"Cloud Nine on St. John"
by Sandy & Dave Dudich
INTRODUCTION - This is a trip report of our stay at Cloud Nine on St. John in October 2001. This was our sixth stay on St. John (and our third stay at Cloud Nine), and we have gleaned lots of useful information from the experiences of others as posted to Internet bulletin boards, so this report is, in part, a payback attempt to share our experiences with others, and, in part, a reference for our next visit. This report supplements our previous trip reports, rather than duplicates them. For additional information on St. John you might want to read "Villa Serenity on St John" at Vacation Trip Reports http://briefcase.yahoo.com/bc/dwdudic or at http://www.caribtravelnews.com/c1200_02.htm#stjsandy. If, after reading these, you have any additional question, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ST. JOHN - We first visited St. John in 1996 to celebrate Sandy's 50th birthday, and we returned to celebrate her 55th. The reasons we keep returning are that St. John is beautiful, laid-back, uncrowded, and offers beautiful beaches and great snorkeling. Because 2/3 of St. John is National Park, the population is only about 3500 people on 21 square miles, and most of the people and houses are concentrated in the Cruz Bay area.
CLOUD NINE - The three outstanding features of Cloud Nine are its location, its location, and its deck.
The first location advantage of Cloud Nine is that it is at the summit of Gifft Hill, overlooking Cruz Bay. This is a nice location , since it is close to town, centrally located, and provides a great view of St. Thomas. When we stayed there in 1996, we enjoyed rising just before sunup at 6 am and sitting in the hot tub on the deck watching the lights of the cruise ships entering Charlotte Amalie, and sitting in the hot tub after sundown at 6 pm watching the lights of the cruise ships as they left Charlotte Amalie. (Unfortunately two palm trees have since grown, blocking the view from the hot tub. However the view from the deck is still spectacular!)
The second location advantage of Cloud Nine is that there is no place nearby from which you can be seen. Since no one can see you, the only things you need wear on the deck at Cloud Nine are a smile, suntan lotion, and a hat (unless you're bald its really tough to rub suntan lotion onto your scalp!)
The third advantage of Cloud Nine is the big beautiful deck, with a gazebo for outdoor eating, a hot tub for cool mornings and evenings, and a small (8' x16' x 3') pool for cooling off when the afternoon sun gets too hot. That deck is so great that many days we never left the villa, but spent the entire day getting an all-over tan on the deck.
Cloud Nine itself consists of two buildings connected by a breezeway. One building contains the two bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, while the other contains the kitchen, living room, and a loft bedroom
WHAT TO PACK - Every trip to St. John, we've packed fewer clothes and more support supplies.
For clothing at Cloud Nine you'll need suntan lotion (lots of it - we packed 4 tubes of #30 this time) and a hat.
To go to the beach, you'll need a swimsuit, sandals, a colorful coverup, a hat, suntan lotion, bug repellant, and snorkel gear. We brought DEET 100 strength that we got at Walmart, because the no-see-ums can be really vicious. You'll also want to pack along some water bottles, as well as some granola bars or other snacks. We also brought some underwater cameras that we bought at Walmart for about $8 each. (You can bring beach chairs down from the Cloud Nine.)
To go to town (or anywhere else on St. John) you'll also need shorts and a tee-shirt, and tennis shoes if you're going hiking. And of course a fanny pack, or back pack, to carry your water bottles, suntan lotion, and bug repellent. Don't leave the villa without them!
If you pack any more clothes than these, you'll probably bring them home unworn. All my clothes fit into a one-gallon zip lock bag!
Most of our luggage was food, because we ate most of our meals at Villa Serenity. We bought a soft sided 20 can cooler at Walmart for $10.00, filled it with 5 lb. frozen shrimp, frozen steaks, frozen scallops, and other frozen foods and carried it with us on the plane. In the past we packed a lot more food, but now that the Starfish has opened a new much larger market, we were able to buy much more food on island.
When we packed, we packaged as much as possible into one quart and one gallon sliding top Zip Lock bags, in order to facilitate airport security inspections and repacking.
WHAT TO DO - We arrived on St. John on Saturday 13 Oct and didn't leave Cloud Nine until Tuesday, because a tropical disturbance brought frequent rain squalls (3 inches in 3 days), high winds, and flash flood warnings.
SNORKELLING - On Tuesday we went snorkeling at Jumbie Bay, and on Thursday at Francis Bay. However the water was still churned up and visibility poor.
SUNNING - On Wednesday, Friday and Sunday we spent the day on the deck at Cloud Nine.
BOATING - We had been looking forward to going sailing/snorkeling again on the Wayward Sailor, however it was out of the water until November. Similarly, the round island tour on Sadie Sea was not operating that week. However on Saturday we did go out with Robin and Rick Gallup on the Long Distance out of Coral Bay. On Saturday the wind was still blowing at 15 - 20 knots and the seas were choppy, so it was a poor day for snorkeling, but a great day for sailing. We went around the east end of St John, then around The Indians, over to Ramshead Point, and back to Coral Bay.
DINING - Our favorite place to eat was the deck of Cloud Nine! The kitchen is nicely equipped for preparing meals, The villa has a nice gas grill on the deck which we used to grill steaks. Other nights we had steamed shrimp with pasta, and scallops. The view of the sunset over St. Thomas was better than from any restaurant, and besides we didn't have to dress for dinner (at all!)
We finally ate cheeseburgers at Skinny Legs in Coral Bay, and they are certainly world-class.
When we left on Monday 22 October, we ate at our favorite place for breakfast - JJs Tex Mex, located at the ferry dock in Cruz Bay. They have great cheese omelets.
Miss Lucy's was closed until mid-November, so we couldn't eat there again.
GETTING AROUND ST. JOHN - This time we rented a Jeep Wrangler from St. John car rental (co-located with Uncle Joe's Ribs). (Last year when we stayed at Villa Serenity, we did not rent a car rode the Maho Bay Shuttle to get to town.) We paid $440 for 9 days use, but we actually only went somewhere 3 days, and we actually went more places last year when we had no car. I think the money spent renting a car could be better used to rent day sails! If you are staying at a villa, you can call the Taxi Stand at 693-7530, and they will send a taxi to get you.
AIR TRAVEL - Because we fly using frequent flyer miles we made our flight reservations last May, then worked the Cloud Nine reservations around them. Originally we were scheduled to fly American Airlines from Washington National to Miami to St. Thomas. However after they closed Washington National on 11 September, we were able to change our flights to BWI to Saint Thomas. This is a much more direct routing. However, because it leaves at 7:15 am, we had to get up at 3:15 am on Friday 12 October, and have The Airport Shuttle pick us up at 4:00am, in order to get through the security checkpoints. It was crush hour when we got to BWI at 4:45 am. However we were able to use the curbside check in for our luggage, and that only took about a 20 minute wait. Then we were able to bypass the ticket counter and go straight to the line for security check in, which wasn't too long, and we arrived at the gate by 5:45 am. The flight itself AA1785 BWI-SJU-STT was uneventful and we arrived in St. Thomas about 1:00 pm.
On our return from STT on Monday 22 October, the National Guard was stopping and searching each vehicle approaching the STT terminal. Once inside the terminal, the lines and inspections were no longer than normal (although they did put one of my carry on bags through the bomb detector.) We changed planes in San Juan, and there they pulled us both out of the gate check in line for a physical inspection of our carry-on bags and wanding of our persons. After that the flight was uneventful.
STAY-OVER - Because air travel to St. John in the past has been something of an adventure, we planned to spend the night at the Best Western near the STT airport. We had reservations at the Carib Beach, but it was closed, so they honored our reservations at the Emerald Beach next door. This is a much nicer place to stay then the Inn at Tamarind Court on St. John, where we had done our layover before.
A vacation on St. John is not for everyone. Its a bit of a hassle to get to, and there's no night life to speak of, but if you enjoy sun, snorkeling, and uncrowded beaches, then its for you.
Similarly, staying in a villa is not for everyone. If you like being waited on, and being entertained then you're probably better off on a cruise ship or staying at Caneel Bay.
Which villa to choose - Villa Serenity (where we stayed twice last year) or Cloud Nine? I'd choose Villa Serenity for a more adventurous, beach-oriented vacation, while I'd choose Cloud Nine for a more romantic, villa-oriented vacation. What I'd really like to do next visit is stay a week at each!
This is the third time we've stayed at St. John in mid-October, and the second time we've been "stranded" at the villa by bad weather. In addition many of the activities we were looking forward too - Wayward Sailor, Miss Lucy's, etc - just aren't open this time of year. Although chances of a hurricane are low this time of year, I think we'd be better off going in late October or early November (while we still can get summer rates at the villas.)
I'd recommend not renting a car for the entire stay, and applying that savings toward day sails. I'd go with Captain Phil on the Wayward Sailor for the snorkeling experience, and with Rick and Robin Gallup on the Long Distance for the sailing experience. I'd choose a sailboat over a power boat, and I'd choose cruising the USVI over visiting the BVI.
I'd recommend the Best Western Emerald Beach for an overnight stay on the way to St. John.
I'd recommend the ferry from Charlotte Amalie over the ferry from Red Hook.
If you'd like to see any pictures of our trip , or if you'd like to read trip reports of our other trips, they may be found at:
Sandy & Dave Dudich - email - email@example.com
Cloud Nine www.cloud9villas.com Linda & Allen 340-693-8495
Villa Serenity -www.carribbeanvilla.com/villaserenity
Terry Witham -
phone (340) 776-6342
Best Western Emerald Beach - www.caribbeachresort.com 340-777-8800
Wayward Sailor - www.waywardsailor.net Captain Phil (340) 776-6922
Long Distance - Robin & Rick Gallup firstname.lastname@example.org 340-774-2273
St. John Taxi Stand 340-693-7530
Sadie Sea - (340) 776-6421
Weather - (340) 774-4786
Sandy & Dave