The Windward Passage Hotel, St. Thomas

Blackbeards Castle Resort
Blackbeards Castle Resort

 

Looking for a modest priced hotel in St. Thomas right in the center of the action in Charlotte Amalie?

The Windward Passage is not a fancy beachfront resort but it is a moderately priced accommodation for the budget minded in an excellent location in Charlotte Amalie.

We’ve been kicking around the Caribbean for over forty years. Our business has taken us to well near three quarters of the Caribbean’s islands, several more times than we can count. At one point we were making plans to move to St. Croix but a storm named Hugo changed our minds. We have also operated a couple of offices in the islands and our children refer to a number of islanders as their aunts and uncles.

The Mamas & Papas 1965
The Mamas & Papas 1965

My first visit to the Caribbean was in 1965 when my Navy ship stopped in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas for three days. There was a popular club called Lion in the Sun where a band called the Mamas and the Papas were playing at night, usually after working restaurants and bars in the Creeque Alley area during the day (thus their song Creeque Alley). I was a diver and St. Thomas was my first visit to a coral reef and from that day on I was hooked on the Caribbean.

During our business travel days we rarely stayed at beach resorts but used hotels that catered to business travelers. We had a number of accounts in St. Thomas that required frequent attention so we were there often. Our favorite hotel in Charlotte Amalie was the Windward Passage.

The Windward Passage, is a large waterfront hotel in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Overlooking the picturesque Charlotte Amalie Harbor, it is a business-class hotel centrally located just steps away from duty free shops, good restaurants and nightlife. The hotel is a large building with clean, nice-sized rooms. It also offers complimentary van service to the airport, the beautiful white sands of Magen’s Bay Beach, Coral World, an underwater marine park and observatory, “The Sky Ride” cable car that takes you 700 feet above sea level, and the “99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie”* for the most amazing views of the Caribbean. With a good location on the Harbor in Charlotte Amalie it makes for convenient day trips to neighboring St. John. There is a ferry to St. John that leaves the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie several times a day for a $20 round trip (there is more frequent service from Red Hook).

We have some fond memories of this place as our oldest son, who is now in his thirties took his first steps at this hotel.

*Step streets in Charlotte Amalie are historical walkways called 99 steps (actually more than 99) and were built in the seventeen hundreds from the ballast bricks of the ships coming from the old world.

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Port of Call Nassau, Bahamas

A favorite port for three and four day cruises out of Florida and returning longer cruises, Nassau has a lot to offer.

Where You’re Docked

Cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf, sometimes as many as five are there at once. The wharf is located right in downtown Nassau with a large number of good restaurants and plenty of “duty free” shopping. The island is also famous for it numerous great beaches as well as coral reefs, sport fishing and boating.

 

Crossing a bridge in downtown Nassau gets you to Paradise Island, home of the resort Atlantis and others resorts. It is a two mile walk over the Paradise Island you can walk across the bridge.

Downtown Nassau, The Bahamas
Downtown Nassau, The Bahamas
Transportation
harbour light
Harbour Entrance

If you just want to walk around and see the town it is only a short stroll to downtown. You can rent cars and scooters right at the wharf as well as book land and water tours. Taxis are readily available but you should negotiate price before heading out.

Currency

The countries currency is the Bahamas Dollar which is on par with the U.S. Dollar. U.S. Dollars are readily accepted.

Cruise ships in port
Cruise ships in port
Attractions

Three miles east along the north shore out of Nassau is the exclusive Cable Beach area, a resort beach with great beaches and a number of good restaurants and hotels. Again near town there is also Paradise Island and the Atlantis resort (often cruise ships offer day tours over to Atlantis).

Atlantis
Atlantis
  • Atlantis on Paradise Island   A destination all on its own. FeaturesWater park, aquariums, beaches. Requires admission (day pass) unless you are a resort guest.
  • Fort Fincastle  1793 stone fort & former lighthouse
  • Ardastra Gardens Zoo, gardens & conservation center
  • Prince George Wharf    Cruise-ship dock with tour vendors
  • Clifton Heritage Park .  Nature trails, historic ruins & beaches
  • Dolphin Cay Atlantis &
  • Bahamas Dolphins Adventure . Marine habitat with dolphin interaction
  • Marine Habitat at Atlantis .   Large aquarium at an upscale resort
  • Fort Charlotte .  1788 stone fort with moats & dungeons
  • Queen’s Staircase .  Stone staircase, circa 1793
  • Pirates of Nassau .  Pirate museum with replica ship
  • National Art Museum .  Local history & art in a historic villa
  • Sea Trek Helmet Diving

 

Good links for additional information:

 

Cruise Port St. George, Grenada

St George Harbor

Once an out-of-the-way island, Grenada is gaining in popularity as a cruise ship port of call. The capital of St. George is considered by many as one of the Caribbean’s most picturesque towns wrapping around a half-moon shaped harbor. Called the spice island it is also a great place to shop for nutmeg and other spices.

 

Where the Ship Docks – St. George has a well equipped cruise pier and terminal located below Fort St. George and attached to the Esplanade shopping mall.

Fort St. George sits above the town.
Grand Anse Beach

Transportation – Getting around the island usually requires a taxi, water taxi or renting a car. Rental cars are available in St. George but you will need to pay about EC$30 for a temporary drivers license.

Taxis – Taxi fares are reasonably inexpensive with a trip around town costing less than EC$11 or US$4 or out to Grand Anse Beach for EC$27 or US$10.

Money – Grenada is part of a group of islands that form a common market and use the Eastern Caribbean Dollar with EC$2.67 equal to one US Dollar. US Dollars and credit cards are normally accepted.

Christ of the Deep statue

Attractions –

Beaches – Grenada has an abundance of great beaches but the most popular is Grand Anse Beach not far from St. George.

The Rain Forest – This island is blessed with some of the richest rain forests in the Caribbean offering a number of nature trails and waterfalls to visit.

Grenada Rainforest

Spices – Known as the spice island you can find dozens of opportunities to buy spices at really remarkable prices. If you have the time take a tour of a plantation. One of the most popular spices grown here is nutmeg.

Port of Call Grand Cayman

General – George Town, Grand Cayman is a major cruise destination for Western Caribbean cruises. It is a modern town with good duty free shopping along with a number of good tour itineraries. The port requires tendering but the tender pier is right in town.

Transportation – There are basically three ways to get around this island:

Bus System – Cayman actually has a pretty efficient bus system with fares starting at CI$2.50. The central bus terminal is located in central George Town.

Taxis – Taxis a are readily available but like most thing is Cayman can be pricey.

Rental Cars – Cars are pretty easy to arrange but can be a bit expensive. Remember the drive on the left.

Sting Ray City

Money – The local currency is CI$ and is fixed at an exchange of US$1.25 to CI$1.00, so remember that everything is 20% more expensive than it seems. The US$ is readily accepted.

Local Attractions – Beaches, beaches, beaches with the centerpiece being Seven Mile Beach with its resort hotels and restaurants. The island is also a scuba and snorkeling paradise. Grand Cayman was the originator of the stingray tour called Sting Ray City.

Other attractions include swim with the dolphins at  Dolphin Discovery, The Cayman Turtle Center, Crystal Caves and visiting Hell (a gift shop with famous post office).

 

The Cruise Port of Barbados

               * Distance to Bridgetown

General – Barbados is in the Lesser Antilles, the eastern most island in the Caribbean. It is an independent British Commonwealth nation, bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean and on the west by the Caribbean Sea.

 

Where You’re Docked – Cruise ships dock at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal and free shuttles take passengers from the ships to the terminal building. There are lots of shops inside the terminal and WI FI is available but not free. A walkway into Bridgetown runs along the waterfront. The distance is approximately one mile. Most stores are open during the week but close at noon on Saturday and are not open on Sunday.

Transportation – There are lots of taxies available from the cruise terminal area. The fares are regulated by the government so it is important to agree on a price before the trip. The Georgetown Bus Terminal is located two blocks outside the port area, behind Pelican Village. Exact fares must be paid for bus rides and tokens can be purchased at the bus terminal. Rental cars are available but the rates are fairly steep, driving is on the left side of the road and, once you leave the city areas, many roads do not have name sig

Money – The official currency is the Barbados dollar (BBD) but US dollars (not coins) are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = BBD $2.00.

 

 

Nearby trips:

There are many beautiful beaches in Barbados but the easiest one to get to is Boatyard Beach on Carlisle Bay. It is about a 20 minute walk from the terminal or an inexpensive taxi ride. A fee of $20.00 is charged to use the facilities which include a beach chair, shared umbrella, one cocktail, WIFI and free transport back to the ship.

Mount Gay Rum Distillery in Brandons, St. Michaels offers tours Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday. The current fee is $20.00 which includes a presentation on the rum’s history and a tasting. Tickets can be booked online.

Harrison’s Cave in St. Thomas is a network of caves, waterfalls, lakes and streams approximately 170 feet below ground. Tours are offered daily for a fee. The area above ground is a good place to spot green monkeys.

Earthworks Pottery is located mid island in St. Thomas Parish. It is an opportunity to view local potters at work and purchase some hand made souvenirs. Closed Sunday.

George Washington House in Bush Hill welcomes visitors Monday through Saturday. It is the only place outside the United States that George Washington ever visited.

Bathsheba on the rugged Atlantic coast (eastern shore) is a great place to see surfers and enjoy a lunch at one of the local restaurants.

Black Pearly Party Cruises provides a 4 hour trip on the Jolly Roger which includes a buffet lunch, swimming, snorkeling, dancing and unlimited house drinks. The price is just under $90.00 with discounts for online booking and groups.

IMPORTANT – Do not wear camouflage clothing as it is illegal in Barbados; Only smoke in designated areas; Avoid touching or standing under the big shady Manshineel Trees as they are poisonous. Most of these trees are marked in red or banded in red.

 

Cruise Port Antigua, W.I.

General – The sovereign state of Antigua & Barbuda is located in the middle of the Leeward Islands chain, between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In 2017, most of Barbuda’s infrastructure was destroyed by Hurricane Irma and the population was evacuated to Antigua. Rebuilding will be a slow and painful process as resources are extremely limited.

Where You’re Docked – The cruise ships normally dock at Heritage Quay or Redcliff Quay in the downtown area of St. John’s, the capital and largest city on the island. If there are a lot of ships in port, some may dock at the Deep Water Harbour Terminal approximately 1.5 miles from the city. It is best to take a taxi from this area as there are no sidewalks going into St. John’s from this location. There are plenty of shops and restaurants in the Quay area although many are closed on Sundays and public holidays. There are also several spots that offer WI-FI for either a small fee or free with a purchase. The beautiful St. John’s Cathederal which dates back to 1845 is a beautiful historic site to visit right in town.

Transportation – There are lots of taxi cabs available from the cruise dock area. Many taxis have a fixed fare set by the government but you can try to negotiate your fare before agreeing on the trip. There is limited public bus service but it can be complicated to use and very time consuming. Rental cars can be expensive because, in addition to the rental rate, a $20.00 temporary driving permit is required.

Money – The official currency is the East Caribbean dollar (EC) but US dollars are widely accepted. The current exchange rate is US $1.00 = EC$2.70.

Nearby trips:

Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. For tourists, one of the more popular ones is Dickenson Bay, approximately 15 minutes from St. Johns. It offers a lively atmosphere with restaurants, bars and resorts.

Best view of the island is from Shirley Heights which also offers a nice restaurant for a meal with a spectacular view. A visit can be easily incorporated with a trip to Nelson’s Dockyard, the only working Georgian Dockyard in the Caribbean.

English Harbor is the main town in the south and it is the heart of the yachting community.

A visit to Barbuda is possible via the Barbuda Express, a 90 minute ferry service operating from the ferry dock in St. John’s. The ferry runs 6 days a week (not on Wednesday) with one departure and one arrival daily. Adult r/t tickets run $85.00 and children’s are less. Advance reservations are recommended.

 

St. Thomas USVI Cruise Ports

St. Thomas is the most populated of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is a major port of call for Caribbean cruise itineraries. There are two widely separated cruise ship docks so you should try and check out where your ship will dock. It will either be Crown Bay west of Charlotte Amalie or The West Indian Company Dock next to Havensight just to the east of town.

Crown Bay Dock – Getting into Charlotte Amalie from the Crown Bay dock, which used to be referred to as the Sub Base area, will require a taxi or a tourist bus. Walking is a bout 1.75 miles along busy roadways.

Havensight Docks – There is a great walking trail less than a mile and a half along the water from the docks near Havensight, which goes thru the shops

West Indian Company Dock

of Yacht Haven and into Charlotte Amalie. Yacht Haven is an upscale marina with a number of designer shops along with cafes, bars and a good grocery store. It’s also from Havensight where you catch the cable car up to Blackbeard’s Castle Resort for a drink and to take in the views.

Getting Around – The best way of getting from either dock into Charlotte Amalie is to take a tourist bus (of which there are plenty) currently $4 per person each way. Traveling around the island it would be best to hire a taxi or rent a car (remember the island drives on the left side)

You can also take a ferry  over to St. Johns for the day. St. Johns is the other US Virgin Island and is mostly preserved as a National Park. If you go, don’t forget your beach gear, mask and snorkel as St. John is famous for Trunk Bay with its beach and its laid-out snorkeling trails. The shortest ferry route is between Red Hook on St.Thomas and Cruz Bay on StJohn. That trip costs $6.00 each way, takes approximately 20 minutes and runs hourly between 6:00 am and Midnight. A longer ferry route runs from downtown Charlotte Amalie to Cruz Bay.

Places to Visit -Take some time to get over to the far side of the island to visit Megan’s Bay, which is consistently named one of the world’s ten best beaches.  Frenchman’s Reef beach is still a good choice and the reef is about 100 yards from shore.  We would also recommend a visit to the sea life park, Coral World, especially if you have younger children with you.

In Charlotte Amalie the main downtown stretches about ten blocks west from the fort along the waterfront. The waterfront road is Veterans Highway and one block up is Kronprindsens Gade with dozens of alleys and streets connecting the two. Stroll down the ten blocks of Kronprindsens Gade for some good duty free shopping or visit the shops, cafes and galleries in the many alleys with names like Drakes Passage and Creque’s Alley.

Again remember the island drives on the left side so fight your instincts and look right before crossing streets.