Villa Spotlight: Eco Serendib Villa and Spa

eco serendib villa overview

Happy Sunday everyone! Today we’d like to introduce you to one of the most exclusive villas on St. John: Eco Serendib Villa and Spa. Not only does it set the standard for eco-luxury in the territory, but Eco Serendib also upholds a commitment to environmental causes in the USVI. More than $85,000 has been donated to the island community and a contribution is made every day the villa is rented. Intrigued? Want to know more? Well then please check out Eco Serendib…

Dramatically set atop Point Rendezvous with sweeping views from Fish Bay to Ram Head, Eco Serendib incorporates a variety of eco-friendly, energy-saving products and systems to lessen its carbon footprint without sacrificing the guest experience. These include Suniva solar panels; Sub-Zero/Wolf’s kitchen appliances that are made from as much as 75% recycled materials and use less energy than a 100-watt bulb; water-conservation products from Kohler; teak furniture from Gloster, produced using sustainable plantation management systems; saltwater pool; a grey water system for irrigation; multiple cisterns to collect rain water; an organic garden for seed-to-plate experiences and more.

eco serendib location hillside

Eco Serendib’s conservation efforts extend beyond the borders of retreat as well.

The funds that has been contributed by owner Harith Wickrema have gone to Island Green Living Association, Friends of the National Park, Gifft Hill School and other green initiatives across the island. The latest project is Island Green’s new Sustainable Living Center, a groundbreaking facility unlike any other in the Caribbean where green innovation will be developed and shared with the community.

gardens eco serendib

Harith has also worked closely with the legislature on banning plastic bags and on efforts to eliminate single-use disposable plastics including straws, source separation and bottle deposit legislation and ban of sunscreen containing harmful oxybenzone throughout the Virgin Islands. Additionally, he was integrally involved in the ban on burning green and brown hurricane debris to ensure the health and well being of the islands and her residents.

Now let’s get back to the villa itself…

Eco Serendib Villa and Spa, which has earned Five Stars on HomeAway and TripAdvisor, offers eight individually designed guest suites that give the look and feel of a private estate. Guests delight in the villa’s finely appointed features including a full service spa and Life Fitness gym; Epicurean Theater kitchen with professional grade appliances (private chef service is available); elegant dining area overlooking Fish Bay; spacious pool terrace, hot tub and barbecue; serene Great Room with baby grand piano, life-size chess set, table tennis, as well as Zen and organic gardens. Guests can choose from among three tiers of service from complete privacy to signature butler service, and the villa accepts just one reservation at a time so guests have exclusive access whether booking one, two or all eight guest suites. The villa also boasts luxury offerings such as individualized turndown service, designer bath products, Frette robes, daily maid service, dedicated villa concierge and more.

eco serendib great room

eco serendib dining table

eco serendib suite

bathtub view eco serendib

Villa Spotlight: Eco Serendib Villa and Spa 1

eco serendib pool view

hammock eco serendib

Eco Serendib is popluar for family reunions, girls’ getaways, romantic escapes and more.  In addition to being a stellar vacation destination, Eco Serendib also offers an enchanting setting for incredible destination weddings. Ceremonies take place against the backdrop of breathtaking views from the villa’s expansive terrace and receptions can be hosted for up to 35 guests. Weddings are individually designed to ensure the wishes and vision of the bride and groom become reality. The villa can provide access to one of the top local wedding consultants or bring in the services of managing agent Harith Productions. A well-appointed bridal suite with a grand staircase and full length mirror is perfect for photography and getting ready. The spa features a full range of services including a sauna, steam room and soaking tub.

eco serendib wedding

spa eco serendib

Eco Serendib is also ideal for corporate retreats, team building, change management, leadership and executive coaching workshops. Drawing on the strength of Harith Productions, which offers 25 years of expertise in this arena, Eco Serendib Villa and Spa is a natural for professional events that allow attendees to bask in the beauty and inspiring spirit of the locale. A state-of-the-art “paperless” boardroom and business center ensure attendees can get down to business in a private, secure setting far from distractions.

meeting room eco serendib

I’m not sure about you, but this villa certainly checks all of the boxes for the perfect vacation rental in my book!

Interested? Want to learn more?

Eco Serendib is currently running a special rate of $17,500 a week for a full house booking on Service Tier 1. This rate is based on availability, and blackout dates may apply.

And for those of you looking to ring in the New Year in style, Eco Serendib is still available for the 2018/2019 holiday.

For more information on Eco Serendib, please visit its website at www.ecoserendib.com

eco serendib hot tub

Ferry Service Set to Expand

ferry dock

Hello everyone and happy Thursday!

We have quick news to share with you all today. It’s quick, but good nonetheless!

Varlack Ventures, one of the two ferry operators, announced Wednesday that they will be expanding their scheduled beginning October 1st. As of then, the last ferry will leave St. John at 11 p.m., and the last ferry will leave Red Hook at midnight. Both companies have been running a reduced schedule through 10 p.m. since last year.

Also, for those of you curious about the Charlotte Amalie ferry, it still is not running. According to the ferry operators, the route is “financially crippling.” That route accommodated mostly tourists, and tourism has been down since last fall’s storms. It was proposed last week that the route be seasonal, although no decisions have been made.

And in our last ferry “news” of the day, the temporary rate increase from $7 to $8.15 will now be permanent for non-residents.

News you can use today, folks! Have a great one!

The Latest on the Westin

westin st john sept 25 2018

Well folks, it’s been a few months since we’ve updated you on the Westin. With all the talk about Caneel and Cinnamon recently, we’ve received quite a few messages asking us about the status of the Westin.

Well we have great news to share with you all! It looks like a good amount of the Westin is on track to reopen in January 2019. As we’ve previously told you, workers are on site nearly every day and are working hard to get the resort back into tip-top shape. The units on the beach side appear to have had more work completed including new roofs. Visible work on the units across the street didn’t begin until recently, and from what we hear, those units will not be opening on time in January.

We spoke with a few friends who own timeshares at the Westin in the hillside section. Those owners were told their area would not open in January 2019 as originally expected. The Westin, however, is accommodating those owners (who own weeks earlier in the year) by allowing them to stay in a unit on the beach side of the property. We’ve also learned that only timeshare owners will be able to make reservations for the first few months in 2019.

But back to some more positive news. It appeared that work has begun on the pool area, and the Westin has a brand new ferry for guests. (Click here to read all about that.)

We stopped by the Westin yesterday and took some pics and a video for you. Because the property is closed to the public, we took most of the pics from the beach and a road adjacent to the property. (All beaches in the USVI are public.) Please check them out:

westin beach sept 25 2018

westin beachfront buildings sept 25 2018

westin beachfront building sept 25 2018

westin tracks on beach sept 25 2018

westin pool area sept 25 2018

westin private property sign sept 25 2018

westin private property sign sept 25 2018

westin hillside buildings sept 25 2018

westin lobby sept 25 2018
The lobby and restaurant area appears to have remained untouched thus far.

And here is a quick video we took:

The Westin is now owned by Vistana. Its website www.westinstjohn.com now directs to a dead end on the Marriott’s website. The new website for the Westin is located at www.vistana.com/destinations/the-westin-st-john-resort-villas/overview

And lastly, for those of you who’d like a daily Westin fix, you can watch the rebuild live via our webcam at www.newsofstjohn.com/webcam

That’s all we have for you today, folks! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Caneel Bay: The 1983 Agreement & More

caneel bay sept 18 2018Well folks, we’ve given you a couple of updates on Cinnamon Bay over the past few days. Now it’s time to update you on Caneel. Unfortunately just like Cinnamon, not much has happened over there since we’ve last reported on this. So why the update today? Well it’s because we just received a copy of the original Retained Use Agreement from 1983. I found it to be rather interesting, and I think many of you may too.

But first, let’s pay a quick game of catch up for our new readers. As you know, Caneel sustained tremendous damage during Hurricane Irma, and the resort has been closed ever since. Currently, there are no repairs being done. CBI Acquisition, the firm that manages Caneel, stated that it will remain closed until December 2019 (if not longer).

CBI Acquisitions is currently operating Caneel under a Retained Use Estate (RUE), which went into effect on Sept. 30, 1983. The agreement was set to expire after 40 years – 2023. Because there is only five years left of the agreement, CBI Acquisition is seeking an extension. They have stated publicly that they will not rebuild the resort without one. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett introduced a Bill in December 2017 that called to extend the RUE for a period of 60 years. That Bill has created a great deal of contention on both sides.

You may be asking yourself why people wouldn’t want CBI to receive an extension. Well, for many, it’s due to the language in the Bill. (Click here to read it.) For others, it’s because of original intention of the RUE once it expired. The RUE states:

“It is the Grantor’s expectation and intention that at some future time, to be determined by Grantor pursuant to the provisions set forth herein, the Retained Use Estate will be terminated and extinguished in order to carry out the longstanding objective of Grantor that the Premises ultimately be an integral part of the Virgin Islands National Park (the “Park”) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for the use and enjoyment by visitors to the Park out of outstanding scenic and other features of national significance located both within the Premises and in other areas of the Park. In keeping with this objective, Grantor agree that, at all times prior to the termination of the Retained Use Estate pursuant to paragraph numbers 8 below Grantor all use and maintain the Premises in such a manner that will (a) be consistent with the preservation of such outstanding scenic and other features of national significance and (b) preserve the Premises to the extent feasible in their natural condition for the public benefit, enjoyment and inspiration, subject, however to the right go Grantor to operate guest facilities for the accommodation of visitors to the Park on the Premises as provided for in paragraph numbered 3 below.”

The document was signed by Laurence S. Rockefeller on September 13, 1983.

Click here to read the 1983 Retained Use Estate in its entirety. 

Ok, so let’s get back to Plaskett’s Bill H.R.4731. Back in March, it passed the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. It now has to pass the full House of Representative, as well as the Senate before it is sent to the President to be signed into law.

(Side note: CBI Acquisition, the firm that currently manages Caneel, spent $330,000 on lobbying in 2017. They spent $215,000 in 2018. According to opensecrets.org, all of that money was spent with regard to H.R. 4731.)

The second session of the 115th Congressional Congress ends during the third week of December. That means if Plaskett’s Bill is not signed into law by then, it’s dead. It will then have to be re-introduced during the next Congressional Session.

And a little more food for thought before we leave you today… 12,427 Bills and Resolutions were introduced during the 115th Congressional Session. Of those, only 244 Bills have been enacted into Law. That’s a mere two percent. And only five percent of the Resolutions passed.

I don’t know what else to say other than it’s going to be a long and drawn out process with this one. And as always, we will continue to keep you updated on any new developments.

Cinnamon Bay: The Concession Contract

cinnamon bay beachfront cottage 2
One of the beachfront cottages at Cinnamon Bay

Hello everyone and happy Monday! So last week we chatted with all of you about Cinnamon Bay and how the campground remains in shambles. A lot of you, like me, had questions about the contract between the National Park Service and Redwood Parks, the company who manages the campground and concessions at Cinnamon Bay. Well we received a copy and today we’re sharing it with all of you.

For those of you who have some free time and plan to read over the 144 page contract, you will see that Redwood Parks was required to submit a Hurricane Plan within 90 days of the effective date of the contract, which was Oct. 1, 2016. They were also required to have substantial insurance. Unfortunately the details regarding the Hurricane Plan and insurance are not included in the concessions contract. We submitted a Freedom of Information request to receive the information plus some other documents we think you will find useful. As always, we will share that information with all of you as soon as we can.

Click here to view the Cinnamon Bay concessions contract between the National Park Service and Redwood Parks. 

cinnamon bay concessions contract

For those of you who plan to read the contract, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts. Please let us know in the comments section here or leave us a message over on our Facebook page.

Have a wonderful week everyone!

It’s a Beautiful Day Today!

It’s a beautiful day here on St. John! See for yourself by checking out the island’s webcams. You can see all of these at www.newsofstjohn.com/2018webcams

Happy watching! 🙂

Great Cruz Bay & the Westin presented by News of St. John:

news of st john tours webcam

Cruz Bay harbor presented by Grande Bay:

grande bay webcam

Bordeaux Mountain – Courtesy of David Silverman, the man who saved Coral Bay! This webcam also includes current weather conditions.

Peace of Bordeaux

Beach Bar – Watch the construction process live!

Beach Bar inside webcam

Coral Bay Views – Two vacation rentals in Coral Bay

coral bay views webcam

Island Abodes – Vacation rentals in Cruz Bay:

island abodes webcam

Island Abodes – Down Yonder Villa in Chocolate Hole

down yonder webcam

St. John ferry dock presented by St. John Spice:

Spice Cam

Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke

soggy dollar webcam

Great Expectations – South Shore St. John 

great expectations webcam

On the Market: Beautiful Home Plus Income Producing Cottage

doran listing

Let’s start the weekend off with a little villa shopping… shall we?

Recently listed for sale is a beautiful three bedroom masonry home which is located in a quiet neighborhood close to town. This home, which also includes a separate income-producing cottage, has views of St. John’s south shore, Hart Bay and out to Ram Head.

The main house was recently renovated and now has an improved roof structure, as well as custom storm shutters. The kitchen was recently renovated too and now includes factory resin-sealed Brazilian granite countertops and new cabinets.

The master bedroom is located just off the main living area and has an en-suite bathroom. A storage area, laundry room and two bedrooms are located on the lower level and are accessed by a large spiral staircase. The home boasts a large pool deck, lounge area and spa which are connected to guest cottage. The cottage itself features a bright kitchen, as well as a bedroom with an en suite bath. This solid home is perfect for large family or vacation rental.

doran listing kitchen
Kitchen main house
doran listing living space
Living space main house
doran listing pool
Pool and deck area
doran listing cottage
Separate cottage
doran listing cottage living area
Cottage living area
doran listing kitchen cottage
Cottage kitchen

This home is being offered for $1,495,000 by Jennifer Doran of 340 Real Estate Co. For more information, please contact Jennifer at [email protected]

Pub Crawl/Poker Run Happening This Weekend

cruz bay overlook september 2018
If you are lucky enough to be on island this weekend, you’re in for a treat! Dog House Pub is hosting a poker run/pub crawl this Saturday to show its appreciation and support to several of the Cruz Bay businesses that gave back so generously to the island and also fed the community immediately following hurricanes Irma and Maria last year.

The way it works is pretty simple: You need a team of at least four people to compete. The registration fee is $50 and all team members will receive an event t-shirt. Each team must have a name and a theme. Creativity is definitely encouraged.

Teams will need to check in at The Tap Room this Saturday, September 22nd, at noon. From there, teams will grab a drink and a poker card at Dog House, Cruz Bay Landing, The Longboard and 420 to Center. Poker hands will be played at 4 p.m. at Dog House Pub and the winning team will win $500 cash. There will be an afterparty with music and drink specials too.

You can register in person at Dog House Pub or by sending a message to Dog House Pub via their Facebook page.

We’re going to be there, and we hope to see all of you there too! Good luck everyone!

What’s Going on with Cinnamon Bay?

cinnamon beach sept 2018
Cinnamon Bay beach Tuesday

Many of you have been asking us what’s happening over at Cinnamon Bay. As I’m sure you probably know by now, the campground sustained tremendous damage during Hurricane Irma and has been closed ever since. Not only is the area unsightly, but the campground’s continued closure is a blow to our economy as it reduces the number of affordable accommodations here on island. So what’s happening over there? Well unfortunately, not a whole heck of a lot.

For starters, the place is still a mess. The Virgin Islands National Park and its volunteers did a great job of cleaning up the beach itself. They also cleared the parking lot areas, as well as a nice path down to the beach. The campground itself, however, remains untouched. Cleanup in that area is the responsibility of Redwood Parks, the company contracted to run the concessions at Cinnamon Bay. And as of today, they haven’t done a darn thing.

I reached out to Brian Stewart, the president of Redwood Parks, and asked him what’s happening with the campground, specifically why no clean up has occurred. He sent the following to me via email:

“We’ve presented a number of options to NPS that would allow operations to reopen. To date, non have been approved.”

He continued, “We remain hopeful NPS will realize that life on St. John changed with hurricanes Irma and Maria. And that we need to work together to prioritize the restoration of both Cinnamon and Trunk Bay.”

(Redwood Parks was also awarded the concessions contract at Trunk Bay. That, too, remains closed.)

I asked Brian on three occasions to elaborate on his proposals. He never responded.

When I contacted Steve Black, the acting superintendent of the VI National Park, and asked about the proposals, he said he was “not aware of any new proposals that Cinnamon Bay Resort has put forth.”

I then reached out to the National Park Service in Washington, DC. Perhaps they had some insight to share. While they did respond, they really didn’t have any news to offer. Dana Soehn, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, sent us the following:

“As you likely know, Virgin Islands National Park is anxious to resume concession services at the Cinnamon Bay Resort as soon as possible. The Park continues to have a contract with the concessioner who was providing the services before the hurricane and is working with them [to] address cleanup and restoration efforts and getting services services up and running again including food and beverage, recreation, lodging and camping.”

Dana continued, “We don’t have any further information available at this time, but I can assure you that everyone is working hard to find a solution that enables services to return to the Cinnamon Bay Resort area.”

It’s been more than a year since the storm happened, yet twisted metal continues to lay scattered around the campground area at Cinnamon. Boards with nails poking out are strewn about. Trees remain toppled and the destroyed cottages sit untouched. Enough is enough. It’s time to stop talking about how we all want the place cleaned up, and it’s time to start doing, in my opinion.

Tree Down on Cottage Cinnamon Bay Sept 2018

Trees Down Cinnamon Sept 2018

Cinnamon Bay Twisted Metal Sept 2018

Cinnamon Bay Restaurant Sept 2018

Protruding Nails Cinnamon Bay Sept 2018

In July 2016, Redwood Parks was awarded a 15-year contract to operate the campground and concessions at Cinnamon Bay. It officially began on October 1, 2016. They operated it successfully for less than a year; They have not been operating it longer than they had. So at what point does that contract get terminated? Or can Redwood Parks continue to do what its doing, which appears to be very little, if anything, without being in violation of their contract? This little blogger, and many of you I’m sure, would like to know.

We asked the Virgin Island National Park, as well as the National Park Service just that. Unfortunately we have yet to get an answer. But if or when we do, we will be certain to share that info with all of you.

Let’s end this post on a happy note. Check out this pic and quick video we took Tuesday at Cinnamon Bay:

cinnamon beach water sept 2018

Newly Renovated Sunset Ridge Offering Grand Reopening Discounts

sunset ridge pool and viewHello everyone and happy Tuesday! I know that many of you have been dreaming about your next island vacation, and today I’d like to tell you about a great spot that just reopened. It’s newly renovated, has amazing views and the best part – it’s offering a 25 percent discount through Thanksgiving! Want to know more? Then read on…

Sunset Ridge Villas is comprised of six villas. Each villa has more than 1,800 feet of living space including a private courtyard which sits between the main house and master suite. Each villa can sleep up to eight guests. The lower level of the main house contains a open living room with a sleeper sofa, a dining room and fully equipped kitchen, as well as a half bath and laundry area. The loft area has two queen beds and a full bath. The master suite, which is located across the courtyard, has a king-sized bed and a full bath.

sunset ridge exteriorsunset ridge villasunset ridge living room 2sunset ridge kitchensunset ridge bathEach of the villa’s private courtyards has a gas grill, a table and chairs with an umbrella, and chaise lounges to relax on. The courtyard is a great place to enjoy a meal or perhaps a cocktail while watching the twinkling lights of St. Thomas.

sunset ridge patio 3sunset ridge viewSunset Ridge also has a large pool, which is shared among the units. It has beautiful views of St. Thomas, the outlying cays, Pillsbury Sound and out to the Caribbean Sea.

sunset ridge pool closeupEach villa comes equipped with cable and wifi, as well as beach chairs, coolers and umbrellas. It’s located five minutes from the heart of Cruz Bay and is roughly a 10 to 20 minute drive from St. John’s famed North Shore beaches (depending on which beautiful beach you choose).

But now on to the best part…

Sunset Ridge is offering 25 percent off stays of seven nights or more for arrivals through November 24, 2018.

Interested? Want to learn more? Please contact Cimmaron St. John at www.cimmaronstjohn.com or (340) 715-2666 to learn more or to book.

sunset ridge sunset