We’re currently on back to back cruises with Carnival. We’re doing the Eastern Caribbean & Western Caribbean itineraries during consecutive weeks. We booked this vacation about a year ago so we get to stay in the same cabin for both weeks. It’s nice to unpack once and just settle in for a while.
The arrival into St. Thomas is a beautiful site. The water is that perfect shade of Caribbean blue which is impossibly beautiful. My kids commented on more than one occasion that the scenery looked like a painting.
We arrived in St. Thomas at 11 a.m. The departure time was 6 p.m. Unfortunately, the excursion didn’t start until 1:30 p.m. After a couple of hours of walking around the port shopping area we were ready for a nap, not the beginning of an excursion. The port shopping area, while large, is comprised mainly of jewelry stores and souvenir shops. If that’s your thing, you’ll be happy. If you want a little more variety, you’ll be mostly disappointed. We looked for a local place to have lunch, but ended up at Hooters. There just wasn’t much variety. If you want Chinese food in St. Thomas, you’re in luck, though. In our short time at the port, I counted 4 Chinese restaurants and 1 sushi place. The Hooters by the way, was dingy. The service, however, was great.
Back to the excursion…..
We headed back to the boat at 1 p.m. and the excursion started boarding soon after. We headed to St. John on a large ferry type boat called the Island Girl. We sat upstairs in the open-air area on the way there and the views were stunning.
The unofficial tour guide was a Miami transplant and he entertained us with St. Thomas and St. John history during the 45-minute ride there. Once we got to St. John it was time for what Carnival describes as an “open air safari taxi” for a “relaxing ride” to Trunk Bay.
This “safari taxi” is a pick up truck with the bed cut off and bench seats added. There is a roof. There are minimal sides to this “taxi,” so you feel like you are going to fall out. The “relaxing ride” consists of driving on what we consider the “wrong” (left) side of the road up and down hills on a two-lane road. To add to that relaxing feeling, is a steep drop off on the left side of the road. If you have a fear of heights like I do, don’t sit on the left side of the bus and certainly not on an end seat. You’ll spend the “5-minute” ride (more like 15) staring down and imaging yourself and your family plummeting to your death. If you like a little adventure, you’ll love this ride. The edge of the road is pictured below. There is no guardrail and you’ll be within 3 feet of this edge during most the of the ride.
During the drive you will some breathtaking views of various St. John beaches. They are truly spectacular.
Trunk Bay is located in a state park. Expect the parking lot to be filled with the so-called safari taxis. It’s a quick walk in where you’ll be greeted by a tour employee giving you some information. Don’t take anything from the park, don’t litter, and most definitely DO NOT feed the seagulls.
I should mention that by now, it is 3 p.m. We left the dock by the Carnival Magic at 1:40. We had to be back on the safari taxi at 4:20 p.m. They will tell you at 4 p.m. to get out of Trunk Bay at 4 p.m. so you can repeat the transportation sequence for the ride back to the boat. You will do this math while you listen to the information person and you’re antsy to just get in the water already.
Finally you’re set free and are immediately greeted by what can only be called the “Snorkel Nazi.” He’s the Soup Nazi’s twin. Obviously working in paradise isn’t enough for him. He will question whether you need an air vest or not. And god help you if you don’t follow his instructions about which bucket to rinse in when you return the gear. Don’t worry, if you have several sets of snorkel gear to juggle, he won’t help you at all. He’ll glare and bark instructions at you. This guy was enough to make me want to ask for my $75 per person back. Speaking of the $75, this is basically a transportation fee. The national park costs $5 per adult to enter, and children under 16 are admitted for free. Other than transportation there and snorkel gear, you are on your own. There is no guide, no beach chair or umbrella, no lunch and no drinks. They take you there and you’re on your own for a little over an hour.
Snorkel gear in hand, you will walk a short distance to the beach. You will be greeted by the softest, smoothest white sand imaginable. Then you’ll see the water. It is so clear and green you’ll swear it is a swimming pool disguised as a beach.
It’s simply magnificent. About now, you’ll be glad you hauled yourself to one of the top 10 beaches in the world. The water is clean, clear, cool and especially salty. Although there were hundreds of people there when we were there, it didn’t feel crowded at all.
My kids and husband went snorkeling and they enjoyed it. It was a little windy which made swimming with the air vests slightly difficult, but they saw some interesting fish. You won’t see any fish if you are just in beach part. They are over by the big rock/reef area. My youngest, who is 5, had no trouble with the snorkeling part, so if your kid can swim, they should be able to get the hang of it.
At 4 p.m. they will let everyone know it is time to go. There are showers to wash off in and they were fairly easy to get. There is also an area to wash your feet. On the way back, the taxi guy stopped so we could take some scenic pictures.
Some random info you may want to know about: there are two lifeguard stations; there is a bar and a snack bar; you can rent chairs; there are bathrooms and showers. On the boat ride there, they sell water and soda for $2. On the boat ride back, they add beer to their offerings ($3 a can and $4 for bottles.)
Overall, it was a nice hour at a beautiful beach. If you’ve never been there, it’s a sight to see. Would I pay $75 per adult and $60 per child again for a ride to the beach for an hour. Nope. Would I find another way to get there and spend more time in the water? Absolutely!