Today we woke up bright and early and ready to head to Miami for our 9:55 am flight to St. Thomas. We had arrived in southern Florida on the 24th and spent the first few nights at Angie and Josh's (our daughter and son-in-law's). They were also heading to St. Thomas with us and flying on the same plane. Unfortunately, our great planning didn't pan out too well---for much of the trip, actually! They had done a test run to the airport a couple weeks before and said it was about 45 minutes from their place. So they allotted for that, another half hour to park their car, and another half hour to check in. Little did we know, Miami closes their flights 1 hours before flight time and it took a little longer then 45 minutes to get there. So they dropped us off by AA check in and we hustled to check our bags. That's when we were enlightened about the 60 minute flight "closing". We missed it by 2 minutes! So, the first of our regrouping and replanning went into effect. There was another flight to St. Thomas 8 hours later. So we got the 4 of us confirmed on it---even getting assigned the exit rows (for a fee, of course).
I'm sure Ken would have been content to sit in the airport for 8 hours, but Angie, Josh, and I weren't. So we loaded back into their car and took off to South Beach. They aren't fans of Miami, but I rather enjoyed the excursion. We drove around looking at the Art Deco buildings and newer sculptures.
(I did write a letter to Corporate Budget and received a response in about 2 weeks. I'm happy to say they forwarded my letter to the manager at the franchise Budget there at STT airport and he responded by saying he was able to see that I was assigned a Yaris at first and should not have been charged an upgrade fee if nothing equivalent to a Lancer was available. He refunded that charge to my credit card. He also said the $7.50/day extra driver fee is stated on the reservation and wouldn't do anything about that. Corporate Budget also sent me a $25 voucher for use on a corporate rental as a good will jesture. So all in all, I'm pretty happy with the outcome. Wish I had reserved it in my husband's name instead of mine, but that was my fault.) Good thing is it was plenty big for the 4 of us and our luggage. Bad thing---It was BIG and the door on my side had the hinge broken so it would swing freely all the way open. Being 5'4", I had to literally climb into it each time I got in. Sure glad my knee wasn't acting up then! But finally, we were on our way----but where?! I had found that our Garmin included the USVI, but hadn't set the address for the Elysian before leaving home. When I tried to set it from our newly acquired Jeep rental, it came up with no such address, but a similar address was good so I set it to take us there. Having been to the island a few other times (for the day, and Angie and Josh to Elysian for 5 nights before), we knew it was taking us the wrong direction. Some screaming and cursing ensued. To top it off I had caught a pretty bad cold a couple days before and I wasn't feeling all that great. Finally Josh and Angie got out their phones and used the GPS on them to direct us to the resort. (Later I noticed the Elysian listed in the hotels part of "places of interest" on my Garmin---even had the correct address that wouldn't come up when I typed it in) I hadn't called the resort about a late check-in, because my confirmation sheet said they were open until 11 pm---it was only 9:10. Of course, they closed at 9! Strike 3!!! We had passed a guard building when we drove in, so back to it we went. The lady there did indeed have our room assignments. I had requested to be near the pool and/or close by the kids, but as the day was going, we were put in a room farthest from the pool, a different level and several buildings apart from the kids, and neither of us even had much of an ocean view. By now, that didn't even phase me----we were at least here!!!
Oct. 30, 2013:
The Elysian Resort:
This is a Wyndham managed resort with Wyndham owning some of the units and Worldmark also having a few. There's also several privately owned units that are rented out or occupied by residents. It's on the east side of the island on Cowpet Bay and about 2 miles from Red Hook. All of the Wyndham units are studios---either double studio (with 2 double beds and a kitchenette); king studio (like the double only with a king bed); studio parlor (which we got with the Queen Murphy bed and full kitchen); and the studio parlor loft (like ours only with a lofted bedroom and almost impossible to reserve). I had thought about reserving the parlor and a king bedroom for Ken and me and having them adjoining, but then we would have had double the energy fee of $22/day and they probably would have been at opposite ends of the resort with the way things were going. As it turned out, I really liked the studio parlor. It was quite large, nicely renovated, the murphy bed was very comfortable and folded up and down easily, there were place settings for 4, even had a dishwasher, the patio had a table with 2 chairs and a lounge chair on it (good for drying our wet suits every day since we didn't have a washer and drier). Would have been nice to have a higher unit with a better view, but at least we got to stay in the same rooms all 7 and 9 nights (2 reservations for the kids and 3 for us with one of ours being a Worldmark reservation, the other 2 being Wyndham). I had tried the Wyndham VIP trick of cancelling and rebooking our reservation within the 60 day mark to save half the points, but the cancelled reservations didn't come right back up. I had a Worldmark bonus time reservation as a back up in case Wyndham didn't offer those days again. Fortunately I was able to pick up 6 of our 9 nights at a later time for half the regular Wyndham points and kept the Worldmark reservation for the other 3 nights. I didn't play that game with Angie and Josh's reservations. I would say the studios were worth the full point price anyway now that we've stayed there.
Murphy bed behind couch. Couch was surprisingly comfortable for sitting on, too. Kitchen to the left behind me, hallway to door and bathroom behind me to the right.
Next thing on the agenda was to find the grocery store. The little one in Red Hook that the kids remembered had closed. So we went to one close to Red Hook---Food Center. I found things to be even more expensive here then on Hawaii. We did bring some stuff with us from home---like pancake mix and some snacks, but still spent a fortune on sodas, cereals, milk, eggs, bacon, etc. We ate most of our breakfasts in our rooms. Then ate lunch and dinner out.
(I'm told these are Palometa fish, a relative of the Pompano fish in Florida)
October 31, Halloween:
This morning I started out calling Boolchards and Royal Caribbean to ask questions about what underwater cameras they had. I had expected to be going to Boolchards, but that salesman was very abrupt. The gal I talked to from Royal Caribbean was very helpful and not in a rush, so we headed there soon after breakfast.
It was interesting driving around on St. Thomas. Driving on the left didn't seem to be too big a deal this time. Our driver did a very good job. But the narrow roads and hills were sometimes a challenge. I doubt we would have made it far in the Yaris had we all fit into it! Here are a few views as we headed into town:
Nearby was another beach we had read about and wanted to try, so after snorkeling Blue Beards for a couple hours, we headed there---to Bolongo Bay.
By now it was time to head back to the condos and clean up for dinner. We headed over to Duffy's Love Shack. It's an interesting little bar restaurant in the parking lot of a little strip mall in REd Hook. They even serve drinks in souvenir corny, but cute, made in China ceramic mugs. Angie and I enjoyed them, as well as dinner and watching all the festivities of Halloween. The waiters were dressed in costumes and some of the clientele were, too. Plus there was music and lots of drunken people to entertain us. A fun Halloween!
Nov. 1, 2013:
The surf was coming in pretty good again at the Elysian. It rained all night, too, and really stirred up the sand. We decided to head north again. I know Coki gets high rankings for snorkeling. I don't think it's that exceptional, compared to Cowpet, but it is a different experience, so we went there first. It is quite an operation with waiters on the beach. Sort of reminds me of being on a cruise ship with all the waiters wandering around the beach. After being walked into the bay area by "our" server, we headed into the water. First we went to the left and around the little point.
blue surgeonfish (tang) or "happy face" fish, as Ken likes to call them.
Nov. 2, 2013--Sat:
We had hoped to go to St. John's today, too, but again put it off because of the weather. We've seen very little sun the last 3 days and better weather keeps getting put off another day or 2. So, we stuck around our side of the island again.
We had read that Secret Harbor (about a mile down the road from us) was suppose to be really good for snorkeling, too, so we decided to find it and give it a try. Looked like it had potential!
Nov. 3, 2013--Sunday:
Again the forecast was saying more rain and a 10 percent chance of a tropical storm developing. At this point, we decided to throw good weather to the wind and head to St. John anyway. Turned out to be an excellent decision! We soon discovered the west and north facing shores were calm as a pool there! The water was nice and clear, too. We fell in love with St. John!! I've decided when I win the lottery, I want to move there instead of Kauai now---or maybe split time between the 2! 3/4th of the island is National Parks and very picturesque. Even the little town of Cruz Bay is covered with trees and pretty buildings.
http://travelingwithsue.blogspot.com/2009/05/2005-disney-cruise-lets-try-again.html . That was a complementary cruise from Disney because he almost drowning at Castaway Cay on our previous cruise. So when we went to Trunk Bay that trip, I only snorkeled a short distance from shore and made him sit on the shore. I wasn't impressed with the snorkeling then. But today we snorkeled all around the island just off shore and all the way to the rocks at the far right of the beach. I can now see why everyone brags about snorkeling here!
Almost immediately we were welcomed by these guys.
Rounding the far side of the island.
More colorful Christmas tree worms.
(Note, the internet said RT was $40 on the weekend, but they said it's been raised to $50 now) It wasn't a long wait, though. They were punctual.
Nothing like a little Mango beer to help the time pass!
Today we decided to head up the mountain to the overviews of Megan's Bay and up to Mountain Top. We had off and on rain again, but it was a nice ride.
Here's the view of Megan's Bay from Drake's Seat.
Nov. 5, 2013--Tuesday:
Today was the day the "kids" flew home. They had a morning flight, so we were up and at it by 8am. It happened to be one of the prettiest days we'd had so far. The sun was shining brightly. But even so, they said they had quite a bumpy flight back to Miami.
Finally got to see Charlotte Amalie with blue skies
Also loved that we always had free beach chairs here.
Bluebeard's Beach Resort:
View of the beach from the check in building.
It is a good size for a studio. The bed was comfortable.
We did head out to snorkel. It was still somewhat murky, but better then a few days ago.
Note to self---don't go to McDonald's on St. Thomas!!! Their service was about as good as Molly Malone's and again my dessert was foiled! They were out of ice cream!
Nov. 6, 2013--Wed.:
Time to check out of Bluebeards and head back to the East side. It was our last full day on the island. Depression was beginning to sink in just thinking about that! Took a couple last pictures of Bluebeard's Beach.
For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to hit up Sapphire beach and Smith's again. Hindsight, it probably would have been better to snorkel at Bluebeard's and Cowpet (by the Elysian) again---the winds and surf had shifted. It was a bit rough at Sapphire and somewhat murky. But we swam all the way out to the reef where it was clearer.
I've been told this is a male Sergeant Major and he's guarding "his" eggs. What a family man!
Nov. 7, 2013--Thursday:
Had to be out of the room by 10 am. I was dying to snorkel Cowpet again, but with no drier, I didn't. We did have breakfast at Sangria's overlooking the bay. What a view to have with breakfast!
Once in the airport I was surprised that we had to go through customs! Being a US territory, I didn't expect that. Good thing we had our passports with us since I had hoped to go to Virgin Gorda. I asked if we could just use our driver's license and was told that and proof of citizenship would suffice. Wonder what happens if you just have a driver's license and no proof of citizenship? Is that how the lady in the McDonald's parking lot became homeless?!
Soon we were on our way. We had a nice view of Crown Harbor from the plane. Lindbergh bay is the bay cut off this picture to the right.
In Miami we had another 4 hour layover. Then another 2.5 hours flight to St. Louis.
We certainly had some frustrating moments during this vacation. But all in all, I still had a great time. Loved the beaches and the snorkeling. Loved our Wyndham accommodations. Loved sharing it with family. Hopefully we'll get to do it again someday and it'll be sunny and calm everyday!