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Thinking about St. John and how to go

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Hello Anne,

 

Thank you for the info regarding St John and the Red Hook ferry. I was wondering if you could share why you like St John's so much. How is it different from, say, St Thomas or any other island in the Caribbean? We'll be at St Thomas next Feb and was wondering if going to St John would be worthwhile. So any insight you can share from your experiences there would be much appreciated.

 

Steve

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I'm not Anne, but in case you're interested I'll gladly answer your questions here.

 

St John is smaller than St. Thomas, and due to the fact that about 2/3 of the island belongs to the US National Park Service, is much less developed.

 

It doesn't have the transportation infrastructure (airport, deep water port) that it's neighbor does, so it is much less commercial.

 

The sleepy little town of Cruz Bay passes for "the big city" on St. John.

 

There are 52 beaches, all of them different - some harder to get to than others, but each with their own unique attributes.

 

The island is criss-crossed with hiking trails. Some lead to the aforementioned beaches, some to breathtaking views, and some to historic ruins.

 

The thing that probably contributes greatly to its status as my favorite place on earth is that it is very "do it yourself" friendly. On our initial trip there, my wife and I, armed with only a guidebook, a jeep, our snorkel gear, and a sense of "whatever happens, happens", had an incredible week that ignited a passion for the place that still burns brightly!

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Hi Augie,

 

Thank you so much for answering my question. St John actually sounds like my kind of place based upon your description rather than the hustle bustle of St Thomas.

 

Can you suggest a nice beach that's close to the ferry, suitable for swimming and snorkeling?

 

Thanks again......Steve

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Hi Steve,

 

There will be a lot of open air taxis leaving from right next to the ferry landing that will take you to the north shore beaches - mainly Hawksnest, Trunk, and Cinnamon Bays.

 

If you don't mind hiking a little first, you could walk to Honeymoon Beach, which will be less crowded than the others I just mentioned.

 

Whatever you decide, have fun!

 

Steve (also)

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Hi,

 

Thanks for all the great information. Other than the seas are ussually rough and ride a bit longer, is there anything that would make you choose red hook ferry over charelotte. The reason I ask is my ship is docking in St thomas one hour after Oasis od seas and carnival freedom, I will be on the carnival dream. I assumed ship will dock at charlotte amalie, I hope this is right. I am worried we will have a huge crowd to of people already waiting for red hook ferry so I thought it might make more sense for us to use charlotte amelie ferry. I just have not heard of anyone using the charloote ferry and this worried me, but last time our travel time to red hook was over an hour due to traffic.

 

Thanks

 

April

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April,

 

Currently the CA ferry only leaves for St. John at 10am, 1pm, and 5:30pm.

 

Ferries leave from Red Hook every hour, so that's one reason that a lot of people choose the Red Hook option.

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Hi all ~ Augie (Steve) summed up my feelings about St. John quite well! Sometimes words can't adequately express how you feel about something or someplace. That's how I feel about St. John. There is a "peaceful, easy" feeling here that I haven't found on any other island. Some of the British Virgin Islands come close but I haven't stayed on any of those.

 

We have vacationed on the island three times now (a week each time). We've been here during cruise stops many times. It feels like home for us. As Augie noted, it's far less commercial due to 75% of the island being made of of the Virgin Islands National Park. For an island it's size, there are so many beautiful places and islands that one is more breathtaking than the other. A stop here on a cruise ship gives you a taste for what a lovely place it is.

 

And for how small it is, there are quite a few of really good restaurants. Even those that are small and don't look like much have some great food.

 

Adel ~ if you are going to make the trip to St. John, I'd highly recommend avoiding Trunk Bay since you're arriving after Oasis. If you don't mind the rough ride, the CA ferry is closer to your dock (you'll be at Crown Bay with Oasis). It's a little more expensive but you'll save on the taxi to get there so it's a wash as far as total costs. I'd recommend Hawksnest or Cinnamon. Both are lovely and will probably be less crowded than Trunk. Hawksnest has restrooms but no other facilities. Cinnamon has a snack bar, beach chair and snorkel gear rental. Both are free; Trunk charges a $4 admission fee.

 

For people who don't want to lay on a beach, I recommend taking a tour with a local taxi. They'll charge about $15 - 20 per person to take you on an island tour. You get to go to the other end of the island (which I love); stop at the Annaberg ruins (old sugar plantation - worth the little walk to the top for a view of the BVIs); a few other beaches you don't normally see and Coral Bay. If you get to Coral Bay, Shipwreck Landing is our favorite lunch stop.

 

To all those who are visiting soon, have a wonderful time! Augie, hope to see you there sometime!

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I have been pondering a trip to St. John as well and these posts just absolutely bolstered my enthusiasm for this wonderful sounding excursion. Thank you so much!:D

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Hi Steve,

 

There will be a lot of open air taxis leaving from right next to the ferry landing that will take you to the north shore beaches - mainly Hawksnest, Trunk, and Cinnamon Bays.

 

If you don't mind hiking a little first, you could walk to Honeymoon Beach, which will be less crowded than the others I just mentioned.

 

Whatever you decide, have fun!

 

Steve (also)

 

Augie & (Anne)....thanks so much for your valuable and informative comments concerning St John. Still pondering which beach to enjoy, or to take a tour of the island. Regardless, we're excited about visiting St John.

 

Best wishes and calm seas to all......

 

Steve

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Seasy ~ if you catch an early ferry, you'll be able to do an island tour and then pick which beach you'd like to visit. We did that when we were with a group in January. Toured for about an hour - hour and a half and then spent about two hours at a beach. That way you get to see most of the beaches and can make your selection :)

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I'll be arriving in St. Thomas by way of Carnival Victory. Is anyone familiar with where their port is and how much a taxi between their port and Red Hook is?

 

Thanks!

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Once I get to St. John, I would like to see both Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay. I can't choose, so I am going to see both. Will there be a problem with getting a taxi to travel between the two? Or is there a walking trail (I am not good with determining distance when looking at a map) :) Any info would be appreciated!

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Seasy ~ if you catch an early ferry, you'll be able to do an island tour and then pick which beach you'd like to visit. We did that when we were with a group in January. Toured for about an hour - hour and a half and then spent about two hours at a beach. That way you get to see most of the beaches and can make your selection :)

 

Thanks Anne.....I thought about that and wondered if there would be enough time. Sounds like the key, as you pointed out, is getting an early start. Sure is nice to get "inside" information! ;) Ummmm....can you also advise of the tour you took with your group?

 

Steve

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I'll be arriving in St. Thomas by way of Carnival Victory. Is anyone familiar with where their port is and how much a taxi between their port and Red Hook is?

 

Thanks!

 

Hi CianaDoll,

 

Welcome to CC and your first cruise! I don't recall myself but believe someone, maybe Anne or Augie, has posted something about the cost of a taxi. I'd suggest starting at the beginning of this thread and read all the posts. Even if the cost wasn't mentioned, you'll find a wealth of other information that has been shared. I know this thread has helped me immensely.

 

Best wishes for a wonderful cruise.

Be careful, the cruise bug bites deep and lasts long! :)

 

Steve

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Ciana ~ according to the ship schedule posted on Virgin Islands Now, Carnival Victory ports at Havensight (also known as the West Indian Company Dock). That's a great thing! It's a shorter trip to Red Hook from here. I think it was a $10 per person taxi ride when we were there in January. We had the same taxi come pick us up in the afternoon and it was $9 for the return trip.

 

JWest ~ you can easily visit both Trunk and Cinnamon. They are close but I wouldn't recommend walking. There is no trail and the road is narrow and winding with no sidewalk. There are always taxis at both beaches that can take you between them and back to the ferry dock.

 

Seasy ~ Any of the safari taxi drivers at the Cruz Bay ferry dock will provide an island tour. You probably can't go wrong with any of them. I have used Mario a couple of times when I've had a group that could fill his safari taxi.

Edited by Host Anne

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co-ask, we are more greedy, want to check out three! Either Honeymoon, Trunk and Leinster; or Honeymoon, Trunk and Cinnamon Bay.. If time does not allow us, we will cut off Leinster or Cinnamon.

 

Once I get to St. John, I would like to see both Trunk Bay and Cinnamon Bay. I can't choose, so I am going to see both. Will there be a problem with getting a taxi to travel between the two? Or is there a walking trail (I am not good with determining distance when looking at a map) :) Any info would be appreciated!

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Wendy - Leinster would be the one on your list that would be the most difficult to get to, especially time-wise. I have seen tour taxis out at the Annaberg parking lot (at the head of the Leinster Bay trail) but I don't know how easy it would be to get a return one when you'd want to head back towards Cruz Bay.

 

There are always taxis available at Trunk and Cinnamon on cruise ship days, and Caneel Bay as well (where you can access the trail to Honeymoon).

 

If I were you, I'd try to get to St. John as soon as you can and go to Trunk first, since as the day goes on it will get the most crowded. Then you'd just have to decide, depending on how long you stay there, if you want to go to Cinnamon for a bit, or just spend your remaining available time to check out Honeymoon.

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Thank you so much! Actually I think exactly as you. I decide to give up leinster.visit Trunk first. And check out Cinnamon bay and/or Honeymoon bay. My question: is that possible to check out three places? Or only 2 places? Which way you think it is better, I mean saving time and convenient: cab or rent a car? Cuz we are not used to drive on left, and not familiar with the road.

 

 

Wendy - Leinster would be the one on your list that would be the most difficult to get to, especially time-wise. I have seen tour taxis out at the Annaberg parking lot (at the head of the Leinster Bay trail) but I don't know how easy it would be to get a return one when you'd want to head back towards Cruz Bay.

 

There are always taxis available at Trunk and Cinnamon on cruise ship days, and Caneel Bay as well (where you can access the trail to Honeymoon).

 

If I were you, I'd try to get to St. John as soon as you can and go to Trunk first, since as the day goes on it will get the most crowded. Then you'd just have to decide, depending on how long you stay there, if you want to go to Cinnamon for a bit, or just spend your remaining available time to check out Honeymoon.

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Years back we took the taxi from the ships dock to the Ferry at Red Hook and took that over to St John and rented a Jeep over on St Johns. We drove around the island ourselves for 65.00 for the day which beat the ships tour and we were able to eat at Skinny Legs and tour the sugar mill ruins and swim at the beach. We are going again in March 2011 and will most likely do that same thing!

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Doing three beaches on St. John in a day trip is possiable if they are beaches that are very close (for example Soloman, Honeymoon and Caneel Bay); you aren't spending a whole lot of time at each; and/or you have a lot of time/flexiable schedule. As for the beaches you listed: Honeymoon, Trunk and Leinster; or Honeymoon, Trunk and Cinnamon Bay on a regular cruise ship day in port - don't think either is doable unless you are just going to see the beach and leave. A big part of the answer however has to do with how much time you have in port. So, what time do you arrive and what time do you leave?

 

PS: In an earlier post someone asked rental rates for Trunk Bay: these rates are from last yaer: Snorkel/Mask/Fins: $5 plus $25 deposit, all day (hours 9-3). Chairs $7 to rent ($25 deposit) for day (9-3). No Umbrella rentals.

 

--Islander

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Does anyone know where the Carnival Liberty docks? I cant remember and we have done the st thomas visit twice, we def want to do st john. I am thinking as soon as we get off to go to red hook get the taxi and head to st john. I cant remember if we actually have another ship docked or not. That makes me nervous, we are going june 26th we arrive in st thomas june 29 and are there from 9-6.. i think if we leave by 3 we should be ok? Maybe line for the ferry with the prebought tickets at 230 so we make the ferry?

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Thank you so much! Actually I think exactly as you. I decide to give up leinster.visit Trunk first. And check out Cinnamon bay and/or Honeymoon bay. My question: is that possible to check out three places? Or only 2 places? Which way you think it is better, I mean saving time and convenient: cab or rent a car? Cuz we are not used to drive on left, and not familiar with the road.

 

As Islander noted, doing three beaches on a cruise ship day would be tough if you wanted to stick around long enough to enjoy the beach!

 

If you decide to rent a car, that changes things considerably. Driving on the left takes about 30 seconds to get used to. The speed limit is low on St. John, there aren't that many roads, and the island is pretty small, so most of your concerns about renting aren't that big of a deal. It may be difficult to secure a one day rental if you go during busy season, but you could find that out ahead of time.

 

It really depends on how you'd like to best spend your time. Now that I've visited St. John a few times, my priorities for one day might be much different than yours. Unfortunately, a cruise ship stop won't afford you time to do even a little bit of everything the island has to offer.

 

My favorite pastime on St. John is snorkeling. If I was on a cruise that stopped at St. Thomas I'd rent a car - probably on St. Thomas, but on St. John would work also. I'd drive straight to Leinster, and snorkel around Waterlemon Cay and in the shallows near the beach.

 

If I rented on St. Thomas I'd probably go into Coral Bay for lunch at either Skinny Legs or Shipwreck Landing (If I rented on St. John then I'd wait until I got back to Cruz Bay to return the car to eat).Then I'd head back towards Cruz Bay the same way I came, along North Shore Road, and I'd stop to take those breathtaking pictures of Trunk, Caneel, etc. (You'll probably end up with better pictures of these since you won't be shooting into the early morning sun as it rises out of the east.)

 

Back in Cruz Bay there are a bunch of places to eat, have a drink, etc. within easy walking distance of the ferry dock (have a Bushwacker and Tuna Down Now! at the Beach Bar).

 

If you really just want to see and enjoy beautiful beaches (and not drive) I'd take a taxi to Trunk first, stay as long as you like, and if you still have time, get dropped off at Caneel so that you can go to Honeymoon on your way back towards Cruz Bay.

 

If you end up renting a car and would like to go to a beautiful but less populated (which will almost certainly mean less or no amenities such as chairs, snack bar, etc) let me know and I have some suggestions I could share with you.

 

My best advise: Decide what you want to do most, set out to do that, have a backup in case something doesn't work out, and enjoy your time there. You WILL plan to come back to do/see more.

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If I was going to try and do 3 beaches, it would three of these four: Trunk, Hawksnest, Jumbie, Cinnamon. All are relatively close and Trunk, Hawksnest and Cinnamon have at least restroom facilities. I throw Jumbie in because it's between Hawksnest and Trunk and is a little remote and mostly empty. Your taxi driver would know where it is and if you rent a car, you'll see a small pull off on your right for one or two cars with small wooden steps on the left side of the road as you are headed east from Hawksnest to Trunk. The day we were here we didn't see anyone else.

 

Notes on rental cars: If you are going to rent, I strongly recommend doing it prior to leaving home. On busy ship days, rental car companies are often out of cars so if you make a reservation, it can save valuable time and you can ensure you'll have a car. If you rent on St. Thomas, ensure that your rental agreement allows you to take the car to St. John. Many of them do not. The car ferry is a different boat from the passenger ferry so be aware of that as well.

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We really wanted to see st john this trip, my concern is that we dock at 9 by the time we get off the ship, and get to a taxi that will put us at 10 or 11 ferry, that would only give us a couple hours at the beach in st john, lunch and then catch the ferry back by 3 to make sure we are onboard before we leave at 6. Is this doable?

 

We have been to st thomas twice, done the tour and did the beach by coral world. I am thinking maybe we could hit up the love shack (not sure where it is) after a little shopping and then go to the beach for a couple hours. I really would like to try a different one on st thomas if we decide to stay there. Any ideas?

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Hi Augie, thanks thanks!

We will snorkel in Grand Turk and Princess Cay. So it is not so necessary to snorkel in St John. Have you ever snorkeled in Grand Turk or Princess cay? If so, how is it compared to Leinster? We have been to Hawaii before and snorkel in Hanauma bay and Molokini. The experience was good. This time we do interest in st John's world known beach! Because when I looked at the picture, it is so gorgeous! Dribbling from the mouth..The beach in Hawaii certainly can not compare, or at least can not beat St John! So, this time we are most likely just to see those beautiful beaches, hanging around, taking photos. We will definitely come back, staying for several days, snorkeling and doing other stuff. Not like this, not like hop-on hop-off a ship.Actually, if you want to explore a place with so many to see, to do, to taste, to feel, like Alaska and Hawaii, cruise is not a good choice.

 

We do like some secluded places with less people. Appreciate if you could recommend some?

 

As Islander noted, doing three beaches on a cruise ship day would be tough if you wanted to stick around long enough to enjoy the beach!

 

If you decide to rent a car, that changes things considerably. Driving on the left takes about 30 seconds to get used to. The speed limit is low on St. John, there aren't that many roads, and the island is pretty small, so most of your concerns about renting aren't that big of a deal. It may be difficult to secure a one day rental if you go during busy season, but you could find that out ahead of time.

 

It really depends on how you'd like to best spend your time. Now that I've visited St. John a few times, my priorities for one day might be much different than yours. Unfortunately, a cruise ship stop won't afford you time to do even a little bit of everything the island has to offer.

 

My favorite pastime on St. John is snorkeling. If I was on a cruise that stopped at St. Thomas I'd rent a car - probably on St. Thomas, but on St. John would work also. I'd drive straight to Leinster, and snorkel around Waterlemon Cay and in the shallows near the beach.

 

If I rented on St. Thomas I'd probably go into Coral Bay for lunch at either Skinny Legs or Shipwreck Landing (If I rented on St. John then I'd wait until I got back to Cruz Bay to return the car to eat).Then I'd head back towards Cruz Bay the same way I came, along North Shore Road, and I'd stop to take those breathtaking pictures of Trunk, Caneel, etc. (You'll probably end up with better pictures of these since you won't be shooting into the early morning sun as it rises out of the east.)

 

Back in Cruz Bay there are a bunch of places to eat, have a drink, etc. within easy walking distance of the ferry dock (have a Bushwacker and Tuna Down Now! at the Beach Bar).

 

If you really just want to see and enjoy beautiful beaches (and not drive) I'd take a taxi to Trunk first, stay as long as you like, and if you still have time, get dropped off at Caneel so that you can go to Honeymoon on your way back towards Cruz Bay.

 

If you end up renting a car and would like to go to a beautiful but less populated (which will almost certainly mean less or no amenities such as chairs, snack bar, etc) let me know and I have some suggestions I could share with you.

 

My best advise: Decide what you want to do most, set out to do that, have a backup in case something doesn't work out, and enjoy your time there. You WILL plan to come back to do/see more.

Edited by wendyazure

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