St. Thomas (Photo:Claude Huot/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic Staff

Port of St. Thomas

Editor's note: Due to damage sustained from Hurricane Irma, the Port of St.Thomas is currently closed to cruise passengers.

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 and a scenic tram ride to a mountaintop.

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 10th trip, you're bound to find something fun to do, even if that just means discovering a new beach.

About St. Thomas


Pro

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

Con

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

Bottom Line

Beaches are secondary to shopping, but you'll find some great souvenirs


Find a Cruise to St. Thomas

Where You're Docked

During particularly busy times (January through March), your ship will dock at Havensight Pier, the primary dock for cruise ships, or Crown Bay, which opened in 2007. Each 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.

Good to Know

Adventurous types should be hesitant when wandering off the beaten path in Charlotte Amalie; crime can be an issue. Also, 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.

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.

Shopping

Rum cakes and rum balls made with Cruzan rum are popular edible treats that can be found in many souvenir shops.

Best Cocktail

Alcoholic milkshakes at Famous Delite (formerly Udder Delite Dairy Bar). Try Rumrunner, with rum raisin ice cream and creme de menthe, or Jacoco, with chocolate and coconut ice cream and Kahlua, or -- if you can stand more -- Udder Delite, which is almond crunch and amaretto. (Route 35/Magens Bay Road; 340-777-6050; open 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday, 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday)

If you find yourself with an hour to kill in Red Hook before taking the ferry to St. John, the best cocktail for you might be Duffy's Love Shack's 64-ounce Shark Tank (five rums, three tropical liqueurs). There's no extra charge to share it. (6500 Red Hook Plaza; 340-779-2080; open 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily)