On day 4, April 12, 2011, of our East Caribbean Cruise, with the morning scattered showers forecast, the “Oasis of the Seas” docked at 9:00 am at the port of Charlotte Amalie in Crown Bay.
Charlotte Amalie, the Caribbean most popular cruise ship port, is the capital and commercial centre of St. Thomas of the United States Virgin Islands. A blend of deep-rooted Danish history and today`s way of life, the city was named after Charlotte Amalie, queen consort to King Christian V of Denmark.
St. Thomas, with a population of 51,634 and a land area of 31.24 sq. miles, is a constituent district of the US Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States. Once the centre of a swashbuckling pirate culture (such as Blackbeard and Drake), the US Virgin Islands is the only place under US jurisdiction where the rule of the road is to drive on the left.
St. Thomas was purchased by the U. S. from Denmark in 1917 during the administration of wartime President Woodrow Wilson for $25 million in gold out of US fear that the islands might be seized by Germany as a submarine base during the first World War.
Before the gangway opened at 9:30 am we’re ready to board the open-air covered truck called “safari cabs” to begin our excursion tour, “The Best of St. Thomas”.
The heart of St. Thomas is the Emancipation Garden Park with the bust of famous Danish King Christian as its focal point. It commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the Danish West Indies.
Located near the garden is Fort Christian, the oldest standing structure in St. Thomas. Today, it is a museum housing a collection of Amerindian artifacts and exhibits portraying the colonial Dutch lifestyle.
To discover and explore Charlotte Amalie hillside terrain take the “99 Steps” built by the Danes in the mid 1700s. These brick staircase streets also lead to a place called Government Hill.
We travelled on to picturesque ridge top road, Skyline Drive, overlooking the capital’s harbour making our way to Beacon Point with views of St. John and the nearby British Virgin Islands.
Our guided tour proceeded to the newly- renovated `Mountain Top`, the highest point on the island at the top of St. Peter Mountain. The area, once known as Signal Hill, served as a strategic communication point for the US during the 1940s. The Mountain Top is the home of the world famous “Banana Daiquiri“, a delicious concoction beverage of ripe bananas, lime juice (pineapple or orange), dark rum, banana liqueur, and sugar, blended with ice.
We had plenty of time to brouse and shop at the Caribbean-themed bazaar after treating ourselves with the daiquiri.
From the observation platform the views of the heart-shaped Magens Bay Beach and the surrounding islands are breathtaking. Rated as one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic Magazine, Magens Bay features a mile of white sands, clear turqoise waters and arboretum of palm trees.
Nestled high in the volcanic peaks of St. Thomas sits St. Peter Great House and Botanic Gardens, once the haunt of the rich and famous and formerly owned by a Virgin Islands governor. In the 1800s this beautiful place was frequented by Indian tribes and used by pirates to bury their treasurers. The Great House boasts of a classic West Indian architecture and lush botanical gardens and a nature trail with streaming waterfalls, tropical bird aviaries, fish ponds, varieties of orchids and hundred species of Caribbean plants and fruits.
Step onto the outdoor deck to enjoy endless photo opportunities of St. Thomas` natural beauty as well as more than 15 Virgin Islands and Cays including Tortola.
Before returning to the ship in the late afternoon we remained in town at it`s Main Street, once called by the Danes as the Dronnigen`s Gade, where most of the duty-free shops are located particularly the Diamonds International which is noted for its 60% off sale from 10:00 am – noon for your chance to win diamond jewelry at 11:00 am.
See you next time at the Dutch and French Islands of St. Maarten and Philipsburg!