St. Thomas Stories and Tips

The Other Details- airport, car, and feeding the menz!

Lizards! Photo, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

When first I suggested to my husband that we get eight gay men together for a mid-winter beach vacation, I expect he thought I was quite nuts! I suppose getting eight guys to agree to anything is an ambitious task, but our friends are generally very reasonable, and we found the whole process went quite smoothly. Our late March 2003 airfare ran just over $400pp from Harrisburg, PA. The villa cost of $4500 was quite reasonable when split eight ways, and we all pitched in $150pp toward food costs, expecting to eat in most days. The food arrangements turned out to be the most challenging part of the week. Our area of PA is hardly what one would call cosmopolitan, but even here we can get high-quality prepared meals delivered frozen or par-baked. I hoped to find the same setup from a local chef or restaurant in St Thomas. Absent that, I was prepared to take a standard provisioning package from a local outfitter (for sailboats perhaps?). Neither proved possible. As a last resort, I searched for online grocery ordering. Again, no dice. My options seemed to be to hire a chef to come into the villa and cook for us (very expensive), do all our own grocery shopping (which I consider a waste of valuable vacation time), or eat out for all meals (somewhat inconvenient to do as a group of eight). I finally called the villa owners for help, and they gave me the name of a local chef they had worked with. He agreed to do the shopping for us, and deliver all groceries prior to our arrival, as long as I faxed him a full list of specific ingredients and amounts. When I tried to give him just general guidelines (expanded continental beakfast every day, light lunches, grilled meals four nights, etc.) and let him plan the menu, he balked. When we arrived at the villa, I found many ingredients were missing. A note explained that "things are different here, we don't have many things". Later in the week I found a lovely new grocery store near Frenchtown that carried all the items I was missing... Since the chef also never returned the remaining unspent funds I had advanced him for the food, if I had it to do again I would definitely handle the shopping myself. I don't mean to sound like an ungrateful guest, because St Thomas is beautiful and we certainly plan to visit again soon. My frustration stems from the fact that the British Virgin Islands have excellent provisioning facilities, easily accessed from the mainland. It was irritating to find nothing similar in the USVI. Also, when I asked on several message and discussion boards for help or recommendations from locals, I was berated for not planning to support the local economy by eating out. I'm not sure what buying groceries and/or hiring a local chef might be, if they are not supporting the local economy. LOL

Anyway, the only other issues of note are the airport and rental cars. We had a nice, efficient economy car- handled the roads well, sipped gas, plenty of room even for four of us on one trip. Our friend, however, was "upgraded" into a Trailblazer. This was NOT a great thing on this island! We all piled into that beast a few times, and it was really tough navigating some of the smaller roads, finding parking, and generally just making our way about in something that large.

As for the airport, they are totally not kidding when they say to arrive two hours early! Plan to spend a lot of time in lines, hot and sweaty, if you are flying out on a busy day. They take your bags at the check-in counter and you think you are home free until you round a corner and see the LINE for security. They will very kindly return your bag to you at that point, so you can lug it along as you wait and wait and wait to be scanned. A young family on line behind us for security check literally stood and watched their plane (last flight of the day) fly away while mom held their toddler child and quietly sobbed in frustration. Not sure what finally happened to them, since we had to bolt for our own plane.

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