Wine Not?

Monday Mantra

Wine Not?

The Virgin Islands offer great deals — and good cheer — in unexpected places….

I want to drink in an alley…I want to drink in an alley…I want to drink in an alley…

DrakesPassageDuty-free shopping in St. Thomas is like a reunion with old friends. Shops like The Belgian Chocolate Factory, Diamonds International, Little Switzerland, Boolchand’s, and Effy have greeted me warmly since my very first cruise.


On a recent sailing, St. Thomas would be our embarkation point and this would be the plan: My husband, Michael, and I would fly down together. He would continue on to the ship with our luggage while I’d shoot over to Charlotte Amalie for a quick shopping spree. I’d scoop up tropical-hued sundresses from the outdoor market, a few duty-free lipsticks, and maybe another pair of The Crystal Shoppe’s fabulous, limited-edition palm tree-etched Waterford wine glasses (because I know it’s just a matter of time before I accidentally smash one that we already have into the faucet while washing it). I’d then cab it to the ship and meet Michael on board.

That was certainly my intention and, had I not strolled down Drake’s Passage, that’s probably what would have happened.

Instead, as I was nearing the waterfront, I spotted the Rum Island Pub, a tiny outside bar set up nearly at the end of the alley, its jutting awning providing a shady refuge from the blazing sun. It somehow seemed like a mirage, completely out of place in this dark, narrow alley dotted with duty-free shops. And maybe that was the appeal. I dumped my packages on the bar top, perched my butt on a barstool, and ordered a chilled glass of white wine.

StT-CharlotteAmalieView-676x1024And another.


And another.


And another.

Finally, a little woozy, a bit unsteady on my feet, I made my way out to the waterfront to hail a cab to the ship. I walked up the gangway and found my husband at a table sipping Champagne with four people I had not yet met. “You were shopping all this time?” he asked, one arm flailing while the other saluted me with his Champagne flute. “No! First I went shopping and then I was drinking in an alley,” I responded, realizing too late that the admission would not offer the best first impression to Michael’s new buddies.

As I joined them and introductions were made, a waiter approached bearing another bottle of Champagne. I looked at the bottle and then at the animated, Champagne flute–wielding people waiting for the cork to pop and realized I had nothing at all to worry about. I might have been drinking in an alley, but this group was way, way, way ahead of me.

— Judi Cuervo

Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.