A cruise to St. Thomas will take you to the largest island of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and one of the most popular in the Caribbean. On this island paradise, you’ll be met by excellent duty-free shopping and exquisite beaches often considered to be some of the most beautiful in the world. While in port on an Eastern Caribbean cruise, you can explore the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, located close to the port, or escape the hustle and bustle of St. Thomas and finding some tranquil activities on the smallest USVI, St. John.
The beach at Magens Bay often tops lists of best beaches in the world and is a must-see on a cruise to St. Thomas. It is characterized by a long, curving bay shaped like a half-moon. Admire the lush green foliage lining the beach while you walk along the soft sand and the turquoise Caribbean Sea. You’ll find a bar, eatery, and shops along the beach, too.
Originally built in the middle of the 18th century by Danish settlers, these steps were constructed to make it easier to travel up and down the steep hills of Charlotte Amalie. The staircase was created with brick sourced from the ballast in ships’ hulls traveling to St. Thomas from Denmark. If you take the time to count the steps, you’ll find there are actually 103 instead of 99.
Lounge on an island beach with views of other islands on this picturesque piece of sand that looks out over the sea and beyond to St. John and the British Virgin Islands. In addition to great views, Sapphire Beach has a wide assortment of watersports equipment you can rent, including kayaks and jet skis.
The St. Thomas Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere. It was built in 1833 and is open to visitors to walk around on weekdays.
This aptly named site on the summit of St. Peter Mountain is St. Thomas’ highest point that extends 1,500 feet in the air. When visiting Mountain Top, you’ll find a tourist shop, cafeteria, and bar. The main draw, though, is the panoramic view of St. Thomas and the glistening sea below. While here, be sure to try the bar’s famous banana daiquiri.
A short ferry ride away from St. Thomas is the smaller U.S. Virgin Island of St. John, home to a sleepy beach town and the wildly beautiful Virgin Islands National Park that takes up about half of the island. Popular beaches to visit while on cruises to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands include Honeymoon Beach and Trunk Bay, the latter of which is home to an interesting snorkeling trail. It takes 20 minutes to get to from Red Hook and a bit longer from the ferry portal in downtown Charlotte Amalie.
For excellent views and a thrilling ride up 700 feet in a gondola-style cable car, take the St. Thomas Skyride from Havensight to Paradise Point. Once at Paradise Point, you’ll be able to get off and do some shopping.
This attraction is great for families or anyone who loves sea life. You’ll get a lesson about life on a coral reef as you observe beautiful creatures in the Undersea Observatory. The entire park covers five acres and, in addition to the aquarium, you can swim with dolphins, take an underwater sea trek or Snuba adventure, and have entertaining encounters with sea lions. Coral World is also located right by the popular Coki Beach, which has calm, shallow water.
When in doubt about what to eat while in St. Thomas, go the seafood route – as long as it’s fresh. Popular seafood caught off the shores of St. Thomas include mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna, and Caribbean lobster. Conch chowder or conch fritters make for a delicious savory treat. If you’re looking for something sweeter, try some freshly made key lime pie.
When it comes to restaurant ambiance, you’ll find everything from beach bars to 5-star restaurants while in port on your cruise to St. Thomas. Dine by marinas, in historic buildings, or at luxury resorts. Wherever you choose to enjoy your meal, you’ll be soaking up part of the St. Thomas vibe and culture.
St. Thomas is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. It is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands archipelago, along with the smaller islands of St. John, St. Croix, and Water Island. St. Thomas was originally a Danish colony settled by the Danes in the 17th century. In 1917, the U.S. bought the USVI from Denmark to help them improve their military foothold in the Caribbean during World War I. In the mid-1900s, the islands became a tourism hub. Today, much of the economy is still bolstered by tourism.
Cruises to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands stop in one of two ports: Havensight and Crown Bay. You’ll find them on either side of Charlotte Amalie on the south side of the island, though neither is close enough to provide an easy walk between the ship and downtown. It’s easy to find taxi service between Charlotte Amalie and the ports, or you can opt for a shore excursion to take you around the island and to Charlotte Amalie. You’ll find shops, eateries, bars, and ATMs within easy walking distance of both piers.
One of the easiest ways to get around in port while on a cruise to St. Thomas is by taxi, but these taxis aren’t what you’re used to. Instead of hailing a cab just for yourself, you’ll get onto a small, open-air shuttle called a safari truck equipped with a few rows of seats. Flag one down heading in the direction you want to go and tell the driver where you want to be dropped off. You may make extra stops before yours, depending on the other passengers’ desired routes. You’ll pay a set price per person that is usually quite reasonable. Tipping is appreciated, but not required.
St. Thomas is known for its extensive duty-free shopping, and downtown Charlotte Amalie is where you want to head to shop ‘til you drop. The main streets are home to a number of boutiques, high-end jewelers, and souvenir shops. Near the main street, you'll find a small market with vendor stands selling jewelry, clothing, crafts, and other Caribbean-inspired artifacts. By the pier, shops offer popular souvenirs like t-shirts, magnets, local artwork, and jewelry.
The official currency in St. Thomas and the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands is the U.S. dollar. Tipping is expected when dining out or ordering drinks at a bar. Tipping customs in St. Thomas and the other USVI are similar to those in the U.S., with 15% to 20% of the total bill being the normal amount to tip.