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Trip Report Trip report STT and STJ

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We started our trip on STT, flying in via Miami on July 11th. We stayed at the Frenchman's Reef Marriott for two nights, then it was on to Caneel Bay on STJ.

For starters,on St. Thomas I would suggest you NOT bother with a rental car unless you're just determined to drive all over the island. Taxis are cheap enough, and when you consider the cost of a rental car and the hassle I personally feel it's not worth it at all to have a car. And despite the firestorm of "the vacationers can't drive worth spit", after talking to a number of the locals it's not just the tourists that are the "problem". I've driven in NYC, Boston, Miami, Orlando, DC and all over. STT gets my vote handily as the WORST driving experience of my 50+ years. When every car you see on the road is banged up, that tells you something. I'll just say that in my opinion driving on STT is a nightmare, best left to the people who have to do it.
As far as Frenchman's Reef, to me it looked like every dollar of their recent update shows. That place is absolutely beautiful! The views are magnificent, the layout is superb, the landscaping is top-notch. We received a complimentary upgrade to the Morningstar Resort, I'd actually have preferred to stay in the main hotel since Morningstar can benefit from some upgrading itself. We parked the rental car and used the Marriott motor launch to Charlotte Amalie for shopping. The boat trip over itself was fun, and the ONLY way to travel. The shopping was wonderful. We'd used the Fodor's Caribbean 2012 guidebook for reference before the trip, and one thing we'd read in the guide was "Although you can find the occasional salesclerk who will make a deal, bartering isn't the norm". In our experience just the OPPOSITE is true. We had been told by in "insider" that everything is negotiable, and we soon discovered that it was always the salesclerks who initiated the bargaining, in every store we entered. I got what I consider a great deal on a ring in one of the stores, and I all I had to do was stand there while the clerk just kept dropping the price every 20 seconds.
We did the sight-seeing, walked the "99 steps", took pictures, ate lunch and enjoyed an afternoon rain. My wife especially enjoyed Vendor's Plaza with the tarp roofs.

After two nights on STT we were off via Caneel's ferry to STJ. We had skipped most beach activities on STT, thinking the better beaches on S. John was where we'd do our snorkeling, beach lounging and swimming, and we think that was a good call. Caneel has seven wonderful beaches, each with it's own unique charm. When we checked into our room we found a complimentary bottle of Moet chilling, that was a nice touch for our tenth anniversary trip. After touring the resort a little bit and unpacking, we hit one or two of the beaches, got our snorkeling gear, and made dinner plans for the Sugar Mill (also called the Equator, but not often as far as we could tell) restaurant. We had one of the best meals in a long time there, every bite was delicious and we were catered to as if we owned the place.
Over the next four days we had an absolutely perfect time. We toured the island by safari bus, shopped in Cruz Bay (which both of us thought was more along the lines of what we were expecting in Charlotte Amalie), had a really nice lunch at the Waterfront Bistro in Cruz Bay, snorkeled the beaches, had really great meals, frequently refreshed ourselves at the open-air beach bar, relaxed, took photos and generally had a GREAT time. We'd read in Fodor's that Caneel's "staff can be chilly", we never saw a hint of that anywhere on the resort. The guide also says there are no in-room safes, the rooms do have safes.
Caneel Bay is indeed on the pricey side, but well worth it as far as we are concerned.

All in all we had a great time in the USVI, and will absolutely consider returning. We'd probably just spend all our time at Caneel Bay, taking the ferry to St. Thomas for a day of shopping, and skip the car rental of course. If you've never been to the VI, the best pictures you can find of the area don't do it justice. Everyone takes great pictures because it's too hard to take a bad one. The lush, tropical setting is just as soothing as the various hues of the water. We pretty much free-styled it, not cramming in scheduled activities or events, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves doing our own thing. I would HIGHLY recommend a vacation trip to the USVI. The Frenchman's Reef Marriott gets the highest marks in my book, and Caneel Bay is a cut above that.

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