The main US Virgin Islands consist of Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix. The group also includes Water Island and about 50 other small islands and cays. Cruise ships stop at Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas and Frederiksted on St. Croix. St. John is accessible by boat from St. Thomas. The US Virgin Islands are a territory of the USA, as is Puerto Rico. These Caribbean islands, previously called the Danish West Indies, lie in the leeward islands of the Lesser Antilles east of Puerto Rico and west of the British Virgin Islands.
iguana at the portLike many Caribbean islands the earliest inhabitants – in this case thought to be Arawaks and Ciboney – were displaced by the Caribs before European exploration of the area. As with other Caribbean islands, much of the indigenous population died of European diseases they had no resistance to, or died from the harsh conditions of forced labor, being replaced by hardier slaves imported from Africa. Slave rebellions on St. John and St. Croix led to the abolishment of slavery and the downfall of the Danish sugar plantations. The US Virgin Islands became an economic burden to Denmark until finally being sold to the USA during World War 1 when the US feared the islands might be seized by Germany.
Tourism now makes up a major portion of the islands’ economy. Periodic destruction from hurricanes has been a problem in the area throughout its history. These are hilly islands of volcanic origin. Tourists flock to the islands for white sand beaches and coral reefs. Like the rest of the region, these reefs are negatively impacted by pollution, warming oceans, overfishing, development, and tourists as well as natural disasters like hurricanes. Coral is one of the world’s major food chain bases so its destruction affects a lot more than just the tourism of a given area.
Saint Thomas Cruise Port
Charlotte Amalie where the cruise ships dock has two ports with dock space for multiple cruise ships. Paradise Point skyride is within walking distance of Havensight, the main cruise port. Lots of shops are within walking distance and there are also shops right at the port. This dock holds 3 ships in a line. There may be local tours available at the port or in town. Taxis are available at the port to take people into town.
There’s another cruise ship dock west of town called Crown Bay. This is where Symphony of the Seas docked on our visit. It could hold two ships, but ours was the only one there that day. We did not go exploring beyond the port on foot, but rumor has it there’s a beach about a 20-minute walk away and google maps says it’s about a 40-minute walk to a place called 99 Steps, at which Blackbeard’s castle sits at the top. Crown Bay appears to belong to Royal Caribbean due to its logo being present in signage at the port, but the internet says other ships dock there too.
The shops at Crown Bay looked considerably newer and nicer than the ones at the Havensight dock did the last time I was there. Taxis are available to take passengers into town or other destinations. I had not been to this dock before on previous visits to Saint Thomas so nothing looked familiar when we came into port.
Besides shops and things this port also had a windmill.
Things To Do or See in St. Thomas
The island has many beaches. Snorkeling is one of the most popular excursions. Sailing (which may be combined with snorkeling) or a visit to St. John or Magens Bay are also things people like to do there.
Other options include a pirate museum, botanical garden, island tour, kayaking, parasailing, Coral World, an eco tour, zipline, watersports, and of course the ever-popular skyride – which was a disappointment the last time we went there as a road had been paved to the top taking out all the things there used to be to do up there other than shops and a restaurant. The view from the top and from the skyride is great though.
The island of Saint John is a close neighbor to Saint Thomas. It is a smaller and less populated island. Much of it is a national park. There is ferry service between the two islands. One of the routes runs from Charlote Amalie to Cruz Bay, the main town on St. John, which has shops, restaurants, and places to stay. Hiking, beaches, and snorkeling are popular activities there. We had originally booked a snorkel excursion that went to St. John, but it got cancelled so we did not get to go there.