April 13, 2004 — Decked out in shorts, capris and sneakers, a small group of Danish visitors browsed through the heart of Charlotte Amalie on Tuesday on a "city walk" that gave them a "little taste of home."
They were part of the 125 Danes who came over to St. Thomas on Friday for a week after spending a week on St. Croix as part of the inaugural Danish West Indies Travel Agency's biweekly charters from Denmark.
Most of the 10 Danes — guided by their tour leaders, Paul Thorsoe and Mikkel Christensen — were pleased to learn about the history of St. Thomas.
One place in particular — the restored Haagensen House behind Hotel 1829 — brought lots of smiles to the faces of the Danes, as familiar pieces of furniture and artwork briefly transported them to a time when Denmark owned the Virgin Islands.
A 1948 painting by Sikker Hansen that stands out in the living room area of the house caught the attention of Leif Christensen, who is visiting with his wife, Birte. The painting depicts a black pirate and black slaves and bears the inscription "Trade by Sea, Kronborg" in Danish.
"It is very fun to see that kind of poster in this house," Christensen exclaimed, adding that Kronborg was a fort in Denmark similar to Fort Christian. He pointed to other paintings as he walked through the house proudly stating the museums they came from.
Christensen said he is enjoying his visit to the Virgin Islands. "Everything has exceeded my expectation," he said.
Birte Christensen said she also has had no disappointments on the trip so far. "We have never had a cause for concern," she said. "If I have the money, I would like to come back again."
The group listened intently as Denise Davis spoke to them of Mr. Haagensen and his wife, Lady Magens, for whom Magens Bay was named.
Britta Frandsen, who is visiting with her husband, Ib, said her favorite part of the trip so far has been the time spent at the Caravelle Hotel in Christiansted. Frandsen said she also is relishing the "beautiful" native food.
"What I think of when traveling is how the people live," Frandsen said, adding that she enjoyed the tropical salads she had at the Caravelle.
To market the Virgin Islands, Frandsen had this advice: "You should try to keep the level of St. Croix where Danes would pay a certain price. Don't go too low. Don't give your culture away." And she added, don't make the culture too "Americanized."
The group visited St. Croix for a week and in on St. Thomas now for a week on the first in a series of Danish charter excursions that are scheduled every two weeks for the next 10 months with a break at the height of hurricane season.
On the St. Thomas portion, the visitors are staying at the Holiday Inn Windward Passage Hotel, Sapphire Beach Resort and Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort.
"These are the hotels that we offer to them to stay in," Mikkel Christensen said.
The Danish visitors could opt to spend their two weeks in a variety of ways — all on St. Croix, all on St. Thomas or all on St. John at the Westin Resort. Or they could divide their time between St. Thomas and St. Croix in either order.
"The prices are billed week by week," Mikkel Christensen said.
Of the 125 Danes currently in the St. Thomas-St. John district, 19 are staying at the Westin on St. John, he said.
Mikkel Christensen said his job is to "take care of the guests and make sure everything goes okay." He added that he has been working five years as a tour guide, but this is his first time in the Virgin Islands.
The weekly schedule for the St. Thomas excursions is as follows:
Sunday — service at Frederick Lutheran Church.
Monday — island tour by safari bus.
Tuesday — guided walk through historic downtown Charlotte Amalie.
Wednesday — tour of St. John.
Thursday — visit to Coral World.
Friday — arrival and departure.
"To visit the church on the islands is a big thing for the Danes, because it is very formal in Denmark," Thorsoe said. He added that the various excursions are all optional for the visitors.
According to Thorsoe, 25 percent of the Danes in this inaugural charter group are not senior citizens. "It is still largely senior citizens who remember how the Danish islands were sold to the United States," he added.
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