Saturday, February 17, 2007

St. Thomas sans cruise ship

Visiting St. Thomas on a cruise ship is a bustling experience; you usually end up checking out the jewelry and home wares, even if you resist the temptations of buying. Staying on the island is a more casual and leisurely experience, I’m learning.

I’m staying at one of a handful of bed-and-breakfast inns on the island. A Maine couple, Pam and Matt Eckstein, who have lived here since the mid 1990s, opened At Home in the Tropics last fall. The four-room inn is in a beautiful, breezy historic building just above the restaurants and shops of St. Thomas’ old quarter, and it’s seductively relaxing. Guest rooms, the porch and the pool overlook red roofs spilling down the hillside to the harbor, where sailboats bob on the bay. I could stay awhile.

Last night I checked out something else you’d never be able to do as a cruise passenger: Night Snorkeling with Homer.

Homer is a mainlander transplanted so long ago he can scarcely remember what it’s like to live up north. He clearly loves what he does; this night, he shares his enthusiasm with 10 snorkelers. Night fish are entirely different from the day ones, he told us, though we did spot a few familiars like parrotfish, who were burrowed into holes sleeping. (Do fish sleep? Apparently, yes!)

We’re pretty much all baby boomers, experienced in the water but not necessarily (in my case at least) truly hearty waterfolk. We swim in the easy, current-less waters of Secret Harbour, which turns out to have one of the better reefs I’ve seen on this trip. Armed with flashlights, we “hunt’’ through the corals and rocks, spotting an octopus, moray eel, lobster, stingray, squid and other night creatures.

Today: The historic sites I’ve missed on previous visits. And maybe just a little shopping.

This will be my last posting on this trip. Tomorrow I’ll be heading home. My full story about island hopping in America’s Caribbean runs in the May issue of our Travel magazine. If you miss it, it will be posted online at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.