Cruise stop #1: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

A couple of weeks ago we boarded the Carnival Valor out of San Juan, Puerto Rico for a one week trip around the Eastern Caribbean. Our first stop was St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and therefore, U.S. territory.

St. Thomas

We had already visited St. Thomas on a prior cruise, so we didn’t stray too far from the ship this time around and just went to a nearby beach to take in the warm Caribbean waters and the sunshine. Magens Bay Beach is the most popular and most beautiful beach in the island. In fact, it was recently ranked as one of the top 10 beaches in the world. This time, we decided to go to Morningstar Bay beach, which is a short (and sort of a ripoff) 5-minute, $6 cab ride (per person, each way).

The beach is public, and is next to the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef resort where we were able to take advantage of the free Wifi (no password) and relax near the beach. There are beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, but we wanted to go in the water anyway and were able to find a few trees and rocks where we could sit and enjoy the area. If you visit, make sure you have drinks at the bar. Mojitos are excellent.

St. Thomas

Morningstar Bay

If you want to check out Magens Bay Beach, you can catch a cab ride for about $8 per person (each way) but keep in mind that Magens Bay is on the Atlantic ocean’s side of the island, where the waters are a few degrees colder, although the waters at the beach are calm since it’s a large natural bay that is protected from the Atlantic ocean’s waves.

Magens Bay (not my picture)

Magens Bay (not my picture)

When we cruise, we try to stay away from big cruise line organized excursions, since they cost a lot of money and you’re usually restricted to a specific timeline or must depart really early. We usually go just outside the main cruise terminal, where you can always find locals drivers and guides willing to take you around the island or the city for a fraction of the cost and a more personalized service. St. Thomas is no exception, and you can usually find a tour around the island for around $20-$25 per person, depending on your group size. Personal tours are great since you can go at your own pace and ask all questions you want. The only times we usually take cruise organized tours are at places where safety is relatively questionable, or if there is a very specific activity we want to do, or if we want a guarantee that we will be back on the ship on time. Keep in mind that when you book private tours you are on your own, so give yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship, ask your driver about traffic patterns, etc.

Marriott Frenchman's Reef seen from our ship

Marriott Frenchman’s Reef seen from our ship. Morningstar Beach on the right

St. Thomas is U.S. territory, so not only is the U.S. dollar the official currency, but you can use any credit cards around the island (even those with no foreign transaction fees). The island, however, is nothing like the mainland U.S. Everyone is very laid back, and everything runs on “island time”. So just sit by the beach, grab a refreshing drink, relax, and don’t forget to get back to the ship on time!

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