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Cruises to St. Thomas

St. Thomas (Photo:Claude Huot/Shutterstock)
St. Thomas (Photo:Claude Huot/Shutterstock)

About St. Thomas

If you cruise regularly to the Caribbean, chances are you'll end up in St. Thomas. Its popularity as one of the world's most heavily trafficked cruise ports is well-earned. The island offers something for just about everyone and has the infrastructure that can accommodate a huge daily population influx. In addition to a duty-free shopping scene that's virtually unparalleled, other on-the-beaten-track sites include the world-famous beach at Magens Bay.

In September 2017, the Virgin Islands -- along with many other islands in the Caribbean -- were rocked by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. While St. Thomas worked to quickly recovered its most popular tourist destinations, some have sadly closed their doors indefinitely -- including the SkyRide to Paradise Point. Beloved restaurants like Cuzzin's shut down. However, new restaurants and attractions have popped up in their place, solidifying the island's commitment to welcome visitors.

Nearly 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 Fort Lauderdale or Miami serves as a port of embarkation or debarkation). It's not uncommon, particularly during the Caribbean's winter high season, to see six ships or more docked or anchored in a day -- and that can mean an extra 20,000 people mixing into a population hovering in the mid-50,000s.

Believe it or not, it's easy to find some respite from the inevitable crowds by exploring St. Thomas' quieter, more undiscovered side -- a lovely historic district, trips to Water Island (the "fourth" and youngest, U.S. Virgin Island), beaches all over the island and fabulous restaurants in Frenchtown. It's also an easy jaunt via 20-minute ferry to tranquil St. John from the town of Red Hook. Even this town has local character (this is where expat residents of St. Thomas spend their time) that's a far cry from Charlotte Amalie's shopping mall vibe. Just taking transportation to the eastern end of the island will give you emotional distance from the hectic pier.

Even if it's your first time on St. Thomas, don't be afraid to explore. Although locals drive on the left side of the road, the island has an American familiarity that makes it a perfect introduction to the Caribbean style of life. Attractions, beaches, shopping, golf, water sports -- the island offers a wide variety of activities, with new ones added every year. Even if it's your tenth trip, you're bound to find something fun to do, even if that just means discovering a new beach.

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DAY 1: Tampa

13 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Tampa

14 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Grand Cayman, Aruba ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Tampa

12 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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DAY 1: Miami

7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Port Canaveral
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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9 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Grand Turk, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Kitts ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Labadee, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
St. Kitts, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
Barbados, Grenada ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Tampa
Visiting:
Key West, Puerto Plata ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Croix ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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11 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, San Juan ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Cruise Critic Favorite

8 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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9 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Fort Lauderdale
Visiting:
San Juan, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Celebrity Cruises
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10 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Grand Turk, St. Thomas ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
San Juan
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Kitts ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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12 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Baltimore
Visiting:
St. Thomas, St. Maarten ...
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Cruise Line:
Royal Caribbean International
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7 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
New York
Visiting:
Puerto Plata, Tortola ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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14 Night
Cruise to St. Thomas

Leaving:
Miami
Visiting:
Aruba, Curacao ...
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Cruise Line:
Norwegian Cruise Line
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Why go to St. Thomas?

Pros:

The primary Caribbean shopping destination, this port sells just about everything you'd want

Cons:

St. Thomas is expensive; retail therapy here can drain your wallet quickly

Bottom Line:

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.

Getting Around?

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.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money?

Currency is the U.S. dollar, and ATMs are readily available.

Language?

English is the official language, but you might hear French Creole or Spanish spoken, as well.


Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice Destination

  • 2017 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations
  • 2016 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations
  • 2015 Top-Rated Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda Destinations

St. Thomas Cruise Reviews

Celebrity Summit
RANGERAT
Sail Date: Feb 2020
St Thomas the jewelry capital of the Caribbean, pesky shop owners trying to get you to come in to buy their jewelry. We did visit a shop in St Thomas, The Golden Star on Dronningens Gade AKA as Drakes Passage. We... Read More
Regal Princess
bookmama22
Sail Date: Feb 2020
Have been to St Thomas several times. Excursion to St John sold out so just went up cable car by the port and went into town for a walk around/browse/enjoy a beer. Back to ship early to relax and watch Sting concert... Read More
Norwegian Encore
IntrepidCVS11
Sail Date: Jan 2020
We love St. Thomas and spent our time shopping........ Read More
Crown Princess
JAMOZ
Sail Date: Dec 2019
ST THOMAS 1st time. Ship docked at Havensight Mall. Taxi to downtown in shared F truck is U$4pp each way. We were in on a Sunday and shops didn’t open till 9.30ish. Gladys cafe, good coffee and wifi. The free... Read More
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