TRIP REPORT 4/7/13 to 4/17/13
Last year JetBlue had a direct flight from Boston to SXM that left at 8:30 AM and arrived at SXM at 12:30 PM. We had our travel agent book the same flight this year but it turned out that it did not depart Boston until 12:30 PM which would have put us into SXM late in the afternoon with a rush to make the last shuttle to AXA and pretty much wasted a half a day so we re-booked to depart Boston earlier with a connection in San Juan. This got us to SXM a couple of hours earlier and once we picked up our rental vehicle we had plenty of time to run to Best Buy for groceries and get settled in.We really like flying JetBlue vs American Airlines. I’m not a tall person but legroom is so much better on JetBlue and I don’t have the seat back in front of me almost in my face.
Used GB Express again for round trip shuttle between SXM & AXA. They do have a spot at the new dock closer to the airport so it was a much more efficient and quicker process with paperwork and the trip over to AXA. They did raise their prices by $5.00/ PP round trip this year so it was $330.00 for 3 of us round trip. Can’t say enough good things about the captain and crew. All communications were answered promptly, pick-up and transfer between airport and boat went smoothy in both directions.
Once again our car rental was with Bryan’s Car Rental. As many of you know or can see from postings on this forum, Ronnie comes highly recommended and being able to simply depart the ferry and pick up our rental vehicle next to the Blowing Point Ferry terminal is so much more convenient after a day of traveling. Not to mention that Ronnie is such a great laid back guy. He and I finally connected two days after our arrival to settle up finances… no worries. Drop off is just as easy.
We stay at Turtles Nest Resort where the staff there is wonderful and always go out of their way to take care of us. The WiFi in our unit was not working well and within an hour of mentioning it to Betania, she had replaced the modem and all was fine from then on. We make it a tradition to have our first diner on AXA at Straw Hat. I will save our dining details for the restaurant review section but will tell you that as my wife cooks for a living and we were on vacation, we dined out for lunch and dinner every day.
Remainder of the trip:
Aside from a couple of brief morning showers that drove us off the beach a couple of days at the beginning of our vacation the weather was outstanding! mid-80’s everyday and mid-70’s at night. Seas never too rough!
Went to the Sunset Lounge at the Viceroy for a drink and to watch the sunset on Monday it was beautiful as always, (no Managers Party in evidence). At $15.00 per drink this is a once a trip event.
There seemed to be a shortage of the local crayfish at the restaurants. While I was able to dine on some a Dolce Vita and Jacala, other restaurants did not have them. Issue seems to be related to some rough weather before our arrival and the fact that they are harvested by local divers at night with flashlights. With the rough weather lately, the sand is suspended in the water and they are not able to see clearly.
Went to Smokey’s on Wednesday night for diner and da’Vida on Sunday for lunch to see Omari Banks and his band perform both times. Always a pleasure.
Now that Ce’Blue is open up on the hill next to da’Vida and da’Vida accepts Ce’Blue guest signatures it was quite busy Sunday afternoon at da’Vida. All chaise lounge’s on the beach were occupied. All dining tables and most of the picnic tables on the beach were full for lunch.
da’Vida now has a couple of stand-up paddle boards that you can rent for $10.00 US/ hour, (which is much better than the $30.00 US/ hour that the Viceroy charges) As this was our first time trying this activity we chose to go back on another day and try it as there would be fewer people around to watch our first attempt at this activity. It was a blast and highly recommended. I was told they plan to purchase more boards for next year.
A couple of new places to try for dining are; The Place on Rendezvous Bay and Flavors at La Vue on Backstreet on the bluff overlooking Sandy Ground. Service and food at both places were excellent. As with many restaurants located on the beaches The Place has a couple of couches and some nice teak chaise lounges under their palm trees as well as regular beach lounge’s and umbrellas closer to the beach which you can use if you dine there. We defiantly plan to return to these two establishments on our next trip.
Again this year we did the Shoal Bay Scuba Prickly Pear afternoon snorkel trip on Friday. This is a great value for the money as it includes a great lunch and at trip to Little Bay as well. I saw much more sea life at Prickly Pear this year than last year including sea turtles and stingray as well as dozens of varieties of fish in more abundance.
Having lunch and spending time at The Place on Rendezvous Bay and Trattoria Tramonto on Shoal Bay West is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and highly recommended, but I will say that Meads Bay is my favorite beach and try to spend our last full day on island there to offset my “grump” from having to end our time on AXA.
At no time during our stay did we feel unsafe or uncomfortable. I saw a bit more of a police presence but nothing extreme. As everyone mentions, lock your car and your villa or room, don’t leave valuables laying around in the open and be aware of your surroundings. All is good. We even got to meet and introduce ourselves Ken Evoy at while spending and afternoon at The Place. We thanked him for his efforts with trying to get TAB moving forward. It was an honor to meet him.
The Best Buy on the West End under construction is a big place. Looks to be two levels so I am not sure what is planned for the lower level or if it will simply be warehouse area for both stores. Hoping it will be open for our next visit.
The breakwater that they are constructing off the Viceroy shows slow progress. Of the 10 days we were there I only saw them working on it one day, and that was a Sunday to boot!
We had heard that traveling through San Juan on our way back to Boston could be a nightmare but we saw nothing to indicate that, maybe because it was a Wednesday or because it is approaching off season, we made it through customs and immigration very quickly as opposed to last year where we went through Miami, which was a horror show where we had 2 hours and 50 minutes between flights, by the time we got our luggage, cleared customs, immigration and made it to our gate, the plane was already boarding! Never again will we go through Miami.
Thinking about next visit already!Edited: 4:43 pm, April 19, 2013