Westin Timeshare Board Sends Out Untruthful Email to Owners

westinHello all and happy Tuesday. As you all know, I absolutely love St. John. I am so proud to see the amazing progress that has happened here over the past six months. I am proud of the residents; I am proud of the community. And I am so very thankful to all of you who have stuck by us and supported us following last fall’s hurricanes.

On Monday, numerous readers and residents forwarded me an email that was sent out by the Virgin Grand Villas Condominium Association. This association is part of the Westin’s timeshare program. The email was sent to its timeshare owners. To say this email fired me up in an understatement.

The email was essentially a recap of their March 2018 board meeting. It gave an overview of the destruction caused by the storms, and provided details on the cleanup and reconstruction process.

The Westin was heavily damaged. There is no disputing that. And unlike Caneel Bay, I have seen workers there, and they have done a stellar job in keeping up the grounds. I commend them for that. The reason why I am a tad peeved at the moment, as are several people I have spoken to today both here on island and timeshare owners in the states, is due to the email’s “The Island” section. Here it is in its entirety below:

Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 8.39.49 PMThat paragraph is untruthful. I’m not sure what the board’s motivation was in sending this, but I want to reassure those of you who received this, that the picture this email is painting is not our reality. Let’s go line by line.

  • The resort is likely to recover more rapidly than much of the rest of the island’s infrastructure. Reality: Only time will tell. 
  • Cruz Bay does not yet have electricity 24 hours a day. Reality: Not true. We have had a handful of blackouts over the past few months. We had a scheduled blackout over the weekend, which was due to upgrades happening at the power plant on St. Thomas. It occurred on a rolling basis and for only two hours per zone. We had an unexpected blackout back in February due to a fuel spill in St. Thomas. That lasted a few hours. For those of you who know St. John, you know that we’ve always had blackouts here and there. It’s nothing new. So again, to say that we do not have electricity 24 hours a day is a blatant lie. 
  • Internet service is very spotty and cell phone service is poor, as only AT&T has rebuilt cell phone towers. Reality: Not true. The Love City Community Network has worked diligently to provide wifi in many areas of the island, and has been doing so since September. As of today, it has roughly 400 end user sites, as well as 10 public access points. They are currently working to add three additional access points which will provide more coverage to the east side of the island. In addition, Viya has started to connect its customers to cable and internet. Dish network has been up and running on island. Hughesnet satellite internet is up and running as well. Regarding cell service, AT&T works fine in many areas of the island. In fact, I receive better service in Coral Bay now than I did before the storm. I am actually moving to a new place that abuts the Westin next month. My cell signal was better there yesterday than it is at my current place, which is right in the heart of Cruz Bay. I was able to stream video on my laptop while tethered from my phone. I can actually go live on Facebook at Maho these days. I was never able to do that before. So for them to say that internet and phone is spotty honestly makes me laugh. We’ve always had dead zones around the island. That’s nothing new. If you’re on the North Shore, for example, you’re going to connect to a British Virgin Islands tower in many spots. That happened before the storms and it’s happening now. Verizon has never worked well here because it uses different technology than the AT&T towers on island. It didn’t work well before the storms, and it doesn’t work well now. 
  • Some restaurants are open, but there are almost no tourists, so now that most of the FEMA workers have departed, many of those restaurants are open only a few days a week with limited menus. Reality: Wow, so untrue and, quite frankly, this statement is irritating. The majority of our restaurants are open, and they are open daily. Sure a handful close one day a week, but since when is that a bad thing? And we do have tourists on island right now. We’ve had tourists for months. Sure we’re not at the same level we were at last year, but we have lots of people here who love St. John and who are supporting this island. I am booked at least five days a week for tours. My friends who have charter boats are booked too. I couldn’t get a parking spot at Trunk or Hawksnest yesterday. Extra Virgin was hopping tonight. The Terrace was packed. People are here. And for those of you interested in which restaurants are open, here is list that shows more than three dozen restaurants that are open: www.newsofstjohn.com/open 
  • The public passenger ferry is running but the car ferry has very limited service. Reality: We lost two of our four barges in the storms. There is not limited service. The barges are running regularly. In fact, they are actually running later than scheduled because they refuse to leave drivers stranded. I commend them for that. The issue here is that there can be very long lines due to the fact that we are down two barges. 
  • Caneel Bay was severely damaged and it is unknown whether or not it will reopen. Reality: Yes, Caneel had a ton of damage. And yes, it will reopen. The issue here is when and under what terms. 
  • In all likelihood, neither ZoZo’s nor Asolare will reopen, but Skinny Legs is up and running. Reality: Neither restaurant has stated its future plans publicly. And yes, Skinny’s is open. I was there today. And it was hopping. 
  • The donkeys, deer and iguanas survived; in fact the donkeys seem to inhabit the shells of the beachfront cottages at Caneel, while for the present time, deer graze near our own Lemongrass Restaurant. Reality: The donkeys are thriving. I see about 15 daily while conducting my island tours. I haven’t seen as many deer lately, but I am happy to know that they are hiding out at the Westin. 
  • The north shore beaches have largely been cleaned of debris, but there has as of yet been no survey of damage to the reefs. Reality: The North Shore beaches are open and have been deemed safe. The reefs have been surveyed. Our shallow reefs took a hit. Our deeper reefs fared much better. 
  • We all hope that more of the island’s infrastructure will come back by the time our resort reopens, but the island’s recovery may be much slower than that of the Westin St. John. Reality: Again, only time will tell. And again, I take issue to this statement regarding our recovery. The progress that has happened over the past six months is truly remarkable. Do you have more work to do? Absolutely. And you know what? That’s ok. 

So for those of you who received this email, I hope I was able to clear up some of your concerns. And for the rest of you, please know that the progress here is absolutely incredible.

If you have any questions about St. John, our progress, the status of a beach, restaurants, etc., please feel free to email me at [email protected]. It may take me a bit to respond as I am a one-woman show here, but I promise I will answer you as soon as I am able to.

And if you’d like to share your thoughts with the writers of this email, you can send them to [email protected] I sent them an email myself Monday night. And while they opened the email, they have yet to respond. I’ll let you know if they do.

Thanks everyone for listening to my rant today. Have a great Tuesday!

42 thoughts on “Westin Timeshare Board Sends Out Untruthful Email to Owners”

  1. Half full or half empty? What you chose to focus on is where the discussion resides. The progress and recovery on island is stunning in so many ways it defies description. Absent arriving on island camping at the Westin or Caneel to watch tv, sitting on your phone, never leaving the resort and expecting to be served one does have a problem. If you also like to spend your day shopping, some of those options also are not currently operational. The rest is PARADISE! You bought have of the island for you and your friends. Your Richard Branson. You have come to heaven before the crowds, traffic. crowded beaches, waiting at restaraunts and never knowing anyone who lives on SJ. The place is alive, the food is great, the beaches are bigger and better, the transportation and headaches at S. Thomas are minimal, less people everywhere. It is simply FANTASTIC. Yes there is damage. We spent two weeks during the holidays and it was our 25 plus visit to SJ. One of the best ever. We booked again for two more visits in the next 12 months. I can’t say it any louder. NOW IS THE TIME TO GO! You will be very thankful. Cheers.

  2. I just returned from a week camping on a friends vacant lot in John’s Folly. I will say there is still a lot of devastation on island but workers are working hard everyday to make things normal. Seeing Concordia and Cinnamon in their current state was shocking. The biggest surprise to me was all the damaged boats still in tatters littering the water. I thought they were already cleaned up based on news reports, but that is definitely not the case.
    Don’t forget St. John might have been flattened but this is not new to the island. In the sugar cane days the majority of the island was flattened for farming sugarcane. St. John is just reinventing itself, that’s all.

  3. Sounds to me like they are just trying to throw excuses out there to make it sound like the holdup is not all them, but rather the island that’s holding things up as well. And to make it sound like the owners aren’t missing a lot anyway. Typical corporate BS “damage control”. Ridiculous. Keep up the great work Jenn!

    • Exactly! Which is exactly why it’s SO important for people like Jenn to craft a detailed, fact-laden response and show it to EVERYONE. And for all the tourists to make videos, post pictures and reviews of their time on-island to get the word out there and foil the corporate BS.

      Thanks for saying this, Gary!

    • I am a westin timeshare owner and I’m grateful to know the TRUTH…. That newsletter was dark and still stormy….. when in fact, things are moving along. I appreciate all of you sharing the real story. Corporate lies abound… always have and always will. See you on St. John at my at friends and favorite retailers in the world: R&I Patton!!!

  4. I called about booking my time share at The Westin next year. Had a hard time booking, was supposed to get a call back from customer service. Never got a call back. They were really pushing other Westin properties. I told them the only reason I bought was St. John.. I feel they are trying to redirect owners away from St. John.

    • I bet they are, because they can’t know how long it will take them to rebuild and they’d have to promise a date to the owners. If it’s not done by then, I suppose they run into legal issues, as well as pissed off customers. Honestly, I’m not sure how it works but that would be common sense to me.

      As an owner, you should reply to their lack of response just as you have written and consider the option of renting one of the many villas through VRBO. Threaten the Westin with taking your money elsewhere. Ridiculous that they cant even call you back.

      • tried to book my platinum plus week in April of this year for january through April of next year . they said they only have the first week of May available – the last week of platinum plus.

        Something is wrong — not sure if they holding back inventory or what but it is crazy to not have availability

    • My time share for 2019 was booked automatically. No problem. I think everyone should settle down. The Westin and Caneel brought in a consistent number of tourists. I think the Westin is trying to create the usual experience for their guests next year. This may sound strange to many of you, but there are many , many guests in these resorts that never leave the resort. My first word of advice to them is get out the the resort it really is not St John within the walls. It will all get better. It’s a process.

  5. Me, my wife and two friends just got home from a week-long trip to St. John. Cell service was strong, but not necessarily data. However, there was free public WiFi. I don’t know how they compare to pre-storm, because when I’m in STJ, I try not to waste time staring at my phone…most restaurants and bars were open and offering full menus. The beaches were as stunning as always. If you want a resort-style vacation, you won’t find it on St. John right now. However, if you are happy to stay at one of many clean, well-kept rental properties, then you are in serious luck, as there is occupancy and great rates. The car ferry (not sure how this is a big concern of a Westin guest) is running regularly. I can attest to that because I watched them from the great view of my rental. Oh, and Jenn is regularly running her tours, which I strongly recommend!

    Anyway to wrap this up, St. John is in an amazing state considering what happened a little more than 6 months ago. We just had an incredible time there and can’t wait to go back.

  6. Almost no tourists. Not true. I was there two weeks ago with my husband and some friends. We stayed in Cruz Bay. We had electricity the entire time and cell/internet service just about everywhere except for the typical spots that you didn’t have it before the storm. We ate at a different restaurant every day and night. The restaurants/bars were full of people and they were serving fantastic food and drinks as usual. The supermarkets are open and stocked. We rented a Jeep and drove most of the island with no issues other than shifting to one lane in some spots due to clean up and construction. While there is still some debris and fewer palm trees, the beaches are still stunning. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder says St John is as beautiful and welcoming as always.

  7. Thanks Jenn for clearing this up . Just returned from a 2 month stay in Paradise.Jan -mid March. We were so happy to see the Island ‘s progress. Yes there is still work to be done but is in the works. Restaurants doing great , beaches as weeks went on could see that tourist were returning which was exciting to see.
    Keep letting us know as time progress . Counting the days till our return.
    Connie & Bill

  8. We have been coming to St John since the 80s…..we came after Hugo and Marilyn. While Irma and Maria were much worse, we experienced more of what Jenn said- all our favorite restaurants were open, the beaches were awesome, the power was only off once! We spent a month there, and it went way too fast……

  9. We have friends that just returned from the island two weeks ago and could not stop talking about how amazing the island looks. The pictures were simply stunning (as per usual on STJ!). No problems getting parking or a table for dinner but the tourists were back they said. My husband and I will be back on island in May and absolutely cannot wait! We would rather have one day on STJ than a week anywhere else in the world. So so proud of the hard work that has been done and continues each day!! Thank you Jenn so much!

    • Agree so much that I too would rather have one day on STJ than a week anywhere else. Counting down to a return trip in June.

  10. I am in STJ & I’d agree with the internet/phone comments made by the Westin. If, like me, one works from home the service(s) provided is not reliable.

  11. I can prove there are tourists because I’m here right now with my husband and four of our closest friends for a week in paradise. So far, we’ve only found one restaurant we wanted to go to that wasn’t open (Miss Lucy’s). Everything else has been ready and willing to take our tourist dollars in exchange for amazing, fresh food. I have AT&T and my service is only a little more spotty than the last time I was here (but we also didn’t explore as much last time). And I wholeheartedly agree with the above comment that if you’re on this island, there’s no reason to be constantly checking your phone. So far we’ve hit Salt Pond and Waterlemon, and yes there is some reef damage but we’ve also seen nurse sharks, turtles, octopus, crabs, and all the usual stunning sea life. Every time we’re here, my husband and I ask ourselves why we’re living in NYC and not here and that is still true, storm or no. Thanks for keeping us posted, Jen, and encouraging us (and everyone else) to come back. My friends, who have never been here before, are blown away by the beauty of this magical place.

  12. I was just on St John, March 10-17. The island looks wonderful. It experienced 2 hurricanes 6 months ago and the amount of work done to bring it back, is absolutely amazing. Island is beautiful. There are tourists in town and on beaches. We visited 7 different beaches and each one was breath taking. Only once the entire time we were there did we loose power and it was for 2 hours. During that time we went into town and plenty of restaurants were open with their generators. Saw the car ferry plenty of times. Can’t wait to go back!

  13. Katie,
    With all the trees down, all the houses and resorts in states of destruction, all the boats not yet cleaned up and removed, the island felt like a set from The Walking Dead. That said, people are working hard to get everything back to normal and I’m glad I went. There’s no such thing as a bad day in paradise.

    • “The island felt like a set from The Walking Dead????” This comment may be the most offensive I’ve heard in a long time if not ever! I personally went through both Irma and Maria on St John . I have worked tirelessly everyday since then along with all the residents of St. John and countless workers and volunteers! The progress on this island is miraculous ! For the record all the trees and houses were not destroyed! Clearly you choose to focus on the imperfections instead of the progress which is your choice , however to add the comment about the set of The Walking Dead is just plain rude and juvenile at best! The people on this island are very proud and would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it ! Shame on you for publicly slamming our hard work!

    • There must be a miscommunication here. We are talking about St John.
      Nora, you might be mistaken St John for a sad and scary place.
      Set of the walking dead….. not on St John!

  14. I am planning to visit St John in the near future and am confused on getting there! Do flights land there? What’s the best place to stay close to the beach? Should I go through a travel agency? Only myself and possibly another woman. Safety there?

    • Here’s what we did a few weeks ago…1. Fly into St. Thomas, USVI (STT). We flew American Airlines. 2. Take taxi from airport to Red Hook – Ferry terminal (30 min ride across the island)… where you’ll 3. Take passenger Ferry to Cruz Bay, St. John. Taxi’s are available at Cruz Bay. You could also rent a jeep for use during your stay (we used Sunshine Jeep Rentals). If you rent a jeep, rent one on St. John, not St. Thomas. The logistics are a bit of a struggle, getting your rental from St. Thomas to St. John on the Car Ferry. AND the kind folks on St. John could use your business. There are lots of places to stay on St. John. We rented a house for large family (used Catered To Vacation Homes). In my opinion, you’ll be safe on St. John as long as you exercise caution just as you would anywhere.

      Places to go for information:
      https://www.visitusvi.com/stjohn/homepage

      And, if you have a smart phone,
      https://www.stjohnexperience.com/

    • You have to fly into St. Thomas. Collect your checked bags, then get a van taxi to Red Hook Ferry. Half hour ride. Get ferry ticket for you & your bag, 20 minute ride to St. John. Easy! St. John is very different than St. Thomas. So don’t even compare. St. John very safe, My husband & I have never had any issues like other islands have. I walk anywhere by myself, that’s how safe I feel. Once you experience St. John, You will come back. Enjoy! Not sure about renting near beach. We stay in Cruz Bay near shops & rent a jeep. Driving on left. But that’s easy too. 25 MPH on most if not all of island.

  15. Hi, I’m really upset about those comments, I have spent time in November and recently three weeks ago volunteering to bring back this beautiful island . Three weeks ago when I was there I found that the restaurants were mostly open in Cruz Bay, the infrastructure was working very well. Yes there is a lot to be done and maybe some of the tourists could come down and volunteer. It is a very rewarding experience. ⛵️

  16. We’ve been timeshare owners at the Westin for over 20 years. Our family of 12 spent 2 weeks on island (Feb 24-Mar 10) in a rental home near the Westin. We enjoyed meals out (Extra Virgin, beers at Tap Room, Skinny Legs, etc.) ice cream at Scoops and grocery shopping at the Starfish, Dolphin, etc. All or some of us spent time at Hawksnest, Trunk, Cinnamon (and others including east end). Beaches still breathtaking and NOT crowded. Unfortunately, huge swells during week 2 of our stay made snorkeling near impossible. Also, hiked Rams Head Trail for sunrise – Awesome! Cell phone reception was spotty but it’s always been that way. Power and wi-fi at the rental was in and out for a couple of days during week 2. I believe there was work being done on the power lines. There is a lot clean up and rebuilding being done but that’s a good thing. Go now! It’s beautiful and not as crowded as it normally is at this time of year!!

  17. We were on STJ 1/23-2/6/18. We have been coming for 9 years. Yes, it needed some work and our hearts went out to all of the residents. But, this is our heart home. It’s like having a friend who has gone through an illness. Battered, yes, but we still love it dearly. We saw so much progress just in the time we were there. It was quieter but just as beautiful. It’s still one of the best places to spend time on this earth. Planning our next visit.

  18. How can they say things like that, so irritating!!!we were there last month and never did we experience a power outage, we also had no issues with the Internet. And to say no tourists? Sure it’s not what you are accustomed to at this time of year but restaurants were packed and the food was just as fantastic as before. Beaches don’t have shade or running water but are as beautiful as ever. Thanks Jenn for keeping us all informed!

  19. Hi Jenn – I think the comments regarding the Westin trying to convince the timeshare owners that it is the island that isn’t ready rather than their ability to get the Westin up and running are spot on. I think it is just such a great time to be on the island now, and I am desperately trying to fit in a two week trip over the next couple of months. I look forward to your future reporting on the fate of Caneel. I haven’t seen anything about the progress of the lease agreements. I also don’t know how I feel about what the property be in the future. If it isn’t the resort I will surely miss it, but I am saddened by the fact that the company that owned the resort was so quick to lay off it’s work force, unlike the Westin. At least that is my understanding. Kind regards, Lisa

  20. Angry at the Westin email, & the crass negativity one person is posting here! We were on St. John for a week in November, helping with recovery. We had no tv/internet then, but we never struggled to find open restaurants or car rentals or wonderful people who appreciated us! Cell service wasn’t much different than usual. Yes, the island was beaten down, but she was already turning green! Coming back next week, & could not be more anxious to return to our favorite place. Even with her storm scars, its still the most beautiful island on earth. Those who can’t survive without a luxury resort experience – go elsewhere. St. John needs the rest of us now – please don’t hesitate to return. You won’t regret it!

  21. Wow! Jenn, Thanks for keeping on top of this and all things St John!
    I was just there for 3 weeks in February. By the time I left, my thought was how amazingly vibrant the spirit of St John is, and how much fun I was going to miss.
    My mind wondered when I could possibly get back down. Also what was the secret to getting a reservation and table at the new restaurants, or establish ones in town. I was sorry to miss the opening of Morgan’s Mango, Miss Lucy’s. Seriously, who wrote that stupid email?

    We went down to clean and prepare our home in Great Cruz Bay. My family and I cleaned all day and went to a many different restaurants, lunch and dinner, and as many as we could to support the locals and the economy. The Westin time share email only serves to hurt the local economy. I so hope that was not intentional.

    We went to Gallow Point, both Ocean 362 and the upstairs bar and view to die for.
    Sam & Jack’s Deli, almost daily to take advantage of wifi and lunch, great combo.
    Extra Virgin Bistro – friend’s anniversary!
    Terrace Restaurant- Our swan song dinner after cocktails on the deck at Ocean 362.
    The Longboard – so many times as they so supported the locals after the storms.
    Sun Dog, best concerts. Amazing!
    Rhumb Lines
    High Tide, once they opened, of course
    The Tap Room, several times. I like beer.
    Ocean Grill was full but we tried.
    Lime Inn was booked as well.
    Ronnie’s Pizza, such an easy dinner. They also supported the locals : )
    Margarita Phil’s, still great Margarita’s… Oye!
    The new place, Greengo’s Caribbean Cantina, was so booked they ran out of food the 2 times we tried to eat dinner there. On the same night the Ocean Grill and Sun Dog had a waitlist. Places were packed starting on Super Bowl Sunday and each weekend in February. We landed at the Tap Room, getting to watch the super bowl there a treat.

    Our family has a home in Great Cruz Bay. Everyday we watched the activity at the Westin. It took a hit but I was wondering why the Beach Bar was not back up and running. It looks good now. I am sad that it wasn’t.

    So, overall, and in early February, Mongoose and Cruz Bay were hoppin! I have never felt so close to the community in the 20 years I have had the privilege to go home to our home, Palm Hill.

    Westin is obviously lowering expectations and much of that email letter is just untrue.
    I have Verizon and had NO problem calling clients, texting everyone and enjoying my short but amazing 3 weeks. I cannot wait to go back.

  22. “The set of The Walking Dead”??? Are you frickin’ kidding me!!! Show some respect! That show is about zombies!!!

  23. Funny…when I first came to STJ for my honeymoon almost 27 years ago the beauty of staying at Caneel Bay was that you couldn’t really be reached by anyone…no phones, no air conditioning, no TV…news summarized on a few pieces of paper at breakfast. That was the appeal. Now we all care that cell phone coverage is spotty…cell phones and the WWW are over rated,

    Can’t wait to get back!

  24. Spent 2 weeks there in Mid-Feb. Plenty of restaurants open, beaches clear (but they did lose many shade trees), snorkeling was good. Park Service buildings in bad shape and will need much repair work–hopefully they will get the funding. Some rough spots on roads, etc but not terrible. People were WONDERFUL!

  25. Thanks for posting, Jenn. My husband and I own at the Westin and were disturbed by this report. Luckily, we happen to have many friends on the island and have received accurate reports. We were unhappy with the glass half- empty portrayal of the island after so much has been accomplished. We are arriving in June and bringing three couples with us this year to a private villa. Looking forward to being a part of the recovery.

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