(Also posted on the USVI Online Forum at http://www.usvi-on-line.com/usviforum.html)
Just returned from 12 days in the glorious Caribbean, including the last 6 on St. John (first 6 were on Virgin Gorda, where we stayed at the Mango Bay Resort). On the off chance that someone is interested, I'll post a summary of our trip here, and please post any questions.
How we got there -- From Virgin Gorda, we took Speedy's ferry ($10 ea.) to Road Town, Tortola. Then, we took a taxi to West End ($20 total), and caught the Island Princess ($22 ea.) ferry to Cruz Bay where we cleared Customs.
On a unrelated note, when we first arrived in STT, we couldn't get off the plane because of a supposed bomb scare at the airport. Fortunately, it's a small airport, and since it was raining at the time, we didn't mind waiting. Happily, everything was fine and we were off to the BVI for a few days before continuing to STJ.
Where we stayed -- Estate Lindholm, for the second year in a row. My wife and I will continue to return to this place in the future until we need something bigger and rent a villa; for now, it's perfect for the two of us. It's just up the hill from Cruz Bay and has spectacular views, even from a "garden" room. You can't beat the complimentary breakfast, since it's a great way to fill up before hitting the beach. There's a dip pool to cool off, and cable TV and AC in the rooms. And of course Lauren and Brion are wonderful hosts.
How we got around -- We rented a Suzuki Vitara from Cool Breeze Rentals in Cruz Bay. I liked the fact that they didn't try to even offer any sort of optional "damage waiver". Their cars seemed very new -- I don't think our Vitara had 2000 miles on it -- and they even picked us up. The Vitara is 4WD and has a soft-top that acts like a sunroof. Driving left was pretty easy since most roads are single-lane each way. On STT, I don't know if I could handle those multi-lane roads ;-)
Where we ate -- For dinner: Ellington's (Gallows Point), Morgan's Mango, The Lime Inn, Asolare, Uncle Joe's BBQ, and the Banana Deck. Liked all except for the Banana Deck. Morgan's Mango and Uncle Joe's are real deals -- high quality for the money. Morgan's Mango has a lime juice-vodka cocktail that should be outlawed, it's so good. For lunch: We mostly packed a lunch for the beach. Otherwise, we tried Columbo(?) Cafe at the junction of Routes 20 and 10 (great smoothies) near the top of the Bordeaux peak, Miss Lucy's, and the new bakery above the new StarFish market.
Where we beached ourselves -- We liked Cinnamon Bay last year, and went there again many times this year. It's a fair size, so there's enough space for everyone, with ample parking. Plus there's a nice little key about 50 yards out for snorkeling, and calm water for swimming.
Also went to Hawksnest and Salt Pond Bay. Skipped Trunk (too many cruise ship tours) and Maho (been there last year). Brought our own snorkel gear, which added to our luggage, but otherwise was worth it (try a "dry" snorkel!).
Made the hike to Honeymoon Beach from the Lind Point trail. In the future, we'd take the trail from Caneel -- seemed much easier. We were somewhat annoyed when, moments after we arrived at quiet Honeymoon Beach, a catamaran from Bolongo Bay arrived and unloaded 20 or so snorkelers right in front of where we had just sat down. However, we're sharing people, and just moved down the beach; no big deal. We were most annoyed when another snorkel "ship" arrived (forgot the name), dropped anchor in the middle of the budding reef on the right side (I thought you weren't supposed to do this) and discharged 30 or so snorkelers. Oh well -- off to another glorious beach.
Where we spent money -- The wife loves shopping (surprise!), and we hit the stores in Mongoose Junction, and Pink Papaya and Anyting. She also got a manicure at the spa in Mongoose Junction. We took a 1/2 day kayak trip thru Arawark Expeditions, which took us out to Honeymoon and then Henley(?) Cay for some good snorkeling.
How we left -- Took the 11:15 a.m. ferry from Cruz Bay to Charlotte Amalie ($7 ea.). It was crowded because the earlier one had been cancelled (mechanical problem?). The winds were stronger that day, so the ride was more bumpy than usual. Then, took a taxi from CA to the airport ($6 ea., plus $2 for bags).
What we noticed -- Cruz Bay seemed a lot busier and built up than last year. Parking can be a bit tight during the day. Usually, we just parked at the bottom of the hill and walked the rest of the way, rather than circling for a spot.
The new StarFish Market complex is only half done or so, but already has a video rental store, gym, plus the aforementioned supermarket and bakery. Prices are generally what we expected: slightly higher than what we're used to here in the metro Northeast, but cheaper than on Virgin Gorda.
The island seemed slightly greener than our trip last year; we assumed there was more rain this time. There appeared to be more mosquitos than what we saw last year at the same time; this is probably because it was wetter. Didn't run into any no-seeums.
A few "locals" that we talked to said that this is also a busy time for weddings, and we noticed quite a few wedding groups at restaurants and on the beaches. Nevertheless, it was not _that_ busy, especially at restaurants midweek, as we only had to make reservations for Asolare. I guess it has been a while since there has been a hurricane, and apparently one of the side effects of a that is a growth in tourism.
What we'd do differently next time -- Pack less. We tried to under-pack this year, and still brought too much. If you're wearing a bathing suit for most of the day, you really don't need that many clothes. I suppose that doesn't really register when you're trying to pack with snow outside!
Since this was our second trip, we didn't feel the need to redo the Reef Bay Trail hike (recommended) or a day sail like the Stormy Petrel (highly recommended). Perhaps next time...
We can't wait until our next trip! Please post any questions. Thanks!