The largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Croix is perhaps the least known to cruise passengers, and that's a shame. The island -- home to the United States' easternmost point, Point Udall -- doesn't have the duty-free attractions of St. Thomas or St. Maarten. There's no prefabricated terminal in Frederiksted, a sleepy city on the west end that has been rejuvenated with extensive waterfront landscaping. There's no Senor Frog's, no Ripley's Believe it or Not.
Instead, St. Croix features scores of nature activities and water sports, from horseback riding through the rain forest to some of the region's best scuba diving and snorkeling. History buffs will love the numerous historic attractions, such as Fort Frederik, the Estate Whim Plantation and the Christiansted National Historic Site's numerous monuments, reminders of St. Croix's Danish heritage. Those who enjoy the offbeat will be thrilled to tour the Cruzan rum distillery or feed beer to the island's famous drinking pigs. (Captain Morgan also has a facility on St. Croix.) A burgeoning food culture, anchored by the island's extensive agriculture, is becoming internationally known. And beach bums have scores of choices, both on the west end and farther afield.
At the turn of the century, a rash of muggings gave the island a reputation for crime, which discouraged cruise lines from calling. But within the past decade, St. Croix has polished its image with new investments so it gleams. Now, Vice President Joe Biden regularly takes vacations there. The area surrounding the pier in Frederiksted is landscaped with lush gardens, cozy benches and a shopping area consisting of a range of gazebos. Lovely iron torchlights provide illumination and a period ambience that befits the restored 17th- and 18th-century Danish Creole buildings. The waterfront, too, is landscaped along Strand Street; you can walk along the boardwalk for great views and access to beautiful beaches.
A stop in St. Croix will show you some of the best aspects of the Caribbean, with the added ease of using U.S. currency, the English language and even your American cellphone. You'll leave amazed that you haven't heard more about this more "virgin" Virgin Island -- and will soon be plotting your return.