Lori and Keith have their own wonderful web site at: We Love our Life
Photos of Pavilions and Pools
The villas are not exactly separate, but each building is split in two with a villa on each side. Each villa has a private courtyard with a small pool. The pools of two adjointing villas are connected, although there is a privacy wall so guests cannot see each other, but it is possible to hear what is being said in the next courtyard/pool area.
The villas had glass walls on two sides, overlooking the pool. There were blinds that could be pulled for privacy and to keep out the sun. The floor was quarry tile. The bedroom contained a king-size bed, night stands, and a ceiling fan. The wall separating the bedroom area from the living area had closets to store bags and clothes. The vanity area was open to the bedroom. The bathroom contained the toilet and an open (garden) shower which was quite unique. It would have been nice if there were more hooks or towel bars in the bathroom to hang up wet suits.
The living area contained a sofa, chair, and coffee table, as well as a table and 4 chairs. There is a ceiling fan in the living area. A tv was provided with an excellent selection of cable channels, including HBO. A privacy screen sheilded the kitchen area, which has a refrigerator, sink, stove/range, and cabinets. Glassware, plates, silverware, and accessories were provided. We made use of the toaster each morning, toasting bagels. A microwave and a blender would have been nice amenities to include. The decor of the unit was definitely Caribbean with light colors. The entire unit is air conditioned.
The courtyard contained a sundeck with tile floor which became quite slippery when wet. There were two white resin lounge chairs. The pool was a small plunge pool – what we expected. It was probably 4.5 feet deep at its deepest point. There was a ladder to get into the pool. Steps would have been nice.
There are two different sized accommodations: the Caribbean villa, and the International villa. The layouts are on the website. The International villa is slightly larger with a larger swimming area. Since it was just the two of us, we decided the Caribbean villa would do. The website notes that each villa is individually owned.
When we first checked in, we were assigned to a villa that was a bit disappointing. The pool deck was painted wood (not tile) and both the deck and the pool itself were in disrepair. The decor of the villa itself needed some updating as well. We noted a problem with the air conditioning unit in the living area – it was making loud noises and dripping. We put a pan under the unit to attempt to catch the water. We informed the front desk of the problem and were told someone would be called the next morning. In the morning, there was water all over in the living area and even the tv was sitting in a pool of water. The unit had frozen up and was no longer performing its job. There was also a unit in the bedroom which was fortunately working. We again informed the front desk of the problem, and this time the manager was at the desk. He decided right away to move us to the villa nextdoor and explained they had been having trouble with that unit but he thought it was fixed. Overall, we liked the accommodations but felt that they could use better maintenance and upkeep.
Since each villa has its own pool, there is no central pool. The resort does offer free snorkeling equipment and fresh beach towels each day (available at the front desk). The beach towels were the same size as the bath towels; larger towels would have been appreciated.
A continental breakfast was offered each morning. We weren’t expecting much, and weren’t disappointed. It was simply some pastries, bagels, and coffee laid out on the bar in the Fish Pond Cafe. The Fish Pond Cafe is open for dinner every night but Friday. There are a handful of dinner selections that are grilled. Sign-up for dinner is requested by 5 p.m. each day at the front desk. We did not have dinner at the Fish Pond. Each Tuesday is the manager’s cocktail party with free rum punch and hors d’oeuvres – basically just finger food like crackers and cheese. We enjoyed the cocktail party. There was a man playing acoustic guitar and singing.
The bar is located in the Fish Pond Cafe, which is open until 9. If Christina, the cook, is there, she will be happy to get drinks. Otherwise, it is an honor bar, where guests take what they want and sign a slip stating what they took. We did not partake of the bar, buying our own and storing it in our villa.
This category is a bit of a dilemma for us. Overall, the service was very good. Whenever the manager was at the front desk, he was always helpful and took care of our needs. We did not feel we got the same service when the manager was not present. When we checked in, the manager wasn’t on duty, and we weren’t really given any extra information other than our room number and where it was. We were handed vouchers which were part of our package with no further explanation. A few simple helpful suggestions, such as telling us about the honor bar, beach towels, how to get to the beach, how to get a taxi, etc., would have been appreciated and what we expected for the price of the accommodations.
For example, when we told the front desk the first day there was a problem with the air conditioning, we were told it would be taken care of the following day. When we informed the front desk the following morning, nothing had been written down, and the manager seemed surprised – he took care of the problem right away, which we did appreciate.
Another incident happened which soured our experience. On Sunday, we went to the front desk to reserve our sunset cruise, which was part of our package. The person on duty (again, not the manager) asked when we wanted to take the cruise, and we said Monday. She said it was not high season, so she would check when a cruise was available. She made a call, and told us Wednesday, and we agreed to that. We were told where to be at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday for our cruise. When Wednesday came, we arrived early. After some time of watching crew members clean off what we thought was our boat, a man came over and asked if we were waiting for the sunset cruise. He informed us that it had been cancelled because we were the only two booked for the cruise. We asked why no one had told us, and he said the resort had been contacted. Disappointed, we returned to the front desk at our resort and the clerk (not the manager) said, "Where have you been?" as if we had done something wrong. We explained we had just tried to take our sunset cruise, but it had been cancelled. She claimed she had been trying to contact us all day to tell us it was cancelled and they had booked another cruise. We were in our unit all day. Of course, we were out by the pool, but we were in and out as well. The phones had no voice mail, so they could not leave a message. They certainly could have tried harder. If they had taped a note to our front door on the courtyard, we would have seen it as we were leaving. We asked if there was another cruise we could take. The one she said she had alternatly booked us into had already left and there would not be another until Friday, when we were scheduled to leave. We were made to feel as if it was our fault. We asked for a refund, since it was part of our package and it was something that had been cancelled. We were not given a refund. Our suggestion to future guests is to not get a package, but to make reservations such as a sunset cruise yourself. If we had been able to make our own reservation, we could have taken a cruise. That was a big disappointment for us.
St. Thomas is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. John and St. Croix also make up the U.S.V.I.). The U.S. dollar is the accepted currency. The main town on St. Thomas is Charlotte Amalie, where the cruise ships dock. We made a point to avoid Charlotte Amalie during our trip, preferring to explore a quieter side of the island. We stayed in the east end of St. Thomas, near the small village of Red Hook. Red Hook had most of what we needed for a week on the island – the Marina Market, which supplied us with food and other supplies. Red Hook also contained multiple restaurants and bars. The passenger ferry to St. John (as well as ferries to other islands) departed from Red Hook, which was convenient.
We decided to spend one day over on St. John. A large percentage of St. John is National Parks, and there are beautiful protected beaches perfect for swimming and snorkeling. We had no real plans – just to venture over to the island, have lunch, and perhaps take a tour. We took the noon ferry for only a few dollars each (ferries depart regularly). The ferry moves along at quite a clip, and arrives in St. John in 15 minutes. We had lunch at the Lime Inn, then went back down to the waterfront and decided to take a taxi tour of the island. This is where things got a little crazy. The taxi driver was named Emmanuel Regis, and he was soliciting passengers. We joined 3 others in the open-air taxi after he told us it was $16 per person. The taxi driver sat up front and had a speaker over which he spoke. The back section was five padded benches with open sides and a canvas cover on top. As long as the taxi was moving, it was quite comfortable.
At first, it seemed great. The roads were steep, narrow, and driving was on the left side, and we were jostled around as if in a jeep, but all we had to do was sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery. We stopped for 10 minutes at the Westin Resort and walked around a little. Lori had always thought she wanted to stay at the Westin St. John but seeing its remote location, this changed her mind. The taxi continued to climb, and soon we were on the other side of the island, in what seemed to be a remote, rural area. It was then that our seemingly pleasant taxi driver changed completely. He began preaching that the black race was the superior race (we were the only white passengers) and how it was wrong for white people to "degrade" them. The taxi driver became more passionate, and began addressing Keith directly as if he had done something to personally offend. We had a few bad moments where we thought we were going to be left in a remote location on our own with no means of transportation (this part of the island was dense and remote).
When we arrived back at the waterfront, we noticed that there was a bureau of tourism right there, but we were hesitant to go in and complain in plain sight of our taxi driver. We realize that we took a risk by going out on our own and not through a tour.
Whale of a Tale – American Yacht Harbor, Red Hook 775-1270
We had dinner here our first night. Our waiter, Byron, was excellent and let us take our time. We chose a table out on the balcony. Byron thoughtfully provided bug spray for our legs. This restaurant is located on the upper floor (above Molly Malone’s). The vaulted ceiling was wooden, and there was a small bar. We began with garlic basil bread. Lori had the steamed clams (very tasty) and Keith had a delicious house salad with mandarin orange vinaigrette and slivered almonds. Lori had a great time with her Alaskan king crab legs – some of the tastier she has had. She had a side of penne with scampi sauce but the crab held her attention. Keith opted for Pasta Al Forno – provolone, mozzarella, basil, garlic, and marinara sauce over penne. A nice place for a nice, quiet, dinner.
East Side Cafe – Red Hook
This is a quiet, out-of-the-way place that we stopped in for dinner on a Saturday evening. First we sat down at the bar to scope out the place. The bar was unique – it had a stream flowing through it and nearly everyone touched the water to see if it was real. After perusing the menu (decidedly Italian) and having a drink at the bar, we opted for a table. The place is decorated somewhat like the tasting room of a winery. It has a lot of potential but was inconsistent on the night we visited; however, the service was unerringly friendly. We were seated and ordered a bottle of champagne. They didn’t have the one we ordered and recommended another. It came out, was poured, and we knew we were in trouble – it was warm, and they hadn’t even bothered to attempt to chill it. We ruefully put some ice cubes in our glasses and decided to let the bottle chill in the ice before attempting any more. The bottle should not have been served warm; we should have been given the option of waiting for it to chill or ordering something else (we weren’t given the opportunity to taste it). We figured they did not serve many bottles of anything.
Our next hint of trouble was the bread – it was a completely burnt loaf. We joked about how bad dinner might be if they burned the bread. Next was an appetizer we had ordered – baked mozzarella with olive oil and herbs, served with crostini. It was surprisingly very good, so we had renewed hopes as the champagne continued to attempt to chill. Keith had the veal with proscuitto, mozzarella, and marinara sauce, which was good. Lori ordered the rigatoni quattro formaggio with shrimp. The server returned to say they were out of shrimp; would Lori like chicken (?). No thanks. A few minutes later the server returned to say they had "borrowed" some shrimp from a neighboring restaurant (she shouldn’t have). The rigatoni was badly undercooked and there was something seriously wrong with the shrimp. Lori passed on the rest of her dinner. As we left, we realized we were remiss in not telling the owner what the problems were (how can they fix things if they do not know what is wrong?).
Molly Malones – American Yacht Harbor, Red Hook
We sat outside by a man-made waterfall and stream that was nice. The food and service were fine but unremarkable. We ordered a bottle of wine – apparently not a normal thing, for our server had to run upstairs to A Whale of a Tale for the bottle. Keith had the filet and baked potato, and Lori had fried shrimp. There was good warm bread, but in tiny portions.
Molly Malone’s is also a decent place to go for breakfast. We had breakfast there one morning – Keith had eggs benedict and Lori had eggs benedict sans meat.
XO Wine Bar – Red Hook
When we had stopped in at XO a few nights earlier, we had perused the menu, which looked promising, so we stopped back for dinner. Unfortunately, they were "out of" everything we wanted. There was no crab, no pesto (obviously not fresh made), and no brie. Keith had some poppers and Lori had cheesy garlic bread. We ordered a bottle of Wild Horse Chardonnay, which was excellent. The pizzas were disappointing – they were Boboli crusts. Lori’s had a sweet sauce (not fresh) and cheeses, and Keith’s Greek pizza had feta and garlic.
Blue Moon Cafe – Secret Harbour Beach Resort, Red Hook 779-2262
Blue Moon Cafe web site
Blue Moon was a recommendation from Byron, our server at Whale of a Tale (who also worked at Blue Moon). It was a short taxi ride to Secret Harbour. The restaurant is open air and is located down by the beach. It is a beautiful view, even at night. There were snorkelers with lights on their masks and it provided an eerie, beautiful glow. Although the restaurant is casual, it is elegant as well, and we were immediately glad we had found it. Lori had an appetizer of a crab cake with a creole mustard sauce – good and filling. Keith had a salad of baby lettuce with roasted pine nuts, bleu cheese, and shallot vinaigrette. His entree was a filet mignon with brandy, peppercorn, and garlic, which was great, and accompanied by mashed potatoes. Lori had the seafood pasta, which consisted of caribbean lobster, shrimp, and scallops in a sweet vermouth cream sauce over pasta. We had a nice crisp wine – Ponzi, an Oregon pinot gris. We had a couple drinks at the bar afterwards, where we spoke to some guests who return to Secret Harbour every year – sometimes more than once each year. We recommend the Blue Moon Cafe.
Agave Terrace – Point Pleasant Resort, Red Hook 775-4142
Agave Terrace web site
If you go to the Agave Terrace, be sure to make a reservation. We didn’t, and when we arrived at 6:40 they told us they could seat us at 8 (our fault), so we went to the bar. We decided to order drinks and appetizers. Keith had the 5-pepper dip with fresh chips, and Lori had the crab paradise (wontons with crab and cheese accommpanied by orange marmalade sauce with a kick). Just as our appetizers were coming out, we were informed our table was ready (much earlier than expected), but they assured us we could relax at the bar, and when we were ready to let them know. We ended up being seated at 7:15.
Michael was our fantastic server. Both he and the restaurant had been recommended to us by Mary, our bartender friend from Sopchoppy’s. Agave Terrace is known for the catches of the day. Keith chose Mahi Mahi, and with Michael’s welcome assistance, decided to have it blackened with the chilano sauce. Keith said this was the best Mahi Mahi he has ever had (Lori isn’t fond of Mahi Mahi but she agreed it was good). Lori was not as brave and had the crab cakes with coconut shrimp (very good). We had a bottle of Taittinger champagne. The place was nice, it was a true dining experience, and was enhanced by Michael. We highly recommend Agave Terrace.
Caribbean Saloon – American Yacht Harbor, Red Hook 775-7060
Caribbean Saloon web site
Michael, our server of the previous evening (Agave Terrace) told us Caribbean Saloon would be serving a full menu on Thanksgiving, so we chose to dine there. Lori had shrimp cocktail and crab cakes. The crab wasn’t so great, so Michael took it off the check; we didn’t ask him to, but it was a nice gesture. Keith had the veal piccata, which wasn’t the best but also wasn’t the worst he has had. We hung out with Michael until midnight, when we realized we needed to get going because we were headed home the next day. Caribbean Saloon is a good place to hang out to watch sports games – they have many TVs and a big screen as well. It is indoors and is air conditioned. They also have DJs and live entertainment some nights. This is one of those places that stays open until 4 a.m.!
The Lime Inn – St. John, USVI, 776-6425
We visited the Lime Inn on a recommendation from our friendly bartender from Sopchoppy’s, Mary. The Lime Inn is an open, shaded restaurant with lots of ceiling fans to provide breezes. It is easy to find since it is painted a lime green color. The ferry ride from St. Thomas and our brief, 3-block, walk from the ferry landing to the Lime Inn had us thirsty, so we ordered a carafe of their "Swamp Juice", which is a mixture of iced tea and lemonade, and was more refreshing than anything else we could imagine. We both ordered cheeseburgers, which were very tasty. The burgers were accompanied by bowtie pasta in a buttery sauce, which Keith really enjoyed. We recommend Lime Inn.
The east end area of St. Thomas is not redolent with nightlife – most restaurants have bars, and the bars are where the action is after dinner. Some of the bars stay open as late as 4 a.m.
Sopchoppy’s – American Yacht Harbor, Red Hook
Sopchoppy’s is an open-air (covered) bar located on the second floor of the complex that serves American Yacht Harbot in Red Hook. We enjoyed Mary, the very friendly bartender, who let us try her version of the local drink, the Bushwhacker. She was friendly and full of helpful hints and suggestions.
XO Wine Bar – Red Hook
We went to XO Wine Bar Saturday evening after dinner. XO is one of the rare places in Red Hook that is enclosed and very well airconditioned. It is a small bar that would look more at home in Boston or Philadelphia than in the islands, but we enjoyed it. They have many different wines by the glass as well as a good selection of liquor. We met up with Mary, our bartender from the previous evening. We bought her a drink and she proceeded to write down many recommendations for us.
Duffy’s Love Shack – 6500 Red Hook Plaza, Red Hook 779-2080
Duffy’s web site
We stopped in at Duffy’s for a drink and appetizer. We ended up with two tacky tourist souvenir glasses, leis around our necks, and stickers marking us as tourists. Lori had some guacamole and homemade tortilla chips in an interesting volcanic rock bowl, and Keith had some Thai coconut chicken satay with peanut sauce. Duffy’s is an open-air place located in a parking lot (they reclaim more of the parking lot as it gets dark) that rocks loudly the later it gets. Duffy’s has other locations, in St. John and Ocean City (we are still trying to figure out which Ocean City – we think Maryland but are not sure).
This is the Caribbean, and it is hot and humid. While we were there (November – just before high season) it was supposedly warmer than usual, with very little breeze. Expect highs around the mid-80s and lows in the mid-70s.
Bug spray is a must! We forgot to take ours and were immediately besieged by skin-seeking mosquitoes. We managed to buy some at a market, but it was evil-smelling. We recommend purchasing Off! Skintastic before you go (we could not find it in St. Thomas). This stuff is easy on the skin, mild, a pump spray, and works.
Driving is on the left side of the road, and the roads are narrow and not in the best of shape. Parking can sometimes be at a premium (for example, to park in Red Hook we would have had to park halfway between the resort and the village). We found it was easy to get around by taxi, and the rates were very affordable. It was also easy to get taxis, and we found most to be friendly and clean.
Casual attire is accepted nearly everywhere (at least, everywhere we went). For some restaurants, shorts are OK, but men should wear shirts with a collar (not t-shirts). We found shorts and sandals did the trick for us in the evenings. We had read ahead of time that bathing suits are frowned upon in public (other than a pool or beach), and we noted we did not see people wandering around town in uncovered bathing suits.
Visit st-thomas.com for more information on St. Thomas.