This web site describes our trip to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, during Christmas week 2000. This site includes a journal, mostly written by Daphne, along with almost 300 pictures mostly taken by Joel. Enjoy our travel log, and feel free to write if you have any comments (email@example.com).
This was an unplanned vacation.
Joel had been taking most of December off. He had three and half weeks vacation saved up by the beginning of December, when Lernout & Hauspie (the company that purchased his beloved Dragon Systems) went bankrupt. It seem like a good time to use up the excess vacation.
Daphne had planned to work all month. But she discovered that her office planned to close during Christmas week, so she had that whole week off. It was also school vacation, so the kids were off.
We mentioned this to my mother, who lives outside of Kansas City. She suggested that we visit her for Christmas week. We asked whether she would just take the kids, and she agreed. We then talked to the kids. We asked Ben whether he would rather visit his grandma and cousins, go to the Caribbean, or stay home for the holidays. Ben quickly answered that he wanted to go to grandma's. We asked Beth the same question, but she was more circumspect. Beth wanted to know where in the Caribbean, and wanted some time to think about it. But we did not know where, yet. So we assumed that we would send both kids to Kansas and off we went to the travel agent.
We visited the travel agent on Saturday, Dec. 16th, just one week before we wanted to take a trip. We figured that there would be some hotel room on some warm island somewhere assuming that we could get plane flights. We worked with Rebecca Wilson of Liberty Travel for three hours. After discussing it for a while, our first choice was St. John but there were no rooms available. There was one cancellation, however, at the Marriott Morningstar Beach Resort on St. Thomas so we quickly took it.
The difficult part was getting plane flights for the kids. Because they would be traveling alone, direct flights were preferable but there were no direct flights to be had any price. We tried to optimize the connection so that they would go through a city where it was unlikely to have weather or delay problems. No Chicago, no Minneapolis, no Dallas. Memphis was our first choice, but we ended up settling for Philadelphia. The kids left the same day as we did, so we had to ask a friend to see them off from the airport. They stayed a week in Kansas, so they ended up coming home two days after us.
Normally, we plan our vacations months in advance. Daphne had already started reading the travel books for our vacation to Hawaii next summer. We had a lot of work to do.
After stopping at the travel agent, and buying presents for the kids, we stopped at Barnes & Noble's to pick up travel books. Daphne spent the weekend reading up on the Virgin Islands and contacting some recommended local tour companies so we could get reservations for some day trips. (It turns out we were just in time, if we had waited until we had gotten to St. Thomas all of the good trips would have been booked.)
Since we were not going to be home for Christmas, we gave the kids their Christmas gifts early. We bought them both color Game Boys and new games to occupy them on the flights to and from Kansas. Joel had bought Daphne a keyboard for her Palm III, so she could keep her journal. Otherwise, we still had the majority of our gear from our trip to Eleuthera this spring (including one unopened tube of our favorite sun tan lotion).
Then disaster struck. We realized that we had not planned to do anything with the dog. We wanted to ask some local neighborhood friends to watch the dog during the week, but they planned on going skiing during Christmas week. So we opened the phone book and started calling kennels. Everyone was booked. Except one, and they were not really a kennel, but a training facility which also boarded the dogs overnight. We thought Kayla would be happy there since they keep the dogs at their homes and she would have a family to play with.
We stayed at the Marriott Morningstar Beach Resort, which is just south of Charlotte Amalie Harbor on St. Thomas. The Morningstar is actually part of the Marriott complex, which also includes the Frenchman's Reef Hotel. The Frenchman's Reef, is a large complex about four stories above the water, right on the point of the harbor. The Morningstar is a set of buildings right off of the beach. Each hotel has its own registration desk and restaurants, but all of the facilities are shared.
We had a beautiful room on the back side of the top floor of one of the Morningstar buildings. An ocean view would have been nice, but last-minute planners, especially during the busiest season, don't have as many options. The room was large, and well appointed. It had a nice balcony with two chairs and a table which looked back at the hill behind the hotel. But being on the third floor, and away from the ocean, it afforded some privacy.
The hotel in general, was very nice. The beach was sandy, but dropped off very quickly once you got into the water. There was also no snorkling nearby. It was a great place to watch the sunset, and cruise ships leaving the Harbor every evening. And we had no complaints. (Although, if we were going to do it again, we would probably try to get into the Sapphire Beach Resort which has a nicer beach including lots of excellent snorkeling.)
We spent five nights on the island, four and a half days of activities. As with our Eleuthera trip, our primary interest was to go snorkeling, although sightseeing, picture taking, and some shopping was also on the agenda. We had two planned trips, a kayaking/snorkeling trip on December 25th, and an all-day sailing/snorkeling trip to St. John on December 28th. The rest of the time we were our own, including our all-day excursion to St. John on December 26th.
We used taxi cabs to get around instead of renting a car. The thought of driving on those narrow windy mountain roads scared us too much. Cabs were somewhat expensive, it usually cost us around $20 for every cab ride for the two of us including tip. But after the money we spent the last minute plane tickets and hotel rooms, we were not counting every penny.
Daphne kept her journal of the trip on her Palm III handheld, using the Palm keyboard Joel had bought her for Christmas. Joel took pictures using our Kodak DC260 digital camera for the first half of the trip, and our new Canon PowerShot G1 camera for the second half. The underwater photos were taken using two Fuji and two Kodak disposable underwater cameras (one camera per snorkeling trip).
We put together this web site as soon as we got back. It took the two of us a day and a half of solid work. We were able to borrow a lot of the technology that we had previously worked out for our Eleuthera site, although some of it had to be adapted.
Click on the arrow below, to get to the start of the journal. Or click on the button labeled "Photo Index" to go directly to the pictures.
Daphne and Joel Gould
December 31, 2000
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Text and images © Copyright 2000 Joel and Daphne Gould. If there are any problems or questions email Daphne Gould.