St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
St. Thomas is one of the world’s most heavily trafficked cruise ports. Its popularity is earned because St. Thomas offers something for just about everyone. Its duty-free shopping scene is unparalleled and because St. Thomas is an American port, U.S. travelers get an extra duty-free allowance from customs. Virtually every ship sailing an Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes St. Thomas as a port of call as do many Southern Caribbean voyages. You’ll even see St. Thomas on Panama Canal and South American itineraries when a Florida port such as Ft. Lauderdale or Miami serves as a port of embarkation or debarkation. It is not uncommon, particularly during the Caribbean’s winter high season, to see six or more ships docked and/or anchored in a day and that can mean an extra 20,000 people on any given day.
The main city and capital in St. Thomas is Charlotte Amalie. This town is easily walkable and a duty-free meca. Stores are primarily located on Waterfront Highway and, running parallel behind it, Main Street. Barkers occasionally attempt to beckon you into shops (they’re paid each day based on the stores sales), but are generally less intrusive than in other Caribbean ports and often quite interesting to talk to. While St. Thomas enjoys a reputation as a duty-free paradise, beware: It’s not quite the bargain it used to be and it pays to comparison shop.
Aside for shopping, you can enjoy some beautiful beaches on St. Thomas, in particular, Magens Bay which is about a 20 minute taxi ride from downtown. Some say its one of the most gorgeous and calmest beaches in the world. There is a cafeteria-style eatery and one of the islands best shops for casualwear and bathing suits. Admission is $3 per person. The best beach for active types would have to be Sapphire Beach, a resort of the island’s East End and has a stunning view as it faces St. Jon and the British Virgin Islands. Almost every type of watersports equipment is available for rent. Coki Beach, adjacent to Coral World is a good destination for snorkeling and scuba diving (equipment can be rented there). Lunching is no problem in St. Thomas as there are numerous eateries from casual too more upscale.
ADMIRAL’s TIP: Adventurous types should be hesitant when wandering off the beaten path in Charlotte Amalie; crime can be an issue. Also, most ships dock mid-week-with Wednesdays in high season accommodating up to six ships in port at the same time. If you find yourself in St. Thomas on a Sunday, you may discover that many of the shops are closed. Our advice? Head to the beach!