US Virgin Islands

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  1. Snagel says:

    St. Croix Dive Report
    May 2011
    Original Post by FirePlug on ScubaToys

    Well, I just got back from a week on St. Croix. I dove with Cane Bay Dive Shop. I kind of had a soft place for them as I had my resort course and adventure dives with them in 2007. They haven’t disappointed me yet. All of the staff is top notch, friendly and helpful. I was the only diver in my group but the staff made me feel welcome and folded me right into their group. They have dive packages starting with 6 tank dives for $250, which includes all of your rental gear. I think the night dive was $45 if memory serves correct. Cane Bay also uses inflatable boats to ferry divers and equipment from shore out to their 36’ Newton dive boat. This allows for a very quick travel time to get to their dive sites. They don’t have a dock at their main store on the north shore so the big boat is moored out about 100-150 yards and everything and everybody is ferried back and forth.

    Cane Bay also has small cabins on site which have a king size bed, small kitchen with stove & microwave, fold out couch, TV, porch, etc. Sleeps 3-4 depending on your friendship level. I checked one out and it was clean and well kept. It also included a complementary 1/5 of rum and your 1st bag of charcoal included for the grill. They said these were $800 to $1200 for the week depending on season, etc. They also have units which don’t include a stove but do have a microwave. Looks like a nice way to spend a week diving

    We started the trip by flying out on Saturday, April 30th from Columbus, Ohio to Miami, Florida then the last hop into St. Croix on American Airlines. Got our rental car from Avis but did not get the 2 class upgrade. Our take was the desk lady had already filled out our paperwork and didn’t want to be bothered with redoing it. 4 of us with luggage filled up our Camry. (NOTE TO AVIS: Why bother giving customer’s upgrades if your staff is too lazy to honor them?) Lots of cars with the wipers up, (ready to rent), but staff…? Anyhow, off we went to Carambola Beach Resort. Main thing to remember in St. Croix, STAY LEFT!!! I don’t get driving in the left lane with cars that have the steering wheel on the left, especially at night with the headlights from oncoming traffic aimed at you. Anyhow, on to Carambola Beach Resort. We had stayed here before in 2007. Marriott had bought the place in the meantime and was upgrading the rooms. We are staying in a friend’s time share and our guess is that these will be the last rooms to be brought up to Marriott’s standards. Room was a little shop worn but with the windows open you could hear and see the surf from their private beach. That makes up for a lot of shortcomings with me. Not sure if this is true of all the rooms but ours had a small stovetop, apartment sized fridge, sink, microwave and utensils for 4 people. We had a king sized bed, fold out couch and a real nice sit down, tile shower. We had TV’s in both the front room and bedroom. Not a lot of channels. (I’m spoiled with Direct TV.) The also had Radio Margaritaville on one of the upper channels. The screened in porch was perfect in the evenings to lounge around napping and listening to the ocean. This was also a great breakfast place while watching the resident mongoose’s, (mongeese?), zip about. The restaurant staff and bartenders were polite and professional. The food on site was good, bushwhackers excellent and about as pricey as anything else on island. They have a Friday night buffet for $36 which was very nice. Included prime rib, crab claws, shrimp, snow crab legs and on and on. They entertain later with a duo on keyboard, a DJ and the Moco Jumbies. A great evening. They also have a very nice pool. Our first stop after getting unloaded was back down the road to the grocery store. We try to eat breakfast and lunch in and go out for dinner. Wife is a beach bunny so this works out well.

    I also want to mention the food place on the front of Cane Bay Dive Shop. It is the very simply named “Eat @ Cane Bay”. We had dinner here 3 times, my wife raving that this was the best NY strip steak she had ever had. They have a menu from burgers on up to specials and full bar. One night we were entertained by a lady with her guitar, Deanna Brown. Nice place to relax while looking at the sunset at Cane Bay.

    Now, on to the diving. The North Shore of St. Croix is fringed by a coral band that extends out 100’ to 200’ from shore where it breaks over and drops down to 3200’ along the wall. Most of our dives were in the 60’-70’ range working along the top of the wall. There are lots of hard and soft corals and wildlife Visibility was excellent. Cane Bay does a 2 tank morning dive at 9ish and then a 1 tank dive in the afternoon. They will do a shore dive across the street from the shop about anytime. Night dives require a minimum of 4 divers. All of the dives I was on had at least one dive master guiding and a Captain on the boat. My first day diving was Sunday morning. We did Salt River #3 followed by #2. Both were max depth at 70’. The DM’s serve as guides and let you dive your own dive. The second dive was especially good as we worked around a corner on the reef and flirted along the top of the wall for a nice long dive. That afternoon, after a group decision, we took the 36’ Newton dive boat down around the west side of the island and did an afternoon dive on the Frederickstead pier. This was a nice, easy dive with flat water and a max depth of 26’. Lots of micro critters, pretty color corals and good vis. I was with DM Shannon and we both got to see our first flying gunard together. I got some decent pictures and we had to have the shop owner tell us what we saw. A very unusual, colorful creature, the fish, not the DM.

    Monday saw us doing the only wrecks of the week. We had a group of divers on board from a cruise ship. We did the Butler Bay site that included 3 closely spaced wrecks including a piece of the habitat that NASA used to train astronauts some time ago. Our second dive was a wall dive at Alien Nation. Once again, lots of wildlife and color. These dives very nearly didn’t happen for me as I had chosen to meet the boat at the pier where they were loading the divers from the cruise ship. Note to self, don’t use a cartoony, tourist map to try to get somewhere on time. I wound up lost in a stone quarry and a local dump truck driver took pity on me and got me to the pier just as the boat was ready to heave lines to leave. After the dives I once again got lost and nearly missed the Cruzan Rum plant tour. That would have been tragic. I have found that this liquid causes rapid dissipation of that demon nitrogen so all was good.

    Tuesday morning started out with a dive on Northstar. This was followed by a second dive on Pavillion. These were both reef dives that skirted along the edge of the wall. I did the shopping thing in the afternoon to pay penance for nearly missing the Cruzan Rum plant tour the day before.

    Wednesday was unusual for diving as myself and a gentleman from Atlanta were the only 2 up for diving. We loaded out in a rubber inflatable boat with Neal and Mel. Neal stayed on board as Captain of the ship and Mel served as our DM. If you have a small group of 6 or less Cane Bay will take you out in a RIB, (rubber, inflatable boat). This is touted as the same boat the Navy SEALS use and it is pretty cool. When you get on station, the front hard floor panel has been removed and the DM unzips the vinyl floor panel, revealing a hole in the bow. The diver sits on the hard floor section at the rear of the hole, facing the bow, and the Captain puts your BCD on you. With all of your gear on you simply roll face forward into the water thru the hole. In my case, drop down, move over, come up and grab my camera and away we go. On your return you would come up thru the hole and face the bow. After inflating your BCD and removing it the Captain would hoist your gear back up and then I did my best pig in mud impression and slithered back into the boat, thru the hole. See the pics on their website. All in all, a pretty neat way for a small group to dive. Made for a nice dive. Our first dive was moored to the buoy at Davis Bay which was about 100 yards offshore from Carambola Beach Resort. My wife didn’t realize until later that it was me diving just off the beach from where she was sunbathing. This was again along the edge of the wall and provided some decent photo ops including gleaner shrimp, a small trunkfish and a small brittle star. Our second dive was a slow drift from Twin Palms buoy to Cane Bay. We tracked along the edge of the wall and once again had some nice photo ops. I was kinda bummed as I was down to 300 psi and had to do a 200 yard surface swim to the boat. I am used to using a steel 120 cubic foot tank when diving in Florida so I was not liking the aluminum 80’s that are standard. On some of the shallow dives I was doing one hour plus but at depth I was averaging 45 minutes or so. Need to look into a set of travel doubles.

    My last dive was the Thursday night dive at Frederickstead pier. This started out with everyone meeting up at the shop and then taking a big Ford van over to the pier with all of our dive gear. We had 5 divers and 2 dive masters, 1 of who was a new hire and was getting oriented to the sites. After the briefing we watched the sunset then did giant strides off of the pier. This was a 4’ or better drop so was exhilarating. The high point of the entries was when the one DM did a full front roll in the pike position and hit the water feet first, in full scuba gear no less! Wish I would have had some warning, would have made a great pic!!! As we surface swam down the pier to the entry point the DM emphasized that we needed to stay under the pier as there were fisherman above trying to make a living by taking fish. This would prove prophetic. We all dropped down and started weaving slowly between the various columns that support the pier. This varied from 3 to 4 columns wide, each column being 4’ across. I was stoked as I got to see 4 different turtles. This was more than the total I had seen in the previous 150+ dives I had made. One of the turtles was asleep and this allowed my primitive photo skills to shine as I was able to take quite a few photos of him. There was also your usual cast of micro creatures plus lobster, octopus and crabs. One of the DM’s said they had sighted 13 different octopus off of this pier. After easing along and hitting half a tank we all turned and started back to the de-embarktation point on the other side of the pier. On the surface swim back in one of the divers said he had been hooked by a fisherman. The diver was watching some tarpon and moved out from under the pier. Next thing he knew he was hooked in the hand and one of the DM’s had to cut him loose. No big damage but a concern none the less. We got to the exit and were able to stand up and remove our gear. The DM’s had one above who lifted your gear up onto the dock and another in the water helping you remove your gear. You then did a short climb up on some rocks.

    All in all, I got 10 dives in 4 days. Not my usual 4 to 5 a day when I go with my group in Ft. Lauderdale but I was on vacation with my wife and another couple, none of whom dive. Cane Bay is about a mile from Carambola Resort so logistics weren’t too bad. Cane Bay has overnight, secured storage for your gear. Doesn’t get much easier. You simply show up, pay up, get fitted and get diving.

    This was the end of my scuba diving for the week. I did go with the other gentlemen we were traveling with for a snorkel tour of Cane Bay on Friday. He was impressed when we went out over the wall and he got his first taste of navy blue water.

    We returned the rental car Saturday morning and took a hop over to San Juan for a 4 hour lay over. We then went into JFK and finally on to Columbus. We left the island at 9:55 am and got into CMH at 10:30 pm. By the time we got the truck, bags loaded, drove 80 miles to home, dropping off the other couple on the way, I slid into bed at about 1:30 am. All in all, a very nice week.

  2. Snagel says:

    Trip Report- St. Croix @ Thanksgiving Cane Bay / SCUBA / Hibiscus Inn
    Hi all & Merry Christmas!

    Original Post by Divalisious on Scubatoys (Nov 2010)

    Mr. D & I went to St. Croix for Thanksgiving. It was our first time there, and we will DEFINITELY go back

    Since St. Croix does not seem to be on the beaten path, I wanted to do a good dive report. Unfortunately, while I got some nice topside snaps, out U/W camera broke just before the trip! Of course, we saw tons of cool formations, cool fish, big fat green moray eels, sting rays and turtles that just hung out with us all dive. I groaned underwater several times! Nevertheless:

    Logistics:

    This trip was 5 nights, 4 days & 3 full diving days over Thanksgiving holiday.

    The flight times were a little wonky- 6AM departure from Houston, and 5PM return from St. Croix. 1 stop in MIA. The flights were 2.5 hours, with a layover the same duration. St. Croix is EST +1. The later flight meant we didn’t get home until midnight, but it also gave us the 3 full days of diving so worth it to me!

    Our tickets on AA were reasonable at $450 pp. On the way down, we paid $50 pp to hang out in the (much nicer) AA lounge in MIA. The way back, we just hung out at a restaurant. The connection was easy. No lost luggage and no long walks.

    Arriving in St. Croix, we rented a car from Hertz. I recommend doing so, but be warned! The roads in St. Croix suck! No GPS and the road signs are not good. They also drive American cars, but on the left hand side of the road. It’s not that weird, and fortunately Mr. D is a dive / drive buddy with a good sense of humor!

    The airport is on the south shore of the island, and the diving and resorts on the north. I don’t think taxi service would be feasible and I didn’t see a lot of shuttles, so I do recommend getting a car.

    Topside:

    The island is less tourism-developed than St. Thomas or St. John. But it is very pretty, with 2 decent sized cities and rainforest and mountains. It’s about 27 miles across, but again, the roads kind of suck

    Most of the diving and “resorts” are on the north shore. For non-divers, the far west end has the city of Frederiksted, a cruise ship port town with charm. The capital of Christiansted is in the center-east of the island on the north, with a decent amount to do for a couple of days of sight-seeing and beach laying. One point of interest is the eastern most point of the US- Point Udall. Cane Bay, btw, is in the middle-west north shore, with a great beach.

    We stayed at a really nice little beachside inn outside of Christiansted called the Hibiscus Inn. I’d give it a solid 3 – 3.5 stars, but at $100 / night, it was great!! Very clean. Comfy beds, and charm. We had a view of a beach and hammocks that couldn’t be beat just outside out door and a nice patio to boot:

    I know some don’t care much about accomodations, but I do. After diving, I’m tired and want a nice place to relax. The Hibisicus wasn’t the Ritz, but if you do want a decent place to bunk, it’s great and the price can’t be beat.

    Diving:

    So, onto the good stuff. The diving was AWESOME. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera. Sigh.

    The water was a bit chilly for me at 81-82 degrees. A full 3mm was fine. Mr. D went without, but he’s from Denmark. The dive shops rent shorties.

    Originally, I had bought a 3 day, 2 tank/day package from Cane Bay diving for $250 pp. Mitsuguy, who posts here, was great in emailing me and we requested to dive with him. He is every bit as nice in person as he comes off here

    Our first day, we dove in Cane Bay, and they put us in a “sea wasp” – an inflatable boat with a zip out in the hull. They normally have 4 divers in a boat, but we had 6. I put a pic of it below, and honestly, it kind of tripped me out.

    Mr. D & I dove inflatable hull boats in Spain this summer, but those were backward roll ones. This one, you went down through a zip open slot, as I mentioned. It was okay, but with the swells from the Christmas winds, it was kind nerve-wracking getting back onto the boat through the hull since I was worried a wave would come and force me under or rip my reg from my mouth.

    The visibility kind of sucked due to the Christmas winds. I’d guess it was about 40 feet at one sight and 25 ft at the other, but the diving was decent.

    The second day, we drove to Cane Bay (about 15 miles away from our hotel) & discovered they had an engine problem with their boat. We didn’t really want to do shore diving, so they were nice and hooked us up with another operator on the island- SCUBA.

    http://www.stcroixscuba.com/

    SCUBA’s main shop is in Christiansted, and I can’t say enough nice things about SCUBA.

    The dive staff is really great. They have a big boat that’s not overfilled, and they put a staff in the water with you but let you dive your own plan. The owners of the shop, Molly & Ed Buckley are super nice, and the DM / instructors we dove with: John Kelly, John Kiernan, Simeon Tolar, and Suzy were awesome!

    They really go out of their way to give good customer service- from being helpful and good dive guides to breaking down your eq. It was surprising that they were even nicer about that than the guys in Mexico.

    We dove with them for 2 days, 2 tanks a piece. First day was out of Fredericksted, and we dove an AWESOME small wreck site. There are about 5 wrecks in 1 area that are at a shallow depth of 45 feet or so. One is a tug that has been down about 20 years with a good reef system built up. On the dive, we saw some nice stingrays and other fish.

    The second day we dove from Christiansted. The boat was a bigger boat, again not overcrowded or “cattle boat.” The water was swell-filled with the winds, but the staff was tremendous in helping on and off.

    The diving itself was AWESOME. All kinds of critters and even a few turtles. One just hung out with us for half the dive, and I groaned a lot over not having a camera. Sorry, folks!

    No sharks (which made Mr. D happy cuz he’s askeerit of them). A few lionfish, but no mass wave of them.

    All in all, I’d rank the diving we did with SCUBA on par with Bonaire for staff and actual diving. The formations were beautiful and I prefer boats to shore, but there is some shore to be done at Cane Bay.

    We didn’t do the Frederiksted pier, which is supposed to be awesome, but we will definitely go back and do it then!

    If anyone reading this wants to put a dive trip together, give me a page here and contact Ed at SCUBA. He’ll hook you up!

  3. snagel says:

    Trip Report and Pics, St. Croix 10/3-10/10/09

    Original Post by ChinaCat46 on ScubaToys

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    Just spent a week on the Nekton Rorqual diving in St. Croix. The boat left from Puerto Rico and we flew from Denver to San Juan thru Atlanta. On arrival in San Juan we were picked up at the airport and 8 of us were transported to the Puerto Del Rey Marina near Fajardo with a stop along the way to pick up some liquid refreshments for the week as the boat does not provide alcohol or carbonated beverages. The boat itself holds 34 divers but this week we only had 22 divers on board and a crew of I think 12. The boat felt quite full with 22 guests and I hate to think what it would be like with 34. There were a few extra crew some from the Pilot including Bryce the Captain. Since the boat wasn’t full I got my own room as did most except the couples. The boat itself is a bit run down and could use a litte TLC especially the Nitrox compressor. Other then looking a little rough though it is quite functional. I’ve been on a lot of live aboards and we had a fairly young but very engergetic crew and they were fun to be with and worked hard. The food was okay but nothing special except maybe the fresh cookies we had between morning dives. I’ve been on some live aboards where the food was gourmet but this wasn’t one of them. The vegtables were served in steam trays and were very mushy and over cooked in my opinion. Meals were buffet style and there was plenty to eat. Deserts after dinner seemed to always be cake with canned iciing except for one meal where it was build your own sundae. You won’t go hungry on this boat but you won’t be wowed by the food either. That being said I don’t go diving for the food I go for the diving.

    The diving in St. Croix was nothing special either. I prefer the Indo-Pacific but I still enjoy diving just about anywhere. Earlier this year I spent a week diving Grenada and SVG off the Wind Dancer. The viz was better in St. Croix but the diving was better in Grenada and SVG. Over the years I’ve seen a decline in the marine life in the caribbean and it was definitely noticable in St. Croix. I remember when I use to see big schools of grunts and tangs and jacks and other fish but these days seem to be gone. Yes we did see those fish but just not the numbers I remember. I was happy though that I didn’t see one lionfish all week. The water temp was pretty much 84 on every dive except one where it dipped to 82. I thought the selection of dive sites could have been better as well. We did a few dives which I thought were just a waste of time like Armageddon where they dumped the scrap from the old Fredriksted pier. We did two dives there and one was more then we needed. I did enjoy Cane Bay and North Star as well as the Fredriksted pier but I think their selection of sites could have been better. I saw the usual caribbean fish, angels, butterfly, grunts, wrasse, jacks, groupers, bass, squirrel, surgeon, snappers, filefish, trigger fish, drums, morays, rays as well as various shrimp, crabs, lobsters, squid, octopus and turtles. I did find a nudibranch, 2 lettuce leaf slugs, frog fish, seahorses, flying gunards and a very tiny juvenile trunk fish to name a few hilites. On one dive after my buddies went up I found a very playful octopus and we spent over 10 mins entertaining each other. It was a real ham and I took 37 pics of it.

    On Wednesday the day we dove the Fredriksted pier I woke with a bit of a scratchy throat and headache. I dove the pier all day as well as the night dive and by the end of the day was feeling quite sick. That night I was up most of the night with the chills and my throat got worst, my head was stuffed up and I ached all over. I had come down with the H1N1 flu as did a few others on the boat including the cook. Thursday I barely left my room but thanks to the generosity of one of the other passengers who gave me some meds I felt a lot better on Friday and did the two morning dives(probably should have skipped). We dove North Star that morning and it was a very nice site with nice reefs and lots of juvenile fish. Friday afternoon I was feeling crappy and passed on the two afternoon dives which was a repeat of Cane Bay. All told I did 20 dives and missed out on 5 on Thursday and 2 on Friday so I would have done 27 if I hadn’t got sick. Today(Wednesday) a week later I’m still sick with congested lungs and a nasty cough. I saw the Doc yesterday and he gave me some meds to hopefully speed my recovery. Once I feel better I will start going thru the pics and post a few for you all. Overall I had a good time but I doubt I will ever return to St. Croix. I’m not a huge caribbean fan but think Little Cayman, Bonaire or even SVG are much better choices. One thing I felt was a real negative was the Nitrox. I paid $200 for unlimited nitrox and they advertise a 29% mix. First off it was overpriced at $200/week as most boats charge $100 or at most $150 for a week. Second off it was never 29% but more like 27% when the compressor was working. A few times I went to dive they said it would be at least 20 minutes as there were compressor problems. I would usually have them just top it off with air. The reason they advertise 29% instead of 32% is because they can’t give you 32% or 29% for that matter. If you go on a Nekton I recommend you pass on the Nitrox. It might make a few of your dives shorter but you won’t feel like you wasted $200. Another negative was at the start of the trip they collected DAN and C cards. At the end of the trip they had lost my DAN card. They said this had never happened before. Am I supposed to feel better it never happened before? As I mentioned earlier I’ll post some pics once I start feeling better and get a chance to go thru them.

  4. admin says:

    St Croix Experience

    Original Post by RMKrause on ScubaToys (9/19/09)

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    Just got back from St Croix – Here is my experience and recommendations:

    Rental car – Definitely good to have since taxi’s are quite expensive. I was a bit concerned about how it was going to be driving on the left but this turned out to be a non-issue: only time really need to think about it when pulling out of a parking spot. Gas is a little cheaper than back home.

    Where to stay – We stayed at the Carambola – a resort in the Northwest section of the island. It’s relatively remote and don’t expect cell phone reception here. Rooms were big, restaurants may or may not be open based upon season (food was good IMHO). Had screened in patios so could leave doors open at night and hear the waves without worrying about bugs. When we were there Sept 5 – 12 there were very few guests there, we hardly saw anyone else there and usually had the beach entirely to ourselves. Davis Bay is right there but when we were there it was pretty choppy and rather rocky and the wife didn’t have dive booties so we didn’t venture out here.

    Diving – Cane Bay is only a mile or so from the Carambola which features the famous 3200′ wall. I did my OWD cert with Cane Bay Dive Shop (www.canebayscuba.com) which is located at Cane Bay (they also have a small shop on the Carambola premises). They were running Labor Day discounts – I had done my eLearning and they gave me a really good deal on the rest of the OWD requirements and the instruction was private as well, which they said was what they usually do with eLearning students. Relative to what I would have paid in NJ for public instruction in a cold quarry the price was awesome, so we gave my instructor a healthy tip and bought a mask, snorkel and a few other things for the wife through them since I figured they didn’t make much off my cert. Overall, they were a great bunch to get certified through and dive with. Mitsuguy on this board works there – we met him and he’s an awesome guy and so were the rest of the Cane Bay divemasters/instructors that we had. Diving was awesome – water was 84 degrees, surface was as smooth as glass first thing in the morning, tons of sealife, soft and hard corals and of course the huge freaking abyss to look down into at the wall. There’s something like 50-60 dive sites on the island.

    Food – Food is expensive: we usually like to hit the grocery stores and get cereal, milk, fruit and at least eat breakfast this way but this wasn’t the huge cost saving it usually is. One chain on the island is Plaza Export – pretty standard grocery store but 32 oz soy milk is 3-4 bucks, box of Kashi cereal 6-7 bucks. Ouch. Lots of bars on the beach that have light fare. Personally, we usually just ate at the Carambola – about the same price as a lot of the beach bars cost but the food was a lot better.

    Other fun things
    Cruzan rum factory: 5 dollar per person for a tour and afterwards they have an open bar and can taste any of their rums straight up or mixed in a variety of sodas of juices. You can buy their rum from the factory very cheap and it isn’t counted as checked baggage (at least for American Airlines and United) nor is it taxed. For flavored rums, 1-liter bottles were $8 per bottle or $7.50 if bought in a variety 6-pack. Dark and light aged rums were $6 per bottle or $5.50 if bought in a 6-pack. They also sold a 18bottle 50mg variety pack for $14. We don’t drink much, kept some for ourselves and others made great gifts for friends.

    Kayaking – Virgin Kayaks is at the same place as Cane Bay Dive shop and there’s a few other kayak outfitters, most of which run very similar tours. We went on a night tour to see a bioluminescent bay which was pretty awesome.

    Cities – Fredreksted and Christensted – we visited both and didn’t find either one particularly interesting but I hate cities in general, wife wanted to go. Purple Papaya is a good gift shop in Christensted if you want mementos.

    Other notes – the island overall is very laid back, easygoing, few tourists and is drastically different from St Thomas – I’ve never been there but know a few people that have and sounds to be a big tourist trap.

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