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Cruise Port Reviews: St. Thomas

This U.S. territory is a great place to call 'home away from home'... even if it's only 'home' for one day of adventure.

by Kim & Johnnie Rhodes

Cruise Port Reviews: St. Thomas


I've always thought it must be nice to have a 'summer home.' A place you could escape to that was still in essence your 'home,' but with an entire change of scenery, and minus the pressure. St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, is sort of a 'home away from home' for U.S. travelers: a tropical place far from the mainland, but still an American territory under the comforting watch of Uncle Sam. The lifestyle on St. Thomas is similar to that on the mainland, except they are the only U.S. territory where you drive on the left side of the road.

Mountainous terrain punctuated by turquoise seawater... cruising to St. Thomas is like a trip to Hawaii without the jet lag. Natural beauty abounds both above and below water. More shopping than you can do royal dane mallin a week is just a short ride (or walk) from the Charlotte Amalie cruise terminal.

In fact, if you want to combine a little Charlotte Amalie history with a shopping trip, then you definitely don't want to miss the Royal Dane Mall, which was built beginning in the late 1700's. This interesting piece of St. Thomas history is only a couple minutes' drive from the cruise terminal. We actually walked back to the cruise terminal on our last visit... the street has a sidewalk that runs along the shore, and is a great way to sightsee and take in some fresh air in this beautiful U.S. port.

For our 'official' cruise excursion on our last visit to St. Thomas, we chose a snorkeling trip to nearby Buck Island. This 176-acre island and the surrounding reefs are considered a protected national monument, and are managed by the U.S. National Park Service. For a great map of the island click here .

Buck Island is only a few minutes away by boat, and our excursion group met at the cruise terminal, just a few steps away from our ship. We were welcomed aboard a small but comfortable fiberglass boat.

After a quick safety briefing, our two tour guides cast off from dock, and we began a very brisk trip across open water towards Buck Island. When I say 'brisk', I do mean brisk.

Above: An alley at the Royal Dane Mall

We felt very secure in these small, stable boats -- and that was just fine by us considering we found ourselves 'catching air" a few times as we blasted across the waves in the open water.

For our first stop at Buck Island, we were brought to a shallow, sandy area near a beach. This area had some small, pretty patches of coral, but the main attraction at this stop was most definitely the sea turtles.

buck island sea turtle

Above and below: Our first stop offered an amazing experience with droves of sea turtles.

buck island

Although not aggressive, these sea turtles were definitely not shy. We had no problem getting 'up close and personal' with these amazing sea creatures. There were enough turtles in the area that no one had a problem getting a front row seat.

Following a generous amount of time to pay homage to this 'city of turtles', we re-boarded our boat and were taken around the island for our next snorkeling stop. This stop was a different underwater landscape... we were a little deeper, there were no turtles to be seen, and the sea floor was dominated by beautiful hard corals.

In spots the rocks and coral would rise completely to the surface of the water, giving even the most timid snorkeler a chance for close-up viewing of these saltwater miracles of life. In fact, we were cautioned to avoid contact with the coral, to prevent injury to both parties involved. There was also a wrecked boat about 15 feet deep, underneath our snorkeling spot which made for great viewing.

buck island shipwreck

Above and below: Whether you prefer Wreck or Reef, our second snorkeling stop at Buck Island had something to please you. Note the coral beginning to grow on the surface of the wrecked boat above.

hard coral at buck island

Below: A beautiful example of Brain Coral in shallow water at Buck Island.

brain coral at buck island

After a sufficient amount of time to explore the area around our second snorkel stop, we again boarded our small vessel for the return trip across open water back to the port. We were given free refreshments by our excursion staff -- and no, I don't mean chips or cookies -- these guys brought out the shrimp and fresh fruit! This was a nice pick-me-up to top off after an amazing day of snorkeling and adventure.

Other excursions at St. Thomas include parasailing, scuba diving, golfing, and beach trips to world-famous Magen's Bay, which was rated by National Geographic as one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world. There are also dolphin swimming experiences, and a beach/jeep safari among many other available excursions.

The island of St. Thomas offers so much that you could make it your permanent American home and never have to worry about boredom. And even if it's only your home for a day, it's definitely worth the trip.


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