This post is mostly logistics and details, included because this is EXACTLY the sort of thing I look for when I'm in the process of planning a trip. If you are not in the midst of trip planning, you might want to quickly skim this one and wait for Part2.
Friday: Up before dawn for grueling travel day: 3 hops on American (MSP->MIA->SJU->STT). I am coming down with a cold and grumpy about it. But the trip turns out not too bad. Despite the fact that AA pilots are in the midst of a "job action" resulting in many cancellations and delays, we arrive right on time. One long delay on the middle leg, but our last flight is on time so it all works out. 3 legs is exhausting, but the little prop-plane hop from SJU almost makes up for it. Window seat, great views of the islands, and a fascinating conversation with a young man from St. Thomas. Anyway, we arrive at 6pm and by 7pm we are dragging our luggage up the 85 stone steps to Galleon House in Charlotte Amalie. The steps are a workout, but we love being high up on the bluff looking out over the harbor. This time we splurged and got a room with a balcony - worth the extra $25. We crank up the AC in our room, then take a quick dip in the pretty little pool. Sadly, the restaurant next door has closed down, but the cheerful gal at the front desk recommends Tavern on the Waterfront. It turns out to be a great place with cool jazz, good food, and excellent A/C (remember, we just flew in from Minnesota and appreciate a restaurant with walls at this point). I have the best tropical drink ever, something they call "Harbor Wave." It's a pina colada plus mango juice plus Midori, which is a melon liqueur we had never tried before. That's going on our shopping list when we get home!
Back up the 85 steps. At least we're getting lots of healthy exercise today. Room is cool now and we get a pretty good night's sleep. Manager Doug makes us bacon and eggs on the veranda, and hangs around for a little chit-chat as we snap pictures of the red rooftops and turquoise harbor. Great way to start the day - I guess that's why we keep coming back here despite the steps. We pack up and head for the ferry dock, but it turns out Pia was right, no weekend service in low season. We are immediately snapped up by a very friendly taxi driver who takes us on what he says is the most scenic route to Red Hook. He is proud of his beautiful island and points out all the sights, and it's a fun ride. Other than the buddy he picks up by the side of the road for a free lift we're his only fares for this long trip, so we give him a very generous tip.
Ferry ride is fun but uneventful. Getting the jeep is kind of a trial. I rented from Caribbean Villas hoping it would make everything faster and smoother, but this is not the case. We wait for an hour at the ferry dock, then they try to give us a jeep with broken A/C and gas gauge, then finally find one somewhere that works. Office staff is pleasant enough, but don't seem to be paying much attention to what they are doing. Pretty much the same thing happens in reverse on the way home. Not the worst car rental experience ever, but I wouldn't do it again. Their jeep inventory was limited and we ended up with a Jeep Liberty, which was a much larger vehicle than we needed or wanted.
We had packed some food to get us started: bread, cheese, peanut butter, pancake mix, a little cooking oil, snack bars. Stopped at St. John Spice for coffee and Cruz Bay Grill Rub. Then Starfish Market for milk, eggs, fruits, veggies, meat, juice, coconut milk and of course a supply of rum from the liquor store. Food didn't seem as expensive as I remembered compared to stateside. I think that means food has gone up back home, not that it has gotten cheaper here. I had emailed Crabby's in advance to see if they were open. They weren't but would open up just for us if we rented for the week. Called Marie and she met us at Crabby's right on time. Richard rented full snorkel set, with just fins for me. Villa owner Olivier called us as we were struggling with the car rental, and was waiting by the phone when I called him back from Crabby's. He lives just up the hill, so he arrived quickly and escorted us to Sea Spirit, way down past Salt Pond Bay. Olivier was charming. Sorry we didn't get to meet Terry, but she was out of town.
2:30 - we finally arrive at Sea Spirit! The 1/2 mile of dirt road is bumpy, but not difficult. We pass more houses than I expected on the dirt roads, but Sea Spirit itself is isolated on a cliff jutting out into the sea with no other houses in sight, absolutely private. There's a nice big, flat parking area. The house and the view look exactly like the pictures in the online listing - clean attractive interior with vaulted ceiling and lots of natural wood and tile, big covered porch and deck looking right down into turquoise waters surging against craggy black rocks. Olivier shows us the ropes and reminds us to feed the feral cat, which lives outside and rids the place of vermin. The cat glares at us balefully. "Hates you, nasty 2-legs," she spits. "Same to you, nasty furry mousetrap," I think.
We stow our food, unpack quickly, and still have time for an afternoon snorkel. We're intimidated by the rocky beaches on either side of the villa, and never did like Salt Pond all that much, so we head for Lameshur. The expedition is not a success. We dilly-dally too long and the sun is going down by the time we get there. We forget the towels. Richard's mask leaks badly and one of his fins tears when he takes it off. I spend so much time helping R with his equipment that I never get past the featureless sand near the shore - don't see a single fish. The sun unexpectedly disappears behind the mountain at about 5:30, so we end up driving back in the dark over scary 4-wheeler dirt roads. However, we do see some pretty sunset clouds and tons of little deer.
Back at the ranch, we strip, rinse off, and make dinner. Richard makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches EVAH (carmelize the onions and mushrooms first, then assemble the sandwiches and cook in the onion-flavored oil) while I whip up a blender full of frozen rum drinks. Dinner on the deck, watching the last wisps of sunset. Then more frozen drinks in the hot tub, which actually feels pretty good now that the sun is down. So despite the snorkel setback we end the day on a mellow note. Wonder of wonders, the bed is comfortable! Nice firm mattress but with a foam topper that makes it soft and lots of extra pillows.
Want more details about Sea Spirit? tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g2053566-i21503-k5…