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Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

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Kansas City...
posts: 58
reviews: 31
Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

My husband and I are planning a vacation using premiere Marriott resort points. He is a scuba diver, and I love the beach, pool, hikes and marine / land wildlife. Snorkeling is a possibility for me.

We are considering a trip to either the Frenchman's Reef & Morningstar Beach Resort in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands or the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach. Our accomodations would be free, so that is why we would choose one of those two places.

I am interested in opinions comparing the two destinations. Specifically quality of the diving, activities and scenery for a non diver, experiences with either of these resorts etc. Also, since my husband is retired we can travel at any time of year. Is there a "better" time to go, or an off season when prices in general may be less?

Thank you for any information and help you can provide

Allentown...
posts: 563
reviews: 83
1. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

I've been to both islands and here is my take:

There is no comparison between the snorkeling/diving, Grand Cayman is the winner there. The reef is healthier, much more sea life and many more dive sites. Lots of easy snorkeling from various areas. Google Testudo's snorkel guide. If diving and snorkeling are most important, go to Cayman.

Seven Mile Beach is nice in Grand Cayman, but the beach in front of the Marriott particularly is very small as they have been experiencing a lot of beach erosion. There are reef balls in front where you can snorkel and look for some sea critters. There are several beautiful beaches in St. Thomas to visit. (Magens, Secret Harbour, Sapphire, etc). Secret Harbour, Sapphire, and Coki are the main beaches to snorkel from, but again, the reefs in Cayman are much more impressive.

Topography wise, St Thomas is much prettier than Cayman with it being lush and green and offers many scenic views, whereas Cayman is flat and the best views are really around sunset. You also have the options of visiting other islands by ferry in St. Thomas, whereas you would have to fly to Little Cayman or Cayman Brac

Both islands have amazing restaurants so you really can't go wrong with either there.

Edited: 5:33 pm, February 07, 2013
Boston
posts: 3,453
reviews: 17
2. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

The other place that you can use your Marriott points on is the Carambola on St Croix which is a Marriott property and it has fantastic diving, snorkeling and lots of other activities and the best restaurants in the Virgin Islands. Just an idea...

marriott.com/hotels/…

Burnt Hills, New...
posts: 175
reviews: 2
3. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

I have not been to St. Croix, but would agree with the previous comparison between Grand Cayman and St. Thomas.

Grand Cayman is not nearly as pretty, not even comparable, to the beauty of the Virgin Islands on land. But, underwater, beats it hands down....

Kansas City...
posts: 58
reviews: 31
4. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

Thanks to each of you! Travelgurl79, that is a wonderful, detailed comparison. Saffie11, St. Croix sounds nicer for our purposes than St. Thomas may be. I appreciate that info & will check out the Marriott property there. And VirginIslands, you've hit my dilema on the head - trying to make 2 travelers with some similiar, & some different, priorities happy.

I appreciate your thoughts & help in planning our next ideal adventure!

North Pole, New York
posts: 4,182
reviews: 88
5. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

We've stayed at the Marriott on GCM (testudo does have some great snorkel info but GCM is more a dive site than snorkel) and the beach was entirely gone last Sept at high tide at the Marriott. They were planning to bring in sand but I haven't followd up. Great location and the rooms are being renovated and we enjoyed our stay because it was cheap. But we would stay on the East End next visit. Just too commercialized along SMB now, and I wouldn't want to waste a trip there by staying on SMB. But that's a personal preference of course.

When we visit STT we stay at condo resorts, and it seems that everyone we meet who was staying at the Marriott said their experience was OK but they would stay elsewhere next visit. But we have not stayed there.

You really should look at the Scrub Island Resort on Tortola. The pool is very nice, beautiful Marriott resort with a nice small beach, just off Trellis Bay so great location for ferry to Virgin Gorda and Anegada, as well as great snorkel and dive sails to the Indians, Norman Caves and other excellent sites. Full moon fire parties in Trellis, close to gorgeous Long Bay (Beef Island) where you will find zero cruise ship passengers. And of course Tortola is a beautiful island to explore with historic areas.

Just a thought!

Kansas City...
posts: 58
reviews: 31
6. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

crmoores m, thanks for your response. I had actually looked at the Scrub Island Resort & thought it looked absolutely amazing. Since the resort is on it's own private island, I wondered about access to anything non- Marriott, like restaurants etc. Did you find this to be a problem at all? I think I would love it there.

Also, I'm starting to look at Curacao. The Marriott there has diving right off the beach, and the property even has it's own dive shop. The choices in the Caribbean all look beautiful, & it's becoming difficult to narrow them down. More research on my part is definitely necessary!

Boston
posts: 3,453
reviews: 17
7. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

Scrub is on its own island and to go to a non-resort restaurant you would have to go off the island, by boat. There are a couple of places nearby in Trellis Bay and Marina Cay, but the majority of the places are either in Roadtown, the West End or the north shore - all of them a fair distance from Scrub. I have been going to the BVI since the early 80s and unless I wanted to stay at the resort the entire time, personally, I would not choose Scrub. But - the BVIs are a fantastic vacation destination and are highly recommended.

Having said that about Srub, the resort on St Croix is a bit isolated as well, but it is close to Cane Bay which has some great diving/snorkeling and a few restaurants. If you look at the attached link, you will be able to read about 'the wall' at Cane Bay.

http://www.visitusvi.com/stcroix/diving

North Pole, New York
posts: 4,182
reviews: 88
8. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

Since you are looking at using Marriott points Scrub Island naturally was an obvious choice. You take a short boat ride to Trellis for other dining and bar options, but as saffie mentioned you are in a secluded spot. We stay on the other side of the island for that reason. But for a Marriott stay this would be our choice.

Edited: 12:07 am, February 09, 2013
Colorado
posts: 548
reviews: 10
9. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

Another comparison if any knows is how does Grand Cayman compare to the USVI on dining out prices or grocery stores?

Edited: 7:05 am, February 09, 2013
Allentown...
posts: 563
reviews: 83
10. Re: Recommendations - US Virgin Islands or Grand Cayman?

I would say grocery prices are about the same, as far as both being much more expensive than what you would find in the States. There are more grocery options in Cayman.

We found restaurants to be more expensive in Cayman. It was over $100 every night for dinner for 2 and at least $50 for lunch. There are a few budget friendly places to eat there, just like St. Thomas.

The Cayman Islands also have their own currency and their dollar is worth more than the US dollar so that plays a factor in things being more $$$ there.