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Cat Jan 23rd, 2001 10:45 AM

USVI, BVI or Grand Cayman?- So Confused
My husband and I are planning one last tropical vacation before trying to have our first baby, so want to make it memorable and unbelievely romantic. After reading everyone's comments on the Caribbean, I can't decide on an island. (We've only been to Mexico Cancun and Puerto Vallarata) I prefer all the accomodations from a 5-star hotel, including great pools, great restaurants, but also want to find an island that has beautiful clear calm beaches and lush tropical scenery. So far, it sounds like most people love the BVI, St. John and Cayman. Please help!!! I'd really appreciate any input. Thanks!

Tim Jan 23rd, 2001 09:13 PM

The above three islands really do NOT have true 5-star hotels, despite what some people might tell you. If the Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman were finished I would definitely send you there. In the meantime, you would be far better off at Le Toiny or Isle De France on St. Barts!

Ray Snow Jan 23rd, 2001 09:54 PM

I can't tell you where to go on your vacation, but I can tell you that Tim is mistaken when he said there were no 5 star resorts on these islands. There is a lovely Ritz Carlton on Great Bay at the eastern end of St. Thomas, USVI. It's been open for a little over 3 years and it's fabulous. On nearby St. John, there is a 5 star resort operated by Rosewood Hotels and Resorts named Caneel Bay. It is lovely and so peaceful there. St. John is such a beautiful island and has several serene national park beaches. Rosewood also operates another 5 star resort on Virgin Gorda named Little Dix Bay. It is the highest rated resort in the Caribbean by readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine. One drawback for you with this resort is that it does not have a swimming pool. Virgin Gorda is not filled with lush green tropical foilage but it's not a desert like island such as Aruba either. It is even more laid back than St. John and has even more beautiful beaches. Check out the following websites: (then click on the Ritz Carlton lion, then select St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands),, and If these 3 places aren't 5 star resorts then there are NO 5 star resorts anywhere in the world including St. Barts.

Tim Jan 24th, 2001 12:01 AM

The original poster, in her last sentence, was asking about St. John. However, I certainly do concur with your statement about the Ritz on St. Thomas, although the island itself is NOT a pleasant one to visit. However, I DO disagree with you about Caneel Bay and Little Dix as these two resorts definitely are NOT 5-star in any way, shape or form, certainly NOT in a league with any Ritz, Four Seasons or Independent (think Hawaii) that I've ever seen before!! My advice still stands!!!

Papaya Pie Jan 24th, 2001 03:55 AM

<BR>Hi Cat! <BR> <BR>I can help mark Cayman off your list. It's a great island, but definitely not lush (except for all the prof. landscaping). Very flat & scrubby. <BR> <BR>Have fun, wherever you decide to go! <BR> <BR>~PP

Karen Jan 24th, 2001 05:55 AM

What gets 5 stars and what doesn't isn't the issue and besides, "readers' surverys" are not necessarily the best as the "regulars" would go no where else, would compare it to no other and would consistently vote for their favorite!!! But anyway, there are options in the BVI's as well as other islands. I know nothing about the Cayman's but suspect it might be similar to Cancun (high rise heaven on a beach) but I understand it is pricey but that is just "hearsay!" I personally would never go to Cancun but that is my own personal choice so we may see "luxury" differently! Not all "luxury" resorts have all the "glitz, glitter and electronic wizardery" that some people crave - some don't even have telephones or even TV's and that IS luxury!! You might want to consider Anguilla but won't find the lush tropics that you are looking for! As far as which rates how many stars, that doesn't matter as long as you find your "paradise." The Ritz on STT is a lovely property but it is a marble "palace" with loads of steps up and down to the beach, It also has a wonderful pool, something you said you wanted. STT is a nice island despite what some people say offering some nice beaches, very good restaurants and other "diversions" including wonderful sails to the BVI, trips to STJ, etc. STJ is more pristine because of the Nat'l Park there which covers the majority of the island. Caneel is definately the ONLY way to go if you want a resort on STJ and Rosewood did add a pool - for what reason, I have not a clue with those wonderful pool-like beaches and unchlorinated water!! There are condo/villas and lots of 'em islandwide but few are beachfront because of the Nat'l Park. If you are interested in the BVI's and would like to learn more, go to (she also has a review of the Ritz on STT at her site) for her information and do NOT choose Tortola if you want 5* luxury, wonderful beaches and a "hidden hideaway!" yOU might also want to look at for ideas of other great properties that might give you what you want - and they have auctions besides!!

Adam Jan 24th, 2001 01:10 PM

I'd recommend the Ritz on St. Thomas, the new Ritz in Jamaica, or Cap Juluca in Anguilla. The Ritz on St. Thomas is fabulous; it's consistently rated one of the top 5 hotels in the Caribbean and it's worth it -- gorgeous landscaped grounds, a great pool, a good (although small) beach, and, of course, top notch rooms and service. Its other benefit is access to St. John. You can do a day trip to St. John by taking a 30 min. ferry and then rent a Jeep in St. John, stopping to snorkle, have lunch at Caneel Bay, whatever. The Ritz will make all of your arrangements. <BR>I think you'd also love the new Ritz in Jamaica. Again, great rooms, service, pool, food, beach, etc. It' doesn't feel as elegant as the Ritz on St. Thomas, but I bet you'll see this new hotel rated as one of the top 10 Caribbean resorts by the end of the year. <BR>Lastly, I'd urge you to consider Cap Juluca in Anguilla. We honeymooned there, and know 2 other couples that did as well, and all of us agree it was our best beach vacation ever -- Anguilla has the nicest beaches in the world, very nice people, and several true, 5-star resturants on the island. Cap itself is spectacular and memorable. The only warning about Cap is to make sure all the renovation construction is done -- the hotel was just completely refurbished after it closed due to Hurrican Lenny a year ago. Have fun!

Ray Snow Jan 24th, 2001 04:23 PM

Tim certainly has a right to his opinion but that's all he has. His is just one opinion. And he is WRONG about Caneel Bay and Little Dix Bay not being 5 star resorts. He may not like them, that's fine. But they are rated by everyone who rates hotels and resorts as being full fledged 5 star resorts. I have stayed at several Ritz Carltons around the world including the one on St. Thomas (3 times)as well as Four Seasons Resorts, and I know that these places are all nice. Fodors, Frommers, WheretoStay, and every other major professional review source lists Little Dix Bay, Caneel Bay, and the Ritz-St. Thomas as execellent 5 star resorts. Despite Tim's unflattering remarks about St. Thomas, I agree with Karen that it is a nice island destination with a great deal to offer.

Tim Jan 24th, 2001 09:09 PM

Well, Mr. Snow, just where exactly have you been around the world to consider St. Thomas a "nice" place -- India, Pakistan and Morocco?!?

Ray Snow Jan 25th, 2001 01:53 AM

Dear Mr. Tim, <BR> <BR>I must admit that I have never been to either of those 3 places. But I have been to several Caribbean islands, North America, Europe including Great Britain, Bermuda, All of the major Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Bali, both the North & South Islands of New Zealand, and Australia including its Great Barrier Reef Islands. I never said that St. Thomas was my favorite place in the world or that it was the nicest place in the world. But it is a very nice place. Sure it has problems, but so does every place in the world. If it's such a bad a place, why does it draw over 1 million tourists a year? Anyone can be negative about anyplace if he/she wants to. What's the point of that? You could always be like that Barry dude was with his long anti-Jamaica thread and start one entitled St. Thomas is a Dump. I really don't think that would serve any purpose, but you certainly have that right as far as I'm concerned. Or you can respond back on this thread with some more negative comments about St. Thomas or whatever else you want to bash. The choice is yours. <BR> <BR>Have a nice day! <BR>Ray <BR> <BR>

Papaya Pie Jan 25th, 2001 04:47 AM

<BR>Hi Karen! <BR> <BR>Grand Cayman isn't at all like Cancun (high rise heaven, as you so aptly describe!). GC is condo heaven. LOL! SMB is condo unit after condo unit after condo unit, with restaurants & hotels stuck in here & there. The hotels aren't high rise. Four stories is about as high as anything gets on Cayman & not many of those. <BR> <BR>Cayman Brac & Little Cayman are extremely laid-back, very few accomodations. <BR> <BR>You're right. Most accomodations on GC are very pricey, but when you're getting a kitchen it helps with the sting. <BR> <BR>Cheers! <BR>~PP :-) <BR> <BR>

Papaya Pie Jan 25th, 2001 04:54 AM

<BR>Hi again, Cat! <BR> <BR>Save Cayman for a vacation when the baby is old enough to travel. It's very family friendly, modern & safe. Not a Beaches atmosphere, but perfect for families looking for a slow paced vacation & whose kids don't require organized activites or high tech stimulation. <BR> <BR>Good luck with the baby. <BR> <BR>~PP

Cat Jan 25th, 2001 06:55 AM

Hi - its Cat again, I wanted to thank everyone for sharing your comments - they have been very helpful. I have spent the last few weeks reading messages and most of you share the same opinion about St. Thomas, St. John and the BVI. It sounds like I'd have to pick between vacating at a beautiful lush island or going somewhere with the nicer all ammenities resorts. I know I can't afford Hawaii and I was hoping to travel somewhere other than Mexico, so I'll have to keep researching the Caribbean Islands. I'm going to price the Ritz on STT which sounds like the resort we are looking for. What do you think about Jamica? It gets so many mixed reviews? Or maybe even the "ai" resorts on some of the other islands? What have been your greatest experiences?

Hans Jan 25th, 2001 08:50 AM

I have been fortunate enough to have visited each of these places and have some definite opinions about them (for what is worth--which may be very little). I was not impressed by Grand Cayman at all--I found the beach over crowded, the hotels mediocre (although the Hyatt is nice but it is not directly on the beach), and the food very expensive and not very good. Moreover, I did not find the island that attractive (except for the North shore but that was a very long drive). Consequently, I would not recommend Grand Cayman. In terms of the U.S.V.I.s, St. Thomas is not particularly attractive either--it is quite commerical and built up. With that said, we stayed at the Ritz Carlton (which has been mentioned above) and it is a very nice hotel located on a quiet corner of the island. While not on par with some of the Four Seasons I have stayed at, the service is excellent, the rooms are quite nice and the location is great. The food is very good in the main restaurant and pretty good in the other spots as well. St. John, unlike St. Thomas, is gorgeous--at least 70% of the island is national park and it is a wonderful island (although less shopping and restaurant choices). The only hotel that would come close to a 5 star is the Caneel Bay which, as was mentioned, is a Rosewood Resort and is quite nice--the service is not quite as good at the Ritz but the location is great as are the beaches. Whatever you do, do not stay at the Westin on St. John--although most Westins are quite nice, we were very disappointed with this property and ended up moving over to Caneel Bay which we were very happy with. Of the three locations you mentioned, the most beautiful are the B.V.I.s. Tortolla, Virgin Gorda, Peter Island are all spectacular and the diving is great. The best place in the entire region is Necker Island owned by Richard Branson of the Virgin Empire but i am going to assume the $20,000+ a week is not realistic. Peter Island is also supposedly quite nice--you might want to check them out. The two resorts which most people seem to like are Little Dix Bay and the Bitter End Yacht Club. Little Dix is a former Rockresort and is now owned by Rosewood and, although I have not stayed there, it is supposedly quite nice. If I may confuse the issue even further, you might want to consider the island of Nevis, near St. Kitts and the Four Seasons Hotel which is just reoppening after being repaired after a hurricane. I stayed there a couple of years ago and was very, very plesed--the hotel is truly 5*. If Nevis is out and you really are into 5*, my advice might be to stay at The Ritz on St. Thomas and take day trips to St. John and the B.V.I. or spend a couple of nights at Little Dix Bay and the resto of the time at the Ritz. Congrats and good luck! Hans

Karen Jan 25th, 2001 10:52 AM

Thanks for the description of the Caymans and I know there are some great places there ... have thought about it a couple of times but it always winds up on the bottom of the list. When I run out of super spots to go, I just might have to give it a try!! Not into condo thingy at all - Four letter words (cook wash, dust and all related chores are NOT allowed on a "vacation.") And elbow to elbow anything is not my style!! I must prefer Meridian Club and the "hidden hideaways"!!! <BR>BTW, Cap Juluca is wonderful!! And well deserving of the 5*'s ... or expand your horizons a bit and head to Petit St. Vincent or the Grenadines ... <BR>Go to ... she definately has a 5* website!!! Also hearing lots of good things about Jakes on Ja but haven't been there, done that! Everyone goes ga ga about the Ritz properties - and they are nice - but they are not the end all, be all ... and the one is St. Thomas is a Marriott, after all ... LOL ... and a Lexus is a Toyota!! A Porsche is a VW! LOL

Papaya Pie Jan 25th, 2001 12:59 PM

<BR>Hi all! <BR> <BR>I refuse to wash a dish or make a bed on vacation. Almost all Cayman condos have daily maid service, including kitchen cleanup. And some are quiet upscale. <BR> <BR>You're all correct, GC's restaurants are not gourmet but there are some good ones with spicy, interesting dishes. I personally can't imagine eating gourmet all the time, but that's just me. I also don't want to have to dress up. <BR> <BR>I can understand Hans' disappointment with the Hyatt. I would not recommend it either. <BR> <BR>I understand GC's not for everyone but the water is wonderfully clear & the sealife is plentiful. Jean Michel Cousteau gave GC his stamp of approval recently after much research, & is locating his new oceanography facility there so that should tell you something about the quality of the water & the reefs. <BR> <BR>True, SMB can be crowded at peak times & you have to stay away from the cruise ship area. That's true on a lot of islands. There are other beaches all over the island & even if you do drive to the other side, it's pleasant & easy, takes about an hour. (land is a little more interesting, but not lush) <BR> <BR>The new Ritz under construction on Cayman should add the elegance & pampering lots of folks enjoy. And you can always rent a villa w/ staff & a private beach at Cayman Kai on the prestigous & private north side if you really want to do it up right. <BR> <BR>Like I said earlier, it's not what Cat is looking for, but there are many ways to have an upscale experience on GC. <BR> <BR>And Cat, have you ever looked at Best Fares? I have a cousin who flies & stays first class to Hawaii twice a year from the East Coast using Best Fares & he saves a bundle. <BR> <BR>Happy planning! <BR>~PP <BR> <BR> <BR>

Tim Jan 25th, 2001 10:15 PM

Note to Mr. Snow AND Karen W.: <BR> <BR>Messr. Snow -- I must admit, you certainly have been to some exemplary places; hence, my TOTAL bafflement as to why you still refer to St. Thomas as "a nice place!" Oh well, to each his own, as they say. And YOU have a nice day as well! <BR> <BR>Karen W -- The Ritz Carlton chain is owned by the Marriott Corporation, so don't mislead people by saying that it's just a "Marriott!!"

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