Monday, February 17, 2014

St. Thomas... Relaxing, Sightseeing and Shopping!

Once we left the relative obscurity of the Puerto Rican outer islands, we were ready for some civilization... good ole USA style!  

We arrived on Valentine's Day... first stop: Crown Bay Marina for fuel, water, and a quick wash down of the boat. Not too romantic, but necessary!  
 LA dealt with the fuel part, I did the wash down. I washed and sprayed and washed and sprayed... Uh oh.. forgot that water was not FREE around here!  Water was 20 cents a gallon.... Spent $50 on water. Oops!  And fuel was $4.90/gallon! Expensive little stop... $225 for diesel, $35 for gas, and $50 for water... Welcome to the US Virgins!

Then, off to Charlotte Amalie, our home base for the next 8 days in St. Thomas. We anchored in the Yacht Haven Basin. Since we had already checked in the US territory of Puerto Rico, we did not have to check in again in St. Thomas.  It's always nice when you don't have to deal with customs officials and paperwork.  It's funny, though, because if you travel from the US Virgin Islands BACK to Puerto Rico, you have to check in with customs in Puerto Rico. Go figure....

Here's our girl Genesis anchored near the Yacht Haven Grande Marina.  You can see where we are if you look closely and find the word "Genesis" to the right of the center of the photo. We are anchored right under the "n" in Genesis.  As you can see, it's a huge anchorage with lots of boats coming and going, particularly cruise ships!  Check out the cruise ship at dock on the lower left of the photo. This was a slow day! Usually, there were at least three cruise ships at dock. 

When three cruise ships were at dock, the ships lined the dock all the way down to Yacht Haven Grande marina.  We had to go right past them to get to the dinghy dock. The passengers got a kick out of seeing us come by and would hang over the railing, yell hello and take our photo.  

Oh yes, the cruise ships!  Looking at them from the dingy... they are HUGE!  This cruise ship is Jewel of the Seas.

This only LOOKS like a close call! The catamaran is motoring to the dock just after the cruise ship departed. Personally, I think I would have waited a while to let the cruise ship get out to sea

Our first order of business was to contact our friend, Steve Schlosser.  We met Steve back in 2011 in the Bahamas when he was sailing his private yacht.  He has since met and married the love of his life, Deb, and we were eager to meet her.  They own and operate a yacht chartering business based out of St. Thomas and offer wonderful trips to the British Virgin Islands on their Voyager 44 catamaran, Alternate Latitude.   If you have ever thought of taking a sailing vacation in an easy to get to, but exotic, location, check out their Facebook page, Alternate Latitude or their rental website on VBRO: Alternate Latitude.  We caught them between charters (which is hard to do!) and had a lovely evening out at a local restaurant, the Twisted Cork. Wonderful meal and good company!  It was fun learning about what it is like to own a charter business. It is a lot of work but they love it.

Though only 32 square miles in size, St. Thomas has lots of things to do. Beautiful beaches, shopping, sightseeing, and good restaurants!  So many choices! 

Because the cruise ships bring lots of visitors to the island and the shopping is duty-free, we decided we would play tourist and do some shopping.  We visited popular shops near the Yacht Haven Grande.  Did a lot of window shopping, but not much buying.  Living on a boat, we don't have much use for expensive watches and designer purses. 

The grounds around the mall area were beautifully landscaped. It was good to get off the boat for a while and get some exercise.  

We walked along the boardwalk and admired the beautiful yachts. 

We walked to Main Street in the downtown area about a mile away. The main street area is a cruise ship shopping mecca. Shop after shop line the streets and when the cruise ships are in town, the main street area is jam packed.   Rolex, Tiffany, Prada, and other brand name stores enticed the tourists to spend lots of money.

We were surprised by the number of jewelry stores that specialized in high-end watches. Cruise ship visitors obviously spend a lot of money on jewelry and watches.  Cameras were a popular item, too.  I almost succumbed to the shopping frenzy. I looked at a GoPro camera, but finally talked myself out of an impulse buy. 

St. Thomas's history and culture alone are worth a visit to the island. Fort Christian, built in 1680 and a U.S. National Landmark, is the oldest standing structure in the Virgin Islands and home to the Virgin Islands Museum, where early island memorabilia and old maps trace the islands' history. 

Market Square, now a bustling produce marketplace, was once one of the West Indies' busiest 18th-century slave markets.

Another attraction was the climb up the famous 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie for an incomparable view of the Caribbean. We had dinner one night at the top with a beautiful view of the harbor below. 

The old Post Office, built in 1937, was another site of interest. 

The "high" point of our day was visiting Paradise Point Skyride.  Yes, it was touristy, and it cost $21 per person for a ride to the top, but it was worth it!

Italian cable cars took us up 700 feet to the top of a hill which provided views of the city, the harbor, and the nearby islands. 

It was a beautiful day and we could see for miles and miles.

At the top there was a restaurant with a rooftop terrace with gorgeous panoramic views. 

View of the city and the mega-yacht marina, Yacht Haven Grande.
Stunning view of the nearby islands.  The US Virgin Islands are truly America's island paradise!  We enjoyed our visit and hope to return again!

No comments: