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Thinking about St. John and how to go

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We (me, my husband, and son who will be 10) are going to St. Thomas on our next cruise. We were there on our last cruise, we went to Emerald Beach and had a really nice time. A lot of people have mentioned that we should go to St. John and we were thinking of going, but not sure how to do it.

This is what I know so far:

  • we can do one of the excursions that the ship offers to St. John
  • we can do a day sail with a private company on our own
  • we can taxi to Red Hook, take the ferry to St. John on our own

Any experiences and/or advice? I know there are pros and cons to each. Our main objective is to relax and have a really nice beach day. We have never snorkled before and I'm not sure we are that into it. Maybe we might want to try it for a little bit-not sure. Is it more hassle than it is worth to go to St. John? Should we just pick a different beach or go back to Emerald Beach on St. Thomas?

 

Opinions please! :D

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We went to St. John many years ago thru the ship excursion. It was the best. I still think about it. It was a wonderful day of relaxing on the beach. We went to Trunk Bay of course. It was not crowded at all when we went, not sure how it is now days. It was just soooooooo pretty. I always recommend people to go there, especially if you have done St. Thomas already. It may even be a little adventure getting there for your son (however you decide to get there).

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We went to St. John many years ago thru the ship excursion. It was the best. I still think about it. It was a wonderful day of relaxing on the beach. We went to Trunk Bay of course. It was not crowded at all when we went, not sure how it is now days. It was just soooooooo pretty. I always recommend people to go there, especially if you have done St. Thomas already. It may even be a little adventure getting there for your son (however you decide to get there).

 

Thanks for your thoughts. I hear it is really beautiful and worth the trip.

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The first step is to ask yourself about your own preferences. If you are likely to look back afterwards and say "it took us an hour and a half to get to the St. John beach and the same time to get back, we could have spent that time on a St. Thomas beach", then stay on St. Thomas. If you're a "wherever you go, there you are" type of person who sees all the travel experiences--talking with cab drivers, getting salt-sprayed on the ferry rides, people-watching as you are waiting for a ferry home--as part of the fun, then go to St. John.

Edited by Pepperwood

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I'll second the previous opinion (which was really well thought out and written, in my opinion).

 

If you're a laid back type person, then taking the time to go to St. John will likely be worth it to you. If you do go, make an effort to enjoy the whole thing - you know - make the journey, not just the destination, enjoyable.

 

If you or someone in your party are prone to being frustrated and impatient when things aren't moving at the speed that you think they should be, then it may not be for you.

 

Not everyone likes St. John (though few don't find it to be beautiful), and the pace and way things are done there isn't for everyone. The decision that my wife and I made to take a fellow passenger's advice to check out St. John has been a life changer for us. From the moment we stepped off of the ferry in Cruz Bay, we just felt a vibe that we both loved, and promised to come back for a longer stay.

 

It took about 10 years to fulfill that promise, with two or three cruise ship visits in the intervening years, but now we've made three trips to St. John, with two more booked for this year!

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Very interesting perspective on St. John about the journey being part of the destination. Thanks!

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I'll begin by saying I LOVE St. John. We have been heading there for years (and taking fellow passengers with us) each time our ship docks in St. Thomas. I even love the adventure and anticipation of getting there (grabbing a taxi, arriving at the Red Hook ferry, watching St. John grow closer as we cross the channel). It does take a little bit to get there but for us, it's worth it.

 

There are several reasons I'd recommend going on your own (or with a small group from your ship): You can go and return on your own schedule; you can go early and beat the crowds (we always get off the ship as early as possible and catch the first available ferry); you'll save money. While a sailboat excursion will give you a sense of the beauty of St. John, I think the experience is better if you take the ferry to the island, explore and enjoy the wonderful views and beaches from on land.

 

To get there, regardless of where you dock, hop in a taxi and head to the Red Hook Ferry dock. The ferry to Cruz Bay St. John leaves every hour on the hour. If you make the 9:00 AM ferry, you'll beat the crowds and have more time on the island. It's only about a 20 minute ferry ride. When you get off the ferry there are bunches of taxis waiting to take you to the beach or on an island tour or both. It's about $6 per person from the dock to Trunk Bay with a couple of wonderful scenic overlooks on the way (my avatar is taken from the Trunk Bay overlook). It is a spectacular island.

 

If you want to rent a car, they run about $70 - $75 for the day and are typically small jeep-type vehicles. The drive on the other side of the road here so be prepared for that. If you just want to relax and enjoy, I'd suggest taking the taxi to the beach.

 

Trunk Bay is by far the most popular beach. It has the marked underwawter snorkeling trail and it is a beautiful beach (you can see it in my avatar). There is a $4 admission fee for Trunk Bay. If snorkeling isn't key, I'd suggest going to Cinnamon Bay, the next major beach down from Trunk. It, too, is very pretty, snorkeling not as good but no admission fee.

 

Trunk Bay and Cinnamon both have a decent beach snack bar (burgers, chix fingers, etc) and a place you can rent beach chairs (not the best shape) and snorkel gear (OK stuff).

 

There are many other gorgeous beaches along the north shore of the island. Hawksnest (has restroom facilities but not food/chair renta) and Maho (no facilities) are two of my favorites. Taxis will take you to any of them. Taxis are readily available at Trunk and Cinnamon all day long.

 

If you prefer a nicer lunch, there are also lots of nice restaurants back in Cruz Bay within walking distance of the ferry dock. www.stjohnguidebook.com gives you plenty of suggestions and they are all pretty good.

 

Heading back, I'd recommend you take a ferry that leaves Cruz Bay no later than 3 hours prior to your ships departuer. If your ship leaves at 6:00, I'd take the 3:00 PM ferry back to Red Hook at the latest. That will get you back on St. Thomas by 3:20 with plenty of time for a cab ride back to your ship. There are always plenty of cabs at Red Hook waiting to take passengers back to ships, too.

 

I should add that we, too, have vacationed on the island. We've been there three times for a week vacation in the past ten years. It continues to be my favorite island. Here's a link to photos from our trip to St. John last summer: http://stjohntrip2009.shutterfly.com/26?size=All&startIndex=0

 

Enjoy whatever you do.

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Host Anne-

Thank you SO much for all the details about going to St. John-just what I needed. Your pictures are amazing! Thanks for sharing those. I think this sounds just like what we'd want to do. I think the ferry may be the way to go for us-and it sounds like fun too. :)

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We did it ourselves just recently and it was a breeze! I was nervous of course about getting there/getting back within time but it was easy and well worth it! Just be off the ship early to get the 9am ferry to St. John. We left our ship at 8:15, got in the cab by 8:25 and just made the 9am ferry. If doing it again we'll leave the ship closer to 7:45 to give plenty of time to walk to get the cab by the ship and in case of traffic getting to the ferry. Redhook ferry was easy to get to by cab and then once in St. John there were plenty of cabs taking us to Trunk Bay. We also gave ourselves time to explore the area where the ferry drops you off in St. John before heading back to St. Thomas. Lots of cute shops and things by the ferry area. Just remember to bring lots of cash as you can only pay chash for the ferry/cabs. You'll love it!

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Dory ~ you're most welcome! You'll have a great time. And the cash recommenation by Embrace is a good one. There are ATM machines on both St. Thomas and St. John but if you take enough cash you won't have to worry about finding one.

 

ENJOY!

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Host Anne,

Thank you for all the info- do happen to know how much the snorkel gear rental on Trunk bay is?

 

Also ill be in St Thomas Nov 11th. 9 Ruby Princess) we are the only ship docked that day according to the info i can find, it says that we will be in port from 7am -4 pm- we will be coming from Princess Cays, do we have to go through imigration at St Thomas before we are allowed to exit the ship? or do you think it we will be allowed off close to the 7am time listed?

thank you so much!!

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red ~ we take our own gear so I'm not sure about the cost and I couldn't find it on their website, but there is a phone number you can call and ask: http://www.nps.gov/viis/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm

 

I'm not sure about customs, either. Princess Cays is in the Bahamas so you could have to go through customs but it is usually a quick procedure here. If you can't make the 8AM ferry, you can definitely make the 9AM ferry but keep in mind, you will likely be docked at Crown Bay so it adds another 20 minutes to the trip. Being the only ship will be a help and traffic early in the morning won't be as bad as if you were there with Oasis.

 

Have a wonderful visit.

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999 out of 1000 all will go according to plan. There was one day that the ferry hit the dock/another ship (we only heard about it) and it was a BIG deal to get back to the ship. So don't wait for the last second to get back. Enjoy and have a good time.

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When you get to Red Hook, do you buy your tickets for the ferry before or on the ferry? Any idea about how much per person?

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You purchase your tickets in the terminal before you board. They are $6 per person each way. I also recommend purchasing your return trip ticket at this time too so you don't have to wait in line in Cruz Bay to purhcase return tickets. Tickets are good for any ferry....they do not have a time on them.

 

PJS is right...things can and do happen. Allowing enough time to get back to the ship is always a good idea.

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red ~ we take our own gear so I'm not sure about the cost and I couldn't find it on their website, but there is a phone number you can call and ask: http://www.nps.gov/viis/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm

 

I'm not sure about customs, either. Princess Cays is in the Bahamas so you could have to go through customs but it is usually a quick procedure here. If you can't make the 8AM ferry, you can definitely make the 9AM ferry but keep in mind, you will likely be docked at Crown Bay so it adds another 20 minutes to the trip. Being the only ship will be a help and traffic early in the morning won't be as bad as if you were there with Oasis.

 

Have a wonderful visit.

 

thank you Anne!

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You purchase your tickets in the terminal before you board. They are $6 per person each way. I also recommend purchasing your return trip ticket at this time too so you don't have to wait in line in Cruz Bay to purhcase return tickets. Tickets are good for any ferry....they do not have a time on them.

 

PJS is right...things can and do happen. Allowing enough time to get back to the ship is always a good idea.

 

Great info-thanks!

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I don't know if there are beach umbrella rentals at Trunk Bay. I'm thinking "no" because I can't recall seeing any. The great thing is that the beach is lined by tall trees behind you so that you can always find a shady spot. Let me find a photo and I'll post it so you can see what I mean.

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Can you tell me about how long the taxi ride is from the ship to the Red Hook ferry dock?

 

Thanks for all the info - it was great!!:)

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If your ship is docked at Havensight, the taxi ride is 15 - 20 minutes depending on traffic. If you are docked at Crown Bay (just west of downtown Charlotte Amalie) it's about 30 - 35 minutes, depending on traffic.

 

Glad everyone liked the info. We love stopping here! Can we go now?

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Heading back, I'd recommend you take a ferry that leaves Cruz Bay no later than 3 hours prior to your ships departuer. If your ship leaves at 6:00, I'd take the 3:00 PM ferry back to Red Hook at the latest. That will get you back on St. Thomas by 3:20 with plenty of time for a cab ride back to your ship. There are always plenty of cabs at Red Hook waiting to take passengers back to ships, too.

 

 

 

3 hours? Really?

 

I was figuring 2.5 at most - of course I have never been.

I think our ship leaves at 5 and was planning on the 2:30 ferry.

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Hi,

 

I have gone to St John on the red hook ferry but I always thought maybe i should have just used the charlotte amalie ferry to miss cab ride. I am kinda in weird time slot with the dream schedule. we are in port 10a to 8p. I was thinking it seems much easier to do the 11:15 ferry from chaerlotte amelie than try to get across the island for the 11am red hook then just catch the 5:30 ferry back to charlotte amalie? Has anyone tryed this? Is there a reason everyone goes to red hook?

 

Thanks

 

April

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Is there a reason everyone goes to red hook?

 

There were two reasons why we went to Redhook rather than Charlotte Amalie. First, we were docked at Havensight, so we would have needed a cab or bus to either ferry dock (although obviously the ride to the C.A. ferry dock would have been shorter). Secondly, the C.A. ferry ride is about 45 minutes, and we were led to understand that the water can be a bit choppy at times, whereas the Redhook ferry ride is only 15 min and smoother. We ended up taking the Redhook ferry both ways, so we can't verify that rumour.

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Gone ~ the ferry from Cruz Bay to Red Hook only runs on the hour so you can't take a 2:30 ferry. Traffic on St. Thomas in the late afternoon can be very slow. If you take the 3:00 PM ferry, you'll likely be back to your ship (if you don't stop anywhere else) close to 4:00 PM if everything goes smoothly. That gives you a two hour cushion before your ship leaves. If you take the 4:00 PM back and get to the pier around 5:00, that only leaves you about 30 minutes before ships want you back on board if you are leaving at 6:00 PM. We were on HAL in November and our ship actually left St. Thomas early (it was VERY odd) and left some folks standing on the dock that weren't techically "late." I just don't like cutting it too close. Although if I'm going to get stuck, this is the place for me to do it. I'd just get back on the ferry to St. John and figure out a way to get home.

 

Adel ~ the ride from and to Charlotte Amalie is almost always rough as it's in open seas and is longer as mentioned above. The ride from Red Hook is much shorter and almost always smooth. That's why most prefer to take the taxi to Red Hook.

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