When the time came to choose a shore excursion in St. Thomas during our cruise aboard Oasis of the Seas, there was only one we even bothered to consider. The last time we were in St. Thomas, MJ and I took a champagne catamaran cruise over to the neighboring island of St. John, where we spent the afternoon snorkeling in the crystal blue water, before enjoying a few glasses of bubbly during the relaxing sail back to port. It was one of the best shore excursions we've ever experienced, and left little doubt what we would be doing the next time we found ourselves in St. Thomas.
The adventure began long before we ever boarded the catamaran, with a 45 minute nerve wracking shuttle ride over the mountains to the other side of St. Thomas. Of course, by "shuttle" I actually mean "open air vehicle of death," with 25 people crammed into the back of one of these...
|Who needs seat belts or doors. We have this little handle on the end...|
Normally, I would embrace the ride as an opportunity to see more of the island, but trust me, there is nothing picturesque about the journey. Plus chances are you'll be too preoccupied with the mental images of your "shuttle" crashing down the side of the mountain to care.
After kissing the gravel covered ground upon our arrival, it was time to soak up some rays on the deck of the catamaran. That is, once all of the lushes on the morning tour finished stumbling off the boat. Undeterred, MJ and I set up our towels on the front of the Champagne Cat and sat back to enjoy the ride.
Before departing we had a rundown of the safety instructions, which consisted of a brief mention of the location of life jackets, followed by an 8 minute drilling on not putting toilet paper into the toilet. Seriously, they made us take an oath.
Finally we were underway, but we quickly learned the fatal flaw in our decision to lay on the front deck. As we entered the sound in between St. Thomas and St. John the water became quite choppy and before we knew it the waves were crashing over the front of the catamaran and gave MJ and I a good drenching. We didn't care too much, aside from all of our stuff getting soaked, because we were soon to be in the crystal blue waters surrounding St. John.
|Ready to dive in?|
The island of St. John is a huge contrast to her neighbor St. Thomas. The island was once mostly owned by the Rockefellers, who donated all of their property to the US government under the stipulation that it be operated as a national park. As a result, the island has less than 4,000 permanent residents compared to 50,000+ on St. Thomas, keeping its beaches and other natural wonders mostly untouched. The island is also part of the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, making it the ideal place for a little snorkeling.
After being outfitted with our snorkel gear, MJ and I jumped in to the refreshingly cool Caribbean Sea. The water was actually the perfect temperature, unlike the enormous bathtub that our beaches in Florida usually become later in the year. We spent the next hour and a half exploring the waters, coming across a few stingrays, an array of beautiful fish, and even two sea turtles that MJ named George and Fred.
|MJ enjoying the champagne during the sail back.|
We had the option of going to shore and enjoying the secluded beach, but with three catamarans anchored nearby it wasn't all that secluded any more. We decided to start the swim back toward the Champagne Cat, which was quite a work out since we were swimming against the heavy current. Thankfully, we are both strong swimmers and were able to navigate both the distance and the intimidating depths near the boat - 40 feet or so. Of course, about halfway to the boat I was wishing we had opted to let the captain bring me back from the beach in the dingy.
Sufficiently worn out and water logged, we laid our still soaking wet towels on the deck for the smooth sail back to St. Thomas. The ride back to the marina was far more peaceful than the trip out, and the sound of the sail flapping in the wind nearly lulled me to sleep. Although, that may have also been because the champagne and rum punch flowed pretty heavily once we left St. John.
|Leaving St. Thomas. The end to a great day...|
Finally, after the obligatory sales pitch for a gratuity, the crew had us back to the marina in St. Thomas. Five years after our first champagne catamaran cruise, the experience was just as great this time around. The crew were friendly and easy on the eyes, while the time on St. John was the very definition of paradise. So great, in fact, that you're likely to forget you had to risk your life in the "shuttle" in order to get there.
If you go...
- Take an underwater camera.
- Bring a snack and water for the ride over.
- Don't sit in the front, unless you want to get soaked.
Enjoy Your Stay