The second destination of our Celebrity Cruises Eastern Caribbean Getaway was Chalotte Amalie on the beautiful island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
One of my favourite parts of a cruise is sailing in to the port of a new destination and feeling the excitement build as the scenery unfolds. Even better if it can be from the privacy of my own balcony, complete with a plush bathrobe and room service breakfast.
Arriving in Charlotte Amalie was a real thrill as we admired the colourful buildings and lush green hills along French Bay and Prince Rupert Cove.
We decided to explore Charlotte Amalie on our own, however there are some tempting shore excursion such as a tour of nearby island St. John, snorkeling in Shipwreck Cove or a trip to Magens Bay Beach.
From Havensight Port, we took one of the public safari buses for a short ride into Downtown Charlotte Amalie. The open-sided buses are frequent, comfortable and the most popular form of transport for cruise guests to get around the town.
Charlotte Amalie is a haven for duty-free shopping and most cruisers head to Main Street with its pretty, colonial-style buildings to pick up some bargains.
On arrival, a friendly local bar owner spotted us and kindly gave us a mini factual tour of the nearby buildings. Proud of the town’s historical spots, which may often be overlooked by the lure of shopping, he said emphatically “shopping, that way… history, this way”.
On his recommendation, we took some time to visit the pretty, Georgian-style Frederick Lutheran Church. Built by the Danes in 1820, it’s the oldest Lutheran church in the Western Hemisphere.
The church was open and quiet when we visited, so we had a chance to step inside. It was so tranquil and atmospheric with a mahogany alter, an elaborate chandelier and simple stained glass windows.
If you fancy a challenge, climb the 99 steps (actually 103) behind the church up the Blackbeard’s Castle, one of five National Historic Landmarks in the U.S Virgin Islands.
Dating back to 1679, the watchtower is said to have been used by the notorius English pirate Blackbeard (real name Edward Teach) as a lookout point.
Charlotte Amalie’s Main Street (also called Dronningen’s Gade) is filled with a number of high end diamond boutiques and large stores selling every spirit you could imagine, as well as rum, coffee and chocolate produced in the Caribbean. There’s even a dedicated Chanel cosmetics and fragrance boutique, a Tommy Hilfiger outlet and a number of Little Switzerland watch stores.
There’s a real vacation atmosphere around the town with a live Calypso band by the harbour, cheery shopkeepers and copious amounts of rum. So many residents greeted us as we wandered around, which made us feel welcome rather than burdensome tourists.
An exciting discovery in a courtyard off Main Street was the home of Danish-French painter Camille Pissarro. Born on St. Thomas in 1830, Pissarro lived on the island until he went to boarding school in France, aged 12. He later became known as a father figure for the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, influencing the likes of Cézanne, Monet and Gaugin.
The second floor is now an art gallery, offering a selection of original paintings and prints by local artists. There is a collection of Pissarro works depicting the island life of his childhood, as well as pieces by artists inspired by the great painter.
Our plans to take the Skyride and see Charlotte Amalie from Paradise Point were hampered by an unexpected tropical storm (well, it was the rainy season after all). We took shelter in one of the many passages filled with shops and restaurants before catching a safari bus back to the ship. Even the intense rain, thunder and lightening couldn’t dampen the spirits of the Celebrity cruisers – they remained chipper, cracking jokes throughout.
Charlotte Amalie is a delightful destination with a relaxed, friendly Caribbean vibe. To get the most out of your day there, it’s worth taking a short excursion to the other side of the island to swim in the crystal clear waters at Magens Bay Beach before an afternoon of shopping and sightseeing.
It’s so easy to get around that you can easily do both and still have time for a cheeky rum punch in one of the port bars before embarking the ship.
Join Celebrity Reflection on a nine-night Eastern Caribbean Getaway fly/cruise from £1,650 per person (based on two people sharing an ocean view stateroom).
Price includes return flights from London Heathrow, transfers, one night pre-cruise hotel accommodation and a seven-night cruise departing from Miami (Florida) and calling at San Juan (Puerto Rico), Charlotte Amalie (St. Thomas) and Philipsburg (St. Maarten) before returning to Miami for the flight home; meals and entertainment onboard the ship and all relevant cruise taxes/fee. Price based on 2 January 2015 UK departure.
For more information or to book, call 0845 456 0523 or visit www.celebritycruises.co.uk
Chérie City was a guest of Celebrity Cruises and all views are my own.
All photos by Chérie City