Why go to St. Thomas?
The primary Caribbean shopping destination, this port sells just about everything you'd want
St. Thomas is expensive; retail therapy here can drain your wallet quickly
Beaches and watersports supplement souvenir shopping for a well-rounded day in port
St. Thomas Cruise Port Facilities?
Depending on your cruise line and the time of year, your ship will dock at Havensight Pier, the primary dock for cruise ships, or Crown Bay. Each terminal is about a five- to 10-minute taxi ride to downtown Charlotte Amalie. If more than six ships call on St. Thomas in one day, your ship could be anchored in the harbor; the tenders will drop you in the heart of Charlotte Amalie.
The dock at Havensight, in essence, is a mini-downtown. You'll find more than 50 shops, many of which are outposts of Charlotte Amalie's better-known boutiques, such as A.H. Riise and H. Stern. Also within the expansive Havensight Mall, you'll find a post office, ATMs for Bank of Nova Scotia and First Bank and Havensight Pharmacy. Depending on your plan, your American cellphone might work in St. Thomas without roaming charges.
Across the main drag running outside Havensight's facility are convenience stores, coffee shops and museums. The Yacht Haven Grande Marina also is within walking distance of the Havensight Pier. When you exit your ship, turn left and follow the dock around the harbor. It's the first genuinely upscale shopping and dining area, featuring restaurants and shops, such as Coach, bebe, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. (Note: These are not duty-free.)
Beyond the immediate facility, the best bargains on duty-free liquor can be found at Kmart -- no lie! Walk up Long Bay Road to the Lockhart Gardens Kmart (you'll notice a lot of crewmembers heading that way -- a good sign, as they often know where to find the best bargains).
Crown Bay, on the other side, features a recreated stone sugar mill in honor of the island's plantation era. Crown Bay Center businesses include jewelry, clothing and liquor stores, Passengers whose ships are docked in Crown Bay have more limited options nearby than those docked at Havensight. The Crown Bay Marina has a branch of Gourmet Gallery (and the ferry to Water Island leaves from there). Tickles is a charming waterside pub at the marina with nautical decor (open 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily).
You'll need to head downtown for serious shopping and dining.
Good to Know?
Though most ships will 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 might discover that many of the shops are closed. Our advice? Head to the beach.
By Foot: Because where you're docked -- or dropped by the tender -- is likely close to downtown, it's easy to get a few steps in exploring the shops and eateries of Yacht Haven and other complexes around Charlotte Amalie. A new pedestrian center is in the works so walking around town and browsing is even more cruiser-friendly. However, if you want to head to the beach or get to other major attractions, you'll likely need some wheels.
By Taxi: Though they exist, individual "cabs" are unusual. In most cases, you'll be shepherded to a van or safari truck that's heading to the vicinity of your destination -- and might make multiple stops on the way as locals ask the driver to let them off. You'll pay a set price per person. Tipping is recommended when a driver is particularly helpful or knowledgeable, but is not required. Taxi drivers like to load up as many people as possible and travel to on-the-beaten-path tourist sites. If you want to veer off that path, you might have trouble finding a driver to take you. If this is an issue, we recommend you rent a car.
By Car: At the cruise ship dock, Avis (340-777-8888) and Budget (340-776-5774) have outposts; reservations are recommended. In downtown Charlotte Amalie, try Dependable Car Rental, with free pick-up and drop-off services (800-522-3076). From Crown Bay, the nearest car rental offices are at the airport (a five-minute taxi ride); Hertz (340-774-1879), Avis and Budget have desks there. Discount Car Rental is next to the airport (877-478-2833).
Remember, drive on the left. It takes a little while to get the hang of it. Also, hand use of cellphones while driving is against the law.