My favorite stop on my first cruise was St. Thomas. Here are 7 reasons why I'm already planning a trip back

27 Oct 2023
Calista Kiper

Preparing to make the switch from land travel to cruising?


If you’re like me, you may prefer or be used to longer travel on land, where you can fully immerse yourself in a destination and explore it to the fullest.

However, cruise itineraries don’t usually allow for this slow-paced cultural immersion. 

On my first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, we got to visit several ports of call at places I had never been to before: Perfect Day at CocoCay, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten.

We also purchased Royal Caribbean shore excursions on St. Thomas and St. Maarten, allowing us to go on guided tours of the islands. 

While I enjoyed seeing multiple places on one cruise, it’s true that the short stop did not allow us enough time to get out of the tourist traps and see more authentic parts of the islands. 

Cruising port visits and excursions may not provide the authentic cultural experiences some travelers prefer.

However, the short port stop may provide a great opportunity to get a taste of the island and brainstorm ideas for another trip back.

My favorite stop on my cruise was St. Thomas, a territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I’m already planning a trip back. Here are the 7 reasons why. 

Read more: I went to a stunning Caribbean island on my cruise that you've probably never heard of

1. The food tasted incredible


I only had enough time to try one meal while we were at St. Thomas, but it was one of the best meals I tasted all week.

I stopped at a grab-and-go restaurant on the beach and ordered this chicken curry with rice and plantains. It was warm, spicy, and sweet—just looking at this photo makes my mouth water again.

We also tasted some famous turtle ice cream: vanilla flavor with caramel, chocolate, pecans, and hot fudge swirls. 

While I can already recommend the food on this island, I’ll need a longer trip to do further research and uncover the best food available on St. Thomas.  

2. It was easily accessible to Americans


St. Thomas is known as one of the easiest Caribbean destinations for American tourists to visit.

Since the Virgin Islands are a territory of the United States, St. Thomas uses US dollars, and English is widely spoken. 

U.S. citizens do not need a passport to travel into the Virgin Islands, just a valid ID.

I found that the island was extremely accessible for us as Americans—I could use my cash or card to make payments, and speak with everyone around me in English. 

Given the ease of travel, communication, and transactions, St. Thomas would make a great vacation destination in the future. 

3. The history fascinates me 


Our shore excursion involved a tour of the island by open-air taxi, while the driver gave us information and history about St. Thomas.

The history itself was fascinating, enhanced by our gorgeous view of the island.

I learned a lot of facts about the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Thomas in particular. However, we weren’t able to get out and see many of the major buildings on this tour.

On a visit back, I would like to see some of the historical sites for myself.

For example, we passed but didn’t go into Fort Christian, the oldest structure on the island and now a museum.

We also heard about Blackbeard’s Castle, which was allegedly built by the pirate himself for a lover.

And I would have loved to see the 99 Steps, local steps built from the ballast bricks of old Danish ships. 

4. Transportation is simple


Ranging just 3 miles at its widest point, St. Thomas is easy to travel around. 

It takes less than half an hour to get to the capital city, Charlotte Amalie, even from the furthest point of the island.

St. Thomas most commonly offers public transportation like taxi and bus services or the option to rent a vehicle such as a car or motorbike.

Not only that, but a U.S. driver’s license is still valid if you choose to rent a vehicle and drive it yourself. 

5. We didn’t see the best beaches


When we arrived at the beach portion of our shore excursion, I was blown away by its beauty.

Our shore excursion took us to Magen’s Bay, St. Thomas’ most famous beach.

This bay is a gorgeous beach, sheltered between a jungle of tropical trees and a ring of green, forested hills. The water was an impossibly clear, light blue, and the sand was wide and white.

Despite my amazement at the beach’s beauty, a lifeguard who made conversation with us on the beach told us that Magen’s Bay was far from the best beach on the island.

He said that although the beach is beautiful, it’s only the most popular tourist spot. There are even better ones on the island. 

As the day went on, I did notice that he was right about the tourism: the beach began to overfill with visitors and got too crowded to even find seating. 

Our lifeguard friend recommends Coki Point Beach and Point Pleasant for a better beach and a cheaper stay. I made a note, planning my return trip.

6. Go beyond the beach


While we were relaxing on Magen’s Bay, I noticed a figure in the distance. 

We watched someone jet skiing across the bay, riding back and forth across the water.

Since laying on a beach can get old—especially for trips that last more than one day—water activities and sports are a great way to have a new adventure.

If I had had more time to spare on the island, I would have loved to try some water activities like that lucky person.

St. Thomas offers sailing, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, paddleboarding, jet skiing, fishing, and more. They’re the perfect opportunity to try something new while enjoying the beautiful island and sea around you. 

7. I have to experience Carnival


Carnival is a unique, month-long event that I long to dedicate a whole trip to. While many countries celebrate Carnival, it usually runs between April and May in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Carnival is traditionally a period of celebration before the religious season of Lent, and it involves pageants, singing, dancing, and day-long parties. 

While we were on St. Thomas, our guides told us about Carnival and the many visitors it attracts. In the future, I plan to return and see the party for myself!

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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