During the heydey of the pandemic, I was nominated to be one of the 100,000 Healthcare Workers to receive a pair of of roundtrip flight certificates offered by JetBlue. I almost forgot about the expiration dates, if it weren’t for a reminder in the middle of a random ER shift one day that I had less than 2 months to use them before they’d be gone for good.
Scrambling to find worthy and safe locations to travel to with my weekend off in May, I concluded that the single-digit, low % rate of COVID-19 infections in the US Virgin Islands the past month was even safer than the rapidly decreasing rates in my own hometown of a very vaccinated Manhattan (which I feel has been the safest place to be in the entire country since last April).
I feel that even if I were to stay on the mainland, there are more than plenty maskless states down south that would be better off for a post-pandemic visit instead. And if I were to travel solo and spend most of my time in COVID-19 approved properties and outdoors, I should remain safe especially as a fully vaccinated individual. Can I recharge by travel still if I do it as responsibly as possible?
So here were my first steps in re-emerging into travel in 2021:
1. Ensure that the local infection rates of both the place of origin and destination are similarly low. It’s important that wherever you’re flying from is low in terms of infection rates (aka no outbreaks or single digit prevalence), that you’ve ideally stayed there for at least 10-14 days without symptoms and tested negative for COVID-19 right before departure so you know that you haven’t carried over an infection from somewhere else. Make sure you then choose to depart into areas with low infection rates, just as is the case regarding NYC and USVI, so you maintain that “travel bubble.”
2. Clear with any local laws regarding screening. Namely, USVI has a COVID-19 specific travel portal where you have to legally (and ethically!) clear your arrival before your trip.
3. Choose a flight that would be most likely be as empty as possible — how about a flight at a nearly civilized departure time of 6:40am in the morning?
4. Minimize the layovers. The danger is less on the plane, which cycles and filters out air more often than most land-based offices, trains, and subways. Instead, there is more of a danger in older and crowded airports, which variables you can control for much less than on a plane (for as long as it flies, it filters). We landed at STT after a 3 hour direct flight at 10:00am.
Before entering arrivals, they check if you have the pre-approval QR code that lets you bypass all the health checks. If you happen to forget, you go through another line requiring testing, temperature checks and questionnaires.
Welcome to the USVI!
5. Stay outdoors: Promptly headed out into downtown for a 10 minute, $8 per person taxi ride ($2 per bag in the trunk) right outside arrivals. Private taxis to downtown cost $55.
6. After a 10 minute drive into downtown, checked in our bags and picked up ferry tickets for the QE IV Ferry at Blyden Terminal for $60 USD per person one way to Saint Croix.
Then spent the next 4 hours exploring Charlotte Amalie (about a 10-15 minute walk from the ferry terminal) and nachos at open-air The Green House Bar & Restaurant.
Make sure wherever you go, return no later than 2:45pm as the boat promptly sets out at 3:00pm. They’re strict with enforcing the mask policy here.
Enjoy the bumpy 2 hour and 20 minute ride across the sea! They provide vomit bags for every row, and even advise you that “it’s normal to vomit” on the intercom and plead that you go outside if it happens.
We docked at Gallows Bay at 5:10pm EST.
Then walking over across town towards our lodgings at Sugar Apple Bed and Breakfast, we checked ourselves in for the night without having to encounter anyone (all our check-in details were provided by text).
So far I haven’t had any suspicion of coming into contact with a superspreader event.
I also highly recommend dinner at the intimate vegan-friendly plant based Ital Paradise:
It’s also where I would have my first time drinking juice made from a cashew apple!
The next morning we set off to explore Saint Croix, the largest island of the USVI complex. Starting in the capital city of Christiansted itself . . .
. . . we then walked around the Christiansted National Historic Site, a waterfront park featuring the landmark 18th-century Fort Christiansvaern and a warehouse where Alexander Hamilton worked as an orphan before moving to New York.
We then picked up a rental car at Centerline, contemplating a drive west to Carambola Beach Resort St. Croix where a 2 hour hike begins out to the Annally Tide Pools.
If you’re less inclined for a strenuous hike, consider laying out on Rainbow Beach instead:
Nearby the beach about a 3 minute drive south lies Fort Frederik located in the “second town” of Frederiksted.
Frederiksted is also somewhat of a ghost town when we visited:
After a lunch at Polly’s at the Pier here (while casually watching a 20 something year old spend a nearly an entire hour asking someone out on a date), we returned east driving by the also currently shuttered Estate Whim Sugar Mill:
Finally driving all the way east towards Goat Hill you can reach the easternmost point of the United States of America: Point Udall.
It’s designed so that at noon, wherever this sundial of a structure points with its shadow, it’s the truth north:
Don’t miss the curiously named Very Long Baseline Array Telescope either on the way there or back.
We finally finished our long day around the island back at Christiansted with dinner at Too. Chez:
…and is that a Blockbusters?!
The next morning we took out breakfast arepas at Toast Diner by the Christiansted boardwalk.
Then during breakfast, Kelly and her son Dylan stopped by to say hi! Both residents of Saint Croix, they hollered when they noticed on my IG stories that I was in the area. Nice to meet you both and thanks again for the dolphin poop Dylan!
After chatting and having them walk me over to the seaplane terminal at the end of the boardwalk, I boarded the 10:40am Seaborne Airlines seaplane to the main capital city island of Saint Thomas for $140 USD one way per person.
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- At time of posting in Saint Croix, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 65% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy