Quick Update: The Beach Bar & Joe’s Rum Hut

beach bar street sideWe’ve received so many emails asking about The Beach Bar and Joe’s Rum Hut lately, so it sounds like it’s time for a quick little update. :)

We last chatted about these businesses back in May when we told you how we didn’t expect either to open “until next season.” That verbiage perplexed some, so I will expand on that a bit today. For many of us who live here, we talk about seasons. For us, it’s not winter, spring, summer and fall, but rather tourist season. Season, in my opinion, begins around November 1st. Right now, October 1st, is often referred to as low season. This is due in part because it’s hurricane season. It’s also a time when many business owners take a break themselves. Many close up to take a vacation, allow their staff to rest or even spruce up their businesses. We do this because there are very few tourists on island these days (which is great for those of you who are here because it means you pretty much can have a beach to yourself for the day). Also, it’s actually cheaper for many businesses to close during the months of September and October, rather than to stay open. So that’s the whole “season” thing.

Ok, so now that’s out of the way, let’s chat about The Beach Bar and Joe’s Rum Hut. Both are still expected to reopen “this season.” :) That means that both will reopen this year, most likely sometime this fall. Do we have an exact date? No. Do we believe both will reopen this year? Yes.

For those of you who have been on Cruz Bay beach over the past few days, you have likely seen a lot of movement over at Joe’s Rum Hut. What a great sight, right?!! You can see that the kitchen area has been cleared out. The back bar area has been gutted too. It might not look like much now, but it’s progress nonetheless. It also means that we’re all one step closer to our favorite “You Call It” happy hour. Cheers to that!

joes rum hut sept 30 2018 rum hut sept 30 2018rum hut from garage sept 30 2018You can’t see as much visible work over at The Beach Bar, but I assure you that lots is happening behind the scenes. The yellow roof is now up again, but that’s all that can really be seen at this time. If you’d like to see this for yourself or perhaps you’d like to watch the waves roll in, you can always check out The Beach Bar’s bar cam here.

beach bar stairs from sand sept 30 2018

A screenshot from The Beach Bar's bar cam Sunday afternoon.

A screenshot from The Beach Bar’s bar cam Sunday afternoon.

The Parrot Club is also expected to reopen by the end of the year. There is no word on Waterfront Bistro at this time.

So rest assured, we will all be having a Bushwacker at The Beach Bar and a Painkiller at the Rum Hut at some point in 2018. But in the meantime, The Longboard has pretty good frozen Painkiller and High Tide has a darn good Bushwacker. Be sure to check them out the next time you’re in Cruz Bay. Have a great day everyone!!

Villa Spotlight: Eco Serendib Villa and Spa

eco serendib villa overview

Happy Sunday everyone! Today we’d like to introduce you to one of the most exclusive villas on St. John: Eco Serendib Villa and Spa. Not only does it set the standard for eco-luxury in the territory, but Eco Serendib also upholds a commitment to environmental causes in the USVI. More than $85,000 has been donated to the island community and a contribution is made every day the villa is rented. Intrigued? Want to know more? Well then please check out Eco Serendib…

Dramatically set atop Point Rendezvous with sweeping views from Fish Bay to Ram Head, Eco Serendib incorporates a variety of eco-friendly, energy-saving products and systems to lessen its carbon footprint without sacrificing the guest experience. These include Suniva solar panels; Sub-Zero/Wolf’s kitchen appliances that are made from as much as 75% recycled materials and use less energy than a 100-watt bulb; water-conservation products from Kohler; teak furniture from Gloster, produced using sustainable plantation management systems; saltwater pool; a grey water system for irrigation; multiple cisterns to collect rain water; an organic garden for seed-to-plate experiences and more.

eco serendib location hillside

Eco Serendib’s conservation efforts extend beyond the borders of retreat as well.

The funds that has been contributed by owner Harith Wickrema have gone to Island Green Living Association, Friends of the National Park, Gifft Hill School and other green initiatives across the island. The latest project is Island Green’s new Sustainable Living Center, a groundbreaking facility unlike any other in the Caribbean where green innovation will be developed and shared with the community.

gardens eco serendib

Harith has also worked closely with the legislature on banning plastic bags and on efforts to eliminate single-use disposable plastics including straws, source separation and bottle deposit legislation and ban of sunscreen containing harmful oxybenzone throughout the Virgin Islands. Additionally, he was integrally involved in the ban on burning green and brown hurricane debris to ensure the health and well being of the islands and her residents.

Now let’s get back to the villa itself…

Eco Serendib Villa and Spa, which has earned Five Stars on HomeAway and TripAdvisor, offers eight individually designed guest suites that give the look and feel of a private estate. Guests delight in the villa’s finely appointed features including a full service spa and Life Fitness gym; Epicurean Theater kitchen with professional grade appliances (private chef service is available); elegant dining area overlooking Fish Bay; spacious pool terrace, hot tub and barbecue; serene Great Room with baby grand piano, life-size chess set, table tennis, as well as Zen and organic gardens. Guests can choose from among three tiers of service from complete privacy to signature butler service, and the villa accepts just one reservation at a time so guests have exclusive access whether booking one, two or all eight guest suites. The villa also boasts luxury offerings such as individualized turndown service, designer bath products, Frette robes, daily maid service, dedicated villa concierge and more.

eco serendib great room

eco serendib dining table

eco serendib suite

bathtub view eco serendib

eco serendib pool view

hammock eco serendib

Eco Serendib is popluar for family reunions, girls’ getaways, romantic escapes and more.  In addition to being a stellar vacation destination, Eco Serendib also offers an enchanting setting for incredible destination weddings. Ceremonies take place against the backdrop of breathtaking views from the villa’s expansive terrace and receptions can be hosted for up to 35 guests. Weddings are individually designed to ensure the wishes and vision of the bride and groom become reality. The villa can provide access to one of the top local wedding consultants or bring in the services of managing agent Harith Productions. A well-appointed bridal suite with a grand staircase and full length mirror is perfect for photography and getting ready. The spa features a full range of services including a sauna, steam room and soaking tub.

eco serendib wedding

spa eco serendib

Eco Serendib is also ideal for corporate retreats, team building, change management, leadership and executive coaching workshops. Drawing on the strength of Harith Productions, which offers 25 years of expertise in this arena, Eco Serendib Villa and Spa is a natural for professional events that allow attendees to bask in the beauty and inspiring spirit of the locale. A state-of-the-art “paperless” boardroom and business center ensure attendees can get down to business in a private, secure setting far from distractions.

meeting room eco serendib

I’m not sure about you, but this villa certainly checks all of the boxes for the perfect vacation rental in my book!

Interested? Want to learn more?

Eco Serendib is currently running a special rate of $17,500 a week for a full house booking on Service Tier 1. This rate is based on availability, and blackout dates may apply.

And for those of you looking to ring in the New Year in style, Eco Serendib is still available for the 2018/2019 holiday.

For more information on Eco Serendib, please visit its website at www.ecoserendib.com

eco serendib hot tub

Ferry Service Set to Expand

ferry dock

Hello everyone and happy Thursday!

We have quick news to share with you all today. It’s quick, but good nonetheless!

Varlack Ventures, one of the two ferry operators, announced Wednesday that they will be expanding their scheduled beginning October 1st. As of then, the last ferry will leave St. John at 11 p.m., and the last ferry will leave Red Hook at midnight. Both companies have been running a reduced schedule through 10 p.m. since last year.

Also, for those of you curious about the Charlotte Amalie ferry, it still is not running. According to the ferry operators, the route is “financially crippling.” That route accommodated mostly tourists, and tourism has been down since last fall’s storms. It was proposed last week that the route be seasonal, although no decisions have been made.

And in our last ferry “news” of the day, the temporary rate increase from $7 to $8.15 will now be permanent for non-residents.

News you can use today, folks! Have a great one!

The Latest on the Westin

westin st john sept 25 2018

Well folks, it’s been a few months since we’ve updated you on the Westin. With all the talk about Caneel and Cinnamon recently, we’ve received quite a few messages asking us about the status of the Westin.

Well we have great news to share with you all! It looks like a good amount of the Westin is on track to reopen in January 2019. As we’ve previously told you, workers are on site nearly every day and are working hard to get the resort back into tip-top shape. The units on the beach side appear to have had more work completed including new roofs. Visible work on the units across the street didn’t begin until recently, and from what we hear, those units will not be opening on time in January.

We spoke with a few friends who own timeshares at the Westin in the hillside section. Those owners were told their area would not open in January 2019 as originally expected. The Westin, however, is accommodating those owners (who own weeks earlier in the year) by allowing them to stay in a unit on the beach side of the property. We’ve also learned that only timeshare owners will be able to make reservations for the first few months in 2019.

But back to some more positive news. It appeared that work has begun on the pool area, and the Westin has a brand new ferry for guests. (Click here to read all about that.)

We stopped by the Westin yesterday and took some pics and a video for you. Because the property is closed to the public, we took most of the pics from the beach and a road adjacent to the property. (All beaches in the USVI are public.) Please check them out:

westin beach sept 25 2018

westin beachfront buildings sept 25 2018

westin beachfront building sept 25 2018

westin tracks on beach sept 25 2018

westin pool area sept 25 2018

westin private property sign sept 25 2018

westin private property sign sept 25 2018

westin hillside buildings sept 25 2018

westin lobby sept 25 2018

The lobby and restaurant area appears to have remained untouched thus far.

And here is a quick video we took:

The Westin is now owned by Vistana. Its website www.westinstjohn.com now directs to a dead end on the Marriott’s website. The new website for the Westin is located at www.vistana.com/destinations/the-westin-st-john-resort-villas/overview

And lastly, for those of you who’d like a daily Westin fix, you can watch the rebuild live via our webcam at www.newsofstjohn.com/webcam

That’s all we have for you today, folks! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Caneel Bay: The 1983 Agreement & More

caneel bay sept 18 2018Well folks, we’ve given you a couple of updates on Cinnamon Bay over the past few days. Now it’s time to update you on Caneel. Unfortunately just like Cinnamon, not much has happened over there since we’ve last reported on this. So why the update today? Well it’s because we just received a copy of the original Retained Use Agreement from 1983. I found it to be rather interesting, and I think many of you may too.

But first, let’s pay a quick game of catch up for our new readers. As you know, Caneel sustained tremendous damage during Hurricane Irma, and the resort has been closed ever since. Currently, there are no repairs being done. CBI Acquisition, the firm that manages Caneel, stated that it will remain closed until December 2019 (if not longer).

CBI Acquisitions is currently operating Caneel under a Retained Use Estate (RUE), which went into effect on Sept. 30, 1983. The agreement was set to expire after 40 years – 2023. Because there is only five years left of the agreement, CBI Acquisition is seeking an extension. They have stated publicly that they will not rebuild the resort without one. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett introduced a Bill in December 2017 that called to extend the RUE for a period of 60 years. That Bill has created a great deal of contention on both sides.

You may be asking yourself why people wouldn’t want CBI to receive an extension. Well, for many, it’s due to the language in the Bill. (Click here to read it.) For others, it’s because of original intention of the RUE once it expired. The RUE states:

“It is the Grantor’s expectation and intention that at some future time, to be determined by Grantor pursuant to the provisions set forth herein, the Retained Use Estate will be terminated and extinguished in order to carry out the longstanding objective of Grantor that the Premises ultimately be an integral part of the Virgin Islands National Park (the “Park”) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for the use and enjoyment by visitors to the Park out of outstanding scenic and other features of national significance located both within the Premises and in other areas of the Park. In keeping with this objective, Grantor agree that, at all times prior to the termination of the Retained Use Estate pursuant to paragraph numbers 8 below Grantor all use and maintain the Premises in such a manner that will (a) be consistent with the preservation of such outstanding scenic and other features of national significance and (b) preserve the Premises to the extent feasible in their natural condition for the public benefit, enjoyment and inspiration, subject, however to the right go Grantor to operate guest facilities for the accommodation of visitors to the Park on the Premises as provided for in paragraph numbered 3 below.”

The document was signed by Laurence S. Rockefeller on September 13, 1983.

Click here to read the 1983 Retained Use Estate in its entirety. 

Ok, so let’s get back to Plaskett’s Bill H.R.4731. Back in March, it passed the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. It now has to pass the full House of Representative, as well as the Senate before it is sent to the President to be signed into law.

(Side note: CBI Acquisition, the firm that currently manages Caneel, spent $330,000 on lobbying in 2017. They spent $215,000 in 2018. According to opensecrets.org, all of that money was spent with regard to H.R. 4731.)

The second session of the 115th Congressional Congress ends during the third week of December. That means if Plaskett’s Bill is not signed into law by then, it’s dead. It will then have to be re-introduced during the next Congressional Session.

And a little more food for thought before we leave you today… 12,427 Bills and Resolutions were introduced during the 115th Congressional Session. Of those, only 244 Bills have been enacted into Law. That’s a mere two percent. And only five percent of the Resolutions passed.

I don’t know what else to say other than it’s going to be a long and drawn out process with this one. And as always, we will continue to keep you updated on any new developments.

Cinnamon Bay: The Concession Contract

cinnamon bay beachfront cottage 2

One of the beachfront cottages at Cinnamon Bay

Hello everyone and happy Monday! So last week we chatted with all of you about Cinnamon Bay and how the campground remains in shambles. A lot of you, like me, had questions about the contract between the National Park Service and Redwood Parks, the company who manages the campground and concessions at Cinnamon Bay. Well we received a copy and today we’re sharing it with all of you.

For those of you who have some free time and plan to read over the 144 page contract, you will see that Redwood Parks was required to submit a Hurricane Plan within 90 days of the effective date of the contract, which was Oct. 1, 2016. They were also required to have substantial insurance. Unfortunately the details regarding the Hurricane Plan and insurance are not included in the concessions contract. We submitted a Freedom of Information request to receive the information plus some other documents we think you will find useful. As always, we will share that information with all of you as soon as we can.

Click here to view the Cinnamon Bay concessions contract between the National Park Service and Redwood Parks. 

cinnamon bay concessions contract

For those of you who plan to read the contract, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts. Please let us know in the comments section here or leave us a message over on our Facebook page.

Have a wonderful week everyone!