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TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

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TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

PREFACE: You're going to find this trip report is pretty long and detailed. Sorry if that offends, but I did a TON of research here on TA.com before our trip to try and make this 10-yr anniversary special for my bride, and so I feel I owe it to "the experts" on this site who were simply SPECTACULAR to me... and I feel I owe this to all "the rookies" like I was to give them all these details. For fellow rookies, I hope this gives you some great insight for your trip!!

As for my bride and I, we are in our late 30's, have been married for 10 years (honeymooned in cancun and did Southern Caribbean Cruise at yr 5 where we noticed St John on a day-trip), we have 4 kids and were looking for a getaway (far away from everything) with a LOT of relaxation and peace and quiet. She is an extremely busy full-time mom and a 100% beach girl when she can find time for a vacation. While I'm a high energy sales guy who needs a retreat every now and then, so while I can relax at times I also need some adventure here and there. We're from Texas, so we were also excited to be getting away from the 105F baking summer heat and into the "cool breezes" 80-90's of STJ. Also, being Texans, we headed to Caneel and STJ prepared to be "Texas Friendly" (having read so many posts about less than friendly staff and locals), and with the right attitude we found almost everyone down there very friendly people. Especially we fell in love with the Caneel Staff, in particular the 30+yr veteran staff members.

This trip was everything we expected and more. As with most everyone who goes to Caneel, there's no doubt we'll be back sooner or later. The incredibly unique charm "luxurious, 5-star, beach-side camping in a national park" setting is just indescribable. We also read so much about mosquitos and no-see-ums, but found it to be much ado about nothing, especially commpared to Houston, TX.

Thanks to everyone here who helped make our trip so special. I hope you enjoy this post! Feel free to ask questions about anything - GERaider.

Day 1

We left our house in Houston area at 3:45am to catch a 5:45am flight from Houston to ATL, and then ATL to STT. Flights were on time. We caught the 3:15pm ferry direct to Caneel. (NOTE: Having Caneel handle everything from STT airport until we got to our room was incredibly easy and convenient! No other way to go.) We arrived at Caneel Dock just before 4pm, greeted by friendly staff and drinks, and our hostess Paula, who toured us around Caneel in the golf cart. We got settled into Room 67, our Premium Beachfront on Scotts Beach for this "7-day 11th Honeymoon" of ours, and had a wonderful welcome package of fruit backet, rum and coke, and champagne on ice all waiting for us being our "11th Honeymoon" and all. (About Room #67: it was an end unit in a good Scotts location. We never heard a peep from the one side with people. Our hostess Paula said #67 is the only one on Scotts with the beachside windows starting at the floor on up, so more sunlight and more beach view. But next time if on Scotts I would ask for Room #74 or #75, as they are both end units and are the shortest walk out your back porch to ideal Scott Beach location, and they are closest to the bus stop for convenience when carrying lots of stuff.) Our first outing was a walk on Scotts. Couldn't believe we were finally here after all the planning/research/dreaming. Scotts was everything we had hoped for an more! We then went back to our room for a quick nap cause we were exhausted. We then showered, had dinner at the bar/grill, and were greeted along the way by both deer and donkeys. In spite of reading all about the animals on the grounds, it was still so cool to finally see it all. And the grounds themselves are so spectacularly maintained. It was beautiful. At dinner, I had Bbq ribs (yum!) and she had catch-o-the-day (salmon/sweet-potatoes). Both were great! (Before I forget, in spite of all the mixed reviews I had read about Caneel's food, my bride and I were THRILLED with the food at Caneel. Now we're from Texas, so admittedly we're not high-fallooting rich/famous or "uppity" gourmet chef types (seriously, no offense to anyone), so we don't have unbelievably high expectations. But we thought the food was awesome all week at Caneel.) We then went back to the room for the night. (NOTE: We absolutely loved the walk (10-12 minutes) from Scotts Beach to the main reception area on Caneel Beach. It was always a great way to head to breakfast in the mornings, and always a great way to walk off a bit of the excess dinner and hold hands and talk/walk in the moonlight together. It seems we only took the bus when we were carrying a lot of stuff or in a couple times in the hottest part of the day.)

Day 2:

We slept in, had some relaxing quiet time (Bible time), and 9:45am started heading to breakfast. About 20 steps down the path I remembered my blackberry was still on CDT. Crud! It was really 10:45am so we missed bfast. So instead we went and met with the concierge (they were AWESOME all week for any of our needs!) to set up next two dinners for later in the week (Equator in the Caneel Ruins, and Asolare offsite). Also booked a 2-day rental car pickup for 2:45pm that afternoon, as we figured we'd do some exploring early in the week, and then relax at Caneel the latter half of the week. We had an early lunch at the bar (chicken nachos & burger - good stuff) since we had missed breakfast and then agreed we would NOT eat at the bar & grill all week because we felt the TVs were invading our Caneel/STJ getaway (we succeeded by the way to never look at a TV the rest of the week). We then hit the snorkel stand (we each got one of those yellow float things that go around your waist which by end of week we were THRILLED with especially on longer snorkel days). We went straight to Scotts for a swim. She laid out while I snorkeled. Within 10 minutes, I was swimming with a turtle on south half of Scotts. It was a really fun start to my snorkeling week. I eventually realized that turtles and a couple rays hung out at Scotts most every day. I then moved North towards the reef on the way to Turtle Beach and saw some neat fish and coral. (As you can probably already tell, I'm a big-time amateur snorkeler having only gone once during Caribbean Cruise 5 years earlier. So my vernacular will not be professional.) At 2:45pm we promptly went to the taxi stand to meet the rental car company who was scheduled to come pick us up. At 3:10pm, I decided Island time was over so I called the Caneel Concierge. She said "Oh, we weren't sure you were up there, you should have called to let us know that. I'll call them now to come." Huh??????? That was the one time all week Caneel let me down. So, lesson there: best to double check appointments just to be safe. At 3:23 the rental guy shows up, and drives us into Cruz Bay. After signed paperwork, we had our Jeep and after one short look at the map I just wanted to start wandering. It’s a small island, how much map do I need? So we wound around south a bit and then WOW!!!! Mountainous!!! I had read the posts on here, but holy cow. My wife freaked out scared!! .... It was the best part of trip for me!!! (OK, one of the best.) Driving is QUITE an adventure on STJ. Back in Cruz Bay we hit the Starfish Market and got groceries (NOTE: we went to Caneel on the Bed n Breakfast plan and did not pre-pay for any Caneel lunch/dinners.) We got $78 in groceries and these lasted us for lunches and late-night snacks for all week. This saves us probably $400 in lunches alone versus eating out. So, as part of this idea, have Caneel put a fridge in your room on arrival for the entire week. They'll give you a cooler as well for the week, and you can get ice in it every morning by leaving it outside your doorstep at end of the day). We also bought Coke and Corona at the store and this saved over $100 in expensive drinks at Caneel all week at $8 a pop. Gluten-Free FYI: Starfish Market has Amy's Gluten Free Pizza's and GF crackers and such in the specialty/liquor shop across from the main market. My bride is GF, so this was cool to find. Back to Room 67, we got ready for dinner at Equator. Too hot at 6:15pm in late June, but by 6:45pm it felt incredible as sun was setting. Views were great having asked for a balcony table. Service was awesome (Dawn was our waitress, special kudo's. Again, I was SO happy with the Caneel Staff this week. I treat folks as good friends, and they in return act like good friends). I had NY strip. It was good (but the bride said I make better steaks in my backyard kitchen with my secret sauce Allegro). She had Mango BBQ chicken, which was good. We had a very nice, romantic walk home in moonlight.

Day 3:

Woke up 8am, breakfast buffet was awesome. Back to room, packed a lunch and drinks in our cooler, hopped in jeep, headed to Salt Pond bay. Hiked Rams Head (past blue Cobblestone bay). The map said it was a 1hr hike, but we did it in about 25 minutes, so not sure how they figure the times on these trails. It was good exercise climbing up and down this trail though. The view was cool at the point, looking back seeing the rough Atlantic waves and rocks on the right, and the quiet/beautiful Caribbean bays/beaches on the left. We snorkled Salt Pond bay, saw a 4-5ft Barracuda and had a fun stare-down with him for a while. Other than that, the waters seemed cloudy. We then packed up, headed back towards Caneel, stopped at TuTu Much store up the mountain on Centerline road. (NOTE: Mosquito's. All week they seemed very light at Caneel. They never bit my bride all week. Got me 8-10 times all week. But outside Caneel we noticed they were worse, especially up the mountain and at Cinnamon where they were really bad. Tu Tu Much: Cool store. And side note: we're admittedly big Survivor fans, so it was cool to see that Jason from Surv 16 bought his St John necklace here that he wore on the show and she says he now lives in St John. After TuTu Much we stopped at Cinnamon to snorkel for a while. Really disappointed with snorkeling at Cinnamon, so we just laid on beach for a break and then SHOCKER!!! Right in front of us walks Jason from Survivor 16. I had to say "hey, dude, we're huges fan!" And he just plopped down by us and chatted for about 20 minutes. He is an really cool kid (just age 24), extremely nice, laid back (of course he is, he lives in STJ), and now he's our all-time fave from Survivor. He works here at a middle school for 2more weeks, also working for Natl Park, before heading to Spain to see the world for a while. We wish him well, and may God bless him moving fwd. It was now dinner time and we wanted to use the jeep, so we drove over to Coral Bay to hit Skinny Legs (all the research said it was a must, and they were awesome burgers). Then, it was back to Caneel for the night.

Day 4:

Bfast buffet wonderful as usual (we loved relaxing and reading our daily NYTimes Caneel style to get a quick media fix each morning. Oh my, Michael Jackson had died, the USA almost upset Spain in Soccer, and some idiot Governor from South Carolina had "gone missing" while cheating on his wife in Argentina). On to Trunk Bay... incredible sand. Better than Cinnamon. Snorkeling was kinda cool but it seemed like a lot of dead coral. Then on to Annaburg. We parked, at a snack lunch out of our cooler (was such a great idea to do that all week), then did the 20-25 minute hike on Leinster Trail to Waterlemon Cay. On the hike such an ODD thing: what the heck things were digging those big holes in the dirt trail? My wife thought she saw a huge spider in one of them. We snorkeled around Waterlemon Cay. Wow, wow, wow!! Easily the best snorkeling of the entire trip! Right into the water we were in the middle of millions of little minnow-type fish. Deeper as we got to the cay there was unreal vegatation, schools of fish of all kinds, coral, mahi-mahi or something like them, a school of 5-8 squid. Much of this was on the back half of Waterlemon Cay as we snorkeled all the way around it. It was a bit rough waters (so good we had the yellow waist floats), and a bit darker on the back side as you got more into the bay and deeper waters (think "The Dropoff" from Finding Nemo), but it was just unbelievable snorkeling!! Once done, we hiked back to the jeep, and then into Cruz Bay. We stopped at EveryTing, which admittedly after getting all our groceries at Starfish market wasn't much use. But the host inside was a very nice lady so I see how her shop is so well liked. We then stopped at St John Spice/Kids, noticed Woody's is overflowing packed 6pm each day we pass (but never made it inside Woody's). Made reservations at La Tapa for tomorrow. Returned the Jeep. Came back to Caneel, showered, and had a VERY romantic dinner in the ruins. One of our greatest dinners ever. Private, romantic, like Lord n Lady in a castle at night, candel-lit under stars. Our waiter Walter (a 35yr veteran employee) was awesome! And his brother Dennis (a 40yr employee) was also extremely friendly. My bride had the grouper, I had snapper. Food was awesome. We had staff take pics, I had a pic taken w/Dennis and Walter. We then Retired to the room for the evening.

Day 5:

Got up. Mrs GE was having quiet time on beach, 2 rays were laying there 5ft out from here. She woke me up, we had bfast buffet, snorkeled all the way from Scotts Beach to Caneel Beach (got bandaids from Concierge for toes that had rubbed raw - make sure you get right size fins), and then we snorkeled Caneel beach all the way back to Scott's again. 2nd best snorkeling anywhere we went all week, especially right off Cottage 7 rocks. All afternoon we laid out on Scotts, floated w/Turtles n Rays, laid in the hammock under the seagrapes. (wow, just got a glimpse of Mrs GE getting ready for our La Tapa's dinner - she is stunning georgeous, esp now with that STJ golden tan!!! Whodda thunk she's a mom of 4?!? I'm one incredibly lucky guy). Got ready for a La Tapa's dinner by showering n listening to my 6 new most favorite songs in the world... my STJ songs over and over: Garth (2 Pina Colada's), K Chesney (Be As You Are), Jack Johnson (Upside Down, Better Together), and Bob Marley (Three Little Birds, One Love). So, THANK YOU for all of you who gave me those amazing tips on what to put in Mrs GE's iPod. It was awesome!! La Tapa's: waiter Peter, good kid. Alex the chef came out and was extremely helpful with Mrs GE's Gluten allergy. Mrs GE had Mahi Mahi, I had Linguini w/Shrimp. Holy cow, wow, this was the best food of the week. Every bit hits you with 3-5 flavors in every bite. It was so, so good! This place is NO DOUBT a can't miss restaurant for both food and friendly service. They have no view, but WHO CARES the food is so good and staff so nice. We then stopped by Mongoose Junction and Ocean Grill for a Back Door (?) Lemonade. Wow, that was tasty and packed a little punch. The Tap Room looked happening upstairs but we had Caneel on our minds so grabbed a taxi home.

Day 6

Uh-oh, Mrs GE woke up sunburned. Those long snorkels got her yesterday. So, we stayed on Scotts Beach in the shade and read/relaxed til 10am. It was SO nice, as it was only me and Mrs GE on the entire beach for over 1hr... so I walked down the beach toward Turtle and out to the point to take pics of all of Scott-Paradise-Cottage 7 with Mrs GE laying out all alone on the beach. So Cool. We then walked to bfast buffet. Walked to Honeymoon Beach. It had Trunk-like sand, but not as private as Scotts Beach. Lot of snorkelers from a STT sailboat were there. We then hit the Caneel Shop and bought stuff for us and family. Took the bus back to room. Had a Snack lunch in room. Packed a cooler of drinks/snacks and walked to Hawksnest. I didn't like it. Very thick grass in middle w/no turtle/rays (maybe bad time o day?) Snorkleing not good to right, decent to left as you go toward point but I wasn't in the mood for going too far around. Walked thru Estate to Turtle beach area. They were preparing for a wedding. Nice little beach at Turtle. Very few folks. Pretty good snorkeling along the right half and edge. Mostly 20ft deep or so and lot of tall vegitation, so it was cool to dive down amongst the eye-level of the "shrubs" (obviously not getting too close or touching anything). Several large schools of fish incl one blackish-purple school that was cool. Only downside to Turtle is loud hum of boats passing by while snorkleing irritated me and clearly the schools of fish. Left Turtle 5pm to head back to room, saw a wedding party getting ready with chairs and white trellis-thing flower-laden. Walked down Scott one final time (wow, how sad, this is it, the end of our week). As I turned to head up to our room, Mrs GE wouldn't go with me. She just turned the other way and walked until she was waist deep in Aqua Scotts Beach water. I laughed and walked to the room to prepped for dinner at Asolare. She eventually joined me. On the way to our taxi, I reviewed my end-of-week bill: there were many errors. Somehow three lunches and a breakfast and a $92 bottle of wine were on my bill and shouldn't be. $472 in errors. Caneel gladly pulled all that off my bill, but just double check your bill. On to Asolare: we were 10min early for our reservation to ensure our balcony table, but they had just given the last balcony table away. I was ticked. When I told her we'd just wait at another table and chat until a balcony table came open, the waitress looked at me like I was an idiot and said "uhhh... OK". Then a 2nd girl came and brought bottled water after I had asked, but the water had no lid and absolutely no label. She said, "oh, it just fell off in the cooler.". That was it. Everything I had read on this website about Asolare was happening to me... good view, but bad service. And I wasn't about to wait on the less then excellent food. So we paid the $7 for the water and left. We decided to just find a hole in the wall. Enough with the fancy food. So we hit "Margarita Phil's Tex-Mex". While we got the hole-in-the-wall we were looking for, it wasn't bad. The "naked nachos" were actually pretty tasty. After dinner, we called it a night and headed to the room to pack.

Day 7:

One final Breakfast buffet, took the 8:30am Ferry to STT, and since our STT flight to ATL wasn't until 2:45pm we hit Megan's Bay. While it was nice, we sure didn't think it lived up to the "Top 10 in the World"... at least not after living on Scotts Beach. Plus Megan's was crowded from Cruise Ship passengers. But, it beat Galveston Beach! So we enjoyed it til 12:30pm, then headed to the airport. No problems at the airport (Caneel had our bags waiting for us by their office), smooth connection in ATL, and next thing you know we were back in Texas hugging on all the kids.

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1. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Great report! It really sounds like you and your wife enjoyed some of the best things that STJ has to offer.

Now you have to start the villa search to bring the whole family to STJ!

St. John
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2. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Wow! Thank you for the trip report! I really love reading the "first timers" reports. Sounds like you both had a nice time enjoying each others company and enjoying St. John. Hope to see you back sometime soon!

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3. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

As a rookie planning my first STJ trip, I love detailed reports like this. Thanks!

St John, VI
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4. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Wonderful, wonderful report - sooooo glad you had a fantastic time and thanks for taking the time to relive your vacation with us.

Just a few things to mention.... Caneel is wonderfully free of mosquitos as they spray :) and the hole are homes to crabs - mystery solved :)

Hope to see you here again soon - maybe for next years anniversary :)


jersey shore
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5. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Good reporting! It is always a pleasure to read a report of a first timer reaping the benefits of all the research that goes into making a trip what you want.

Too bad about Asolare. I have never had anything close to poor service there, instead the exact opposite. I am a fan of their food too. What happened as far as not getting your rail seat is disappointing tho, especially after arriving early to ensure it. Often when things get off to a poor start it is an omen of things to come so moving along to a different restaurant in understandable. Ah, those first impressions!

Thanks again for all the details!

Marietta, Ga. USA
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6. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Spectacular trip report. I felt like I was right there with you. Nice detail. Gosh I'm longing to go now!!

Cedar Point, North...
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7. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Thank You! Great report. I was beginning to wonder if we were the only couple who go to STJ to be relax and enjoy each others company rather than using it as a drinking party. To each his own...

Kansas City
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8. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Loved every minute of your report. One of these days we'll experience Caneel at least for a few days. Thanks for sharing how much you enjoyed it!

It's such a peaceful place to relax and enjoy each other!

Congrats on 10 years!

Gonzales, Louisiana
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9. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Thanks so much for your trip report - I did not find it too long nor too detailed! Excellent information in your post and I'm glad that your hard work & research paid off! I'm also planning a Caneel trip within the next year and sometimes when I read a negative report, I admit it makes me question whether Caneel Bay will be worth it. From reading your report, I'm all excited again! Thanks & congrats on the 10 years!

P.S. I've also decided to ask for room 74/75 since I've heard more good things about their location than bad...

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10. Re: TRIP REPORT: June 23-29, 2009 (Long, detailed)

Details are what everyone here is looking for! Thanks for the wonderful report. This Houston gal and family are heading to St John on Wednesday. I am looking forward to "cooler" temps and lots of water time. Hopefully I can post a report as good as yours. I felt I was there with you and loving every minute of it.

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