St. John, USVI

US Virgin Islands National Park in St. John

If you’ve ever taken a ship’s tender into a port, most likely you’ve either joined the rush hour to get ashore early or waited onboard until you thought that everyone who was going ashore, went ashore. Gathering up your beach towel and water bottle, you make your way down to Deck 1 or 2 to cautiously step aboard a bobbing life boat to get to the port. Much to your chagrin there are at least fifty people ahead of your who shared your avoid-the-crowd strategy.

At 9am, I gather up my camera and water bottle, walk down four flights of stairs and snake my way through the corridor to the gangway exit. Immediately I think I’ve made a wrong turn because I’m the only one in the gangway. With a crew member holding my elbow, I gingerly step onto the lifeboat (tender) and see maybe two dozen people already seated. The Journey is running the tenders back and forth continously throughout the day so there is barely any waiting and we are on our way to the pier in St. John.

St. John is practically one big U.S. National Park, and contained therein lies the aptly named the Virgin Islands National Park. The Park Service office is at the dock on your immediate left. To the right as you exit the dock area is the ferry to St. Thomas. A 20 minute ferry ride takes you to Red Hook on the east end of St. Thomas. A 45-minute ferry ride gets you to the city of Charlotte Amalie. For a little bit of history about St. John, I suggest a brief stop at the Park Service Visitor’s Center. The trail head to the various park beaches is accessible directly in back of the Visitor’s Center. The path takes you along a meandering tropical trail, traversing high plateaus overlooking the white sand beaches and sparkling aquamarine water. Off-trail paths lead downhill to various beaches. My advice: bring a towel, wear walking shoes, stay on the path and bring water as there aren’t any cafes or vending machines. Facilities are limited to restrooms.

If you don’t feel like hiking, there is always shopping. Despite the fact that it was Easter Sunday,

Shopping mall across from dock

the tourist shops adjacent to the port area were open. Simply turn left out of the dock area, walk along the narrow sidewalk about twenty yards and you’ll come upon the shopping mall. Nestled under a canopy of trees, if you don’t feel like shopping, it is a nice place to sit and relax in the shade.

My mission accomplished – checking out the Visitor’s Center and the shopping mall – I returned to the dock, hopped onto my awaiting tender and headed back to my ship in time for lunch.

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