There is so much to love about the beautifully balmy Caribbean and we were delighted to return to these gorgeous little islands while on Allure of the Seas. Those terrible hurricanes last fall really did a number on St Thomas and St John in addition to the British Virgin Islands (my beloved Tortola!) and while things are improving substantially it’s still a little rough around the edges.
These islands are still beautiful despite the hurricane damage, although the evidence of just how awful it was remains. if you’re in the Midwest and familiar with tornadoes, then you’ll recognize the telltale signs of ripped-up trees, damaged roofs, etc. But these islands depend on the tourist industry to keep the economy strong, and there is still plenty to do and see in the meantime.
ST THOMAS/ST JOHN
On past cruises, we’ve gone to the Frenchman’s Reef hotel in St Thomas for the day, but we wanted to shake things up a bit and do something different – and as it turns out, the hotel there only just reopened a couple of weeks prior due to all the hurricane damage. Our trip on the Allure of the Seas stopped in St Thomas and then the next day in St Kitts. Plus the water at that particular beach is really rough in comparison to the other beaches around, and I wanted something calmer for 3-year-old Archer.
This time, we took a harrowing (and I mean HOLD ON FOR DEAR LIFE, JESUS WE’RE COMING TO SEE YOU NOWWWWWWW) taxi ride to the ferry so we could check out nearby St John and I am SO glad we did. Even though the taxi driver totally busted my Bugaboo Bee stroller (GRRRRR), we were able to catch the ferry roundtrip for about $8/person.
St John feels a lot less commercialized than St Thomas. There’s less shops and overall busyness. It’s wilder, somehow – and it reminds me of Tortola in that respect. We grabbed a quick lunch of conch fritters and coconut shrimp at a beach bar before taking a cab out to Trunk Bay for snorkeling.
TRUNK BAY: AFTER HURRICANE IRMA
The beach at Trunk Bay is stunning and it’s a part of the US National Parks. When we went, they weren’t yet charging for entrance like they did pre-hurricane, so it was free to get in. There are facilities there (bathrooms and outdoor showers) and a couple of covered picnic areas. There’s not much shade otherwise, so take note, all you sun-seekers.
We rented our snorkel gear in town at Cruz Bay before heading to the beach, but there is a shack there on Trunk Bay that will rent you all the necessary items.
The water is gorgeous and overall pretty calm. And the snorkeling is fantastic with plenty to see around the reef.
We were able to catch the ferry back around 4pm to be back at the ship before it departed with plenty of time. And I’m already researching houses to rent on St John.
St Kitts was a new stop for us. Further south in the Caribbean, it straddles the divide between Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. In fact, half the island has rough Atlantic Ocean-facing beaches and the other side is a calmer Caribbean. With plenty of rainforests and even a volcano(!), the island feels very much like Caribbean-meets-South-Pacific with those gently sloping hills and mountaintops concealed by low-lying clouds. But fear not – there’s plenty of sun and sand to be had.
St Kitts and Nevis didn’t get any hurricane damage at all, and overall it felt much more developed than any of the other islands that we visited. Where some of the Caribbean islands feel like a stark divide between poverty-stricken versus over-the-top-wealth, St Kitts appears to have more of a flourishing middle class. But lest you think it’s all high-end resorts and such, there’s still a majority of the island that remains wild and undeveloped.
And did I mention the wild monkeys?
YES! Wild monkeys EVERYWHERE!
WHAT TO SKIP
Several people told us to go to the Marriott to get a day pass to use the facilities there while on our cruise, and so that’s what we did. And it was a big mistake. The Marriott is an enormous, sprawling complex and it’s nice. But it’s not what we were looking for. The beach faces the Atlantic side, and it was extremely rough. Jude LOVED it because it was excellent body surfing, but for an anxious mama of a toddler, I wasn’t having it. And frankly, it just didn’t feel like an overly authentic experience. It felt like there was so much more to see of this pretty little island.
So we left after an equally-disappointing lunch. And it was the best decision we made all day.
The drive down the peninsula to Cockleshell beach (that faces the neighboring island of Nevis) was jaw-droppingly beautiful. The road snakes along the edge of the island on the Atlantic side before plunging down towards the Caribbean side, and eventually deposits you on Cockleshell Beach, which true to its name is loaded with tons of soft sand and beautiful seashells.
There’s plenty of little beach bars and clubs along the stretch of sand there – you pay a fee to get a couple chairs from whichever bar and then you’ve got an umbrella and chaise to drop your stuff. The water is calm and pristine, and didn’t feel particularly overcrowded.
Here’s Archer in his Esther Williams bathing beauty glory hahahahaha.
And at the end of the day, there were plenty of taxis to take us back to the cruise ship terminal. We fell madly in love with St Kitts – it’s dreamy in an almost indescribable way and the people there were so lovely. Plus if you adore fabulous hotels, there’s a handful of really spectacular options like Belle Mont Farm.
IF YOU GO
Any of the islands easily accepts the US dollar. And if you’re on the US Virgin Islands, your cellphone will work just like it does in the States.