Caneel Changes Rules on Charter Boats

Caneel Sign

For those of you who follow us over on Facebook, you may have seen the post we shared this weekend about Caneel Bay. Well it received such an intense reaction over there and also on a few other Facebook pages that we thought we should share it with all of you. Here’s what’s going on…

A few weeks back, we received an email from a longtime St. John charter boat captain (one who is not connected to NOSJ in any way). He mentioned how Caneel decided it would start charging the majority of charter boats a $250 usage fee for using its dock. (A bit of background – the Westin has been doing the same sort of thing for quite some time.) So we reached out to Caneel and here is what Nikolay Hotze, Managing Director of Caneel, had to say:

“Due to recent circumstances, we have initiated a new policy regarding usage of our private dock, as a result we have implemented a $250.00 dockage fee for all vessels. This payment is between the vessel operator and Caneel Bay; we will not bill our guests at any time for this usage.

As always, we welcome visitors on boats and those aboard dinghy’s complimentary use of our dock when visiting our restaurants, public facilities or while enjoying any of the services provided by Caneel Bay.”

I then asked Caneel if it was true that a few select boats had been chosen to contract with Caneel, thus not having to pay the fee.

Caneel said, “We have contracted with several of the charter boats which we currently work with on a regular basis.”

From what we heard, we’re pretty certain that Caneel contracted with a charter boat out of St. Thomas. If that’s the case, we don’t think it’s a good move.

What do you all think? Is Caneel in the right? Do you think that since it’s their dock, they can charge anything they’d like? Do you think they should have chosen a St. John charter to contract with? Please let us know in the comments section.

41 thoughts on “Caneel Changes Rules on Charter Boats”

  1. Sure it’s their dock and they can do whatever they wish but how can they treat their guests so poorly. Their guests have to take a taxi to town if they want to charter a boat of their liking or take one of the rental boats that Caneel contracted with.

  2. I think that Caneel may be overstepping their bounds again. The Westin owns their property and hence the dock. Caneel leases their land from the National Park so somewhere in their lease it must state that they can charge, which I doubt it does. But it would be good if someone from the National Park could opine on this issue. Once again it seems as though Caneel is taking liberty with the crown jewel of St John and I must ask if they are abusing their privilege should they be allowed to remain. Personally I think Caneel is the Evil Empire of St John and Nikolay is Darth Vader.
    Another story of Caneel’s abuse

    • So who’s Darmok and who’s Jalad and is St john Tanagra? Would you mind changing the lightbulb in the basement while you are down there using the computer?

      Before you know it you might realize that Caneel owns the gas dock in Cruz bay …and gasp!!! They charge for gas! And gasp!!! They charge more than what it costs them ….nooooooo! And they lease the land so they do whatever they want as long as they don’t violate the terms which to paraphrase, ,’I doubt you know’.

    • Could not agree more. I personally have been escorted off the property twice for trying to go out to Turtle Bay–this after being part of a larger group that had just spent a very large sum for drinks and dinner. They instituted a song and dance about asking permission at the front desk which we did. When security arrived halfway out to Turtle they denied we had permission and followed us all the way to the parking lot. When I confronted a manager after the second time he said, “if you want to walk around the property get a room”.

      It goes without saying that they deleted my posts on their blog.

  3. That’s a shame. We won’t be going to to Caneel any longer . It’s not about the money. They don’t care about their guests.

  4. Anyone know just how much charter business was occurring from the dock? There are rooms and beach front on either side of the dock so if there was a lot of traffic, I could see Caneel wanting to restrict it.

  5. Ever since Mr. Hotze took over as GM, VI residents visiting Caneel have been treated as unwanted poor relations. Even when going to spend money at their restaurants, bars and stores.
    His hostile attitude is reflected by the rest of the staff. Sadly Caneel is not what it used to be.

    • As a resident I can confirm that. Previously we went to Caneel all the time when friends visited. Lunch, a quick swim and a leisurely walk out to Turtle bay to sit on the veranda. In all those years we would be the only people sitting out there, no matter the time of the day, enjoying the view, the breeze and the incredible historic building. Even walking out there we would usually be the only folks walking with the guests usually taking the trams. That all ended years ago when we were accosted after the Thanksgiving buffet. There is no way this is what Laurance Rockefeller had in mind.

      • For all the charter boats required to pay a fee. Just tell any booking you get from Caneel or the Westin to complain to the GM that that is a disservice to them as paying guests of the hotel. They are, selfishly, limiting their options of charter boats and the convenience of the dock with which is an amenity that should come with their room rate.

  6. I agree about Caneel over-stepping! We wanted to rent a kayak from VI Eco Tours a few weeks ago and were told we were limited to kayaking to the left (or west) of Honeymoon Beach ONLY, we were told by the VI Eco Tours attendant that Caneel prohibits their kayaks from paddling anywhere near or in Caneel Bay. This is not right.

  7. While I have been less than happy with Caneel Bay in recent years, I believe this change is in response to an insurance issue?
    Also, the exponential increase in villa rentals and rental cars in the past 25 years has lead to FAR more people at beach areas around the island (until 1988, Hawksnest had a parking lot with four parking spaces!) and far more charter boat businesses. When Caneel does go under a lease agreement with the VINP–it’s a retained use now, not a lease—there may be some change to the operation, but don’t count on major ones.

  8. Nikolai has been alienating Caneel Bay employees since the day he set foot on the property. Now he’s doing it to locals and guests alike. Maybe it’s time for Der Furher to find a new job?

  9. It seems to me that there are many questions regarding Caneel Bay and what the resort owners can and can’t do? I would imagine that this is governed by the NPS so perhaps News on St John could contact the NPS and get answers to many of the questions that were raised. But if Caneel ‘s management is taking liberty with its agreement then something should be done.

  10. My friends just booked a trip to SJ, and I always send people to ZoZo’s. Of course, that was before they moved to Caneel Bay. Now I’m afraid to send them there (or go myself) due to all this dickishness (is that a word? Is now).

    • Sorry but ZoZos has NOTHING to do with the dock fee issue! We have been visiting&living on St John for 23 years.
      ZoZos has always been a first class restaurant and we would follow it anywhere it moves. If you deprive yourself of the ZoZos dining experience
      At Caneel you are missing something special. Boycot the dock, write to the management, swim up to the beach naked in protest…. But don’t blame the tennis pro, gift shop & restaurants for some one else’s decision!

  11. As the owner of a St. Thomas based charter company, we were not “invited” to apply or be included in Caneel’s club. The manager says he’s contracted with “several” charter companies. Who? How were they selected? We are a small company and cannot afford to pay $250 per pick up. Sounds like he’s trying to put our small business out of the game.

  12. The charter companies should just add the $250 pickup charge to the fee they charge the Caneel guests for pick up at the Caneel dock and explain to guests that the extra charge is due to Caneel’s policy. People who stay at Caneel can afford it. They probably would prefer to pay the extra $$ than be inconvenienced by a taxi to town for pickup.

  13. What I’d like to know is who’s going to enforce it, and how? If all charter operators offered “free trip tuesdays” to any caneel guest, what are they gonna do? NPS needs to set things straight.

  14. They have done the same thing at Ritz Carlton, said one person broke their arm, insurance issue and now only one STT based charter company can pick up there, although there is no law about picking passengers up on the beach?

  15. “…People who stay at Caneel can afford it…”

    I fail to see how this is at all germane to the issue at hand.

  16. The $250 fee has nothing to do with insurance. If you pay the $250
    anyone can pick up on caneel dock. I was personally told this by the dock master last week!

    All this comes down to that the competition that offer a better service,cheaper and a better product. Just go look on trip advisor and see for yourself.

    Caneel, ritz and westin should ask them selves why are today’s guest not using the hotels contractors? hmmmm

    Caneel is just hurting themselves by doing this by upsetting their guest and losing money . Guest will still go out of their way to be with the charter company they want plain simple. So sad hotel guest have to go through this.This clearly
    shows you all of these hotels care only about $$$ nothing else.

  17. As a St John charter boat captain a last stop at Caneel for a cocktail was always a great way to end the day. I’m not going to point fingers or try to act like I know what it takes to run an island resort. What I do know is BVI charters, you park on any dock in the BVI and all you need is a hello a smile and ask to park there till your guest are ready to go. You always get a kind word and a hello to your guests, if not help docking the boat. As a community we are losing the love city image, the reson we live here. Just something to think about.

  18. Caneel Shmaneel. I’ve been coming to STJ for years and have never even set foot in that overpriced place. Never had the desire. And it’s stunts like this that solidify that.

  19. What has happened to reasonableness ? The Boats being charged what about a 25.00 parking fee Oh the catch! If you spend 20.00( I believe) you can have a voucher stamped. What are they thinking ! We own a property on St John and each time we are on the Island We go and check out the gift shop . Well I did purchase about 225.00 several days later I needed to return a item I asked to have my have my ticket stamp The sales person said No you did not buy anything today! How’s that for logic! What kind of management would put this in place and expect to create a positive response from the public

  20. I, as a Day Charter Cap. in the US & BVI for over 25yrs. and worked at booking day trips for our guests, I can tell you that this misunderstanding is local beaurocracy. Not from headquarters office. Why does’nt the StJohn Charter Boat Association get their lawyer get in touch with who owns the property and get a copy of the bylaws of the contract of the new renters of Caneel Bay property. This could be a good start.

  21. I’m standing here right now talking to Ranger Danger. He says the dock is theirs until 2021. They built it. So it’s basically the same as the westin. They can do whatever they want. Nikolai sucks, and that’s that.

    • You are an idiot Ving. Maybe all of you whiners need to go over to the Westin Dock, and load your boats with bargain hunters. Caneel has it’s rights to put an end to the overuse of that dock, by charging a fee. Leave ZoZos outta your complaints, as well. It’s a world class dining experience built by a world class owner. None of you complainers mentioned any of the wonderful things Caneel Bay does for the community. How many Westin Resort umbrellas do you see hovering about in town? None, cuz the place is a dogtrack. St. John wouldn’t be what it is without Caneel Bay’s inception long before most of you were born.

      • While I could really care less about the dock fee issue, I think this is becoming a (bad) pattern with Caneel overstepping their bounds under nikolai’s supervision. Yes, Zozo’s is awesome, and the resort is a beautiful place that has helped put our island on the map. That’s not the point. Locals and guests alike are not feeling real welcome there these days. And FYI, Campo, according to one of my friends who is a charterboat captain, and has been for a long time, Westin guests tip better. Just because someone’s got money doesn’t mean they like to spend it.

      • Campo why so angry? Sounds like you might be Nikolay? If so, could you please respond to more of these comments.


  22. Good morning,

    After your recent post regarding Caneel and the Charter boat fee, I thought I would pass along a recent email that I sent to the NPS regarding the Caneel beach policy. In short, a Caneel employee informed our group that it was NPS policy that visitors to Caneel are not allowed to bring their own chairs to the Caneel Beach. Below my email, is the response from the NPS. NPS clarified that Caneel Bay Resort should not be indicating that NPS policy disallows visitors to have a chair on Caneel Beach and further there is no law that says that visitors can’t do this either. Nikolay Hotze has not responded for further clarification.

    “I have recently moved to St John after frequently visiting for many years. A few weeks ago, I and some friends had an incident at Caneel main beach and I was hoping you could validate my concerns. Our party was myself, my friend, his wife and their two young children aged 3 and 6 months old. We went to Caneel, parked and then ventured to Honeymoon beach. However, due to strong winds, the waves at Honeymoon beach were too big and we were concerned about the safety of the children. We decided to head back to Caneel’s main beach. In the past I have frequented Caneel’s main beach and I am aware of their policy that one cannot use their chairs and water sports equipment. We went to the beach and took the 3 year old in the water while his mother held the 6 month old in a chair that we brought. We were approached by an employee of Caneel who said that one is not allowed to bring their own chairs to the beach and we should go to Honeymoon Beach. I answered that there are no signs that state this and more importantly this is national park land. A supervisor then approached us and explained that this was not their policy but the policy of the National Park. So I must ask is it your policy that people who are not staying at Caneel may go to the main beach at Caneel but they are not allowed to bring chairs? And if so what law or policy are you citing? Moreover, if I am correct that I was allowed to bring a chair to a beach in the National Park then I would hope that you would inform Caneel that they should not be fabricating policy. In addition, in my research I have found that this would not be the first time that Caneel has invented public policy as the attached article from January 2012 states. I look forward to your response on this issue.”


    Dear Sir or Maam,

    In 1983, the then owner of Caneel Bay Resort sold the property to United States Government, (via the Secretary of the Interior and then to the National Park Service) for a sum of $1.00 and entered into a Retained Use Estate (RUE) as a part of that sale. The RUE allows the Grantor to operate the resort for a period of 40 years “…in such manner as the Grantor deems necessary or advisable, without authoritative control or oversight by the Secretary…”. So – while the NPS owns the land the Secretary agreed in 1983 that the operator of the resort would be able to operate without NPS control or oversight for that 40 year period. That requirement exists today as it did back in 1983 and while we work with the Resort on a number of issues of mutual concern – they do not operate under any NPS policies or oversight.

    It is my understanding the the Resort does have some sort of agreement with the Territory in which they have agreed to allow non-resort Guests access to both Caneel Bay and Honeymoon Beaches. I am not sure why anyone from Caneel Bay Resort would indicate that NPS policy would not allow them to allow you to have a chair on that particular beach. It is possible that employee is confusing the NPS with the the VI government. I have copied the Resort Manager, Mr. Nikolay Hotze so that he can comment on this interaction.

    Nikolay will you please comment ?!?!?1

    • So let me get this straight, I am allowed to go to the main beach at Caneel and bring my own chair? And if so can they let Caneel know this is the case, but I am sure they already do know this!!!

  23. All beaches in the US, which include the VI are public beaches, to high tide. There is no law that states the guests could not begin their trip with a dingy ride to the boat.

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