Located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is a popular port of call for cruise passengers. Cruise ships dock in Charlotte Amalie, a bustling town filled with duty-free shops and restaurants. From there, guests can head out to explore this picturesque tropical island or travel by boat or ferry to nearby St. John.
Both St. Thomas and St. John are filled with a wide variety of activities, attractions, and dining options. There’s something for everyone here. The clear turquoise waters surrounding these islands are a water sports lover’s delight. Golfers can tee off at the 18-hole championship Mahogany Run course in St. Thomas, while those seeking an adrenaline rush can go for a ride on a jet boat or pilot a submersible scooter. The beaches on these two islands are some of the world’s best as well.
Here are five great things to do during your port day in St. Thomas:
1. Get Up Close to Marine Life: At Coral World Ocean Park in St. Thomas, it’s possible for guests to experience the beauty of the Caribbean’s underwater world – even if they want to stay dry. Visitors can walk down to levels 15 feet under the sea and view marine life through a clear glass observatory. Hundreds of marine species, including seahorses and lobsters, can be found in the Marine Gardens. Kids will enjoy the touch pool, the turtle pool, stingray lagoon, and the shark observation pool at this marine park. Those who don’t mind getting wet can take an underwater Sea Trek along the ocean floor or experience what it’s like to dive by taking a SNUBA tour. Coral World also offers encounters and swims with South American sea lions. Turtle and shark encounters are available as well.
2. Relax at a Resort: Many cruise passengers like to spend their port days chilling on a white sand beach, having a drink or meal, and enjoying watersports activities with friends and family. Bolongo Bay Beach Resort on St. Thomas offers an all-day resort pass for cruise passengers. Included on Frommer’s list of the “World’s 10 Best Beachfront Hotels," the 65-room family-run beachfront resort located about a ten-minute drive from the cruise pier in Charlotte Amalie. The property is located on a quiet bay containing lots of marine life. The all-day pass includes a lounge chair on the resort’s palm-studded beach as well as complete access to the resort’s non-motorized water sports, including snorkeling gear, swim mats, stand up paddle boards (SUP), aqua tricycles, kayaks and windsurfers. The resort also has two seaside restaurants on property, The Lobster Grille and Iggies Beach Bar and Grill, named the Best Beach Bar in the Caribbean by Caribbean Travel+Life.
3. See the Sights: Photo loving cruisers will want to take to take the Skyride up to the top of Paradise Point for a panoramic view of the ships and the harbor below. The Skyride is located near the cruise pier and the attraction runs continuously, making it easy to fit into most port day schedules. Scenic drive excursions around the island are available for all cruise ship passengers, including those with limited mobility or requiring wheelchair access. You’ll want to view such highlights as palm-studded Magens Bay – named as one of the top 10 beaches in the world, St. Peter Great House and Botanic Gardens, Blackbeard’s Castle, and St. Thomas’s historic areas. Those seeking more nature-oriented sights may wish to take a kayaking tour through the St. Thomas Mangrove Wildlife Refuge & Marine Sanctuary. Here, participants will see the Red Point Blow Hole along with iguanas, pelicans and other wildlife.
4. Go Island Hopping: Visiting the pristine island of St. John is a favorite activity for cruise passengers, particularly those who have visited St. Thomas before. St. John can be reached via ferry from Red Hook or Charlotte Amalie, or via boat or ship shore excursion. Upon arriving in Cruz Bay on St. John, guests typically board open-air safari vehicles for a short tour of the island and a stop at spectacular Trunk Bay, one of the world’s most stunning beaches. At Trunk Bay, there is a marked underwater snorkeling trail with fifteen plaques for those who wish to see the coral and marine life found in this area. Some cruisers may want to spend their time on St. John hiking along the island’s National Park trails, while others may wish to take a scenic tour of the island stopping to take pictures of some of the stunning beaches (Cinnamon Bay, Caneel Bay, and Hawksnest Bay to name a few) and historic spots such as Annaberg Plantation. Those heading to St. John on their own can rent a 4-wheel drive jeep for their own private tour of the island – it’s lots of fun.
5. Sail Away and Explore: Catamaran cruises and other boating options are very popular in St. Thomas. Many of these excursions include opportunities for snorkeling or diving to explore the coral reefs and wrecks surrounding the islands. Some catamaran tours go to St. John and come complete with champagne, snacks and complimentary snorkeling equipment for passengers. Other excursions visit favorite snorkeling spots such as Turtle Cove, Shipwreck Cove or Christmas Cove where guests often have the chance to swim with turtles, stingrays, and beautiful tropical fish. Children can usually come on these trips, although the age requirements vary with each tour. Check with the shore excursions desk or tour operator for more details. Certified divers can also arrange for two-tank dives on tours to excellent area dive sites in the area. If you plan to participate in a diving excursion, make sure to bring your diver certification card and log book along on your cruise.