10.10.2008 - 10.19.2008 82 °F
We woke up at 3:30 am Friday (10/10) to get ready for our 4:00 am pick up to Newark. I had been fighting a bad cold that had been going around my place of employment for the past week or so. I woke up feeling terrible - sinuses, sore throat - awful. I tried to tell myself that the sun and warm air would make me feel better.
Our flight from Newark to Puerto Rico was fine. We had a two our layover so we decided to grab a beer and an appetizer or two. The Cape Air flight to St. Thomas was ready to board so we followed the air traffic controller towards the plane. My husband then turned to me and said “Isn’t that one of our luggage over there?” There was a pile of luggage just outside the Cape Air Terminal and we have two very large bright blue bags. I didn’t even bother to look since I was feeling terrible and just wanted to get to St. Thomas. I just thought ‘whatever its probably just another bag that looks similar’. After we landed into the St. Thomas airport we went claim our bags. Well we had two. The one bag had our toiletries, beach towels, beach bags, shoes, etc. The other bag had all our clothes. We only got one bag and it was not the clothing bag. Turns out two other couples on the plane also were missing their luggage. We went to the Cape Air counter and were reassured that this happens all the time and we should be getting our luggage that night. So we headed over to the Westin counter to check-in, etc. Turns out we were the only two people on the ferry to the Westin. It was a nice little surprise. We ran into the grocery store right next to Tickles Restaurant at the Crown Bay Marina right before we were scheduled to hop on the Westin Ferry, to grab some beer and snacks.
We got to the Westin and had been upgraded from a garden view room to an ocean view room.
The room was #2314. It was a large/spacious room with a great view. We decided to have a couple of beers on our porch and watch the sunset and wait for our luggage.
The weather was beautiful at this point. Around 6:30 our luggage was delivered. I was so happy that everything was there and the bag was fine. I was still not feeling that well but we managed to go into town and hit the Beach Bar. We decided on a couple of appetizers for dinner and a couple of rum punches. Then for one last night cap we walked over to Joe’s Rum Hut.
Then it was time to head back to the Westin and have a good night sleep.
It was around 6:00 in the morning I woke up. I then started to drift back to sleep when all of a sudden the bed started to shake. And I mean shake. It woke up my husband and he is a heavy sleep. He looks at me and says “what is that?” I told him how I thought it was an earthquake. After about 45 seconds it stopped. We looked at the time and it was 6:30 in the morning. We looked outside and everything was fine. So we thought how it was sort of strange and went back to sleep for a couple more hours. We finally got up around 8:30 and the weather was partly sunny but still okay. We decided to go to JJ’s Texas Toast for some breakfast. By the time we got to Cruz Bay, the sky became more cloudy. We grabbed a table outside. After we ordered, it began to downpour so hard we had to move inside into the bar. I had the cheddar omelet and my husband had the breakfast burrito. Both were very good.
Since the weather wasn’t cooperating we thought that we would do some shopping. Our friends were arriving around 2:30 so we had time to kill. Walking through town, we found out that the earthquake was a 6.3 and how Tortola experienced a 7.0. I also had a mission to look for a new hook bracelet for my birthday. I found a nice hurricane bracelet at Palm Jewelers. They said it would be ready in a couple of days for pick up. No problem, so we headed
back to the Westin to wait for our friends. Our friends arrived on the 3:15 ferry. It was great to see them. We told them about the earthquake. After they checked in, we invited them to our room where we had a couple of caribs and decided where to go for dinner.
I heard so much about the Waterfront Bistro I thought how it would perfect to go there. I called and made reservations - no problem. We all got ready and grabbed a taxi back to Cruz Bay. When we walked into the Waterfront, I could not believe how nice they transformed this area.
It had such a nice “bistro” type feel. My husband and our friend had the filet mignon. His wife opted for the caribbean lobster and I decided to have the mahi mahi. Everything was excellent - the food, service, etc. After dinner we had a night cap at the bar. It was then time to head back to our rooms but it was fun day/evening to say the least.
My husband and I went to the car rental place at the Westin and rented a Dodge Nitro. We wanted a 4 door jeep wrangler, but they didn’t have any available. This vehicle turned out to be a nice ride afterall. We all headed to town for breakfast. We decided on JJ’s again. This time it wasn’t raining so we were able to have our breakfast outside. A good choice once again. After breakfast we headed towards the North Shore beaches. Our first stop was the Caneel Bay overlook.
I just motioned to my husband indicating how I couldn’t wait to go back there - and we both smiled. The next stop, of course, was the infamous Trunk Bay overlook.
Luckily the sun was still out for the photo op (which I tend to take every year and it always looks the same). Next we wanted to show our friends the
Peace Hill trail. We figured its a very short walk with a rewarding view. The rain was still holding off so we were able to hike the trail without any difficulty.
We actually spotted a few hermit crabs within the sugar mill ruin.
After our little hike it was time to hit one of the beaches for a dip. Trunk Bay looked too crowded so we stopped at Cinnamon. Cinnamon had several people there but it wasn’t that bad. We then headed to Coral Bay to show our friends Skinny Legs. We grabbed a beer and a couple of souvenirs before heading back to town. Next on the list was Woody’s Happy Hour. We shared a couple of appetizers and had some rum punches. It started to rain again so we walked back to the car to head back to the Westin. Our friends didn’t make it out that night but we decided to venture out in the rain.
Being it was just my husband and myself, we wanted to go back to La Tapa. This is one restaurant we always enjoy and make sure we go to. Since the weather was so bad, we had to eat inside (we usually eat outside near the road). I have to say the atmosphere inside is really nice and comfortable. We each had a glass of the malbec wine they were offering by the glass. For an appetizer, I ordered the escargot and my husband ordered the house made mozzarella. Both were very good. (I apologize I didn’t take any food pictures yet - kept forgetting). My husband had the NY strip sirloin and I had the duck breast and duck leg confít. Everything (as always) was wonderful. We couldn’t even think of dessert after all that food. We managed to hail a taxi in the pouring rain and get back to the Westin - again totally drenched!
Well being this was our last “full day” at the Westin we figured that we would keep the rental for one more day. I told my husband that I wanted to try Jake’s for breakfast. We found a parking spot and headed up to Jake’s. I decided to go with the california omelet. It was delicious. My husband just had the standard two eggs for breakfast. We sat at the far end where you can look out and see the views of Cruz Bay and St. Thomas.
By the end of breakfast, the skies got very dark. A few minutes later the rain came again. Since a beach day was out of the question, we walked to Mongoose Junction to check out some shops. Pretty soon it was time for a drink so we went to the Beach Bar, then Joe’s Rum Hut for a few, followed by High Tide. It was still raining on and off all afternoon.
For dinner we decided on Rhumblines. We noticed that in order to walk to this restaurant, you have to walk “through” a convenient store. Interesting I never noticed this last year. For dinner my husband and I enjoyed the Pad Thai and our friends had the Pork and Tuna entreé. The rains began again and we had to move our table to a “drier” location. Luckily we were done with dinner so there wasn’t too much to move. It was getting later in the evening and my husband and I were curious about the Giants/Browns game. There was a tv on at the bar so they turned on the game for us. At that point the Giants didn’t look too bad. Headed back to the room to watch the game. I wound up falling asleep and wasn’t upset that I missed the Giants loss.
We woke up to Captain Joe from the Scubadu calling. He said that the weather looks “iffy” but he would give it a try if we wanted. Well after a call to our friends we decided to try again Thursday.
We figured we would meet our friends at the Beach Bar and Grill at the Westin for breakfast. Service was very slow (I know island time). Anyway, after a pretty good eggs benedict (a little on the cool side) we headed back to the room to pack our things. Check in time at Caneel wasn’t until 3pm so we didn’t want to get there too early and wait around. So we had the Westin check us out and store our luggage near the lobby. We then headed to the pool. It was kind of overcast with some sun but good enough to lay out. As we are hanging out at the pool I hear someone mention about a “hurricane that is on its way and is supposed to hit tomorrow night”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Around 1:30 we figured that we would head to Caneel, hoping that we could get into our room. When we got to Caneel, everyone was very pleasant and welcoming. Our room wasn’t ready yet so we went to the bar and had a couple of rum punches. About an hour had passed and our room was all set.
After we were all settled in we figured we would relax and have a few cocktails. It was raining again so we didn’t want to go on the beach. Soon it was time to go to dinner. We made reservations for the Equator. I had the rack of lamb and my husband had the caribbean lobster. While we were finishing our dinner we noticed a lady walking around to each table. I just thought she wanted to check on everyone to see how our dinner was. When she approached our table she asked us if we had concerns about what was happening? I thought “what do you mean? what’s happening with dinner?” No - she then began to tell us how Caneel was strongly urging people to evacuate Caneel due to the threat of a hurricane that is supposed to hit at some point the following day/evening. Okay. At this point I had a lot to drink and all of a sudden it hit me. I started to get upset and my husband tried to reassure me that everything was going to be fine and that we would check with the front desk to get more information.
We walked down to the front desk and noticed a lot of people doing the same thing. The front desk manager told my husband that they are urging people to take the last ferry which was at 10pm over to St. Thomas. They are a better equipped island as far as hospitals, etc. Again I started to get upset again. My husband asked about our room. Well we were in Cottage 7, and he said that’s one of the first rooms they evacuate due to its vulnerability. He said that once we checked out we wouldn’t be charged and that we could return if conditions allow within a few days. However, I didn’t want to go to St. Thomas and stay at the Wyndam. That’s where they were telling people to go. Then we remembered that our friends recently got upgraded to a two bedroom suite at the Westin. Their original beachfront room had a bad leaking problem after all of the rain the island was experiencing so they moved them.
We gave them a call and they were having their anniversary dinner at the Waterfront Bistro. They had no idea about what was going and said that everyone in town was acting as if everything was normal. We really didn’t have a choice at this point and had to go back to our room and get our things.
It was really hard for me to give up staying at Caneel but we really couldn’t stay. There wasn’t going to be any staff there or restaurants open, etc. (plus we were on the meal plan) After grabbing most of our things we rolled our luggage from Cottage 7, all the way to the taxi stop at Caneel.
Our friends meanwhile got a taxi ride back from Cruz Bay to the Westin. We didn’t realize this but they told the taxi driver our situation. When we got to the taxi stop there was no one there. They had a phone and my husband began calling for a taxi. A few minutes later one appears. It turns out to be the
driver that our friends talked to. He came all the way to get us. I was pretty relieved. We got to the Westin and finally made it to our friends room. There wasn’t anything about hurricane mentioned at the Westin when got there. I thought it was a little odd, but then again the Westin is better protected
then Caneel. I was still upset about leaving Caneel, but thankfully we were still able to stay on St. John. It was a long day and we all headed to bed.
Day 6 - Hurricane Omar
After a rough night of sleep (the bites were itching again) we got up around 8:30. The spare bedroom that we staying in was surprisingly comfortable. Our friends had the master suite which included their own private bathroom, large flatscreen tv, jacuzzi bathtub (which was outside of the bathroom, in their room) and a king size bed. The room we had was across from them with two double beds, flatscreen tv and our own private bathroom as well. Both bedrooms were upstairs. Downstairs was the living room area, very large flatscreen tv and a dining set. I have never been in the two bedroom suites but it was very nice. High season said they can run around $1500/a night! That’s crazy! Anyway, we all got up to cloudy skies and some rain. There was a notice under the door about a tropical storm advisory (this was left during the night and we never noticed it). Basically the Westin stated that they will have limited service and that they are monitoring the storm. We thought that we would go into town and grab some breakfast. We figured that if we are stuck in the room we should probably get some supplies.
For breakfast, we headed back to JJ’s. We ran into a few people that were staying at the Westin as well and they said that as of 6pm you could not get back into the Westin. The shops around Cruz Bay were preparing to close around 2pm. After breakfast we walked up to the Dolphin Market in the rain. There we got all of our necessary supplies, vodka, wine, beer, cigarettes, etc. Ha-ha, yes we also got bottles of water, snacks, bread and lunchmeat for sandwiches. We got into a taxi and headed back to the Westin. The guests were laughing at us carrying all of our groceries back to the room saying how we have all of the necessities for a hurricane (referring to all of the alcohol). When we get back to the room, there was another notice by the door. Basically saying that the storm had been upgraded to a Category 1 Hurricane and could become a possible 2.
The letter advised the guests to stay in their rooms after 6pm. They would have their on-site deli, The Mango Deli, open until then if you need food, etc. Again stating that services would be limited - housekeeping, etc. We all got settled in with our supplies and figured that we would have a “Hurricane Party”. What else is there to do in a situation such as this? Drink! It was round noon/1pm and we all started with a couple of beers. Luckily our friends brought cards so we were all set. We had the tv on to see updates on Hurricane Omar on the weather channel and they were calling for a direct hit in the USVI and BVIs. That’s great news so we turned it off. We kept looking outside and noticing how Great Cruz Bay began to fill with muddy water from all of the run off.
After a few hours the entire bay was brown. Still the winds were slightly stronger and the rains were coming down steady, but not any worse then the other days of rain. After a few hours we realized we were getting low on supplies. It was around 5:45 and we had about 15 minutes to get to Mango Deli and get some more things. We took our umbrellas and made it just in time.
Besides alcohol, sandwiches and snacks, the Mango Deli also had pizza available. We figured we had enough food and just grabbed some chips and beer. We got back to the room and there was another notice on the door. This notice stated that St. John was already feeling the affects of Hurricane Omar and that it would most likely nit at some point in the night/early morning. We were advised again to stay in our rooms and not to leave. A breakfast would be provided for all guests in one of their ballrooms between 9am - 11am the next morning. It was getting later in the evening and around 11pm we were pretty tired. We looked outside and the winds were really starting to pick up at this point. We went outside of our balcony and it was kind of intriguing
to be experiencing a hurricane. At the same time though it was kind of scary not knowing what to expect during the night or what we would wake up to. With that, we all thought it was a good idea to try and get some sleep.
Around 7am I awoke to our one friend saying that “its over”. I thought what is he talking about? We should be waking up to strong winds, rain, etc. Well it was over. Around 7am the skies were clearing. We couldn’t believe it. It was still kind of early and we couldn’t really have breakfast until a couple of hours
so we went back to sleep. It was 9am now and we all got up to walk to the ballroom for the provided breakfast. However, I first wanted to call Caneel and see how they fared and if we could return perhaps later on in the afternoon. I couldn’t bare to hear any bad news so I had my husband call. After he got off the phone with them he told me that there wasn’t any staff at the resort at that time and the earliest they could resume taking in guests wouldn’t be until the following afternoon - Friday. We leave Saturday I though. I was so disappointed, but thought that at least we could get one afternoon/evening at Caneel. They took our cell # and told us they would call us back with more information later on. When we left the room there was another letter by the room. This letter stated that Omar had passed St. John and that it was not a direct hit. The island was still currently under curfew and would be until 2pm
that day. So we walked to the ballroom and there was a long line. I couldn’t believe how many people were at the resort. Later on we found out that a lot of villas around the Westin were evacuated and that they moved them to the Westin. The Westin provided a buffet style breakfast. There was scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and assorted pastries/bread. In addition there was orange juice, water and coffee. All of this was at no cost to the guests. I was pretty impressed with how well the resort handled everything. After a hot meal for breakfast we walked back to the room. The sun was coming out so we thought that we would go to the beach.
Well we got to the beach and the water was still on the rough side. To us, being from NJ, the water didn’t look rough at all but in caribbean standards it was. The Westin told guests not to go in the water at this time. Okay. So we went to the pool and so did everyone else.
I guess this is what high season is like. It was so hard to find a chair or an area to move a chair to. I think we found the last 4 chairs available. We were just thankful that it appeared that St. John had survived the hurricane fairly well that we were all okay. Apparently St. Croix didn’t so much (the east end). We talked to other guests and found out that the curfew was lifted. Yay! We also noticed a US coast guard helicopter going over us. Then we saw the Westin Ferry appear. Things were getting back to normal. It was a relief. When we got back to the room I had a message on my cell phone. It was Caneel! They called to tell us we could return the next day (Friday) and our room would be ready by 11:30. I was so happy that at least we could get in at that time then the regular check in at 3pm.
For dinner we decided on Morgan Mangoes. Morgan Mangoes was packed. We had reservations but had to wait for our table. We didn’t realize it was margarita night and you could get 2 for 1. We all took advantage of this and they were very good. They were made the “real” way not with sour mix - yuck. When we got to our table they informed us that they were out of all beef and chicken. I guess the hurricane did affect some things. My husband and our friend each had the pork. I had the voodoo snapper and our friend Lori had the fish pot. For an appetizer I had the calamari.
It was very good. When we were done with dinner, we took a taxi back to the Westin. It was time for bed.
Day 8 - Caneel FINALLY!
Being that we couldn’t check in to Caneel until 11:30 we all slept in until about 9:30. We packed all our things again and were ready to head back. Our friends joined us for breakfast at JJ’s. I highly recommend the huervos rancheros. They are very addicting! After a satisfying breakfast we said good bye to our friends and rolled our luggage near the ferry entrance to grab a taxi. After taking the taxi from Cruz Bay, then to Gallows Point, we finally made it to Caneel. NOTE: Caneel is currently working on new security booths at the entrance so you have to drive around on an unpaved road. We grabbed our luggage and went to the front desk/check-in area. The staff immediately recognized us and welcomed us back. Our same room was ready and we headed to our room. We just made a quick stop at the watersports center to grab our complimentary snorkel gear. A nice gentlemen by the name of Jeremy, I believe, took us in a golf cart to our room. We were asking him questions about the hurricane. He said that no one stayed besides one employee since his current residence is far less safe the grounds at Caneel. All of the guests did in fact leave. Damage was minimal - scattered debris from the trees, etc. but nothing too bad as far as we could see. It was a relief to see that Caneel was okay.
When we entered our room, there was a few housekeepers cleaning our bathroom asking us if several items were ours. We looked and I forgot that we left all of our shampoo, soap, etc. in the bathroom. It was still there. We also noticed that a bottle of champagne that was given to us was also still on the table. It was as if we never left the room. Jeremy welcomed us back and we were ready to enjoy what little time we had left at Caneel. We immediately grabbed our snorkel equipment, sunscreen and reading material and headed down to Scotts Beach. The beach was empty.
We were the only ones on the beach. The chairs were pulled back on the beach so I got a few photos that made it look like a vacant beach. We found two
chairs and put on our snorkel equipment. Right away we noticed that the water was still a little churned up. The snorkeling wasn’t great because of this, but we were still able to see a couple of turtles. It was still beautiful to finally get in the water again and snorkel. After a while we headed back to our chairs. The weather started to get cloudy again so we went back to our room. We were enjoying a couple of rum punches on our balcony when I got a call from Joe. Over the years we’ve become good friends with Captain Joe from the Scubadu. He said that he was on a sail today but later he would be dropping off his clients at Cruz Bay. He wanted to know if we wanted to meet him for happy hour.
We called our friends and planned to meet at the Beach Bar around 5:30. In the meantime I called to make reservations for dinner at the Equator. After freshening up a bit we headed to the taxi stop at Caneel. There was no one around. We contacted the front desk but they said a taxi should be around between 10 - 15 min. 5 minutes pasted and a pickup truck showed up. It had the Caneel logo on the sides so we knew right away he must be an employee of Caneel. He rolled down his window and asked us where we were headed. We told him that we were going into town. He said “no problem” and hop in. It turns out he has been working at Caneel for quite sometime but he is the man “behind the scenes”. His name was Alvin and his exact title escapes me but I believe he was some sort of engineering manager. Alvin dropped us off near the ferry and we thanked him for his generosity.
My husband wanted to give him money but he refused to take it. We just thought that it was such a nice gesture what he. Thanks Alvin!
We walked down to the Beach Bar and there he was, Joe! It was great to see Joe again. We met his first mate Arin which was also very pleasant. A few minutes passed and our friends had made it too. It was nice to talk to him again. It was amazing that a year had passed but when we saw Joe its like we just saw him yesterday. He then suggested that being we never got to do our day sail to Jost that he had to head back to St. Thomas anyway and if we would want to hop on for a sunset cruise? We all agreed right away - of course that would be great! We headed to the Scubadu. It was a beautiful night. The skies were gorgeous and clear. We finally saw stars for the first time during our trip. The sail was terrific.
It was such a nice surprise and kind of a closing to our trip. When we made it to St. Thomas we thanked Joe again and reassured him that we would be back next year. Thanks again Joe! We walked to the Red Hook Ferry and just made the 7pm ferry. We sat up top and watched the lights of St. John appear to get closer. I looked around and saw a lot of commuters and I thought how this a nice way of “commuting” vs. hours sitting in a car on Route 80 like I do everyday! We got back into Cruz Bay and still had some time to kill before heading back to Caneel. We went back to the Waterfront Bistro for a drink and thanked our friends again for everything. It was soon to say goodbye and would see them the next day since we were on the same flight. We took a taxi back to Caneel. Dinner at the Equator was excellent. I don’t know if it was because we were one of the only 3 tables dining or what but the service was great. We started out with a few appetizers. I had the chicken roti and my husband had the conch fritters (this was the first time I have ever seen conch fritters on the menu at Caneel).
Then for dinner we both decided on the caribbean lobster.
Wow, after all that food we were stuffed! We walked back to our room and sat out on our balcony and listened to some music for our last night.
Well I had the alarm set for 7:30 but it never went off. Good thing that I was awake and woke my husband up. We didn’t have to leave until 10:30 but I wanted to take one last swim at Scotts Beach. We looked out the window and it was absolutely picture perfect. I just thought “this just figures”. The day we
are leaving and it is absolutely gorgeous. We walked down to Scotts and the water was as clear and calm as glass. It was little cool yet (there was no sun yet on the beach) but we jumped in. It was a good wake up swim for us! We then went back to our room to dry off on the balcony. I was trying to get some last minute color on our balcony since we never really got much color during our trip. Then it was time to get ready to go. We packed up our things and headed for check out. After check out we enjoyed the Caneel breakfast buffet and talked about how it was definitely a unique trip. Two natural disasters in one week. Who would ever thought? After a filling breakfast we waited for our 10:30 ferry. I tried to take some pictures since it was so nice out. Plus I had to use up some of my memory card since I really didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do.
After the ferry ride, then taxi ride through St. Thomas we made it to the airport. I never enjoy this day due to the fact we usually get the 2:30 Continental flight that is direct into Newark, but we always have to take the 10:30 ferry. We get to the airport at 11:20 and there is no one at the counter. The kiosks say that there won’t be anyone for check-in until 11:50. Great. We just had to stand there and wait and wait. The continental employees finally walk out at around 11:45 and we are able to check-in. We waited for our friends then all headed to customs and then finally to the gate. When we were on the plane it was kind of funny to hear everyone talk about the similar stories they had experienced. I heard from one person that even Maho was evacuated for the hurricane. It sounded like a lot of people were diverted to St. Thomas. After a long and noisy flight (can they even invent tranquilizers for screaming kids?), we landed actually early into Newark.
This was likely one of the most unique experiences we have had on St. John but have to say we made the best of it and were very lucky all and all. We wished that we had better luck with the weather, but then again St. John could have gotten a direct hit from the hurricane. Just yesterday I found out from our travel agent that they received a letter from Caneel and that our reimbursement check was on its way. We will use that towards our trip next year. Now the only question is, do we take the same week? I don’t think hurricanes can strike the same week two years in a row? Regardless, this time I WILL be taking out traveler’s insurance!