St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Travelling to St. Thomas for New Year’s Eve was an incredibly humbling experience, much like the rest of our Christmas cruise. After yet another canceled flight, we arrived on the island on a tiny Cape Air plane and headed to the Emerald Beach Resort, the only hotel open so far on the island. While the hotel suffered damages, they were mostly cosmetic and we were happy to spend time and money on an island that I had visited since I was just a child.
We had to switch rooms a few times due to the Emerald Beach not yet being officially ‘open for business’ until February 2018, but as we were incredibly laid back on the entire trip due to the impacts of both hurricane Irma and hurricane Maria, we took it in stride and made the most of our time at the hotel. Over the next few days, we saw staff quickly repair the beach bar, fill the pool, clean up the grounds, and renovate in time for the New Year’s Eve bash. The transformation was amazing! The food was great (especially the breakfast each morning!), the staff were friendly, the rooms were clean and comfortable, and the beach and surrounding palm trees were beautiful. We will definitely be staying at this hotel again when it is fully up and running!
During our time on the island, we heard many stories from bartenders, taxi drivers, and store owners about the devastation on the island and how much they had each lost. From their homes and businesses, the disappearing sandy beaches and palm trees, to the 100+ days without power, it was humbling and heartbreaking to see how the people of St. Thomas had come together to rebuild their island and welcome back tourists so quickly.
On New Year’s Eve, we visited Magen’s Bay, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world that we have frequented nearly everytime that we have visited the USVI. I was filled with hope as I saw young palm trees growing, a makeshift beach bar serving food and drinks, and people frolicking in the waves despite the sandy beach missing from the shore. While I was disheartened at first, we soon learned from the locals that ‘the show must go on’ because tourism is a key industry for the island, and that the island was indeed open for business. While I haven’t sailed often on Royal Caribbean, it was interesting to learn from the bartender that they played a key role in the rebuild at Magens Bay by donating funds for the cleanup and 500 new palm trees for the beach!
While some of the shops and restaurants in Charlotte Amalie were under repair or closed, we had two amazing meals at the Mexican restaurant Greengo’s and enjoyed their massive margaritas! On past trips, we have always enjoyed a delicious lunch at Cuzzins, drinks at Coconuts (be sure to pin a $1 bill to the wall with your name on it!), and, of course, the duty-free shopping at both Havensight Mall and the fancier Yacht Haven Grande.
For the sights to see, I always recommend a walk around Fort Christian, a climb up the 99 Steps to Blackbeard’s Castle, and a visit to one of the island’s top beaches (Magen’s Bay, Coki Beach, and Sapphire Beach are some of my favourites). I also took the ferry over to Tortola once for a day trip, which was an amazing experience in itself!
On the Bucket List:
What’s on my must-see list for the next time I visit St. Thomas when it’s fully back open for business? I’d love to revisit Coral World as it’s probably been a decade since I was there last. I’d also love to go on the Paradise Point gondola ride to check out the amazing Charlotte Amalie harbour views, eat at Oceana restaurant, visit both the Mangrove Lagoon and the St. James Marine Reserve, and do more island hopping around the USVI and BVI.
So, don’t rule out St. Thomas just because of the hurricane. This island will always be a favourite on my list and I can’t wait to visit again as soon as I can.
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