
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