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:
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.
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.
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!
Carolyn’s Caribbean Concierge
You Buy and We Fly 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. 🙂