Island Hopping in the USVI

Island Hopping in the USVI 1

Just because the BVI are closed for the time being, doesn’t mean you can’t have a great day on the water!  The USVI has plenty to offer in the way of views, water sports and food and beverage options.  A lot of charter companies have started pushing local day trips in recent years due to continuously rising customs fees and the amount of amazing USVI experiences that have popped up.

This weekend I was lucky enough to go sailing with one of my favorite captains on one of my favorite boats (I’ll get into more detail on that next week!).  It was a picture perfect day rounded out with an incredible sunset.  Enjoy the views!

Island Hopping in the USVI 2

We went snorkeling just south of St. Thomas and saw some true underwater beauty.  On the back side of these rocks we explored remnants of a ship wreck and a sunken cannon!

After a few hours of floating with friends, we headed over to Water Island for lunch.  It’s a great alternative for a boat day now that the BVI is closed until at least September.  Dinghy’s is open and the staff was accommodating and excited to be back in business!

Island Hopping in the USVI 3

After a leisurely afternoon, we headed back towards St. John to soak in the golden hours and a magnificent sunset.

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Island Hopping in the USVI 5

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Oh, and I don’t think I’ve introduced you to my other half yet 🙂  This is Chewbacca (Chewy for short). He likes sailing and long walks on the beach.  I adopted him from the Animal Care Center 6 years ago and he is everyone’s favorite first mate!

Have a great Tuesday!

Local Livin’ – Stories from Love City – Doreen Callwood

Local Livin' - Stories from Love City - Doreen Callwood 9

While I was out and about this weekend I ran into a taxi driver who once did me a great kindness. We sat and chatted for a bit about what’s going on in the world and I questioned him about his opinions on the development of St. John and tourism today. The conversation led to a heartfelt story about his mother who came to St. John from Jost Van Dyke in the 60’s. He told me how she had experienced the generosity of a stranger that led to her eventually being a self-sustaining single mother of four on a tourism driven career path.

A few days later, after thinking about her story with a great deal of questions that remained unanswered, I called him and asked if I could interview her. He paused for a moment and said that it would mean a lot to him, and to her, if someone wrote down her story. So, I’m going to try to do it justice as best I can.

Read moreLocal Livin’ – Stories from Love City – Doreen Callwood

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open!

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open! 10

Lovango Rum Bar is finally open for business!  We highlighted this new venue back in December which was scheduled for a grand opening the weekend of March 21st.  For obvious reasons, this was pushed back.

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open! 11
The custom pizza oven and open air kitchen greet you as you walk in the door.

They have been open on and off for takeout throughout the pandemic and Stay-At-Home orders so I can say I’ve been lucky enough to try their amazing Neapolitan style pizza in the meantime.  But they are now open for full-service!

In addition to a great visual appeal on the delicious pizzas (with perfect crust in my opinion!) and GIANT charcuterie boards, Lovango Rum Bar offers nearly 200 different types of rum.  Including their own signature light and dark rums which are used in their rum-based cocktails on a menu designed by master mixologist, Will Forsythe.

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open! 12
Lovango’s signature light and dark rum blends.

Can’t decide on a rum?  No problem!  They offer flights of rum on an attractive hand-crafted board.  It’s a great presentation and experience that allows you to start sampling the large selection they have to offer behind the bar.

Now, let me tell you about this bar….It is absolutely stunning.

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open! 13
Comfy seats and ornate light fixtures add to the comfortable ambiance at Lovango Rum Bar.

Locally carpentered wooden shelves frame the bottles of rum with a backsplash reminiscent of aqua mermaid scales with a shimmery finish.  A stunning contrast to the otherwise dark grey interior.  The bar top itself stretches the length of most of the dining area and is made out of distressed copper that resembles an aerial satellite picture of the Caribbean Sea.

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open! 14
A massive charcuterie board on the copper bar top.

The inside of Lovango Rum Bar has a great ambiance with Steve Simonsen’s videos of mermaids, fire dancers and Mocko Jumbies on the large screens and a beautiful copper still behind glass in the corner.  A stage setup near the patio doors with full concert lighting and sound equipment promise a good time now that we are able to have live music again!

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The copper still to the right with the stage in the background

 

Business Spotlight: Lovango Rum Bar is Open! 16If you’re looking for some Caribbean blues and sunshine, head out to the patio that overlooks the Cruz Bay waterfront.  Take in the view and the boats slowly moving in and out of the harbor with a rum drink or a glass of wine in your hand and enjoy a sunset serenade.  The venue hopes to have live music scheduled for the evenings inside and during sunset on the patio outside Tuesday through Saturday.

Check out Lovango Rum Bar, located above Dr!nk St. John and Low Key Watersports, next time you are on island!  They are open Tuesday through Saturday with dinner service from 4-9PM and bar service from 4-11PM.  Due to capacity restrictions, reservations are HIGHLY recommended.  Reserve your table today!

If you have been to Lovango Rum Bar, we encourage you to scroll down and leave a review.

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Lovango Rum Bar
5 / 5 Reviewer
{{ reviewsOverall }} / 5 Users (3 votes)
Pros
  • Delicious Neapolitan style pizza
  • Very large rum selection and carft cocktails
  • Cruz bay view and outdoor patio
  • Beautiful interior design
  • Live music with full concert lighting and sound equipment
Cons
  • Smaller venue so reservations are highly encouraged
  • Hours currently limited, restaurant opens at 4:30 pm
Summary
The new Lovango Rum Bar in Cruz Bay is a must-visit. They specialize in Neapolitan style pizzas and feature a selection of almost 200 types of rum as well as craft cocktails and other beverages. Lovango's friendly and knowledgeable staff will make a recommendation if you need help deciding. The interior of the restaurant and bar area are beautifully designed. Their outdoor patio has great sunset views, which could make for the perfect date night. Lovango regularly features live music on its stage which has full concert lighting and sound equipment.
Food5
Drinks5
Ambiance5
Service5
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New Ferry Schedule – June 10, 2020

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The passenger ferry has expanded their service as of today!

New Ferry Schedule - June 10, 2020 20

 

Notice the weekday service is a bit more “back to normal” than the weekends, but they are still making their last trip to Red Hook from Cruz Bay at 8PM instead of Midnight.   If you’re coming in on a later flight, make sure to make other arrangements!  We posted some guidance about private transportation as well as the Crown Bay ferry schedule last week.

We will keep you up to date about the schedules as they evolve!

 

Live Music is Back!

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Happy Wednesday everyone!

Live Music is Back!  And here’s who is doing what this week>>>>

We are slowly rolling our way back into a regular momentum here on St. John.  I went out for take-out last night and it was great seeing one of my favorite restaurants as full as they could be by current capacity restrictions.  Employees busy and smiling behind their masks.  Unfamiliar faces at tables and the bar.  Tourism has trickled back in.  And, as scary as moving forward may seem, it was good to see my friends behind a busy bar again!

Live music was one of the very first things to be restricted.  And that’s reasonable.  People tend to gather and stay in places longer when there is live entertainment.  Just prior to the stay at home orders, we had VI Jam Fest, several nationally touring acts at different venues around St. John, St. Thomas Carnival around the corner.  Bars and restaurants were testing the live music game for the first time.  Most of the long-standing ones were doing seven days a week with a lot of really fun things on the horizon.  And then, just like everything else, it stopped dead in its tracks.

Well, the first to stop and the last to get started.  Thank you Governor Bryan for bringing live music back!  Beginning on Monday June 8, 2020, in the Virgin Islands, the show can go on!  With restrictions…

From the Office of the Governor – Issued and Effective on June 1, 2020:

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Pam and Broheem at Cruz Bay Landing
  • No live bands or DJ’s in open public areas
  • Event centers and banquet halls must comply with mass gathering mandates of less than 50 people or 50% of their occupancy capacity (Whatever is less)
  • No live music or DJ’s permitted after 12 midnight
  • Live band shall be set up with space of ten (10) feet between the band and patrons using social distancing principles.
  • A clear barrier between live music and patrons may be considered but is not required.

Now that we all know the expectations and regulations, who is doing what?

A few of the staples for live music are taking their time on figuring out how to manage performances with the current regulations.  Once again, I want to remind you that the government will shut down and/or fine these businesses if they are caught being non-compliant so, let’s bear with ALL of small businesses while we get through the beginnings of this blue phase.

But, a couple of our favorite venues are jumping right back in!  The following restaurants have scheduled performances, but be sure to check their Facebook pages and websites for additional updates.

  • Miss Lucy’s – Thursday night open mic starts again on June 25th.  Every Thursday at 5:30-?
  • Lovango Rum Bar –  Evening and Sunset music regularly beginning this weekend.
  • Cruz Bay Landing – Starting up this week 6-9PM
    Live Music is Back! 23
    Live music is back at Maho Crossroads starting this weekend
    • Fridays – IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart
    • Saturdays –  Artist TBA
    • Sundays – Pam and Broheem (Start date on the Sunday shows TBD)
  • Maho Crossroads – Starting Sunday
    • Ital and Echo People – Sunday 2-3PM
    • Mermaid Monday – 2-4PM – IslandGirlMusic- Erin Hart
    • Regular afternoon music beginning next week.

If you are not here to check out the tunes this week, Lauren and Bo Magnie will host one more virtual open mic live from St. John this Thursday at 5:30!

Monday Blues

Got a case of the Mondays?  Take a minute to enjoy some pics and video from the weekend~I’ve included a little info to ease your minds about the dry hillsides as well!

It was an INCREDIBLY windy day at Cinnamon Bay; which you can definitely hear in this video!  But the sun was shining in between light showers and the beach was practically empty until noon!

Read moreMonday Blues

VI National Park Opens Additional Facilities

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The Virgin Islands National Park Service issued a release on June 3 that gets us a bit closer to that new normal we are all dreaming of.

Today, June 6, the NPS reopens the park-maintained facilities at the following locations:

  • Trunk Bay – Restrooms and Showers – Entry fees remain waived for the meantime
  • Hawksnest Bay- Restrooms and Changing Rooms
  • Restrooms and/or Porta Johns at Cinnamon Bay, Maho Bay, Francis Bay, Salt Pond Bay, Lameshur and Annaberg.

Although, the concessions at Trunk and Cinnamon remain closed, all park waters, beaches and trails are OPEN.  The park resumes trash pick-up today as well and replaced the garbage receptacles on the beaches earlier this week.  As always, however, pack-in, pack-out is highly encouraged as the collection areas are not designed for high volume use.

On April 6, the VI government closed the territory owned beaches and the NPS followed their lead almost immediately.  The beaches and trails were re-opened on April 20, but the above facilities, as well as the picnic pavilions, remained closed.  The picnic areas are not mentioned in the NPS release from June 3.

A little factoid for those of you who don’t know (I know, many do, but bear with me):  The majority of the St. John beaches are operated and maintained by the National Park Service.  BUT, the majority of the beaches and trails on the other Virgin Islands are owned by the territory.  A lot of people were confused when the Department of Parks and Natural Resources (DPNR) released their beach water testing results and none of the popular STJ beaches were listed (They tested Oppenheimer, Cruz Bay, Frank Bay, Great Cruz Bay and Johnson Bay).  Follow Friends of the VI National Park and Virgin Islands National Park to stay up to date on St. John specific beach info and water testing results!

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The Cruz Bay Visitor center also closed its doors in April and will remain closed for the time being with “public and employee health in mind.”

Social distancing and face coverings are still highly encouraged and hand sanitizer in your beach bag is never a bad idea!

“We have felt the love from local residents who have kept park beaches, trails and public spaces safe and clean over the past two months,” says Nigel Fields, park superintendent. “Now as the USVI begins to open the doors to broader tourism, we want everyone to remain safe while enjoying the park’s many resources.”

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I hope you all have a GREAT weekend!  Thank you for all of the positive feedback and support this week.  Jenn’s are definitely a big pair of flip-flops to fill and there’s a lot to learn in the process. —Speaking of Jenn, you’ll be hearing from her tomorrow!

St. John Gathers in Solidarity

On Saturday morning at 9am, there will be a Black Lives Matter “Protest and Memorial” in Cruz Bay.  The Facebook event states “This protest is to stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters in the US.  We are speaking up and speaking out against racially motivated crimes and hate against African American communities.”

The gathering will begin with nine minutes of silence in the field near the National Park Dock.

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The National Park Ball Field is directly across from Mongoose Junction and adjacent to the NPS Visitor Center.

The organizer, Jalayne Jones, urges participants to wear their masks and bring sunscreen and water.  The temperature is rising as we enter hurricane season here on St. John.  But we are confident everyone will keep their cool and come together in a peaceful way this weekend. “I want to make sure this is peaceful,” she stressed.  “Absolutely peaceful.”

Jalayne has worked, with the support of her long time employers at Skinny Legs, to ensure everything is set for Saturday’s gathering.  Skinny Legs, like many other St. John businesses, will be opening a little later in the day so their staff is able to attend if they choose to do so.

The National Park Service will be opening their restrooms to the public for the first time since April from 9AM-3PM that day.  She has spoken with the VI Department of Health and wants to stress to everyone that masks are not optional and keeping the crowd as distanced from one another as possible is important as well.  Irie Pops has volunteered free water at their storefront across the street from the NPS dock throughout the morning.

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Jalayne and the other organizers remind all of the participants that masks are required!

Earlier this week, the Virgin Islands Police Department delivered an emotional message via video on their Facebook page.  In reference to George Floyd’s death, St. Croix police chief Sydney Elscoe said, “The video demonstrates a long-term culture of wrongdoing practiced by some members of that agency.”  And it reached a level in which the officers felt comfortable with their actions.  “These actions are clearly excessive and cannot be justified,“ he concluded.

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St. Croix District Chief of Police Sidney Elskoe and Special Assistant to the Chief of Police Walton Jack, Jr. at the protest on Thursday. Photo courtesy Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett Facebook page.

With a nod to the peaceful protests being organized on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix, the police chief extends VIPD’s support of the rights of citizens to gather in memorial and peaceful demonstration.

Jalayne has also spoken directly to VIPD on St. John and they ensured that they would be at the gathering in support and to ensure everything goes smoothly.  There are no roadblocks arranged so, if you are in the Cruz Bay area Saturday morning, please avoid driving through town.  If you must, please be aware of the event going on that may cause some delays.

If you are in town for the walk tomorrow, please consider stopping by some locally owned businesses for lunch!  Uncle Joe’s BBQ, located across from the Post Office has amazing BBQ chicken and ribs with sides!

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Uncle Joe will be serving lunch from 11:30-2:30 on Saturday.

OR, grab yourself a frozen treat from Philomen at Cool Desires!  She will be making up some fresh fruit smoothies after she participates in the peaceful protest.  She is directly across from the National Park Dock and next to Margarita Phil’s!  Stay safe and hydrated tomorrow everyone!

 

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Philomen Richards will be preparing smoothies at Cool Desires tomorrow after she participates in the gathering.

 

Local Livin’ – stories from Love City – Ital Delroy Anthony

In our first edition of “Local Livin’,’” Ital Delroy Anthony tells the story of his ancestral family on St. John and his passion for the Afro-Caribbean culture and the land of his people.

Local Livin' - stories from Love City - Ital Delroy Anthony 32If you have ever visited Salt Pond Bay on St. John’s south eastern shore, you may have bumped into a vivacious personality selling his wares just past the parking lot entrance.  In my first week on-island in 2012, I took the bus to Salt Pond on and crossed paths with Ital in this exact location.

I remember vividly the intensity and passion with which he spoke about the hand-crafted maracas made out of Calabash, jewelry, salves and decor that he boasted on his modest table under an EZ-up.  Hand-made wind chimes offering a calming background music to the conversation.

In the years to come, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Ital during his semi-regular presentations about the benefits and uses of local flora, his pop-up shop in the park during events and, eventually, booking him to play music with his trio, the Echo People.  To say it has been a pleasure to work with this man of vast local knowledge and many talents is an exaggerated understatement.  So, when I thought about who we should feature for this first profile story, he immediately came to mind.

Ital was born on St. Thomas in 1961 to a sixth generation St. Johnian mother.  His mother’s ancestors were brought into slavery from Ghana during the Denmark occupation of the Danish West Indies, now the US Virgin Islands.  Like many other ancestral St. John families, they were here through decades of slavery, the slave revolt of 1733, the emancipation of slaves in the territory in 1848 and the eventual $25 million US purchase of the territory in March of 1917.

Read moreLocal Livin’ – stories from Love City – Ital Delroy Anthony

Safe Travels and Comfortable Arrivals

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St John is OPEN!!! What does that mean and how can you best protect yourself and the community while visiting your favorite little Caribbean island? Jenn provided a comprehensive update on the reopening last week and we wanted to circle back around with some social distancing tips and tricks for getting to and getting settled on St. John.

First—We are so excited and happy to be welcoming our visitors back to Love City. It has been a scary time for both public and personal safety and for the economy for the past few months. On St. John, the economic woes for small businesses are compounded as we transition from Stay at Home>Safer at Home>Open Doors/a brief stint of tourism> (You guessed it!) Hurricane season.

Second, in an effort to keep our community (and our visitors!) safe and happy and healthy, we have compiled the following information in order for you to understand the regulations for small businesses and the community and also take advantage of some services that will help you to maintain minimal contact and maximize your vacation time!

So, what should you expect at the airport? Before disembarking your flight in paradise, you will likely hear a slightly different kind of “safety” talk from your flight crew. All arriving passengers to the USVI will be subject to COVID-19 related screening and will be required to wear a mask or facial covering upon exiting the aircraft. Thermal temperature scanners are being installed at airports and seaports and everyone, resident or visitor, will be required to pass through a temperature screening checkpoint and fill out a “Traveler Screening Questionnaire.”

No temperature, no problem. You’re free to go with a VI Department of Health “Health Alert Card.” If you register a temperature, certain protocol will be followed as outlined below:

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Now you are cleared through COVID screening and off to enjoy your trip. The government is not mandating a 14-day quarantine. BUT they are asking visitors to minimize contact and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days. If you have traveled to St. John in the past, you know that a crowded taxi and then a semi-crowded ferry are likely involved. So how do you handle this and practice these recommended measures at the same time?

Regular taxi service from the airport to both the Crown Bay andRed Hook ferry docks is operational with restrictions. Cabs can only operate at 50% capacity and, as with ALL commercial entities in the territory (bars and restaurants exempt while you are consuming your deliciousness!), masks or facial coverings are required.

As of now, the people ferry service from Red Hook to Cruz Bay is operating on a limited schedule (see below) without capacity restrictions. The Inter Island Boat Services ferry plans to resume service from Crown Bay to Cruz Bay mid-June, leaving Cruz Bay at 11am and Crown Bay at either 3:30 or 5:30. They are awaiting flight information as to which time will be scheduled. Again, for any public transportation, masks are required.

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If being in an enclosed space with a lot of people sounds a bit overwhelming after already traveling all day, you’ve got options! There are plenty of private transportation services to get you here! Let’s start with getting you out of the airport. There are several private taxis on St. Thomas that you can arrange ahead of time and simply provide the driver with your flight information. Private taxis generally run $90 for up to five people to either of the seaports from the airport.

Now, what about water travel? As stated above, the ferries could potentially be a bit crowded, masks are required, etc. Also, please keep in mind that a lot of locals use the ferry for public transit to and from work, the hospital, running errands, etc. If you are traveling from a “hot zone,” please be mindful that your decision to use private transportation may be more to protect others!

A lot of the private charter boats have been low on bookings for obvious reasons and are being flexible in offering private water taxi services from Red Hook to Cruz Bay. Some may offer transport from Crown Bay, but remember, the water on the south side of St. Thomas can be a bit choppy! These options may make financial sense for a family of four or more but may be a bit on the steep side for solo or couple travelers. If you have a favorite charter captain or boat you have used in the past, give them a call! They will be happy to hear from you and extremely grateful for the work!

So, now…you’re HERE! On St. John. Finally! What’s next? Well, if you want to continue with private transportation, check first with your villa or accommodations. Many of them will have a driver or staff member on hand that can arrange these services for you. If your accommodations do not offer transportation services, simply ask them for their preferred taxi driver’s phone number and call them directly to arrange pick up ahead of time at your arrival location. Pick up location will be, obviously, the ferry dock if you stick to the ferry. The National Park Dock will likely be your final destination if you opt for a private boat.

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I have often said, throughout this ordeal, that going to the grocery store is the most daunting part of my week. There have been days that I have pulled into the parking lot, saw that it was full and simply went home! As you know, we don’t have big box stores here on St. John and our markets can get crowded VERY quickly. Currently, I find the unavoidable invasion of personal space a bit uncomfortable. Also, (and most importantly!) more people in the store could jeopardize the health safety of our elderly community members who may not have an option outside of shopping for themselves.

I do want to add that the staff at ALL of St. John’s grocery retailers have been professional and courteous and the shelves have remained well stocked over the past two months. YES, we have even kept toilet paper on the shelves LOL.

There are several options for you to help cut down on traffic at the stores by arranging for provisioning services to do your immediate shopping for you. Not only is this a relatively inexpensive luxury for you, but it also helps to ease the impact on the local community in our tiny stores! Imagine being exhausted from traveling ALL day and arriving to find a pre-stocked refrigerator and pantry complete with the fixings for your favorite island cocktail!

Most provisioning services add a percentage of costs and a gratuity. Others do a flat rate based on the delivery location. Some villas and higher end lodging will offer this service as an add-on. My recommendation is to first contact your accommodations to see if they recommend someone or provide this service. If not, please see the list below for possible options!

Landlubber Logistics

Carolyn’s Caribbean Concierge

You Buy and We Fly VI

Stocked VI

Now, you’re on St. John, taking in the view with a drink in hand and snacks in front of you. You have made contact on the ground with MAYBE four people outside of your travel companions along the way. After you enjoy the sunset this evening, you can venture out in the morning and dip your toes in the sand at whatever beach looks most secluded.

Social distancing doesn’t have to be stressful…I’m actually a bit jealous of all of you right now. 🙂