St. Thomas is the most populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a major port of call for Caribbean cruise itineraries. There are two widely separated cruise ship docks so you should try and check out where your ship will tie up. It will either be Crown Bay that’s west of Charlotte Amalie or The West Indian Company Dock next to Havensight just to the east of town.
Where Your Ship Docks
Crown Bay Dock – These docks have been developed to handle the increased cruise ship traffic. It features a number of duty free shops and stores. Getting into Charlotte Amalie from the Crown Bay dock, which used to be referred to as the Sub Base area, will require a taxi or an open air tourist bus (about $4 each way). Walking is about 1.75 miles along busy roadways and is not recommended.
Havensight and the West Indian Co. Docks – The original cruise docks is located in a popular island shopping area and offers a number of popular duty free shops. There is a great walking trail less than a mile and a half along the water from the docks near Havensight, which goes thru the shops of Yacht Haven and into Charlotte Amalie. Yacht Haven is an upscale marina with a number of designer shops along with cafes, bars and a good grocery store. It’s also from Havensight where you catch the cable car up to Blackbeard’s Castle Resort for a drink and to take in the views.
Getting Around – The best way of getting from either dock into Charlotte Amalie is to take a tourist bus (of which there are plenty) currently $4 per person each way. For traveling around the island it would be best to hire a taxi or rent a car (remember the island drives on the left side). Taxis fares are moderately priced and rental cars are readily available.
You can also take a ferry over to St. Johns for the day. St. Johns is the other US Virgin Island and is mostly preserved as a National Park. If you go, don’t forget your beach gear, mask and snorkel as St. John is famous for Trunk Bay with its beach and its laid-out snorkeling trails. The shortest ferry route is between Red Hook on St.Thomas and Cruz Bay on St. John. That trip costs $6.00 each way, takes approximately 20 minutes and runs hourly between 6:00 am and Midnight. A longer ferry route runs from downtown Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay.
Currency – The U.S. Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar and most major credit cards are welcome. Some U.S. banks have branches in St. Thomas and American based ATM machines are plentiful.
Places to Visit – Charlotte Amalie is the islands center of activity and it is easy to reach from either cruise dock. At the northeast end of town is Fort Christian recognized as the oldest standing structure in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Expanded and modified through the years, its colorful past includes functioning as the original town center, a place of worship and the governor’s residence.
Most of the tourist buses will drop off and pick up cruise passengers at the open air market near Fort Christian.If you’re intersted in some beach time, take a trip over to the far side of the island to visit Megan’s Bay, which is consistently named one of the world’s ten best beaches. Frenchman’s Reef and Morning Star beach is a good choice and the reef is about 100 yards from shore. We would also recommend a visit to the sea life park, Coral World, especially if you have younger children with you.
In addition to the great beaches St. Thomas has a number of snorkeling and diving opportunities. If the coral reefs interest you there are often day boat tours that go to some of the areas reefs and if it’s available during you day in port look into a trip to St. Johns, featuring one of the USVI’s land and underwater parks.
In Charlotte Amalie the main downtown shopping district stretches about ten blocks west from the Danish fort along the waterfront. The waterfront road is Veterans Highway and one block up is Kronprindsens Gade with dozens of interesting alleys and streets connecting the two. Stroll down the ten blocks of Kronprindsens Gade for some good duty free shopping or visit the shops, cafes and galleries in the alleys with names like Drakes Passage and Creque’s Alley.
Again remember the island drives on the left side so fight your instincts and look right before crossing streets.