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Published: March 9th 2012
US Virgin Islands - Thursday – March 8th
This morning we docked in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands. This is a protectorate of the US and uses US dollars. By contrast, Sait Maartens used Dutch Gilders, and Saint Martins used Euros (actually they both accepted US dollars too). Anyway, the cruise last night was not too long, so we went slowly and smoothly and the ship was docked by 7:00 AM.
The Virgin Islands were also named by Christopher Columbus in 1493 for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. Up to and including the 17th century, these islands were captured and controlled by many European powers, including France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
By the middle of the 19th century the abolition of slavery took hold and "free labor" was hard to find, which made many of the crops (like sugar cane) unprofitable. The Danish government tried to sell the Virgin Islands to the United States, but that deal fell through. During World War I the United States became worried that the Germans could possible use the islands as a submarine base so the islands were purchased
Coast of St Thomas
Sailboats in the bay
for $25 million on January 17, 1917.
The U.S. took official possession of the islands on March 31, 1917 and renamed them "The Virgin Islands of the United States." Ten years later U.S. citizenship was granted to the inhabitants. Most of the current permanent residents were born on these islands. Tourism is the primary product of the island, with virtually everything that is used on the island being imported. In St Martins, gasoline was priced “per liter”, but here it is “per gallon” (approx $4.50 per gallon).
The U.S. Virgin Islands remain one of the busiest cruise ship ports and family vacations destinations in all of the Caribbean. Covered with red-roofed buildings and houses, the capital city of Charlotte Amalie sits amidst lush green hills, and is widely considered the most beautiful port in the Caribbean. The duty-free shopping, hotels and restaurants on St. Thomas and St. Croix are said to be second to none.
Our tour excursion today was a scenic drive around the island and a trip to Blackbeard's Castle, the Amber Museum and Shopping. We were shuttled around the island in open-sided vans. They drive vehicles with left-hand
Ruby Princess at Pier
St Thomas - Virgin Islands
steering wheels, but they drive on the left side of the road. The roads aren’t quite as narrow as St Martin, the port is definitely more attractive, and the country simply appears to be more affluent than where we were yesterday. Both places are lush with greenery, but here is seems to that time was invested to make it look nice.
Our driver gave a commentary along the way and stopped a couple of places for scenic photo-stops. After about an hour we arrived at Blackbeard’s Castle where our drive left us. We were given introductory instructions on how to see the castle and then taken into the gift shop where we were given up to 6 samples of local Rum. The Spiced and Aged Rums were a little too strong to sip straight, but the Banana, Pineapple, Coconut, and Mango Rums were all tasty. Then we prowled the gift shop and seemed more in the mood to purchase things. J
Outside again, David climbed to the top of Blackbeard’s Tower, which has a commanding view of this side of the island, and well out to sea. Blackbeard would watch for merchant ships from
Janet & David
Overlook in St Thomas
here and then dash out in his pirate ships to capture their treasure. Janet stayed down in the courtyard below, so he made a short video of the view for her to see later. There are also many statues of various pirates, and we took a few pictures of them too.
The tour had described it as needing to negotiate 99 steps. Janet had memories of the forced march up the hillside in Marseilles, but the tram had let us out at the top of the hill and all the steps were downhill instead, which was much easier. We visited a couple of restored houses from the 1700’s. The furniture, wall paintings, floors, and ceilings were all realistic restorations of what the originals would have been. They had large porches and courtyards which would be nice even in houses today. There was a nice breeze gently blowing through the houses, or else they would have been pretty hot to live in.
Further down the hill we came to the Amber Museum. There are no amber mines on the island, but the owner of the castle and houses has always been fascinated by amber, so
he built this museum, along with a gift shop (nobody is getting anything from there, so don’t get your hopes up). However, it was very interesting and it was surprising to learn how many different types/color of amber there is. But there were no dinosaurs being raised.
At the bottom of the hill we caught a tender ride back to the ship. This gave us a sea-side view of the town. When the boat arrived back at our pier, we saw several iguanas on the rocks along the seawall. They are very tame because people walked right up in front of them to take their pictures.
Back on the ship, we had a light lunch of pizza because we know there is going to be a very large dinner. However, they have relaxed the rules about serving your self and we were able to get our own drinks, pick our own desserts, and they had packets of sugar on the table. We guess they have decided we no longer have a risk of infecting one another with the virus. This is going to make things easier on them and also on us.
David & Janet
2nd Formal Dinner
After lunch, Janet went back to the cabin to take a nap and rest her legs after all the walking and climbing. That gave her a chance to recuperate before going to High Tea today. David went up to the pool deck to read and watch the scenery a little longer before we left port.
At 5:00 was the Captain’s Reception where we rubbed elbows with other travelers and heard a brief speech while we had champagne cocktails and Cosmopolitans. Then it was off to dinner for our second formal night. This is the evening when they typically serve Lobster and Beef Wellington (Janet’s two favorite meals). As in the past, she ordered Lobster Wellington and had a piece of each. However, this time they also were serving Veal Ravioli, which she had as a small serving for her appetizer. A fourth couple joined our table this evening (apparently they had been sitting by themselves up to now), so we finally have a full table. AND we got to have breadbaskets, butter dishes, and salt & pepper on the table.
We had previously agreed that everyone would bring their cameras to dinner tonight,
so we got pictures of each other in our fancy duds, as well as our waiter (Edwin) and his assistant (Milan).
The after dinner show in the Princess Theater was one of the Production Events with the singers and dancers – this one called Stardust. It was a collection of love songs “from your parent’s and grandparent’s generation”, and it was very good – similar to one we had seen on the UK cruise and had enjoyed greatly. At 10:15 Janet wants to go to the Movie under the Stars to see The Artist. Fortunately we do not dock tomorrow until afternoon, so we can sleep in if we choose. We will have to tell you tomorrow whether she actually stayed up for it.
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