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Gasoline nears $4.00

Gasprices
You may be headed to the island, but you’re not going to get away from it all.

Domino Oil stations on St. Thomas increased the price of a gallon of gasoline 37 cents in the past week, according to the Virgin Islands Daily News.  The company’s station in Coral Bay posted a price of $3.89 a gallon this week, the newspaper added.

You can bet taxi drivers are feeling the increase.  Anybody want to bet whether the drivers might hike fares (a fuel surcharge) with or without approval from the government?

Beach-to-Beach swim this weekend

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The fourth annual island Power Swim is scheduled for 8 a.m., Sunday, May 27. 

Organized by the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park, there are four races including three contests for solo swimmers and one for a relay team.  The individual
courses range from one to three-and-a-half miles, while the three-person relay is three-and-a-half miles.  All begin at Maho Bay. The long route ends at Hawksnest Bay.Map05_2

In a practice swim two weeks ago, the nationally ranked swimmer Jack Zakim finished first on a Maho to Trunk Bay course.  Another practice was scheduled over the past weekend.

"The event has become part of the list of challenging sporting events inn the Virgin Islands," said Joe Kessler, president of the Friends. "It features the incredible waters and beaches of the Park."

Sponsors of the Friends fund raiser this year include Alfredo’s landscaping, Mongoose Junction, American Paradise Realty, St. John Insurance, Skinny Legs, the Tap Room, Starfish Market and St. John Rotary.

Winners in the various competition categories will get their awards during an end-of-day barbecue at Oppenheimer Beach. There is more information online at www.friendsvinp.org/swim.

Tourism gods have been listening

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The V.I. government is promising that arriving at the St. Thomas airport is going to be less stressful and more welcoming.  The new commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson Doty, told a travel industry publication one of her top initiatives will be to improve the "arrival experience at the airport and all ports of entry."

The gauntlet of porters, sometimes-working baggage belts, and taxi drivers was the major complaint of News of St. John readers reacting to comments by Berkeley Young of Randall Travel Marketing about how tourists are treated. (Part one, Part two).

Doty also told Travel Weekly she intends to redesign the territory’s USVItourism.vi Web site.  She has also launched a new one, admittedly with not much to it, at usvi-ideas.com/.  She’s encouraging people to comment and offer ideas how the islands’ tourism business can improve.

Travel consultant faults VI tourism

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The VI tourist economy is not managed to deliver a good vacation experience, according to Berkeley Young of Randall Travel Management

The consultant who advises resort areas and resorts how to improve conducted a workshop for local business people in which he urged them to make it easier for travelers to find out what’s going on and how to take advantage of it. Young said the tourist economy is organized for the convenience of its employees, like cab drivers, not visiors.

"People are willing to give you their money, but no one wants to take
it," Young said as he encouraged resorts and even villa owners to
deliver more services, even if at higher prices.

In the second part of an audio interview which you can hear on your PC, Young explains why St. John’s eco-friendly image makes it a high-demand tourist destination.

Would you be willing to pay more for your villa rental if you were a concierge met you at the airport, helped you get to St. John, had the villa stock with foods you’d ordered, and had arranged your first three days of activities, per your request? Higher price, greater comfort?  Good deal/bad deal? Comment here.

Ipod_2

Listen to the second part of our conversation with travel consultant Berkeley Young.

You can also download or hear the program by clicking here.

Listen to the first part of  Young’s interview here.

Subscribe to News of St. John’s weekly podcast at the Apple iTunes Music Store and search for "news of st. john,"
or copy "http://fbarnako.libsyn.com/rss" and paste it into the "Subscribe" field under the iTunes software’s "Advanced" tab.  You can also use
that link to subscribe with other podcatching software.  If you’re having
a problem, e-mail: [email protected].

St. John – getting there is not half the fun

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St. John may not be able to profit from the next big trend in tourism – "green vacationing."  It’s got the beaches, eco-tours, and an unspoiled environment.  But it also has hassles today’s travelers will not put up with. The biggest obstacle, says a nationally known travel industry consultant, is getting to the island.

"It’s all about facilitation," explained Berkeley Young of Randall Travel Marketing.  "From the time people get off the plane in St. Thomas at the airport, they are frustrated.

"There’s no proper greeting. They’re given a urine cup’s portion of punch. There’s nobody asking, ‘How can we help you?’  They have to fight taxicabs.  It’s a horrible experience," Young said.

While veteran travelers will endure the challenges of getting to Red Hook, onto a ferry, and finding their villa or resort greeter in Cruz Bay, Young warns many will not.  “They get on island and they’re irritated and angry.”

"When people come to these islands, they are desperate for escape.  They want someone to do it all for them," Young said. He warns that cruise ships are strong competition for tourists’ dollars. The industry has made it simple.  You make a phone call, they’ll book your airline ticket, greet you at the airport, they’ll handle your bags, put them in your cabin.

He urged the island’s Tourism Commissioner to work with hotels, restaurants, and villa managers to work together to improve the experience for travelers.

How do you think St. John could be more accommodating to visitors?  Offer some advice here.

Ipod_2

Listen to the first part of our conversation with travel consultant Berkeley Young.

Click the play button below.

You can also download or hear the file by clicking here.

Subscribe to News of St. John’s weekly podcast at the Apple iTunes Music Store and search for "news of st. john,"
or copy "http://fbarnako.libsyn.com/rss" and paste it into the "Subscribe" field under the iTunes software’s "Advanced" tab.  You can also use
that link to subscribe with other podcatching software.  If you’re having
a problem, e-mail: [email protected].

18th century plantation found

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A plantation discovered in 1981, and then forgotten, has been found again by archaeologist Ken Wild and Amber Davis of the VI Cultural Resources Management Team. The location was not revealed. 

Writing on the team’s blog, Davis said, "The plantation consists of three structures – the main residence, the enslaved quarters and the warehouse."  (The picture is from their blog.) Davis and Wild found ceramic fragments near the site of a type known to be in use 375 years ago.

The plantation was included on a St. John map prepared by Peter Lotharius Oxholm in 1780. In 1981, Barbara Johnson found the site, but then it was forgotten, Davis reported. Understandably, she and Wild were pleased with their find – especially since they’d spent an entire day chopping catch and keep and cutting cacti in their search.  The celebrated with a burger at Skinny’s.

Here’s an Oxholm map on the St. John Historical Society’s Web site.  Very interesting.

Bet you can’t sit on just one

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Tom Clifton
is an artist from Memphis who’s
also adopting St. John as a place to live.  He also has an exhibit
opening on St. John this week at Best of Both Worlds at Mongtoose Junction. 

He and his second-best friend (after his dog), Pat, have been
building Amansala.  They have been chronicling the project in a blog, following in the keystrokes
of Bongo Bongo’s Russ and Jeff.

The latest posting on Amansala includes this great map of the island’s beaches.
Click on this image for a larger graphic and see how many beaches you’ve
been to.  Start making a list of "Beaches to Do" for the next trip.

What’s your favorite beach?

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St. John’s got dozens of beaches and after a few visits, you begin to have favorites.  Xislandgirl, an active member at Virgin Islands On-Line, decided to ask fellow forumites where they liked to catch some rays and snorkel for Blue Tangs. 

The winners?  Among the choices on the ballot, Hawksnest limped into first place with 18% of the votes, beaten badly by "Other’s" 61%.

In this week’s podcast, Xislandgirl says she was surprised that HER favorite appears to be lots of others’ perfect place, and she didn’t even put it on the ballot: Francis Bay.  Some may fault it for no see-ums, but you have to love it for the lack of crowds and the fantastic patrolling Pelicans.

Hear Islandgirl, a.k.a. DeeDee from Connecticut, talk about the island’s best beaches. Click the play button below.

You can download or hear the file by clicking here.

You can also subscribe to News of St. John’s weekly podcast by going to the Apple iTunes Music Store and searching for "news of st. john," or you can copy the words feeds.feedburner.com.stjohn and paste them into the subscribe field under the iTunes software’s "Advanced" tab.  You can also use that Feedburner link to subscribe in other podcatching software.  If you’re having a problem, e-mail: [email protected].

Club Med calls on St. John

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Who knew Club Med does cruises?  Turns out they sure do, and one of its ships, Club Med 2, is in port on St. John today.  (The photo is not from Cruz Bay – it’s off the Cruise Critic Web site.)

The crew is French/English, and the ship can accommodate almost 400 people.  Its a new breed of ship that combines computer-assisted sailing with traditional engines.  Because she’s relatively small, as cruise ships go, 610 feet long, she can call on smaller islands, like St. John. 

CruiseCritic.com describes the experience: "Much like the resorts, Club Med 2 emphasizes fitness and physical activities. At the stern of the vessel is the sports platform, which enables passengers to water-ski, windsurf and SCUBA dive right off the back of the boat. The ship also offers a fitness room with aerobics. Other activities include a piano bar, karaoke, sauna and massage."

Is it good or bad that small cruise ships are calling on St. John?
 
Free polls from Pollhost.com