A number of major airlines have regularly scheduled nonstop air service from cities all over North America into St. Thomas—the major international gateway to the Virgins. But most flights include stopovers in Miami or San Juan. Currently, there are no direct flights from North America or Europe to any of the British Virgin Islands. Anyone planning to visit the B.V.I. will likely have to fly into St. Thomas, San Juan (Puerto Rico), or Miami and make a connection by ferry or air in lieu of a direct flight (there are also connections through St. Kitts and Antigua). Those traveling from overseas will also most likely make a connection in St. Thomas, St. Croix, or San Juan after first connecting in the mainland U.S.
The major airports in the Virgin Islands are the Cyril E. King Airport (tel 340/774-5100; www.viport.com/airports.html; airport code STT) in St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport, Estate Mannings Bay (tel 340/778-1012; airport code STX), on St. Croix. From these airports, you can take ferries or small planes on to your destination in the Virgin Islands.
For more information on getting to each island, see the “Getting There” sections in the individual island chapters.
By Cruise Ship
The Virgin Islands are a popular stop for cruise ships traveling the Caribbean, in particular Charlotte Amalie in St. Thomas, one of the world’s busiest cruise ports, which welcomed nearly 1,800,000 cruise passengers in 2012, and that number was expected to rise by 7.8 percent for the 2013/2014 season. In comparison, the historic waterfront of St. Croix saw the arrival of only 117,000 cruise passengers in 2012. Tortola recorded nearly 400,000 cruise passengers in 2012 but lost a big chunk of its market when Carnival Cruise Line announced in late 2013 that it would suspend travel to Tortola indefinitely while the island overhauls its docking facilities.
The Cruise Lines -- Most of the major cruise lines include regular stops in St. Thomas in their Caribbean itineraries, including the biggest cruise ships in the world, such as the Royal Caribbean’s mega ships Allure of the Sea and Oasis of the Sea, each with a maximum passenger capacity of more than 6,000 people; Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic; and Princess Cruise Line’s Royal Princess.
The port at Charlotte Amalie is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports, welcoming nearly 1,800,000 cruise passengers in 2012 (the last date for which there are figures). Cruise ships dock at one of two major piers, each with room for two mega-ships at a time: Havensight Pier and Crown Bay. In high season for cruising, it’s not unusual to have an additional one or two ships anchored in the harbor, delivering cruise-ship passengers to shore in tenders.A number of smaller cruise ships visit the waters of the Virgin Islands without docking, including Club Med, Star Clipper, and Windsar Cruises.
Cruise lines that make stops in St. Croix included Celebrity (Summit, Century); Norwegian Cruise Line (Jewel); Royal Caribbean (Vision, Adventure); Holland America (Maasdam); and Silversea (Silver Cloud).
Cruise lines that dock in Road Town, Tortola, include Regent Seven Seas (Windstar); Costa Cruise Lines (Costa Magica); Crystal; Celebrity; Royal Caribbean (Jewel of the Seas); Cunard; Holland America; Silver Seas (Silver Spirit); and P&O Cruises (Arcadia).
Carnival Cruise Lines (tel. 888/CARNIVAL [227-6482]; www.carnival.com) offers affordable vacations on some of the biggest and most brightly decorated ships afloat. It's the richest, boldest, brashest, and most successful mass-market cruise line in the world. Its boats leave from Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Mobile, Port Canaveral, and San Juan, and stop over at selected ports throughout the eastern and western Caribbean, including St. Thomas, St. Lucia, San Juan, St. Martin, Barbados, Martinique, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. Most of its cruises offer good value, last from 4 to 8 days, and feature nonstop activities, lots of glitter, and the hustle and bustle of armies of passengers and crew members embarking and disembarking at every port.
Celebrity Cruises (tel. 877/202-4345; www.celebrity-cruises.com) maintains 10 medium to large ships offering cruises of between 7 and 11 nights to such ports as Key West, San Juan, Grand Cayman, St. Thomas, Ocho Rios, Antigua, and Cozumel, Mexico, among others. The line is unpretentious and classy (several notches above mass market), but offers pricing that's nonetheless relatively competitive. Accommodations are roomy and well equipped, and the cuisine is among the most refined on the seas.
Princess Cruises (tel. 800/PRINCESS [774-6237]; www.princess.com) places more emphasis on luxury living on a mass scale than any other line afloat. The company's ships usually carry fewer passengers than similarly sized vessels on other lines. Cruises last between 7 and 15 days, and include stops at such islands as Aruba, Barbados, Caracas, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Martin, St. Kitts, and St. Thomas.
Royal Caribbean International (tel. 866/562-7625; www.royalcaribbean.com) leads the industry in the development of megaships. This mainstream, mass-market cruise line encourages a restrained house-party atmosphere that's somehow a bit less frenetic than that of other "party-style" cruise lines. Though accommodations and accouterments are more than adequate, they are not upscale, and cabins aboard some of the line's older vessels tend to be a bit more cramped than the industry norm. Using Miami, San Juan, or Fort Lauderdale as their home ports, Royal Caribbean ships call regularly at such ports as St. Thomas, San Juan, Ocho Rios, St. Martin, Grand Cayman, St. Croix, and Curaçao. Most of the company's cruises last for 7 days, although some weekend jaunts from San Juan to St. Thomas are available for 3 nights.
Seabourn Cruise Line (tel. 800/929-9391; www.seabourn.com) is an upscale, expensive outfit known for luxurious, small-scale ships. Its deluxe Seabourn Legend and Seabourn Pride spend from 10 to 14 days sailing the eastern Caribbean, leaving from Fort Lauderdale. There are more activities than you'd expect aboard such relatively small ships (10,000 tons), and an absolutely amazing amount of onboard space per passenger. Cuisine is superb, served within a dining room that's unapologetically formal.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.