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Locals or those that stay here on vacation...help


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So...we have already missed what would have been 2 cruises by now due to the Covid 19. I'm getting the heebie jeebies at this point and I NEED A VACATION! 

 

Since it looks like St Thomas has "opened up" again, we decided it would be nice to go on a land vacation since we can't cruise yet. The other issue is, this Covid hit right when we were getting ready to renew our passports (expire in July) and we are limited to staying in the US territory at this point. 

 

We are looking into some airbnb places in various areas and have a few questions.

 

What restrictions does St Thomas have at this time? From what I have been reading and also questioned 1 airbnb person, they opened up on June 1st and some establishments require you to wear a mask inside and establishments are operating at 85% capacity to allow for social distancing (he said). Are there any other things I should know? 

 

What are the airports like now? Are there delayed lines due to testing? How much longer should you give yourself for things like this? Is there any "self-quarantine"? (We were first looking to going to Puerto Rico, but read that coming into PR, they want you to self quarantine for 14 days???? and pools are not open and a lot of restaurants and bars are only take out). 

 

Are tour operators back to operating excursions there?

 

Speaking of excursions...give me some ideas of things to do there. We've only done some of the beaches and scuba diving there (and plan on going to some others we haven't been to) but what are some other things to do? (Daughter found a night kayak trip). 

 

What's a good area to stay in? We have been looking at Sapphire beach (love it there and hopefully Blue will chime in on maybe some rentals at the condo's) and also found some places over by Magens. Are there places we should AVOID? 

 

Driving...ugh, I remember they drive on the left side of the road. How hard is it to learn this? lol  We will definitely need to rent a car to go to all the places we plan on going to. Is it fairly easy to navigate the roads and is there plenty of signage? I know when we go to Aruba to stay, it's easy to navigate, but yet no signs in some places and it's easy to end up going in circles! We used maps me last time and it made it so much easier. 

 

Any other things anyone would like to throw out there, I'm welcome to it. 

 

Thanks for you help!

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Hi - Great idea! We always stay on Sapphire Beach, just a gorgeous beach, as you know, and you can choose an oceanfront condo in the Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina complex, or a condo in the hillside Sapphire Village complex overlooking the marina. I would definitely choose the east end area just for the close proximity to the nicest snorkeling beaches, Red Hook restaurants, and the ferry to STJ (and the BVI if open when you go). I can send you contact info, we’re considering staying at one in SV in the future, these units are less expensive and many offer great views. I will follow up...

You can find current info on safety requirements, flights, etc on the STT site on TA, and local sailor posted a link to the gov’t site there and on the TTOL site I believe. 
 

as to driving, it comes naturally after just a few minutes, just remember  shoulder to shoulder. Roundabouts May be tricky at first...

Edited by blue_water
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Missed your comment about your passport so ignore my BVI comment...But you will definitely have enough to experience between STT and STJ during your visit!

Oh and are you looking for a studio, one-bedroom with a sleeper couch, or a two-bedroom?

Edited by blue_water
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Most of the SapphireBeach owners list on Vrbo so check that site. 
The BVI is closed until Sept. 1 so you can’t do those excursions now but there are plenty of nice spots to visit by boat. 
if you have never done a night scuba dive I’d highly recommend it. They are my favorites   
Restaurants and bars are probably operating in the same way as near your home. There are seating and capacity limitations and take out is offered most everywhere. 
You will adapt quickly to driving on the left. The signage isn’t great but it’s a small island so you can’t get to lost. GPS works......somewhat. It’s not always perfect but is helpful. 
Grocery stores are open and fully stocked. 
pools and beaches fully open. 

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On 6/19/2020 at 8:33 AM, blue_water said:

Hi - Great idea! We always stay on Sapphire Beach, just a gorgeous beach, as you know, and you can choose an oceanfront condo in the Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina complex, or a condo in the hillside Sapphire Village complex overlooking the marina. I would definitely choose the east end area just for the close proximity to the nicest snorkeling beaches, Red Hook restaurants, and the ferry to STJ (and the BVI if open when you go). I can send you contact info, we’re considering staying at one in SV in the future, these units are less expensive and many offer great views. I will follow up...

You can find current info on safety requirements, flights, etc on the STT site on TA, and local sailor posted a link to the gov’t site there and on the TTOL site I believe. 
 

as to driving, it comes naturally after just a few minutes, just remember  shoulder to shoulder. Roundabouts May be tricky at first...

 

I was hoping you would chime in Blue, since I knew you go there and stay for land vacations. We have been looking on airbnb at the (I think) Sapphire Beach Resort & Marina complex. Is that the brown buildings there along the area where the snorkeling is? I believe that's the area we hung out at when we went by ship. 

 

I would definitely love the contact info on the rentals you are referring to (or the one's you stay in). 

 

I will try to find the STT site you are referring to and the gov't site. I'm not sure what the TTOL site is, but I'm going to google it. 

 

The driving has me a little freaked out. We've never stayed where you drive on the left side of the road. I never even thought about the roundabouts eekkkk!!  😲

 

 

On 6/19/2020 at 8:40 AM, blue_water said:

Missed your comment about your passport so ignore my BVI comment...But you will definitely have enough to experience between STT and STJ during your visit!

Oh and are you looking for a studio, one-bedroom with a sleeper couch, or a two-bedroom?

 

Yea, this whole COVID thing messed us up with our passports and had planned on renewing them when we returned from our annual Spring Break cruise (which didn't happen because of COVID). 

 

So, passports...ours expire July 18th and July 21st. We were planning on trying to go to St Thomas around July 14th until maybe the 24th. Can you use the passport up until it actually expires? If we were to do a day trip over to the BVI, would it still work up until the day it expires? I'm not sure we would (been to Tortola before) but just in case.

 

I really want to go over to STJ, but I imagine there wouldn't be a problem with that since it's USVI. 

 

As for the place, I would need at least a 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom would be even better but not necessary as long as there is a pull out sofa bed or something for our 12 year old. 

 

 

Thanks so much for your help. 

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On 6/19/2020 at 10:14 PM, beautifulbill said:

Most of the SapphireBeach owners list on Vrbo so check that site. 
The BVI is closed until Sept. 1 so you can’t do those excursions now but there are plenty of nice spots to visit by boat. 
if you have never done a night scuba dive I’d highly recommend it. They are my favorites   
Restaurants and bars are probably operating in the same way as near your home. There are seating and capacity limitations and take out is offered most everywhere. 
You will adapt quickly to driving on the left. The signage isn’t great but it’s a small island so you can’t get to lost. GPS works......somewhat. It’s not always perfect but is helpful. 
Grocery stores are open and fully stocked. 
pools and beaches fully open. 

 

I have been checking on airbnb so far and found some decent deals and nice places I wouldn't mind renting. I'll have to check vrbo as well. 

 

Oh, ok. Thanks for letting me know about the BVI. 

 

Night scuba would just freak me out and we are not certified so that wouldn't work anyhow. We do the DSD when we dive. 

 

I really hope we adapt to the driving. It really has me a little freaked out. I don't know if we have cell service there or not. I'll have to check but I assume the maps me will work there like it does in Aruba. Correct?

 

Glad to hear grocery stores are open and stocked. If that's the case, that's better than here at home. 😞 

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So thinking of more questions...

 

Where's a good place to rent a car?

 

Blue, do you usually take any groceries with you to ST? I learned my lesson after my first land vacation to Aruba...take non-perishables with you in a suitcase to save $$

 

What are some good excursions to do when there? We LOVE the beach, so will be beach hopping most days, but would love other things to do as well to break up the beach days. Is there a zoo? Caves? Parasailing? Dune Buggies? Give me some ideas please. 

 

Also, what airlines is the cheapest and best to use to get there from the states? We ALWAYS travel with Southwest because we have tons and tons of points and fly free, but SW doesn't fly there. So, looking at other alternatives. I've never been on another airline and know they work differently. 

 

I'm sure I'll have more questions as I go along and I really appreciate everyone's knowledge and thoughts. 

 

 

OH>>>> do they still have the Sapphire Beach webcam? I used to watch that all the time and dream. 😉

 

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Yes you should include VRBO in your search. Beautiful Bill is an owner at SBRM and has one of the villas on the 3rd and 4th floors. We have only stayed in suites on the second floor. So he can help guide you toward nice units at that property. You should pose these questions on the TripAdvisor STT forum, and you can message Bill there directly. As mentioned you can find one-bedroom condos are the Village, not sure about two-bedroom...

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g147404-i172-St_Thomas_U_S_Virgin_Islands.html

 

We don’t take anything, everything is pricier in the islands, but we buy groceries at Moe’s or the other market and eat breakfast and most lunches at the condo to save $$. If you go through a lot of cereal, for example you could bring that...Many bareboaters or longer-term renters will bring a suitcase of frozen meat...

 

Check the historic area of course, Bill has a guide that he offers in a thread on the TripAdvisor forum, get that now so you can get some ideas...

 

We always fly Delta but that is our one and only option...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, blue_water said:

Many bareboaters ..... will bring a suitcase of frozen meat.

Can you do that without a Captain's license like in BVI?

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You may want to look at Secret Harbour, which does have full generator power. I know there are a lot of Sapphire fans here, but with the state of electrical generation on St Thomas, it is nice to have lights, water, a/c, etc. during the frequent outages.

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20 hours ago, HxFx said:

Can you do that without a Captain's license like in BVI?

I don’t know the answer to that, I would certainly research that before bringing any meats or other food into the VI’s. I know bareboaters and land vacationers bring in frozen meats and other foods through STT and customs at the Tortola ferry pier. I don’t know what the customs regs are for STT, but reading others’ reports the BVI customs fee seems to vary, if even applied. For sailing it has less to do with saving money or finding the right quality, than it does with wanting items essentially prepared in advance to save effort on the boat.

But yes do check the customs requirements to be sure...
 

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Regarding power-

Power will be fine for a couple months and then have a spate of outages, not always island wide. We stay at Secret Harbor because my husband runs hot and is miserable without air or a fan. Without him I have stayed at Point Pleasant but not in the summer.

 

Lots of day excursions post their business links on the facebook page What's Going On St Thomas. The page is mostly for locals but tourists do ask for recommendations. Scroll through a few days worth of posts and you will find many links.

 

We use Paradise car rental. Driving on the left is a little tense the first day, especially for me getting across town towards the east end. The good news is that speed limits are very slow so your brain has time to train itself to be on the left. Download a map like apple maps or goodle maps so that you can use that as a GPS for finding the beaches.

 

I bring some snacks, granola bars, coffee, etc in my bag so that we don't have to go to the market on the arrival day. We have a very long travel day coming from the upper midwest and I just want to relax. We get the first dinner at wherever we are staying. I tend to shop at Moe's in Red Hook but occasionally go to Plaza in Tutu. That is an area that feels more like a suburban shopping area - strip malls, fast food, Kmart, and Plaza. My daughter says the best prices on booze is at Kmart if you are wanting to take some rum back as a souvenir.

 

My daughter recently did an eco kayak tour through the mangroves that was very informative and enjoyable.

 

Coral World activities with the sea lions and dolphins are a lot of fun. https://coralworldvi.com/

 

Please be considerate of the locals and wear masks. They want to be open for vacationers but know that this will reintroduce the virus to the community. St Croix already has a new case that is travel related. Space yourselves out on the beaches and wear a mask when ordering at the beach food stands.

 

Sunscreen need to be reef friendly - for example zinc based. This article will tell you which ingredients to avoid https://www.travelweekly.com/Caribbean-Travel/Sunscreen-law-in-USVI-passed-to-protect-coral-reefs

 

Please also be generous with the tips. The two Cat 5 hurricanes beat down the islands and the economy. The pandemic shutdown was the cherry on top. Help out.

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>> 

Regarding power-

Power will be fine for a couple months and then have a spate of outages, not always island wide. <<
 

Thanks - I know that regional outages do occasionally occur in the islands. We’ve only stayed on STT a few different times but have never experienced frequent outages as mentioned earlier, ergo my question if something has changed recently?

 

Do be sure to take advantage of the destination experts like Beautiful Bill, STTResident, MS411, etc on the STT/STJ forums on TripAdvisor.com, especially regarding the latest updates. 
 

Enjoy your first land visit to STT!

Edited by blue_water
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If you live on the island the black outs are a royal pia   Imagine you are cooking breakfast or dinner or watching a favorite tv show. It’s not the same for a visitor. An occasional loss of power is usually an inconvenience but not a constant irritation and it happens irregularly. 
I wouldn’t worry to much about it. 

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The electric and water service is known by its initials WAPA.From what I understand they generate current using huge generators using propane and diesel. Many of the generators are leased and are old. There are reliability issues. Additionally, I think the government still owes the unit owners millions of dollars and the owners will threaten to turn it off unless they get some of the debt paid down.

When I was down in November they were coming off of some weeks of interruptions. I brought strong flashlights to use if we needed to see in the apartment. That week was fine. You can imagine how difficult it is for the businesses and shops to have the power cut out mid day. Lots of lost sales. Residents report ruined electronics and appliances.

 

My daughter's landlord just installed a generator that automatically flips on in a power outage. Thus I have not been getting updates. Previously she had lost power 7 times in one day.

 

It's an awful mess for which the residents pay about 4 times more for power than the average in the mainland.

For the curious:

https://stthomassource.com/content/2020/06/11/due-to-unit-23-fuel-and-generation-issues-wapa-to-add-26-megawatt-generator-to-harley-plant/?doing_wp_cron=1592881535.8851439952850341796875

 

https://stthomassource.com/content/2020/05/06/wapa-sheds-light-on-potential-cause-of-mondays-electrical-service-interruptions-across-district/

 

https://stthomassource.com/content/2019/12/29/bryan-thanks-legislature-for-wapa-bail-out-calls-for-long-term-solution/

 

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10 hours ago, beautifulbill said:

If you live on the island the black outs are a royal pia   Imagine you are cooking breakfast or dinner or watching a favorite tv show. It’s not the same for a visitor. An occasional loss of power is usually an inconvenience but not a constant irritation and it happens irregularly. 
I wouldn’t worry to much about it. 

Yes same in many other Carib islands and in Mexico for us, power outages are an occasional pain for residents and long-term visitors, but certainly not events that are worth the time spent here for visitors...

 

Mitsugirly I hope you are able to swing either a villa at SBRM or a one-bedroom suite at the Village. For beach lovers and snorkelers, nothing compares to staying on Sapphire. Researching is important, but again, if you start a thread on TA as suggested you will get messages with excellent condo recommendations. And renting directly through an owner there (via VRBO or directly) is important so you know exactly what you are renting.

 

Enjoy!

Edited by blue_water
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On 6/20/2020 at 11:04 PM, mitsugirly said:

OH>>>> do they still have the Sapphire Beach webcam? I used to watch that all the time and dream.

Beautiful Bill had shared this link on the TA STT forum...Imagine listening to the waves at night...We liked staying on the balcony floors at SBRM so we could leave the balcony door open for that reason...The first level with a patio gives you direct beach access but we don’t mind walking around the building to access the water...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=EJDrwUY4EzU&app=desktop

 

Looks like the beach bar cam is currently offline?

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On 6/21/2020 at 10:06 AM, blue_water said:

 

We don’t take anything, everything is pricier in the islands, but we buy groceries at Moe’s or the other market and eat breakfast and most lunches at the condo to save $$. If you go through a lot of cereal, for example you could bring that...Many bareboaters or longer-term renters will bring a suitcase of frozen meat...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Moe's located near by? We always like to make breakfast where we are staying and usually like to take snacks and sandwiches during the day when we go to the beaches. We usually only make dinner a few nights a week when vacationing. I'm not looking to bring meats or anything, but just thinking of things like you said cereal and other items that won't spoil. When we vacation in Aruba, we have just brought an extra small suitcase with stuff in it with no problems. However, flying with an airline that you have to pay for each luggage 🙄  we will have to put things in with our clothes so it won't be a lot. 

 

 

On 6/23/2020 at 9:20 AM, blue_water said:

Yes same in many other Carib islands and in Mexico for us, power outages are an occasional pain for residents and long-term visitors, but certainly not events that are worth the time spent here for visitors...

 

Mitsugirly I hope you are able to swing either a villa at SBRM or a one-bedroom suite at the Village. For beach lovers and snorkelers, nothing compares to staying on Sapphire. Researching is important, but again, if you start a thread on TA as suggested you will get messages with excellent condo recommendations. And renting directly through an owner there (via VRBO or directly) is important so you know exactly what you are renting.

 

Enjoy!

 

I definitely have my eye on several SBRM places. I recently checked VRBO and found some really nice ones on the top floor with open ceilings and just beautiful. But the prices on VRBO seem to be a lot more than what I'm finding on airbnb. I wonder why? 

 

Thanks for all your (and everyone's) help. I'm going to do some more research today. 

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On 6/22/2020 at 10:15 PM, beautifulbill said:

If you live on the island the black outs are a royal pia   Imagine you are cooking breakfast or dinner or watching a favorite tv show. It’s not the same for a visitor. An occasional loss of power is usually an inconvenience but not a constant irritation and it happens irregularly. 
I wouldn’t worry to much about it. 

You do have a financial stake in Sapphire, Bill. I do think that visitors should be warned that there may not be current for some period of time due to the recent WAPA problems.  An "occasional" loss, if it is for several hours, can be a PITA for guests as well....

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18 minutes ago, O2B@Cagain said:

You do have a financial stake in Sapphire, Bill. I do think that visitors should be warned that there may not be current for some period of time due to the recent WAPA problems.  An "occasional" loss, if it is for several hours, can be a PITA for guests as well....

LOL...Provide an innocent answer and get a reply like O2B@C’s - someone needs to get a life...? 


I do not own in Sapphire, and I would rather be there during an outage than Secret Harbour or anywhere on the island. I have recommended Bill’s villa here and elsewhere along with other owners.

Have to say that we have never experienced an option usage with several visits to STT and I think bringing this topic up in a travel forum was unnecessary...

Edited by blue_water
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Moe's is in downtown Red Hook, on the side that does not back up to the water. The first time you go from Sapphire, keep your eyes peeled to the right once you are in a commercial area. It faces its skinny parking lot, not the street. If you see a small strip with Chelsea Drug, Duffy's bar, and more, you have gone just barely too far. If the parking lot is full, there is a paid lot behind it. I estimate a 5-7 drive from Sapphire.  This is what their signage looks like: http://www.moesvi.com/home.html

 

I think power outage is fair game. If someone relies on a CPAP machine, it is vital information.

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O2b

i was at Sapphire for 3 months this winter and there were 4 or 5 power outages. A few came while I was at the beach and the only way I knew was that I had to reset the clocks. Others did come at inconvenient times but were of short duration. If I had been in the middle of a project on my computer then it would be a major problem but it wasn’t  to much of a problem for me. 
Maybe it’s gotten much worse but if it is still the same it’s nothing that hasn’t gone on for the 30+ years I’ve owned. 

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