Something “Amazing” Just Happened…

Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters
Boats waiting to transport the racers – Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters

Anyone see an abnormally high number of seaplanes flying near Lovango and Congo cays yesterday? Perhaps you saw a helicopter flying back and forth in the area? Want to know why???

CBS chose our happy little slice of heaven as a location in its latest season of The Amazing Race! How cool is that??!!

We got the call yesterday morning from Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters.  He mentioned how someone inquired a while back about booking a charter for yesterday. Seeing how Captain John typically takes weekends off, Island Sue [Captain John’s better half :)] turned down the request. Captain John did do a bit of snooping, however, and soon learned what was up.

It turns out that another boat captain friend of ours was tapped to help out. (Now we’re not sure if any confidentiality releases were signed, so we’re keeping his name out of today’s post.)  What we do know is that this second captain was out near Carval Rock for a good part of the day. It seems that they did some filming in a variety of places around St. Thomas and St. John.

Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters
Set up for The Amazing Race – Image credit: Captain John Brandi of Palm Tree Charters

Check out this mobile movie of the seaplane coming in courtesy of Captain John Brandi:

And here is a helicopter moving in, again courtesy of Captain John Brandi:

Once we heard that CBS was using helicopters, we knew Caribbean Buzz had to be involved. Here’s their super official statement (my guess is they signed something):

“We provided aerial support for filming of a CBS reality TV show. It included (Carval) rock, Hans Lollick, Magen’s Bay and downtown at Fort Christian.”

So cool!

Amazing Race Map

Laurie and Craig Crandall just happened to be passing through St. Thomas yesterday afternoon when they caught a glimpse of filming.

“We just came home from a week in Alaska and were coming to the waterfront. And there were all of these filming crews and teams,” Laurie said. “We asked what was happening and we were told it was The Amazing Race. The seaplane was at the waterfront, so I think it was whoever arrived first got on the plane … There were probably about six teams. I wish I was able to get out and talk to them because it looked really cool.”

Future of Customs House in doubt?

There will be less boat traffic in the Creek in a few years. That's the small harbor in Cruz Bay where the U.S. Customs Office is. 

St. John Customs

(That's the Customs building in a photo that Dony31 posted at Flickr.)

VI government has decided to spend $1 million rum tax revenue to build a
new Customs facility at Red Hook, where the ferry dock is, too.

A new office would mean that folks on St. Thomas, taking day trips for snorkeling, sailing, or visiting the BVIs won't have to make a detour to St. John to clear Customs before returning to St. Thomas.

Gov. de Jongh signed a bill appropriating the money.

Now the question may be, Will the federal government close the Customs office on St. John? 

Several proposals for developing the Creek and the Cruz Bay
waterfront are being considered, at least two of which propose a marina
in the Creek.  Perhaps, the feds will decide it makes sense to close the
St. John clearance facility and use the new one on St. Thomas for
everybody – meaning day trippers and so forth from St. John would have
to stop at St. Thomas before returning to the smaller island.  That
would be a bummer.

“Green Tourism” a draw for St. John

St. John was "green" before green was cool.

Stanley Selengut’s Maho Bay and the National Park’s Cinnamon Bay have been drawing eco-friendly visitors and nature lovers for decades, and more are on the way.  Lots more, possibly, according to a survey conducted by Orbitz, the online travel service.

The Orbitz-sponsored survey found 67% of Americans said they place importance on how eco-friendly a destination is.  More than half (65%) also state it would somewhat impact their decision" where to stay if they knew a hotel or resort was using solar or wind energy.

Orbitz said St. John is one of their top recommendations for travelers interested in protecting and appreciating the environment, pointing out that the island offers activities including hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and educational tours to learn more about the island’s flora and fauna.  A birdwatcher who writes at About.com recently posted that during her recent visit to St. John a pair of Pearly Eyed Thrashers became her favorites.

Orbitz also encouraged visitors to participate in the Friends of the Park’s weekly volunteer clean up parties http://friendsvinp.org/work_party.htm. Here’s the Orbitz news release: http://sev.prnewswire.com/travel/20070411/AQW08711042007-1.html.

Not yet: booking a car barge online

The Web site looks too good to be true.  It offers "On-Line Booking" as a choice, and when you click it you’re teased with a button that reads "Buy Ticket" for a trip via Love City Car Ferries, Inc. 

"On board our vessel, the M/V Capt. Vic, passengers can look forward to bathing in the beautiful views of Pillsbury Sound, the waterway between Red Hook, St. Thomas and Cruz Bay, St. John," says a message on the site.

But, alas, after a few more mouse clicks you get a message that says this feature hasn’t been enabled yet.  Soon come, as we have come to expect.  But the site (http://www.captvicvi.com/ ) does dangle the invitation to e-mail [email protected] for a reservation.

The site explains that Capt. Llewellyn T. Sewer "helped to establish the first passenger ferry" between St. Thomas and St. John while another family member began ferry service between St., John and Tortola. "Hence, this corporation was started in honor of his grandfather and great-grandfathers. The M/V Capt. Vic is the first vessel owned by the corporation and it was named in honor of the late Captain Victor Sewer."

Kudos to Love City Car Ferries for beginning the e-process for their business … hopefully, they’ll continue.

For sale: Baked in the Sun

The latest commercial property to be added to the Multiple Listing Service is Baked in the Sun, the award-winning bakery/sandwich shop on the third floor of the Marketplace.  Asking price is $450,000.  Town and Country Real Estate listed the business.  The bakery’s owner has agreed to train a buyer for up to four months.

Meanwhile, in other real estate news, the Polli’s restaurant space is becoming the new home of the Artists’ Association of St. John.  The Lumberyard location will give the group plenty of room to exhibit members’ works.

St. John – getting there is not half the fun

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.


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.

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