Port Focus

Port Focus: St. Thomas

In:
11Jun2013

The US Virgin Islands is popular among Eastern Caribbean cruise stops and the island of St. Thomas is an American owned island with Caribbean flair.  Great beaches and shopping highlight what there is to see and do here.

St. Thomas Benefits

  • Beaches: St. Thomas features some very beautiful beaches, including Magens Bay, which is among the most beautiful beaches in the world.  There's also other beaches here that offer beautiful water color and very fine sand.  When you think of a Caribbean beach, St. Thomas is the sort of beach experience you will have in mind.
    • Best public beach: Magens Bay or Coki Beach
  • Shopping: St. Thomas offers a lot of shopping options around and near the cruise terminal.  Being an American island, the prices here are fairly close to what you'd expect to find back on the mainland.  The island boasts good prices on jewelry, liquor, linens, china and crystal.  By far jewelry is what is in demand here and there are lots of places to check out.  There is no sales tax in the United States Virgin Islands so you can take advantage of the $1,600 duty-free allowance per family member (remember to save your receipts).
  • Proximity to St John: It's common for St. Thomas to have many cruise ships in port but St. John is very close and there are water taxi options that take just 20 minutes to get over to the island.  For those that have visited St. Thomas before, St. John is close enough to allow for two ports in one.

St. Thomas Detractions

  • Traffic: Like many small Caribbean islands, traffic can snarl up the roads often and quickly.  This is especially true in the late afternoon, which is typically when cruise ships leave port. If you are planning to use a third-party excursion or going to explore on your own, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get back.  
  • Crowds: During the busy season, it is not uncommon to have six or more cruise ships docked in port on any given day and that leads to a lot of people in one place.  St. Thomas has cemented itself as a cruise destination and many cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, send many of their ships here.  More than likely you will feel engulfed in a sea of other tourists.

What to do in St. Thomas

On your next Royal Caribbean cruise to St. Thomas consider these activities

  • Beach visit to one of their beautiful beaches, including Magens Bay, Coki Beach or Sapphire Beach
  • Take water taxi to St. John
  • Duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie
  • Go to Mountain Top (it's a bit of a tourist trap, but the view is worth it)

Royal Caribbean ships stopping in St. Thomas: Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Adventure of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas & Legend of the Seas

Port Focus: Cozumel

In:
05Jul2011

A popular Western Caribbean port of call for Royal Caribbean, Cozumel is an island located on the eastern shore of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.  The island offers plenty of beach and sun fun along with some cultural heritage.

Cozumel Benefits

  • Beaches: Cozumel has some great beaches to choose from in and around the city of San Miguel de Cozumel.  While not the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, they are plentiful and make great options for beach days.  Most of the well-known beaches are within 10-15 minutes of where Royal Caribbean docks via taxi.
    • Best private beach: Paradise Beach (beach is free but activities and water toys cost extra)
  • Shopping: There's a lot of shopping options to be found in Cozumel's city of San Miguel de Cozumel.  Most of the shops along the main road (Rafael E. Melgar) are riddled with tourist trap stores but stores found further into the city (within 3-4 blocks) offer more original options and better deals.  Cozumel boasts silver jewelry from other parts of Mexico as well as a wide selection of crafts.  Furthermore, being that this is Mexico, prices for goods tend to be cheaper here than in the United States.
  • Excursions close to the ship:  There's a lot to do in Cozumel if you're looking for an excursion and most are within an hour of where Royal Caribbean docks.  Most excursions, both from Royal Caribbean or via third party, are within a 15 minute taxi ride of the dock, with a few excursions across the Yucatan Channel in nearby Playa del Carmen.
    • Favorite excursion: Tulum Mayan Ruins Excursion
  • Diving: Cozumel is well known around the world for its scuba diving and snorkeling.  The nearby Palancar Reef was well documented by Jacques Cousteau in the 1960s and since has been publicized as one of the best places to go scuba diving in the world.
    • Best scuba locations: Reefs at Palancar, Tormentos, San Francisco, Santa Rosa & Paraiso North.

Cozumel Detractions

  • Safety:  Mexico isn't known for being the safest country in the world.  While most of the violence is in north west Mexico, there are still elements of crime to be concerned with while in Cozumel.  Like many ports of call, it's important to be aware of your surroundings.  We've also heard plenty of stories from tourists who rented a car, got into a minor accident and had to deal with settling the matter on the spot.

What to do in Cozumel

There's a lot to see and do in Cozumel but some of our favorite activities include

  • Visiting the Tulum Mayan Ruins
  • Eating authentic Mexican food
  • Paradise Beach
  • Exploring the east coast of the island via taxi or rental car
  • Scuba diving

Royal Caribbean ships stopping in Cozumel: Liberty of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas