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U.S. Virgin Islands

Charlotte Amalie Tour: Tips for 1st Time Visitors

Charlotte Amalie
Aerial view of Charlotte Amalie. © U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
Charlotte Amalie is a major destination for Caribbean cruises because of its location close to major embarkation ports in Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

It also happens to be one of the most popular duty-free ports in the Caribbean.

This former hideaway for famous pirates such as Bluebeard and Blackbeard welcomes more than 1.5 million cruise ship passengers each year.

The city, named for a 17th century queen of Denmark, is capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its permanent population is just over 20,000 people. It also supports a much larger population of tourists and temporary workers.

From the Port to the City


Cruise visitors will land at docks about 1.5 miles southeast of the city. They will find plenty of shopping at Havensight Mall at the entrance of the cruise docks.

The mall contains the usual assortment of souvenir shops along with quite a few jewelry stores.

More shopping is located next to Havensight Mall including Port of Sale, Yacht Haven Grande and Al Cohen's Mall.

If more time, energy and motivation are available for a city tour, visitors have to decide how to go to Charlotte Amalie. The choices are walking, renting a car or taking a taxi.

Fit and energetic people may want to make the 1.5-mile walk to the city. When temperatures get into the 90s Fahrenheit, even fit people might want to take a taxi.

A taxi will cost $10 to $15 per person to go from the docks to the city. A single day pickup and return of a car rental may run $50 to $80 plus fees, depending on the size of the car.

A family or larger group may want to rent a car, especially if they want to see more of the island than Charlotte Amalie. At least two agencies are located by the cruise docks -- Hertz and Budget.

Parking is available at the Fort Christian parking lot or along the waterfront, although spots fill early in the day.

Attractions


Paradise Point, Charlotte Amalie
Paradise Point. © U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
Situated on the island of St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie offers all the attractions for which the Caribbean is famous: white sand beaches, sparkling turquoise waters and beautiful forests and lagoons.

A ride up Skyline Drive will offer spectacular views of St. Thomas Harbor, while a gondola known as Skyride can whisk passengers up 700 feet to one of the best vistas in the Caribbean.

There are also plenty of opportunities for snorkeling, sailing, fishing and just about any other water-based activity visitors can imagine.

Charlotte Amalie also has much to offer when it comes to taking in a bit of history. One can visit the old Danish Fort Christian, built in 1666 and currently housing a history museum and panoramic views from the roof. The legislature building and Grand Hotel are notable landmarks from the 19th century.

For some outdoor history, visitors can tour the U.S. Virgin Island’s copy of the Liberty Bell (each state has one as well) at Emancipation Park, or climb the famous 99 Steps, made from bricks brought to St. Thomas as ballast for Danish ships.

Visitors who want to climb to the top should make plans to climb an additional four stairs, since 99 Steps is actually composed of 103 steps.

Beaches


Magens Bay Beach.
Tourists who want to spend some time on the beach should consider either Morningstar Beach or Limetree Beach. Morningstar is about one miles south and Limetree is three miles south of the cruise docks.

The most popular and well-known beach near Charlotte Amalie is Magens Bay Beach about four miles north of the city.

Visitors who rent a car will find that the quickest route goes from the docks through Charlotte Amalie and then to the beach, so they can do both in a single day.

Lindbergh Beach also is fives miles west of the docks. Likewise, car renters will drive through Charlotte Amalie to reach it.

Restaurants and Shopping


More than perhaps any other city in the Caribbean, Charlotte Amalie is famous for its shopping.

Honestly, Havensight Mall and the area around the cruise docks have grown so large that they compete with downtown Charlotte Amalie. We found the dock area was much more active than the city compared to our previous visit.

But visitors who want to do more than shopping such as visiting Fort Christian or other attractions can do it all in the city.

Allowing nearly double the normal rate of duty-free purchases, Charlotte Amalie is home to more than 450 shops and boutiques.

Most of these are located along Main Street, though many can be found in Havensight Mall or sprinkled in and around the downtown district.

While just about anything is available on the island, jewelry, gemstones, watches, designer clothing and spirits are among the best bargains in Charlotte Amalie.

Being a U.S. territory, the dollar is used, and credit cards and traveler’s checks are generally accepted.

Food on the island is typical Caribbean fare with plenty of foreign influences. Diners can find casual dining for 10-20 dollars a person or elegant meals running closer to 100 dollars a person for a three course meal with drinks.

For a special culinary treat, check out one of the island’s Carnival Food Fairs, held several times a year and offering a taste of the island’s unique flavors and dishes.

Accommodations


Because of its popularity with tourists, a wide range of accommodation is available in Charlotte Amalie. From intimate Bed and Breakfasts to sprawling private resorts, variety is not an issue in the city.

Most of the lower-cost hotels and bed and breakfasts start at around $80 a night, though a few more affordable options are available. Marriott offers two resorts with rooms approaching $1,000 a night for those looking for true luxury in their accommodations.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Tours   

January 02, 2017

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