The thought of cruising to St. Thomas brings but one thing to mind to Onboard.com contributor Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon: duty-free shopping.
This Caribbean destination is home to practically as many boutiques as it is to shoreside cabanas, selling everything from artisanal goods (think dolls made by local designer Gwendolyn Harley) and liquors to high-end jewelry and diamonds, the latter of which you can find at a bargain (Sarah recently scooped up a pair of diamond studs on sale at a price too good to pass up!).
With so many options where and reasons to swipe your credit card, here’s a condensed guide to St. Thomas shopping tailored to help you get the most of your time in port. Combining one part shopping with one part authentic island eating, we've narrowed down the places to see, stores to shop and restaurants where you'll want to stop and refuel.
Shopping in Charlotte Amalie
Your cruise ship will likely dock at Havensight in Charlotte Amalie, where, just steps away, is a sizeable, namesake mall that houses more than 60 stores. Casual shoppers looking for a retail experience that’s convenient and easily accessible should look here to find an array of vendors selling perfume, liquor, electronics and more.
From Havensight, head to the waterfront city-center less than 10 minutes away (contingent on traffic), home to colorful shops housed in converted, 17th-century warehouses. The selection is not only greater but, as you stroll Dronningens Gade you’ll also get to see a slice of authentic island life as St. Thomians conduct business on streets lined with picturesque, Danish colonial buildings.
Take time to explore arcades with evocative names such as Drake’s Passage, Raadets Gade, Palm Passage and Hibiscus Alley, where you’ll find chic boutiques, artisans’ outlets and outdoor restaurants and bars.
The Petite Pump Room
A highly recommended respite by tourists and locals alike is the Petite Pump Room on Veterans Drive, a second-floor eatery with breezy balconies fit for people watching, soaking in the Caribbean views and glimpsing the seaplanes during take off and landing at the terminal next door. The menu features local dishes as well as American favorites for the less adventurous, like burgers or Cobb salad. Keep an eye out for lunch specials like the playfully dubbed “Old Wife,”,a fried local fish with sides of plantain, pumpkin and fungi, a popular okra-and-polenta mash. Whatever you order, don’t miss their version of the Painkiller cocktail, made the traditional way with Pusser’s Rum from the neighboring British Virgin Islands.
About a 15 minute walk west of the restaurant, on Norre Gade Street, is Zora , where owner Zora Galvin (and now her daughter and son-in-law) has been handcrafting leather sandals since 1962. You’ll find a large ready-to-wear collection of men’s and women’s sandals but it’s Zora’s namesake footwear — customized in the color of your choice with orthotic inserts for maximum comfort — that are her claim to fame. They’re not cheap at upwards of $200 a pair, but they’ll last you for decades. Make Zora’s your first stop when you arrive in port and you might be able to leave with your custom sandals in hand. Otherwise production takes two days, and they’ll mail them to you.
Either way, you’ll have plenty to say the next time someone asks, “Where did you get those sandals?”