In 1917, the U.S. purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million in gold coin. When you sail into the harbor on the island of Saint Thomas, you’ll agree that the beautiful islands, which lie to the east of Puerto Rico, were worth the price.
The U.S. Virgin Islands include Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Croix and a sprinkling of smaller islands. Their relaxed Caribbean vibe is blended with remnants of European colonial days and some U.S.-style conveniences.
Volcanic and hilly, Saint Thomas is covered with lush green jungle and ringed by white sand beaches and the distinctively turquoise water of the Caribbean. Cruise ships dock at the capital of Charlotte Amalie, widely known for terrific duty-free shopping. There are more than 400 shops along Main Street alone where you can browse the gems and fine jewelry, perfume, clothing and leather goods, linens, and electronics and more.
As incredible as the shopping is, there’s much more to Charlotte Amalie and Saint Thomas. The town is brimming with historical buildings, including Fort Christian, the oldest standing structure in the islands. Climb the 99 Steps (actually 103) to see lovely manor houses from the 19th century. Take a tour of Blackbeard’s Castle, a watchtower constructed in 1679 that may have been used by the pirate Edward Teach, commonly known as Blackbeard.
If you long to spend the day on the sand, Magen’s Bay Beach is one of the world’s most beautiful. The drive to the beach is spectacular, too, with panoramic views of the harbor, the nearby British Virgin Islands and Magen’s Bay. Coki Beach is great for snorkeling and scuba diving; right next door is an attraction called Coral World, a marine park and underwater observatory that’s fun for children and adults.
For an active excursion combined with stunning views, try the zipline course on Saint Peter Mountain. There are beautiful views everywhere you look along the six ziplines and two canopy bridges. To enjoy the views without the adrenaline rush of ziplining, take the Saint Thomas Skyride, a modern cable car, up to Paradise Point and down again.
If you’ve been to Saint Thomas before or are looking for something a little different, take a 45-minute ferry ride to the island of Saint John. More than half of the island is a national park, ideal for a hike followed by a swim at Honeymoon Beach.
Most Eastern Caribbean itineraries include a call on Saint Thomas. To select one, talk with your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.