St. Thomas – Travel Update

Back in September we had 2 hurricane sweep through the islands.  While we had some major damage to the island, we are quickly recovering.  

I’ve been posting updates as the recovery continues and as life returns to normal here in St. Thomas and St. John.

Almost every business has reopened and we’re already welcoming cruise ships and vacationers to the island.

If you scroll to the bottom of the page I have specific information on:

  1. Beaches
  2. Wedding venues 
  3. Resorts/Hotels
  4. Attractions
  5. Cruise lines

November 7, 2017

Well the reviews are in.

Want to know the single most common concern of my wedding couples have when getting married in St. Thomas?

By a landslide the single biggest concern of the majority of couples:

Does Island Mike even exist?”

Or some variation of:

How do we know we aren’t being scammed“?

And it wasn’t even close.  I emailed 328 of my past and future couples and what many of them feared was that I was the wedding equivalent of some Eastern European online email lottery scam!

This blew my mind!  Although I suspected it was a distant thought on some people’s mind, I had no idea it was so common.

my comfy sweater

I sometimes wear my sweater when it drops into the low 70s at night during the winter. (Please note this picture isn’t me.  I stole it from Pinterest. Now you’re probably thinking “Ha! This must prove this is a scam. He steals pictures and posts them on his website.  But me snuggled up in my crocheted sweater is one of my private pleasures I don’t share with anyone.

And I get it.  Heck I once spent $200 on a crocheted sweater from a little old lady in Wisconsin.  As I hit the “buy” button, I was convinced my money was gone and was going to fund a drug lord in Columbia.

So I’m here to dispel any lingering doubts that I am in fact Island Mike and that I’ll be there when your wedding day arrives.

 

But if that’s not enough, and you want to sleep a little better at night, I put together an extensive list of ways to verify my authenticity.  Hopefully these will help you sleep a little easier at night:

  1.  My Wedding Wire profile
  2.  My extensive website that’s written in pretty decent English
  3.  My Google Profile (if you Google “St. Thomas Wedding Officiant”, my profile and reviews should pop up
  4.  I have tons of photos and videos out there that appear to show a guy performing weddings on a beach in St. Thomas
  5.  You can check out some vendors that work with me and ask them if I’m legit or overrated – Crown Images, Dow Studios, Blue Sky Ceremony
  6.  Check out a few blogs and articles I’ve been featured in: Offbeat Bride, Brides.com, Wedding for 1000, and SheFinds.

One of my favorite brides (I do have my favorites) was convinced I was fake.  Her group of 30 plus guests all had her convinced Island Mike wasn’t a real person.  They all stood outside the cruise ship waiting for me to arrive.  One of her guests captured the moment when she finally got to me.

cruise ship wedding dock with bride and st thomas wedding officiant

A Bride meeting the real St. Thomas Wedding Officiant

I am me!  And me is fo real!

 

November 3, 2018

When describing for folks how the island is recovering, I usually tell them how beautiful the island looks.  Or mention that:

  • The island is blanketed in green and bright colors. some color returns to the island
  • The beaches are ready and open for business.
  • Venues and businesses are open and operating for business.
  • People have returned to work.
  • I’m performing weddings again.
  • People aren’t starting every conversation with “So, do you still have a roof?”

(To be clear, a few of our resorts will be recovering for a while longer, but for the most part.)

But you know there are those certain moments when you know life is truly good again.  And it’s different for every person.  For me it isn’t the beautiful sky and sea or the laughter of children in the surf at Magens or the hum of blenders at beach bars…

Pirate Treasure Museum in St. ThomasFor me, it’s the Return of the Pirates!

While making my daily rounds, I ran into a living legend – Captain Jack!  Seriously, this guy is an honest to goodness, genuine pirate.  I’m not sure where he came from or where his ship is, but this guy is the real deal.  You can usually find him on any cruise ship day in St. Thomas at The Pirate Treasure Museum in Havensight. 

So to see him out again roaming the streets was a pretty special moment for me. 

(I’m not flashing gang symbols in the picture.  My hand is supposed to be making a “V” and an “I” for Virgin Islands.)

 

October 23, 2017

Hats off to the wedding vendors in St. Thomas.  They all got together for a styled shoot (I had no idea what this was until recently).  For those who don’t know, it’s when

wedding at lindquist

The lovely bride and groom under the wedding arch.

“creative types” put their ideas and visions together to make something gorgeous and take pictures.  In this case it was a styled wedding

wedding officiant and couple

Me sticking my nose in…

shoot.  

You ever hear of the expression “too many cooks will spoil the pot”?  Ordinarily if you have too many cooks in the kitchen, what you get is a big mess and crappy food.  Well we had a ton of people on site today for the styled shoot but everything went seamlessly.  And the results were lovely.  The unofficial numbers were:

5 wedding planners

2 Beauticians

4 florists

1 caterer

2 photographers

and a videographer.

Everything looked gorgeous!  We even had 2 models come to stand in as the bride and groom.  The crazy part is that the models were actually a real-life husband and wife that I married this past June at Caneel Bay in St. John!  So a bit of deja vu for me and them.

I tried to catch the whole crew of vendors together:

wedding vendors at Lindquist Beach

Wedding industry folk in St. Thomas

We met at Lindquist at 3 pm.  There was a cake.  We had appetizers (I couldn’t spell hourdurves). 

Champagne?  Of course. 

We had a mock ceremony and then a mock cake cutting.  But I did in fact eat the appetizers as they were very real and very delicious as always from the caterer Laura.

All in all it was a great day.  

 

 

 

 October 21, 2017

sage hammond and island mike

I give it the wedding thumb up!

pretty klip st thomas

Pretty Klip – Where the Magic Happens

I went beach hopping today with Sage.  She’s one of my favorite people and a wonderful photographer.  We wanted to check on the status of

Sapphire Beach

Sapphire Beach with Pretty Klip in the background

a few beaches.  We went out to Pretty Klip and Sapphire and everything looked lovely.  We also visited Magens and Lindquist.  And as I’ve mentioned before, they are all wedding-ready.  

Once Sage gets the photos back to me I’ll post a few.  For now, here are a few I took at Sapphire/Pretty Klip.  The weather was a perfect low 80s with a constant light breeze.  The water looked enticing but sadly we forgot our bathing suits.  We’ve planned a swimming date for next week.

October 20, 2017

A chance meeting at a laundry mat.  Some small talk over the spin cycle.

Stranger: “You from the island?”

Local: “Yes”

Stranger: “The roads down here are crazy!”

Local: “Yeah, even before the storm driving these streets can be an adventure.”

Stranger: “Any chance you know anyone that lives near Mandahl Bay?  I’m a FEMA worker and need a place to stay that’s close.  Don’t want to have to drive any more than I have to.”

That stranger is now living in my home.

So I’ve decided to give him the resort experience.  I bought him a small refrigerator and stocked it with beer.  I hooked up a little K-cup coffee maker and set him up with some French Vanilla coffee.

I figure tomorrow I’ll stop by a local restaurant and bring him some conch and rice.  I want him to actually enjoy his time here, I mean the guy is working 7 days a week, 12 hours a day and I don’t think he’s really had the all-inclusive experience.

You know, I’ve always been a spectator to disasters.  I’ve always watched it from afar.    And I’ve found FEMA and emergency personnel somewhat mysterious.  Who are they?  What do they do?  Do they just come here with suitcases of cash to hand out to those in need?

Well, I intend to find out and will report back!

In the meantime, I’m on the constant look out for resort openings/closings/updates.

Every day I’m asked by upcoming wedding couples about the status of the island hotels.  So it’s become a bit of an obsession for me.  And thankfully, a local online rag, VI Consortium, compiled some projected dates for resorts on St. Thomas and St. John.  I’ve listed them on the right side of this page (or at the bottom of the page if you’re on your cell phone).

I will continue to update.  Also, I have a list of villas/condos that are also open for business.  So if you are coming to visit in the next couple months, just let me know what you’re looking for.

October 19, 2017

I got a call from a cruise line representative today.  

The representative asked me if I performed weddings in the Virgin Islands.  

I said, “yes”.

excited kid dancing like me at a weddingShe got super excited and said that a certain cruise line (it rhymes with “Boil Faribbean”) would be coming back in a few weeks and that she wanted to get married in December.  So I got super excited!

You know how sometimes the smallest things can seem like a big deal?  Kinda like when you’re a kid and you make $1.25 from collecting cans on the side of the road.  And then you take the pile of coins to the corner store to buy an orange juice and candy bar.  It’s only some candy and juice.  But it’s the best juice you’ve ever tasted!

Well, I get to perform lots of weddings.  And I love every freakin one of them.  But getting the call today felt just a little bit sweeter than usual. 🙂

Here’s a great article about the cruise lines coming back to St. Thomas:weather-report

Royal Caribbean Returns to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands

Time to dust off my suits and practice my wedding dance moves! 

(And I have it on good authority from a weatherman I sorta, kinda know that the forecast in the islands is going to be perfect for the foreseeable future.)

October 18, 2017

WEDDINGS RETURN TO THE VIRGIN ISLANDS!

Today was the first official wedding to take place in the Virgin Islands since the hurricanes struck 6 weeks ago.

Lindquist Beach Wedding after the hurricanes

The 1st Wedding in the Virgin Islands since the hurricanes hit.  A truly noteworthy and illustrious honor for this amazing couple!

Instead of blathering on about how important this day was to me personally, I’ll just share a little bit about the wonderful couple and their island story so far!

Angela and Phil came down to St. Thomas on October 16th from North Canton, Ohio. 

Their wedding was in the works well before Irma or Maria entered our consciousness.  So after the storms hit I spoke with Phil and he said that they were determined to keep their wedding ceremony as scheduled.

They rented at a lovely little cottage in Peterborg overlooking Magens Bay.  Yesterday they rented a car and explored the island and went to the courthouse to pick up their license.

This morning I, along with Oliver from Dow Studios and Naheem from The Mango Works, met Phil and Angela at Lindquist Beach.  The weather was perfect. 

Anyhow, had an amazing time and was grateful to be a part of their momentous day!

September 29, 2017

I have the greatest job in the world.  I perform weddings. 

Of the two hundred weddings I perform each year, I get to meet lots of people.  By “meet”, I don’t mean like a greeter at Walmart.  I get to spend time with them, get to know them and get to share in one of the most important days of their lives. (Now I agree with you that morticians and divorce lawyers could say the same thing, but my clients tend to be a bit happier.) 

I keep in touch with many of my couples after their weddings.  And after the recent storms, I heard from hundreds of brides and grooms past and present.  Not even my family seemed as concerned as my island wedding friends.

Many of my couples comes back to the islands for a visit. 

wedding on Lindquist Beach

Ahhh, the fresh faces of a newlywed couple.

Enter Courtney and Doug. 

I married this handsome couple last December.  The wedding day was like so many others.  A bride, a groom.  A gorgeous beach.  Perfect weather.  Here’s the lovely couple:

Courtney and Doug are traveling to St. Thomas this December.  They were kind enough to answer a few questions for me:

Why are you coming back to St. Thomas a year after your wedding?

“We were married last December on St Thomas at Lindquist Beach so the island is definitely special to us for that reason.

But, there are many reasons we love St Thomas. When we landed at the airport and stepped off the plane for the first time, we both had the same feeling, we felt like this was our place. It’s difficult to explain, but the entire time we spent there it felt like home and that we were part of the island.

Renting a villa and jeep really allowed us to get the full experience and enjoy all the island has to offer, from listening to the island music, to navigating the twisty mountain roads. 

The beaches and the views we experienced had us in awe and was nothing like anything we had experienced before.  St. Thomas will always be very special to us and definitely want to visit as often as we can. We have already talked about moving there later in life because of how much we enjoyed our experience.”

 

What are our plans for your upcoming trip in December?

a couple coming for vacation to St. Thomas

…and after a year of marriage.

“For this year’s trip we’ll be renting Villa Gypsea on the quiet north side of the island.  We are most looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the island’s beautiful beaches.

We definitely want to go back to Lindquist Beach, where we got married, but also get a chance to see the beaches we didn’t go to last time.  This year, assuming the British Virgin Islands are ready for visitors, we’ll head over there. 

And our trip wouldn’t be complete without a couple trips to Duffy’s Love Shack for some great happy hour apps, drinks and a great atmosphere.”

 

What is your favorite memory from St. Thomas?

“We absolutely loved horseback riding on Lindquist Beach.  We booked a ride through Golden Age Ranch, what an experience!  We rode our horses down a trail and then onto the beach and even got to walk out into the water with them.

But our most cherished memories were of us sitting on the deck of our villa overlooking the beautiful island, with a drink in our hands, listening to the sounds of the island.

We actually took a little video with my phone so we’d never forget how it looked or what it sounded like. We get so caught up in the stress of daily life and our routines and it’s nice to play the video from St Thomas. It instantly brings us back and makes us relax and smile as we remember how amazing it is there.”

Thank you Courtney and Doug!  Can’t wait to see you both!  (And not just because you promised me access to your hot tub).

September 28, 2017

airplane at cyril e. king airport

A plane case aside by the winds of Irma

 

Time to book your trip to St. Thomas!  We are back in business baby!

The Cyril E. King Airport is now open to commercial flights.  Currently American Airlines, Delta and JetBlue are all flying to our island.

And I’ve been checking prices and they look pretty good.  So I’m going to be your travel agent.

I’m going to plan your trip for October 22nd – October 29th.  That should give you a chance to get time off work and pack your bags.

Some sample round trip fares (I found these on Expedia):

Milwaukee to St. Thomas – $560 (American)

Houston to St. Thomas – $465 (Jet Blue)

Pittsburgh to St. Thomas – $328 (Delta)

Miami to St. Thomas – $252 (American)

Seattle to St. Thomas – $946 (American)

When you get here, there are 2 options for getting around.  You could rent a car or go by taxi.  As your travel guide, I would recommend renting a car.  I say this only because taxis might be a little harder to come by.  Also because we are operating under a curfew – 8 am – 6 pm (more on this in a second).  So you’ll want absolute freedom of movement.

We can rent you a car through:

Budget

Paradise Rental Car

 

Almost every major resort is currently closed.  Some will be open in the coming months but for now you’ll need to look for bed and breakfasts, villas and condos.

You should only have a few requirements: a roof and a generator.  

Head over to VRBO.com or Airbnb.  This will take a little work, but there are lots of rooms available with generators and amazing views.  I’m guessing many of the owners would kill to have some of your business right about now.  

I’ve go a sample daily itinerary for the trip – this is what your day could look like:

9:00 am – wake up, shake the rum-fueled cobwebs out

9:30 am – cook breakfast

10:00 am – decide what to do today

10:30 am – still deciding what to do

11:00 am – can’t decide so head to a beach (for beaches, I would recommend – Lindquist, Sapphire, Secret Harbour, Coki and Brewers)

12:00 pm – after 2nd frozen drink, have lunch

2:00 pm – tired and in need of a shower head back to room

4:00 pm – head out to find an early dinner

6:00 pm – back at the room to watch the sunset and listen to the waves

Look, here’s the reality:

The island did suffer significant damage.  But no one is starving.  No one is without shelter.  Food is plentiful in the stores.  Restaurants are open.  Stores are open.    

What could be better.  People are more friendly, more willing to help, more likely to give you their total and complete attention.  Beaches are quiet.  I don’t know, having a world-class beach all to myself sounds pretty awesome.

All in all, depending on what type of vacation you’re looking for, now could be one of your best opportunities for an island adventure.

September 25, 2017

You ever get into a fender bender or back into something and you hear that sickening “thud” or “crack” sound.  Remember that feeling as you get out of your car and the sense of dread as you go to survey the damage.

That’s how I felt when I drove out to Brewers Bay today.  Brewers Bay is one of our less touristy beaches.  It’s towards the western end of the island.  A part of the island where resorts and shops and other signs of commercialization haven’t yet taken over.

It’s a true “locals” beach.

I felt a sense of dread after I passed the airport.  I imagined boats washed ashore, large trees felled in every direction.  Garbage and waste piled everywhere.

Well, my instincts were wrong.  As usual.

Of every beach I’ve visited so far, Brewers stood up to the storms as well as any of them.  

Brewers Bay was deserted today. Wish I had brought my cooler and a towel.

Brewers Bay was deserted today. Wish I had brought my cooler and a towel.

It probably needs a good rake to clear some of the stones, shells and coral that washed up, but otherwise it looked splendid.Brewers Beach on the west end of St. Thomas after 2 storms

There was a lone gentleman on the beach picking up shells and sea glass.  I’ve never seen so much sea glass.  There was 3 or 4 pieces within reach wherever you stood.

I grabbed 2 small pieces for my daughters since they like to collect seaglass.  Wish they were here with me now.  

 

 

September 24, 2017

I’ve never been a social media person.  I bet very few people would admit to being a “social media person”.  And yet you look at some Facebook pages and you see hourly updates, 4,000 comments and 800 pictures.  I don’t know how they do it.  I’m exhausted after 15 minutes on the site. 

Admittedly, I have a personal page and a business page on Facebook.  I know I’ve probably lost business because I refused for the longest time to add Messenger to my phone.  Some of my brides prefer to communicate through Messenger, so I now have Messenger.  But I’m not good at it.  I don’t like using it.  My wife says it’s because I’m too old to use it.

All that being said, in the past couple weeks Facebook became a twice daily exercise for me after Irma and Maria.  On Facebook, Virgin Islanders post news about relief efforts, airport openings and closings and every imaginable detail about the status of “things” in the storms’ wake.

Of the innumerable posts and comments a few truths emerged.  First, getting reliable facts and updates was like trying to dig a hole in the sand at the water’s edge.  The harder you dig, the more you’re buried by all the conflicting information.

Second, people get really angry at each other really quickly.

Hooters waitress in St. Thomas

Doing my part to bring the island economy back.

Third, everyone becomes a poet.

Sometimes it’s a simple note about how grateful they are for the day; how thankful they are for a family member (even though they probably love to gossip about that same person); or how challenges make us stronger.  Or how sunrises are special.  And on and on.

And under different circumstances, I might roll my eyes that people have feelings they want to share with the thousands of people they ‘know’ on Facebook. And if that’s their thing, I say go for it. 

But I’ll admit, in these challenging times in the islands, the messages of hope and reminders that we will overcome and be better for it, have reminded me that I’m not alone.

Not to be outdone by these people, I tried to create my own opus to life after the hurricane:

An Ode to Irma

Oh Irma,

You saucy little wench

You blew so hard

I had to hide under a bench….

…but then I gave up.  Partially because I’m a crappy poet but also because I had a date with Hooters.  They have power, wifi, football and food.  So, yes, life is good.

September 23, 2017

I’ve been on St. Thomas for over 8 years now.  By many local accounts, I’m still just a tourist.  There are ex-pats that have been here far longer than I.  And it’s almost like a contest when 2 ex-pats get together to prove who has the most “island credibility”.

 “I’ve lived on island for 20 years.” 

 “I’ve lived through 3 hurricanes.”

“I’ve gotten thrown out of every bar in St. Thomas.”

And so on.

And to a lesser extent, many visitors to St. Thomas will be quick to share their island lineage. 

“We’ve been to St. Thomas on 19 different cruises.”

“We’ve been vacationing at the same villa for 15 years.”

Well, I recently performed a vow renewal for a couple on their 30th anniversary.  They were married in St. Thomas at what is now the Marriott Frenchman’s Reef.  I forget what it was when they were married.

They were a lovely couple from the UK.  They’ve been coming to St. Thomas every few years since their wedding and almost always stay at Bluebeard’s Castle.

The last time they visited the island we met in the hotel lobby to hang out for a bit.  The lobby was appointed with big comfy chairs which, along with the couple’s British accents, made it feel like we were on the set of Downtown Abbey (I’ve only seen 10 minutes of the show but my wife watches it religiously).  We chatted the afternoon away as cool Caribbean breezes weaved through the open doors and windows.

Fast-forward to today and I must report that Bluebeard’s took a shot from Irma directly on the chin.  The photos aren’t pretty to look at.

st thomas resort damaged by hurricane irma

Hurricane Damage at Bluebeard’s Castle

But having visited the resort today I can say the resort is well on its way to being her old self.  Staff and cleanup crews flitted

missing roof at bluebeard's castle

Roof gone over some of the rooms.

around the resort cleaning and scrubbing. 

I’m not sure when the resort will be ready for prime time, but I do hope my British friends will visit next year.  By then the lobby chairs should be ready. 

*Banana Tree Grill, a restaurant on the resort, also sustained damage.  My now wife was unknowingly falling into my trap when on our 2nd date I treated her to filet mignon at Banana Tree.  Had the steak not been cooked to perfection, I do believe our relationship would have ended there.

September 23, 2017

A few days before Hurricane Irma hit, I performed a wedding at Lindquist Beach.  By all accounts the day was perfect.  84 degrees.  Sunny.  White puffy clouds.  Just your average Caribbean day. 

Although you couldn’t see the storm clouds from Irma that sunny day, 400 miles away she was churning and inching our way.

I liken it to being 9 months pregnant (forgive me Amber and woman everywhere).  You know those last few days of your pregnancy.  You feel pretty good and go about your daily routine, but there’s that unsettling feeling in your gut that your world is about to get inevitably rocked.

Anyhow, my buddy Oliver from Dow Wedding Studios, having lived through 2 hurricanes in St. Thomas, uttered some prophetic words after the wedding.  He said, “It’s not the storm you should be worried about.  It’s the 2 months after the storm leaves.”. 

I heard those words in my head today as I waited an hour and fifteen minutes to get my turn inside the hardware store.  They were only letting 10 customers in at a time (for crowd control and to avoid folks hording stuff).  I only came for a few items but was determined to wait because I also wanted to see what else they had in stock.  Maybe a few things I hadn’t thought of.

When I walked in the door I was greeted by a charming West Indian woman who asked, “What can I help you with dear?”.  I responded as I always do in these situations, “I’m all set, thanks”. 

“I’m sorry sir, we have to escort you through the store to get your items.” 

Well crap!  I sort of knew what I needed but now my mind went blank.  I looked at her as my mind raced and all I could think of was “I need a bucket”.

After she led me to the buckets, I remembered I needed bleach.

Once I grew accustomed to having my own personal valet in the store, my confidence grew.  Pretty soon I had this poor woman zigzagging across the store. 

“I need a lock.”

“Oh, how about a wheel barrel tire.”

“Do you have mop?”

“I could go for a cold Diet Coke.”

“Ok, one last thing, I promise.  Do you have any scented candles?”

With a cart full of stuff I hadn’t planned on, I left with my arms full.  Outside the line of people had grown even longer to enter the store.  As I walked to my car I felt like all of them were eyeing me.  I was absolutely positive that they all believed I was the reason they were all stuck in line.

I quickly sped away feeling 100 sets of eyeballs on the back of my head.  And as I glanced at the store in my rearview mirror, I felt bad that I hadn’t tipped my hardware store escort for the unique shopping experience and for finding me a “caramel cider” scented candle. 

September 21, 2017

I woke to a gloomy morning.  Barely 6 am and I forced myself to put on my running shoes and head out.  I jogged through little rivers in the road, the last remnants of Maria’s rain.

The first 500 strides hurt a little.  My back still sore from pulling and tugging branches at angles I’m unaccustomed to.  As the blood started to pump a little bit and I got in a rhythm I picked up the pace.

Green fairways at Mahogany Run Golf Course

My jog took me past the Mahogany Run fairways.

My mind wandered – my family, my business, running for governor – without really paying attention to my surroundings.  Other than dodging the rivers and puddles, I hadn’t even noticed the trees.

The hurricanes had effectively drained all the color from the hillsides.  Our once lush landscape turned a dull brown.  A dull brown clashing with the electric blue water and sky.

What made me take notice of our landscape were the fairways at Mahogany Run Golf Course.  Never had the golf course looked more beautiful.

I slowed my jog to take a quick picture when standing just a few feet from my face were the first buds of new leaves on the trees.  Amid the islanders’ cries for aid and tankers and tarps and foodstuffs, the island had quietly begun its own recovery.  Without any help from FEMA or the National Guard.

In the next few weeks, the dreary browns will be replaced by vibrant greens.  Which happen to go nicely with our azure waters.  😊

September 18, 2017

Pretty Klip Point after Hurricane Irma

Pretty Klip Point next to Sapphire Beach

I went beach hopping today wanting to see how a few of my favorite spots held up.  My first stop was Sapphire Beach and Pretty

Sapphire Beach Condos undamaged

Sapphire Beach Resort look unscathed

Klip Point.

Sapphire had debris on the shoreline but otherwise looked to be in good shape.  There was a clean up crew clearing limbs and debris.  

The beach bar was open and serving drinks.  Really all that was missing were the people.  

The condos all looked to be in tip top shape.  Didn’t look like a category 5 just swept through.

Some storm debris on Lindquist Beach

Lindquist Beach almost ready for beach chairs.

My next stop was Lindquist Beach.  It was as beautiful as ever.  Fallen trees and limbs blocked some of the road but were easy to navigate around.  

I wanted to spend more time exploring but I needed to get on my horse and prepare for Round 2 with a category 5 hurricane.  I’ll update further after Hurricane Maria passes.

September 17, 2017

I knew today was Sunday.  I knew this because I was going to watch my hapless Cleveland Browns.

A bucket shower and unshaven. Definitely not ready for a wedding today.

A bucket shower and unshaven. Definitely not ready for a wedding today.

I decided to head to the 2nd biggest bar/restaurant scene in St. Thomas – Havensight.  Havensight is home to the largest cruise ship dock on island and countless shops, bars and restaurants.

My first stop was The Smoking Rooster.  I grabbed a sandwich before the game.  Pulled pork and their homemade BBQ sauce.  And air-conditioning!

My hope was to head over to Tap and Still to watch the game but this is what I saw when I showed up:

Not an empty seat at Tap and Still

Not an empty seat at Tap and Still

 

 

 

 

 

After my Cleveland Browns confirmed their ineptitude on the field I walked over to the cruise ship dock.

If you’ve ever come to St. Thomas on Carnival, Norwegian or Holland you probably remember this sign:

Welcome sign at Havensight or WICO cruise ship dock

Welcome sign at Havensight or WICO cruise ship dock

It looks beautiful and untouched!  Almost like it’s waiting for passengers to return any minute from their excursions and beaches to board their ship.

The shops and trees also look relatively unscathed.  Not sure what the inside of the shops look like, but from the outside it

Havensight and WICO cruise ship dock shops

Havensight and WICO cruise ship dock shops

appears they could open for business tomorrow.

St. Thomas received some unsettling news (and the rest of the Leeward Islands as well).  Hurricane Maria is headed in our direction.  Part of me wants to throw my hands up.  The other part is saying, “Bring it on!”.  But seriously, I hope she doesn’t hit us or anyone else.  We could use a little breather.

 

 

 

September 16, 2017

I guess this morning I was on a mission.  I’ve been a little bit down since my wife and kids are in the states and it’s been over a week since I’ve seen them.  I can’t wait for them to come back.

Anyhow, I was determined to make use of every second of the day.  One of the things I’ve been wanting to do but continue to avoid is going out and taking videos of the island.    See, I’ve only heard about how bad it is on St. Thomas.  Every story is about devastation and heartbreak.  Eternal optimist I am not, but I also like a balanced diet of reality.  The island isn’t all rubble.  Believe it or not, “the smell of death is not everywhere” (other than in my fridge after day 4 without power).

So today I sucked it up and headed out to Red Hook.  If you’ve ever been to St. Thomas you may have visited.  It’s one of the social centers of the island.  Bars, restaurants, more bars.  I wanted to get a true pulse of the island.

I’ll get the video uploaded to Youtube tonight or tomorrow.

I walked to every business and found that the vast majority of them were up and running in some capacity.  The biggest surprise was Moe’s!  It’s a little supermarket.  The had fresh produce!  I haven’t seen a freshly ripe apple in a week.  

Molly Malones, Melt, Tap and Still and Caribbean Saloon were all open and serving hot food and cold beer!

Cassandra with Passion Fruit Chefs

Cassandra with Passion Fruit Chefs

I ended my day at a friend’s house.  Her name is Cassandra and she’s one of the owners of Passion Fruit Chefs.  They cater all of my wife’s weddings.  If you are planning a wedding here, please book them so I can sneak a piece of their tenderloin.  Cassandra had some food that needed to be used so she had a little party.  And trust me this wasn’t a powdered milk and spam party.  This was serious food…and I ate like a pig (not sure I should admit my gluttony since some people on St. Thomas have been eating Poptarts and Vienna Sausages for the past 10 days.)

 

September 15, 2017

I stopped by Bolongo Bay Resort.  It’s a smaller resort on St. Thomas – around 70 rooms – and learned they are planning on being open by November 12th.  Based on what I could see the resort looked intact.  Basically it was all cosmetic stuff.

The Duemeng family has owned Bolongo for decades and do an amazing job.  Bolongo is one of only 2 all-inclusive resorts on island, Sugar Bay being the other one.

Driving through Red Hook, I had some really great news for me personally.  The Caribbean Saloon is opening back up tomorrow (9/16)!  This bar/restaurant in Red Hook is a special place for me.  It’s where I convinced my now wife, to go out on a date with me.  (If you come down to St. Thomas I’ll share the story…I think it’s pretty good).  And it’s where we spent many late nights gorging on pizza and talking about our future.

Molly Malones was also open and buzzing with people.

 Also, I just got word that UPS is now shipping to St. Thomas.  Kinda opens up the world a little bit more to us.

All in all, the morning was wet but the roads are getting better and better.  Again, after seeing how bad it was after the hurricane, to see how far it’s come in a week is pretty impressive.

Also, a quick note about a recent hurricane bride of mine.  Sandy got married at Brewers Bay the week of the storm and was stuck on island for days and days at Emerald Beach Resort.  She just got back home today in Florida.  She said every year she’s going to celebrate her anniversary by sleeping in her back yard in a tent. LOL

 

September 14, 2017

Me and my buddy Courtney at Tickles. The guy's an island institution.

Me and my buddy Courtney at Tickles. The guy’s an island institution.

On 9/14 I went to Crown Bay Marina next door to where Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises dock.  I grabbed lunch with an old St. Thomian buddy of mine.  He and I worked together at the Department of Justice. 

We talked hurricanes of course.  He has lived through 3 hurricanes – Hugo, Marilyn and now Irma.  I asked him which was the worst.  He said Irma by far!  But then he said the recovery has been a lot faster.  Barely a week after the storm we were sitting by the water having an iced tea and hamburger at Tickles.

The place was busy and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

 

September 13, 2017

On 9/13 I grabbed a few beers with Jessica from Roses Too.  She’s the florist for all my weddings.  Her husband works for the cable and internet company on island – VIYA.  He’s been working 12-13 hours every day helping to restore our service.  

photographers can cook too

Mike Garcia. He’s Puerto Rican, but he cooks like an old Italian woman.

So I felt slightly guilty that we were sitting on our butts drinking ice-cold Caribs while he was working his tail off.  (But I also remember all the nights I’ve been working weddings until 10 pm while he’s at the bar, so I feel slightly less ashamed).

Jessica was itching to get back to work.  So we both talked about ways to get ready for wedding season.  The hard part is relaying to couples that the island is still standing and will be back on its feet in a few months. 

 

September 12, 2017

On 9/12 I had dinner with Mike Garcia of Toes in the Sand Photography fame.  He is also an organic farmer on island.  Sadly he lost all of his plants and nursery after the storm.  But had already planted all of his beds when I came to visit just 5 days after the storm.  The guy’s an animal.   His lovely lady Eron was by his side sweating in the sun and soil.

According to Mike in about 30 days he’ll start having vegetables ready to go…seriously, the freshest produce kissed by the Caribbean sun.  I can’t wait.  So if you’re coming down for a visit, I’ll put you in touch with him and he can put together a basket of produce.

Anyhow, when I showed up that afternoon all the work was done for the day.  I guess I have good timing. 🙂  They invited me to stay for dinner.  Mike cooked on the grill one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time.  Mike’s “kitchen” was lit only by the stars and a headlamp but he was masterful.  The meal, the company and the lukewarm wine was superb.

 

September 8, 2017

My wife and I, 3 kids and mother-in-law gutted out the storm at the Marriott Frenchman’s Cove.  The place withstood the storm with barely a scratch.  It was incredible how isolated we were at first from the destruction of other parts of the island.

The day after the storm the resort provided basic meals for the guests.  But word soon spread that food was in short supply and that the other Marriott properties – Frenchman’s Reef and the Ritz Carlton were also in danger of running out of food for the hundreds of guests.  So on the morning of September 8th, rumors began to spread of a huge ferry coming to take all the guests off island.

leaving st thomas after hurricane irma

My little monsters – Daisy and Scarlett – getting ready to go to the ferry boat.

ship leaves st thomas after irma

I watched through the fence as my wife and 3 kids walked along the pier to the waiting ship.

My wife and I left the resort on the morning of the 8th to clean up the house and assess the damage.  When we returned to the resort around 3 pm, we found out there was a ferry and it would be leaving St. Thomas at 7 pm that day!

There was a mad dash to pack our things and get ready for the boat.  A tough decision was made.  I would stay on island and the rest of my family would leave for Puerto Rico.

It was a difficult moment: I was relieved my family would be heading somewhere safe, but I was heartbroken we had to be separated.

 

 

 

St. Thomas Post Hurricane Irma Travel Guide

 

Beaches:

  1. Magens Bay is open.  The water and sand was as stunning as ever.  The bar and restaurant is still under repair but drinks are being served!
  2. Lindquist Beach is ready and waiting.
  3. Limetree Beach is closed for repairs suffered from the storm surge.  
  4. Sapphire Beach is ready for your beach towel and beach chair.
  5. Brewers Bay is beautiful.
  6. Emerald is open but the storm washed at lot of shell, coral and rocks onto the beach.  Not exactly ready for toes in the sand.
  7. Vessup Bay looks good.
  8. Hull Bay actually looks better than ever.  A lot of white sand has washed ashore.

Cruise Lines:

For September and October, as far as I know all cruise lines have changed their itineraries to exclude St. Thomas.  Once the ports are secure and all the shops are open the ships should be back.  My hope is November…but we shall see!

Norwegian – Returning November 8, 2017.

Royal Caribbean – Returning November 11, 2017

Seabourn: Returning November 1, 2017

Princess: Returning November 12, 2017 

Celebrity: Returning November 23, 2017

Carnival: COMING SOON!  (Although according to my sources, the ships will return to St. Thomas the first week of January).

Hotels:

This is really the worst of it.  All of the major resorts took a beating from Hurricane Irma.  Information is limited at the moment on exact timing of the reopenings but here’s what we have:

Sapphire Beach Resort

No official word, but the place is solid and could accommodate guests now.

Secret Harbour Beach Resort

Survived the storms relatively unscathed.  Could accommodate guests now.

Point Pleasant

Point Pleasant suffered mainly cosmetic damage.  The resort is expected to open on November 15th.

Margaritaville 

I haven’t had the chance to visit but I understand the resort only suffered minor damage.  It is property is expected to open sometime in October.

Bluebeards Castle

Has extensive damage.  Going to be down for a while.  I just read an article that said it will be a year or more:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2017/09/16/enormous-hurdles-ahead-for-virgin-islands-tourism-industry/Uh6dlhddeqahVAaFOY2xiP/story.html?et_rid=636770447&s_campaign=todaysheadlines:newsletter

Bluebeards Beach Club

A lot of damage to the property.  But I’m optimistic it will be open sooner than most.

Marriott Frenchman’s Reef

Took a pretty good hit.  I’ve heard estimates it will be open in January.

Marriott Frenchman’s Cove

This is where I stayed for the storm.  The structures barely have a scratch.  They could probably take guests right now if they wanted to.  But Marriott is currently saying Frenchman’s Cove is closed “indefinitely”.

The Ritz Carlton

Also has damage and will be a few months away from being tourist ready.

Sugar Bay All-Inclusive Resort

A lot of roof damage.  I wasn’t allowed on property or able to learn more but I’ll continue to update when I learn something new.

Bolongo Bay

Mostly cosmetic damage.  Plans to reopen in December.

Magens Point Resort

Ummm. Yikes.

 

Restaurants:

Most of the island’s eateries are serving food.  I can’t list them all but here are the one’s I’ve visited and eaten at:

The Smoking Rooster

Tap and Still

Hooters

Molly Mallones

The Caribbean Saloon

Benitos Burritos

Melt

Tickles

Brooks Bar

Brix

Fish Tales

Bernie’s

The Green House

Big Kahuna

Hook, Line and Sinker

Bad Ass Coffee

Barefoot Buddha

Cravin Crabs

Petit Pump Room

Brix’s

Fat Turtle

Dog House Pub

Rum Hut

Duffy’s Love Shack

Fresh Bistro

Rum Shandy

 

Notable closures:

Iggie’s

Lanai

Banana Tree Grill

A Room with a View

Attractions: (NO WORD ON ANY EXCURSIONS THIS POINT)

Pirate Museum – Open on all cruise ship days.

Sky Ride

Zipline

Scuba

Sailboats

Coral World

 

So what does this all mean?  We are quickly getting back on our feet.  All I would ask is that you give us a few more weeks to get things cleaned up a bit.  But if you’re the adventurous type come on down!  We still have all the essentials for a perfect island getaway – sun, sand, beaches and frozen drinks.  

Again, if you have any questions about specific restaurants, hotels, etc. just leave your question below and I’ll find out.

 

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