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Caribbean Cruise Ports of Call Cruising

The Cruise Port of Fredireksted St. Croix

Visiting St. Croix U.S. Virgin Islands

At 84 square miles, St. Croix is the largest island in the Virgin Island group and significantly more rural than its neighbors. The island features a rain forest in its western interior, an arid climate in the east third of the island along with two historic towns.

In town in Frederiksted

The island was a possession of Denmark until the early nineteenth century and boasts a deepwater port at the west-end town of Frederiksted. The port was defended by Fort Fredirek as far back as the mid eighteenth century. A second deepwater industrial port was developed on the south coast in the Twentieth Century. The island, along with St. Thomas and St. John was bought by the United States in the early nineteenth century. That means you don’t need a passport to visit and best of all you can bring back to the United States five liters of liquor duty free along with you normal duty free limit of merchandise.

St. Croix is famous for being the teenage home of Alexander Hamilton and where he acquired his education working for a trading company as a clerk. If you get to Christiansted and walk its colonnades and alleys it isn’t hard to imagine yourself back in the eighteenth century Caribbean, strolling the same ground as young Alexander.

Where Your Ship Docks

The more popular destination town on St. Croix is Christiansted but because it sits inside a protective coral reef without providing any good anchorage or large pier cruise ships dock on the far west end of the island at the Frederiksted pier. The island and town are developing the area around the pier and historic customs house and there are public facilities available nearby. There is no terminal or facilities on the pier itself.

The Hotel On The Cay

Transportation

                Fredireksted pier and fort

Other than taking a tour the best way to see the island is to rent a car. Prices are reasonable but arranging a car can be an issue. On a recent trip we had reserved a car through Avis which indicated they had an office in Frederiksted, which they didn’t and we wasted an hour figuring this out and getting them to bring us a car from the airport. So be cautious in reserving a car. Driving is on the left side of the road which can be awkward because most of the vehicles come from the American market and have the steering column on the left. Taxis are available but they are expensive but you can negotiate a tour with the drivers. There is also limited bus service and “taxi buses” which have dedicated routes and a flat fare. The system is a bit freeform and isn’t something a visitor should rely on.

Currency

        Lunch on the water in Christiansted

The U.S. Virgin Islands use the U.S. Dollar and credit cards and debit cards are welcome.

Attractions

Frederiksted is a town that seems to always be redeveloping, starting tomorrow. For decades it has been taking two steps forward and one step backwards – sometime three steps backward. It is a historic town with a colonial fortification and customs house. There is a small strip of beach in town but the nearest good beach is Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge about a mile or so from the pier. Unfortunately it is a refuge, and to protect the sea turtle nests the beach is closed to people between April and September.

Whim Great House

On Centerline Road is The Whim Great House Museum. A well preserved plantation house and museum and the Virgin Islands only surviving great house from the eighteenth centure.

Historic Christiansted

To really see the island you should rent a car. Christiansted is about twenty five miles from Frederiksted and there are some glorious beaches scattered around St. Croix. The southeast coast has a number of really good beaches as does the more isolated northwest coast. Christiansted, represents the quintessential tropical waterfront. It is located on the north central coast. The waterfront is fringed with a boardwalk and small boat docks, protected by a natural reef and a close-in small island. The island features a hotel. The harbor features sailboats at anchor, crystal clear water and a number of small hotels and restaurants in town and along its boardwalk. Running up from the waterfront is a historic colonial era town where the stone and brick buildings include colonnades that protect the sidewalks from the frequent tropical rainstorms. Most of these buildings feature galleries, shops and restaurants along with a couple of small hotels. Just to the east on the waterfront is the old Fort Christiansvaern operated by the U.S. Park Service along with the old customs house. The small island in the harbor is Protestant Cay and features the Hotel on the Cay which is serviced by hotel launches that dock in front of the fort. Its beaches are open to the public but there is a small fee to take the launch across from town.

There are excellent beaches on the island many with really good reefs for snorkeling. Out on the far east end are Cramer Park Beach, Isaacs Bay Beach and a number of resort beaches just to the west. Another area of special interest are beaches with good snorkeling near Davis Bay. Located along the western north coast it has always been pretty isolated and primitive but the beaches are some of the best in the islands.

Some thirty years ago the Rock Resort people built an exclusive resort above Davis Bay called the Carambola Resort but a combination of things, including a storm named Hugo, caused the venture to fail. Today it is alive again as the exclusive Renaissance St. Croix Carambola Resort and, based on location alone, it is worth a visit.

There is an odd tourist attraction that is gaining in popularity that involves a drinking pig, a beer drinking pig. Up in the rain forest on the West end of St. Croix is a bar with a resident pig. Way back in the day it was a popular stop for mostly locals to grab a quick beer. The tradition is to buy the pig a beer by simply tossing the can into its pen that’s connected to the bar. The pig would pick up the can, raise its head, crush the can and drink. If you got there too late (or early depending on perspective), the pig was passed out drunk. I never actually knew the place had a name but apparently it is the Montpellier Domino Club and I would bet that the original pig is long gone. It has been replaced we’re told by a couple of pigs and now seems to be a “must do” tourist destination.

Fort Christiansvaern

If you are a skin or scuba diver, or just a novice swimmer, one real “must do” on St. Croix is to visit the underwater National Park at Buck Island. The whole island, not just the reef, is the National Park. Located 1.5 miles off the northeast coast, there are a number of boat tours out to the area and the reef is truly spectacular. There is also an underwater trail on the eastern tip of Buck Island. If you can convince yourself to take this trip and put on a face mask you will never forget it.

A good driving circuit is to start by driving out Centerline Road which starts near Frederiksted. Make a stop at the Estate Whim Museum, featuring the only surviving plantation great house in the Virgin Islands. Go on east into Christiansted for lunch and a walk around the historic district and the waterfront. Skirt along the northwest coast from Salt River and stop at Davis Bay, the scenery is spectacular. On your return to Frederiksted drive through the rain forest on Mahogany Road with maybe a stop off for a beer with the pig if you’re inclined. It will certainly make for an interesting story.

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