by James Daniel
If someone told you they were going to go on a large luxury ship like Princess Cruises, with swimming pools, restaurants and live entertainment available, in a setting that allowed them to visit exotic islands, with palm fringed beaches, where the pearl white sand runs between their toes, would you be envious? Chances are you would, but by booking your own cruise to the US Virgin Islands, you could save yourself the envy and impress friends and family with your own holiday anecdotes.
The Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands, named by Sir Christopher Columbus after Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgins, lies on the border of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean, making it perfect for cruising out from the US mainland. There are some 60 plus islands, many uninhabited, but the main ones are St Croix (rich in cultural history), St Thomas (perfect for tourism and entertainment) and St John (a gem of an island that is host to a national park).
Why tour here? Well, how about for sailing, kiteboarding, fishing and deep diving in crystal clear waters? How about dinning on fresh lobster or conch, or having a beach barbeque as the sun sets behind the palm trees? You could follow hiking trails to one of the many abandoned sugar plantations, or taste the exquisite rum, aged in barrels for up to twelve years, all at half the price of that found on the US mainland. No wonder tourists go home clutching armfuls of duty-free products.
During your stay, you can take local ferries to many other islands and see such sites as Fort Frederiksted, an abandoned Colonial fortification, or visit nature reserves. Water Island has just 200 resident people and incredible beaches, including one called Honeymoon Beach, which is unsurprisingly popular with couples. Time your trip to coincide with one of the many island carnivals, which are full of colour, dance, singing and the calypso.
You will have no difficulty being understood as the language is English with an Afro-Caribbean twist, but be prepared to barter if you see something you’d like to buy. The climate is tropical, so be aware that you may get very hot and slightly sweaty if you take up the offer to dance.
Once you have had your fill of all the wonders that these islands have to offer, you can return to the five star facilities on your luxury cruise ship. With everything from spas, indoor and outdoor sports and fitness centres, massage rooms, casinos and entertainment venues found on board, there’s sure to be something to keep you occupied. Fleets of cruise ships take over a million passengers a year and a single cruise ship may have as many as 3,000 people on board, including 1,000 or so staff members, meaning you’ll always have access to the help and assistance you need.