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St. Thomas trip report
      #70065 - 01/08/02 01:41 PM (

We stayed in a condo at Crystal Cove, next door to Sapphire Beach Resort, Dec. 23-31. The unit was perfect for our group of 3 (husband and wife and 16-year-old son), with a sofabed in the living room, full kitchen, large bedroom with king bed, and 2 bathrooms. There were also 2 twin murphy beds in the LR and a futon in the bedroom.

We rented through Antilles Resort Management, which handles condos at several locations on St. Thomas and St. Croix. When we arrived we discovered that Antilles doesn't have an office at Crystal Cove, but they knew when our flight was coming in and sent someone to meet us. We were very impressed with this firm and would use them again. The condo was nicely furnished and in very good condition, although the complex is not particularly new. These units are individually owned, so they may vary in condition, bed arrangement, etc.

Crystal Cove is on Sapphire Beach, which had clear water and great views of St. John and the British Virgins. It is not a very deep beach, however, and tended to feel crowded, esp. on Wednesday (Disney ship visitors) and Sunday (beach party with band and BBQ).

We also visited 3 other beaches on St. Thomas: Magens Bay (the longest, with picnic tables, good drinks and snack bar, and not crowded when we were there); Coki Beach (exc. snorkeling, crystal clear water, but crowded after 11 am); and Secret Harbour (no crowds, sheltered, some rocks, OK snorkeling).

We booked a package deal from Smith's Ferry that included round-trip ferry ride to Tortola, 4WD rental and lunch - a bit cheaper than purchasing it all separately, and they arranged everything. We swam at Smuggler's Cove (outstanding) and Cane Garden Bay (not quite as calm or clear), spent some time in Roadtown, and generally drove around the island. Tortola seemed like a very laid-back island, hilly and beautiful, and of course less Americanized than St. Thomas.

Another day trip was to St. John - we had a rental car and took it over on the car ferry. I understand now why everyone raves about this island. With 75% of the land in a National Park, and only 2 real "hotels," the natural environment is wonderful. We swam and snorkeled at Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay. On another day, we took a daysail on "Sundance" out of Red Hook and visited Maho Bay on St. John. The snorkeling between Maho and Francis Bays was excellent.

Another daytrip (dad only!) was on "Adventurer," a 50-foot catamaran that sails from St. John to Jost Van Dyke, with a snorkeling stop en route. Less of a real sailing experience than "Sundance," but lots of fun visiting Foxy's and the Soggy Dollar on JVD. White Bay is a gorgeous beach.

Meanwhile, mom and son went to Coral World on St. Thomas and were both very impressed - said they expected a tourist trap but found it to be a first-class attraction.

Paradise Point tramway in Charlotte Amalie was offering free rides after 5 pm on Wednesday, so we enjoyed the sunset from their deck - very lively bar, live band, snack bar-type food. The view of the harbor and island is terrific (but I wouldn't pay the usual price of $15 for it).

We ate most of our meals in the condo, so I can't offer much in the way of restaurant reviews. We had an outstanding Caribbean-style lunch at Cuzzins in Charlotte Amalie (under $10 each) and thought Iggie's at Bolongo Beach was a good place for sandwiches/burgers/etc. - classic beach bar setting. Also ate at Duffy's Love Shack in Red Hook and bought sandwiches a couple of times at the most excellent Grateful Deli, also in Red Hook.

We rented a car for the whole week from Avis. It only takes about 5 minutes to get used to driving on the left, and the hilly, windy roads were challenging but manageable.

We were pleasantly surprised by how safe we felt on St. Thomas. We had read so many reports about crime on this island that we almost switched destinations. We're glad we didn't. I'm sure it's important to avoid certain areas, esp. at night, but we never felt unsafe where we were. Also, we found the people of St. Thomas to be consistently friendly and pleasant. It helps to start conversations with a Good Morning, Good Day, or Good Evening.

Flew Delta from Newark to Atlanta to STT, and back - very long lines at Newark on Dec. 23, but otherwise no problems.

We have previously visited St. Croix, Jamaica, and Aruba, and overall we liked St. Thomas and its neighboring islands the best. The scenery is gorgeous, many of the beaches have crystal-clear water, snorkeling is excellent, there are lots of daysails available, and it's nice to be able to hop on a boat to visit another nearby island. Hopefully we'll be back!

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