Monday, February 2, 2009

The Last Days of my St. Thomas Vacation

I couldn't believe my Virgin Islands vacation was almost over. Rats! I couldn't remember when I'd had so much fun. But not just fun, I'd had a curious sense of contentment the entire visit. And now it was time to leave.

I had packed as much into each of the seven days that I could. The day after the Sunday afternoon beach party at Sapphire Beach, I had been the typical tourist and visited a few of the great attractions.

Ferry leaving Red Hook to St. John

I had taken the short ferry ride to the island of St. John, which amazingly is about two-thirds national park. Of course, the park is a story in itself ... with Laurence S. Rockefeller as the main character. It was Rockefeller who bought up thousands of acres of land and turned it over to the federal government in 1956 to help create the Virgin Islands National Park at St. John. But, that's a story for another day.

The pristine beauty found on St. John is difficult to imagine; the rustic little village of Cruz Bay where the ferry boats dock is straight out of a novel; and the beaches ... well, all I can say is breathtaking.

Cruz Bay, St. John

During the next few days the attractions I visited included:

Coral World Ocean Park
A marine park built on a peninsula adjacent to Coki Beach on St. Thomas' east end. From an underwater observatory that is 15 feet down spectacular ocean life seems up close and personal. Then, there's the 80,000 gallon circular coral reef aquarium; the shark shallows; stingray lagoon; turtle park; and so much more. Before you go, check on feeding times, which is fun to see, especially if children are along.

Atlantis Submarine
This is a submarine designed to take excursions 90 feet down under. During the hour long dive each passenger has his own window on the world of the sea. A diver adds to the excitement of the experience by doing a feeding. Just be aware that children must be 36" tall, no exceptions. Now, I'm just a little claustrophobic so this was something I had to challenge myself to do; but in the end it was well worth it.

Paradise Point Tramway
Essentially a seven minute cable car ride up 700 feet above sea level. Once at the top of this mini mountain, there's a "knock your socks off" view. The most popular time to visit the Point is at sunset. The town of Charlotte Amalie, the ocean, the cruise ships in port ... it's just an awesome sight. There's also a cafe, bar, boutiques and souvenir shops at Paradise Point.

I took a sight-seeing tour that meandered its way into the hills above the town of Charlotte Amalie, and ended at Magens Bay Beach. Amazing! I was reminded of my first taxi ride and my fear of both the height and lack of guardrails. I was still petrified, but it was getting better. My advice ... if you don't see St. Thomas from this perspective, you've probably missed about half the beauty of the island.

As an airline employee I visited some of the hotels and resorts, met staff and asked a load of questions. I was heartily welcomed and even received tours of some of the larger properties. I would later look back at the contacts I made during those visits with a great deal of gratitude.

But alas, that last day finally rolled around. Although my heart was heavy, I was already planning my next trip.

As I boarded my flight that afternoon, I took one last look around, smiled and promised myself , I would return many times to what had become my own wonderful paradise.
The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.