Vacationers discovered St. Thomas right after World War II and have been flocking here ever since. Today the island is one of the busiest and most developed cruise ports in the West Indies, often hosting more than six ships a day during the peak winter season. Its capital town Charlotte Amalie, named in 1691 in honor of the wife of Denmark's King Christian V, has become the Caribbean's major shopping center.
With so much traffic, St.
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Thomas has several docks for cruise ships: West Indian Dock/Havensight Mall, the Crown Bay Cruise Ship Terminal, and Charlotte Amalie Harbor. Taxis meet all ships and are the best way to get around the island.
The waters off of St. Thomas are rated among the most beautiful in the world, so many shore excursions focus on snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. Many excursions also visit neighboring St. John (p. 67 ).
Top draw Besides a fascinating array of tanks and touch pools, Coral World Underwater Observatory and Marine Park (http://coralworldvi. Com ) lets visitors plunge to the depths without getting wet, in a 3-story underwater observation tower 100 feet offshore.
Smell the roses The lush 11-acre hilltop St. Peter Greathouse Estate and Gardens (www.greathousevi. Com ), on the island's northern rim, shows off some 200 varieties of plants and trees, as well as a rainforest, an orchid jungle, waterfalls, and reflecting ponds.
Top beach On the north side of the island, Magens Bay Beach was once hailed as one of the world's most beautiful, but it's ofen overcrowded. For more serenity, head east of Charlotte Amalie to Bolongo Bay for a fine spread of sand and a variety of watersports.
Shopaholics alert Many cruise ship passengers shop at the Havensight Mall, right by the West Indian Dock, but the major shopping is along the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, with Main Street the prime shopping thoroughfare.