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Cruising - Hiring a Car in St Thomas, US Virgin Islands.
Whilst you can just book an organized trip on board the ship, this can be expensive for a larger family, and it may not give you the flexibility you would like. I would have no hesitation in recommending anyone to hire a car in St Thomas. The driving out of the town is quite good, the roads are reasonable, you drive on the left hand side (although your car will have a left hand side steering wheel which can take a bit of getting used to) and the distances are not too great. We always hire a car here, and in fact, did so on our first cruise and have never looked back.
There are now two docks in Charlotte Amalie for cruise ships. The original one, at Havensight Mall to the east of the town, has a number of car hire companies which are located very close to where the ships dock. In fact you can just walk out of the dock and there are the offices. However, the latest dock, Crown Bay Pier is to the west of Charlotte Amalie, and some distance from the car hire offices, although they do offer shuttles to take you to pick the cars up. However, you do need to factor this into any timings, as we found that we did not have enough time to rent a car, pick it up, drive where we wanted to go, return it and get a shuttle back to the ship which left at 4. 00 pm. The last thing you want to do is miss the boat! We therefore took one of the open safari buses which run a continuous shuttle service to Magens Bay, but we were disappointed not to be able to see more of the island by car. Much will depend on the time you arrive and depart this beautiful island.
We usually book a car over the internet, in advance, and it is always a good idea to take the person’s name that you booked with, and to check by email and telephone that your booking actually exists before you arrive in the port. This IS the Caribbean, and the phrase ‘yeah, man’ and ‘no problem’ may seem reassuring, but it is always wise to check thoroughly. They do not take a deposit, so make sure you have some written, or email confirmation if you can. Of course, it is sensible to get off the ship as early as you can as they do have a limited stock of vehicles, so if you are one of the last to disembark you may well end up with no car – remember there may be several other mega-ships in port too.
Driving in St Thomas is on the left hand side, although the cars have their steering wheels on the left hand side too. Just be sensible and if it is your first time don’t go too far and watch the time – always leave for the ship earlier than you think is necessary to avoid getting caught in traffic jams with little time to spare.
One of the main tourist attractions is Magen’s Bay, said to be one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world. It is a spectacular drive round hairpin bends and over the ridge of mountains behind Charlotte Amalie, on the north side of the island. However, if you have time then start off going east, along the coastal road as this way you will see a considerable amount of the real St Thomas, including sleepy fishing villages, houses precariously clinging to the mountain slopes and tropical flowers and trees in abundance. Stop off at Sapphire Beach, a truly stunning bay with golden sand and azure sea, which is normally less busy than the famous Magens Bay. Skyline Drive offers breathtaking views of the Charlotte Amalie coast, and Drake’s Seat, which overlooks Drake’s Passage has stunning views of the harbor and the islands beyond.
If you have sufficient time it is well worth hiring a car in St Thomas, and it will enable you to see much more of this delightful island.
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