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No passport needed for Caribbean vacation

No passport. No problem, “mon!” The United States Virgin Islands — St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John — welcomes you, and as U.S. citizens, you just need proof of citizenship, not a passport.

Purchased as a refueling stop for the Navy early in the 20th century, the U.S. Virgin Islands are one of America’s true treasures and vacation playgrounds.

Often a port of call on Eastern Caribbean cruises they offer plenty of amenities and adventures for a week’s vacation.

My favorite island is St. John, the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands. It retains a tranquil, unspoiled beauty uncommon in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world.

Settled in the early 1700s by Danish immigrants attracted to the island’s potential as a sugar cane producing colony, St. John soon blossomed into a thriving economy.

The island’s unspoiled forests and stunning beaches attracted the attention of wealthy families who sought privacy and tranquility on the island.

At Trunk Bay an underwater snorkel trail with descriptive placards describes the abundant colorful fish and coral that you’ll swim through.

Cruz Bay is one of the small settlements on the island and it reminded me of something out a Hemmingway novel and a Jimmy Buffet ballad. It’s a ferry stop town with quaint shops, bars, restaurants and plenty of local characters with island charm.

I was in on a day excursion from a cruise so I couldn’t spend the night on the island but one choice of lodging would be the Gallows Point Resort.

It’s a short stroll from Cruz Bay and this place offers plenty of Caribbean ambience and island-style suites.

What really impressed me were the incredible views available from the sleeping rooms and public areas.

This is also home to ZoZo’s Ristorante, one of the island’s hottest restaurants. This is an upscale resort but worth it.

My day trip is ending as it is time to catch the last ferry back over to St. Thomas and Charlotte Amalie, the capitol of the USVI.

The island of St. Thomas combines the natural beauty of the tropics with much of it landscape still pristine and preserved plus with an energetic, cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the United States Virgin Islands, is the most visited port in the Caribbean and boasts one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.

The city’s reputation as the shopping mecca of the Caribbean attracts visitors from around the world who are drawn to its elegant dining, exciting nightlife and international, duty-free shopping.

The city is scattered around the harbor with plenty of narrow cobblestone streets quaint shops and cafes.

Beyond the port city you will discover a mountainous island. St. Thomas offers stunning vistas in all directions, with views of the Caribbean from 1,500 feet above sea level. Breathtaking natural wonders like magnificent Magens Bay and Drake’s Seat are also world- renowned.

For the sports-minded, St. Thomas is well known for its world-class yachting and sport fishing, and welcomes golf enthusiasts to the George and Tom Fazio-designed Mahogany Run Course.

After a long day of strolling, browsing, sightseeing and/or shopping there are a few waterfront cafes where you can enjoy an adult beverage and some Caribbean inspired cuisine.

Unfortunately one my favorite haunts on the harbor the Hard Rock Café has closed. Another island favorite the Mountain Top Bar world famous for their island views and Banana Daiquiris recently ceased operations due to a fire.

After a wonderful day here it is time to head back to the cruise ship and set sail for St Croix.

A short flight or ferry ride away is St. Croix is the largest of the United States Virgin Islands — 28 miles long and seven miles at its widest point. The island lies entirely in the Caribbean Sea, with all the beauty and warmth of a tropical destination.

However, it is this island’s distinct history and cultural heritage that set it apart from other Caribbean islands.

St. Croix is rich in diverse history that remains alive in the architecture, national parks, historic landmarks, botanical attractions, food, music and traditions that are an integral part of island life.

One of the major features that separate St. Croix from the rest of the islands is the Divi Carina Bay Casino.

Located on a quiet expanse of beach this property offers Caribbean eloquence along with the excitement of Vegas style gaming.

Remember that you do not need a passport to visit the Virgins. Just an official government issued photo identification card and official birth certificate are the required travel documents.

Do it all or do nothing at all! These options abound in the United States Virgin Islands.

For more information visit islands’ tourism office at http://www.usvitourism.vi/homepage or contact your favorite travel agent/tour operator.