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Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Travel discussion for St. John

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Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby gardengal » Wed Jun 28, 2017 2:17 pm

I know that change happens but for the love of doG I never expected the changes we encountered on our 12 day trip. First off what happened to the nice quiet beaches? The beaches you could just take a book and sit in the water and read? The privacy of having your own little slice of the beach under the shade? Taking your time in the morning and hitting the beach after breakfast and assured a parking spot? The no music on the beach? What happened to the beautiful coral and fish? And PLEASE tell me why someone would set up their towels RIGHT next to your beach chair or in front of you blocking the view when there is a WHOLE beach available?

Just returned from our 12 day trip and I'm exhausted. I felt like I was on spring break in Florida. Holy hell!!!! Gone is the peace and quiet we all loved. Replaced is crowds of people who belong on the Jersey shore (not all of them obviously) but many. *as a side note we took the parents to the Beach Bar mid week at noon and our view was a VERY drunk guy throwing up over the side of a boat, while the crowd cheered him on* It WAS NOON!! Hell,I don't even pour a glass of wine that early.

We rented a fancy north shore villa for a week and the pressure to get out the door in the morning to get parking or a spot on the beach is the opposite of what I want on vacation. After the week at the villa we checked into Caneel Bay and found the quiet and peace we remember from long ago. Sadly, too late and truth be told I was ready to go home at the end of our stay, a first for me.

Perhaps I'm not progressive enough for the change or tolerant enough, but our lives are busy beyond belief and I don't want rushing and crowds when I'm on vacation. We've vacationed all over Asia and Africa and we always said St. John has our heart over all other places, sadly- no more.

We will bow out of our beloved Island and make room for others to experience their own St. John.

To interject some positive, we enjoyed our EARLY a.m. snorkel around Waterlemon Cay x2 and our early beach walk/snorkel around the Island on Cinnamon Beach. The sea fans and soft coral were amazing, as was the NO people on the beach. ;) See- jaded. Plus snorkeling off Scotts Beach was incredible, like the St. John I remember.
Last edited by gardengal on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby Exit Zero » Wed Jun 28, 2017 7:06 pm

I sympathize with your assessment of the way STJ has changed -- but you can only imagine my impression of the current conditions that are prevalent now there.
I moved to the VI in 1975 and for many years STJ was a frequent welcome respite for a day, a weekend or longer both on island or on the boat - despite my $1.50 VI Senior ferry fare I have only been to STJ once in the last year.
Met friends at Caneel for lunch -- which was excellent.
I have heard the moniker "Saint Martha's" a lot more of late but not the Jersey shore comparisons.A lot of people sure seem to like STJ the way it is now though!
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby iheartsj » Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:46 am

I live here and the increase in tourists in just the past couple years is amazing. This past high season I had a sense of being in an amusement park due to the crowds. After my last trip to Maho, I swore I would never go again except in Sept - Oct. I avoid Cruz Bay as much as possible. Too many drunks.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby gardengal » Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:53 am

Exit Zero wrote:I sympathize with your assessment of the way STJ has changed -- but you can only imagine my impression of the current conditions that are prevalent now there.
I moved to the VI in 1975 and for many years STJ was a frequent welcome respite for a day, a weekend or longer both on island or on the boat - despite my $1.50 VI Senior ferry fare I have only been to STJ once in the last year.
Met friends at Caneel for lunch -- which was excellent.
I have heard the moniker "Saint Martha's" a lot more of late but not the Jersey shore comparisons.A lot of people sure seem to like STJ the way it is now though!


Exit Zero, my father in law who is 83 just came back to the islands for the first time since 78. He lived on STT for years as he use to be an air traffic controller on STT when the houses were at the end of the now runway. However, he expected changes obviously, and wasn't surprised.

You are correct in your observation that a lot of people like how STJ is now, A LOT of people from the crowds. Really, it's all good as we all vacation different and what is my bad vacation is another's dream vacation. Many will have the trip of a lifetime and that is a good thing.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby equineannie » Thu Jun 29, 2017 4:43 pm

Head to Virgin Gorda, Tortola, Dominica, Curacao, Bonaire. There are so many nice, quieter islands to visit in the Caribbean. I lived on St John and St Thomas, I don't go back to visit.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby david@va.beach » Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:44 pm

social media and the mega houses that followed are a bad combination for stj.. you can't undo this unfortunately..
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby Pickle » Sat Jul 01, 2017 6:34 pm

I'm sorry to hear you didn't find the peace that you were looking for. Compared to Exit Zero, we are newbies :) - but we've been visiting St. John annually (well, until this year) for 15+ years. While it's easy to say changes are inevitable, when you see them happen to places that you hold dear to your heart, I understand it gets more personal and emotional. It does to me, too.

For us, personally, the charm and the beauty that St. John offers are still there. Even with the changes and the adjustments that we might have to make mentally and physically, we still gravitate to St. John. That's not to say we will never change. I hope not. I know some used-to-be regular visitors who have steered away from St. John and found other places. Sad that I don't see them on St. John any more but I'm glad that they are happy with their new paradises. Each to their own... we all better have places like that in our lives wherever they might be.

Speaking for myself, it's killing me that we might not be able to visit St. John this year. While knowing it is a long shot, I still find myself checking airfares and looking at possible accommodations for this off-season... it's rather pathetic. :(

By the way, I think you've mentioned that you've been to Croatia. We had a great time in Zagreb this past April. We could see and feel the old and new mingled around the city. There were quite a few tourists so I imagine the city has changed drastically since you were there. We also enjoyed our time in the charming little Baroque town of Varazdin. Really wish we'd had more time in Croatia.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby gardengal » Sat Jul 01, 2017 8:34 pm

Pickle, so glad you enjoyed Croatia, we went right after the war when they were just starting to rebuild and get tourists it was out of this world amazing. On a funny side not there were not even menus in several of the restaurants in Zagreb. Croatia is where I learned to LOVE red wine, oh the nights we had.

We did not have a terrible time, just a rushed not relaxed time. The beauty of the island will always be there, nothing can change that. Perhaps we'll go back again, who knows. Right now life is just so busy and there are a lot of Asian countries we've not been too. So that is next on the list. Or perhaps Morocco, Jordon, South Africa- it's a big world out there and I need to expand my horizons.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby hawksnestbay » Sun Jul 02, 2017 12:46 pm

"That place is no good, everybody goes there."
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby 54b » Sun Jul 02, 2017 8:13 pm

Been doing a lot of thinking about this topic and also have posted several thoughts on the other forum but thought I'd add here as I have a ton of respect for the people who frequent this forum and appreciate their opinions...

I've been going to STJ since 2003 and have had the good fortune to visit every year except for one since 2009. Truth be told, I haven't experienced quite the negative reactions to the purported increase in tourists and less than cordial atmosphere. And that may be for myriad reasons such as staying mostly on the Coral Bay side, my wife and I are early risers, I enjoy being around a lot of people, etc.

Personally and perhaps a bit naively, I'm hoping this is just another phase (or confluence of events and factors) in the evolution of an island that has for many years depended greatly on tourism. And I'm sure it has not been lost on anyone that there is a new, very large generation (Millennials or Gen Y) coming of age that, at least according to studies, seeks out more active, eco-friendly destinations, or at least a greater proportion of it do than that of previous generations. And we certainly see those dynamics at play here stateside where several long time restaurants and retail institutions have diminished or thrived depending on the attitudes and buying habits of the generation with the most buying power. And it appears that STJ is one of those places that happens to resonate with the next generation and that likely plays a large role in the influx of visitors.

That said, there is one dynamic that, as long it remains, gives me faith that STJ will remain a place that the majority of us frequent visitors and newcomers who "get it" fall in love with over and over again. And that is the fact that it's not only a very unique destination, but also a very unique vacation - one that requires a relatively great deal more effort, planning and resilience that the typically Caribbean jaunt. It's not and presumedly never will be like the all-inclusive, barely lift a finger vacations that more often than not are sought after by the majority of travelers seeking a stress-free escape from the rat race back home. If you want to have the time of your life on STJ, you've got to work for it. No cruise director or concierge is going to deliver it to you as a part of a turn-key experience promised in the brochure. And for those that do want it bad enough, it's extremely fulfilling, bordering on addictive. In many ways, if you love STJ, you won't truly love vacationing a lot of other places and if you truly love vacationing other places, you probably won't truly love STJ.

Moreover, I've been trying to read up on the modern history of the island and have read about times when the number of visitors diminished due to economic or weather factors (hurricanes), when the the local population suffered due to the lack of tourist dollars. It's unfortunate that there seems to be such a narrow margin of what constitutes an ideal amount of growth and visitors and to some extent, the comportment of said visitors. (Rudeness is obviously never to be tolerated.) Seems to be a love-hate relationship for which there will never be a true reconciliation nor solution that works for all and that's okay. That's life.

Bottom line, I would imagine the number of visitors to STJ will continue to steadily grow because well, the Earth's population continues to grow. But the popularity of the island will likely also continue to ebb and flow like the tide and be just as out of our collective control as it always has been. It certainly sounds like it's in vogue now, but I would imagine it will at some point experience a downturn in popularity as trends are just as fickle as the people who create and follow them. It just won't be on a timetable we can predict nor speed up.

The one thing you can control is you and as said above, you have two choices: embrace it for what it is or go elsewhere. To each their own. If we respect the choices and opinions of others just as fervently as we celebrate the fact that we at least still have the choice (and hopefully the means) to visit STJ, I think we're all going to be okay and STJ is too.

Good thread.
It’s not about yesterday or tomorrow...It’s about today, for come what may – Sun, rain, or hurricane – we've only time for a smile, and none for sorrow
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby Stella7474 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:32 pm

Well said 54B - we have been visitors to St John for only 6 years and now try and get there a couple times a year. We have seen the change in that short amount of time - but we adjust...just like life. We now have to book our accommodations almost as soon as we come home or risk not getting our "special place" but we adjust. We may have to tolerate more people on the beach - but we adjust. We might need to plan a little more than before for dinners - but we adjust.

Just like in life...we adjust.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby RickG » Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:48 am

I put this elswhere, apologies to those who have read it, reposting as it hits the theme:

"Off-Season" St. John?

For the last five or so years St. John has been busy year round. We've visited during the usual quiet months and see busy beaches and a busy Cruz Bay. Contrast that with the SVIs and BVIs where restaurant closings are starting in July and you can go a day without seeing another boat in September. This former little eco island has become a safe and familiar destination.

I wondered why a couple of years ago as I sat at Cruz Bay Landing across from the ferry wharf on a September week day. The place was full and other restaurants and bars were hopping. Kids were streaming off of the ferry after school, while tradesmen with their tools were headed back to St. Thomas. Fewer restaurants were closing for the off-season every year. Why? In the 90s we would end up at a fish fry or eat at the villa because all of the restaurants were closed in September - all of them.

What has changed in the last ten years is the continued and consistent NY Times, Washington Post and major media coverage of the island and its National Park. I expect Kenny Chesney had a big impact on his demographic during his St. John phase. The same three or so books on St. John are still in print and the major travel guides still only give St. John a couple of pages in their Virgin Islands/Caribbean guide books. The Cruising Guides (for sailors and boaters) give a cursory treatment. There is a lot of content on the web about St. John, but it is quite mixed. No resource keeps up with the dynamic changes. I don't see a single answer that points to the off-season's demise on St. John.

We've been in the Francis/Maho Bay NPS anchorage for five days. Just relaxing and hanging out with friends. Maybe what makes a difference is what I do not see: no hotels or condos, crowds, beach bars... its a BYO scene. The only amenities are moorings and parking. This is still my own favorite place in the world.

Cheers, RickG
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby dctac » Sat Aug 26, 2017 7:29 pm

I still love ST John.... and always will..... know where to go...........Great thread...........
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby BillVT » Sun Aug 27, 2017 10:01 am

I expect my attitude on this is a component of my age (late 60’s). I have been around long enough to know that change is inevitable and sometimes regrettable but always unavoidable. While it would be wonderful if St. John’s march into the future had stopped the moment we all had set foot on and discovered it for ourselves, that is not how life works. I live in a rural community on an island somewhat the size of St. John. Over the years because of increased population and advancements in transportation, our community has been discovered and people have moved in for its’ beauty and access to a large body of water. Many of our new residents are not quite prepared for a rural life, being more accustomed to suburban or urban living. Rural people tend to do for themselves and live with less services which can be difficult for some to adapt to, lacking a tradition of passing on skills that make rural life possible. I once bemoaned this to my late father in law who was a farmer and state legislator who’s family had farmed the same square mile of land since before statehood. He said to me, “You can’t come to a place and shut the door behind you. The world is growing and EVERYBODY must learn to adapt.”

So when I think about St. John, I think about what my father in law said. We are timeshare people. We come to St. John every year at the same time in late March. It is busier now than it was twenty years ago when we first started coming. But we love St. John. We love the view from our villa and we have adapted. We use the parking lot at Maho instead of parking on the beach. We leave early to go to the popular beaches and are willing to hike into beaches that are less crowded. We make reservations. We remember the old days but accept the inevitability of change. Our children were cute when they were born. Now they are fascinating adults.
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Re: Oh the changes in St. John from 8 years ago...

Postby hoosierdaddy » Mon Aug 28, 2017 11:47 am

Wow what a terrible trip you had. Things really have changed since we were on island in March 2017. We never had a bad day and it sounds like every day of your trip was pure hell. Hope you find an island that is more to your liking.
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