This past year we took a cruise aboard the massive Norwegian Escape and it was wonderful. We are huge cruising fans and enjoy that type of family travel. One of the reasons I opted for this particular cruise this time around was the fact that we would stop in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. We had one day to spend there, which was not enough, but it was a taste.
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St. Thomas Port of Call
St. Thomas is a gorgeous port of call. So what is there to do if you have a stop in St. Thomas with children? Well, we spent our day with the kids at Coral World.
How Do I Choose a Cruise?
There are a few things I look for when choosing our family cruise. One is price. Another deciding factor for me is destination, and the ports of call along the way. We had never done an Eastern Caribbean cruise and we had never seen The British Virgin Islands or the US Virgin Islands. These ports of call were high on my wish list. So when we found a cruise with St Thomas, and The BVI, Tortola and also Bahamas well, that sealed it for me.
I made that into our Christmas present for the entire family in December and I am likely to do the same this year. Our tween and teen don’t need more gadgets, toys or clothes. Together, we all do much better when we are enjoying a vacation and doing something fun while building memories that last.
Cruising is a Gift to My Family
Travel is a gift we give the entire family. One of our first ports of call on this particular Eastern Caribbean cruise was St. Thomas. St. Thomas is picturesque and stunning. The water is sapphire blue and deep turquoise depending on the depth where you are standing or swimming. It is also extremely clear like glass which makes it exceptional for diving and snorkelling. As the ship pulled into port that morning we admired the stunning landscape and all of the small boats in the water. It is truly breathtaking.
We had chosen Coral World Ocean Park as our first family excursion of the trip. There are several things you can do in St. Thomas and perhaps I will save those for another post. We looked for an affordable excursion that our entire family would enjoy, proximity to the water and also something a bit educational. Coral World Ocean Park fit the criteria.
[tweetthis]What did @inkscrblr think of this excursion in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands? #travel[/tweetthis]
Coral World Ocean Park is a short drive from the beautiful port in St. Thomas. It is an aquarium and observatory with a few other activities on hand at the 2 acre space which also has beach access. The kids could watch nurse sharks in this pool called Shark Shallows.
I had to capture a photo of the sign that cracked me up. UM, why does this need to be stated? Do you feel the need to put your hand in a pool full of sharks? If you do then don’t visit on a day when I am nearby, please.
SNUBA looked like a lot of fun and was also actually taking place at Coral World when we were there. We didn’t sign up for that and haven’t done it yet but will try this another time. It appeared to be a controlled activity and for first timers that would be a gentle entry and a good way to try the activity.
Coral World Ocean Park has a few different exhibits. You start at the touch pool where there are a few small urchins and sea stars. You can walk the tropical nature trail and see the tortoise pen, a spacious enclosure with many iguanas hanging out inside as well. You can go through the aquarium, called Caribbean Reef Encounter, which is a fairly small spot and then you can finish the walk by the stingray enclosure and a gift shop of course. There is a rehab area for injured tortoises, but it was actually empty the day we visited in December.
It’s really a simple activity and fairly fun as well. It is not as hands on as other aquariums and activities or excursions we have done on prior trips. So, while it was a fun excursion, know that you are not going to be interacting with wildlife a whole lot while here. There is also a Lorikeet Garden which is small. This entire space is quite contained and there are ramps so strollers are fine and frankly there isn’t enough walking to be strenuous at all. The entire spot appeared to be wheelchair friendly and accessible as well. There was a person using a wheelchair traveling with our group.
Traveler Tip: Take your camera and take a snorkel with you. (or you might have to rent one other people have used) Take a few dollars or be prepared to stand on the beach. Coki beach is attached and it is small but gorgeous. Beach vendors will happily bring you a beer, but they will also charge you to sit on a chair which surprised a lot of tourists there that day.
What Did I Like?
The best part of this activity was checking out the wildlife with the kids. Coki Beach is a pretty strip of beach across a short boardwalk near a coral reef and if you chose to snorkel you could see a tonne of fish and turtles in the crystal clear water. That was really stunning.
How Was The Cost?
Actually, Coral World is not that expensive and if you book directly you could do a family day for four at $60. It is of course more money when you buy on board and have transportation included. It is not that far from port, so you could likely take a cab for under $20 together and save some money there.
There are a million iguanas roaming around the park. Watch your feet or you will get a massive shock when you find a huge iguana right beside you.
In my opinion, Coral World St. Thomas is worth a visit if you happen to be near the port. It is an 80,000 gallon living coral reef. Much of the enclosures and observatory areas are built low down into the ocean so that you can get a glimpse of underwater spaces without really even needing to get wet at all.
Traveler tip: Wear a swimsuit so you can enjoy Coki Beach.
So would I do this one again? Well, actually it was family friendly, accessible, not overly burdensome financially or strenuous. I’d suggest this with a few caveats as noted in this post.
[tweetthis]What to expect at Coral World Ocean Park #USVI #travel #cruising[/tweetthis]
So What Did We Think?
It was enjoyable for my kids. The sensory seeker had the best time of all of us, because touching sea urchins and sand and water and sea stars and starfish is pretty awesome. I generally only do an excursion once and I like to sample a huge variety of activities over time. This was fun.
Don’t forget to check out my other travel posts above.