St. John or Exumas for me & my dad?

Old Jun 28th, 2007, 07:57 PM
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St. John or Exumas for me & my dad?

I'm trying to plan a trip for late July (about 9,10 days)with my dad to celebrate his amazing recovery from 3 big surgeries he went through last year. He's in great shape for his age (76)and we both love the beach, swimming, snorkeling, fishing etc. I've been to quite a few islands (mostly geared toward snorkeling and diving) but I wanted to go somewhere different for a change. I have no problem driving (on the left) and always like to explore and not just sit at hotel. I've been checking out St John, but most of the resorts seem geared towards couples (king beds only, etc)which is disappointing since the island seems amazing. The Exumas also seem like a relaxing but fun place to explore and if we go there I can't decide between Palm Bay Beach Club or Four Seasons. Four Seasons is having a summer special, otherwise it wouldn't be affordable right now. Any ideas/comments would be greatly appreciated!
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 01:09 PM
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Dawnie9 - I can't advise you on what island to visit, because I've spent a lot of time on St. John and a few nearby islands, but I've never been anywhere else in the Caribbean.

I can, however, say that the two resort hotels on St. John aren't necessarily couples-oriented. I stayed at the Westin recently, and there were some romantic couples, but also plenty of families, some with small children, some with more grown up children. There were also plenty of college-age party-seeking types. In fact, I'd say the main problem with the Westin was all the commotion related to noisy little kids around the pool during the day, and loud dance music at the little dance club at night. But quiet rooms at the Westin can be easily obtained by getting a room on the other side of the resort.

I also stayed at Caneel Bay once. It's much more expensive than the Westin, and that seemed to put it out of the reach of the partying college kids. There were a lot of couples of various ages, mostly somewhat older, and also plenty of families with kids. The kids have to stay on only one of the beaches, so quiet areas are easily found there as well.
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Hawksbill- Thanks so much for your response. In the past 24 hr.s I've heard such great things about St. John that I am now determined to check it out. I did call the Westin and believe it or not it's booked solid from late July thru August when I want to go. 2 people told me that there are very nice and affordable villas to rent so I'm going to base my research on that for now. I'm eager to take my dad with me to explore a new island. I've done Cayman and Provo. numerous times. If anyone can recommend a nice Villa, pls. let me know. Thanks again!!
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 08:56 PM
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Wow! I'm amazed that the Westin is booked through the summer. The island has always seemed pretty quiet when I've been there in the summertime.

I've always stayed with family on St. John or in one of the resorts, so I don't know much about villa shopping. Others will have a lot more info, but for the time being... it seems like Gallows Point might be a place to start (http://www.gallowspointresort.com/). It's located in Cruz Bay (which may or may not be a positive thing for you), and I think their suites are small, which might be better than one of the larger rental houses for you. I've never been inside, but one of the island's best restaurants is right there in the complex, so I've been in the neighborhood a lot.
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Old Jun 29th, 2007, 11:06 PM
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If Dad has had some health problems in the past you might think about going somewhere where help can be summoned quickly and has a decent level of care available.

Also get trip insurance or health insurance so if something bad does happen you can use a medivac heli back to Miami.

That said, although the Exumas are amazing, it is VERY laid back and not alot to do and I don't think have a state of the art facility.

If you are interested in the Bahamas you might look at Nassau or Freeport or the only outisland I can suggest would be Harbour Island, which has a state of the art (well for the region anyway) facility that is only a couple of years old. There are 2 doctors and a couple of nurses and even an ambulance.

For the positives the snorkling there is amazing as well. You can snorkle right off the beach, arrange for an off island (an island all to yourselves for the day) or take a snorkle trip and there are alot of wrecks in the area, because the reef there is one of the top in the world. It also includes a civil war TRAIN, which was on it's way to Cuba and was sunk in a hurricane, and makes for an amazing dive site 150 years or so later.

Hope this helps.
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 09:08 AM
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hawksbill, You're right. Some of the villas look amazing but they're really too big for just my dad and I (it would be a waste of space and $). I did research Gallows Point (looks great, and has gotten excellent reviews). Though it is close to town, we will rent a car & explore various beaches and snorkel sites daily, so that's ok. I will probably be booking it by this evening.
Travelbuff, thanks so much for your concern about my dad but to clear things up a bit--he had 3 surgeries last year for kidney cancer. He has no heart or any other precarious health issues that would make it risky in any way for him. He just rec'd a clean bill of health and since he's in amazing physical condition, I'm taking him to St. John to celebrate and do all the things he enjoys.
My last request would be for car rental recomendations. Thanks again to both of you for your ideas/imput!! I will post a report when I return in August...unless I meet the man of my dreams and I decide not to come back!!!!!
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 09:44 AM
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We just returned from our third stay at Gallow's Point. If you have any specific questions, let me know.
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 02:58 PM
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brenandg, Actually I do have some questions. A friend just called to tell me that she read some bad reviews about GP. She said people complained about the fact that some of the suites are not so clean, need major updating, loaded with mosquitoes, bad service and noisy from the boat traffic nearby. Pleeeeeeease tell me that this isn't the case...I don't need fancy marble baths & mahagony furniture but I do need clean and pristine for a comfortable vacation.
I hope that this is limited to 1 or 2 units and that I can ask for an upgraded one. I was going to take a lower level harbor view. I would greatly appreciate your imput since I want to book something by tomorrow, before I lose the air. Thanks!!!!!
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Old Jun 30th, 2007, 03:18 PM
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It turns out there are 98 reviews of Gallows Point on tripadvisor:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Rev...n_Islands.html
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 05:22 AM
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Well, obviously we like it or we wouldn't keep returnung. I have never been in a lower harbor unit, we always stay upper. You will definitely hear the ferry noise from the harbor views. It doesn't bother us at all. My husband actually loves watching the boat traffic. After a while, we really don't even notice it. I think the harbor views are a much better value for the money, but some people don't mind spending for the ocean views.

As for cleanliness, we had no issues other than some stains on the couch cushions. Our hand held shower head would not stay in its "holder" and was promptly replaced. Any request that we had was taken care of. There are plenty of towels and extra linens.

We love the convenience store there too. They are very helpful with booking excursions, car rental, even restaurant reservations. Thay have copies of many of the restaurants menus to look at. They arranged for our rental car. We rented through Cool Breeze. I recommend getting a copy of Feet Fins and Four WD by Pam Gaffin. The book is spot on with information on getting around, snorkeling, hiking. We found it very helpful. There is another that people recommend by Gerald Singer.

If you book a harbor view, I recommend trying to get one closer to the point. We have stayed in 10 and 11. Unit 14 is next to the cemetary, although I don't think you can really see it from the patio.
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 11:34 AM
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brenandg, I appreciate the info you provided. Actually, my biggest concern wasn't the boat and ferry traffic/noise 'cause my dad would also probably find that fun to watch. As far as being near a cemetary, we used to actually walk thru a cemetary in Grand Cayman to get to a good dive/snorkel site, so that doesn't bother us at all. My main concern was really about the place being clean and in doing the research quite a few people said that the resort is great but to be careful re: the suite you choose. I am impressed that you've been there so many times and that does say a lot. This must be one busy summer since the Westin is booked solid ($550 a nite for a garden view rm is crazy & unaffordable anyway!) Also, some of the villas that look nice are also booked for July/Aug. So...I called GP and spoke to the manager who was very patient & honest in answering my concerns about the fact that the units, being indiv. owned do vary in condition, etc. but that the staff will attend to any maintenance problem we would have immediately. He told me that the habour view rooms are already, completely taken and that he has an ocean view lower level in bldg #6 that is in very nice condition so we booked it! It's a little more than I wanted to spend but hopefully it will be worth it. Though, there isn't a big diff. in $ between upper harbour$275 & lower ocean$295. Other than my initial concern about suite cleanliness, everything about GP & STJ seems great and my dad & I are eagerly counting the days now! Thanks again for all the responses!!!!!
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 03:13 PM
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Unless you are super picky, I'm sure you will be happy there. The location is great for comfortably walking into town. Even with a car, we walked into town for dinner because parking can be a bit of a challenge in Cruz Bay.

You may want to look into a day trip to the BVI's while you are there. Easy to get to by ferry or you can do a day sail type thing.

Another great thing about STJ is the dining options. Plenty of upscale and moderate restaurants. We like Paradise Cafe in Wharfside Village for their breakfast sandwich ($4.00). They also have good smoothies. Deli Grotto in Mongoose Junction has good breakfast items and great sandwiches to put in a cooler and take to the beach. For lunch, we also like Sun Dog Cafe in Mongoose Junction and The Banana Deck. The Beach Bar also has decent "bar type food". For dinner, La Tapa is our current favorite. The atmosphere isn't the best as it is on a busy street but the food is wonderful. The Lime Inn has a wonderful mussels appetizer. We also like The Banana Seck for dinner. They have a good rib-eye steak, Cafe Roma has good and plentiful Italian food. These are all on the moderate price range except for La Tapa.

There are three main grocery stores on the Cruz Bay side, Starfish, Dolphin and Pine Peace Markets. Higher priced than the states. Have fun on your trip, I'm sure you and your dad will love STJ. I really recommend that book I mentioned or the Gerald Singer one. You can order either of them from the vionline.com forum. I saw both at the VI National Park Building too. I be looking for your trip report.
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 04:41 PM
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Oops, that link didn't work. Here is a link from the vi online website. The Gerald Singer book is Off the Beaten Track. http://www.caribmart.com/usbritviris.html
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 04:51 PM
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brenandg, I appreciate all the restaurant recommendations.. they all sound great! Yes, I agree with you on the convenience of being able to walk to so many places for dinner. I always rent a car in the carribean but driving at night a long way could get a little scary. Have you eaten at the restaurant at GP? Thanks for suggesting the book ...I'm getting it from a friend that I work with who already told me about it(she rented a large villa with other couples but wasn't familar with GP). I love to explore a new island and I'm really happy that my dad has something to look forward to, he's very excited! Now I'm trying to decide if we could do carry-on luggage and not check anything (Every time I go to an island I say the same thing and never seem able to do it, overpacking each time!) I will def. post a report when I return in early August. This is a great forum and with all the tips & info. I've rec'd, it's only fair that I do the same!!!
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Old Jul 1st, 2007, 09:17 PM
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The restaurant at Gallows Point is Zozo's. It has a nice bar, which is famous for being a great place for watching the sunset. I also very much like the space that the restaurant is in. And, in my opinion, Zozo's is currently one of the two best restaurants on the island, in terms of quality of food.

The other one is Paradiso, in Mongoose Junction. Just a few months ago, the food at Paradiso was awful. However, the chef from the now-defunct Ten Tables (previously, in my experience, the best food on the island) is now cooking at Paradiso. It's a great deal for us diners, because Paradiso is a much user-friendlier place. Unlike at Ten Tables, there's plenty of parking at Mongoose Junction. And there are a lot more than ten tables at Paradiso, so reservations are much easier to come by. Also, there are both indoor and outdoor tables available, which is nice for mosquito magnets such as myself.

Maybe I should have mentioned Asolare, too. I seem to remember the food there being very good, but I haven't been back in at least a year. It's a beautiful place, but somehow the atmosphere just isn't what I usually want when I'm on the island.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 07:27 AM
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We ate at Zo-Zo's back in March '06. We thought it was very good but not over the top for the $$$$. The view however is fantastic, especially from the bar. The menu does have several new items since we ate there.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 08:24 AM
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Thanks to both of you for those dining tips!!The last thing I need to do today is the jeep rental....since every villa & hotel is booked up this summer I better get on that!! Do either of you have a preference? ...the prices at all the car rental places seem similar.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 03:21 PM
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Dawnie9, I was hoping that someone with more experience would post about jeep rental, but so far nobody has, so I guess I'll at least be topping this for you.

I've only needed to rent a jeep on St. John once, the time when I was staying at Caneel. So I used Sun and Sand, which is the company that has the contrast to deliver rental jeeps to Caneel. That went uneventfully.

The rented jeeps on St. John usually have bumper stickers that identify the company. The ones I see most often are Sun and Sand, Cool Breeze, Conrad Sutton, and Denzil Cline, but I don't know if one is any better than the rest. I have a vague memory of reading something negative about Denzil Cline on this board, but I could definitely be wrong. Try doing a search for old posts.

As far as I can tell, one factor that some people take into account is whether the company keeps there cars on a lot in Cruz Bay. I guess the idea is that parking can be tough in town, so it's nice to use a company that can provide you a spot if you need one.

Again, I don't really have any experience with that issue, because (1) I've only rented a car once anyway, and (2) I'm pretty much always able to find a parking place, if I just search a little. The only exception was once when I needed to park near the church in town on Christmas (you can't miss it, it's the building by the stop sign that says "Thou Shalt Stop.") That time I ended up having to park way across town and walk over. But even that, like most problems on St. John, worked out just fine. Along the way I got to stop and watch various bands performing, grab a smoothie...

Oops, I stopped providing useful information and started digressing a little.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 04:46 PM
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I'm no expert on the car rental thing either, we have only done it once, but won't do without again. DH had to get over his intimidation, now he loves it.

I too am surprised that no one has chimed in with their favorite. I read the forums a lot and have read good and bad about all of them. I have two suggestions. You could post this question on Trip Advisor's STJ forum specific to car rental. There is a local who has a list that she will post.

My second suggestion would be to check with the Gallow's Point store. We had them book our rental. You may be able to call them and they can call around for you to see what is available and take care of it for you. They are really great about booking anything. We got ours from Cool Breeze and had no problem other than the AC didn't work at all (maybe this is common?, I don't know). We found a lot of the rental cars to look slightly "beat up". We thought that was fine in case we got a small scratch or something. I figure if they offer the service, may as well take advantage of it. Easier for them to call around than you. I really don't think that there is that major of a difference between the companies.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2007, 05:06 PM
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I think brendang's idea of calling the Gallows Point office for advice is a great one. In addition to coordinating the rental for you, they may even have an arrangement with one company, like the one that Sun and Sand has with Caneel, such that you could have the car delivered to you at Gallows Point, and leave it there when you leave. That could be very convenient.
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