Blue Skies St John

Drive out Great Cruz Bay Road. When you see the big sign for Oceana, look to your left. There’s a smaller sign there. Go up that driveway. There you are. You’re 7 minutes from Cruz Bay and in the summer of 2008 at least, away from the construction noise.

The house:
The driveway is up a little hill from the street and can creatively fit 3 vehicles. Walk up some stairs (stone and wood AND lit with those cool St John sconces) and you’re at the front door. The door is on the level of the main deck, but we’ll get there soon enough.

Open the door and you’re in a large square-shaped room. It’s the living and dining room. Along the right wall are bookshelves with the typical assortment of titles you’d expect to find in a vacation home. Plus you get old travel guides “See what’s new in the USVI! – 1988″

To the left of the door is the living area. There is a wicker/rattan couch and 2 “easy chairs”. They all aim towards the TV. It’s a flat screen and has a stereo under it.

Behind the loungers (and past the bookcases) is the dining area. Above it is a huge Plexiglas dome. It’s nice because it allows light to stream in all day. The house is very bright. Unfortunately, it also allows the sun to bake the tile floors. As a result, by mid-day the floor is too hot to walk on. It also made that area of the house stuffy at night. We only sat there once to eat. There’s a 4-seater table there.

Behind and to the left of the dining area is the kitchen. It’s small but it works. On the back wall there’s a fridge. It is not without quirks. To the left are counters, maybe 4-5 feet. There’s a coffee maker and toaster oven. The garbage is in the corner of the counter wall and the oven is sunk into the wall above. It’s a small oven, but it can cook a birthday cake.

Along the wall to the left is the range. Fortunately, it’s a glass-top. This affords you much-needed counter space when it’s not on. The corner to the left of the range is crowded. There’s a metal box identified as something like”bread crisper”. I wish it could be thrown into Sirenusa or something. To the left is the sink. The sink faces into the room and the TV and is behind a food bar. The phone, modem and wireless router sit there so it’s a tad crowded.

Off the kitchen is a 1/2 bath. We declared it to be a “No #2 Zone” because of its proximity to everything else.

Follow me back to the bookshelves. To your right is a small entryway. To the right is the door to one bedroom (the one we stayed in). It’s got a king bed against the left wall (windows and louvers all above it). Along the right wall is a dresser. Beyond it is a small closet with a safe. The A/C unit is in the wall next to the left side of the bed. It’s a little loud but it works wonderfully.

The bathroom is to the left of the bed. It’s an open room, with stone walls and sconces. Immediately to the left upon entering is a bidet. It does not work. Straight ahead is the sink and vanity. It’s plain white and looks a little out of place in the nice stone bathroom. But, it works. Along the wall to the right of the door is the shower. The shower has 2 heads and is walled by the stone walls. There’s no curtain or door so you’re more or less out there in the room. A small stone “bench” separates you from the toilet. It’s a little odd being out there in the open, but we liked it. It was cool.

The other bedroom was down past the one we stayed in. It also had a King bed. It didn’t have any dressers though. So, we pulled one out of our room and put it in there. Thank me later. The bathroom seemed OK.

Let’s go outside. Behind the loungers, to the left of the dining space are doors. They open to the deck. The grill sits to your right. The deck wraps back towards the front of the house and has a 4-seater table. There are also patio chairs and tables. The best thing, by far, is the breeze. You get great wind 24 hours a day coming in off Chocolate Hole (behind the house). The breeze is constant and keeps the bugs away and the temperatures down. We were amazed to be able to sit outside at nearly any time of the day (August) and not be hot and sweaty. It was great. At night, you can sit and see the houses across Great Cruz Bay, the Westin (with its pretty torches burning) and the homes up on Gifft Hill. You can also watch the planes buzz by between San Juan or St Thomas and Tortola. The deck is really nice.

Walk straight from the door to the house and you walk down stairs. The stairs need to be lit better (like lit in general). At the bottom of the stairs, to the left, is the pool. It’s 15 x 30 I think and is a good size. It’s got a ‘poor man’s infinity edge” to it. You can put your arms up on the edge and look out at Great Cruz Bay. There’s also a huge flamboyant tree right there off the edge. It’s home to a family/flock of iguanas. Watching them was a pastime of ours. There are 3 loungers to one side of the pool.

At the bottom of the stairs, you can make a right and walk back under the house. It’s home to the water heater and pump (and the little bar that can be wiggled). The washer and dryer are also under there. It’s a little spooky under the house, so don’t spend a lot of time there.

To the right of the pool is more deck. There’s a 4-seater table there. The deck wraps 360-degrees around the small cottage. The cottage has a small sitting room and kitchenette. The kitchenette had a sink, coffee maker and some plated and cups. It needs a small fridge. Offering the ability to make coffee and not a place to keep your milk cold is mean. It has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms that both have A/C and seem nice enough.

The price was right for our group of 4
Location: It’s close to town yet a little far away. No noise!
Pool: It was big and we liked the views from it. The iguanas kept us very entertained all week
Landscaping: There are plants and flowers everywhere. It was very pretty and often the deck smelled of flowers.
The breezes: We can’t say enough. We’d never been comfortable on the island before. We were always hot and swatting bugs away. The breezes made it for us

Seating: You could rent both houses and have 8 people there. Where do you all sit to eat? All the tables are for 4 people. It needs a bigger table (outside I’d guess)

Broken things (Hopefully to be fixed soon): The outdoor speakers by the pool were broken when we visited. A trip under the house showed that they weren’t connected to anything at all. The pool lights did not work. The lights on the deck stairs were out. Small things, but the outdoor speakers really irked us. That had been a selling point for us. We had trouble with the TV in the main house. We couldn’t get it to work and change channels. We finally figured out how to do it by hand (fun when you have a lot of channels and can’t find the Olympics). On the last day, we realized some jerk had taken the cottage remote and put it in the house. Once we swapped them, we were OK. I wish a swarm of termites upon that person.

Cleanliness – We felt the interior of the house could have been cleaner. We had to buy some cleaning products to get the cobwebs and visible dirt off all the surfaces in the house. It wasn’t a big deal, but you shouldn’t have to clean the house. There’s also a lot of construction garbage/debris around the back of the house. If you are leaning on the edge of the pool and look down, you see trash. A contractor was lazy it seems. Also, the pool could have been cleaner. The tiles needed a scrubbing in our opinion. Parts were sticky to the touch. (ewww)

The deck: This isn’t really a con. It’s more of a warning. It gets HOT. Bring sandals to the pool when you leave the house. Also beware nail pops. I stepped on one and got a nasty bruise under one of my feet (I was in violation of the aforementioned sandal rule and thusly deserved my bruise).

Our “problems”:
We had a few that hopefully were isolated to us. The water pump broke during our stay. It was a freak thing that seemed to be building over time. At this point, I trust the manager and owner know what the problem was and how to quickly get it fixed.

Bugs – We had a large storm and the next night (our last) the other bedroom was over run with flying termites. It’s one of things I guess you learn the hard way and only need to be taught once: After a storm, the bugs come out. Turn off all lights to avoid attracting them.

Management: We were disappointed with the management experience. Caribbean Villa gave us a greeter who didn’t have a car. From what I understand, she more or less got a ride to the house, dropped our friends off and left. Nothing was explained about the “workings” of the house. When the freezer broke the first night, I called her. She was of no help and more or less hung up on me.

There was a laminated letter in the house with some phone numbers on it. One was for a local woman who I learned was the actual property manager. She was nice and tried to help when the freezer and the pump broke, but didn’t seem to view the pump problem as seriously as we did (I may not be entirely fair and objective here I’ll admit, but when renters call 3 days I a row to report that the water is off, there’s clearly a major problem, not to be solved by wiggling little metal tabs on the water pump). The owner definitely jumped on the pump problem when I called her in NY. She and I traded some emails after we got home that weren’t entirely pleasant, but I think both of our nerves were frayed form the week that had been.

We’d give a long look at the house again (if they’d have us) but not rent from CV. I’m through with them and their 5% “service fee”.

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