We’ve been in St. Thomas three times, and we’re going back on our next cruise, but only because our itinerary was changed from St. Martin after the hurricane. On our last three trips to St. Thomas, twice we took an open air bus into Charlotte Amalie and the last time we were there we decided to do something different and go to Coki Beach to see if we could snorkel. See my blog on Coki Beach here. I have to say that St. Thomas isn’t a bad port, but it isn’t my favorite port either. The beaches and snorkeling are great if you like to do that, but other than that, there’s not much to do, at least not much that I’ve found.
First time we were there, we were on the Carnival Dream and ported at Crown Bay. We had expected to port at Havensight and walk into Charlotte Amalie, so that threw us off. Tip: St. Thomas is part of the US Virgin Islands, so a nice perk is that you can normally use your US based phone to text or phone. It’s an easier place to keep in touch with home if you don’t pay for the internet. However, at this writing this is depending now on how well the cell towers are working since the hurricane went through.
After the ship docked, we went down to the shops right at the Crown Bay port, and found an open air bus that would take us into town. You can just keep walking and you will see them lined up. When we went, the cost was $4 per person each way. But be warned, they drive really fast. Hold onto your hat. And I mean it!
They dropped us off in the center of town, and we decided to walk around and shop. It’s a really picturesque town, with plenty of people and plenty of shopping. There is also a Straw Market in town, and the vendors are open to bargaining. It was a pretty good sized Straw Market (a Straw Market is an open air market where the locals sell their wares from booths). One thing that I do remember is that you will hear car horns beeping constantly, so beware. I’m pretty sure that the drivers would just as soon run you down rather than stop and let you cross the road. After we’d shopped awhile, we decided to head over to the 99 Steps and see what was on top. Not an easy climb, and not handicapped accessible. We did find Blackbeard’s castle (which is not actually a castle at all, but a tower) at the top, along with a small hotel, a rum shop, a live pirate, and a small museum. We found benches and sat at the top enjoying the view of the cruise ships in the Caribbean. It was a really hot day and there was a nice breeze up there. There was a man selling cans of soda. One tip is to bring drinking straws to port with you. The ice that the cans of soda are sitting in may not be germ free. I found that out the hard way.
After we shopped till we dropped we looked for an open air bus to take us back to the cruise port. They drive all over looking for riders, so don’t worry about finding one to take you back. Once again, it was a $4 cost per person to the port. And once again, it was a crazy ride. Who needs roller coasters when you can ride an open air bus in St. Thomas?
Second time we were in St. Thomas was a day where I felt awful. I think that I had picked up the dreaded Norovirus on the ship the day before, because I’d heard others complaining about being sick later on in the cruise. Not fun, believe me. We landed in Havensight pier that time, and for some crazy reason I decided that we should walk into Charlotte Amalie instead of taking the open air bus. Not a good idea at all. It was horribly hot, I felt bad, and we got less than a mile down the road before I decided to sit at the bus stop and wait for an open air bus. A nice older local lady who worked with the tourism board sat with us and talked to us while we and another couple waited for a bus. She was all up in arms about how the locals treat the tourists, and when a bus driver stopped and tried to take advantage of us by charging us more, she was not happy with him. We finally found a bus driver who gave us the correct rates, and we went into Charlotte Amalie again. I didn’t last long in the heat though, plus the 99 steps were not open, so we came back to the ship early, did some shopping in the port shop area of Havensight, which was nice. They still had their Christmas decorations up in January. And no, it’s not a good idea to try to walk to Charlotte Amalie from either of the docks. It’s way too hot for that, even when you feel okay. I skipped dinner in the main dining room that day and just went to the buffet for some fruit. Hope I never get the dreaded Norovirus again.
One nice place to visit is Blackbeard’s Castle. You have to climb the 99 Steps to get there, but the views from up there are amazing. There are some small shops along the way also.
The Havensight Pier does have a Skyride right at the Havensight mall area that did look like fun. We’ve never ridden it though. Here is the link. The Havensight Mall is more of a normal ship port shopping area with all of the normal ship stores, and also some local stores. It’s also where you go to find transportation to Charlotte Amalie.
So, all in all, St. Thomas just isn’t one of my favorite ports. It’s just okay. Charlotte Amalie is pretty nice and has lots of shops and a straw market. I did enjoy the shopping, there are the expected Diamonds International, etc., but there are also a number of local shops with interesting items. There are quite a few restaurants and bars to choose from. My favorite was climbing to the top of the 99 steps because the view is spectacular from up there. But once you’ve seen Charlotte Amalie a couple of times it gets old, at least it has for me. I’ve never been to Magan’s Bay Beach, but it’s supposed to be a very good beach. We don’t tend to go to beaches often. This next cruise we’ll probably just end up taking the open air bus to Charlotte Amalie again because there are no excursions that interest us. And then we’ll go back to the ship and enjoy it while everyone else is out on excursions.