When Family Comes to the Island(s)

I have waited for this week to come since my family booked their flights nearly 3 months prior. It’s hard to live so far away from family at times but one of the best part is being able to show them a new part of me and a new country.

This wasn’t just a normal family trip however. This was my younger brother’s FIRST EVER time off the continental United States, and it would be his FIRST time receiving a PASSPORT STAMP.  I mean he’s 26 years old and has only ever traveled within the US and Mexico, so this older sister was beyond stoked. Alright, I get that you might not understand why this is a big deal, but I LOVE being able share travel adventures with my favorite people in the world!

I was eager for my parents too, but they have actually visited St. Thomas approximately 9 years ago for 2 days, so for them it was showing them a different side to the island. Well, and for them to see their little girl 🙂

We timed their vacation in correlation with St. Thomas’s Carnival Week, which is basically my “Spring Break” for the school year. Meaning, I got to spend a solid 8 days with my family. Good quality, uninterrupted time (also, probably the longest I’ve spend with them in over 4 years).

What exactly is Carnival in St. Thomas? Great question. For starters, it’s the SECOND largest carnival celebration in the Caribbean. I do regress, so let’s go back to the beginning.

Carnival began under the Danish back in 1912 and ended upon World War I. Back in 1952, under the United States, St. Thomas revived the carnival into a month-long celebration. The final week is packed full with the main events, including a village full of music, rides, and food, and a CRAZY early morning “party/parade” called J’ouvert. Literally, this event starts at 3:30 AM and lasts most of the morning and into the afternoon.

This year was more than just a normal carnival. This year was the 65th Celebration AND the Centennial Celebration since the US purchased the islands. You can imagine the pride the St. Thomians take in their islands and this particular celebration.

My family and I didn’t do too much of the actual carnival events as we had several other activities planned, but we did manage to make it to the children’s and adult parades. It was quite enjoyable wandering downtown with the sounds of steel drums, local bands, and loads of dancers lining Main Street. Thankfully, it wasn’t totally packed, which provided us the ability to walk the 99 Steps and historic district. Unfortunately, as it was carnival, all of the buildings were closed so we weren’t able to tour them, but I think my family still enjoyed the historic side of the island.

When our week started late on a Saturday, I was sure that the entire week was going to be rainy, as that is what the weatherman said. Thankfully, the rain held off until one of their last days on the island.

I’m pretty sure we went to at least 10 beaches during the week, including STT: Secret Harbor, Abi, Sapphire, Bolongo Bay, Magen’s Bay, STJ: Maho, Cinnamon Bay, Honeymoon, BVI: White Bay, Devil’s Bay, and Spring Bay. I’d recommend them all to everyone!

On top of beach hopping, there were multiple other activities I got to share with them. For starters, we did a brewery tour of St. John Brewers, only one of I think 3, micro brews between STT and STJ.

Next up was a day full of scuba diving. It’s one of my personal favorites on the island and it’s great because many of the local shops do what is known as a DSD, standing for Discovery Scuba Dive. It basically is an introduction into the scuba world through PADI and allows for people to experience scuba diving without getting fully certified.

I also must admit, it was pretty entertaining watching my parents and brother learning in a pool, which is step one. The best quote came from my mother- “I don’t know if I like this. I’m not a fish.” She cracks me up sometimes.

The second part of the DSD are two off-the-boat dives to Cartanza (a shipwreck) and Turtle Cove. I haven’t dove Cartanza, so another first time experience with my family, CHECK! Sadly, my father struggled with equalizing his ears and skipped out on the second dive, and my mother also struggled during the second dive, but my brother was a natural. No fear or issues for him. These things do happen, but they still got to experience a little piece of me.

In addition, my brother and I ventured NE to the BVI through a tour charter company, Bad Kitty/Calypso. If you ever decide to visit the USVIs, I cannot recommend enough to venture to the BVIs. This isn’t the first time I’ve traveled with Bad Kitty or wrote about them. For my brother, this was a major first for him and spending the day, just him and I, was more than I could have hoped. Swimming into the Baths, laughing hysterically because he’s a 6’4″ giant crawling through the tiny caves between rocks, snorkeling and seeing tiny squids, drinking local beer at Cooper Island, then ending at White Bay drinking Pain Killers and an open bar on the boat. Yeah, my brother and I diffidently enjoyed ourselves 🙂

Talk about an eventful, adventure packed week with my family, huh. A simple summary doesn’t show every minute of our week, but it does show you the extend of things to do here in St. Thomas and St. John. These islands have taught me so much about a culture that I hardly knew about and again, I highly recommend to anyone and everyone to COME TO THE USVIs. 

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