I don’t know about you, but I simply cannot believe that it is the end of 2019. This has been such a great year here on St. John, and so many things have happened over the past 12 months. Some have been positive, and some have been not so positive. But that’s life I guess. 🙂
Here’s a little recap to remind you all about several of the happenings here on St. John this year. But before I get into it, I just wanted to thank you all, yet again, for taking the time to read this website daily. I am so appreciative of each and every one of you. For the third year in a row, we have surpassed two million page views on newsofstjohn.com. That’s a pretty amazing feat for a little blog in the Caribbean. And together, we have raised more than $323,000 for charity just this year alone. That brings our all time total to more than a half-million dollars raised for charity. Simply amazing. You all deserve to give yourselves a pat on the back for that one.
Now without further ado, here is News of St. John’s 2019 Year in Review…
The year started off on an extremely high note with the reopening of the Westin resort. I stood on my back porch and watched the first ferry pull in with passengers on January 4th. The staff was cheering and clapping, and I have to admit it brought a few tears to my eyes. It was so nice to see the Westin resort welcome guests again. It was a huge step for our recovery in my opinion.
But that wasn’t the only exciting thing that happened in January. Inter Island Boat Services launched a new ferry service between Cruz Bay and the Crown Bay marina on St. Thomas. This ferry brings you much closer to the airport, so you can have a five minute taxi ride as opposed to a 30-40 minute taxi ride. Since they launched the Crown Bay ferry, they’ve launched weekend service to Jost Van Dyke as well.
And to finish our the month, The Beach Bar served its first post-hurricane drink back on January 17th. They started offering happy hour on the beach, but sadly that was short lived. The great news is that they are reopening on Tuesday with a New Year’s Eve bash. Fingers crossed that the inside bar will be ready Tuesday for us all to enjoy. They’re working day and night to get it done, so it’s very possible. And of course, we will keep you posted on that!
In February, we saw the return of Kekoa, and it was such a lovely sight. It took 17 months, but repairs to the storm-battered boat were finally completed and she returned to her mooring ball in Cruz Bay. We had a few big announcements that month too including the opening of the new tiki bar at Maho Bay, the opening of Lime Out on the East End and the launch of the 3rd edition of St. Johnopoly. All such exciting stuff!
(If you would like to purchase a copy of St. Johnopoly, please email me at [email protected] and I will put you on our waitlist.)
We got our hopes up at the beginning of March when Caneel Bay actually started some cleanup work. Sadly that didn’t last long, and the property remains in shambles today.
Our good friends opened Irie Pops across from the National Park Visitor Center in April, and we also received a visit from the 9th largest yacht in the world. The yacht got some online hate, but we don’t pay any mind to the keyboard warriors here at News of St. John. It was an impressive ship, and I heard they tipped well in Cruz Bay. So there’s that. 🙂
We took some much-needed time off in May and head over to Italy, a vacation that was originally scheduled for Sept. 14, 2017. But you know me, I just have to tell you the news, so I grabbed the computer the moment I heard about big news pertaining to Cinnamon Bay. It was announced that Tom Secunda, a part-time St. John resident and a cofounder of Bloomberg in NYC had purchased the contract at Cinnamon Bay and planned to turn the campground into a philanthropic endeavor. When the campground reopens (hopefully next year), all of the proceeds will be given back to the island. How amazing, kind and generous is that!
There was a lot going on in June starting with the announcement that the Caneel Bay leaseholder wants $70 million to walk away from its agreement prior to its expiration in September 2023. I think it’s an insane request, and I am happy to report that they have yet to receive anything. Hopefully they never will.
Also in June, our friend Thomas expanded his popular smoothie shop in Cruz Bay, a new steakhouse was announced , Extra Virgin opened 1864, its sister restaurant over at Mongoose Junction, and Sloop Jones began creating art again for the first time since the storms.
July started off on a sad note when it was announced that Pickles in Paradise was closing out in Coral Bay. But on a happier note, the owner of the former Driftwood David’s spot which was destroyed during Irma, reopened a restaurant on Centerline Line. He appropriately named it Shambles. And lastly in July, we introduced you to our friend Charles, the gardener at Annaberg. He is one of St. John’s treasures, and I wish the National Park would once again employ him full time out there.
More great transportation news kicked of the month of August with the announcement that Inter Island Boat Services would resume service between Cruz Bay and Tortola’s West End. Later that month, the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park released a statement denouncing Caneel Bay’s request for a $70 million payout. And just before the month ended, Hurricane Dorian made a quick appearance on St. John. It was forecast to pass 140 miles south of the island and instead, it formed into a hurricane as it passed over St. Thomas. St. John saw little damage, but it definitely triggered some not-so-good memories for many residents on island at the time.
The two-year anniversary of Irma took place on September 6th, and we really weren’t sure what to write or do that day. So we did what we do best… We held a raffle. But rather than supporting St. John, we chose to support our neighbors in the Abacos. And what happened was simply amazing. Thanks to all of you, we raised $80,000 in one day. Yes, in one day. Now if that doesn’t prove how great humans are, I’m not sure what does. That raffle went on to raise $200,000. The proceeds were donated to All Hands and Hearts, an organization that was instrumental in our recovery and is now working in the Abaco Islands.
Later that month, we told you all how backseat seatbelts were being discussed by our local government. And I ended that story with a flippant remark regarding the Territory’s lack of an open container law. Well the National Park gently let me know that federal law supersedes local law, and there actually is an open container law with St. John’s National Park boundaries. Who knew!
Visitors started to trickle back to the island in October following low season which coincides with hurricane season. We posted a nice little island updated and invited you all to take an island tour around the island with us. We ended the month with a heartwarming story about some of St. John’s most beloved creatures – our turtles. We received a video of hatchlings making their way to the ocean for the first time. It was one of those things where if it didn’t make you smile, maybe you don’t have a heart. (Kidding of course, but it was pretty cool.)
We took a golf cart ride through Caneel Bay in November as we made our way over to Honeymoon Beach. Naturally we took a video to share with all of you. We set it to the music from Jurassic Park because, well, that’s exactly what it looks like these days. What a shame. And later that month, we learned that Caneel Bay purposefully chose to underinsure itself. I’m not sure how many times I can shake my head about this one…
But on a happier note, The Danforth opened in Coral Bay in November. It’s an upscale spot that recently had a beautiful renovation. It’s located across the water from Coral Bay, so just think… great views and gentle breezes.
We had a decent amount of restaurant news in December. First came the announcement of a new rum bar, which was followed by the opening of Dave & Jerry’s Island Steakhouse. Brunch returned to Miss Lucy’s in December, and open mic night – which used to be held at the now-closed Pickles – began happening there too.
And we had some more positive transportation news. The Big Red Barge finally received a spot on the car barge schedule, and was given the go-ahead to begin transporting vehicles between St. John and St. Thomas.
We had lots of great news to end the year including the announcement of a reopening date for The Beach Bar. The guided hikes to Reef Bay resumed, and we told you about a new ice cream truck here on island. Yum!
Of course there was so much more that happened this year. These are simply some of the highlights.
The BIG story this year, in my opinion, is the sheer amount of visitors that we received on the island. This week, for example, is the busiest week I have seen on island in years. The beaches are packed. The restaurants are packed. The shops are packed. The villas are packed. The Westin is packed. Is it fun finding a parking spot at the beach or a seat at the bar at night? No. But am I ecstatic over the amount of people who have chosen this place as their vacation spot? Absolutely. So thank you, thank you, thank you for choosing to spend your hard earned dollars here on this island. I am so appreciative of all of you. And to those of you who read the blog but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, I look forward to welcoming you one day.
And with that, the year has come to a close. Sending so much love from my family to yours… Here’s to a great 2020!