While there’s so much to share about our 2020 summer trip to St. John and the USVI, the most important topic and one I’m sure that’s on everyone’s mind is – what’s it like traveling to the Virgin Islands during the covid-19 pandemic.
I can start off by saying that it’s definitely different, a tad annoying at times, but not as horrible as one may think. You just have to get use to the new norms and the little inconveniences such as remembering to bring a face mask with you everywhere. It sounds easy enough, but you’d be surprised how a tiny, mandatory accessory can put so much pressure on you, especially when you think you’ve lost it (but you really just misplaced it) or forgot it in your villa.
To avoid such socially stressful moments, we did a mask roll call to make sure that everyone in our party had a face mask on them before we set off for the days adventure.
During our trip, the USVI Covid-19 protocols were pretty laxed compared to other islands. Though recently there has been discussions, there is no mandatory testing before arriving on island. That all could change in a matter of seconds since this pandemic has made life even more unpredictable and ever changing. You can always keep up with the latest info on the USVI here.
(Update: Starting July 15, the USVI will require a negative antigen Covid-19 test within five (5) days of travel OR a positive antibody test taken within four (4) months prior to travel from any state with a positive rate of 10% or higher)
Even though things can and will most likely change (as you can see above), we’d like to share with you our experience on what it was like to travel during the Covid-19 pandemic. Make sure your seat belts are buckled, your serving trays up, and seats are in the upright and locked position – It’s time to take off to paradise corona style.
AIRPORTS AND FLIGHTS
We flew out of Miami to St. Thomas on American Airlines. Surprisingly, the Miami airport wasn’t packed, and going through the security line was a breeze. Masks had to be worn at all times in the airport and during the flight (except when eating or drinking). This was the longest duration of the trip with having to wear a mask (about 5- 6 hours).
I (Castaway Crystal) have to wear a mask all day at work, so I was somewhat use to it. Ryan on the other hand, works from home, so this was a whole new experience for him. Undoubtedly he handled it like the respectful traveler that he is.
Restaurants at the Miami International Airport were at a limited capacity. Not every table was being used so patrons could be at a safe distance away from each other.
Although the airport seemed empty, our flight with American Airlines was full. The middle seats were being used. I had the joy of flying in the middle seat to and from the islands. How does Ryan get so lucky with the window seat?
There was no cart service during our flights – sorry, no alcoholic beverages will be severed to kick off your vacation during covid. Instead, when you board the plane, you’re given a little bag with a small water, pretzels and a small hand sanitizer packet. I felt the plane was cleaner than normal. You can smell hand sanitizer and disinfectant in the air.
Don’t forget, TSA is allowing passengers to bring one 12 ounce bottle of hand sanitizer along in their carry-on.
The flight attendants aren’t messing around when it comes to wearing a face mask. We learned this when a woman behind us said she had a condition and refused to wear one. There was a bit of an argument between the passenger and flight attendant. The passenger claimed she called American Airlines to confirm that she didn’t have to wear a mask due to her condition. That still wasn’t enough for the flight attendant, and she told the passenger that she needed paperwork.
So just an FYI, if you don’t want to get into a fight with a flight attendant, confirm with your airline if you do or do not need paperwork if you’re trying to fly without a mask due to health conditions.
Upon arrival to St. Thomas, we exited the plane and proceeded to get in line for a health screening. This had to be done before we could enter the terminal. It was a quick and easy two-step process and the questions were extremely simple.
Step one, they asked us the following questions: “Have you been near anyone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last 14 days?”. “Do you have any flu-like symptoms today?”.
Step two, they took our temperature with an infrared forehead thermometer.
When we passed the health screening and entered the terminal, it was a bit sad to see that instead of handing out Cruzan Rum samples like they usually do, they were handing out face masks. Oh covid, you’re such a buzzkill.
TAXIS AND FERRIES
Taxis are at a limited capacity. On our way to the Red Hook Ferry, it was the four of us and one other couple in a van that could probably fit 15 passengers. And on the way back to the airport, it was just our party of four in another van that could hold 14 – 15 passengers. That is something you never see. If you’re familiar with island travel, you know how taxis are usually filled to the gills with eager vacationers.
We adored our Taxi driver, Calvin, who drove us back to the airport. He gave us the scenic route and it gave us time to learn a little about him, his business and his wife. As we paid Calvin for our ride, he asked if we’d keep him in our prayers. Calvin, if you see this, we are still praying for you friend!
The ferry is not at a limited capacity, but you must keep your mask on at all times whether you’re riding inside or outside on the top deck. Eating and drinking is not allowed and you’ll receive a squirt of hand sanitizer before you climb aboard. At the ferry terminal, they tried their best to social distance with putting taped lines on the ground, but it’s pretty much impossible and people were still very close to each other in line.
ON ISLAND – ST. JOHN
No quarantine required (unless you test positive for Covid on island), but the USVI is on a mandatory “no mask, no service” policy. Every time you enter an establishment (grocery store, restaurant, gift shop, etc.), face masks must be on. Though not mandatory, locals would appreciate it if you’d wear a face mask while walking around Cruz or Coral Bay as well.
You do not have to wear a face mask on the beach (talk about the worst tan line ever), but do your best to social distance from other beach goers.
We had two wonderful beach days on Maho and Honeymoon Beach. Maho Crossroads, the beach bar across the street from Maho Beach, was closed (Crossroads will reopen July 15th following the new executive order) due to the 4th of July holiday weekend. That was done to keep the crowds down to a minimum. The beaches were also on a curfew and closed at 4pm – you had to start packing up by 3pm.
Since we were traveling with my mom and were trying to be as safe and responsible as possible, we spent a good amount of our visit just relaxing in our gorgeous villa – Villa Sunset Cruz. When your villa has a pool, it’s quite easy to social distance on vacation. We couldn’t have asked for a better accommodation.
Charter boats are still running, and we had an incredible day out on the water with captain Susannah from Stormy Pirates Charters. We usually explore the BVI on charter days, but their borders are currently closed to visitors (BVI may open September 1). This was the perfect opportunity to check out places in the USVI we’ve never seen before like Dinghy’s Beach Bar and Grill on Water Island.
Though this trip was fairly low key for us and we didn’t explore as much as we usually do due to the circumstances, we thoroughly enjoyed our vacation during the pandemic.
If you’re thinking about traveling to the Virgin Islands soon, we encourage you to do so in a safe and respectful way. We also encourage you to keep an eye on your favorite establishments through social media. Businesses are opening and closing practically on a daily basis during these uncertain times.
Cheers and never stop exploring!
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