My friends and I recently cruised the Eastern Caribbean on the Ruby Princess. We visited St. Thomas, one of the busiest cruise ports in the world, and one we had all been to before. The last two times St. Thomas was on my itinerary, I chose to visit St. John by boat instead, to see another one of the US Virgin Islands. St. Thomas has grown up quite a lot since my last visit and I thoroughly enjoyed the changes that I saw. I can honestly say that I now see why so many cruisers love the US Virgin Islands and the beauty and richness they exude. The islands now have 51,000 residents over a 32 square mile radius, which hosts nearly 20,000 visitors each and every day.
In lieu of choosing a cruise ship excursion, we chartered a half-day snorkeling sailboat trip with Yacht Adventures. The price was $75 for half day and lasted three to three and a half hours. Mike, our guide, picked us up on his dinghy across from the vendors market in the center of town and took us to our main boat destination, Island Girl. Two passengers from the Holland America ship joined us and we embarked upon our adventure.
We traveled for about forty-five minutes to our destination, Buck Island, home of Turtle Cove and Shipwreck Cove, giving us time to work on our tan. Upon arrival, there were several other boats with snorkelers, so we all got geared up to join them. I learned to snorkel in Cozumel just a few years ago, and though it seems very simple, it was like brain surgery or something to me; I just could not get it. I was mostly on the boat for the camaraderie, not the snorkeling, so as everyone jumped into the water with their flippers and masks, I welcomed the jellyfish encircling the mess of seaweed that persuaded me to just stay aboard. The jellyfish were pink and beautiful, four of them just waiting for some prey, but I decided I really did not want to take the chance of getting stung. And of course we had to come back to the boat through the same wretched jellyfish littered mess. My roommate Angie decided it was too much for her as well, seeing that I had already taken a picture of her in the water giving proof that she actually did try, so she joined me on the boat to again work on our tans.
After snorkeling for forty-five minutes, our group returned to the boat for a light snack. Our snack consisted of cheddar cheese, ritz crackers, and apple slices and we had the choice of soda, beer, bottled water, or rum punch to drink. We chose the rum punch but I think it was more like virgin Hawaiian punch. Our guide raised the sail and we began our nearly two hour trip back to the vendors market. Mike was a gracious host and I would recommend his tour.
Later that afternoon, my friends and I enjoyed a delicious lunch of Bang-Bang shrimp at the Greenhouse Restaurant on the oceanfront. Angie, my friend who has often worked in St. Thomas loves the Cruzan Confusion and the rest of us had Bushwackers to drink. In my opinion, they were just okay; I have definitely had better. Our server was very attentive and the menu had many good selections.
Crab Cakes at the Greenhouse Restaurant.
We left the Greenhouse Restaurant and had some time for shopping through the market before returning to our ship. Most vendors were selling souvenir items as well as knock-off purses, sunglasses, t-shirts, and belts. The prices were surprisingly reasonable. A friend bought several nice pieces of Larimar jewelry, and the selection was plentiful. A food truck and couple of concession stands were littered throughout the market. Typical shopping along the oceanfront include stores such as Fresh Produce, Sunglass Hut, and Little Switzerland, which has the best jewelry selection. The premier duty-free shopping in St. Thomas is unparalleled. The sun was scorching that day, which was nice since they had been rained on much lately. I appreciated the fact that the patrons in St. Thomas were friendly and welcoming, and not pushy and abrasive as they are on some other islands. I hope to visit here again and go to Red Hook beach next time and to Oceana’s global cuisine for lunch.
FYI: In the 17th century, St. Thomas was full of rowdy pirates and buccaneers, including Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. Many of their souvenirs offer trinkets as reminders of this time gone by.
To visit the other islands on this itinerary, click the links below: