Virgins are the place

Tw_logoReaders of Travel Weekly have named the Virgin Islands as the Best Caribbean Destination of the year.  The publication bills itself as the national  newspaper of the travel industry.  The finalists for the award were Aruba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and the USVI.  Governor Charles Turnbull issued a news release this week announcing the honor.

"It speaks highly about how the trade feels about us," said Steve Bornn, marketing director for the Tourism department. "They’re the ones that are going to sell us," he said, according to the St. John Source.

Other travel-related awards received by the VIs this year include Conde Nast Traveler’s naming St. John the Best Island in the Caribbean and Atlantic, one of the 10 best places to stay according to National Geographic Traveler, and 19 varied awards by Caribbean and Travel Life magazine.

Real estate home listings up 31%

The number of residences for sale has climbed to 83, another record, continuing a trend since the summer.  A year ago, 63 houses were offered on the Multiple Listing Service. The median house asking price is $1.695 million; the average is $2.059 million, down $50,000 from the $2.1 million average a month ago. In the past month, the number of land listings has increased from 192 to 195. Condominiums offered for sale have risen from 21 to 25.

Tourists say the darndest things

The St. John Sun Times reports tourists really are different. "A species who tend to refer to ‘coffee’ as ‘Starbucks’ and bemoan the island’s lack of good malls," according to Crystal Bray.  "They wear nice shoes to the beach and suffer under the delusion that St. John is spelled with an ‘s’ at the end."  The best strategy, when confronted by such behavior, Bray writes, is to have a good laugh about it with friends.

Some sayings of tourists which Bray says were heard on island:

  • To a local bartender: "Am I getting drunk faster here because we’re closer to the equator and gravity is stronger?"
  • "Have you ever swum under any of the islands?"
  • "Are there an colored fish on St. John?"
  • "How quickly does the water get deep?"
  • A lady brought empty canisters of film on a snorkel trip. "To collect samples of all the different colors of water."
  • "Are these prices in US dollars?"
  • "Is the sand here naturally or do they have to bring it in specially?"

Ferries still weighing price rise

Transportation Services and Varlack Ventures are gathering information to justify their request to raise fares from the $3 level where they have been since 1989.  In the meantime. But, while the Public Service Commission decides, a surcharge on passenger tickets between St. Thomas and St. John is still in effect, the Virgin Island Daily News reported. 

The $1 charge for adults and 50-cents for senior citizens and children had been set to expire at the end of December. 

An attorney for the ferries said the companies are losing money on the inter-island service and only their charter and excursion services are keeping the ferries afloat.  A public accountant who has been charged with making a rate recommendation is expected to make his report to the PSC this week, the newspaper reported.

VIs get Spirit

Spirit Airlines has landed. The low-cost airline began offering nonstop service from Fort Lauderdale to St. Thomas last week, funneling island-bound passengers from its other airports including Washington/Reagen and New York/LaGuardia.

One-way coach seats start at $99.

The first plane was met by government officials, and a mocko jumbie on stilts. Spirit operates Airbus 319 equipment, two classes of service, all leather seats. The new flights are scheduled to arrive daily at King Airport at 2:35pm and depart at 3:35pm, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.

Bag search on St. John ferry

The U.S. Coast Guard ordered that suitcases, backpacks, purses and other luggage be inspected prior to being transported on ferries from Red Hook to Cruz Bay.  "It may be one in 10, one in five," said Kendrick Augustus, manager of Transportation Services, a ferry company.  He told the St. John Source that once passengers go through a security fence, some people will be asked to put their luggage on a table for inspection, or may be asked to open the bags for viewing. 

Lisa Durgin, a villa manager on St. John, called the screening unproductive.  She said, it’s like taking a ferry from New York to New Jersey.  "The whole Homeland security thing is out of control," she told the Source.