Buck Island from a Cruise ship

Old Nov 1st, 2010, 12:20 PM
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Buck Island from a Cruise ship

We will be traveling in December with Royal Caribbean and will be docking at St. Croix. I am wondering whether it is worthwhile to take the tour to Buck Island for $100/person. According to the Cruise ship's itinerary it would be 45 minutes ride to Christiansted 40 minutes on the boat and an hour snorkeling. Is it possible to get a tour locally that would allow for more play time while still getting back to the cruise ship in time?
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Old Nov 2nd, 2010, 10:34 AM
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How long will the ship be docked? All of the tours to Buck Island leave from C'sted, and I don't think any of them spend more than an hour on the snorkel trail - it doesn't really take that long, and it is in a fairly unprotected area, so if the winds are up it can get a little rough. The half day snorkel trips (which is what I think this probably is) are $70 pp from C'sted, so the extra $30 is probably just to cover the transportation between F'sted and C'sted (not bad if you are on your own, but if there is a group of you you could probably do better getting a cab on your own or even renting a car). Think about just getting a cab to C'sted on your own, and then you can either explore around C'sted later or get another cab to a good beach for a couple of hours and really enjoy the island (Cane Bay on the North Shore is a personal favorite - exceptionally close to the wall so there is terrific snorkeling - or there are several good ones on the west end that are within a mile or so of the ship dock). You can also hire a cab to give you an independent tour of the island - I've heard that most of them will probably charge you $50 for a good tour, including taking you through the rain forest, to the Whim Plantation, Botanical Gardens, and the rum factory.

For a first time visitor to Croix, I think that Buck Island is worth it if the weather is good (and as long as the winds aren't too strong from the north that day), but Croix has alot of other things going for it, too, so if you can't make it to Buck don't feel too bad. Crois has no shortage of good beaches and really good snorkeling from shore.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2010, 10:54 AM
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tejana, does cane bay beach have walk-in snorkeling? are there more beaches with walk-in snorkeling on st. croix?
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Old Nov 2nd, 2010, 11:01 AM
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Cane Bay definitely has walk in snorkeling - people even scuba from shore because the Cane Bay Wall is close enough that you can swim out to a wall dive. Davis Bay (a couple of miles away, where the Carambola is) also has excellent snorkeling from shore, but you don't get the whole local beach and beach bar atmosphere there that you would at Cane Bay.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2010, 11:05 AM
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The east end (F'sted side) is probably the only part where the snorkeling isn't good, but the trade off is that it is so protected from the wind (and has no breaking reef) that it is usually smooth as glass for just beach swimming. It has been a long time since I have been around to the south or east ends of the islands to visit the beaches, so I can't speak with much authority on now the snorkeling is there. The reef and the wall are closest to shore on the North side, so those are usually known as better for snorkeling.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2010, 11:07 AM
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I think most of the "beach excursions" that the cruise ships plan either go to Divi or to Chenay, but I think that lately they have also been doing deals with the Carambola to use their beach (great snorkeling) and the hotel facilities for the day. That is terrific, but if that is all you want, just grab a cab and tell them to take you to Cane Bay, and when to pick you up. Definitely a real local beach, with VERY few cruiseshippers.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2010, 07:21 AM
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The ship is docked from 8 am to 5 pm. One hour just seems too short to me. Is Cane Bay a good alternative to Buck Island? I am thinking about going there instead of Buck Island. How do they compare in rough weather something we have no way of predicting.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2010, 11:25 AM
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Completely different experience. You go to Buck Island for the underwater trail - an official underwater national park - with a truly amazing variety of coral formations. I had really forgotten how beautiful it is until we went with friends last year (we hadn't been in about 10 years). But that is really all there is to it other than a nice sail out there (but it is a long enough trip that none of the boats actually rely on wind power - you will be using the engine). Cane Bay is a classic local beach that has very good snorkeling (especially if you are adventurious enough to snorkel out over the wall itself - very creepy when the sea floor basically disappears!), plus a couple of good beach bars a very short walk away (two within a few feet, a third one a couple of hundred feet down the road but worth the trip). If the weather is a little rough, Cane Bay is better than Buck, since Buck is basically unprotected, but you might still get a little more chop than normal since the winds will be coming from the North. Personally, with that limited amount of time my choice would probably be to hire a cab for an hour or two to give me a little bit of a tour of the high points of the island, then settle in to Cane Bay for a few hours and just relax, snorkel, drink, eat and relax some more. The "Eat" bar across the street from the beach has some of the best burgers on the island, Calvin's place (Spratnet) is an open air bar right on the beach with good drinks, great bartenders and a decent kitchen, and Off the Wall (a couple of hundred feet east of the main beach) has good drinks, hammocks and terrific pizza. Cane Bay Dive Shop is right across the street from the beach (connected to Eat), and has plenty of snorkel equipment for rent.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2010, 12:14 PM
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You've convinced me - We're heading to Cane Bay. It must be the call of the burger or maybe it was the hammock. With our limited amount of time, I think snorkeling by the wall sounds the best. Thanks.
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Old Nov 3rd, 2010, 04:04 PM
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There are no wrong answers, but I can't imagine anyone not enjoying a day at Cane Bay.
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 07:29 AM
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tejana, tell me what 'the wall' is. We are taking Celebrity's excursion to Bucks Island in a few weeks. I am not a strong swimmer and decided that I will wait and see what the seas are like before entering the water...If I am hesitant, I will just stay onboard the boat. How deep is the underwater trail...please inform me about it...thank you
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 11:19 AM
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cd - a wall is basically an underwater cliff, a vertical "wall" that drops hundreds or thousands of feet. At Cane Bay, if you are swimming on the surface about 150 yards from the beach, one moment you can see the bottom about 30 or 40 feet down, the next moment you see nothing but dark blue, as the bottom drops off to 200, 500 and then 3000 feet very abruptly. A wall dive is nirvana for divers (although you really have to keep an eye on your gauges so you don't accidently go too deep), and the location and depth of the Cane Bay Wall is one of the main reasons that the US Navy used to do so many deep sea submarine exercises in St Croix - the sea floor drops to more than a half mile deep just 150 yards from shore. Buck Island isn't near the wall - it has a more gradual slope surrounding it. In both places there is great snorkeling in pretty shallow water, and often the tall coral heads are so close to the surface that you have to swim around them or consciously hold your breath and glide over them quickly. According to the NPS website, the Buck Island trail itself is in no more than 12 feet of water.
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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and cd - if I remember right, because the Buck Island trail is a national park, you are actually required to follow your "guide" through the trail the first time. The last time we were there, one of our friends was a really nervous swimmer, and she was fine because she just hung on to a ring that the guide towed. After that she was fine on her own, although she was one of the first people back on the boat <g>
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Old Nov 6th, 2010, 07:30 PM
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Thanks tejana, I hope our guide has a ring!
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Old Nov 8th, 2010, 05:23 AM
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Should we be concerned about anything (man of war, sharks) at Cane Bay near the wall?
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Old Nov 8th, 2010, 05:58 AM
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lusty... nope. Probably a barracuda or two, but other than that you will probably see nothing bigger than the occasional ray or turtle.
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Old Nov 8th, 2010, 07:16 AM
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Sounds good. I'm not that comfortable swimming into an area with no bottom in sight.
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Old Nov 8th, 2010, 07:36 AM
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it's a fun experience to snorkel over the wall, just to say you did it, but you will probably turn around quickly and return to the point where you can see clear bottom and coral -- snorkeling is only good when you can see something!
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Old Nov 9th, 2010, 07:48 AM
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Does anyone have any ideas about renting a car versus getting a taxi? Obviously the car rental allows for more freedom but the taxi might provide us more information? Cost comparison? There are 4 of us.
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Old Nov 12th, 2010, 08:35 AM
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lusty - I've never tried to rent a car in F'sted, so I don't know how long the checkin/checkout process will take, particularly if there are a lot of cruiseship people doing the same thing (I know that sometimes the checkout process seems like FOREVER at the airport, and there you are only dealing with a couple of dozen people with car reservations on the same flight). Cost-wise, you are probably looking at 50-70 for the day for a rental, maybe less.
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