For me, this was the day I had been waiting for the entire cruise. When Mo and I cruised in 2009, we ported in St Thomas and didn’t have enough time to take the ferry across a few miles of water to explore this magnificent island paradise. I read about St John, and wanted to see the lovely land covered by forests and trails and surrounded by pristine beaches and pure white sand.
Cruz Bay, located on the west coast of the island, is the largest commercial center and the location of the main port. We heard later in the day that it is rare for a cruise ship of this size to actually port in Cruz Bay, with most cruise lines choosing the more commercial port of Charlotte Amalie on St Thomas. The population of the town is under 3,000 people, and while there are shops and restaurants, the island is much more celebrated for it’s beautiful beaches and national park.
Word of the Blues Cruise landing here had spread throughout the local islands, and many folks from the British Virgin Islands, and the US Virgin Islands were also on shore ready to jam with the musicians on our ship. The St John department of tourism planned a full lineup of the local entertainment, cultural activities, and educational events to complement the arrival of such legendary performers. My daughter knew of musicians in St Croix that made the trip especially to be part of the shoreline activities on this day.
It was Deb’s birthday, but I was the one with a particular agenda for this day. No matter what we did later, I really wanted to spend some quality time on a St John Beach. With Trunk Bay being the most famous and listed somewhere as the second most beautiful beach in the world, I thought it would be a good choice. However, most of the blues performances were across the island at Coral Bay, all the pubs filled with great music all day long. The famous pubs there included Skinny Legs, Island Blues, and Shipwreck Landing, and the pub crawl was the order of the day. We compromised on a plan that included a taxi trip to Trunk Bay, possibly going on to Cinnamon Bay and ending the day at Coral Bay, taking the ship provided shuttle to return in time for the sail away.
The trip to shore was Deb’s first experience on a tender, and we were in line for an early departure from the ship so were on the first tender ashore. In this case, the tender process required a visit to the Main Stage to get a tender ticket, and then on to the tender. Deb went down there first and I was to follow immediately, but then realized that I had forgotten something, and had to run back to the cabin. Another long walk before I discovered I was going toward the wrong end of the ship made for more confusion. By the time I showed up at the Main Stage, they were calling my name and Deb was a bit distraught. It ended well, and we still managed to get on shore in plenty of time to locate an open air taxi to Trunk Bay.
At Trunk Bay, the magic of the Caribbean washed over us completely. Deb rented chairs and an umbrella, and we walked down to the far quiet end of the beach to settle in for the morning.The air was warm, the skies were clear, and the water was translucent turquoise. The seas were still a bit rough from previous storms, however, so the famous national park snorkeling trail at Trunk Bay was closed. It would have been Deb’s first time with a snorkel, so we though better of trying to teach her the technique in choppy water, and instead filled our hours with swimming and floating and oohing and ahhing over the clarity and color of the water, the brilliance of that magic blue line between sea and sky, and the sound of palm fronds waving in the warm breezes.
If I were to think of a perfect vacation, it would include a week or so in a little house somewhere on this island, with time to explore every single one of it’s beaches and hike as many trails as possible that thread throughout the national park. I loved St John, and so did Deb. The photos of her on this beach are some of my favorites of all time. What better way to spend a birthday than this!
As mid afternoon wore on, we thought it might be time to amble on to Coral Bay, so reluctantly packed up and found another taxi. It seemed more reasonable to go back to Cruz Bay rather than try to get all the way around the island, so we did that with the encouragement of the taxi drivers. Once back at Cruz Bay, the entertainment going on at Frank Powell Park sounded fun, and someone said, “Hey, the music here is better than anything at Coral Bay”. That sounded fine to us, since we were tired and hungry and just wanted something good to eat and drink. Wandering down the walks through town led us to a little open air restaurant along the bay with a view of sailboats and water and our ship around the corner. We waited in the bar area for a seat, and a sweet looking man came up to us asking if we wanted lunch, and when we said yes, he led us to a big table for four right on the waterfront. Laughing, he said, “ I am the owner, I can seat you anywhere I want!”
I had a pina colada to die for, and we ordered some truly fabulous yummies for our late lunch. Dang if I can even remember what I ate, but I remember Deb saying hers was the best she ever had, and I know mine was. Again, I am reminded of just how much I can lose about a trip if I don’t write about it while I am doing it. As Erin reminded me recently, the goal is to have fun, not to write about it, so that is exactly what I did on this trip. So I have no clue what we had for lunch, but I do remember feeling absolutely and wonderfully happy and a bit tipsy as well. Perfect feeling for an afternoon on a tropical island, I think.
We sat there for a long time watching the water, listening to the distant music, before we decided we had no need to go anywhere else except this sweet little town. We ambled around town a bit, and then back in a park somewhere Deb ran into a young man who was incredibly sweet and friendly, offering her a bit of rum and talking about his life on the island. The flirtations were quite adorable, and safe, since her mom was with her and we were heading for the ship! I laughed with them and felt like “mom”. I was sure our sweet little guy had all sorts of ulterior motives, and Deb decided that she wanted to quit her job and move to the USVI where everyone was cute and friendly. Instead, we managed to return to the ship and to our cabin.
Once back on board, we had no need for supper and instead enjoyed the wild music sail away party on the back deck before going back to our cabin and dressing up for the evening. It was Deb’s birthday, after all, so she wore one of her prettiest dresses and we went back upstairs to listen to more music, dance, and have birthday toasts. Deb’s name was listed on the Daily Program with a few other birthdays, and a lovely chocolate cake was delivered to our stateroom. She also got several happy birthday coupons for spa treatments and such, but most of them including spending a fair amount of money, so she didn’t bother.
A perfect ending for her birthday celebration was the ships Dessert Extravaganza on the Lido Deck at 11pm. I have to say, I wasn’t that impressed with the artistry of the offerings at the Extravaganza. I guess I may have been spoiled by the beauty of our formal buffet’s at sea with Celebrity, but Holland America seems to be lacking in the expression of true loveliness and creativity that used to be standard with these kinds of specialties. More sweets, more music, and I went back to the cabin to fall into a deep rocking sleep while Deb danced up on deck until who knows when.
Not a bad birthday for this first born child of mine.
The rest of the photos for our day on St John are located here.