Set sail on a memorable journey to the US Virgin Islands, a tropical paradise with stunning beaches, fascinating history, and lively culture. Discover must-see attractions like Magens Bay Beach and Charlotte Amalie while cruising with renowned lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian.
This comprehensive guide helps you pinpoint the ideal time to travel, plan your itinerary, and make the most of your US Virgin Islands getaway.
Why Opt for Cruises to the US Virgin Islands?
For those seeking a picturesque and serene vacation, the US Virgin Islands boast some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches. St. John’s Trunk Bay is famous for its clear turquoise waters, while Magens Bay in St. Thomas is renowned for its white-sand shores and lush surroundings. Engage in water activities like snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking, or simply unwind on the beach and bask in the sun.
The US Virgin Islands are steeped in history, offering many intriguing sites to explore. Visit Fort Christian Museum in St. Thomas, a 17th-century structure that has served as a military fort, governor’s residence, and prison. Estate Whim Plantation Museum in St. Croix sheds light on the history of sugar plantations and the lives of enslaved people.
The US Virgin Islands’ vibrant culture combines African, European, and Caribbean influences. Immerse yourself in this unique blend by visiting local markets, attending festivals, and sampling local cuisine. St. Thomas Market Square offers handmade crafts and delicious dishes like conch fritters and johnnycakes. The annual Carnival celebration in St. Croix showcases music, dance, and colorful attire. Experience the magic of the US Virgin Islands on your next cruise, complete with stunning beaches, historical landmarks, and cultural immersion.
Top Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Line presents various options for cruises to the US Virgin Islands, including a popular 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise that stops at St. Thomas, St. Maarten, and San Juan. Aboard the ship, indulge in amenities like a water park, mini-golf course, and diverse dining choices. Enjoy shore excursions like snorkeling, beach days, and historical tours.
Royal Caribbean International features cruises to the US Virgin Islands, such as a 7-night Southern Caribbean cruise visiting St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten. Onboard, enjoy amenities like a rock climbing wall, ice skating rink, and varied dining options. Exciting shore excursions include zip-lining, beach days, and cultural tours.
Norwegian Cruise Line offers cruises to the US Virgin Islands, including a 7-day Eastern Caribbean cruise stopping at St. Thomas, Tortola, and Great Stirrup Cay. Aboard the ship, revel in amenities like a water park, Broadway-style shows, and a range of dining options. Embark on shore excursions like snorkeling, beach days, and historical tours. With these cruise lines, you can tailor your US Virgin Islands experience to your preferences, whether you’re seeking adventure or relaxation.
Best Time To Sail
Selecting the right time for your cruise to the US Virgin Islands is crucial. The dry season, from December to April, features mild temperatures and low rainfall, ideal for beach and water activities. Budget-savvy travelers might prefer the shoulder season, May to November, for sunshine, warmth, and potentially better deals despite increased rainfall.
Keep in mind that hurricane season spans from June to November, so stay vigilant and monitor weather forecasts. For an immersion in local culture, plan your visit around the St. Thomas International Regatta in April or the St. John Festival in June. Ultimately, the perfect time depends on your priorities: favorable weather, affordability, or cultural experiences.
Magens Bay Beach
Magens Bay Beach is an essential stop in the US Virgin Islands. Renowned for its crystal-clear turquoise waters and soft white sand, it’s an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and unwinding. Rent chairs and umbrellas or bring your own, and participate in water sports activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling.
Magens Bay Beach can get crowded during peak season, so consider visiting early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the masses. The beach is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily, with an admission fee of $5 per person.
Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, is a popular destination for cruise passengers. Known for its historic architecture, duty-free shopping, and vibrant nightlife, the city offers plenty to explore.
The 99 Steps, a series of historic steps leading up to Blackbeard’s Castle, is one of Charlotte Amalie’s most popular attractions. The castle is a historic landmark, providing stunning views of the city and harbor.
Another must-visit site in Charlotte Amalie is the St. Thomas Synagogue, the Western Hemisphere’s second-oldest synagogue. This beautiful example of colonial architecture is still in use today.
Coral World Ocean Park
Coral World Ocean Park, an educational and entertaining attraction on St. Thomas Island, houses various marine animals such as sea turtles, sharks, and stingrays. The Undersea Observatory Tower, one of Coral World’s top attractions, offers a unique view of Caribbean marine life. Visitors can also take part in interactive programs like swimming with sea lions or feeding turtles.
Coral World is open daily from 9 am to 4 pm, with admission fees varying based on chosen activities and programs.
Tips for Planning Your Cruise
When packing for your cruise to the US Virgin Islands, remember that the weather is typically warm and sunny. Bring light, breathable clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat for sun protection. Pack a swimsuit and water shoes for swimming or snorkeling, and comfortable walking shoes for island exploration. A small day bag is useful for carrying essentials ashore.
Booking Shore Excursions
Research and book shore excursions ahead of time to secure your spot in the thrilling activities available on your US Virgin Islands cruise. Popular options include snorkeling, kayaking, and exploring historical sites. Keep in mind that some excursions may have age or physical restrictions, so double-check before booking. For a more independent experience, consider renting a car or taking a taxi to explore the islands at your own pace.
Getting Around the Islands
Navigating the US Virgin Islands is relatively simple. Taxis are readily available at the cruise port and throughout the islands. If you opt to rent a car, remember that driving is on the left side of the road. Public transportation is also an option, but it may be less frequent and less reliable than taxis. If you plan on walking around the islands, be aware that sidewalks might be uneven or nonexistent, so wear comfortable shoes and be cautious of traffic.
Currency and Language Tips
The US Virgin Islands use the US Dollar (USD) as their official currency, making transactions straightforward for American travelers. For non-US visitors, it’s advised to carry some cash in USD for small purchases or tips. Most businesses accept major credit cards, but it’s still a good idea to keep cash on hand for emergencies or establishments that only accept cash.
English is the official language of the US Virgin Islands. Although you’ll encounter locals who speak with a distinct Caribbean accent, communication should not be an issue for English-speaking travelers. You might also hear locals speaking Virgin Islands Creole, a unique dialect influenced by various languages, including English, French, and African languages. While it’s not essential to learn Creole, knowing a few phrases can help you connect with the locals.
A cruise to the US Virgin Islands promises a memorable experience filled with picturesque beaches, rich history, and diverse culture. With this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-prepared to choose the ideal time to travel, explore top attractions, and make the most of your island getaway.
Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, the US Virgin Islands offer something for every traveler. Embark on your journey and create unforgettable memories on your dream cruise to this stunning Caribbean paradise.
Christian Petzold is a successful touristic entrepreneur, experiential traveller and round-the-world backpacker. He holds an academic degree in tourism management.
His touristic expertise has been covered in radio, newspaper and television.