MITSUGIRLY has a JEWEL of a time on my 1st RC cruise in years!
Day 3: St Croix
DAY 2 on the ship: St Croix!
We had never been to St Croix before and I was super excited to visit. I knew that the one thing I wanted to do was to go to Buck Island. It looked so beautiful from the pictures I had seen.
Buck Island is a small island that is uninhabited and about 176 acres. This is a protected area and a National Park. It is known for it's great reef and snorkeling area and I just knew I had to go!
Thanks to the wonderful people here on the boards, I found that there were several vendors that would take you there: Big Beards, Caribbean Sea Adventures, and Jolly Rogers.
It was next to impossible to get in touch with Jolly Rogers. No email, no return calls. Eliminated!
CSA, I had been in contact with them off and on and when I said I wanted to book, they informed me that they were already full. Ugh-Eliminated.
So that left Big Beards. Now I went back and forth about which excursion to book. They have full day and half day sails. I see a lot of people say they have had a wonderful experience with Big Beards, so I felt that I was in good hands.
However, I didn't feel too comfortable with the full excursion because of our time frame in port and the amount of travel involved. Although I try to make the most of our day any time I get the chance.
The half day trip: 9:30am-12:30pm and also 12:30pm-3:30pm. The cost is $75/pp adults, $60 for children, $22 for tots.
...goes to Buck Island and offers 2 stops. One on the beach at Turtle Beach for about 45 min-1 hour, which is supposed to be rated one of the prettiest beaches by National Geographic. The second stop involves the reef and underwater trail where you snorkel for 1 hour. They give you the guided tour for about 10 minutes and the "cut you free to explore on your own". Then you are returned to Christiansted.
The full day tour: 9:30am-3:30pm and is $105 per person/adults and $26 for children 6-12 years old and $25 for children 5 and under.
...same as above but then you go to a beach (which is back on the main land, but feels like you are on another island and is very primitive and secluded). You have a BBQ lunch here, for about 1 hr 45 min, and then you sail back to Christiansted.
So, you have to take a taxi from the cruise ship area (you meet a rep at the taxi station named Ms Gumbs). You also have to pay an extra $16/pp round trip for the taxi that is NOT included in your excursion price. Check in is at 8:30am at the taxi's and check in at Big Beards is 9am.
Note that you must prepay for this tour with Big Beards!
After considering the travel time and the return boat time was 3:30pm, add another 1/2 hour in the taxi puts us at 4pm, then more time for anything that could go wrong (with all aboard time at 4:30pm), I decided I didn't want to cut things that close and I would just do the half day tour.
I mean really when you think about it, $105 x2 + $85=$295 for the full day.
half day... $75 x2 + $60=$210.
This is a difference of $85!!! Do you really think we are going to eat $85 worth of food? It's hamburgers, hot dogs and chips with fruit and rum punch.
I decided to book the half day...then was told they were SOLD OUT! UGH! Go me for waiting for so long. Now I'm stuck with a full day.
I started frantically researching and seen someone comment about how much they enjoyed their trip with Big Beards and they had really wished that they would have done the full day sail instead and was recommending it. So, I felt a little better after that...but still nervous.
Jill at Big Beards said they would make sure that they had enough taxi's waiting for when we returned to head back to the cruise ship and we would make it on time.
So, the day had come! I knew I was going to be a nervous wreck all day, but yet trying to enjoy myself.
Monday morning and time to rise and shine at 6:30am. I was having problems sleeping...truth be known I was VERY worried about the time frame today.
I woke my family up at 7am and we were out the door by 7:15am.
Up the elevators we went to the buffet. Only this time...we noticed something...
All the elevators said "Monday" on them. Hmmm. The day before they said "Sunday" and the hubby even ask me if that might have been the previous name to the ship. LOL So now we know. They actually change them daily to say what day it is. How neat is that!
I feel like such an idiot now.
We made it to the buffet and there was hardly anyone here. That's weird. No crowd and your choice of tables to sit at. No waiting in line for food. Well this is a first.
Then I discovered it...the ABSOLUTE BEST BACON IN THE WORLD!!! Made right here on the Jewel. It was cooked PERFECT and crispy with no fat or chewy stuff and layered in the tray perfect and best part...NO BACON POLICE! Hallelujah! I had found my favorite place to be!
They also had corn beef hash! It was AMAZING <--- I'm singing that word now in my opera voice.
(Notice the potatoes and no hashbrowns discovered yet.)
Well hello there St Croix...
We were able to get off the ship right at 8am. It was a L-O-N-G pier.
We headed out and tried to find this taxi stand they said to go to.
We had to ask a few people, but found it.
The person that was working this "Christiansted Shuttle" tent was actually the person they told me to look for.
I did see little booths set up with vendors there.
We paid for our taxi and got our tickets. We were in the van and leaving by 8:28am
I'm not sure what "Welcome to Fire" means...
I did see a sign along the way that said "Free estimates for basic home repairs from hurricane". I guess the hurricane must have tagged them too?
The driver told us that the oil factory there was the second largest and owned by someone that lives in New Jersey.
I didn't really see much poverty like you do in a lot of the ports in the Caribbean.
It seemed fairly nice here.
I don't know just how many motorist have to hit a fire hydrant before you have to put up a concrete barrier around it and paint it bright red...
We are coming to a dead end...we must be here.
It took us 34 minutes to get there.
Here is Big Beard's
This was the place that you check in and they also had a little "store" inside there. You could buy drinks, beer, chips and so on to take with you on the excursion. We did buy some pop of course and a few extras. They provided some coolers with ice and you could put your things in there to keep them cold, which was nice. I just wished that I would have bought more than I did.
This is the dock area and you can see the huge sail in the air...that would be our boat.
So..I just have to comment on the "choice" of boats they have.
First- those on the half day sail are on a boat with motors and said they were speed boats.
Second-those on the full day sail are on an actual sail boat.
Ummm, shouldn't this be the other way around? Shouldn't the people that are on a full day sail be the ones with the faster boat? They are the ones pressed for time to get back and make it back to the ship on time. They actually advertise their "leisurely sail back to the dock" with their sail boat and I'm sorry, but it kinda irritated me with the thought of being late because we we're "leisurely sailing" along. We need to be in a hurry to get back when it's all over. Sigh, I'm going to give myself a heart attack thinking about this all day.
They had us wait on the dock, in the hot sun, for some reason, instead of getting on the boat and sitting down. The other 1/2 day trip was allowed to board their boat and sit to wait for them to leave.
Our crew was Mike, Kristen and Daniella. They told us a little about the history of Big Beards and how they had been in business for 40 years. The owners name was John, but there was already someone there that had a business named Big John, so he decided to name the business Big Beards...since he had a ... well... big beard. John has since retired and the business was sold off to keep the legacy going. They said John actually did look like the Big Beards picture you see on everything on their logo.
They did mention that the boat we were currently on, did get some damage by the hurricane and it tour up the front and the railing down the side and a spot in the back. So, I guess they did get some damage by the hurricane. I just really didn't hear or read much about it.
I tell you what, these little bitty girls do all the work on here. Mike is the Captain and that's what he pretty much does...drive the boat. Both of these girls were doing some heavy labor with carrying everything from food to barrels of drinks, coolers, lifting the sails...you name it. They were really working hard.
We pulled away from the dock around 9:45am and we were on our way to Buck Island.
Someone lost their boat. The crew mentioned that they had never seen it there washed up on shore before.
Buck Island was in view and I couldn't wait to see this beautiful place.
We arrived at Buck Island some time around 10:45, so it takes about an hour to get there although it sure didn't seem like that long.
It was absolutely beautiful there. The beach was gorgeous and so was the water.
Now notice in the picture where the boat is docked. Yes, it is out in the water. The steps leading down from the boat are in the middle of it. You have to climb down the steps and wade in the water to the beach. So...if you are bringing anything ashore with you, you are going to have to carry it and if you don't want it to get wet, you carry it above your head.
Immediately the mermaid was off to find her special spot to swim.
We were told that we could snorkel to the left and it's somewhat of a grassy area and then there's an awesome place to snorkel to the right where there were some rocks. Well, I wanted awesome so we went right.
The hubby brought his new snorkeling mask with him to try out. He would later use these for scuba and he needed some practice first.
We found the spot that looked like it had rocks and in we went.
I immediately spotted this little guy and I was super excited
A cute little (well not so little actually) spotted trunk fish.
Sakari found a cool snail to show me.
Daddy and Kari snorkeling
My little mermaid posing...
Well obviously the new snorkeling/scuba mask is working...he's still in the water longer than I was.
We didn't snorkel too long because quite honestly, there wasn't much to see and if that's what they considered good snorkeling, I was almost afraid of what was to come.
We did see a LOT of lobsters and I'm talking BIG lobsters. The only problem is that they hide super quick and usually the only thing you can see sticking out are their antennas. They were just everywhere and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a clear picture of them.
We also seen some squid. Also, too fast to get a picture of them because most of their time was spent running from a guy that was chasing them. Ugh!
We headed over to the left side of the boat just to see if there was anything interesting. The only thing we seen there was a huge conch shell that was crawling along the seabed way down below. There was a crab that had obviously purchased himself a new house and he was in the process of moving it to a better location.
My little mermaid seems to need to see everything up close and loves diving down.
People were starting to get back on the boat to head out to the snorkeling area.
We were ssslllooowwwlllyyy making our way back. Although there wasn't much to see as far as snorkeling, it was such a beautiful island and I could have stayed here all day.
I managed to capture an over/under picture. As you can see, nothing but sand in the area the boat was located.
I almost caught a glimpse of a mermaid under the water by the boat...but a big wave came along...darnit
Sakari found a pretty snail and wanted a picture with it.
They yelled at her to put it back and that she wasn't allowed to remove anything from this place because it was a protected National Park. Duh, we already knew this and there was a snail in it so no matter where we were at, we wouldn't have removed it. Geesh.
Around 11:44am, we were all in the boat and off we went to the snorkeling site.
The snorkeling area is just on the other side of the island. Less than 10 minutes away.
We made it to the snorkeling spot and everyone was standing in line to go down the ladder and into the water. We decided we were going to jump!!!
Sakari insisted that I go first...so I did. Now this girl jumped off a 2 story deck at Little French Key when she was 3 years old...she did it again a few years ago. All of a sudden, she has a fear of jumping off things. Last year in Aruba, she backed out of going on this little baby zip line (IMO). Now she was afraid of jumping off a boat!
But eventually she did jump and was super happy about it.
Hubby decided he would climb down the stairs. Jumping isn't his thing because of his eardrums...or lack there of.
We met up with him. I forgot to mention...you HAVE to wear snorkeling life jackets. It's the rule there (so they said). However, you don't have to blow them up. Just as long as you have them on is fine. I struggle with this with Sakari because she absolutely refuses to wear them and has such a fit about it. But, once she was informed that she didn't have to blow it up, she was good. Mermaids Must Be Able To Dive!
They had some life jackets with words wrote on it. They gave the hubby one that said Married and I got one that said "I'm his".
I looked down and seen this...
We were told to follow the "leaders" and they were going to take us on the "tour". I tried to stay back as far as I can. I'm not a fan of getting kicked in the face by those that kicked like they got some place to be. That's not snorkeling. You have to glide along so that you do not disturb the sealife...otherwise they hide!
There were little "markers" on the seafloor that told you things. The only problem was, it told you various types of fish...which were nowhere to be found.
My little mermaid was ahead of me. She decided to only wear her tail and not take the time to put the entire "getup" on.
We came up and around this corner and I got this really weird feeling. Do you guys notice anything?
The entire seafloor looked like a dead coral graveyard. It was super weird and super spooky looking. I didn't know what to think. Did someone gather up all the dead coral and decide to dump it here? Did a hurricane destroy it? What is going on? This is supposed to be a protected area and it looked dead!!
Pink bubbles? What the heck?
As we kept going, we did start to see more coral, but there really wasn't many fish in the area. I was sorta disappointed at what I was seeing...or lack there of.
There are a lot of places that the coral is so close to the top of the water and you had to be careful. I guess that's why you needed to stay on the path.
More stacks of dead coral
This is seriously just weird...
"The field of the dead"
This is like a scene from a movie of a mermaid trying to find her friends in the forbidden valley of death. I'm expecting a sea monster to come bursting out of the dead coral. It was just so eerie.
At one point we got near the end and they ask us if we wanted to go beyond the path and head out to the ocean...um...ok. So, we did and got about 20' out from the path and they said "ok, you can turn around now...there's no way out". What the heck? What was the point in that?
Hey look...there's actually a fish down here!
And a few more parrot fish.
At one point, my hubs started tugging at me and pointing. I'm trying to figure out what the heck he is looking at. We came up to conversate. He said with so much enthusiasm in his voice "Did you see that blue fish???? It has TEETH!!!" I'm really not sure what type of look I had on my face at that point but I'm pretty sure I took a big gulp of water from laughing at his "parrot fish" story. Sigh. He really must get out more.
Not sure what setting my camera ended up on, but I liked this picture anyhow.
When we got back to the beginning, they cut us loose and told us that we were free to explore on our own. So off we went exploring with Sakari in the lead.
Check out this rock (at least I think it was a rock/coral). It looked just like a fish or eel coming up out of the bottom of the ocean. I stared at it for awhile and it didn't move. I assume it was just a fish rock. Or maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me because of the horror of a coral graveyard I had experienced.
Ok so...I'm thinking National Park=awesome snorkeling. I had seen a few pictures online prior to coming here and I thought they looked pretty decent. I had high expectations upon arrival and I was picturing something similar to my snorkeling experience at Rendezvous Caye in Belize. That was AMAZING! Or even our fairly shallow scuba dive in Roatan. But, I was pretty disappointed at this point. Hardly any fish and if there was any fish...it was your normal "everyday fish" like the parrot fish or blue surgeons.
I had lost all hope...and then...Sakari and daddy spotted this beauty!!!!!!!
HE WAS HUGE!! Like the biggest I have seen so far.
Here's a video...while some may claim my photographs are good, I have never claimed to be good at taking videos. Actually I suck. LOL
And once again, somehow I ended up with a green video. My hand goes back and forth changing the settings all the time and sometimes I forget which setting to put it on and end up with the wrong one.
My husband kept tugging at me and made me go up for yet another conversation. He said he was worried that we were spending too much time around the eel and it was going to piss him off and he was going to come after us and eat us alive! He wanted to go and get out of that area. Sigh. I must have taken about 20 pictures or more of it and about 10 videos. I wanted to make sure I got this picture!
So, move along we did and then the next big surprise came along...
WOW, there was a huge group of blue surgeons everywhere. Sakari thought she could blend in and swim as one of them.
It was amazing. They went on forever. I have only experienced this once and that was our scuba diving in Roatan 4+ months ago. It's definitely an amazing site to see!
Something crawling, inching along like a caterpillar, caught my eye...it was one of the fire devil worms from hell. We have learned our lesson about them years ago. It's not a cute little fuzzy caterpillar. It's the devil.
Hey, one of those fish with teeth!
Just look at them! Isn't it the most beautiful thing!
A school of yellow striped grunts
They were signaling us to come back to the boat and we started to head that way.
According to my camera time stamp, we were snorkeling for about 40 minutes.
Back on the boat where I was confronted by another guy that said "Hey, you're mine!" and pointed at his jacket. His jacket said I'm hers and mine said I'm his. I was almost sure they had told me mine went with the hubbys that said "Married". I would leave the boys to battle it out for my love and take a seat in the back of the boat.
Now one thing Big Beards does is count and count again. They make sure they have everyone. There's 3 staff members and they all have to count everyone on the boat. They all have to count the same amount of people. If it's not, they recount again and go looking for those that are missing. We had 2 missing when they thought everyone was on the boat. They were still in the water. I guess it's a good thing they count.
We zoomed off and across the island we went.
There was an "extra" guy on the boat with us. He had came with the other morning group that was the 1/2 day sail. After they were done, he took a group of ours to do the snorkeling (I guess we had more people on our sail).
So he sat on the very back of the boat and we went through this little channel.
Then he did this...(video-sorry, at this point my camera was fogging from being in the cool water and now the heat)
I have no idea where he was going.
They served rum punch on the ride back. I swear every rum punch I have had taste different and looks different. Why is rum punch such a big thing in the Caribbean. Every excursion I have been on serves this stuff. It's not really my favorite I have to say. Maybe it's just very cheap to make for everyone.
(Sakari doesn't appear happy back there...she's never happy when we have to get out of the water).
Here's the back of the boat. This time around when you went down the steps and to the water, it was a pretty big drop. The water went up to your neck. Not an easy thing to do holding your bags and trying to keep them from getting wet.
We came to the beach area that we were going to have lunch. It wasn't the prettiest beach.
There was a lot of seaweed on the beach and in the water. But, that's mother nature and you can't control it.
Now I know some that have been on this excursion say they went to a private island and others have corrected them to say it's actually back on the main land. It is very primitive. I can understand why they think they are on another island. There's absolutely nothing around here but the beach and a little set up for this excursion.