Leave Your Passport Behind
By Laurette M. Veres
Photography by Carla M. Menendez
St. Thomas is an American territory allowing stress free travel to the Caribbean. Leave your passport behind as you meet some of the world’s friendliest people in this tropical paradise.
Shop Till You Drop
The U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John) offer the most diverse duty-free shopping in the Caribbean. Most notable of the three is St. Thomas, known as the shopping capital where several parts of town are devoted to retail therapy. A plethora of shopping awaits you at Yacht Haven Grande, a multi-million dollar mega-yacht marina. You don’t have to arrive by sea to enjoy stores such as Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bulgari, Coach and more.
The tourism board has many programs to indoctrinate visitors into the local culture. One such program involves tours led by high school-age tour guides. These eager beavers met us in the main square, Emancipation Garden, to begin our educational stroll; they had their facts down. Seven flags have flown over St. Thomas since Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493. Note: according to our knowledgeable guides, he didn’t discover it, he sent his men. The island has been ruled by the Spanish, English, French, Knights of Malta, French (for the second time), Danish and became a U.S. Territory in 1917. The Danes built most of the historical buildings and bricks are still imported so renovations maintain historical standards. Our next-gener guides wore bright green for easy identification and answered questions about geography, history, religion and, of course, shopping!
The capital city, Charlotte Amalie, is a bustling harbor town ready for cruise ship shoppers to arrive. You can pick up souvenirs from a large variety of tented street vendors. Purple Papaya, a whimsical boutique hidden amongst many jewelry shops has something for everyone. From Hawaiian shirts and t-shirts to cute bathing suits and sundresses, you’ll enjoy St. Thomas in style after stocking up here.
Little Switzerland is the perfect location to pick up a new TAG watch, or David Yurman bracelet.
H Texas visited in the middle of the shopping festival (this was no accident!). Benefits included: a welcome bag full of shopping coupons and certificates, concert tickets (Wyclef Jean rocked the house), and shuttle service to tours and shopping. Festival goers can build their own itinerary from the complete agenda provided by the tourism board. Most notably, parties seemed to break out at each turn. From steal drum bands, to singers, dancers and characters on stilts, a party atmosphere abounds.
Lap Of Luxury
A hop, skip and a jump across this small Island land you in the lap of luxury: The Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas. Not your grandfather’s Ritz, you don’t need a tie as you enjoy the glorious grounds, infinity pool, world-class spa and superb accommodations. While at the Ritz, you must set sail on the Lady Lynsey – a 53-foot Gold Coast catamaran. We enjoyed the Full Moon Sunset Cruise to St. John. Tropical drinks flow and appetizers such as crab stuffed potatoes set the mood for the hour long cruise to lush St. John.
A Girl’s Gotta Eat
Our corner table at Herve has breathtaking views of the harbor. Located in the Government Hill historic district, the contemporary American restaurant has been pleasing patrons since 1996. We sampled the St. Jaques – lobster, scallop and shrimp served in two conch shells lined with mashed potatoes. The panoramic view and the flickering lights of the government buildings are the perfect backdrop for the Wilted Spinach Salad Flambé – prepared tableside.
Virgilio’s is the best northern Italian restaurant in the Virgin Islands. Here we enjoyed lobster ravioli, grilled Portobello, and spicy Caribbean lobster.
Where to Unwind
Overlooking the picturesque harbor of Charlotte Amalie, Windward Passage Hotel is centrally located one-block from the duty-free shops and restaurants.
From shopping, to water excursions to pristine beaches, there is something for everyone in St. Thomas.
Yacht Haven Grande, www.yachthavengrande.com
Little Switzerland, multiple locations, 888-527-4473; www.littleswitzerland.com
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, 6900 Great Bay, www.ritzcarlton.com
Herve Restaurant & Wine Bar, 340-777-9703; www.herverestaurant.com
Windward Passage Hotel, 340-774-5200; www.
Department of Tourism: www.VisitUSVI.com