Hello 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:
That 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!