Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A friendly place

My last trip was a vacation ... to Cameroon, in West Africa. It was an insightful, challenging, hard-core trip. Not what I'd recommend for a relaxing sojourn.

St. Croix is.

Most people come here to relax, play a little tennis or golf, snorkel or dive, and visit the island's historic sites. The languid pace is what drew Dan and Theresa Regan of Connecticut, who escaped the cold and threat of snow. Their travel agent recommended St. Croix. "We're so busy at home that we just wanted to relax,'' she told me, as she spent the morning on a snorkeling and beach tour.

The island is undergoing something of a renaissance. The town of Frederiksted -- which lost its cruise ships after hurricane devastation and then neglect -- has spruced up, and while only a handful of shops and restaurants are open, the place looks pretty. Two of the larger hotels, Carambola Beach and Divi, have either recently renovated or are in the process; Divi also has a new spa and a new wing of rooms right on the beach.

But there's another aspect to the island I hope never changes. The local people are really friendly -- not something you can say about every Caribbean island.

It's partly because there aren't more hotel rooms -- the island has about 1,000 -- and no short-visit cruise passengers. "As a businessman, you'd think we'd want a boatload of tourists every day,'' said Miles Sperber of Caribbean Sea Adventures. "But in retrospect it's a blessing that we had the hurricanes and lost the cruise ships. It's nicer. Most of our guests stay a week. On the cruise ship islands, they stay four hours, so there's no point even in getting to know them.''

St. Croix really is a place you can feel like family. Elizabeth Armstrong, third-generation owner of Buccaneer Resort, told me at breakfast that some of her guests have come for 30-plus years. One year at Christmas, a couple that had come for years suddenly canceled. She called to find out why; the man had lost his job. She invited them to come down anyway, as her guests. "They're part of the family,'' she told me. When they got back on their feet, you can be sure they came back to Buccaneer.

5 comments:

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Anonymous said...

St Croix didn't lose the cruise ships as a result of devastation from hurricanes. The curise ships pulled out as a result of ongoing violent crimes against cruise ship staff and passengers. The industry gave the island a year to come up with a plan to improve things when Turnbull was governor, but nothing was done.