Park’s Red Hook dock closing for weeks

The Red Hook ferry to St. John could be pretty crowded for the next few months.  

That's because the dock used by the Westin Resort, Caneel Bay, and the National Park to bring its guests and workers to St. John will be out of service.

The Park Service's Red Hook dock, across the bay from the Port Authority's dock, is going to be repaired. According to the St. John Source, it will be three weeks until a temporary platform is available as a temporary replacement.

It's not known whether the Caneel and Westin and Park Service boats will shift their operations to the public dock – but that would make sense.  So, the odds of it happening are …?

The cost of replacing the dock and covering its supports in concrete … about $600,000 … will be covered from Trunk Bay admission fees and charges to boaters using the Park's overnight moorings, the Source reported. Completion of the work is hoped for by June.

  • Read the full St. John Source story here

How to save $96 at the Westin

When it comes time to leave the Westin St. John, you have two choices. 

  • The public ferry to Red Hook ($6, plus $2/bag) or Charlotte Amalie ($12 plus $2 a bag),
  • The Westin's ferry, which will set you back $30 a person.

For a family of four, taking the public ferry to Red Hook, with carry-ons, that works out to $24. For a family of four from the Westin, it's $120.

That's how you can save $96. Enough for dinner somewhere.

Rafting Caneel Bay Resort

A long time ago, in a land far away, Mrs. Inquiring Iguana and II stayed at Caneel Bay Resort.

The main beach was heaven.  The sand ws white, the sun caressed the beach late into the afternoon, and my favorite place on earth soon became the raft out in the water. Nothin' like swimming out there, after a lunch of Bloody Marys, and falling asleep on its gritty surface.  The fact an occasional turtle would pop its head above the water as you paddle out was just a bonus.

In the middle of last week, Mrs. II and II went to Caneel, had lunch (now the home of the $47 hamburger), and set up shop on the beach.

"What's different," I inquired of her.  "Dunno," she said. 

"I do.  There's No raft."

Here's proof.

Then, with some friends visiting from Maine, we went to Caneel for lunch and then some beach time. 

Guess what, sports fans?  The raft is back!!! Looks like it got some fresh paint, and it's on the job.  Hoo-ray!


Calm down! Hotel tax rate hike is only from 8% to 10%

The Governor is proposing to increase the hotel tax 25 percent, the first increase since 1993.

The current rate is 8 percent. It is levied on all villa, condo, and hotel accomodations and generally passed along directly to visitors. The new rate would be 10 percent and extended to also include timeshare rentals.

All funds will be applied to the territory’s Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund which is used by the Department of Tourism to implement marketing and advertising campaigns to attract visitors.

“It is essential that we take the necessary steps to level the playing field for attracting visitors to our islands,” said Commissioner Nicholson-Doty.  “By leaving our room tax rate unchanged over the last 17 years, we have placed ourselves at a competitive disadvantage for marketing the destination while other destinations have adjusted to meet market conditions and have outspent the U.S. Virgin Islands."

By comparison, some nightly room tax rates in other destinations are markedly higher. Puerto Rico's is 24%, the Dominican Republic is 15%, and the Bahamas is 10%.

Progress at the Westin

Repairs and improvements necessitated by the winds of Tropical Storm Otto are coming along nicely, according to St. John's Gerald Singer.

On his St. John Life blog, Singer reports reconstruction of the Westin's huge pool is done.  "The pool is refilled, cleaned and resurfaced," he says.

New surfaces are being laid down on the tennis courts; that job is half done. And the Beach Cafe has reopened.

  • Singer's St. John Life blog is here

New Miami-like boutique hotel for Cruz Bay

Denise-david What's a nice couple like this doing in a place like St. John?

Living the dream.

David Guidi and Denise Walker, a couple of transplanted Canadians, say that's what is behind their decision to develop an old downtown convenience store building into the Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel. Opening day is about three weeks away.

The hotel has six guest rooms and a penthouse suite.  It is in the same building which used to house Oscar's store and is now also home to Da Livio Italian Ristorante.

With a background in real estate construction and hotel management,the Guidis oversaw renovation of the building this year.

"Blending chic Miami boutique hotel decor with the more casual style of an island villa," said David Guidi. "The result is a clean, simple, yet elegant venue." About-hotel-1

Rates start at $175 a night during the winter season.  A modest Continental breakfast is included.

"We've travelled to St John numerous times over the past 10 years, and got married here in 2009," David explained. "One thing that always stuck out in our minds is that accommodation on the island is expensive, and there is a severe shortage of good, affordable in-town options."

Cabaret comes to Caneel Bay

Beech_on_beach St. John's favorite cabaret singer will be crooning all winter long at the Turtle Bay Estate House at the Caneel Bay Resort

Marty Beech will be playing piano and singing during suppers Wednesday through Sunday evenings beginning next Thursday, Nov. 18.

His playlist has a bit of everything for everybody, but there's an emphasis on Old Blue Eyes. "My repertoire features jazz standards, especially the music of Frank Sinatra, from romantic ballads to up-tempo swing tunes," Beech said. "I also cover a variety of other styles such as classic rock, soul/R&B, blues, reggae and country."

He came to the island a dozen years ago.  Beech and his wife, Cathy, and kids wanted to "follow a different course," he said.  Since then the kids grew up and Beech is still singing. "I love what I do and I am grateful to have such a wonderful venue on the best little island in the Caribbean," he said of his Caneel Bay opportunity. You may have heard him singing at various restaurants on the island over the years, recently including Ocean Grill at Mongoose Junction.

While he sings at night, during the daytime Beech is a broker for Islandia Real Estate. "As of today the St. John MLS has $516 million worth of property listed for sale," he said. "I think the best we can hope for in the immediate future (for real estate) is slow but steady growth.  The bubble was exciting but not so healthy long term," he said, adding "Right now there is no plan to quit my night job."

He has recorded one CD, Summer Wind, featuring a standards and Sinatra tunes.  Listen to it – and buy it – at http://cdbaby.com/cd/beech

Steel drum artist making music in DC, Illinois

Victor Provost is making a name for himself in the states.  The St. John-born steelpan/steel drum musician is appearing weekly at a DC restaurant and he'll be the featured artist next week in concert at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill.

With appearances at the DC Jazz Festival, The Kennedy Center, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (Jazz at Lincoln Center), the Umbria Jazz Festival, Pure Jazz Den Haag, and at major venues throughout North America, the Caribbean and Europe, Provost has been developing quite a reputation  with his instrumental talent and improvisational voice and style.

Provost left St. John 12 years ago. His family still lives in Fish Bay. Besides performing, he works with the Cultural Academy for Excellence, a steelpan music education program in Bowie, Md. and also teaches private lessons.

For a taste of his steelpan music, click on the video above.  There's plenty more on his Web site here.

Blue Tang: #2 and proud of it!

Longtime readers know that News of St. John began as a not-so-subtle effort to encourage rentals of our home on the island.  There's a lot of competition for rentals and I thought the site would help.  It has. It is the oldest and largest Web site with news about St. John.

Ext_day_pool So it was with surprise and gratitude that, while mousing around TripAdvisor.com the other day, I found that Blue Tang was ranked as the #2 most popular rental on the island, with a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars ranking, too.  Shocked … thankful … happy.

Blue Tang ranked so well because of the reviews people who have stayed at the house were kind enough to post.  A few of their comments:

  • "A peaceful, relaxing, romantic honeymoon at Blue Tang."
  • "Blue Tang rocks."
  • "Best vacation we've ever taken."
  • "Awesome views and location."

I have to admit that each time we visit Blue Tang and read through the Guest Books, we are often moved to tears at the kind things people say about the house as they recount the wonderful time they had on the island and at our place.

If you're headed for St. John, I hope you'll consider our home, too.

Frank Barnako, aka The Inquiring Iguana